Henry F. W. Little.

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

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pany, or to some of the workmen on the fort, for there
were at this time about two hundred civilian workmen em-
ployed by government in different places about the fort,
which was not 3'et fully completed.

Logger-head turtles were of a very large variety, and
were nice to eat. Often from one fair sized turtle we
would get a washtub half lull of eggs, but we never rel-
ished them very well as they had an oily taste we did not
fancy. We remember a ver}^ large turtle which some of
the men of Compan}' G brought in early one morning,
and having no pen to put him in, they bored a large hole
through the after part of his top shell, and fastened one
end of a large rope to him, making the other tast to a
huge stake. Of course everybod}- admired him during

42 History of the Seventh Regiment

the clay, but the next morning he had disappeared, — gone
to sea, for aught his owners knew, and the rope had the
appearance of being gnawed oft'. No one would throw
any light upon the subject, and we very much doubt, at
this late day, if anyone living can solve the problem, ex-
cepting those by whom it was eaten. These turtles are
very stout and quite heavy to handle, sometimes taking as
many as two or three men to turn them upon their backs,
— as that is the only way they can be eftectually handled.
A man can step upon the back of one, and the turtle will
move along by his flukes as though he had no load at all.
They are very vicious, and will easily snap a broomstick
in pieces with their jaws.

Therefore, with plenty of turtle steaks and soups, fresh
eggs, and fish chowders, we drew less rations from gov-
ernment and managed to lay the foundation of a fund in
the different companies which, properly handled by the
officers, would prove of much benefit to the men in after

About the lOth of May, the supply steamer "General
Meiggs " came in from New York with hospital stores,
and among other articles were five thousand crutches.
Nearly every day something in the shape of a steamer or
sailing vessel arrived with mail, stores, equipments, or
stone, bricks, or lumber for the fort, or with shot and
shells for the magazines, or departed with mail, coal, or
naval stores for the vessels belonging to the Gulf squadron.

Soon after our arrival at Fort Jefferson we commenced
a series of drills, which in the extreme heat of the climate
seemed very hard to endure. Besides the drill as infantry
we were thoroughly instructed in the tactics of heavy ar-
tillery, under the inmiediate supervision of the officers of
the regular battery M, of the First U. S. Artillery, until we
were quite proficient in the practice of target firing. It
was a change from the infantry drill to which we had

New Ha-mpshire Volunteers. 43

become so well accustomed, and we readily took to it until
nearly every sergeant and corporal in the regiment, who
acted as gunner, could smash the target, which would be
anchored a mile away. And to this day I fancy I can
hear ringing in my ears the solid command of " In bat-
thery ! " from brave little Ned Cahill, of Company M, First
U. S. Artillery, who instructed my particular squad in the
first exercises on those eight and ten-inch columbiads.

We had two sutlers' stores in the fort, one belonging to
our regiment and the other belonging to the post. These
sutlers' stores were great places for the men to congre-
gate of an evening, and when the crowd was large it was
not an uncommon thing to see plugs of tobacco, boxes of
sardines, raisins, herrings, and canned goods of differ-
ent kinds passing along through the crowd until somebody
outside could reach them, and then disappear.

One dark evening as the writer of this was making his
way through the door of the post sutler's store, he was
suddenly confronted by a soldier with a large pineapple
cheese, who, placing it in our hands, commanded us to
" git," which we did in double-quick order. By his voice
w^e recognized the man to be Swain, of Company D. We
retained our grip upon the cheese, however, to the benefit
of the company larder.

The larger part of the fresh water used in the fort was
made from the sea-water with the aid of condensers, al-
though by arrangements purposely made, much of the
rain that fell about the fort was, by a system of gutters,
run into underground tanks or cisterns, where it was kept
under lock and key, for the use of the officers' quarters,
and tasted so much better than the condensed that it was
considered a rich treat when the men could occasionally
find the pump left unlocked and confiscate a gallon or
two, although the condensed water was undoubtedly better
for most purposes and purer. From the condensers the

44 History of the Seventh Regiment

water was run into large vats built partly under ground,
and when one compartment was filled the stream was
changed to another, in order to allow that in the first to
cool, and sometimes they got ahead on the supply so that
the water would not be used from some of the vats for a
week or two, and when issued would be found ver}^ full of
little wigglers ; and when the rations of water, which con-
sisted of a gallon per day for each man, were issued to the
different companies, it was conveyed to the cook-house,
where it was filtered throucrh a fine strainer into the
water barrel : and at times we have seen it so bad that a
quart of the water would pan out a half-pint of wigglers.
But we got used to it, and after a time thought nothing of
it. In order to supply the fort, two large condensers or
boilers w^ere kept running night and da}', and while we
were at this post two much larger ones were procured
and placed in position ; while these new condensers
were being put in readiness for use, a supply of water was
brought in casks by vessels, and was so thick and ropy
that it was very disagreeable to use.

The climate here was such that the utmost precaution
was necessary to prevent stores or provisions from getting
spoiled. At one time a board of survey was convened,
which condemned fifteen hundred hams belonging to the
commissary stores, which were taken out into the channel
and left as food for the sharks with which the deep water
around the fort was infested. When storing flour, which
w^as done in large quantities, the precaution w^as taken to
dip each barrel into the salt water, and the results were
found to be very favorable for its preservation.

At first a few of the companies were quartered in tents
on the crround inside the fort but were afterwards moved
into bastions of the fort where the men constructed board
bunks, a straw mattress was provided, and a mosquito
net or bar was issued to each man, which was suspended

New Hampshire Volunteers. 45

from the four corner posts of the bunk, and was a much
needed acquisition, for in all our wanderings we never
found the equal of those long-billed insects, known as
•' bull mosquitos of Southern Florida."

After we had got fairly settled down at this post a large
detail was made each day for the purpose of mounting
some heavy new gunS which were being brought b}^
steamers, and First Lieut. Wm. C. Knowlton, of Com-
pany D, was detailed to take charge of the men, the
whole being under the supervision of the engineer in
charge. Captain Todd, of the Topographical Engineers,
of the regular army. Lieutenant Knowlton being a
practical mechanic, seemed especially adapted for this
work and was equal to the occasion. He also had charge
of unloading and moving the huge condensers to their
hnal position, and performed this ditficult duty to the sat-
isfaction of Captain Todd, who complimented him upon
his efficiency. As a practical mechanic, Lieutenant
Knowlton had tew^ equals. This fatigue work was very
laborious, and an order was issued allow'ing the men thus
detailed a ration of one gill of whiskey twice each day,
and was given when the men were marched up for dinner
and supper, the commissary sergeant, who was a regular,
issuing it from a pail by the use of a gill measure, or cup.
The men would drink and fall out, commencing on the
right, and when unobserved by the sergeant, would
" scoot" around to the left, fall into line, and get a double
ration, and sometimes a triple one. But alter a time the
sergeant found the left of his line grew and detected the
trick, and at once put a stop to it. An officer to get the
start of all the ingenious tricks that were plied, had to get
up earlv and stay up late, and he needed to look tour
ways at once.

We remember the commissary kept his whiskey in one
of the lower casemates, which had been litted up with a

46 History of the Seventh Regiment

door and was kept locked. One day Private Swain, of
Company D, happened to be in the casemate above, and
looking down through one of the ventilating holes left in
the arch, for the purpose of carrying away the dense
smoke when the guns were used, he saw that the barrel
and faucet were almost directly beneath. So procuring
some fish-hooks and lines he low^ered them through the
hole, and hooked tliem to the bail of the pail beneath
the faucet, and would raise it to the ceiling where, with a
rubber drinking tube, he would fill a few canteens and
then lower it to its place ; for the sergeant in charge would
often leave the pail half full, after giving out the whiskey
rations to the fatigue details. The game was played for
quite a time and was only detected at last by the sergeant
coming to the room one dav while Sw^ain was at work, as
usual, filling several canteens, who, hearing the ke}' turn
in the lock, at once dropped pail, lines and all, and
quickly cleared out, and the sergeant was not swift enough
to detect him.

At another time he found out that where they stored the
flour in long tiers, three or four barrels high, they left a
narrow passage between the tiers and the brick walls of
the fort, and getting in the passage he took out the head
of one barrel and brought the flour in sacks to his com-
pany cook-house, and then another barrel went the same
way, and a third was started, when someone belonging to
the quartermaster's or commissary's department happened
through behind the barrels and discovered what was going
on, but the culprit was not detected ; and that particular
company to which Swain belonged, rolled up a fair com-
pany fund while using flour freely for slapjacks, dough-
nuts, dumplings, dufts, and puddings.

Among other grotesque and funny characters in our
regiment was Ebenezer Buck, of Company C, a genuine
New Hampshire Yankee, who was either always in

New Hampshire Volunteers. 47

trouble of some kind up to his eyes, or getting the best of
some comrade, which latter he would enjoy hugely.
While at this post, for some offense, he was ordered to
wheel a certain pile of bricks in a barrow from one part
of the fort to another, and being an old man was ordered
not to load too heavy, and w^as allowed to rest often. One
Corporal Shannon, of the same Company C, was detailed
to superintend the carrying out of the order. Now, we
have always supposed that he ow^ed Corporal Shannon a
small grudge, which he was determined to pay with inter-
est at the tirst opportunity. He began his work by putting
onlv three bricks on the barrows and resting nearly every
half-rod, but finding that at that rate the job w^ould not be
of long duration, he reduced his loads to one brick each,
and shortened the distance between rests, the result of
which was that it took him a full day to perform the
amount of labor which could have been performed in an
hour, much to the discomfiture of Corporal Shannon, who
was compelled to travel back and forth with the old
man all da}-, to see that the orders for disciplining him
were carried out.

x^t another time he was for some reason placed in the
guard-house, and at " breakfast call" the sergeant of the
guard, who was then on duty, sent a member of the guard
with him to his compan}- cook-house for breakfast.
While there he gave the guard the slip, and kept out of
sight all day and far into the night, until he got so hun-
gry he could stand it no longer, when he came to the
cook-house for food and w^as again arrested. But he
seemed well pleased wuth his day's work, having, as he
said, " tuckered out " three reliefs who had hunted for
him, but who failed to discover his hole — and the fort
was full of just such places.

Comrade Levi T. Woodman, of Company H, was de-
tailed as a carpenter in the quartermasters department.

48 History of the Seventh Regiment

while at this post, and a portion of his time was occupied
in making the common rough coffins or boxes which the
United States Government furnished at all garrisons and
posts where troops were stationed ; at one time, when
the small-pox was raging fearfully, the surgeon came to
him one night and ordered three coffins to be finished by
morning. So our comrade just spread himself and got
them completed, but in the morning only two were taken
awav, and the third one was laid away as a spare one on
hand, w'hen one day the particular man for whom it was
made, appeared and claimed it as lawfully and rightfully
his, but as he could not get it into his knapsack he wisely
concluded to let it remain in the store-house.

William Mason, of Company D, was detailed in the
quartermaster's department as armorer, to repair the small
arms at this post, and the repairs on our Enfield rifled
muskets, and the re-bronzing of the barrels and bands as
thev became worn, was a work of no small magnitude.
He was afterw^ards detailed to run one of the condensers,
for supplying fresh water to the post.

While here Capt. Jesse E. George, of Company C, and
First Lieut. David B. Currier, of Company B, sent in
their resignations which were accepted, and the}' left us
for the North, and near this time about thirty enlisted men
were also discharged on surgeon's certificate of disabilit}^.
Owing to these resignations First Lieut. Jerome B. House,
of Company C, was promoted captain of that company,
and Second Lieut. Samuel Williams was promoted to
first lieutenant, and First Sergt. Andrew J. Lane was pro-
moted to second lieutenant, while in Company B, Second
Lieut. Ezra Davis was promoted to first lieutenant, and
Sergt. George W. Tajdor was promoted to second lieu-

Man}^ of the men gathered conch and other sea-shells
and coral, and sent them home to New Hampshire as



New Hampshire Volunteers.


curiosities. Very large conch shells could be obtained in
the surrounding waters, and the shells were generally-
buried for a number of da3's until the conch became de-
cayed enough to be taken out of the shell, then the
shells were scraped and whitened and finished or polished
and sent north in boxes or barrels, with coral and various
kinds of shells, by freight or express to friends. The
stench arising from these decayed conchs inside the fort
was almost unbearable, and the men brought in so many
that as a last resort Colonel Putnam issued an order for-
bidding the bringing inside the fort of any more conchs,
and such instructions were issued to the officer of the day,
who in turn had the guards instructed to that effect. A
few da3's after this order was issued it came the turn of
Capt. Joseph Freschl to be officer of the day, and the
captain, who was an x\ustrian, and noted for the rather
comical way in which he sometimes expressed himself in
English, had the sentry w^ho was posted at the sally-port
duh' instructed, and during the forenoon a big, strapping
fellow belonging to Company C approached the sally-port
with a conch of immense size in his hand, and was
promptly stopped by the sentry, who at once called the
sergeant of the guard, and the sergeant seeing the officer
of the day approaching, asked him what he should do
with the man. " Put him in ze guard-house," replied the
captain. '* But," said the sergeant, " what shall I do
with the conch?" The little captain, casting a withering
look at the sergeant, thundered out, "Put him in ze guard-
house, conch and all," and the culprit was duly placed
under guard, and one more conch got past the sentry and
inside the fort. It leaked out in a short time and caused
considerable mirth among the officers, and it was some
time before the little captain could be convinced that the
I'oke was on him. But the men had the privilege of cur-
ing their conchs outside the fort, if they chose.


50 History of the Seventh Regiment

At the time the Seventh Regiment hmded at Fort Jef-
ferson, there was confined in one of the cells of the guard-
room, on one side of the sally-port, a powerfully built
man, who had been a corporal and afterwards a first ser-
geant of the U. S. Marine Corps, and regarding whose
imprisonment but little was known, and which seemed
shrouded in mystery. Every survivor of the Seventh
who was at this post will remember the man and will be
interested in knowing, even at this late day, such facts
and circumstances as could be gathered regarding him..
He received his food from the cooks of Batter\- M, First
U. S. Artillery, to which battery he was assigned for ra-

His name was William Toornes, and he seems to have
disappeared in a mysterious manner, there being no ex-
isting records of his having served his sentence or that
he died during his confinement. He seemed a very intel-
ligent person and appeared well read in military matters.

Under date of November i6, 1892, Headquarters U. S.
Marine Corps, Washington, D. C, a communication from
Col. Charles Hevwood, in relation to the late Corp.
William Toomes, U. S. Marine Corps, was received, as
follows :

'• It appears that this man was tried by a general court
martial in the autumn of 1861, upon charges of a treason-
able character (the exact wording of the charges I am
unable to find), and was sentenced to be confined in the
penitentiary in this district, until February 27, 1865, that
being the expiration of his term of enlistment, but the
place of confinement was changed by order of the secre-
tary of the navy, and Toomes was sent to the Tortugas,
where it was supposed he served his sentence, as no trace
of him appears on the records of these headquarters after
he was transferred to Brooklyn for shipment to the Tor-
tugas. His place of nativity was Wells, King William
County, Virginia."

New Hampshire Volunteers. 51

Col. Loomis L. Langdon, First U. S. Artillery, who
was stationed at Fort Jefferson in command of Battery M,
First U. S. Artillery-, when the Seventh arrived, writes
regarding the prisoner as follows :

" I remember the man of whom vou write. I had joined
at Tortugas some months before the Seventh New
Hampshire arrived. I found the man there then, and the
orders were very strict with reference to him. No one
was allowed to speak to him-, nor was he allowed to speak
to anyone. I understood that he had been sentenced to
solitary confinement for life, and his off'ense was supposed
to have been treason against the government, to carry out
which all the more effectually, it was said, he had enlisted
in the Marine corps, and worked his way up to be first
sergeant. Every day he was taken out for a walk two or
three times around the fort, on the sea-wall. lie looked
to me to be a man of superior intelligence to the average
sergeant. I left the post in June, 1862, and the man was
still there. I returned to that post in 1872, ten years after
— and the man had gone — but where, I never could
learn. I searched the post records, but those had been
carelessly kept, and I could find no trace of him, his
name, or his offense."

June 6, Maj. D. Agreda, inspector-general of the depart-
ment, inspected the garrison and post, in a most thorough
manner. During this month a malignant tvpe of typhoid
fever made sad havqc among us, and again Bird Key
hospital was crowded, and it seemed for a time that our
ranks would be sadly decimated before we should fight
our first battle. The weather was getting very warm, and
the days were uncomtortablv hot, the thermometer often
showing no to 116 degrees in the shade, before noon.

Bird Key, where our hospital was situated, one of the
six Tortugas islands, was simply a sand-bar in the sea,
about one hundred rods long and twenty rods wide. A

52 History of the Seventh Regiment

portion of this sand-bar was covered with small bushes
about as high as a man's waist, and a few tufts of coarse
grass were seen in spots ; the rest of the island w^as a
dry, white coral sand. No part of the island was more
than three feet above the water level at high tide, while
the most of it was not over one foot. This coral sand was
very coarse and the water swashed through it as easily as
it would through sawdust. When the sea was rough the
position on that sand-bar w^as not an enviable one,
especially in stormy weather, when it seemed as though
the waves would overwhelm it. The island had been
used for a burial place of such soldiers and sailors as had
died at Fort Jefferson hospital previous to the arrival of
the Seventh N. H. Volunteers. The first patient sent to
this island from the Seventh was from Company C, and
was the one who contracted small-pox in New York, and
was sick when the "Tycoon" arrived at Fort Jefferson.
Company C was quartered while on the " Tycoon " in
what was know^n as the " mess room," which was just
large enough to accommodate one company, hence as he
was sick in quarters none but men of Company C came in
contact W'ith him after the disease showed itself, and as a
fortunate result the malady did not spread beyond that
company, but for this extraordinary circumstance the
other companies of the detachment must have suffered
from this much dreaded disease. The medical officer,
Asst. Surg. Henry Boynton, did not report to anyone
but Lieutenant-Colonel Abbott, on board the " T^-coon,"
therefore when the barque arrived at Fort Jefferson, not
a soul except these two officers knew that small-pox had
broken out among the men.

But few of the men had been vaccinated before leaving
Camp Hale, and it was but reasonable to expect that large
numbers of them must come down with the disease after
the troops were landed ; as soon as it became known

New Hampshire Volunteers. 53

that small-pox had broken out, it created quite a commo-
tion among the garrison and the workmen at the fort, and
the small-pox hospital at Bird Key was at once estab-
lished, Assistant Surgeon Boynton was detailed to take
charge, and a few nurses and assistants were detailed
to go there with him. The only shade that could be pro-
vided was that atlbrded by the "A" tents allotted tor this
purpose, which were pitched upon the highest part of the
island. Every day when the condition of the sea would
admit, a boat was sent to the island with water and pro-
visions, but on one or two occasions the supply boat could
not get to the island for a period of two days, and on one of
these occasions the patients were without water for twenty-
four hours. The tropical sun was almost vertically over-
head, and the heat w^as intense, the thermometer often
standing at 100 in the shade.

There were forty-eight cases of small-pox, in all, sent to
this hospital, of which ten died and were buried there, and
a large number of those wdio survived were soon after dis-
charged and never returned to the regiment. The death-
rate was smaller than could at that time be shown by the
records of an\' small-pox hospital on land, in the world,
but this unprecedented fact w^as no doubt owing largelv to
the fact that the men were practically at sea all the time
and were in the open air day and night. Two soldiers
who died at the post hospital at Fort Jefferson, from other
causes, were brought over and buried on Bird Key during
the epidemic.

This collection of sand islands called Tortugas Keys
was composed of Garden Key, upon which was built Fort
JelTerson, which covered the whole Key, except a small
sand-bar outside the fort, where was situated the post hos-
pital. The other islands were named East Key, Sand
Kev, Bush Kev which was the smallest of all, Logger-
head Key, on which stood Logger-head Light, and which

54 History of the Seventh Regiment

was six miles from the fort, and Bird Key. Tortugas
Light was situated inside of Fort Jefferson.

The men will remember that most of our mail came on
the schooners "Tortugas" and "Nonpareil," which kept
up a constant communication with Ke}' West at intervals
of two or three da3's, and many other sailing vessels and
steamers were almost constantly coming or going loaded

Online LibraryHenry F. W. LittleThe Seventh Regiment New Hampshire Volunteers in the War of the Rebellion → online text (page 5 of 52)