Henry F. W. Little.

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

. (page 4 of 52)
Online LibraryHenry F. W. LittleThe Seventh Regiment New Hampshire Volunteers in the War of the Rebellion → online text (page 4 of 52)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

28 History of the Seventh Regiment

placing one foot upon the lower end, bring them down
with a crash that could only have been drowned out by
artillery practice. This noise and din was kept up con-
tinuousl}' until morning, which rendered it wholly impossi-
ble for those who were so inclined, to get a moment's sleep,
although at times it was partially stopped in places by the
officers of the guard, but as soon aS they started for other
portions of the building the disturbance was repeated.

The ne.\t morning, the 13th, we fell into line on the
lower floor, and at 8 o'clock we left the White street
building, bound for Fort Jeflerson, Fla., or Dr}- Tortugas,
as it was sometimes styled, in the Department of the South.
Six companies, B, D, E, H, I, and K, under command of
Col. H, S. Putnam, were ordered to embark on board the
clipper ship " S. R. Mallory," and the other four compa-
nies, A, C, F, and G, under command of Lieut. Col. J. C.
Abbott, were ordered on board the barque "Tycoon,"
and both vessels got under way as soon as possible.

the voyage of the " S. R. MALLORY."

As the ship passed down the harbor, the rigging was
filled with men who were bound to have a last look at the
cit}^ where they had w^iiled away a month of pleasure,
which was vividly remembered during the years that tbl-
lowed. Our ship was a full rigged " clipper," and be-
tween decks bunks had been constructed to accommodate
the men, while the officers were quartered aft in the cabin.
In the morning the weather was cloudy and cool, but at
mid-day it cleared away and the sun came out in all its
glory, followed by a beautiful, bright moonlight, and the
boys enjoyed it immensely by sitting on deck until near
mornine, siniring and storv-telling. We anchored in the
bay at niglit, and in the early hours of morning the jolly
singing of the sailors at the capstans, plainly told us the}'
were weighing anchor and were about to get under way
once more.

New Hampshire Volunteers. 29

On the 14th, the day opened with a fairly smooth sea, and
we sailed along at a fair rate, and still found the weather
cold enough to keep on our overcoats, and the next morn-
ing, the 15th, which was again cloudy and cold, found us
sailing southeasterly with a fair wind. We reached the
Gulf stream about i p. m., and rode at once out from the
cool, frosty air of winter into the atmosphere of mid-
summer, amidst beautiful showers which reminded us very
much of June showers at home. It w^as so warm that
the men found- overcoats uncomfortable, and they were
generally rolled and fastened to the knapsacks or left
down on the bunks, and it was now a common thing to
see the men lounging around on deck, lazily basking in
the sunshine like so many Florida alligators. When we
struck the Gulf stream we experienced squalls which
would set the ship rolling and pitching fearfully at times,
and it was here that many began the very difficult opera-
tion of trying to pull their boots up through their stomachs.

The i6th opened rainy with the ship pitching badly,
and the men now mostly lounged between decks, being so
sea-sick that many could hardly raise their heads from
their knapsacks, which served as pillows. There were a
few^ who were never affected by the pitching and rolling
of- the vessel. Many of us remember the extra rations of
stewed beans and pork we came in contact with by offer-
ing to go up and get the food for sea-sick comrades, and
when it was brought down to them, it was so managed
that a large slice of fat pork lay conspicuously on top of
the plate, the sight of which at once gave the waiter the
beans, and the sick man a severe wrenching.

From the 17th to the 23d we had exceedingly pleasant
weather and a smooth sea with very little wind. And
now that the solid enjoyment of a voyage at sea was immi-
nent, but one thing annoyed us, and that was that with so
little wind we were making but little headway, and we

30 History of the Seventh Regiment

began to be fearful that with so many on board we might
get short of fresh water. Nearly every day we saw large
schools of dolphins, and lots of flying fish, which were
quite a novelty to us " land lubbers," and myriads of ani-
mals floating on the water, which are commonh- known
as " Portugese men-of-war." The 23d was our second
Sabbath at sea, and yet we had got but one breeze for a
week that had amounted to much, and that only lasted for
one day. When we left New York the officers, who
messed with the captain and mates of the ship, had a large
quarter of fresh beef hoisted high up in the rigging, and
we all supposed it would spoil before We were many days
out, but it kept good and sw^eet. It would have been
heavily sampled, however, had not a vigilant guard been
kept over it.

The weather was now terribly warm and sultry.
Everybody appeared to suffer from the heat. A latigue
detail was made each morning to go into the lower hold
and get up water enough to last during the day, and it did
not take long for the boys to discover casks of sugar and
barrels of hams, which belonged to the quartermaster's
stores ; by some means many haversacks of sugar and
not a few of the hams found their way into the bunks of
the soldiers, and were considered a rich treat, inasmuch
as we had been living on hard-tack and coffee, or water,
and one cooked ration of some kind daily, when the cook's
galle}^ could be had for the purpose. But the officers
soon mistrusted that something was up, for the reason that
everybody seemed anxious to volunteer every morning for
that duty, and they soon noticed that each and every-
one carried from one to four haversacks, and sometimes a
man would carry a half-dozen canteens. The}' would
manage to fill the haversacks with sugar, or to put a ham
in one, or fill all their canteens with water — for the water
ration issued was generally a rather small allowance.

New Hampshire Volunteers. 31

Many of us will keep fresh in memory the name of
Private Charles Swain, of Company D, in behalf of the nice
haversacks of sugar and the extra canteens of water with
which he was wont to keep us supplied, for he was bound
to be on the detail to go into the vessel's hold, nearly
every time. Therefore some of us waxed fat on hard-
tack and sugar. But the officers found it out at last, and
had a guard posted each morning down below, and betbre
the detail for water had descended. Then amidships,
between decks, the quartermaster's department had some
barrels of cheese, which thev never once thoujiht would
be meddled with. It had been bought for the officers'
mess, but some of Compan}' D men found it, or smelled
it out, and before the quartermaster had discovered the
theft it had about all disappeared. Of course, nobody
knew an3'thing about it, and an order was issued to search
knapsacks and bunks, and some of the boys of Company
D who had not yet devoured all of their part of it, were
found out and arrested. Com. Sergt. Henrv G. Lowell
figured largely in the affair as a detective. The two men
arrested kept quiet as to the other participants, and were
kept under arrest until the arrival at Fort Jefferson, Fla.,
when they were tried by court martial, convicted by the
evidence adduced, and sentenced to the guard-house for a
time with ball and chain, and a Ibrfeiture of a few months
pay. They happened by chance to get caught, while the
other culprits escaped.

From the 23d to the 25th it w^as very hot and sultry, and
the men suffered very much from the intense heat,
although we got an occasional shower. When we got a
breeze it was invariabl}' a head wind. At other times it
was a dead calm, and the vast expanse of ocean disclosed
to our view seemed more like a reflection in a mirror.
Some days our ship lay perfectly quiet upon the water.
On the 26th the weather changed for a dav, and we had

32 History of the Seventh Regi.ment

rain and squalls, and the vessel pitched badl}^ at times,
and during one of these squalls two barrels which got
loose upon deck came down through the main hatchway,
creating quite a sensation on the lower deck. We passed
a large island on our left, on this day, but near enough to
plainlv see the waves dashing their foaming crests, one
after another, far up on the sandy beach, and we were
near enough, also, to notice a small white village upon the
island, w'hich contrasted strangely with the blue of the
surrounding sea, and the darker hue of the bluffs and
timber ridges of the island. Afterwards, we passed small
islands frequently, until we had passed the celebrated
Bahama Banks, or shoals, through which the channel had
many intricate crooks and windings.

We soon found ourselves goincj through the famous
" Hole in the Wall," off the Bahama Shoals, which was a
deep passage betw^een a long line of huge rocks or boul-
ders, some of which, if there had been any earth upon
them to support vegetation, would have made respectable
" one-horse islands."'

March i. Captain Freschl caught with a hook trailed
astern, two sharks, w'hich were quite a curiosity among
the men. On the 3d, we anchored near a lighthouse, the
water on the banks being so shoal that the skipper pre-
ferred taking daylight for it. Looking over the rail ot the
ship as we floated lazily along, we were astonished at the
depth we could see down into the water, caused, probably,
b}' the coral formation of the bottom, which being much
lighter colored than the water, rendered the sea almost
transparent, enabling us to plainly see schools of different
kinds of fish, with an occasional mountain of coral or a
huge rock coming up nearly out of the water; or at other
times large areas of coral fans, which seemed to us like
looking down from a balloon upon the top of a hardwood
forest. Some days we would pass a number of sails,


New Hampshire Volunteers. 33

headed in different directions, and occasionally a huge
steamer would come into view from some remote quarter of
the horizon, and then as quietly disappear. On the eve-
ning of March 3, when we had anchored near a light-
house, a suspicious looking craft was seen away in the
distance, and the colonelordered the guns loaded as a pre-
cautionary measure, and on the morning of March 4 they
were discharged, which we termed a salute for the anni-
versary of President Lincoln's inauguration. On the 5th
we passed a large brig which had long since been beached,
and had been thoroughly stripped and dismantled by
wreckers ; and we also passed another large light-house.

We had now been out twenty-one da3's, so much longer
than w^e calculated to make the voyage that our stock of
fresh water was getting quite short, and we were put upon
an allowance of one pint per day for each man, besides a
small allowance for cooking purposes. At this allowance
some of the men were disposed to rebel, and at the time
of issuin(r the water ration on the evenino- of the fourth,
a large crowd gathered around the water tanks, and be-
came quite noisy, which called for the prompt action of
the officer of the day, who at once ordered the crowd to
disperse, but no notice was taken of the order, and the
officer of the guard was at once ordered to have the ring-
leaders of the disturbance arrested, which was quickly
done, and several were arrested and put in irons and
placed down between decks, in separate places, and an
armed sentry of the guard placed over each one. Promis-
ing better conduct in the future these men were released
in the morning, and no further trouble was experienced
regarding the water allowance.

The nights were now so sultry that a large portion of
the men slept on deck rather than go below, where the
atmosphere was terribh" close, the only means of ventila-
tion being canvas tubing provided with an elbow at the


History of the Seventh Regiment

end above the deck, which was so fastened as to catch the
wind. We had l>een on l)oard ship now tor so many
da}"y, and in such a crowded condition that the passage
was getting" monotonous in tlie extreme. For a change
the men would occasionallv get some liooks and lines
from the sailors, and liaiting them with salt pork trail them
aft for sharks, and a number were cauo-ht, amono- which
was one quite large, one of the species or varietv knoun
as '* shovel-nose."

March 6 opened ten^ibh' warm with no breeze, conse-
quent! v we lay quietly upon the face of the " mighty
deep."" During the day we saw a lew buttertiies, which
seemed so strangely out of place to ns at this time of the
3'ear. We \\ ere in sight of land all day, and saw a num-
ber of tishing smacks some of which the olficers of the
ship spoke. On the 7th, we passed another lighthouse,
and were sailing under a good bi'eeze, the weather being
at times squally, the wind being so strong that some of
the sails were split into pieces. On the Sth, we had a
strong breeze and were sailing on ditferent tacks, with no
land in sight except a few small islands. We passed Key
West in the distance and in the evening saw Tortugas
Light, and at 2 o'clock on the morning of the 9th, by
some mistake, the ship got last aground on one of the
many sand bars that here intest the channel and about a
mile otTFort Jeflerson, wdiich at daylight we could plamly
see in the distance. We were taken to the fort on hshing
smacks, which were sent out to us for this purpose. We
were happy to be on land once more, ha\ing been on ship-
board twenty-four days. We found that the "Tycoon"'
had got in ahead of us by about a week.

THE passage of the r.ARQj.;E " TYCOON."

At half past seven, Februar}* 13, four companies of the
Seventh Regiment, A, C, F, and G, under command of
Lieut. Col. Joseph C. Abbott, started from the White

New Hampshire Volunteers. 35

street barracks for pier 47, East River, for the purpose
of embarking on the barque " Tycoon," for Fort Jefferson,
Fla. By 9 a. m. they were all aboard, and ever3^thing
being in readiness, they were at once towed down to
Sandy Hook by the steam tug " C. P. Smith," where at
noon on the 14th the}' bade good-bye to the pilot, and
waving a farewell salute to the captain of the tugboat, set
all sail with a light wind from the east-northeast.

On the 17th, Private Thomas K. Heath, of Company
A, died at 9 o'clock p. m. He had been sick since
coming on board, and remained below in his bunk, appar-
ently frightened at the rolling and pitching of the ship.
At last he was brought on deck, where, as soon as he
beheld the broad expanse of water around him, with the
mountainous waves heaving like a seething cauldron, he
seemed so overcome by fright that immediately he sank
upon the deck, and expired within a lew hours. Under
these extraordinar}' circumstances the death of this com-
rade aboard ship seemed a pitiful one. At 10 o'clock on
the morning of the i8th, we gave the bod}' of our soldier
a burial at sea. Having been sewed up in his blanket,
with a sixty-pound shot at the foot, the body was laid
upon a plank and covered with the stars and stripes.
Adjt. Thomas A. Henderson read the beautiful burial
service of the Episcopal church, and at its conclusion, as
he pronounced the " Amen," one end of the plank was
lifted and the body, with a dull splash, passed gently
down into the depths of the " deep, deep sea/' The body
was buried with military honors, and the usual three
volleys were fired over the remains, and the ship, which
had been " hove to " for the performance of the ceremony,
w^as again put upon her course. Of all the burial services
witnessed during the war I think the comrades will all
agree that this burial at sea was far the most impressive.

Head winds prevailed during the larger part of the

36 History of the Seventh Regiment

voyage, and a few sails were sighted belonging to vari-
ous kinds of crafts. Occasionally we would experience
squally weather when it would seem as though we were
experiencing a small hurricane which would burst sud-
denly upon us, causing such pitching and tumbling that it
made lots of fun for the sailors to see the bluecoats go
tumbling around from one side of the barque to the other.
After a tew daj's out, anything for a change seemed good,
if a sail hove in sight, or a porpoise dodged up, or the tin
of a shark was seen, there was a grand rush to the ship's
rail to get a sight at it. When we got down opposite the
southern states there were fears of our being met by some
rebel gunboat, therefore, the men were supplied with
one cartridge and two percussion caps. The comrades
will smile when they read this and think of the one hun-
dred rounds they were compelled to ''tote" around in
after months.

On the 26th, we sighted Abaco Island, and passed the
" Hole in the Wall," and shortly after passed to the north-
ward of St. Andros Island, and a little before midnight we
anchored on the Bahama Banks in thirty fathoms of
water, amidst heavy rain, thunder, and lightning. On the
28th, we sighted Orange Keys, and a little later Double
Headed Shot Keys, where was a lighthouse. The eve-
ning of March i, we saw Sand Key Light, fifteen miles
away, and earl}' the next morning saw Tortugas L-ight,
eighteen miles distant, and soon after received a pilot on
board, who took us within a mile of Fort Jefferson, where
we anchored, and after being boarded by the inspecting
officers of the fort we were taken ashore on fishing
smacks, having been seventeen and one half days on the

The voyage of the " Tycoon" had not been as long as
that of the " Mallory," but had been every bit as tedious.
After we had been out about a week a case of small-pox

New Hampshire Volunteers. 37

was discovered in Company G, and soon after another
case was found, but the disease was not pronounced small-
pox by the surgeons at that time for some reasons, and it
was not until we had landed that the surgeons made it
known that the disease discovered was the much dreaded
small-pox. It seemed the more serious, however, as
between decks fom- hundred men had been closely
crowded, and of course, had been exposed to the disease.
It was at one time surmised that the disease was yellow
fever, but happily, such was not the case.

38 History of the Seventh Regiment






Dry Tortugas Island, one of the Florida Ke3's, upon
which was situated Fort Jefferson, was at this time the
principal depot for the distribution of rations and munitions
of war to the forts and military posts at the South. Large
quantities of these articles were here collected, and it was
for the purpose of guarding these stores that the Seventh
was stationed at this desolate spot, which has since been
fitly used as a safe depository for prisoners condemned to
hard labor or long confinement.

The regiment was now together again, and Colonel
Putnam at once assumed command of the post. Besides
the Seventh New Hampshire there was Company M of the
First U. S. Artillery, under Capt. and Bvt. Maj. Loomis
L. Langdon, and three companies, B, I, and K, of the
celebrated "Billy Wilson's Zouaves" Sixth N. Y. Volun-
teers, stationed here. This post w^as in the Department
of the South, and under the command of Brig. Gen. John
M. Brannan, who was stationed at Key West, Fla., and
to him Colonel Putnam at once reported.

About March 12, the men were all ordered to be vac-
cinated as a preventative of small-pox, which was now be-
ginning to show itself, especially among the men who had

New Hampshire Volunteers. 39

been exposed on the " Tycoon," and a hospital was estab-
lished over on Bird Key, a low flat island composed
mostly of white sand, with scarcely a shrub upon it.
When a comrade was taken sick and ordered into hospital
on that God-forsaken patch of sand, about three miles
from the fort, and took leave of his comrades, as they
tenderlv helped him aboard the little boat which was to
convey him over, and carefully placed his knapsack and
other personal eff"ects beside him, it must have seemed like
forever leaving the world behind ; yet the disease proved
fatal in only about one fifth of the cases ordered there.
It is said that the action of the ocean has entirely
changed the position of this island, and that the graves
were long since washed away, and the sad thought often
occurs that these lonely graves were never decorated on
Memorial Day.

March 14, there was an inspection by Brigadier-General
Brannan. The weather was terribl}' warm, and the rays
of the sun seemed scorching hot, which tended to make
the inspection tedious. When otY duty the men busied
themselves by watching for vessels entering the port,
viewing the inside of the fort, and rowing for exercise,
for there were numerous boats about the fort. It was a
novel si^rht to us to notice the workmen around the fort
with straw or palm-leaf hats, and clad in linen suits. Es-
pecially did it seem so at this time of the year, when we
remembered that the homes we had left scarcely two
months before were yet snow-bound. We had a cocoanut
grove inside the fort and several clumps of mesquite
bushes. The cocoas were quite a novelty to us and were
handsome trees.

The three companies of " Billy Wilson's Zouaves," sta-
tioned here, soon left us to join the remainder of their
regiment near Pensacola, Fla. These Zouaves were truly
a hard looking crowd, and though they took kindly to our

40 History of the Seventh Regiment

volunteers they always took every occasion to anno_y the
regulars, even putting themselves to considerable incon-
venience to do so.

The moonlight at night was ver}- bright and the men
enjoyed these evenings ver}- much. Almost the finest
print could be easily read, so strong was the light from the
moon when at its full. Occasionall}' some of the men
would busy themselves when otT duty by fishing from the
piers which were built on the channel side of the fort, and
we smile as we remember with what untiring energy and
persistency^ some of our men would sit in the hot sun all
da}^ long on the corner of a pier and scarcely have a bite
at their hook, and we often wondered where the pleasure
came in. At this post were stored quite a number of
beeves, and many swine, which were kept upon one of the
islands nearest the fort, called " Hog Island," and we can
remember how we enjoyed the fun of seeing the cattle
swim the channel between the fort and the island, with a
hawser fastened to each horn for safety, should the ani-
mal be in danger of drowning.

A detail of men was made tVom the regulars and from
our regiment who butchered twice each week, thus
furnishing the troops with fresh meat, and two or three
fishermen, who resided in the fort and who owned small
fishing smacks, were employed to catch fish for the garri-
son ; therefore we had plenty of fresh fish whenever our com-
pany fund had increased in sufficient quantity to warrant
the outlav. Compan}^ funds were created by receiving
commutation for any rations that we did not care to draw
from the commissary, on the regular requisitions, and for
which the compan}^ could be credited and the money value
drawn therefor by the commanding officer of the com-
panv, and which could be used at his discretion in buying
fish or an}^ other article of food which might be desired,
and which was not issued by the government. We prob-

New Hampshire Volunteers. 41

ably had our requisitions more fully filled, and the rations
were undoubtedh^ of a better quality at Fort Jet^erson,
than at any other time during our service, but of course
we could hardh' expect as much when in the field, where
we were subject to being almost constantly on the move.
Occasionally a squad of men in some compan}' would get
a pass and a boat, and of an evening go over to Sand Key
after gulls' eggs, of which they found many, sometimes
procuring as many as a barrel at a single trip. We then
had eggs in a plentiful suppl}^ for a da}- or two, and had
them cooked in as many different ways as our cooks could

After we got tired of the egg business we made trips in
boats to the same place for the celebrated Logger-head
turtles, taking one of the fishermen with us in order that
we might learn how to capture them. We hardly ever
came back without two or three turtles, and we could keep
those we did not wish to use immediately, until wanted, by
making a pen with stakes and planks in the breakwater or
ditch just outside the walls of the ibrt. Sometimes we
would sell them to the officers' mess or to some other com-

Online LibraryHenry F. W. LittleThe Seventh Regiment New Hampshire Volunteers in the War of the Rebellion → online text (page 4 of 52)