Chicago Standard Genealogical Publishing Company.

A Volume of memoirs and genealogy of representative citizens of northern California, including biographies of many of those who have passed away online

. (page 5 of 108)
Online LibraryChicago Standard Genealogical Publishing CompanyA Volume of memoirs and genealogy of representative citizens of northern California, including biographies of many of those who have passed away → online text (page 5 of 108)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

doing, to amuse themselves during the winter months. Xew Year's day,
1864, was the coldest day we ever saw in the army. We were ordered to
be ready for a reconnaissance at 9 o'clock, a. m., December 31st. We were
in line promptly at that time, waiting for marching orders, until 1 \). m.,
when we were ordered to march. It commenced to rain at 11 o'clock. ;md
about 3 it began to freeze, and by 5 o'clock the roads were frozen solid. We
were climbing the eastern slope of the Blue Ridge mountains, and it was so
slippery that our horses could scarcely keep their feet. Of course we walked,
and v>ere very glad to do so, to keep from freezing, ^^'e finally reached the
top of the mountain, where we built huge fires of pine logs and fence rails.
Each comjjany would build a fire, in a circle, large enough to inclose the com-
pany within it, and every ten minutes or so a detail of men was made to bring
fresh fuel for the fire. Thanks to the party owning that particular tract
for furnishing enough rails to keep us from freezing, if not warm. That
night and the next day have always been spoken of as "that cold New Year's
of 1864" by all old settlers, because it extended all over the United States.
]\Iany of the soldiers, north and south, froze to death.

The ne.xt morning we started on our march to Front Royal. It was
cold and dreary, I can assure you ; and it was amusing to see the whole com-
mand from general to private walking along beside their horses, occasionally
stopping to swing their hands about their shoulders to keep their fingers from
freezing. Just at dark, in the gloom of the most dreary day that one sees
in a life-time, we entered the village of Front Royal and saw the camp-fires



of tlie enemy on tlie ojjposite side of the Shenandoah rixer, whicli liad frozen
over, — something that the oldest inhahitant had probably never seen before.

1 hardly think that onr caxalry boys were in a fighting mood that niglit.
for. after a lirief consultation by the higlier officers, it was decided to make
an early start next morning. — not to molest the enemy, who seemed to be
peacefully slumbering. — and go by the way of White Plains and back to War-
renton. On the jd the weather was warmer, and the men began to feel like
doing a little foraginig for horse and man. The squad that I was in on this
particular occasion ("foraging expeditions," as we used to style them) w-as
composetl of some of the most daring spirits in the company. Billy Borts,
Shell Stiggleman, Billy Moore, John and Bill Barrett and others that I do
not now call to mind, were of the party. Seeing a large farm house off to
the left of the I'oad they made a swoop down upon it in a most ruthless man-
i:er. The fainily consisted of an old gentleman and his wife, and two daugh-
ters, witli their -mall children, who had evidently come to spend the holi-
days. As our party rode up to the house, the family were evidently just
getting ready to eat their New Year's dinner, or the remnant of one. The
boys went into the house and took everything that they had on the table,
dumping all into their haversacks, and, I blush to say it, they did not stop at
the eatables, but some of the boys did wdiat General Butler was accused of
doing, took the spoons for souvenirs. But I wish to say that all this was
done under protest from myself and others.

On the 4th, when we were about three miles from Warrenton, riding
along in a blinding snow-storm, we were fired upon by a band of Colonel
Mosby's men, who were in ambush in the woods. But there w^as no one
killed or wounded. Arriving safely at Camp Warrenton (after five days of
verv severe, and to one used to campaigning seemingly a needless, hardship
to horse and man) we found the walls of our log houses still standing, and
all that was needed to make a complete house again was to l^utton our t1y
ter.ts too-ether.

Before we left on the expedition just narrated, the question of re-enlist-
ment of the regiment was the all-absorbing- topic. The proposition made by
the eovernment was this : Those of the three years' men whose time w^as
nearlv out could re-enlist for three years more, or during the war, and receive
a botmtv of four Inmdred and tw-o dollars and a furlough of thirtv days.
Nearly all of our regiment re-enlisted. The men w^ere to go home, six com-
panies at a time. Ours (Companv G) was one of the first to leave for home.
What a glorious time we had visiting dear old friends ! On this furlough I
visited my brother George at Janesville. Wisconsin, for a few days, then
returned to Ohio, to bid friends good-bve. T well remember the parting.
Mother said : "Truman', it is probable that I -will ucxer see you again on
earth, but we will meet in Heaven. But, my dear son do A-our duty at all
times." Thus we parted, I going back to army life, and mother and sister to
their watching, praying and waiting for our return.

Bv the time the .Second Di\-ision of tlic reeimcnt had returned from their
furlough, we were reaih' for a forward UKivemcnt. not to return to our old


battle-ground north of the Rapidan and Rappahannock rivers, which had been
fought over so many times in the past tlu'ee }-ears.


Before passing to the battles of the Wilderness and those to follow, I
wish to give a few reminiscences of camp life, as we saw it at Camp Warren-
ton. The boys of our regiment, like those of most others, had to do some-
thing to amuse themselves, and we imagined that we had sufficient cause for
getting back on the other fellows; but, perhaps, not to the extent that we
carried the joke.

We had a sutler by the name of Isaac Alexander, a regular rustling Jew,
and a sky-scraper in prices. But, nevertheless, the men would patronize him
to the extent of their whole monthly pay (which was little enough, the Lord
knows) ! This they got in sutler's checks in advance. And the consequence
was that the sutler got the money on pay-day, and the men only had the vivid
recollection of how a half-yard or so of poor ginger-bread once tasted, or
what was to them worse, pies that would make a mule sick. It was decided
that he must leave for other parts; so we planned a raid upon his old "shebang,"
which was located some distance from the camp. But before we could make
the raid we had to make arrangements to throw him off the track, for we knew
that he would have the camp thoroughly searched.

The boys gathered as many cracker and soap boxes as thev needed, and
planted them in the ground under their berths, or bunks, and a man could
search all day without finding anything. The arrangements all made, we
selected a dark night in February, and the boys that had been let into the
scheme were notified to be on hand at ii o'clock sharp. In this camp we
had no particular time for lights out; nothing was thought of the men being on
the streets of the camp at all hours of the night, provided they were orderly.
The sutler had a large Sibley tent, about twenty-five feet on tlie ground, and
in this he had a small wall tent, where he slept and cooked. The large tent
had about ten or fifteen upright poles around the circumference, and a tall
one in the center. Four boys w^ere to get into the tent and manipulate the
center pole, and one boy to each of the other posts. One of the boys, who
could mimic a donkey to perfection, was to stand ofif at a little distance from
the tent and give the signal to start by imitating the braying of a donkey, when
the tent moved off as if by magic. It was a success; the sutler was not dis-
turbed in his nap. and the boys carried off all that could be stored away in
their boxes, or enough, as they thought, to break up his business. But no,
this did not stop him; for, after having a thorough search of the camp, he
got another lot of goods, this time the colonel allowing him to have a guard;
so we were worse off than before, as it made one more guard to mount.

A few days later we were ordered on a reconnaissance across the Rapi-
dan^ river, and the sutler got permission of the colonel to accompany us. The
boys were rejoiced at hearing this, for now they thought they had a chance
to lose Mr. "Sutler." The river was running full banks, and we had to


swim our horses, and pretty hard work it was, too. The sutler plunged in
with the rest. Two of his lead horses, being heavily loaded with sutlers'
supplies strapped on their backs, went down the river with their entire loads.
He, in the strongest part of the current, was yelling at the top of his voice
for help. By chance he caught hold of an overhanging branch of a tree
and was saved from drowning, but his horse went down the river and came
out on the opposite side, more dead than alive. This was the last we saw of
the sutler, and we never had another in' our camp as long as I was with the


Our lieutenant colonel was the most high-toned gentleman that we had
in the regiment. He had been recently promoted to the colonelcy, and in
consequence was, as the boys used to, say of him, "in high feather and needs
a set back." No one denied that he was a good soldier, and all that, but it
was hard to tolerate his seeming e.xclusiveness from his fellow officers and
men. He was extremely fond of lager beer and used to send to Washington
for a keg once in two weeks : but never a drop did any of us taste while in
his possession. Some of the Company A boys, with one or two of Company
G, made up their minds that the next consignment of beer would never be
delivered to the lieutenant colonel's tent. So they made arrangements with
the teamster to put the keg of beer in the hind end of the wagon next time
he had any to bring for the colonel, and they would attend to the rest when
it came to camp. It came on a idark, stormy night, and we were in waiting
for it. Just before reaching the camp ground, there was quite a hill, and
one of the boys was to be ready to climb into the hind end of the wagon and
dump the keg out on the ground ; and, of course, it would roll down hill,
where the boys were in waiting for it. Everything passed off as planned.
In the tent of A. W. Stiles, orderly sergeant of Company A, had been dug
a hole large enough to admit of an ordinary beer keg. The keg being in place,
with dirt over it, and the bunk being put in place over the keg, the boys felt
reasonably safe when the colonel should order a search for the beer, which
he did the next day: but. of course, he did not find it.

After the excitement attending the capture of the beer had died down
somewhat, the boys procured some rye straws, and the favored ones — and
there were many — were allowed to lie in the bunk and partake of the beer
through a straw to their hearts' content. When the wagon drove up to the
colonel's tent, he came out to look after his keg of beer, and found it not.
Of course the driver saw it put on board, but Avhere, oh, where, was it now?
''Some miscreant has 'swiped' it, and I'll have the camp searched in the morn-
ing." So the next morning the whole regiment was turned out, and the "riot
act" was read to tliem. A guard of fifteen or twentv men, of whom some
were the raiders, searched e\-ery tent in the regiment, to no jiurpose, as I
have above stated.

About a week later the em])ty keg was placed at the entrance of the


lieutenant colonel's tent, with an inscription something like this: "We are
very sorry, Colonel, that there is no more beer in this keg. We sign our-
sehes. "JNlany topers, l)nt none like yon.' " I think he ne\-er got any more
beer by the liarrel or keg.


Dentistry in the ami}- was one of the lost arts, as 1 found to my sorrow.
After sulYering with the toothache for several days and nights, 1 concluded
that the next time I saw the doctor or his assistant I would have the tooth
draw'n. 1 did not have to wait many hours to be accommodated in the
tooth-pulling line, for, as I was riding along with my company through a
beautiful j^iece of woodland, I came across just what I had been looking for,
• — the assistant surgeon, Zenas A. Northway, and an assistant. Orange Ball, —
botli of whom I had implicit confidence in as to their strength, but not as
to their ability as dentists. I made my wants known, and Zenas said, "Cer-
tainly, I can pull the tooth." Ball sat down on a steep bank and held my
head between his knees, while Zenas, with a pair of old turnkeys, hooked
iPito the tooth (a large molar), and commenced to twist without any apparent
result; and he finally said, "Ball, you try it awhile." So they changed places.
Ball, being the stronger man, gave it a tremendous twist, which brought the
tooth, but broke the jaw bone, which for many months gave me more trouble
than the tooth had ever given me. The old turnkey, as an instrument in
the art of dentistry, has been relegated with its inventor to the region of the
Inferno. Nearlv every man or woman who has arrived at the age of sixty
has had his or her experience in tooth-pulling by that same old instrument of


It is very easy to mount guard. That's what most old soldiers will say.
Well, it is; but will you qualify that statement, by saying, "around camp?"
But, on the outpost, it is sometimes a difficult "proposition."

The little incident that I wish to relate was a little out of the ordinary
in guard-mounting. It was in February, while we were doing double duty
on account of one-half of the regiment being home on furlough. The head-
quarters of the outpost at this time were at the old stone barn about four
miles north of \\'arrenton. We usually kept a detail of twenty-five or thirty
men there all the time as outpost ; each detail was out five days. The line that
we had to picket extended to the Blue Ridge mountain, about three miles to
the west. The pickets, of course, are what are called "videttes," and are
supposed to stand in the place where the sergeant posts them in his rounds
of duty. I was the officer of the guard in charge of this post on a certain
night. It was snowing so hard that we could not see more than one rod
before us. But, of course, the pickets must be changed. I had been over the
ground several times, and knew just where all the pickets should be. At 12
o'clock, midnight, it was still snowing as hard as ever as I was making the
rounds with the second relief. We got along nicelv until we got to an old


liouse, where I liacl pusted a little German (a raw recruit) under a cherry-
tree in frunt of the house. We called to him, but no reply. Thinking, per-
haps, he had changed his position somewhat, we started out to find him. After
lioundering around outside of the picket line for a half hour or so, we retraced
our steps, as best we could, to the old house, and there found the little Ger-
man and his horse in the house, and he sound asleep, as comfortable as could
be under the circumstances. After telling him that the crime of which he
was guilt} — that of sleeping on his post — was punishable by death, he begged
of us not to kill him, which, of course, we promised; but sent him to head-
((uarters with the charge of sleeping on his post. Our good old Colonel
Steadman gave him a severe reprimand that scared him nearly to death, and
let him ofY at that.

Our outpost orders were to fire at any person coming from the outside.
The reason for this order was, we had had men taken from their posts by the
enemy rushing upon them, capturing them without notice. The usual instruc-
tions gi\en to guards are as follows : "Halt, advance, and give the counter-
sign ;" which is done over the point of a gun. We had very little trouble
with the regular Confederate soldiers on our picket lines; it was the Mosby
guerrilla band, who would kill a man for his outfit, his horse and equipments.


The transfer of General U. S. Grant from the western army to the Army
of the Potomac, to take general command of all the armies in the field, was
the wisest thing the administration could possibly have done. Tlie eastern
army demanded a man that could cope with General R. E. Lee in stategetical
movements, and found that man in the personi of General Grant. How well
he succeeded, every careful reader of American history knows. The con-
centration of the federal army along the banks of the Rapidan was evidence
to us that Grant intended to fight his antagonist om Joe Hooker's old battle-
ground ; so we were spared the long tedious marches of other campaigns in
reaching the battle-field. The morale of the army was excellent. Having
been re-enforced by many thousand new recruits, and strengthened by the
arrival of the Washington garrisons and the Ninth Corns under General Burn-
side, there was a feeling of confidence that the army had never had before
inider any other leader, and this confidence was also shared in by the author-
ities at Washington, for they did not try to dictate to him, as they had to
other commanders prior to his coming.

1 will now take up fhe movements of the ca\-alrv corps from the time
we ]>rMke camp at Warrenton until I was wounded. On the 2Qth of April
we left Camp ^^^arrenton for the front, wherever that was to be, with five
flays' rations. The cavalry corps, consisting of three divisions, was com-
manded as follows: Division. General A. T. A. Torbet; Second
Division, General David McMurtrie Gregg: Third Division, General J. H.
"Wilson, with General Phil Sheridan as commander of the corps.

On the evening of Ala}- 2 we were on the banks of the Rapidan, at Ger-


mania Ford, awaiting the arrival of the pontoon train, and to guard the
same while it was bemg put in place across the river. Not an unnecessary
sound was made, for fear of attracting the attention of the enemy, who were
supposed to be in waiting for us on the opposite side of the river. While
the bridge was being laid the boys in our command were taking account of
stock, as it were; and I must here record the fact that I spent the greater
portion of the night in reading the endearing letters that I had received from
my best girls during our stay at Warrenton. It was a hard thing to do, but
I jjurned them all up, for I knew that on the morrow w-e w^ould cross the river
Rapidan, and perhaps some would cross the river Styx; and we did not care
to let the "Johnny Rebs" know what our best girls had been saying about
them, provided we were killed or captured.

The pontoons down, we commenced to cross at 3 o'clock of the morning
of the 3d, having no opposition, except from a few pickets, who were easily
driven away. We expected to meet the enemy immediately oni arri\'ing on
the south side of the river, where we entered the wilderness, but to our surprise
we did not meet them until the morning of the 5th, and by that time the Fifth
and Sixth Corps were on the south side. A division of cavalry led each of the
infantry columns, and were to uncover the enemy's position. Oni the 5th, 6th
and 7tli our cavalry were engaged most of the time on their flanks. Our
division w^as followed by the Sixth Corps, and a better corps never fought an
enemy. It made no difference how hard a march we made that old Sixth
Corps was camping near us at night, and we used to call them the "Foot Cav-
alry," a term they seemed to enjoy.

At Todd's Tavern on the afternoon of the Jtli we were in a peculiarly
interesting fight with a brigade of infantry, mostly Georgia and Alabama
men. We were on the enemy's right flank, and were expecting an attack.
The enemy had got pretty well in on our left, when the Sixth Ohio was
ordered to charge. As we advanced we found a large swamp between us
and the enemy, which, of course, the horses could not go through. The men
were dismounted and the horses left in charge of the fifth man, he being respon-
sible for the four horses left with him.

The enemy were on the opposite side of the swamp behind the fence that
ran along its edge, and were giving us the best they had in their locker. As,
we neared the edge of the swamp, some of the men said, "It can't be done."
I, with several others, were equally confident that we could go through, if we
could get a good leader. I think that it was Captain E. S. Austini, of Com-
pany G, who said he would lead, and called to Company G, "Forward at
\\\]\ !" The command went all along the line, and in another minute the whole
regiment was floundering waist deep in water, while the "Johnnies" on the
other side were pegging away at us at a lively rate. We finally gained the
opposite shore, where we were successful in dislodging them. Some of our
men were wounded, but don't think any were killed. If I remember rightly,
W. B. Brisbine, of Company D, lost his left arm at this place.

After all of our men reached the south side we charged on the main
body of the enemy, \\ho were drawn up in line in the woods, a few hundred


yards distant. They stood their gTOund well for a quarter of an hour, but .
the rapid-tiring carbine was too much for their muzzle-loading rifles. They
broke and were driven pell-mell through the woods for a quarter of a mile.
As we stopped 1 noticed a boy, not over fifteen years old, who had been
shot through the body. He raised himself om one elbow and said, "Mr., will
you please give me a' drink of water? Oh, do give me a drink!" After I
had given him the drink he said. "Thank you; I wish that I could see my
mother and sisters. They live down in Georgia, and 1 am the only boy."
With his bead resting on my arm, he called for "mother — sister," and in a
few moments his spirit had fiown where the sound of war was not heard ! I
gently laid him dowm on mother earth, to be buried with his fallen comrades.
1 think that I never had anything affect me more than this incident in my
whole army career. And many a silent tear I have shed, as I have recalled
the scene.

We lay on our arms all that night with the dead and dying all around
us, we caring for the wounded on both sides alike, as best we could. We
were not attacked that night, and in the morning we were called in. It was
very amusing on this charge to hear what our dear old Colonel Steadman
said while trying to get around the big swamp. He had to ride to our left
about a mile, to cross on a bridge; and at this point was met by our adjutant
general, who asked him where his regiment was. He was very much excited,
swinging his saber, saying, "General, they are on. on; we are licking the
devil out of them, but I can't get to them." This remark caused a great deal
of amusement at headquarters, for they knew that he was a fighter, and it
was hard for him to keep out of a conflict that his regiment was engaged in.

On the 8th the cavalry were all notified to draw five days' rations of
everything necessary for a long raid. We knew well what this meant, for,
whenever an order came to draw more than three days' supplies, it meant
a raid in the rear of the enemy's lines; and this is what it proved to be this
time. The story was circulated that General IMeade had complained to Gen-
eral Grant that Sheridan's cavalry corps was in his way in bringing up his
infantry. Meade and Sheridan had some hot words ox-er it. This resulted
in Grant's giving Sheridan permission to make a raid or reconnaissance in
force in the rear of Lee's army. He said to Grant: "I can send consternation
to the heart of the Confederacy;" and Grant gave him permission. This_ is
inside history that I ha\-e never seen in print : 1)ut I think it is true, as I had
it from a cavalry ofificer of high rank.

On the morning of the 9th we were on the move before daylight, pass-
ing o\er the old Chancellorsville battle-ground, and came in the rear of Lee's
armv on his right flank. We were marching on two different roads, the
Sixth Ohio being the rear regiment in General Davies' brigade (First Brigade
of the Second Division). In the afternoon, about 4 o'clock, as our regiment
was passing through a deep cut in the road, we were surprised by a body of
dismounted cavalry, who had posted themselves on both sides of '.he roadway,
so as to give us an enfilading fire as we were ini the cut of the road and unable
to help ourselves. Of course the attack, coming as it did. caused somewhat of


a panic, and the front of the column was doul:)led back on the rear. All this
time the enemy were firing- at us, and, 1 must say, we were very much
demoralized. \\'e re-formed as quickly as possible, and, when out of the cut,

Online LibraryChicago Standard Genealogical Publishing CompanyA Volume of memoirs and genealogy of representative citizens of northern California, including biographies of many of those who have passed away → online text (page 5 of 108)