J. D. (John D.) Bloodgood.

Personal reminiscences of the war online

. (page 10 of 16)
Online LibraryJ. D. (John D.) BloodgoodPersonal reminiscences of the war → online text (page 10 of 16)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

the large one. After a while darky Number i
woke up, looked at the fish, rubbed his eyes,
looked again, and then remarked, *' Golly, how
dat fish am svvunked ! "

One day a soldier belonging to the Tenth
Regulars, who had been over to Washington
on a pass, and who had also been on a spree,
came down to the bridge on his way back to
his camp. He was still conftderably under the
influence of liquor, and after getting about


halfway across the bridge he became exceed-
ingly tired and lay down by the side of the
bridge and went to sleep. There was a railing
along the outside of the bridge, but the lowest
strip was over a foot from the bridge floor.

Mr. Soldier lay there sleeping very soundly
till near midnight, when he must have been
visited by some unpleasant dream, for he began
rolling and tumbling around, and finally slipped
under the railing, and down he went, end over
end, some twenty-five feet, into the river.
This involuntary bath must have waked him
up, for as soon as he could get the water out
of his mouth he commenced yelling at a tre-
mendous rate. The sentinel, posted about ten
rods out on the bridge, gave the alarm, and, pro-
curing a rope, several of the boys went to the
rescue. He floundered around till he had got
down under the railroad bridge, which was a
few rods below the old bridge and which was
built on piles, and when the boys got to the
place he was trying to climb a pile. The tide
was out, and, the pile being under water the
most of the time, was very slippery, conse-
quently the climber made very slow progress at
getting up to a place of safety. The boys let


down a rope, and after a while he succeeded in
getting it under his arms, and then they drew
him up and brought him out to our quarters.
He said he had swum all around Long Island,
and didn't want to be disgraced in getting
drowned in such a mudhole as the Potomac.
If he was going to be drowned he wanted a
place at least where there was water enough to
do it decently. He stayed till morning, dried
his clothes and his money (he had about forty
dollars left), and then started back into the
city to finish up his spree. That was the last
we saw of him.

The 4th of March, 1865, was a very busy day
for us, the reinauguration of Mr. Lincoln as
President of the United States taking place
that day. There was a great rush of people
from the Virginia side across the Long Bridge
to witness the imposing ceremonies. The
colored people especially turned out en masse,
and the streets of the great city were lined with
dusky faces, all looking on with eager interest,
for to them the name of '* Massa Linkum "
was what the name of Moses was to the en-
slaved Israelites. They looked upon him as
their especial champion and their great de-


liverer, and upon themselves as his especial

The morning was dark, rainy, and unpleas-
ant, but about noon the clouds broke away,
the sun burst through and shone out in his
full glory, and in a little while not a cloud was
in view. About two o'clock a very bright star
appeared a few degrees south of the zenith
and shone for two or three hours with won-
derful brilliancy. Thousands in and around
Washington saw it, and various were the opin-
ions expressed as to what it meant. Some
thought it portended good and some evil. It
was, indeed, a strange sight, occurring, as it did,
on the day and at the very hour when the
great champion of human liberty was for the
second time taking a solemn oath to defend
the Constitution of the United States and to
execute its laws.

The following extract is from my diary of
that date, and it expresses the hopes at least
we entertained :

" To-day Abraham Lincoln is reinaugurated
as chief magistrate of the United States of
America for four more years. * The Star of
Peace,' the planet Venus, makes its appear-


ance at about 2 P. M. and sheds its glorious
light on our earth. God grant that, like the
star of Bethlehem, it may bring * peace on
earth, and glad tidings of great joy to all the
people I ' "

That evening two pious old colored men
who were returning from the city sat down
on our front porch to rest a while. They were
engaged in earnest conversation in regard to
the relative importance of watching and pray-
ing. Number i thought that praying was a
little more important than watching. Number
2 thought that it was fully as necessary to watch
as to pray. The discussion had run along for
some time with no perceptible advantage on
either side. Then Number I commenced tell-
ing about a little experience he had up in the
city that day. He said that, about noon he be-
came very hungry, and, seeing another darky
with a loaf of bread, he inquired where he got
it. The other one said if he would let him
have the money he would go and get him a
loaf. So he gave him some money and he dis-
appeared in the crowd, and, said the old man,
" I'se jist bin prayin' and prayin' and prayin'
ever since for dat darky to fetch back my


money or de bread ; but Tore de Lawd, I jist
believe dat dat miserable nigger has dun gone
and stole my money and abscondulated wid
it." "Yah! yah! yah! Brudder Jones," cried
Number 2, "if you dun watch dat nigger a
Httle mo' you wouldn't hev lost yer money,
but now I s'pects ye'll hab to pray a heap, an'
den ye won't git yer money back." That
seemed to be a clincher, for Number I gave
up the question at once, and having got suffi-
ciently rested they went on their way.

About the middle of March our whisky cap-
tures began to run pretty light. We had dis-
covered nearly all the tricks the smugglers had
resorted to, and it was almost certain of being
captured when any one attempted to get it

There was a certain lieutenant who had his
quarters on Fourteenth Street who had general
oversight over our end of the bridge, and to
whom we turned over all contraband whisky,
and he in turn was supposed to turn it over to
the provost marshal of the department. We
suspected, however, that a good deal of it never
got any farther tlian his office, and subsequent
events proved our suspicions to be correct.


One day he came down to our quarters as
cross as a bear. Wc hadn't captured any
whisky for a few days, and he was suffering
from the effects of the dry spell. He stormed
away lively for a while and said he didn't be-
lieve we half searched for it, and we must look
closer. I ventured to suggest that we had got
altogether too sharp for them ; that they h:id
got tired of buying whisky to be captured, and
so had given it up. He knew better than all
that, and finally v/ent away.

Pretty soon along came a soldier with a
long-necked bottle full of whisky sticking out
of his side pocket in plain view. I told him
he could not take that over the bridge. With-
out a word of remonstrance he took it out and
handed it over to me and went on. I took it
up to the lieutenant, who seemed very much
pleased at our success. Then I went back to
my post. When the soldier who had given
up the bottle came to where our sentinel was
posted out some ways on the bridge he stopped
and talked with him some little time. Finally
he said, "I've got even with them fellers"
(meaning us, for it seems we had taken some
whisky away from him or some of his friends


before, and he thought we drank it up).
** There is croton oil in that whisky, and they'U
hear from it mighty quick after they drink it."
Then he passed on. When the sentinel came
off duty at the end of two hours he reported
what the soldier had said, but we didn't put
much confidence in it; in fact, we suspected he
had been lying. However, 1 suppose it would
have been kind in me to have reported the
situation to the officer, but for two or three
reasons I decided not to do so. In the first
place, he had no business to touch the liquor
at all, in which case it certainly would not
hurt him ; in the second place, it would be in-
timating that I thought he was in the habit of
using it, which would be an insult to him as
an officer in the United States service sworn
to faithfully discharge his duty to the country,
and, in the third place, I wanted to get even
with him for treating me so shabbily by inti-
mating that I had been neglecting my duty ;
and finally, it was very evident that after a
week's fast there wouldn't be much of that
bottle's contents left by the time I could get
up to the lieutenant's quarters. I decided,
therefore, to keep my own counsel and await


events. However, events were not slow in
making their appearance, for the next thing
we heard was that the Heutenant was very sick
and under the surgeon's care. Then we knew
that it was no false alarm, that the whisky was
loaded for big game, and that the croton oil
had got in its work. If any of my readers
would care to know the effect of croton oil
upon the human system let them ask any phy-
sician or druggist, and then they will be able
to sympathize with the poor lieutenant who
unaided and alone took a dose that had been
prepared for a dozen men.

It was more than a week before we saw any-
thing more of our superior officer. One day
he came down to the bridge looking just
about as plump as a hoe handle, but he had
no more complaints to make about the whisky



/'^N the 5th day of April we received the
^^-^ glad news that the Union army had cap-
tured Petersburg and Richmond. This was
followed on the 9th by the tidings that Lee's
whole army had surrendered at Appomattox.
Everybody was almost delirious with joy. The
authorities at Washington ordered the illumi-
nation of all the public buildings in honor of
the great victory, and nearly all the loyal peo-
ple in the city illuminated their dwellings, and
the capital city was literally a blaze of light.
The Capitol building presented a most gor-
geous appearance, looking like a mighty p}Ta-
mid of fire through which glistened the white
polished walls of marble of which the building
is composed.

On the afternoon of April 14 Sergeant Finch,
of our detachment, and myself, having secured
a pass, went over to Washington to spend the
afternoon and evening. After visiting various
places of interest during the afternoon, in the


evening we went to the Canterbury Theater, on
Louisiana Avenue, to see the play called " The
Persecuted Clown." The play had proceeded
till nearly nine o'clock, when the manager, sud-
denly coining out on the stage, announced that
they had just received tidings that President
Lincoln had been assassinated at Ford's Thea-
ter, and in consequence thereof the perform-
ance would now end. The curtain dropped,
but the audience sat looking at one another
for a full minute without moving. My own
impression was that it was a hoax perpetrated
by the managers for some purpose, I couldn't
imagine what. However, as the curtain did
not rise again we all made our way out to the
street. The scene which there met our gaze
beggars description. The streets, especially
Pennsylvania Avenue and Tenth Street, were
literally packed with human beings surging to
and fro, some swearing, some talking in a high
tone, some threatening dire vengeance upon the
murderers, and some crying like children. We
came across a man who was in Ford's Theater
and saw the whole transaction. He told us all
he could about it. His impression was that
the President was dead. We made our way


through the crowd to the house where they
had taken him. Just then a carriage came
up, escorted by a single soldier in the
rear, containing Secretaries Stanton, of the
War Department, and Wells, of the Navy De-
partment. They alighted and were admitted
to the house. I never saw such an excited
multitude in my life. Near midnight we
started for our quarters across the Potomac.
The news had spread like wildfire, and the
whole city seemed to be out on the streets.
A line of guards had been thrown around the
entire city with orders to let no living man
out. The assassin, however, had a horse tied
in the rear of the theater, and as soon as the
fiendish deed was finished he fled to the rear
of the building, and, mounting his horse, started
at full speed for the East Branch Bridge, which
he crossed in safety, notwithstanding the pres-
ence of a guard at the end of the bridge. How
he got across without the countersign I have
never learned. He certainly could not have
crossed the Long Bridge without having been
halted, dismounted, and giving the countersign.
When we reached the north end of the Long

Bridge orders had been received to let no one


pass, but being acquainted with us the guards
waived the letter of the order and we pro-
ceeded on our way. We had reached about
the middle of the bridge when we heard a
sound like some one rowing a boat up the
river perhaps forty or fifty rods. We imme-
diately hailed the boat's crew, and in answer
to our inquiry they stated that they were on
their way from Georgetown to Alexandria to
get a steam tug to tow some barges down the
river. We ordered them to come down to the
bridge, which they didn't want to do. We
gave them to understand that we would make
it exceedingly uncomfortable for them if they
didn't come, though we were entirely unarmed :
but this they did not know. After parley-
ing a while they came down to the bridge —
there were two of them — and then we ordered
them to row across to the Virginia side. They
protested strongly against this, but we insisted
upon it, and at length we succeeded in getting
them started. They acted very suspiciously —
so we thought, at least — and we were quite sure
we had the guilty parties in our hands. Fifty
thousand dollars apiece would pay us pretty
well for one night's work. We met them at.


the farther end, and forthwith took them into
custody. They were considerably disgusted
with themselves .when they found that we had
no arms, for they could have escaped in any
direction in spite of us if they had only known
it. We put them under guard till morning,
and then sent word over to Washington, re-
porting what we had done. The provost mar-
shal sent back word to have them sent over to
his office under heavy guard. This was ac-
cordingly done, but they succeeded in proving
their innocence and were released. So we
lost our hundred thousand dollars. Shortly
after this it became known who the assassin
was, and every effort was made to secure his

The assassination of President Lincoln and
the attempt on the life of Secretary Seward
produced the most intense excitement all
through the North. The whole nation was in
mourning except a few who were really rebels
at heart, but the feeling was so intense that
this class kept their own counsels as a means
of personal safety. Very little disloyalty was
allowed to show itself in those stirring times.

The body of the murdered President was


embalmed, and was then taken to the rotunda
of the Capitol, where it hiy in state for a few-
days, where it was viewed by hundreds of
thousands of the people. The funeral services
were held on the i8th in the Capitol, and were
most touching and impressive. I find the fol-
lowing reference in my diary: "Abraham Lin-
coln, the patriot and statesman, is no more.
His funeral took place to-day with all the
greatness and grandeur of a monarch, together
with the most sincere grief. Never did a
people meet a greater loss — one so loved and
honored. Alternate joy and grief have rushed
so suddenly upon us that it is almost impos-
sible to believe that our loved ruler is really
dead. * O God, that deeds so foul should go
unpunished!' but 'Vengeance is mine; I will
repay, saith the Lord." "

Friday, April 21, the funeral cortege \^{l
Washington, thence to Baltimore, Harrisburg,
Philadelphia, New York, Albany, Chicago, and
thence to Springfield, 111., where all that was
mortal of the martyred President was con-
signed to common dust.

Vice President Johnson was immediately
sworn in as President, and the old ship of State


continued on her way. One day, shortly after
the President's death, a bright little boy of
about thirteen years came down to our quar-
ters, and we soon engaged in conversation
with him. He was a messenger in the War
Department, and told me that Mr. Stanton
was arranging to send him as a spy down into
eastern Virginia to see if he could get any
trace of the whereabouts of the assassin
Booth. On the morning of April 27 the boy
came down again and told me he expected to
start on his mission the next day. Over on
Arlington Heights was built a series of forts,
and in the largest of these were stationed
squads of the Signal Corps, and from where we
stood we could plainly see the signal flags en-
gaged in sending some message. The mes-
senger boy stood watching one of the signal
flags with a good deal of interest, when sud-
denly he jumped, it seemed to me two feet
high, and exclaimed, "They have captured
Booth, and I sha'n't have to go." I asked him
how he knew. He replied, " I just read it from
that signal flag." Sure enough, the boy was
right. On the evening before a detachment
of cavalry had discovered his hiding place


down near Port Royal, in eastern Virginia, and
had been obliged to set fire to the barn in
which he was concealed before they could get
him out, as he refused to surrender. The or-
ders were to take him alive if possible, but a
half-crazy sergeant, named Boston Corbett,
got sight of him through a crevice and fired at
him with his carbine, the ball striking him in
the base of the skull near the neck, in almost
the identical spot where his bullet had struck
his unsuspecting victim twelve days be-
fore. He was unconscious when the soldiers
reached him, but he lived till the next morn-
ing at ten minutes past seven, when he breathed
his last.

While these tragic events were being enacted
continued tidings of victor}^ were being re-
ceived from the Union armies, until, with the
surrender of Johnson's army to the gallant
Sherman, the whole framework of the great re-
bellion caved in. About this time the Army of
the Potomac began to make its appearance on
Arlington Heights, and by the middle of May
nearly the entire army was encamped near
Washington preparatory to the grand review
of all the Union armies which had been ordered


by the commander in chief. There was a grand
rush of officers and soldiers for Washington,
and we had our hands more than full. It re-
quired a pass from a major general to get over
the bridge, and we began to think the woods
were full of them by the way the passes came
pouring in. The guard on the south end, how-
ever, had much the worst of it, for they soon
found out that many of the passes presented
were forged, and it required considerable skill
to discriminate betwixt the spurious and the
genuine, for the *Wets" of the old Potomac
army could write passes and sign major gen-
erals' names to them as well as fight. One
day a soldier of the Fortieth New York Regi-
ment undertook to run by the guard without
a pass. The sentinel ordered him to halt, but
he paid no attention to the order, but kept
right on. The guard raised his musket and
fired, the ball striking him in the thigh and
inflicting quite a severe flesh wound, but it
brousfht the soldier to a standstill at once.
An ambulance was called, and the wounded
man then got not only a pass across thebridge
but a free ride to a hospital in Washington. The
boys of his regiment were exceedingly angered


over the affair, and strongly threatened to come
down and "clean us all out," but they finally
concluded that discretion was the better part
of valor.

Hearing that my regiment, the One Hundred
and Forty-first Pennsylvania Volunteers, was
encamped over on Arlington Heights, I con-
cluded to take a trip up and see the boys. So
I issued marching orders to myself and started.
After traveling three or four miles I found
them encamped in a piece of woods. I en-
joyed my visit very much. Two of my partic-
ular chums, namely, John McKinney and Jim
Lunger, had been trying to get a pass over to
Washington, but had failed. I told them that
I could fix things so that they could get over
any time they liked, that my name was as
good as a major general's. So I wrote them a
pass, and when I got back to camp I explained
matters to the sergeant who was to be in
charge next day, and when they came down
he let them over, and of course I let them

About this time the Army of the Potomac
began to cross over into Washington, prepara-
tory to the grand review which had been


ordered on the 23d of May. Being on duty
that day, I was not permitted to view the
grand procession, which was much more enjoy-
able for the reviewers than for the reviewed,
as they had to march a long distance in the
heat and dust.



ON May 24 the Army of the Tennessee and
Sherman's army passed over the bridge
preparatory to the review of the whole West-
ern army, which took place in the afternoon.
They were a free-and-easy lot of men, and it
was really amusing to see the various means
of transportation and the different things they
had picked up on their march through the
Southern States. Old mules and horses, oxen
and donkeys, hitched to wagons, carts, and
vehicles of every description, and loaded with
every conceivable object that soldiers could
use in camp or on the march, formed a part of
the procession. On one mule's back I saw a
live coon riding along as contentedly as if he
had been an equestrian all his days, while upon
another mule was a rooster which crowed as
cheerfully as he would have done surrounded
by his own flock of biddies. The infantry col-
umns were followed by a wagon train fully
twenty miles long. The horses and mules all


looked thrifty and prosperous, as well they
might, for they had been living on the best
the Southern Confederacy could afford for
several months past, and were as free and easy
in their habits as were the men who drove

The final grand review in Washington was
an occasion long to be remembered. The
battle-scarred veterans of scores of conflicts
marched with proud steps that day as they
followed the old flag, rent and torn and soiled,
but with no stain of dishonor upon it, along
the streets of the capital city, past the grand
reviewing stand occupied by Generals Grant,
Meade, and Sherman, by President Johnson
and his cabinet and other distinguished men,
while the streets on either side, the doors,
windows, and house-tops, were thronged by
immense numbers of men, women, and chil-
dren. It was a fitting close to the drama that
had for four long years been enacting upon the
stage of this young republic, and to which the
eyes of the whole civilized world had been
turned with eager interest. There was not a
crowned head in the Old World but rested more
uneasily upon its pillow when the word came


to it that the American republic had emerged
from its fearful baptism of blood with no stripe
removed and not a star less upon its beautiful
emblem of liberty ; while downtrodden mil-
lions saw in our victory a glorious presage of
the dawn of freedom over the whole earth.

After the grand review was over the various
army corps settled down in their camps around
Washington awaiting the final muster-out.
Tuesday morning, May 30, we were relieved
from duty as usual, and on our way over to
our quarters at the south end of the bridge we
met my old regiment on the way home. As
soon as I could wash and get my breakfast I
obtained a pass and started for the Baltimore
depot, where they had gone to take the train
for home. I found them ready to start. How
I did want to go with them ! But it was no
use. I had to see them start off with rousing
cheers while I was left behind. With a feeling

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 10 12 13 14 15 16

Online LibraryJ. D. (John D.) BloodgoodPersonal reminiscences of the war → online text (page 10 of 16)