J. D. (John D.) Bloodgood.

Personal reminiscences of the war online

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One day while sitting in my tent writing a
letter one of my messmates came up to the
opening, or door, with a whole armful of
Bologna sausage, which he threw down on a
blanket with the remark, *^ There ! you like
Bologna sausage; now pitch in."

*' Where in creation did you get that?"
said I.

" I drew it from the sutler," he replied.

It seems that a large crowd of soldiers was
gathered in front of the sutler's tent, one end
of which was open. A board supported at each
end by a barrel formed a sort of counter over
which trade was being briskly carried on.


Some inquisitive veteran had shoved the board
in at one end and discovered a prize in the
shape of a barrel of Bologna sausage. Keep-
ing a close watch on the busv sutler, he thrust
one hand into the barrel and pulled out a huge
piece of sausage, which he quickly passed
around behind him, where it was taken by my
chum, who happened to be next to the confis-
cator. This process was repeated until the re-
ceiver got all he could well carry, when he
backed out of the crowd and started for camp
and another took his place. The look of
astonishment and indignation which over-
spread that sutler's countenance when he dis-
covered his loss can better be imagined than

While the Army of the Potomac, under
McClellan, was resting on the north side of the
Potomac, after the battle of Antietam, the Con-
federate General Stewart, with eighteen hun-
dred cavalry, started, October lo, on a raid into
Pennsylvania and pushed up as far as Cham-
bersburg, twenty miles in the rear of the army,
spreading destruction and consternation in his
pathway. General Stoneman was ordered to
take such portions of the Third Corps as were


available and hasten up the river and attempt
to head off the dashing trooper before he could
recross the Potomac.

On the evening of the loth, after a hard
day's drill, we received orders to get ready for
marching immediately. We tore down our
tents, packed our knapsacks, and awaited or-
ders to start. By and by it commenced raining
and kept it up all night, soaking our clothing,
arms, and accouterments clear through. The
best we could do was to patiently endure it
and hope for daylight and better weather.
About four o'clock we formed in line, and two
brigades of infantry, Robinson's and Ward's,
both of which contained a large number of
new troops, started on a wild goose chase after
the flowpr of the Confederate cavalry. Our
generals, it seemed, had not yet learned, what
they afterward found out, that infantry had no
business trying to compete with cavalry on a
long march. We crossed the Potomac at the
Georgetown bridge, and leaving Washington
to the right passed through Darnestown and
reached Rockville about sundown, having
marched a distance of twenty-three miles over
roads made very slippery by the recent rains,


and carrying loads which grew heavier and
heavier with every step.

I never had been so tired in my hfe. Every
bone, nerve, muscle, and fiber of my body was
demoralized, lame, aching, and exhausted.
Only a short rest was allowed.

At two o'clock the next morning we were
called up, and after a hasty breakfast we re-
sumed our march. After covering about ten
miles we received orders from General Stone-
man to hurry up, and the last ten miles were
made without a halt. The advance reached
the Potomac at White's Ford just as the rear
of Stewart's force was crossing the river. The
enemy had escaped after all our efforts to
head him off. Many of our regiment made
their last march that day, being completely dis-
abled by their almost superhuman efforts to
keep their places in the ranks. Our surgeon
reported that there were more than one hun-
dred cases of hernia traceable to that march.
Of course many were disabled in other ways.

After resting for a day or two we went on
picket along the river, guarding the fords and
keeping a sharp lookout for the enemy. But
another foe now assailed us. Our supply train


had not reached us, and our rations were ex-
hausted. Hunger began to distress us. We
waded into the Potomac and fished out soft-
shelled clams or mussels, which we cooked and
ate. A corn field was near at hand, and we
parched and roasted the hard, glazed ears, and
found them much better than nothing. After a
few days we were relieved and marched back on
the hill and established our camp near the village
of Poolesville. Here we remained for some
days, which were well improved in drilling and
getting ready for an " advance on Richmond,"
which McClellan again proposed to make.

On the morning of October 2/ we received
orders to march. We packed up, and, as
usual, the rain began to pour down in torrents
and the wind to blow a hurricane. All day the
storm continued to rage, and after everybody
and everything were completely drenched and
chilled the order was countermanded till the
next day. At seven o'clock we were in line
headed for the river, which we soon found we
must cross by fording.

The Potomac here was about a half-mile
wide, very rapid, the bottom covered with
sharp stones and rocks. It was swollen by


recent rains ; the water was icy cold and from
two to three feet deep. I never shall forget
that experience. I took off my pants, boots,
and stockings and waded in. The rocks cut
my feet, the water chilled my blood ; a rheu-
matic pain seized my knee, and it seemed to me
I was more than an hour getting across. But
my troubles were not yet ended. The oppo-
site bank, clayey and steep, was made slippery
by the water dripping from the garments of
hundreds of men, and when I attempted to
climb it I found it was no easy task. Once,
twice, thrice I almost reached the top, when,
losing my foothold, I slid back on my hands
and feet to the water's edge. But I was not
alone in this trouble. In fact, the whole river
bank for rods was scored by the marks of fin-
gers and toes made by backsliding warriors.
Finally I reached the bank, where I could put on
my boots. But such looking feet ! By the aid
of a stick I got rid of enough of the sacred soil
to get my boots on, and then went on to where
the regiment was encamped in a wheat field.

Two or three large stacks of wheat were
standing in the field, and in a very brief space
of time they were dismantled and put to prac-


tical use, being converted into beds for the
weary limbs of soldiers. A large stack had
been threshed, the wheat piled up in a heap,
and the straw stacked over it.

After leaving the camp the scattered wheat
took fire ; the whole wheat field was burned
over ; the stacks also were consumed, and per-
haps a thousand bushels of the very finest
wheat were destroyed.

The next day we were sent on advance
picket, and, discovering a couple of Confeder-
ate cows grazing in a fifty acre lot, I took my
canteen and carefully approached one of the
animals with the idea of obtaining some rebel
milk. The cow seemed to be very suspicious
of all strangers, but of Yankee soldiers espe-
cially so. After a good deal of maneuvering
and following her once or twice across that big
lot I at length succeeded in convincing her
that my errand was a peaceful one. I got near
enough to commence operations, when, to my
utter and supreme disgust, I found her as dry
as a contribution box.

That night we were ordered to sleep on our
arms and be ready for an attack of the enemy,
which was hourly expected.



THE morning came, but no enemy ap-
peared. Our supply trains were again
behind time and our three days' rations ex-
hausted, but we were in the enemy's country,
and the orders against foraging were not very
rigidly enforced. A lieutenant of Company A
called at a farmhouse near where his com-
pany was stationed and found that the owner
was engaged in impounding a fine flock of sheep,
one of which the officer offered to buy.

*' I have none to sell," was the answer.

"Yes," said the officer, ''but there are
crowds of hungry soldiers just over the hill,
and you had better sell while you can. What
v/ill you take for the choice of the lot?"

•' Five dollars," was the answer.

** All right, go in, boys," said the lieutenant.

The way that sheep was converted into
mutton was astonishing. On offering a five-
dollar greenback in payment the owner ob-
jected to receiving it.


" I can't take that," he said ; *' have you
nothing else ? "

" Only this," replied the officer, showing him
a fac-siniile of a Confederate note which was
freely circulated through the army.

" That's all right," said he ; and the pay-
ment was made.

The boys had a hearty laugh over the stu-
pidity of the Virginian, while they dined on
first class mutton-chops.

On Friday, October 31, on returning with a
comrade from a fishing tour on the Potomac,
we found that the regiment had packed up
and gone on to Leesburg, a distance of some
ten or twelve miles. My knee was still very
lame, but there was no help for it ; so we
shouldered our burdens and followed on.
After we had gone five or six miles we came
across an old colored man with an old white
horse harnessed to a dilapidated cart.

*' Hold on, captain ! " I said ; "■ we want to

"'Deed, sir," he replied, " de ole hoss hab
got all he can draw."

" Never mind the * ole hoss,* " I said ; " we
are servants of Uncle Sam, and we take pos-


session of this establishment in the name and
by the authority of the United States of

*' Well, den, I 'spects you'll hab to ride," he
said ; and without further ceremony we threw
in our baggage, climbed into the cart, and told
our driver to push on with all possible speed.
We had gone but a short distance when we
overtook some more belated soldiers. These
also got aboard of " Uncle Sam's Express," as
we called it, to enjoy a free ride. By this
time the old horse began to show signs of giv-
ing out. He could only just stagger along at
a snail's pace. But we had three years before us,
and were in no special hurry to take Richmond.
Besides, riding at ever so slow a pace was
better than walking and carrying our baggage.
We were a happy crew just then, but not so
our driver. He declared that we would kill
'* de hoss," and then his " ole massa " would
about kill him.

After a while we came to a crossroad which
our colored friend said he must take to get
home, and as we supposed we were nearly at
our destination we alighted and let our escort
depart in peace. Soon after, passing a house


and seeing a white woman standing in the
door, I said :

" Madam, can you tell me how far it is to
Leesburg? "

'' Well, sir," she said, " I reckon, sir, it is
about two long looks, sir, and a right smart
git, sir."

Of course we knew about as much about it
then as we did before, not yet having acquired
a knowledge of Virginia provincialisms. After-
ward we learned that a *' long look " was a
mile, and a '' right smart git " meant any-
where from a half to three quarters of a mile.
So we were about two and three quarter miles
from our stopping place. About sundown we
found our regiment encamped just on the out-
skirts of the town.

Before the war Leesburg was a j^lace of con-
siderable wealth and refinement, but at this
time everything bore the appearance of ruin
and decay. Very few men were at home,
most of them being in the Confederate army ;
but the women were not slow in showing their
hatred and contempt of the "Yankees," as
they called us. We consoled (?) them by
singing '' John Brown's body lies moldering in


the grave," and other patriotic songs, which
we heartily enjoyed, whether they did or not.
A number of siclv Confederate soldiers were
found in a pubHc building, used as a hospital,
and some of our boys were also left here.

After remaining here a day or two we took
up our line of march, about four o'clock Sun-
day afternoon, taking a southwesterly course,
on our way to form a junction with McClellan's
main army, which was advancing from the
north down the valley betwixt the Catoctin
mountain range and the Blue Ridge. We
marched till after midnight, and encamped at
a place called Mount Gilead. The next morn-
ing, accompanied by a comrade, I went out on
a tour of observation. We soon discovered a
farmhouse not far from camp. The owner
had gone to headquarters after a guard, while
a couple of the advanced guard of foragers
were engaged in a lively chase after a young
rooster. The owner's dog was standing there
watching the proceeding, when my comrade
called him and sent him after the chicken,
which he succeeded in capturing in short order.
Then came the tug of war as to who should first
reach the scene of action. My comrade proved


to be the best man in the race. He seized the
prize and handed the chicken to me. We
passed round the house and found two hives
of bees standing on a bench. Selecting the
heavier of the two, my comrade hfted it upon
his shoulder and we started for a piece of
woods with bees, honey, and all.

Finding a secluded place, we proceeded to
business. We dressed the chicken, and then
with a stone knocked the hive to pieces,
scraped off the bees, and filled our pails with
honey. We concluded that they were Union
bees, for they did not sting us. Making our
way back to camp, we divided with our partic-
ular friends. For some days we lived high, till
one night the remnant of our honey was stolen,
pail and all.

That afternoon we continued our march, and
just before dark reached a place called Mill-
ville. Our brigade was then commanded by
Brigadier General John C. Robinson, since
Lieutenant Governor of the State of New York,
and now residing at Binghamton, N. Y.

Just before reaching Millville we passed by
a patch of cabbage, and, thinking that the state
of my system demanded a change to a vegetable


diet, I jumped over the low fence and captured
a couple of medium-sized heads. Many other
soldiers did the same. Soon after the head of
our column turned out into a field to encamp,
when, looking ahead, I saw General Robinson
sitting on his horse by the roadside. Every
soldier who had a head of cabbage he would
order to throw it down. Turning to a com-
rade marching by my side, I handed him one
of my cabbage heads.

*' Here, Jim," said I, ''hide this under your
overcoat, or Robinson will capture the whole

Jim was not slow in acting on the sugges-
tion, and doing the same with mine we marched
by our commanding officer looking as innocent
as if we hadn't seen a cabbage head in a month.
That night we had cabbage for supper, and we
strongly mistrusted that General Robinson did

We continued on our march, after resting a
day or two at Millville, taking a southwesterly
course and following up the enemy, whose
cavalry continually hovered on our flanks and
rear, ready to pick up any unfortunate straggler
that should be caught in the rear.


November 7 was a cold, raw, disagreeable
day. The snow fell to a depth of about six
inches, so that when we went into camp in
the woods that night we had to scrape it off
from the frozen ground to get a place to spread
our blankets. About this time the measles
broke out in camp and a number of our boys
died of the disease. I have a distinct recollec-
tion of seeing soldiers taking their places in
the ranks whose faces were as speckled as they
could be. It is a mystery how human beings
could pass through such hardships and ex-
posures and live. It is not strange that the
pension list should have reached the magnitude
it has assumed.

We now began to fall in with the main body
of the army and went into camp near Warren-
ton, Va. Here McClellan was relieved from
command of the Army of the Potomac and
Burnside was placed in his stead. Some of
the old regiments which had served under
McClellan during the Peninsular campaign were
disposed to complain of the change, but new
troops were not at all particular. We wanted
some one to lead us on to victory as soon as
possible, and we didn't care who it was, only


so that we got there at the earliest practicable

One night about this time, as we were pass-
ing a field in which a large number of troops
were encamped, we discovered a fearful com-
motion among the soldiers. A young officer
came running toward our line at the top of his
speed, followed by a large crowd of angry sol-
diers who were yelling at a fearful rate. As
the officer passed through our ranks he cried
out, *' My God, is there no help for the widow's
only son?" He didn't stop long to see about
it, for the infuriated crowd were at his heels.
On he rushed with the utmost speed, and the
crowd was soon lost to view in the gathering
darkness. I knew not at the time what he
meant by his outcry, but years afterward, in
some tracts purporting to be exposures of
Masonry, I found it stated that this was the
Masonic hailing sign of distress, and it flashed
across my mind in an instant that this was
what that officer meant.

We afterward learned the cause of the trou-
ble. It seems that soon after these soldiers
went into camp they found a stack of grain
near by, and one of them climbed on top of it


and began to throw down the sheaves to his
comrades, who bore them away for bedding.
While thus engaged a young lieutenant, a pro-
vost marshal on somebody's staff, rode up and
ordered the soldier to come down and let the
stack alone. The man didn't pay much atten-
tion to the officer, who, repeating the order, was
told by the soldier to ^' go to some warm coun-
try ; " whereupon the officer drew his revolver
and shot the soldier. This so enraged the men
of his regiment that they assaulted the officer,
threw him off his horse, and would have made
quick work of him then had not he torn him-
self away from them and sought safety in
flight. Whether they caught him or not I
never learned, but if they did there was one
*' widow " minus a ^' son."

Burnside halted the army long enough to
get the reins firmly in his hands, when the or-
der to advance was given and we pressed on-
ward, while Lee's army steadily retired before
us. When within about twelve miles of
Fredericksburg we halted in the woods and
went on picket. Some of our squad went out
to see what could be found, and came back
soon after with their arms full of turnips and


cabbages. About this time a member of an-
other company reported with a quarter of
beef on his shoulder. We at once struck up
a -bargain, trading some vegetables for some
beef. We had a six-quart tin pail, and we pro-
posed at once to have an old-fashioned stew.
So we filled up the pail with alternate layers
of meat, turnips, and cabbage, and set it over
the fire. F'or some weeks I had been suffer-
ing with the jaundice, had had but little appe-
tite, and army rations had but small attraction
for me. But those raw turnips seemed to just
touch the spot. I had eaten several before
our stew was ready, and then three of us just
emptied that six-quart pail in short meter. I
didn't know but it would make me worse than
before, but it proved to be just the thing, for I
ate and was cured.



GENERAL BURNSlDEhavingdecided to
advance on Richmond via the Fredericks-
burg route, the main army was headed in that
direction. On Saturday, November 22, we ar-
rived at Stafford Heights, on the Rappahannock
River, opposite the city of Fredericksburg,
where we went into camp. The Richmond
and Fredericksburg Railroad runs from Aquia
Creek Landing on tlie Potomac southwesterly
about twelve miles, crossing the river at
Fredericksburg, thence in a southerly direction
to Richmond. Burnsidehad depended on this
road as a base of supplies for his army, but the
enemy had so completely destroyed it that it
required some days to put it in running order.
The Rappahannock here was not fordablc,
and some weeks previous Burnside had ordered
pontoons sent down from Washington, so that
the onward march to Richmond might not be
delayed, and these he expected would be at
Aquia Creek by the time the army reached


Fredericksburg. Owing to somebody's blun-
der, however, the pontoons were delayed and
did not reach their destination till several days
after the arrival of the army.

By the time the army was ready to move
the Confederate army had so completely forti-
fied the heights surrounding Fredericksburg
that any attempt to take them by a direct
assault was simply madness. Burnside was
fully aware of this fact, and had he not been
goaded on by Northern newspapers and by
the civil warriors at Washington, who could
fight great battles and win wondrous victories
by means of orders and dispatches, the battle
of Fredericksburg would never have been
fought. But all through the North the cry
rang out, '' Why don't the army move ? " " On
to Richmond ! " and " The rebel Congress must
not be allowed to meet in December," until
Burnside, yielding to the pressure of public
opinion, finally gave the order to advance.

At dress parade on the evening of Decem-
ber 10 we received orders to be ready to march
at an hour's notice with six days' cooked ra-
tions in our haversacks. Instantly all was
bustle and activity. We were up late that


night cooking rations, writing letters to our
friends, and making preparations for the com-
ing conflict, which, we were well aware, would
be the closing act in life's drama for many
of us.

The next morning about four o'clock we
were suddenly awakened by the heavy thun-
der of artillery, Burnside having planted twen-
ty-nine batteries of one hundred and fort}'-
seven guns on the heights overlooking the city
of Fredericksburg and the plains below, and
had opened on the entire line of the enemy,
raining a shower of iron hail upon his works,
under cover of which the engineers were or-
dered to lay five pontoon bridges across the

We were soon under arms and on our way
to the scene of the conflict. About a half-
mile to the east of us we could see Professor
Lowe's balloon, at an elevation of two or three
hundred feet, anchored to the ground with
ropes, while the professor and his assistants
were endeavoring to ascertain, w^ith the aid of
a powerful glass, the number, movements, and
position of the enemy, while at intervals along
the crest of the hills were United States Signal


Corps stations, the men of which were busily
engaged sending and receiving messages. Our
division (Birney's) and Sickle's, of the Third
Corps, were assigned to Franklin's column, to
take part in the movements on the left, or
below Fredericksburg.

The point where Franklin was instructed to
make his attack was two or three miles below
the town, where there is a broad plain at least
a mile wide on the south side of the river be-
fore coming; to the ramie of hills where the
rebel army, under the immediate command of
" Stonewall " Jackson, was strongly intrenched,
while at intervals batteries of artillery were sta-
tioned at prominent points ready to hurl death
and destruction upon us as we advanced. It
will be readily seen that it was no easy task
we had undertaken. To cross a deep and
rapid river in the face of a vigilant and power-
ful foe, advance without cover or shelter over
an open plain under the terrible fire of a hun-
dred pieces of artillery, and drive the enemy
from his own chosen position was at most a
hopeless undertaking. This we all fully realized.
After a series of marching and countermarch-
ing on the morning of December 13 we arrived


on the crest of the liill overlooking nearly the
entire field of battle. Far away to our right
we could hear the deep roar of the heavy guns
and the sharp rattle of musketry, where Sum-
ner, who commanded our right wing, was vainly
hurlingf his forces against the fortifications on
Marye's Heights, while on the extreme left
Reynolds was endeavoring to gain and hold a

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Online LibraryJ. D. (John D.) BloodgoodPersonal reminiscences of the war → online text (page 2 of 16)