Alfred Davenport.

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

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i;;c ij'iys had caught one of the colored servants, tied a rope
.ir<niii<] his neck, on wliich' was a placard, and with charged
• •.lyonets, were drumming him about camp. The men might
iiso he heard at almost any hour of the day, singing dog-
gerel verses of tlieir own composition, describing their mode
i.f life, such as, " Oh ! here comes the cook along with his
crai:ker scouse, etc., on old Virginia shore."

'I'iio men soon recovered from the fatigue of the march to
V'.z, iJethel, but naturally felt disappointed at the result, and
wanted to try their fortunes over again. So far from being
.afraid of the enemy, they had several skirmishes, in some
cases almost single-handed, while out foraging beyond Hamp-
ton, on their own responsibility. The Fifth was ra[ndly
plowing in favor with the rest of the army collected around
this point. The regulars at the fortress, since the aftair at
Hig Ikthel, seemed to think there was nothing too good for
our boys whenever any of them visited the fort.

Wednesday^ June 19. — The experience of one of the men
<.>!i guard at night may not be out of place, and as he was
*>iie of the whole military family, the reader may sympathize
Nuth him and the others of the detail, although the rest of
tl.c regiment did not fare much better on that occasion. About
t;io time of guard mount, a tempestuous rain-storm burst upon
•i"!. The men not sent immediately on post hurried to the
;;. sard-tent, which could hold only about one-half of them,
1-t tiicm squeeze how they might. Our hero being left on
t •'• outside, betliouglu himself of tlie prisoners' tent, and
I'-nged through the rain to reach it, "any port in a storm"
l"-ing as good a motto for a soldier as for a sailor. Some-
t::iiLS. when the prisoners are amiable, they will allow an

' ^.T slielter in an emergency-; but on this particular

■ '' '.! were /,-('.'' ainiable, anci he had no sooner entered

' 'in he was saluted with a shower of tin cups, plates, hanl-

' " >^, [Meces of pork, and kicks, amid cries of "Bounce

78 Fifth Neiv York Volunteer Infantry.

him!" "Take his life!" and similar cheerful greetings.
Another old proverb — " of two evils choose the least " — was
forced upon him. He was not long in coming to a decision,
and escaping from his assailants, there was no alternative
but to stand up and endure the storm. After being nearly
washed away, it stopped raining, and soon after he was sent
on post, came off in due time, an.d partially dried himself at
a fire that had been built, and was fortunate enough to find
a small space unoccupied in the guard-tent, where he spread
his blanket and composed himself for a comfortable rest.
He was just congratulating himself on his good fortune when
it again commenced to rain in torrents ; the cap of the tent
having blown off, the water began to come into the opening
and fell on his head. Soon some of the guard began to get
uneasy arid to twist and turn, while some stood up. It was
as dark as Egypt, but when the lightning flashed he could
see them occasionally, and congratulated himself on his
comparative comfort. At last his feet began to feel very
cold, then his legs, and then his back. He thought it was
time to see what was the matter. Reaching out his hands,
he found that a small river was running under him, when he
got up on his feet, and in a little time the water ran over
the top of his shoes. In all these difficulties a song was
started, and they relieved their discomforts by a spirited
chorus, in which could be distinguished something about
"hanging Jeff Davis on a sour apple tree." Such was one
of the e[)isodes in soldier life on " the sacred soil " of the
Old Dominion.

The following day, Thursday, June 20th, the weather was
delightful, with a fresh breeze blowing, and it was cool and
comfortable. One could look over Hampton Roads, as far
as Scwall's Point to the south; north were the woods; and
the t'oitr.'ss, \^■ith its great guns, was in plain view about a
mile distant. Most of the men were in jiood health and

Life at Camp Hamilton. 79

spiiits, but grumbling somewhat about their rations — a
natural thing for a soldier or sailor to do.

A serious accident happened previous to the evening
parade. A member of Company G was entering his tent
widi his musket, which was loaded with one of the new
cartridges. This cartridge consisted of three large buck-
shot in addition to the ball. The hammer, which was down
on the cap, caught on the side of the tent, and the charge
inmiediately went ofi", passing between two men who were
in the tent into the next company street, one of the buck
passing through the head of Orderly-Sergeant Dunham, of
Company B. He was taken up insensible, and was con-
sidered to be mortally wounded, but recovered sufficiently to
return to duty as Second Lieutenant some months afterward,
but was ultimately obliged to resign, and received an honor-
able discharge. A stack of muskets were standing in front
of the Orderly's tent ; the buck cut through two straps, and
one of them passed obliquely through the stock of one of
the muskets.

One of the Captains being ambitious of having a horse to
ride, sent for J. G., one of the enlisted men of his company,
and told him to take his servant Tommy, an intelligent con-
traband, and go out into the country and find one for him.
The Captain gave him particular instructions not to steal by
any means, but to find one. Thus connnissioned, Jolm, in
company with the faithful Tommy, being furnished with a
|>ass, wended his way toward Hampton. On arriving there
Tonuiiy saw a group of colored gentlemen gathered together,
and thought it was a very good opportunity to enlighten his
down-trodden brethren as to the course they should pursue,
and accordingly opened his battery on them forthwith. In the
course of his speech he told them that if they wished to bet-
ter their condition in lite, they nuist make the lust eftbrc, and
»'>t leave it to others. One of them remarked, " that they
put their trust in the Lord, and He would help them." " Yes,"

8o Fifth New York Volunteer Infantry.

said Tommy, " but it is written in Shakespeare, that ' the Lord
helps them that help themselves.' " This answer appeared
to make a great impression upon the dusky audience, and
they seemed to be overcome with his superior learning. Being
put in mind of his errand by John, he wound up his discourse
amid much applause, and they went to find that horse.

After traveling about the country four or five miles, they
spied a fine-looking animal grazing in a field. They had
provided themselves with a halter, so that all that remained
to be done was to catch him, which was done in fine style
by Tommy — as John was given strict instructions not to
steal one, which he obeyed.

They arrived with him safely at Hampton, and across the
creek, when John mounted hun, having been lucky enough
to " find " an old saddle also, and made very fair time back
to camp. He immediately reported to his Captain, who,
when he saw the animal, was very much pleased at obtaining
such a prize, and at such a low price. " But where is Tom-
my?" asked the Captain, "Oh! he will be here in a few
minutes ; he preferred to walk, and so I left him on the road."
"Well, take the horse down to the Quartermaster's," said the
Captain, "and tell him it belongs to me." "Yes, sir," said
John, which he did, and went to his quarters. Soon after-
ward a message was brought that the Captain wanted him.
On reaching the Captain's quarters, the first thing he saw
was Tommy in a sad plight, covered with nuid, having from
his appearance evidently been in the hands of the Philistines.
He said that as he was passing by the camp of the ist
New York, some unruly members of that organization had
fallen upon him, and given him a severe thumping for their
own amusement, and as Tommy was a particular favorite of
the Captain, John received a severe reprimand for deserting
hu colored connade. The next mdruing the Captain went
tu take another look at his stallion, and e.Kamine his fine
points more closely, but great was his astonishment and

.: ./I

I ^.;,<..r

Life at Camp Hamilton. 8 1

cli.ii^rin to find that he had disappeared, and no one could
toli how he got away, or ^\here he had gone to ; but it was
M!-;»jcted that our great practical joker, the Adjutant, had
s[>ccit"ic information of the merits of the case.

Tonnny, who was an unusually shar[) specimen of his class,
k;;-Klly offered to take care of the Captain's watch, which he
l.ul always greatly admired. Just before the Big Bethel
l'!.;ht, perhaps — we will not say for certain — it entered into
liis head that possibly he might fall heir to it. One day the
C.iptain threatened to strike him for some misdemeanor,
wiicn he looked at him very innocently, and said, " Massa,
you told me the other day that all men were brudders."
" V'cs," replied the Captain, " but what if I did ? " " Nuffin,"
leplied Tommy, "only you wouldn't strike your brudder,
would yer?" His wit saved him on that occasion at least.

The weather was now very hot. Guard duty was assigned
about twice every week to each man, and the regiments took
their turn on picket duty, which the men enjoyed. The
outpost was about six miles from camp.

On the 2 2d of June, a part of the regiment \vere occupied
in commencing the building of batctries near Hampton,
wiiich did not indicate an early advance against the enemy.
Tliis earthwork was the first one thrown up in the war, in
tile path to Richmond on the Peninsula. It was the initiation
to the months of labor subsequently expended during
McClc-Uan's and Grant's campaigns. The following extract
in rofurence to it, from the Brooklyn Daily Times, is of in-
terest :

Hampton, Va., Jimc 23, 1S61.
After the plans were laid out, a squad of Duiyee's Zouaves
tajiu- from camp to help dig the trenclvjs. The Zouaves were
i -.Kcd m proper order, viz.: Four men wih shovels, forming a
-("•""'■. and a man in the center with a pick. The first shovel-
•'■1 i-1 earth was dug by the wile of Captain Kilpatrick, of
l>uryfe's Zouaves, who distinguished himself at the battle of Big



;(■ v:^i

82 Fifth Nczo York Volunteer Infantry.

Bethel ; after which the squad gave three hearty cheers by order
of their Colonel, and went to work like good fellows. Colonel
Dur)-ee's regiment are, without exception, the best set of tighting
men stationed hereabouts.

The notes made in the author's journal, for a short period,
will give the reader a i)retty accurate view of our experi-
ences and expectation while at Camp Hamilton. They are
as follows :

Sunday, June 23. — There is a rumor that the regiment
will be ordered to Washington, but little faith is placed in it.
Several men were sworn into the service yesterday, but
there were eight who refused, having had enough of soldier-
ing during the few days they were here. Such fellows are
not wanted in the Fifth, and the sooner all that kind forsake
us, the better will it be for us and them.

The Home Defense Committee have sent two hundred
ritles, and it is said all the regiment are to be supplied with

At a meeting of officers, the Fiftli was assigned to the
right of the brigade, Colonel Townsend's 3d New York
next in line.

Last night was magnificent — ^just such as a soldier loves.
The moon was full, and it was almost as light as day. Per-
fect silence prevailed ; in fact, so still was it, that one could
hear the sentinels tread at a distance of four hundred feet,
and the cry of 'V/// is i^'cll," on the vessels of the fleet,
lying two miles away. It was the time for the sentry pacing
his lonely beat, to commune with his own soul, to think of
home and friends,, and all that were dear to him, or perhaps
longing that some favorite and loved one could be by his
side. And yet to so many these were the enchanted dreams
oi tl;e ab.-ent. none of whom h;- ever saw again. Such a
night — to many a true ar.d reverent h'-ro was the time \\\\c\\
he could look up to the placid moon and the radiant stars,
and have his soul filled with glorious and holy thoughts of

.^.ij 3(U lo '•\yi

Life at Camp Hamilton. 83

\\\c world beyond, where the conflict of earth would at
Iciigtli be ended, and he should wear the conqueror's crown

Thursday. June 27. — Regiment has been on picket about
tA-o miles from camp, in the woods, the reserve being sta-
tii)ned on a road. They constructed beautiful little huts with
rails from the fences, and small trees and boughs, which formed
very picturesque residences, and were hardly distinguishable
from the forest surroundings. The round extended about
one and a half miles in a thick forest of pine and oak. All
was quiet except the different notes of the winged songsters,
or the dropping of some small twig, which was duly noticed,
the possibility that some lurking enemy might be near com-
l^clling constant vigilance. Above our embowered huts, rose
the giant pines, some of them eighty or ninety feet in height.
The men were on post four hours, and eight off.

When night came on it was somewhat dreary, but relieved
by the mosquitoes, which were truly formidable. They
swarmed in black clouds everywhere, and one of the boys
that missed his fez cap in the morning, swore that the
mosquitoes had taken it off, so that they could have more
room to bite.

Friday^ June 2S. — T-ast night another of our Virginia tor-
rents visited the camp, and flooded all the tents as usual, in
some places the water being a foot deep.

Sunday, June 30. — A damp, disagreeable day ; regiment
again on picket duty ; and Private Rouse, of Company G,
accidentally shot himself through the hand. We lead a very
active life, as we have done ever since the regiment was
fust organized, and have little time to ourselves. It is com-
pany, regimental, or brigade drills, inspections, dress parades,
f'-'viows, ditching, iiolicoing cam]), picket and camp guard,
^••■■■i.!'.' th^•^e activities, v.-jiich keep owv blood froin sMgnat-
'i.j. we have some howitzers anti a brass piece, wiiich we
liave been taught to handle, to which must be added the

84 Fifth Neiv York Volunteer Infantry.

washing and mending of our clothes, and keej^ng our arms
and cqui[)ments free from rust and tarnish. All these duties
leave little time to play, but it is schooling a body of hardy,
reliable, well-informed men, the stuft" that veterans are made
of, into what will be the best-drilled and most perfectly dis-
ciplined volunteer corps in the service.

It is astonishing how so many men can live in such a small
space. The tents are about eight by ten feet ; yet in these
eight or nine men sleep, in addition to the stowing of knap-
sacks, haversacks, canteens, and accoutrements, with accom-
modations for an occasional visitor. Two Companies, I and
E, have been presented with Shari)'s rifles and sabre bayonet,
but they will be obliged to do most of the skirmishing.
Yesterday the regiment was inspected by a United States
officer, and nutstered in for two months' pay.

Wednesday, fuly 3. — All quiet, and we see and hear of the enemy ; details of men are building batteries
beyond Hampton, and near the Ladies' Seminary on the
banks of James River. To-day another regiment left for
Newport News, leaving only four here, beside the garrison
at the fort. To-morrow being the anniversary of our Inde-
pendence, we would like to have a holiday, but there is no
such thing in the code ; in fact, we would hardly know when
Sunday comes around, were it not from the inspection in the
forenoon instead of a drill, and a dose of the Articles of War,
which are read with due solemnity. The officers are more
exacting every day, and the discipline is getting the men
down to a "fuie point."

Last night a large comet was in view. Toward morning
it stretched half-way over the hea\-en3. The men hope it is
a harbinger of success to our cause. Just as the Sergeants
were ciTlling the roll, a bright liglit was seen on the bay. which
proved to be the illumination i'loui the steamboat Catalinc,
which was burned to the water's edge.

A little incident will serve to show the dry humor of the

■ '•. Life at Camp Hauiilton. 85

Adjutant, from which may also be inferred some of the rea-
sons why he is so well liked by the men. On an extremely
warm day, the mercury being above the nineties, and the
Hun's rays fiercely hot, the writer was guarding some prisoners
who were clearing u;) the ground about the Adjutant's
quarters. Suddenly he heard a nianly voice call out, " Young
man, with auburn hau- ! come hither ! " My head-gear not
answering that description, I naturally looked at the prison-
ers to see if any of them had auburn hair, but not being able
to discover any one, I turned in the direction whence the
voice came, and saw the giant form of the Adjutant standing
at the doorway of his tent. He was looking directly at mo,
and also motioning with his hand ; seeing that he had at-
tracted my attention, he gave the order, " Shoulder arms I
March !" which I did, wondering what it all meant. "Right
oblitiue! Halt!" and I found myself under the grateful
^ha^le of a large tree. Now, sentry," said he, " your orders
are to stay under that tree, and watch these prisoners, and
mind you that my orders are strictly obeyed," and imme-
diately vanished into his tent.

Thursday, July 4. — Reveille just before sunrise, and a sa-
lute of thirty-four guns from the brass pieces in honor of the
day. Three bunches of fire-crackers were set off, with all due
ceremony, by one of the men. Being Independence Day, the
powers that be had the independence to order the regiment
out on picket, and they went. The men were called up
every fifteen minutes after midnight, an attack being ex-
pected. They fell in with their ritles, the roll was called,
^vhen they turned in again, being consequently cheated out
of their sleep, which occasioned some quiet grumbling.

Friday, July 5. — This morning we were relieved fjom
jickct duty ami marched back to cain[). In the afternoon the
uiiolc brigade, ir.citidirig Col. iJaker's Califorriia regiment.
^^liich arrived yesterday, was reviewed by Secretary of W'ai
Cameron, Adjt-Gen. Thomas, and Gen. Butler and staff.

., :■: y:. • .r>:^»

86 Fifth Nciv York Volunteer Infantry.

Professor Bartlett, of West Point, father of Capt. Bartlett, of
Co. I, 5th New York, was present.

On returning to can-.p, it was nightfall, and the postponed
celebration of the Fourth commenced with an illumination
of the company streets, by placing bits of candles and pine-
knots in the trees transplanted from the woods and set out
in front of the tents. This made it look like a fairy scene.
And now and then the distant shouts of the men — for the
camp extends about 500 feet — announced that everybody
was participating in the enjoyment except the solitary senti-
nels, who were pacing their lonely beats. On the color-line
a fine display of fireworks, contributed by the munificence
of the officers, fizzed away for an hour and added to the ef-
fect of the scene. At the head of each company street, im-
mense bonfires were built, around which the "red devils"
danced, sung, and yelled like so many Comanche Indians,
and in their red breeches, looked, in fact, like so many red
devils in Pandemonium. But it was all the exuberance of
pure animal spirit, for not a drop of liquor was tasted, nor
could it be had if desired. The different companies vied
with each other in getting up the greatest and tallest blaze,
and the most indefatigable exertions were made in the way
of sujiplying fuel to attain this object. The palm of victory
was finally awarded to Company G, many members of
which were of the New York Volunteer Fire Department,
■who thus showed that they knew how to make " a big blaze,"
as well as to put one out. The scene defies description ;
the victors were joined by men from other companies in their
dance of triumph around the huge burning pile, and such
was the wild enthusiasm that if any of the celebrated Indian
chiefs, from Osceola to the famous Silting Bull himself, had
been present, they v/ould have dropped their dignity and joined
in the excitement. It was a scene long to be remcmliercd by
tliose who shared in the festivities. Taps were delayed one
hour, in order that the men might prolong their enjoyment.

• ;■■ Life at Camp Hamilton. 8/

Later in the night the officers had tlieir own carnival.
Thrt-c of the largest tents in camp were joined together, to
t'jrni one marquee, in which were assembled the officers of
the regiment, at the invitation of Col. Durye'e, and as in-
vited guests, Col. Townsend, of the 3d New York, and
orhers. Speeches and toasts were in order, and Col, Durye'e,
.•\djt. Hamblin, Capt. Hull, and other orators were heard
from. Capts. Catlin, Cooper, and Smitli, of the Third, made
humoroas and patriotic speeches. The music, which was
supi)lied by the band of the 3d New York, added to the
pleasure of the occasion. A bountiful collation was pro-
vided, and the festivities were prolonged until near morning.
It lacked only one feature that would have completed the
charm of the occasion — the presence of some of the far-dis-
tant women who were dreaming of us at home.

Saturday, July 20. — The Mechanics' and Traders' Fire In-
surance Company have presented to Capt. Denike, of Co.
G, $ioo, to be distributed among the men of his company,
or for the purchase of any articles they might desire. A
number of the men are obtaining their discharges on ac-
count of sickness, wounds, etc., camp life beginning to tell
already, even on comparatively strong constitutions. Capt.
K.ilpatrick arrived to-day with a hundred new recruits, who
look like a good body of men, although pale and sickly,
alongside of those who are bronzed by service and ex-
posure. The ladies of New York have kindly sent a supply
of Havelocks for the whole regiment, which reminds the
men that, although far away, they are not torgotten by the
fair ones at home.

Col. Durye'e, being Acting Brigadier and in command of
this camp, the duty of drilling the battalion has devolved
'!pon I,ieut.-C()l. \\'arren, who handles the regiment in a
■ !-.'ntihc manner. In hold maneuvers tlie nu-n are tauglit
iDovcments and tactics they never dreamed of bctbre, and
were never performed by the militia at home. He is very

.. \

88 Fiftli Niw York Vchintccr Infantry.

rigid with the officers, and requires them to know their
duties thoroiiglily, and make no mistakes. The non-com-
missioned officers are also obHged to learn a lesson every
day, and ai)pear before Capt. Kilpatrick and recite it.

The regiment was reviewed on Monday by Mr. Russell,
the famous war corresi)ondent of the London Times. The
regiment has received a beautiful stand of colors, which was
the gift of some admiring ladies of New York. The follow-
ing account is from one of the New York journals :

Presentation of a Stand of Colors to Colonel
Durvee's Zouaves.

"A beautiful stand of colors was presented on Tuesday, July i6,
1861, at Clinton Hall, to the Fifth Regiment. New York State
Volunteers, commonly known as Col. Duryee's Zouaves.

" The Colonel being now stationed at Fortress Monroe, the flag
was received by about 100 Zouaves recently recruited, who are
about to join the regiment, and will have the distinction of present-
ing it to their commanding ofncer. Thetlag is a very handsome
American ensign, of the regulation size and pattern, but distin-
guished by a scroll over the stars bearing the inscription, 'Above
us or around us.' In lieu of the ordinary spear or eagle, the staff
was surmounted with a fez surrounded by two folds of a turban
(the regular head-dress of the Zouave), the latter in silver. The
streamers (red and blue) were also inscribed with characteristic
mottoes — the one, 'Fidcle a Poutrance ' — the other, from the song
of the Zouave, 'lis posscdcnt u)ie baguette jJiagiquc' The while
streamer bore the inscription, ' Presented to the Fifth Regiment,
New York State \'oluntcers, through Company H, July 16,
1861.' The Hag was presented on the part of tb.e ladies by Mr.
Pyne, who alluded in a short address to the outrages our tlag
had sustained in the Southern seceding States, and the possibility
that it might be the privilege of the Zouaves to redress them.
Cn/jt. Ki!p:uri(.k n-oi-ivcd the Hag on the part of Conipany H,
and suhit_^^qu::utly presented it to .Major L\avies, as the represen-
tative of the regiment. 'The Star Spangled Banner ' was then

Online LibraryAlfred DavenportCamp and field life of the Fifth New York volunteer infantry. (Duryee zouaves.) → online text (page 7 of 39)