J. D. (John D.) Bloodgood.

Personal reminiscences of the war online

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myself I should be at least partly disposed to
believe it. He said he was wading along in
the sea of mud when he saw something near
by which resembled two sticks protruding


from the roadbed, but, strange to say, they
were moving backward and forward constantly.
His curiosity was excited, and on investiga-
tion he found that it was the tips of a mule's
ears, the owner of which, although completely
submerged in the sacred soil, was persever-
ingly pressing his way *' on toward Rich-

I shall never forget that return march to
our old camp. All semblance of military or-
der and discipline was completely ignored. It
was " every man for himself" on that march,
and we were all our own generals, colonels,
and captains. We picked our way through
the fields and woods in groups of twos, threes,
or fours, as fancy dictated, and reached our
old camp at nightfall weary, hungry, and
thoroughly disgusted. Some stragglers from
other regiments had visited our camp, and
much to our disgust had demolished some of
our '' shebangs," carrying off the material for
firewood. We soon repaired the damage and
settled down to our former condition of army
life in camp.

January 26 we received notice through a
general order from the War Department that


General Burnside had resigned his position as
commander in chief of the Army of the Poto-
mac and Major General Hooker was appointed
his successor. We had a good deal of confidence
in *' Fighting Joe," as he was familiarly called,
and very soon the army felt the influence of
the new commander. Furloughs for short
periods were issued to a number of officers
and enlisted men. Additional rations of dried
fruit and various kinds of vegetables were
issued, and a good quality of soft bread took
the place of the indestructible hard-tack. We
had no company cooks, so every squad occupy-
ing a tent did their own cooking. Various
devices were resorted to to produce dishes
such as we were accustomed to have at home.
One ingenious corporal, who was a great ad-
mirer of baked beans, resolved that his taste
for his favorite dish should be gratified. So
he dug a hole in the ground in the rear of his
tent, and, putting in some stones, built a fire
on them till they were thoroughly heated,
then the pan of beans was placed in the pit,
surrounded by hot stones, and all carefully
covered over to retain the heat. This ar-
rangement was all completed by bedtime.


and no doubt the dreams of the ardent cor-
poral were full of visions of fragrant, crusty
brown beans for breakfast, fit for a prince's
table. But alas for the brightest hopes and
dearest plans of this brave soldier ! for the
next morning when he uncovered the pit,
behold his much-prized treasure was gone,
leaving no track or trace to indicate whither
it had departed. Wasn't that corporal mad,
though ? He was going to have the whole
Army of the Potomac court-martialed for
stealing his baked beans. But all his wrath
was to no purpose, for those beans were gone,
and some other patriot's stomach was com-
forted by them.

Every pleasant day was occupied in drill-
ing, inspections, and reviews until the army
by constant activity regained much of the
confidence it had lost by defeat and greatly
improved in health and real efficiency. General
Kearney at the battle of Fair Oaks ordered
his division (the first of the Third Corps) to
sew a piece of red flannel on their caps so he
could recognize them wherever he saw them.
This was the origin of the army corps badges,
afterward perfected by General Hooker in a


general order to the army. Our badge was a
red diamond ; that of the Second Division, a
white diamond ; that of the Third, blue. So
every corps in the army had its distinct mark,
that could be recognized anywhere, which was
a great convenience to both officers and men.
Our ranks had been greatly thinned by hard-
ships and exposures, resulting in diseases of
various kinds, until our number had been re-
duced from nearly a thousand effective men in
August to a little over five hundred in the fol-
lowing February. During the latter month we
received our pay for the first time in six
months. But even then we received pay for
only two months' service. Money was getting
very scarce among us, many not having enough
to pay postage on their letters home. Con-
gress passed a law allowing soldiers to send
letters under an officer's frank through the
mails without prepaying the postage ; the re-
ceiver, however, was to pay it before it left the
post office. The following indorsement was
put on a letter by a soldier and started for its
destination :

" Soldier's letter, send it through,
Nary a red, but six months' due."


March 21 Brigadier General Charles K. Gra-
ham was assigned to the command of our
brigade, and we soon learned to esteem him
very highly as an officer and a gentleman. He
was a brave soldier, never flinching under the
hottest fire, but with a heart as tender as a

Wood became very scarce in this camp
about the first of March, and we therefore re-
ceived orders to select a new camping place.
We packed our effects, marched about four
miles north, and encamped on a hillside in a
beautiful grove of white oaks. Here we erected
the best quarters we had occupied since leav-
ing home ; and really we had things quite
comfortable. There was a good deal of sick-
ness in camp, mostly real, but some feigned.
Every man was obliged to perform duty unless
excused by the surgeon. Of course the surgeon
came in for a share of censure, especially from
men who attempted to play off on him.

One night some boys stuffed an old pair of
pants, an old coat and hat wilh straw, and,
propping up this image on crutches and sticks
before the doctor's tent, with its back to the
door, put a piece of board on its back with the


words ''For Duty ! " marked on it in large
letters. When the doctor came out the next
morning the first thing he saw was this de-
moralized, crippled old veteran on his way to
camp to report " for duty."

In the early part of April President Lincoln
visited the army and was received with great
enthusiasm by the officers and soldiers, a
grand review being ordered in honor of the
occasion, which was a very brilliant affair in-
deed. On Friday, the nth of April, our
division was ordered out to give the presiden-
tial party a send-off, for they were to return to
Washington that day. We were formed in
two lines, one on each side of the road, and
after we had waited about an hour the distin-
guished cavalcade made its appearance. Mr.
Lincoln's sons, with an attendant, headed the
procession, followed by the President, General
Birney, General Hooker, Mrs. Lincoln, and a
long line of officers of all grades, with a regi-
ment of cavalry bringing up the rear. It was
an imposing scene. As the head of the col-
umn neared the colors of each command three
rousing cheers were given for the President
and three for General Hooker, after which the


parade was dismissed and we returned to

Abou-t tliis time we received orders to go on
picket for three days. As it was some distance
to our picket lines we were to take along with
us sufficient supplies to last us until we re-
turned. Leaving a guard to look after our
camp, on the morning of April 5, in the midst
of a furious snowstorm, we started for our
destination, some five or six miles up the Rap-
pahannock, where we were divided into de-
tachments, while sentinels were posted all
along our front, extending from the river quite
a distance north. Everything remained quiet
until the morning of the third day, when we
were informed that, on account of a grand re-
view of the main army by the President, we
would be under the necessity of remaining an-
other day. As a consequence our rations, of
fresh meat especially, began to grow small.

Now, a soldier will stand hardship and expo-
sure of almost any degree without much com-
plaining when he sees it is actually necessary ;
but when it comes to hunger, especially when
in an enemy's country, and there is anything
within "reach" that he can "draw," that is


altogether a different thing. So that morning
a couple of young soldiers made their way
across the picket line, out into rebeldom, to see
the country and ascertain if there was anything
that could be used to advantage in stilling the
demands of empty stomachs.

They soon discovered a herd of cattle graz-
ing in a field at some distance from their
rebel owner's house. Surrounding the whole
herd, they quietly drove it down into a valley
out of sight of the house, and while doing so
discovered that of the whole herd there was
but one animal sufficiently fat to satisfy the
pampered taste of a soldier, and that was a
muUey bull. They could only guess at his
age, as he had no horns, and, whether tough or
tender, they concluded that they could only
tell by an actual test. So, singling out their
victim, they drove him along toward camp
till, reaching a secluded spot near a little
brook, one stayed to guard the prisoner while
the other went up to camp to give the alarm.
It is astonishing how brave many soldiers are
in the presence of such a foe, and it was but a
few moments before a dozen veterans, armed
with clubs and an ax, were on the spot deter-


mined to do their whole duty in the impend-
ing conflict. They could not shoot him, as
it was unlawful to use firearms on the picket
lines ; consequently they surrounded him on
all sides, while a little fellow from Company
C took the ax and, bravely advancing, made
a direct attack in front and dealt Mr. Bull a
smart rap in the forehead, to which the said
gentleman responded by making a direct
charge on his tormentor's position. The
result was that the soldier beat a hasty retreat
with the infuriated beast close at his heels.
The lack of horns on the part of the enemy
and the activity of the soldier's heels were all
that saved the Union army from serious loss.
A council of war was held, and it was resolved
to change the plan of attack and try the
effects of strategy upon the determined foe.
They drove him down into a little run, and
while some of the boys menaced him in front
the others assailed him on the flank, and very
soon the enemy made an unconditional sur-
render. The principle in American politics,
that '' to the victors belong the spoils," was
strictly carried out in this case. In the short-
est time imaginable this victim was disrobed



and divided, and an abundance reigned in

Soon after this General Graham with some


of his staff came riding along the line and, ap-
proaching the scene of conflict, discovered the
remnants of the slaughter. Turning to a sen-
tinel who was innocently pacing his beat near
by, he inquired what all this meant.

" These, general," replied the soldier, " are the
mortal remains of a secesh bull, who made a
raid on our camp, and the boys waylaid him."

"Yes, I see," replied the general, *' but they
ought to have covered them up."

Having taken cognizance of the affair, it
would not do to let it pass without further in-
vestigation. He therefore sent an order to
all the officers of the regiment asking for a
full report concerning the matter. This was
duly made out and sent in with the signatures
of all of the officers appended. We called
this engagement " The third battle of Bull

But now I imagine I hear some reader inquire,
" But wasn't that beef tough ? " Well, you
ask General Graham ; he lives down in New
York, and I think he knows.



THE latter part of April, 1863, was a pe-
riod of great activity on the part of the
Army of the Potomac. There was a succes-
sion of reviews, inspections, battalion and
brigade drills ; new clothing was drawn ; all
superfluous baggage and camp equipage was
turned in ; many of the incurably sick were dis-
charged and others sent to the hospitals ; and
finally, on the 27th, we received orders to be
ready to march at an hour's notice, with five
days' rations in our knapsacks and three days*
cooked rations in our haversacks. We took
off the canvas covering from our " shebangs,"
packed up our effects, and were ready to fol-
low our gallant leader to victory.

In brief. Hooker's plan was to send a strong
detachment of his army to threaten Lee's
right, some four or five miles below Freder-
icksburg, and thus engage the enemy's atten-
tion, while with the main body of his army he
desia;ned to cross at the various fords above


the town and thus gain a firm footing before
his adversary was aware of his real intentions.
In case Lee drew his army from Marye's
Heights, General Sedgwick with the Sixth
Corps was to lay a pontoon bridge, cross at the
city, and by a direct advance take possession
of the enemy's fortified position. General
Stoneman, in command of the cavalry corps,
was to cross at some distance above and, mak-
ing a wide detour, get between the Confeder-
ate army and Richmond, destroy Lee's com-
munications, cut off his supplies, and thus
co-operate with the main army in the general
advance. Our corps was placed under the
command of General Sedgwick, and with the
First Corps, under Reynolds, and the Sixth, was
to conduct operations in front of and below
the city.

We therefore again turned our faces in that
direction, and at some distance below the town
we found, on arriving upon the overlooking
heights, that the bridges had already been laid
without any opposition from the enemy, and
large bodies of our men had crossed the river
and were drawn up in solid ranks on the
other side. The enemy was also present in


full force, while their advanced line of skir-
mishers was but a few rods distant from ours.
Lee was evidently deceived by this show of
force, and led to believe that the main body of
the army was present and that the battle. would
be fought on the same ground as that of De-
cember 13.

The weather had taken an unfavorable turn
and was a mixture of fog, rain, clouds, and
sunshine, the rain being sufficient to keep us
wet and uncomfortable and the sunshine suffi-
cient to give us hopes of better weather in the
immediate future.

For a day or two we were kept in suspense,
for none of us knew what Hooker's plan was
at that time, expecting hourly to be called
on to cross the river and engage the enemy.
Thursday, April 30, we were mustered by
Colonel Madill for the purpose of having the
pay rolls made out ; while we were in line the
adjutant read an order from General Hooker
stating that the movement on the right had
been entirely successful, that the enemy must
either evacuate his stronghold and retreat or
else come out and for the first time meet us on
ground of our own choosing, in which case we



should not fail to completely pulverize him.
We shouted and cheered over this news, and
in a few moments we were in full marching
order with our faces turned westward. We
marched all that afternoon and till twelve
o'clock that night, when we arrived in the
vicinity of the United States ford, about eight
or ten miles above Fredericksburg, where we
encamped for the remainder of the night. It
had been a long and severe march, and most of
us were too nearly exhausted to care for
anything but rest. So we flung ourselves on
the ground in our vv^et clothing and were soon
lost in profound slumber.

At four o'clock the next morning we were
aroused from sleep by the shrill notes of the
bugle sounding the reveille^ and after a hasty
breakfast we resumed our march, and on reach-
ing the river found a bridge already laid, upon
which we crossed over and were once more in
the immediate presence of the enemy. Hooker
had secured a position of great natural advan-
tage, with both flanks of his army resting on
the river, while the general outline was that of
a semicircle, the center of which extended two
or three miles south of the Rappahannock and


included the Chancellor House, which gave its
name to the fierce and bloody battle which fol-

We arrived at Chancellor House about eight
o'clock in the morning, where we halted for a
short time, when our brigade was ordered to
march down the plank road to Dowdall's
Tavern and reinforce the Eleventh Corps,
which held our right flank and was commanded
by General O. O. Howard. General Graham
was ordered to report to General Howard,
which he did ; but that officer seemed to con-
sider it a reflection on him and his corps that
he should be tendered assistance. He there-
fore expressed his entire confidence in his
ability to hold his position, and declined to ac-
cept the services of our brigade. Consequently
we retraced our steps and resumed our posi-
tion with the division which was commanded
by General D. B. Birney, and were placed in
position a short distance from the Chancellor
House. The picket lines in our front soon
became engaged, and a rebel battery soon be-
gan to fire salutes for our especial benefit. One
of our batteries was brought forward and soon
began to return the compliment. We were


placed behind this battery as a support, and
here we were obliged to he for two or three
hours, while the enemy's shells seemed to rake
the very earth itself. We then received orders
to retire behind a rise of ground to a less ex-
posed position, and were not slow in preparing
to obey this order. Lieutenant Colonel Wat-
kins, of our regiment, who had dismounted,
had just placed his foot in the stirrup prepara-
tory to remounting when a solid twelve-pound
shot struck his horse on the opposite shoulder,
passing clear through him, killing him instantly,
but not injuring his rider in the least. The
colonel stood there for a moment fairly dazed
as his horse dropped suddenly to the ground,
seemingly unable to comprehend what had
happened. But soon he began to realize
that he was destined to take it on foot for
a while.

As it began to grow dark the firing gradu-
ally ceased on both sides, and both armies
subsided into quietness and rested on their
arms. Very early in the morning we were
aroused from our slumbers, and after a hasty
breakfast were once more on the move. Pass-
ing westerly along the plank road to a point


about a mile west of the Chancellor House, we
turned southward, and, reaching a grove of
very thick pines, we went into camp. During
the afternoon, while looking up a cousin who
was in the Third Wisconsin Regiment, I passed
by General Birney's headquarters and discov-
ered a number of officers, among whom was
General Sickles, who commanded our corps,
with field glasses looking across the valley in
our front to a wagon road on the opposite
ridge, along which a long train of wagons was
making its way. Our officers felt sure that
General Lee was sending his trains on to
Lynchburg preparatory to a retreat on Rich-
mond. General Birney ordered up a battery,
which got into position in a few minutes and
began to shell the wagon train. The facts were
reported to General Hooker, and he ordered
General Birney to advance with his division,
and, striking the enemy on his flank and rear,
prevent his escape. We were soon in motion,
and passing down the valley, through which
flowed a small stream, we were deployed in
line of battle on the opposite slope and began
to advance. We were a little too late, for the
main column of the enemy had passed by;



but our advance line struck their rear guard,
the Twenty-third Georgia, and drove them into
a railroad cut, where they were so effectually
cooped up that they soon threw up the white
flag, and every man was captured except their
colonel, who, after the surrender, mounted his
horse and, making a dash, succeeded in escap-
ing before our men fairly understood his pur-

Pressing on, we gained the summit of the
hill along which the highway ran upon which
the rebel column had passed and were now
about two or three miles in advance of our
main line. Near this place was the Welford
mansion, and also extensive mines of gold
which had been formerly worked to a consider-
able extent but were now abandoned. In a
field on this plantation the entire division was
massed, and, having no orders to make any
farther advance, we waited for developments.

It was now nearly dark, and we were antici-
pating a night of rest, for no enemy seemed
to be left in our immediate vicinity. Sud-
denly, however, the stillness was broken, first
by the sharp, irregular rattle of musketry,
which we knew to be the work of skirmishers,


and then by fearful volleys, mingled with the
awful roar of scores of pieces of artillery. All
this came directly from our rear, and, although
we were not able to understand what it all
meant, we were very certain that something
was wrong. Clouds of smoke and dust arose
above the tree tops, while the flashes of light
from the heavy guns could be plainly seen.
While we waited, wondering what it all could
mean, an orderly came galloping up to where
General Birney sat on his horse and handed
him a paper. Suddenly the bugle sounded ;
we took our places and were on our way to-
ward the scene of conflict. We reached the
valley we had passed in the afternoon without
meeting any enemy, but on ascending the
slope our advance was suddenly confronted by
the. rebel pickets. The firing had ceased by
this time, but we soon came to understand that
we, a division numbering six or seven thou-
sand men, were entirely surrounded by the
enemy's forces. Fully realizing our perilous
position, pickets were thrown out on all sides
and every precaution taken to insure our
safety. Not being on special duty just then, I
spread my blanket on the ground. Weariness



overcame the sense of danger ; I was soon fast
asleep. About midnight 1 was suddenly awak-
ened by an awful crash of artillery, mingled
with the sharper rattle of musketry, coming
from the exact point where our friends ought
to be, provided we had any, and not more
than twenty or thirty rods distant. The din
was perfectly awful, but, so far as the noise
was concerned, we soon got accustomed to
that; but when the bullets and shells began
to fall among us that was another thing. For-
tunately, none of us were struck, and after an
hour or so had passed the firing suddenly
ceased and all was quiet. We then learned
that the firing was caused by Ward's brigade
of our division making a night attack upon the
enemy's line which intervened betwixt us and
our main line, for the purpose of relieving us
from our unpleasant position and opening to
us a communication with our army. This they
successfully accomplished, and the lively visions
we had had of Libby Prison and Belle Isle
faded from our view. It was during this mid-
night assault that the Confederate chief,
" Stonewall " Jackson, was mortally wounded.
Nearly every regiment engaged in the battle


of Chancellorsville has claimed the credit of
kilHng the rebel chief, but there is no doubt in
my mind but that it was done by some man or
men in Ward's brigade of the First Division of
the Third Corps, for there were no other troops
engaged at that time. Certain, however, it is
that the Confederate army met with an irrep-
arable loss in his death, and whatever advan-
tage they gained was dearly purchased.

We afterward learned the meaning of the
fierce encounter of the evening before. It was
caused by a fierce attack by Jackson's division
on the Eleventh Corps, resulting in its utter de-
feat and rout. Instead of making a retreat he
had simply passed across our front, and, having
discovered that Howard in his fancied security
had neglected all precautions looking toward
an attack on his part of the line, he had massed
his army, and all unexpectedly had fallen upon
the Eleventh Corps and driven it back with
terrible slaughter. Those frightened Dutch-

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Online LibraryJ. D. (John D.) BloodgoodPersonal reminiscences of the war → online text (page 4 of 16)