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Full text of "Reminiscences of two years with the colored troops"

v. 



itfeKi?: 




LIBRARY 

UNIVERSITY OF 
CALIFORNIA 




PERSONAL NARRATIVES 



OF EVENTS IN THE 



WAR OF THE REBELLION, 

BEING PAPERS READ BEFORE THE 

RHODE ISLAND SOLDIERS AND SAILORS 

HISTORICAL SOCIETY. 
No. 7. . SECOND SERIES. 




PROVIDENCE : 
N. BANGS WILLIAMS & CO. 

1880. 



Copyrighted by 
BANGS WILLIAMS. 

1880. 



REMINISCENCES 



OP 



TWO YEARS WITH THE COLORED TROOPS. 



BY 



J. M. jADDEMABT, 

[LATE CAPTAIN FOURTEENTH K. i. HEAVY ARTILLERY, COLORED.] 



PROVIDENCE : 
N. BANGS WILLIAMS & CO. 

1880. 



Copyrighted by 
BA^TGS WILLIAMS. 

1880. 



PRINTED BY E. L. FREEMAN & CO. 



REMINISCENCES OF TWO YEARS 



WITH THE 



COLORED TROOPS. 



THE circumstances attending the organizing of a 
colored regiment in this State are well remembered. 
In the summer of 1863, white men were DO longer 
eager to enlist for a war the end of which none could 
foresee; but nevertheless the war must be prosecuted 
with vigor; another draft was impending and the 
State s quota must be filled. With difficulty Gover 
nor Smith obtained permission to organize a company, 
and, as this rapidly filled, then a battalion, and 
finally a full regiment of twelve companies of colored 
men for heavy artillery duty. In common with many 
others I did not at the outset look with particular 
favor upon the scheme. But with some hesitation I 



80 



6 REMINISCENCES OF TWO YEARS 

accepted an appointment from the State as a second 
lieutenant and reported for duty at Camp Smith, on 
the Dexter Training Ground, in this city. After 
serving here for some weeks in the fall of 1863, in 
the organizing of companies and forwarding them to 
Dutch Island, where the regiment was in camp, I 
successfully passed an examination before what was 
known as " Casey s Board," and after some prelim 
inary service with a company of the third battalion, 
was assigned to the command of Company H of the 
second battalion, with whose fortunes my lot was 
cast till the close of our term of service. On the 
turtle-backed crown of Dutch Island we remained 
amid fierce storms and the howling winds that swept 
with keen edge over the waters of the Narragansett, 
until the 20th of January, 1864, when, as I was about 
to make a visit home, the transport, Daniel Webster, 
appeared in the harbor and orders were issued to 
prepare for embarking on the following day. At the 
time appointed, we were on board, but the sutler s 
arrangements were not completed until early the 
next morning, when we got up steam and were soon 
out of sight of our familiar camp. 



WITH THE COLORED TROOPS. 7 

The incidents of the voyage it is not necessary to 
recite to any comrade whose chance it was to make 
a trip in an army transport, which had long since 
seen its better days, and which had been practically 
condemned before Uncle Sam found for it such profit 
able use. The men packed like sheep in the hold, 
the officers, though far better off as to quarters, 
yet crowded too much for convenience and com 
fort, the inevitable sea-sickness, the scanty rations, 
and what was worse, the extreme scarcity of water, 
were annoyances but the counterpart of those en 
dured by many brave men who preceded and followed 
us to the scene of duty. But in the main the weath 
er favored us, and on the hurricane deck we spent 
the hours off duty, gazing far across the illimitable 
waste of waters, as day after day we approached a 
warmer clime with its glowing sunshine and glitter 
ing waves and the deep blue sky bending down in 
unbroken circle around us. The rebel cruisers were 
then in the midst of their destructive work and it 
was natural, as we caught sight of a distant vessel, 
to speculate whether it was a friendly or a hostile 
craft. When we were in the latitude of Charleston, 



8 REMINISCENCES OF TWO YEARS 

a steamer appeared in the far distance, then a flash, 
a puff of smoke and a loud report notified us that it 
was sending us its compliments. It approached 
nearer, a boat put out and officers from the gunboat 
Connecticut came on board, examined our papers and 
soon allowed us to proceed. The weather rapidly 
grew warmer and our winter clothing proved very 
uncomfortable. The steamer s supply of water was 
exhausted and we had to depend on sea- water, dis 
tilled by the vessel s boilers, for all uses. The allow 
ance of an officer was, I think, a pint a day. Warm 
and insipid, its only use, as I remember, was for our 
morning ablutions, which were more a matter of form 
than of substance. In rounding the coast of Florida 
we bumped one evening on a sand bar or coral reef. 
I was very unceremoniously tumbled over, and the 
game of back- gammon, in which I was engaged with 
a brother officer, was of course, ended at once. Rush 
ing on deck we found ourselves clear of the obstruc 
tion and again on our way. But the breakers, in 
plain sight, gave us assurance of the peril we had so 
narrowly escaped. 

In the early morning of February second we 



WITH THE COLORED TROOPS. 9 

crossed the bar and noted well that line stretch 
ing far to the right and left of us, drawn with al 
most mathematical exactness, Which marked the 
demarcation between the clear waters of the Gulf 
and the turbid waters of the Mississippi. In go 
ing up the river the buckets were constantly drop 
ped into the muddy stream, and their contents, 
when allowed to stand for a few minutes, would soon 
furnish an abundance of that luxury we all craved 
so much, clear water, cooled by the ice and snows 
of the far north. Reaching the inhabited portions of 
the river, we saw the planters busy with their spring 
work, and though the air was chilled with the icy 
breath of northern climes, the orange trees in blos 
som and the green shrubbery on the shores, gave in 
dication of the semi-tropical climate we had reach 
ed. Arriving at New Orleans in due season, our 
senior captain reported for orders. I must not pause 
to speak of the strange scenes which greeted our 
eyes in this, the most cosmopolitan city of our land. 
A delay here of two or three days proved almost as 
demoralizing as a campaign, and I, for one, was glad 
when the orders came to move. For reasons that af- 



10 REMINISCENCES OF TWO YEARS 

terwards transpired, we dropped down the stream 
some fifteen miles to a point called English Turn. It 
derived its name, as I remember the tradition, from 
the fact that as the commander of some English ves 
sel was slowly making his way up what was then an 
unknown and perhaps unexplored body of water, he 
was met by some French explorer, coming from the 
opposite direction, who gave him to understand that 
all the country he had seen in coming up the river, 
was, by prior discovery, the rightful possession of 
the French monarch. Though no Frenchman had 
perhaps seen it, yet with his facile tongue he worked 
persuasion in the mind of the bluff Englishman, who 
at this point, turned about and put out to sea hence 
its name, English Turn. We found here relics of 
very early times in the form of an old earthwork, 
and an angle of a brick wall, built, when, and wheth 
er by French or Spaniard, none could tell. Here we 
soon selected a site and laid out our camp. The 
time rapidly passed in the busy occupations which 
each day brought, in little excursions into the sur 
rounding country, in conversations with the colored 
people whose sad memories of the old slavery days 



WITH THE COLORED TROOPS. 11 

recalled so vividly the experiences of Uncle Tom 
and bis associates in Mrs. Stowe s famous tale. Nor 
were the days unvaried by plenty of fun. Music, 
vocal and instrumental, we had in abundance. The 
mimic talents of our men, led to the performance of 
a variety of entertainments, and in their happy-go- 
easy dispositions, their troubles set very lightly on 
them. Their extravagancies of expression were by 
no means an unremarkable feature. When I at first 
heard their threats to each other, couched sometimes 
in the most diabolical language, I had deemed it my 
duty at once to rush into the company street and 
prevent what, among white men, I would suppose to 
be the prelude to a bloody fight. u Oh, Captain," 
would be the explanation, " we se only a foolin ." 

While here, we had a little flurry of snow, which 
reminded us of what we had left in abundance be 
hind, but which was a startling novelty to the na 
tives, few, if any, of whom, had ever seen anything 
like it before. Their explanation was that the Yan 
kees had brought it with them. In the course of a 
week or two, an assistant Inspector- General put in 
an appearance and gave us a pretty thorough over- 



12 REMINISCENCES OF TWO YEARS 

hauling: but what astonished him the most, was to 
find us in so healthy a condition ; for it appeared 
that because of a few cases of measles on board 
ship, we had been represented as being in very bad 
shape, and it was for sanitary reasons that we were 
sent to English Turn. 

We now began to hope for some change. The 
place was decidedly unhealthy. Our men were 
dropping off rapidly from a species of putrid sore 
throat which was very prevalent. The soil was so 
full of moisture that we had to use the levee for a 
burial ground. Elsewhere a grave dug two feet deep 
would rapidly fill with water, and to cover a coffin 
decently, it was necessary that two men should stand 
on it, while the extemporized sextons completed 
their task. 

Washington s birthday was duly celebrated, and 
foot-ball, wheel-barrow and sack races, among other 
sports, furnished fun for the whole camp. Even the 
inevitable greased pig was provided, but he was so 
greasy that he got over the lines into the swamps 
and freedom. 

Our battalion commander, Major Shaw, arrived on 



WITH THE COLORED TROOPS. 13 

the third of March, and on the following day, it was 
my good fortune to witness, in New Orleans, the in 
auguration of Gov. Hahn, who, by some form of elec 
tion, had been chosen the chief executive. The un 
clouded sky, the rich foliage and the beautiful at 
mosphere, combined to make a glorious day, and the 
spectacular arrangements were in keeping. The 
place was Lafayette Square. Flags of all nations 
waved in the breeze. In seats, arranged tier above 
tier, were five thousand school children of the city, 
dressed in white with ribbons and sashes of the na 
tional colors, while many thousands of the citizens 
were gathered as spectators. Patriotic songs were 
sung by the little folks; five hundred musicians filled 
the air with sweet sounds, and in the anvil chorus 
which was sung, fifty sons of Vulcan kept time on as 
many veritable anvils ; while some half dozen bat 
teries of artillery came in heavy on the choruses. 
These were fired simultaneously by an electrical ar 
rangement ; and the whole was under charge of P. 
S. Gilmore, a name not now unknown to fame in 
grand musical combinations. An elaborate address 



14 REMINISCENCES OF TWO YEARS 

by General Banks, then commanding the department, 
was an interesting feature of the occasion. 

Our life at English Turn, was varied by little of 
special interest. Of course there was no enemy at 
hand except those foes which a hot climate breeds 
so rapidly. A mysterious order came one day, to 
detail one hundred men " to join the expedition," 

and we were notified that a steamer would call for 

/ 

them on the morrow. Details of picked men were 
selected from each company. Five days 7 rations and 
forty rounds of ammunition, were dealt out to each, 
and in light marching order they waited several 
days for the steamer to appear. It was in vain, 
however, and we reluctantly gave up the prospect of 
some little excitement. We came to the conclusion 
that somebody at headquarters had forgotten to 
countermand the order, or, like Mr. Toots, had 
deemed it of no consequence. 

We discussed the varying prospects of change, 
sometimes coming as a rumor that we should be or 
dered to Texas, where was the first battalion of our 
regiment ; sometimes that we should join the Red 
River expedition, which was then forming, or the ex- 



WITH THE COLORED TROOPS. 15 

pedition against Mobile which was in contemplation. 
But after six weeks delay at English Turn, we re 
ceived orders to move up the river to Plaquemine, a 
point some one hundred and twenty miles above New 
Orleans, a few miles below and on the opposite bank 
from Baton Rouge. This town was at the entrance of 
the Bayou Plaquemine, of which Longfellow makes 
mention in the story of Evangeline s search for her 
lover ; a description which gives so good an idea of 
the bayous by which Louisiana is intersected, that I 
quote it in this connection. 

" They * * * entering the Bayou of Plaquemine, 
Soon were lost in a maze of sluggish and devious waters, 
Which, like a network of steel, extended in every direction. 
Over their heads the towering and tenebrous boughs of the 

cypress 

Waved like banners that hang on the walls of ancient cathedrals. 
Deathlike the silence seemed, and unbroken save by the herons 
Home to their roosts in the cedar trees returning at sunset, 
Or by the owl, as he greeted the moon with demoniac laughter." 

Here we relieved the Forty-Second Ohio, and went 
into camp. As we marched through the streets of 
the village to the site of our camp, the scowling 
looks of the white spectators, sufficiently indicated 



16 REMINISCENCES OP TWO YEARS 

their sentiments and especially their wrath at being 
guarded by " niggers." 

We found the state of affairs very different from 
the tranquil neighborhood we had just left. The 
surrounding country was infested with guerilla 
bands, and in the jail were a number of rebel pris 
oners who had been captured in recent raids. The 
latter received from the town s people very gratify 
ing evidences of sympathy, and in their comparative 
ly comfortable quarters and abundant supplies, af 
forded a vivid contrast to the treatment received by 
our boys at Libby and Andersonville. Intimations 
were quite freely expressed by the prisoners, that 
it would soon be their turn to guard us, and we were 
cautioned by friends and from headquarters, to be on 
the alert against a sudden attack. 

In the evening of the day after our arrival, we 
were startled by a steamer approaching the landing, 
all ablaze from stem to stern. The entire heavens 
seemed illuminated, and it was light enough to read 
with perfect distinctness. The vessel was loaded 
with some three thousand bales of cotton, and in 
landing at a point above us, the sparks from the 



WITH THE COLORED TROOPS, 17 

torch a wire basket filled with pine knots, and used 
after dark to light the loading and unloading of the 
steamer, had set the cotton afire. The motion of 
the boat and the perfect draft from her construction, 
peculiar to nearly all the river craft, of course spread 
the fire with great rapidity, and only time sufficient 
to rescue the passengers was permitted. The ves 
sel had a large freight of live stock, some of which 
escaped to the shore, but most of them perished in 
the flames, filling the air with their piteous cries. 
Our particular attention was devoted to our maga 
zine, which was an ordinary store-house and exposed 
to some danger. Its contents we could ill afford to 
lose, and their explosion would have made a sensa 
tion much more lively than even the destruction of 
the steamer. 

At Plaquemine an earth work had been begun by 
our predecessors. It had four bastions, one of which 
was assigned to each of our companies. The work 
was in a very incomplete condition, and except for 
the protection its parapets afforded, would have been 
of little service. In the threatening aspect of af 
fairs, it became necessary at once to strengthen our 



18 REMINISCENCES OP TWO YEARS 

defences, and under the direction of an engineer, 
details of men were set to work, and rapid progress 
was made. 

In April parties of guerillas and rebel cavalry be 
gan to operate actively in our neighborhood. At In 
dian village, a few miles distant, they burned a large 
quantity of cotton which had been sent in by plant 
ers or collected by speculators and was awaiting 
transportation. About the same time mysterious 
signals attracted our attention, and soon afterwards, 
we learned that a body of two hundred cavalry had 
crossed the Grand River for the purpose of attack 
ing us. The men slept on their arms, but no attack 
was made. A week or two afterwards, 1 had occa 
sion to visit New Orleans on business, and while 
there, heard a report that Plaquemine was " gobbled 
up " by the rebs. I was very much relieved on my 
return to find everything in statu quo. A raid 
shortly afterwards on Bayou Goula, a trading sta 
tion a few miles below us, resulted in the destruc 
tion of considerable property, but no captures of 
prisoners. 

On the twenty-fifth of May the gunboat 54 was 



WITH THE COLORED TROOPS. 19 

sent to cruise on the river in our neighborhood, 
and it was a welcome reinforcement to our meagre 
numbers. On the twenty-eighth of May the cavalry 
of General Banks army, on their retreat from the 
Red River campaign, passed through our post, re 
maining a short time in our vicinity. Among them 
was a. portion of our Third Rhode Island cavalry, and 
no hospitality ever gave greater mutual pleasure 
than that which it happened to be in our power then 
to grant. The record of that expedition has been 
made up, but there was a refreshing vigor of opinion 
expressed by our comrades on the conduct of the 
campaign. It seemed very lonesome when they left 
us with their commander, a true Rhode Island son, 
General Richard Arnold. 

Orders came within a day or two from Baton 
Rouge, announcing a change of commanders of the 
district, and exhorting us to get everything into 
fighting trim. It will be remembered that flushed 
with victory the rebels followed close on the heels of 
our retreating army, and were only stopped by the 
lack of transportation to cross the swift and deep 
Atchafalaya. Of course we presumed that they 



20 REMINISCENCES OF TWO YEARS 

would make one of their raids down the coast and 
attack our post, and that of Donaldsonville, some 
twenty-five miles below us, which constituted the 
principal defences on the river above New Orleans. 
With the exception, however, of capturing some of 
our cavalry pickets, we had no trouble, though fre 
quent alarms kept us on the qui vive. The beating 
of the long roll was almost a nightly occurrence; but 
this I should not mention to soldiers, except to refer 
to an instance that now occurs to me in illustration 
of the rapidity of the mind s movements, at times. 
About the time of the raids on our northern frontier, 
I was dreaming one night, that we were ordered 
home to proceed at once to some point on the bor 
der. All the movements incident to our departure 
and to our arrival at Providence, were before me. 
As we were halting in Exchange Place, with arms 
stacked and men at ease, I obtained permission to go 
home for a few minutes to see my family, to whom 
our arrival was unknown, when the roll sounded and 
we were ordered to fall in at once to take the train. 
Of course my momentary disappointment was great, 
but awaking at once, I heard the drums beating in 



WITH THE COLORED TROOPS. 21 

reality, and jumping into my outer clothing and 
equipments in a hurry, was shortly at the head of my 
company. The first beat of the drum had probably 
started the long train of the incidents of my dream. 
In the midst of these rumors of attack, in the early 
morning of August sixth we. were visited by a body 
of mounted men. They dashed upon our pickets 
who made a bold stand for a short time, and then 
scattered for shelter. The rebels had caught sight of 
the officer, Lieutenant Aldrich, who was in command, 
and while a part of them made diligent search for 
him, the remainder dashed into the town, and break 
ing up into parties raided through the various streets, 
firing somewhat indiscriminately, but more particu 
larly at what contrabands they saw. The companies 
gathered in their respective bastions in the fort and 
we expected a lively brush. As I stood on the par 
apet and got a glimpse of a portion of the enemy, I 
ached to let fly a shell, but the danger to innocent 
parties was too great to warrant it just then. I re 
member how amused I was at the appearance of the 
gallant commander of our post, as with his coat and 
equipments in one hand, and holding up his nether 



22 REMINISCENCES OF TWO YEARS 

garments in the other, he was " double-quicking " 
from his quarters in the town, to a place of security 
in the fort. After that he selected quarters nearer us. 
The prospect of being " gobbled up " was not partic 
ularly gratifying, especially to a "nigger" officer, 
who had Fort Pillow . memories in mind. As the 
rebels did not appear to be corning to us, a strong 
detachment under command of Adjutant Barney, was 
sent out to exchange compliments with them. They 
gave us no opportunity for this but soon retired, 
taking with them three of our pickets and one caval 
ry vidette, whom they had captured. We under 
stood, the next day, that our men were shot in cold 
blood. Lieutenant Aldrich and the men with him, 
escaped through the friendly protection of an osage 
orange grove. Others swam the bayou and thus es 
caped certain death if captured. 1 think our casual 
ties were, besides those taken prisoners, one man 
killed and a few wounded. Several of the rebels 
were said to be killed or wounded. One of the lat 
ter, as I remember, fell into our hands and was taken 
into our hospital where he received the same treat 
ment as our own men. Subsequently we learned 



WITH THE COLORED TROOPS. 23 

that the raiders were Texans who boastfully declared 
that they asked no quarter and gave none. In con 
sequence of the barbarous treatment of our men who 
were captured, some correspondence passed between 
General Banks and the rebel commander, but I am 
not aware that it amounted to anything. 

On the eighteenth a scouting party of our cavalry 
was captured at Grand River and others in our nearer 
vicinity. We had two companies of the Thirty-first 
Massachusetts mounted infantry, who were used for 
for vidette duty. Being more exposed than our own 
pickets they suffered occasionally from guerilla raids. 
One party of them, were surprised, probably in con 
sequence of a little carelessness, and were taken 
prisoners with the exception of one man who was 
killed. He had been a prisoner once before and 
fought to the last, rather than again be captured. 
On some of these occasions the attacking parties 
were dressed in our own uniform. 

All through the country back of us, a constant and 
merciless conscription was going on, sweeping in all 
able-bodied men between fifteen and sixty years of 



24 REMINISCENCES OF TWO YEARS 

age. Of course many refugees and occasional- desert 
ers came within our lines. 

During the fall of 1864 we received from time to 
time re-inforcements of several companies of colored 
engineer troops, who continued the work on the fort 
which we had begun. Though not comparing with 
the arduou^ness of field service, our duties were by 
no means slight. It must be remembered that we 
were in a semi-tropical country, where to an unaccli- 
mated person the climate was itself almost a deadly 
foe. The extreme heat produced a lethargy that was 
depressing in the extreme. In a few days of dry 
weather, the surface of the ground would be baked like 
a brick. Then would come most violent storms, con 
verting the soil into a quagmire and covering it with 
water like a lake. At this time, there was no small 
danger of falling into the deep ditches with which 
the fields were intersected, for drainage. In this way 
I lost one man of my company. Of course it will be 
understood how productive of disease would be the 
malaria from the soil and the adjacent swamps. Our 
men with all their buoyancy of disposition, had not 
the resolute will of white men, when attacked by 



WITH THE COLORED TROOPS. 25 

sickness, and would succumb with fatal rapidity. As 
captain of a company, my most arduous duty, when 
not on special duty or detached service, was as field 
officer of the day. This necessitated the visiting oc 
casionally during the day arid night, our videttes and 
picket posts which were stationed on the roads into 
the country, and at intersecting points in the fields ; 
and also crossing in a skiff the Mississippi river, to 
visit the troops stationed to guard a telegraph sta 
tion on the other side. This station was in the vi 
cinity of a famous duelling ground, a path not far 
from the river bank, to which in former days the 
young bloods of the town and vicinity would resort to 
repair their wounded honor, according to the rules of 
the code. As we were too short of horses always to 
furnish a mounted orderly, the officer of the day 
would at night, have to make his rounds alone. 
There was a picturesqueness in those rides in the 
solemn hours of the night, a portion of the way over 
deserted plantations where the weeds would be as 
high as one s head on horseback, the path at times 
fringing the borders of swamps where the moss hung 
in festoons from the stately cypress trees, past lonely 



26 REMINISCENCES OF TWO YEARS 

negro cabins, where sometimes I heard the inmates 
in the midnight hours, singing some plaintive melo 
dy in tones the most subdued. 

In addition to our routine work, our officers were 
largely detailed for staff, court-martial and other du 
ties. The frequent attempts at smuggling contra 
band goods through our lines, also necessitated mili 
tary commissions for the trial of these as well as va 
rious other civil offences, on which duty some of us 
were always engaged. As a consequence, we were 
always short-handed, and tours of duty came as often 
as was agreeable. The fall months of 1864 were 
marked by occasional raids in our vicinity, with or 
ders, at times, to sleep on our arms. The capture of 
a large supply of revolvers, which were surrepti 
tiously landed near us, indicated the necessity of 
strictly guarding the lines, and at the same time, fur 
nish those of us who needed them, an ample supply 
of that weapon. 

During this period, we organized schools for the 
instruction of our men. While some of them were 
comparatively well educated and were very service 
able in various kinds of clerical work, a large propor- 



WITH THE COLORED TROOPS. 27 

tion of them were destitute of the most rudimentary 
knowledge. Through the Christian Commission, of 
which Ex-Mayor J. V. C. Smith, of Boston, was in 
our department the efficient agent, we were amply 
supplied with various kinds of books and utensils, 
embracing primers, arithmetics, slates and pencils, 
besides a liberal allowance of reading matter. Our 
men were eager recipients of these and made good 
use of them. We tried to stimulate their pride in 
every way possible, and the great majority of them 
learned to sign their names to our rolls instead of 
making their mark. I had some pride in having my 
rolls signed by the men themselves, but I remember 
one of my men, however, whom I ineffectually or 
dered to do this. He admitted to me that he could 
write, but in consequence of some trouble he had in 
former years, got into by the use of the pen, he had 
made a vow never to write again, or something to 
that effect. My impression is that it was some kind 
of forgery he was engaged in. It is possible he may 
have been an unfortunate indorser ; if so, his deter 
mination would not seem so strange. 

At the same time, we were trying to make a per- 



28 REMINISCENCES OP TWO YEARS 

manent improvement in the way above indicated, we 
were troubled by difficulties, which were incident to 
army life at all times. Liquor, of course, would 
make trouble for us, and 1 think I never knew of any 
stimulant more demoralizing, in its way, than Louis 
iana rum. This fiery fluid would arouse all the 
furies in a man when it had him under its control. 
Gambling was another vice against which we labored 
with more or less success. Sometimes, after taps, I 
would make a raid on some of the men who were 
having a quiet little game. When winter came, we 
had replaced our worn out tents with shanties built 
from the materials of confiscated houses. These 
would be darkened, and in voices hushed to the low 
est whisper, the men would indulge in their favorite 
pastime. On one occasion, I remember that sudden 
ly forcing the door open, I dropped, most unexpect 
edly to them, on a small party of gamblers. As I 
scooped in the cards and the stakes, one of them re 
marked that it was no use to play against the Cap 
tain, for he got high, low, jack and the game. 

In the preparations that were making against Mo 
bile in the winter of 1864-5, we anticipated an op- 



WITH THE COLORED TROOPS. 29 

portunity to change our comparatively inactive life. 
But General Sherman (T. W.) said he could not 
spare us from the important post where we were sta 
tioned, and it was with regret that we were deprived 
of a share in that brilliant affair which has been so 
well described in a former paper. During this win 
ter, the rebel forces in Western Louisiana, under 
command of General Kirby Smith, were compara 
tively inactive, though raiding parties gave us occa 
sional trouble. Towards spring they began to move, 
and attacks on parties of Union cavalry were not in 
frequent. Unpleasant rumors of the capture of the 
Third Rhode Island Cavalry reached us, but proved 
to be unfounded, except that several couriers were 
taken. Some rebel prisoners were captured by the 
scouts, who were encamped near us, but our freedom 
from attack, was probably largely due to the inun 
dated condition of the country. Owing to the neg 
lect of the levees, the river at its high stage in the 
spring following broke through the embankment 
above and overflowed a large tract of country west 
of us- A raid contemplated by the rebels, which 
would have given us sharp work, and a force which 



30 REMINISCENCES OF TWO YEARS 

would have been large enough to annihilate us, un 
less in the meanwhile reinforced, were prevented by 
the condition of the intervening country, from giv 
ing us trouble. 

As an illustration of the disastrous effect of this 
overflow, I am tempted to give a brief description of 
a trip I made through a portion of the country that 
suffered in this way. Before the waters had sub 
sided, I was ordered by Brigadier-General R. A. 
Cameron, commanding the district of La Fourche, in 
which we were located, to report at his headquarters 
in Brashear City, for duty on his staff. Taking a 
steamer to New Orleans and then the train at Al 
giers, which is opposite New Orleans, I proceeded 
very comfortably to a place called Terrebonne, where 
steam travel came to a sudden stop. A hand-car for 
a mile or two furnished transportation and then we 
found the railroad completely washed away by the 
flood above named. The General s quartermaster 
and myself secured a boat and with a crew of colored 
soldiers, we rowed some twelve miles to a place call 
ed Tigerville, on the Alligator bayou. Our route lay 
over the bed of the railroad, the track washed to one 



WITH THE COLORED TROOPS. 31 

side of the cut, and a stream of water several feet 
deep on top of the bed. The road had been built 
through what seemed, most of the way, a primeval 
wilderness. The rank growth which skirted both 
sides of the stream, with no sound to break the si 
lence, save the measured stroke of the oars, for even 
the birds which occasionally flitted across our path, 
were songless, though of brilliant plumage ; the 
sight of an occasional moccasin or copperhead snake 
coiled on the stump of a tree, and not infrequently 
of an alligator sunning himself on a log, were fea 
tures of a situation that must be seen to be fully 
realized. The few small settlements through which 
we passed, were drowned out. Some of the houses 
were nearly under water and large quantities of de 
bris were afloat on the slowly moving current. 
Through the long weary hours of our boat ride, the 
sun poured its rays upon us with unmitigated fervor. 
Reaching Tigerville, we found an ugly little stern- 
wheeler] boat tied up in what had been one of the 
thoroughfares of the village, and which the quarter 
master at once ordered to take us to Brashear City. 
The captain of the craft, incidentally remarked that 



32 EEMTNISCENCES OF TWO YEARS 

his boiler was in bad shape and might blow up at any 
time. The quartermaster was willing, however, to 
take the risk, and getting up steam, we were soon on 
our way. But with the remark of the captain in my 
mind, as I looked at the stagnant bayou with its wa 
ters black as ink, and gazed off upon the interminable 
swamps on either side, and thought of the monsters 
from which it took its name, I concluded that the 
extreme bow would be a little the safest place, and 
taking passage on an empty water cask I found 
there, I lighted my pipe and tried to feel as tran 
quil as the circumstances above suggested would 
permit. Through the winding bayous, we pursued 
our way and sometime after dark, we safely reached 
Brashear City, or that portion of it which was visible 
above the waste of waters. Speaking of the bayous, 
it would be difficult to give a clear conception of 
their peculiarities. Equally strange are the people 
who inhabit those solitudes. Time would not per 
mit me to describe the " Cajans " corruption of 
" Acadians," descendants of the exiles who early 
settled the territory of Louisiana, but who have 
been driven from their first places of settlement by 



WITH THE COLORED TROOPS. 33 

those more ambitions and unscrupulous. Living in 
isolated communities, with their artless and unam 
bitious characteristics, their simplicity arid exclu- 
siveness, they would furnish material enough for an 
elaborate paper. 

Many reminiscences occur to me in connection 
with my service on General Cameron s staff, but any 
attempt to detail them would transgress the proper 
limits of a paper. In spite of the surrender of Lee 
and Johnston, a show of hostilities was kept up in the 
trans-Mississippi department, it being supposed that 
Jeff Davis was making his way in that direction to 
still retain a semblance of power in a country which 
had not felt the severest ravages of the war. Upon 
his capture, however, the rebel army in western 
Louisiana, rapidly crumbled to pieces, and while the 
rank and file were seeking their homes, the officers 
were continually coming in to our headquarters, to 
make their peace formally with Uncle Sam. Having 
occasion to remove our headquarters from Brashear 
City, to a place called Thibodaux, probably not more 
than fifty miles distant by rail, we were obliged, by 
reason of the overflow, to take a steamer and make a 



34 REMINISCENCES OF TWO YEARS 

circuit of some four hundred and fifty miles, going 
up the swift flowing and extremely crooked, Atcha- 
falaya, much of the way through a very desolate 
country, then down the Red River and the Mississip 
pi to Algiers, and thence, by rail, to our place of des 
tination. On our journey we had the company of 
several rebel officers, some of high rank, who availed 
themselves of the General s courtesy to reach the 
Cresent City. In a few weeks the General was mus 
tered out, and soon afterwards, I returned to my 
company, which, with the battalion, had in the mean 
while, been ordered to Donaldsonville. Among the 
duties here assigned to me, was service as Provost 
Marshal of the Parish, an office which combined as 
varied a responsibility as can well be imagined. In 
certain civil cases I had, as judge, jury and execu 
tioner of my own decisions, plenty of employment. 
With an occasional call to join in matrimonial bonds 
sundry pairs of hearts that beat as one, I had much 
more frequent cause to settle disputes between 
planters and employees, where neither party was 
disposed to meet the other halfway. Vexatious and 
varied as my employments were, and anxious as I 



WITH THE COLORED TROOPS. 35 

might be to do justice, I was liable to be overhauled 
by headquarters from misrepresentations made by 
angry and disappointed suitors. One event in my 
administration of the office, caused quite a sensation 
for the day. In the presence of a crowd of whites 
and blacks, I heard a case in- which a colored woman, 
who had till recently been a slave, was plaintiff and 
principal witness, and a white man who was defend 
ant, and gave judgment in favor of the former. This 
may seem to you a very simple matter, but it was 
evidently no ordinary occurrence in that place, and I 
presume this was the first occasion in the experience 
of many of the spectators, in which the sworn testi 
mony of a negro was received as against that of a 
white person. I seem now to see the glaring eyes 
of one indignant southron as he scowled upon the 
proceedings with the intensest malignity. It was 
not difficult to guess at his opinion of the changed 
order of things, while to the colored people, it was 
evident that the year of jubilee had come at last. 
Thus with comparatively tranquil incidents, the sum 
mer of 1865 passed away. Peace with all its attend 
ant blessings, had come. But disease laid its hands 



36 REMINISCENCES OF TWO YEARS 

heavily on some of us, and death was not an infre 
quent visitor to officers as well as men. From one 
scourge of that climate, we were fortunately ex 
empted. Thanks to the thorough policing, on which 
our commanding officers insisted, " Yellow Jack," 
who in former seasons had been master of the situa 
tion, gave us no trouble. But many of our number, par 
ticularly those of us who, during the summer, were on 
court-martial or other duty in New Orleans or its vi 
cinity, had some uncomfortable experiences with the 
" Break-bone fever," a species of malarial disease, 
whose name is sufficiently indicative. The services 
of our regiment were sufficiently appreciated to de 
lay our muster-out till the second of the following 
October. The three battalions were consolidated at 
Carrollton, and a few days after we embarked for 
home on the good steamer North Star. Some of our 
officers who took passage in the ill-fated Atlanta, lost 
their lives by the foundering of that vessel. In the 
fearful storm, the beginning of which we felt as we 
passed the Jersey shore, more than a hundred ves 
sels were wrecked on the coast, and among the num 
ber was the Daniel Webster, which took us from 



WITH THE COLORED TROOPS. 37 

Dutch Island to New Orleans: In New York we 
made a parade which was witnessed by crowds of 
people with apparently hearty demonstrations of fa 
vor. On our return home, we received a cordial 
greeting from the authorities, and in a few days our 
regiment was disbanded at Portsmouth Grove and 
ceased to exist except in history. 

It had endeavored to do its duty, and by those 
who knew it, I believe it had been fully appreciated. 
General Banks complimented it in orders, and so 
strict a disciplinarian as General T. W. Sherman, 
pronounced it a noble regiment, which, from that 
source, is no small praise. But though most of its 
officers had served in former organizations during the 
war, and our lieutenant-colonel was also a veteran of 
the Mexican war, and with many of his associates 
brought to the discharge of their duties, the advan 
tage of enlarged experience, a reputation for courage 
and a high degree of skill, it was not given to the 
regiment or its several battalions, to participate in 
any of those engagements or campaigns, some of 
which it has been the pride and pleasure of comrades 
here to describe. It was, however, from no hesitation 



38 TWO YEARS WITH THE COLORED TROOPS. 

or unwillingness of theirs. The call was hopefully ex 
pected but disappointedly unheard. Yet, may they 
not fairly claim to share in the glory of the result, 
and to them may not the words of the poet justly 
apply 

" They also serve who only stand and wait." 




$*if* rV, /tk fif 

ailoi[8 fusforkat loridg of Mode Island 
y%) "*[ *]* I J* 




PERSONAL NARRATIVES 



OF EVENTS TN THE 



WAR OF THE REBELLION, 



No. 7. SECOXD SERIES. 




REMINISCENCES 



TWO -YEARS WITH THE COLORED TROOPS, 



BY 




J . M . A D D E M A N . 




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