I C . J . f^^r-^i^.^^
RSONAL Recollections of the War
A RECORD 01' SERVICE WITH THE
Ninetij-Thlrd New 7ork Vol, Infantry
FIRST BRIGADE, FIRST DIVISION, SECOND CORPS,
ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
ROBERT STODDART ROBERTSON,
Okherly Sergeant and 2d. Lieutenant Co, "I," ist
A. D. C. TO Gen. Nelson A. Miles, Brevet
Volunteers, Brevet Captain, Major ani
New York Voi.unteers,^^^
Svv.MN A: Tatk Co., Printkks ani> I'thmsiiivk-
counting room, the store, the office ;uul the pulpit. Rich \ ied
with poor to prove their American manliood, and enrolled their
names side by side on the recruiting lists which were open on
every hand. Company bj' company they marched to the camps
of instruction and tliere formed into regiments in wliich they
were to win a deathless fame, but not until they had been taught
the rudiments of the science of destructive war.
None were yet educated enough to know why they could not
at once march on to sweep from the face of the land the hosts
which were organizing to oppose what they thought must be an
ever victorious march, from which the\' should quickly return,
clothed in a halo of glory, and welcomed by the plaudits of the
grateful country, which was supposed to be ready to crown
them with the victor's laurels, as its conquering heroes.
The writer shared in the aspirations and patriotic ardor of
many of his fellows, and early in the fall of 1861 became one
of the multitude of which was sung :
"We are coming, Father Abraham,
Three hnndred thousand more."
Haviiig opened an office for the practice of law m Whitehall,
Washington Count}^ N. Y., early in the spring, and beginning
to see a practice opening before him, it was something of a sac-
rifice, but youthful blood and patriotic desire were the stronger,
and the call was obeyed.
A county convention was called and lu^ld at Argyle, where,
after brisk, stirring and patriotic speeches, it was resf)l\ed to
raise a regiment to represent the Count}- (jf Washington, New
York, in the war, and John S. Crocker, of Cambridge was
selected to recruit, organize and command the regiment.
The holding of this convention was the only step taken by
the count}' to forward the cause, and it made no appropriation
of means, nor did it give any fniancial assistance to those who
commenced the labor of recruiting for the " Washington Count}'
Each town was to furnish a compau}', and to the writer was
assigned the task of attempting to organize a compaii}- from
Whiteliall, associating with him James C. Parke and Frank
Churchill, who were to be first and second lieutenants respect-
ively. A call was issued reading as follows :
"Sons of Washington County, Awake!
"Washington county is now forming a regiment for the field, and she calls
loudly upon her patriotic sons to help put down the great rebellion which is now
in our midst.
" Col. J. S. Crocker has been authorized to organize a regiment to be called
the Washington County Regiment— which is not to be consolidated with any
"Let all obey the call and prove that the spirit which animated the Father of
his Country still animates the Sons of the County which bears his name.
"The undersigned are organizing a company in the town of Whitehall, and
those desirous of enlisting will find no better opportunity or better regiment.
"Come one! Come all!
"Apply to R. S. Robertson, at his office over the Commercial Bank, and to
las C. Parke, at the store of J. P. Blakeslee.
-* " R. S. Robertson.
" James C. Parke,
"Whitehall, Oct. 22, :86i."
A recruiting office was soon opened and recruits offered to the
number of about thirty, when we were requested to forward
them to the depot for volunteers at Albany.
On the 25th of November some twenty took their departure,
after being presented with a white silk banner by the young
ladies, bearing the inscription, "Our Country Calls." *
Arriving at the barracks we were surprised to find that no
preparations had been made to receive us. and there was no
way to obtain admittance until morning, so we quartered the
nten at Weldon's Hotel for the night, f
The next morning we were received and found the squad to
consist of nineteen beside myself, one having disappeared. Of
these three were rejected on medical examination, and the
remaining sixteen flatly refused to be mustered without me. as
*This banner was subsequenUy stolen bv one of the "heroes" and pawned
for drink. The writer redeemed it and has it still tn possession.
tAmoncr mv relics of the war are the receipted bills for all my recruiUng-
n.ses, iiicludiiifi- the bill at Weldon's. never refunded to me.
the}' fearetl 1113' desertion of tlieiii. It took but a brief examina-
tion to pass me, and tlie seventeen ot us were mustered into the
United States service for -'three years unless sooner dis-
charged," to date from Nov. 16, 1861. Capt. G. W. Stackhouse
was the mustering ofKicer, and we were temporarily attached to
the Argyle Company, under Capt. Wm. Randies.
The " companies" were as yet but skeletons, my contribution
of seventeen being a marked addition to the squad we joined.
There were now about 300 men mustered into these skeleton
companies, and myself and others were at once sent out to
recruit more, under the threat that wc would suffer from con-
solidation if we did not fill our ranks very soon. This dreaded
result came to us about the middle of December. Four com-
panies claimed to have been recruited b}' H. C. Butler for a sharp-
sliooters' regiment were assigned to our regiment, thus destroy-
ing the prospects of four of our sets of company officers. These
companies were Capt. Colvin's, from Warren county; Hobart's
of Alban}- and Columbia counties; * Barnes' of Essex, and Voor-
hees' of Saratoga and Fulton. Soon after we were still further
condensed to make room for the compan\ of Capt. McConihe.
of Troy. Our consolidation was finally completed on Cliristmas
day b}' the transfer of a company from the 76th New York, under
Capt. McNett, occasioned by a quarrel between Col. Green, of
that regiment, and McNett. in which the latter was shot in the
face by the former while under arrest and unarmed. The breach
was too serious to be healed, so McNett and his company were
assigned to us. and to make room for it Capt. Johnson's com-
pany was broken up and the men distributed toother companies,
he being assigned to command Randies' compan\-, the latter
being assigned as first lieutenant. As no commissions had yet
been issued to the officers, those who determined to go, took
such commissions as the}- could get and many of us took none.
The regiment was now formally organized and was numbered
the 93d New York Volunteer Infantry, or ■' Morgan Rifles," and
was officered as follows :
*Tliis company repudiated Butler's claim, but he was made lieutenant colonel
of llie reirinient on the jfroiinds that he had furnished four companies for it.
FIELD AND STAFF.
John S. Crocker — Colonel.
Benjamin C. Butler — Lieutenant-Colonel.
Ambrose Cassiday — Major.
Strobridge Smith — Surgeon.
Theodore C. Wallace — Assistant Surgeon.
Haviland Gifford — Adjutant.
Andrew K. Haxstun — Quartermaster.
Charles H. Edgerton — Chaplain.
Company A. — Orville L. Colvin, Captain.
Hbnry C. Newton, ist Lieutenant.
James M. Southwick, 2d Lieutenant.
Company B. — Elijah Hobart, Captain.
James W. Race, ist Lieutenant.
William C. Swain, 2d Lieutenant.
Company C. — Dennis E. Barnes, Captain.
Waters W. Braman, ist Lieutenant.
MiLO E. Washburn, 2d Lieutenant.
Company D. — George M. Voorhees, Captain.
Henry P. Smith, ist Lieutenant.
Philemon B. Marvin, 2d Lieutenant.
Company E. — Andrew J. McNett, Captain.
William H. Bradford, ist Lieutenant.
Lyman Warren, 2d Lieutenant.
Company F. — George B. Moshier, Captain.
John Bailey, ist Lieutenant.
Silas S. Hubbell, 2d Lieutenant.
Company G. — Walter S. Gray, Captain.
Wm. Van SchaickBeekman, ist Lieutenant.
Francis Bailey, 2d Lieutenant.
Company H. — Hiram S. Wilson, Captain.
Edson Fitch, ist Lieutenant.
Ephraim T. Weeks, 2d Lieutenant.
Company I. — Nathan J. Johnson, Captain.
William Randles, ist Lieutenant.
James M. Crawford, 2d Lieutenant.
Company K. — Samuel McConihe, Captain.
JosiAH T. Young, ist Lieutenant.
Gurdon G. Moore, 2d Lieutenant.
I donned the chevrons as orderly sergeant of Company "I,"
and at once entered upon duty.
We now settled down to barrack life in earnest. There was a
daily system of study and drills to develop the latent sparks of
military genius, and as ofificers and men were alike ignorant,
some of the latter were guilty of being more proficient than some
of the former. There was the school of the soldier, the school of
tlie company, and the school of the regiment. There were squad
drills and company drills, and some regiments were far enough
advanced to have regimental parades, and these excited the envy
of those yet in the chrysalis state.
The barracks consisted of a large brick building erected, but
not yet used, for a state penitentiary, supplemented by rows of
low buildings, with boarded and battened sides, the interior
occupied by four rows of bunks, three tiers in height, and a
large barrel stove at each end. One of the first militar}' duties
taught was that of guard duty, but it was not there that the duty
was fully learned. Strict as were the orders which forbade the
egress or ingress of inmates or outsiders without the pass or
countersign for the day, it must be stated that few were able to
refuse a friend's request to be passed, especiall}' when the
request was accompanied with, "it will be my turn for guard
duty tomorrow, and I will remember you," and this will prob-
ably account for the well patronized theaters and ga}'ety halls, the
favorite of which rejoiced in the euphonious name of the " She-
bang," no doubt conferred upon it by reason of the high order
of entertainment it afforded.
Those of the wooden barracks were looking down upon the
more aristocratic dwellers within the warm penitentiary walls,
and something like jealousy existed between the two parties,
particularly when the brick-walled soldiers were seized with
small-pox. It did not last long, however, when it was fountl
that those in barracks were equally favored and both had dele-
gates in the pest house. Vaccination was added to the list of
amusements, but it was not liked, partly because it was compul-
sory, and partly because it had unpleasant consequences. The
winter was a severe one and little real comfort could be found in
the camp. We thouglit the fare execrable and the sleeping
accommodations abominable, but many a time later, fond mem-
or3' brought to mind the really comfortable quarters (compara-
tively speaking) which our first home in camp afforded.
In February, 1862, orders came for hastening the organization
of regiments to take the field, and rumors of an intended con-
solidation of all skeleton regiments were rife, and finally took
form in an order from the governor to that effect. As had been
done in our case, incipient companies were broken up and the
men distributed to four companies of the maximum, ruthlessly
destroying the ambitions of many an expectant ofificer, and the
same process was carried into effect with regiments. Many who
were recruiting for companies and for the field officers' positions
w^ere thus left, either to begin again, return home, or go into
the ranks without a commission.
Then followed preparations for breaking camp, and at 4 p. m.
of Feb. 14, 1862, the regiment was sent by rail to New York;
was detained for hours by a collision, and arrived at 3 p. m..
marching from Thirty-first street to the barracks at City Hall
Park in the midst of a blinding snowstorm, whence, after a very
poor meal, the regiment was sent to Riker's Island, a bleak and
uncomfortable place for a winter encampment.
On the 19th we received our arms, the Enfield rifle, and began
to feel like real soldiers.
One death had occurred in Albany, Jerry Delaney, of Com-
pany "B," having succumbed to pneumonia resulting from the
On the 2 1 St the second death occurred, that of Geo. Austin, of
Company "I," from congestion of the lungs. He was given a
soldier's burial on the 22d.
We remained on the island until March 6, enduring the dis-
comforts of an extraordinarily severe winter. The barracks
were mere shells of upright boards and board roofs. The winds
lore off many of the battens on both roof and sides, and more
than once we were drenched with cold rains, and once a furious
storm threatened the utter demolition of our buildings and us
On the btli, the steamer Athis came to the wharf and we
embarked for Amboy, where we took cars for Philadelphia,
arriving at i o'clock in the morning, and were the recipients of
the magnificent hospitality of the patriotic people of that cit}' at
the " Cooper Shop " Volunteer Refreshment Saloon. Notwith-
standing the lateness of the hour and the fact that ours was the
fifth regiment fed b)' them that night, we were refreshed by
a splendid collation, served by the hands of the best ladies of
the city, who were banded together for the purpose, and were
divided into regular reliefs for duty when occasion required.
They deserved the reverence and love of the soldier, and few
who were the recipients of their tender care and generous
bounty, will ever fail to revere the memory of the Philadelphia
Ladies' Volunteer Relief Corps, or forget the kind words of
sympath}' and solicitude for our welfare, which came from the
warm hearts of our lovable servitors.
Early on the 7th we were again on our way, but did not reach
■ .'Baltimore until evening. A fairly warm reception awaited us
if?*there and our supper was again served by fair hands, the loyal
•"! ^ladies of Baltimore having an organization similar to that of
' ■ Philadelphia. A very poor breakfast of bread, pork and coffee
awaited us in Washington the next morning, at "The Soldiers'
Rest," a barrack near the B. & O. station, after finishing which
we marched to Prospect Hill, near the Bladensburg Turnpike,
where we had our first experience in attempting to pitch tents,
a feat which we succeeded after awhile in accomplishing, but
not without much vexation of spirit and some symptoms of a
disease said to have been experienced by the army in Flanders.
Here we remained, engaged in daily drills and parades, labori-
ously learning the details of a soldier's life, until the i8th of
March, when we struck tents, and marched through Washing-
ton to a new camp on Meridian Hill, where we were assigned to
the brigade of Gen. Innes N. Palmer, a part of the division
commanded by Gen. Silas Casey, in Gen. E. D. Keyes' 4th
Army Corps. We were now a part of the Army of the Potomac,
and the air seemed filled with rumcrs of an early movement in
some direction, but the general impression was that Casey's
division was intended for a special service on an expedition to
the South Atlantic coast. Whatever the proposed destination,
the division was under orders to be ready to march on a
moment's notice, and on the 29th of March all extra baggage
was ordered to be packed and disposed of. Heretofore we had
been barrack and camp soldiers, and the accumulation of bag-
gage was something wonderful, in the light of future experience.
Nothing thaf could be thought of by loving friends, who had an
idea that the sufferings of camp required for their alleviation a
large stock of albums, needle cases, dressing cases, and other
articles of "bigotry and virtue," had been omitted, and it was
a serious question to determine what could be dispensed with-
After the decision was made, the knapsacks were still heavier
than would be convenient to carry, after Uncle Sams mules
should see fit to decline to carry them for us.
The time passed in daily drills and reviews until the 2Sth of
March, when, at 6 i'. m., we broke camp and marched across
the Long Bridge to Alexandria. The route was so filled with
marching troops that it was 2 o'clock in the morning before we
filed into the streets of Ale.xandria, and. shivering with cold,
sought sleep on a brick sidewalk, which seemed to have been
laid with the hardest side of the bricks up. As man\- of us as
could breakfasted at the Marshall House where Ellsworth was
killed. The adage of " the early bird" was fully realized by
the hungry throng who came late to breakfast and found the
hotel larder exhausted.
\Kg were then marched out about two miles northward, in the
midst of a heavy snowstorm. As we were tired and sleep\- we
threw ourselves upon the ground with only the cover of our
blankets and slept. Awakening, we found ourselves covered
with an additional blanket of snow, some three inches in depth,
but it certainly created no discomfort to the sleepers.
On the evening of the 3od-i we marched to the wharf and
embarked on the steamer " Commodore," crowding every space
from the lower to the upper decks. We laid at the wharf until
morning, when we steamed down the Potomac, still in ignorance
of our destination.
In the early morning of April i, we found ourselves under the
walls of Fortress Monroe, and landed shortly after noon. Close
to us lay the Monitor, which only a few days before made itself
fovever famous in history by its successful fight with the Merri-
mac. Not far away, looking towards Newport News, were
the masts of the Cumberland and Congress, which had been
sunk by the Merrimac before the Monitor came upon the scene,
and drove the saucy Merrimac to its hiding place near Nor-
folk, from which place it made almost daily excursions out into
the open waters, but made no further warlike demonstrations.
The Monitor was an object of great curiosity, not only on account
of the noveltv of its construction, but by reason of its success-
ful fight and the condition of its turrets, the solid walls of which
bore the indentations of the missiles it had received, some of
which were several inches in depth. With a glass we could see
the confederate batteries on the opposite shore and Craney
Island. In the evening we marched out to Hampton and made
our bivouac in a churchyard under the shelter of the weeping
willows and the walls of the ruined church. Capt. Johnson and
myself chose a grassy spot between two graves and slept soundly
till morning. On waking, I found Johnson scraping the moss
off the headstone near him to learn, as he said, with whom he
had been sleeping. That day we were marched to near New-
port News, but by misdirection went first to Big Bethel and
made a circuit of about five miles, and encamped in a low and
swampy place in the midst of a drizzling rain. Having no
teams we were compelled to pack our rations from Hampton or
Newport News; more often from the former ])lace. It was a
season of almost continuous rain, and our position was not only
filled with discomfort, but the relief of drills was not afforded
us except occasionall}'. We could hear heavy firing from the
direction of Yorktown, and once the Merrimac steamed so near
us that we were called out to be ready for emergencies, but the
emergency was not forthcoming.
SiKOE OK YORKl'OWN.
On the 15th of April, I was appointed second lieutenant of
Company "I," by regimental order, vice J. M. Crawford,
resigned, and the following day we broke camp and marched
fourteen miles in thirteen hours to Young's Mill, to take our
place in the front, sleeping with only the shelter of the woods
for the night.
It was the first time we had seen the camp of a great army,
and the scene seemed grander than any conception we had
formed of it, but it soon became as an old story often repeated.
Thousands of camp fires lit up the pine woods in every direc-
tion, casting their weird shadows down the forest aisles and over
the many groups of soldiers, who were either cooking or eating
their rations, or narrating tales of other days, before seeking
rest. By degrees the lights and shadows faded into each other
and into darkness; and the great host slept — all but the silent
sentinels, who slowly paced their monotonous rounds.
The next morning we were assigned to a position near War-
wick Court House, on the left flank of the Army. It was in this
camp we made our first acquaintance with a friend that "sticketh
closer than a brother," the famous, historic, aesthetic, persistent
and omnipresent " Greyback." There were washings and pick-
ings, and boilings, and scrapings galore, but for the future our
new-found friend was to be always with us, and to constantly
remind us of his undying affection by unceasing demonstrations.
The sand fly, the jigger and the tick were to dispute with him
for the possession of our hearts, but none proved so faithful, so
active in displaying their love, or so prolific in offspring, as the
xmmortaX pedkulis htimanus, whose memory will be green in the
heart of the soldier when the names of other comrades shall have
As a city, Warwick Court House was a disappointment. It
consisted of two old houses— sadly out of repair and in need of
paint, one small cross-roads store, the court house, clerk's office
and jail, the latter being about the size of a northern smoke
house. Yet some of its papers, which I picked out of the mud,
bore date of 1692. The town's antiquity was its only redeeming
On the 22d of April we marched four miles to Lee's Mills,
camping in the dense pine woods, but throwing out a picket line
in the open. In front of us was Warwick Creek, across which
dams had been built by the enemy, causing an overflow which
served as a moat to their earthworks, which lined the opposite
bank and whose guns were plainl}^ visible. Each man on the
picket line dug himself a rifle pit, and was compelled to keep
himself closely hidden to avoid the constant fire of sharpshooters
on the other side, and officers posting or relieving them were in
constant danger. Our own sharpshooters were not idle, and
our batteries were frequently employed to silence a too persistent
and vicious attempt to pick off our officers and men, and to
develope the position of the enemy.
On the 24tli, Col. Crocker and Maj. Cassidy rode out to inspect
the picket line of the brigade, and failed to return. The fol-
lowing day we heard from them through a flag of truce, they
having unwittingly passed through an unprotected gap in the
line, and been captured by the enemy. The command of the
regiment now devolved upon Lieut. -Col. Butler. The ground
upon which we were camped was low, and the back water of the
creek, added to by heavy rains, kept us in stagnant water, out
of which we could only keep by piling up brush for bedding.
The drinking water was also bad, necessarily being taken from
swampy pools, and nearly all the rank and file, as well as the
officers were attacked in the rear bj' an enemy as dangerous as
that in our front, and most of us were unfit for duty, even when
compelled to take the places of those who were completely
disabled, and thus our camp life before the walls of Yorktown
became almost unendurable.
While lying here we witnessed a sjiecimen of woodman's skill
that was somewhat remarkable. The ytli and nth Maine were
composed principally of lumbermen. They were set to work
chopping the pine trees in front of our line of camps, commenc-
ing at the rear and working outwards. No tree was felled, but
all left standing nearly cut through until all were thus cut.
Then the working party returned to the inner line of trees, and
at the ward of command cut through the trees on that line caus-
ing them to fall outward upon the others, thus causing them all
to fall. There was a rushing sound in the air, and the whole of
that forest of pines was lying prone, with their points outward,
furnishing an impenetrable abattis of considerable extent, along
our front. Instantly our uncovered camp became the target for
hundreds of the enemy's shells, and we were compelled to lie
close to the ground while shells flew screaming over us, until
our own batteries got the range, and after a long duel succeeded
in silencing the enemy's guns. That night many forgot sickness
and weakness while throwing up intrenchments that should
shield us in the morning from a similar storm.
On the 2gth, our brigade was hastily formed, and with loaded
guns, moved in line of battle obliquely to the right through the
woods, and be3'ond the slashings until we could see the enemy's
earthworks in our front. Not long did our advance continue,
for we were received by a sharp volley, the first real baptism of
fire we had received, if we except the sharpshooters' fire of the
preceding days. Not a man of our regiment was wounded,
however, though many a close call was experienced, and we were
soon ordered to retire, the object of our reconnoissance being
accomplished. That evening the brigade was complimented by
Gen. Palmer in person, for its coolness under fire and good
On the 3d of May an incipient mutiny occurred. Company
"B" of our regiment had been recruited originally as sharp-
shooters expecting to join Gen. Berdan's command, and, upon
the consolidation, had been assigned to the g3d, but was prom-
ised to be armed with rifles. Disgusted with the Remingtons.
with saber bayonets, which had been given them, they stacked
them and refused to serve. The company officers were all
ordered in arrest, and the company placed under guard. Capt.
Hobart had, before the men mutinied, made a full report of their
grievances and wants, which it seemed Col. Butler had pigeon-
holed and not forwarded to headquarters, and, upon learning
this fact, Gen. Casey ordered Butler in arrest as well, and the
command of the regiment devolved upon Capt. McNett as the
senior officer. But, as all troops were expected to be needed at
a moment's notice, a parley was held, which resulted in the
company resuming its arms until better ones could be issued,
and peace was restored to our camp.
The next day a glad cheer resounded through our lines, for it
was discovered that the enemy's works were abandoned. York-
town was evacuated, and soon we were ready for pursuit. Our
turn to move did not come till late in the afternoon, and as we
filed through the enemy's works we could but admire their
strength and reflect how serious a matter it would have been
to attempt to carr}^ them by assault, deserted as they were.
Our route to, and through them, was not without danger, for
the retreating enemy had placed buried torpedoes upon the
route, and several were killed and mangled b}' unexpected explo-
sions. After a rapid march of about nine miles, we went into
bivouac at ii by the side of the road.
The following day, May 5, was rainy, but the boom of cannon
could occasionally be heard from the north. Troops were march-
ing and artillery being dragged along the muddy roads, and soon
our orders came to join the procession. It was hard marching,
but hearts were willing, for we were on the heels of a fl3'ing
enemy. Soon orders came flying to close up and and march
more rapidly. And still the rain poured, and the mud held
back our struggling feet. After five miles of this hard march
we found ourselves, that is, two regiments of our brigade, the
92d and g3d New York, where the booming of guns and sharp
volleys of musketry proved tliat our further advance was to be
hotly contested. The remainder of our command was not yet
up, and we were assigned under Gen. Peck to the support of
Gen. Couch's division, which was engaged under the earth-
works of Fort Magruder, one of the defenses of Williamsburg.
We formed line, threw off knapsacks, and were pushed forward
into the smoke and darkness of the woods, where we lay under
fire, giving and receiving volleys all the rest of the afternoon.
A natural ridge gave us such protection, however, that we had
not a single casualty in our ranks, while we were convinced that
our fire was doing good execution in our front, a fact which was
attested by the burial parties of the next morning.
At night we pushed forward through a portion of the slash-
ings, close up to Fort Magruder, to relieve a regiment which
had exhausted its ammunition, and slept upon our arms in the
midst of the rebel dead, thoroughly soaked by a drenching rain.
We were near enough to hear words of command inside the
enemy's lines, and that, with the rumbling of wheels, convinced
us that the enemy was retreating.
This was reported by Col. Butler to Gen. Couch's head-
quarters, and permission was asked for us to push forward, but
this was for some reason refused.
At last morning dawned clear and bright on the dismal scene,
and we shook ourselves like spaniels as we rose from our watery
beds, welcoming the sunrise. Soon the surmises of the night
were confirmed. The Johnnies had folded their tents and stolen
away. The regimental bands, so long silent in the trenches at
Yorktown, now began to play, and really they made better and
sweeter music than the shells and yells of battle.
We were drying ourselves as best we could in the sunshine
and by the breakfast fires, and eating the last hard tack our
haversacks contained, when the order came, " fall in,'" and our
division was soon marching through the mud towards York
River to intercept, it was said, a portion of the rebel forces
which v/as supposed to be retreating by that route. Finding
no enemy, we returned by another road which brought us to
Williamsburg and Fort Magruder again, but this time into
what was yesterda}^ to us, ■' the other side.'"
We had left the lines at Yorktown in such haste, and the roads
were broken so badl}-, that we had nothing to eat and must wait
for the suppl}- trains and forego pursuit. The common "hard-
tack" here commanded the highest market price, twentj'-five
cents being offered and refused for a single specimen. It was a
poor specimen too.
All around us were relief and burial parties busily engaged in
bringing in the wounded and laying the dead to rest in long
trenches, one of which contained 150 uncoffined dead. Further
down the road towards our yesterday's position, they lay in
irregular rows as the}' had fallen, some still grasping a musket,
and some ghastly with mutilation.
Behind a fallen tree we found the body of a bo}', beautiful as a
girl, and with a sweet smile upon his delicate face. He looked
as if he had fallen into sleep and were dreaming pleasant dreams,
but it was the sleep of death, a dream of glory. "Somebody's
darling," we thought, as Ave tenderly covered his shallow bed.
All through the quaint old town, hospitals were established
for both Union and Confederate wounded, and the knife, the
probe, and the sa.\v were ever3'where in use.
For many of us such scenes were new, and we could scarcely
accustom ourselves to the horrors which environed us, and were
glad when our detail was over and we could visit the famous old
College of William and Mary, where so many of Virginia's
eminent sons had been prepared for their subsequent careers.
There was little of interest besides the College buildings, for
the town itself was of such a tumble -down and dilapidated char-
acter as to be positively shabby, although there were evidently
some efforts made to keep up an appearance of gentility.
During this day and the next we were driven to forage the
country for food. Occasional!}- some stray cattle were found
and turned into roast beef as rapidly as possible, but we would
really have suffered but for the hordes of rabbits which swarmed
all about us, and made good eating, only for the lack of salt and
The day following, our supply trains came and rations were
distributed once more, this time to the most ravenous crowd we
had yet been a part of. That evening we got orders to march,
but they were countermanded, and we had a good night's rest.
Early in the morning of the gth we were on the way and
marched a distance of twelve miles, sleeping in a corn field by
Making another march of twelve miles on the loth, we camped
for the night at Roper's Church, where Gen. McClellan had
established his headquarters. While here we learned of the
death of Lieut. Jas. M. Southwick at the hospital near Warwick
Court House, where we had left him ill with camp fever. It
was our first loss by death among the commissioned officers, and
he was a youth of such lovable disposition and exemplary life,
that his loss was sadly deplored by all who knew him.
Here too an episode occurred which had an important bearing
on the future of the regiment.
Lieut. -Col. Butler was a stickler for dress parades and drills
on all possible occasions, and to our great disgust ordered us out
After the parade he put us through the manual of arms so
long that Gen. Palmer sent an aide with an order to dismiss the
men and let them rest.
He afterwards sent for Butler and reprimanded him in severe
terms for not permitting the men to rest from drill during a
Butler took the reprimand as an unwarranted interference
with his prerogatives, and he lost no opportunity of belittling
his commanding officer, and succeeded in annoying him so much
that he longed for an opportunity to be rid of him. The oppor-
tunity came later.
The 13th saw us again started on a wearisome march to New
Kent Court House. The distance was only eight miles, but the
route was so obstructed by felled trees, which we had to remove,
and our halts were so frequent, that we failed to reach there
until 2 in the morning, camping in a dense pine woods. A
heavy rainstorm added to our discomfort, but could not prevent
us from sleeping soundly, after the fatiguing march we had
Here we were stopped for several days by a continuous rain
which made the roads impassable for artillery and trains. As
\vc liad no cover but our shelter tents, we endured a good deal of
discomfort, for they afforded but slight protection from the
steady rain. A good umbrella would have been a God-send — a
last century gingliam better than what we had.*
On the 17th we marched at 8 p. m. to Baltimore Crossroads, a
distance of six miles, reaching our destination after a hard
march in the darkness and mud. The region through which we
have been passing for some days is a beautiful one, but the towns
are mere hamlets with little but the court house, jail and a cross-
road store to entitle them to a name.
At this time Gen. Palmer found his opportunity fo get rid of
On the igth an order was received at headcinarters to detail a
regiment for special duty, and he complied with it by detaching
our regiment from the brigade, and sending it to guard the stores
at Whitehoiise Landing, on the Pamunkey.
We made the march of six miles between 5 and 7:30 in the
morning. All over the open country immense fields of wheat
were growing, and the scene was a busy one, for troops were
landing and being pushed to the front, and a depot of supplies
was being established. Four companies, "A," "F," "H" and
" K," were detached for guard at McClellan's headquarters, at
Savage Station, and the remaining six companies staid at
Whitehouse to guard the depot of supplies. A short distance
below the wharf was the residence of the confederate general.
Fits Hugh Lee, abandoned by his family upon our approach.
Upon the front door was nailed a paper, reading: ''Northern
soldiers who profess to reverence Washington, forbear to dese-
crate the home of his first married life, the property of his wife,
now owned by his descendants. A Grand-D.^ughter of Mrs.
Washington." Beneath was written: "Lady — A Northern
officer has protected your property in the face of the enemy and
*Tlie writer had contracted malarial fever before Yorktowii. and on all the
march was in a state of alternate chills and fever. In this camp he became delirious,
but on the mornincr of the l«th awoke to find the fever g'one. He would not, however,
recommend layint.'' out in the rain as a cure for malarial fevers.
at the request of your overseer." Furniture and clothing were
left, though somewhat in disorder, and })ictures and books were
packed in an upper part of the house.
During all our stay there a strict guard was maintained over
the house and its contents, but its subsequent fate will be
Our camp life at Whitehouse was neither arduous nor unpleas-
ant, but we had little to vary the monotony of drills and guard
duty until the last of May, when heavy cannonading was heard,
and on the ist of June, trains laden with wounded began to
arrive from the front after the battle of Seven Pines, and all who
could, volunteered to carry them to the transports in the river.
This proved a labor of love, for most of them were our late
comrades of Casey's Division, and many a familiar face was
among them. From them we learned that the division was
thrown unsupported across the Chickahomon}', had been sur-
prised in its tents, the battle having been fought in the heart
of the camp. It had fought stubbornl}- and bravely until over-
whelmed by numbers, when it was compelled to yield the camp
to the enemy. Not till night were any other troops sent to their
Much blame was cast upon Casey and his division on account
of the result of this engagement by the reports of rival generals,
and McClellan himself reported that "Casey's Division had
broken and fled unaccountably."
Its immense loss in killed and wounded sufficiently attested
the gallantry of its fight, and McClellan later retracted his hasty
and incorrect report and gave due credit to the division for hold-
ing out as long as it did against such vastly superior numbers,
and when taken at such disadvantage.
The impartial historian will probably criticize more severel}'
the generalship which placed the division unsupported in the
isolated position it occupied, than the bravery and devotion of
the gallant soldiers who were sacrificed.
The day following, a detail of loo men, under Capt. Hobart
with myself, embarked on a small steamer and steamed some
twelve miles up the windings of the Paniunk\' as convoy to a
gun-boat, going as far as -' Piping Tree " and destroying as we
went every small boat and dug-out we could find.
The river was deep enough for vessels of larger draft than
ours, but so narrow that the deck and sides were swept by the
low over-hanging boughs, and so crooked that the vessels had to
be warped around the jutting points, the bow and stern scraping
the opposite shore.
At Piping Tree some of us were sent ashore to patrol the roads
some distance to the north and to watch for signs of the approach
of any force.
Returning without any such discovery, the gun-boat gave the
signal to return, and our steamer had the advance down the
river, it being too narrow to permit the gun-boat to pass. The
object of the trip was to discover, if possible, the expected
advance of McDowell's column to join the right flank of our
army. We failed to discover it simply because there was no
such movement made, although doubtless McClellan had every
reason to believe it would be, and felt the disappointment
Towards evening of the 13th we heard a volley up the railroad
a short distance which startled us, and soon the train due from
the front came in, its officers shouting to us to fall in, as they
had been fired upon by a force of rebel cavalry, which seemed
to be 2,000 strong.
AH was commotion for a time. Col. Ingalls commenced load-
ing stores and baggage upon transports, at the same time send-
ing such force as he could spare from the work up the road to
check the enemy's advance.
We had in line some 400 men, including teamsters and sutlers,
employes who either volunteered or were impressed for the
occasion, and the small field pieces.
We intrenched our guns and little force as best we could, and
remained under arms all night, looking for and expecting an
attack, but morning came with no signs of an enemj^ near.
Scouting out towards Baltimore Cross Roads we learned from
the people we met, who could not conceal their glee over the
manner in which the Yankees had been outwitted and fright-
ened, that Stuart, with a force of 1600 cavalry and a battery of
four guns had made a raid intending to destroy the depot of
supplies at Whitehouse Landing, but not succeeding in stopping
the railroad train to prevent our being advised of his approach,
and supposing we had a large force as guard, abandoned that
enterprise and contented himself with carrying away the army
and medical supplies from the hospital at the Cross Roads, and
He had crossed the Pamunkey at Hanover Ferry, destroying
some wood barges, and had he succeeded in intercepting the
train, might easily have surprised and captured us, as we had
no intimation or thought of danger from that quarter. As it
was, he made a dashing and daring circuit around our army
without any successful result.
The next evening (Sunday the 15th) a small force under Capt.
Barnes and Lieut. Swain was sent a short distance up and
across the river to Hills' plantation, where it was reported that
another cavalry force was loitering, intending to destroy a large
wood supply provided for the use of the railroad and our trans-
ports. Later Adjt. Gifford and myself were sent with another
small force on a small steamer with instructions to lie off the
landing, and, if we heard firing during the night, to land at a
designated point and go to the assistance of our comrades.
In the morning, the steamer had to return for coal, and we
landed and joined Barnes' party to await its return. We found
that had we landed in the night where ordered, we would have
been separated from our friends by an impassable bayou. Even
had we found a means of crossing, we would have come upon
their front and been received as enemies. So much for definite
orders from a commanding officer who has no knowledge of his
The officers of the party received a cordial invitation from
Mrs. Hill to dine with her, and she and daughters entertained
us handsomely at a well supplied table covered with linen —
something we had become unaccustomed to.
Later in the day Gifford and myself, with twenty men, were
landed near " Indian Town " with orders to arrest one William
Johnson, a citizen, who was reported as visiting our camp and
giving information to tlie enemy.
Our camp was frequently visited by people from across the
river who offered to barter fowls and vegetables for sutlers
stores, and there was reason to believe that some of these huck-
sters were acting as spies and communicating with the enemy.
Arriving at Johnson's residence we found our errand a pecu-
liarly distressing one, for his good wife was expecting an inter-
esting family event, and her husband was absent to procure a
nurse. The poor woman was greatly distressed and almost
hysterical in her prayers that we might leave her husband with
her. Our orders were imperative, however, for Johnson was
charged with carrying on a regular correspondence with rebel
headquarters. So, on his return with the nurse, he was carried
across the river and conducted to headquarters.
The next day, upon our representations of the condition of his
family, Col. Ingalls permitted him to visit his wife, under
guard, and make arrangements for her welfare, after which he
was sent with several others who had been captured in the sur-
rounding country to Fortress Monroe. A guard was sent over
for the protection of his family.
On the 2ist of June we had one of those episodes which make
a red letter day in army life. We entertained the officers of the
gunboat Marblehead at dinner, the party consisting of Lieuts.
Martin, Laha, Allen and Fisher, and Purser Mulford of the
navy, and Capts. Barnes, Johnson and Voorhees, and Lieuts.
Smith, Braman, Swain and myself, of the army. To those who
know how the army and navy can fraternize upon such an occa-
sion, no details of the dinner are necessary. Suffice it to say
that nothing procurable was lacking, and that the dinner was
voted a complete success.
The following day a small party of us procured permission
and paid a visit of curiosity to Indian Town, so called from the
fact that a remnant of Powhatan's tribe has its home here upon
the verv site of one of his scats of government, and traditionally
claimed as the place where Capt. John Smith was taken while a
prisoner. It has been asserted that it was here that Pocahontas
saved his life. As iconoclasts are destroying part of the
romance, perhaps they will deny the whole tradition, but the
fact remains that descendants of Powhatan's tribe have quite a
community here, though by intermixture with the negroes, many
of them have kinks in their hair and have all the other charac-
teristics of the black race, but here and there would be seen a
tall, straight form, the copper skin, and the hair and features of
the true Indian. They are indolent and shiftless, but were said
to be peaceful generally, and only quarrelsome when drunk.
On the 26th many rumors were rife in regard to the move-
ments of the army on the Chickahominy, but we were in ignor-
ance of the real state of affairs. There had been heavy fighting
for some time, witnessed by the large number of wounded con-
stantly being sent down to the hospital transports, and the heavy
cannonading in the front, and the liveliest apprehensions were
excited. The sutlers, as well as the government, had large
accumulations of stores at the landing, and, in their alarm, they
were vainly seeking transportation for their goods, lest there be
a sudden evacuation.
Among the rumors was one that Stonewall Jackson had
turned Porter's right and that there was danger that we would
be cut off from communication with the army.
Our affairs were to-day complicated by the arrival of Col.
Thos. F. Morris, with a commission as colonel of the regiment
issued upon the presumption that Col. Crocker's capture created
Why he was recognized under the circumstances is hard to
account for, but he assumed command and acted for some time
as our colonel. The line officers made no objection because he
was considered an improvement on our lieutenant-colonel.
On the 27th, Gen. Casey arrived from the front and took com-
mand. At once the whole Landing was the scene of activity
and excitement, and the certainty of some important movement,
involving the abandonment of this point as a base of supplies,
Gangs of men were put to work chopping down the trees
along the river, and even the beautiful grove in front of Lee's
mansion went with the rest, in order to leave an unobstructed
range for the fire of the gun boats.
The transports were rapidly laden with stores, and as fast as
they received their loads, started down the river. Every man
was pressed into the work and all worked like beavers.
It now became a certainty that our right under Porter had
received a disastrous blow, and, added to our other labors, was
the task of caring for the great train loads of wounded con-
stantly coming in from the front.
On the 28th telegraphic orders came to send all the ammuni-
tion and provisions possible to the front. At noon another
dispatch directed no more trains to be sent out, as the last had
been destroyed by the rebel forces, which had gained possession
of the road, and we commenced again to load the vast accumu-
lation of stores upon all the available transports in the river.
Very soon the telegraph operator at the wharf rushed out of his
tent in alarm and exhibited to Col. Ingalls the latest dispatch
he had received. It read : '-Go to , you Yan-
kees. We will be therein twenty minutes." We received orders
to burn the remaining stores, and piling hay and other com-
bustibles, wet with whisky, over the immense heaps of rations
and ammunition, and firing the piles, we soon had a conflagra-
tion which destroyed government property to the value of more
than a million of dollars. Sutlers stores in immense quantities
shared the same fate. Canal boats and barges laden with
ammunition were fired or sunk. One locomotive was steamed
up and ran into the river. Another, headed towards the front,
was sent to find it's fate in a ravine over which the l)ridge had
been destro3'ed, and another was rendered useless by uncapping
it's cylinders and otherwise mutilating it. When this work of
wholesale destruction was well under way, and the smoke of
our sacrifice was ascending to Heaven, what men could be spared
from the wear}- companies were formed in line and pushed out
towards the front to ward off any attack that might be made by
the enemy until the transports were ready for our embarka-
tion. Towards dark the enemy's skirmish line appeared in our
front and exchanged shots with ours, but we were soon ordered
to embark. All but our skirmish line was withdrawn to the
steamer Knickerbocker, and then it was called in. The gang
plank was being drawn in when attention was called to another
conflagration. The famous "Whitehouse" was in flames.
Col. Ingalls sent a large detail to extinguish the fire, but it was
found impracticable, and the detail quickly embarked, as the
enemy's skirmish line was already in possession of the river
bank. Our lines were hastily thrown off and we steamed out
into and down the river under the enemy's fire.
It transpired that the guard at the house, out of a spirit of
revenge for the man)' hours of extra duty they had been com-
pelled to endure guarding a rebel general's house, had con-
cluded to fire it before leaving, and successfully accomplished
The next afternoon we reached Fortress Monroe, where we
remained until the morning of July i, hearing the wildest
rumors in regard to the army near Richmond. Some had it that
it was annihilated, and McClellan either dead or a prisoner of
war. Others, that it had cut loose from its base, been joined
by Porter, and had victoriously entered Richmond.
The bloody and terrible seven days fighting and marching it
endured to make its new base of supplies on the James River
In the morning of July ist we started up that magnificent
river, with its historic memories, anchoring at night. We were
surrounded by transports, laden with troops, with here and there
a gun-boat for convoy and protection, and the view at night
with the river lit up by the signal lights from so great a fleet,
was one long to be remembered.
At noon of the 2d we reached Harrison's Landing, where we
found the Army of the Potomac was closely huddled, after its
seven days' battle, culminating in Malvern Hill. Towards
evening we disembarked and marched in mud and drenching
rain into an immense field thickly studded with sheaves of wheat
latel\- harvested, towards the old " Westo\er INIansion." We
were making ourselves at home for the night, when unwelcome
orders came to take another position. Every man thrust his
bayonet into a sheaf and shouldered it. When the march com-
menced it was a column of marching wheat sheaves, the men
being invisible. Through darkness and deep mud we threaded
our way amidst artillery, army wagons, ambulances and ranks of
sleeping men, until late into the night, when we were halted,
and spreading our wheat sheaves over the surface of the liquified
soil, sank into restful slumber, unmindful of the heavy rain from
which we had no protection.
Waking in the morning we found ourselves sunk so deep in
the mud that pools of water had collected around each recum-
bent form until the skin resembled a washwoman's thumb on
washing days. We were not far from the Harrison mansion,
the home of Benjamin Harrison, a signer of the Declaration of
Independence, and the ancestor of two presidents.
Without breakfast and wet as drowned rats, we resumed the
march and were pushed out some two miles to the front, and
with Shield's Division (just arrived from the Shenandoah Val-
ley) formed in the center and most unprotected part of the line,
the flanks being somewhat protected by two streams which
flowed in diverging courses, north and southwesterly, towards
One of the enemy's batteries was feeling our position, and its
frequent shells were a source of annoyance and danger, but not
sufficiently so to prevent us from seeking means to dry ourselves
and prepare breakfast.
Seeing a plainly-dressed man in common army blue overcoat
watching a cup of coffee boiling, and drying his clothing over a
fire of rails, I joined him and was discussing affairs of the day
without any idea of his rank, when a staff officer rode hastily up
and saluting my companion said: "General, Gen. Shields
directs that you silence or capture that battery." "Well,"
was the cool repl\', " I guess I can do it," and forming part of
his brigade, he moved it rapidly through the woods, and by a
flank movement and a sudden rush, captured and brought in the
battery amidst the cheers of the multitude who witnessed the
gallant charge. It was my first acquaintance with Gen. Nathan
Kimball, of Indiana, who has filled since the war, the honored
positions of state treasurer of Indiana, surveyor-general of Utah,
and later postmaster for many years in Ogden.
On the 4th of July the national salute was fired and a grand
review of the army was held by Gen. McClellan. Shattered as
the army had been, it was now fast recuperating, and its esprit
du corps becoming fully restored.
The enemy's lines were withdrawn from our immediate front,
so that we were not harassed by the continual fire of their guns
on picket line, and the camp began to assume an orderly con-
The following day we were assigned to the 2d (Wessel's) Bri-
gade of Peck's Division, but before orders were received to
report for duty, the assignment was revoked, and the regiment
assigned to headquarters of the army, for guard duty there and
at the wharf, which now presented a busier scene than that at
White House Landing. This detail was made at the special
request of Col. Ingalls, who said he could not keep house
without us. We .were encamped on a fine site between the
Harrison and the Westover houses, and not far from the road
leading to Charles City Court House, a road shaded with trees
of perhaps more than a century's growth, one of which
measured nineteen feet in circumference about six feet from the
ground, but which were destined shortly to fall for the use of
the vast army encamped there. In our front rolled the river in
a semi-circle of which our camp was the center. Its broad
expanse was covered with gun-boats, transports and vessels of
every description, including barges and tows of canal boats.
The wharf was a floating one, a platform laid over canal barges
for some distance out into the water. Commissary and quarter-
master's stores were accumulating on land, and in the vessels at
anchor, which were also magazines of ammunition and ordnance
stores. To the right, as we looked to the river, was tlie Harri-
son house, and to the left, the Westover. Near it, and not far
from our camp, a small grove contained the God's Acre of the
vicinity, on whose stones were recorded the virtues of tlie
deceased of more than two centuries.
Some of these quaint old epitaphs are worth preserving, not
only for their historical associations, but as specimens of quaint
grave-yard literature. Among them were the following:
'• Here lyetli interred ye body of lef tenant Collonell Walker
Asten, who died ye 6th of April, 1656. He was in this country
28 yeares. Also here lyeth ye body of Walker Asten, ye son of
leftenant Collonell Walker Asten, who departed this life ye 29th
day of January, 1666, being aged 27 yeares and 7 months"
One read: "Hie recondunter cincies Gulielmi Byrd Armegeriet
•'Provinciae Quae floris qui banc vitam cum eternitate com-
niitavit 4 Die Decembris 1704 post quam vixissit 52 annos. "
Another recorded the decease of his wife:
" Here lyeth the body of Mary Byrd, late wife of William
Byrd, Esq,, and daughter of Warham Horsemander, Esq., who
died the 9 day of November 1699 in the 47th year of her age."
A large stone was covered by the following inscription :
" Here, in the sleep of peace, reposeth the body of Mrs.
Emelyne Byrd, daughter of the Hon. William Byrd, Esq.
"The various endowments of nature, improved and perfected
b}'' an accomplished education, formed her for the happiness of
her friends. For an ornament of her country. Alas, Reader!
we can detain nothing however valued from unrelenting deatli.
Beauty, Fortune, or exalted honor. See here a proof, and be
reminded by this awful tomb that every worldly comfort fleets
away. Excepting only what arises from imitating the virtues
of our friends. And the accomplishments of their happiness.
To which God was pleased to call this lady on the 13th day of
November, 1737, in the 29th year of her age."
A flat tablet supported by masonry recorded the death of
Benjamin Harrison, who died Dec. ii, 1710, aged 37, and one
beside it the death of Mrs. Elizabeth Harrison, who died Dec.
20, 1773, aged 57.
And another recites that:
" Here lyes the Body of Mr. Charles Anderson, who was min-
ister of this parish 26 years and dyed the 7th of April, 1718, in
the 4gth year of his age."
Everywhere around this peaceful spot, as far as the eye could
reach, the plains were white with the tents of a great army rest-
ing after weeks of terrible fighting, and preparing for the future,
and conspicuous among the camps was the one where was gath-
ered some 10,000 negroes of all sexes and ages, collected as
"contraband of war. " Sometimes in the evening, and always
on Sunda}', these people, always happy and contented, but now
much happier because of their new-found freedom, made the air
vocal with their melodious songs of praise and thanksgiving. It
was a series of grand concerts, which few who heard will ever
forget, or fail to recall with pleasure.
On the 8th of July, President Lincoln arrived towards even-
ing and reviewed the army by moonlight. The evening was a
beautiful one, and the scene magnificent as well as novel.
Thousands upon thousands of muskets flashed in the rays of
the moon as the President rode slowly down the lines with
McClellan and his retinue, and thousands of voices joined in
shout after shout of pleasure and glad welcome to the man whom
the soldiers regarded not merely as their commander-in-chief
and President, but as the soldier's friend. His simple presence
seemed to infuse new life and spirit into the hearts of those who
had become so dispirited from the disasters of the late bloody
Nothing occurred to vary the usual monotony of camp life,
under a burning Virginia sun, which made duty severe and
almost unendurable, until the night of the 31st. or rather the
morning of August ist, when an unexpected surprise party paid
us a complimentary visit. About i o'clock the whole camp was
aroused from peaceful dreams by the boom of cannon and the
shrieking of shells fl}'ing over us in ever)' direction. The bom-
bardment came from three different points on the opposite side
of the fiver, making a converging fire ujion our camps. IMules
and horses were stampeding, the contraband camp was in an
uproar of excitement, the terror-stricken darkies alternating
their lamentations with prayers for deliverance. Even trained
officers and soldiers were terror stricken, and man}" sought
shelter in ravines and wherever a shadow seemed to afford a
shelter. We could see the fuses of the shells as they left the
guns, rising in the air and seemingl}- taking a parabolic curve
towards each eye that was watching, and then would come a feel-
ing of relief as we listened to their shriek while they passed over
our heads. It was no wonder brave men were terrified, for there
seemed nothing to do but to wait the will of the enem\' to cease
their work, but relief came soon, though it seemed an age. The
ist Conn. Heavy Artillery, with several heav}' siege guns, lay
near the river, and after the first fright succeeded in turning
some of their guns towards the enemy, and obtaining the range,
let fly some bolts the size of a nail keg. Never was sweeter
music heard than the boom of those big guns, and the roar of
their missiles as they rushed through the air, and it was not
long before the hostile guns were silenced.
During the bombardment the river was full of shipping, and
the plain over which the shells went whistling was densel}- cov-
ered with camps, but the range of fire upon the shipping was
too wild to be effectual for damage, and there were little or no
casualties on land on account of the range being too high.
Three covered our list of wounded and none of the regiment
It was remarkable that so little damage could have resulted
from sucli a furious bombardment. The only damage which
resulted to our camp was from a shell which struck the first
tent on a company line, and passing down the line gathered up
all the tents in that row and carried them off in the darkness.
Early in the morning of the 3d a large force was sent across
the river to the residence of Edmund Ruffin, a former member
of congress, and a violent secessionist, who was said to boast
that his hand had fired the first gun upon Fort Sumter.
The attacking force had come down in rear of the house, con-
cealed its batteries from our view until evening and then took
the positions selected in daylight from which to make their
To prevent a recurrence of such an attack the house and other
buildings were leveled to the ground, and the surface in all
directions denuded of its orchards, groves and forests so that
the country for a long distance was now open to view, and in
range of our siege guns and batteries, which were ordered into
position and protected by field works.
Ruffin' s house was well filled with choice literature, and the
returning troops brought armsful of books, which served as a
circulating library for our camps during the remainder of our
stay at the landing.
On the nth of August we were set to work packing stores of
all kinds to the transports, and the extra baggage and knapsacks
of many of the troops were also being thus disposed of. This
work continued until the 14th, and a large number of troops
were embarked and steamed down the river, others marching
southward, so that the morning of the 15th we found the six
companies of our regiment the sole occupants of the landing.
At dark we embarked upon the steamer North America, but laid
at anchor during the night, steaming down the river at 6 a. m.
the following morning, reaching Fortress Monroe the next day,
Sunday. Mondaj' we were landed and marched to Hampton,
where we pitched our tents among the ruins of that desolated
village, and where we found the advance of the marching army.
A pleasant surprise awaited us here in the arrival on the igth
of Col. Crocker and Maj. Cassidy, they having been exchanged
as prisoners of war. We gave them a hearty w^elcome back
from their imprisonment in Libby during the past four months,
the effects of which were plainly visible in their emaciated
frames and pallid faces. Col. Morris now left us, as it was
clear there had been no vacancy to which he could be commis-
sioned. The time passed in daily drills, with occasional visits
to Fortress Monroe and Norfolk, and frequent crabbing excur-
sions to the mouth of Hampton Creek, until the ist of Septem-
ber, when in the midst of a heavy storm of wind and rain, we
were ordered to strike tents, and at dusk embarked on the
steamer Nantasket for Alexandria. The wind continuing, we
la\- at the wharf in the midst of a great fleet laden with soldiers
till morning. When we started the wind increased to a gale,
and we began to drift, and finally it was concluded to put about.
In this we narrowly esca})ed going to the bottom, for on turning
the head of the boat from the wind, the squall struck her on the
quarter with such force as to make her careen as if for a down-
ward plunge, and to spin rapidly about. Fortunately she
righted with no further damage than pitching us to the opposite
side, a composite mass of men, guns, boxes and baggage, from
which we extricated ourselves as best we could, and congratu-
lated ourselves and each other on an escape with only a few
bruises from so imminent a danger. Our next danger was of
being drifted upon the beach, as our anchors dragged, and the
sea rolled so heavily we could not reach the wharfs. The upper
deck of a steamer near us was blown off, carrying its living
freight into the surf, but where the}^ were fortunately drifted
upon the beach, with few casualties.
The wind falling, the fleet started again in the afternoon,
reminding one of the great Armada of history, as it spread out
in the waters of Old Point Comfort, and notwithstanding the
roughness of the sea, we floated finely on into the night, the
morning finding us steaming up the Potomac, and noon bring-
ing us to Alexandria, where bad news awaited us, the defeat of
the army at a second Bull Run, and its falling back on the
defenses of Washington. All of the Army of the Potomac, as
fast as it arrived, had been sent out to re-enforce Pope;
McClellan was even stripped of his body and camp guard, one
company of the Sturgis Rifles, and the four companies of our
regiment, they going as far as Fairfax Court House.
We proceeded to Washington, and landing at the Seventh
Street wharf, marched out to Meridian Hill, where we once
more pitched our camp.
On the 5th of September, the four detached companies were
ordered to rejoin us and did so, and we now held a dress parade
with a full regiment of ten companies for the first time in
We also expected an assignment to some brigade, as McClel-
lan was no longer in command. What was to be done with the
regiment was a question of interest to us, and what move was to
come next was of intense interest to the whole army, which
was much shattered by its late reverses, and in a bad state of
The Army of the Potomac had not yet lost confidence in
McClellan; it really loved him, and perhaps idealized him
beyond his real merits. Anyway, it was deepl}- interested in
the questions, who w^as to command it, and what was to be
done. The work of re-organizing and returning the scattered
men to their regiments was all the time going on.
The Maryland Campaign.
On the 6th, rumors that Lee's army was moving into Mary-
land in full force became rife, and the camps soon began to
show signs of activit)', under the usual orders "to be ready to
march at a moment's notice." The next morning, Sunday, we
were aroused at 3 a. m., struck tents and formed for the march,
but the road was not open to us until 8, when we marched six
miles to Tennallytown, arriving at noon, halting for a short time,
as we expected, but it proved to be for the day. That night we
laid out in the cold September air with no shelter but a blanket,
but the armv was content, for it was announced that McClellan
had again been called to the command, and great joy was
expressed in all the camps as the welcome news went the
On the 8th we marched ten miles through a beautiful country
to Rockville and encamped near McClellan' s headquarters.
The next day the whole regiment was assigned to duty as an
independent command at army headquarters as a camp guard,
to report to and be directed by Maj. Granville O. Haller, of the
7th U. S. Infantry, one of McClellan's aides and commandant
of Headquarters Camp. The duties consisted in furnishing the
daily guard for the camp, a guard for the headquarters train
' while on the march, and to strike tents and put them up again
whenever a change of camp should be made.
On the nth we marched after 4 v. im. to Middlebrook, eleven
miles; on the 12th to Urbana, eleven miles farther, and on the
13th, eight miles, to Frederic City, where we were received
with every demonstration of joy by its loyal inhabitants, who
had decorated their houses with flags, and now came out into
the streets where they had placed barrels of water, and stood
with cups and dippers to refresh us, and here and there buckets
of lemonade and steaming coffee were added.
Our march to this point had been through green fields and
beautiful scenery, and a loyal people had shown us the contrast
between union and secession, as we compared our reception in
Virginia and here. Everything they had was freely offered, and
the good fare furnished, with the green corn just ready for
roasting, became a complete cure for the diseases we had nearly
all acquired in the miasma of the Peninsula swamps.
The climax was reached here, where everything they had
saved from the ravages of Lee's occupation was freely offered
us. Sweet faced women carried baskets of fruits and flowers,
and old women and children carried water to the parched lips
of the weary, ragged and sunburned soldiers.
It was a wonderful outpouring of patriotism, and it brought
the good people of Frederic close to our hearts.
On Sunda}', the 14th, we marched again, and again the eye
was constantly gratified by a beautiful and varied landscape.
Reaching the summit of a hill we could look back and see the
beautiful little city we had left, while beyond stood Sugar Loaf
Mountain, an isolated peak rising high from a seeming plain.
About noon, as we toiled slowly to the summit of another hill.
we heard the sound of artillery, and as the top was reached,
anotlier magnificent scene was presented.
Before us, South Mountain Range rose like a wooded wall,
and up its steep and rocky sides our troops were climbing, some
in irregular lines, and some in column, while volleys of mus-
ketry and the roar of artillery from the summit and lower ledges
told of what they had to meet. They climbed on, occasiona^lly
halting for a return volley, and sometimes disappearing in clouds
of smoke, now making a dash where the ground permitted, all
the time advancing till the summit was reached. It was a grand
sight to witness, and when their faint sounding cheer informed
us that the victory was theirs, the whole marching force below
sent up a great cheer to show our appreciation of their gallant
fight in the face of such difificulties.
We did not reach the mountain top till long after dark, and
could see nothing of the battlefield as we wound upwards over
the crooked and stony road. Once, in the darkness, I stumbled
over a corpse, and we passed burial parties gathering their dead
by the light of candles, and near the "Mountain House" a sad
party was committing Gen. Reno's body to the grave. Among
the wounded lying on the porch of the Mountain House, was
Gen. R. B. Hayes, later President of the United States.
It was far into the night when we finally halted at Middletown,
some eight miles from our starting point, but a long and weari-
some march in length of time, and on account of the stony road
and the darkness, as we passed over the mountains.
The next day we marched to Boonsboro, a distance of eight
miles, but the loads were so obstructed that our halts were fre-
quent, and it was late in the night before our march ended.
On the next day we marched to Keedysville, near Antietam
Creek, on the other side of which was Lee's army. Heavy can-
nonading was going on till noon, and in every direction troops
were marching and countermarching to their positions. In the
early evening. Gen. McClellan's headquarters were established
well to the front, and it was determined to erect the tents there
for the night. Hardly had the lines been established and the
tents bcf^uii to be erected when a batter)' opened npon us, and
liaste was made to locate in some more sheltered spot, which
was selected close to the little villafjje of Keedysville. Gen.
McClellan, however, did not occupy his tent that ni^ht, i)Ut slept
with some of his aides on the line of battle. The scene tliat
night was one of splendor, ami standing upon the high groimd
we could trace the camps by the innumerable camp fires, as the
weary army sought to relie\e its hunger before sinking to the
peaceful shunbers which precedetl the dawn of a day of bloody
Before the sun ot the 17th of September shone over the beau-
tiful hills and valleys through which coursed the Antietam,
troops were again in movement in every direction. Field guns
and the heavy guns of the Reserve Artillery were being put in
position on ever}' available crest, and soon the air was resound-
ing with the roar of artillery', the bang and crackling of musketry,
and the cries of the contending armies. Our regiment was kept
under arms all day, not far from where la}- the reserve of the
army, Fitz John Porter's splendid corps of some 10,000 men,
none of whom were called into the engagement, which lasted
throughout the day. Some of us obtained permission to go to
the hill where McClellan established his field headciuarters, a
position commanding a fine \'iew of most of the field. From
this advanced position we could see many of the movements,
and became such interested and absorbed spectators of the
inspiring scenes, the brilliant charges, the incessant volleys, and
the heroic scenes the great battlefield presented, that we were
unmindful of the scattering shots and occasional shells that
saluted our ears. To the right was Hooker's Corps, gaining
ground step by step, and nearly cnveFoped in smoke, out of
which, from time to time, irregular masses of blue would emerge,
as a dash was maile on the enemy's line, culminating at last in
a grand sweep which turned the rebel left and brought Hook-
er's men to tlie famous Shaker Church. In front of us, occupy-
ing the centre, was Sumner's Corps fighting in the cornfields
near the Sliarpsburg road, and every eminence was occupied by
field guns, belching shot and shell, and causing the earth to
Away to the left, hidden from our view by intervening woods,
heavy volleys of musketry and the roar of artillery indicated
where Burnside was struggling for the lower bridge of the Antie-
tam in the effort to turn Lee's right flank. It was an ever vary-
ing panorama of battle, worth all the risk to witness. Night
finally put an end to the battle, oiil\ the skirmish lines which
were close together keeping up a continuous irregular fire. In
our front was the cornfield to the right of the bridge, through
which one of the charges were made, and where the dead and
wounded still lay thickly studding the ground. All night, work-
ing parties of both armies were bus\' gathering them in close to
the skirmish lines, and, occasional!)-, braving the shots of the
hostile skirmish line to relieve those outside the line, whose
groans and cries for help were irresistable. In the midst of such
surroundings, sleep was impossible to many. The calls of
humanity were too frequent and urgent, l)ut many were so worn
out that they slumbered as peacefully as did the dead around
Early the next day we were under arms, and for some time
expected a renewal of the bloody work of the day preceding, but
no orders came. INIen wondered and giundiled, for all believed
that victory must be ours if allowed to press onward. All day
we la}' there, the discontent increasing, when long lines of trains
could be seen moving riverward in the rear of Lee's arm}-. Yet
all was still, and we were told that we had but a few rounds of
ammunition per man, and that the artiller\- had but few cart-
ridges. The question could not but be asked : -'Is it possible
that Lee's army can have any more than we ?" i\nd it was
freely asked, even among those of the rank ami file. It was the
first time it had entered into the minds of his army to sexerely
criticise McClellan, and deplore what looked like timidit}-. Had
the (juestion been submitted to the Ami}- of the Potomac during
that idle da\- we can hardh" doubt that it would have decided to
advance and to strike anotlier blow upon its disheartened enemy,
which was now known to be preparing for, if not actually mak-
ing, a retreat from the l)lood\' field where its impudent advance
had been so summarily checked. But it was not to be.
All day numerous burial parties were engaged in the sorrow-
ful task of collecting the bodies of comrades, and burying them
in trenches near wliere they fell.
The sunken roads common to that section had served as in-
trenchments for many a charging force, and in these the dead lay
thickest, but many a swelling slope, which in yesterday's sun-
rise had been covered with corn or ripening harvests of grain,
were now thickly dotted with the silent forms of those who had
so gallantly dared and died under the shadows of the battlefield,
and the late green fields were torn and furrowed by the tramp-
ling of contending hosts, and the wheels of artillery. Desola-
tion had come in a moment to destroy the beauties of one of
the fairest spots of earth.
The next morning we had the well-earned field of Antietam
to ourselves, Lee having crossed the river in safety during the
On the 20th Companies I and D were detailed to guard
the reserve artillery under Gen. Hunt. In the night an alarm
caused us to break camp and move about four miles, to escape
a raiding force in our rear, the greater part of the army having
moved to near Berlin.
The following day we marched back to Smith's farm in the
vicinity of Sharpsburg, where the artillery and ammunition
trains were parked again. His house and barn were filled with
wounded rebels. Visiting the quaint old town we found nearly
every house a hospital, and in the fields all about us were huts
of straw extemporized to shelter the hosts of wounded from the
rays of the sun. Burial parties were performing their sad duties
in every direction. It was a scene once witnessed could never
be forgotten. The halo of romance vanishes from the battle-
field as soon as the excitement and battle fur}'^ has passed away.
Sadder scenes can nowhere else be witnessed, and the fetid air
corrupted by festering corpses becomes almost unbreathable.
It surely " smelled to Heaven."
On the 23d Company D was ordered back to the regiment,
leaving us of Company I alone to guard the artillery reserve.
On the ist of October we moved our camp some four miles to
the bank of Antietam creek, near the bridge which Burnside
carried so finely on the 17th, and which would have enabled him.
to turn Lee's right, had it not been for "Stonewall " Jackson's
arrival, opportune, or inopportune, according to the standpoint
from which viewed.
Here we remained with little to do but perform the ordinary
rounds of guard duty, or to ride about the beautiful country,
locating the positions of the contending forces, enjoying the
prospects, and the beautiful autumn days, until the 12th, when
we were relieved by a company of the 32d Massachusetts, and
ordered to rejoin our regiment near Harper's Ferry.
In the morning of the 13th we started on our route, passing
through Harper's Ferry, rather past it, on the Maryland side,
and after a march of fifteen miles came to a halt for the night,
near a large camp, and found our nearest neighbors to be the
123d New York, a real Washington county regiment, raised at
the expense of the county, a year after it had resolved, but
neglected to "raise" us.
Historic Harper's Ferry is truly a ruggedly magnificent spot.
The Potomac, joined by the rushing waters of the Shenandoah,
cuts through almost perpendicular walls, and the quaint little
village makes one think it is looking for crevices by which it
can cling to its overhanging walls. A part of our route was
under hanging walls of rock hundreds of feet in height, while
below us rushed and roared the impetuous, boiling river, flow-
ing between Maryland and Loudon Heights.
In one place where artillery was being dragged up the heights,
twelve horses were straining to their utmost on each gun.
Here the war really begun, when old John Brown took pos-
session of the town in his insane effort to arouse and free the
slaves, and we passed the schoolhouse where he quartered his
little band the night before he invaded Virginia's "sacred soil."
I wonder if it were given liini to know that "his soul was
Resuming our march in the morning, we rejoined our regi-
ment in " Pleasant Valley," near Brownville. The Valley is
certainl}' appropriately named, for a more pleasant agricultural
region can hardly be found, and we regretted that we were
compelled to leave it so soon.
Heretofore, we had been an independent command, but on
the igth the "Provisional Brigade" of the Ami}' of the Po-
tomac was organized, under the general command of Brig.-
Gen. M. R. Patrick. It consisted of the 93d New York, Head-
quarter's guard; the 8th United States infantry and 20th New
York, Provost guard, and the Sturgis rifles, a company organized
as McClellan's body guard.
The strictest discipline was enjoined, and severe dail}' drills
held. We were also put through a rather severe course of
instruction under Maj. Haller, who was a most efficient drill
officer and competent instructor, and to this beginning, long
kept up, we owed much of the efficiency the regiment exhibited
when fate later threw it into a fighting division.
The same vigorous and almost exhausting system of daily
drills, and schools of instruction was inaugurated, throughout
the army, and although the men were inclined to rebel, the
work soon began to prove its value b}' the improved appearance
of the ami}-, and an entire recuperation from the disorderly
habits acquired during the long marches and battles of the past
few months, and the '■'■esprit du corps'' of the whole army was
Sunday, the 23d, Bishop Mcllvaine officiated as clergyman in
the Episcopalian church, and Gen. McClellan sent us a special
invitation to attend. It was a remarkable congregation that
assembled to hear the illustrious Divine. The General in Chief
was accompanied by other commanders who have become
famous, and every grade in the army was represented in the
little church, and among the outside worshippers, to whom its
small capacity forbade entrance. There was but one lady in the
audience, and her sweet voice led in tlie hymns, ahnost drowned
at times by the masculine voices, but it was soon noticed that
men ceased singing to listen to the voice that reminded us of
the voices at home, so long unheard as to be forgotten, until
reminders like this carried us back in memory to the far distant
On the 28th we marched to Berlin, a distance of seven miles.
Pontoon bridges were laid here, near the site of a destroyed
railroad bridge, over which the army was once more to cross
the Potomac into Virginia.
To leave the green fields of hospitable Maryland for another
Virginia campaign, was something unpleasant to contemplate?
but all were ready, if not willing, to go.
We had pitched our camp on a slightly sloping hillside over-
looking the river, of which we had a beautiful view, and where
we could watch all the preparations for crossing.
One of the comic episodes which memory retains occurred .
the first night of our stay here. One tent, occupied by Capts.
Johnson and McConihe, with Lieut. Randies and myself had
not been pinned down at the sides, and in retiring for the night,
Johnson got the down hill side. Sometime during the night he
alarmed us by suddenly calling out "Sam 1 Sam ! somebody
has punched our tent full of holes." He had rolled out under
the guy ropes, and was looking at the stars.
For twenty-four hours, beginning on the evening of the 2gth,
infantry was marching in broken step across the swaying pon-
toons, losing themselves to sight in the Virginia hills be3^ond.
Then for two days more, we watched the crossing of artillery
and baggage trains, and our turn came Sunday morning, the
2d of November.
After a march of eight miles we halted for the night at Wheat-
land, Loudon county. The day following, the march was resumed
through Philamont to Bloomfield, a distance of eighteen miles.
On the 4th we marched eleven miles to Middletown, on the line
dividing Loudon and Fauquier counties, and the following dav
to Rectortown, on the Manasses Gap railroad, where we halted
for two days, but as we had but scant slielter and there was a
cold drizzHng rain the first, and ice and snow tlie second, the
da\'s were far from restful.
On the 8th we rose from the frozen ground with stiffened
joints and sore muscles, for our fires of rails had not full)' suf-
ficed to supply the want of shelter, but a hard march through
drifting sleet of twenty miles to Warrenton, was simply sufficient
to produce active circulation, and limber the joints, although
this merely changed the form of the twenty thousand or more
aches which made life a burden to most of us.
It was a cold day for the Army of the Potomac, for in addi-
tion to the chill atmosphere, our hearts were chilled by the news
of the result of the New York elections, and the sorrowful
tidings that McClellan was to be retired from command. The
former gave aid and comfort to the enemy, and, therefore,
brought ns no comfort, while the latter added materially to our
sadness, for McClellan was loved by his ami}' much as Napo-
leon was loved by the French soldiers, and it had not yet doubted
his capacity for command. Neither could it understand why
the change was to be made now, if at all, for the enemy was
beyond the Blue Ridge, while we occupied every gap, and, at the
same time, were rapidly marching towards Richmond on a shorter
route than Lee could possibly use. In effect, we were between
him and the Rebel Capitol, forcing him to a long detour and a
desperate battle before he could hope to reach it, if at all. The
army was in good spirits, and believed itself to be marching tri-
umphantly to Richmond, and thus it was universall)' considered
an inopportune time for so serious a change.
The tidings were confirmed on Monda}-, the loth, and a gen-
eral review was ordered and held, and McClellan, for the last
time, reviewed the army he had so long commanded, and thus
took leave of us, Burnside being assigned to command.
Never before did the Army of the Potomac present a more
soldierly appearance, and never did a commander receive a more
heartfelt ovation. Enthusiastic shouts welcomed his appear-
ance, as he rode slowly, with uncovered head, along the line,
looking every inch the soldier, and his farewell was followed by
the silence of grief, for McClellan. with all his faults of procras-
tination and indecision, enjo3'ed the love and esteem of all, from
the highest to the lowest, in his grand command.
He, himself, was visibly affected, and, at last, overcome by
his feelings, abandoned the review, and turned down the road to
avoid more troops which stood ready to receive them. These,
realizing that he was going, threw down their arms and rushed
to intercept him, even sentinels leaving their posts to join the
throng which was sadly giving the last farewell to their idolized
general. Never was such a scene witnessed in all the history of
the Arm}' of the Potomac. Other commanders won the respect
and esteem of the army, were followed with devotion and ardor,
but McClellan was its first love, which it never gave, in the same
degree, to another. Whatever his faults, history must accord
to him the power which sways the affections and binds the heart.
No man, without virtues of a high order, could have won the
heart of such an army.
The next day we were ordered out for review b\' the new com-
mander, but he failed to arrive in time, and the review was dis-
missed. Later he appeared, and, after a general introduction
to the headquarters officers, he quietly, and without ostentation,
assumed command. Our regiment was retained as headquarters
guard. The Sturgis Rifles had been recruited expressly as
McClellan's body-guard, and, at his request and their's, were
mustered out of service, a company of the gth New York Militia
(zouaves) being detailed to take their place.
While at Warrenton, the ladies exhibited their secession pro-
clivities in many ways. They kept the graves of the Confeder-
ates buried there, daily strewn with flowers, would walk the
streets with a secession knot of ribbon or a tiny Rebel flag, and
turn up their sometimes prett}' noses as the}' passed a Union
soldier, and turn off from the sidewalks, into the dusty or muddy
streets, to avoid passing under the flags flying from the build-
ings used as headquarters.
A conspiracy was entered into which proved successful. One
afternoon when all the fashion and beauty of the town was out.
flags were stretched across tlie streets leading from the central
promenades, so that when the ladies sought to return to their
homes they found themselves every where confronted by the
hated emblem of loyalty. All afternoon they walked, at first
with eyes flashing fire and indignant frowns upon their faces,
' but finally the ludicrous phase of their fantastic dress parade
overcame them. Bye and bye one made a dive and passed under
without touching the flag and the others followed, some laugh-
ing at the joke, and others crying at their discomfiture. It is
believed that no soldier ever returned the taunts of these pretty
secessionists by a word that a gentleman should not utter in the
presence of a lady.
Sunday, the i6th, we left our j)leasant surroundings and
marched twelve miles to Weaversville, crossing Cedar Run near
Cattlett's station. Monday we marched nine miles farther to
Spotted Tavern, camping under heavy guard by reason of
rumors of a cavalry raid in our rear. Tuesday eleven miles in
the rain to Hartwood, and Wednesday seven miles to Falmouth.
On reaching the banks of the Rappahannock, it was a beautiful
as well as curious scene which greeted our eyes. On the oppo-
site side, lower down, was Fredericksburg and the frowning
heights above it. Squadrons of hostile cavalry could be seen
occupying the fords, with an occasional infantry line taking posi-
tion on the hills, while freshly dug rifle pits lined the river bank.
Below us lay the pretty village of Falmouth. Long columns of
our infantry were appearing on ever}^ highway and byway which
approached the river. The country about was densely wooded
on both sides of the river, with occasional large and small inter-
vals of cultivated lands.
Sunday, the 24th, it was discovered that Headcjuarters was in
range of some hostile batteries, and we moved some three miles
to Belle Plain, an open s^^ot overlooking Fredericksburg, above
which we could now see great lines of earthworks crowning the
Here we remained engaged in the usual routine of camp life,
watching the enemv's defenses grow in strength and e.xtent, and
with little to disturb our equanimity, except building huts and
chimneys to the tents to protect us from the cold which became
intense and caused much suffering, until the evening of the loth
of December, when an unusual movement of troops and artillery
gave us our first information that an attack upon the enemy was
The Battle of Fredericksburg.
Early in the morning of the nth, we were aroused by the
thunder of artiller}', and found that our guns, including the
siege pieces, had been massed on the river bank and were shell-
ing the town and the heights beyond. Soon a detail from our
regiment was called out to assist the 50th New York engineers
in laying a pontoon bridge across the river. As the boats were
pushed out and the planks about to be laid, a sharp fire saluted
us at short range from the rifie pits on the other side. Several
companies were embarked in pontoons, crossing the river under
this galling fire, and landing, quickly cleared the rifle pits, their
occupants hastily seeking the shelter of the houses in the streets
of the town. The work of laying the bridge was soon com-
pleted, and a living stream rapidl}^ passed over, and by 5 o'clock
the town was in possession of our troops, which were massed
thickly in the streets. While this was being accomplished,
Franklin's Grand Division was marching down the river to
cross for a flanking movement on Lee's right.
The morning found the lines enveloped in a dense fog, but
the sun soon dispersed it. and the artiller}' duel of the da}'
previous was repeated. One hundred and forty guns firing as
rapidly as they could be loaded created a thunder that was deaf-
ening, and the concussion caused the ground to tremble, fright-
ening rabbits from their holes and causing them to seek our
companionship, unmindful of the danger of furnishing a soldier's
dinner, in the midst of so infernal a din as that which drove
them from their shelter. Under this bombardment our troops
were pushed out and were now lying at the foot of the hills, the
great mass being centered at the foot of Marye's Heights, and
thus in the continuons roar of artillcr)- and tlie lieavy volleys
of musketry the da\' wore away.
Gen. Patrick had called for a large detail to go with him for
provost duty into the city and I accompanied it. The troops
bivouacking in the streets had been allowed to do much as the}'
pleased. The deserted houses had been ransacked and great
had been the destruction of property. Furniture, cooking uten-
sils and crockery had been carried out and used to make men
comfortable, while vases, pictures, ornaments and books had
been wantonl}' destroyed. War carries with it the spirit of
destruction, and there are men in every army who need no
teaching to make them reckless destroyers of what ought to be
saved. Here would be seen a man playing on a piano while
one or two others were dancing on the cover. There would be
seen jokers dressed in silks and hoops which by and by would
be piled in the street for a bed to sleep upon.
Nothing was too fine or too rare or costh' to escape the gen-
eral destruction, and the rich homes of the city must long feel
the losses it endured during those days of desolation.
Early on the morning of the 13th the battle again began to
rage, our infantry being now engaged.
Some of us obtained permission to go as far as the Lac}'
House, where we could overlook the scene of conflict. Just in
front of us were the dense masses of blue forming lines of battle
and emerging ujion the plain, while farther out the grand tour-
nament of the contending armies was in progress. It was a mag-
nificent scene, yet a terrible one, which was pictured before us
as if it were a panorama, and no pen could fitly describe its ter-
rible magnificence. Masses of blue were closely hugging the
slope of Marye's Heights, from which poured down upon them
a leaden hail. A beautiful veil of blue smoke would sometimes
obscure the view, but when it lifted, the battle scene was grand.
Away to the left the dense smoke from Franklin's volleys
showed his advancing line. We could see nought of the enemy
but the flash and smoke of his volleys, but every movement of
the heroic troops of Sumner's grand division in our front was
plainly visible. A mass would form for a charge up the Heights.
We could see the great gaps made in the mass b}' shells, and
the constant dropping of men under the withering musketry
volleys from the famous stone wall, and from the earthworks
higher up. Bravely they pressed on until human endurance
could bear no more. There was no retreat, however, they sim-
ply laid down, and hugged the ground for shelter on that bullet
and shell swept slope.
As darkness came on, the lines of both sides were clearly
marked out by the blaze of fire from the muzzles of the guns,
as the deadly contest was kept up. Now one could see a little
blaze starting from a given point and extending like a flash of
zigzag lightning far along the line. Then would come a flash
which enveloped the whole line at once, and here and there the
fuses of shells were describing parabolic curves in the air. At
last the shadows of the night seemed to fall like a curtain to cut
off this grand spectacle, and the warring hosts sunk to rest on
the field which had proved the valor of America's heroic sons.
Before the Sunday's sunrise, the battle reopened. Now the
artillery ceased its great thunders, except from an occasional
gun, but the volleys of musketry were still terrific in their re-
verberations, but no movement of the troops was visible.
By noon the battle began to wane, and soon all sounds had
died away, and the veil of smoke began to lift.
Our gallant comrades still lay hugging that slope where death
had reaped such a harvest from the ranks, but a peaceful quiet
had succeeded to the din of the last three days.
We could but wonder what the next movement upon this fate-
ful field would be. Would the enemy rally and attempt to drive
our army into the river, or would another attempt be made to
scale their heights ? Or, would our gallant boys be permitted
to withdraw in safety ? The latter we hardly dared to hope for.
The former was dreaded.
Another day passed without a renewal of the battle, or any
change in the position of the two armies, and the night of the
15th. our army was withdrawn. uikK-i the cox or of darkness, and
a heavy storm of wind and rain.
This was easy to accomplisli for those in and near tlie town,
but not so easy for those in tlie front line. To these, orders
were sent to withdraw in perfect quiet, eacli command to seek
its shortest route to the river, and cross at the first opportunitv.
Thus by daylight of the 16th. all were safely across, and the
ritie pits along the river bank were quickly tilled once more b\- a
heavy picket line of the enemy.
Burnside's great battle of Fredericksburg was over, and was
a failure. The loss of life was great, and accomplished nothing.
Many a gallant comrade who had so bravely marched over
the river, had found it the river of death, and there was mourn-
ing for the choice spirits lost, in every camp, and in some
camps, in every tent.
It was now understood that we were to settle down for winter
quarters, and all went to work with a will to build log huts, or
square pens of logs, upon which the tents were raised, and all
were more comfortable than before.
Part of our regiment was set to work preparing a new loca-
tion for the Headtjuarters camp, but after policing a large space
of ground and building a number of log houses, it was decided
not to change the location.
Christmas day had been intended for feasting, but our sup-
plies failed to reach us in time, and our invited guests were
regaled on common army fare instead of the banquet they ex-
pected, but all entered into the spirit of the occasion, and made
it a day to be remembered. The last course consisted of coffee
and hard tack, and was the same as the first.
Thus ended the eventful year, 1S62. A year of changes ; of
pleasures and pains : of ease .md hardships ; of plenty and
hunger; of warm friends made and lost ; of reviews and battles ;
of idleness in camp, and long weary marches ; and these through
fields bounteous in harvests, and decked with all the beauties
of nature, or forlorn and naked through the desolating forces
In the early spring, ouf rij^lil was in sight of the steeples of
Richmond, having marched thither from Fortress Monroe. We
left thonsands in the swamps oi tht: ]ieninsnki, many more
upon the field of second Hull Run, and the (iehls of Maryland.
We sustained defeat and enjoyed victories, hut the general
result was to leave us tnrther from the rehel capitol tluin when
Little occurred to break tlie monotony of cami) until the 20th
of January, 1863, when large bodies of troops were seen march-
ing up the river in the midst of a sleety rain. All the troops in
our vicinit}' were under marching orders, with ii\e da}'s' raticjus,
and all night, the column was wearil)- passing, wading painfully
in the deep mud. All night and the ne.xt da}' the rain continued,
accompanied by a high wind, which matle the marching of troops
ver}' difficult and the movement of wagons and artillei\- impos-
sible. On tiie 22d the ami}- was ordered back to its quarters,
and, towards evening, began to come in in straggling parties,
drenched with rain, covered with mud, and worn out with fatigue.
Tlie lieav)' guns could not be dragged back through the mud,
so troops were left for their ])rotection, and they remained for
the winter where they were.
On the river bank, the Rebel pickets shouted tierisivel}' to
ours: ''How are you, Bnrnside ?" And, at one place, they
painted on a board, in large letters: •■ Bnrnside stuck in the
The object of the movement had been to cross at the upper
fords, and turn Lee's left wing, but it was a complete failure,
and will long be remembered as Burnside's mud march.
Its worst result was the demoralization of the arm}', which had
lost heart, and was filled with discontent and murmurings.
Bnrnside made serious charges of insubordination and willful
disobedience of orders against some of his Grand Division com-
manders, and recommended the dismissal of Hooker and Sum-
ner, but this recommendation, not being complied with, he
resigned his command, and, on the 26th, Hooker was assiuned
to fill his place.
Doubtless, Burnside, who was a man of abilit\- and the liigh-
est character, but wanting in the quahties which go to make a
mihtary leader, had serious cause for charging upon his immedi-
ate subordinates a want of co-operation and obedience, but it is
difficult to see how either of his movements could have been
successful under the existing conditions, even if a warm co-oper-
ation in his efforts had been accorded him.
Jealousies could not but exist where commanders of equal,
and, sometimes, superior rank, and greater experience in the
field, were compelled to serve under command of, and be sub-
ordinate to, one whose military ability they doubted, and whose
command they were aspiring to.
About this time I had the recreation of a fifteen days' leave of
absence, which I enjoyed in a rapid visit to the scenes of home,
reporting back to the camp at Falmouth on the nth day of
Washington's birthday was appropriately celebrated through-
out the camps, and, a few days later, we were visited by a num-
ber of statesmen from the North, who came in stovepipe hats
and patent leather shoes, to find why the Army of the Potomac
did not move. One representative was our guest, and, although
we were living well, we determined to play a practical joke upon
him. At dinner, nothing but coffee, salt pork and hard tack
graced the board, and a hatchet was gravely passed from hand
to hand, with which the crackers were broken.
Then he was taken, in an ambulance, to visit other camps,
and the jolting he experienced over the corduroy roads was some-
thing terrific, while the frequenc}^ with which the ambulance had
to be pried out of the sought-for mud holes convinced him that
the commanders of the army knew better than the statesmen
at home when the army should move. Returning late at night,
a surprise awaited him, for the table he saw so poorly furnished
at noon was now laden with all the luxuries that the markets of
Washington and Baltimore afforded. He soon realized, and
enjoyed, the joke that had been perpetrated, and, in the enjoy-
ment of the banquet and the speeches that followed witli the
wine, declared that he would stand by the army hereafter,
whether it was in motion or in camp.
Lieut. Moore of Company K having resigned, Capt. Mc-
Conihe and Lieut. Ball petitioned that I be commissioned to fill
the vacancy, and on the 5th of IVIarch, having received notice of
being commissioned, I was assigned to duty with that company,
and severed my connection with Company I, and on the 31st
was mustered in the new rank to date from Feb. 21, the date of
On the 5th of April, President and Mrs. Lincoln visited the
camp, remaining several days, reviewing the different corps, and
making themselves conversant with camp life. It was not an
unfrequent occurrence to see the president strolling about some
camp alone, talking freely to the soldiers, as they gathered in
groups to welcome him, and sometimes it was not till he had
gone that those he talked with knew who had thus honored
them with a visit.
Nothing occurred for some days to break the usual routine of
camp life until April 14th, when we had orders to prepare eight
days rations and be ready to march at a moment's notice. All
were on the qui vive, and many were the speculations as to what
was intended, and as usual the camp was full of conflicting, and
sometimes preposterous rumors, but no further orders coming,
these died awaj^, until the 27th, when curiosit}' was again on tip
toe, on account of the arrival of Secretaries Stanton, Seward,
and Montgomery Blair, who held a long consultation with Gen.
It also became known that the 5th, nth and 12th corps had
left camp and were marching towards either Kelly's or United
States ford, for the purpose of again assaying to turn Lee's left.
In the morning of the i8th. Hooker with his staff and escort
started northward, taking rations on pack mules and leaving
headquarter's tents standing.
In every direction tents had been struck and troops were
trudging through rain and mud in the same direction. The next
morning (29th) volleys from across the river were heard, and
we found that the 6th corps, under Sedgwick, had crossed above
the city on pontoons, and was pushing its way up the slope to-
wards Maryes Heights, wliile the ist corps had crossed lower
down and was pushing forward to join it.
On the following morning, we could still see Sedgwick's com-
mand on the slope above the city, but the ist had been with-
drawn, and was now marching to join the arm}- up the river and
our regiment with a battalion of the cSth United States were the
only forces on our side of the river.
The next day we heard heavy firing u}) the river, and was
informed that our forces were in Lee's rear, and that success
seemed assured. The movement was the same as the one con-
templated by Burnside when he failed by sticking in the mud.
On the 2d, news of Stoneman's cavalry having made a success-
ful raid in Lee's rear was received, and that his destination was
Richmond, which he hoped to capture before Lee could follow.
Great was the joy among those left at headquarters, because it
was firmly believed that Lee must already be in full retreat, but
experience had taught that it was safe to wait for the end before
giving up wholh' to rejoicing.
It was late that night when we slept, and soon after retiring
we were roused at i o'clock of Sunday the 3d to be informed
that Companies I and K had been detailed for a dangerous
duty and were to start at once.
Rousing and forming our two companies, we marched in the
darkness to the Lacy house, overlooking the river and Fredericks-
burg, Here we loaded arms, and were then informed of the
nature of our task, which was, to cross the river in pontoon
boats, and clear the rifle pits so that a pontoon bridge could be
laid. As we descended the steep bank with the 50th New York
Engineers a volley from the other side wounded five of the
Engineers, one of them mortally. Our orders were then changed,
it being determined to lay the bridge as far as possible before
sending us over, so all went to work with a will. We could see
the gleam of muskets in the moonlight, but worked on without
being much annojed by shots. The head of Gibbons' division
sent down from up tlie river to cross here, now appeared on the
bank above us, and at the same time a commotion in the rifle
pits aroused attention and caused us to drop bridge-making ami
take to our arms. Tlie river was about half bridged, and dax-
light coming on, we could see the ••Johnnies" hastih" aban-
doning their line. A small force was now embarked in boats,
and crossing, took jiosition to protect the working party, and
the bridge-laying was at once resumed.
We were glad enough to see one of our signal llags waving in
the lower end of the town, and to be joined by a staff officer of
the 6th corps, who waited for the completion of the bridge to
guide the crossing troops to their destination. Neither did we
grumble at the good fortune which impelled that detachment
of the 6th corps to come in the nick of time to save us from a
fight to effect the crossing.
We had no orders, but went out with the rest to the jioint
where the troops were forming for the assault on Maryes Heights,
but were soon called from the interesting scene and recrossed
the river. We were allowed to remain at the Lacy house, how-
ever, and thus witnessed the movement.
The corps was formed in columns by regiments, and advanced
steadily up the slope. The rebel batteries opened a rapid fire
upon them, and we could see the gaps cut through the living
hedge of blue, which closed quickl\- again, while the mass
moved steadily onward. When about half way up, a volley of
musketr}- was poured into them which caused the lines to shake
and (juiver, and momentall\- pause, but it was but for a moment,
when the whole column seemed to gather strength and with
loud shouts charged over the works.
The dense smoke hid them from our view for a time, but it
clearing, we could see our colors floating from the breastworks
so lately belching its shells and bullets upon our gallant boys,
and could hear their distant shouts of victor}-. The bloody
Heights were ours.
Returning to camp we tonml tliat five more companies of tlie
regiment liad been called upon to guard the lower bridge, so we
couUl claim some share in the credit of the day's work.
Two thousand prisoners and twelve guns were captured,
including tlie iSth Mississippi, with its colonel, Griffin, and
twenty-five field and line officers.
It was a detachment of this regiment which had captured Col.
Crocker and Maj. Cassidy before Yorktown, and they now had
the pleasure of tendering to their former captors the hospital-
ities of our guard tent.
May 4, early, heavy cannonading was heard up the river
towards Chancellorsville, and Sedgwick's command began to
move, as was said, to attempt a junction with Hooker, but
shortly after noon volleys of musketry and some cannon shots
across the river alarmed us. We were speedily put under arms,
a large detail was made to proceed again to the Lacy House,
and found that a rebel force had come in b}' way of the Bowling
Green Road, and hatl re-occupicd part of the Heights, attack-
ing Sedgwick's rear on Salem Heights. The bridge we had
laid was rapidly taken up, and all the batteries remaining with
us were placed in position to assist the 6th Corps, which was in
danger of being cut oft, the rebel force being already between it
and the river.
Sedgwick was making a gallant fight and our batteries did
good execution. Some twenty-pounders got the range while
the enemy was forming in masses between us and our friends
and cut great gaps in their ranks. They steadily closed up and
pressed onward. Sedgwick was pushing his way towards an
upper ford of the river, while at the same time he kept part ot
his gallant force presenting an unbroken front towards the
enemy. Thus the fight waged on until darkness hid the con-
tending forces from our view and caused us much an.xiety. not
only for tlie fate of (mu- comrades across the river, but for our-
selves, as our regiment ar^d the 8th Regulars would prove a
small and inefficient force if our friends in grey should conclude
to cross the river and attack us. Several hundred prisoners
were sent down to us from Chancellorsville. and between guard-
ing so many of them and apprehensions of an attack, the night
brought us little rest or sleep.
Early in the morning we learned that Sedgwick had safely
recrossed at Bank's ford, but this good news was offset later by
the news that Hooker had been disabled b}- a shell splintering
a column of the portico at Chancellor's house and felling him
with one of the fragments. Later came the still more disheart-
ening news that the army was seeking the means of retreat to
avoid annihilation, and all hope of a victory was gone. A heavy
storm that night aided their crossing, and the morning of the
6th found them once more plodding on a dispirited march to
their old camps. Hooker came riding in looking sad and
broken and at once retired to his tent. We covdd see the
enemy marching into their intrenchments on the Heights, and
soon forces were emerging from the city streets to take posses-
sion of the rii^e pits, from which the}' for some time kept up a
desultory fire at us, but at too long range for harm.
On the 7th the President and Gen. Halleck visited camp and
had a long consultation with Hooker, and again the air was
filled with the wildest rumors — one being, that they had ordered
another attack, of which they would be spectators, but of course
this rumor and its mates failed to materialize.
Gen. Hooker issued an order complimenting the troops for
their braver}^, and saying, that "for reasons well known to the
army, the movement was abandoned." Making inquir}^ I could
find none to whom the reasons were well known.
The nth Corps was blamed on all sides, and was dubbed
"the Flying Dutchmen," but subsequent events seemed to
prove it undeserving of the severe censure it then received.
All was quiet on the Rappahannock until the 6th of June,
when for several days firing was heard daily up the river, and
some movements were going on among the troops, but the most
diligent inquiry failed to elicit any information as to what was
going on, and even Hooker's staff seemed to be as densely
iiinorant as we.
On the lith a general movement begun, and we heard the
startHng news that it was to be a race for Washington instead of
"on to Richmond."
On the 13th we received orders to pack everything for which
there was transportation, and destroy the remainder. There
was no sleep for us that night, for we were to march at 3 o'clock
in the morning of the i4tli. and. as we were utterly alone, a vigi-
lant watch was kept lest a raiding force might wish to gobble
At 3 we left the heaps of ashes and rubbish which marked the
spot which had for so many months been our home, and marched
through dust, and in stifling heat, to Dumfries — twenty-one
miles — at which place we slept, with only the earth for a bed,
and the sky for a blanket.
At 4 the next morning we were again en route, and toiled
through an excessively hot day, making a weary march of sev-
enteen miles to the village of Occoquan, an insignificant town
on the river of that name. Waiting here for pontoons to be
laid, we were amused and interested in watching the swimming
of a thousand or more cattle over the river.
About dark we crossed and went into camp on the high
ground above the river. Following us came the cavalry rear
guard of the army, which hastily took up the pontoons as soon
as they had crossed, and, posting a strong picket guard, sought
slumber on the ground Avith us, until an early reveille should
once more arouse us for the march.
We marched at day break of the i6th, reaching Fairfax Station,
after a rapid march of eight miles, before 8 o'clock in the morn-
Here we found part of our baggage, and enjoyed the luxury
of a bath in the creek, and clean clothing, a luxury best appre-
ciated after such a march as we have endured.
Here, too, we received orders still further to reduce our bag-
gage, but mine was already reduced by some marauder, and to
such an extent that the order could not affect me.
Here we lay, awaiting orders, until the i8th. when we
marched to Fairfax Court House, a distance of only four miles.
but a hard march, because made in tlie midst of a heavs' tliun-
der-storm, which was verj' acceptable as a rehef from tlie
heavy and suffocating clouds of dust which, for the past few
days, had hung over our marching columns. Here we were
again stuffed with rumors, this time in a form which soon be-
came tangible, to the effect that Lee was advancing in three
columns, one of which was directed upon Washington, another
towards Pennsylvania, and the third somewhere near us, and,
as there were several cavalry fights near Bull Run to-day, there
is prospect that the battle may be fought upon the already twice-
Sunday, the 21st, heavy artillery firing was plainly heard from
the cavalry fight at Aldie, and, as that is forty miles away, it is
quite phenomenal that we should hear it so plainly, every deton-
ation being distinct and clear.
On the 25th we received orders to march at 3 on the follow-
ing morning, and, during the day, the cavalry came in from
Aldie, and passed northward.
At 1 :2o the reveille sounded, and all was astir as the guard was
relieved and rations distributed, after which a hearty breakfast
was cooked and eaten, and we fell into line. We marched at 4,
and trudged rapidly, but wearil}', through the mud and rain, and,
with few brief halts, through Hunter's Mills and Drainsville,
where we struck the Leesburgh pike, crossing the Potomac on
a pontoon bridge at Edwards' Ferry at 6 p. m. and going into
camp at Poolsville, Md., at 10, after a laborious march of
The next morning the weary march was resumed through
Barnesville and Urbana to Frederick Cit)', with but one halt, a
distance of 22 miles, making our bivouac on nearly the same
spot as that we occupied last fall on our way to Antietam.
The next day, Sunday, the 28th, Hooker was relieved from
command of the army, and Gen. George B. Meade was assigned
to the command.
This seemed like swapping horses while crossing a stream,
but the army was becoming accustomed to surprises ot the kind,
and accepted the change without a murmur.
Meade was little known, except as commander of the 5th
corps, while Hooker, whatever his faults, had secured a large
share of the affections oC the army. His leave-taking was affect-
ing, and all regretted the necessit}' for it, for he had endeared
himself to the rank and file b)- devoting much personal atten-
tion to their wants and comfort. He had provided rations of
soft bread and vegetables while in camp, and, by order, had
established corps badges, which did much to better the esprit
du corps of the arm}-.
A distinctive badge was j^rovided for each corps, to be worn
on all occasions, and the divisions were distinguished b}' the
color of the badge — red white and blue for the i st, 2ti and 31!
divisions, respective!} .
That of the 1st corps was a circular patch, of the 2d, a trefoil ;
of the 3d, a diamond : of the 5th, a maltese cross ; of the 6th,
a Greek cross ; of the nth. a crescent ; and of the 12th, a five-
pointed star. Our provisional brigade was excepted, and hail
no badge assigned, although the badge for officers, attached to
army headquarters, was a golden spread eagle within a silver
wreath. The envious outsiders dutibed it "quail on toast."
Early in the morning of the 2gth we were again upon the
road, marching through \\'oodbur\- and Ladiesville to Middle-
burg, a distance of twenty miles. The day was showery, and
many had blistered feet owing to the long and rapid marches of
the past few days, and all were weary almost to exhaustion.
An amusing incident occurred on the route. Near one of the
small towns the roadway was bordered by tall cherry trees, hang-
ing full of luscious fruit. The trees had as man}' living occu-
pants as the limbs would bear, and these w'hile resting from
eating, kindly threw down well laden boughs to those below.
Gen. Robert Tyler of the reserve artiller}' had been seated on a
horse block for some time, and seeing a branch fall near him,
reached for and got it just as a private of the' 20th Indiana
named Meacham was about to pick it up. The latter, unaware
of llic rank of liis siKc:cssful rival, admiiiistcrcd to the General's
l)osterior a kick wliich sent him s})ra\\iin;; in the nuid, and sent
his spectacles liying.
'l"he fun of the bystanders seemed to enrage the General
more than the kick, and he ordered me to plac(i the man under
guard until evenini;, but durinj; the march he disappeared and I
heard no more of it.
On the 30th a steach' rain was falling, but the order was still
onward, and we plodded along some five miles in the mud to a
point a little beyond Taneytown where we halted about noon.
This was the birth place and home of Roger B. Taney, once
chief justice of the United States, and well known as the writer
of the Dred Scott decision.
July 1 we rested from marching to enter ui)on the diversion of
making out our muster and ]iay rolls, a task at no time pleasant,
much less so where we must use cracker boxes in lieu of tables,
and had not suiificient shelter to keep our muster rolls entirely
dry. There was some heavy fighting near (jett\'sburg during
the day, and the body of Gen. RcN'nolds was brought with others
to the rear. Again the camp was full of exaggerated rumors,
which, cut off as we were, from outside communication, took an
exaggerated form. According to them, McClellan was recalled,
and made commander-in-chief, vice Halleck: and Gen. Butler,
secretary of war, vice Stanton. Various were the opinions ex-
pressed as to the supposed state of affairs, but there was only
one opinion upon the fact that a critical da\- for the fate of the
Union had arrived.
On the 2d, the roar of battle could be heard, and we were
ordered to march expecting to go to the scene of battle, but in-
stead marched fourteen miles to Westminster where the supply
trains were parked, without unharnessing the teams, and we
remained under arms to guard them. We could hear the artil-
lery firing at Gettysburg, and that evening and the following
dav received much information in regard to the great battle being
fought there, and at last the welcome news that our arm\- was
victorious, but had sustained tremendous loss.
We celebrated tlie 41)1 by iiiarcliing at 3 i'. .m. back tlie four-
teen miles which lay between us and Taneytown, most of the
march being made either in heavy thunder storms or showers,
but ever)\vhert: along the route we received news which con-
firmed the victory, and so our march lost some of its weariness.
The night was spent in a vain attempt to keep dry and catch a
Early in the morning (Suntla\) we marched to Rock Creek,
near the Pennsj-lvania line, where w'c were halted for orders
until 3 I'. M. and then started in another direction to Gettysburg,
our line of march being over the hardest fought portions of that
historic field. The demolished buildings, the fences torn down
to make breastworks, the trampled crops of corn and wheat,
and last of all the rows upon rows of still unburied dead, and
the barns and other sheltered places filled with maimed and
dying of both armies, formed a never-to-be-forgotten scene, and
proved how great had been the struggle, how dearly bought the
victory. Our camp for the night was close to the cemetery, and
in the midst of the debris of the battle.
The day following we could give mcjre attention to the field,
which we eagerly studied from Cemetery Ridge to Round Top,
everywhere finding evidences of the deadly storm, in festering
corpses of men and horses, with whose sickening odor the air
was fetid, and almost unendurable. Thousands of prisoners
were being brought in, and we witnessed some 3,000 ragged and
weathered out Confederates marching to the rear under the
guard of but two men, one at tlie head, and the other of the rear,
of the long ami motley column.
We met many of the inhabitants, and, for miserly sentiments
and nearness, they took the palm o\er the much-abused Yankee.
At some wells soldiers were forbitlden to draw water without
payment, and one man took his pump out to prevent his water
being used without pay. The })unip was replaced, and he put
under guard and compelled to pump for all who wanted to drink.
I ]>aid a dollar and a half for a loat of bread which would cost
no more than seven cents in New \'ork. One was lamenting
and groaning l)ecause his conifit.'ld had been trampled and his
fences torn down to be nsed as breast works. Another had a
dead mule in his dooryard, and wanted pa)- lor hauHng it away.
Another had a few bricks knocked off his chimne\-, and. actualK'.
presented a bill for 37^2 cents to the quartermaster, to whom
some wag had sent him. The joke took, and his papers were
endorsed and he sent to another, and toothers still, until he had
made a long and weary round, coming, at last, to Gen. Howard.
The General, touching his empty sleeve, said: "My friend,
give it to your country, as I did this."' But nothing but a stupid
look appeared upon the oaf's face, as he left to seek some one
who would pay his beggarly bill.
In contrast with this, we heard of one young girl who was
killed by a musket ball while baking bread for the soldiers, and
two young ladies from Baltimore, named Callow^ students ot the
seminary, were loudly praised for their bravery and devotion to
the wounded in the midst of terrifying dangers. Human nature
surely showed its strongest contrasts here. It remained for
these and old John Burns, to redeem the good name of the
people of Gettysburg.
Orders came to march again, for Lee was rapidly retreating
towards the river, and one column was preparing for a rapid
march to intercept him, while another was to rapidly follow his
On the 7th we made a rapid march over the border into Mary-
land again, through Taneytown to Woodborough, a long inarch
of twenty-six miles, accomplished between daylight and dark.
The rains continued to fall, and the march was a severe one. but
was renewed the next day, in which we trudged through the
midst of a drenching rain to Frederick City. Here, one of the
first sights which greeted us. as we formed to pitch our camp,
was the body of Richardson, the spy. hanging from the limb of
a tree close by. Pinned to his breast was a placard, witli this
inscription, in substance :
■•Tried, convicted, and hung as a spy. Any one cutting down this body,
without orders, will take his place. By order of
Maj.-Gen. JOHN BUFORD,
Many of us recognized him as one wlio had plied liis vocation
as a huckster in our winter camp at Fahnoutli, wliere his face
had become a familiar one. He had been ccjnvicted by a drum
head court martial, and his execution immediately followed.
The next day — the gtli — at 6 o'clock, we again marched
through Middletown to the Mountain House, over the scenes of
the battlefield of South Mountain. Here we were encamped in
the bowl formed by the surrounding mountains, and. with the
8th United States Infantry and 2d Pennsxlvania Cavalr\, were
ordered to protect the mountain j^asses from raids and attacks in
the rear, and furnished a heavy picket guard for that purpose,
and, on the 12th, two other regiments and a battery were sent to
join us and lighten our duties, the remainder of the army being
pushed on towards the old field of Antietam.
All were alive with expectation, and impressed with the idea
that Lee could not escape, as the ri\'er in his rear was swollen
bank full by the copious rains, and all were eager for the fight
that should compel the surrender of the Rebel Army. but. on the
14th, we woke to the disheartening fact that Lee had succeeded
in recrossing the river, and was now be^'ond our reach. Some-
body had blundered.*
On the 15th we marched via Burketts\illc and Pctersville to
Berlin — fourteen miles — and encamped on the same spot we
occupied last September. Here we learned of the New York
draft riots, and the 8th infantr}- started, with other regiments, to
the scene, accompanied b\' our best wishes for their speedy suc-
cess in putting down this rebellion in our rear. The next day
Companies H and K were detailed to report to Pro. Marshal
General Patrick, as provost guard, and the 50th New Vork
engineers commenced lajing a pontoon bridge across the river.
On the 1 8th we marched across the bridge and four miles out
to Lovettsville, Va., the soldiers little relishing the prospects
*lt was reporti'd, but I caiuiot vouch for its irulli, Uial, at a council of war. the mem-
bers were ecjuaUy divided upon Uio policy of attackiufr Lee at once, orwailiiitr for rein-
forcements, and that Meade hesitated tofive the casting vote in favor of attack when
so many of his officers opposed it. At any rate, while we were waiting'. Lee escajied
and one of the srrandest opportunities offered in the war was lost. Grant would have
ordered an attack.
of another \'ii"ginia campaign after a sight of the green fields
and a taste of the hospitality of Maryland and Pennsylvania.
Sunday, the 19th, we marched six miles to a point a little
beyond Wheatland, and, on the 20th. thirteen miles via Purcell-
ville, making a halt at Welbourne Hall, the residence of Henry
Delaney, a fine old provincial home, and, the day following,
through Piedmont to Cold Spring Church, wliere we halted
and re\elled in a profusion of dewberries, which grew in profus-
ion in this mountain pass, but we found rattlesnakes almost as
profuse in number as the bushes. Being blind, and about to
shed their skins, the}' were exceedingly venemous, but so blind
that they struck at random when disturbed, and, so, were near-
ly harmless. Our march was along the Manasses Gap Railroad,
which had its iron torn up for miles, leaving onl}' the bed of the
track to remind us that we were traveling by railroad. Soon our
march was resumed, and we toiled, almost climbing, five miles
further up the Gap, encamping for the night among the rocks
high up the mountain side, at a place called Markham, where
was said to be the family home of Chief justice Marshall.
In the morning of the 24th dense clouds were between us and the
valley below, and, when they were lifted b^• the morning's sun, a
glorious view was that which lay before us. Eastern Virginia
lay spread out like a map, whose only boundaries were the infirm-
ities of vision. Ail forenoon we enjoyed the picture, and then
came marching orders, and between i o'clock and 7 we clamored
down the mountain side taking the Warrenton road and marched
eleven miles to Salem.
That evening two of our men were shot while lying on the
ground, probably by guerilla skulkers in the adjoining woods,
but we tailed to find a trace of the assassin. The bullet before
striking them passed through the coat of a colored servant and
knocked a candle out of his hands.
Bright and early in the morning of the 25th we were again on
the march, and though the heat was intense and the road dusty,
we made the fourteen miles between Salem and Warrenton be-
fore 10 o'clock, and here we remained, in beautiful surroundings
until tlie ist of August. We found tlie ladies who exhibited
such contempt for us last year in many ways, now disposed to
seek our acquaintance and society, and many a pleasant hour
was spent in their company, and in some cases the friendships
thus engendered entered into the domain of love, courtship and
marriage "in the sweet bye and bye."
On the I St of August we marched to Germantown b}' a round-
about route through Bealton, a march of twelve miles under a
hot sun. and through a wilderness of stunted pines and oaks,
without passing an inhabited house. A number of the regiment
were overcome by the heat, and several fell from the effects of
sunstroke. Here headquarters were established, and we were
destined to remain until the middle of September. The various
army corps were stretched from the Rappahannock to Warren-
ton, with a heavy picket line along its front and flanks.
Germantown consists of two houses, eight miles from War-
renton, and three from the Junction. It lacked society, and
good w^ater, much like another place of great historic fame.
The ordinary duties of camp life were enlivened by visits to
other camps for social purposes, and occasional visits to the
picket lines to liave our blood stirred by the sight of the " John-
nies " on the other side.
Occasionally too, the susceptible ones, and they were many,
would seek the society of the few secession damsels who re-
sided in the vicinit}'. (The term vicinity as used here has no
standard of measure. It means wherever the damsels could be
found), and one charming girl, Miss Annie R , a young lady
of great vivacit}', and of winning ways, had a host of admirers,
whom she entertained handsomely. One evening Lieuts. H
and B^— , while visiting her and listening to her rendering of
"The Bonnie Blue Flag," and "Dixie," were alarmed by the
approach of several suspicious-looking horsemen. They
mounted in haste, and put their horses to their speed, the other
horsemen pursuing. On they dashed, until in going down a
stony hill, the horse of Lieut. H. stumbled and fell, and that of
B. followed suit, mixing horses and riders in much confusion.
H. escaped and came into camp with the startling stor) ot the
attack, and that B. was probabl}- killed. The pursuers arriving
where B. lay entangled with his horse, demanded a surrender,
but luckil}' turned out to be Union officers, who had gone on a
similar social errand. Mutual explanations ensued, and the
escapade was agreed to be kept a secret, but the camp having
been alarmed and a rescuing party sent out, it could not be kept,
and our susceptible comrades were long in hearing the last of
tlieir ludicrous pursuit and overthrow. It might have had a
serious ending, but as it did not. the merriment was great.
One of the great social events of the season, and one which
brought together otScers of every rank, and ever\- porticju of the
army, was the occasion of a presentation of a magnificent
blooded horse, with handsome equipments, and an elegant
sword, to gallant and lovable Gen. John Sedgwick, command-
ing the 6th corps, at his headquarters in Warrenton, on the 26th
of August. His tents were pitched under the trees in the
spacious lawn in front of ex-Gov. Smith's ( " Extra Billy Smith " )
residence, wliere tables were spread laden with delicacies, sub-
stantial and spiritual, and after the formalities of speech-making
were ended, full justice was done to the substantial repast.
Here was invented, and conspicuously tlisplayed in a barrel, a
nectar which was hereafter to be immortalized in the memory of
the day, as '• Sedgwick punch," whose seductive and insinuat-
ing qualities were soon experienced, not soon shaken off, and
long remembered. b\- those who yielded to its seductions.
Those who ordered carriages for their return, were kindl\- fur-
nished with ambulances instead.
A few days later I was sent to \\'asliington in charge of some
thirt\-one prisoners of war, among whom were Capt. T.C. S. Hun-
ter, 30th Virginia infantr\-, Capt. John Tayloe and Lieut. John Ta}"-
loe of the 9th Virginia cavalr}-. Arriving at Alexandria in the
earl}' evening, we found that in some way their arrival was
expected, and a number of ladies of rebel proclivities were at
the station, their baskets laden with eatables and flowers for the
I was accorded a disdainful reception at first, and remained a
hungry spectator, but upon the ladies being assured by the pris-
oners, that they had been treated by nic like gentlemen, I came
in for a share of the viands which proved very acceptable.
Army red tape here caused us much annoyance. First as the
regular train had gone over the bridge, we had to wait for a
special car and engine before going over to Washington.
There we first reported to the central guard house, (the old
police station of Washington) thence were sent up to the pro-
vost marshal's office at the corner of 19th and I streets, where
after a long wait for the red tape to be untied we were ordered
to deliver our charges to the old capitol prison beyond the
capitol. Lieut. Tayloe begged to be allowed to make a call
under guard to his uncle and aunt, whose residence was next to
Secretary Seward's, opposite Lafayette park, and finally I con-
sented to go with him, instructing the sergeant of the guard to
march slowly with the prisoners and await us on Capitol Hill.
Late as was the hour (near midnight) when we rang the bell at
the mansion, the inmates gladly admitted us when the cause of
their disturbance was announced, and one could not but be
touched at the warm reception accorded to the relative whom
they saw after long absence under such circumstances. My
greeting was also warm, and after an elegant midnight lunch,
we made haste to join our companions, and the doors of the old
capitol soon shut from my view, the new-made friend, and his
companions, of whom I never afterwards heard.
Returning a day or two later, more Washington red tape was
stretched across our path. Though I had a pass for myself and
guard from Warrenton Junction to Washington and return,
issued by Maj.-Gen. Patrick, provost marshal general of the
army, I could not take car until Col. Devereaux, superintendent
of railways, had examined my papers and given another order
Saturday, the 12th of September, an intensely hot day, wit-
nessed the movement of large bodies of troops marching in
clouds of dust. Buford's and Gregg's cavalry crossed the Rap-
pahanock and tlie 2d Corps passed iis, niarcliing towards Cul-
pepper. Rumors of a contemplated general advance were
rapidly being confirmed and the following day we learned that
the 2d Corps had occupied Culpepper, capturing several guns
and a number of Lee's rear guard, and that Lee's main arm}'
was (Occupying the heights south of the Rapidan.
On Wednesda)' the i6th, we marched via Bealton Station,
crossing the river at Rappahannock Station, thence through
Brandy Station to Culpepper, a distance of twenty-one miles,
and encamped close to that ancient and musty village.
The route over which we passed was that over which Pope's
running fight had been made last j^ear, the evidences of which
were everwhere visible in the numerous graves, and also of the
cavalry fight of Sunday last. Our camp was on the grounds of
Wallack, editor of the Washington Star, whose residence was
occupied by Gen. Meade.
Heavy rains made the river fords impassable and checked the
movement of troops, but on the 22d and 23d our cavalry suc-
ceeded in pushing to Madison, south of the Rapidan and occu-
pied a threatening position on Lee's left flank. A ride to the
picket lines at Racoon ford, by w^ay of Pony Mountain, gave
us a fine view of the enemy's troops, engaged in drills and
guard mountings in full sight on the opposite side of the river.
On the 25th of September the nth and 12th Army Corps
were ordered to Alexandria for shipment, and we soon learned
that the}- were to go to the relief of the western arm}- at Chat-
tanooga. As the 20th Army Corps, they won a deserved fame
in the southwest, and we saw no more of them until the final
The movement of troops and artillery from point to point was
frequent, and we were kept constantly in expectation of a for-
ward movement, but each time an advance was contemplated,
additional rains fell, rendering rivers and roads impassable, and
keeping us in uncertaint}' for many days. An instance of a
sudden flooding of the streams, which rendered strategy use-
less, was brought home to us. A small stream euphoniousl}-
named Hungry Run, whose course was between our camp and
Culpepper, and which was ordinarily a foot in depth and easil}'
forded, became suddenl\' so swollen that a five mule team was
carried away and drowned in attempting its passage, and we
were cut off from town until the next day.
There were again unwelcome rumors of a fiank movement on
our right and rear, and weight was given to them when we saw
cavalry in heavy force, followed b}- a large body of infantry,
marching towards Brand}' Station, and on the 26th we heard
that a bridge near Bull Run had been burned by a raiding force
of the enemy.
During our stay here an episode occurred w hich excited much
comment and shows the ease with which politics and war some-
times become mixed. It ended in the stopping by suspicious
politicians of what was innocently intended by the army as a
testimonial of regard for a former commander.
A subscription for a testimonial to McClellan had been for
some time in circulation in the arm}', and the Washington
Chronicle, in its issue of September 25, attacked its authors and
signers unmercifully, attributing it to an effort to push McClel-
lan's candidacy for the presidential chair.
Among other things it said " the document is anonymous, is
circulated in the army in defiance of military authority, and
without the avowed sanction of the commander of the army thus
appealed to, and condemns the President for removing him.
It is the boldest stroke of his political friends, who are known
to be of the most perfect copperhead order. Its impudence is
unparalleled. The projectors of it could scarcel}' be aware how
wideh' it is known with whom the general exclusively associates,
or they would not have dared thus to insult the Army of the
Potomac," and further characterised it as "a clandestine affair
of dislo}al men. "
The fact was that it originated at a meeting of general and
staff officers at Meade's headquarters. Meade was the first to
sign it, and generally the signers regretted that the subscription
was limited to a small amount for each.
I heard Gen. Patrick say it met with Meade's entire appro-
bation as well as his own. It was not therefore "circulated in
defiance of military authority,'" nor "the clandestine work of
disloyal men." As to its being "anonymous"' all subscriptions
are so until signed. Why it should be considered " impudent"
for an army to present a testimonial to a loved commander, we
could not understand, and it is certain that very many who were
glad to subscribe would have opposed vigorously any attempt to
put him in the presidential chair.
To put it mildly. Editor Forney would not have been a wel-
come visitor in camp for some time after this, for all bitterly
resented his " impudence" in classing us with "copperheads,"
and "disloyal men," and a new impetus was given to the sub-
On the 6th of October, however, in general orders said to
have been issued by direction of the President, it was declared
that such testimonials would be considered in violation of regu-
lations, and noticed accordingly, which of course put an end to
There was much dissatisfaction quietly expressed, and not a
few thought it unwise for the President to interfere. It was an
act so foreign to his usual philosophical policy of non-interfer-
ence with supposed aspirations of his rivals, that it is doubtful
whether he would have interfered but for the pressure brought,
and demands made by scheming but powerful politicians. So
loyal was the arm}' to its country's cause that none thought for
a moment of disobedience, great as was the disappointment, and
all soon settled down to the duties of the hour, giving little
thought to political schemes, with an enemy in our front to fight.
We prayed, however, that the fool-killer might soon visit the
capitol, and that he might make no mistakes. While here, too,
we enjoyed the privilege of calling upon that patriotic Virginia
statesman, John Minor Botts,who, with his three charming daugh-
ters, always gave us a hearty welcome, and to hear Union senti-
ments so warmly expressed in the heart of Secessia gave an
additional zest to their hospitable welcome. One day the old
man was feeling aggrieved because Secretar\- Stanton liad
refused to give a permit for some goods he had ordered to pass
the Hues; and I made notes of his talk, and wrote it down when
I returned to camp. He said : "I will appeal to the President
to learn if T have not a right to the protection of the govern-
ment I have suffered so much for. What right has Stanton to
say I cannot have articles I send for merely because I live in
Virginia, when 1 have given sucli undoubted proof of my loyalty
and devotion to the Union, and have suffered so much on account
of m\ principles? It costs Stanton nothing to be loyal, while I
have been imprisoned eight weeks and a day in a Richmond
dungeon for mx loyalt}', besides sustaining much pecuniar}' loss.
My position en*-itles me to some consideration. I am the onl}-
public man in the State of Virginia who has stood firm in princi-
ple during this convulsion. You know I am a Henry Clay whig,
and, by the way, there is the most perfect likeness of Clay I
have seen (showing us a small marble bust). He gave it to me
himself a few days before he died."
On being asked if he did not consider the confederacy entitled
to some consideration after sustaining itself so long, he replied
with some warmth: "I know the so-called confederacy to the
core. It is not a government, but only an attempt to establish
one, and now, after more than two years of extraordinary effort,
the}' have not only failed to establish it, but have lost two-thirds
of the territory they occupied at the commencement. Look at
Tennessee I They revolutionized Tennessee by its state author-
ities passing the ordinance of secession. Now we see a revolu-
tion within a revolution, and the people have brought Tennes-
see back into the Union. The confederacy will not last. The
war was gotten up to sustain the democratic power, and slavery
was only the pretext for rushing the people blindly into it.
Such attempts will always fail as long as the svm shines and the
moon rolls. It onh' wants time and a little more profitable
exertion of the powers of the government to finish the war : or
\ou may wait longer, and the Rebels will work out their own
damnation." On my saying, as I rose to leave, that I admired
his stand, and felt mucli pleased to have met and talked with
a man whose name and acts were now so much a part of our
history, he shook my hand warmly and said : ■•! am gla<l to
have seen you. Although I am growing old. 1 am glad to meet
young men, and give them the benefit ot my experience, and if
\'ou admire m\ conduct, recollect it is (;nh' because I done my
dut}' as far as 1 could."
I was so impressed with his remarks that 1 jotted down his
exact language as far as it was possible to do so. In speaking
of Cla\'. he said : --He was a lovable man."
Thus we remained, almost daily drenched with heav\- rains,
until the October days set in. On the 9th a party of us rode to
the summit of Pony Mountain where the chief signal station was
situated. It was a high sugar loaf raised above the surround-
ing plains, from which a splendid \iew of the situation was
afforded. Some marching troops were visible, and as their
course was northward, the indications were discouraging, and
we learned that some force of the enem\- was crossing the
F?apidan far up the river from here, rendering it almost a cer-
taint\' that Lee had determined on again turning our right, and
forcing us back on Washington. That e\ening we had orders
to prepare eight days rations.
The following da\- the headtjuarters train was sent back, and
we had orders to be read\- at a moment's notice, and spent the
night without shelter, knowing little but that our advance was
to be backwards. Sunday. Oct. 11 at () .\. m. we begun our
retrogade movement, and after a march of thirteen miles found
ourselves within a short distance of Rappahannock station,
where large bodies of our troops were centering and crossing,
and we learned that Stuart's cavalry had raided Warrenton.
The next morning we were reforming for the march, but
information came of an enemy in our rear and we formed line of
battle facing southward. Other troops were hastily brought
back to the south side of the river and joined us, and the line
moved forward to meet our pursuers. It was a grand sight to
see our line of blue with glittering bavonets as it mo\ed over
the level ground, towards the enemy, ca^^er for a fif^ht with faces
tiirned towards the south.
The\' were disappointed, for after throwing a few shells, the
At 4 in the morning of the 13th we were roused, and after a
hasty breakfast crossed the Rappahannock, marching eleven
miles through Warrenton Junction, to a point above Catletts
station, having lunched on our old camping ground at German-
town. ■ The army was marching in parallel lines with the trains
between, and the march was a difficult one. That night we
bivouacked in the midst of the army, which was huddled into a
small space with the enemy api)arently on all sides of us.
There was a dash of rebel cavalry between us and the second
corps just about dark, creating much alarm and confusion. An
orderly going from Meade's headquarters to the 2d corps at
xVuburn two miles away, fell in with them, but escaping, aroused
the camp, and a squadron of the escort was at once mounted
and sent out. Encountering the rebel force three were wounded
in the short fight that ensued, but the enemy escaped in the
darkness. It was a sleepless night for most of us, for a strong
picket guard was established encircling the camp, and the head-
quarters guard was doubled. The few off duty slept on their
arms, and the teams were kept harnessed and ready to move at
a moment's warning.
At 6 in the morning Meade's personal baggage with that of
some of his staff, was sent under guard of 100 men of our regi-
ment towards Centerville, while the remainder of the train was
sent by another route. We were informed that we might expect
to meet guerillas and cavalry raiders, and ordered to keep close
with the trains and ready for all emergencies.
We marched via Catletts and Brentsville, crossing the Occo-
quan at Wolf Run Shoals, and marching on to Fairfax station, a
distance of thirty-one miles. There was heavy firing close to
Catletts as we passed, and we learned that a small force of
rebel cavalry had been cut off by our marching in parallel
columns, and had remained concealed in the woods close to our
cainj) all night. We had sa-u tlu-ir horses, picketed, hut sup-
l^osed them to be our own forces.
On the 15th -we marched four miles to near Fairfax court
house, and all day la\- within the sound of cannonading in the
direction of Centerville, to which point we expected hourly to
be called, but remained inactive for the next three da\s, during
which the trains remained parked, with teams harnessed, and
once the approach of raiders caused us to form line of battle
for their protection. Our guard faced in all directions, as none
seemed to know whence the expected attack niight come. Even
the teamsters were armed and assigned to companies for duty.
At 2 in the morning of the 19th, we received orders to march
at daylight, and willingly obeyed. On the march we passed
through Centerville, crossed Cub Run and historic Bull Run,
and along a route marked by bleaching bones of former battle-
fields to Groveton, a distance of thirteen miles. The route was
over the scene of two great battles, and near Groveton where
we went into camp, close to the famous "Stone House;" the
surface was covered by sunken graves, or spots where the onlv
burial had been by heaping a little earth over the corpse where
it had fallen, and this slight covering had washed awa}', leaving
many a grinning skull, and heaps of bones, bleaching on tlie
The following morning (20th) we prepared for marching, but
no orders came, and we visited man}' portions of the field, but
Capt. Johnson, straying a little farther than the rest, encountered
a '' gre3^back,'' who ordered him to halt and surrender. His
reply was a revolver shot and a hast\' return to us and to camp,
where we remained till 4 v. m., when we marched to Gaines-
ville, six miles, and slept soundly under the sky.
On the 2ist our march was resumed, passing through Buck-
land and New Baltimore back to old familiar Warrenton, and
there learned that Lee's army had all recrossed the Rappahan-
nock, the object of his movement being completely foiled.
Here we remained until the 27th, and then marched six miles
to Auburn, a one house and one store village on " Goose Creek,"
whicli iilacc we lelt on the 3ulli, maichin;; to '-Three Mile Sta-
tion " on tliu Warreiiton Brancli Railroad, encamping close to
the residence ot Col. Murray, who was in the confederate ser-
vice. On the ist of November two correspondents of the New
York Herald, Messrs. Hendricks and Hart, were captured a
sliort distance from our lines while riding for curiosity and to
While here we had orders to kee}) eleven days' rations con-
stantly on hand and all [hv. indications pointed to a contem-
plated advance. Artiller}' was massing, and troops changing
position from place to place in every direction. On the 6th we
were surrounded by forest and held fires which seemed to
threaten us with much danger as the wind was blowing a gale,
but in the midst of our fight with this element, we received
marching orders for the following day, and on the 7th we
inarched via Warrenton Junction to Bealton, a distance of
ten miles, four companies being detaclied. and marching
four miles farther to Carter's on the road to Kelley's Ford,
while the remainder stopped to guard the subsistence trains.
After tlark we were ordered forward a short distance, parking
the trains and camping just within the cavalry outposts. There
was heavy fighting at Rappahannock Station all the afternoon,
ending in the carrying of all before it by the 6th corps, and the
preservation of the bridge which had been fired by the enemy.
The 5th Corps also crossed the Rappahannock at Kelly's Ford.
The day's march was a hot one and the dust of the road, com-
bined with -he smoke of the fires which were devastating the
surrounding countr\, made the march almost intolerable.
The ne.xt day, Sunday, we inarched to Carter's, and after a
long halt, marched to Rai)pahannock Station, tiius being com-
pelled to march ten milc;s to lind ourselve-s only two miles from
our starting point.
"We found that the 6th Corps had taken several pieces of
artillery and over a thousand prisoners in the redoubt at tlie
bridge, and had crossed the river and had been engaged in a
skirmish most of th(' day while taking position. We crossed in
the morning and marched to Brandy Station, a distance of
seven miles, made in the midst of a chilling and blustering wind
which came fresh from the Blue Ridge Mountains, which were
becoming clothed with snow.
Here we were destined to remain for some time, and after
two locations of the headquarters camp, it was finally pitched
on the nth in a pine grove, at some distance from the station,
and we proceeded to make ourselves as comfortable as possible.
Here we remained while various efforts were made to force a
passage at the various fords of the Rapidan, but they were all
found strongly defended. Many a campaign was entered upon
and carried to an effective conclusion — in our minds — while we
were waiting for developments, most of the time under march-
On the 22d it was freely given out by headquarters officers
that the army was to force a passage over the Rapidan, one
column at Ely's Ford, one at Raccoon, and one at Germania.
The next day our orders were to send all books, desks and extra
baggage to the rear, and with ten days' cooked rations to be
ready to march in the morning. Heavy storms of cold rain and
sleet delayed the movement until the 26th, when we broke camp
at 7 in the morning, and marched via Stevensburgh to Germania
Ford, where we sought rest for the night in a dense pine forest
on the north bank of the river after a trudge of fourteen miles.
It was Thanksgiving day, but our dn:iner was taken on the
march, and no turkey was on the bill of fare; nothing but the
invigorating coffee and muscle stimulating -'hard-tack." We
gave vent to our thankfulness, however, • in rousing cheers,
for a dispatch announced the capture of Chattanooga.
We started again early in the morning of the 27th, but the
roads and pontoons were so blocked by a continuous stream of
crossing troops that we did not cross till noon, marching down
the plank road, without finding the planks, some five miles,
then turning to the right on the Orange Court House road,
making some three miles further, and bivouacking at g in the
evening about a mile from Robertson's Tavern. On our route
we passed an abandonecl cjuartz mill and the once rich gold
mine, Vanchise. We are in a part of the region known as the
Wilderness. The next day the whole line was pushed forward.
fighting its way to Mine Run, Headquarters remaining at the
Tavern. A cold drizzling rain added much to the difificidties and
discomforts of the movement.
On the third day still further athance was made and better
positions gained, although each step was stubbornly contested
Towards evening it became suddenly bitterly cold, and we were
compelled to make a march of some two miles further towards
the front, over the rough and stony pike, in stiffening mud.
The colli grew intense, and caused much suffering. To add to
our discomfort, we were short of rations, and without any shel-
ter, the baggage trains not being unpacked. To keep our-
selves from freezing we built long piles of rails, and kindled
fires, lying closely with our feet toward the fires. It was a night
long to be remembered. Men froze to death upon the picket
lines, and when we attempted to rise in the earl\- morning of the
30th we found ourselves pinned to the ground,- our blankets and
overcoats being frozen in the mud. As we had slept in our over-
coats, we had to slip out of them to rise, and thaw the frozen
ground to regain them. We moved back about a mile, and la\'
all day within the sound of artillery and some musketry volleys,
awaiting expected orders, but, none coming, we prepared our-
selves for another bitterly cold night, this time making our bed
upon the cold and hard frozen surface of mother earth instead
the soft and yielding mud we had begun our sleep in the night
The morning of December ist o})ened bleak and cold, and the
benumbed soldiers were not sorry to fall in for a march, the
quickstep of which was to warm the blood, and free the aching,
stiffened limbs from their pains. It was now apparent that our
movement was to be abandoned, and our march a backward one.
The road was blocked by artillery and trains passing to the
rear, so that our fourteen-mile march of that da}- was one of con-
siderable miser\ and weariness, but we managed to reach the
river at Culpepper Mine Ford and cross it, bi\ouacking again on
the frozen ground. This ford takes its name from the Melville
gold mine, which is said to have been producing $200 per day at
the outbreak of the war. It is now abandoned, and a fine quartz
mill is rapidly going to ruin.
Again at sunrise we were under marcliing orders, but as the
whole army was crossing tlie river, and every road and pathway
filled with marching troops, wagons and artiller}-. we did not get
the road until 3 in the afternoon, making a wear}' march of eleven
miles before we were allowed, at midnight, to drop to rest at
the side of the road, and sleep until daylight of the 3d. when we
resumed the wa}', and. after a march of five miles, found our-
selves at our old camp near Brandy Station, rejoicing that the
Mine Run campaign of seven days was over, and wondering
what would come next.
For two days the camps were alive with rumors that the enemy
was advancing upon us, and heavy firing in the direction of the
river, gave color to the flying rumors. Besides, on the 5th there
was unusual stir in the camp, men being everywhere under
marching orders, and the horses being kept harnessed to the
guns and the trains, but this excitement subsided, and on the
7th orders to prepare winter (|uarters were sent to the various
arm}' corps, and we l^egan to arrange for a winter of compara-
tive comfort and idleness. At once the work of re-enlisting as
veterans commenced, and a very large proportion of the army
responded to the invitation, a patriotic response that was cheer-
ing to the heart of the nation, for it gave the assurance that the
veteran arm}- w-ould not be replaced by raw levies, as many had
predicted, and more had feared.
For some time I had chafed under the idea that the regiment,
having taken the field to do its share in fighting the enemy,
should so long have been kept from active participation in the
battles of its comrades, and, although sharing all the marches
of the army, frequently in great danger, and occupying a posi-
tion of great honor and trust, that of guarding the headtjuarters
of the general commanding, a position whicli was longed for by
many a regiment, it was not winning the laurels of war, and 1
longed for more active campaigning. So when Col. Nelson A.
Miles, commanding a brigade in the fighting 2d army corps
invited me to take the position of aide upon his staff, the invita-
tfon was gladly accepted and his application for the detail hav-
ing passed favorably through the military channels, and the
detail having been made by Gen. Meade in special orders dated
Dec. 23, on the following day I bade farewell to my regiment,
and reported for dnt) , as aiile-de-camp on the stafi of the com-
manding ofificer of the ist Brigade, ist Dixision, 2d Army Corps,
'n camp near Stevensburg, with which my army fortune was
hereafter to be cast. For a time there was excitement enough
in learning the position of the troops, the picket line, and the
duties of the new position. Our brigade headquarters was
pleasant!}- situated under the shelter of a steep hill, not far
either from division or corps headquarters, and the new com-
panions were all that could be desired; men who, in the marches
and battles that followed, proved worthy of a comrade's love
There was Miles, colonel of the 61st New York, long a com.
mander of the brigade, but kept from richly-merited promotion
by want of the political influence that crowtled others into unde-
Young, enthusiastic, handsome, and every inch the soldier,
he was, on duty, the commander : off duty, hail fellow well met
witli all of us, a constant friend, as much the boy as any of us.
There also was Lieut. John B. Hallenbeck, my brother aid, a
handsome boy in a})pearance, but the \eteran of many battle-
fields. His bright face was always ready with a smile which
won the hearts of all who met him. He was a favorite with the
command, a lovable character, too soon to leave us to mourn for
him. There was also Capt. George H. Caldwell, assistant
adjutant general, brother tf) the General then commanding
division, whose frank heart)- ways were captivating, and Capt.
Hamilton A. Mattison, inspector general, big-hearted, jovial
and true, who succeeded gallant Capt. Willard Keech. The
inner man was in charge of dashing Capt. R. W. Thompson, A..
C. S. Dick was all we ever called him. Not yet 21, he had
already acquired the reputation of being one of the best com-
missaries in the army, a re})utation well earned and fairh'
deserved. The outward man was cared for by Capt. David H.
Pattison of the 26th Michigan Volunteers acting A. Q. M., and,
taken together, it was a militar\- family that one could always be
proud to have been a membfer of. In the reorganization of the
Army of the Potomac, which was made that winter, Caldwell
was relieved from the command of the Division, and Gen.
Francis C. Barlow, who had stopped eleven bullets at Gettys-
burgh, and been left on the held as dead, was placed in com-
mand, and Gen. Winfield S. Hancock, also severely wounded at
Gettysburg, was assigned to the command of the corps.
Our brigade was composed of the 6ist New York, commanded
by Lieut. -Col. K. O. Broady, rugged and brave: the 81 st
Pennsylvania, commanded by Col. H. Boyd McKean, brave as
a knight, courtly as a Bayard, and aimable as a woman ; the
140th Pennsylvania, commanded by Col. John Fraser, a true
gentleman, a fine scholar, who had won fame as an astronomer ;
and tlie 26th Michigan, commanded by Lieut. -Col. Judson S.
Farrar, a worthy leader of one of the best regiments in the
service. Later was added the 183d Pennsylvania, commanded
by Col. McLean, one of the regiments raised and equipped by
the Loyal League of Philadelphia, and new to the service, its
officers and men being raw recruits, who had yet everything to
learn as soldiers, and who were to have a costly lesson before
it was learned.
During the winter, a complete reorganization of the army was
made. A portion of the 3d corps was assigned to, and consoli-
dated with, the 2d, and the g3d New York was relieved from
duty at headquarters and assigned to the ist brigade of that
organization, which now became the 2d Division of the 2d Corps,
It was destined to suffer greater loss in the campaign which
followed than many a regiment that had always been in a fight-
ing command, and to win an imperishable renown, but at a ter-
rible cost. The most important change for us was the advent of
Grant, who assumed the direction of the Arm\- of the Potomac,
leaving Meade in immediate command under liim. Without
regard to tlie qualities of Grant as a commander, it was a wise
step to create the office of lieutenant general, for it put an end
to the scheming of envious minds among those of equal grade
as major generals, ami the presence of an officer of superior
rank rendered it impossible for malicious, and sometimes false,
reports to succeed in undoing the commander. He was intro-
duced to us at a series of grand reviews, and at once took a strong
hold upon the arm}', which was ready and (]ualified to criticise
its officers, and generally did so freely and without reserve.
From the first, this criticism was favorable to Grant, and left no
prejudice to overcome.
Fro.m iHK Wilderness to Spoitsvlvaxia.
So, at the beginning of the Wilderness campaign, it was my
fortune to be serving as aide-de-camp to a gallant and success-
ful brigade commander, who, in the bloody days which followed,
won the stars of a major-general, has since become fametl tor
his brilliant Indian campaigns, and is now a major-general in
the Regular Arm\ — General Nelson A. Miles.
The brigade was the first of the ist division 1 Barlow's* of
the grand old 2d Army Corps, commanded b\ Hancock — " tiie
The proud, historic boast of our division was that it had nexer
lost a gun (jr a color, althougli its colors had gleamed and
flashed, and its guns had thundered in the very front, on cvcr\'
battlefield of the Army of the Potomac. No other division of
the Armies of the Union could boast of such distinction.
Our badge was the far-famed red trefoil, the boys called it
" the ace of clubs," and in all our campaigns clubs were trumjis.
The New Year opened with an intense, cold spell, and will
long be known througliout the country as "the cold New Years,"
but we made the best of it and improvising sleds, enjoyed
sleigh rides as long as the snow lasted.
A winter in tents, engaged in daily drills, guard mountings,
parades, and working parties is liable to become monotonous,
and even such intellectual amusements as card-playing and
horse-racing become stale and uninteresting.
Visits to other camps, long rides along the picket line, leaping
fences and ditches to try the mettle of our horses; or down to
the river fords to have a chat with the Johnnie Rebs on their
outposts failed to be exciting long before the winter passed.
Games of ball, football and ''shinny" were played until all
interest was lost in them. Beans were lost and won on all
sorts of games of chance, until beans palled on the sight, as
they had long before on the soldiers' taste.
When Washington's birthday came, it was celebrated by a
grand ball, in a large hall built for the purpose, roofed with
canvas, and decorated with flags and evergreens, stacks of
muskets and a couple of brass Napoleon's, making a reallv
Many of the officers' wives and daughters were spending the
winter in camp, and hundreds more came expressly for the
occasion. The vice president and a number of senators with
their wives were there, and Gov. Curtm and wife acted as con-
voy for a bevy of ladies from Washington, Baltimore, Philadel-
phia and New York. Generals Meade, Hancock, Warren,
Pleasanton. Kilpatrick and others were there, and so was One-
Legged Dahlgren, whose sad fate it was a few days later, to be
killed in his raid on Richmond.
It was a scene of beauty, gallantr}- and chivalrv, and the
dawn paled the thousand tapers which lighted the hall, before
the dance was ended. It was the vision of a night, and seemed
altogether unreal — as if it were some fair}' palace, risen in a
night, and whose revelling occupants, after tripping gaily in the
fairy dance, fled with the ushering in of day.
Then we of the ist Division resolved to organize a lecture
bureau, and erected a hall of ample dimensions at our head-
(luarters. It was inaugurated early in March by a grand concert
for the benefit of the Division band — admission, one dollar.
M\ printed program recalls the tact that few concerts of
today can show a more brilliant repertoire, and few performers
have been more heartily applauded.
We found difficulty in procuring lecturers, to educate the
mind, so we filled up the time with frecpient hops to educate the
feet, and at these, the male persuasion so far outnumbered the
female, that the ladies got their fill of dancing, and many a sham
fight was engaged in to determine who should secure the fair
partners for a quadrille.
At last, " Grace Greenwood " consented to visit us for a course
of two lectures. The firs^ was, " The Silver Lining to the War
Cloud;" the second, '• W^ashington, London and Rome," both
delivered with the charming grace, and tender pathos for which
she was famous.
She says of it, in her "Records of Five Years," "An audience
so illustrious, I had surely never confronted before. Groups of
young officers sparkled around their generals like planets around
their central orbs; in front was a starry sprinkling of ladies: and
here and there, through the hall, were scattered civilians look-
ing remote, dim and nebulous."
She learned in the hop that followed that her heroes could
"wheel in the waltz, change base in the quadrille, deploy in the
lancers, charge in the polka, and execute flank movements in
the Virginia reel."
The next da\- was "St. Patrick's da\- in the morning." and
the gallant Irish brigade under Meagher, (our second brigade)
had made great preparations for a proper observance of the
day. First there was a hurdle race where hurdles three and
four feet high, and ditches four and six feet wide, must be
cleared by the bold riders, and several horses and riders rolled
together in the ditches, as a penalty for testing their leaping
cai^acity too far.
Then climbing the well-soaped pole, or chasing the greased
and shaven pig which must be caught and held by a four-inch
tail; racing in sacks, racing in wheelbarrows, and kindred sports,
enlivened and closed the anuisement of the da\'. It was a scene
to remind one of the jousts and tournaments of the days of
chivalry; and now. as then, fair hands crowned the victor, not
disdaining to deliver the trophies of valor to the winner, whetlier
he be the bold hurdle rider, or the captor of the pig.
Think not, however, that all was given up to wikl unthinking
revelry. Such moments as these were the moments of relaxa-
tion from severe and unrelenting discipline. There was reveille
at daybreak and roll call. Then breakfast, after which came
guard mounting, and squad and company drills until noon.
Then brigade and division drills occupied the afternoon, antl
dress parade at sundown finished the dav. Intersperse this
with details for picket duty, policing the camp, and building
miles of corduroy roads, and you have the ordinar\- routine of
our winter camp.
All this was preparing us for the work of the coming cam-
paign, rumors and premonitions of which were in the air and
which all belie\ed would prove a bloody and terrific one.
We were seeing the silver lining, but were soon to see the
reverse of the war cloud, when rollicking pleasure must give
place for visions of desolation and blood, and our winter carni-
val be supplimented b}' the wild carnival of death.
x\t last the rumors of a contemplated advance took definite
form in the enforced disappearance from camp of all visitors,
including those gentlemen in silk hats and patent leathers who
visited us from time to time to find out why the Arm\- of the
Potomac did not move. There are three classes of soldiers in
every army :
First, the brave, willing soldier — reach for an\- dut\- or dan-
ger to which he may be assigned, often volunteering out of his
turn, never repining, and often leaving a sick cot rather than be
suspected of shirking his duty.
Second in rank standi the soldier who does his dut\' when
ordered, but grudgingi}-. Perhaps he is brave in action, but he
is always growling. He growls that it is not his turn to stand
i;uard, tliat liis rations are not good or well cooked. He growls
about his officers, growls about nut being promoted, growls
because the willing soldier is promoted, growls if the sun shines,
growls if it rains, growls around the camj) kettles, on the march,
and everywhere. He can give reasons by the hour why he is
not promoted, generally because his superior officers are jealous
of his ability. He cannot understand why such merit as his
goes unrecognized and unrewarded, and he convinced himself
then, as he does now, that his valorous deeds entitled him to a
reward in the shape of a fat office.
Third in order came the habitual skulkers, the fellows who
were always hrst for rations, first for pay, and first to run when
They were always excessivel}' brave in camp, and would
march up to the sound of the commissary's and surgeon's call
with perfect recklessness and abandon, but when the first shot
of battle sounded they disappeared as if the earth had swal-
lowed them, reappearing after the battle as if by magic to relate
their feats of prowess.
The devices they resorted to in order to obtain an excuse
from duty frequently indicated genius of a high order. I knew
of one whose sore leg baffled the skill of surgeons for man\
months, and he was about to obtain a discharge when it was
discovered that he deliberately scratched the leg and bound
copper pennies on the wound to poison it, and repeated the
operation after every dressing.
Another had a mild form of lunacy which manifested itself by
his fishing with a short pole and line in puddles, creeks, and
even in the boiling camp kettles. He was constantly fishing,
even when detailed for duty, but never caught anything.
Finally he was discharged and I took him to Washington to
secure his transportation and start him safely homeward. As
we passed over the old bridge where the Tiber- then crossed
Pennsylvania Avenue at Second Street, I said : "John, here is
a good place to fish, where is your pole ? '"
The assumed cloudiness of intellect vanished from his face,
as he replied with a laugh : " Fishing be d — d. I've fished
myself out of the service and I'll never go fishing again as long
as I live."
This last class were soon to vanish from our midst, and the
others were to enter upon a career of glory whose record was
written in blood to last forever on history's page. Marching
orders were received on the morning of May 3. We were to be
ready to march at 11 p. i\i. with five days' cooked rations in
haversacks and sixty rounds of ammunition on the person, bag-
gage and tents to be sent to the rear. It was many a weary
day before we saw either again. My duty for the day was to
detail and mount a brigade picket guard of 500 men ready for
marching, and with them to relieve the old guard on the out-
posts extending five miles from Kelly's Ford on the Rappahan-
nock to the Rapidan, so that these could prepare for the march.
Returning with them to camp in the evening how changed we
found the scene we had learned to look upon as home. Where
thousands of tents had covered the hills and plains in the
morning sun, now all was bare and desolate, except for the
rapidly shifting lines of blue, and the glistening and flashing of
the bright muskets as the army formed for its march. A brief
time for preparation and supper, and promptly at 11 our part
of the great coil began to unwind and we were on our march to
Ely's Ford on the Rapidan, beyond which lay the confederate
hosts ready to welcome us "hospitable hands to bloody
graves." We had tried their temper on many a well-fought
field and knew them to be a brave, skillful and deter-
The night was mild and the men in good spirits, and soon
the woods through which we marched resounded with the
melody of ten thousand voices, singing :
" John Brown's body lies mouldering in the grave,
His soul is marching on."
The wild, weird music of that night seems still resounding in
my ears, and a feeling of sadness comes over me when I think
of the many voices which rang out on the balmy air of that
night, but which never sang again unless in the angel choir of
the Great Unknown.
Arriving at the river shortly after midnight we found that our
picket guard which was to meet us there had not arrived. We
could not leave them to uncertainty, with a probal)le enemy in
the rear, so it fell to me to find and bring them in. Back to the
camp we had left was five miles, thence across country by the
usual route to Kelly's Ford was seven miles more; the road
back was blocked with troops, artillery and wagons, so the only
way open for speed was across an unknown countr}' with onl\
the stars for a guide.
It was 4 in the morning before that lonely ride through the
pine woods and over bare fields was ended, and my weary horse
stopped at the camp-fire of the reserve guard. The order had
miscarried, and we had to relieve the picket as .we marched,
starting in the gray streak of dawn.
It was noon when we reached the river. The men crossed on
pontoon bridges, while the mounted officers took the ford to
water the horses. Mine was tired and found the temptation to
bathe too strong too resist, and laid down to roll in the water.
Of course I got off in haste, and in water up to my neck, to be
heartil}' quizzed by those who saw it, some asking if I alwaj's
took a bath on horseback. Slowly we toiled on, taking the
fields in order to pass the slowly moving column to our proper
place, and at 4 p. m. were rejoiced to find our corps in bivouac
ont he old battlefield of Chancellorsville, where we dropped to
the ground for needed rest. I had been in the saddle for nearly
thirty hours and had eaten only as we marched.
To those who have never witnessed the march of an army, the
route over which we passed would have presented a curious
scene. The soldier started with a tightly packed knapsack, a
blanket and overcoat closely rolled above, and a square of duck,
known as a half shelter tent under the flap. Hanging some-
where about these you would see an iron sauce-pan, a coffee-
pot, and other culinary utensils. All this we call unnecessary
baggage. Then there is the musket, weighing eleven pounds,
forty rounds of ammunition means about six pounds of lead,
(and we had sixty rounds). Then there is the haversack, swell-
ing with five days' rations, tlie bayonet, a tin cup and canteen.
This is the necessary baggag.e of the soldier, and in all, it is some-
thing one would prefer to have checked rather than carry. As
the warm Virginia sun rose at the first halt, knapsacks were
unslung, and whatever could be best spared was thrown away.
Then, all along the hot and dusty road something else would
from time to time be thrown away, until at last the knapsack
goes too, and the soldier is in light marching order, ready
for his march to Richmond or the grave, and the road is car-
peted with abandoned clothing, blankets and knapsacks thus
The Wilderness is what its name indicates; a densely wooded
region of great extent lying between the Rapidan and Orange
Court House. But it is not only on account of its dreary woods
and dismal morasses that it is remarkable. The country is a
mineral one, gold and iron ores having been mined there for
more than a century. The heavy timber has largely been cut
away for smelting ore, and a dense undergrowth of scraggy
pines, dwarfed oaks, laurel and chincopin bushes have sprung
up over the clearings, while in the low points are sluggish
streams and dank marshes choked with alders, twined closely
witli the luxuriant tangled and prickl)' vines of the sunn}' south,
making man}^ places almost inaccessible to the footsteps of man.
Yet, wild as it was, it was indescribably beautiful with the myri-
ads of lovel}' hued flowers which blossomed at one's feet and
overhead, decorating both carpet and ceiling with nature's most
elegant floral designs.
Wild beasts and deadly serpents had their homes here, but
none more fierce and deadly in their venom than the men in
God's image who were rapidly moving into those dark defiles
from both sides of the Wilderness.
At daybreak the reveille sounds, and as far as the bounds of
the open plain one can see men rising from amidst the stacks of
arms. No dressing is required. A little water from the can-
teen poured on the hands and transferred to the face completes
the most fastidious toilet, and all are ready for the breakfast
liastily prepared by each in his own way. Then "fall in" is
the order, and we are soon on our march southwestwardly by
way of the Furnace and Todd's Tavern, towards Sliady Grove
Church. The other corps crossed at Germania Ford and are
marching on separate roads far to our right, their lines of march
leading towards Orange Court House. We know by the order
of march that we are expected to meet the enemy, but none
know when or where.
Part of our corps has passed Todd's, and our division has
reached there, when a staff officer dashes up and delivers an
order which changes our line of march. At Todd's Tavern the
Brock road crosses the road on which we are marching. On
this road w^e turn to the north and with rapid strides move
towards its junction with the Orange Plank. Orders to
hasten come quick and fast, and soon we kncnv wh}'. for
the far away sound of battle is borne to our ears
through every opening. Onward we press as fast as weary
legs can carry us, tlie sounds of battle ever growing
louder and nearer. Our comrades of the 5th Corps have
met Lee's advance and are already engaged in a deadh' struggle
for the possession of the junction of the roads, the van of War-
ren's corps having met the van of Ewell's column there. If they
be driven back before we reach them our army is cut in two,
and unknown disasters await us. We press on till we are close
at hand. A cloud of dust appears moving towards our flank
down a narrow road to our left. It is far away yet and may be
caused by either friend or foe. Quickly a squad is told off, and
down the road we go at double quick, halting and forming line
at the first crest. A cavalry guidon with the stars and stripes
greet us and we open our hnes to let our friends pass through.
Quickly we close again, for pressing close!}" behind is another
squadron riding under the stars and bars. A volley, and they
disappear. We find ourselves upon a ridge running j^arallel to
the road on which we had marched. In front of the ridge look-
ing northwestwardly is a small stream and a railroad embank-
ment unfinished. Beyond it and to our right is dense woods.
we being on a small cleared farm (Stevens') in the midst of
woods, the farm road running along the ridge on which we are,
to the Brock road. A terrible din and rattle of musketry comes
from the woods on our right and blue sulphurous smoke curls
up from where the sound is loudest. It is about 4 i>. m. Soon
we see our own 2d Corps moving out of the woods, extending
its line along the ridge we occupy, and, as the line extends,
rails and fallen trees are hastily thrown up for breastworks.
We join our brigade and stand in line with loaded arms, await-
ing, we know not whether an attack upon ourselves, or orders
to attack the enemy. All we know is that in the woods in our
front is a brave and relentless enemy, while our comrades a few
rods to our right are already in the midst of carnage.
Soon suspense is ended. We are ordered to the right until
we reach the plank road, now so famous in history. We form
line rapidly and push forward in battle array into the darkness
and gloom of the thicket, our right flank resting on the plank
road, our left a little retired. Evening shades fell fast in the
gloomy recesses of those dark woods, and the darkness and
undergrowth prevented any true alignment.
And now we are in the midst of the din and storm of lead
and fire. Only by the flash of the volleys of the forming lines
can we know where is posted the enemy with which we are en-
gaged. The woods light up with the flashes of musketr\-, as if
with lightning, while the incessant roar of the volleys sound like
the crashing of thunderbolts.
Brave men are falling like autumn leaves, and death holds
high carnival in our ranks.
Then the flashes extending along and be}'ond our left warn
us that we must extend our line in that direction or be struck in
flank, so we push out our left to parry the extended line of our
enemy. This leaves a gap in our right which must be filled,
and I am sent back for a regiment to occupy it. The 57th New
York forms to go into the gap, when occurred an incident
worthy of notice.
During our winter encampment, Col. Chapman of this regi-
ment became impressed with a presentiment that he would be
killed in tlie first battle of the campaign. No reasoning nor
joking could remove it. He wa.s told that he ought to resign
but refused, saying he was willing to die for his country. He
was a lion-hearted warrior in battle, and a gentleman without
reproach in camp. This day he was detailed away from his
regiment as field officer of the da}-, and was thus temporarih' on
As we moved his regiment down into that place of slaught(;r
and gloom, a cry broke from some of the men and tlie line was
broken, a group gathering about some object in the way. The
regiment shivered with grief, for there, still in death was the
upturned ghastly face of their loved commander, with the lite
blood still oozing from the ghastly wound. His presentiment
was fulfilled. He had died for his countr\', and his brave soul
was now far from the bloody scenes of furious war.
There was no time for mourning. A small scpiad reverently
bore him to a place of rest, while his regiment plunged at once
into the thickest of the fight, and many of its members that
night camped with their commander in the "Bivouac of the
Night soon wrapped those gloomy woods in total darkness,
except where lighted by the flames which belched from the muz-
zles of the thousands of muskets; the great sheets of fire, like
flashes of summer lightning, lighting up the pall of sulphurous
smoke which added to the dark gloom of the surroundings, and
still the fight raged on.
We could see no enem\', but we were so close that the flashes
from their muskets and ours seemed to mingle, and we fired
only at their line of fire, and they at ours. Now the rattle and
roar would die away, and then like a new cloudburst, it would
commence again. Death flitted from bush to bush, and every
thicket sheltered a corpse, while the agonizing groans and cries
of the wounded, were constantly ringing in our ears.
By lo o'clock all was still, except for an occasional irregular
volley starting from a single shot, but extending along the line.
Orders were whispered to us to move to the rear without
noise, which we accomplished safely, and after being supplied
with ammunition, were soon asleep upon our arms in a field
near the crossroads, dreaming of home and the fireside, forget-
ting the frightful scene through which we had just passed. Not
long were we left to our dreams, for at half past three of May 6
we were waked and moved rapidly to the position we first occu-
pied yesterday on the open ridge, the line extending a little
further to the left.
News had been obtained from prisoners that Longstreet was
making a rapid march to turn and strike our left on the
At 5 A. M. the battle re-opens on the right and once the surg-
ing columns drifted up to our right front. We quickly charge
and drive it back, and then resume our place, to strengthen our
left with earthworks. If there is ever a time when men labor
willingly it is when they expect an attack, and are allowed to
throw up a defence. Beavers could not work more industriously,
for life is the stake.
Now there is an attack upon our skirmish line at the railroad
embankment, but it is quickly repelled.
In some way the woods are fired in our front, and the flames
swept with relentless fury upon our lines, burning the dead,
and perhaps the wounded in our front. We have now a double
enemy to fight, for the confederates, quick to take advantage of
our confusion, make a sudden dash upon our lines. Brief, but
blood}^ is the conflict, and we succeed in repulsing this last at-
tack of the day, but it is far towards "the wee sma' hours"
before we are permitted to sleep in the trenches upon our arms.
At daybreak of the 7th we are again under arms, and during
the day several skirmishes sufficiently broke the monotony of
the expectant hours, but Longstreet' s expected attack miscar-
ried by reason of his wound, and no general engagement took
place, and at night, rumors of a retreat of the enemy were con-
firmed by orders to be ready to march, following the 5th Corps.
Thus ended the strangest and most indescribable battle in
history. A battle which no man saw, and in which artillery was
useless, and hardly used at all. A battle fought in dense woods.
and tangled brake, where maneuvering was impossible, where
the lines of battle were invisible to their commanders, and
whose position could only be determined by the rattle and roll
and flash of musketr}; and where the enemy was also invisible.
Yet in that gloonn- region of death, 200,000 men had met and
grappled in one of the deadliest struggles of the war. From
out of its dark recesses had come the rattle and roar of musketry,
ana baleful brimstone fires that would remind one of the infernal
regions; and 12,000 to 15,000 lives lost there proved it indeed
the very "Valley of the Shadow of Death."
We questioned with each other that night whether our march
would be back across the Rapidan, or onward. The morning
answered the question. We had a new line of tactics. Its
order was — Advance !
We had a new commander, and that commander, was Grant !
Amidst our grief over fallen comrades, we rejoiced — we knew
not what we had to be glad over, but we were going out of the
Warren's 5th Corps was to march at 8 p. m. by the Brock
road to Spottsyvania. Our order was— " Maj.-Gen. Hancock
commanding 2d Corps will move to Todd's Tavern by the Brock
road, following the 5th Corps closely."
It fell to my lot to stay awake that night to watch the march
of the 5th Corps, and wake our own to " follow closelj'. "
While so watching, frequent trips were made to the Brock
road, or to the intersection of it with the farm road we were on,
and which forked from the Brock at an acute angle. Returning
to the headquarter flag where a small fire was burning, from
one of these trips, I was surprised to hear, and then see indis-
tinctly a cavalcade of horsemen advancing along the road close
to, and across which, our troops were lying.
Running quickly to the head of the column, I called a halt,
and at the same time recognized Gen. Meade at the head of his
staff and escort. He rather brusquely asked: " Who halts me.
Do you know who I am?" I replied, "Yes, you are Gen.
Meade," gave my name and rank, and added: "I halted you
because a few steps more will bring your horses among our
sleeping men, and if you go further j'ou will be outside of our
lines, and riding towards the enemy." He asked: " How can
that be, is not this the Brock road ? " When informed that he
had left that road a short distance back, he conferred for a
moment with Gen. Seth. Williams who rode at his side, and
asked if I could put them on the right road. In wheeling, the
staff and escort were obliged to exercise great care not to tram-
ple upon the near ranks of sleeping men, but I soon placed
them upon the Brock road and was warmly thanked for the
service. I gave little thought to the event, and it was not till
Grant's Memoirs were published that I learned that the great
commander was also a part of the halted column. He describes
the event, but attributed his escape to the "instinct of the
engineer" possessed by Col. Comstock of his staff, who re-
ported to him the mistake. It was not the "instinct of the
engineer," but the plain common fact that I was detailed to
stay awake and watch the passing of the 5th Corps which saved
Grant and Meade with their staffs and escorts, from riding into
the enem3''s line.*
It was daylight of May 8 when the 5th Corps had passed and
we got the road. By a rapid march we reached Todd's Tavern
at 9 and were aligned across the Catharpen road to prevent an
expected attempt by Lee to cut our marching column in two.
Later our Brigade was pushed out through hot pine woods to
the valley of Corbyn's Creek. Here on the brow of the upland
we halted for a time — long enough to remind us that it was a
beautiful Sabbath day, but not a day of rest. On a road passing
along the high ground across the valley, in full view, were Lee's
marching legions, rapidly moving southward. Our presence is
quickly discovered by the alert enemy who tear down a fence
and run out two guns on the brow of the hill in front of us.
The first shell screaming through the air sends us to shelter
behind a little ridge. Then we receive an order to look out for
our right, as the cavalry was being withdrawn. A picket line
Grant's Memoirs 2-210. MaiT- o<^ Am. Hist. r)-24S.
is posted to guard approaclies in that direction. Hardly has it
been posted in a road wliich runs down into the valley, separated
from us by a stream bordered with a dense growth of bushes
and tangled vines, before it is thought necessary to extend the
line further to our right, to cover another byway there, and that
duty falls to me. The work was done, and I was riding down
the road to an opening in the bushes where the stream could be
crossed, when I found a confederate line of battle moving to-
wards me, and towards our position. There was no escape
except through the gap they were rapidly approaching, and no
time was to be lost, for if they reached the opening before me,
my march would end in Richmond as a prisoner of war. They
evidently believed I was coming to surrender, for they invited
me to join them in terms, the politest of which was, " Come on,
you d^ — d Yank, we'll take good care of you." But the opening
is reached. I show them my horse's tail, and his speed, as we
gallop up the hill. Scattering volleys are fired, but the}' are
too excited to aim well, and shoot wildly. At the top of the
hill is a rail fence. The horse seems to know the danger and
leaps it finely, but the saddle girth has become loose for want
of food, the saddle slips and turns, and I take a fall. To
mount again is but the work of a moment, for dread of a rebel
prison, gives one wings almost.
The volleys meant for me have roused the brigade, which
greets me with hearty cheers as I ride into the line with my
saddle under my horse instead of under me.
The attacking column appears, but halts to make a proper
disposition of their lines for the attack, and we are ordered to a
better position a little to the rear.
While forming our lines and waiting, a strange accident oc-
curs. Rations had been brought up for the first time since we
crossed the Rapidan, and one of the wagons was unloaded to
return for more, when some rattling musketry was heard.
The frightened driver cut his traces and fled, leaving the
wagon surrounded by a pile of unloaded " hard tack."
Some beef cattle, hamstrung to prevent them from running
away before they can be slaughtered, become mad with fright
and charge on the forming troops, dashing the men to the right
and left as they make a hobbhng charge on three legs down the
line. Just then, another rebel brigade is discovered moving on
our right flank, and we must prepare for an attack on our right
and the one on our front at the same time. Cool heads and
hard work are needed at such a time. Miles is equal to the
emergency. Reinforcements are sent for and we prepare to
defend ourselves as best we can until they arrive. Now the
brigade in front moves steadily up the slope, their muskets at
ready. Gallant Col. McKeen of the 8ist Pennsylvania, has
charge of that part of the line with his own regiment and the
26th Michigan. He sits on his horse like the brave soldier he
is, calmly speaking words of encouragement to his men, many
of whom are new recruits, never under fire.
The Ki-yi-yi of the confederates is not answered until their
line reaches the cracker boxes. Then a volley answers their
triumphant yells, sending many to their long home, but they
close the ranks and march steadily on. McKeen meets them
with another volley, which drives them down the hill.
Now commences hot work on the right. Here are the 6ist
New York and the 140th and 183d Pennsylvania, under Miles in
person. The confederates charge and nearly drive in our cen-
ter, the 183d Pennsylvania, which breaks and drifts to the rear.
Here is work for the staff. We drive and coax the frightened
men, and one staff officer seizes the colors from the frightened
guard and rides with it in the face of the enemy to its former
place. This cures the panic and re-inspires the men. The
regiment rallies on its colors, and the line is saved. The enemy
hesitates under our galling fire, and then falls back into the
woods whence they came.
We were now ordered to withdraw to the main line, in hope
that the enemy would follow and attack us in the intrenchment.
This movement we executed in as good order as if coming from
parade. Our little brigade was proud, for we had whipped two
brigades of Malone's Division, before any reinforcements had
reached us, and we were greeted, as we filed into the trenches
with rousing cheers. We had lost nearly' 200 men, and were
obliged to leave our dead upon the field.
A strange incident occurred as we marched to the rear. The
confederate shells were flying over our heads, and one struck in
a ploughed field in front of us as Lieut. Judson, a Vermonter,
and staff officer of the 2d Brigade, 3d Division, was riding to
meet us. The shell struck short of him and he fell dead with-
out apparent cause. The ball had ricocheted, and struck him
so slightly as to leave no mark, but sufficiently hard to cause
The night was far advanced before we gave up the expectation
of another attack, and had fully distributed the rations and fed
our hungry heroes, but now we got a few hours of much-needed
sleep until the daylight reveille of the gth of May.
At 8 A. At. we marched towards Spottsylvania Court House,
to which point the other corps had preceded us. The 6th Corps
was then actively engaged in its fight which lost it its brave and
good commander, the gallant, noble-hearted Sedgwick. We
formed line on the right of the 6th Corps with an open field
sloping away from our front. Here we threw up a light breast-
work of rails — and waited.
At nearly 5 v. m. our division was hastily moved by the flank
across the Po. On reaching the high ground on the other
side, we formed in line, and with a heav}- skirmish line deplo}ed
in front, swept rapidly across the fields until we struck the road
leading into Spottsylvania from the west, then wheeled to the
left and moved down the road to a covered bridge and attempted
It was to heavily defended, however, and as it was growing
too dark to do more, we intrenched as best we could on the
high ground above the river, while our skirmish line, with bay-
onets and cups dug rifle pits and held the river bank.
A curious topographical fact may be noticed here.
Four considerable streams rise in and flow through this
region, the Mat, the Ta, the Po, and the Ny. The names like
the streams unite, and the river formed by their junction, is the
Our movements during the next ten days have made the Po,
and the Ny, historic streams.
If the movement of our division should succeed in forcing a
passage of the river, we would be again on the same side of the
Po with the rest of the army, but separated from it by a great
horseshoe bend, and would have to fight our way to a junction,
but tliis would take the confederates in flank.
Early in the morning of the loth we were roused by confed-
erate shells. Their shrieks are less musical than the notes of
fife and drum, but more certain to wake one, quickly and thor-
oughly. Their battery was soon silenced, however, but the hot
and incessant musketry fire from the tete de pont warned us that
crossing there was impracticable, and endangered our every
Another way must be found to cross, and I am sent with the
6ist Nev/ York under Col. Broady to feel for a point where we
might cross and flank the bridge. At Taylor's farm, some dis-
tance up the river, twenty men cross on a fallen tree, but are
immediately fired on, and have to fight their way. Five are
wounded, and we withdraw them and abandon the hope of
crossing there. Then we learn from the unwilling lips of Tay-
lor that there is a dam on Glady Run a mile further up. We
cross there, but a startling discovery awaits us. A great cloud
of dust rising over a belt of woods informs us that a large column
is marching towards our rear, and is likely to do for us what we
are trying to do for them — flank and destroy us in the bend of
the river. After verifying this fact by crawling out through the
woods until we can see the marching columns, we hastily
withdraw to Taylor's and align the regiment, only a handful,
behind a fence, while I report the situation at headquarters.
Two guns of Arnold's battery are sent out to Taylor's and
posted in an open field commanding the road.
But no troops can be spared from the new line being rapidly
taken and strengthened to ward off the impending blow. Soon
the head of the grey column appears emerging from the woods.
Arnold's guns are splendidly served, but the enemy soon dis-
cover by our light musketry fire, that the guns have no sufficient
support, and forming a charging column, dash fiercely on to
take them. The guns are hurriedly limbered to the rear, flying
before the exulting, cheering mass behind. The driver of one
sways too far to one side, the wheel locks with the gatepost of
Taylor's roadway. No time is to be lost, for the surging lines
of gray are close at hand. The traces are cut by the gunners,
and the gun spiked and left to the enemy. That was the first
gun belonging to Hancock's Corps ever captured by the enemy,
and gallant Capt. Arnold wept at the loss of his gun, as you
might for the loss of a dear friend.
Now for a race to our new formed line in the road leading to
the bridge. We made it in safety and found the 3d Division
being rapidly sent across to our assistance, for we were in great
danger. The 26th Michigan and 8ist Pennsylvania were hotly
engaged, holding the covered bridge to protect our flank. It
was afternoon when the ball opened by a heavy artillery fire
from across the Potomac and an infantry attack on our right
and on the forming 3d Division. We were largely outnumbered,
but able to hold the enemy in check for a while. But it was
necessary to withdraw across the river, a dangerous feat to
attempt in the face of a superior army. Three regiments of
our brigade are withdrawn to the high bank above our pontoon
bridge, while regiment after regiment is cautiously withdrawn
from the front, and under cover of the bank defiles across the
river. Now the two regiments at the covered bridge are
brought up to cross. But fortune seems to be against us, and
it looks as if our little force must be overwhelmed, for a long
line of battle emerges from the road we first formed on. and
with steady strides advances across the open field in our front.
It is a splendid line, with colors flying and an alignment as if
on parade. If they are bold and do not hesitate we are lost. It
was with mingled feelings of admiration and dread that our
little band gazed on that long line of flashing bayonets as it
steadily approached. Miles directs that not a gun be fired
until the order is given. Soon the line changes step to a double
quick bringing their bayonets to a charge. All is still for a
moment, then the order to fire rings out on the air, and our
muskets answer with a volley which seem fired from one great
gun. The line wavers, is broken, and lies down to escape the
rapid fire at will, which now assails it. The enemy's hesitation
has insured our safety, for while they hesitate we are rapidly-
withdrawing across the river. McKeen and myself cross last,
the bridge being cut away from the bank we had just left, and
swinging across to the other shore with the current as we
crossed. We were saved and our enemy was disappointed.
While we had been thus engaged we could see from our last
position a charging column of the 6th Corps gallantly carry the
point of its attack, and the sight infused courage into the hearts
of the weary and worried brigade, and they gave expression to
their jo}' and admiration for their comrades valor in repeated
and ringing cheers.
Our division was now reformed on nearly the position we first
occupied before crossing the Po, and formed the extreme right
of the army. So far was our right refused that it faced nearly to
the west, the general line of our army being faced towards the
east. At dark another assaulting column moved upon us, but
did us little harm and soon retired. Such was the battle of
the Po. Our attempt to flank the enemy had failed, as had also
his attempt to flank and destroy us. All that night was spent
in working on the intrenchments, one half sleeping while the
The first light of the nth found us under arms awaiting an
attack. All our fighting thus far had been without breastworks,
protected only at times by natural ridges and slight piles of
rails, so the idea of being attacked in earthwork intrenchments
was rather pleasant, b}' way of contrast, and we really felt dis-
contented as the morning wore away without the expected
assault. This indicated an abandonment b}' the eneni}' of
attempts on this part of the line, and our brigade was divided
into two reconnoitering parties. Three regiments were pushed
across the Po by wading, and the other two were sent back on
the road to Todd's Tavern. Accompanying the first, we found
a small force occupying our last position of the preceding day,
but drove them on the run down to and across the covered
bridge, where they re-formed and prevented our passage.
Their firing told the story that no other force was there, and
that that part of the enemy's lines was abandoned, and we
Then I was sent to find our regiments which had gone to
Todd's with instructions to push them out and feel the way
as far as Corbyn's bridge; to return if we found no enemy in
force. We moved out from Todd's to our Sunday's battlefield,
and learned that no enemy had been there since Sunday, so we
buried our dead, who had been slightly covered with earth
where they fell, and marked their graves with pieces of the
cracker boxes we had abandoned while forming for the fight, on
which were penciled the names and regiments of our fallen
heroes, whom we were leaving to their peaceful slumbers while
we returned to our post in the lines drawn about Spottsylvania.
It was on this day that Grant sent to Washington that his-
toric dispatch, ending : "I propose to fight it out on this line
if it takes all summer."
It was the first news the country had heard from the Army of
the Potomac since it crossed the Rapidan, and many yet living
may remember how the heart of the nation was thrilled and
encouraged by the glad tidings and splendid promise.
It was dark when we arrived at our post, looking forward to a
good night's rest, and all who could, supped quickly and went
to sleep. Miles had been called to a council of war, and we of
his staff had arranged a shelter from the rain which had com-
menced falling, by laying the ends of some rails upon the breast-
works and stretching some blankets across them, and were pre-
paring for sleep, when at g o'clock he returned, and dispelled
our hopes of rest and pleasant dreams by directing us to see
that the brigade was in readiness to move at ii o'clock
Our prospects for the night seemed dismal enough. Our
orders were to march in silence, keeping well closed up to pre-
vent separation, and the cups were ordered to be carried where
tliey could not rattle against the bayonets.
This was all we knew of the dangers of our night march, but
it was enough to excite the liveliest apprehensions. All that
dreary night we wearily plodded on, sometimes in narrow wood
roads, sometimes picking our way through fallen timber, or
bushy woods, drenched to the skin, until at last we passed
through a gap made in the intrenchments of the 6th Corps,
where cautions were again given and complete silence enjoined.
This was strictly obeyed, for we knew we were now passing the
near front of a watchful and adroit enemy
fust before dawn of May 12 we were halted in an open field in
the valley in front of Brown's house, and without any time for
rest were rapidly formed into an assaulting column.
The 3d Division (Birney's) was on our right in two lines.
The 4th Division (Mott's) supported his right, while the 2d
(Gibbons' ) was held in reserve. We thus formed a huge sledge
hammer, of which our division was the head, Birney's the
handle. When the blow should be struck it would either shat-
ter us, or give us a dearly bought success The very formation
was an assurance of bloody, terrible work.
Brown's house was Grant's and Meade's headquarters, and
there, they were surrounded by all the corps commanders, who
^¥ith their respective staffs and escorts formed a numerous and
brilliant retinue. The artillery was also being rapidly massed
and posted on the elevation below which we were forming.
From Brown's a line had been taken the day before, to Mc-
Cool's house, known to be within the salient, and our charge
was du-ected by the compass upon that line.
In front of us was a long, open slope up a hill nearly clear,
but in places covered with a thicket of young pines. On the
summit, 1,200 yards from our front was the supposed-to-be con-
federate intrenchments we were to assault, a strong line of
earthworks backed by logs, and with a log parapet, protected
in front by a strong abattis, or slashing of felled trees; but all
invisible as yet in the gray darkness of approaching dawn. All
of us were dismounted, and our horses left behind.
At half past 4 we started up tlie slope with silent but rapid
tread. We reach the crest to find a mistake has been made and
there is another valley and another slope to climb, and our
premature cheers have awakened the toe. We sweep in their
picket line, capturing nearly every man. We are fired on by
the reserve picket, but drive it in. Enthusiasm can no longer
be controlled. The arms had been carried at a " right shoulder
shift." Now, they are brought to a "charge," and the charg-
ing column, with cheers which miglit almost wake the dead, and
were omens of victory, breaks into a double quick.
We see the frowning earthworks in our front lined with the
now thoroughly aroused enemy whose every eye was taking
deadly aim over the long line of glittermg muskets resting
beneath the log which crowned the rampart. We tear away or
crawl through the abattis. The first line seems to melt before
the terrific volley which salutes us.
Gallant Col. Seviers of the 26th is among the first to fall shot
through the breast, but still living. A dear friend crosses over
to my side, and begins to speak, but his sentence is finished in
eternity, for he falls with the words half uttered, shot through
the head. They fall too fast to notice who is gone, but the
places of the stricken ones are filled at once, and the mad mass
surges on, over the intrenchments, in a resistless, terrible wave
which sweeps all before it. Here a savage hand-to-hand cctn-
flict ensues, between men maddened with the battle fury, so
that they fight with muskets clubbed, with bayonets, and with
swords. Our onset is too strong for resistance, and we sweep
in Gen. Ed. Johnson with four thousand men and thirty stands
of colors. As we press on, a park of artiller}' is encountered.
The brave artillerists sullenly stand by their guns, fighting to
save them, with rammers used as clubs, and ever}' weapon in
their reach; and many of the gallant fellows are slain at their
guns, disdaining to surrender. Onward sweeps the resistless
mass, with cheers and yells of exultation, sending twenty-five
cannon to the rear, as further trophies of its valor. We reach
an open space where the houses of Spottsylvania can be seen.
and louder grow the exulting cheers. But, there is a lion in our
path; Lee is massing all his army in a second line of works, and
as we strike that, the hammer rebounds. A deadly, continuous
blaze of musketry and a raking fire of artillery check our further
advance. Still, if fresh troops, full of ardor, could now take the
place of our broken and disorganized mass, it may yet accom-
plish the work. None come, however, and we labor to reorganize
our broken and shattered column in line to hold the position we
have reached. We have no regimental or company organiza-
tions left, but a disorganized and shattered line devoid of
The confederates pour out over their intrenchments, and
drive us back. Again we advance, and again are compelled to
retire, but do it fighting the way stubbornly inch by inch. At
last we have fallen back in successively advancing and receding
waves, until we form again on the. outside of the breastworks
we had so fairly and yet so dearly won.
Behind them, or rather, in front, we can breathe again, hold-
ing this line until fresh troops can be sent up. Column after
column attempts to charge beyond the line, but none succeed in
passing beyond us. There is a point in battle beyond which
flesh and blood cannot pass, and we had found that point. The
"horseshoe" Avas a-boiling, bubbling and hissing caldron of
death. Lee's Army was hurled against us as we lay hugging
the slope of the earthwork, loading and firing at will, in five
successive waves, in his effort to retake this, the key to his posi-
tion, but our fire was too hot, and the waves of gray were
successively beaten back, with terrible loss. Once a few
hundred with a stand of colors, in their furious charge, reached
the inside of the works. To advance was impossible, to retreat
was death, for in the great struggle that raged there, there were
few merely wounded. The bullets sang like swarming bees, and
their sting was death. As a charge would be made we would
rise to our feet to meet the shock. Clubbed muskets, and
bayonets were the modes of fighting for those who had used up
their cartridges, and frenzy seemed to possess the yelling,
demoniac hordes on either side, as soft-voiced, tender-hearted
men in camp, souf^jht, hke wild beasts, to destroy their fellow
The dead were piled in swaths and winrows. both outside and
inside the line of works. Outside,, the harvest was of blue —
inside, of mingled blue and gray — peaceful enough as the}- lay
there, unmindful of the pitiless storm which rages round them.
The living outside of the breastworks, and the}' inside, are
not so quiet, for they try to prod each other with bayonets, and
if a hand is raised, a hundred bullets assail it. Once the rebel
colors floated out with the wind, until it could be grasped by
one of our boys. The brave color bearer rose to his feet cling-
ing to the staff. Our brave boy also rises clinging to the fiag,
and with disengaged hands they seek to grasp each others
throats, in a deadly struggle for the flag. Thus they stand over
the very rampart, both determined to win the flag. By common
consent the firing ceases at that point, and both sides eagerly
watch and encourage the fray. Finally the flag is torn from its
staff, and its proud captor, with a shattered arm, is hailed with
shouts of applause. I wish I knew his name, that I might
hand it down to the future, to be honored in histor}'.
All that forenoon the battle raged thus fiercely over that
small space, where the musketry fire was so hot and fierce, that
the ground was bared of bushes, as with a scythe, and a white
oak tree, twenty-two inches in diameter, was cut down wholly
by bullets. Its stump was exhibited at the Centennial, and is
now in the Ordnance Museum at Washington.
The ground drank its fill of blood, and grew slipper}- to the
foot. Fresh troops from the other corps were continually being
pushed up to the salient, in vain endeavors to make a new-
assault upon the enemy's line within. But the heaps of dead —
the pools of blood, and the terrific volle}'s of musketry, were too
much for man's endurance. To advance was impossible — to
hold our position — was grand.
I have heard that blood-drenched, bullet-swept angle, called
" Hell's Half Acre." It is now ''God's Acre," forever conse-
crated as hoi}' ground, where lie in the calm sleep which fol-
lows the delirium of war, the thousands of known and unknown
heroes who fell there, the Northman and the Southron alike
unmindful of the storm of passion which divided them in life,
but united them in death. There they lie.
" Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment day ;
Under the roses the Blue,
Under the lilies the Gray."
About noon the shattered remnants of our division were
moved into the pine woods at our left to reorganize, for the line
holding the horseshoe was composed of men from nearly ever}'^
regiment in the army, demoralized and without organization.
It was a sad endeavor, for our division line, when reformed,
was no larger than a small regimental line. None knew the
fate of the absent, whether dead or wounded, or only separated
from us by chance ; only we knew that many a loved comrade
was there among the heaps of dead, and many more among the
wounded. We were weary, hungry and wet, for heavy thunder
showers of the morning had settled down into a stead}', drench-
ing rain, but there was no time to murmur, for we were needed
in the trenches, and soon we are back in that angle of death,
but with a new supply of ammunition. Added to the terrific
rolls of musketry firing, and the thunder of Heaven's artillery,
was the deep voiced thunder of those dogs of war, the reserve
artillery. The shells shriekeei and screamed over our heads,
and each shell seemed to shriek, "its you, its you," as it flew
on its errand of death. We were reminded of Schiller's battle
" See the smoke, how the lightning is cleaving asunder !
Hark ! the guns, peal on peal, how they boom in their thunder !
The war is waging, slaughter raging.
And heavy through the reeking pall,
The iron death dice fall.
To the right, to the left, and around and around,
Death whirls in its dance on the bloody ground.
God's sunlight is quenched in the fiery fight —
Over the host falls a brooding night.
The dead men are bathed in the weltering blood,
And the living are blent in the slippery flood,
And the feet as they reeling and sliding go,
Stumble still on the corpse that sleeps below.
Closed is the brunt of the glorious tight.
And the day, like a conqueror, bursts on the sight.
Farewell, fallen brothers, though this life be o'er,
There's another, in which we shall meet you once more."
Oil ! liow often we wished tliat niglit would come as we spent
that terrible day in making and repulsing attacks, and how long
the day not only seemed, but actually was. At last night came,
but still the battle raged, though less fiercely. The assaults
along the line are over, and some can hold the line while others
rest. Rations are brought up and we hasten to refresh the
inner man, for now we have time to remember that we have
fasted since last night's supper. Fires are lighted to boil the
cups of coffee, but as soon as our forms are outlined by the
flames, showers of bullets come to warn us that our enemy is
still vengefully seeking our lives. We could lie down and let
the coffee boil, but orders came to put out the fires so as not to
draw the enemy's fire. Our mess consisted of five officers, half
savage from hunger, and more than half savage from having
been targets all that livelong day. and we hesitated about obey-
ing the order until our coffee should boil, when, as if to punish
us for disobedience, ping ! went a bullet through the cup, spill-
ing the coffee and putting out the fire. To say the five were
mad, hardly does justice to the facts : words such as are said to
have been used in Flanders fell from the lips of the disheart-
ened hungry mess. I trust the recording angel shut his ears
and failed to record them. It seemed a disappointment almost
too great to endure. We rallied soon, however, when one of
our orderlies, thoughtful for our comfort, came up the hill bear-
ing two steaming cups of coffee for our use. This was about ii
p. M., and in our hungry and weary condition, the coffee seemed
a nectar fit for the gods ; and the hard tack, better and sweeter
— after we shook the worms and bugs out of it — than any dish
with a French name I have since eaten.
A strange scene it would have seemed to a novice as those
five messmates reclined upon the ground that night discussing
coffee and "hard tack" and the events of the day, the group
onlv partiall}' lit up by the few remaining embers of our little
fire, blown to life again. Blood-stained and begrimed with
powder and dirt were they all. Some had lost their hats and
wore handkerchiefs aesthetically turbaned round their heads.
One had his arm in a sling.' Another his knee tightly bandaged
with a handkerchief reddened with his blood, a bullet having
flattened on his knee." Another could show where a bullet had
struck his belt plate and left a black and blue spot under it, and '
nearly all had bullet holes in hats or clothing. Some grim jokes
were passed, but no stories were told nor songs sung that night,
for we were thinking of lost comrades and of the morrow.
We had lost one of our messmates in the Wilderness, and
our little group was soon to be more rudely broken. Two weeks
later one was shot through the body at Totopotomoy. '•' Five
days later brave McKeen dies gloriousl}^ on the bloody field of
Cold Harbor; and soon, gallant, boyish Hallenbeck succumbs
exhausted, and in a few days dies in the delirium of fever
brought on by overwork, exposure and want of sleep. Thus in
thirty days but two were left of the six messmates who crossed
the Rapidan so gaily on that fateful night march.
If we slept at all that night it was to be often waked by the
volleys of musketry rolling too close to us, and we would sul-
lenly rise to our feet and sleepily sink to the ground agani as
the danger passed awa}'. Our misery was increased by a chilly,
soaking rain, and while we counted the slowly passing hours of
that dismal, drear}' night upon that dismal field, the din of the
battle was ever in our ears, and in the early dawn we were
thorough!)' wakened by the sudden roar of a hundred pieces of
Under their fire a squad from our brigade volunteered to bring
off two guns left in the salient, and succeeded, only to find them
1. Capt. H. A. Mattison.
unfit for service, the wheels being destroyed b}- numberless bul-
lets. The skirmish over these guns was the only fighting in
our front that day.
The great battle of Spottsylvania was over. Our loss was
about 26,000,* the confederate loss about one-third as great.
From the Wilderness to Spottsylvania, seven days in time,
84,598 men on both sides had fallen, and our work was not
The next two days and nights we were moved from point to
point in tentative or defensive efforts, always within hearing and
reach of whizzing bullets or screeching shells, until we had
changed from the extreme right to the extreme left of the lines,
and were facing the opposite direction.
By another weary night march we found ourselves at day
break of the 18th back to our battlefield of the 12th, and formed
in two lines of battle for another assault. The new confederate
line was intrenched across the '-horseshoe" and was protected
by at strong abattis, and, as we moved steadily forward we were
met by such a volley from the front and such raking with grape
and shrapnel from the flank that advance was impossible, and
retreat too dangerous, so we were compelled to lie down among
the heaps of unburied dead which made the air fetid and sicken-
ing, and listen to the shrieking of shells as they flew back and
forth over our heads for liours. About noon a lull in the firing
enabled us to withdraw to the trenches.
At 10 that evening we marched back to our position on the
left, deafened by all day's thunder of artillery and weary and
sore from the march and struggle of the day, On the inarch
we witnessed alight worth a day's battle and a midnight march
to see. It was raining, and shortly after midnight the moon
shone through a rift in the clouds, clearly outlining on the oppo-
site clouds a beautiful rainbow. The wearied and drooping sol-
diers looked upon it as a bow of promise and greeted it witli
cheers that made the gloomy forest ring.
(*Pliislerer's Statistical H»x-<)fil.)
During these days of battle Gen. Barlow had been annoyed
and angered by the constant skulking of some of the men in his
command, and determined to use heroic treatment to cure the
disease, and to punish some, as an example to others.
So, while we lay under the fire of the enemy's guns on the
i8th, he decided upon a court martial, and sent orders to the
commanding officers of all companies to at once formulate and
prefer charges against all members of their commands who had
been guilty of cowardl}^ conduct.
The court martial was organized on the spot, with myself
judge advocate, and our court was immediately opened for trials.
Just imagine, if you can, a court sitting for the trial of men for
their lives, when the life of each member of the court was not
worth a moment's purchase 1 In all our intervals of rest from
active fighting and marching, that court was kept in session,
inflicting a number of minor sentences, until the 21st of May,
when the court fulfilled the stern ideas of justice entertained by
our commanding general, by the following judgment upon an
unlucky wight who had deserted in the face of the enemy :
"And the court do hereby sentence him, the said Albert Bohler,
private Company K., 3gth New York Volunteers, to be shot to
death by musketr}' at such time and place as the commanding
general may direct, two-thirds of the court concurring therein."
I believe, however, that poor Bohler escaped being shot, for
at that time death sentence had to be approved by the Presi-
dent, and, it is said, he never approved such sentences but
commuted them to some other form of punishment. Perhaps
our hero still lives to eiijoy the honors the people accord so freely
to the soldier, and a pension of the highest grade.
On the 19th Ewell made his famous attempt to cut us off from
the Fredericksburg pike, which brought him almost into the
headquarters of Grant, swallowing the field hospitals, paroling as
prisoners of war our wounded and the attending surgeons.
Some new heavy artillery regiments were in his way, and we
were ordered up to their aid at double quick, Grant directing
the movement in person, and Ewell's triumphant advance was
checked and his phms abandoned when he felt the stinging
volleys of our thoroughly roused and determined army. With
tliese movements ended the attempt to break the enemy's lines
at Spottsylvania, and our next order was to be again "by the
left flank — March !" Fourteen weary days and fourteen weary
nights of bloody fighting and sleepless marching had exhausted
the army. It was stunned and dazed by the blows it had given
and received, and it fairly trembled and staggered with weak-
ness from its fatigue and losses.
From Spotisvlvania Onward.
The tactical movements which kept the Arm\' of the Potomac
briskly marching, countermarching and fighting about the
entrenchments of Spottsylvania for nearly a week after the great
battle of May 12th, 1864, had apparently demonstrated the futil-
ity of further attempts to break the well-defended lines of our
vigilant enemy. The cost would be too great, and a new move-
ment by the left flank was under contemplation.
As usual, the actual movement was foreshadowed by many
rumors, by which, diversified as they were, the 2d corps came to
understand that it was selected for a dangerous enterprise, the
nature of which was unknown, but the rumops gave rise to much
curiosity and some apprehension. About dark of May 20th,
1864, orders were received to march at 11. onl}' the 2d corps
being included in the marching orders. Promptly at the hour
specified we took the road. It was a beautiful moonlit night,
and the tedium of a night march when sleep was much needed
was somewhat relieved as we reflected that during the day the
heat and dust would have been almost intolerable.
It was a rapid march until 2 p. m. of the following day, through
a country not before disturbed by marching troops, and great
was the astonishment and dismay pictured on the faces of the
people as we marched, with flags flying, and to the music of fife
and drum, through Guinness Station and Bowling Green, and
as great was the astonishment of the fowls, which, in the piping
times of peace, had not learned the necessity of roosting high in
stirring times of war.
Reaching Milford, where the Fredericksburg & Richmond
railroad crosses the Mattapony, we found the enemy's pickets on
the other bank. The advance was pushed over the river by
wading in the water to their arm-pits, holding ammunition,
haversacks and muskets over their heads. The rebels, (the}'
were but few) stood not upon the order of their going, but went
at once, and the corps was rapidly thrown across the partly dis-
mantled bridge, and formed upon the high banks, where we
were at once set to work intrenching. Towards evening a small
cavalry force recconnoitered our position and attacked our picket
line, but was quickly repulsed. We now had time to discover
that our corps was isolated from the remainder of the army some
twenty miles in rear of Lee's position at Spottsylvania, and that
there was every reason to expect that Lee would hurl against us
his whole force as soon as our isolated position became known.
The following day, though Sunday, brought us no rest, for
the work of intrenching was continued until formidable earth-
works frowned upon the hozizon in ever}' direction, giving cour-
age to the men, who momentarily expected to be attacked. But
our labors were to prove futile, for, as we rested from our work,
and, in the evening twilight, discussed our varied and palatable
bill of fare, we learned that Lee had retreated, by another route,
towards Hanover Junction, and that the rest of the army was in
rapid pursuit. Our own instructions were, to be ready to move
whevever ordered, so that night we slept upon our arms in
marching order, but, happil}- for the wear}- men, it was morning
of the 23d before we started on a rapid march, through heat and
dust, with no more than absolutely necessary halts, towards the
North Anna, which we reached at 3 p. m., to find that Lee's rear
had just crossed, leaving a small force in a tete dn pont, covering
the turnpike bridge.
The head of our column formed at once and kept up a rapid
exchange of volleys with this force until the corps had closed
up, about 6 p. M., when the 2d Brigade of Birney's Division was
formed for an assault, and after a sharp fight, carried the posi-
tion, one regiment, the 93d New York Volunteers, following the
flying rebels nearly to tlie other side of the river before the
order for recall could reach it. An act of individual heroism
occurring here is deserving of mention. In returning to the
north bank the color-bearer of the 93d fell wounded, and with
the colors was left unnoticed in the centre of the bridge. When
the loss was discovered Lieut. Wm. Ball, of Company " K,"
braved the musketry fire which was centered on the bridge and
cooll}' brought off the colors, but paid for his devotion to the flag
by receiving a ball which shattered his ankle. The color-bearer
was not rescued until later.
Volleys were exchanged across the river until late, and a
heavy picket fire was kept up far into the night, but that failed
to disturb the slumbers of those who had endured the burden of
the matching and fighting of the day.
On the morning of the 24th the sun rose like a disc of molten
brass, presaging a day of terrible heat, and making us long for
shelter from its rays. But it was not long before we were to
wish for shelter from something hotter yet, for our brigade (the
I St) was pushed across Jericho bridge to the south bank of the
river, on the right of the Richmond Railroad, to seize and hold
a position which should enable a pontoon bridge to be laid to
facilitate the crossing of a greater force, which was soon accom-
plished. Three of our regiments were deployed as skirmishers
on the right of the telegraph road, and advanced skirmishing
till we found the enemy strongly intrenched behind earth works.
Nothing but the inequalities of the surface furnished us any
protection from the heavy fire we drew, and we were compelled
to lie prone and hug the ground under a hot sun and a hot mus-
ketry fire until about 3 v. m.. when we were withdrawn a little
to the rear, and to the left of the railroad, where we enjoyed
more protection from the enemy's volleys. Gibbons' division
had been pushed to the front and was heavily engaged, and just
before dark a heavy line of infantry moved from the works upon
him. We were advanced to his support and were almost imme-
diately thrown into the front, dealing and receiving heavy blows.
In the thickest of the fight a heaw thunder storm arose, the
heavens seemed to open and sheets of water poured down, not
only putthig an end to the fight, but completely veiling the con-
tending forces from each other, although but a few rods apart
on an open field. Before the flood ceased falling, the enemy's
line had disappeared, and the darkness of night had come upon
us. Our drenched and wearied soldiers sought the driest spots
the ground afforded and were soon at rest. We lost some fifty
in killed and wounded from our little and rapidly waning
The day following we were busily engaged in destroying the
railroad bridge and the track on both sides of the river. The
rails and ties were torn up. heaps made of the ties, upon which
were laid the rails, and the heaps fired. The rails when heated
red were seized by the men and twisted around trees like neck-
ties, rendering them more ornamental than useful.
Little of interest occurred until the afternoon of the 26th,
when we were attacked by a strong line issuing from the rebel
earthworks, and had an hour's brisk engagement before the
enemy was repulsed. Later they made a similar attempt on
Gibbons' line to our right, which was only ended by the dark-
ness of night.
Soon we were ordered to detail two regiments to throw up
intrenchments on the north side of the river, to which we were
to withdraw some time during the night, the remainder of our
brigade being left to hold the advanced line south of the river
until all the rest had crossed. At midnight our line was aban-
doned and we crossed, taking up the pontoons and forming in
the new line, our retreat being closely followed by a heavy
picket line of the enemy, which made things lively for us with
their whizzing, spattering bullets, both before and after our
During the morning of the 27th we destroyed nearly thirteen
miles of the railroad, and at 11 a. m. started on another flank
movement, via Concord Church to a point some miles north of
Nelson's Ford on the Pamunkey River, which we reached for
bivouac a little after midnight, after a weary march under a hot
sun and in sultry showers.
On tlie 28tli we made an early start, crossing the Pamunkey
at noon without opposition, and taking a position near Hanover-
town. Late in the afternoon, our brigade received orders to
move as rapidly as possible to the support of Sheridan's Cavalry-
reported to be engaged with Ewell's Infantry, a mile in front.
Riding in advance to report our approach, I found numerous
evidences of fighting having occurred at various points, and at
last" found Sheridan's flag in a fence corner, where a group of
officers, most of them in their shirt sleeves, were discussing
some boiled chicken served in a large tin pail. Asking for Gen.
Sheridan, a little man holding a chicken leg, responded, " I am
your man, what is wanted? " Reporting that Miles' Infantry
Brigade was on its way to support him, he jovially replied,
" Glad to see you, with that news, get down and have some
chicken." Such an invitation at such a time, could not be re-
fused. That impromptu dinner, gave me the first glimpse of
the real character of one who was already famous, and whose
name is now enrolled as one of the nation's greatest and most
The cavalry had been fighting inch by inch dismounted, had
driven the enemy some miles, and was now lying behind the
scant shelter afforded by a demolished rail fence on the other
side of the field. When our brigade came up, we relieved them
and at once commenced the work of intrenching against the
heavy force known to be in our front, which consisted of Ewell's
Division at least. We were making ourselves as comfortable as
possible for the night, when we received orders to march back
to our position on the Pamunkey.
The next day, (agth) being Sunday, one of our chaplains pro-
posed the novelty of holding divine service, and the brigade was
assembled for that purpose. Hardly had the first prayers ended,
when marching orders came, and the beat of the drum took the
place of a hymn of praise as we quickh" formed. Instead of a
march by the flank, the whole brigade, with the exception of the
color companies of each regiment was deployed in a skirmish
line nearly a mile in length, with its center on the road leading
to Atlee's station which is only a few miles from Richmond.
The color companies formed a short line of battle in the rear,
also preserving its center on the road, and thus we pressed
forward. At a fork in the road some mounted videttes were
seen, but they seemed not to desire our acquaintance and dis-
appeared. On reaching the Shelton house, a fine southern
mansion situated on and overlooking Totopotomy creek, our
skirmish line came under fire from the enemy's skirmish line
posted on the opposite bank, and was halted. Several of us
dismounted, and passed through the spacious hall to the rear of
the house, to discover if possible, the position and strength of
the enemy. We found a long line of infantry resting with arms
stacked in front of the woods and in full view. Our approach
put an end to the resting spell, and the line was quickly formed
and retired into the woods, leaving a picket line in rifle pits
along the bank in their front.
While we were taking in the situation our attention was at-
tracted by the wails of women and children, to the family, whose
house we had invaded, consisting of the matronl}^ Mrs. Shelton,
her three daughters, one of whom was married, and some
children and servants, all of whom had fled for refuge to the
basement, and were now grouped terror-stricken, in the area
way below the porch we occupied.
It was a scene which compelled sympathy, and awakened all the
humanity in our natures. The young mother with eyes filled
with tears held out a bright and smiling babe saying, "You will
not harm my little darling will you?" I took the baby, kissed
and fondled it for a moment, and handed it carefully to the
somewhat reassured, but still doubting mother, and, with the
assurance that we made no war on women and children, urged
them to go back out of danger, as occasional shots were spat-
tering against the side of the house.
From them we learned chat Breckenridge's Division was in
our front, that Mr, Shelton who knew the general, had gone to
ask protection for his family, shortly before our arrival on the
scene, and of course, he was unable to return and rejoin his
wife, daughters and grandchild, who were now filled with the
utmost apprehensions, but refused peremptorily to accept our
offer to escort them to some place of safet\', in our rear. We
carried beds and other necessaries for their comfort into the
basement, and barricaded the windows with logs, completing
a fair extempore fortification for the beleaguered famil}', which
now begun to look upon us as friends and defenders, instead of
enemies. Soon batteries were unmasked in the edge of the
woods, and a few shells w^ere thrown, but without much damage
to us, and a continuous firing was kept up between the picket
lines and intrenching parties till darkness put an end to it.
Some darkies, not realizing the danger, attempted to drive up
the cows from the bottom lands at milking time, and their be-
wilderment as they listened to the music of the minnies, and
their abject fright when the fact dawned upon them that they
were being fired at, would have been comical had it not been so
pathetic. On going to the basement to look after the welfare of
our new found friends, Mrs. Shelton, with true southern hos-
pitality offered to prepare supper for our staff if we were content
to accept what she had, and expressed regret for the absence of
tea, coffee and sugar. Sincere was her pleasure when we ac-
cepted the invitation and produced from our haversacks, a sup-
ply of these luxuries. The garden had not suffered much as
yet, and we gathered strawberries, the cows having come up
from the bottoms were milked, and we enjoyed heartily a dinner
enfamille, prepared b\- fair hands and graced b}' the presence of
cultivated ladies, the table covered with snowy linen and other
garnishments to which we had long been unaccustomed. It was
a bright bit of green in the desert of war, and memory will long
linger over, and often revert to an occasion, in which real
pleasure and real apprehensions were so equall}- proportioned.
The dinner and after visit being over, we saw the family placed
as comfortably as possible and withdrew to the shelter of the
trees for the night.
We were out and in line at daylight of the 30th, and discovered
a line of intrenchments, which had been thrown up in the night.
in the margin of the woods in front of us, not 500 yards awa}'.
We could ahnost look into the mouths of several field pieces in
position, and protected by lunettes.
Having but a thin skirmish line on our side, we had thrown
up but light intrenchments, but this looked as if serious work
was before us, and we now commenced intrenching in earnest.
The remainder of the corps was brought up and formed in two
lines a short distance in our rear, and several Cohorn Mortars
quickly placed in position some distance to the left of the house,
with Arnold's battery, which was brought up on the run. A rapid
fire was kept up from the enemy's picket line, annoying and
endangering the entrenching parties, and soon we were further
annoyed by shots from the batteries, but our little Cohorns did
effective work in temporarily silencing the guns, and the work
was rapidly proceeded with. Gens. Hancock and Barlow, with
several members of their respective staffs, came up to inspect
the position, and, with us, proceeded to the spot where the
Cohorns were being operated, and, standing a little in rear of
them, presented a tempting target to the enemy's artillery men,
who suddenly opened fire. One of the shells struck the top of
the embankment and exploded, the fragments and contents
whizzing amidst the group, covering all with dirt, but, fortu-
nately and strangely, injuring no one, though it put an end to
our curiosity in that direction.
Now several guns of the other side were turned upon the
house, and shells and solid shot went tearing through it, but for-
tunately for the family, the range was above ths floor and none
struck as low as the basement, where they were sheltered. One
shell exploded in the "best room," shattering everytliing
breakable, and tearing into shreds the silk curtains of an
old-fashioned canopied bed, but without setting it on fire. The
women and children down stairs were completely unnerved by
fright, and were alternately shrieking and praying. Their posi-
tion was indeed a trying one, entitling them to the warmest
sympathy and protection, as far as it could be given. We made
occasional visits to the basement windows and attempted to
reassure lliciii, wliih; \vc ourselves were iilled with the keenest
apiuclieusions for their safety, and vainly ur^ed them to remove,
under escort, to a place of safety in the rear, for a slight depres-
sion of the enemy's guns might cause an explosion in their
midst, as had happened in the room overhead.
Towards evening, Ames' battery came dashing uj), was quickly
unlimbered and thrown into position some distance to the left of
Arnold's, and a brisk cannonade from both soon drew the fire
from the house, and reh'eved the situation a little of its horrors,
and a brisk artillery duel was kept uj) until most of the enemy's
•;uns were silenced.
In this engagement, Lieut. Hunt, of Ames' battery, had his
heel torn off by a fragment of shell. Being carried to the porch
of the Shelton house, he narrowly escaped being crushed by the
falling of a pillar knocked out of place by one of the enemy's
shots. Little mattered it to him, brave, dying soldier, for
tetanus set in, and he was soon among the gallant dead.
We had wondered at the time of the battle why the fire of the
enemy's guns was so savagely centered upon the house. Mr.
Shelton infornied me that when we occupied the bank of the
creek he wished to return to his family, but was not permitted
to do so, and was detained at Gen. Breckinridge's headquarters.
That when the shelling commenced he begged that the guns
might not be turned upon the house, but Breckinridge assured
him that the family must have gone to the rear, that we were
using the house for an observation tower, and also for a shelter
behind which to mass troops, and that we must be shelled out
of that position. Thus he was compelled to witness the bom-
bardment his family endured from the guns of his friends, while
he was helpless to stay it.
Our intrenched line ran along the edge of the bank of the
ravine, and a row of slave cabins stood in the rear of it and to
the left of the house. Some of the artillery caissons were
by the cabins to be convenient to the guns and yet concealed
from the enemy by the cabins, from which it was thought all
Note— The writer visited the SheUon family in the autumn of 1865, and was received
most kindly and hospitably.
the negroes had fled. In the very midst of the cannonading an
old black granny came out of a cabin and innocently emptied a
pan of hot ashes into a dismounted limber chest, and an explo-
sion followed, demoralizing caisson and cabin, and killing and
wounding several of the artillerists and infantn,- men near it.
Will some one ask what became of the old woman ? We never
learned. She disappeared with the cabin.*
All day long we had to endure the danger of exploding shells,
and the short range fire of the skirmish line, and just before
dark were ordered to move forward to attack the enem\-, and
were forming for the charge, when Hancock, who had come to
the front in person, countermanded the order.
That evening the 2d New York Heavy Artillery', < lately- from
the defences at Washington ) commanded bj' Col. J. N. G.
Whistler, was assigned to our brigade and placed in position on
its left. Its line was longer than that of the five regiments we
already had, and it was divided into three battalions to make it
more nearly correspond with them in our future maneuvers. To
myseli fell the dut> of seeing that it properly intrenched itself,
which, with other duties, occupied most of the night and gave
little opportunity- for rest, something we much desired, not onlj-
because we were nearly worn out, but because we felt that hot
work awaited us in the morning.
VNTien the first streaks of dawn appeared we were put to work
still further to strengthen our defenses by an abattis of felled
trees, and man^' a shot whizzed uncomfortabh' near us as we
went from place to place along the line superintending the
work. A heavy mail, the first we had received since leaving the
lines at SpottSN'lvania, made glad the hearts of man}'. To some
it brought messages of love from anxious hearts at home, to
some promotion: to Miles his brigadier's commission, and we
read and discussed the letters and papers amidst a continuous
fire of the sharpshooters. A large group of officers was gathered
at the Shelton house awaiting the baskets containing our break-
fast, and wondering what the day would bring forth. The
*Geii. Walker is his bistory of the 2d Corps, p. 50. ^^ajc ^he escaped aabBrt. aad
adds. " in Uie army it always -srvs tbe fool doiap Uie misduef vbo got off safe.
breakfast arrived and was uncovered, but at an unfortunate
moment, for the rebel batteries again opened with a furious can-
nonade, and shot and shell again came tearing through the
house, one shell with seeming malice coming out through the
wall and casing of a window, almost burj'ing our breakfast in
lime, bricks and shattered glass. A few minutes later Capt.
McCullough, commanding the 8ist Pennsylvania, was mortally
wounded by a sharpshooter. The mail had just brought him
his commission as major, and we had hardly ceased our con-
gratulations when his call came. At the same time it was
reported that the enemy had left his works, and we had orders
to fall in for an assault. To me fell the lot of directing the
movements of our new regiment, the heavy artillery. This
regiment, with the 183d Pennsylvania, was to charge its direct
front, while the rest of the brigade was to charge obliquely to
the right, niaking thus two lines of assault, diverging from
The 2d moved finel}' down the slope to the creek bottom, but
there found itself floundering in a bushy marsh of some width
while on the sharp bluff on the other side was plainly visible a
well-manned breastwork. The marsh and the stream were be-
tween us and the enemy's position, and while the men sinking
to their middles in the oozy mud were doing their best to push
through it, a galling and plunging fire was directed upon them
from the rebel line. It was more than new troops could stand,
probably more than older troops could be expected to stand.
Their colonel ordered them to lie down and conceal themselves
as best they could under shelter of the bushes, and begged me
to report to Miles that it was utterly impossible to continue the
charge in such a morass, under such a murderous fire. Re-
mounting, I rode safely up the hill, and found Miles and Barlow
together closely watching the movement. Delivering Col.
Whistler's message. Barlow quickly responded: "Go back
and tell Col. Whistler there must be no imi)ossibilities; that his
regiment must charge the. works in his front. Tell him to do it
with a yell."
I tried to state my own opinion of the situation, but Barlow
refused to listen, and cut me off with: " You are losing valuable
time; they must push forward at once." I turned and rode
rapidly down that bullet-swept slope. Whiz — zip, sung the
minnies in my ears, but there was one that sung not, but meant
business. It plunked itself into me.*
Reeling in the saddle, I had consciousness long enough to kick
the stirrups free, and went flying through the air. That message
was not delivered; that charge was not made.
It is a strange sensation one has when he finds himself flying,
and knows not whither. Towards earth, of course, but maybe
into worlds beyond. When consciousness began to return, it
seemed as if the most delicious music filled the air, but its
symphonies gradually dissolved into the rattle of musketry, the
crashing booms of cannon, and the yells of contending men,
mingled with the groans of the wounded and dying. My faith-
ful horse stood over me mournfully whinnying and licking my
face. Men singly and in groups were rushing by me up the
slope hoping to gain a place of safety, numbers of them falling,
until the slope was dotted with their writhing or silent forms.
Several stopped and tried to rescue me, but every such attempt
brought a vengeful volley, and several times I was left to myself,
in full sight, and within short range of the enemy's line. At
last one of our guns was turned upon that part of the line,
and in the lull of their musketry fire, Adjt. (later Col.) Church
of the 26th Michigan, brought a party to my rescue. Rolling
me in a blanket, they dragged and carried me to the breast-
works, where a stretcher was waiting to bear me to the ambulance
which should in turn carry me to the field hospital.
That ride, the operating table under the trees, the surgeon's
probe, and the hours that followed were more like a dreamy
rest than anything else until the reaction came with its torturing
*A niiiiiiie baU struck 1110 in Uio front of the rig-ht liip, passing- throug-h the rig-ht
ilium and the abdomen, rcstirifr uikUm- tho slvin over the left hip, whence it was
Tlic next day a long procession of ambulances antl wagons
filled with wounded started for Whitehouse Landing to enable
the army to march unincumbered by sucli impediments, towards
its new lines at Cold Harbor.
It is difficult to describe tlie torture of two da}s in an ambu-
lance jolting over corn fields and rough corduroy roads under a
hot Virginia sun, with suffering on every side, and racking pains
inside, witli death a constant companion, and often looked at as
a welcome relief. It must be experienced to be realized.
Our destination was Whiteliouse Landing, not far away as
the crow Hies, but the enemy held that line, and we were com-
pelletl to take a long detour of some fort}- miles. We had no
medical attendance, no assistance of any kind, but what the
driver could give us. He would prepare coffee morning and
evening, and keep our canteens supplied with water for our
wountls, the only dressing they had. At last we reach the
Pamunkey, and, while waiting for the railroad bridge to be
planked for our crossing, a host of nurses and emissaries of the
Sanitary and Christian Commissions surrounded us and vied
with each other in giving restoratives, and with tender hantls
washing the wounds, and with soft voices bringing hope and
consolation to the despondent.
Soon we were rocking on the river in the steamers carrying
us towards home. The senses that were strained almost to the
numbness of death by long and acute suffering, began again to
realize and enjoy the sweetness of life, and, lulled to peaceful
sluml^ers, one would revel in dreams, antl wake again to enjoy
perfect rest and infinite peace, which bring hope and content to
the heart of the worn out, wounded soldier, whose face is now
set towards the haven of the fireside and the tender care of the
loving hearts and hands which await his coming.
Can any one who has partaken of this sacrament of the bloody
days of the war neglect to pay a heartfelt tribute to those angels
of tlie battlefield and the hospital, that noble band of heroines,
who without hope of rank or fame, hovered close upon the edge
of battle to staunch the wounds of the living, and whisper con-
solation to tlie dying ? The army nurse ! Heaven's choicest
blessings rest upon her everywhere and evermore.
But the end was not yet for the Army of the Potomac, whose
subsequent battles have made so grand a page in history Still
the undaunted courage, the determined valor which had sus-
tained it tluis far, was not only alive but burning with patriotic
fire, and when the announcement was made that its march was
still "on to Richmond," that grand old patriot army was ready
to say, " lead on." Not the loss of 64,000 brave men, not days
and nights of sleepless toil and danger, could shake its faith in
final success, for it fought with " ba3^onets which thought."
The army had become a machine, but it was a machine endowed
with intellect, and it knew that only by blood and privations
could the final glorious victory be attained. It knew that it
took more men to storm intrenchments than to hold them when
stormed. It knew that the army on the defensive was harder to
shatter than the one striking the blow. It knew that its bloody
battles of the past had never been fought to full fruition, while
now they were. It knew its own temper, and it knew now that
its proper leader was found. It knew that under that leadership
no more lives were being lost in battles which were leading to
success than were lost by disease in the peninsula marshes, or
in the fruitless campaigns of Antietam and Gettysburg.* It
knew that our country was worth saving, even at the cost of all
this sacrifice, and niany there were who were ready — nay, will-
ing, to ride or march gaily on to victory or to death, if Grant
were there to point the way.
It had grown to love the grand old flag of our country as only
a soldier can love it, and with a love which those who have not
experienced, can hardly imagine the strength or volume of.
Torn, riddled or bloody as the old rag may be, to the soldier
it is all the more beautiful in its tatters, for it is the emblem of
all he loves, with a love that impels him to die, if need be, for
the object of his love. I have seen men rush into almost cer-
tain death to save the colors from falling into an enemy's hands.
*Fruitless, because defensive, not aggressive.
1 liave seen a shell tear oft the arms of a color-bearer, and seen
him clasp the bleeding stumps about the flag as he fell, bathing
it in liis dying blood, leaving the blood-stained relic sacred in
his comrades' eyes forever more. I have seen color- bearers
shot down and others struggle for the dangerous post of carry-
ing the flag like a sunburst of glory into the jaws of death.
\ have a bit of blood-stained silk which is sacred to me, as a
part of my own regimental flag, which has been unfurled and
proudly floated on twenty battlefields of the rebellion, and under
whose folds twenty-two heroic color-bearers were killed and
wounded in that single campaign. It is a priceless relic which
money cannot buy.
It was of such material that the Army of the Potomac was
composed, after it had been thoroughly winnowed by the winds
of disease' the hot blasts of battle, and the toil of three years of
almost fruitless but bloody campaigns ; and, as an humble par-
ticipant in all its great campaigns, from the Peninsula until near
its last, I trust l' may be pardoned for the expression of a belief,
that its great privations, weary marches, and bloody battles,
entitles it to be ranked along with, if not at the head of the
greatest and best armies the world has ever produced, and, that
it is entitled to the love and reverence of the nation, to save
which it marched and fought through toils, sufferings, priva-
tions and blood, on the path of glory towards the grave.
To the survivors of that grand army my heart goes out in
brotherhood and love, and to its noble, heroic dead, in deepest
reverence and sorrowful remembrance.
" May we meet and greet in closing ranks,
In time's declining sun.
When the bugles of God shall sound recall,
And the battle of life be won."
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