Lemuel Abijah Abbott.

Personal recollections and civil war diary, 1864; online

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Ma.kii; L. a. Ap.bott, U. S. A.
CliiU'dinst, Wiisliiinjtoii, 1). V.



Civil War Diary


Late Captain 10th Regt. Vt. VoL Infantry









26 '08






FIDELITY, esprit de corps and splendid record in

inspiration to COMING GENERATIONS.


THE following Diary covering the interesting
period of the Civil War from January i, to
December 31, 1864, and a portion of 1865 to
the surrender of General R. E. Lee at Appomattox
Court House, Va., was kept by the Author at the age
of twenty-two when an officer of the Tenth Regiment
Vermont Volunteer Infantry, Third and First Brigade,
Third Division, Third and Sixth Corps re-
spectively, Army of the Potomac, and is a brief
war history as seen by a young soldier literally
from the front line of battle during General U, S.
Grant's celebrated campaign from the Rapidan
River to Petersburg, Va., and Gen. P. H. Sheridan's
famous Shenandoah Valley campaign in the summer
and fall of 1864. During this time the Author
passed from the grades of Second to First Lieu-
tenant and Captain, and commanded in the mean-
time in different battles five or more companies in his
regiment which afforded an excellent opportunity to
make a fairly interesting general diary of the fighting
qualities of his regiment and especially of the com-
panies which he commanded during that most inter-
esting period of the Civil War when the backbone of
the Rebellion was broken, which, together with Sher-
man and Thomas' cooperations led to the surrender
of General R. E. Lee at Appomattox C. H. April 9,


For thirty-eight years the diary remained closed,
and indeed had been forgotten by the Author until
he accidentally ran across it one day in an old chest,
when on leave of absence in Vermont, where it had
been placed after the war by someone for safe keep-
ing, the Author in the meantime having been an of-
ficer in the regular army many years and honored
with the degree of B, S. by his Alma Mater on ac-
count of his supposed accomplishments in military
science after many years of hard service, a large por-
tion of which was on the frontier among the Indians
whose civilization was finally largely brought about
through his recommendation to educate all the Indian
children throughout the United States, about 1877-9,
when he was considered an expert on the Indian ques-
tion both by the War and Interior Departments.

On reviewing the diary with the eye of an expert,
it was found so uniquely interesting on account of
the many dramatic situations simply given in a youth's
unpretentious way that, from the fact it contained so
much of interest to the surviving men whom the
Author was honored in and fortunate enough to com-
mand during such a historic period, and especially
to the kinsmen of those who have passed along to the
higher life, he concluded to publish it in full.

It is not pretended that it is based on any official
general orders but is solid fact and experience simply
told by a young soldier who stood up to the rack in
the front line of battle and took uncomplainingly


whatever was in store f or him, steadily refusing
to accept whatever was offered which would remove
him from the line of battle to a safer place at home
or in the rear because he not only preferred to occupy
a place in the front line of battle in command of men,
which he considered the most honorable place for a
soldier in the army at such a time, but because he had
grown sincerely attached to the brave men in the
different companies and detachments he commanded
which comprised the whole regiment and some in
others who not infrequently by reason of superior
physical endurance and courage led and inspired him
in some of the most noted battles of ancient or mod-
ern times.

A diary was kept during a portion of 1865 to the
close of the war, but its whereabouts if preserved are
unknown to the Author; so that in 1865, only a few
of the most strikingly dramatic scenes and battles
are given in the addenda as the curtain was falling on
the greatest civil conflict of modern times, one of the
most impressive of which was General Grant's mag-
nificent bearing as he rode at a goodly pace, silently
with his retinue, along among his men inside the
enemy's works after they had been captured by the
celebrated fighting Sixth Army Corps which he had
specially selected, as it was said at the time, to break
the enemy's line at the point where it was broken in
front of Petersburg, on the morning of the memor-
able Second of April, 1865. This and other startling
and unexpected scenes crowded each other so closely


the following week they are indelibly photographed
on the mind of the writer never probably to be for-
gotten so long as time shall last ; and they are not
overdrawn as no pen is sufficiently graphic to any-
where near do the subject justice.

Had there been an artist on the ground to have
seen Grant as he then appeared, the very ideal of a
silent, unassuming yet stern-looking, determined and
dignified conquering hero, who could have reproduced
the scene on canvas, his fame would have been estab-
lished, for the writer never saw him to better ad-
vantage nor could anyone else, as the occasion and
surroundings were all there, never to be again exactly
repeated in any gigantic struggle, i. e. the great battle-
field studded with unusually extensive, silent, deserted
and partially dismantled, formidable earthworks and
military camps, shattered, abandoned and captured
ordnance, the defeated, struggling and straggling
enemy, the prisoners of war, the wounded, dead and
dying, the shocking sight of carnage, and last, but
not least, the victorious army headed by its intrepid
but humane big-hearted leader — Grant. It would be
a historic picture before which the civilized world
would pause entranced ; it was grandly impressive be-
yond description. As an entrancing, dramatic inci-
dent, the surrender of Lee, a few days later at Ap-
pomattox Court House, sinks into insignificance.

The reader is cautioned not to expect too much
from this unpretentious diary, as some parts were
frequently written by the light of a camp fire or


blazing- pine knot, sitting on the ground, and gen-
erally by a worn-out and greatly exhausted young
soldier with no expectation of ever publishing it; and
besides, frequently there was very little room or time
to write much, so that on important occasions there
was no opportunity for entering into details, and
especially when shot and shell were whizzing and
screeching overhead almost as thick as bees about a
hive. Some of it while on sick leave of absence in
Vermont on account of wounds, will not probably
greatly interest the average reader, but as much of
historic interest is frequently given in connection with
the killed, wounded, etc., during this time, after due
consideration it has been thought best to leave none
of it out, and so it has all been printed. It may
possibly aid the future historian and genealogist, too,
which is another reason why the diary has been pub-

It is only by gathering up the fragments from eye
witnesses which is too frequently ignored by military
historians with the time and opportunity to do such
work thoroughly, that a fully rounded out regimental
or other war history can be written. The blue pencil
is too frequently used by unscientific military his-
torians to get the best results. The opinions of ac-
complished shirks in battle, because it does not happen
to be generally known they were such, having tact
enough to cover it up, and of those not versed in
military science or with too much honesty and un-
biased judgment, are too frequently accepted instead


of solid fact as seen by others of reliability, though
obscure, who were intrepid enough to at least be with
the most courageous of their men who were generally
in the vanguard of any assaulting column and fre-
quently individually led it.

But some who write war history unfamiliar with
such experiences, can never know of the inspiration
and strength that comes to one in command of any
part of an assaulting column of grandly brave, un-
daunted men, or what it is to feel that he is the very
point of the wedge of his part of an assaulting column
which is perhaps the first to cleave the enemy's line,
and that he is conscientiously doing without any
thought of shirking whatever he finds before him to
do because it isn't his nature to be otherwise.

Finally, what decided the Author to publish this
diary now at once, old age being upon him, was to
try and correct false history in connection with the
first assault at Sheridan's battle of Winchester, Va.,
Sept. 19, 1864. Besides this, he was requested to
pubUsh his personal observations, in July, 1908, just
before leaving Washington, D. C. of every battle he
was in during the Civil War by the Librarian of the
War Department. He stated that as regular army
officers were trained in such work their accounts of
such battles would not only be of great help to future
historians, but better than from most any other source.

The; Author.
Washington, D. C, January i, 1908.


Maj. L. A. Abbott, U. S. A., the Author. Faces Title

No. 1 Opequan Creek Crossing and Winchester

Pike do. 150

No. 2 Winchester Pike looking East from

Battlefield do. 153

No. 3 Sheridan's left center Battlefield do. 155

No. 4 Sheridan's right center Battlefield do. 157

No. 5 Sheridan's Battlefield looking North-
westerly do. 158

No. 6 Ravine Occupied by Enemy's Infantry
in front of Third Division Sixth
Corps do. 160

No. 7 Same Ravine in front of Second Division

Sixth Corps, Unoccupied by Enemy, do. 162

No. 8 Same Ravine from head Occupied by
Enemy in front of Third Division
Sixth Corps do. 166

No. 9 Winchester Pike looking West from

Battlefield do. 178

No. 10 Taylor's Hotel, Winchester, Va., 1908.. do. 210

No. 11 Cannon-ball House, Winchester, Va.,

1908 do. 212

No. 12 Bronze Statue, National Cemetery, Win-
chester, Va., 1908 do. 214


Besides the usual abbreviations of States and months,
and those commonly used for dispatch in writing and
economy of space, the following are made use of in this
work: —

Ad jt Adjutant

A. G Adjutant General

A. A. G Assistant Adjutant General

Brig.-Gen Brigadier General

Capt Captain

Col Colonel

Corp Corporal

d Died

Div Division

Lieut Lieutenant

Lieut. Col Lieutenant Colonel

Lieut. Gen Lieutenant General

Maj. Gen Major General

Priv Private

Q. M. D Quartermaster's Department

Regt Regiment

res Resides

R. Q. M Regimental Quartermaster

Sergt Sergeant

U. S. C. I United States Colored Infantry

U. S. C. T United States Colored Troops

wid Widow





In Winter Quarters,

Near Brandy Station, Va.,

Friday, Jan. i, 1864.

Although attached to Company B, Tenth Regi-
ment Vermont Volunteer Infantry, (Capt. Edwin
Dillingham's of Waterbury, Vt.), Lieut. Ezra Stetson
commanding, I am Second Lieutenant of Company
D (Capt. Samuel Darrah's of Burlington, Vt.) of
the same regiment, having been promoted from First
Sergeant of Company B last spring.

All are wishing me a "Happy New Year" ! God
grant that I may have one. I was awakened long
before daylight by the band serenading the birth of

*The most interesting part of this diary commences on
May 3rd, 1864, when General U. S. Grant's campaign to
Petersburg, Va., begins, and later General Sheridan's Shen-
andoah Valley campaign, etc.


the New Year. Lieut. G. W. Burnell took his
departure early this morning for Washington, D. C. ;
he has been promoted Captain of U. S. Colored
Troops and is about to take up other duties in Balti-
more, Md. It was quite pleasant eaily in the day
but it is very muddy under foot; had a grand New
Year's dinner. There has been a very cold wind
this afternoon. This evening it is clear and intensely
cold. Will Clark has made me a short call ; am feeling
very well but studying hard.

Saturday, Jan. 2, 1864.
Another day of the new year has passed but a
very busy one for me. It has been very cold all day.
This afternoon I have been papering my hut so our
quarters are quite comfortable now. The band has
been out this evening and played some very pretty
pieces, and I am thankful for it relieves the monot-
ony of dull camp life. This evening Lieut. D. G.
Hill and Captain Goodrich, the brigade Quartermaster,
called ; they were in fine spirits. It is bitter cold,
but no wind as last night ; have received no letters
which of course is provoking.

Sunday, Jan. 3, 1864.
Quite a comfortable day ; no snow yet, but it looks
likely to storm in a day or two; wrote to Pert*, and
had our usual inspection this forenoon. Since dinner.

*Miss P. A. Thomson, a cousin and many years a teacher
in Goddard Seminary, Barre, Vt.


I have read "Washington's Farewell Address", and
the "Declaration of Independence". This evening
quite a number of recruits arrived for the regiment,
but none for Company B. Capt. J. A. Salisbury has
been in to call on Lieut. Stetson, and broken my
camp chair. This is still more provoking than not
to get a letter from home for chairs are not plentiful
here. He is a big man.

Monday, Jan. 4, 1864.

It has snowed nearly all day, but not very hard.
To-night there is about two inches on the ground
and it is still snowing. Lieut. Stetson started for
Vermont this morning on the 9:30 train, and Capt.
H. R. Steele arrived from there this evening. I am told
to-night that Colonel Embic of the One Hundred and
Sixth New York Infantry has been reinstated. We
have formed a quiz school to-night, the members
being Dr. Almon Clark, Lieuts. E. P. Farr and C. G.
Newton and Chaplain E. M. Haynes. We are to
meet every night and ask questions on geography,
history, etc. I think it a grand idea. I suspect they
think me fresh from school, though, and want me
to do most of the quizzing, the same as in the class
of about seventy-five enlisted men in tactics and
English branches which recites to me daily now,
fitting for examination for commission in colored


Tue;sday, Jan. 5. 1864.
It has been a beautiful day, but the wind is blowing
very chilly to-night; drew clothing for the Company
this afternoon ; had a very good dress parade con-
sidering the quantity of snow and mud under foot.
Our school met this evening but we didn't accomplish
much. Capt. E. B. Frost, and Dr. W. A. Child and
wife dined with us to-day; had a nice time. Herbert
George, the band master, has been in this evening
relating his experiences during his leave in Vermont.
It almost makes me homesick: have got to go on
picket early in the morning beyond Culpeper, Va.

Wednesday, Jan. 6, 1864.

Chilly and cloudy but the weather is moderating
very fast; got cheated out of my breakfast this
morning on account of going on picket; formed line
at 7.45 and so remained till nearly 10 a. m. when the
officer of the day came and started us for the picket
line ; got on the wrong road and did not find the
line until 3 p. m. It has been quite pleasant all day,
but looks likely to storm before morning. No mail

Thursday, Jan. 7, 1864.

Quite cold and disagreeable ; got up about 10 a. m.
feeling as well as could -be expected after a hard
day's march. The men had been to breakfast and
were in fine spirits ; were relating their experiences
in the late engagement at Locust Grove. Banty — a
little, jolly, duck-legged Frenchman — started for camp
this forenoon for more rations and the mail, but


after he had been gone about a half hour a man from
Company E. came from camp with both. The
weather has moderated and it is snowing this

Friday, Jan. 8. 1864.

It cleared during the night and this morning it was
sharp and cold. As I awoke the sun was peeping
brilliantly up behind the eastern hills and all nature
was beautiful. About two inches of snow fell in the
night which added to the beauty of the sunrise.
Three deserters stole into our lines from the enemy
in the night. They report that many more want
to get away ; read two letters to-night one from home
and one from Hen.

Saturday, Jan. 9, 1864.

Still the weather continues fine. There is not a
cloud to be seen or a breath of air stirring, and yet
it is quite a sharp morning. The Company got an-
other mail this forenoon but there was nothing for
me ; was relieved from picket this afternoon about one
o'clock : arrived in camp about four p. m. ; found
plenty of Company work to keep me busy all to-
morrow. Lieut. C. G. Newton started for Vermont
this morning ; have been studying tactics this evening ;
got my books from home I sent for last week.
Sunday, Jan. 10, 1864.

A beautiful morning. Dan Bancroft came in to
see me this forenoon, a private in the Vermont Cav-
alry; had inspection at 11 a. m. and dress parade this


evening-. Quite a number of recruits came this
evening, but only one for Company B. Col. A. B.
Jewett and Lieut.-Colonel W. W. Henry also re-
turned from Vermont to-night. The band has been
serenading Colonel Jewett. It is cold and frosty
with a little snow still on the ground.

Monday, Jan. 11, 1864.

Another fine day; have been very busy attending
to Company matters ; also received many calls — in
fact it has taken me a goodly part of the day to enter-
tain visitors. Capt. Samuel Darrah, Herbert George
of the band and Lieut. W. R. Hoyt have just gone
and now comes Lieut. E. P. Farr, and it's after 10
o'clock ; haven't studied a bit to-day, yet, but I shall
make up for lost time before I sleep.

Tue;sday, Jan. 12, 1864.

Retired at 2 a. m. last night; learned by heart be-
fore retiring fifty pages in tactics ; got up at 9 a. m.
and went at it again ; have conquered fifty pages more
to-day and recited them to Lieut. Farr : had them
fairly well learned before ; only review ; weather warm
and comfortable ; had a dress parade at 5 p. m.
This evening twenty recruits armed and equipped
arrived from Vermont for Company B ; got some
newspapers from cousin Abby Burnham to-night.
Wednesday, Jan. 13, 1864.

It has been very muddy and dull in camp to-day;
weather dark and gloomy : no dress parade ; have
written to Pert; also received a letter from J. R,


Seaver, containing a plan of the hospitals being built
at Montpelier, now nearly completed. Lieut. Farr
has been in this evening and we have been studying
tactics together ; guess he takes advantage of my being
better posted than he, having been a cadet at Norwich
University, Norwich, Vermont, where I was well
drilled, and can explain things better. I wish they
didn't consider me the best drill in the regiment ; it
makes me lots of extra work and takes much time.
But I must be obliging — not mean and selfish.

Thursday, Jan. 14, 1864.
The weather still continues to be warm and pleas-
ant; no wind and not a cloud in sight; have received
two letters from Vermont to-night — one from home
and another from one of my old scholars in Chelsea.
The teachers who succeeded me in my school there
had very poor success both last summer and this
winter. When the teacher announced to the school
this winter one morning that I had died of typhoid
fever at Rockville, Md., it having been so reported, the
children refused to be reconciled and grieved so they
had to be dismissed, the same thing occurring the
next morning. Poor things ! I never think of it but
what my eyes — well, my throat gets lumpy and my
lips quiver. I had no idea they were so devoted. It
seems as though they would follow me in memory
throughout eternity. Still, as their teacher I was
strict and firm, but always just, and never struck one
of the flock of sixty during either winter with them.


Will I ever make such devoted friends again? Alas!
it's only a memory now but will ever be a sacred one.
May the recollection be as blissful to them as it will
be to me throughout the everlasting ages of time.
Nothing has occurred to-day worthy of note ; have had
my cabin full all day. Lieuts. W. R. Hoyt and E. P.
Farr have been in this evening.

Fdiday, Jan. 15, 1864.

It is by far the finest day we have had this year,
but very muddy. A part of the regiment has gone
on picket to remain three days. It is reported in
camp that one entire regiment of "Johnnies" came
over from Cedar Mountain this morning and gave
itself up. They were miserably clad, a large major-
ity having no shoes at all ; they started for Washington
this evening. It's a beautiful moonlight night.

Saturday, Jan. 16, 1864.

Another warm summer day; have been at work on
clothing rolls, also laying down sidewalk in front of
my quarters. One of our new recruits has gone to the
hospital to-day sick with lung fever. General W. H.
Morris has returned from his home near N. Y. city
with his sister and a lady friend. This evening he
rode through the camp and was cheered by the men.
The bands are serenading him to-night, his head-
quarters being just about a hundred yards in rear of
my hut. It is bright moonlight.


Sunday, Jan, 17, 1864.
It has been a cold and disagreeable day; had Com-
pany inspection this forenoon ; have written home
to-night ; received a letter from Carl Wilson and one
from Pert; wind blew hard this forenoon, but it is
calm to-night ; band played this evening. Five more
recruits arrived this afternoon for Company B. It's
cloudy and looks like rain.

Monday, Jan. 18, 1864.

It has rained hard all day, but is not very cold.
The mud is very deep. It's rumored that Governor
Smith and Mr, Baxter are to be here to-morrow;
have been studying hard all day only when engaged
in Company duty; cooler this evening; snows a little;
pickets have just come in wet and tired. Lieut. E. P.
Farr has not been in this evening to look up tactics.
Tuesday, Jan. 19, 1864.

The wind has been blowing furiously all day from
the northwest; has rained very little; commencing to
freeze this evening ; have been looking over ord-
nance returns this afternoon ; no time to study to-day.
Lieut. Ezra Stetson is expected to-morrow, also Gov-
ernor Smith, as he didn't come to-night. Lieut. D.
G. Hill has been in this evening; wind blows a gale.

Wednesday, Jan. 20, 1864,

Quite a fine moon to-night — a little cloudy but no

wind ; froze quite hard last night ; have had so much

company all day it has been impossible to do anything

but visit ; band is serenading General W. H. Morris ;


are proud of our band, it being one of best regimental
bands in the army. Lieut. Stetson has not come to-
night; got no letter from home, but received a good
one from Carl Wilson. To-night they have the
Universalist festival at Barre, Vt. ; v^ould like to be
there, but my festival will be with tactics.

Thursday, Jan. 21, 1864.
It was quite frosty this morning, but pleasant and
has remained so all day ; had regimental monthly in-
spection this forenoon. Company B got the credit of
having the best street in the brigade. I am proud of
my old Company; it always tries to please me.
Nate Harrington and Orry Blanchard of the First
Vermont Brigade have been to see me to-day. Lieut.
Ezra Stetson has not come to-night, his time being up
last Tuesday ; no letter from home yet ; beautiful moon-
light night, but quite cool.

Friday, Jan. 22, 1864.
As pleasant a morning as I ever saw. Lieut. D. G.
Hill started for Vermont this forenoon ; have made
out the final statements of Corporals C. W. Beal, C.
B. Lee and Private A. S. Parkhurst, but Lee is
dangerously ill in the hospital and not able to receive
his discharge papers. Private J. W. Sawyer, a re-
cruit in B Company has been in hospital but is gaining
fast ; received a letter from home this evening.
Lieut. Ezra Stetson has not come yet; fear he will
find trouble when he does come.


Saturday, Jan. 23, 1864.
It has been a beautiful day with a Ught southern

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Online LibraryLemuel Abijah AbbottPersonal recollections and civil war diary, 1864; → online text (page 1 of 19)