Alfred Davenport.

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

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before had been a trying one ; the regiment was out on
parade, when a storm, which had been tlireatening to break
at any moment, burst u])on them in all its fury. The men
were dismissed to their tents, but before reaching them were
tompletely drenched. The tents were small, and not being
^^•'tci-j>roof, the rain soaked through so much that the inmates
:'nd tile contents were thoroughly wet. The earth floors
'"au;4ht the drii)[>ings, and were soon turned into muddy

42 Fifth Nciv York Volunteer Infantry.

beds. The men passed a sleepless and disagreeable night ;
the whole camp was flooded, and the next day blankets,
overcoats, Bibles, and Prayer-books were spread out to dry,
and the men waited patiently for their clothing to dry on
their backs.

The provisions were scant at times, and the officers were
disposed to be cross — a feature which did not make matters
any more cheerfu'.

Much of the spare time of the men when off duty was oc-
cupied in cleaning their arms and accoutrements, and it was
required of them that they be kept in prime order, or the
guard-house or extra duty awaited the delinquent ; and as
nothing was allowed to rub them with, the men were com-
pelled to use earth and old pieces of rags, if they could be
procured. But all, both otticcrs and privates, were held to
a strict account in their various spheres of duty, and the
discipline was very severe. It may have been rigorous, but
it was the only way to make good soldiers of such a diver-
sified body of men as composed this regiment.

• On Wednesday, June 5th, Sergeant I) , of Company

G, resigned as a non-commissioned officer, on account of

being reproved by Captain D , of Co. B, the officer of the

day, for not compelling six men who had been with others
on a scout of fifteen miles that day, to leave their supper
immediately, and take seme prisoners down to Fortress
^ronroe. The Captain himself had been lying in camp nil
day. Exposure and hard service were beginning to show
their effect on the men, and there were a number on the
sick-list, several being sent to the hospital. In the morning
the sound of heavy cannonading was heard in the distance.
It was probably some of the men-of-war bombarding Con-
federate batteries near Norfolk.

Captain Winslow, Lieutenant Hoyt. and Lieutenant Fer-
guson, with Company K, and a company of the Second Troy
Regiment, made a nocturnal expedition into the interii^r,

Ojir First Camp in Virginia. 43

capturing two men, a secession flag, uniforms, and other

According to the following extract from the New York
Ddily Times, the flag was presented to the Union Defense
Committee of New York :

" Oiiartermaster Bailey INIyers arrived yesterday from Fortress
Monroe, bringing the secession flag which was captured by Colo-
nel Duryee's " Red Devils," the Zouaves, at Hampton. The trophy
was sent by Major-General Butler through C2uartermaster Myers
to the Union Defense Committee, with a letter highly compli-
menting Colonel Duryee and his command. The flag is made of
a coarse red and white flannel, with a blue field of the same
material, the stars, eight in number, being made of white cloth ;
the ends are somewhat whipped out by the wind. It is at the
rooms of the Committee."

The Fox Hill expedition having returned, I can not do
better than give the full report of Lieutenant-Colonel War-
ren, who was in command :

Camp Butler, June ^, 1861.

Sir: I have the honor to submit the following report of an ex-
pedition in front of our lines, on the 3d and 4th instants. About
4 P.M. on the 3d instant I was handed a communication from
Colonel Allen, addressed to Colonel Duryee, commanding the
brigade, which was as follows :

Camp Dix, June 3, 1S61.
Colonel Duryee:

Sir: — I am directed by General Butler to call upon you for a
detachment of men to accompany three companies of my regi-
m"nt to ascertain the correctness of the reported capture of 126
f'tiicrrs and men of the regiment, this morning, at Fox Hill, and,
if so, to recapture them, or if not, to conduct them in.

In haste, yours,

W. H. Allev,
Colonel First Rtginier.t.

And, at the same time, I was directed to have ready a detach-

44 Fifth Ncii' York Volunteer Infantry.

ment for the purpose. Orders were right away given by me to
Captain Hull, Captain Kilpatrick, Captain Wiiislow, and Captain
Bartlett, to have their companies in readiness, with canteens,
haversacks containing one day's rations, and fifteen rounds of
ammunition in their cartridge-boxes. This was promptly com-
plied with, and at 5 P.M. we received the order to march, cross
the river at Hampton, and interrupt any parties returning toward
Yorktown or Williamsburgh from the neighborhood of Fox Hill.
Owing to sickness and the number of men detailed for guard,
the aggregate force of the four companies was only eight officers
and 200 men. As Captain Kilpatrick's company were drilled in
the duty of skirmishers, it was thrown in advance after crossing
over to Hampton, and seized the cross-road about a mile beyond,
at which point any land expedition returning from Fox Hill would
be compelled to pass. The main body passed through Hampton,
but being overtaken by a violent rain-storm, took shelter in an
abandoned house, and waited there till dawn of day. Numbers
of colored persons were examined, and all agreed that no force
had passed in the direction of Fox Hill, nor could any rumor of
the capture of Colonel Allen's men be discovered.

I determined, however, to advance in the direction of YorktowTi
sufficiently far to show forces at that place that they could not
conduct small expeditions with impunity so near to us, and be-
sides to assure the citizens that all our authorized expeditions
would respect peaceable persons and property. With these ob-
jects 1 concluded to go to a place called the County .Bridge,
about nine miles from Hampton, where there was said to be a
batter)- of several cannon, and capture it if practicable. About
two and a half miles beyond Hampton we came to Newmarket
Bridge, which spans a branch of Bark River. This was partially
destroyed by fire, hut not so much so that we did not succeed in
making it passable in a few minutes.

About two miles further on the scouts in advance met a wagon
containing two or three men, who at once turned around and
fled. Several shots were fired over them to induce them to stop,
but without rUVct. that tir.v; on we frcqurntl'/ saw men
on our flanks in the wdods, ami heard shots, giving warning of
our advance. At one house, where there were several women.

Our First Camp in Virginia. 45

our passing by caused great terror, and their lamentations were
piteous. Their cries, " Oh, my dear father ; oh, my dear brother,"
and entreated us to go back and spare the shedding of blood,
fell painfully on our ears. The presence of Rev. Dr. Winslow
and Ur. Gilbert, however, soon quieted them. Some of my men
filled their canteens at the well as we passed on. We reached
the County Bridge at 9 A.M. The stream is a branch of the Bark
River, and is easily forded, and the bridge is uninjured. There
is a frame building church on the other side, in rather a dilapi-
dated condition. No human being was in the vicinity, nor did it
give evidence of having been occupied, except by a few persons,
since the rain.* Trees cut down near the bridge indicated that
arrangements had been made to dispute its passage. There
were no breastworks other than an old pit. which had prol>ably
been a cellar, which would have effectually sheltered about fifty
men. The floor of the church was strewn with corn-cobs, and
had been, probably, occupied as a stable.

We were told that horsemen, to the number of forty, came
here every night, and that the guns were removed last Saturday,
the 1st inst. Some letters, all of a private nature, picked up in
the vicinity, indicated a speedy abandonment of the place. We
regretted very much to find no enemy there, as the vicinity is
ver\' favorable to infantry operations. We returned by a road
about one mile to the east of the one by which we advanced,
and which crosses the stream, the bridge of which we had re-
paired in the morning, about one and a half miles lower down.
The heat of the sun, on our return, was intense, but on reaching
this stream again about 3 P.M., a violent shower came on us, and
soon all were wet to the skin. The bridge at this point was
entirely destroyed, so we concluded to ford it. Finding the
water over the men's heads, the passage was accomplished by
swimming. A few who could not swim were passed over on a
little scow which was there. This filled once with water, with
three men in it who could not swim, but these were all rescued
at once bv those who could. It continued to rain, with slight.

* ir.i^ Bct'u-li, " Rep-rt .^f Committee on the Cniidiict' of tlie," iVol. I. p
"''■''..1 t General W.irren ^:lys : " I h^J liecn un the t;pnind six d.iyj previously. anJ
h.«d rtconuoiiercd it, tliuivgh iiubuily then preiont knew that I done so."

4.6 Fifth New York Volunteer Infantry.

intermission, till our return to our camp, about 5i P.M. The
expedition was out about twenty-four hours. The sleep the men
got was while under arms in the house at Hampton, lying on
the floor. Owing to inexperience and eagerness to set out, my
directions for supplying theihselves with rations were imperfectly
complied with, and they suftered severely for want of something
to eat. Nothing, however, was taken from the people along the
road but a little corn-bread and milk, which was paid for at more
than twice its value.

The cheerful manner in which most of the command bore their
hard march under a broiling sun, and crossed a deep stream by
swimming, and finished the last four miles of their march in
their jaded condition, with wet clothes, over a muddy road, all
show what they may accomplish in the future. And the respect
paid to persons and property was, in my opinion, as great a
triumph for our cause as would have been a victory over armed

After describing the immense resources of the country, in
wheat and corn, fowls and cattle, and tliat if he had been
directed to do so he could have brought in large numbers of
the latter, the report continues :

The only thing taken was a horse, which was given to the
Rev. Dr. Winslow to ride. It was in the possession of a negro
boy, who said it belonged to a man (not his master) who had
joined the secessionists. A fine Pointer dog followed us in from
one of the deserted houses. The negroes we met were seem-
inglv glad to see us. The poor whites seem to desire neutrality,
though many of them are with the secessionists. On our return
we met a young gentleman with two beautiful, well-dressed
ladies — one of them very young — going in a buggy toward York-
town. I begged them to stay at home and aid us in restoring
peace to their country, and told them that I would insure them
protection, and also requested the gentK-nian lo iiifurm others
Iv. met in tlie place to uhicii lie was ropairin - to the samecliect,
He s.iid he would do so, but it would do no good ; they would
not believe us. He said frankly that the procianiatiun of General

Our First Cauip in Virginia. 47

Hullcr had proved but a snare to those who trusted in it ; that
his uncle, Mr. Sinclair, had seen all his chickens killed before his
c-\'.s, not even the mother of a little brood was spared ; houses,
tn.i, had been plundered of their furniture, and people would
never return again while a Northern man remained on the soil
of \'irginia. To one of the ladies, at her request, I gave the
IcUcrs we picked up at the County Bridge, the only proof I could
:s'ivc of my sincerity. It is in vain to attempt to pacify or render
these people friendly, unless the greatest rigor is used, not
Tji.TcIy toward those who are caught com.mitting depredations,
which is difficult to do, but toward every one found beyond some
'itablished line without authority. I would respectfully suggest
that no more seizures of cattle or provisions shall be made, even
sUu-n left behind by avowed secessionists. They will otherwise
iMrr>- it off or destroy it. But if it remain unmolested by us, we
uiil find abundance of means at hand to sustain us whenever we
> house to advance in force. Small scouting parties in front of
< ur lines keep up a needless alarm, and must fail in capturing
<lflachments of the enemy, who, being well mounted and ac-
<i-iainted with the country, fiee at our approach. Besides, these
sc.iuting parties tend to demoralize the regiment, and prevent
that attention to drill and discipline so essential to the real
''pcrations of war. Let us remain quietly within our lines, pre-
paring for the greater struggle ; let our foes even think we fear
' them, if thereby their temerity may place them more within our
^rr.isp ; and when we do move, let it be like the bound of the lion
from his covert.

Then after describing the character of the country for
;nilitary operations, the report closed by saying :

f celing that any compliment paid by me to the men under my
command might be constr-ued as an indirect one to myself, I
respectfully submit this report of their march without further

Very respectfully, ynur obedient,

G. K. Warren,
Lit-ut.-Col. Com. Expedition.
I'J Colonel A. DuRvi^.E, Com. -^th Regiment, X. Y. S. V.


48 Fifth Nczu York VoliDitccr Infantry.

The following narrative is by the correspondent of the
New York Times :

On the morning- of the 4th, at about I o'clock. Captain H.
Dur\ea took a detachment of three companies and started for
Fox Hill to rescue the men of Colonel Allen's regiment, who
were reported to have been captured by the rebels. After a
forced march of nine miles they arrived at a farm-house at Fox
Hill, where it was reported that there was an intrenched enemy,
but there was none to be found.

They halted there a short time, and procuring a guide, started
Tor Back River, a distance of five miles further on ; but on ar-
riving there they were again doomed to disappointment — the
enemy had gone.

Lieutenant George Duryea took twenty men, and started up
the river to secure boats. While on this duty he stopped at a
farm-house owned by a Union man, who offered him and his
men a bountiful breakfast, which was declined, though milk and
corn-bread were furnished to the men. He secured a few boats,
but soon after an aide from head(}uarters reported that Colonel
Allen's regiment was safe, so the boats were not needed, and a
return to camp was ordered, by a different route, however, the
command passing through Hampton. While passing through
the village. Lieutenant Burnett, with a flanking party in advance,
was struck on the right breast by a spent ball, inflicting but a
slight wound, the ball falling from his shirt to the ground. It
did not keep him from pursuing the march. With this single
exception, everybody arrived safely in camp after a march ot ten
hours. On Saturday afternoon we had another general call to
arms, by a report that two companies of the Troy regiment were
being attacked at Hampton. The men sprang into the ranks ;
some of the Troy regiment rushed down to Hampton, without
waiting for the connnanJ ; aides were galloping along the road at
full speed; and the Zouaves, with trfteen rounds of ammunition,
left their camping-ground and halted at the main road. There
were a few miiiutes of suspense, and then word came that it was
a false alarm. The news was received wiili great disappv>int-
ment, and the men marched downcast back to camp.




patkick's Advanxe- a Virginia Prisoner— A Fat.\i. Mistake— Big Bethel
—A Wounded Comrade— A Soldier's Tribute— Death of Lieutenant
Gkeble— Honorable Mention— A Naval Commander— Correspondence
OF the New York Tribune— Vi-ag of Truce.

Sunday, the 9th of June, was spent in the usual duties as-
signed to the day. The regiment was out on parade as
u^^ual. After it was dismissed, the men were again assem-
bled, and each man supi)hed with twenty rounds of cartridges
m addition to what he had in his cartridge-box. Ail was bustle
and activity. The men felt confident they were going out
I'll an expedition somewhere, but in what direction was
entirely unknown.

Taps were sounded at the usual hour, and all not on spe-
cial duty were ordered to their tents. A few minutes later
ilic orderlies of the companies went to each tent, and in an
imdertone notified the occupants that at half-past ten o'clock
every man would be called to immediately equip without
noise or hght, and fall in line in front of the tents ; each man
was to be supplied with one day's rations and a canteen of

They were to tie the white turban twice around the left
arm, as a distinguishing mark, and the watchword " Boston "
was given. Several able-bodied men were detailed to re-
;"it t(i the surgeons, from which it was inferred that some-
*'■'!.; in earnest was to be done. About 9.30 r..\i. a body
<-'f iiiL-n marched away tVom the legiment ; they made ^o iit-
I'O noise that it seemed a mystery where they came from.

, ; /■


50 Fiftr .\vTt' York Volufitcer Infantry.

They were Co:. litanies H and I, under the command of Cap-
tains Kilpatiick and Bartlett respectively, and were to proceed
in advance of the regiment as scouts and skirmishers, and
also to stop all persons that might be going from Hampton
toward the encinv, It was now understood that the regiment
was to act in cor.cert with Colonel Eendix's 7th New York
(Steuben Rilles) from Newport News, for the purpose of sur-
prising and capnuiing at the point of the bayonet, if possible,
a Confederate camp, at a place about eleven miles from
Hampton, and known as Bk; ]U:thf,l.

Two other regiments were to follow as supports in case
they were required— Col. Carr's 2d New York (Troy regi-
ment), and C<- uMitl Townsend's 3d New York (Albany regi-
ment). Lieutenant Greble, of the 2d Artillery, with eleven
regulars and one riiled six-pounder from the fortress, accom-
panied the expedition. A negro named George Scott, who
had been working on the Confederate earthworks, had run
away, and giver. L-iich information to General Butler, that
he determined to send a force against them, and hence the
present movemeiit.

The negro acrompanied the forces as a guide, being sup-
plied at his request with a ritle and ammunition. At mid-
night, the regiment being in line, 740 strong, and fully pre-
pared to move, tlio order was given to march. They accord-
ingly fded off on the road, and soon reached Hampton River,
which was crossed in boats under the charge of the naval
brigade. This occasioned some delay, but the march was
soon resumed, the men stepping off briskly at route step and
arms at will, 'i'he men were all in good spirits and sanguine
of success. .Vfter coveting about six miles of ground, a halt
was ordered

Those on the ii^,'ht of the regiment, at head of column, saw
a briglit light ijointing toward the enemy's position. It was
a Confederate Further on another was seen, and
again we came to a ^light halt. For the purpose of undei-

Big Bethel. \ 5 1

standing our position at this time, we will follow Captain
Kilpatrick's movements.

As already stated, he and Captain Bartlett, with their coni-
paiiies, left camp two hours before the departure of the main
l)ody of the regiment. He advanced cautiously after getting
beyond Hampton, and established pickets one and a quarter
and two and a half miles beyond that village, with the
necessary reserves.

The pickets fell in with the regiment as it came up to
where they were posted. After reaching Newmarket Bridge,
Captain Kilpatrick took twenty men with him, after the regi-
ment came up to a sup[)orting distance, and advanced again,
posting now and then a picket at important points. Aftei
il)proaching to within a short march of New County
Uridge, he saw through the trees what was supposed to be a
camp fire. He halted his men and held a short consultation
with his non-commissioned officers, among whom there was
a diversity of opinion, some thinking that it was a Confeder-
ate camp, and others that it was only a picket outpost.

He determined to reconnoiter and ascertain to a certainty
'I possible, and accordingly selected a squad of eight men
tor the purpose : Sergeant Benjamin F. Onderdonk, Corporal
Andrew B. Allison, Samuel Wilson, Andrew Whitehead, John
Kuck, James S. Boyd, Fred. Bollet, and Edward Engel.*
1 U'.-y crept carefully through the woods, when suddenly they
*xTe brought to a halt by a challenge : " Who goes there ? "
I iu-y did not answer. The challenge was repeated a second
- d third time, when Kilpatrick immediately answered : "Who
"taiids there ? " A prompt reply came : '' A Virginian." And
•»' ihe same time they heard steps pattering on the road in re-
''^'••\X, and also saw a horseman, who was not vet mounted.

•■.ii:t ' ';ii.!iri!n:ik subiemiently was Colontl of ihc rst Mounted Ritlei, .-ind
•^ ■ 'f '■fU.iu'; AUi-on uas killed :U second Hull Rmi. .i;- colcr-bearer
■■•>: I Mix • It.^yd iu.;t his arm ; Bollet received four wounds ; and Enjjel was
•••"Hi uouiiJcd in the same eni.iweniciit.

52 Fifth New York Volunteer Infantry.

making preparations to leave. Corporal Allison sprang in ad-
vance, ordering him to halt, and supposing the enemy in
force, the Captain gave his squad the order, "Fire and
charge ;" which was instantly obeyed, the rest of his com-
pany following them. The whole atfair was over in a mo-
ment. Sam Wilson, putting his hand on the horseman's
shoulder, who had not time to mount, ordered him to sur-
render, at the same time disarming him of one of his revolv-
ers, while another took the remaining one from his belt.
On the prisoner instinctively feeling for them, he found they
were gone, upon which he delivered his sword. It was an
unusually long and sharp one. The prisoner proved to be
a Captain Whiting, and the officer of the guard. He was a
splendid-looking specimen of a Southerner, standing more
than six feet in height, and a perfect gentleman. He was
taken with an escort to the rear.

The main body of the regiment had now come up on a
double-quick on hearing the reports of the pieces. Soon after
this occurred heavy firing was heard in the rear, in which the
report of cannon could be distinguished, and supposing that
the enemy had in some way come in contact with the New-
port News regiment, the Fifth was right-abouted and marched
double-quick about two miles back on the road by which
it had just approached. Company K, Capt. Winslow, being
thrown out on the right as skirmishers, advanced through
thick woods and wet wheat-fields. It being now about day-
light, upon coming up to where the firing had been heard, it
was discovered that a most lamentable mistake had occurred.
Col. Bendix, with his commind, the ^i\\ New Yotk, who
marched from Newport News in comi^any with detachments
of the sth Massachusetts and of Col. Phelps' Vermonc
regiment, who were to meet and act in conj unction with the
Zouaves, according to the i>lan dc\ iscd to surprise and cap-
ture the Confederate camp at Dig liethel. discovered Col.
Townsend's 3d New York, who were marching with twc

■ ' • .'I'M-"

.. , - •: Big Bethel. -;i - - 53

twelve-pound howitzers, on the main road from Hampton,
r.'.Iowing the Fifth at a proper supporting distance as a re-
serve ; and in the uncertain light of the morning, supposing
that they were an enemy, opened fire upon them, and before
the mistake was discovered had killed and wounded eleven
of Col. Townsend's men. It was saddening to see them lying
at the little house just off the road, the victims of careless-
ness or want of discretion, although prompted by patriotic
zeal and courage. Half an hour after, the Zouaves, under
orders, singing the " Star Spangled Banner " and other patri-
otic songs, went hurrying back to the attack.*

Before marching, however, a detail of five men was made
from Company G — Benj. F. Finley, John Gillen, Ed. Hoff-
man, James Martin, and E. AI. Law — to burn down a hand-
some residence from which a shot had been fired at Surgeon
Howe, of the rst New York, who took charge of the detail
personally.t It was ascertained to a certainty that the shot
was fired by the owner of this elegant place, a Mr. Whiting,
who was also an officer of the Confederate army. He was
seen escaping to the woods from the rear of the premises,

Online LibraryAlfred DavenportCamp and field life of the Fifth New York volunteer infantry. (Duryee zouaves.) → online text (page 4 of 39)