Alfred Davenport.

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

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and continued until late in the night. It seemed ominous
of the storm of battle which was about to open about Rich-
mond.

The next morning, reveille roused us at two o'clock and at
five o'clock we marched four miles, the roads all under water
and muddy, and were ordered back again ; and finally, after
covering six or seven miles, encamped upon an evacuated
cam[vground near Cold Harbor, joining the rest of the divis-
ion.

In the afternoon an engagement took place on the other
side of the Chickahominy. There was a constant roar of
artillery, and the roll of the musketry was incessant. The
division was held under arms, and all ready to move
when wanted. The engagement alluded to was the battle
of Fair Oaks, and the division would have been sent across
the river, and probably engaged, had not the bridges been
carried away by the unprecedentedly high tlow of the waters,
occasioned by the recent heavy storm of rain already men-
lioned.

Sunday, June 1. — The conflict commenced again at day-
light, but in a few hours appeared to recede in the distance.
Our forces drove the enemy antl approached to within five
miles of Richmond. The aggregate losses on both sides in
killed and wounded was 12,500 men. \\'e marched at 4 p.m.
;ibout two miles, and encamped in a dense pine wood near
^'ew Hridge, whicli was an admirable spot for a camp. The
'■:i;igon the other ^idc of the nvcr led the men to expect
t".U ihcy would be called uiion at any moment to take part
;le which aj^peared to them would i)erhaps



190 Fifth A'czo York Volunteer Infantry.

decide the fate of one of the two great armies. We were
■io near the enemy that no drum or bugle call was allowed
to be sounded.

On the 2d the weather was very warm, and the sound of
battle was almost entirely subdued, very little firing being
heard during the day. A sniall detail was made up and em-
ployed in digging about the camp. Colonel Warren sup-
plied the men with a quantity of flour, and bread-baking
was the order of the day. Those who had tin plates were
the favored ones ; the rest were obliged to wait and borrow
them from their comrades. The flour was simi)ly mixed
with water and made into unleavened cakes and baked ; but
the men relished them with great satisfaction, as it was an
acceptable change in the diet to which they had been ac-
customed ; and at times was heard from some epicure who
could not restrain from giving vent to his satisfaction, the
expressive, but not very elegant remark, '"Aint this bully."

I'wo of the boys (of Eastern Shore celebrity in mischief)
procured about a bushel of flour, and some sugar and sale-
ratus, borrowed a sheet-iron kettle of one of the officers' serv-
ants, obtained a lot of fat salt pork, and went into business.
They first washed all the salt from the pork, tried it out,
mixed their flour with sugar and saleratus, let it rise, and
then made some of the finest doughnuts, as they supposed,
that were ever served up ; at all events they were "done
brown." When they had made a great pile of them, they
opened sho|), and never before was there such a rush to
procure some of those elegant doughnuts. The pile was
soon gone at five for twenty-five cents, and the demand far
exceeded the supply. Occasionally a n^an was found who
had the temerity to express the opinion that they were
rather tough, and were good sjiecimens of home-made Indii.
rubber ; but he wai iinmctliatcly frowned down as a bar-
barian, and a man de\oid of epicurean tastes. 'I'l'ie sale
ke[)t U[) so briskly that bv night the batter was almost



The Peninsular Campaign. 191

exhausted, and the firm closed up their business for the day,
.-tiiiiated their protits, and talked over their plans for the
f'lture. But they were in a quandary. The batter was
nearly gone, and no more flour could be obtained within
r.uige of their guns. Suddenly the contracted brow of H.
relaxed from its thoughtful aspect, and his face lit up with a
ccnial smile. He had struck an idea, and was like a gold-
ininer when he pans out a rich lot of " ])ay-dust." " Eureka ! "
\\z exclaimed, quoting Archimedes. They had still on hand
a fjuantity of saleratus, which up to this time was looked upon
as dead stock, but now it was worth its weight in gold.
•• What idea have you struck, pards ?" asked H.'s colleague.
•' Wliy, you noodle-head, its very plain — put in more sale-
r.ilus ! " " That's the cheese. Why didn't you think of that
iiefore?" The saleratus was added hi generous quantity,
nnd tliey turned in and went to sleep, [)robably dreannng of
light doughnuts for the million — so light, in fact, that a piece
t f dough the size of a walnut would turn into a doughnut
the size of a puuipkin. At all events, they must have
<ireauied on promiscuous subjects, for they had partaken
iihcrally of their own stock in trade to show their faith in
iiome manufactures. I am not positive that this was the
KJentical night that the whole camj) was aroused by fearful
<ioains, and the men grasped their rifles, and the otificers
r'.;shed out of their tents clad in Georgia costuuie, swords
.^!ul revolvers in hand, supjiosing at first that the enemy had
< M'^iired the camp and were bayoneting the men in their
I'-nts, until it was discovered that a sonmambulist of Coui-
I'^ny F had jumped up in a nightmare and was trying to
« limb a tree before he was awakened, having dreamed that
■'Me nf Hood's Texan Rangers was trying to scalp him. At
' '-vt-nts this was the camp where this identical thing hap-

'■•■•d. and tliis naturally ought to have been the night, for
•■ vir bftore were the men's stomachs so fidl.

lii tlie morninLT tiie firm were roused fro!n their dreams of



192 Fifth Nciu York Volunteer Infantry.

wealth by tlie icveille, and jumped up in a hurry. But what
a sight met their eyes ! Dough, dough, dough everywhere !
The fact 01" it was, their stock had risen about one hundred
and fifty per cent, above par, and kept on rising. The floor of
their tent, blankets, ritles, cartridge-boxes, and everything else.
were covered with a layer of dough, and they could be traced
out to the line for roll call by a string of dough. This was
soiiiething that had not entered into their calculations. They,
however, did well in business that day, and added saleratus,
as their batter decreased, until the compound was so sour
that all the sugar they could beg, borrow, or steal was nut
sufficient to sweeten it enough to suit the most depraveil
taste. Accordingly one night, after a very dull day's trade,
they buried what remained of their stock in a hole outside
of their tent, in the company street. But their astonishmeiU
was great in the morning at finding that the stuff refused to
stay buried, and had burst through the crust of earth over
it, and, like a fountain, was sending out its streams, where-
upon they were obliged to heap several bushels of dirt over
the spot to prevent its resurrection. The next morning they
looked out of their tent with anything but confidence, ex-
pecting to see a new eruption. They were agreeably disap-
pointed, and thus ends the long, but true story of the
"Zouave" doughnuts.

As the regiment was about to assemble for evening parade,
one of the drummer-boys made his appearance in his accus-
tomed ])lace barefoot, his shoes having mysteriously disai'-
peared. The Drum-Major dismissed him with the admoni-
tion to present himself in just one minute and a half decently
shod, or suffer the consequences. He hurried off in gre;U
anxiety as to what he should do ; for, being a small boy, h<-^
had great doubt in his mind about bemg able to borrow .1
jiair from any of the men off duty that would be an> wheie
near a fit. But time was precious, and seeing a contraban-l,
one of the otlicers' servants, who wore niunber foui teens, ht-'



The Peninsular Cmnpaign. 193

prevailed upon him. witli tears in his eyes, to lend him his
brogans. He made his appearance in the niche of lime, and
as he shuffled down the line with the drum corps, for he could
not raise his feet for fear of losing his shoes, trying to put on an
unconscious air, as if there was nothing extraordinary in his
appearance, it was as much as all could do, from the Colonel
down, to keep a straight face. Such enormous feet were
never seen before on a small boy, outside of a negro min-
strel show, and I venture to say that had he been shot, he
would have died upright, for nothing short of an earthquake
could have destroyed his equilibrium, with such a broad and
lengthy foundation.

At night we slept under arms, and during the following
day, the 3d, the division was drawn up on parade, and Gen-
eral McClellan's battle speech was read. It was, in substance,
that the army was about to go into battle, and that when it
maiched, knapsacks, baggage, and wagons were to be left on
tl-.is side of the Chickahominy. All that the men were to
carry would be their arms and accoutrements, haversack,
with three days' rations, and canteen of water. He said the
enemy were now at bay before their citadel, and that he
would be with his men in the hour of battle. General S3ke3
said that he could add but little ; but that little was said to the
point. He spoke about as tbllows : "Soldiers of Connecti-
cut and New York ! We are about to go into battle, and
if there is any hard work to do, ice Jiave got to do it. ^Ve
must stick by our General, and march by his side into Rich-
n)ond." Cheers then rent the air, and the troo\)s were
marched back to their respective camping grounds.

The rain fell in tonents at night, and continued to do so
the whole of the next day. The Chickahominy had risen to
an unnreced .-nted height, and ovei flowed the swampy ground
•■n i:s borders, and it ua-^ feared that tlie ilood nii-ht en-
<'!ngcr the comnnujication.-. between the right and left wiiigs
of ihe army. Blankets and overcoats were wet through ; for.
o



194 PiP^^ ^'"^^ "^^^^ Voluntctr Infantry.

having no tents, the only shelter the men had, was one of
the most temporary khid. They were troubled with dianhcea
and malaria ; there were about forty new cases of fevers in the
regiment ; many of the officers were absent sick, and others
had sent in their resignations. Whisky and quinine were
given out night and morning as a tonic. There were about
650 men present for duty.

The regiment went out on picket on the mornmg of
Thursday, the 5th, on the Chickahominy, -at New Dndgc.
The enemy opened with their batteries, and it was not long
before three of our batteries were replying ; the artillery duel
continued for two hours, which made the position of the men
on picket and the reserve anything but agreeable. They
were obliged frequently to shift their positions from the road
leading to the bridge, as the guns of the enemy comj^letely
commanded it, and nothing could live there a moment.
Finally the Confederate guns were silenced. They wounded
some of our men, killed three horses, and did other damage.^
Two Confederates who were on jncket deserted their post
and came over and delivered themselves up to George Finley,
of Comi^any H. They were fired at by their comrades, but
escaped injury. The Confederate and Union pickets were
quite close, being in plain view of each other, and >ometimes
made an agreement not to fire on one another. It an otticer
made his appearance the men jumped for cover, as they were
not included in the armistice, and a general fusilade follows
from both sides. One shot breaks the truce, and this may
continue for some days, until they renew the agreement.

The ne.xt morning we were relieved from this duty, and
several of the pickets that relieved the I'ifdi, were shot by
the rebels, who received similar compliments in return. On
the 7th three men died in the camp hospital, oi fevpr. \\ e

•General McCUlbn's Report, (p. 2z^^■. - Ni w Ukidw^, 'June 5, .36. .-Kn-
emy opened widi several baaeries on our bridge, near here tins morn.,i- ; our bat-
terio seem to have prctly mueh .ilei.ced them, though some fivln- is stdl l.j.pl up.



The Pcniyisular Ca?npaig?i. 195

were joined by the loth New York, from Fortress Monroe.
On Sunday, the 8th, after the usual inspection, the men oc-
cupied themselves in mending and washing their clothes.

On the 9th, the division was reviewed by General Prim,
of Spain, the Count of Reus and Castillejos, accompanied
!>y Oeneral McClellan and staff. General Prim paused be-
fore the Fifth, and appeared to be highly delighted. He was
astonished to see a regiment uniformed exactly like the 2d
Regiment of French Zouaves. He inquired respecting their
organization, and complimented Colonel Warren personally
on their appearance, offering him his hand in acknowledg-
in.'ntof his gratification. After the review the Zouaves went
through a drill, bayonet exercise, etc. General Prim atten-
tively watched the unity and precision of their movements.
He clapped his hands enthusiastically, and the men felt
highly complimented.

Orders were sent us on Thursday, the 12th, to be ready at
a moment's notice in light marching order. We left camp at
7 P..M. and marched to the Chickahominy with other troops,
numbering in all about r.500 men. Arms were loaded and
ambulances in attendance. After posting strong pickets and
reserves, the remainder were set to work throwing up an
earthwork to protect a battery, which they also masked ; it
was finished just before daylight, and we marched back to
camp. If the enemy had been aware of what we were doing,
they certainly would have attacked us.

On the following day, about 5 p.m., the regiment fell into
line, loaded rifles, and stepped off in light marching order,
without waiting for rations or evening coffee, after Stuart's
•:avalry, about 1,500 strong, with four guns, who made a dash
by the right flank of the army and got in its rear. They at-
' !' '.cd two squadrons oi the 5lh T. >. Cav.iliy, m^.'cr the
'■JiiiiiKind of Captain Ru}all, near lIaiiov:i U\i ClauJi. ar.d.
overpowered theui. Tiie first squadron \\as siiri'iiscd and
li'Spersed ; the second charged vigorously, without regard to



196 FiftJi. New York Volunteer Infantry.

the enemy's numbers. Capt. Royall killed the commander
of the first squadron of the enemy with his own hand, and
was himself wounded in several places a moment after. It
was feared the enemy might damage the railroad by whicii
the supplies for the army were transi)orted from White-hous
Landing. We bivouacked near Old Church, after a forced
march of thirteen miles. A detail from the regiment, who
were stationed as an outpost, and guard of protection over
Mrs. Robert Lee, her daughter-in-law, the wife of Colonel Lee,
and two nieces, who were living in Rufrin's house, saw all
the enemy's cavalry pass along on the other side of the river
a few hours before the regiment came up. This was the
residence of Edmund Ruftin, the Virginian who went to
Charleston and begged the honor of firing the first gun at the
opening of the attack on Fort Sumter. A few weeks after
the close of the war, with that insane hatred of the Union and
the flag which animated so many at the time, and determined
that he would never again live under the Stars and Stripes,
he deliberately loaded his pistol and fired a bullet into his
head, falling dead on the spot. It was the last tragic act ni
the Rebellion.

When the troops first arrived in this part of Virginia, about
May 24th, a squad of the Fifth, under an officer, were de-
tailed to search Ruffin's house, under the supposition that
papers containing valuable information for tlie Union cause
might be discovered. The search was submitted to with an
ill grace by Mrs. Lee, and as the officer was about to deinirt,
the following note was placed in liis charge, addressed to the
General in conmiand of the division :

Sir: — I have patiently and humbly submitted to a search I'f
my house by men under your command, who are satisfied that
there is nothiiii^ h. re that they want, all the plate and otl:< i'
valuables luniiii,^ long sinee been removed t^j Richmond, and .ne
now beyond the reach of any Northern marauders who may v.i^'i
lor their possession. yy^^^^ OP Robert Lee,

Ccnrral C. S. . t.



The Peninsular Campaign. 197

Instead of not noticing her insulting and impudent com-
munication, a guard was established over the house and
grounds for the i)rotection of the property as well as for her-
self and family.

After two hours' sleep we continued the march, and ar-
rived at I P.M. on the X4th, at Tunstall's Station, about
five miles from the White House, having marched eleven
miles under a scorching sun. The enemy turned oft" from
this point, and fmally crossed the Chickahominy by Long
Bridge, having made the entire circuit of the army, thus ex-
posing the weakness of Gen. AfcClellan's right. They killed
several teamsters and cavalrymen, and a sutler ; burned
fourteen army wagons and their contents, and two schoon-
ers laden with forage ; cut the telegraph, and commenced
pulling up the railroad track. They also tired into a train of
our sick and wounded. This was about the whole of the
damage done by Stuart in his celebrated raid, beside expos-
ing the weakness of our right wing.

After a short rest, the regiment started back to camp, the
lame and laggard left to follow at will, as if was a forced
march throughout. Notwithstanding this, we were left in the
rear of the enemy as witnesses of the burning wagons they left
in their path. We halted at three o'clock^n the morning,
cooked some coff'ee, and continued the march, arriving in
can)p at forty minutes past 7 a.m. of Sunday, the I'sth,
havmg marched about forty-six miles in thirty-six hours. The
niornmg was a beautiful one ; the moon rose about mid-
'";;hi, and there was a cool, refreshing breeze. The troops
on this tramp, besides the Fifth, were the loth New York,
1st Connecticut, Rush's Lancers, and four pieces of Weedcn's
Hhode Island battery.



/,..;. Ji; ■ :i.



CHAPTER X.

THE SEVEN DAYS' RETREAT — BATTLE OF GAINES'
MILL.

Anniversary of the Battle of Bl'nker Hill; Thfn and Now — Frf.edom

AGAINST SlAVERV — SaNITARY CONDITION OF THE REGIMENT — PlCICET DfTV —

A Sabbath Journal — Death of Sergeant Reynolds— Seven Days' Rf-
TREAT— Fifth Corps Engagkd — Battle of Gaines' Mill— Death of Capt.
Partridge— Color-Sekceant Berrian — A Charge in the Woods— A Rkuel
Trick— The Field at Night— Losses— Testimony of the Officers— Of-
Fici.Ai Reports — Confederate Reports— Incidents— Wm. McDowell —
"Dave" Blrns — Walter S. Colby — Francis Sphllman — Sad Sepaf-v-
TiONS — Colonel Warren's Rei'ort- General Svkes' Report.

Tuesday^ June 17, 1862. — The anniversary of the battle of
Bunker Hill was, to our regiment, one of comparative inac-
tivity, nothing having occurred to give special significance or
importance to the day distinguished in the history of the
Union for a conflict which gave so much of character and
impress to the impending struggle for independence and
liberty. Yet no one of all the great army was an inditTerent
observer of the day. 'i'he American soldier remembered the
story of Warren and his heroes, and the soldier of forei^-n
birth, who was fighting for his adopted home, learned, if he
had not before, the nuMning oi the event, and felt stronger
for the struggle before him. The century was nearing its
close, and the feeble colonies of that day had grown up into
a nation of independent States, whose power, grandeur, aiul
civilization rivaled that of the oldest nations of the world,
and commanded the un.iniinous homage of mankind.

All around us and covering die adjacent plain for miies
was an immense camp. There were assembled here scores



•TT



The Seven Days Retreat — Gaines Mill. 199

of thousands of brave men waiting and watching another
army of equally brave men, in about equal numbers, and
jircparing for some great encounter which might decide the
issue of the momentous question which had brought them
from homes and firesides, and from the progress and splendid
ilevelopments of peace to the cruel and barbarous arbitration
of war and blood. There were assembled in other camps,
and on other fields in various parts of the Union, vast num-
bers of men not less brave and not less determined, and the
armies who thus were flashing their blades in the sunlight
were more in number than all the able-bodied men in the
colonies who rejoiced over the achievements of Bunker Hill.
Hut the issue of to-day was not less vital than that of the four-
score years passed away, and the people of the next century
will no less honor the men who surrendered their all on the
altar of their country. The interests of slavery that in-
S[iired the war were compelled to surrender to the grander
behests of freedom ; and while hundreds of thousands of
brave men died in obedience to the imperialism of their
leaders in behalf of slavery, it can never be forgotten that
slavery made the attack, and in the contest perished. The
system, which was itself a perpetual war against humanity,
fell in its attack upon the free institutions under which it
ViX<\ grown into such colossal strength. Although we were
idle for the day in camp, amid its routine the sound of di^-
t.int thunder, borne by the winds, told us that the struggle
^vas continued by some otiier portion of our wide-spread
irmy of freedom.

On Wedncsdav, the iSth, some of our companies returned
from picket. They were posted on the Richmond side of
•'le Chickahominy, within eighty yards of the enemy's jiick-
<^>-^. -\s soon as they were p')r;ted, the enemy o[>cned uom
'■■f^c!-nt ]H_i:r,l~;. but tiie men kcjit thcinselvcs slieiteied bc-
'' ""id old trees and log>, some of them being up to iheir
*vaist3 in water, but none of them were struck, though the



200 Fifth New York Volunteer Infantry.

balls whistled very close, often striking within a few feet.
The firing was continued by both sides during the day, and
toward evening an additional interest was given to the
scene by an artillery duel, which took place to the right.
The firing was continued all night at intervals, and until
they were relieved in the morning. While passing over the
brow of a hill on their return to camp they were made a
target for the enemy's shell, but none were injured.

The sanitary condition of the regiment continued about
the same as usual. Some of the officers were absent on the
sick-list, and a number of the men were in the hospitals.
The locality in which we were placed, and the want of
shelter, day or night, with the continuous e.xposure to the
heavy rains alternating with scorching heat, and the dense
malarial atmosphere, made an ordinary sanitary condition
an impossibility.

On Thursday, the 19th, we were blessed with a supjily of
shelter tents, giving room for two men in each, but o]:>en
front and rear. From the time the regiment landed on the
Peninsula, with the exception of the three weeks spent in
front of Yorktown, they had been destitute of shelter, except
such as could be improvised from the branches of trees
lashed together and plastered with nuid for mortar, or by
spreading their ponchos over low branches of trees and lying
under them.

Picket duty for nearly the whole of the regiment was or-
dered on Friday, the 20th. Seven companies went into the
swamps for twenty-four hours. In this service the artillery
had a part, and a duel between the opposing batteries was al-
most always inevitable. The armies were very close, and a
general engagement might ensue at any moment, and great
vigilance was necessary to guard against a surprise. Six
hhell dropped into our cani[), whicli was hidden from t!ic
view of t';ic enemy by the woods, but their fire may have
been guided by the smoke of our camp fires rising above the



The Seven Days Retreat — Gaines Mill. 201

trees. The first shell went directly over the camp, and
passed so close that some of the men dropped down, ex-
pecting it to burst. It killetl a regular. Another siiell burst
in the ist Connecticut camp, lying near the Fifth, and killed
one of their men. About 7 p..\i. Companies G and H were
ordered to move in light marching order, with details from
other regiments to build a battery for the |)rotection of the
artillery on picket. The rifles were loaded as usual, and
ambulances iii attendance, as they were liable to a sudden
attack at any time. They succeeded partially without acci-
dent or discovery, but the day dawned before it was quite
completed, and obliged them to discontinue their labors, to
avoid being discovered by the enemy and shelled. After



Online LibraryAlfred DavenportCamp and field life of the Fifth New York volunteer infantry. (Duryee zouaves.) → online text (page 16 of 39)