J. D. (John D.) Bloodgood.

Personal reminiscences of the war online

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ping behind it, and then — a blank.

When I recovered consciousness the sun
was low down ; it had grown cooler, and I found
that some of my comrades who had fallen be-
hind had come up, and finding me there had
done what they could to restore me. After
a while, with their assistance, I managed to get
along to where the regiment was encamped,
about a mile ahead. I then began to realize
that I had suffered a sunstroke, from which I
have never fully recovered. As good fortune
would have it, we remained on the banks of the
famous Bull Run for two or three days, and, the
Aveather growing cooler, I began to feel much
better. I was not the only one who suffered ;
and many fared much worse than I did.


The forced march was altogether unneces-
sary, as Lee and his army were many miles
away beyond the Blue Ridge, headed not for
Washington, but for the more promising terri-
tory of southern Pennsylvania. Hooker's fa-
cilities seemed very imperfect for obtaining
information concerning the plans, purposes, and
whereabouts of his wily antagonist. It was a
blind game on both sides, and caused much un-
necessary suffering.

The battlefield of Bull Run, although twice
the scene of terrific conflicts, bore but few
signs of the great struggle. Occasionally a
marked tree, a mound of earth, or pile of stones
showed traces of the deadly collision. While
here some of us went up the railroad about a
mile to the little village of Centerville, made
memorable by being the place upon which our
forces retired after the first battle. Here we
found quite a large number of rebel prisoners,
taken in some of the recent movements, who
were awaiting transportation to a place of
greater security. They didn't seem to feel
very badly over their misfortune, but joked and
laughed as merrily as if they were on a picnic,
realizing that they had gotten rid of a serious job.



ON our arrival in the vicinity of Bull Run
we received through the Northern news-
papers brought into camp the startling informa-
tion that Lee had invaded Pennsylvania, and that
his advance was already threatening the capital
of the State. This information enabled us to
account for the unceremonious way in which
we had left the Rappahannock a week before
and the various movements we had made since.
One thing, however, puzzled us very much, and
that was why we were marched nearly to death
for a few days and then permitted to lie still
for nearly as long a time. The reason for all
this appeared afterward to be the great skill
with which Lee masked his movements, so as
to keep Hooker in complete ignorance of his
design. While Lee had crossed over into the
Shenandoah valley with his main army he had
seized and occupied the principal gaps through
the Blue Ridge with his cavalry, and thus
made it very difficult for Hooker to gain defi-



nite information concerning his enemy's move-

About three o'clock in the afternoon of June
19 we were once more in hne, and after some de-
lay, waiting for a wagon train, we were put in
motion with our column headed for the north.
The forenoon had been very hot and sultry,
and just as we had fairly got underway masses
of dark clouds began to loom above the western
horizon, while the distant rumbling of thunder
came echoing over the Blue Mountain range,
increasing every moment in volume as it came
nearer and nearer, until it seemed as if all the
artillery of heaven had been unlimbered and
trained upon us. Old Virginia may be famous
as being the mother of presidents, but she can
also get up some of the biggest thunderstorms
it was ever my lot to witness, and this was a
little ahead of anything yet on the calendar.
The rain began to pour down in blinding tor-
rents, the wind dashing it in our faces till we
could hardly see to march. After the first
fierce dash it sobered down a little, and then
the clouds settled right down to solid business.
We continued on our way in spite of the
storm, and after a while it began to grow dark,


the rain continuing to fall till it actually grew
so dark that it became impossible for a man t(>
see his file leader, who was supposed to be less
than three feet before him. The only way we
could direct our course wasby the sound of the
rattling accouterments of our comrades ahead
of us, or occasionally by their voices, as but
little was said by anyone, and that little was
generally expressive of supreme disgust,
couched in language strongly savoring of pro-
fanity, and generally aimed at the man who
was supposed to be directly responsible for all
this discomfort.

Suddenly we came to a halt, not in obe-
dience to any order, but because the head of
our part of the column had stopped, the first
intimation of which we had was by coming
in collision with those ahead of us, a proceed-
ing not altogether agreeable, as occasionally
the protruding butt of a musket would come
in contact with a veteran's head. It made me
think of the sudden stopping of the forward
end of a long railway train and the chucking
together of the cars as they came up in suc-

Well, we were walking by faith just then,


and not by sight, for word was passed down
the h'ne that we were on the wrong road, or
rather the wrong course, as I had failed to de-
tect any resemblance to a road for miles past ;
or, in other words, we were lost, or the brigade
was lost, and we didn't know which. All this
time the rain was pouring down, and the
ground, trodden by hundreds of feet, had be-
come a veritable bed of mortar. After a while
our regimental leaders found the right track
and we resumed our march. O, those weary,
interminable miles ! Will they never come
to an end "^ Shall we never reach our destina-
tion ?

These thoughts and many others passed
through our minds as we wearily trudged on,
on, on, soaked to the skin, hungry, tired, and
exhausted in body and in mind.

At last, about midnight, the order was
given to halt, and in a few moments we began
to file out in a field to camp for the remainder
of the night. The ground was soaking wet, al-
though the rain had nearly ceased, and was
anything but an inviting couch for wet, weary
bodies to repose upon. Discovering a small
barn near by, I decided to establish my head-


quarters in it, and, climbing up into the loft,
I dug a hole in a pile of hay, crawled into it,
and drew over myself a piece of tent canvas
which was full of water. I was speedily lost
in profound slumber.

When I awoke the sun was shining brightly
in the east. I threw off my covering, and the
steam rolled up in quite a v^olume. I got up,
stretched the kinks out of my legs, crawled
down from my roosting-place, went out into
a field near by, where the regiment had lain
in the mud and slept since midnight. We had
a good deal of trouble in getting anything dry
enough to burn so we could cook some break-
fast, of which we stood sadly in need, for we
had all gone supperless to bed. After a while
we succeeded in making some coffee and fry-
ing fat pork. With these and some crackers
— no longer " hard-tack," for seven hours of a
Virginia deluge had taken the hardness all out
of them — we succeeded in making out a break-
fast. Upon investigation w^e found that we
had reached a small town nearly north of Cen- j
terville. It .was called Gum Springs, taking
its name from some mineral springs in the


The warm sunshine soon dried the water
and mud on our clothing, and, moving on
through the village, we pitched our tents on a
hillside and went into camp. We were now
about four miles from Aldie, near one of the
principal gaps in the Blue Ridge, and which
was held by the rebel cavalry under Stuart.

On the morning of the 21st we were startled
by the sound of heavy cannonading only a few
miles distant. We were drawn up in line of
battle, and expected every moment orders to
advance. The cannonading continued, but
ceased about noon, and everything became
quiet. We learned afterward that General
Pleasanton, in command of our cavalry, had
made a vigorous attack upon the rebel forces
holding Snicker's Gap, in order to drive him
from the position so as to unveil Lee's move-
ments, and that was the cause of the commo-
tion we had heard.

On the 25th of June Lee had moved his
whole army across the Potomac, and, as soon
as it became evident that he intended his
northern movement to be something more
than a mere raid, we were once more in line
and headed toward the north star. Wc had


lain at Gum Springs for five days and had a
good chance to rest, get our clothes washed,
and our haversacks replenished with fresh
rations, and so were in pretty good trim for
marching. Besides, we were now headed to-
ward our own homes, and were also fully aware
that our own State had been invaded and our
own homes exposed to danger. These to-
gether supplied an incentive sufficient to keep
every man in his place to the utmost extent
of human endurance. We made good time
that forenoon, and about twelve o'clock halted
for dinner on a large plantation not far from
the Potomac. The planter's house was near
by, and quite a number of the boys made the
old gentleman a friendly call to inquire con-
cerning the condition of his flocks and herds.

Among the other callers was a colored man,
one of the officers' servants, who, seeing the
boys in pursuit of some chickens, joined in the
chase; for didn't his master have a weakness
for chickens? The Negro succeeded in captur-
ing a fowl, and on his way to camp he passed
by the rebel owner's house with his prize
under his arm. The old man discovered the
condition of his property, and as the darky


passed by him he picked up a large stone and
hurled it with unerring aim at the unsuspect-
ing fellow, striking him squarely betwixt the
shoulders, nearly knocking the breath out of
his body. The Negro gave a jump and uttered
a big '' O ! " glanced around to see what the
trouble was, dropped that chicken in short
meter, and started on a run for camp, making
such good time that about all that could be
seen was a black streak, although he was so
terribly frightened that he actually turned
pale, at least as pale as he could be.

After dinner we resumed our march, and
about two o'clock we reached Edward's Ferry,
where we found a pontoon bridge laid across
the Potomac ready for us to cross over into

Few of my readers ever saw a pontoon
bridge, or perhaps have much of an idea how
one is constructed ; therefore I will give a
short description. First, boats are built with
flat bottoms, about twenty feet long and three
to four feet w' ide. These are loaded on wagons
and are transported wherever needed. When
it is desired to lay a bridge these boats are
brought to the water's edge, unloaded, and


placed in the water about six to eight feet
apart, with the ends up and down stream,
where they are securely anchored from both
ends. Then timbers already fitted are laid
across these boats from shore to shore, furnish-
ing stringers upon which the planks are laid, just
as in any bridge. The ends of the bridge are
securely fastened to the shore, and then it is
all ready for business. When crossing these
bridges an army generally takes what is called
the route step; that is, they step just as they
please, without keeping step together, and then
they will quiver and sway from side to side so
they appear half drunk. Light artillery and
baggage and ammunition wagons can safely
cross them, but they will not support very heavy
guns. They are in charge of the Engineer
Corps, who will lay them down and take them
'up in an incredibly short space of time when
unmolested by the fire of an enemy. We
passed on across the river, and were once more
in the State of Maryland. We continued our
march, taking a northeasterly direction, keep-
ing well between the rebel army and Washing-
ton, and just before dark we reached the vicin-
ity of Monocacy Creek, where we camped in


a large wheat field for the night, having
marched about thirty miles that day.

The wheat was just turned yellow and was
about breast high, but was trampled down and
completely ruined by men and beasts. The
fields were surrounded by high rail fences, but
although no soldier took anything but the top
rail it wasn't an hour before there wasn't a
vestige of a fence in sight. Rails seemed to be
perfectly adapted to the wants of soldiers on
the march. They were always ready cut, were
generally dry, handy to get at, would make a
long fire, so that quite a number of men could
cook coffee or make bean soup over one fire,
and so far as we were concerned we had no
other uL'e for them.

The next morning we were in line at six
o'clock and resumed our northward journey.
That day we covered about fifteen miles, and
about the middle of the afternoon we reached
what was called the Point of Rocks, on the Bal-
timore and Ohio Railroad. There was but lit-
tle straggling, for by this time we had got hard-
ened to marching, and instead of rushing us
to death one day and then holding still two
or three, they kept us steadily at it, and we


made excellent progress without overtaxing-
our powers of endurance.

The next day we took up our line of march
in good season, and at night encamped near
Middletown, a small village a few miles south-
west of Frederick City. Here we first began
to see evidences of loyalty on the part of the
inhabitants. That night some young ladies
came to camp, and one of them sang *' Rally
Round the Flag, Boys," and other patriotic
songs. Really it seemed to me that we were
in another world entirely, as heretofore we had
invariably been greeted with frowns and in-
sults by the people with whom we had come
in contact. The Marylanders were mostly
glad to see us, for they knew that their prop-
erty would be safer under our care than if Lee
got his hands upon it. Their generosity didn't
extend very deep, however, so far as I could
see; for the only thing I got on the march
without paying a good price for it was a cup
of sour milk which a woman gave me, and it
had been skimmed at that.



A GOOD deal has been written as to the
generous treatment of our army in the
States of Maryland and Pennsylvania by the
inhabitants during the Gettysburg campaign.
Well, I only speak concerning my own per-
sonal knowledge, and cannot say as to the
experiences of others in this line ; but, as I
stated in a former chapter, the only thing I re-
ceived on the way was a cup of sour milk from
a woman who stood by the roadside with a
pailful of that commodity, giving each one a
cupful as long as it lasted, and, as I said,
though it was skimmed, it did taste wonder-
fully good. In nearly every place we passed
through stands were erected where we could
buy weak lemonade for ten cents a glass, ginger-
snaps, pies, cakes, bread, etc., at corresponding
rates. I paid a woman, after the battle of
Gettysburg, forty cents for a moderate-sized
loaf of bread, and another one a half-dollar for
a loaf of cake that made me so sick I certainly


thought I should die. The truth is those Penn-
sylvania Dutch people love money about as
well as they do beer and whisky, as evidenced
by the late vote on the constitutional amend-
ment ; and though they were glad to see us
it was more on account of what they wanted
us to do than for any great affection for us,

Sunday morning, June 28, we reached and
passed through Frederick City, marching in
column by companies with bands playing and
colors flying. The city came out en masse to
see us, and many of the buildings had been
decorated with the national colors. Here we
were joined by our colonel, who had been
home on a leave of absence and had been look-
ing for us for several days. General Sickles,
who had been absent for some weeks, also
came up with us and resumed command of the
Third Corps, while General Birney, who had
commanded the corps in his absence, resumed
his place at the head of our division.

Some of our boys who were in the hospital
at Frederick City when the regiment passed
through asked permission of the surgeons to
rejoin the regiment. If there was to be a fight
in Pennsylvania, they said, they wanted to


have a hand in it. The surgeons refused to
give their consent, on the ground that the
boys were not well enough to endure the hard-
ships of active campaigning. They therefore
deserted from the hospital and reported to
Colonel Madill for duty. As they had no
guns and equipments they were told to go to
the hospital and assist the surgeons. No ;
they did not want to do anything of the kind.
They had not run away from one hospital to
go to another, they said ; it would be a strange
battle if they couldn't get all the arms they
wanted very soon after it commenced. They
were therefore allowed to remain with the
regiment, and were very quickly supplied with
arms after the battle began. Their names were
sent to the regiment as deserters afterward, but
the colonel sent back word that he would get
along with a whole regiment of such deserters.
About this time the Army of the Potomac
had another change of commanding officers.
General Joe Hooker being relieved of the com-
mand and General George G. Meade appointed
in his place. The most of us were not very
greatly concerned in the change, for changes
had occurred so often that we had hardly had


time to become very much attached to any one
of them. Besides, Hooker had failed at Chan-
cellorsville, not through any fault of his, only
that he had placed an incompetent officer in
charge of a most important point, and he had
brought disaster upon the whole army. Never-
theless, Hooker was held responsible for the fail-
ure, and having been tied down and hampered
by General H. W. Hallock, commander in
chief, at Washington, he asked to be relieved,
and the next day, the 28th, a messenger ar-
rived from Washington with an order appoint-
ing General Meade to take the command of
the army. We didn't know much about Gen-
eral Meade, and didn't spend anytime in look-
ing up his history. All we wanted was a fair
chance at Lee's army, and we felt confident
that we could demolish it. General Meade^
has been greatly applauded and has received
unstinted praise for winning the battle of Get-
tysburg, when the truth is he had but little to
do with it. He did not choose either the time
or the place of the battle, and all the disposi-
tions made after it began could have been made
by multitudes of private soldiers in the ranks.
Monday morning, the 29th, we were in mo-


tioii at 5:30, and that day we were detailed as

rear guard, a most difficult post to fill, as it was

our business to pick up all stragglers and send

them on to their regiments. Previous to this

day's march there had been but little straggling,

especially since crossing the Potomac, but by

some means a considerable number of the boys

in the corps had procured whisky, and instead

of its being a help to them on the march it

proved to be a hindrance, for they grew very

tired before they had gone a half-dozen miles.

Some of them were too drunk to travel, and

had to be left behind. That day we marched

about twenty miles, and at night we encamped

near Taneytown, in northern Maryland, and

near the spot where Meade intended to fight

the coming battle. That night our camp was

thronged with citizens — largely ladies — and

they gave us a most cordial reception. Two

little girls sang*' Maryland, My Maryland," and

other patriotic songs, which greatly cheered and

encouraged us. The next morning, owing to

some change in Meade's plans, we got orders

to retrace our steps, and passing back through

Taneytown we started off in a westerly course

toward Emmitsburg.


A day or two before this some of our scouts
had captured a rebel spy. He was tried by
drumhead court martial, the most positive
evidence was found upon him, and he was sen-
tenced to be hung forthwith. This sentence
was immediately carried out, and he was sus-
pended from a tree a little way off from the
road between Frederick City and Taneytown.
We saw his body still hanging to the tree as
we passed by.

We reached Emmitsburg about dark, where
Sickles had been ordered to concentrate his
corps, occupying the town. It was Meade's
plan to fight in this vicinity. We remained
here till noon of July i, when we received a
dispatch from General Howard from Gettys-
burg calling loudly for assistance. Sickles's
last orders were to occupy Emmitsburg, but
he was not the man to stand on technicalities
when he was needed for solid business. We
therefore were soon set in motion, with our
faces turned toward Gettysburg. We had gone
but a few miles before the thunder of heavy
artillery fell upon our ears. Our progress was
necessarily slow, as it had been raining more
or less for two days past, and two army corps



had already passed over the same road with
artillery and wagon trains, making the roads
fearfully muddy and soft. But we knew there
were important matters ahead demanding our
immediate presence, and so we struggled on-
ward, passing the boundary line in the after-
noon, and were once more on the free soil of our
own Pennsylvania. The sound of battle gradu-
ally died away, and when we reached the vicin-
ity of Gettysburg, about dark, the first day's
fight was over, with the advantage largely in
favor of the Confederate army. All was quiet
that night, and, wearied and exhausted by our
long and hard march, we ate a few cracker and
pork sandwiches, drank a cup of coffee, and lay
down to sleep, not knowing what the morrow
would bring forth. Alas ! before the setting
of another sun many of our number were
sleeping the long last sleep, only to be broken
by the sound of the archangel's trumpet.

It would seem to those engaged in the
peaceful affairs of life that it would be impossi-
ble for men to lie down and sleep soundly and
quietly on the eve of a great battle in which
they -were certain of being engaged, and where
they stood at least one chance out of two of


being killed or terribly wounded. My own ex-
perience was that I slept as profoundly under
such circumstances as I ever did in my life,
and I do not suppose that, with the exception
of those high in authority, upon whom devolved
the responsibility of making the necessary dis-
positions of the different parts of the army, a
dozen men in the whole army lay awake that
night considering their chances in the coming

Thursday morning, the 2d, we were awake
in good season, but it was not till about nine
o'clock that we had orders to change our posi-
tion. In the meantime we had plenty of time
to get our breakfasts, and while waiting for
future developments we three who messed to-
gether, namely, Jimmy Lunger, Oliver Morse,
and myself, concluded we would have some-
thing extra in honor of our first breakfast in
the old Keystone State. So Oliver went to a
farmhouse near by and bought some wheat
flour, and Jim, having a small tin pail, mixed
up some flour and water with a little salt, pro-
posing to have some wheat pancakes. A tin
plate with a split stick stuck on the edge for a
handle answered for a griddle. The cakes were


pretty heavy and decidedly thick, and Jim put
them on the full size of the plate, so that one
apiece was all that we needed. Jim said that
they would go better while warm (and they did),
so that we had better forego all attention to
table etiquette and eat ours while fresh from
the griddle. We followed out the suggestion
of our chief cook, but just as Jim was getting
ready to bake his cake the bugle sounded the
call to fall in, and Jim, determined not to be
cheated out of his cake, left it in his pail. Tak-
ing our places, we advanced some hundred

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Online LibraryJ. D. (John D.) BloodgoodPersonal reminiscences of the war → online text (page 6 of 16)