Henry F. W. Little.

The Seventh Regiment New Hampshire Volunteers in the War of the Rebellion online

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only regretted that our colonel had not the sterling quali-
ties of Ethan Allen, to either plead against or resist the
order, which, if successful, would no doubt have been ef-
fective in preventing, in a measure, the disastrous results of
the battle which followed a few days after. However,
just before noon the left wing was drawn up in line,
the Fortieth Massachusetts was marched in front of us,
and the exchange was made; The writer, being one of
those who were doomed to lose their carbines, and who
was also one of the " rear rank ornaments" at that time,
wearing a sergeant's chevrons, thou£{ht he would exchange
with a sergeant of the Fortieth, and thereby be sure of
getting a pretty good Springfield ; so selecting a good
looking sergeant we at once proposed to exchange with
him, and the proposition being favorably received, we ad-
vanced and made the exchanjje, but such an exchange !
We had not seen his gun until he extended it towards us
for the exchange, — and then it was too late to back down,
for the proposal had come from us, — we had sized up
the condition of his musket by the appearance of the man,
but how sadly we were taken in, for the old musket we
got for our beautiful carbine was dilapidated in the ex-
treme. It had neither bayonet, hammer, nor ramrod. It
could neither be loaded nor discharged, nor could it be
used in a bayonet charge.

Regarding the condition of those old muskets, we can
only say that there was not a bayonet amongst them all :
and in one company, I, I think, thirty were reported unfit
for service, while in another company, D, to our personal
knowledge, there were nineteen of them deficient in either
lock, hammer, or rammer, and consequently were of no
more use to our soldiers than an equal number of fence
stakes. We never blamed the Fortieth Massachusetts for
the deplorable condition in which those old muskets were

2i8 History of the Seventh Regiment

found, for they had been roughing it, as mounted infantry,
along with the cavalry since the commencement of the
campaign, and had hardly been allowed time to dismount
and cook a ration of coffee, to say nothing of time to scrape
the mud from their arms and equipments. Colonel Ab-
bott, in speaking of the matter in a letter to the adjutant-
general of New Hampshire, near the close of the war,
says :

" I am compelled here to allude to a matter upon which
it is difficult to speak, after this lapse of time, without in-
dignation. On my return to Sanderson's on the night of
the 1 2th of February, General Seymour directed me to
turn over enough of the carbines in my possession to arm a
mounted regiment (the Fortieth Massachusetts), which
was in his force, and receive Springfield rifles in return. I
protested, but in vain. It was to no purpose that I urged
that more than three hundred of my men were recruits,
that since their arrival at my camp there had been barely
time to instruct them in the use of the carbine, and that
they were not drilled at all in the use of the rifle. The
order was issued, and the left wing of the regiment was
deprived of its carbines. The arms received in return
were of the Springfield pattern, and their condition may
be judged from the fact that forty-two of them were pro-
nounced unserviceable by the (brigade) inspector the day
after they were turned over to my command. The men
were dispirited, the officers were annoyed and chagrined,
and the whole effect of the proceeding could not have
failed to be embarrassiiig to an}^ officer.'"

Sanderson, w^here the whole tbrce of General Seymour
was now in bivouac, was about fifty miles from Jackson-
ville, and our regiment went out about ten miles, on the
1 2th, towards Lake City, making the whole distance that
we had reached from Jacksonville, sixty miles. Upon
leaving St. Helena Island, S. C, on February 4, our

Co. H.

Co. H.

Co. H ( War time ).


Co. H( Peace).

New Hampshire Volunteers. 219

reports showed six hundred and fifty men tit for duty, and
thus far we had met with no loss, except that of the

At noon of the 13th, the exchange of carbines for
muskets having been completed, we were ordered to pack
everything, and at 2 o'clock p. :m. line was formed, and
the column at once started on the back track towards
Barbour's Plantation, a distance of about ten miles from
Sanderson and forty miles from Jacksonville, which place
we reached about 9 o'clock that evening. Here we extem-
porized a camp with rails from adjoining fences, and
tarried six days, spending a portion of the time at brigade
drill in the open woods near us, and raiding large turnip
patches and chasing some of the razor-backed hogs which
had been left in the timber around the plantation, until the
morning of February 20, which brought us to the battle
of Olustee.

While at Barbour's Plantation our rations gave out,
owing to delay in transportation from Jacksonville, and
many foraging parties were sent out, who succeeded in
collecting a large lot of sweet potatoes, Indian corn, a
small amount of bacon, etc. ; the corn, which was on
the ear, was roasted, for want of a mill in which to grind
it into meal ; but in a few days the commissary depart-
ment got rations and ammunition to us, and we were
again ready to take the offensive and attempt to carry out
the object of the expedition.

We had meanwhile given the rebels plenty of time and
good opportunities to spy out our position and learn the
strength of our forces, besides giving them the opportunity
to at once gather a large force from the Savannah and
Charleston garrisons and to build fortifications, in fact,
had, by thus delaying, given them every possible oppor-
tunity to contribute to our defeat.

Everything being in readiness and reinforcements hav-
ing arrived, which were composed of a brigade of colored

220 History of the Seventh Regiment

troops, we were again ordered forward on the morning
of February 20, towards Sanderson ; at daybreak we
quietly fell into line, and at once crossed the southern fork
of the St. Mary's River and started for the front, halting
for a few moments only as we gained the turnpike across
the branch, to allow a battery of flying artillery to gallop
past. The sky was cloudless, and as the sun appeared, it
warmed up the chilly atmosphere of the early morning.
It proved to be one of those beautiful Floridian days,
known only to those who have experienced them in that
everglade country.

We arrived at Sanderson's Station about noon, where we
were halted and allowed a short rest, after which we again
resumed our march in the direction of Lake City, the
Fortieth Mass. Mounted Infantry and four companies of
the First Mass. Cavalry protecting the flanks of the skir-
mish line, which was composed of the Seventh Conn.
Volunteers, which were thrown out in advance upon leav-
ing Sanderson's ; the order of march being, as heretofore,
a column of infantry flanking each side of the artillery
column as a protection against a flank movement of the

About four miles from Sanderson's we first encountered
the rebel pickets, but they were driven steadily before us
for about two miles farther, when the enemy was found
in force. It was now about 3 o'clock p. m. as we came
upon the main body, but as yet we had found no artillery
opposing us, and one of our batteries getting into posi-
tion began shelling the enemy, who at once replied with
howitzers which they had brought down on platform cars
from Lake City. Their infantry occupied a fortified
position at the edge of a large swamp in front of the rail-
road bed or dump, which was at this place a few feet
higher than the surrounding grounds, forming a ready
breastwork in case they were driven out of their trenches.

New Hampshire Volunteers. 221

and which, owing to the curvature of the road, made
nearly a semi-circle around us. Their artillery tire was
very inaccurate and elevated, cutting and slashing the
tops of the tall pine trees in the open woods through
which we were then hurrying to the front, amidst the
danger to us from falling branches and tree tops. As
soon as the situation was clearly defined, an attempt was
at once made by General Seymour to bring the troops into
line, the line formation to be a brigade in column of regi-
ments on either side of our artillery, which was to occupy
the centre of the line. The firing was now begiiming in
earnest, as it was the work of a few minutes only to get
the artillery into battery front. The particular position of
the writer, at this moment, was on the left of the Seventh
New Hampshire, Company D being the tenth company,
which was then marching by flank, left in front. When
within two hundred yards of the enemy's works, the order
was given by our brigade commander. General Hawley,
to form column by companies, the order from Colonel
Abbott being, " By company into line," which was rapidly
executed, the company commanders repeating the order;
our regiment occupying a position at this time immediately
on the right of the artillery, while the brigade of colored
troops was attempting to form a line on the left of our
batteries, x^n order was then given by General Hawley,
to " Deploy column on fifth company," which was the color
company. Colonel Abbott, repeating the order clearly
and distinctly, ordered the battalion to face to the right
and left, when General Hawley, finding himself wrong,
said, "On your eighth company. Colonel Abbott!" when
again seeing his mistake, the General said, "On your
tenth company, sir ! " All the companies, except the
tenth, having already faced to the right and left, w^ere
marching to get into line as though deploying on the fifth
company ; and under the successive change of orders the

22 2 History of the Seventh Regiment

companies who were trying to deploy into line became
badly embarrassed, and being under a terrific fire from the
artillery and infantry of the enemy, and the wrong orders
having been given and obeyed upon the instant, and the
manoeuver having been partiall}' executed before the cor-
rect order reached them, the battalion had become so
badlv mixed that it could not be re-formed, althouj^h those
broken masses of troops bravely stood their ground.

It was impossible under the then existing circumstances
to deploy other than on the tenth company, as the artillery
was immediately on our left, and the companies of the left
wing could not have crowded into the space between the
fifth company and the artillery; and on the eighth com-
pany the same obstacle would have presented itself. But
the mistake of our commanding officers could not then be
remedied ; the ground was becoming thickly dotted with
the bodies of the fallen, yet those brave men faced to the
front and did what execution w'as possible under the cir-
cumstances, although the whole left wing was armed with
those same old muskets which had been exchanged from
some of the mounted troops attached to the command but
a few days before, not, however, until the guns had been
completely spoiled for efiective use at a time like this.

The broken column, which had now lost one third of its
entire number, only gave way when a portion of the col-
ored brigade was brought up in splendid style and filled
the space.

Sergt. Otis A. Merrill, of Compan}' H, in a letter writ-
ten home six days after the battle, in regard to the attempt
at the formation of the line of battle, says :

" We had marched all day by the flank, left in front.
The column was not deployed until we were all under
fire, and the wrong order was given. The order was,
'By company into line, march!' 'Close column!' 'On
eighth company deploy column, battalion, left face ! '

New Hampshire Volunteers. 223

when the order should have been. ' Battalion, by the right
and left flank, march!' The regiment was not fairly
deployed before the men began to fall back amidst the
confusion, and became more or less scattered, and could
not be properl}- re-formed again."

He thinks General Hawley, who then commanded the
brigade, blamable for the manner in which the regiment
was sent into the fi^ht, as it marched over a hundred vards
under his direction before the order was given to form a
line of battle. Sergeant Merrill says when the men com-
menced falling back, owing to the heavy fire in front, he
stopped where his company stood until the bullets came
faster from the rear than the front, and he had to get
back. He also says :

"When Colonel Abbott saw that a mistake had been
made, he added, 'As you were,' but the different com-
panies had already begun to execute the movement to
deploy, and before the tangle could be straightened out
they had begun to fall back."

At the moment the command was given to deploy
column the bullets were flying thick and fast from the
rebel line, but their artillery fire was high and did but
little execution to our infantry line on the right. The
tenth company stood fast, and was the only compan}- that
formed on the line, as it so happened, and onl}' fell back
W'hen the companies attempting to deploy had fallen back
and they had no support.

Meanwhile the battle had raged fiercely on our left.
The two regiments of colored troops, who had there been
ordered into line, never having been under fire before,
hearing the thunder of our artillery a little to the right and
rear of their position, and surmising that they had been
attacked in the rear, became partially demoralized, and
the Confederates at that moment attempting a flank move-
ment around on the right, they at once fell back through


History of the Seventh Regiment

the artillery. The enemy now not only outnumbered us,
but had outflanked our infantry on our right, and had in a
very short time killed all of our battery horses, rendering
it wholly impossible to remove our artillery ; and as they
were constantly receiving reinforcements, which were
being hurriedly brought down to the scene of action by
rail in time to take part in the affray, the tide of battle
soon turned in their favor, and the Union troops were
obliged to retire, leaving six pieces of artillery, which had
to be abandoned as we could not drive the rebels from the
field ; for we had no support nearer than Jacksonville or
Hilton Head, S. C, and no fresh troops could be ordered
up to our relief.

At the commencement of the battle, according to the
statistics of both Confederate and Federal reports, the
forces were about evenly divided (5,400 Confederates and
5,500 Federals), with the intrenched position in favor of
the Confederates ; but during the afternoon reinforce-
ments were constantly arriving, which finally gave them
the advantage in numbers.

Our forces were ordered into action by detachments and
were beaten in detail, and orders ^\ere given by the com-
mandincr officers about sunset to retire from the field.

An attempt was made during the battle by the Sixth and
Thirty-second Georgia regiments (Confederate) to turn
our right flank ; but the movement was frustrated b}' men
from the Seventh under officers of the different companies,
conspicuous among whom were Captains Chase, Ames,
Mason, and Clifford.

One little incident came immediately under our eye,
and is particularly worthy of mention, as it showed the
coolness of some of the New Hampshire boys, and it will
also be remembered by other comrades who happened to
be in the same crowd. As we were leaving the field,
the writer, by mere chance, came up with Capt. James M.


■ 1


i •


Co. H( War time).

Co. H( Peace).



Co. H (War tiiue).

Co. H (Peace).

New Hampshire Volunteers. 225

Chase, of our regiment, who by some means had, like the
writer, got left, for the regiment had been gone for some
moments ; the captain proposed that we gather up all the
men we could and act as a rear guard, as none seemed to
have been detailed to perform that duty before leaving the
field, and we at once commenced collecting all the men
we could find as we slowly retreated. Our defeat was so
severe and unexpected, and our lack of transportation so
meagre, that we were compelle.d to leave our killed and
most of our wounded in rebel hands. However, we soon
succeeded in stopping and collecting nearly a hundred
soldiers belonging to the different organizations, and
among them we remember the faces of Sergts. Georo;e
F. Robie and James H. Caldwell, of the Seventh New
Hampshire. The captain, as the ranking officer present,
assumed command, dressed the line, and at once advanced
towards the rebel line over a portion of the field which
our defeated troops had just left, until we came upon a
rebel skirmish line slowly but cautiously advancing, and
whose fire we at once received, at which time a Minie ball
struck the captain on the instep of the left foot, but not
disabling him. Noticing a heavy line of battle following
close in the rear of the rebel skirmishers, we had no
alternative but to retreat, which we did, firing as we went,
for nearly half a mile. We had now been under fire
more than three hours, and as the last rays of the setting
sun shone in amonj^st the trunks of those tall old Florida
pines, which sparsely wooded the country around us, we
knew we were the last of our defeated army to leave the
field ; and as darkness was fast coming on, we hurried
along, overtaking the Seventh Regiment, to which we
belonged, although a portion of our mixed command only
succeeded in finding their troops near Sanderson's Station.
The whole command was ordered back as far as Bar-
bour's Plantation that night, the rebels not following us up


226 History of the Seventh Regiment

as closely during the darkness. Had they done so they
might have " gobbled up" a great number of our men. who
were so jaded out that they could not keep up with the
column, and it was a great mistake on their part that they
did not tbllow us very closely as far as Jacksonville.

Regarding the disastrous engagement at Olustee, there
has been but little said res^rdino- the manner in which our
troops were handled. To those who were present and
took part in the battle, and especially those who had been
man}' times under fire and were veterans in service, the
cause was apparent. That the commanding officer did not
observe due caution is an admitted fact. Any general
officer of experience would deplo}' one or two regiments
into line when his skirmishers had developed the even
partial strength of the enemy in his front. This should
have been done as a precautionar}' measure, and should
have been done as soon as the firing on the skirmish line
became at all heavy. This would have prevented any
contusion or excitement in attempting the formation of a
battle line under a heavy fire and almost upon the line
to be assaulted. With such a line already formed, our
troops would have swept over the field, and could have
easily pushed the enemy back beyond the railroad, cap-
turing some of his artiller}', and would undoubtedly have
driven the rebel forces on toward Lake Cit}- ; but this posi-
tion would after a few days have been untenable, owing to
the small force of the Union troops and their distance trom
support, which was sixty miles away. If the movement
was intended for permanent occupation, then the sup-
porting troops, many of which had not even reached
Jacksonville on the date of the battle of Olustee, should
have been at Baldwin's Station, Barbour's, and Sander-
son's ; and, largely, the Florida Central railroad, as far
as Sanderson's, could have been equipped and utilized in
moving our troops and supplies. Under such generals as


New Hampshire Volunteers. 227

Strong and Teny, the results attained by such an expe-
dition would have been tar different and the engagement
at Olustee would have resulted differently. However, we
lost sight of General Seymour after this expedition, and
were never a^rain under his command.

The men who came out of the ficrht at Olustee and who
were so fortunate as to be able to keep up with their
commands during the retreat, will never forget the very
hard march that night back to Barbour's Plantation, with-
out a halt, making a distance marched since morning of
thirty-two miles. Many comrades fell out from sheer
exhaustion and were probably "gobbled up" by the
enemy. The greater part of our wounded, and especially
all of the worst cases, had to be left on the field, very
reluctantly of course, but it was a military necessity.
Some of the less serious cases were helped along until we
could get them on flat cars run up from Jacksonville,
and in some cases the cars had to be pushed by hand.
The whole command arrived at Barbour's about 2 o'clock
on the morning of the 21st, and having crossed the branch
of the St. Mary's River, proceeded at once to occupy the
same ground for camping that they had left the previous
morning. Upon our arrival at this place the troops wtre
about as near "tuckered" as it was possible to be, and
the men were only too glad to throw themselves down
anywhere to rest.

While halted at this place a list of casualties w^as at once
made out. It was found that the loss of the Seventh was
two hundred and nine killed, wounded, and missing, and
of this number eight were officers, one of whom. First
Lieut. George W. Taylor, of Compan}- B, acting adjutant,
was killed. First Lieut. Charles H. Farley, of Company
H, was severely wounded, taken prisoner, and died of
wounds in Lake City four days after. Second Lieut.
True W. Arlin, of Company E, was severely wounded

228 History of the Seventh Regiment

and died on the 23d of ]March following. Second Lieut.
George Roberts, of Company F, was severely wounded
and taken prisoner, and remained in captivity until almost
the close of the war. Capt. Joseph E. Clifford, of Com-
pany C, and First -Lieut. Ferdinand Davis, of Company
D, acting aide-de-camp on the staff of General Hawley,
were both severely wounded, but were not captured.
Capt. James M. Chase, of Company D, and First Lieut.
Robert Burtt, of Company E, were reported slightly
wounded, but remained with the regiment.

Sergt. Otis A. Merrill, of Company H, mentions a
remarkable display of courage and fortitude which he
particularly noticed at the battle of Olustee, by a man by
the name of Heman Maynard, more familiarly known as
" Shaker," of Company C. The sergeant says :

" 'Shaker's' arm was broken and badly shattered, and
he sat down behind a tree and shouted to the men to
' Rally around the flag ! ' One of the men, whose linger
had been shot away, was mourning over his misfortune in
the hearing of ' Shaker,' who laufjhed at him and told
him to look at his (Shaker's) arm. The next morning I
went to the hospital at Barbour's Plantation to see some of
the men, and there found 'Shaker' with his arm in a
slincr, while with the well arm he was assisting to care for
others, and cheerfully said, ' Glad it was no worse I'"

" Shaker" died long ago at Hampton, Va.

We rested at Barbour's Plantation until morning, and
were busily engaged in placing all of our wounded who
had been able to get back with us during the night or
early morning hours, into ambulances and on board cars
which had been pushed up by hand and drawn by horses
and mules from Jacksonville, in case of need, and then
resumed our march towards Baldwin's Station, where we
arrived at noon. Here we stopped to rest a few moments,
and during our halt at this place a large quantity of cotton

New Ha-mpshire Volunteers. 229

and five hundred barrels of resin which had been captured
were ordered to be burned, together with such of our own
stores and government property as it was found impossible
to remove. As we got into line to resume the march, I
think the comrades of our regiment will remember what a
dense, black smoke-cloud the resin and cotton made, so
black, even, that we could not see the sun, although the
day was clear and fine. Each man was here given
ninety rounds of ammunition and as much more as he
chose to carry, in order to save it from being destroyed.

That night we stopped at Baldwin's Station, within eight
miles of the rebel camp, Finnegan, which had, previous to
our advance, been used as a permanent camp, and was
provided with log houses for the use of the garrison,
instead of tents. After a few hours' rest at this place we
again started at daylight on our retreat, arriving at Camp

Online LibraryHenry F. W. LittleThe Seventh Regiment New Hampshire Volunteers in the War of the Rebellion → online text (page 18 of 52)