On the 29th came rumors of a change of base, and everything,
except tents, was packed with the expectation of moving, it
was said, to Frederick City, in which case we should have
gotten into the rear of the Antietam campaign, and had we
followed the course taken by the regiment which went in our
place, we should have been at Gettysburg, at Chattanooga, and
later with Sherman in his march to the sea. But Colonel Well-
ing and Lieutenant Colonel Seward made a trip to Washington,
and on tlieir return said that the 137th New York would go in
our place. The subsequent career of that organization is out-
lined above. Prices current for breadstuff's are indicated in the
following entry for this day: "Traded bread for pie, eight loaves
for one small pie."
The camp continued restless, for the air is full of rumors of
moves, and on the last day of the month came orders that a
part of the regiment should march the next day to Fort Kear-
ney. During our stay here considerable work was done on Fort
Tot ten, a little to our northeast. Here also was performed our
first picket duty. Lieutenant Freehoff returned to his company,
"I," one day from headquarters, and in the street called out, ''I
want twenty-five men to volunteer. Who has plnck to go wjth
me on picket?" The wait was short, for in a twinkling the street
36 NINTH NEW YORK HEAVY ARTILLERY.
was full of men. all anxious to go. "Bv Sbimminy," remarked
the German officer, "you all has pluck. I guess;" and he takes
his men from the nearest tents to fill his detail, and reports.
There must be the first experience in all lines of life as we go
through it, and the solemn charge that an attack from guer-
rillas was expected and that consequent extra vigilance was
necessary, did not tend to lessen the nervousness of these men
on their first trial in this line. All through that long night
they heard the veriest crackling of the dry underbrush in the
woods, occasioned by mice or weasels, and whippoorwills" cries
were sadder than ever, but nothing more serious than the
rounds of the picket officer was encountered. When, however,
they returned to camp with their labor done, what stories
they had to tell; vastly more thrilling than when, two years
later in the valley, thev really stood within the rebels' reach.
Camp Nellie Seward and Fort Kearney.
Fort Bunker Hill, near which the 138th had been camping,
was northeast of Washington and due west of the old Bladens-
burg road. It was in the District of Columbia, and the work
of the regiment on the neighboring roads was quite apparent.
On this the first day of October, the preparations for departure
began early. One company, at least, was up at midnight to
draw rations, and the regiment was off at 7 o'clock A. M. The
march was a long one. considering burdens and inexperience.
As the crow flies, the distance was under ten miles, but follow-
ing the roads. Fort Kearney, where the final halt was made at
about noon, was quite eleven miles away. The fort was thus
named for General Philip Kearney, a hero of the Mexican War,
who had lost his life at Chantilly, just one month previously.
"Cam]) Nellie Seward" now becomes the appellation of the
138th's military home, thus commemorating the name of the
lieutenant colonel's little daughter. The new location is three
miles from Ihe rotomac,six from Washington, two from George-
town and one and a half miles from the Maryland line. Our prede-
cessors here were New Jersey men, the 11 th Infantry, ordered
to the field. Our morning's march was enlivened by heavy and
CAMP NELLIE SEWARD AND FORT KEARNEY. 37
rapid flrinji, apparently not more than five miles to the west-
ward; it might have been much further ofif, for sound is decep-
tive and our ears were inexperienced. Subsequent information
told us that the trouble was at Shepardstown, beyond Harper's
Ferry, a cavalry and artillery scrap, noisy, but not particularly
Though we had changed our stations, we had not escaped
the same kind of work to which we had recently been intro-
duced, for, while the majority of the men labor on the roads,
certain ones do heavy work in the fort, carrying and setting
the heavy timbers which formed the stockade, sometimes by
the boys called pickets. One worker having observing eyes
says the fort has three embrasures and three pivot-guns. Nor
are the soldiers alone in their duties, for from thirty to forty
contrabands are delving with them. How gladly would we
have given the entire job into the hands of these disenthralled
Africans! Then, too, though very near the base of supplies,
rations are scant, and lovely landscapes can not compensate
for empty stomachs. Farmers' boys find bread only, though
nominally the staff of life, somewhat of a broken reed for sup-
port, considering the amount of digging required of them. More
than a thousand acres had been cleared of timber to give a
clear sweep from the fort, and still more must be cut. It
seemed not a little strange that the Capital of the United States
should have been located in such a wilderness. The fort is only
about half built, and there are ten miles of road to be made.
The oth of October is the first Sunday in this camp, and
one racy raconteur remarks the exceeding healthfulness of the
day. Roll-call, inspection, dress-parade and a general washup,
with reading and such other diversions as active minds suggest,
fully occupy the time, while the surgeon and his assist-
ants have a vacation. On other days, however, when
picks and shovels are in order, and at roll-call, the ailing
are ordered to step to the front, one might think from the
response that the camp was located in the very theatre of
miasma; thus early did these verdant youths learn what "old
soldiering'' meant. Then also these practical boys lament the
waste of so much valuable timber, just for a pawn in the wild
game of war, but when was strife other than expensive, still
what were material things, compared with the woe which death
was planting in so manv homes'?
38 NINTH NEW YORK HEAVY ARTILLKRY.
The regiment was not particularly proud of its reputation,
but it was currently reported that no body of men before it had
made such excellent roads; indeed some ways pronounced fin-
ished had to be made over by these Empire State soldiers,
some of whom, at least, had taken their first lessons in this
business, in working out their poll-taxes under the direction
of the pathmaster. All, however, was not praise. Sometimes
the engineers would lay out the work, and when completed,
through no fault of the makers, proclaim it all wrong, and it
must be pulled down or up and made over again. The character
and ability of some of these fort and road builders may be in-
ferred when we find them noting that the soil, in places, is
decomposed gneiss rock, readily breaking into small chunks,
with one or more black faces, with seams of quartz running
through them, but what else could be expected of men who
read the Atlantic Monthh/ for a respite and find Sunday after-
noon diversion in botany? Yet these men were not ofiBcers;
just privates in the ranks.
October 8th great quantities of ammunition are stored in the
magazines of Fort Kearney. Discipline is gradually making it-
self felt, and while the men not on duty repair to the woods,
October 12th, for religious worship, one of their number is con-
signed to the guard-house because he has been heard threaten-
ing to desert. Thereafter when a dissatisfied soldier wished to
take French leave, he wasted no time talking about it. On this
day the companies hear read, for the first time, the Articles of
War. though for some weeks they had been thinking them-
selves- able to recognize sundry articles of this sort on sight.
Tuesday, October 14th, camp and work monotony is broken,
as the men go in for their supper of bread and fried beef, by a
command to fall in and to report the number of cartridges in
each one's possession; supper is eaten hurriedly, and then, once
more in line, forty rounds per man are given out. All this be-
cause rebel cavalry are said to be within ten miles of the fort.
This was one of the annual horse-collecting raids of General
J. E. B. Stuart, though his forces on their way down from
Chambersburg had already crossed the Potomac on the 12th.
Evidently our people thought such a leader liable to appear at
any moment anywhere, and they had better have a care. In
reality, at this particular moment, he with his men and horses,
after taking needed rest in Leesburg, were by easy stages work-
CAMP NELLIE SEWARD AND FOKT KEAUNEY. 39
ing westward of the mountains. Company D is sent to the fort
and four companies are sent out upon the picket line and the
others are ordered to lie upon their arms. The camp is razed,
though uo one can tell just why. To-day such proceedings hare
a farcical appearance, though they may not have been without
their benefits even then, since the preparation came in the way
of drill and discipline.
As no enemy appeared, the weapons of war again gave place
to the implements of peace, and digging proceeded as before,
not infrequently enlivened by words like these, sung to the
tune of Dixie:
"I wish I v.'as in old Wayne county,
My three years up, and I had my bounty.
Look away, look away," etc.
After the scare, the guns were discharged into a neighboring
sandbank. Evidently marksmanship was poor, for a dog, just
in line, had the full benefit of the fusilade. but was unhurt.
Perhaps the boys only made believe aim at him. Let us hope
so. both for the sake of their aim and of their hearts.
Camp fare is improving, as this menu will amply prove:
Breakfast â€” roast beef, bread, coffee and apple sauce; dinner â€”
beef, bread and tea; while supper was made from bread and
tea. On the 17th the arrival at 4 P. M. of the 17th Connecticut*
gave a suspicion of a move to be made soon, and it came the
very next day, Saturday, the 18th, when a complete transfer
of outfit was made to the vicinity of Fort Mansfield. The
march was through Tennallytown. about one mile, and we
halted a mile and a half from Chain Bridge. The location is
better than that just left. The line between the District and
Maryland runs tlirough our camp, which is called "Morris,"
â€¢The 17th Connecticut was from Fairfield county, and had as colonel
Wm. H. Noble, but a more noted man was in the ranks, viz., Elias Howe,
Jr., of sewing-machine fame. Having done garrison duty for some
time in Baltimore, the regiment had asked permission to join Sigel's
corps. As a punishment for such temerity, it was ordered to Fort
Kearney, where for two weeks it handled pick and shovel before
reaching the 11th Corps. It was only a few weeks later that Private
Howe advanced the money to pay off the regiment, a most convenient
man, we thought, to have around. Those competent to judge declared
that Colonel Noble resembled the pictures of the lately slain General
Nathaniel Lyon, another Connecticut man.
40 NINTH NEW YORK HEAVY ARTILLEKY.
and some of us halt iu a potato field. The popular and neces-
sary vegetable is dug with bayonets, and if any man in the
regiment fails to have "s])uds" for supper, it is his own fault.
Men get used to almost everything, and a six-mule load of bread,
piled upon the ground, is none the less sought for, though a
mule hitehed near has, with his tail, kept the flies from the
bread for several hours. Our nearest neighbors are men of the
2!>tli New Jersey, who have done a deal of work on Forts Mans-
field and Reno. '
Had Washington people known what our soldiers were doing
with their reservoir, their relish for its contents would have
been much lessened. "Dirty, not fit to swim in," is the general
comment, and its waters are made still more turbid by the
soldiers, who use it as one big wash-tub for their clothing. Oh
Cleanliness 1 what crimes are committed in thy name, and on
Sunday, too! At dress-parade on this 19th of October, the sec-
retary of state, William H. Seward, appears, but perhaps the
presence of Colonel Welling's wife and daughter gives even
more pleasure than that of the eminent gentleman, for the
soldiers love to hear the sound of women's voices, thus being
reminded of home. For the proper shelter of himself and fam-
ily, the colonel has had built a small house, not elegant, but
There is very little variation in routine for the following
week. The Potomac and the Ohio and Chesapeake canal afford
ample facilities for bathing and washing, which many improve.
Cliaiu IJridge comes iu for inspection as well as the potato
fields of the neighboring farmers. The latter complain and en-
deavor to identify the culprits, but fail utterly. Careful and
loving friends at home send to their Ontario boys a barrel of
dried fruit, on which the expressage is |5.23. Just what the
frnit was worth is not recorded. There is no lack of work, for
old roads are made over and new ones are laid out. Drill is not
neglected and inspections come regularly.
November 1st Captain Cornwell of Comiiany E died of
typhoid fever after an illness of ten days. Ilis death was a
great loss in every way, for he merited and received the highest
respect of every one. His body was embalmed and sent home
to Cayuga county, where from the Scipio I'niversalist Church,
November Oth. all that was mortal was borne to its burial.
His was the first death among our officers.
CAMP NELLIE SEWAUD ANO FOIIT KEARNEY. 41
Sunday. Xoveiiibcr 2d, at dress-parade. Secretary Seward
and President Lincoln are present. Already hints are made
that the 138th is a pet reginient. One of the boys thus describes
the visit: ".lust as the rejiiuieut, in tine condition, was drawn
up in line. :in open barouche was discovered in front on the
riiiht, in wliich were seated two distinguished looking men.
Every eye observed them, though the command was, 'Front.'
Shortly after Colonel Welling had taken his place, one of these
men left the carriage and moved slowly to a position a little
back of the colonel. By this time every man knew he was in
the presence of Abraham Lincoln. The secretary remained in
the vehicle. How proud we all felt! The sublime and the
ridiculous are often mingled, and this event was an illustration.
In passing the president, one of the officers, noted more for his
stature than for his gracefulness, after sundry reproofs to his
men for not keeping in step, apparently formed the resolution
to measure heights with Mr. Lincoln as he passed. So at the
proper moment lie straightened up to all the height that God
had given him. and evidently wished his men to make note.
They did. for tliey heard the president say, distinctly, 'Lieu-
tenant, I am taller than you.' The tall officer's collapse was
never forgotten. Later many favored ones grasped the presi-
During this day there is the roar of heavy firing in the west,
and six weeks ago it would have made every ear erect, but ours
are becoming more experienced. The 2d Corps had discovered
some rebels at or near Snicker's Gap, and the batteries were
exchanging compliments. November 4th is election day, and
an expression of political opinion is taken by the men.
Throughout the regiment the sentiment is largely Re-
publican. In Company D fifty-five men favor General
James S. Wadsworth for governor and fifteen prefer Horatio
Seymour; very likely the remaining men were not voters, or
did not care to express themselves.
It was in these rather quiet days that Captain was
officer of the day. It is said that the severe weather had
prompted him to take rather more fire-water than was really
good for his understanding. Indeed, he had not gone far on
his round of nightly duty when, approaching what he supposed
to be a sentry's post, and seeing some dark object near at hand,
he halted for the challenge. In a chiding tone, he reproved the
42 NINTH NEW YORK HEAVY ARTILLERY.
supposed sentinel for his laclc of military precision and once
more said, "Why don't you challenge the grand rounds?" By
this time the officer had approached several paces nearer, and
had entered upon his query for the third time when he sudden-
ly found himself measuring his length upon the ground. Tt
seems that he had gotten olf the regular track, and. neariug the
stock corral, had been addressing his remarks to a mule whose
heels, in due time, had effectually halted him. The words the
captain uttered did not include the countersign.
On the 8th the camp was honored by a visit from Secretaries
Seward and Stanton with Lord Lyons, British minister. We
thus had frequent opportunity to see some of the most famous
men of the day. Two companies, C and K, were ordered to
Fort Gains, on the 11th, which disturbed them not a little, for
they had just finished their quarters, backing poles, to make
the same fully half a mile. Owners of land object to road-
making and ditch-diggingâ€” but everything goes. When candle
rations run short, the colonel's quarters catch fire, perhaps for
a hint that light was needed. Some one calls this existence a
"dog's life." He wanted excitement. Passes were occasionally
obtained for a day in ^^â– ashington. How the day was spent
there depended entirely on the taste of the visitor. Many
sought the Capitol, Patent and Post Offices, the White House,
and the like. If the scenes sought were questionable, no record
was made of them.
Monotony reigns in camp life and police duty during the
month of November, though on the 23d a Stonewall Jackson
scare, incident to his moving from Winchester, or to a recon-
noissance by Stuart, leads to the handling of considerable am-
munition and to some haste in mounting guns in tlie forts.
Indications became more and more pronounced that the regi-
ment was to stay in the defenses, for before the end of the
month, the officers were studying artillery drill, and some work
had been done on the guns in Fort Kearney by the companies
stationed there. The 27th was the first Thanksgiving in camp,
and was conspicuous for the absence of the orthodox turkey
and other dainties which made the home board so attractive.
One soldier records his dinner as composed of bread and butter,
cheese and apple-sauce. Though not up to the traditional
standard, he might have fared much worse. The same man
laments the cost of his Athintic Monthly, twenty-five cents for
CAMP NELLIE SEWARD AND FORT KEAUNEY.
the magazine and twenty-five more for the messenger; it does
seem as though the tariff were a trifle high.
It was in this camp that a sudden night alarm summoned
the men into line, to which they hastened in all degrees of
sleepiness and fright. One of the captains, however, lest someone
might oversleep, went through his street and inspected every
tent. As he poked open one flap he found a youngster, scared
almost to distraction. His reply to the captain's reproof for his
delinquency was, "Oh, captain, don't make me go out there and
be killed!" The officer's considerateness in allowing him to
remain where he was, was amply justified in subsequent
dangers, when he proved himself brave enough. It was only a
stage fright, liable to attack any one sooner or later.
Sometimes the fun of soldiers came near being what has been
characterized as horse-play. It was in Company F, one chilly
evening in October. A few men were smoking and yarning
around the pit. over which cooking had been done all day, and
which was now well filled with red-hot embers. While they
were thus standing, one of the company came up to the other
side of the trench, a man good-natured when sober, but ex-
ceedingly surly when in liquor. Tall and robust, he was able
to carry out any threat he might make. Soon came also a
comrade of quite a different build, always good natured and
genial; he essayed a little fun at the expense of the tall soldier,
which the latter was in no mood to relish. Finally, turning upon
the joker, he exclaimed, "If you don't behave I'll take you by
the seat of your trousers and the nape of your neck and throw
you into the fire." Unfortunately the short soldier did not
take the hint, but persisted in his nonsense, saying, "You can't
do it." Whereupon the giant actually seized the comrade, as
threatened, and holding him over the pit, as though he were
only a child, let him drop upon the fiery mass. All this hap-
pened before any one could interfere, but as the victim fell upon
his back he squirmed out upon the ground unhurt, though bad-
ly frightened. The irate Hercules moved oft', laughing devil-
ishly, and as no one was hurt, those looking on could and did
laugh at Conny's expense.
44 NINTH NEW YORK HEAVY ARTILLERY.
Camp Morris and the !)th Heavy Artillery.
The stoppiujiplace after leaving Fort Kearney had taken a
new name, viz.. Camp Morris, after Colonel Lewis O. Morris*
of the 113th New York, later to be dubbed the 7th Heavy Ar-
tillery, and whose brave colonel was to fall, June 4th, 1864, at
Cold Harbor. At this time he commanded the Military Con-
struction Corps in the defenses. As fort-building was so promi-
nent a part of the regiment's work, the following description,
sent home by a participant, is not amiss: "The forts are simply
earthworks enclosing from one to two acres of land. They are
made by digging a ditch or moat, fifteen feet wide by from ten
to twelve feet deep, throwing the earth up to form an embank-
ment inside the ditch. Thi.s bank is made hard by pounding it
as it is thrown up; through embrasures, guns are run out; on
the outside are abatis wliich hinder the approach of man or
horse; within are magazines and bombproofs, also barracks to
be used in case of an attack; it requires three reliefs to work the
heavy guns; all the forts are connected by rifle-pits; entrance-
gates are on the side towards Washington ; the heavy stockades
surrounding are pierced by loop-holes.
The approach of winter rendered it necessary to make in-
creased projiarations for the sake of health and comfort. The
laying out of quarters became a necessity, and house-building
was the general vocation; the term house, however, was less
heard than "hut," "shanty," "tent" or "winter-quarters." Their
desirableness as habitations depended largely on the taste, in-
genuity and industry of the builders. They were party affairs.
â€¢Colonel Morris belonged to one of New York's most noted fam-
ilies. His f.ather, Le^is N., a graduate of West Point, was killed at
Monterey in 1846, bravely leading his men, a brevet major, U. S. A.
The colonel's grandfather, Staats, was a brother of Lewis Morris, a
signer of ihe Declaration, and himself an officer on the staff of Gen-
eral Anthony Wayne. Colonel L. O. Morris had been in the army since
1847, saw service in the Mexican war, and at the beginning of the Re-
bellion was in Texas a captain in the Ist Artillery. His battery was
the only one not surrendered to the Confederates. The prosaic life in
the defenses greatly chafed him, and the chance to lead his regiment
to the front under Grant's regime was eagerly seized, though it speed-
ily led to bis death.
CAMP MORRIS AND THE NINTH HEAVY ARTILLERY. 45
the number combining determining the size of the structure.
A building Oxlti feet was large enough for six men. and one
12x16 could hold twice that number. Luckily not all the trees
had been cut away, and sufficient were found to supply both
fuel and building material. The impromi)tu structures are
much smaller, being, externally, 7x8 feet. The lower part to
the height of 2| feet is built of small logs, thus lessening the
inside measurement nearly one foot all around. A home letter
by a Company B boy, dated December 21st, gives an excellent
picture of what the writer deemed essential to his comfort in
his A tent having the above-described kind of a base:
" We enter at one end; on the left side, as we come in, is our
fire-place in the corner; beyond is a small table, at which I am
now writing. Across the back end is a little shelf 2i feet from
the ground. On this shelf are three cupboards and other
things; two of the cupboards are used for our dishes and culi-
nary outfit; the third is for my own private library. In the lower
space of the latter are three compartments, one for envelopes,
one for answered and the other for unanswered letters. Above
this comes the library itself, made up of general reading, such
as newspapers, magazines, etc., etc.; books, classical, scientific,
poetic, critical, and religious, as a Bible, hymn and prayer book.
The top shelf is expressly for stationery. Between the second
and third cupboards stands the tent-pole, and on each side of