Edward Pascal McKinney.

Life in tent and field, 1861-1865 (Volume 1) online

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Captain and commissary of subsistence under




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Copyright, 1922, by E. P. McKinney
All Rights Reserved

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Made in the United States of America

Press of
J. J. Little & Ives Company
New York, U. S. A.

OCT Kl);:2>




who with unswerving devotion, gave all she
had to the service of her country and fol-
lowed her absent sons day and night with
her prayers, this little volume is dedicated.
Graven on the writer's memory is the in-
tense longing on his mother's face as, not
knowing she was seen, she stood watching
the train which took him back to the army
after he had been at home recovering from
a wound.


It is hoped that the reader of this story may
share to some extent the interest which the writer
found in recalling events of more than half a cen-
tury gone. The present generation has been so
absorbed in the recent European War that our
Civil War seems like ancient history.

The feeble old veterans who gather on Decora-
tion Day are ghosts of a bygone age. The stories
which they rehearse of the mighty events in which
they were a part are no longer listened to with
interest by the general public.

There are some, however, and their number is
increasing, who are pleased to recall the privations
and the patriotism of those who fought for the
preservation of the Union and made it possible for
this country to take a deciding part in the World

I trust that the frequent use of the first personal
pronoun may be pardoned, in view of the fact that
the events here related consist mostly of personal
reminiscences written almost exclusively from



I. Slavery the Moral Cause of the Civil War,
Also the Underlying Cause of the European.
Changes in the Art of Warfare. The Under-
ground Railroad. Repeal of the Missouri Com-
promise. Border Ruffians. Free-soilers. War
in Kansas i^

II. Preparation for College at Phillips Exeter Acad-
emy. The Abolition of Slavery. Enter Yale
in 1857. Northern Chivalry. Attack in the
United States Senate on Charles Sumner by
Preston Brooks. Anson Burlingame. John
Brown of Ossawatomie and Attack at Harper's
Ferry. Wendell Phillips. Connecticut Elec-
tion in 1859. Abraham Lincoln 17

III. Cavalry. The Ira Harris Guard. Sixth New

York Cavalry. General Thomas C. Devin.
Plain Fare of Soldiers. Daniel S. Dickinson.
Story of Horatio Seymour 27

IV. Unpreparedness. Regiment Ordered to York,

Pennsylvania. Major Carwardine. Captain
Hannahs. Incident at Annapolis. Cavalry
Equipment 31

V. The Peninsular Campaign. McCIellan Made
Commander in Chief. His Treatment of the
Inhabitants. Unfavorable Reports in Regard
to Him. Letter of the Author to His Mother 40

VI. Battle of Williamsburg. "Les Enfants Perdus."
Raid to Gloucester Court House. Magruder
Evacuates Yorktown. Some Amusing Events 48

VII, The Famous "Seven Days' Fight." Retreat of the
Army to Malvern Hills. President Lincoln
Visits McCIellan — Tells a Characteristic Story 54





















Pleasant Life on the Peninsula. Confederates
Rout the Fifth Pennsylvania Cavalry. William
and Mary College Burned. Captain Hannahs
Assassinated in Williamsburg 6i

The Destruction of William and Mary College —
Not Done by Union Soldiers 66

Author Promoted to First Lieutenant. General
Burnside and Battle of Fredericksburg. Lay-
ing of Pontoon Bridge. Horseback Ride with
a Virginia Girl. A Malodorous Story ... 77

Fight of the Sixth New York Cavalry at Todd's
Tavern. Hooker's Plans for the Destruction
of Lee's Army. General Devin Orders Kee-
nan's Charge Which Saved the Army from
Destruction. He Says Nothing About the
"Noble Smile." Stonewall Jackson Killed . 86

Invasion of Maryland. Pursuit of Lee. Colonel
John S. Mosby. Gettysburg 94

Pursuit of Lee 101

Veteran Furlough 106

General Grant Made Commander in Chief . . 109

Sheridan's Raid to Richmond 112

Promotion. Explosion of Petersburg Mine. Sher-
idan Ordered to the Shenandoah Valley . . . 119

Sheridan in the Shenandoah Valley 123

Attack by Mosley. The Author Wounded . . 126

Campaign in the Shenandoah Valley. Sheridan's
Ride 137

Expedition to Join Grant Before Richmond . . 144

General Warren Relieved. Lee's Surrender . . 150

Our Last March. The Grand Review . . . , 156

Closing Scenes 158


Brevet Major Edward P. McKinney .... Frontispiece


General Thomas C. Devin 28

Major-General Phillip H. Sheridan 112

General George A. Custer 144




In any endeavor to trace the underlying cause
of the European or World War, we should not
lose sight of the fact that our Civil War was the
outcome of a constantly growing sentiment against
human slavery, and that Europe imbibed from
this country the same spirit, which eventually
brought the whole wodd into conflict.

In this country the issue was between the su-
premacy of negro slavery and its complete aboli-
tion. In Europe it was between the power of the
few over the lives of the people and the abohtion
of the aristocracy.

Today there is no one who asserts the "divine
right of Kings." If there is a King left in Europe


12 Life in Tent and Field

he is disposed to apologize to the people for the

"Yet I doubt not through the ages
One increasing purpose runs,
And the thoughts of men are widened
With the progress of the suns."

We who are now living cannot measure the ad-
vance which the world has made. In fact in some
ways it may seem that civilization has gone back-
ward. We believe that future historians will give
the present era credit for the longest step for-
ward of any of the centuries. Almost all the great
progressive periods in the World's history have
followed an era of bloodshed. Whether universal
peace can be brought about by a "League of
Nations," and if it can, whether such a peace will
contribute to the advance of mankind, is doubt-
ful. It takes sweat and blood to break the bonds
which have bound mankind for centuries.

In the physical aspects of warfare since our
Civil War there have been considerable changes,
owing to the advance in Science and to new inven-
tions. The use of airplanes in the late war en-
abled the combatants to make observations of
each others' movements to such an extent that
the armies of both sides were compelled to con-
ceal themselves underground. This, with the

The Cause of The Civil War 13

great numbers of men engaged in the European
War, and the universal use of telephones, which
covered every acre of ground, prevented the use
of cavalry, especially on the Eastern front. For
this reason the late war lacked much of the
romance of the Civil War.

The writer of these reminiscences, at the out-
break of the Civil War in 1861, entered the Army
as a Lieutenant of Cavalry and served with the
Cavalry Corps of the Army of the Potomac until
the general muster out in 1865.

Most writers on the Civil War have written
as historians or as military critics. I shall not
attempt anything so profound, but I hope to
create some interest in the story of events in which
I had a part or which came under my personal

I will very briefly recall some of the events
which led to the Civil War.

For many years prior to the election of Lincoln
in i860, Negro Slavery had been the ruling ques-
tion In the politics of the Nation. The South was
determined that the new States which were being
opened in the Southwest should be slave States.
They also demanded the right to take their slaves
into and out of the free States without interfer-
ence, and that the laws of the Northern States
should compel the return of escaped slaves to their

14 Life in Tent and Field

In the North the public conscience was being
more and more awakened to the injustice of
human slavery. Early in the fifties some of the
extreme radicals of the South were threatening
secession unless their demands were complied
with. In the North a large body of influential
citizens led by the most gifted orators were advo-
cating the abolition of slavery. In Rochester,
New York, Fred Douglas, a runaway slave, pub-
lished a newspaper called the North Star, openly
advocating the abolition of slavery.

Slaves were aided into Canada through Penn-
sylvania and New York, via the so-called Under-
ground Railroad. This was a series of connect-
ing stations extending from Mason and Dixon's
line to Canada. The existence and location of
these stations were kept absolutely secret except
to the very few. At night when all were supposed
to be asleep a peculiar knock was heard on the
door of a certain house. When the door was
opened by the master of the house, two men, one
white and the other black, were standing outside.
The white man, after a few passwords, disap-
peared in the darkness. The black man was
drawn into the house and the door locked. If
there was no immediate pursuit the slave was fed,
a horse harnessed, the slave delivered to the next
station, the horse and wagon returned to the
stable and the master of the house to his bed

The Missouri Compromise 15

before daylight. In some cases where pursuit was
hot the slave was kept concealed until danger

In 1854, under the leadership of Stephen A.
Douglas, the "Missouri Compromise," under
which for thirty years slavery had been confined
to territory South of latitude 36° 30', was re-
pealed, and the Kansas-Nebraska bill passed,
authorizing the first settlers of new territory to
determine whether it should be slave or free. The
direct object of Douglas and the Southern Demo-
crats in passing this bill was to make the large
territory of Kansas, which was now opened to
settlement, a slave State.

The Antislavery party of the North were not
idle. Before the final passage of the bill, emi-
grants from New England were furnished with
"Beecher Bibles," as Springfield muskets were
called, and rushed into Kansas. A society called
the "New England Emigrant Aid Company" was
incorporated under the laws of Massachusetts,
and the rich lands of Kansas were the coveted
prize of the adventurous spirits, who, rifle in hand,
poured into Kansas.

This movement was fiercely resented by the
Southern slave-owners. The Missourians espe-
cially, as the new territory adjoined their own
State, had not anticipated any difficulty in making
Kansas a slave State. Alarmed by the increasing

1 6 Life in Tent and Field

numbers of "Free-Soilers," as the Northern set-
tlers were called, a body of five thousand Border
Ruffians rushed across the border from Missouri
at the time of the March election in 1855, took
possession of the polls and elected a Legislature
and Member of Congress. The Free-Soilers
would not recognize this Legislature but pro-
ceeded to elect their own Legislature and Member
of Congress.

For two )'ears there was civil war in Kansas.
The entire country was on fire with excitement,
but neither the North nor the South was prepared
for war, and the most prominent leaders on both
sides put forth their best efforts to effect some
kind of settlement.



I was prepared for college at Phillips Exeter
Academy, Exeter, New Hampshire, in 1855-
1 856-1 857, while blood was running in Kansas.
During my Senior year many eloquent speakers,
including such men as Wendell Phillips, Ralph
Waldo Emerson and Theodore Parker, spoke in
Exeter in a new town-hall on the subject of the
Abolition of Slavery and the Kansas outrages. I
well remember an address by Emerson, at which
a man got up from in front and walked out amid
profound silence. Emerson looked at his watch
and said that he found that he had been speaking
more than an hour and would stop. The entire


1 8 Life in Tent and Field

audience requested him to go on and he continued
nearly an hour longer. Nearly all the students
of the Phillips Exeter Academy attended this
series of lectures and became deeply interested.

Among my classmates was Sam Fessenden, a
son of Senator Fessenden from Maine, afterward
Secretary of the Treasury under Lincoln. Sam
was a small, slight, fair-haired youth of about
seventeen years. His sympathy got so wrought,
up that he ran away from school, went to Boston,
obtained from the Free-Soil Committee a
"Beecher's Bible," and went to Kansas to fight
the Border Ruffians. Many of my class in
Phillips Exeter, of whom a number were South-
erners, were afterward engaged in the Civil War
on one side or the other.

I entered Yale College in 1857 in the Fresh-
man class, and was graduated in 1861. There
were several Southerners in my class. If there
was any hostile feeling toward them, Northern
"chivalary" did not permit its expression. In
i860 a Secession flag appeared one morning on
the turrets of Linonia Hall. This, however, dis-
appeared soon after dawn, and the incident was
dropped. Later another Secession flag appeared
on Fort Hale, a little fort, relic of colonial days,
in New Haven Harbor. This, too, was removed
without causing very much excitement.

While the question whether Kansas should be

The Attack on Senator Sumner 19

slave or free was in hot dispute, the Thirty-fourth
Congress assembled. In the Senate Charles
Sumner of Massachusetts was a leading member,
and held much the same rank among Senators as
Senator Lodge holds at the present time, only
the Democrats were then in large majority. Like
Lodge, he was a cultivated scholar and his repu-
tation was not confined to this hemisphere. Al-
though Sumner knew his personal danger, in a
two-days' speech he denounced the crime against
Kansas and all who supported it, in such scathing
terms that the Southern members were frantic
with anger.

Preston Brooks of South Carolina, a member
of the House of Representatives, encouraged by
his Southern colleagues, took on himself the task
of personally chastising Senator Sumner. He
made a brutal and cowardly attack from behind
on the Senator, who was seated at his desk in the
Senate Chamber and unable to rise, and beat him
over the head and shoulders with a heavy cane,
felling him to the floor and inflicting injuries from
which Sumner never recovered. This infamous
assault was applauded by many Southern people.
Women embraced Brooks with kisses in reward
for his chivalry.

Anson Burllngame, a member from Massachu-
setts, In a speech before the House, characterized
the deed as the work of a coward In such bitter

20 Life in Tent and Field

terms that Brooks was stung to the quick and
challenged him to a duel. Burlingame chose rifles
for weapons and designated Canada as the dueling
ground. Brooks backed down with the excuse
that he could not go to Canada.

Among the Free-Soilers who were engaged in
fighting the Border Ruffians in Kansas, a promi-
nent figure was John Brown, or as he became
known, "John Brown of Ossawatomie." Brown
raised a company of volunteers, in which were
his four sons. He called them the "Free-State
Regular Volunteers of Kansas," and while he re-
ceived some outside aid he spent his own means
in their support.

John Brown was compelled to leave Ossa-
watomie, where he had made his home, and where
his experience of the murderous gang of Border
Ruffians so embittered him against the institution
of slavery that his life was not weighed in the

On October 17, 1859, the world was startled
by news of an attack by twenty men on the United
States Arsenal at Harper's Ferry. Harper's
Ferry is a small town on the Virginia side of the
Potomac, where the Shenandoah, breaking
through the mountains from the South, joins the
Potomac. It is one of the most picturesque spots
in America and a fit setting for John Brown's
wonderful exploit.

John Brown 21

John Brown sacrificed his life and that of three
sons, and though "his body lies moldering in the
grave his soul goes marching on." His professed
object was to start a rebellion of the slaves, in
which he failed, and he was promptly hung at
Charlestown, Virginia.

Brown was a very religious man, of superior
mind and absolute devotion to what he consid-
ered his duty. By most people he is called a
fanatic. Some, however, consider him a seer who
foresaw, in his self-sacrifice and the sacrifice of
his three sons, the liberation of his country from
the curse of human slavery.

Wendell Phillips of Boston was known through-
out the country as the most finished orator of the
times. In those days every city and every village
had its Lyceum, before which weekly lectures were
given, attended by throngs of people. No lecture
course was complete without Wendell Phillips,
and his engagements were made a year or more
in advance. He was one of the most ardent anti-
slavery speakers and had a great influence in
arousing the people of the North to an abhor-
rence of human slavery.

A laughable incident occurred in 1858. Wen-
dell Phillips, while delivering one of his char-
acteristic lectures in the South Church on College
Street in New Haven, to a large and intensely
interested audience, was interrupted after one of

22 Life in Tent and Field

his bitter sentences, by a loud and emphatic hiss
from the gallery. Phillips stopped, and for a
moment there was profound silence, until a clear
voice rang out from the opposite gallery, — "Go
on, Mr. Phillips, it's only a Freshman." After
the applause and laughter which followed there
was no more hissing.

We had in college a student, originally from
the South, who was indebted to the North for
his education. His father was at that time a
minister of one of the New Haven churches, and
some of the family had married in the North.
The young man had talent, was prominent in
scholarship, in debate, and in athletics. At one
of Wendell Phillips' lectures he arose in his seat,
accused the speaker of rank heresy, and made
some rather offensive remarks. Mr. Phillips
listened patiently until he had finished; then with
perfect courtesy replied in such a smooth and sar-
castic way that our young man had to retire in
confusion. When the war began, this young man
returned to Richmond and became an officer in
the Southern Army. After the Battle of Five
Forks I met him marching along the road in com-
pany with five thousand other prisoners in charge
of Brayton Ives, one of my classmates in Yale,
then Colonel of a Connecticut Regiment of

The State election in Connecticut in 1859 was

Lincoln Elected i860 23

considered by the different political parties of
the country to have an important bearing on the
coming Presidential election. Almost every po-
litical orator of note from all quarters — East,
West, North and South — gave addresses in New
Haven. These were attended by large bodies of
students. One of the speakers was Abraham
Lincoln, who at that time was comparatively little
known. The universal verdict of the students
was that Lincoln's speech was the best political
speech delivered during the campaign.

The Presidential election was held Tuesday,
November 6, i860. Lincoln was elected by an
immense majority. His election was the signal
for the secession of several of the slave States,
South Carolina in the lead.

In December, the first shot, the signal for war,
was fired on the United States forts in the Har-
bor of Charleston, South Carolina.

In the winter of 1 860-1 861, after the act of
secession by South Carolina, companies for the
purpose of military drill were formed by the Yale
students. Officers and drill-masters were chosen
from among their own number. No assistance
nor encouragement was given by the authorities
at Washington — none was to be expected. The
Government under President Buchanan was too
feeble even to resent the attack on Fort Sumter,
and Buchanan was loyal only to the Democratic

24 Life in Tent and Field

party, of which the disloyal South formed a

The students from the South, who graduated
with me in 1861, were aided by the college au-
thorities in getting to their homes through the
hostile lines.

It was my intention, while in college, to take a
course in Civil Engineering, and I made arrange-
ments with Professor Mahan at West Point for
private instruction. My well laid plans, however,
were changed by the course of events.

On July 25, 1861, E. D. Morgan, Governor
of New York, at the request of President Lincoln,
issued a proclamation calling for a volunteer force
of twenty-five thousand men to serve for three
years, or during the war. Regiments of infantry
at that time consisted of ten companies of one
hundred men each. Twenty-five regiments were
soon under way.

The country was not then prepared for con-
scription and the Government was not strong
enough to enforce one. In the Northern States,
while there were some Copperheads, as those op-
posed to the war were called, the great majority
were loyal and ready to fight for the preserva-
tion of the Union. The incentives to enlistment
in the late war would not have filled the ranks
with volunteers as in the Civil War.

Every Northern State was called upon to fur-

Organization of Regiments 25

nish its quota of volunteer regiments. Men of
influence were authorized by the Governors to
raise regiments and were appointed Colonels.
These newly appointed Colonels were assisted by
others of local influence in getting volunteer en-
listments. When sufficient men were enlisted to
form the nucleus of a Company, an election was,
held and a Captain chosen by ballot. In most
cases the man who had been active in getting the
enlistments was chosen Captain. First and Second
Lieutenants were sometimes chosen by ballot and
sometimes appointed by the Governor on the
recommendation of the Colonel.

It would seem that regiments so organized
could not prove as efficient as the regiments we
sent abroad, who had the benefit of many months'
training under experienced officers before sailing
for France, and of a second course of drilling
on French soil before going to the front. It is,
however, remarkable in how short a time both
officers and men became well disciplined and well
organized troops. The world has never seen
better or more heroic regiments than were sent
into the field during the Civil War.

What was most lacking was a General Staff —
generals trained in tactics and capable of
handling large bodies of men. In too many cases
generals were appointed who had been promi-
nent in politics and had no other qualifications.

26 Life in Tent and Field

Lincoln is credited with saying at one time when
he had kept a general waiting while he gave
audience to a private soldier "that he could make
plenty of Brigadier Generals but could not make
a private soldier."



In August, 1 86 1, after my graduation from
college, I received letters from a classmate urging
me to raise a company for an Artillery Regiment
then being formed in Elmira, New York.

I started to enlist men, but by the time I had

secured the requisite number the Regiment had

been completed. I had an offer of a commission

in a Cavalry Regiment then being formed on

Staten Island, and consented to join it provided

the men I had secured were willing. I called them

together and every one agreed to stand by me.

This Regiment was called the "Ira Harris

Guard," so named after Ira Harris, a United

States Senator, and organized at his solicitation,

under orders from the War Department, to meet

the need of Cavalry to oppose the mounted troops

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