Henry F. W. Little.

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

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reserve, excepting a few hundred-day regiments, which
had lately joined our forces and had never been under
fire. They were raw, green troops, just from home, and
were in the service for one hundred days onl}-. Those
that we particularly noticed were Ohio troops.

A little later we made the last stand of the day. One
wing of the regiment was deployed as skirmishers, and
one wing (the right) was held in line as support in the
woods between the rebel picket line and their main line of
works, which had that morning been evacuated. In the
rear of the rebel works (which had been partially leveled
by our troops at this place) was an open field. The
enemy advanced across this field on the double-quick,
with their peculiar yell, and opened fire on us as soon as
they reached the line of their main works. A number of
our men were here wounded and some of them mortally.
The regiment stubbornly held its position until about mid-
night, when it was ordered to retire. The casualties for
the day were reported to be twenty-two, of which eight
were killed or mortally wounded.

One particular scene that occurred about the time we
made our last stand that evening, and one that causes us
to smile now as we refer to it, was the manner in which
some of our cooks broke for the rear at that moment.
Just as we had reached the place, in the edge of some
timber, a few of our company cooks had arrived with the
customary two mess-kettles of cofiee, strung on poles and
carried stretcher-fashion by two men. The firing getting
particularly heavy at that moment, they grabbed up their
kettles and broke for safety. I can yet remember how
the spray from those coffee kettles was dashed as high as

New Hampshire Volunteers.


the heads of the men carrying them. As we held the
ground where we then were until after midnight, we saw
no more of our cooks or coffee until near morninfr- We
never thought any the less of them, however, for leaving
us so abruptly under such circumstances, for the}- got into
that scrape before they were aware of the dangerous
proximity of the rebels, and they had, really, no business
there ; but at such times our cooks were generally on
hand with coffee and rations when they thought the regi-
ment could be reached in safety, and the men supplied.

The next morning we were occupying our old picket
line, and found that the rebels had not yet lully occupied
their old earthworks in our front, althouorh there had been
heav}' firing at intervals during the night. Our forces
kept them back nearl}- all day, but it was not a permanent
victory, for they persisted, and tinally reoccupied their
works. We were then again ordered into our trenches,
•as it was feared that in case the rebels succeeded in
retaking their old works, they might feel sufRcientl}' elated
and encouraged to make an assault upon our lines. The
Confederates were at a loss to locate General Grant and
his army, but when he struck the outer line of works
around Petersburg with the advance troops of the Army
of the Potomac, then they located him ; but as a matter of
fact, General Grant " located " himself.

EACH PAf(r JT^XXf j4rS

272 History of the Seventh Regiment













On the morning of the 17th, a division of the Sixth
Corps arrived, and was ordered up to our entrenchments,
as it was expected that the enem}^ might attempt an
assault on our entrenched position. This division was
among the last troops in the Army of the Potomac to
leave the north side of the James River for Petersburg.
In the evening, about 10 o'clock, this division was silently
marched outside our works and formed in three lines of
battle in the open field just in rear of our pickets, their
lines extending nearly the whole width of the field. They
slept on their arms, and just before daylight were quietly
withdrawn. As an assault was not made, they departed
at once for Petersburg to join the rest of their corps.

Those of our men who happened on picket in the open

New Hampshire Volunteers. 273

tield that night expected to see lively work about daylight,
but felt sad tor the troops that were to be engaged.

That the rebels had " lost" Grant may be inferred from
the follow'ing dispatches of the day :

General Lee to General Beauregard :

6 A. M., 17 June, 1S64.
Am delighted at your repulse of enemy. Endeavor to
recover your lines. Can you ascertain anything of Grant's
movements? I am now cut otf' f rom all information. At
II p. M. last night we took the original line of works at
Hewlett's house. . . . Have directed that battery of
heavy artillery re-established and rails replaced on railroad.

General Lee to Superintendent Richmond & Petersburg
railroad :

6 A. M., 17 June, 1864.
Replace the rails and open the road at once.

General Lee to President Davis :

10.30 A. M., 17 June, 1S64.
Pickett's division now occupying trenches from
Hewlett's to front of Clay's. Field's division is on the right,
but I believe whole front of line not reoccupied.
Saw five vessels of enemy sunk in Trent Reach. Behind
lie the monitors. Counted ten steamers within the Reach.
Enemy made two attacks on Beauregard last night, but
were repulsed.

General Lee to General W. H. F. Lee, Malvern Hill :

3.30 p. M., 17 June, 1864.
Push after the enemy and ascertain what has become of
Grant's army.

General Lee to Wade Hampton-:

[No hour given.] 17 June, 1864.
Grant's army is chiefly on south side of James River.


274 History of the Seventh Regiment

General Lee to General Hill :

4.30 p. M., 17 June, 1S64.
As soon as you find Grant has crossed the James, move
up to Chaffin's Bluff and be prepared to cross.

General Lee to President Davis :

5 p. M., 17 June, 1864.
Assaulted and drove enemy- • • • We have now-
entire line, Hewlett's to Dunn's Hill.

The same was repeated to Beauregard at Petersburg,
adding, " All prisoners from Tenth Corps."

The substance of all this was that the rebels had got
back their entire line, but didn't know^ where Grant was.

Having gotten back their line, it would seem that Butler
made preparations to drive them out ; but he got no further
than to mass a considerable force in the open field that
night, ready to go forward at the w^ord, which for some
reason never came.

We have sometimes surmised that this was one of
General Grant's ideas, to make a feint at this point with a
part of the Sixth Corps, to lead the rebels to believe that
the Army of the Potomac w^ould strike here, while he
was gaining time at Petersburg and at the same time
obliging Lee to keep a large force in front of Butler's

The following official report of Lieutenant-Colonel Hen-
derson will be read with interest :

Headql^\rters 7TH N. H. Vols.,
Near Bermuda Hundred, Va., June 17, 1864.

Capt. P. A. Davis, A. A. General, ist Division, loth A. C.
Captain, — I have the honor to submit the following
report of the part taken by the Seventh N. H. \"olunteers
in the action of the i6th :

New Hampshire V^olunteers. 275

At about 7 o'clock a. m. the regiment, together with the
Third New Hampshire, proceeded to the works left by the
enemy in the open held opposite batteries four and live.
At about 8 o'clock the regiment, by order of Brigadier-
General Foster, moved to the right, and then advanced a
considerable distance, formincr line of battle along the
edge of certain woods. Soon after, the regiments were
moved forward on the road leading from Bermuda Hun-
dred to the Richmond and Petersburg turnpike ; advanc-
ing by the right flank along the road, the skirmishers of
the enemy were encountered in the woods near a small
shed. A line of battle was formed, and considerable
skirmishing ensued.

By order of Brigadier-General Foster the regiment was
moved back, first a distance of one hundred yards, and
shortly after, still t'urther back, beyond the ravine, the
enemy's skirmishers following and the enemy appearing
in force, both in front and on the flanks. Remaining in
this position some time, by order of General Foster the
Third New Hampshire moved to the right, and advanced
to connect with the left of Colonel Howell's brigade ; the
Seventh New Hampshire formed on the left of the Third
New Hampshire, and proceeded to engage the enemy, who
appeared in front with a strong skirmish line and indica-
tions of a large force behind it. After about an hour,
the enemy appearing in force on the left flank, by order
of General Foster the regiment was withdrawn a short
distance to a line of rifle-pits abandoned by the enemy ;
after remainincr here a short time, the regiment w-as with-
drawn further to another abandoned line of the enemy's
works, and from thence still further, to the edge of a
piece of woods, where a line of battle was formed, the
right of the Seventh New Hampshire resting on the road,
and joining the left of the Third New Hampshire. In
this position the line was vigorously attacked by the
enemy, but the regiment held its ground. Skirmishing
continued until sunset, at about which time, by order of
General Foster, the regiment was moved to the rebel
works, where it had been stationed early in the morning
as a reserve for that portion of the picket line.

The regiment remained in this place till about i o'clock
A. M. to-day, when it was relieved and returned to camp.

276 History of the Seventh Regiment

I append hereto a list of casualties which occurred
during the day.

I am, Captain,

Very respectfully,

T. A. Henderson,
Lieutenant -Colonel yth Neiu
Hampshire Vols. Commanding.

On this date Asst. Surg. Moses S. Wilson was honor-
ably discharged ; the only other change that had occurred
in the field and staff of the regiment since April i, 1S64,
was the promotion of Private James M. Seavey, of Com-
pany F, to be commissary sergeant, April 12, 1S64.

It was on the evening of this day that the rebels re-
occupied their "gopher-holes" in front of their works,
which was their old picket line. This was the last act
in the reoccupation of their abandoned lines. They first
commenced by sending one or two men at a time ; this, of
course, drew the whole fire of our picket line on these
men, and the chances were that one or both of them
would get hurt before reaching their " gopher-holes."
This was found very unsatisfactory ; and after a short halt
in the proceedings, a long line of men, spread apart like
skirmishers, leaped over their works and ran for the
"holes." It was a race for life. The bullets flew thick
and fast. Many were shot and lay where they fell, and
others fell dead into their "gopher-holes"; but the ma-
jority reached them in safety, and quickly disappeared
from view, lying very low until the leaden storm was
over. Then at intervals a head could be seen looking up
and out. After this matters were more quiet, and there
was very little firing on the picket line. Their pickets
could easily and quietly have taken possession of their
"gopher-holes" at any time after dark, without the loss
of a man, which would have prevented a needless sacrifice
of lives on their part.

New Hampshire Volunteers. 277

On the morning of the i8th, when it was light enough
for the pickets to see each other across the open field, they
opened fire from their "gopher-holes" on the first man
they saw sitting upon our embankment in front of the pit.
We soon found they were not going to be on friendly
terms, for they opened upon every one of our men who in
any way could be seen. Previous to the last few days,
there had been, as a rule, a kind of mutual understanding
between the pickets on both sides not to fire on each other
unless an advance was attempted, and the courtesy had
extended to an almost daily exchange of papers and even
cofi^ee and tobacco. But the}' now opened in earnest and
kept up a steady fire all day, and we had lively times
along the whole line. The rebels charged portions of our
picket line twice in the latter part of the afternoon, but
were handsomely repulsed. A part of the Seventh was
on the picket line at this time in the open field, where the
rebels, late in the afternoon, reinforced their picket line
under rather hazardous circumstances. At first two or
three men jumped over their earthworks, advanced a few
steps, and returned. A few minutes later a strong skir-
mish line appeared, and rapidly advanced until their
picket line was reached. We supposed this w^as the
beginning of an attack, and consequently opened a rapid
fire on them. One officer was seen to fall, and others
were apparently wounded, but the line w^as not stopped.
A few minutes later several men were seen to come out
from their earthworks and carry the wounded officer back.

All troops not on the picket line were under arms all
day in our main line of earthworks. The killed and
mortally wounded during the day were four, besides sev-
eral w^ho were severely wounded, among whom w^ere
First Lieut. William A. Hill, of Company K, who was on
the picket line in the open field, in our rifle-pits. He
was badly wounded in the face, the wound being such as

278 History of the Seventh Regiment

to disfigure him for life, and was never able to ao-ain do
duty with the regiment on account of his wound. He
was a brave officer, and one who never flinched in time
of danger. Second Lieut. Charles A. Lawrence, who
was also severely wounded, was sent to the hospital.

The following dispatches will be read with interest at
this time :

General Lee to Wade Hampton :

18 June, 1S64.

If Sheridan escapes you and gets to his transports at
the White House, lose no time in moving your troops to
our right near Petersburg.

General Lee to General Early :

18 June, 1S64.
Grant in front of Petersburg. Will be opposed there.
Strike as quick as you can.

On the 19th, there w^as considerable tiring on the picket
line. An order was received at this time, giving per-
mission for the transfer of all seamen who might be found
in the army, at their option, to the navy. After such
hardship and exposure, and such constant fighting and
marching as we had seen for the past month, and with
such splendid prospects tor its continuance during the
summer, it was no great wonder that many men of the
regiment imagined that they had been sailors or should
he; and all at once conversation became loaded with sea
phrases, and everything around us seemed to pitch and
roll, besides having a seemingly bad smell of salt water.
But as far as could be learned, very few were transferred
to the navy from our department, and quite naturally the
whilom sailor turned soldier again.

On this date General Butler reorganized the Tenth
Army Corps, and placed it under command of Brig. Gen.
W. T. H. Brooks. It was composed as follows :

New Hampshire Volunteers. 279

First Division: Brig. Gen. A. H. Terry, with three
briiiades, the Second Brigrade being Colonel Hawlev's old
britjade of the Sixth and Seventh Conn. Volunteers and
the Third and Seventh N. H. Volunteers.

Second Division : Brig. Gen. J. W. Turner, with three

Third Division : Brig. Gen. O. S. Ferry, with two
infantry brigades and one of artillery.

Cavalry Division : Brig. Gen. A. V. Kautz, with two

There were also several unassigned cavalry and artillery
detachments and regiments.

On the 20th, a forward movement or an assault on the
enemy's position was surely contemplated, for during the
evening of that day there was a large force massed in the
open field, just in the rear of our pickets ; but no further
movement was made, and the troops were all ordered
back to their camps. During the night a large force was
sent from our vicinity to Petersburg.

On the evening of the 21st, the Seventh had orders to
pack up and move out to the north redan, just outside our
entrenchments, which movement we promptly executed ;
on the 22d, we were ordered back behind our earthworks

President Lincoln and General Butler passed along our
line of heavy earthworks about midday. The president
seemed very much careworn, even to haggardness. The
summer weather had now come on in earnest, and quite
frequently the thermometer stood at 100 degrees. Artil-
lery duels were a daily occurrence, but the firing upon the
picket lines had now almost ceased, and the rebels seemed
contented and happy since they had recovered their lines.
We learned on this date that more troops had been sent
from our forces to some point for special work.

28o History of the Seventh Regiment

On the 25th, another expedition left, and among the
regiments were the Third New Hampshire and Sixth Con-
necticut of our bricrade, who were ordered to Wilcox Land-
ing, down the James River and below City Point, for the
purpose of supporting the embarkation of Sheridan's cav-
alry, who were hard pressed- b}* the enemy. They returned
in the evening, reaching their camp about 9 o'clock.

The Seventh was now allotted the camping-ground
recently occupied by the One Hundredth N. Y. Volun-
teers, which regiment had been sent away upon one of
the recent expeditions sent out from the Army of the
James. We noticed particularlv much heavy firing in the
direction of Petersburg during the 25th and 26th, and also
on the 27th, the firing in that direction was considerable.

Owing to the reinforcements sent to the Army of the
Potomac, and to the various expeditions being continually
sent in different directions, our duty became severe. We
were now on picket every alternate day, and the day
spent in camp was largely spent in erecting shade bowers
over our tents. We found that by taking a little pains we
could make them look beautifully, besides making them
very useful in keeping the sun away from our tents, for we
had "A" tents provided at this place for shelter. About
this time our brigade band was reorganized, and practised
every day in the woods just in rear of our camp. We
shall never forget the clear, cold spring of water in a
ravine back of our camp-ground, the supply being enough
for a whole army. When we came into camp on those hot,
sultry nights, after a twent3 - four hours' turn on picket, it
was a rich treat to get down to that spring and get a good
draught of that pure, cold water ; and no better water
could be found on earth than that from the springs found
in the ravines along the banks of the James River.

There were many places along our picket line where
the videttes thrown tbrward at night would be onlv four or

New Hampshire Volunteers. 281

five rods from those of the enemy, and it sometimes hap-
pened that after a very dark and rain}- night one of these
videttes would find that he occupied one end of a log,
while a rebel would be found at the end opposite, and
both unconscious of each other's presence until the fog
had lifted and daylight appeared. On this part of the
picket line, which was nearest the James River, we often
found in our immediate front the Sixth and Twenty-fifth
North Carolina, with whom we soon got upon good
terms, frequently visiting back and forth on each other's
posts, unbeknown to our officers, as we supposed, trading
jack-knives and such other trinkets as we had about us for
the very best Virginia plug tobacco, which seemed to be
about all the stock in trade that the Confederates owned.
Our pickets soon established a mutual understanding with
those of the enemy, that when their batteries were to
open, they would inform us, that we might resort to cover,
and we returned the compliment in full.

We were stationed most of the time, while doing duty
on this line, at the right, near the banks of the James
River, which was really the pleasantest part of the picket
line. We witnessed some very severe artillery duels dur-
ing these days, as we lay out on the picket line, about
half way between the batteries of the opposing sides ; and
sometimes we were in almost as much danger as though
we had been back at the batteries themselves. We used
to "swap" papers with the rebel pickets, and our men
were always on the alert for the latest news from Rich-
mond. After a time, our men began playing a few of
their Yankee tricks, by taking a large New^ York daily
and tearing the pages oft', making four papers of each
one, which in exchange would bring four Richmond
papers. But the most of us were afterwards ashamed of
such unfairness on the part of our men. One picket post
with which we had traded or exchanged papers, and

282 History of the Seventh Regiment

imposed upon in this way, quietly rebuked us by sending
a man over to us to give us back our parts of newspapers,
as he said they were of no use to them. We at once sup-
plied him with good whole ones, and so keenly felt the
reprimand that none of the comrades who were knowing
to the facts ever afterwards allowed such a breach of
good faith to take place. Our picket line was a long one,
and by changing positions occasionally, as we relieved
the line, we got a change of scenery, which made the
duty much more agreeable. On the right, near the James
River, we had deep, dark, and shady ravines, sometimes
so thickly shaded that the rays of the sun never penetrated
below the tree tops : occasionally a small brooklet, fed by
the overflow of a good, cold spring of water, would wind
its way along the bottom of the ravine towards the river,
and sometimes a brook which had water enough to carry
a mill would be found, as was the case on the extreme
right, in a ravine which was just in front of the tirst two
picket posts on the banks of the James. At these posts
we frequently witnessed a little artillery tiring between the
Howlett House battery on the rebel side, and our monitors
and gunboats in the James River. The heavy guns of the
Howlett House battery were in a position to fire directly
down the river to the advance vessels of our fleet, being
situated at a sharp bend of the river and in a direct line.

Farther towards our left, where we were sometimes
stationed, we found ourselves in piney woods, which had
the appearance of being a second growth of pines upon
old, played-out tobacco lands, and occasionally we came
to timber dotted quite thickly with hard-wood trees, which
showed a stronger and better soil ; still farther to our left,
was a large, open field, part of an old plantadon, and as
we neared the Appomattox, the ravines became more
frequent and their banks more abrupt.

The comrades of the Seventh who did picket duty on

New Hampshire Volunteers. 283

this line in front Of Bermuda Hundred, will all remember
the deep well dug by some of the regiments while on
picket. It was in the woods, about midway between the
large open field and the James River, and was rigged
with a windlass, rope, and bucket. Sometimes we would
find little miniature forts, almost exact in all details and
perfect in construction, that some genius had whiled away
his time upon during the twenty-four hours preceding the
commencement of our tour.

When relieved from one of these tours of picket duty,
we were marched back to our camp, and got food and a
little rest ; at night we were generally ordered into the
trenches under arms, where we got what sleep we could
until 3 o'clock in the morning, when we were awakened
and kept in line until daylight, which was done as a pre-
cautionary measure to prevent any sortie the enemy might
make in the early morning hours, before the break of
day. I hardly think we will ever forget the ludicrous
appearance we must have presented as we stood shivering
in line on some of those cool, foggy mornings until

Dr. Sylvanus Bunton, who had formerly served in the
war as an assistant surgeon of the Second New Hamp-
shire, was appointed assistant surgeon of the Seventh, to
date from June 24, 1S64, and at once reported to the regi-
ment tor duty. Daniel K. White, of Manchester, was
also appointed sutler of the Seventh Regiment, and at
once came to our camp with the usual stock of canned
goods, tobacco, cakes, and cheese. We had been without
a sutler since the regiment was stationed at Fernandina,

Online LibraryHenry F. W. LittleThe Seventh Regiment New Hampshire Volunteers in the War of the Rebellion → online text (page 22 of 52)