Alfred Davenport.

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

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tents at 11 A.^r., under threatening weather, with a chilly
wind blowing from the east. At 3 p.m. we marched about
two miles, and bivouacked in the woods. The road was so
blocked with wagons, artillery, and troops, that it was impos-
sible to proceed fiirther. It commenced raining about 5 r.M.,
and continued all night, to our great discomfort, for we were
r.'u (jiily cold, but wet and driiij/ing. In this coiulition llu^
i'-V('i!lc roused us at 4 a.m. on ^, the 2isr, while tlie
r.un was still falling. Our blankets and clothing being soaked,
the load on the backs of the men was very butdcnsonie.

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366 Fifth Neiv York Vohintccr Itifantry.

The exact amount of avoirdupois we never ascertained, by
comparing the weight of a dry and a well-soaked outfit ; but if
the whole army shared the burdens as lue felt them, we had
the whole Confederacy on our backs in more than the mili-
tary metaphor. At daylight we again took the road — if such
it could be called, for it was a sea of mud, and impassable
for wagons or artillery. After marching about five miles we
encamped, at 2.30 p.m., on the right of the road, in a cedar
wood, near the Rappahannock. The distance traveled was
short, but the march was a trying one, and about one-half of
the men were straggling behind. Only about two full com-
panies of the 146th New York came to camp in time. During
the night four of the three years' men deserted from the Fifth.
In the One Hundred and Forty-sixth about thirty were
missing. We had rain all the next day (2 2d), and the roads
were in a worse condition than before. Large fires of logs
were built, but the wind, which was strong, blew the smoke
in all directions, nearly suffocating every one, and as only
half a man could be dried at a time, the other side was wet
through again during the operation. liut the men bore their
discomforts cheerfully, and were enlivened by ballads of the
sea, sung by Jack \Vhigam, who had served an apprentice-
shiji in the navy, and was at the bombardment of Vera Cruz ;
"Butch" and others also contributed their share to the en-
tertainment. Our storm continued through the night, and
all of the 23d, the army being imbedded in mud, which, by
some means, seemed to cover every object, animate or in-
animate, in the army. The artillery and wagons could not
move a foot ; boxes of hard-tack were, of necessity, carried
for a mile or more, on aching shoulders, from the wagons to
camp, each box wcigliing about fifty pounds. Onlv six
crackers were allowed to each man, to last t\vcnt\ - foar liour?.

The pontoons wore all upset and lying buried in the mud
along the roads, while the drivers were absent, trying to make
themselves comfortable. Every man that coukl be spareil

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was sent out to corduroy the roads back to the old camp
and help drag the cannon out of the sloughs ; they were
buried to their muzzles, and ten horses or mules were hitched
to each gi'.n and caisson to draw them. The Confederates
across the river knew the state of affairs, and their pickets
good-naturedly called to the Union pickets, and asked them
if they wanted any help. Having had such an ample sup-
ply of water, our officers, on the morning of Saturday, the
24th, kindly issued us a ration of whisky, for which we were
duly grateful, and at S a.m. the command started back for
their old camping-ground, arriving there about noon, after a
march of seven miles. This move was known as the " mud
march." " Man proposes and God disposes." General
Burnside could not control the elements.

On Sunday, January 25th, General Burnside resigned the
command of the Army of the Potomac.

Wednesday, the sSth, General Hooker took command of
the army ; General Meade, of the center grand division,
composed of the 3d and 5th coq^s, and General Sykes in
command of the 5th corps. The men received two months'
pay. The next day we awoke to find the country wearing
a dreary aspect, with about a foot of snow on the ground.

On Tuesday, the 3d of February, our regiment, with tb.e
brigade, went on picket duty, carrying three days' rations.
On Friday, the 6th, they returned at midnight, their clotliing
covered with ice. They had a rough tour of duty dvuing
the four days they were absent from camp. It rained, froze,
snowed, and the wind blew a gale nearly the wliole time.
One of the men was sent back to camp sick, and reported
to tlie surgeon. He had been told that he was "a i)eat,"
and playing sick. He went into the hospital tent and laid
dou-n. In the morning, it was the old story — ht; wa^ iK'.i.d.

Tlie next day a sliot was heard just outside of the regi-
mental cami>. The provost guard repaired to the spot and
found a soldier lying v/ith the side of his head blown o!l'.

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363 Fifth New York Volunteer Infantry.

They dug a hole a foot deep and buried hiru forthwith, and
took his rifle and belt to their quarters. About an ho\ir
afterward a Sergeant of the regulars came to them and saitl
that one of their i)rovost guard was missing, and asked for
a description of the man they had buried, which was given ;
he proved to be the missing man. It was a case of deliber-
ate suicide. He had hxed a strap so as to discharge his
rifle with his foot, after placing it at the side of his head.
They opened the grave, lifted the body, and buried their
late comrade in the division burying-ground on the hill.

On Tuesday, the loth, the regiment was thoroughly in-
spected by Lieutenant-Colonel Webb, Assistant Inspector-
General, and pronounced to be in the highest condition.
Thursday, the 12th, we learned that General Warren had
been appointed Chief of Topographical Engineers, on Gen-
eral Hooker's staff. Colonel Garrard, of the 146th New York,
a regular officer, was placed in command of the brigade.

"While the provost guard were making a tour on the 14th,
they stopjied at what had once been an elegant mansion,
but at this time was dismantJed of almost everything. A
Corj)oral and two men were stationed at the house per-
manently to preserve it from further destruction, their orders
being to prohibit any one from taking away even a brick.
Their duties were also to arrest any soldier they found out of
camp without leave. Accordingly they were in the habit oi
hiding and watching for stragglers, and as the land was
cleared of trees for many acres in extent around their covert,
they seized many a luckless victim. When the Sergeant and
his squad came up to the house, he found the Corporal and
his two men in an altercation with a Captain from one of
the regiments, who had several men and a wagon, which
tl)ey were loading ui:h bricks. Sergeant lack 'I'a^lor, v ho
was in command of the detail of the laovost, and was one
of the best duty-men in the regiment, oidered the Captain
to stop his work and unload his wagon. The Caiitam

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Camp near Henry House. 369

refused with an oath, and the Sergeant was about to arrest
him, by force, if necessary, when an officer rode up on horse-
back, alone and unobserved until quite near. He halted,
and it being discovered at a glance that he was Major-
General Meade, Taylor had his squad in line in a moment,
right dressed, etc., with as much ceremony as if he was in
command of a battalion, and presented arms. " What is the
trouble here, Sergeant?" inquired the General. The Sergeant
informed him, and also explained the orders under which he
was acting, when General Meade turned to the Captam with
a severe frown and reprimanded him. He asked his name
and regiment, and told him that an officer that presumed, by
reason of his superior rank, to browbeat those who were not
his equal into disobeying their own orders, was not fit to be
an officer, informing him that he could return to his regiment
and report. The officer left, evidently feeling very tnuch
mortified. He then connnended Taylor and his squad for
doing their duty, and rode on.

At another time Sigel's nth corps encamped about the
house overnight when on a raid. The demolition would
have been immediate had not the Corporal of the provost
(Powell) gone to General Sigel and told him what his orders
were ; wiien he promptly sent an order for a guard to be sta-
tioned around the house. In the uiorning they had disai)-
l)eared as suddenly as they came ; but when Sergeant Taylor
arrived there in die afternoon on his rounds, he found a coui)le
of German soldiers sitting comfortably by a fire they had
made in one of the fire-places in the lower story of the house,
engrosseil in a game of cards, with a corp;e lying near tied
up in a blanket. They were detailed to carry their deceased
comrade back to their old cam}), as the raid would last
only a few days, and they were glad to have the opportunity
to (K) so, and thus avoid a long tramp and juMii.q.s a \\:}.\l.
Tlic Sergeant, on being informed of the tacts b}- the Corporal,
notified the intruders that he would be compelled to arrest

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I 370 Fifth Nezv York Volunteer Infantry.


I them, corpse and all, if they did not move. They thereupon

i collected their traps, gruniblingly shouldered their burden,

I and left. These incidents illustrate the duties of the provost,

I who were, in fact, the police of the army.

L " On Aronday, the i6th, a heavy detail from the regiment

I were employed in throwing up earthworks to protect the rail-

i road bridge across Potomac Creek. The 17th it snowed all

• day, reaching a depth of four inches, and the next day it

I rained. The working detail returned at night, wet, tired, and

\ miserable. Nicholas Hoyt, a Sergeant of Company C, was

I buried on the 19th. He was a sailor before he entered the

i army, and was one of the old Fort Schuyler men, a man of

I the true stamp. He remained faithful to the last. For

I months he had been wasting away from a troublesome com-

plaint, which only a change of diet and rest could cure ; but
he would not yield, doing duty day after day, until he became
so weak that he could not stand, and was carried from his
own to the hospital tent, where he died a few days afterward.
His funeral was attended by Colonel Winslow, Lieutenant-
Colonel George Duryea, and the greater part of the officers
and men.

The men found the climate at this time as changeable as
the people of that section of the country. The condition of
i the army was improved, for with temporary rest and more

i liberal supplies they had enough to eat. The cry of the

i soldier cooks was heard occasionally, " Fall in for your ex-

j tras," on which summons the men rushed out, each one try-

j ing to be first on the line, with tin cup in hand, scrambling

1 and pushing to the infinite diversion of the crowd, some

! of whom were draining what remained in their cups to make

I room for the fresh supi)ly. The old hands at one time played

I tricks on the new one?, when thoy were not up to ilie •• ways
I that wore so childlike and bland." WIilmi tlicre was a stew

I for dinner, at the given signal every one rushed out as usual

I with cup in hand. The " old ones," although api)arently in

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-■".v. Camp near Henry House. 371

a great hurry, took good care to be on the end of the line ; the
cook being a two years' man, and consequently sympathizing
with the rest of us, would be careful not to dive very deep
with his ladle into the kettle when serving the recruits, and
the " old ones " coming last, had the substantial part of the
stew. The law of gravitation was not suspended in camp-
kettles even in Virginia, and the solid parts, consisting of
chunks of meat and potatoes, obediently sank to the bottom,
and "last come, last served" found us well contented with
our share.

A soldier is never supposed to have enough, but an excep-
tion was found one day in the ca'se of a man who, after dis-
posing of a couple of quarts of stew and six hard-tack, to
make himself, as he said, "a solid man," actually admitted that
he had enjoyed "a good square meal."

Sunday, February 2 2d (Washington's birthday), it stormed
without cessation, and by nightfall the snow in some places
was two or three feet deep. A number of convalescents
from hospitals reported for duty. Salutes were fired in honor
of the day.

On \Vednesday, the 25th, the cavalry pickets had a skir-
mish with three brigades of the enemy's cavalry, resulting
in some loss on .both sides. Reinforcements and artillery
were sent out. The fight occurred about two miles to the
front of the infantry pickets, and the cavalry came flying in
through their lines, some of them without their arms and
bareheaded ; the men expected that they would have a
brush with the enemy. The reserves were in arms, but the
enemy did not approach us. About tifty of our men were
taken prisoners. The brigade returned from picket on the
evening of the 27th, where they had been doing duty for four
days. It stormed nearly all the time, and they passed through
many disagreeable hours. The brigade was again on picket
duty during the r4th, 15th, and i6th of March, and were re-
lieved on the morning of Tuesday, the 1 7th, St. Patrick's Day.

I 3/2 Fifth Nciv York Volunteer Infantry.

%. The day was celebrated in the 9th Massachusetts (the Irish

\ ()\\\). They had a greased pole, twenty-four feet high, on

1 top of which was a furlough and a canteen of whisky. They

I also tried to catch the greased ))ig. There was a horse-race

i for 'i'lite a large wager, but the horses came into collision,

I killing both of theni, and the drivers were picked up insen-

; sible. An amateur pri/.e-fight was also witnessed. Heavy

i f'iiDg was heard all the afternoon, and it was supposed that

t tli'j L:r.-alry had encountered the eneniy. On the 18th the

I cav ihy returned and marched by the camp. They had at-

t tackcu Fitz Hugh near Culpepper, and after quite a

I. spirited fight had routed him and taken fifty-five prisoners,
t witl'i their horses in addition, killing and wounding many

\ otlioi.-.. The loss on the Union side was about twenty.
One of our men asked a fine-looking prisoner, who had on
a good overcoat, how he would swop, when he was answered
that his "was not the right color."

Tile provost guard, on their rounds, arrested a suspicious
cliLiracter, in citizen's dress, prowling about a deserted house.
He -A-as questioned, and acknowledged that he came from
the Soa':!i, and was once in the rebel arn7y ; he was taken to
camp and ]>ut under guard, and afterward turned over to
tin- Provost-General, as it was suspected that he was a spy-
One day the guard halted at a log cabin occupied by
some poor whites (three women), the husband and brothers
being in the Confederate army. They saw the women
sl.inJing outside ol the cabin with arms resting on their
hip.-, ga/.ing at their chimney, from which and the doorway
• came liiick volumes of smoke. The Sergeant thouglU at
first tlie house was on fire, but soon ascertained from the

mother that tlie chimney only smoked ; "it was the

thinuicy she ever seed," and she "wished that the man that
b;ii!t; ;L was lying dead, stiff, stark and naked on the battle-


T])o mother was not very strongly secessionist, and wa^

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Camp near Henry House. 373

only anxious that the war was over, so that her "old man"
could come home. The young women, however, were the
strongest kind of rebels ; one of them was very pretty antl
smart, and the provost often stopped to stir up her rebel

Another house the provost occasionally visiteci, was occu-
pied by a poor crii)ple and his family. He was a shoemaker
by trade, and appeared to be quite an intelligent man, and
opposed to Jefferson Davis and the Confederacy. He said
that he had escaped conscription so far, on account of his
lameness, but he did not doubt when our army moved away
from the neighborhood that the Confederates would make
him go into their army anyhow, as they were in want of re-
cruits badly. He also said that Jetf Davis would rather have
a man die in the army, whether he was of any service or
not, than let him remain at home. He said that the poor
whites were worse otT than negroes, and were not allowed
to own any good land, as that was all monopolized by the
rich slave-owners, and they were obliged to cultivate sonic
barren patch, from which they could barely raise enough to
exist ; therefore it was of no advantage for them to fight fur
the rich man's negroes, but they were compelled to do so.
This was an epitome of the whole of the controversy, and
of the facts of the war in its most practical form by one of
the sutterers. Southern orators, ex-rebel chieftains, aiul
statesmen of the "State Rights" school may protest now
that the war on the part of the South was a struggle for
"constitutional liberty and the social rights transmitted by
our Revolutionary fathers," but the underlying fact will re-
main on the pages of history that they attempted to destroy
the Union in the interests of slavery, and it peri>hed in the
attempt. When the bitterness of the disaster to ti'.e South
sb.all have passed away, and the author^ of the wir -h,;ll
have all laid down in the grave, it is to be iiuped that t'.icn,
if not before, we shall have a moral reunion all the grander

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374 Fifth Nciv York Volunteer Infantry.

and greater, that our land is unciirsed by the tread of the

On Friday, Afarch 27th, which was a very pleasant day,
one of the few which had favored the army for weeks, the
division was reviewed by General Sykes — an occurrence which
put the men in good spirits, reviews under fair skies having
been for some time quite rare. One of the correspondents
for the press reported it as follows :

"March 28, 1863. — On our way to the race-ground we en-
countered the division of Major-General Sykes, out for a review
and inspection. Sykes' division looked well, and will evidently
give a good account of itself in the coming struggle. The 5th
New York Volunteers elicited the admiration of all, and, widi
due deference to the regulars, it must be admitted that this regi-
l ment has a military standing not exceeded in the army. Its

I present commander is evidently following the excellent example

I and instruction of its former Colonel (now Brigadier-General),

f Warren."

General Hooker, at this date, was in command of a fine
\ army, in good condition and discipline ; the cami)s were

i never cleaner, or the food better; the introduction of soft

bread was a beneficial and humane act. Nevertheless,
j about one luindred men in the division had died since wc

f had encaniped on this ground. It was evidence that death

I' by the bullet was not all that the soldier had to contend

\ with.

• The month of April opened with a driving gale, cold and

! fretful. A great mania sprung up among the men for the

'[ manufacture of laurel-root pi[)es, and some of them succeed-

[ ed in carving and finishing numerous specimens in an elegant

I and artistic manni'r. Tlicv were wrought out entirely \>\ the

f pcnkniK- ; an offer of >-"::5 was refused for one of them.

The weather v.-as almost trving enough to drive an aimy
mad, situated as the men were in shelter-tents, wb.icii were


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'. Camp near Henry House. 375

of such limited proportions th;U when taking refuge in them
they must either he clown or sit up with their blankets over
them all day long in stormy weather, it they wanted to keep
from freezing. They were not over four feet high. Some
of the men dug pits from four to six feet deep, and covered
them over with their shelters ; they also built fire-places in
them with a chimney leading out to the ground above. Much
ingenuity was displayed in making them comfortable, althougli
their materials and tools were very limited.

Whatever they made was from wood, earth, and mud, their
tools consisting of one axe to a company, their jackknives,
and a borrowed spade. Nevertheless, many a happy hour wis
spent in these burrows, increased by the certainty that there
were neither rent or taxes to pay to the collector.

Sunday, April 5th, the snow was six inches deep in
drifts, and the wind blew a hurricane. During the montli of
March there had been only one really pleasant day, and the
men looked forward to April, hoping for a change. The
roads were all sloughs, and it was impracticable ibr the army
to move until they dried and hardened. Thus far the change
had not come, and having lost their patience, they arrived
at the conclusion that the sunny South was a myth. The
day being f'.aster Sunday, and the boys not having any egg>,
were obliged to put up with bean soup, and were very thank-
ful to get it, although the cook failed to give us a very good
exhibition of his skill in its preparation. The cooking, of
course, was done in the open air; and sometimes when the
wind blew strong, the kettles would be hanging three or four
feet from the heat and Hame, although supposed to be hang-
ing directly over where the fire ought to be. Some of the
nien occasionally stood in a row. to keep the wind from the
fire as much as possible, being rewarded with, to thoni,
the rich aroma that arose to tlicir gratitiotl UL'stnls fidn tiie
boiling bean soup.

On Tuesday, April 7th, President Lincoln, in company

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3/6 Fifth New York Vohinteer Infantry.

with General Hooker and staff, General Meade and staff,
General Humiihreys and staff, and a large number of distin-
guished officers in train, reviewed the different corps of the
army. The Zouaves were called out alone, and put through
some movements, in ordinary and quick time, before the
President and company, after which they closed with the
manual of arms and bayonet exercise. The distinguished
company seemed to be highly gratified by the very rapid
movements, changes of position, and the uniformity and ex-
actness with which all the orders were executed. Through
Colonel Winslow, the highest com])liments were paid the
regiment upon their proficiency and soldierly appearance.
One of the provost guard who was on the detail to keep
guard near the cavalcade, heard the President make the re-
mark that it was a "gallus" regiment, and General Griffin,
who was near by, responded, " Yes ! and they can f-^ht as
well as they can drill."

Colonel Winslow gave the regiment a drill in the after-
noon. Their time in the service was drawing so near to its
close, that some of them were inclined to be careless ; but
short as it was, each day seemed a long one to the old

On Tuesday, the 14th, the brigade returned to camp at'ter
spending three days on picket duty. Eight days' rations and

Online LibraryAlfred DavenportCamp and field life of the Fifth New York volunteer infantry. (Duryee zouaves.) → online text (page 31 of 39)