Henry F. W. Little.

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

. (page 21 of 52)
Online LibraryHenry F. W. LittleThe Seventh Regiment New Hampshire Volunteers in the War of the Rebellion → online text (page 21 of 52)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook









The re-enlisted men of the Seventh, who had been
enjoying their furlough in New Hampshire, reported, with
few exceptions, as they had been ordered to do, on May
3, at the military barracks in Concord, N. H., where the
furloughs were gathered up as the men passed through
the entrance to the grounds. Those who did not report at
this rendezvous at the appointed time were to be consid-
ered deserters, unless a good reason could be furnished
for not doing so. Here rations were issued, and at 3


258 History op^ the Seventh Regiment

o'clock p. M. a train was in readiness at the depot, aboard
of which they were ordered, and immediately started for
New London, Conn. Again it became a painful duty to
bid their families and friends " good bye," but the}- assured
them that as certain as they had returned to them at this
time, so surely would they return to them at the termina-
tion of the w^ar, or at the expiration of this, their second
enlistment for three years. But little did the}' know, as
they uttered those assurances, that nearh^ one half of
these men who " veteranized" were destined never to see
their New Ensland homes again. The train made no
stops at stations along the route, except for the purpose of
changing engines ov^er the different roads ; the}' arrived at
New London about midnight, and at once w^ent aboard the
steamboat " City of New London," which was to convey
them to Jersey City, where they were at once transferred
by the steam tug " S. A. Stevens" to the steam transport
" Ashland," which w^as to take them to Fortress Monroe,
for they were to go to Virginia, where the regiment was
now stationed. They found this transport a very dirty, as
well as a shaky old craft, and w^ell crowded, as there were
about five hundred men on board belonging to various
regiments, on their way towards the front.

At 6 o'clock on the morning of the 6th, they arrived off
Fortress Monroe, but, for some reason, were obliged to
remain aboard of the crazy old craft until noon, when they
were ordered on board the " Ben Deford," under orders to
proceed at once up the James River : at 4 o'clock the next
morning they w'ere moving gracefully up the river, passing
at short intervals many fine mansions, which, from their
quaint style of architecture and the size of the shade trees
that ornamented the beautiful grounds surrounding them,
must also have been cozy places nearly a century ago.
They greatly enjoyed the ride up the James River, noting
all places of interest and passing an occasional gunboat

New Hampshire Volunteers. 259

stationed at some convenient point along the river. At 5
o'clock in the afternoon they arrived at Bermuda Hundred,
and at once went ashore and camped on the banks of the
river for the night. The}' lay in camp at this place, doing
nothing, until the nth, as there were no arms ready for
them or to be had at this place ; but during this time
they were detailed for fatigue duty in the quartermaster's
department, and were set at \york unloading government
stores from barges and schooners. While they were
encamped at Bermuda Hundred Landing, many wounded
were brought down to the hospital boats, and among them
some from the Seventh. It was while at this place that
many of the men were badly troubled with diarrhcea, owing
to using river water, as we have alwa3's supposed. Almost
every day could be heard the artiller}- firing at the tront,
and we well knew that something unusual was (foincr on.

On the 1 6th, very heavy firing was again heard at the
front, and during the day a lot of rebel prisoners were
sent down to the Landing, and placed aboard transports,
under a heavy guard, for the purpose of being sent back
to the prison-camp. That night the men were ordered to
join the regiment, and after marching until nearly midnight,
camped in a tract of piney woods near the road until
daylight, when they resumed their march, reaching the
regiment about .9 o'clock the next morning, and found the
men all in good spirits and momentarily expecting them.
The}' were just in from the attack at Drury's Bluff.

Upon arriving at the headquarters of the regiment, the
re-enlisted men had Springfield rifled muskets issued to
them, with equipments, and were once again on a war
footing ; and the regiment was augmented in numbers.
On the iSth, the regiment was ordered on fatigue duty at
the entrenchments, but during the day the firing on the
picket line became so heavy that we were ordered into
line under arms, and were placed in the trenches : at

26o History of the Seventh Regiment

nightfall the Seventh was placed on the picket line.
This kind of duty caused us to be on the advanced line
every alternate day, and during the night and da}- spent
in camp we were often called out under arms — some-
times from three to five times during a night and often two
or three times during the daytime. Ever}^ day there was
considerable tiring along the picket line, and many little
skirmishes and assaults from both sides of the line. It
frequently happened that we would be ordered into the
trenches for the night, to be in readiness to repel a night
attack of the enemy, and at such times all the sleep we
could get was taken with our equipments on ; it was
amusing to see the men crowding onto the highest knolls
or bunches of earth at the entrenchments, to keep out of
the pools of water which would till the trenches on the
nights when it rained hardest, which it frequently did at
this season of the year. After such severe drenchings it
invariably took us all the next day to get our clothes dried
upon us, for a change was out of the question.

In the immediate front of our brifrade, and in front of
our works, was a large, open field, flanked right and left
by woods. The rebels occupied the farther side of this
field, and had erected works similar to our own, though
far less formidable. This open field was debatable ground,
and artillery duels across this open ground were of fre-
quent occurrence and became daily affairs, but were devoid
of interest to any except the gunners themselves. On this
field the rebels would frequently charge our picket line,
take a few prisoners, and hold it until our forces, a few
hours later, charged the line, and recovered the lost
ground and re-established our pickets.

May 20, Colonel Howell's brigade of our division charged
the rebel earthworks, and captured a rebel battery of six
guns and about two hundred prisoners, including a Major-
General Walker, of South Carolina, in full uniform. Our

New Hampshire Volunteers.


picket line ran through the centre of this field from north
to south, and the rebels had established their pickets in
our immediate front. On either side of this large field the
woods gave a good opportunity to either army to make
small flank movements and capture a few pickets.

The camp of our brigade was just in rear of this open
field, and when the artillery opened, the rebel shells went
through our camp, spoiling our tents, in some cases almost
obliterating them, and causincr the men to hustle into the
trenches at double-quick ; but after a time our camp was
moved farther to the right and near the banks of the


GAP, VA. — ar:\iv of the JA.MES.

James Ri\'er, and the pickets of our brigade extended
from the James River through the woods and into the open
field. Here our camp was not shelled, and we could rest
in quiet whenever ofl' duty.

May 26, a detail for fatigue was sent to our regiment,
calling for three hundred men, which we could not exactly
fill, as we had less than that number fit for duty at that

The Army of the James was largel}- reduced in numbers
on the 28th, by detaching a portion of the Eighteenth
Army Corps, which was commanded by Maj. Gen. \V. F.

262 History of the Seventh Regiment

Smith, to reinforce the Army of the Potomac, which was
then at Cold Harbor, under General Grant. This decima-
tion left the Army of the James in so weak a condition,
numerically, that General Butler could do no more than
hold his position, not attempting any aggressive movement

Among the troops thus detached were the Fifty-iifth,
Seventy-sixth, and Ninety-seventh Penn. Volunteers ; the
Forty-seventh and Forty-eighth N. Y. Volunteers ; the
Eighth and Ninth Me. Volunteers ; the Fourth New
Hampshire, and the Fortieth Massachusetts. These
troops had served with us in the Department of the South,
and at the formation of the Army of the James had been
placed in the Eighteenth Army Corps.

On the morning of June 2, at 3 o'clock, the rebels
opened their batteries in front of our brigade and in the
farther edge of the open field, which at once brought us
up I'rom the mud of the trenches into line ; at daylight
they made a spirited attack on our pickets, flanking a
portion of the line in the open field, and captured about
one hundred and fifty of the Seventh Conn. Volunteers —
including, among other ofiicers. Major Santbrd, of that
regiment — who were occupying the picket line exactly
in front of us. The enemy continued to hold this por-
tion of our picket line until afternoon, when our batteries
opened heavily for about a half-hour and then became
silent. A battalion of the Third New Hampshire had
been ordered out to the picket line under Capt. William
H. Maxwell ; and a few moments after our batteries
ceased firing we heard cheering and musketry firing, and
soon learned that the battalion from the Third had recap-
tured the portion of the line lost in the early morning,
taking a number of the pickets prisoners — said to be about
twenty-five — and killing a rebel colonel, whose body was
brought into our lines. A heavy picket firing was then

New Hampshire Volunteers. 263

kept up on both sides until dark, when the volleys became
heavier, and the contest was thus tiercely kept up until
mornincT and durinjj the next forenoon. A detail from the
Seventh was on picket in the open field where the firing
was heaviest, and was kept up during the day.

In the afternoon a detail in charge of Second Lieut.
Charles A. Lawrence, of Company D, of which detail the
writer of this was one, was sent out to the picket line with
axes, for the purpose of felling some tall trees just in the
rear of our line at the edge of the woods, as they had
afibrded protection to the rebel sharpshooters ; but upon
reaching the line we found General Terry already upon
the ground. He at once countermanded the order, as he
thought it would draw the concentrated fire from their bat-
teries to our picket line in our immediate front, which had
just been re-established, and he wished to entrench at once
in order to be better able to hold the line. That night we
again manned the trenches, and got completely drowned
out, for it rained hard all night, and we had no shelter
of any kind except what protection our rubber blankets

Those of our regiment who were on picket during the
night of the 7th were privileged to witness a beautiful dis-
play of Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights), the first we
had noticed since leaving New Hampshire, and they were
a pleasant reminder of home.

May 31, and for a few days after, both by night and
day, we often heard heavy firing off in the direction of the
armies of Generals Grant and Lee when in the vicinity of
Cold Harbor ; and we recall one night in particular, about
the 7th of June, from the sound which came to our ears,
it would seem that numerous assaults were being made,
one after another, and the heavy and almost continuous
roar of musketry, interspersed with artillery, was not
unlike that of distant thunder.

264 History of the Seventh Rp:giment

On the evening of June 8, we were quietly relieved
from duty on the picket line, and upon reaching camp
were ordered to take two days' rations, and start at 9
o'clock that evening for the south side of the Appomattox,
under command of General Gillmore. At 10 o'clock we
marched over a wet and muddy road to Broadway Land-
ing on the Appomattox, and crossed that river about 3
o'clock the next morning on a pontoon bridge, in the rear
of the left of our lines. After crossingr vve rested about an
hour to give the artiller}' and ammunition train time to get
over, that they might not be too far away when wanted,
and then started in the direction of Petersburg. After
marching a few miles we encountered the pickets of the
enemy, and steadil}' drove them towards their heavy
works, which it was the intention of our commander to
assault, and if the works were carried, to march directly
on to the city ; but for some reason the assault was aban-
doned, and after skirmishing about through the brush and
woods until noon, we had orders to retire, being told at
the time that the object of the expedition had been accom-
plished ; about sunset we recrossed the Appomattox and
returned to the camp we had left the day before, reach-
ing there about 8 o'clock p. m., prett}' well dragged out,
for on the return trip we were kept constantly moving.
We had been on picket the previous twenty-four hours,
with little or no sleep, before leaving camp for this expe-
dition, and for the last twenty-four hours without any
sleep and on our feet most of the time, making a total of
forty-eight hours of continuous service under arms.

The comrades who took part in this expedition towards
Petersburg will remember how the countrv through which
our rovite lay was conspicuously dotted by occasional
stacks of chimneys, where the residences of planters had
formerly stood — burned, we were informed at the time, b}''
Union cavalry during a former raid — which gave the

Co. K (War time).


Co. K (Poafe).

Co. K.

Co. B.

New Hampshire Volunteers. 265

country through which we marched the appearance, at this
time, of ahnost a barren waste. But such is war, and a
" military necessity" atones for it all. The failure of the
expedition to capture Petersburg at this particular time
was wholly owing to the inadequate force under General
Gillmore. Even had we assaulted and carried the first
line of works, we had no support with which to follow up
the advantages we could have gained. With one whole
army corps, or even tw^o divisions, there is no doubt but
that General Gillmore could have gone into Petersburg
that day. Instead, however, the expedition consisted of
not over two brigades of white troops and one brigade of
colored troops, with one battery for each brigade and the
cavahy under General Kautz. The cavalry did the main
part of the service of the day, and it is said that they
actually dashed into the outer streets of Petersburg. It
seems, by some misunderstanding, that the dash of the
cavalry and the movement of the infantry part of the force
were not simultaneous, and the little expedition failed of
its purpose, but it is a somewhat unsettled question as to
the exact purpose. However, it is a well known fact that
at that time there were no troops in and around the imme-
diate vicinity of Petersburg : as Grant was at that time
on the north side of the James, Lee could not transfer
any of the troops composing the Army of Northern Vir-
ginia for the relief of the city, and the only troops of the
Confederates that w^ere available were those under Beau-
regard and Whiting in North Carolina and southern \"ir-
ginia. It has been said that General Bfutler severely cen-
sured General Gillmore for the failure of the expedition,
and on the 14th relieved him from the command of the
Tenth Army Corps.

The following report of Colonel Abbott will be found
interesting regarding this expedition :

266 History of the Seventh Regiment

Headquarters 7th N. H. Vols.,
Bermuda Hundred, Va., June lo, 1864.

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

Sir, — I have the honor to submit the following report
of the part taken by my regiment in the reconnoissance of
the 9th instant :

I moved from camp at about 10 o'clock p. m. of the 8th
instant, and occupying the right of Hawley's brigade,
marched towards the Appomattox. I reached and crossed
the pontoon bridge a little before 3 o'clock a. m. of the
9th, when a halt was ordered. At about 4 o'clock a. m.
the march was resumed, on the road towards Petersburg.
Other troops were in advance of me. Nothing worthy of
note occurred until the column had advanced about five
miles, wdien the cavalry, which was in advance, encoun-
tered the enemy's pickets. This was not far from 7 o'clock
a. m. By order of Colonel Hawley, my regiment was
deployed in line of battle, and preceded by skirmishers
from the Seventh Conn. Volunteers, advanced across an
open field. The enemy's skirmishers retired, and by
order of Colonel Hawley, I returned my regiment to the
road, and proceeded through a belt of woods, across the
Petersburg & City Point railroad, down a slight ravine,
and came into an open meadow which extended for half
a mile on the right of the road, while on the left of the
road was partly open field and partly wood. The road
here took a southerly direction. I was first directed by
Colonel Haw^ley to form a line of battle on each side of
the road and at right angles with it, which I did ; but soon
after passing about five hundred yards from the edge of
the woods, I was ordered to halt. At the point where I
halted there were thick woods on the left and the meadow
above mentioned on the right of the road. This position
I occupied until about 12 o'clock m. On the left of the
road, at the distance of about five hundred yards, was an
earthwork, from which spherical case shot and canister
were occasionally thrown, but with little effect. At about
12 IM., receiving the order to retire, I proceeded back on
the road, followed by the skirmishers. I halted a short
time where the enemy's pickets were first encountered,
and then with several halts returned to the Appomattox.

New Hampshire Volunteers. 267

I arrived at the bridge at about 7 o'clock p. .m. After a
brief halt at this point I crossed and returned to camp,
where I arrived about 8 o'clock p. m. My casualties in
tlie reconnoissance were : wounded, two.
I am. Lieutenant,

Very respectfully,

Jos. C. Abbott,
Colonel yth JVezu Hampshire Volunteers.

After resting a couple of days, and in the mean time
taking occasion to fix up our camp so it would present a
more comfortable appearance, at least, we were again
ordered on picket duty. Nearly all day of the 14th and
15th, Grant's army, or the Army of the Potomac, was
passing in rear of our camps, and marching to the left
towards Petersburg. On the 15th, there were rumors of
General Grant's presence at our department headquarters,
and that he was really moving his whole army to the south
side of the Appomattox, which proved to be true, for on
the next day, at the usual hour for turning out into the
trenches, we heard heavy firing in the direction of Peters-
burg, and soon found out that a portion of the Army of
the Potomac had really crossed the James and Appomattox
Rivers in the rear of our position during the night, and
were already advancing on Petersburg.

In the morning, as soon as it became light enough for
us to see the rebel rifle-pits and entrenchments, we ascer-
tained that they had been silently evacuated during the
night, as those forces were the nearest available troops the
enemy could get into the defenses around Petersburg at
the shortest notice. So quietly had they left their works
that the most vigilant of our pickets only discovered their
absence at daylight. The official report of Gen. R. S.
Foster, who had command of the troops engaged on this
day, says that the information of the evacuation of the
earthworks in our front was conveyed to him about 4

268 History of the Seventh Regiment

o'clock A. M., but no move was made until long after sun-
rise. Then came the orders for us to advance, and with
the Third New Hampshire we marched out to the open field
in our front, and pushed on over their abandoned works,
leaving a few regiments of hundred-da}- men to level the
earthworks while we made for their second line, which was
also found abandoned ; again we kept on, with a heav}-
line of skirmishers cautiousl}' thrown out in advance, until
near the Richmond and Petersburg turnpike we found
them in force, and soon became convinced that we had
run against the advance guard of Lee's Army of Northern
Virginia, hurrying on to Petersburg. That portion of our
brigade which consisted of the Third and Seventh N. H.
Volunteers, which were at the front at this time, was com-
manded by Lieut. Col. Thomas A. Henderson, of the
Seventh. As soon as we struck the enemy, we at once
engaged them, and heavy skirmishing commenced ; but
as their forces were all the while pressing up to the assist-
ance of their adx^ance, our small force was driven slowly
back toward the rebel entrenchments, which we had first
occupied in the early morning, but we disputed every inch
of the way. We were kept out at this place until i o'clock
the next morninor, at which time we were ordered into
our camp, behind our earthworks which we had left in
the morning ; but we had already reoccupied and estab-
lished our old picket line.

The force we had struck so suddenU' near the turnpike
proved to be Pickett's division, of Longstreet's corps, of
Lee's army, on its wa}' to the assistance of General Beaure-
gard, and backed b}' the whole Army of Northern Virginia.
Beauregard was in command of the Confederate forces in
Butler's front and also of the defenses of Petersburg.
However, we had the satisfaction of knowing afterwards
that we had in this spirited fight, in which our loss had
been considerable, especially in wounded, held in check

Co. H.

New Hampshire Volunteers. 269

nearly all clay the main column of the enemy in their
transit from the north side of the James to the south side
of the Appomattox, an affair in which less than four full
brigades participated. A portion of the troops engaged
tore up a section of the Richmond & Petersburg railroad.

We reached our most advanced position about noon.
We were in the edge of a piece of woods, and in our front
was an open iield, while to the right and front was a
young growth of wood. The bullets were whizzing fast
about our heads when the order came for us to advance
across the held ; as we moved to execute this order, the
fire of the enemy increased, wounding some of our men,
and when we had nearly reached the woods on the oppo-
site side of the field, we could see the enemy at our right
in a long line of battle in the young growth of wood, their
colors and the heads of their men being in sight in places
where the growth of wood was not as tall. The right of
their line that was in sight was within rifle range. Before
we came to a halt, we were ordered to about face and
return to the cover of the woods we had left, where we
lay on the ground for some time. While in this position
a young soldier of Company B was instantly killed, and
others were wounded.

I think the men who were with the regiment at this
time will well remember the stand our little brigade made
just at dark and just before we got back to the rebel
earthworks, which we had let't the hundred-day men to
level that morning. The regiment was in line of battle,
with the right resting on the road leading from Bermuda
Hundred to the Richmond and Petersburg turnpike. In
less time than it takes to write it, the writer noticed several
men wounded in his immediate vicinity, and casualties all
along the line were frequent at that time ; for we were
receiving a severe fire, and only for our stubborn front the
rebs would have charged our line. But finding us so

270 History of the Seventh Regiment

bold, they supposed we had a heavy reserve, while the
facts were that twelve thousand live hundred men from the
Arm}^ of the James had been sent to reinforce the Army
of the Potomac and had not yet returned, and we had no

Online LibraryHenry F. W. LittleThe Seventh Regiment New Hampshire Volunteers in the War of the Rebellion → online text (page 21 of 52)