J. D. (John D.) Bloodgood.

Personal reminiscences of the war online

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tle hope of success.

As our advance line emerged from behind the
crest of the hill and came in full view of the
Confederates' stronghold it seemed that all
the reserve and concentrated fire of the entire
rebel army was let loose upon it. A horrid
tempest of iron and lead swept across that
spot, laying low hundreds of brave men and
making huge gaps in that living wall. It was
more than flesh and blood could endure, and
the officers saw the utter hopelessness of the
attempt. Colonel Madill says : *' I saw that the
attack was a failure, and that to compel men to
remain there and sacrifice their lives unneces-
sarily would be criminal ; therefore I ordered
them back behind the crest of the hill, the
place from which they started in the charge."


On the summit of the hill, while bravely
cheering on his men, Lieutenant Colonel G. H.
Watkins, then commanding the regiment, fell
mortally wounded. He was carried back behind
the crest of the hill, and at his request one of
the officers, in the midst of the storm of battle,
read to him the fourteenth chapter of St. John.
He lived two hours after being wounded, and
expressed his full confidence in a glorious sal-
vation through Jesus Christ his Saviour. Then,
after sending messages of affection to his
friends, he calmly breathed his last, reclining
in the arms of a comrade. He was a brave,
true man, and was sorely missed and deeply
mourned by all the members of the regiment.

The losses of the One Hundred and Forty-
first in this engagement, including one killed
and one missing on the skirmish line under
Captain Peck, were as follows: Killed or died
of wounds, five ; wounded, fifteen ; missing,
two ; making a total of twenty-two. Other
regiments suffered correspondingly, so that
the aggregate losses were very heavy, while
the advantages were very slight.

Our brigade remained in the position to
which it had fallen back till the morning of


June 21, when it accompanied the rest of the
corps, as also the Sixth Corps, in a movement
to the south and west, and after some skir-
mishing took up a position nearly midway be-
tween the Norfolk and Weldon railroads. In
the evening after reaching this position Birney,
then commanding the Second Corps, in the ab-
sence of Hancock, who had become disabled
by the breaking out of an old wound, was or-
dered to extend his line to the Weldon Rail-
road. This movement resulted in creating a
gap between our corps and the Sixth, which
occupied a position on our right. Discovering
this gap, the enemy threw in a strong force,
which created great disorder and confusion in
our lines and resulted in the capture of over
twenty-five hundred Union troops and many
stands of colors. Being in the rear line, our
regiment Avas not actively engaged in this
affair, but lost one man killed and one cap-
tured on the picket line. Our line was soon
restored to order and the rebels driven back
until our troops occupied the position originally
marked out. Here they proceeded to build a
strong line of works, which were held until
Petersburg was evacuated.


The weather became intensely hot, the mer-
cury some days running up to io8° in the
shade. Our regiment for some days occupied
a sheltered position in a piece of pine woods,
resting in the heat of the day and working at
the fortifications mornings and evenings. The
First Brigade had suffered so much by losses
that it was here reinforced by the addition of
the Seventy-third New York, whose colonel,
Butler, being the ranking officer, took com-
mand of the brigade. Captain Atkinson wrote
July 23 : " General Birney has been relieved
of the command of this division and assigned
to the command of the Tenth Army Corps.
General Mott now commands the division. We
are not sorry for the change, as we think it will
make less fighting for us. General Birney has
in several instances in this campaign asked for
the privilege of putting his division into diffi-
cult positions for the sake of gaining a reputa-
tion for himself. General Mott is not so anx-
ious for military glory, and will do only what
he is ordered to."

The feeling expressed by Captain Atkinson
was shared by nearly all of the officers and men
in the division. One officer wrote, " The old


division is now principally in heaven and in
hospitals." The One Hundred and Forty-first
had been reduced to one hundred and seventy
men, and of thirty-nine officers only seven were

General Burnside had about the last of July
completed his celebrated mine under a portion
of the rebel works, and was nearly ready to blow
the enemy sky-high when it was thought best
to divert the enemy's attention from the front
of Petersburg by a demonstration north of the
James River around the left flank of the Con-
federates toward Richmond. Consequently, on
the afternoon of the 26th of July the Second
Corps, accompanied by two divisions of Sheri-
dan's cavalry, took up a line of march down
toward City Point, then eastward across the
Appomattox, then northward, reaching the
James about daylight of the 27th. At Jones
Neck a pontoon bridge had been laid, and
over this we crossed about sunrise. Near the
crossing on the north side was a rebel battery
of Parrott guns, which was charged and taken
by a portion of Barlow's brigade. Our forces
remained here until the evening of the 28th,

when they were withdrawn to take part in the


battle that was likely to result upon the spring-
ing of the Burnside mine. July 30 an officer
writes: '* Last night our division relieved a
part of the Eighteenth Corps in the front line
of works, and to-day a terrible battle has been
going on. Just at daybreak one of the forts
which had been mined was blown up, and the
artillery opened along the whole line. It was
the most terrific firing I ever heard. Nearly
all the rebels who were in the fort when it was
blown up were killed or buried in the earth.
We are to occupy the front line of works two
days out of every six ; the other four we will
be encamped in the rear. We are very close
to the enemy, and a constant fire is kept up by
the pickets on both sides, but it amounts to
nothing, as we keep down behind the works.
Occasionally a man will become careless and
get hit."

On the 1st day of August the brigade re-
turned to its former position near the Jerusa-
lem Plank Road.



'' I ^HE next important operation in which
-*- our regiment participated was a second
demonstration against the rebel left wing
north of the James River. On Friday, August
12, orders were received to be ready for march-
ing at a moment's notice, with four days' ra-
tions, and it was given out that our destination
was the defenses of Washington. City Point
was reached that night, and the next afternoon
the whole division embarked in transports,
whicli moved down the river, then turned back
and moved up the James at Deep Bottom,
where the troops disembarked. Then we knew
that our destination was Richmond instead of
Washington. The Tenth Corps, under Birney,
was ah'eady on the ground, and our brigade
had orders to cooperate with it in the pending
attack. The rebels had intrenched a strong
line here, so that they had great advantage
over us. At eight o'clock on the morning of
the 1 6th Birney's men advanced to the attack,


supported by our brigade. The advance rebel
line was driven in by noon, when Terry's divi-
sion of the Tenth Corps made a grand charge,
capturing the Confederate works, but losing
heavily. Our brigade was formed in column of
regiments, and so arranged as to strike the reb-
els in flank as soon as the Tenth Corps should
succeed in driving them back. This we did,
and captured about a hundred prisoners; but
the rebels, being reinforced, made a desperate
effort to recapture their lost ground, and suc-
ceeded in driving Birney's men back to the
first line captured, which was held by our

While the enemy's attention was taken up
with these demonstrations north of the James,
General Grant determined to improve the op-
portunity to get possession of the Weldon
Railroad, on the left of the Union line, over
which a large share of the rebel supplies was
transported. He ordered General Warren, with
his corps, to take the advance in the movement,
the Ninth Corps following within supporting
distance. On the i8th our division, now com-
manded by General Mott, was withdrawn from
the north of the James and sent back to take


the place of the Ninth Corps in the intrench-
ments. Our losses in this movement amounted
to fifteen killed, wounded, and missing. Gen-
eral Warren had succeeded in getting a firm
hold on the Weldon Railroad at Globe Tavern,
but the Confederates could still bring their
supplies within a few miles of their army,
whence they could be hauled with teams. It
was decided, therefore, to destroy the road for
some distance further south, and General Han-
cock was charged with this duty. Leaving
our division in the intrenchments, he, on the
22d, with his remaining two divisions, Miles's
and Gibbon's, set out to accomplish the work
assigned him. He reached the railroad near
Ream 's Station, and for several miles effectually
demolished it, so that by the 24th he was ready
to return to his former position. The rebels
did not propose to give up possession of so
important a road so easily. They massed a
strong force and made a furious attack on our
forces and succeeded in inflicting serious dam-
age, especially in the Second Division, which
contained a considerable number of raw troops.
July 28 the One Hundred and Forty-first had
been transferred from the First Bri^-ade of the


Third Division, Second Corps, to the Second
Brigade of the same division and corps. Au-
gust 29 General Byron Pierce was assigned to
the command of our brigade. It was largely
composed of regiments with which we had
formerly been brigaded in the old Third Corps,
and the boys felt very much at home in the
new arrangement. The brigade remained in
position near Fort Sedgwick until October i,
doing alternately picket and fatigue duty.
This kept the men almost constantly em-
ployed, but the officers had a very easy time.

On September 11 Sergeant A. J. Roper, of
Company F, was instantly killed, while on
picket, by a rebel sharpshooter. He was a
little past twenty-one years of age, a resident
of Gibson, Susquehanna County, Pa. ; a very
exemplary young man, a brave and faithful
soldier, and his loss was severely felt by the
whole regiment. His body was sent home
and buried in the Union Hill Cemetery in Gib-
son township. April 3, 1887, the writer, then
pastor at Gibson, officiated at the funeral o(
young Roper's father, who died in his eightieth
year and was laid to rest by the side of his hero
soldier boy.


October i our regiment participated in a
movement on the left of the Union Hne, made
principally by Warren's corps, to get posses-
sion of an important point at the junction of
the Squirrel Level and Poplar Springs Church
roads, some three miles to the west of War-
ren's position. A railroad had been con-
structed in the rear of our lines, extending east
and west, and it was very useful in conveying
troops and supplies at short notice from one
point to another. Taking the cars at Hancock
Station, our boys proceeded to the west ter-
minus of the road, whence they marched to
Warren's headquarters. The battle had al-
ready begun, and the next morning, taking a
position on the extreme left, our division
joined in the fray. The One Hundred and
Forty-first, being thrown forward as skirmishers,
succeeded in taking the first line of the enemy's
works and advanced nearly a mile. Here the
regiment encountered a much stronger line
and was repulsed, with three other regiments.
After spending two days in fortifying the ad-
vanced line our division returned to its old
position in front of Petersburg, where, on the
8th, the men received six months' pay.


Tuesday, October 1 1, being the day on which
the Pennsylvania State election was held, and
provisions having been made allowing all sol-
diers from that State to vote, polls were opened
at regimental headquarters and an election
held, resulting in the casting of one hundred
and ninety-six votes, all of which, excepting
two, were for the Republican candidate.

On the 25th Grant made another attempt
to extend his lines to the left far enough to
include at least the Boydton Plank Road, and if
possible the South Side Railroad also, as these
were now the principal Confederate lines of
communication with the South since the loss
of the Weldon Road. The possession of these
by the Union forces would greatly weaken the
rebel hold on Petersburg, and perhaps force its
evacuation entirely.

On the morning of the 27th our division ad-
vanced from the Weldon Railroad, which had
been reached the night before, to the west as
far as Hatcher's Run. The ford was ob-
structed by fallen trees, but, nothing daunted,
the boys waded across the stream waist deep,
and, gallantly attacking the enemy on the
south side, carried the first line of works with


little loss. General Hancock then pushed his
line on toward the White Oak Road until he
received instructions to halt. In the meantime
the Confederates were concentrating their
forces in our immediate front. Mahone's di-
vision, having pushed in through an obscure
road till a flanking position was gained, opened
a furious storm of musketry on our unsuspect-
ing brigade, which temporarily threw it into
confusion and forced it to retire to gain a more
favorable position. The One Hundred and
Forty-first was the last of the brigade to leave
its position, and then it was nearly surrounded.
Mahone's men captured our brigade battery
during the melee. The rebel triumph, how-
ever, was of short duration, for Gibbon's di-
vision of our corps, now commanded by Eagan,
made a furious countercharge and completely
swept the enemy from the field, recaptured
our battery, and held the ground till orders
were received to abandon it, which was done
on the evening of the same day. We remained
in the vicinity until Sunday, the 30th, when
orders were received to return to our old camp.
Our losses in this engagement were four killed,
five wounded, and one captured.


On the 8th of November the regiment held
its presidential election, in which two hundred
votes were cast. Of these one hundred and
ninety-five were for Abraham Lincoln and five
for George B. McClellan. There was no con-
straint put upon any man as to how he should

About the 1st of December the brigade
moved about a mile to the rear for the pur-
pose of changing camps, and immediately set
about building winter quarters, as the season
was so far advanced that we did not anticipate
much more active work before spring. In this,
however, we were disappointed, for on the even-
ing of December 6 we got orders to be ready
to march at eight o'clock the next morning.
We were in line at the appointed time and
were again headed toward the west, and soon
found that the further destruction of the Weldon
Railroad was the object of our new movement.
The rebels still used this road to transport
their supplies as far as Ream's Station, whence
they were brought to Petersburg on wagons.
Our march was westward to the Jerusalem
Plank Road, where the column was turned to
the south and followed that road to the Not-


away River, which was here spanned by a
pontoon bridore. Over this we crossed, and
encamped on the south side for the night.
The weather, which had been mild and rainy,
had now become bitterly cold and caused a
great deal of suffering and inconvenience. The
next morning early the march was resumed,
and that night the regiment encamped within
three miles of the railroad. So far there had
not been seen any indications of the foe.

On the morning of the 9th the railroad was
reached at Janett's Station; the various regi-
ments were deployed along the road in each
direction, and the work of destruction began.
The rails were torn up from the ties, the ties
piled in heaps and set on fire, and then the
rails were piled on top of the fires till they be-
came red hot, which so warped and crooked
them as to render them unfit for use. Many
of the rails while hot were twisted around tele-
graph poles and ties, and were left to grow
cold in that shape. This work was continued
until about twenty-five miles of railroad had
been destroyed, involving an immense loss to
the Confederacy, as nearly all their rails had
to be imported from England at great cost


and risk. On Saturday the return march was
begun. On Tuesday, the 13th, the division
went into camp near Poplar Spring Church, in
a fine grove where water was good and wood
plenty, and once more began to construct
winter quarters. On December 26 the regi-
ment held its first dress parade since the open-
ing of the spring campaign.

On the 7th of December Colonel H. J.
Madill received his commission as brigadier
general, but he remained with the regiment
till the middle of January, when he was as-
signed to the command of the First brigade of
the First Division. We were all very sorry to
part with the gallant colonel, but rejoiced in
his well-earned promotion. He was fearless
and impetuous in battle, but with a heart as
tender as a woman's. He never needlessly
exposed his men to danger for the sake of pro-
motion, as was sometimes the case, but seemed
to res^ard the men of his regiment as children,
and certainly the boys learned to love and re-
gard him as a father. To this day they affec-
tionately speak of him as the " Old Colonel."
In the following April he was commissioned
major general by brevet. Captain Tyler, of


Company H, was promoted to be lieutenant
colonel, after the promotion of General Madill,
and took command of the regiment. Many
other changes and promotions were made, and
the beginning of the year 1865 found the One
Hundred and Forty-first almost entirely re-



'THHE year 1865 opened with the most
-^ favorable prospects for the Union cause.
Sherman had completed his famous march to
the sea, thereby dividing the Confederacy into
two parts, had captured the rebel stronghold
of Savannah, and was preparing to march his
victorious army northward through the Caro-
linas to Virginia, where, forming a junction
with Grant's army, they would very soon be
able to use up Lee's army so completely as to
bring the rebellion to a speedy conclusion.

General Grant's chief concern now was that
Lee might loosen his hold on Petersburg, and
by means of the South Side Railroad and
Boydton Plank Road escape to the southward,
and, forming a junction with the rebel army
under Johnston, indefinitely prolong the war.
He determined, therefore, to send a strong
force around the rebel right flank, seize the
South Side Railroad, the Boydton Plank Road,
and thus cut off every avenue of escape in that


direction. During the early winter our regi-
ment had been reinforced by recruits and re-
turning convalescents, until on the 31st of
January there were reported by the adjutant
eighteen commissioned officers and two hun-
dred and sixty enlisted men present for duty.
The regiment was now commanded by Lieu-
tenant Colonel Tyler, the brigade by General
Byron Pierce, the division by General Mott,
and the Second Corps by General A. A.
Humphreys. The enemy continued to bring
in supplies with wagon trains via Dinwiddle
Court House, on the Boydton Plank Road, to
Petersburg, and was thus able to maintain his
hold on that city. General Grant determined
if possible to seize these lines of communica-
tion, and not only cut off Lee's source of sup-
plies, but also prevent his escaping in that
direction. To accomplish this end he, on the
5th of February, detached the Second and
Fifth Corps, with Gregg's division of cavalry,
with orders to proceed to Hatcher's Run, from
whence a strong column was to be thrown as
far westward as possible. At three o'clock in
the morning we received orders to be ready to
march at daylight. The order was a most un-


welcome one, as we had about completed our
winter quarters, and the weather was bitterly
cold. At the time appointed we were in line
and started on another midwinter campaign.
Reaching the crossing at Hatcher's Run, a
small force of rebels was encountered. Our
regiment was sent forward and deployed as.
skirmishers, and drove back the enemy's picket
line for some distance. The main part of our
forces then crossed and began to throw up

It soon became evident that the rebels were
massing their forces to oppose our further
progress and drive us from our position.
About five o'clock four divisions of Hill's and
Ewell's corps made a sudden attack upon our
advanced line. The battle raged with tre-
mendous fury, and for some time the issue was
extremely doubtful, but finally the enemy
relinquished the attempt and retired behind
his fortified line. Our regiment lost in this
encounter one killed and three wounded. The
one killed was Albert Phelps, of Company K,
who resided in Smithfield, Bradford County,
Pa. 'He haH lately returned from home, where
he had been on a furlough for thirty days,


which had been granted by an express order
from President Lincoln, at the solicitation of
young Phelps's mother, who had written to the
President stating that she had six sons in the
country's service, and greatly desired to see
this one, and the President had granted her
request. But, alas ! it was the last time she
was to look upon the face of her noble boy.
He was instantly killed by a rebel bullet, being
struck in the forehead and killed so suddenly
that he did not fall for a short time, as he re-
mained leaning against a tree. That night a
part of the regiment went on picket, a most
arduous duty, as it was midwinter, and no fires
could be built ; neither could the sentinels
walk their beats and keep the blood circulating
in that way ; but all that long cold winter
night the boys were obliged to crouch behind
a tree, rock, or log, and lay there shivering
until daylight brought release.

The next day part of the Fifth Corps was
sent out on a reconnoissance in force and ad-
vanced as far as Dabney's Mill, where a strong
force of the enemy was encountered, and quite
a severe engagement followed, resulting in the

withdrawal of our forces. Our brigade was


ordered up to support the troops engaged, but
the engagement was over before the brigade
reached the scene of conflict, and was there-
fore ordered to return to its former position.
That night a terrible storm of snow, rain, and
sleet set in ; the weather was intensely cold,
and many of the boys almost perished from
exposure. A line of intrenchments was laid
out, the troops were moved to the respective
positions assigned them, and began to throw
up breastworks, and had soon completed a
strong line of works. On Saturday, February
1 1, the boys went into regularly laid out camps
and began for the fourth time to build winter
quarters. Although all had not been gained
that was desired in this movement, still our
line had been pushed forward so near the
South Side Railroad that any unusual move-
ment in that direction on the part of the rebels
would soon be detected by our forces. Here
the regiment remained doing various kinds of
duty until the latter part of March. Lieuten-
ant Colonel Tyler, on account of failing health,
resigned his commission and was honorably
discharged March i, and Major J. H. Horton
was promoted to fill the vacancy, while Captain


Mercur, of Company K, was commissioned

Various other changes and promotions took
place preparatory to the opening of the spring

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Online LibraryJ. D. (John D.) BloodgoodPersonal reminiscences of the war → online text (page 14 of 16)