Alfred Davenport.

Camp and field life of the Fifth New York volunteer infantry. (Duryee zouaves.) online

. (page 13 of 39)
Online LibraryAlfred DavenportCamp and field life of the Fifth New York volunteer infantry. (Duryee zouaves.) → online text (page 13 of 39)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


FAREWELL TO BALTIMORE,

Farewell, Queenly City !

Before we depart,
I would bid thee farewell

From the depths of my heart ;
With gratitude fervent.

Our bosoms expand
At thought of the kindness

Received from thy hand.

With our ardent desire

To join in the strife, » *

And our longing to live
A more stiklierly life,

Is blended the sadness
That parting still lends ;



Life at Baltimore. 153

We came to thee strangers,
You received us as friends.



Our country is calling ;

We eagerly go,
To meet with new vigor

The traitorous foe ;
But where'er we may be,

Whatever our lot,
Thy kindness and friendship

Shall ne'er be forgot.

Farewell, Queenly City !

Thou'rt lost to our sight ;
Thy dim shores are wrapped

In the mantle of night ;
But memon,' still

Weaves its magical spell.
And our hearts beat response

As we bid thee farewell I



CHAPTER VIII.

THE PENINSULAR CAMPAIGN — YORKTOWN.

The Trip to Virgint \— ?cene at Hamftun Roads— Changes— Camp Misf.rt
— Peep at Big J.rTirrii,— Prime Ration.- for Six— ^V. V. Tinws Corre-
spondent— Ge\. McC( rli-an's Repoht— Camp Scott— CoRnuRov and Ditch
—Headquarters— CALiFonxiA Jack— The 4TH Michigan— First Death by
Sickness— Gen. McClf-li-an's Hka'dqi- arters— An Officer's Letter-
Letter FROM A PkivATE— Fire and Fcn in the Dark— A Strategic Pig
— SiEGt Preparations— Katterv No. i— Gen. Barry's Letter — Ca.mp War-
re^—After the BAriLE— Camp Buchanan— A Promise of Battle—
^L^.RCH IN THE Shadows— Magnificent Spectacle— A Night View of
THE Camp at Paminkhv River— D.^ooping Skies and a Dripping Army
— Rf.view by Hon. Wm. TL Seward— De;krted Territory— Nearing the
White House- SrKAGCLnKS— " Dr." Warren and his '• Pills "—The Sick-
LiiT— The Colcnkl'.s Oklkr and a Don.-cey's Reply.

Monday, March :^i, 1S62. — Oiil of AfaryLand and into
the waters of the Old Dominion. The steamer was a
staunch vessel, and saile_d well, anfl our passage was made in
good time, and wonld have been much more pleasant
but for the incon\cnionce to which men are subject in an
overcrowded ship. We were closely packed in the holds
and on deck, without sufficient room ; only a part could lie
down, those who eiijoyed that luxury being obliged to use
the decks, and s;uidwiching themselves between cordage and
comrades, and remain in one position until they w-ere satis-
fied. The darkn-s:, between decks added to the discomfort
of the trip.

As the ship sailed ip.to Hampton Roads the scene was en-
livening in the exlKine; it seemrd to us that we were near-
ing a large seaport. Tlie offing was crowded witii transports,
thr..vagcd willi ;><jlu:ei>. horses, .-.tores, artiller)', and e\ery-
tlv.ng that is rc.]',i;rcci for a laige army. The Monitor was
pointed out, but one could scarcely believe that such an in-



The Peninsular Cainpait^n — Yorktozvn. 155

significant-looking affair— for vessel it could hardly be called
— cansed the rebel nionster, tiie Mcrriinac, to skulk back
into the port from \vhicl> she had sailed so defiantly.

The regiment landed in the afternoon of Tuesday, April rst,
and marched about two miles beyond Hampton and bivou-
acked. It was almost imi)ossible to recognize this locality
as the same which the command had left eight months be-
fore. There was not a tree, fence, or landmark left, with
the exception of the seminary, and stretching miles beyond
was an immense camp. There appeared to be no limit to
the artillery, cavalry, and infantry, moving day and night.
We remained in this camp five days, bivouacking at night,
not yet being supplied with tents. The men called this
stopping-place "Camp Misery," for the reason that the ra-
tions were very short, while a cold north-east rain-storm,
which continued day and night, during the second, third,
and fourth days, made it impossible to keep our clothing
dry. The fires would not burn, and the smoke hung close to
the ground like a thick cloud, affecting the eyes, and sur-
rounding us with a suffocating atmosphere. ' On the fifth
<.iay the sky cleared, and the air was warm, but the roads
were in a very bad condition.

We left camp at 6.30 a.m. on Tuesday, .\pril 6t]i. without
any regret, and marched through nmd a distance of twenty
'"lies toward Yorktown, passing through Big Bethel, which
was an interesting spot to the old members of the regiment,
as the various objects reminded them of their previous en-
c ->unter with the enemy. We remained in " Camp Starva-
tion " the 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th, living on one or two crackers
a day. Heavy details were sent out every day to work on
the roads, and help the wagons along the muddy highway.

'Ihe sojourn here was very disagreeable, as it rained the
: - ;r<-'ater part of the time, and we had x\o shelter except snrh
>'''' could be improvised fioin " jwuclios," or branches of
<f«-*cs plastered over with mud. There were, however, about



156 FiftJi Neiv York Volwiteer Infantry.

Haifa dozen men, composing two messes, that had an abun-
dance to eat and to spare ; one of each having dropped
out from a fatigue party, and hidden in the woods until the
coast was clear, and then went on a foraging expedition and
struck a placer. They returned to the vicinity of the camp,
and hid their spoils in the bushes until night, when they
brought in to their starving messmates one pail of molasses,
about two pounds of sugar, haversacks full of the best of pilot
biscuit, half a pig, one sugar-cured ham, two pounds of the
best smoking tobacco, some fresh beef, and a canteen of peach
brandy ! It was a royal banquet ! How and where they
made their levy it would take too long to relate ; suffice it
to say that they came very near being ambushed by guerrillas
and losing their lives.

The regiment was singled out while in this camp from the

\ rest of the volunteers, and attached to General Sykes'

I brigade of regulars, with which corps they remained through

\ their term of service. It may be of interest to the reader

s to know how this was brought about. The Fifth not being en-

I camped in a situation favorable for exercise in drill, Colonel

1 Warren asked permission of General Sykes to give his regi-

1 nient a drill on the field used by the regulars. The request

t was granted, and they marched out and went through all the

most complicated battalion movements in quick and double-

.(luick with so much spirit and precision, that we soon had a

large audience of the regulars, upon whom it made a very

- favorable impression. General Sykes himself was viewing it

t from his tent. Subsei^uently Colonel Warren's request to

/-, move his camp nearer the regulars, which had been pre-

V viously denied, was allowed, and we were permitted to draw

rations from his Conmiissary.

The Now York Tr,>us coriespondeut said :

! "The jlh New York Rejjiment. Duryce's Zouaves, are con-

sidered the finest drilled rcsjiintTit in the army of Yurktown, and



The Peninsular Campaign — Yorktozvn. 157

have been assigned the post of honor, being the only volunteer
regiment with the regulars."*

Another journal spoke as follows:

" Constant drill at the artiller\% bayonet, and rifle, together
with recitations for officers and soldiers in the regulations of the
army tactics — both artillery and infantry — soon brought this
body of soldiers to the highest state of perfection, so that on the
30th day of March, 1862, when leaving Baltimore and joining the
Army of the Potomac, on the Peninsula, the honor of being
assigned to duty with the regulars was granted to this regiment,
and the ' red legs," as they were called, were not slow in con-
vincing the regular infantry that they were not to be outdone
by them, either in drill, marching, or under fire. This reputa-
tion gained has always been maintained by them while in the
field."

The Prince de Joinvi]le,t in his comments on the volun-
teer organizations, makes special mention of the regiment
as follows :

"Thus, a young Lieutenant of Engineers, named Warren, was
marvelously successful vvith the 5th New York 'Regiment, of
which he was Colonel. This regiment served as engineers and
artillerj- at the siege of Yorktown, and having again become infan-
tr\-, conducted itself like the most veteran troops at the battk-s of
the Chickahominy, where it lost half of its force. And yet these

* " McCIellan"s Report and Campai-ns" (p 54). Regulars— " The advnntasic of
»uch a bo jy of truops at a critical moment, especially in an army cnii-;ti!iited mainly
o( new levies, imperfectly disciplined, lix-, been frequently illustrated i.i military hi>-
t r>'- and was hrou-lu to the attention of the countr>- at the first battle of Manassa*.
I have not been disappointed in the estimate formed of the value of these troops— I
nave always found them to be relied on ; whenever they have been brought under
l^re, they have shown the utmost ijallantry and tenacity. On the ^oth of -April, iS?'2,
they numbered 4.603 men. On the 17th of May they were a-.sij;ncd to (}encrai
l''jrter's corps for oiganization as a division, with the 5th Ke.^inient of New Vork
VoI.;iitcers. which j. ined M.ny 4th, and the loth New Vnrk V,:Iuntcors. which
j lined siibsoquei'tly. Ihey ren»al:icd from the commencement under the comm.ind
<^'- Kfi^jJigr-General tleorinc bykes, M.ijor 3d Infantry, United States Army."

+ " The .\rmy of the Potom.ac, its Organi/.ition, its Commander, and its t'ani-
P'iirn.'" By the Prince de Joinville. Translated from the French, with Notes by
William Henry tlurlbert.



158 Fifth New York Volunteer Infa^itry.

were volunteers, but they felt the knowledge and superiority of
their chief."



We left c;imp about lo a.m. on Friday, the nth of April,
inarched three miles over very bad roads toward Yorktown,
and went into bivouac at Camp Winfield Scott, within two
miles and a half of that historical place. It is proper to
give the reason why the army did not move faster after as-
sembling at Old Point. The only road was in a very bad
state, in consequence of the frequent rains, and the numer-
ous ditches and pits, men sometimes being obliged to wade
up to their knees in mud and water. It was necessary to re-
pair and corduroy it in many places, to enable the miles of
wagons, ambukmces, and artillery to pass over it. It should
also be remembered that each man carried about fifty
pounds weight in addition to the clothing they had on their
persons, as they were in heavy marching order. Then, after
a day's march, where were the means, not to say comforts,
which would give a soldier the necessary rest and recupera-
tion ? If not ordered otf on guard, a soldier will make his
bed on the wet ground, his knapsack his pillow, and a
blanket for his covering; his supjier is a hard cracker or
two and a ])iece of fat salt pork, often eaten without being
cooked, and thankful oftentimes to get that. If he needs a fire
he must go to the woods and cut down the timber ; or, if al-
readv cut, haul it for some distance over ditches and fields, to
his stopping place. Then, after considerable perseverance,
he may succeed in getting his fire to burn, when he can have
a cup of coftee, which he boils himself in his tin cup ; after
which he smokes his pipe and is as happy as the case will al-
low. On such roads as those just passed over by the army,
the p-rocession \i{ wagons, miles in length, could not make
more than six or eight miles a day, and the men were obliged
to lie by occasionally for thL-m to come up ; hence the delay.
''Citizens" and "Home Guards" thought we ought to move



The Fciii>isvJar Cai!tpaii^)i — Yorktoivn. 1 59

f.ister, but the "citizens" who had become soldiers knew
ihc reasons and the roads too well.

On Saturday, the i2lh, we w-eie detached temporarily from
the brigade under a special order, and reportetl to General
W. F. Barry, Chief of Artillery. The officers and men were
eiuployed in building siege-works, and some of the com-
l)anies placed on duty in the batteries to work the heavy
guns, and at the landing on York River, transporting and
mounting the siege guns and mortars. This duty was all
performed under the heavy fire of the enemy's artillery, and
required nerve as well as experience to perfect the work.

While staying in this camp we had liberal supplies, pleas-
ant weather, and good tents. The troops built a good road
to Shipping Point, the extremity of which was about eight
miles from camp, where the stores were landed when brought
up the York River from Old Point Comfort. The men had
no idle time ; they were constantly employed on fatigue duty
<'t some kind, making corduroy roads, etc., and gabions to
till with earth for siege-batteries, A detail of the Fifth put
up (ieneral McClellan's tents and laid out the grounds about
tliciii, and a detail was made \x\^ every day for guard duty over
his (luarters, which were near the regimental headquarters.

A continual bombardaient was kept u^), and at almost any
tune of the night or day, the shell of the enemy could be
>'-eu bursting in the air, sometimes api)earing to be directly
'^\"crhead. Pickets were shot hourly, and skirmishes between
file outposts were continually occurring, by which additions
wore made to the list of killed or wounded. At night it was
f.raiHl to hear the roar of the heavy siege-guns, and listen to
■'T- rushing shell as they died away in the distance, and
'Mrricd destruction into the enemy's stronghold. California
j ■'\ the famous sharp-shooter, who was out at the t'ront all
' •'- time picking off the enemy's gunners, made a visit to
' I'up, being out of ammunition. Cai)t. Winslow furnished
li'n with a liberal sni)ply of cartridges for his Sharp's ritle,



•i -■ .i:\:\^



1



i6o Fifth Nciv York Volunteer Infantry.

two of the companies being armed with the same weapon.
He thanked him and said he wouldn't waste them, '' you bet."

On the night of the 17th, the infantry tiring was quite
sharp. It appeared that the enemy came out and attacked
one of the new intrenchments, and the 4th Michigan, one
of the finest regiments in the service, drove them bacl; and
took three hundred prisoners. The men were ordered to
have their canteens filled with water every night, and always
one day's rations on hand, so as to be ready at a moment's
notice.

A private of Company E died of typhoid fever in the hos-
pital. It was the first death from disease that has occurred
in the regiment since its organization, which was remarkable,
although many had been discharged for physical disability,
some of whom had subsequentlj- died.

The following is an extract from a letter written to, and
published in, the New York Tunes by an ofiicer of the 5th
Regiment :

Camp WiSfield Scott, before Yorktown, Va, \
Monday, April i\,iZ6z. 1
We are constantly occupied in military exercises, in studying
the tactics, in enforcing or submitting to the discipline, and in
performing the daily duties incident to our connection wiih the
present movement ; and we see the officers and men of other
regiments encamped near us engaged diligently in the same kind
of labors. We hear the booming of cannon daily on our right
and on our left ; we see bombs bursting in air, and varicolored
rockets shooting across the sky; we see artillery, cav.ilry, in-
fantry proceeding hither and thither ; we see aides-de-camp gal-
loping by ; we see balloons ascend and descend ; we see baggage-
wagons and ambulances on the road ; rumors come to us of a
fight in this or that part of the lines, and beyond this we know
nothing of the progrc^^s that is making. We lie down on tiie
grmnid at niglu prL'[\"irrd to respond to the first summons.
Sometimes we are awakened by the tluintlers of artillery and tlie
ratllinir of small arms, and lie listeniner to the noises of a deadly



The Peninsular Campaign — Yorktoivn. i6i

contlict somewhere. We endeavor to conjecture what corps are
tnj;aged, and picture to ourselves, as we follow with the ear,
the fluctuations of the strife, " now high, now low, like the
sound of music which the wind still alters," the scene and inci-
.l.nts of the fray. Now there is a lull, and now the combat
ihickens. For a while all is still as death ; doubtless our brave
iVIlows are advancing to the charge, and we strain to catch
the clash o*" steel. Suddenly again comes the roar of cannon ;
the battle evidently now is fiercely raging. Now the discharges
are less frequent ; a solitary shot is heard, and now all again is
quiet. Which has won the nctory ? Who of our dearest
friends has fallen ? We might not go forth to seek him if we
knew he was gasping on the field. But we are warriors, not
women. Let the dead be buried, and lead us against the foe I
And so the soldier gathers his blanket around him, and in a
moment is asleep again. And with all this disturbance in the
distance, no alarm is sounded in the camps near by. No one
thinks of obeying the impulse to rush forth and join in the fight.
.Ml await orders, and when they come, the battalions that are
called for quietly form in line and are marched to the point
where one mind decides that they are needed. Such is the dis-
cipline in the Army of the Potomac, attained by much training
during the season of " inactivity," which they who knew not its
value were inclined so much to complain of.

The 5th New York Zouaves, whose friends at home will read
this, are undergoing no unendurable hardships here, and are
much happier just where they are than any individual of them
c'uld possibly have been had he endeavored to content himself
at home in a season in which his country called for his services
i'> the field. And here we are, just where we want to be, with a
' I'ler in whom we have confidence to conduct us against a toe
'•'at lies immediately before us. We occupy a beautiful camp-
"'•-[-ground near the marquee of the Commander-in-Chief. Our
f'- /iment has been complimented by being brigaded with the
r .Hilars — the only volunteer regiment so honored— and with
' '11 it constitutes th-: rhosen c<.rps which (^..neral M<jCk'llan
•* ■ '•i>s always with him. Brigadicr-Ciencrnl Sykes is its com-
mander, llie same who, with 1,300 regulars, covered the retreat



1 62 Fifth Neiv York Volunteer I?ifantry.

of the army at the first Bull Run. Lieutenant J. Howard Wells,
the Quartermaster of the Fifth, has been transferred to the regu-
lar service. He now holds the position of United States Com-
missary with the rank of Captain, and is. stationed at Baltimore.
Lieutenant A. L. Thomas is his successor, and a veiy worthy
one he is.

We have had ver)' heavy rains here recently — such rains as in
New York are entirely unknown. The roads are exceedingly heavy.
Those who sjt at home carping at delay should be compelled to
travel over them in a loaded baggage-wagon once. They would
soon get an idea of the difficulty of moving large armies in a
country like this, and in such a season. G. C.

The following extract from a letter written home by the
author, also tells part of the story :

Camp Winfield Scott, near Yorktown, Va., \

5TH Regt., N. Y. v., Duryee's Zouaves, l

Monday, April 21, 1S62. \

We still remain in camp, and are as comfortable, that is, for
soldiers, as circumstances will admit. Our tents are of good ma-
terial and keep out the rain, and tlie camp is situated on rather
high ground, therefore the water runs off. To the south of our
portion of the ground is a small ravine through which a small
stream runs, supplied by pure springs, from which we get plenty
of water or drinking and cooking purposes. In the stream it-
self we wash our clothes and ourselves. On the banks above the
ravine there was a thick wood of pine, with its ever-green foliage ;
elm- trees, which were soon robbed of their bark to satisfy the chew-
ing propensities of the men ; sassafras bushes, the roots of which
are pleasant to eat, and are therefore pulled up without regard to
quantity ; but the wood is now getting thinner every day, falling
a sacritice to our axes, and used by the cooks to keep up their
tires, and by us as a means to warm ourselves when it is neces-
sary. We can see the Ijalloon make its ascensions everv dav, aiul
often hear a report up in the air. We look up and src a
ball of smoke, resembling a small cloud, which tells us that a shell
has burst ; but it is of such frecjuent occurrence that often we do



J* .V



;?."■/*• <



■ The Peninsular Campaign — Yorkfoivn. 163

n >l notice it. A few shells have landed in camp, on^ of which
kiilfd a mule ; another was filled with rice, so they say ; one
f.rcd yesterday cut a man in half while he was in the woods ; but
we are comparatively safe, all things considered. But about a
mile further to the front the situation is different, as they have
'^harp practice there on picket. Some of the companies are de-
t.iiled in turn to drill on the mortars, and one of Company C was
wounded in the head a fe.w days ago. We see very little of Col-
onel Warren-; during most of his time he is with General Mc-
Clellan and staff, by whom he is highly esteemed, making ob-
ser\-atio-.s, etc. Many of the regulars know him, having seen
him out West and in other places, before the war. They say that
he understands his Ijusiness. We all like him as a man and a
soldier; he is strict, but he knows all the wants of a soldier from
experience, and seldom taxes our endurance too much.

Our men are on details night and day. building batteries and
roads in every direction ; one can not tell at what time of night
he may be called up to shoulder his musket and march off on
a detail. Saturday night, the 19th, I was on fatigue dutv; we
marched about three miles to the mouth of Wormley's Creek,
York River, where they are putting up a battery.

I'art of the road has been built by our army, leading over a
creek through which a solid road has been built. As we came
out ot some woods at one point we could see a deserted rebel
!"rt in the middle of a swamp to the right of the road. It was
built square and in a substantial manner, with barracks inside of
't, a ditch nine feet deep all around it, filled with water, and an
aliatis, bushes, and stumps of trees. Near it was an inferior
^vurk, partially masked ; the place could not have been stormed,
further on we went through the camp of the ist Connecticut
Heavy Artiller\', a regiment fourteen hundred strong.

^^e were astonished to see the heavy guns that have been sent
'o this point for the purposes of the siege. We next passed
5nrough the most extensive corn-field that I ever saw. and came
t'l .-t large peach-orchard, which was in full blossom. Emerging
'^ in the latter, we rame upon the groun«ls of one ol the first
'■niiilies, on which was built a fir.e large house, with a water
Iri'iit on the York River. The battery we are building is a little
\\^'iy from the house.



164 Fifth Nczv York Volunteer Infantry.

The owner of this large estate is said to be a Lieutenant in the
Confederate army now at Yorktown, and owns five thousand
acres of land hereabouts. This place is certainly the handsomest
one I have .yet seen in Virginia. I, with others, was trotted off
to the com-Jield, to await our time to be called upon to take our
turn at the pick and shovel, which was to be in about four hours.

We accordingly stacked our arms, and sat down on the soft
and yielding soil, to take it easy. In company with some others,
I lit my pipe^ and we sat there talking, trying to worry through
the time, but it was not long before a stomi, that had been
threatening for some time, burst upon us in all its fun,'. It was
rough enough for us, notwithstanding the joke went around as
usual, and all tried to be merry, but it was under aggravating
circumstances. We were obliged to stand up at the side of our
muskets and take it all. The urrows between the hills of corn
were tilled with water, and we were ail soaked through, men
and muskets.

The latter is always a source of anxiety to a soldier, as he is
aware that, with a wet, rusty weapon, he would stand a poor
chance in case of an attack. Finally our turn came ; we fell in,
and were soon hard at work in the mud and water, with very
litUe light, so as not to attract the attention of Johnny Reb. We
worked about three hours, and were relieved, when I, with some
others, succeeded in getting into a sort of kitchen of the man-
sion ; we tbund a roaring fire in an old-fashioned fire-place, but
every spot that a human being could squeeze into was occupied.
The boys were stowed away on shelves not o\'er six inches wide,



Online LibraryAlfred DavenportCamp and field life of the Fifth New York volunteer infantry. (Duryee zouaves.) → online text (page 13 of 39)