J. D. (John D.) Bloodgood.

Personal reminiscences of the war online

. (page 15 of 16)
Online LibraryJ. D. (John D.) BloodgoodPersonal reminiscences of the war → online text (page 15 of 16)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

campaign, which, it was earnestly hoped, would
result in the overthrow of the rebellion and in
ending the war. Every day saw our army
stiengthened and made more efficient, while
the rebel army was as steadily diminished and
disheartened, and as spring drew near General
Lee became fully aware that something des-
perate must be done to retrieve the waning
fortunes of the Confederacy, or the struggle
must be given up. His decision was that
Richmond and Petersburg must be evacuated,
and an attempt made to form a junction with
Johnston's army in the Carolinas.

To cover the contemplated retreat he ordered
a fierce attack to be made on Fort Stead-
man, further toward our right, thinking that
Grant would Aveaken his left wing to defend
this fort, and then he would improve the op-
portunity to pass around our left and thus
escape. On the morning of March 25 a furious
attack was made on Fort Steadman, so des-
perate and sudden that the rebels succeeded in


getting temporary possession of it, turning the
guns upon our retreating forces. Their triumph
was of short duration, however, for our boys
rallying, and assisted by other troops sent in to
reinforce them, made a countercharge, retaking
the fort and capturing a large number of pris-
oners. As soon as the attack on Fort Stead-
man began General Humphreys, commanding
the Second Corps, ordered his troops under
arms, being convinced that Lee had weakened
his line in our front to furnish men to attack
the fort. Our regiment the evening before
had been detailed for picket duty, and as soon
as Fort Steadman had been retaken we got
orders to make a charge on the rebel picket
line. This was quickly done ; their line was
captured, with quite a number of prisoners;
then our boys pushed forward until they were
assailed by such a tempest of fire from the rebel
artillery, which completely enfiladed them,
that they were forced to seek shelter in a piece
of woods. In a few moments the whole bri-
gade came to their assistance, and a deter-
mined charge upon the advancing columns of
the foe was made, driving them back till our
forces had advanced nearly a mile, where they


immediately began to throw up intrenchments.
This advance, secured largely through the gal-
lantry of the old One Hundred and Forty-first,
was of great advantage to our army, especially
in the general assault made by our army a few
days later, which resulted in the evacuation of
Petersburg. One man, George Stage, of Com-
pany C, was reported missing in this engage-
ment, but was probably killed, as nothing was
ever heard of him afterward. About the last
of March General Grant made preparations for
a general advance all along our lines, which, it
was fully hoped, would finish up the business
and bring the war to a close.

Accordingly, he issued orders to that effect,
and on the morning of the 29th our entire left
wing, composed of the Second and Fifth Corps,
preceded by Sheridan's cavalry, were put in
motion, advancing northward, and by after-
noon our brigade had reached the vicinity of
Dabney's steam saw mill, occupying the same
ground over which they had advanced the
previous October.

Here they went into camp for the night.
It had been a very pleasant day, arid as our
boys gathered in groups around their camp-


fires in the evening their conversation was of
a most cheerful character, as they felt conscious
that their present movement would culminate
in the complete overthrow of the rebellion,
when, with peace fully restored, they would be
permitted to return to the homes and friends
from which they had so long been separated.
The campaign had opened auspiciously, and
the results of the day's advance had been satis-

The evening was mild and pleasant, and
many of the boys spread their blankets on
the ground, not thinking it necessary to pitch
their shelter tents, as they anticipated an early
advance in the morning.

Before morning, however, their dreams of
victory and home were ruthlessly disturbed and
broken up by a torrent of rain, which came
dashing into their faces, arousing them from
slumber with a most imperative argument,
which none sought to question. It is no desir-
able job to hunt around in a dark night after
tent poles and pitch a tent with the rain com-
ing down in perfect torrents ; but that was just
what a good many of our boys did that dark,
stormy night, and when the task was finished


they very thankfully crawled under their rude
shelter and relapsed into profound slumber,
while the dripping rain beat a ceaseless tattoo
upon the canvas roof. Morning came at last,
but the heavens were still overspread with dark,
heavy clouds, and the rain still came down in
copious torrents, penetrating into every nook
and corner, while the greedy earth opened
wide her porous mouth and had soon swallowed
up so much moisture as to render it a question
whether the mixture contained more of earth
or water.

All that day and night, and all the succeed-
ing day and night the rain continued to pour
down, while the army shivered and crouched
beneath such shelter as could be improvised,
and when at length the clouds grew thin and
the rain god ceased his weeping the whole sur-
face of the earth was one sea of miry clay.
As soon as possible, however, the advance
movement was resumed, and on the 31st the
enemy made a tremendous attack on Warren's
Fifth Corps, on our left, but was finally re-
pulsed with heavy loss.

Sheridan's cavalry also engaged the enemy
on our extreme left, and the tide of battle raged


furiously in that direction, but all was compara-
tively quiet in our immediate front.

April 2, the Sixth Corps, on our right, made
a successful attack on the enemy in front of
Fort Fisher, driving him from his intrench-
ments with heavy losses. This was followed
up with a general advance all along the line, in
which our regiment participated.

Our line of advance was along the Boydton
Plank Road to a point where it intersects
the South Side Railroad, which was reached
about noon. The enemy's works here were
completely abandoned, evidently in great
haste, as they left everything behind them — ■
tents standing, knapsacks, haversacks, and lots
of camp fixtures all just as they had been

Concerning this movement Captain Lobb,
of Company G, writes: "About five o'clock
we had orders to march. We struck the
Boydton Plank Road a little nearer the Run
than we were last October. The troops in
advance cleared away all opposition, and the
order was passed down the line, ' Onward to
Petersburg.* We went up the Boydton road
three miles to the railroad, then swung around


behind Petersburg Heights, the route of the
regiment fronn its starting-point, near Ward's
Station, resembhng a semicircle. Thus far the
regiment had not fired a shot. In passing
where the rebel General A. P. Hill's head-
quarters had been we found two or three
colored servants ; one said he belonged to
General Hill, and that his master was killed ;
another that he was General Lee's boy, and that
his master stayed at General Hill's quarters the
night before and felt very badly over it. Our
regiment was now placed in support of a bat-
tery playing on a fort, which, I think, was
Fort Gregg. I never saw guns so well worked
as they were by the men of this battery. We
camped here for the night."

Early on the morning of April 3 a rumor
came floating through our camp that Peters-
burg and Richmond had both been evacuated,
and that the rebel army was in full retreat
for Amelia Court House. Only a short time
elapsed before the rumor was verified, and
then the scene which ensued in our army is
altogether beyond description. Those bristling
heights swarmed with immense crowds of
Union soldiers, who laughed and shouted and


cheered till the very welkin rang again with
their tokens of almost delirious joy. It was
the presage of complete victory which they felt
would soon crown their heroic efforts and save
the Union for which they had sacrificed so
much. However, there was still hard work to
be done. It was not the mere possession of
the rebel stronghold which was the object in
view, but the entire destruction of the rebel
army. Although the monster Treason was in
his death throes, he was liable to do some lively
kicking yet.

There was no time to be lost, and therefore
the order for immediate pursuit was received
while the hills and valleys were still echoing
with the triumphant notes of victory.

The irrepressible Sheridan, with his gallant
''critter" boys, as cavalrymen were called by
the Southern people, and also in command of
the Fifth Corps, after he had displaced Warren,
led the advance, followed closely by the Second
and the Sixth Corps.

Our regiment was on the march at eight
o'clock in the morning, and, taking a westerly
route, that evening reached the west side of
Namozine Creek, having marched some twenty


miles, and was sent on picket on the Burkeville
road. Early on the morning of the 4th the
march was resumed, and w^e soon struck the
trail of the rebel army. We had some light
skirmishing with the enemy's rear guard, but
no general engagement. Both arm.ies were
doing their best to reach Burkeville, but as
Grant had the inside track he came out ahead
in the race, notwithstanding the rebels de-
stroyed all the bridges they could and placed
every possible obstruction in our way.

Sheridan, with his usual energy, had pushed
forward his forces to Jettersville, more than
halfway from Burkeville to Amelia Court
House, where Lee's army had been concen-
trated, and Ord soon had seized the former
place, thus cutting off every means of transpor-
tation by rail which remained to Lee. The
situation of the rebel army was becoming most
desperate and critical. Lee's only hope was to
push on to Farmville, where he would again
strike the railroad. Our corps and the Fifth
were pressing Lee's rear so closely that he was
obliged to abandon many w^agons and much of
his artillery. To add to the enemy's troubles, a
force of two regiments of infantry and a squad-


ron of cavalry in the lightest possible marching
order was pushed forward to Farmville, where
they encountered the head of Lee's main army.
This little force, under General Read, boldly
attacked the enemy and held him in check un-
til it was nearly annihilated and was forced to
give way. In the meantime General Ord, with
the rest of his corps, arrived, and then the en-
emy began to intrench himself. The night of
the 4th our brigade halted at Deep Run. The
rebels had destroyed the bridge over this
stream and we were obliged to repair it before
we could proceed. At two o'clock the next
morning the way was clear and the pursuit re-

Very slow progress was made, as we often
had to halt to give the cavalry and artillery
the right of way, and then we had frequently
to form in line of battle and skirmish with the
enemy's rear guard. We also met great num-
bers of rebel prisoners, and secured wagon
trains and artillery which Sheridan, assisted by
the advance of our corps, had captured that
morning. Among the prisoners were Generals
Ewell and Custis. Evidently the rebel army
was becoming badly demoralized, and had


about given up all hopes of success. The
prisoners taken were a ragged, dirty, and de-
jected-looking set, very few of whom had on
any semblance of a uniform, but were mostly
clad in homespun butternut-colored cotton
cloth. It was hard to distinguish betwixt the
officers and the privates, as they were about
all dressed alike. The evening of April 5
found us at the Danville Railroad, near Amelia
Court House, where the night was passed.
Next morning it began to rain, but fortunately
cleared up about noon.

But no rain, mud, swamp, or other obstruc-
tion could stay the onward victorious march
of the old Potomac army. We were fully
aware that Lee was making a desperate at-
tempt to escape the encircling folds of our
army, and we were equally as desperate, if pos-
sible, that he should not be allowed to do so.
General Humphreys soon had the old Second
Corps in line, and, throwing out a strong line
of skirmishers in advance, the whole corps, in
line of battle, started forward in the direction
of Deatonsville. The enemy, under Gordon,
was encountered while crossing Flat Creek,
and a running fight ensued, which was kept up


for several miles, the enemy steadily falling
back but occasionally making a stand behind
some lines of works which abounded all
through that region. No sooner did the rebels
make a stand than a charging column swept
down upon them, carrying everything before
it and covering the ground with dead and
wounded men, while many threw down their
arms and surrendered.

About three miles west of Deatonsville there
are two branches of the main road, one taking
a northerly direction toward Rice's Station, the
other leading off south toward Sailor's Creek.

On arriving at the forks of the road General
Humphreys found Ewell's rebel corps in line
of battle on the north side of Sailor's Creek.
Brushing past this force, he continued in pur-
suit of Gordon's corps, until, arriving at Perkin-
son's Mills, the rebels made a final stand, but
were vigorously attacked by the First and
Second Divisions of our corps and routed with
great loss. Several hundred prisoners, thirteen
flags, three guns, and a large share of Lee's
wagon train were among the fruits of this vic-
tory. Darkness soon coming on, and the coun-
try being unknown to our forces, a halt was


ordered for the night, and our boys went into
camp pretty well satisfied with the work of the
day. General Mott had been wounded during
the day, and General De Trobriand took com-
mand of the division.

Captain Lobb relates the following concern-
ing this day's movement : " When we came out
of a piece of woods near the road and looked
down the hill we saw the road and both sides
of it blocked with wagons. After leaving the
top of the hill to the right and left was cleared
land. The One Hundred and Forty-first was
ordered forward on the skirmish line, our right
being along the road blocked with the train.
The enemy had also an infantry skirmish
line, along the creek, and their battery from
the opposite hill was shelling us severely. At
the creek most of the enemy's skirmish line
was captured. Captain Gyle captured a Con-
federate captain, and when he handed over his
sword Captain Gyle asked him where he got
that Yankee sword. He replied, ' From a
Yankee ofificer at Chancellorsville.' From the
description he gave we were satisfied that it
was Captain Mumford's. The Confederate
captain said he found the Yankee officer badly


wounded in the edge of the woods near the
plank road, not far from where Jackson fell, and
took his sword, together with what greenbacks
he had in his pockets, and the wounded cap-
tain was taken to their field hospital. We
were ordered to burn the wagons, and as we
received no orders to take care of the plunder,
each one appropriated what he wanted."

Only two of our regiment were slightly
wounded during the day.

At about five o'clock on the morning of
April 7 we were again in pursuit of the flee-
ing rebels, following down along the river road,
and at about eight o'clock we reached High
Bridge, where the South Side Railroad crosses
the Appomattox River. This was a very long
bridge, over fifty feet high, and was on fire
when we arrived ; but by dint of hard work it
was all saved except two or three spans, and
the wagon bridge was all saved. Our brigade
continued the pursuit in the direction of Appo-
mattox Court House, and soon encountered the
enemy's rear guard, when we deployed in line
of battle, whereupon the rebels retired ; but a
running skirmish fire was kept up for some


Finally, a few miles from Farmville we found
the rebel line, consisting of the remnant of
Lee's army, holding an intrenched position.
Several attempts were made to carry this posi-
tion, but failed with considerable loss, one of
our regiment being reported captured.

During this afternoon Grant sent his first
proposition, through General Humphreys, for
the surrender of Lee's army. That night the
rebel army continued its hopeless retreat, and
early the next morning we were in hot pursuit,
taking the Lynchburg road, and before long
had overtaken the enemy's rear guard, which
we continued to press nearly all day, arriving
at a little place called New Store in the early
evening. At one o'clock the next morning
the march was resumed, and by four o'clock
we had passed around the rebel flank, and
planted ourselves squarely across the rebel
line of retreat, where we were drawn up in
line of battle, waiting for future developments.
About noon a flag of truce appeared, coming
from the rebel lines, with the glad news that the
rebel army was about to surrender, which in-
deed was done at about four o'clock that after-
noon. The scene that ensued beggars all at-


tempts at description. The wildest excitement
prevailed. Men shouted and cheered over and
over again, until they actually became hoarse.
Tears of joy ran down many a weather-beaten
veteran's cheek. All feelings of revenge or of
animosity seemed to vanish like magic. The
captured army presented a most forlorn spec-
tacle. Ragged, dirty, hungry, and completely
demoralized, they were really objects of pity,
and our boys, who but a few moments before
were arrayed in ranks ready to shoot down
their foes, now cheerfully shared their last
cracker with those same men. Such generosity,
although entirely unexpected, had a visible
effect upon those late foes, and many of them
seemed heartily sorry that they had ever been
induced to take up arms against the defenders
of the old flag. At least they were all heartily
tired of the war, for they had marched and
suffered and fought even against hope, only to
lay down their arms at last at the feet of the
defenders of the old Union.



'^ I ^HERE was a great contrast presented in
-■- the appearance of the two armies at the
time of Lee's surrender. Perhaps no army had
ever been better fed, clothed, and equipped
than ours since it had been under the command
of General Meade.

We had no very exalted opinion of General
Meade's abilities to handle an army, and, in-
deed, he had had but little opportunity to dis-
play generalship since Grant had taken com-
mand, as he was only the medium through
which Grant issued his orders. But of one
thing we soon became well aware, and that was
that no army contractor had any business try-
ing to turn off a lot of damaged supplies for
the army to subsist upon so long as General
Meade was at the helm, and it was decidedly
unhealthy for any quartermaster- under his
supervision to attempt to speculate and make
money at the expense either of the government
or of the soldiers. He kept a keen eye on the


commissary department, and if he discovered
anything wrong he immediately called the
officer in command to an account for it. As a
consequence, when our army started on the
last campaign in the spring of 1865 it was in
a splendid condition, and had succeeded in
closing up the business in such short order
that our uniforms had hardly had time to get
soiled or our muscles to become hardened
when the surrender took place.

On the other hand, no further evidence of
the impoverished condition of the South was
needed than the appearance of the rebel sol-
diers at that time. The wonder was that men
with no higher object in view than they had
could be kept together so long. The rank and
file of the rebel army had but very little personal
interest in the struggle. They were persuaded
by their leaders that their rights had been in-
terfered with, but in what particular respects
they could not tell. Their principal idea was
that the Union soldiers were invaders, that
they had come South to trample upon and
tyrannize over the Southern people. A com-
mon question for them to ask our boys who
had been taken prisoners by them was, " What


did you 'uns come down here to fight we 'uns

After the surrender the soldiers of the two
armies mingled together as freely as though
they had always been friends instead of having
for a long time been deadly enemies and using
every means in their power to kill each other.
In fact, we waged no war against the South
as such. Our fight was against treason, and
when these traitors laid down their arms and
became subject to the Constitution and laws
of our country, then our occupation as soldiers
was gone.

Our regiment remained in the vicinity of
Appomattox until the 12th of April, when
with glad hearts and ready steps our boys took
up the line of march on the return to Rich-
mond. There was no straggling from the
ranks then, for our faces were turned toward
home. The familiar sounds of artillery and
musketry firing, to which our ears had been so
long accustomed, had entirely ceased, and a
strange stillness brooded over hilltop and val-
ley. Toward evening w^e passed through Farm-
ville, and camped for the night about a mile
beyond the village. The next day the march


was resumed, and that night we reached the
vicinity of Burkeville. Here we remained till
the end of the month, awaiting developments
betwixt Sherman's and Johnston's armies.
Johnston having surrendered his army, and all
armed resistance having ceased, orders were
issued for mustering out the troops as fast as
the rolls could be made out. Several of our
boys who had been captured by the enemy
and liberated by the terms of surrender here
rejoined the regiment. May I the march was
resumed and continued, till on the 4th we
arrived in the vicinity of Richmond. On the
6th the whole division marched through the
city of Richmond, bearing aloft their battered
and battle-rent flags, the emblems and tokens
of valor unsurpassed by any body of men ever
marshaled in defense of human liberty. Many
visited Belle Isle, Libby Prison, and Castle
Thunder, those places which had been the
scenes of indescribable suffering on the part
of our brave boys who were incarcerated in
those abodes of torture and misery. Continu-
ing the homeward journey, the Chickahominy
was crossed, and, taking a northerly direction,
we reached Fredericksburg on Wednesday, the


lOth, and, crossing the Rappahannock, were
once more on famihar ground. Here we had
spent the winter of 1862-63, and, although there
had been some local changes, in general things
were about as we had left them two years be-
fore, when starting on the Gettysburg cam-
paign. The northward march was continued,
till on the 15th the regiment went into camp
in a pleasant grove near Bailey's Cross Roads.

Orders were received on the 1 8th directing
the commanding officers of companies to make
out the necessary rolls preparatory to muster-
ing out the regiment. Our camp was near the
place where, two years and nine months before,
we had broken camp to start on a hopeless
chase after Stewart's cavalry. On the 23d our
whole corps crossed the Potomac and took
part in the grand review. It was a hard day's
march, but was cheerfully endured, knowing, as
we did, that these long, wearisome marches
were coming to a close and would never again
be resumed. Crossing the aqueduct bridge at
Georgetovvn,our boys returned to their old camp,
awaiting the completion of the muster-out rolls,
which were finished by the 26th of May.

Quite a number of men who had left the


regiment at different times without permission
were transferred to a veteran regiment, as were
also a number of recruits whose terms of serv-
ice had not expired.

All the preliminary arrangements having
been concluded early on the morning of June
30, the bugle sounded the " pack up " call, and

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 15

Online LibraryJ. D. (John D.) BloodgoodPersonal reminiscences of the war → online text (page 15 of 16)