Henry F. W. Little.

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

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peculiar red clay, which was harder and firmer than the
ground around an old brickyard. But the men toiled on,
and the earthworks quickl}- assumed fair proportions.

The cold spring water which we found at this place was
a real treat, especially to those men who had so long
been drinking the warm, brackish water of the more
southern states. These cold springs were situated in deep
ravines extending back from the James River, which were
often from thirty to sevent3 - five feet deep, the overflow
from these springs often supplying the water for a small
brook. A little Scotchman in Company H described his
pleasure in the tbllowing words : "I found a clear, spark-
ling brook, and when I saw the pure, cold water running
over the pebbles, it fairly made the tears come to my eyes
when I found I had no canteen to put it in."

On the morning of the 9th, the Tenth and Eighteenth
Army Corps again advanced, this time reaching the Rich-
mond & Petersburg: railroad, which for a loner distance
was rendered useless by tearing up the rails, piling the
ties with the rails on top, and setting them on fire-: when
the rails were thoroughly heated, they were crooked in
all conceivable shapes.

At daylight the regiment fell into line in light marching
order, with two days" rations in the haversacks. About 7

244 History of the Seventh Regiment

o'clock we marched with the brigade toward Chester
Station on the Richmond & Petersburg raih'oad, arriving
there about noon. We were then marched toward Peters-
burg, but our advance was somewhat slow, as there was
heavy skirmishing in our front all day. We reached Port
Walthall Junction at about 2 o'clock p. m., and were
stationed where the turnpike crosses the railroad ; there
we stacked arms and bivouacked for the night.

On the morning of the loth, the regiment was ordered
to tear up a lot of railroad track. A break was made in
the track, and the men were stationed along the side of
the road, with their muskets slung over their backs ; then
the track and sleepers were lifted at a given signal,
and turned over in about the same manner that a plow
turns over a furrow of greensward. Orders soon came
for the regiment to march along the turnpike toward
Richmond, word having reached us that the Confederates
were moving down in our rear, and a portion of our troops
were already engaged in the battle of Lempster Hill.

When we arrived on the field near Chester Station,
heavy skirmishing was going on to the left of the road.
General Terry rode up and called for the Seventh New
Hampshire, and told Lieutenant-Colonel Henderson to
take his regiment to the extreme left of the line, upon
a small elevation, with instructions to hold the position as
long as possible. Colonel Hawley had been suddenly
taken sick and Colonel Abbott was in command of the
brigade, and the command of the regiment devolved upon
Lieutenant-Colonel Henderson. With a cheer the regi-
ment tiled to the left on the double-quick. The troops
already engaged were drawn up in line at right angles to
the Richmond and Petersburg turnpike, and were at this
time in a young growth of scrub oaks and other timber,
which were from three to ten feet tall, and were meeting
with varying success, advancing and retreating several

New Hampshire Volunteers. 245

times throuo-h this vouncj (vj-o\vth of trees, but were con-
stantly righting ; in their rear was a hirge open field, in
which the most of the movements of the regiment were
made. After lihng out of the road, we formed a line of
battle behind a rail fence in the edge of the woods ; then
pulling down the fence, we advanced into the open field,
passing a section of artiller}', and changed front to the
right for the purpose of supporting our forces in front and
at the same time be in a position to defend the left flank.
The rebels brought a field-piece into position on some
rising ground across a valley on our left flank, and com-
menced to shell us, but without injury, as their shots were
fired high. At the same time a large force of the enemy
were seen forming in the edge of the woods for the
purpose of attacking our flank. The regiment at once
changed front to the left to meet this attack, and after
tearing down one or two fences to allows any changes of
position that might be required, we took position in a lane
behind a "Virginia rail fence" in season to receive the
attack of the Confederates. They advanced, driving in
our skirmishers. We opened fire on their lines, and
quickly sent them back into the woods. The enemv were
now^ forcing our main lines back so that the}' were on a
line with the right of our regiment, which again changed
front to support them, but the rebels were driven back
without our help. Then the body of Confederates on our
left flank, seeing our changed position, again advanced,
but were greeted with cheers by the regiment, which
again resumed its position behind the fence, and had just
lain down on the ground when the advancing enemy
opened fire upon us, killing and wounding a few of our
men. As soon as their volley was over, we returned their
fire, which at once checked their advance and sent them
back in confusion, our regiment meanwhile cheering lustily
as they disappeared in the woods. The bod}' of the

246 History of the Seventh Regiment



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New Hampshire Volunteers. 247

enem}^ which attacked us appeared to be about one thou-
sand strong, while the number of our regiment engaged
was about two hundred and seventy-tive.

We saw many of the enemy fall, and it was reported
that they had a colonel killed. However, the attack was
not again renewed by them, and we remained in undis-
puted possession of the field until withdrawn with other
troops from the position. x-\s we were passing a battery
stationed near us on our way to the rear, they loudly
cheered the regiment and said they " never saw a regi-
ment do better. General Terry said, as we passed him
on the lield, " They can"t throw Olustee in your faces any

For its conduct on that dav the regiment was compli-
mented on the field by General Terry, the division com-
mander, and especial credit was awarded to Lieutenant-
Colonel Henderson for his coolness and determination.
At the close of this action the Seventh again returned to
camp near Ware Bottom Church. Thus ended the battle
of Lempster Hill. During the past two days the men had
suffered much from sunstroke.

The advance upon Drury's Blufi' was commenced on the
1 2th, and by a circuitous route the advance works of the
enemy were reached. This was on Thursday, and the
regiment bivouacked for the night on the west side of the
Richmond and Petersburg turnpike, near a place called
Purdy's. On the morning of the 13th, the Tenth Corps
made a long detour to the left, crossing the railroad at the
junction of the Richmond & Petersburg railroad with the
Clover Hill railroad, and moving on to Chester Court
House. An outpost of the enemy, captured at this place,
gave information of the position of the rebels, which
proved to be directly in front and strongly entrenched. It
was here, about 2 o'clock in the afternoon, that the Third
New Hampshire made a desperate and bloody charge.

248 History of the Seventh Regimext

The Seventh was formed in line with fixed bayonets for
the purpose of charging the Confederate works in our
immediate front, which were on quite high ground. The
trees had been cut away tor nearly a hundred yards in
front of the works. While waiting for the order to
assault, the hea\y tiring of the Third New Hampshire
was heard on our left, and in a few moments we were
ordered on the double-quick to their support. At the
same time the Fourth New Hampshire made a terriJic
charge on our right (the rebel left).

The regiment was again formed in line to charjre the
rebel works, but as the enemy had left their works, we
were happily relieved of this duty. We were then ordered
on the skirmish line, which was advanced to the railroad,
where a continuous firing was kept up. The men who
were on the railroad will not forget the many trains that
came down from Richmond heavily loaded with Confed-
erate troops. We held our position till late in the evening,
when the regiment was relieved and ordered back to rifle-
pits on the hill, where they bivouacked for the night.

The Eighteenth Corps captured the entire right of the
line the same evening, and the rebels were at once forced
back upon their works at Fort Darling, and the first line
of the outer defenses of Richmond were secured in our
immediate front. On Saturday, the 14th, we had rations

The next morning the regiment was again ordered to
the front, and drove the enemy out of their rifle-pits and
through the woods and across an open field. We advanced
to the edge of the woods, where we lay on the ground
nearly all day. While in this position we were much
annoyed by a squad of Confederates, who were concealed
in some wooden buildings which were within easy rifle
range of our line. Their fire became so hot that Colonel
Hawle3^'s attention was called to their menacing position ;

New Hampshire Volunteers. 249

and after examining the situation, he at once sent an aide
to bring up a piece of light artillery. A lieutenant came
with it, and Colonel Hawle}' ordered him to fire the
buildings. The lieutenant at once trained his piece in
that direction, and the first shot went through one of the
buildings. The second set it on fire and drove the rebels
away from 'it, but the artiller}' drew such a hot fire from
the enemy's skirmishers that the lieutenant of the battery
soon ordered the piece removed, as it could ser\'e no
further good ,by remaining.

In the afternoon our skirmishers pushed the rebel skir-
mish line back on their entrenched batteries, and we then
advanced out of the woods and formed a line in the open
field tor the purpose, apparently, of assaulting their works.
Their batteries now opened a rapid fire on us, but the
officers and men of the reo[iment w'ere as cool as if on
parade, and formed the line with as much precision.
With the caution to " dress on the colors," we advanced
across an open field, cheering as we went, to the top of a
low- ridge in a clover field, where we were ordered to lie
down. The enem}- continued to shell us until after dark,
when they made an attack on us with their infantry, some
of them advancing to within fifty or sixt}^ yards of our
lines, but the}' were quickly driven back. Between 8 and
9 o'clock p. M. the Seventh was relieved by the Third
N. H. Volunteers, and we were ordered to the rear,
back of the woods. The loss of the regiment during the
day was considerable, one company, H, having six men

Sergeant Merrill, of Compan}- H, reports the following
incident which occurred during that day :

"After the regiment had advanced across the open field
and had lain down on the ridge in the clover field, many
of the men dug holes with their bavonets and tin plates,
throwing the earth up in front for a slight protection for

250 History of the Seventh Regiment

their heads against the stray bullets that occasionally went
past us with a ' ping.' The sergeant, having got his hole
dug, placed in it a pillow of green clover, lay down with
his head in the hole on the clover, about sunset, and at
once went to sleep amidst the noise and din of cannon and
bursting shells, for the men were very tired and sleepy ;
the next thing he remembered was that another com-
rade of his company, by the name of Lovering, w^ho had
stood beside him all day in the front rank, was kicking
him and at the same time saying, ' Merrill, are you dead?
If you are not, get up here ; t!ie rebels are right on top of
us I They are right there — don't 3'ou see them ? I
thought you were dead !' "

However, before the sergeant could get onto his feet,
the rebels had commenced to retreat, yet some of them
were less than a hundred yards distant and still firing at
our line. Those were the last words spoken by Comrade
Lovering to Sergeant Merrill, and probably the last ever
spoken by him, for he was at that instant shot through the
windpipe in the throat, although the sergeant did not know
it at the time, as it was then quite dark : but he thought it
was very strange that Comrade Lovering should leave the
ranks and walk off without speaking to anyone. A few
days later it was reported to the company that Comrade
Lovering had died at Fortress Monroe, of gangrene in his

On the 15th, which was Sunday, the firing and sharp-
shooting was very heavy along a portion of the line, and
all day long, in plain sight of our outposts, long trains of
cars loaded with troops would come down the railroad as
far as they dared, unload their troops, and go back for
another load ; through this channel the rebels in our
immediate tVont were reinforced, and this was reported by
Lieut. W. F. Spaulding, of Company C, to the brigade
officer of the day, but no notice seemed to be taken of it.

New Ha.mpshire Volunteers. 251

All day Sunday the Seventh was stationed where they
had bivouacked the night before, verv near to the extreme
lelt of General Butler's battle line. Monday mornino-,
jNIay 16, opened with a fog so dense that we could hardly
see the third man on our right or left, and quite earl}^ we
heard tremendous volleys of musketry aw^ay on our right.
We concluded that a charge was to be made along the
whole line, as a portion of our brigade had already
received orders to prepare to assault the enemy's works.
We soon got orders, however, to move by the right flank
at a double-quick and report to General Smith of the
Eighteenth Army Corps, and we hurried across fields and
patches of woodland for this purpose.

While in one of these wooded sections we heard cheer-
ing in our front, as we were then marching by the right
flank. Colonel Abbott at once called out, " Cheers,
boys," and we started to give them with a will, but
quickly stopped as the cheering regiment opened fire on
us, supposing our regiment to be the enemy in their
immediate rear ; but happily their fire was high, and only
four of our men were wounded. Only one volley was
fired, as the mistake was almost instantly discovered. We
proceeded on our course until we came to the Richmond
and Petersburg turnpike, where we were formed in line
with several other regiments at right angles with and
directly across the roadway, just in front of a large, old-
fashioned dwelling known as the Half-Way House. Our
regiment occupied the right of the line. We were to
cover the falling back of our forces to the line of the
Bermuda Hundred defenses. We remained here until
everything had been safely removed to the rear, and just
betbre we began to tall back as rear-guard, the rebels
placed tw^o pieces of light artillery in the road in our front
and commenced shelling us. It was not pleasant to stand
there on that large open plain, and watch those rebel

252 History of the Seventh Regiment

artillerymen load and fire their pieces, and see with each
puff of smoke the shells come directly toward us : but w^e
had not long to endure this, as a battery of our rifled
artillery on a hill in our rear soon opened upon them,
which caused the "Johnnies " to quickly limber up their
pieces and get to the rear. Our loss on the retreat was
only one man.

We now learned that the rebels had made a flank move-
ment under cover of the dense fog then prevailing, moving
a large force to the right and rear, and had also fiercely
assaulted the right of our lines, which were held by the
Eighteenth Corps, and which extended to the banks of the
James River; the}' were partially successful, capturing
General Heckman and nearl}' the whole of his brigade.
The enemy at this moment pressed heavily upon our lines
from the front, and there was no alternative but to draw
back our lines, which movement was at once ordered, and
was no sooner perceived by the enemy than the}- brought
a Ibrce around our left flank and charged us in the rear :
this movement was quickly discovered by General Terry,
who rode along the line callino- for the Third New
Hampshire : nobly they responded, for the rebel charge
was at once checked, and our lines were thus allowed to
fall back slowly, fighting as they went, until they reached
their former works in front of Bermuda Hundred, where
we arrix'ed at dark.

It is said that Generals Gillmore and Smith advised
General Butler to ibrtify his position in the immediate
front of Fort Darlincr, durino- the Sunday that we lay near
their w^orks, but nothing was done. It would have enabled
us to hold what we had already gained by such hard fight-
ingr, for then we should have held or at least covered the
railroad from Richmond to Petersburg. But General
Butler said, " No, I am going right into Richmond," and
took no lurther notice of their advice. One thing is cer-

New Hampshire Volunteers.


tain, however, that some time at'terwards, when he did not
get into Richmond, he cleverly managed to get first one
and then the other of these generals relieved of their com-
mands under him. Any comrades of the Seventh who
fully understood the situation and were present at the
time, will fully appreciate the truthfulness of General
Grant's remark about General Butler being "bottled up"
at Bermuda Hundred, for we surely were in a very
awkward position.



In the battles of Lempster Hill and Chester Station,
and in the advance on Drury's Blufi^ the loss in the
Seventh had been considerable. Among the officers, Capt.
Charles Hooper, of Company A, was wounded on the
1 6th, and First Lieut. Heber J. Davis, of Compan}^ B,
who was serving as an aide-de-camp on Colonel Hawlev's
staff, was severely wounded on the 14th ; a full list and

254 History of the Seventh Regiment

record of all the casualties among the enlisted men will
be found in the appended regimental roster.

The only change which had occurred among the officers
of the regiment since leaving Florida, was the muster-out
of Second Lieut, Francis Lovejoy, of Company H, who
was honorably discharged on surgeon's certificate of dis-
ability, to date April 28, 1S64.

On the 17th. we were set at work on our breastworks,
making them much stronger, and building a series of
strong forts just outside our main works, and at short
intervals, from the James River to the Appomattox. The
rebels at the same time established their line of pickets
directly in front of our own line, and in some places
within a stone's throw of our posts, and farther back in
their rear they were very busy constructing a strong line
of heavy earthworks, parallel to those which were con-
structed by the Army of the James.

The following official report of Colonel Abbott will be
found very interesting, and is accurate in all its details :

Headql'arters 7th N. H. Vols.,
Bermuda Hundred, Va., May 17. 1S64.

Lieut. E. Lewis Moore, A. A. General :

Sir, — I have the honor to submit the following report of
the part taken by my regiment in the late expediton, com-
mencing on Thursday, jNIay 12, and closing on Monda}',
May 16 :

On Thursday, May 12, under command of Lieutenant-
Colonel Henderson, the regiment marched to the place
known as Purdy's, on the turnpike, and there bivouacked :
at that place I joined it during the night. The next
morning. May 13, I marched towards Chester Station,
passed it, crossed the railroad, and proceeded in the
direction of Chester Court House ; thence turning towards
the right, again approached the railroad and a rebel
earthwork, which it was proposed to assault. By order
of Colonel Hawley, commanding the Second Brigade,

New Hampshire A'olunteers. 255

Terry's division, I took position fronting the eartliwork,
in order to support a battery. While in that position, the
assault on that work was commenced on my left, and I
was ordered to support it. I accordingly moved in that
direction, across a small stream, and passed up towards
the earthwork and took position in the edge of the woods
fronting it. I there met the Third Regiment N. H. ^"ol-
unteers fallincj back. An assault havino; been made on
the opposite side of the work, and the Seventh Conn.
Volunteers having come up on my left, an advance was
made, and it was ascertained that the works had already
been evacuated.

I was ordered by Brigadier-General Terry to proceed
into a piece of wood, and from its edge obtain a flanking
lire on a battery posted in a field about six hundred yards
from the earthwork. I at once proceeded, skirmishing
through the wood, and reached a point opposite where the
battery was posted, and found that it had retired within an
earthwork. I then sent forward skirmishers to examine
the earthwork, and ascertained that it contained three
pieces of artillery, supported by intantry. I then called
in the skirmishers to the railroad, and remained until
about 10 o'clock p. m., when I was relieved, and returned
within the entrenchments for the night.

The next da}'. May 14, I occupied a portion of the front
of the whole line of Terry's division, which had been
advanced about a mile to the eastward. This position was
directly in front of a stronor earthwork. During the after-
noon the line was advanced within two hundred and fifty
yards of the earthwork, and at that point I held a position
on the left of the Seventh Conn. Volunteers. The firing,
both from artillery and musketry, was constant : after
dark my position was assaulted by a heavy iorce which was
handsomely repelled. By order of Colonel Hawley, hav-
incr been relieved by the Third N. H. Volunteers, I
withdrew, about S o'clock p. m., to a field four or five
hundred yards in the rear, where the command rested
until daylight on the morning of the i6th. At that time
heavy firing was heard on the extreme right of the
Eighteenth Corps, \vhich gradually extended along the
whole line to our front, and I received orders to form
line of battle and advance toward the earthwork already

256 History of the Seventh Regiment

spoken of. For about an hour I occupied a position in
the edtje of the wood frontincj the work, when I was
detached from the Second Brigade, with orders to report
to Major-General Smith, at the Half-Way House on the
turnpike. On the way thither I met General Smith, who
ordered me to take a position in the woods in front of
where I then was. I had hardly reached the position
when I was tired into from the rear by our own troops,
and had one otiicer and three men wounded. I then
moved to a point near the Halt-Way House, and was
ordered by General Smith to take command of the Tenth
N. H. Volunteers and a section of a battery, and hold the
approach by the turnpike. Soon after, by order of Gen-
eral Smith, the Tenth New Hampshire was withdrawn to
the right; and it being reported by the officer command-
ing the skirmish line that the enemy was forming a heav}^
line on m}^ left, I reported the fact to General Terry, who
very soon sent Colonel Plaisted, commanding the Third
Brigade of his division, with two regiments to strengthen
the position. I remained at the Half-Way House, in the
position which I iirst occupied, until about 3 o'clock p. m.,
when I withdrew, by order of General Terry, on the turn-
pike, and thence retired within the entrenchments.

Of the conduct of my command, both officers and men,
during this expedition, I desire to speak with more than
ordinary emphasis. Although the command was in almost
constant service for live days, with unusual exposure, with
short rations, and much of, the time under severe tire, I
know of few, if any, instances of orders which were not
obeyed with cheerfulness and alacrity. And in all cases
when exposed to the lire of the enem\% the command
behaved with the coolness and bravery becoming soldiers.
I have the honor to be.

With great respect,

Your obedient servant,

Jos. C. Abbott,
Colonel jth Nezu Hampshire Volunteers.




Co. I.

Co. I.

Co. K.

Co. K.

New Hampshire Volunteers. 257





Online LibraryHenry F. W. LittleThe Seventh Regiment New Hampshire Volunteers in the War of the Rebellion → online text (page 20 of 52)