J. D. (John D.) Bloodgood.

Personal reminiscences of the war online

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of utter disgust I turned around and made my
way back to the Long Bridge. There was one
consolation, however — my time of service
would expire on the 12th of the coming Au-
gust ; so I bided my time and resumed my
duties with as much cheerfulness as possible.


At the annual reunion of the One Hundred
and Forty-first Regiment at Athens, Pa., on
August 21, 1889, 1 learned that quite a large
number of my old comrades had been reading
these series of sketches in the Northern, and
as the paper has many readers in the counties
of Bradford, Susquehanna, and Wayne, where
the regiment was raised, who are deeply inter-
ested in anything concerning the history of
this gallant regiment, I will trace the history
of the regiment from the time I left it in July,
1863, till the end of the war.

On Friday, July 15, the regiment crossed
the Potomac at Harper's Ferry and were once
more on the soil of old Virginia. Lee's army
kept falling back gradually, followed at a re-
spectful distance by Meade's army. At length
the Confederate army reached and took up a
position on the head waters of the Rappahan-
nock River, which is formed by the addition
of the Rapidan to the north branch of the
above-named stream.

Here the two armies remained for some
months watching each other's movements and
waiting for future developments. About the
9th of October Lee made a sudden northward


movement, and before Meade was fairly aware
of it the rebel chief had completely turned his
right wing and was actually threatening his
communication with Washington. The Union
army at once commenced a rapid retrograde
movement in order to checkmate Lee's move-
ments, and after a series of marching and coun-
termarching our brigade, then commanded by
Colonel Collis, of the One Hundred and Four-
teenth Pennsylvania, came in contact with a
detachment of rebel cavalry under Lomax,
which was dismounted and concealed in a;
thicket near a little hamlet called Auburn.
The first intimation our boys had of the ene-
my's presence was a volley from this concealed
enemy. Our brigade was quickly deployed
and ordered to charge the enemy. The spot
occupied b)^ the One Hundred and Forty-first
was exceedingly warm, but with a ringing
cheer the boys rushed on the enemy, driving
him from his stronghold and putting him to

In this engagement the One Hundred and
Forty-first lost three men killed, eight wounded,
and three missing. Among the wounded was
George Morse, one of the boys from our place.


who lost his right arm. After being shot he
made his way to the rear, where his wound was
examined by the surgeons, who decided that it
must be amputated. George pleaded with them
to save it, and they finally told him that they
would not take it off then, but would give him
chloroform and probe the wound, and then they
could tell more about it. So he took the
chloroform, but when he came to his arm was
gone. He was a good musician, and he told
me afterward that the first thing he thought
of after coming to and finding his arm gone
was that he could never play any more on an

Among the mortally wounded in this fight
was a young man who was much given to com-
plaining and finding fault. The boys used to
tell him that if he ever was shot it would
be in the mouth, as that organ was nearly
always open and was very prominent. Well,
sure enough, in the skirmish at Auburn he was
struck in the mouth with a ball and so severely
wounded that he died soon after. After all, he
was a true patriot and a good soldier, only he
would occasionally give way to his bad temper.
He fills a martyr's grave.


The Third Corps continued to fall back till
it reached the vicinity of Fairfax Court House,
where it went into camp. About this time
General Sickles, scarcely restored in health,
and mutilated, having lost a leg at Gettysburg,
came back to the army and requested to be
placed again in command of his old Third
Corps. This request was refused, for, alas I he
was only a volunteer officer, and had nearly
sacrificed his men at Gettysburg to order to
save the day for the Union cause. For this
he was never really forgiven.

The rebel army now began to retire, and as
soon as Meade thought it safe to do so he
began to follow on. After a long series of
maneuvers Lee retired finally behind the Rap-
pahannock, and thus ended a campaign void
of any decisive results on either side. The
One Hundred and Forty-first bad a skirmish
with the enemy at Mine Run, in which the loss
was three killed and ten wounded. About the
first of December the regiment went into win-
ter quarters near Brandy Station, on the Orange
and Alexandria Railroad. The regiment then
numbered about two hundred and fifty men
and officers present for duty. During the


winter a large number of the regiment were
allowed to go home on furlough, while those
who remained in camp had little to do save
guard and picket duty. About the first of
February, 1864, General Butler, then in com-
mand of the Department of Virginia and North
Carolina, concluded he could take Richmond
with a cavalry force by making a sudden rush
upon it while the enemy's attention should be
drawn in the direction of the upper Rappa-
hannock by some unusual demonstration by
the Army of the Potomac. Consequently,
General Sedgwick, who was temporarily in
command of the army, ordered an advance of
part of the Second Corps, the balance of the
army to be held in supporting distance. The
One Hundred and Forty-first, which had just
got fairly settled in their new camp, were
obliged to tear down their tents and pack up
preparatory to joining in the movement. All
that afternoon and far into the night they kept
on the march in a cold, pitiless rain.

The next morning the march was resumed,
and very soon the sound of artillery firing
could be heard in front. The firing grew more

rapid and distinct, and the regiment was


drawn up in line of battle. The Second Corps
had stirred up the enemy and were engaged in
a brisk encounter. Soon the firing slackened
up, and after a time ceased altogether. After
remaining near the Rapidan till the evening of
the 7th of February the order came to return
to camp. So far as our boys could see it was
a fruitless movement, resulting in no advan-
tage to the Union cause, for " Ben" failed to
get Richmond, as he generally did in every
move he undertook. The Second Corps lost
about two hundred men.



/^N March g, 1864, Major General U. S.

^^ Grant received his commission as Lieu-
tenant General of the armies of the United
States. He immediately announced his inten-
tion of making his headquarters with the Army
of the Potomac. He retained General Meade,
and issued orders for the complete reorganiza-
tion of the Potomac army. The five army
corps were consolidated into three, retaining
the Second to be commanded by Hancock, the
Fifth by General Warren, and the Sixth by Gen-
eral Sedgwick, while the First and Third were
broken up and divided between the other
three. Perhaps there was wisdom in this new
arrangement, but it created great dissatisfac-
tion in the ranks of the dismembered corps.
Nowhere are local associations and ties so
strong as in an army of American freemen,
and any attempt to disrupt those ties, often
welded and rewelded in the fires of battle, is
sure to be resented, and proved so in this case.


But there was no help for it, and all that could
be done was to tamely submit. The men of
the First and Third Corps were allowed to re-
tain their respective badges ; and to this day
you ask any member of either of these corps
to what army corps they belonged, and the
reply will invariably be, '' To the First " or
" Third Corps," as the case may be. The old
Third Corps was attached to the Second Corps,
becoming the Third Division thereof, command-
ed by General D. B. Birney. The One Hun-
dred and Forty-first Regiment was attached to
the First Brigade of this division, which was,
with the exception of one regiment, the Twen-
tieth Indiana, which had formerly been in the
same brigade, composed of an entirely different
set of men. This change necessitated a change
of camps on the 29th, and our old regiment
found itself among entire strangers.

Up to this time the regiment had had no
chaplain since the resignation of the Rev.
David Craft, of Wyalusing, Pa., who was com-
missioned chaplain at the organization of the
regiment, but who on account of continued
ill health had been discharged on surgeon's
certificate of disability, February 11, 1863.


In March, 1864, Colonel Madill had invited
Rev. Andrew Barr, pastor of the Wysox, Pa.,
Presbyterian Church, to become chaplain of
the regiment. Mr. Barr assented to the prop-
osition, and on the 24th left his home to join
the regiment then encamped near Brandy
Station, Va. In endeavoring to find the regi-
ment he missed his way, walked about a dozen
miles, forded a large stream, carrying a heavy
valise, and finally reached the regiment utterly
prostrated. He was immediately taken sick
and sent to the hospital, where he died April
II, just a week after his arrival. His body
was embalmed and sent home to Danville, Pa.,
where it was buried.

All through the month of April there had
been great activity prevailing in all parts of
the great Potomac army. Reviews and inspec-
tions and drills had followed each other in
rapid succession. Those absent in hospitals
who had become sufficiently recovered to be
able to do service in the field were sent on
to their various regiments. The One Hundred
and Forty-first had been recruited in this way
till on April 30 the adjutant reported fifteen
officers and three hundred and nine enlisted


men present for duty. Tuesday morning, May
3, a large detachment of our regiment was sent
some miles from the carnp on picket. Unusual
activity had prevailed in the army for a few
days, and every indication pointed to an im-
mediate advance. Early in the evening an
officer came out and ordered our line taken in,
and that the men should immediately return
to camp. On arriving at their quarters they
found their tents torn down and active prepa-
rations going on for a move. Each man was
supplied with sixty rounds of ammunition and
six days' rations, which, added to the winter's
clothing — overcoats, blankets, and various
other articles — formed a heavy load for men
to carry whose muscles had become softened
by a winter's inactivity. It was near mid-
night when everything was in readiness
and the order to march was given. Once
more the Union army was headed toward
Richmond, and notwithstanding the fact that
so many failures had been made in the
past, and our boys knew that every inch of
their way would be hotly contested by a
determined foe, and that many of them would
fall in the attempt, yet on they went with


high hopes and joyous anticipations of com-
ing victory.

About eight o'clock the next morning Ely's
Ford on the Rappahannock was reached, where
pontoons had already been laid, on which a
crossing was effected, and a halt made for
breakfast. After an hour's rest the line pushed
on, and by noon had reached the battleground
at Chancellorsville, upon which they encamped
till the next day. Very few changes had taken
place since, just a year before, they had met
the enemy in desperate conflict on this bloody
field. The rains in some places had washed
the scanty coverings of earth from the graves
of those who had been buried the year before,
exposing to view some parts of the remains.
These were carefully covered up. Some of the
boys also found the remains of some who had
not been buried at all. These were also in-
terred as well as it was possible to do so.
Since then these remains have all been re*
moved to the national cemetery at Fredericks-
burg, where they have been buried and their
graves properly cared for. Some of the boys
visited the earthworks we built in the rear of
the Chancellor House the year before and


found them almost unchanged. They also
found the grave of Robert McKinney, the par-
ticulars of whose death I have before given.

The entire battlefield was covered with frag-
ments of shot and shell, half-decayed knap-
sacks, clothing, etc., while the trees were cov-
ered with scars showing where the conflict had
raged the fiercest. But, alas ! all this carnage
was about to be repeated, only on a much
larger scale. Many of the boys who walked
over those battle-rent fields, and who shuddered
at the sight of the unburied bones of former
comrades bleaching under the storms, dews,
and sunshine of old Virginia, in a very few
days, pierced and torn, laid themselves down
beneath the scrubby oak, the weeping willow,
or the sighing pines, where they moldered back
to dust, without even a covering of that soil
for whose perpetual freedom they had laid
down their lives. The few hours of rest which
succeeded this march were sorely needed by
the men, as they had traveled about thirty
miles since the night before. The road all the
way to Brandy Station was strewn with over-
coats, blankets, knapsacks, and many other
articles, which had grown heavier with every


advancing step. The weather began to grow
warm during the day, but the nights were cool
and often chilly, so that after becoming heated
by the hard marching of the day those who
had thrown away their blankets sorely felt the
need of them through the long chilly nights.
Many as a consequence contracted colds,
fevers, rheumatism, and other diseases, which
terminated their usefulness as soldiers.

Early in the morning of May 4 the bugle
sounded the assembly, and at five o'clock the
regiment was on the march still headed south-
ward, and by ten o'clock had reached the Fur-
nace, the spot to which we had advanced in
our pursuit of Stonewall Jackson's wagon train
the year before, and where we were halting
when Jackson made the fierce onslaught on
the Eleventh Corps. Here three companies
were detailed to guard a crossroad while our
division was passing. We were passing around
the flank of Lee's army toward Spottsylvania
Court House, and were very certain to come
in contact with the enemy in the near future.
The country all through this region is covered
with a dense undergrowth of scrub-oak, witch-
hazel, dwarf-chestnut, pitch-pine, and laurel.


General Grant would very much have preferred
waiting for more open ground before grapphng
with his wily antagonist, but Lee did not pro-
pose to confer any such favor upon him.

In the early forenoon of May 5 the Battle
of the Wilderness began. Birney's division was
then at Todd's Tavern, and was ordered at
once to support General Getty's division of
the Sixth Corps, which had struck the enemy
at Parker's Store, on the Orange Plank road.
Birney immediately moved his two divisions
(his own and Mott's), Mott's on Getty's right
and his own on his left, and the fight became
at once exceedingly fierce and obstinate.

Comparatively little artillery could be used,
owing to the wooded condition of the ground,
but the minie balls got in their deadly work.
The First Brigade was formed in two lines,
and while one line was in advance, engaging
the enemy, the other threw up breastworks.
Then the rear line took the advance and the
first line retired behind the fortifications. The
battle raged furiously all that afternoon and
till darkness put an end to the day's struggle,
with little perceptible advantage to either side.
The One Hundred and Forty-first had, as usual,


borne a prominent part in the fight, and had
sustained a loss of one killed and eighteen
wounded, with one missing. At dark Lieu-
tenant Gerould and fifty men were placed on
picket in front of the regiment.

The ground was covered with the dead and
wounded, the night was pitchy dark, especially
in the wood, and in passing from post to post
the men were sure to stumble over dead bodies,
while the cries for help from the wounded were
most heartrending. It was a terrible experi-
ence, never to be blotted from the memory of
those who passed through it. All that night
the two armies rested upon their arms, face to
face, waiting for the coming morning to furnish
the light to direct their aim to the more sure
destruction of each other.

It was during this night that General Grant
is said to have had his wonderful vision. He
had summoned his several corps commanders,
Hancock, Warren, and Sedgwick, to his tent
for consultation. The question was whether
there should be an advance on the morrow or
a retreat. Without expressing his own opinion
the commanding general asked for the opin-
ions of his subordinates. It is said that they


unanimously advised a falling back from that
fearful wilderness of death. Without giving
them any orders for the morrow Grant dis-
missed them from his presence. After they
were gone he walked out alone behind his tent
to meditate. He was suddenly aroused from
his reverie by the appearance of a most bright
and beautiful personage, a shining angel, clad
in robes of dazzling whiteness, and girt about
with a golden girdle frosted with diamond
dust. In one hand was a burnished shield
and in the other a drawn sword which glit-
tered with unearthly radiance. With the
sword the angel smote toward the east, and
suddenly vast streams of gold and silver frorh
ten thousand vaults flowed in and were piled
in huge glittering pyramids at the angel's feet.
Following this came vast quantities of arms,
with all the implements and munitions of war;
all came rolling in as far as the eye could reach.
Then the angel smote toward the west, and,
behold, oceans of wheat and corn and horses
and cattle came surging in, all rushing toward
the spot where the angel stood. Then he
turned and smote toward the north, and from
every hill-top and valley, from a thousand vil-


lages, cities, towns, and hamlets sprang tens
of thousands of armed warriors, who immedi-
ately turned their steps toward the angel and
in solid ranks came marching on, keeping step
with the beating of the angel's heart. Then
for the first time the angel spoke. Turning
his keen gaze upon the astonished chieftain, he
said : " Behold all this treasure, and all of
these resources, and all these armed warriors
are at thy disposal. Go forth and fear not."
Then the vision faded and was gone, and the
great chieftain, returning to his tent, sat down
and wrote an order to each of his corps com-
manders, " Be ready to move upon the ene-
my's position at daybreak."



THE night of May 5, 1864, was one of
great anxiety to each of the great armies
which were lying confronting each other in the
shades of that Virginia wilderness. There had
only been a preliminary test of strength the
day before, and they now were only waiting for
morning light to renew the terrible struggle.
All night long our pickets could hear the en-
emy busily engaged in fortifying their position.
The One Hundred and Forty-first was holding
the extreme right of our line, its right resting
on the Orange Plank road. At daylight our
boys were aroused from slumber, and after a
hasty breakfast were formed in line prepara-
tory to making a general assault on the en-
emy's lines.

In front of the position held by our regiment
was a line of breastworks held by the Thir-
teenth North Carolina Regiment, and on the
crest of their works was their flag floating in
plain view. While waiting for the order to


advance Sergeant Rought, of Company A,
discovered the flag, and in very forcible lan-
guage declared that he would have it or die in
the attempt. Soon the order to charge was
given, and with a ringing cheer our boys
rushed for the enemy's works. As they
emerged into the open space they were
greeted with a shower of bullets, but on they
sped through the stifling smoke, and, reaching
the enemy's works, they scaled them without a
moment's hesitation. Sergeant Rought went
straight for the flag and demanded its surren-
der. This being refused, Rought felled the
colorbearer with his clubbed musket and
wrested the flagstaff from his hand. A rebel
soldier leveled his musket at Rought, but be-
fore he could fire Captain Warner, of Company
D, shot the assailant with his revolver. A
large number of the enemy threw down their
arms and surrendered, while those who could
get away precipitately fled. Then a mighty
cheer arose from the victors, while the sergeant
leaped upon the rebel works, waved the cap-
tured flag, and shouted with the rest. He was
ordered to report with his flag to General
Ward, commanding the brigade, who received


him with many flattering compHments for his
bravery, and then sent him to General Birney,
who commanded the division. In the uiele'e
Rought was quite severely wounded, and was
sent with the flag to Philadelphia to the
hospital. The flag was on exhibition at the
great Sanitary Fair held there, and attracted a
good deal of attention. It is now in a room
of the War Department at Washington, and
bears the following label:

'' Captured by Sergeant Stephen Rought,
Company A, One Hundred and Forty-first
Pennsylvania Volunteers, May 6, 1864, at the
Battle of the Wilderness, Virginia."

The next day General Birney issued an order
congratulating our regiment on its bravery and
on the taking of the first rebel flag that had
been captured by the Army of the Potomac
since it had been under the command of Gen-
eral Grant.

Halting at the first line of works long
enough to dispose of their prisoners, about
forty in number, and for reforming their line,
the victorious troops pushed on in hot haste
after their fleeing enemy. Reaching the
second line, they swept over it in an instant


and for more than a mile kept up their victo-
rious pursuit, until their ammunition was ex-
hausted and they were confronted by a heavy
force of fresh soldiers under Longstreet. They
halted and waited for a fresh supply of ammu-
nition and for reinforcements. Neither came,
and at length they were forced to retire, which
they did slowly and in good order till they
reached the line they had taken in the morn-
ing. Then there was a short lull in the con-
test. Fresh supplies of ammunition were
brought up, fresh troops were ordered forward,
and every effort made to meet the desperate
charges of the enemy which our officers were
confident would be made. They had not long
to wait. In a short time the enemy was seen
approaching in solid lines, and again the strife
raged furiously. While the right of Hancock's
corps was engaged in a desperate grapple with
the enemy Longstreet sent a strong detach
ment of his corps to gain the flank and rear of
Birney, whose division was now holding the
left of the Second Corps line. Shielded by
the impenetrable thickets, the enemy suc-
ceeded in getting in upon our left and rear

before being discovered. They succeeded in


rolling up our line in much confusion, which
necessitated its withdrawal to the intrench-
ments held in the morning. These the rebels
did not deem advisable to assault, and General
Longstreet at about this time receiving a se-
vere wound there was another brief lull in the

General Lee now took command in person
of this part of the line, and began making
active preparations for a general assault on
our whole line. General Hancock was equally
active in making preparations to defend his
position, and when at four o'clock the rebel
forces advanced to the attack he was ready to
receive them. The battle opened furiously.
In spite of the fierce assault of the rebels our
boys were easily holding their position, when
by some accident the long breastworks behind
which they were fighting took fire and the
wind blew the smoke and flames directly in

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Online LibraryJ. D. (John D.) BloodgoodPersonal reminiscences of the war → online text (page 11 of 16)