Glimpses of Soldiers' Lives: Private Oney Swepson A. Brock
Prints and Photographs
Private Oneziphrus "Oney" Swepson A. Brock was born on April 19th, 1843. At the age of 19, on February 27th, 1862, he mustered into the Princess Anne Cavalry, officially the 5th Virginia Cavalry in the Confederate army. Two months later this picture was made of Brock—or, as he wrote in the brief note left with it, “i had my pretty shade taken.”
Brock’s recorded moment of fame in the American Civil War occurred during a preliminary skirmish in the Fredericksburg campaign, on November 10th, 1862, about a month before the battle. The 15th Virginia Cavalry, led by Lieutenant Colonel John Critcher, was garrisoned about the city. A small contingent patrolled the Rappahannock River, but as the waters rose and fords became blocked, they relaxed their precautions.
On November 10th, the Union Army’s 1st Indiana and 6th Ohio Cavalries, led by Ulric Dahlgren, reached the river and found a shallow point upstream from Critcher’s group, so narrow that they went through single-file, and began to approach the city undetected.
Brock’s regiment, led by Captain James Simpson, had joined Critcher’s group, swelling the Confederate force to some 200 men and far outnumbering Dahlgren’s 75. However, when the Union regiment entered the city, around 8:30 AM, Simpson’s command was still asleep in the downtown Fredricksburg’s Citizens’ Hall. Pandemonium ensued, and Dahlgren’s men took some 20 or 30 Confederates prisoner.
The rest of Simpson’s crew was able to rub the sleep from their eyes and charge the Union soldiers, however, and a melee followed in Princess Anne Street. Dahlgren was (falsely) informed that the Confederates had blocked his retreat, and began to break off the battle, leading his men to escape.
That escape was hindered by a few plucky civilians—a young woman brandishing a pistol and blocking a side street, men throwing stones, and ladies venturing onto their porches to cheer on the Confederates. And by Oney Brock: he saw a group of Union soldiers in retreat with the stolen flag from Critcher’s camp, demanded twice that they surrender it, and then shot and killed the soldier with the flag. Brock returned to Simpson’s company with the colors.
Lucia, Joel H."Vermont Seventeenth Regiment (3 years)." 17th Vermont Infantry Regiment (Union) The American Civil War Research Database. http://asp6new.alexanderstreet.com/cwdb/cwdb.object.details.aspx?handle=regiment&id=103028 [subscription resource - access inside Library of Congress buildings]
"Onie S. Brock.” The American Civil War Research Database. Alexander Street Press. Web. 18 July 2012. http://asp6new.alexanderstreet.com/cwdb/cwdb.object.details.aspx?handle=person&id=200361116 [subscription resource - access inside Library of Congress buildings]
O'Reilly, Francis Augustín. The Fredericksburg Campaign: Winter War on the Rappahannock. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2003.
Compiled by: Ann Tyler Moses, Liljenquist Family Fellow, 2012. Last updated 2012 July.