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M. L. Gordon's 

Experiences in the Civil War 

<*AND TflA'Hr 




Privately Printed 



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PVT., 1 CL., C BTRY., 103 F. A., 26 DIV., A. E. F. 




CPL., D BTRY., 17 F. A., 2 DIV., A. E. F. 





THE narrative of my father's experiences in the Civil War was 
written down, to please me, at odd times during the years 1889 
and 1890. So far as I know, he never read the manuscript over, and I 
brought it with me from Japan in the spring 0/1891. In 1 901 , while 
on a visit to Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, I was given the letters which 
folloiu the narrative by my great-uncle , William Gordon, to whom all 
but one of them were written. The brief diary which in turn follows 
the letters zvas found by me among my father's papers in the sum- 
mer of 1902. / do not knoiv when it left his possession, or when it was 
returned to him : I am certain only that he did not have it while writ- 
ing the narrative. 

The letters and diary are printed exactly as they stand. In the 
narrative I have transposed three paragraphs and made a very few 
slight verbal changes, as I am sure my father would have done. A 
complete minute of these alterations is given in Appe?idix A. An ac- 
count of the services of my father's company , quoted from "History of 
Greene County, Pennsylvania," by Samuel. P Bates ( Chicago, 1 888 ), 
will be found in Appendix B. 

The originals of the illustrations are all owned by me, except the 
photograph of John A. Gordon in uniform, his hatchet-head, and the 
autograph of Rebecca S. Crawford. Of these the first two belong to my 
uncle, Edgar C. Gordon, and the last is from an album owned by my 
aunt, Rebecca (Gordon) West — both of Waynesburg. 

Donald Gordon 

Boston, July 18, 1922 








M. L. Gordon frontispiece 

From a photograph by M. Hori, Kyoto, Japan, about 1890. Autograph 
from letter of January 17, 1900 

John A. Gordon facing page 3 

From a daguerreotype, 1854—57. Autograph from letter of April 15, 1889 

Rebecca S. Crawford 4 

From a daguerreotype prior to 1853. Autograph from album o/~1840 

M. L. Gordon as a Boy 6 

From a daguerreoti/pe 

Private M. L. Gordon, 1 861 8 

From a photograph by Brady, Washington, D.C. 

Lieutenant John A. Gordon io 

From a photograph 

John A. Gordon's Sword, Spur, and Hatchet-Head 12 

Map of Charleston Harbor 14 

From a sketch by M. L. Gordon, 1888-90 

M. L. Gordon's Warrant as Sergeant 16 

M. L. Gordon's Warrant as Acting Sergeant-Major 18 

Sergeant M. L. Gordon, November, 1864 20 

From a photograph by Evans, Norfolk, ffrginia 

John A. Gordon's Commission as Captain 30 

John A. Gordon's Shoulder-Straps — M. L. Gordon's Cap-Strap 40 

M. L. Gordon's Diary 53 

Size of original 3* 5% inches 

M. L. Gordon's Discharge 58 

Map of James River 65 

From a xvar-time sketch by M. L. Gordon 



I WAS born in a white frame-house in Waynesburg [Pennsyl- 
vania], July 18, 1 843. Among my earliest recollections are those 
of going to school to my father, 1 learning to read in McGuffey's 
First Reader. About the same time my mother 2 woke me up one 
morning by telling me that my father had joined the Sons of Tem- 
perance (in which he was quite active); and a little later she told me 
that he had enlisted for the Mexican War. The company was not 
accepted, however, and so the family had no part in a war which was 
then very popular with us, but which history does not speak very 
highly about. The return of the few who went from Waynesburg in 
other companies is also one of my early recollections. 

From infancy I was taken to church and Sunday School. At that 
time my father was a teacher of a Bible Class for adults, which met 
on Sunday afternoons, and I can remember going with him and 
listening to their discussions. 

My father always kept a horse, sometimes three or four, and as 
a boy I was very fond of riding. Long before I was ten years old 
I remember riding alone to a place twelve or fifteen miles away. 
The horse I rode was named " Henry," and I can remember his 
throwing me off — perhaps I ought to say my falling off — more than 

It was always a special delight to us to visit Carmichaels, my 
mother's old home, where her mother 3 and several of her brothers 
lived. There were quite a number of children and we had fine times 

'John Adam Gordon, born June 16, 1816. 

* Rebecca Slater (Crawford) Gordon, bom April 12, 1815. They were married October 14, 1842. 

3 Salome (Jennings) Crawford, born August 22, 1773. 


together. The fall before my mother died I drove her down there 
with a horse we called "Robert." 

From the time of my mother's death, 1 which I remember very 
well, we lived on a farm, and in the last years before I went to 
school, I can remember how hard the work was. I would wake up 
in the night, and, if Saturday, would rejoice to think that there was 
a day and nearly two nights before the work began. 

When the College was started in Waynesburg, 2 a Preparatory 
Department was made for it, and here I studied for a number of 
years. I began teaching school before I was seventeen, teaching that 
winter and the next. A part of the next summer I spent at school 
in Waynesburg, and that September I enlisted with my father for 
"three years, or during the war." 

The regiment in which my father and I enlisted, was organized 
at Uniontown, about forty miles from our home. The colonel was 
Joshua B. Howell, a lawyer of that place. My father was captain of 
our company when it went into camp, but as the company had only 
about half the requisite number of men, at Uniontown we united 
with Captain I. M. Abraham's company, my father becoming first 
lieutenant; and on November 12, 1861, we were sworn into the ser- 
vice as "Company G, 85th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers." 

We started almost immediately for Washington, being reviewed 
by the Governor, 3 and receiving our flag, at Harrisburg. Arriving in 
Washington, we were first sent into camp out east of the city, near 
Bladensburg, — " Camp Wilder" I think it was called. Here we were 
under the care of the now well-known General O. O. Howard. A little 

' April 11, 1853. ■ Waynesburg College, chartered March 25, 1850. 

Andrew G. Curtin. 


£/. A< 



later we were sent south of what I believe is called " East River," 
where we spent the winter on the hills, building one or two forts 
and drilling a good deal. The place was called "Fort Good Hope," 
and it was a time of hope for us all. 

While here I frequently went to Washington, visiting the Capi- 
tol, the White House, the Treasury, the Patent Office, and other 
public buildings. All was new, of course, to the boy from the coun- 
try. Several visits to Congress were especially interesting. At that 
time our representative in Congress was General Jesse Lazear, the 
superintendent of our Waynesburg Sunday School, and a very inti- 
mate friend of my parents. During the winter I was assigned to the 
Color Guard, a position which relieved me from some of the dis- 
agreeable duties of a soldier but, by separating me somewhat from 
the other soldiers, was not wholly desirable. Several weeks after our 
going into camp here, my father was ordered back to Pennsylvania 
on recruiting service. He was stationed at Brownsville, and did not 
return to the regiment till the end of the following May; I did not 
see him till August. 

After a few days spent on the hills north of Washington, we sailed 
in April £1862] for Fortress Monroe, embarking at Alexandria. On 
the way I had my first experience of seasickness, though I did not 
recognize it as such. When we landed at Old Point we had no 
money, were practically out of food, and were weak and hungry 
from the journey and from seasickness. Scores of fat, jolly-looking 
darkies crowded around us with pies and cakes: perhaps the strong- 
est temptation of my life to steal was just then. We were marched 
out beyond the Fort towards Hampton, and were hoping and expect- 
ing to stop every minute, but we kept on and on, till within a mile or 


so of Newport News. On the way a cook in some regiment or wagon 
train at the roadside gave me a half-pint of pea soup. I have tasted 
nothing better since. This was on Monday. We got no regular food 
till Thursday, and so I had here the hungriest experience of my life. 
I remember how the soldiers went out into a field which had been 
a potato patch the year before, and dug all around with their hands 
for the little potatoes which had been left by the farmers. 

We were here only a week or two, when we went on to the 
vicinity of York town. The weather was very rainy. We cut down 
pine saplings and laid them together for our bedsteads. Sometimes 
there would be two or three inches of water collected under the bed. 
We were in Keim's Brigade of Casey's Division. One dark rainy 
night our regiment was ordered out to the front where there was 
quite lively musketry firing. I can remember how the thought came 
to me, " What if I should be killed ? " I think I had been a Christian 
before, but I can remember how clearly the thought came to me 
that while my death might be a loss to my friends, it could bring 
no loss to me. 

When the rebels evacuated Yorktown 1 we were ordered to follow, 
but the roads were so bad and the number of troops ahead of us so 
great that our progress was slow. Of course there was a great deal 
of confusion. The second day, I think it was, fresh beef was issued 
to us — probably some cattle they could not well take along — but 
no salt. The way we managed it was to cut a slice of salt beef and 
put it on the end of a stick, then one of fresh beef, and so on; and 
as we toasted it over the camp-fire the juice of the salt beef would 
run out over the fresh beef, making it quite palatable. 

1 May 3-4, 1862. 

f/^J', :<Jnr</o„ 


We arrived at the Williamsburg battlefield in the afternoon of 
the last day of the fight, 1 and were thrown in line in a clover field 
with other regiments of the brigade. There was pretty heavy mus- 
ketry in front of us, and cannonading too. It was our first real taste 
of war, and, as may be imagined, our feelings were not especially 
pleasant. One soldier expressed the inward feelings of a good many 
when he cried out, "Oh, where is my man? I '11 make it up with him." 
In the evening, just at dusk, a staff officer came riding back to Gen- 
eral Keim, who was near our regiment, and asked for a regiment 
to go into the woods ahead to take place on the front line of battle. 
Thereupon Colonel Howell gave the command " Forward, Eighty- 
fifth ! " and in we went. The fighting was in reality about over, as the 
Rebels were already retreating. Fort Magruder, however, kept up 
a fire for most of the night, the cannon-balls going almost entirely 
over our heads and to our rear. The rain poured down, and it was 
quite cold. Wandering around in the woods I found a knapsack, and, 
as it had a good flannel shirt in it, I took off my wet one and put 
that on. The next day we advanced through Williamsburg, seeing 
everywhere evidences of the haste with which the Rebels had fled, 
— deserted wagons, cannon, some prisoners, etc. 

A day or two later I began to feel the effects of the night before 
Williamsburg. A heavy fever set in, and, as we had no way to trans- 
port sick men, I fell behind. From the time we left Yorktown it had 
been raining much of the time, and the roads were simply awful. 
Late that night I fell in with an ammunition train, and one of the 
drivers was kind enough to let me ride on one of his wagons, though 
he had no right to do so. I suppose he saw how sick a boy I was. 

'May 5, 1862. 


The next day, I think it was, at New Kent Court House, the doc- 
tors decided to send me away, and I was taken to Cumberland 
Landing and sent by boat to Yorktown. The chaplain of the regi- 
ment, Rev. Mr. Pierce, was exceedingly kind in helping me to the 
boat. After a few days at Yorktown we were taken to the hospital 
at Newport News, where I rapidly recovered health and strength. 

While in the hospital at Newport News, as well as when we were 
encamped near there, we saw the wreck of the" Cumberland," which 
had been sunk by the " Merrimac" only a very short time before. 1 
We also saw in Hampton Roads the " Monitor" — that "cheese-box 
on a raft" — which in such a timely way put an end to the work of 
the "Merrimac." 

About the first of June we were put on board a large steamer and 
sent to New York. The immediate cause of this was to clear out the 
hospital for the large number of sick and wounded who were being 
sent back from the front, as this was just after the battle of Fair Oaks. 
Going down to the wharf at Newport News I thought I would slip 
out of the ranks and run to a shop and buy a loaf of the nice aerated 
bread which I knew was for sale there. I had taken but a few steps, 
however, when the ground suddenly flew up and hit me in the face, 
and I realized that I was not so strong as I had supposed myself 
to be. 

At New York we were taken in carriages from the boat to " Park 
Barracks" on Broadway, close by the City Hall. Here Soldiers' 
Relief Committees of both ladies and gentlemen took care of us, 
and we found it quite a different world from that we had left at the 
front. Agents from Pennsylvania met us, secured furloughs for us, 

1 March 8, 1862. 

. /ft C'ft /<•' . //_'/> 'A/ ti/y/ti/i 


and we were soon on our way home. We took the cars at night 
and reached Harrisburg very early next morning. It was late in June, 
when everything in that state is at its best, and, as I had seen nothing 
of country life since leaving the Peninsula, which had been made 
bare by the ravages of the troops of both sides, I seemed to have 
entered Paradise itself. 

By the end of July I was strong enough to leave home. When I 
got back to New York a young fellow dressed in a soldier's uni- 
form met me on the Jersey City ferry-boat and said he was just 
returning too, but as it was too late to go up to the office on Grant 
Street that night, he was going to stay with a friend, and asked me 
to go along with him. So, as his friend's house was near, I went with 
him. His friend's house proved to be a saloon, and I parted com- 
pany with my new friend at once. No doubt he had been sent out 
to decoy unwary soldiers. 

On reporting for duty, I was told to go to Fort Hamilton at the 
entrance to the harbor. The officer who sent me down there evi- 
dently knew something of what I had in store forme, for pity (or 
something very like it ) was in his eye as he gave me my tickets 
for the street-cars to the Fort. I got there in the evening and found 
two or three hundred rough "bounty-jumpers" under guard, and 
I was put in among them. We were ordered to fall in, and were 
marched out to supper. Quite a number seemed to have come in that 
day, so the supper was all gone before I got into the dining-room. 
The sergeant, who was a kind-hearted young regular, allowed me 
to go out into a hotel near by and buy my supper. Two or three 
days after this we embarked and sailed for Harrison's Landing, 
where McClellan's army was then lying. 


To go back to my father. He returned to the regiment about the 
end of May, expecting to see me, as he had heard nothing of my 
sickness. Colonel Howell met him with his usual smile, telling him 
what a splendid soldier I was proving myself to be. When my 
father told him I was not in the regiment, and had not been for ten 
days, the Colonel was somewhat taken aback. My father was with 
the regiment at the battle of Fair Oaks, 1 and through the "Seven 
Days' Battles" 2 on the retreat to Harrison's Landing. A part of this 
time he was in command of Company I. He heard nothing of me 
till he saw my name in the list of sick taken to New York, and the 
people in Waynesburg heard nothing either, so some thought I was 
dead, and I made quite a sensation when I got home. 

A few days after I got back to the regiment my father was placed 
in charge of the Ambulance Corps of General J. J. Peck's Division. 
This made him a staff officer, his designation being "Acting Assist- 
ant Adjutant General of the Ambulance Corps." The position was 
a good one, giving him a horse and easier duties, but was not quite 
so much as the high-sounding name would seem to imply. As he did 
not really return to duty with the company till within a few months 
of the expiration of our term of service, it will be seen that, although 
we were in the same company and regiment, we really served to- 
gether for a very short time. He was often near us for quite a long 
while at a time, so I had many pleasant rides on his horse. 

There is some doubt in my mind on this point; he may not have got hack till the second day of 
the battle [June 1, 1862]. M. L. G. 

'June 25-July 1, 1862. In December, 1889, John A. Gordon wrote: " The sword I took into the 
service with me I left on the peninsula in Va. The scabbard became much worn and disfigured and 
some of the fastenings gave way. Some of our men found a sword in the woods where the rebel 
cavalry made an attack on our lines and were driven back. The men seemed to think the rebel cav- 
alry lost it, but it was of American manufacture and was likely lost by our own men." 

1 ' t ca /< /i <in/ /rVt/i '■ / ./orr/o 


About the middle of August McClellan's army was withdrawn 
from the James. Our division, however, did not go back to Wash- 
ington, but remained in Virginia, first near Hampton, and later near 
Suffolk, on the south side of the James, about twenty miles out from 
Norfolk, at an important railroad junction. Suffolk is a very pleasant 
old town, and our three months here were among the most enjoy- 
able of our three years. The Rebels were about twenty miles away 
on the opposite side of the Blackwater River, and we made frequent 
raids out there, going out in the night, attacking them about day- 
break, and coming leisurely back the next day. 

About the first of December 1 our brigade — which since just be- 
fore the battle of Fair Oaks had been under the command of Briga- 
dier-General H. W. Wessels, a regular army officer — marched to 
the Blackwater River (or rather to the Chowan, by which name it is 
known lower down in its course), where we found transports await- 
ing us. Embarking on these, we steamed down the Chowan into 
Albemarle Sound, Pamlico Sound, and up the Neuse River, to New- 
bern, North Carolina. Here we found that an expedition was planned 
to go eighty miles up into the interior and cut the railroad nearGolds- 
boro. This was just at the time of Burnside's attack on Fredericks- 
burg, and the object was to prevent reinforcements being sent to Lee. 

We first met the enemy near Kinston, 2 where the Southerners 
resolutely defended a bridge. Our regiment was sent to the left of 
the road, to advance through a cedar swamp, the water being from 
a few inches to one or two feet deep. In the middle of the swamp we 
were ordered to unsling our knapsacks that we might advance more 
rapidly. We never saw them again. The enemy were in force just 

1 December 5, 1862. ' December 14, 1862. 


beyond the swamp and near the bridge, but our advance through 
the swamp was so unexpected and so rapid that they soon retreated. 
They held the bridge as long as they could, and then set fire to it 
as they hurriedly retreated. Our troops, however, put the fire out 
before it was seriously damaged. Some of the men were killed just 
here and we saw their half-burned bodies as we passed over the 
bridge. What cheering there was when it was all over! And how 
tired we all were! Colonel Grey of the 96th New York was killed 
here, and I can remember seeing his men gather around him like 
sheep that have lost their shepherd. Our regiment suffered very little, 
as the Confederates fired over our heads. 

After it was all over and we were lying in a cornfield not far from 
the bridge, I saw two soldiers of the 10th Connecticut walking back 
in rear of us. One of them seemed to be sick or wounded, and 
finally the other one went off" and left him lying there. I got the 
Captain's permission and went back to the man, gave him a drink 
out of my canteen, asked him where he was hurt, etc. After several 
incoherent replies, he said, "The truth is I have been drinking too 
much applejack! "This was treasured up as a joke on me for quite 
a while afterward. 

Our regiment had been in front, next the skirmishers, so far. Now, 
in view of our hard service, we were put nearer the rear as the expe- 
dition pushed on towards Goldsboro. We had more or less fighting 
every day, and, as the marching was hard, a good many fell out of 
ranks. Many of the soldiers belonging in Newbern wore boots sent 
from home which were utterly unfit for marching, and it was no 
unusual thing to see men walking along in their stocking feet over 
the frozen ground, carrying their boots in their hands. I determined 







before starting that I would keep right up all the way if possible, 
and I did so, although we went into camp with only six or eight men 
in the company several times. 

We reached the vicinity of Goldsboro on the 17th, and, after a 
pretty lively skirmish, the bridge was set on fire, and we started on 
the return journey. On the way back there were a great many fires 
in the pine woods, so that the soldiers said we had set North Caro- 
lina on fire and were running away by the light. 

We got back to Newbern just before Christmas, and, for some 
reason, there was only an inadequate supply of provisions, so that 
on Christmas morning we had nothing at all to eat. About eleven 
o'clock some tobacco was served out to us, and about one we had 
some bread and other food given us. 

We stayed in Newbern till the 25th of January £ 1863^], when 
we went by rail to Beaufort, North Carolina, and took transports for 
Port Royal, South Carolina. The object was an attack on Charles- 
ton, but there was some conflict between General Foster, who went 
in command of the troops from North Carolina, and General Hunter, 
commanding those from South Carolina. Pending the settlement of 
this difficulty we were put on St. Helena Island, where we remained 
till about the first of April, when we went to Folly Island, near 
Charleston. The plan was for a combined attack of the Army and 
Navy upon the forts in front of Charleston. We landed on Folly 
Island in the night, and marched the greater part of its length ( about 
ten miles, if I remember rightly), and the next day witnessed the 
attack of the monitors and other men-of-war upon these forts. 1 This 
attack was not successful, and so we were brought back to about 

'April 7, 1863. 


the middle of the island, where we spent the next two or three 

General Hunter had been superseded by General Q. A. Gillmore, 1 
who at once began active measures for the reduction of the forts in 
front of Charleston. Forts were secretly built on the extreme head 
of Folly Island, and here forty-seven guns were mounted before the 
Confederates, who were only a few hundred yards away across 
Light House Inlet, suspected what we were doing. Then the troops 
went up in small boats, surprised those on the lower end of Morris 
Island, 2 just opposite to our cannon, and so all the island up to Fort 
Wagner fell into our hands. The accompanying sketch will help 
somewhat in understanding the situation: 

JT '* 

a I * , 


2. CWU Tt*«*i^[ 
j. TV. JoK»s<>y>- 

I. HI Lsti Houselx)'* 

G^E QillmarSi "^ 

O-Vr. OUwr<oK 

'June 12, 1863. 'July 10, 1863. 


We did a large part of the work in building the forts I have men- 
tioned. We did the work in the night; were not allowed to talk aloud 
lest the Southerners should discover us. As we thus worked for eight 
consecutive nights before the attack, we did not take part in it — 
otherwise I might not be here to tell the story. The attack on Fort 
Wagner 1 was repulsed with great loss, especially among the col- 
ored troops. After that the General decided to approach Wagner 
by "parallels," or zigzag lines of works. This must be done in the 
night, and three regiments were detailed to hold the short front line 
— one regiment one night in every three. Ours, having escaped the 
deadly assault, was put upon this perilous duty, 2 and for quite a while 
we spent about twenty-six hours out of every seventy -two upon that 
murderous line. 

As can be seen by looking at the sketch, we were under the con- 
centrated fire of many batteries, and it was impossible to protect 
ourselves. And so it was that we had men killed or wounded every 
time we went to the front. Our company was at this time so reduced 
by sickness and by wounds that at one time we had only four non- 
commissioned officers and two men able for duty. I was one of the 
four, having been made a corporal on St. Helena, 3 and a sergeant on 
Folly Island. 1 We could easily see the cannon-balls — some of them 
coming, and there was usually a man on the lookout, who, when he 
saw the smoke in the daytime, or the flash at night, would sing out, 
"Cover, Wagner! ", "Cover, Johnson!", as the case might be. Of 
course we could not see the balls from the rifled cannon, but the 
mortar-shells and some others could be easily seen. I can hardly 

' July 18, 1863,— his twentieth birthday. "August 20, 1863. 

March 1, 1863. 'Presumably acting sergeant, as his warrant is dated November 1, 1863. 


believe it myself now, but I remember seeing one of our artillery- 
men take one of their mortar-shells, which had just come over, put 
it into one of our mortars and send it back into Fort Wagner. Fel- 
low soldiers in the same rifle-pit were struck again and again ; their 
names, faces, and all the circumstances come back to me as I write. 
One shell, which dropped twenty or thirty feet away, killed and 
wounded fourteen men. Our Lieutenant-Colonel Purviance was killed 
by our own guns a few feet away from me. 1 As they put negroes 
out on the breastworks at night and largely repaired the damage 
done to them by our cannon in the daytime, General Gillmore set 
up a large calcium light which made it as light as day all through the 
night, so that the repairs were stopped and they were compelled to 
evacuate. We were on duty the night of the evacuation. 2 I had charge 
of the signal pistol with directions how to use it in case of a sortie 
from the fort. Fort Gregg was evacuated at the same time, and a 
few days later I visited it and had the pleasure of standing in the fort 
from which the first gun of the war was fired. 

The shelling of Fort Sumter and the other forts by our gunboats 
was a magnificent sight — one never to be forgotten. 3 During the 
siege of Fort Wagner thousands of sandbags were secretly carried 
out into the swamp toward Charleston, not even we who worked at it 
knowing the reason why. Here a long range gun was placed, and from 
this General Gillmore threw balls filled with "Greek Fire" right 
into the city of Charleston, greatly to the consternation of the inhab- 
itants of that nest of rebellion. This gun was called the "Swamp 
Angel." 4 

1 August 30, 1863. ' September 6, 1863. 3 September 8, 1863. 

* "A 200-pounder Parrott, which threw shells into the town at the then great range of 8000 yards." 

The American Civil War, by John Formby (New York, 1910), p. 257. 


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believe it myself now, but I remember seeing one of our artillery- 
men take one of their mortar-shells, which had just come over, put 
it into one of our mortars and send it back into Fort Wagner. Fel- 
low soldiers in the same rifle-pit were struck again and again ; their 
names, faces, and all the circumstances come back to me as I write. 
One shell, which dropped twenty or thirty feet away, killed and 
wounded fourteen men. Our Lieutenant-Colonel Purviance was killed 
by our own guns a few feet away from me. 1 As they put negroes 
out on the breastworks at night and largely repaired the damage 
done to them by our cannon in the daytime, General Gillmore set 
up a large calcium light which made it as light as clay all through the 
night, so that the repairs were stopped and they were compelled to 
evacuate. We were on duty the night of the evacuation. 2 I had charge 
of the signal pistol with directions how to use it in case of a sortie 
from the fort. Fort Gregg was evacuated at the same time, and a 
few days later I visited it and had the pleasure of standing in the fort 
from which the first gun of the war was fired. 

The shelling of Fort Sumter and the other forts by our gunboats 
was a magnificent sight — one never to be forgotten. 3 During the 
siege of Fort Wagner thousands of sandbags were secretly carried 
out into the swamp toward Charleston, not even we who worked at it 
knowing the reason why. Here a long range gun was placed, and from 
this General Gillmore threw balls filled with "Greek Fire" right 
into the city of Charleston, greatly to the consternation of the inhab- 
itants of that nest of rebellion. This gun was called the "Swamp 
Angel." 4 

' August 30, 1863. 'September 6, 1863. 'September 8, 1863. 

' " A 200-pounder Parrott, which threw shells into the town at the then great range of 8000 yards." 

The American Civil War, by John Formby (New York, 1910), p. 257. 


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All the forts on Morris Island having been captured, it was no 
longer possible for Rebel ships to run the blockade and enter 
Charleston. The capture of Charleston did not, therefore, seem worth 
the cost that it would entail in men and money, and so most of the 
troops were sent away. 

We went back to Hilton Head, where we spent the winter £1863- 
64/] very pleasantly. Here I was detailed as Acting Sergeant-Major 
of the regiment, 1 the duties of which office I performed until the 
following April or May, when our Sergeant-Major returned to the 

My father we left at Suffolk, Virginia, and he was not with us 
till we were on Morris Island. Several months before that the Colo- 
nel asked that he be sent back to the regiment, and an order to 
that effect was issued from the War Department. Just at that time, 
however, the Confederate General, Longstreet, moved upon Suffolk 
with quite a large force and made several severe attacks on the city, 
so my father could not get away. Then the Medical Director wrote 
a letter to the Secretary of War urging that, as Lieutenant Gordon 
was admirably fitted for his position, he be allowed to remain. He 
was, therefore, allowed to remain, but was at last relieved of his 
command there and sent back to the regiment. In the meantime he 
had been reported as "absent without leave," and soon after his 
return he was tried by Court Martial. Owing partly to the fact that 
some of his witnesses failed to come and partly to personal influence, 
he was found guilty, and would, I suppose, have been dishonorably 
discharged from the service. The papers went up to General Q. A. 
Gillmore, the Commander of the Department, an officer of the reg- 

1 January 20, 1864. 


ular army, who at once saw the injustice done my father, disap- 
proved of the findings of the Court Martial, and forwarded his dis- 
approval to the President. 1 President Lincoln took the same view 
as General Gillmore, and ordered " that Lieut. Gordon be returned 
to his command without loss of pay or allowances." This was not, 
however, until May £1864]], when we were in front of Petersburg, 

To go back. While we were at Hilton Head, we went on an ex- 
pedition to White Marsh Island, near Savannah, Georgia, going by 
way of Fort Pulaski. We attacked the Rebels in quite a lively man- 
ner and they responded in an even more lively fashion, so that we 
were very glad to get away with a very few wounded and one or 
two taken prisoners, — one of them Billy, the Colonel's cook. The 
tide was out and our steamer was for quite a while aground and 
really at the mercy of the enemy. Luckily, however, they didn't 
know it, so we got off" safely at last. While at Hilton Head, Eli 
Crumrine, a fifer in Company B, and I sent for Upham's "Mental 
Philosophy" and studied it for a while, reciting to my father. 

In the early spring 2 we were sent north to take part in the great 
advance against Richmond. We were sent to Gloucester Point, oppo- 
site Yorktown, and became a part of General W. F. Smith's Divi- 
sion of the Army of the James, which was commanded by Major- 
General Butler. In company with the rest of the Army of the James, 
we ascended the James River on transports early in May, and landed 
at Bermuda Hundred, just above the mouth of the Appomattox. 

1 The Judge Advocate of the Department of the South at this period was die late John Chipman 
Gray, of Boston, who wrote on February 4, 1912: "My duty was to revise Court Martial Rec- 
ords. ... I think it highly probable that Gillmore consulted me about your grandfather's case." 

'April 22, 1864. 


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After landing, we marched out toward the Richmond and Peters- 
burg Railroad, some of our troops even crossing the road. Our regi- 
ment, however, was stopped near the James, opposite Dutch Gap. 
The Rebels were greatly troubled by this move and strong reen- 
forcements were sent to their army. Our troops, which had advanced 
to Drury's Bluff, were driven back with considerable loss of life. 
Our regiment being on picket when this advance was made, was not 
in the battle. We were, however, in easy hearing distance of the 
heavy musketry firing. This was on the 16th of May, I think. 

On the 20th of May, the Rebels came down in strong force and 
tried to drive us from our line. Our regiment was sent to hold a 
weak part of the line. Here we had the hardest direct fighting of my 
whole experience. They advanced within a hundred yards of us de- 
termined to drive us, but we were as determined to hold our ground. 
I here shot so fast as to make my gun-barrel so hot that it was 
uncomfortable to hold — the only time I ever had such an experience. 
Corporal George Kinney was killed at my side, as were some others 
of our company , but the enemy for the most part fired over our heads. 
One of their brigadier-generals was captured by our brigade. 1 

For some time after this we had almost daily fights over the line of 
rifle-pits in front of the camp. One dav they would drive us away and 
throw up the earth from their side; the next morning we would sur- 
prise them and use the same set of tools to throw up the earth from 
our side of the same rifle-pit. By and by they became convinced that 
they could not move us, and General Butler unfortunately could not 
advance; so we settled down and became quite friendly, exchang- 
ing newspapers, etc. Part of the line was in an open field, and we 

1 Brigadier-General Walker. See page 72. 


dug deep holes — "gopher-holes" — where we lay all day, not daring 
to stick our heads up, always going in and coming out in the dark. 
Here we were through June and into July, when I was taken quite 
sick and sent to the hospital at Point of Rocks, on the Appomattox. 
This seemed pretty hard on me, but was reallya very fortunate thing, 
as about the middle of July our regiment, with other troops, were 
sent north of the James to Deep Bottom, 1 where they suffered per- 
haps the heaviest loss of the war. Quite a number of my personal 
friends were killed or mortally wounded. My father, who was with 
the regiment then, fortunately escaped unhurt. 

I recovered and returned to the regiment in August, and not long 
after we were taken across the Appomattox to the front of Peters- 
burg. We were right in front of the mine that had been exploded 
a few weeks before. Here firing was going on almost all the time, 
day and night. Our camp was in easy range of the enemy's guns. 
One day I was standing in camp, talking to a friend named Myers 
Titus, when a cannon-ball came over, struck in a tent near us, where 
"Skeety" Atkinson was writing, cut his right arm off near the 
shoulder, and passed on between my friend and me as we were 

We were much on the front line here, and the firing was almost 
continuous. At about nine o'clock every morning, however, some 
one on either side would wave a newspaper or something white, and, 
when this was recognized on the other side, the firing would cease, 
and perhaps fifty soldiers from each side would jump over the lines 
and meet together in the little valley between, where they would 
talk and laugh in the friendliest way, exchange newspapers, coffee 

'August 13, 1864. 

■-SVoi>i'r/i/>tr-. /So.', 


for tobacco, etc. After twenty minutes or half an hour we would 
separate, and almost immediately the firing would begin again. 

In September we went north of the James again, surprised the 
enemy above Deep Bottom, took their breastworks, and went on 
very near to Richmond, nearer, I think, than troops had been before. 
In the evening we withdrew to a cross-road and threw up rifle-pits. 
Here we were violently attacked by the enemy, but they were re- 
pulsed with heavy loss. The next day, or at least soon afterwards, 
we attacked again and had some severe fighting, in which the soldier 
I have just spoken of £Titus^ was wounded. I helped him to an 
ambulance while the battle was going on. The wound did not seem 
serious, and he said if we got off as easily as he had, we would be 
fortunate. A few days later he died of the wound, which had become 
gangrenous. 1 

This was our very last day of fighting. Our time having expired, 
we were sent to Norfolk, Virginia, for a while, on police duty, while 
my father and many other officers were detailed to go to Charleston, 
South Carolina, with prisoners for exchange. We were sent to Pitts- 
burgh in November Q1864], and were mustered out of the service. 2 
We reached Waynesburg on Thanksgiving Day, 3 and I reentered 
college immediately and joined the church at the first Communion 

1 Sergeant Myers P. Titus died at Hampton, Virginia, October, 1864, of wounds received in action. 

"November 22, 1864. 

3 November 24, 1864, — Co. G in charge of M. L. Gordon. 



Suffolk Va. Oct. 5th / 62 

Dear Uncle, 1 

I WROTE you a letter three or four weeks ago, but as yet have 
received no answer. We have not had a word from fjliomej for 
more than three weeks. What can be the reason ? I hope nothing 
unusual has taken place! 

We are still encamped near Suffolk with little prospect of leaving 
soon, unless to make an advance on Petersburg, which will not be 
made, I think for several weeks at least, but I should not be surprised 
if it were made before long as we are being heavily reinforced. 

Our Brigade made a "reconnoisance in force" a day or two ago 
— started out on Friday and returned late last night. The 103d Regi- 
ment P. V. (which was on our left) with a Battery of Parrott guns 
engaged the Rebels some six miles this side of Black Water and 
shelled them from their position. Rebel loss unknown — ours three 
killed and seven wounded by a shell. The Party then returned with- 
out effecting anything else except supplying us with Sweet Potatoes, 
apples &c. &c. 

Papa is quite unwell, has been so for several days — is a shade 
better today. I still continue in excellent health — although I do not 
look quite so well in the face I think I am heavier than when I left 
Greene Co. Tom Knisely is sick in the Hospital, they are talking 
of sending him North. George Knisely and Owen Pitcock are both 
unwell. Will Pitcock is almost well again. 

Our Regiment has not been paid for more than three months. I 

1 William Gordon, born March 10, 1833. 


have not received any pay for more than five months, consequently 
my funds are getting rather low. Uncle Godfrey 1 still owes me a 
balance on that school order he got of me eighteen months ago. If he 
is at home I would be very much obliged if you, or Uncle Bazzel 2 
if you would mention it to him. I do dislike to ask him for it, but he 
can do without it, while I cannot very well. The Order was for twenty 
dollars, and he has paid me $11 .50 consequently there remains #8.50 
due. But if he is not at home, don't put yourself to any trouble about 
it as I can get along very well without it, for a while at least. 

Give my love to all the folks, especially when you go to R e 

Write soon Direct as usual 

M Lafayette Gordon 

Peck's Div Co G 85 P. V. 

Washington D. C. 

W« Gordon 

Suffolk Va Nov. 17 th 1862 

Dear Uncle, 

I RECEIVED a short letter from you several days ago, but have 
been so busy fixing up our tent that I have had no time for let- 
ter-writing. We got logs and built a pen the size of our tent, about 
4 ft high, and put our tent on top. We have a brick fire place in our 
tent and as the chimney draws very well, we can make ourselves 
quite comfortable these cool evenings. Indeed ! if we get to occupy 
these quarters all winter we will be as comfortable ( in body ) as if 
we were at home. 

It has been q£ui]te cool here the past two weeks. We had quite a 
snow about a week since, and a few days of real November weather, 

■ Godfrey Gordon, born October 18, 1820. 
2 Bazel Gordon, born December 27, 1822. 


but it is warm again now and today it is quite pleasant without fire. 

I hope you all succeeded in weathering the storm up there but am 
afraid you had rather a serious time of it, but I hope you did not ex- 
pose yourself. I deeply regret the condition in which you are placed, 
but am (as you know) powerless as far as aiding you is concerned. 
The prospect of either of us getting home is to my mind anything 
but flattering. There is some talk of our Capt. being appointed Major, 
and in that event I suppose Pa. would become Captain although he 
prefers his present position. I do not know how it will turn out. 

Papa is out now with the ambulances. Quite a large party went out 
in the direction of Blackwater today — they took three days rations. 
From some cause our Regiment was left behind, but Pa. went with 
the fifteen Amb 1Vs They may " see snakes" before they return heavy 
cannonading has been heard in that direction several times today. 

I suppose you have heard of Tom Knisely's death He died near 
a week ago. His " Discharge Papers" were received a day or two 
ago but he did not need them. 

Will Pitcock is looking for his "papers" every day. I hope he may 
get them soon Davy Graham, will I think be discharged also I was 
very sick week before last and part of last week, another attack of 
Fever. Am doing duty again. 

The soldiers were very indignant at the removal of M'Clellan, 
indeed no act of the Afjdmjinistration has met with such universal 
condemnation. M'Clellan was never so popular as now I have my- 
self sometimes thought he was a little Slow, but you nor I never 
dreamed of the extent to which opposition to his plans was carried. 
An hour's reading from a pamphlet by Prince deJoinville M'Clellan 's 
French Aid has given me more insight into the Peninsular Cam- 


paign than I had ever gained before. The Authorities at Washington 
gave him repeated promises of aid promises which they never intended 
to fulfil and which were only given that M'Clellan might be disap- 
pointed. M'Dowell's whole Corps was promised to assist in the tak- 
ing of Yorktown, even after we had arrived on the Peninsula. The 
breaking of this promise caused the delay of a regular Seige, and 
yet they joined in the cry of inactivity. Shame on them. 
Please write at your convenience 

Yours M Lafayette Gordon 

Pa wrote to Fortress Monroe for that letter but has not as yet re- 
ceived it Lafay. 

Camp near Newbern N. C. Jan 23 d 1863 

My Dear Uncle 

I RECEIVED a letter from you two or three weeks ago and wrote 
you about the Same time, but as the mail is so irregular I will 
write again, hoping that you will return the compliment. 

As I gave you a pretty full account of our expedition in my last 
it will be useless for me to refer to it in this; yet there were many 
things transpired on our trip that if I could see you I would like to 
tell you, but which would require too much paper to write I must, 
therefore, wait until I go home. You will See that Gen Foster in 
his Official Report gives our Reg't & Brigade more credit than did 
the correspondents of the Newspapers. After we came back Gen 
Wessel was made a General of Division and Col. Hunt (92 NY) 
was put in command of our old Brigade Col. Howell was made 
Acting Brigadier (though for what wonderful feats of daring I do 
not know) and we were transferred and are now in "Howell's Bri- 


gade." I was loth to leave our Boys in the old Brigade and we were 
all sorry to leave old "Wes." but the worst disappointed when we 
heard that we would be under Howell. It takes a good while to 
become acquainted with such a person as the Col. and I am very 
sorry that he has got among Gen's who do not know him so well 
as old Wessel did. He ran this Reg't enough when its Col. and I'm 
afraid it will be worse now. There is an expedition about to leave 
this place and Beaufort, for it is supposed Wilmington or Charles- 
ton, and it was intended that our Regiment should remain, but the 
Col. has, I learn, got permission to go along. While we are far from 
fearing to expose ourselves when our Country demands it, we think 
it unfair that a Reg't which has seen as much hard service as ours, 
and which has not been paid for nearly Seven months, should con- 
stantly run into everything, while others whose service has been a 
mere burlesque should be left in comfortable Barracks. 

Str. Ranger Jan. 27 th 

We are off Beaufort and the expedition is nearly ready to start. It 
is a very large one I counted near eighty sail in the Harbor this 
morn. I think our destination is Charleston or farther. You may ex- 
pect strange news from us soon. Write to Pa I may not have an 
opportunity to do so. 

Give my love to all the folks. Tell the friends of our Boys it may 
be some time before they have an opportunity to write 

As ever M Lafayette Gordon 

P.S. I will get this franked as I have only one or two Stamps 


Port Royal S. C. March 14 th [1863] 

Dear Uncle 

IT is with pleasure that I acknowledge receipt of your letter of 
Feb 22d. 

As you do not mention the receipt of but one from me, you must 
have written in answer to some I have written since leaving Suffolk. 
This is the first one I have received from you since one dated Dec. 
6 th I have written to you often, often er perhaps than to any other 
person but I believe all of my letters did not reach you. We are 
still lying on St. Helena and are getting along after the same old 

As you intimated we have been knocked around a good deal. 
We have been (comparatively speaking) everywhere. Have seen all 
kinds of people, from almost every nation on earth, have marched 
twice the length of that terrible Peninsula, — have waded the most 
dismal of the Carolinas' swamps, have been engaged in ten or a 
dozen sanguinary conflicts, in short we have seen the Elephant in 
all his glory; and felt the Earth quake beneath his mighty tread. 

A good part of the time when enduring the hardest privations, we 
have been cheered with the thought that we were striving to per- 
petuate that Government which was established by our forefathers, 
and for which a Washington a Greene a Marion, a Lafayette ten- 
dered their lives, and at whose shrine the lives of Warren De Kalb 
Pulaski and thousands others less noted but no less brave were 
offered up. But in these latter days when Ambition and lust rules the 
day there is little to comfort the common Soldier and true patriot. 
We cannot look out on the dread future with anything like hope- 
fulness, and as we are powerless to do anything toward asserting 

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Port Royal S. C. March 14 th [1863] 

Dear Uncle 

IT is with pleasure that I acknowledge receipt of your letter of 
Feb seel. 

As you do not mention the receipt of but one from me, you must 
have written in answer to some I have written since leaving Suffolk. 
This is the first one I have received from you since one dated Dec. 
6 th I have written to you often, oftener perhaps than to any other 
person but I believe all of my letters did not reach you. We are 
still lying on St. Helena and are getting along after the same old 

As you intimated we have been knocked around a good deal. 
We have been (comparatively speaking) everywhere. Have seen all 
kinds of people, from almost every nation on earth, have marched 
twice the length of that terrible Peninsula, — have waded the most 
dismal of the Carolinas' swamps, have been engaged in ten or a 
dozen sanguinary conflicts, in short we have seen the Elephant in 
all his glory; and felt the Earth quake beneath his mighty tread. 

A good part of the time when enduring the hardest privations, we 
have been cheered with the thought that we were striving to per- 
petuate that Government which was established by our forefathers, 
and for which a Washington a Greene a Marion, a Lafayette ten- 
dered their lives, and at whose shrine the lives of Warren De Kalb 
Pulaski and thousands others less noted but no less brave were 
offered up. But in these latter days when Ambition and lust rules the 
day there is little to comfort the common Soldier and true patriot. 
We cannot look out on the dread future with anything like hope- 
fulness, and as we are powerless to do anything toward asserting 


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our rights we can only do our duty, and trust that He who holds 
the destinies of nations in his hands will bring Order out of confu- 
sion. The President and his officials are vested with almost unlimited 
power and it is for you at the North who are not sworn to obey him 
to see that he wields it for good rather than evil. 

I believe the fate of this Country rests outside the army for the 
great part with the loyal Democracy of the nation. They should look 
well to her interests. Everything that tends to promote her happi- 
ness should be nurtured with a watchful eye and careful hand. 

No matter what the other party does the Democracy should be 
for the Country. They should come out as they did in the days of 
Buchanan's Treachery. 

I do not agree with those persons who call themselves Democrats 
whose only aim is to parylyze the efforts of the Government. 

This is not Lincoln's Gov't! We are not fighting for his adminis- 
tration and further if our Gov't does fall to pieces, we will not on 
any conditions submit to Jeflf Davis. 

We are laboring for the restoration of a Union bought by the 
blood of freeman, for our Homes — for all that makes life dear. The 
course of the President has been to totally annihilate any Union feel- 
ing in the South (whether intended or not) and to destroy con- 
fidence in the North. He has adopted measures which we believe 
ruinous, yet for his misdeeds shall we desert our Country [?] While 
we (being powerless) differ with him in regard to the means, let 
us not forget that we have as great a birthright as any man be his 
station ever so high. 

I say this because they are my QhQonest sentiments, not that I 
would want to make any one believe them. 


We had been thinking for some time that we had drilled in every- 
thing but the past week we have had " something new under the sun." 
We drill in getting on and off Transports. A Reg't is taken on board 
& then put in small boats they are then formed in line and all strike 
for the shore — the moment the boats touch the men spring out fix 
bayonets and make a charge. It is a good deal of fun, but we may 
see they \jic~] the day when it will not be quite so amusing. 

The Boys are in comparative health Will Graham has been un- 
well for some time but is better now. The weather is very warm. 
We scarcely ever have so warm a day in Penna as yesterday was. 
Hut this letter is already twice the length I intended it I will there- 
fore close 

Give my best respects to all my friends Write soon 


M. Lafayette Gordon 
William Gordon 

Folly Island S. C. May 21 s ' 1863 

Dear Uncle 

I HAVE been looking for a letter from you for a long time but 
have been disappointed. I wrote to you soon after we arrived on 
this Island and once I believe before we left St Helena. I received 
a letter from home a few days since that said that Davy Martin 
had written home that I was in the Hospital, and our Orderly Sergt. 
received a letter from Papa yesterday inquiring if the rumor was 
correct. I cannot imagine how Davy got such news, and am of the 
opinion that it is a creature of his \ery fertile imagination. My health 
since I left Suffolk last fall has been most excellent, nothing greater 


to disturb me at any time than a slight cold ended with a severe 
head-ache. As far as Davy is concerned he has not been with the 
Regt for six months and consequently has had no opportunities of 
knowing even if I had been sick. I feel just as well this morning as 
I ever did in my life although we are in this sickly, southern cli- 
mate. I hope you haven't been sufficiently alarmed about my health 
this time to set you to running through the rain and mud to all my 
"Ladye" correspondents. I'm afraid if you do there will be more 
than one tell you that they haven't received anything from me since 
Feb. or even before that. 

Seriously however I hope you will have no cause for anxiety for 
me, although knowing how liable I am to fever, I 'm a little afraid of 
what this summer may bring forth. I hope however my \jic~2 strict 
attention to the laws of health, cleanliness, with a clear conscience, 
and the Divine blessing, to get safely through it. 

We have been very anxious since the last Steamer came in about 
the success of our Army in Va. We have northern news up to the 
9 th inst when Hooker had re-re-crossed the river, and as we are en- 
tirely destitute of getting any more authentic information, there are 
a thousand-and-one rumors afloat, some accrediting Hooker with 
success, while others give him defeat. / am inclined to think he has 
been successful as the Rebels in our front have been very undemon- 
strative the past week. I think our men here have made a great mis- 
take in not making at least a feint here to prevent them from sending 
reinforcements to Lee. This is always the case. Our Generals seem 
to lack that adaptation of things to circumstances that the Rebels 
possess. But I hope that it is all right, but if it is our Generals here 
can give themselves very little credit for it. 


Our boys had a great time after the arrival of the last mail, laugh- 
ing over the scare some of the people in Greene Co. had at the time 
of the threatened invasion by the Rebels, although, I suspect, it was 
no laughing matter then. We laugh at everything here. You wouldn't 
believe that anyone could make light of some of the scenes of which 
we are the witnesses. The roughest jokes I ever heard in my life 
were perpetrated under a heavy fire. But really I think there were 
some men who should have shown more pluck than to run ofTT] with 
their horses & cattle and leave their wives and Children in the hands 
of a merciless, vagabond band of guerillas. A few men, with their 
trusty rifles, by stationing themselves in the woods along the road 
could have made them halt long before they did. 

The weather is very warm, but we have little active duty to per- 
form. We still drill about % hour in the morning, this with our guard 
duty completes our duties for the day. If each of us had a little wife 
to grace our tents and a little better grub, we could live like Princes. 
I suppose by this time our Chaplain has reached Perm, and deliv- 
ered the money in his charge. Did mine arrive safely? I sent sixty 
dollars by him. It is rumored that we will be paid again soon. I do 
not know whether it is true or not. I have to spend a good deal here, 
more than I like. Our rations are very plain merely crackers & meat 
and a few other things ( Beans in this climate are enough to kill a 
person ) and when a fellow has to sit down clay after day to a piece 
of corn-beef and a cracker as hard as a bone they soon become dis- 
tasteful, and when he has an opportunity to get a few Potatoes, a 
roll of butter head of cabbage or a little light bread he is generally 
inclined to do it even if it does cost him something, or at least that's 
my fix. 


Everything is quiet here now. The rebels opposite tried a few days 
since to shell us out of our Camp but as we have guns here that 
reach about as far again as theirs they soon got tired of it. 

The ( in sight of us ) Blockading fleet capture a schooner every 

day. The Ironsides is still out in front of the bar, looking liking [sif\ 

like a huge fort in the sea. Give my love to all your family, Becky 1 

& all the rest. Write soon Direct your letters to Hilton Head ( Via 

N. Y.) 


M. La fay. Gordon 

William Gordon 

North p't Folly Island July 18 lh '63 

Dear Uncle 

AS I intimated, in my last we are again on the offensive. 
2_ \_ On Friday the 1 o th our Batteries here opened on the Reb- 
els and with the aid of Infantry succeeded in driving the Rebs & 
occupying about one half of Morris Island. We took two hundred 
prisoners, and several large guns, including one English [^Whit- 
worth?^] gun. The Rebels yet hold Fort Wagoner, but we are 
getting some heavy guns in position which with the aid of the Gun 
Boats will make her show the white feather. Indeed I think the 
reduction of Charleston is but a question of time. Gen. Gilmore ap- 
pears to be a good General he has managed this thing very well. 
He had his batteries on this Island completed before the Rebels 
knew anything of it. I think the attack will be renewed by Monday. 
We are however having shelling all the time but it is just to keep 
the Rebs in hot water. 

1 The writer's sister, Rebecca (Gordon) West, born March 31, 1853. 


Our Regt has not been engaged yet and may not be at all. We 
were engaged on the fortifications until they were completed and 
then were on Picket and lastly were brought here to transport 
stores from here to Morris Island. 

We have been very much cheered by the news from Vicksburg 
and from Pa. and hope ere long to add Charleston to the list of Vic- 
tories. Hookers \jic~] did not have quite so much trouble & hard 
swearing to do to get out of command of the Army as he had to get 
into it. " Vive le" Meade. 

I will write you again in a few clays and give you a better account 
of our campaign. 

Hoping to hear from you soon I am &c 

Lafy Gordon. 

Morris Island, S. C. July '25 th 1863. 

Dear Uncle 

iS you may be somewhat anxious to hear from me during the 
J_ % present campaign I concluded this morning to drop you a 
line. I am tolerably well, — doing duty in this hot weather, and then 
being out in the heavy dews is enough to kill us all, but most of the 
boys are putting it through bravely. 1 have had several small boils 
on my left foot, and have to take it barefooted. I wrote you just a 
week ago — we were then on Folly Island, and I expected we would 
remain there, but our forces attempted to take Fort " Wagner " by 
storm and were repulsed with heavy loss. Consequently we were 
brought to the front. We now hold about three fourths of Morris 
Island, — the Rebels being strongly fortified in the remaining por- 
tion. Morris Island is a poorer one yet than Folly, but is splendQidlyJ 


adapted for defensive operations. All along the coast there are bluffs, 
fifty feet in height and on the tops of these the Rebels had dug out 
holes and placed their Guns in them on complete pivots, so that there 
was a natural embankment all round them, except a small aperture 
to go in at. It was these batteries that gave the Monitors that terrible 
"cross fire" last April. 

We are now preparing to give the Rebels shells, instead of the 
lives of our men We have heavy batteries, within rifle shot of 
Wagner. Have now a goodly number of Mortars, Parrott guns &c 
mounted and will soon be ready to give Sumter some two hundred 
pounders. We have shelling going on all the time. The rebels are 
trying to shell our camp today , and even as I write some shells from 
Fort Johnson are bursting within a few hundred yards of me. Our 

fleet gave £ ?] quite a spirited shelling yesterday forenoon and 

they run a boat out under a Flag of Truce with the pretence of 
affecting an exchange of Prisoners, but I guess it was getting rather 
warm for them. 

There is a great diversity of opinion among the Soldiers in re- 
gard to the ultimate fall of Charleston, but I think if our forces are 
handled rightly we will come out all right. Time will tell however. 

I sent to N York some time since for a watch expecting it to be 
a capped one but it turned out to be an opened faced one and was 
considerably damaged in coming. As it will be difficult to get it 
repaired here I concluded to send it to you, let you get it repaired 
and do the best you can with it. It cost me $7.00 

I believe I have nothing more to write at present & will close by 
sending my best wishes to you all. 

M. L. Gordon 


Tuesday 28 th 

We were ordered out into the trenches soon after I had written 
the foregoing, and did not get to send it off, so I will fill the sheet. 
We were out from Sat. till Sunday night, the Rebels shelling us 
all the time. The shells lit on all sides of us burst over our heads, 
sometimes covering us with mud &c. &c. This with an occasional 
ball from the "Reb" Sharpshooters made our position anything but 
an enviable one. Our men are still getting more heavy guns up, and 
the regular fighting not [to] come off for several days yet. I am still 
in tolerable health, but had quite a severe attack of Cholera Morbus 
night before last. I have not heard from Pa for some time. I am at 
a loss to divine the reason. It has also been a good while since I 
heard from home. Assure all the folks of my loving regard for them 
and believe me your friend & nephew 

M. Lafayette Gordon 

Morris Island S. C. Aug. 11 th '63. 

My dear Uncle 

YOUR letter of the 28 th of July was received two or three days 
since and one from home came to hand today. 
I am thankful indeed for the promptness you manifested in for- 
warding that Box. I can never repay my friends for their kindness, 
except by a grateful heart. 

The Box has not arrived yet but I expect to get it in a few days. 
I understand there is a load of Express Boxes at the wharf now. 
You have no idea how fruit sells here. Cans of Peaches, Tomatoes 
Plums &c the size of the Cans we use at home sell at $1.50 to $2.00. 
Smaller cans holding less than a quart $1.00. Onions $8.00 pr. Bar- 


rel. Melons 18 inches long $2.00 &c. &c. You see what it costs to 
live. I can add that we can't get anything scarcely at that price. 

Our Co. met with another misfortune on Sunday last. Josh Thomas 
was severely wounded in the left side of the neck and shoulder, by 
a piece of Shell. It came very near cutting the jugular vein. I was 
afraid at first that it might prove fatal but I think now there is every 
probability of his speedy recovery. I wrote to his folks yesterday 
noon. If you have a chance tell them that today he is much better & 
has all the care & comforts of home. I was with £him] all night Sun- 
day. Away in the night Miss Barton (who is the Florence Night- 
ingale of this Department) came in and went round among the 
wounded, talking to them in such a nice way, that I could hardly 
repress the mental "God bless you!" that came to my lips, and if 
I had followed the prompting of my heart would have went up & 
kissed her right there before them all! Oh! these women ! What enig- 
mas they are! Here they are light-hearted, careless creatures, car- 
ing for nothing, nor nobody, and the perpetual torment of the men 
generally, and again we find them forsaking the comforts and lux- 
uries of home to sooth & comfort him, and to watch over him in his 
affliction with angelic tenderness. 

But enough of this sentimentalism, or you will begin to think me 
love-sick and will prescribe a "dose of ears & tail &c &c." 

[ The first part of the following letter is missing] 

[August (— ?), 1863] 

... let things be right or wrong. For my part I should as lief keep 
my boots well blackened as otherwise, especially when the blacking 
is found me. I am enjoying myself pretty well, indeed I do not know 


that I ever done better since I have been in the service. Feeling that 
I am doing my duty I can reconcile my exile from my friends as a 
part of that duty, and bear it cheerfully. But I assure you that as soon 
as this Rebellion is crushed, none shall be more anxious to return to 
peaceful pursuits than myself. 

We are still knocking- away at Sumter, every day. She is literally 
a heap of ruins, and I am at a loss to know how men can remain in 
her, with those huge shells lighting on every portion of it. You will 
see by the Papers that one single shell killed 13 men all citizens of 
Charleston. We all recollect the rejoicing in that City after their dis- 
graceful assault on Andersen, truly their "rejoicing is turned into 
sorrow." The Boys are generally well and in good spirits. 

1 believe I will close as it is after Taps Write soon 

Your Bro 

M. L. Gordon 
Jno. C. Gordon 1 

Pa says he was not surprised to hear so good an account of that lamb 
knowing the good qualities of its mother. 

Black Island S. C. Oct 22 1863 

My Dear Uncle. 

YOURS of the 2 d inst was received a few days since and I am 
compelled to recognize the fact that there is a "discrepency " 
of opinion between us in regard to several important questions. I 
hope however that in regard to putting down this rebellion and 
establishing the honor of our Flag through the length and breadth 
of this great Country, if needs be, by force of arms, we are of similar 

'The writer's brother, John Crawford Gordon, bom May 14, 1846. 




— -. . 

y l^gMMMtf f ■ 4 ** *"' if f ■*' ^ ■* ™f* 





opinions, and that the difference is one of policy only and does not 
extend to the vital question, — that this Government must be sus- 
tained. As you have refered to the question at length, I will make 
a brief review of it, giving you my views, for what they are worth, 
not having the vanity \\o} suppose that I can influence yours. To 
begin : I am not certain that I did, or did not send word to you to vote 
for Gov. Curtin, but I was very anxious for his re-election and for the 
defeat of Woodward and Vallandigham. You must confess that the 
antecedents of the men who are managing Woodward^'Js campaign, 
are not of the most flattering character. They are principal J ly the 
old Buchanan "whippers in," and the pliant tools of the Southern 

Weak kneed Bigler, The R. R. Glancy Jones, Searight &c &c. 
The Serpent himself is dead, but the body ( Bigler, Hughes, Welch 
& Co.) and the tail (Searight, Gilmore Crawford & Waddell) still 
keeps up a wriggling, but will end as soon as the Sun of rebellion 
disappears behind the bulwark of Loyalty. These are the men whom 
Woodward says do not allow him to " discuss the political questions 
of the day" I want more evidence of his loyalty! Gov. Curtin by 
both word and deed has defined his position, and while he has not 
advocated any radical measures has been unswerving in his loyalty. 
Would you have him pursue the course recommended by your 
patriotic representative in the Legislature? Withdraw the support of 
Penna \J~] The Soldiers, although they long for the return of peace, 
would call it an insult. In regard to the confiscation act and to Arm- 
ing the Negroes, and to other acts of the administration, I was 
opposed to many if not all of them but a close observation of the 
progress of the war has convinced me that in some instances I was 


wrong. Have Tratiors any rights under the Constitution ? I say no! 
I believe in using every dollar, every article of property in putting 
down rebellion, and if we can use those chattels best by putting 
musketts in their hands, that is the way to use them. I do not hesi- 
tate in such a matter out of any love I bear these murderers of my 
brethren! but simply to enquire if it will help our cause! 

You say that under our present policy there will be rebellion 
while a Southerner lives. Don't they reject any terms that tend to a 
reconstruction of the Union fJ?J Can we offer them better terms and 
better rights than they had when they seceded ? Have they not had 
the opportunity of returning to their allegiance at any time since the 
breaking out of the war? They also had eighteen months to repent 
their folly, and could then have returned and have retained their 
property as loyal men! These are undeniable facts, and if under this 
system a southerner will be a Rebel while he lives why for the 
benefit of humanity for the honor of our country, the sooner he is 
dead, the better say I. He brings the curse on his own head. 
[ The hist part of this letter is missing] 

Hilton Head S. C. Jan 9»> 1864 

Dear Uncle 

YOURS of Dec. 20* was received a few days since, and re- 
ceived its usual welcome. And tonight drawing up to the fire 
I will in something like "double quick" pen you a few lines. It is 
quite cool tonight, and reminds one very sensibly of some of the win- 
ter nights in the olden time when we gathered around the huge fire- 
place, or cheerful grate, enjoying the society of those we loved, and in 
blissful ignorance of War and its inevitable privations and horrors. 


But those "good old times" have passed away never — never to 
return and a "new order" of things presents itself. 

Our country once the pride of her people, the Star of Hope to the 
oppressed and the wonder of the world is now by the machinations 
of wicked conspirators plunged into civil war, her government is 
tottering in its seat, our homes desolated, and our fertile valleys 
peopled with the dead 

Yet amid all this we have great cause to be thankfull. We are 
placed in a, comparatively speaking, pleasant situation and through 
this great struggle He has thus far preserved our family circle 

The weather is very changeable here. One day it is raining the 
next it is cold and the third it is as pleasant as May with you. We 
have had a preponderence of rain lately, but it is clear & cold to- 
day. We never have any mud, within a few hours from the time it 
ceases to rain the ground is dry. 

The boys are driving along at the same old rate, drilling a little 
and standing guard, getting wood &c. Health is generally good. 
Three from Comp. G have enlisted in the Veteran Corps, Lindsay 
Black among them. There are not many re-enlisting from our Regi- 
ment, but someregts will send nearly all their men. This is adding 
great strength to the Govt, indeed. They are as a general thing 
worth a half dozen Regts of conscripts. 

A man may be well drilled but it takes experience under fire to 
make him a Veteran. 

You appear to misunderstand me in regard to politics. I do not 
require it as an evidence of a man's loyalty that he must support 
Mr Lincoln's P ns, and I will not call a man a traitor who does 


support them. We want this Rebellion put down, and I 'm in for the 
safest, quickest and surest method of doing it. 

The "Messenger" has been all along applauding the deeds of 
the Copperheads, called Vallandigham's address to the people of 
Ohio "noble & patriotic" Yet we heard of no democrat demurring. 
Crawford & Waddell stumped the county making Val. a martyr, 
an exiled patriot, and [Lincoln ?[] equal to an Austrian Emperor. 
Their meetings were published as enthusiastic 

Do Waddell & Crawford and the Messenger represent the feel- 
ings of the Greene Co Democracy? I believe it not, and yet, their 
silence would seem to indicate as much. I have little regard for Hop- 
kins The man who could confess in the Legislature that he sup- 
ported a Bill he knew to be wrong, because he had not courage 
enough to face the party, can have little confidence from me. I fully 
agree with you that the Widow who yields her Husband to the 
Country is as deserving as any, let them be ever so much exalted. 
We have the evidence of a prominent citizen of Philadelphia that 
Judge Woodward said soon after Gettysburg that this was a " war 
of factions in which he could have little interest £"] Does the man 
who entertains these sentiments deserve the support of a man who 
has seen his best friends cut down by his side [?J I have scratched 
down a few thoughts]] hurriedly to express my dissent with the 
course of the Democracy as interpreted by Waddell & Co Take 
them for what they are worth 

My love to all, 

M. L. Gordon 


Hilton Head S. C. Jan. 25 th 1864 

My Dear Uncle: 

HAVING a few leisure moments, this morning I have con- 
cluded to devote them to you. I am writing to you so often 
that I shouldn't wonder if you are becoming to dread the receipt 
of a letter addressed in my hand, but I hope that my constant desire 
to hear from you will be a sufficient apology for the present intru- 
sion, if intrusion it proves to be. 

We are still encamped near Hilton Head, and are surrounded 
with an unusual amount of the comforts of life. Good quarters, good 
grub, and comparatively little to do. Then too we are blessed with 
most delightful weather. You at the North never have such weather 
unless in the early part of June or in Indian Summer. It is just warm 
enough to be pleasant in day-time, and the nights just right for 
sleeping. The residents of the Island are already planting Potatoes 
&c and yesterday I saw some of the " free Americans of African 
descent " out in white pants etc. I never was in better health in my 
life Truly I should be thankful that the "lines have fallen to me in 
such pleasant places," and should by my life show my gratitude for 
his numerous blessings. 

Nothing has occurred, of late to disturb the usual monotony of 
Camp life. The usual amount of drill, guard, and other duties being 
the routine from day to day.' Some of the "Shoulder Strap" men 
are having fine times. Many of them have their wives with them, 
and others in my opinion have brought on a few of those estimable 
Ladies who reside in the "fancy" houses in Baltimore and other 
Cities. Quite a party came out from the Head a few evenings since to 
serenade Col Howell bringing with them the Post Band. Hearing the 


Music, I with one or two others walked up to Headquarters and 
were surprised to find so large a party. There were about 45 Gentle- 
men ( officers ) and perhaps half as many of of \jic~\ the opposite Sex. 
I tell you they cut a dash. I never Saw women with less of that "ma- 
denly modesty" which makes their sex so attractive. They sung 
"John Brown "B-aBa Baby ba ba ba,and danced around through the 
miscellaneous crowd in every direction. I was perfectly disgusted, 
and came away thanking my Stars that I was (as a private soldier) 
was beneath their notice. 

The Colonel was delighted with it, indeed the most fulsome flat- 
tery is swallowed by him as the genuine coin. 

How are you all getting along ? Do you have it so cold yet? How 
is Uncle Higgens 1 flourishing? Tell me all the news when you write. 

Give my love to all the folks. 

You see I have got these pages mixed up. I will close for the 
present write to me soon & often. 


M. Lafay. Gordon 

Camp in the W r ildemess May 21 st 1864. 

Dear Uncle: 

YOUR letters dated April 9 and 1511 respectively was only re- 
ceived this morning and as I am on Guard today and can 
write there I will scribble you a line in pencil. 

I do not remember when my last to you was written but by let- 
ters to grand Pa 2 and to £home?3 you have been apprised of our 

1 The writer's aunt, Delilah Gordon, bom September 15, 1830, married first Harvey Higgins, and 
second John I. Worley. 

2 Mark Gordon, bom January 22, 1794. 


movements from Hilton Head to Gloucester Point, and thence to 
our Landing at "Bermuda Hundred" and all our operations up to a 
week ago. Since that time we have been five days on Picket and two 
or three nights in the trenches and yesterday we had a very severe 
engagement with the Rebels. I will first say that our forces had a 
heavy battle two or three days since and the loss was heavy on both 
sides. Our men held their ground but in the night withdrew to this 
point, and are now strongly intrenched. I understand that the Rebels 
[arej in our front in heavy force — some of the prisoners say that 
a great part of Lee's army is here. They are now within a short 
distance of our works, and I think it probable we will have to fight 
them at the works soon. When that comes I am confident that we 
will be able to repulse them and punish them severely. But to yes- 
terday's affair. After lying in the trenches all night we were taken 
out to the skirmish line yesterday at about eleven o'clock. The ad- 
vance of both lines were firing almost continuously. Soon after we 
arrived there the Rebels made a demonstration against our line with 
a force consisting of three Regts ( according to the report of Pris- 
oners) and for a time our line wavered and even broke but soon 
rallied retook their lost ground and for six long hours we held our 
position. That you may imagine its extent I will say that our boys 
fired from sixty to one hundred rounds of cartridges A part of the 
time the Rebs were but a short distance from us and in plain view. 
We were in a dense wood or the Regt would have been cut up a 
great deal fjnore^ As it was we did not lose more than about thirty. 
Comp. G lost one killed Corp'l G. W. Kenny and one wounded Benj. 
Geho[V], wounded in the breast but it is thought he will recover. 



I again resume my pen. I was speaking of our QCo. ? J Munce Rogers 
was among the wounded. It was thought last night that his wound 
would prove mortal but I see him today and find that it was not at 
all serious. 

You enquire if I think the Regt will preserve its organization. I 
answer not after our time is out unless it is filled up. When we go 
out there will be about 180 men left that is if they are not killed 
during the coming campaign. 

You mention that you are opposed to the Soldiers voting on ac- 
count of Officers exerting an influence over the Soldiers. I do not 
think that is the case, as I believe the majority would rather vote 
contrary to their officers' wishes than not. In my opinion what hurts 
M'Clellan most in the army is the company he keeps. He appears 
to be tofjo^ familiar with the Woods of N. Y. and such men who have 
such a violent love for the constitution. TheQyJ ask who would be 
his cabinet if he were elected President? Probably the Woods, Wall 
of N Jersey, Gov. Seymour, and the Vallandighammersof Ohio and 
the Western States, Gov Woodward, Bigler or the Rt. Hon. John L. 
Dawson of Penna. I give it as my humble opinion that the party 
that favors the dis-enfranchisementof the Soldiers is gone up, when 
the War closes. And how will it be with men who refuse to vote for 
a resolution of thanks to the men who have offered their lives in 
behalf of our country [?] 

And while I think of it I will say that it is all humbug about papers 
being kept from the army, I mean Democratic Papers. I have been 
getting the Messenger ever since I was at home, and it does more 
to sicken me of sycophanting Democracy than all the Republican 


Papers put together. (I mean the Bigler, Dawson, Crawford, Wad- 
dell, [Gabe?] Cook faction.) 

The Grammar arrived all right and situated as we are now I 
would rather you would have kept it. But when we were at Hilton 
Head I had very good opportunities for study. I am still on Guard. 
The Regiment went on picket last night and my Guard was not 
relieved. I understand that the authorities have made an arrange- 
ment to stop picket firing. And I am glad to hear it as it has been 
little else than murder for several days past. 

Pa is well and is in command of the Company, he was restored 
to duty two or three days since. By the way after our late battle the 
other day Gen. Terry came back to the breastworks and proposed 
three cheers for our Brigade, which was given by the troops with 
a right good will. I fear from what I hear that Ben QGehoe?^ is mor- 
tally wounded but hope it is not the case. He was one of our best 

You and I agree exactly in our opinions of Bennett. He is nothing 
but a talented & accomplished old rascal, entirely void of principle and 
conscience, who would do anything to advance the interests of the Her- 
ald, no difference if the interests of the whole nation be sacrificed. 

I rejoice to learn that there is still Patriotism enough in Greene 
County to make persons volunteer to serve their country in the 
sheriff's & other offices. I cannot give my opinion as to your choice. 
I think I would vote for the one who would keep within the county 
as the most. I suppose they all firmly believe they will be elected. 
"This is a very vain world" 

[ The last part of this letter is missing] 


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M. Lafayette Gordon 
H5 th Regt Pa. Vols. 

Suffolk, Va 

November \$f h 186a 

Beautiful day. On Guard. 

i r>' h 

Windy. Building our Tent. 

Sunday. Inspection as usual. Very windy. Received a letter 
from H. S. C d \ju\ 

Fair. On guard A party sent out on a reconnaisance. 

Party returned — drove the Rebels across Black water. Killed 
2 or three. Lost 23 men as prisoners 

Nov. 21 M 

Rainy. On Picket 

Sunday. Visited the 11 £10 ?J Pa. Cavalry &c. &c This day a 
year ago was our first in Camp, at Kasy. 

December 3 d 1 862 

Rainy all day. Two Regiments Pa Drafted Militia arrived yes- 
terday. Tannehill returned to the Camp. 

5 th 

Left Suffolk, and took up line of march toward North Caro- 
lina Rainy all the time Marched all day Halted in the eve 24 
miles from Suffolk. Co. G. on Picquet. Terrible night without 
fire our clothes all wet. 



Marched to Gatesville encamped for the night 

Left Gatesville in the morn and marched three miles to Chowan 
River — embarked on Gun Boat Lancer Cap Norez and pro- 
ceeded down River Passed Roan[V]ke River Edenton and 
other places of note The Q ?J road 6 inches deep. 

Passed Roanoke Island. Saw Gen Foster. Saw piles in Alba- 
marle Sound driven by Rebs to Blockade the channel 


Steamed up Pamlico Sound and Neuse River Landed and co 

Bivouacked a mile S.E. of Newborn 

Visited N ne \juT\ Went into the country 

Took up our line of march on the Trent Road under com- 
mand of Gen Foster. Force near 15,000 Took one prisoner. 

Continued our march, went about twenty miles Better coun- 
try than Va. Ruined Houses. Probably the work of Rebels. 
Our Cavalry had a skirmish with the Rebels — took 15 or 20 
Prisoners and killed and wounded some. Fair 

ls th 

Had another skirmish with the Rebels Our Regt in the swamp. 
One Gen captured by the our \jic~] Regiment. Several Prison- 
ers taken and two killed 


This day will long be remembered by our Regt. for it has 
proved itself to be a fighting Regt. We whipped the Rebels 
at" Kinston Bridge" Were six hours in the swamp — water up 
to our knees. Gallant charge b£y] 85 th & 103 d Lost 1 killed 
and 8 wounded 103/15 „ {i.e. killed]] and 52 ,, [i.e. wounded] 
10 Pieces Artillery and a large amount o[T] small arms capt. 
500 Prisoners Capt. Rebels retreat and Kinston occupied by 
our Forces. Warm welcome by a Union Lady. How grateful 
we should be to Him who disposes of all things 


Recrossed the Neuse River and marched toward Goldsboro 

Marched until 1 1 o'clock 


Continued march Battle of White Hall Under fire but not en- 
gaged. On Picket Rail Road Bridge burned by our Cavalry 

M. Lafayette Gordon 
17 i/, 

Marched to a point near Goldsboro. The Rail Road Bridge 
shelled and some Infantry engaged. 85 th in line of Battle. 
Bridge Burned and track destroyed. Start for Newbern. At- 
tacked in our rear March back. Rebels would not come on. 


March toward Newbern. 

M. Lafayette Gordon 


Arrived at Newbern Heard news of BurnsideQ'Js Repulse 
which cast a gloom over £ ?] 


o 5 th 

Pleasant day. Nothing to eat for Breakfast. 

Jan \ st 1863. 

Crossed Trent River and encamped. 

Recrossed the River and camped about four miles from New 
Berne. Col. Howell given a Brigade 

15 W 

Drilled our Regt as skirmishers Heavy rain 

M. Lafayette Gordon 

Jan is" 1 1862 C1863] 

Struck Tents and marched to Newberne took the cars at 
10 P.M. for Morehead City. The Cars were poor miserable 
affairs being the kind commonly used for transporting cord 
wood Arrived at Morehead in the night and embarked next 
morning on Transport Ranger. Found quite a fleet in the 
harbor Saw Beaufort it is quite a pretty place as seen from 
the land but I 'm told by those who visited it that the streets 
are composed of loose sand to the depth of four or five inches 

29 &*] 

Steamed out thro Beaufort Inlet (guarded by fort Min [?3) 
found the sea running very high and all hands were soon 
sea sick 
F'b 1* 

Arrived off Hilton Head. 

Feb 8"' 

Debarked on St Helena Island 

DIAR Y 57 

April 1 

Broke up Camp on St. Helena and embarked on the " Ranger" 


At Sunset steamed out the harbor. 
3 d 

Put into "North Edisto Inlet." Went out about noon and at 
dark were safely anchored in Stone Inlet 

Debarked on ColefJ'Js Island. It is evident that an attack on 
Charleston is intendefjd^ what the result will be God only 
knows Oh, that our trust may be in him If it be his will may 
we be successful 

5 th 

Again struck tents and at n P.M embarked and went to 

"Folly Island fJ"J accompanied by 39 th I u [)~] & 100 N. Y. 

Marched near 10 miles along the Beache & in the eve biv- 
ouacked at the northern extremity of the Isle. Heard the en- 
emy's Drums beating for Dress Parade. 


To day the Fleet of Iron Clads steamed up Charleston Har- 
bor on a reconnaisance At about two P.M. Fort Sumpter 
opened upon them and continued until in the eve Co "G" on 
picket. Saw the signals from Fort Sumpter and the Rebel Bat- 
teries, also from the Fleet 

Saw Fort Sumter with a glass and a Rebel Steamer moving 
down the Harbor. 12. M. 


9 th 

In the evening we returned and marched down the Isle — met 

the 39th 111. taking Parrott guns up the Island Went through 

an obscure road to a cornfield in the heart of the Isle 


Weather continues warm & pleasant. On guard. 

Sunday April 19 th 

Very warm, and sultry. No news from home Subscribed a few 

days since for the Knickerbocker Still in good health for which 

I should be devoutly thankful May He so move our hearts 

that our life may be to his glory. 

M. L. Gordon 
Sunday April 26 

'Tis a most Beautiful day The Sun as if the envoy of his cre- 
ator smiles out upon us this morning creating happiness and 
pleasure wherever he goes. How like the sunshine is Gods 
blessings toward men clay after day year after year in what- 
ever country or clime we are situated, in all conditions it is 
with us. It fulfils the part alloted it by the creator. How much 

do we fall short. 

M. L. Gordon. 85 Pa Vol 8 

May 4' A 

Raining all fore-noon. Wrote a letter, looking for a mail. In 

the afternoon went down to the beach. 

14' A 

Raining today The flags of the Rebels at half mast. Heard 
that Gen. Hooker had advanced on and whipped the Rebels 
under Lee. In the evening heard that "Stonewall" Jackson 
had been killed. 

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\5 th 

On guard, and still raining. 

X Qth 

Many rumors afloat in regard to HookerfJ'Js success. In the 
evening it was reported that the Rebels were attempting to 
cross on this Island 

May 9.6 th 

All quiet. F. M. Rush expects to start home on furlough. Fair 

& warm. 

M. L. Gordon 

Friday July \o lh 

Our land Batteries and Monitors opene[d^ on the Rebels on 
Morris Island & after a bombardment of three hours our In- 
fantry landed and drove the Rebels capturing several large 
seige guns. 

We attempted to storm Fort Wagner but were repulsed 


Again attempted to storm Wagner but were repulsed with 

severe loss Our Regt crossed on the Island. 

Aug. 9 th 

J. R. Thomas wounded. 

Friday July \o th 1863. 

Our land batteries and monitors opened on Morris Island and 
after a bombardment of three hours our Infantry landed and 
drove the Rebels, capturing eleven seige guns and about two 
hundred prisoners Small arms &c. 



We attempted to storm Fort Wagner but were repulsed with 

severe loss. 


Again attempted to assault Wagner but were again repulsed. 
Cols. Shaw and Putnam killed. Gen Strong mortally wounded 
The 85* crossed onto Morris Island. Gen Gillmore changed 
his plan and commences approaching Wagner by Parallels. 

July 29** 

We have had considerable firing since my last entree, from Fort 

Johnson. We are still approaching Wagner. John M 'Donald 

wounded[Q one arm amputated at the wrist the other at the 


Aug 9 th 

Part of Co " G " on Picket. Joshua Thomas wounded by frag- 
ment of shell — serious. 


Commenced bombarding Sumter. Col. Howell wounded, fir- 
ing heavy, ours very accurate. 


Firing since my last entry continuous and the effect very visi- 
ble on Fort Sumter. H. B. Patton wounded in thigh severely 
Wm Bowers " [i.e. severely wounded] Our Regt lost over 
twenty wounded & killed 


Robert Ross wounded, in the shoulder Lt Col. Purviance killed, 

by our own guns. Our Regiment has been doing the advance 

picket duty, a very dangerous post. 


Sept 1 th 

Forts Wagner & Gregg were evacuated by the Rebels last 
night. Our Brigade was the first to enter Wagner. E. David 
wounded, by torpedo 

April 22"' 1864 

Left Hilton Head and embarked on the Steamer Fulton and 

sailed for Fortress Monroe 


Arrived at Fortress Monroe and were ordered to Yorktown 

at which point we landed on the Gloucester side on the morn- 
ing of the 28" 

May 4" 1864 

Embarked on the Steamer Guide and during the night pro- 
ceeded to Fortress Monroe 

May 5" 

Steamed up the James River accompanying Gen Butler who 
commands the 10" & 18" "Army Corps" Passed Fort Pow- 
hattan Jamestown & other places of note which I had seen 
nearly two years since 


A great part of our forces having landed on the eve of the 5" we 
debarked on the morning of the 6" and after eating our break- 
fast took up our line of march in the direction of Ft Darling. 
After marching about six miles we bivouacked for the night. 


On Picket Brisk engagement on the left of our line. Our 

Forces succeeded in destroying the Petersburg & Richmond 

Rail Road. 


8 Ml 

Returned to camp. 


Our forces made a general advance the 85" on the right in 
advance as skirmishers After driving out the Rebels from 
Ware Bottom church we were halted and during the day were 
relieved by the 2^ Md Cavalry (colored) and returned to the 
Church and remained during the day 


Lay at the church Our men after penetrating beyond the P 

& R. R. R. were withdrawn, the 67" O. V. I and one or two 

others have an engagement with a superior force of Rebels 

but hold their ground against all odds. Returned to Camp 

1 May 

Lay in Camp. Worked all night on the Intrenchments. 

1 2 Ml Went on Pickett 

14M] " " 

l5 [rt] « 

16M] " 

Heavy fighting in front Infantry fighting very severe. 

On Pickett In the evening returned to camp. 


Picket firing at one A.M. At 8 A.M. a brisk engagement 

opened between our advance and the Rebels, lasting with 

scarcely a moments intermission during the day interspersed 

with an occasional shot from the Artillery. Lying in the 

trenches all day & night. 



Rebels opened with quite a no. of pieces of artly wounding 

one or two but doing but very little damage 
May 20" 

Lay in the trenches all last night. At about ten of^clock the 
Rebels made an attack on our picket line and drove them a 
short distance. The 85* were ordered out and soon after we 
arrived they come on us in strong force. The 17" & 3911 
brought on double quick, and arrive just in time to save the 
day. Our Rifle pits are retaken, and the enemy retreat with 
heavy loss. Our loss 22 in killed & wounded that of the 1 7 
& 39" some larger. George Kenny killed & Benj. Geho^eJ 
wounded The force against us according to Petersburg Pa- 
pers was Evans Brig South Carolinans & the 36" & 56". N. C. 
and several other Regts. The Rebels lose Gen Walker the 
S. C. Brigade 222 in killed & wounded & the 56" N. C. lose 
95, losses of other Regts unknown. Relieved in the evening by 
100 N.Y. 


On Fatigue duty Heavy firing Attacked by the Rebels at 1 1 

P.M. After a hot engagement the rebels are repulsed with 
heavy loss. Our artillery firing the most splendid I ever wit- 
nessed. On guard. 

22 M 

Still on Guard Regt on Picket All quiet along the lines 

as M 

Still on Guard Some picket firing. 

24M & 25 M 

Nothing important. Lie in the trenches every night. 



Regt on Pickett [\ 



During the Day there was a small Artillery duel between our 
& the Rebel Batteries Relieved from picket in eve. 


All quiet Went on Picket in eve. 


All quiet Relieved from picket. 

30 th 

Lay in Camp. At 4 P.M. the Rebels opened with Artillery but 
were replied to so rapidly that they soon become willing to 
quit. Very heavy firing heard in the direction of Fair Oaks Va 

May 31" 

All quiet this forenoon At about 1 P.M. however the Rebels 

again open with Artillery and after an hours brisk firing again 
cease. But one casualty heard of. Heavy firing in the direc- 
tion of the Appomattox. Go on Picket. 

June i st 

This morning at q}4 oQ'^clock the Rebels began shelling our 

lines and continued for about an hour doing no damage. Heavy 

firing heard during the forenoon in the direction of Fair Oaks. 

Hear that Grant was at Hanover on Sat last. 

On Picket with nothing of interest transpiring until the 16 th 

Grant^'Js army arrive on the James and move on Petersburg 

Rebels evacuate their works and our forces advance to the 

R R but retreat in the eve 




Skirmishing all day. Heavy firing hear[d] in the evening in 
the direction of Petersburg 1 

1 The remainder of the Diary consists of these items : 

(1) List of Guard. 

(2) List of Casualties. 

(3) Cash Account. 

(4) Sketch of James River near Four Mile Creek, as follows : 

(5) List of Regiments [seen ?] . 

(6) The following verses: 

" Uncombed unwashed unshaven and unshorn 
His clothes in strips by cheprasal [sic] are torn ; 
Toes peeping from his boots and battered hat 
Tired, wet, and weary as a drowned rat: — 
How changed from him we in the City knew, 
In stove pipe beaver and a long-tailed blue, 
Cigar in mouth and carpet-bag in hand 


Bv rail road bound to Dixies land. 

His store of wood collected for the night, 

To dry his clothes and cook his little bite 

A broken shovel fries his meat, and bakes 

A hasty mixture of unleavened cakes 

An ovster can for Tea-pot will suffice 

And pine or fir-leaves Hyson's place supplies, 

His supper over he improves a chance 

To patch with flour sack his demolished pants." 

(") Expenditures at Commissary. 

(8) List of Words: "errant, pristine, emancipate, amanuensis." 

(9) Expenditures for food : 

"Oct. 18 To Two lbs butter® 50 $1-00 

.. :o Ham 1-80 

Fish 1-50 

,, 26"» Potatoes % bush. -50 

29* Fresh Beef 3 lbs .40 

3 1«' Butter by Ad— -50 

„ Milk by Adam -60 

Nov. 5" 

(10) list of Accoutrements: 

"Gun & Baynets 

sc-d [sic] 
Cartridge Box 

,< << belt 

Canteen Box plate 

it << ■< plate 
Waist belt 

,( i. plate 
Cap ponches 
Gun slings 

ii straps 

Shelter tents 
Muskets Box" 











Page 4,11. 8-10, The passage When the College . . . number of years was 
originally a separate paragraph preceding the first full para- 
graph on the page. 

I. 24, the city substituted for Washington. 

/. 5, went to substituted for visited. 

/. 20, in April transposed from end of sentence. 

I. 24, from inserted before seasickness. 

/. 4, I inserted before had here. 

/. 10, ahead substituted for in front. 

/. 14, almost entirely substituted for for the most part. 
Page 8, //. 7-12, This paragraph was originally preceded by I have forgotten 
to say that and was placed at the end of the succeeding para- 

I. 27, Here omitted before Agents from Pennsylvania. 

Page 9, /. 7, leave home substituted for go back. 

//. 7-15, The passage When I got back to New York . . . decoy un- 
wary soldiers was originally preceded by I forgot to say that 
and was placed after the next to the last sentence of the succeed- 
ing paragraph; to this saloon omitted from end of passage. 
1. 16, On reporting for duty I was told substituted for and I reported 

in New York and was asked. 
/. 27, this substituted for reaching Fort Hamilton. 
Page 10, /. 1, He substituted for my father. 

/. 11, in Waynesburg substituted for at home. 
Page 13, /. 12, and inserted before about. 

/. 19, commanding those from substituted for of '. 
Page 17, /. 8, the duties of which office substituted for which duties. 
Page 18, /. 13, taken prisoners substituted for prisoners. 
Page 19, /. 10, of May inserted before the Rebels. 
Page 20, /. 21, almost substituted for about. 
Page 21, //. 18-19, Pa. omitted after Pittsburgh. 


"/COMPANY F, of the Eighty-fifth Pennsylvania Infantry, and a portion 
V^ of Company G, were recruited in Greene County. The regiment was 
organized on the 12th of November, 1861, by the choice of the following 
officers: Joshua B. Howell, colonel; Norton M'Giffin, lieutenant-colonel; and 
Absalom Guiler, major. During the winter the regiment was engaged in drill 
and in fatigue duty, across the east branch of the Potomac, in the construction 
of works for the defense of Washington. In the spring of 1862 it moved to 
Meridian Hill, and was brigaded with the 101st and 103d Pennsvlvania 
regiments, and the 96th New York, under command of General Wessells. 

"In the Peninsula campaign, under McClellan, the regiment was engaged 
in the siege of Yorktown, and in the battle of Williamsburg with a loss of 
two wounded, one mortally. At Fair Oaks, on the 31st of May, while en- 
gaged in fortifying the position, it was vigorouslv attacked by the enemy 
under General Joseph E. Johnston. The regiment occupied the rifle-pits on 
die right of the main work, a redoubt held by Hart's battery. General Casey, 
who held the front was vigorously pushed, but made a stout resistance, 
throwing grape and canister with terrible effect. He was finally obliged to 
retire to his supports. In the seven days' battles which ensued, which resulted 
in the change of base by McClellan from the Chickahominy to the James, 
the regiment was not activelv engaged. When McClellan evacuated the 
Peninsula, and went to the support of Pope before Washington, Keyes' corps, 
the Fourth, to which the regiment belonged, remained on duty at Fortress 

"On the 5th of December, 1862, WesseU's brigade was ordered to New- 
berne, North Carolina, to reinforce Foster, and upon its arrival joined in an 
expedition to destroy a rebel gunboat on the Neuse, break up the railroad 
bridge near Goldsboro, and make a diversion in favor of Burnside at Fred- 
ericksburg. At West Creek the enemy was found ready to dispute the 
passage. Wessells had the advance, and throwing the Eighty-fifth to the 
right of the road, and Ninth New Jersey to the left, crossed the stream and 
advanced upon the flanks of the enemy's position, compelling a hasty retreat. 
Two pieces of artillery and a number of prisoners were the fruits of victory. 
On the following morning the command moved forward, Wessells upon the 
left, and soon came upon the enemy in the well made fortifications of Kings- 


ton. But by pushing through a swamp, thought to be inaccessible, they 
entered at the side left open, and immediately charged in face of a hot fire, 
and soon put the enemy to rout. A brisk skirmish was had at White Hall, 
and on the 1 7th the defenders of the bridge at Goldsboro were swept back 
and the destruction of the bridge, the main object of the expedition, was 

"Towards the close of January, 1863, General Foster was ordered with 
a part of his army to proceed to South Carolina, to co-operate with General 
Hunter in his operations against Charleston. Colonel Howell now had com- 
mand of the brigade, and Lieutenant-Colonel Purviance of the regiment. At 
the head of Folly Island the troops witnessed the first bombardment of Fort 
Sumpter, by Admiral Dupont. In June, 1863, General Hunter was super- 
ceded by General Gilmore. To possess Morris Island it was necessary to 
erect powerful batteries at the north end of Folly Island. While at this work 
the dense underbrush shielded the working parties from view. In this duty 
the 85th shared, working by night, and watching by day. When all was 
ready the obstructions were cleared away, and fire opened from forty-four 
heavy guns. An assault followed by which the enemy's first line of works 
was cleared, but Fort Wagner, the main work, still held out. Gilmore de- 
termined to reduce it by regular siege approaches. 'Ground was broken on 
the 21st of July, and the work, which was terribly exhausting, was pushed 
forward with the utmost vigor, day and night; neither the heat of a tropical 
climate, nor the missiles of a vigilant foe, were allowed to interfere with the 
labor. On the 20th of August the 85th Pennsylvania, 100th New York, and 
the 3d New Hampshire, were detailed to occupy the advanced trenches, each 
twenty-four hours in turn. The trenches Mere shallow, and afforded little 
protection from the enemy's fire. On the left were his powerful guns on James 
Island and in Fort Johnson; in front those of Sumter, Gregg and Wagner; 
and on the right Fort Moidtrie. The nights were damp and cold, and dur- 
ing the day the thermometer stood 100° in the shade. The casualties were 
numerous, and the sick list increased with alarming rapidity. The 85th took 
its turn in this terrible ordeal, and on the 21st had one killed and twenty 
wounded, three mortally; on the 24th, one killed and seven wounded, one 
mortally; on the 27th, two killed and eight wounded, three mortally; on the 
30th, four killed and eight wounded, Lieutenant-Colonel Purviance being of 
the number killed; on the 2d of September, five wounded, one mortally.' The 


85th with an aggregate strength of 451 on going upon the outer works, 
could muster but 270 fit for duty when recalled. Two attempts to surprise 
and capture Fort Gregg proving unsuccessful, General Gilmore determined 
to again attempt to take it by assault. But the bombardment by sea and land 
for forty hours induced the enemy to retire, and the island was occupied. 

" Upon the death of Colonel Purviance, Major Campbell was made Lieu- 
tenant-Colonel, and Captain Abraham, Major. Active operations were con- 
tinued until the middle of April, 1864, when the Tenth corps was ordered 
north to reinforce the Army of the James. The 85th was of the first brigade, 
Howell's, first division, Terry's. The usual service of fortifying and picket 
duty continued until the 20th, when Howell's brigade was ordered to charge 
and drive out the enemy in front. This was gallantly and successfully exe- 
cuted, but with a loss of two killed and twenty-one wounded. The rebel Gen- 
eral Walker was wounded and taken prisoner. 

"On the 14th of June, Grant's troops began to cross the James, and the 
Tenth corps took possession of the works between the James and the Appo- 
mattox. The enemy soon pressed heavily in front of Howell, and the fight- 
ing was of unusual severity. Finally the Union line was pushed back to the 
original line of battle. The loss of the 85th was five killed and two wounded. 
In the expedition to Deep Bottom, which was made on the 13th of August, 
in which the Second and Tenth corps engaged the corps of Longstreet and 
Hill, the 85th had two killed and nineteen wounded, five mortally. In the 
affair of the 16th, Terry's division was hotly engaged, the 85th participating 
in a charge, in which the enemy, by withholding his fire while protected by 
works, was able to deliver it in a manner to produce great destruction, the 
regiment losing nine killed and fifty-four wounded. In the operations on the 
south side of the Appomattox by Terry's troops the regiment participated, 
sustaining slight losses, until the 14th of October, when the veterans and 
recruits were transferred to the 188th, and on the 22nd of November it was 
mustered out of service." 

From Histon/ of Greene County, Pennsylvania, by Samuel P. Bates (Chicago, 1888), 
pp. 390-392. 





013 764 324 8 ^