After the 16th Connecticut was organized in Hartford in August 1862, John, and the other men, spent most of their time getting on and off steamships and learning the basics of military life. The first battle that they participated in was the Battle of Antietam. They were part of General Ambrose Burnside’s extreme left flank at Antietam, the green men of Connecticut were sent into the 40-acre cornfield in the later stages of the battle and was hit hard in the left flank by the seasoned soldiers of A.P. Hill’s division. The 16th Connecticut lost 43 killed, 161 wounded and 204 captured or missing out of 779 men. Some of them died with their weapons loaded,never firing a shot, and many of the survivors never got over the shear carnage at Antietam.
“The 16th Connecticut monument at Antietam Battlefield.”
John’s next big confrontation was the Battle of Fredericksburg. Things started out ok for the Army of the Potomac. They moved quickly down the Rappahannock, but then stalled across the river from Fredericksburg. Due to poor execution of orders, a pontoon bridge was not in place for several days. The delay allowed Lee to move his troops into place along Marye’s Heights above Fredericksburg. The Confederates were secure in a sunken road protected by a stone wall, looking down on the open slopes that stretched from the edge of Fredericksburg. So strong was the Confederate position that one Rebel officer claimed “a chicken could not live on that field when we open on it.” Burnside decided to attack anyway. On December 13, he hurled 14 attacks against the Confederate lines. Although the Union artillery was effective against the Rebels, the 600-yard field was a killing ground for the attacking Yankees. No Union soldiers reached the wall at the top of Marye’s Heights, and few even came within 50 yards of it. “It is well that war is so horrible, or else we should grow too fond of it,” Lee observed to General James Longstreet as they watched the carnage. A bitterly cold night froze many of the Union dead and wounded. Burnside considered continuing the attack on December 14, but his subordinates urged him to stop. On December 15, a truce was called for the Union to collect their dead and wounded soldiers. Burnside retreated northward under the cover of darkness and rain. The one-sided nature of the battle was reflected in the casualty figures. The Yankees suffered around 12,650 killed and wounded, while Lee lost only about 4,200 men. Once again John somehow survived.
Next was what was to become known as “The Mud March”. His plan was to swing around Lee’s left flank and draw the Confederates away from their defenses and into the open. Speed was essential to the operation. January had been a dry month to that point, but as soon as the Federals began to move, a drizzle turned into a downpour that lasted for four days. Logistical problems delayed the laying of a pontoon bridge across the Rappahannock River, and a huge traffic jam snarled the army’s progress. In one day, the 5th New York moved only a mile and a half. The roads became unpassable. Horses, wagons, and cannons were stuck in mud, and the element of surprise was lost. Jeering Confederates taunted the Yankees with shouts and signs that read “Burnside’s Army Stuck in the Mud.”
Burnside tried to lift spirits by issuing liquor to the soldiers on January 22, but this only compounded the problems. Drunken troops began brawling, and entire regiments fought one another. The operation was a complete fiasco, and on January 23 Burnside gave up his attempt to, in his words, “strike a great and mortal blow to the rebellion.” The campaign was considered so disastrous that Burnside was removed as commander of the army on January 25.
Next for John and the 16th was the Battle of Plymouth. Here is a little background on the battle to catch everyone up. Back in 1862, the Union captured Plymouth and several other points along the North Carolina coast. In doing so, they deprived the Confederacy of several ports for blockade-runners and the agricultural products from several fertile counties. In the spring of 1864, the Confederates mounted a campaign to reverse these defeats. General George Pickett led a division to the area and launched a failed attack on New Bern in February. Now, General Robert Hoke assumed command and moved his army against Plymouth, fifty miles north of New Bern. He planned an attack using the C.S.S. Albemarle, an ironclad that was still being built on the Roanoke River inland from Plymouth.
With 7,000 men, Hoke attacked the 2,800-man Union garrison at Plymouth on April 17. His troops began to capture some of the outer defenses, but he needed the Albemarle to bomb the city from the river. The ironclad moved from its makeshift shipyard on April 17, but it was still under construction. With workers aboard, Captain James Cooke moved down the Roanoke. The Albemarle‘s rudder broke and the engine stalled, so it took two days to reach Plymouth. When it arrived, the Rebel ship took on two Yankee ships, sinking one and forcing the other to retreat. With the ironclad on the scene, Hoke’s men captured Plymouth on April 20.
The Confederates lost 163 men killed and 554 wounded, but captured the entire Union garrison and vast amounts of supplies and arms. The Union lost about 150 killed and wounded, while several hundred of the captured soldiers eventually died at the notorious Andersonville Prison in Georgia including John G. Carver, who died, according to Andersonville records, of dysentery.
John G. Carver is buried at the New Abington Cemetery in Pomfret, CT