J. D. (John D.) Bloodgood.

Personal reminiscences of the war online

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clothing, change their garments, and repair the
ravages made by the two weeks' campaigning.
About five o'clock the order came to fall in
at once, and many of the boys had to dry their
shirts on their backs or go into the fight with-
out any. Hurriedly the line was formed and
the column headed for the spot where Tyler's
men were hotly engaged with the rebels. They
found the enemy posted on a hillside in the
woods and quickly made preparations for driv-
ing him out. When all was ready the order was
given, "Forward! Double quick, march!"
Rushing through the line of artillerists, our
bovs made straight for the wooded hillside,


where the battle raged furiously till darkness
put an end to the conflict. The next morning
when our troops advanced the enemy was
gone, excepting the dead and wounded, of
which there were quite a large number. Our
loss was very light. We occupied much lower
ground than the rebels, and their bullets mostly
passed over our heads. Our brigade in this
action captured six or seven hundred prison-
ers, besides driving the Confederates from their
chosen position and defeating their well-laid
plans. Our men were soon relieved by a bri-
gade of the Sixth Corps, and they immediately
returned to their former position near the
Fredericksburg road, where they were at lib-
erty to finish their semi-monthly washing.

A sad accident happened on the morning of
the 20th, by which Sergeant John Allen, of
Company A, lost his life. He was lying on the
ground with his head upon his knapsack, when
a gun in the hands of one of his company was
accidentally discharged, inflicting a wound from
which he soon after died. He was a gallant
and faithful soldier ; had been in every battle so
far in which the regiment had participated, and
passed through the recent struggle unharmed.


Evvell's movement had caused a delay of
some hours in the flank movement of the Union
army, and it was not till the evening of the
20th that the army resumed its march in that
direction. About midnight the One Hundred
and Forty-first was aroused from slumber and
joined the Second Corps in taking the advance
in the movement. The head of the column
was turned to the southeast, and about daylight
this regiment arrived at Guinea Station, on the
Fredericksburg and Richmond Railroad. Here
a halt was made for breakfast, after which the
march was resumed, the column heading south-
ward along the railroad, in the direction of
Richmond. About sunset the column reached
and crossed the Mattapony River at Milford
Station, and encamped for the night on the
south side of the river, having marched some
twenty miles that day. The contrast betwixt
the country our troops had left the night be-
fore and that which they had now reached was
marked indeed. Here were broad, cultivated
fields, fine farmhouses, beautiful groves, and
well-built roads, all contrasting with the gloomy
wilderness, the very shadow of death, within
the deep recesses of which the men had been


engaged in a mortal struggle for so many days
and nights. Add to the change in scenery the
absence of immediate danger from a hostile
foe, and the change was still more marked.

The following morning, May 22, the brigade
advanced about two miles. Orders were re-
ceived about noon for our regiment to go out
as a support for a brigade of cavalry which
had been sent on a scouting expedition. A
march of four or five miles to the south and
west failed to discover any signs of armed foes,
but our boys made numerous captures in the
shape of chickens, turkeys, pigs, and geese,
with whicli the country abounded, and for
which they had especially keen appetites, as it
had been a long time since they had drawn
any such rations. That night nearly every
man slept on feathers, which were scattered
promiscuously about the camp to which they
returned in the evening.

Monday morning found us very mucli re-
freshed and reinvigorated by the rest obtained
and the extra rations we had enjoyed, and
when at daylight we again received orders to
march every man was ready for business. At
6 A. M. the column was in motion and still


headed to the south, the objective point being
the North Anna River.

It soon became evident that Lee was not to
be caught napping, for when the Second Corps
reached the vicinity of the North Anna it be-
came aware that the enemy was in force in its
immediate front. Strong hues of earthworks
had ah-eady been constructed on both sides of
the river, which here was spanned by a high-
way bridge, while numerous batteries had been
planted by the rebels on the south side, com-
manding the approaches to the bridge on both
sides, as well as the open space on the north
side. General Birney was ordered to charge
the works on the north side and take them.
The First and Second Brigades were detailed
for this business, and the One Hundred and
Forty-first was ordered to take the advance as
skirmishers. Crossing a small stream running
parallel with the river, the regiment emerged
into open ground, where it met such a wither-
ing fire from the rebels that the men were
forced to retire behind the bank and wait for
the general charge. In a {g\v minutes all was
ready, and with steady steps the main columns
advanced. Passing the little stream, where


our boys joined the assaulting line, with a ring-
ing cheer they rushed for the Confederate
works. In front of the rebel line was a deep
ditch several feet wide, from the bottom of
which to the parapet was ten or twelve feet.
Into this ditch the boys leaped, and, thrusting
their bayonets into the bank, made scaling lad-
ders, by which they climbed to the top, when
they drove the rebels out with the exception
of about fifty, who were captured. The rest
fled precipitately across the river. Sergeant
Seagraves, who carried one of our regimental
flacks, on reachincr the ditch had no means of
scaling the parapet, so Sergeant Lobb placed
his head and arms against the bank, and the
color-bearer made a ladder of him, and soon
the flag of the old One Hundred and Forty-
first was waving from the top of the works,
being the first flag planted there. The retreat-
ing rebels attempted to burn the bridge, but
whenever a man approached the bridge for
that purpose he was sure to get a dose of cold
lead. Our loss in this encounter was remark-
ably light, only one being killed and one
wounded. Nearly all that night our men were
engaged in throwing up works, but in the


morning it was discovered that the rebels had
abandoned their Hne along the south side of
the river, and some of our forces crossed over
and took possession of their works without
opposition. The enemy had several large bat-
teries planted some distance back from the
river, and they kept up a raking fire upon the
approaches to the bridge, which made crossing
it anything but pleasant. About noon the
One Hundred and Forty -first was ordered
across, and under a galling fire was deployed
in an open field, where the men at once set
about building a line of earthworks, using bay-
onets, tin plates and half canteens instead of
shovels and picks. In very short order they
had completed a formidable line, in which they
passed the night.




FOR two days the belligerent armies lay
facing each other on the south side of the
North Anna. The pickets were pushed up
close together, and as soon as active opera-
tions had ceased they at once laid aside the
restraints imposed by the rigid law of war and
became quite friendly. The rebel soldiers
were always plentifully supplied with a fine
quality of tobacco, and it was in great demand
among our boys, who eagerly traded off their
rations of sugar and coffee, almost unknown
luxuries in the Southern army, for great plugs
of the Virginia leaf, and both parties thought
they were gainers by the exchange.

About eleven o'clock Thursday evening or-
ders were received to recross the river. Since
leaving Fredericksburg our army had been
without a regular base of supplies; conse-
quently the stock of provisions, ammunition,
etc., was running pretty low. As Lee occu-
pied a position altogether too strong to be


carried by direct assault the Union com-
mander decided to make another wide detour
to the east, which, while it would bring his
army much nearer Richmond, would also se-
cure an excellent base of supplies and force
Lee to loosen his hold upon the North and
South Anna. The North and South Anna
unite and form the Pamunkey; this unites
wath the Mattapony, and they form the York
River, which empties into the Chesapeake Bay.
White House is the head of navigation on the
York River. If, therefore, the Pamunkey could
be successfully crossed and the head waters of
the York River be secured it would furnish an
excellent water base of supply from which di-
rect operations could be resumed against Rich-
mond. In pursuance of this plan General
Grant, on the evening of May 26, put his army
in motion, the Sixth Corps, preceded by a
brigade of cavalry, taking the initiative, fol-
lowed by the Fifth and Ninth Corps, the
Second Corps bringing up the rear.

About noon of the 27th our regiment left its
camp on the North Anna to take part in this
new flanking movement. The march was con-
tinued through the afternoon and late in the


evening, it being nearly or quite midnight
when the wearied troops halted for the night
near Hanovertown, a small village on the
Pamunkey, and went into camp in a field of
corn. Early the next morning the march was
resumed, the Pamunkey River was crossed,
and a commanding position was secured on a
ridge a short distance south of the river, where
the boys soon threw up a strong line of earth-

By this time the supply of rations had
nearly given out, and the prospect of getting a
fresh supply was not very favorable. Nomi-
nally orders against foraging were very strict ;
but they were not very strictly obeyed, espe-
cially when rations were getting scarce. Of
course it would not do for officers to encourage
plunder, but many of them were perfectly will-
ing to accept a share of the spoils which had
been captured by their men, provided they
were not detected in it. One afternoon some
drummer-boys went out of camp to practice,
and while thus engaged they discovered a
good-sized pig wandering in the woods hunt-
ing for acorns. They got some clubs, and by
using a little strategy succeeded in capturing


the young porker, which they proceeded to
dress in regular army style вАФ this was always
done by skinning, as they had no means of
scalding. The next thing was to get their
prize into camp in broad daylight without de-
tection. A happy thought struck the bass
drummer. He took out one of the drum
heads, and the pig was snugly stowed away in
the inside. The head was loosely replaced,
and, taking the drum between two of them,
they started for camp. The butchering proc-
ess had taken up considerable time, and when
the boys arrived in camp they found their
regiment in line for dress parade and impa-
tiently waiting for the band. As soon as the
colonel in command discovered the tardy mu-
sicians, in no very gentle tones he ordered
them to take their places in the parade. Here
was a very embarrassing state of things in-
deed. Even though the drummer had been
able to carry forty or fifty pounds of pork in
his drum, by a single strap around the back
of his neck, this would not have helped
him out of his trouble, for there was abso-
lutely no music in that drum. The vibrations

of the air would have been arrested by the


pig, and the results would have been a dull
thud. For a moment the drummer hesitated ;
then laying his drum down upon the ground
he went up close to the officer and whispered
something in his ear. '' Sick, eh ? " shouted
the colonel, "why didn't you say so before?
Go to your quarters ! Adjutant, dismiss the
parade ! The field and staff will take supper
with me to-night at half past six." The cen-
ter of attraction at the colonel's supper table
that evening was a huge tin plate heaped full
of Virginia porksteak.

Toward evening Barlow's brigade of Han-
cock's corps pushed southward a few miles,
till, on reaching the crossing of the Totopoto-
moy, which is an affluent of the Pamunkey, he
found the enemy in considerable force, ready
to resist his further advance. Barlow imme-
diately called for assistance, and the whole
Second Corps moved forward. The One Hun-
dred and Forty-first advanced some two miles
and encamped in Barlow's rear, in a pine
grove, where the night was spent. The next
day Colonel Madill, who had been absent for
a few weeks, reached the regiment, greatly to
the joy of all, but especially of Lieutenant




Colonel Watkins, who had had command of
the regiment during the colonel's absence.
The boys had again thrown up intrenchments
on the high banks on the north side of the
stream, and were then waiting further develop-

During the afternoon of the 30th our regi-
ment was thrown forward to within a few rods
of the rebel line, where it again built a strong
line of earthworks. This evening the long-
expected supplies reached the boys, and their
fasting was immediately turned into feasting,
if such a thing could be done on army rations.
The next day orders were received for the
One Hundred and Forty-first to cross the To-
topotomoy Creek in its front, and take posses-
sion of a line already occupied by our advance
pickets. This was done under a severe ar-
tillery fire, in which the regiment had two
wounded. Holding this line till dark, the
boys advanced fifty or sixty rods and con-
structed a new line of works. It was soon
discovered, however, that the rebels occupied
a position enfilading our advanced line, and
before daylight of June I the regiment was
sent back to a less exposed position. After


a careful examination of the rebel position
on the Totopotomoy, General Grant decided
that it was altogether too strong to be car-
ried by direct assault ; he therefore resolved
to again move around the rebel flank. He
desired especially to secure a position on
the Chickahominy River; consequently he
dispatched a body of cavalry to seize and
hold Cold Harbor. This place was neither a
harbor of water nor a town, but simply an
inland point where several roads diverged, the
most important of which to the Union army
was the one leading to White House, where
General Grant had established his base of sup-
plies. Grant had previously ordered General
B. F. Butler, commanding the Army of the
James, to forward to him all the forces he
could spare, and twelve thousand five hun-
dred men were dispatched by way of White
House, where they arrived on the 30th and
were united to the Army of the Potomac.
The Sixth Corps took the advance, and when
near Cold Harbor struck a fortified position
held by the enemy in force. This the corps
immediately assaulted, but accomplished little.
On June I Hancock was ordered to withdraw


from his position on the Totopotomoy, and
make all haste to reach Cold Harbor and rein-
force General Wright's Sixth Corps. About
dark our regiment received orders to march,
and taking its place in line was again headed

Early on the morning of the 3d arrange-
ments were made for storming the rebel works.
Hancock's corps occupied the extreme left of
the Union line. General Barlow's division
made a furious charge upon a salient of the
Confederate works, and carried the first line,
but was unable to retain its advantage and
was forced to retire. Barlow was succeeded
by General Gibbon's division, which with great
gallantry charged the rebel line, only to be re-
pulsed with heavy loss. After various maneu-
vering our division was relieved by the Ninth
Corps and returned to its position in the rear
of the other two divisions. During the day
General Grant issued an order to the effect
that assaults should cease; that Richmond
was besieged, and that the approaches should
be made in regular order. The troops re-
ceived this order with gladness, for it had now
been a full month since they left Culpeper,


and they had marched and fought and dug
and chopped nearly every day. Sunday, June
5, all was quiet along our part of the line.
Late in the day the brigade was advanced to
the front, and immediately began constructing
a strong line of works which were finished by
the next morning, although the whole regi-
ment had only a few axes and shovels with
which to work. Supplies of provisions and
clothing were now plenty, and vegetables were
issued to the men, and their rations, added to
their forage, fully satisfied every reasonable



UNDER date of June 9 Captain Atkinson,
of the One Hundred and Forty-first,

*' On Monday evening, June 6, I was sent
with a detail of fifty men to strengthen the
picket line, as a deserter had come in and re-
ported that the rebs were intending to gob-
ble up our pickets that night. I was posted
on the extreme left and placed in command of
General Mott's brigade picket line. Every-
thing passed off quietly, the rebels not even
firing a shot at us. I was left out for two
days, returning to the regiment last evening.
South Carolina troops were picketing in our
front and were very friendly, talking and trad-
ing with our men as if they had never been
enemies. At a point between our lines I found
five of them and five of our men sitting to-
gether and talking in a very friendly manner,
a thing positively forbidden. I got right upon
them before they saw me, and the rebs looked


quite surprised to see me there. They saluted
me with ' Good-morning, captain ! ' I ordered
my men back to their posts and the Confeder-
ates to theirs. All immediately obeyed but
one. I asked him if he was not going. ' No,'
he said, ' I am posted here,' and showed me
his gun ; so I concluded to let him alone, and
went back to my own lines. We are having
quite peaceable times and are living very well.
We get potatoes, dried apples, and pickled
cabbage, all of which are great luxuries for

Hitherto every effort made by General Grant
to throw his army between Lee's army and
Richmond had proved futile, as the rebel gen-
eral had held the inside track. The two armies
were so near together that Grant was unable
to make a single move of any magnitude with-
out Lee's becoming aware of it immediately,
and the Union army in every southward move-
ment was sure to find at the most favorable
points for defense the rebel army planted
squarely across its pathway with formidable
lines of works. After passing a week in the
defenses of Cold Harbor, Grant determined to
make another movement to the south and east.


and in conjunction with General B. F. Butler's
Army of the James to seize Petersburg, which
was a great railroad center and a strong strate-
gic point. Then, with the lower Chesapeake
as a supply base, he would approach Rich-
mond from the southeast. Accordingly, Gen-
eral Butler was ordered to advance and make
a vigorous assault on the defenses of Peters-
burg, while they were comparatively unde-
fended, as every man who could be spared
had been sent to reinforce Lee's struggling
army. The Union commander confidently be-
lieved that under the circumstances a well-
directed assault would be successful. In this,
however, Grant was doomed to disappoint-
ment. A feeble attack was made, but was
easily repulsed, Butler falling back and send-
ing to General Grant for help.

In the evening of June 12 we got orders to
pack up and be ready to march at a moment's
notice. In a few moments we were in line
and headed for the southeast. We passed
down the north side of the Chickahominy to
Dispatch Station, on the York Railroad, thence
directly south to Long Bridge, where we
crossed the Chickahominy, and on Monday


evening had reached Charles City Court House,
within three miles of the Jannes River. The
march had been a very severe one, but was
much preferable to scaling rebel fortifications
or lying in front of the rebel line on picket.
Hjre the regiment remained until Tuesday
morning, when we started for the James River.
A steamer was found in readiness to ferry us
over to Windmill Point. Here we expected
to find a fresh supply of provisions, as Butler
had been ordered to forward sixty thousand
rations from City Point; but he failed to come
to time, and after waiting in vain till the next
day General Hancock proceeded with his
corps toward Petersburg. At five o'clock on
the afternoon of the 15th, while on the march
toward Petersburg, General Hancock received
word from General Smith, who was in charge
of the immediate operations against Peters-
burg, that he was in great need of help. Our
division was, therefore, immediately turned in
the direction of Smith's position, where we ar-
rived about nine o'clock and went into camp
in front of the rebel works.

Our brigade was now in command of Colonel
Egan. Early in the morning the rebels, hav-


ing been greatly reinforced during the night,
opened a fearful cannonade upon us, where-
upon we were ordered to charge a small re-
doubt on the extreme left of the corps line.
This was done with great enthusiasm, and the
position was quickly carried and held. Our
regiment lost three men wounded in this action
by the bursting of a single shell. Colonel
Egan was also wounded, and Colonel Madill
assumed command of the brigade and Lieuten-
ant Colonel Watkins of the regiment. Dur-
ing the day several redoubts were carried by
our men, until our line had reached a point
within a mile and a half of Petersburg.

Several assaults were made during the 17th
on different parts of the line, with no very de-
cisive results. Finally General Meade ordered
a general advance all along our line to be made
at daybreak on the morning of the i8th. At
four o'clock Captain Peck was ordered to take
our company (I), with Companies B and F,
and advance as skirmishers. We were de-
ployed, and advancing to the first line of the
enemy's works found it abandoned. We kept
on, and reaching the second line found that
also unoccupied, but here confronted a strong


line of rebel skirmishers. They were driven
back till the main line occupied by the enemy
in force was reached. Here we were obliged
to remain till the next morning close to the
rebel line. The advance of the main army
was delayed till about four o'clock in the after-
noon, when, everything being in readiness, the
word was given. The enemy's abandoned
lines were soon reached and occupied, and
then our gallant boys stood to face with
those formidable intrenchments, which fairly
bristled with rebel bayonets and frowned with
rebel cannon. It is a stern law of military ne-
cessity that requires men to march up to such
appliances for destruction and face what seems
to be almost inevitable death. And yet hope
whispers to the gallant warrior that perhaps he
will escape the enemy's missile, and though
others will certainly fall the result of victory
will largely recompense the sacrifice made.
Our brigade was now massed for the desperate
struggle, but, occupying a sheltered position
behind a hill, was enabled to complete its for-
mation without drawing the enemy's fire. Be-
tween our position and the enemy's works was
a commandine knoll over which our lines must


necessarily pass to reach the rebel works.
Colonel .Madill rode forward to examine this
eminence, and as it was exposed to the sweep-
ing fire of both the enemy's artillery and
musketry he was well aware that by the time
we passed that spot comparatively few would
be left to scale the rebel works. The order to
advance with fixed bayonets was now given,
and onward swept our lines, althougli with lit-

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Online LibraryJ. D. (John D.) BloodgoodPersonal reminiscences of the war → online text (page 13 of 16)