J. D. (John D.) Bloodgood.

Personal reminiscences of the war online

. (page 16 of 16)
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never before in the history of the regiment
was the call responded to with greater alacrity
and promptness.

In a' short time the old veterans of the regi-
ment, to the number of about two hundred
and sixty, were in line and on their way to
Washington, where they got breakfast at the
" Soldiers' Retreat," a large government eating
house, established for the purpose of furnishing
transient soldiers with food and lodgings when
passing through the city. Nearly three years
before we had taken dinner at this same place,
but under far different circumstances than the
present. Then our faces were turned toward
the stirring scenes of war, now toward peace
and home.

At ten o'clock the cars were boarded, box
cars, to be sure; but what was the difference?
If they only carried us safely home it was in-


finitely better than marching with heavy loads
through storm or mud, heat or dust, chasing
or being chased by a deadly enemy. Harris-
burg was reached early the next morning, and
from there to Camp Curtin, where our arms
and equipments were turned over to the proper
officers, and the boys received their pay in full ;
and, taking such routes as they pleased, this
grand old regiment disbanded, and the men
returned to their several homes. Under date
of June 8 the Bradford Reporter, published at
Towanda, Pa., said :

" The One Hundred and Forty-first Regi-
ment was mustered out of service at Harris-
burg last week. On Sunday last about one
hundred men of the regiment arrived at this
place on their way to their homes. The boys
came home browned by exposure and hard-
ened by the toils they had undergone. It is
now nearly three years since this regiment left
this county forCamp Curtin nearly one thousand
strong, composed of the very best blood and
muscle of the country. They mustered when
discharged but a few over two hundred men.

" Of the officers first commissioned but few
remiain. Of the line officers and privates many


a gallant soul has been yielded up on the field
of battle. The history of the One Hundred
and Forty-first Regiment is a glorious one. It
has suffered on many a hard-fought battlefield,
and its battered colors have been riven in
many a desperate conflict. At Chancellorsville,
at Gettysburg, at the Wilderness, and in the
recent battles before Richmond, it has been
conspicuous for its gallantry and heavy losses.
The returning members deserve to be honored
and remembered for their bravery and the gal-
lantry with which they have upheld the cause
of their country. We bespeak for them the
respect and attention of our people. Their
proudest boast in after times will be that they
followed the flag of the One Hundred and
Forty-first Regiment through the battles of
the great rebellion."

On the 4th of July, 1866, accompanied with
a grand display, the adjutant general of the
State of Pennsylvania, representing the mili-
tary authorities, transferred the colors of the
Pennsylvania regiments to the custody of the
State, and a large room, called the Flag Room,
was prepared in the capitol at Harrisburg, in
which, inclosed in glass cases, were deposited


these symbols of our country's honor. Con-
spicuous among them at the apex of an angle
are the remnants of our old regimental flags.
The regiment had two stands of the national
colors and one State banner. In July last, on
returning from a trip to Gettysburg, and while
waiting for the train, I visited the capitol at
Harrisburg, and, making my way to the Flag
Room, I sought and found the place where our
colors were placed. There they stood, mute
witnesses of untold privations, toils, sufferings,
and death, all to the end that those flags
might wave everywhere, over hill and valley,
land and sea, the emblem of our nation's glory
and greatness. I instinctively took off my hat
and stood uncovered, as it seemed almost sacri-
lege to remain covered in such a presence. My
thoughts reverted to the stormy scenes of the
past, when I had seen those flags unfurled in
the storm of battle. Yes, I had seen them fall
to the earth under the fierce, deadly fire of the
enemy as one after another the color bearers
were shot down, but only to rise again as an-
other strong arm bore them upward. And
then as I glanced around and saw myself sur-
rounded by hundreds of similar flags, nearly all


torn and rent by the storms of war, I thought
of the following beautiful lines by Owens:

" Nothing but flags — but simple flags

Tattered and torn, and hanging in rags ;

And we walk beneath them with careless tread,

Nor think of the hosts of the mighty dead

Who have marched beneath them in days gone by,

With a burning cheek and a kindling eye,

And have bathed their folds in their young life's tide

And, dying, blessed them, and, blessing, died.

" Nothing but flags ; yet methinks at night
They tell each other their tales of fright.
And dim specters come and their thin arms twine
Round each standard torn as they stand in line.
And the word is given — they charge, they form,
And the dim hall rings with the battle's storm ;
And once again through smoke and strife
Those colors lead to a nation's life.

" Nothing but flags; yet they're bathed in tears,
They tell of triumphs, of hopes and fears ;
Of a mother's prayers, of a boy away.
Of a serpent crushed, of the coming day.
Silent they speak, yet the tears will start
As we stand beneath them with throbbing heart
And think of those who are ne'er forgot ;
Their flags come home ; why come they not ?

" Nothing but flags ; yet we hold our breath
And gaze with awe at those types of death.
Nothing but flags ; yet the thought will come.
The heart must pray though the lips be dumb.
They are sacred, pure, and we see no stain
On those dear loved flags come home again
Baptized in blood, our purest, best ;
Tattered and torn, they're now at rest."


A large number of veterans had gathered in
the hall, and their eyes sparkled with new luster
as they looked upon those flags, which, though
many of them hung in tatters and shreds, were
more beautiful to them even now than when, in
shining, unstained luster, they were first com-
mitted by the nation to their care.



Fredericksburg, Dec. 13,1862

Chancellorsville, May 1-3, 1863

Gettysburg, July 2, 1863

Auburn, Oct. 17, 1863

Mine Run, Nov. 27, 1863

Wilderness, May 5, 6, 1864

Laurel Hill, May 11, 1864

Spottsylvania Court House, May 12, 1864
Fredericksburg Railroad, May 19, 1864...

North Anna, May 23, 1864

Totopotomoy, May 31, 1864

Cold Harbor, June 3, 1864

Petersburg, June 16-18, 1864

Deep Bottom, Aug. 13, 1864

Poplar Spring Church, Oct. 2, 1864

Boydton Plank Road, Oct. 27, 1864

On the line, Aug. 20 to Nov. i, 1864

Dabney's Mills, Feb. 7, 1865

Fort Fisher, March 25, 1865

Sailor's Creek, April 6. 1865

Farmville, April 7, 1865


i5^ i




It will be noticed in the above table that
our greatest losses were in the battles at Chan-


cellorsville and Gettysburg, where we suffered
a total loss of four hundred and two, nearly
twice as nnany as were lost during the whole
of the last two years of the war. This was due
partly to the fact that at first we had more
men to lose than after our ranks had become
thinned out, but mainly because we were
never placed in such desperately hot positions
afterward as we occupied on those two bloody

The reports also show that during the three
years' service of the regiment seventy-five are
reported as captured and missing. Not all of
these fell into the rebels' hands as prisoners,
for some got separated from the regiment
and afterward rejoined it, and some were re-
ported as missing who were undoubtedly
killed; and yet the One Hundred and Forty-
first was fairly represented in those Southern
prison hells, where cruelty unspeakable and
outrage infinite were heaped without measure
upon our brave boys for no other cause than
that they were captured by the minions of
treason while defending the honor and integ-
rity of the nation. The treatment of our sol-
diers as prisoners by the Confederate authori-


ties will forever be an indelible stain upon
Southern chivalry and honor. It is in vain
for them to plead ignorance of the terrible
sufferings of our boys or of inability to prevent
them. There has abundance of evidence come
to light to prove that it was simply a deep-
laid scheme among the Southern leaders,
with the arch traitor Jeff Davis at the head,
to deliberately murder and starve our boys,
in order to deplete the Union army and
thereby secure the success of the Confederate

General J. H. Winder, in command of all
the Confederate rebel military prisons, exult-
antly declared that he was killing off more
Yankees than any twenty regiments in Lee's
army. When remonstrated with by a rebel
inspecting officer, that the prisoners in Ander-
sonville were fearfully crowded and that they
be given more room, he replied that he in-
tended to leave things just as they were, that
their numbers would soon be so reduced by
death that there would be plenty of room. He
it was who issued the following order upon the
approach of General Stoneman, who was en-
gaged in making a cavalry raid through the


South and was supposed to be approaching
Andersonville :

' Headquarters Military Prison. )
Andersonville, Ga., yu/y 27, 1864, \

*' The officers on duty and in charge of the
battery of Florida Artillery at the time will,
upon receiving notice that the enemy has ap-
proached within seveh miles of this post, open
upon the stockade with grape shot, without
reference to the situation beyond these lines
of defense. JOHN H. WINDER,

** Brigadier General, commanding."

Such was the character of the man who was
placed in command of our brave boys who had
been taken prisoners, by the direct order of
the Confederate President, Jeff Davis. This
man not only went unpunished, but to this
day his children are being supported in luxury
by the United States government, which pays
a large rent for the use of the Winder building
in Washington, which is occupied by one of
the departments for offices.

As soon as captured our boys were, as a gen-
eral thing, stripped of their clothing, blankets,
shoes, etc., or whatever their captors could


make use of, and then sent on to these bar-
barous prison pens, where they were again
searched, and money, knives, combs, and
everything of the kind taken away, when they
were turned into those reeking, filthy abodes
of death, with no shelter of any kind, without
cooking utensils or fuel, to starve, rot, and die,
devoured by vermin or eaten up by gangrene,
with half a pint of raw corn meal, coarsely
ground with cobs and all, per man, for a day's
rations, where at least thirty-five thousand of
as true, brave men as were ever marshaled for
war laid down their lives on the altar of their
country. Several of the One Hundred and
Forty-first were so unfortunate as to fall in the
hands of these heartless demons, and after a
brave struggle for life were finally obliged to
yield to the combined influence of disease,
starvation, and exposure, and their dust now
sleeps far away from home, beneath that soil
which of all Southern objects alone showed
them any token of kindness.

Of all the Southern leaders who were the
authors of these untold miseries only one, and
he an insignificant, cowardly tool or underling.

Captain Wirtz, suffered the penalty which they



all SO richly deserved — death, which should in
justice have been meted out for such whole-
sale, cold-blooded, premeditated murder. But
" Vengeance is mine ; I will repay, saith the
Lord ; " and a fearful reckoning indeed will
those authors of so much of human misery
be obliged to give in the day of final adjudi-

During the winter of 1889 the Legislature
of the State of Pennsylvania passed an act pro-
viding for the payment of the transportation
of all Pennsylvania soldiers then residing in
the State who participated in the battle of
Gettysburg to that place and return, the occa-
sion being the dedication of a large number
of monuments in September, 1889, erected to
commemorate the valor and services of the
men who fought and gained the victory in that
great conflict.

The State had previously appropriated fif-
teen hundred dollars for each regiment en-
gaged in the battle, to which many of the
regiments added a greater or less amount by
private subscriptions. Availing myself of this
liberal provision, I reached Gettysburg on the
evening of September 12, so as to be ready for


the dedication on the 13th at 2 o'clock P. M.
About noon, however, the rain began to fall,
first slowly and deliberately, then faster and
faster, until it seemed like a veritable old-
fashioned Virginia campaign flood.

The site selected for the monument was on
the south side of the crossroad leading from
Little Round Top and intersecting the Em-
mittsburg road at the Peach Orchard, and
about, twenty rods from the junction to the
east. On reaching the spot at the hour ap-
pointed, I found two sections of the monument
still lying on the ground and a group of twenty
or more of the boys leaning against the shel-
tered side of a barn, waiting for something to
turn up. The meeting was finally adjourned
till the next morning, when, the rain having
ceased, the contractor had succeeded in getting
the monument in position. The members of
the regiment to the number of one hundred
and forty-one then gathered around the monu-
ment, a patriotic song was sung, prayer offered
by Chaplain Craft, and an address by General
H. J. Madill followed, and the monument was
formally transferred to the care of the Gettys-
burg Monumental Association. An artist was


on hand and took a photograph of the regiment
gathered around their monument, and then
the boys scattered here and there to look over
the ground where more than a quarter of a
century before they had performed deeds of
valor worthy to be perpetuated to the latest
generations of men.

As the years pass by it all seems more and
more like a dream. Can it be that only a quar-
ter of a century ago this great country, now
enjoying the blessings of profound peace and
unexampled prosperity, was torn, rent, and
convulsed in all the horrors of civil war? Can
it be possible that those gaping wounds which
so nearly cost this nation its life have healed so
rapidly? Can it be that that mighty host of
armed warriors have really laid down their
weapons of warfare and become quiet, indus-
trious, and peaceful citizens — their swords
beaten into plowshares and their spears into
pruning hooks? The men who called us
" Lincoln hirelings " said that we would be-
come so brutalized and hardened by army life
that when turned loose upon society neither
life nor property would be safe. Their fears,
however, proved groundless, for so quietly did


the boys in blue enter into and become ab-
sorbed in the body politic that scarcely a
ripple was observed upon its surface. No
more honorable or more loyal body of men in
general can be found anywhere in all this
nation than our ex-soldier citizens ; and should
any foe, domestic or foreign, dare again to
raise his hand against the old flag multitudes
of the old veterans of 1861-65 would spring
to the rescue. Men who fought, suffered, and
bled in her defense have more than a common
interest in the country their courage and hero-
ism saved from dismemberment and ruin.
These men deserve well at the hands of this
nation. No man who left the comforts of a
good home and imperiled his life and sacri-
ficed his health in his country's service should
ever be allowed either to suffer for bread or to
receive it at the hand of charity. A portion
of that troublesome surplus should be poured
into the homes of needy veterans, to make
glad their hearts, as well as those of their wives
and children.

It will not be long at the longest that these
men will need any assistance at the hands of
the nation. Their ranks are being rapidly


thinned out. Exposure and hardships have
done their work well, the seeds have already
been planted, and the reaper is rapidly gather-
ing a harvest of mortality.

Although its defenders will surely pass away,
this nation will stand. Patriotism will keep
pace with the progress of Christianity and
education, the corner stones upon which rests
our national superstructure, and this country
will never lack for martyrs or defenders so
long as its people are virtuous, intelligent, and



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