Alfred Davenport.

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

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was sent on picket to the rear, to guard against a surprise
by Mosby anil his men. The night was bitterly cold, from
which the men suffered severely, but they kindled largo
fires, antl, uitii the addition of ha)' from -omc ;-'.K-ks
by. made themselves as comfuitablc as clrculll^tanccs would

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332 Fifth New York Volunteer Infantry.

accustomed to the grindstone, made a foray on a sutler's
wagon which happened to be near General Warren's quarters
on the road. He sprang among them and whacked them well
with his sword, much to their astonishment. They became
well toned down, after a little training, like the rest of us.

On Saturday, the 8th, the reveille woke us at 4.30 a.m.
We marched at eight o'clock, advancing nine miles over bad
roads through White Plains, and bivouacked near New Balti-
more. The next day, Sunday, the 9th, we marched at 8 A.>r.,
about two miles through Thoroughfare Gap, and bivouacked
within one mile of Warrenton, and in sight of the spires of
that strong secessionist town. The weather was tine, but
clear and cold. We were drawn up in line on the beautiful
morning of the loth, but our hearts were sad. We had a
farewell review from General McClellan. The men received
him with nine hearty cheers, as he always had their entire
confidence, and all were sad at parting with him.

At evening parade the farewell address of our beloved
Commander-in-Cliief was read off, which vvas as follows :

Headquarters Army of the Potomac, \

Camp near Rectortown. November 7, 1862. S
Officers and Soldiers of the Army of the Potomac :
— An order of the President devolves upon Major-General
Burnside the command of this army. In parting from you I can
not express the love and gratitude I bear you. As an army, you
have grown up in my care. In you I have never found doubt or
coldness. The battles you have fought under my command will
proudly live in our nation's history. The glory you have achieved,
our mutual perils and fatigues, the graves of our comrades fallen
in battle and by disease, the broken forms of those whom wounds
and sickness have disabled — the strongest associations which can
fxist among men — unite us still by an indissoluble tie. We shall
ever be conir.icics in supporting the Constitution of our country
and the nationality of its people.

G. B. McClellax,

Major-General U. S. Arwy.

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■ * On the March to Fredericksburg. 333

The regiment did not expect to make a halt so soon, but
were not sorry to have a litte rest. A supply of straw had
been appropriated by the men, which they were fortunate
enough to discover, thereby adding much to their comfort.
The wind was blowing a gale from the north, and the sky
was overcast with clouds, giving promise of another snow-

The men endured the weather very well, but the horses
suffered severely. The nth was a clear, pleasant day;
another review was held, and General Fitz John Porter took
leave of his command. He looked pale, and evidently was
anxious and ill at ease. The men gave him nine hearty
cheers, and the common remark among them was, "Another
good General gone."

On Wednesday, November 12th, General Ambrose E.
Burnside took command of the army. On the 13th, the
146th Regiment, New York Volunteers, under the command
of Colonel Garrard, a regular officer, joined the brigade. It
was a fine body of men, enlisted from the Western and
Central portion of the State, and about 850 strong. This
regiment made for itself, by its active service with the Army
of the Potomac, to the close of the war, a splendid war
record. Their long list of killed and wounded tells tlie story
of the hard fighting they did at Gettysburg and during
Grant's great campaign, which closed with the ca[)ture of

On Saturday, the 15th, the Fifth was visited about dark
by General A. Duryee and aides. As soon as he was rec-
ognized by tlie men, they turned out and gave him a fitting
reception, to which he responded by a short and appropriate

On Sunday, the i6th. Colonel Iliram Duryea left us on
account of prolonged ill liealth.

The 17th we left camp in a cold rain-storm, and after a
march of twelve miles, passing through Warrenton, went into

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334 Fifth New York Volunteer Infantry.

bivouac about lo p.m. at Warrenton Junction. The roads
were in a very bad condition, which occasioned much delay,
but when the wagons and artillery got on clear ground, we
were obliged to make up the distance on a half run, which
was more fatiguing than a steady, uniform step. At dusk
there was no sign of going into camp, and at the halts the
men sat down in the mud of the road to rest. Finally we
were ordered into a field to camp. The prospect was dreary
enough. It was cold and raining hard ; wood was at a dis-
tance, which we were obliged to feel out in the dark. The
men rigged up shelters as best they could, fastening them to
the rifles for want of better supports, and slept on the cold,
wet ground.

About four o'clock a.m. the men were aroused from their
restless slumbers by the blast of the bugle ; the sky was
cloudy and the sun not visible. We fell in line and marched
about eight o'clock across fields, swamps, guUeys, up hill
and down, through bushes, woods, and streams, crossing the
same stream of water no less than four times, the fording of
which did not make one's feet and legs feel any more com-
fortable, and this march certainly had no attraction. It was
raining all the time, and we tramped on in this manner until
dark, when the patience of the men was about exhausted,
and there was plenty of grumbling, cursing, and groans.

Finally we were turned into a field to rest, after sixteen
miles of marching ; the ground was rough and uneven, and
so thickly ornamented with stones and lumjis as to make
one feel as if he was lying on a picket fence. This place
was Spotted Tavern. One of the men remarked that it
ought to be named " Devil's Rest."

On Wednesday, the 19th, marched at daylight through the
rain five miles, and bivouacked near Hartwood Church.

The two succeeding days we remained in camp. It rained
continually, and the men's clothing was soaking wet day
and night; some of them laid with the water running under

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On the March to Fredericksburg. 335

them, and had a complete, if not satisfactory, experience of
that delightful sensation. We started on the march, but
encountered an endless train of wagons blockaded in the
muddy roads, and were ordered to camp again. The tribu-
lations of the men thus far had not served to increase their
joy at the prospect of a " winter campaign."

On Saturday, the 2 2d, we left camp about 3 a.m., went
nearly four miles, and bivouacked near Stafford Court-
House. On Sunday, the 23d, marched at 2 p.m. about three
miles and encaniped near Henry House, in the vicinity of
General Hooker's quarters. The night was very cold, and
the men were obliged to get up frequently to warm their
feet ; the water froze in their canteens.

Thursday, November 27th, Thanksgiving day, the men
dined on salt pork and hard-tack. For recreation they hatl
a drill in the afternoon to aid digestion. 28th, the division
was reviewed by General Sykes, and had a brigade drill un-
der General Warren. 29th, the corps was reviewed by Gen-
eral Hooker, commander of the center grand division of the
army. New uniforms were issued, being the first time since
l-'ebruary, 1S62. On Sunday, the 30th, we i)assed for inspec-
tion in heavy marching order before General Hooker's quar-
ters, the regiment displaying their new uniforms.

On ?vIonday, December ist. Colonel Hiram Duryea's res-
ignation was read otT on dress parade, the regiment thereby
losing a brave and accomplished otficer, whose absence was
keenly felt during the remainder of their term of service.
He was a very strict disciplinarian, and no holiday soldier,
and it was greatly owing to this fact that the excellent state
of discipline and perfection in drill, to which we had been
brought by Colonel Warren, was maintained.

December 3d, a detail from the regiment went on picket
\- ill) two days' rations. Saturday, December 6lh, w is a clear,
(-1! dav, widi snow on the ground five inches deep. 'I'lie
regiment was prepared for a review by General Bulterfield,

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336 Fifth New York Volunteer Infantry.

acting in command of the corps. But the order was coun-

On Saturday, December 6th, a detail was ordered from the
regiment for picket duty, in heavy marching order and two
days' rations. After considerable delay in making up the
details from the different regiments, they marched over
nuserable roads and two or three streams about three miles
from camp, and about 3 p.m. were in the position assigned
them in the rear of the army. The prospect at first was
gloomy. The fields and trees \\ere covered with snow, and
not a green thing was to je seen ; but they were agreeably
surprised when they reached their position. A Corporal
and si.v men were assigned to each post, where they found
generous fires in front of rude shelters made of rails and
boughs of trees, built by the 4th ^Michigan boys, whom they
relieved, and all they had to do was to take their place and
keep the fires going. The reserve was posted further to the
rear in a hollow of the pine woods, and made themselves
comfortable. A man was posted from each squad of six
men further to the front in the woods, for two hours at a
time. Of course, it was a severe task to stand quietly on
duty in the snow, peering around on the watch. But on the
other hand, it was a pleasure for the solitary sentinel to oc-
casionally cast a glance to the rear at the gleaming of the
picket fires in the woods, and to enjoy in anticipation the
comfort that was in store for his chilled body when he
should be relieved from his vigil. The weather was very
cold, and water froze in the canteens a few feet from the
fires. The blankets and overcoats were frozen stiff from
previous dampness. Sunday, the 7th, and the succeeding
day continued clear and cold, and the snow was still on the
ground. The picket was relieved on the evening of the 8th.

Major Wiublow was read off on evening parade as Colonel
of the Fifth, and Ensign Winslow, his bi other, as First Lieu-
tenant ; John S. Raymond was promoted to a Captaincy,

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On the March to Fredericksburg. 337

and assigned to Company G ; A. S, Chase to Captain of
Company D ; Sergeant Kitson to Ensign of Company C ;
Sergeant T. £. Fish to Ensign, and Commissary E. M. Earle,
appointed Quartermaster, vice A. L. Thomas, promoted to
Brigade Quartermaster.

These were the preliminaries and the preparation for the
impending struggle, which we were in ardent hope would
see the duration of war cease, and that the Union with its
benedictions of peace would once more be restored. But
our hopes as to the issuoof the coming conflict were to be
dashed to the ground, and it wis destined to form a dark
event in the history of the Union cause.




In Sight .of Fredericksburg — The Pontoon — The Burning City — The Posi-
tion—Across THE River— Marye's Hill — A Dcscription by the Philadel-
phia Times— Thb Attack — The Enemy's Batteries — The Slaughter Path
— French's Division— Hooker's Charge— Howard at the Front— Hum-
phrey's Division— Sykes' Division— The Dead .\nd- Wounded — Warren's
Brigade — The Brigade of Death — The Compte de Paris — The Fifth in a
Garden — Our Regulars Severely Placed — The Gloom Pall— Forlorn
' Hope — Strategy — Lstrenchments at Night — Covering the Retreat —
The L.\st Man Crossed— The Pontoon Lifted— Incidents— Henry House
— <}enerai. Svkes' General Order.

At half-past 2 o'clock on the morning of Thursday, the
nth day of Deceiuber, 1S62, the reguiient was aroused from
its shuiibers, by the sound of the bugle ringing out the
reveille on the clear, cold air. The men immediately turned
out and formed in line for roll call. .'Vfter answering to their
names, they commenced their slight preparations for the
march. They formed in line and at about six o'clock took
the road, already blocked up, as far as the eye could scan,
with moving troops, artillery, and ambulances. The sound
of a heavy gun in the distance announced that the hat for
battle had gone forth, which, ere it closed, was to send weep-
ing and mourning into many a happy Northern home, and
throw a mantle of gloom over every patriot heart throughout
the land. Soon other guns sent forth their deep-toned notes,
and the roar of artillery became incessant. After many
halts, and a march of about three miles, the division was
turned into a wood to await further orders. Thoy were
linally niarched from the wood to a position behind sonic
earthworks on high ground, near the banks of the Rapi'a-
hannock, from which they could distinctly see the ill-fated


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Battle of Fredericksburg. 339

city of Fredericksburg, lying about two miles to their left,
on the other side of the river, and along on their side of the
river, and stretching far off in the distance, huge balls of
smoke arose from the guns which were playing on the
opposite bank.

The men of the 50th New York Regiment, Engineer
Corps, were engaged all day in trying to lay the pontoon
bridge across the river, but were prevented by the enemy's
riflemen, who were posted in the houses along the street's
adjacent to the river. This compelled the General com-
manding to order the guns to be turned upon the city and
shell the place. Soon thirty-tive batteries, numbering one
hundred and seventy-nine guns, were hurling their shell into
the cUy ; they continued the bombardment for an hour, each
piece discharging about fifty shots ; the reverberations of the
guns were like long rolls of thunder, and soon the hij^'ii
banks of the river were enveloped in smoke. The city was
set on fire by the shell in several places, and continued to
burn all day and through the succeeding night. It was a
splendid spectacle in the darkness, as the flames burst fortli
from the burning houses. On Friday, the 12th, detachments
of the 7th Michigan, followed by the 19th and 20th Massa-
chusetts, about four hundred men in all, dashed across the
river in pontoon boats and routed the enemy's ritlemen,
lying behind the brick walls of the ruined houses along the
river front, but they suffered some loss in their heroic enter-

The engineers were now able to lay their bridges without
uiolestation. The enemy's works on tiie heights to the
of the city could be plainly seen, as they were built on
steep hills ninety and one hundred feet in height; concern-
ing which, wrote the London llnics corresiiondent after t!ie
I'lttle : '-This crest of hills constitutes one of the strongc-t
l)ositions in the world — impregnable to any attack in the
front." The Confederates scarcely deigned to rei)ly to the

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340 FiftJi Nc-iv York Vohintccr Infantry.

fire of the batteries, and it looked oniinous ; it seemed as if
they were saving their ammunition and biding their time,
being sure of their prey when the troops crossed over into
the city.

On Saturday, the 13th, by two o'clock in the afternoon,
the troops were all across the river, with the exception of
Sykes' division, which was held as a reserve, being com-
posed of two brigades of regulars and Warren's brigade,
consisting at that time of the Fifth, 140th, and 146th New
York, the Fifth being regarded the same in point of steadi-
ness and discipline as the regulars. The two other regiments
had not yet been under fire, having been recently recruited.
Since noon the rattle of nuisketry intermingled with the
roar of artillery had been incessant, and told the story of the
fierce conflict raging.

We will now halt for a moment and see what is going on
in front of Marye's Hill, through the eyes of one who must
have been present, or he could not have described the scene
so faithfully or so well.

The following was.^ published in the New York SnnJay
Sun of August 5, 1 87 7, credited to the Philadelphia Times,
and its perusal will bring home to the thoughts of all those
who were present on that bloody field, the truthfulness of
the scenes described :

" Man-e's Hill was the focus of the strife. It rises in the rear
of Fredericksburg, a stone's throw beyond the canal which runs
along the western border of the city. The ascent is not vep,- ab-
rupt. A brick house stands on the hillside, whence you may
overlook Fredericksburg and all the circumjacent country. The
Orange plank-road ascends the hill on the right-hand side of the
house, the telegraph road on the left. Above Mar>'e's Hill is an
elc\'atcd plateau whicli commands it. The hill is part of a long,
bold ridgo on \\hk\\ the declivity leans, str.'lching from Falnwuih
to Massoponax Creek, six miles. Its summit was shaggy and rough
with the earthworks uf the Confederates, and was crowned by
their attiller)-. The stone wall on Marye's Height was their

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V ■ Battle of Frcdcrickslmrg. 341

'coign of vantage,' held by the brigades of Cobb and Kershaw,
of McLaw's division. On the semicircular crest above, and
sti-etchiiigfar on either hand, was Longstreet's corps, forming the
left of the Confederate line. His advance position was the stone
wall and rifle trenches along the telegraph road above the housf.
The guns of the enemy commanded and swept the streets which
led out to the heights. Sometimes you might see a regiment
marching down those streets in single tile, keeping close to the
houses, one tile on the right-hand side, another on the left.

" Between a canal and the foot of the ridge was a level plat of
flat, even ground, a few hundred yards in width. This restricted
space afforded what opportunity there was to form in order of
battle. A division massed on this narrow plain was a target
for Lee's artillery, which cut tearful swaths in the dense and
compact ranks.

" Below and to the right were fences which impeded the ad-
vance of the charging lines. Whatever division was assigned the
task of carrying Marye's Hill, debouched from the town, crossed
the canal, traversed the narrow level and formed under cover of
a sharp rise of ground at the foot of the heights.

" At the word, suddenly ascending this bank, they pressed for-
ward up the hill for the stone wall and the crest beyond, into tiu
jaws of death.

" From noon to dark Bumside continued to hurl one division
after another against that volcano-like eminence, belching forth
fire and smoke and iron hail. French's division was the tirst to
rush to the assault. When it emerged from cover and burst out
on the open, in full view of the enemy, it was greeted with a
frightful fiery reception from all his batteries on the circling

" The ridge concentrated upon it the convergent fire of all its
enginery of war. Vou might see at a mile the lanes made by the
cannon balls in the ranks. You might see a bursting shell throw
up into the air a cloud of earth and dust, mingled with the limbs
of mr-n. The battiTi( s in front of the d^'voted division lhiind« rcil
against it. To the right, to the left, cannon were answering to
each other in a tremendous deafening battle chorus, the burden
of which was :

"' Welcome to these Ki.-xdmen about to die.'

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342 FijftJi Nezv York Volunteer Infantry.

" The advancing column was a focus, the point of concentration
of an arc — almost a semicircle — of destruction. It was a center
of attraction of all deadly missiles. At that moment that single
division was going up alone in battle against the Southern Con-
federacy, and was being pounded to pieces. It continued to go
up, nevertheless, toward the stone wall, toward the crest above.
With lips more finnly pressed together, the men closed up their
ranks and pushed forward. The storm of battle increased its
fur)' upon them ; the crash of musketry mingled with the roar of
ordnance from the peaks. The stone wall and the rifle-pits
added their terrible treble to the deep base of the bellowing
ridge. The rapid discharge of small arms poured a continuous
rain of bullets in their faces ; they fell down by tens, by scores,
by hundreds.

" When they had gained a large part of the distance, the storm
developed into a hurricane of ruin. The division was blown back
as if by a breath of hell's door suddenly opened, shattered, dis-
ordered, pell-mell, down the declivities, amid the shouts and
yells of the enemy, which made the horrid din demoniac. Until
then the division seemed to be contending with the WTath of brute
and material forces bent on its annihilation.

"This shout recalled the human agency in all the turbulence
and fury of the scene. The division of French fell back ; that is
to say, one-half of it. It suffered a loss of near half its numbers.
Hancock immediately charged with five thousand men, veteran
regiments, led by tried commanders. They saw w^hat had hap-
pened ; they knew what would befall them. They advanced up
the hill ; the bravest were found dead within twenty-five paces
of the stonewall ; it was slaughter, havoc, carnage. In fifteen
minutes they were thrown back with a loss of two thousand —
unprecedented seventy of loss. Hancock and French, repulsed
from the stone wall, would not quit the hill altogether. Their
divisions, lying down on the earth, literally clung to the ground
they had won. Thtse valiant men, who could not go forw;'rd,
would not go bnck. All the while the hatterit s on the heights
raged rmd stiirrm-d at t'i<an.

" How.'jrd's divisi<iii came to their aid. Two di\ isions of the
9th coq)s to their k-ft attacked repeatedly in their support.

" It was then that Uurnside rode from the Phillips House, on

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- ■ Battle of Fredt-ricksburg. 343

the other side of the Rappahannock, and standing on the bluff at
the nver, staring at those formidable heights, exclaimed : ' That
crest must be carried to-night,' Hooker remonstrated, begged,
obeyed. In the army to hear is to obey. He prepared to charge
with Humphrey's division ; he brought up every available battery
in the city. 'I proceeded,' he said, 'against their barriers as I

Online LibraryAlfred DavenportCamp and field life of the Fifth New York volunteer infantry. (Duryee zouaves.) → online text (page 28 of 39)