J. D. (John D.) Bloodgood.

Personal reminiscences of the war online

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was actually turning in our favor, and that the
beginning of the end had at last appeared. I
really believe that if Grant had been at Gettys-
burg that Fourth of July, to have led our army,


under the inspiration of the two great victories
we could have pulverized Lee's whole force in
short order.

Shortly after noon the usual Fourth of July
thunder shower came up, and for more than two
hours the rain poured down in torrents. This
shower was only the prelude to several others
which came up in quick succession. All that
afternoon and part of the succeeding night the
rain continued. We concluded that it was a
providential dispensation to raise the Potomac
so high that Lee could not get back into Vir-
ginia until we had had time to finish him up.
Lee's army continued to show a bold front,
and spent the entire day in fortifying its posi-
tion on Seminary Ridge. During this interval
our army was furnished with much-needed sup-
plies. Many of the boys who had become
separated from their regiments came up, until
our regiment numbered about fifty men. Our
officers sent in their official reports of the part
their commands took in the battle, and I here
copy a portion of Colonel Madill's report con-
cerning the work we had done. He says :
" Of the conduct of the officers and men I am
happy to say that they are all entitled to great


credit. Not one of my men failed me under
the trying circumstances, and to my officers I
am under great obligations for their coolness
and efficiency under the terrible ordeal of bat-
tle. . . . The history of this regiment is a short,
sad, eventful, yet a glorious one. No regiment
in the army has done so much and sacrificed
so much as this. In a less period than ten
months it has lost nearly seven hundred men,
who have sacrificed their lives, shed their blood,
and ruined their health in the service of their

On the morning of July 5 it became evident
that Lee's army was falling back, although the
fortifications on Seminary Ridge were still
occupied. Consequently we received orders
to be ready to march at a moment's notice.
We did not move, however, till Tuesday morn-
ing, the 7th, when we were called in line at
four o'clock, and taking the back track we
were again following Lee's army, although in
a different direction and under different cir-
cumstances. It had been raining nearly every
day since the battle, and consequently the
roads were exceedingly slippery and heavy,
making our progress necessarily slow and la-


borious. We passed through Frederick City
on the 8th, and reached Middletown that
night. The next morning we pressed on in a
westerly course. At Frederick City our corps
had been reinforced by about four thousand
men under Major General French, and this
additional force formed the Third Division of
our corps. We pushed on, marching nearly
every day, till we crossed the Antietam Creek
and reached the famous battlefield of that
name. Soon after this we were drawn up in
line facing the enemy, who had made a stand,
occupying a strong defensive position. We
maneuvered here a while, and then found that
the enemy had vacated his position and fallen
back. We kept following on, generally keep-
ing at a respectful distance, until we finally
learned that Lee had succeeded in getting
nearly the whole of the remnant of his army
back into Virginia.



IT was my privilege to revisit the battlefield
of Gettysburg during the great reunion of
the Blue and the Gray in the first days of
July, 1888. My route lay from New Milford,
Pa., via Scranton, thence to Northumberland,
where we took the Northern Central Road to
Harrisburg. From the latter place we took
the Cumberland Valley Railroad to Gettys-
burg. The Cumberland Valley is by far the
finest part of the old Keystone State I have
seen. Broad, well-cultivated fields stretched
out on either side as far as the eye could reach,
interspersed with fine groves and orchards and
dotted with large, commodious farmhouses,
many of them being of brick, with large, com-
fortable barns, while in the broad green pas-
tures hundreds of highly bred horses, cattle,
and sheep grazed in contentment and peace.
No wonder, I thought, that this rich and fer-
tile valley should furnish a strong temptation
to Lee's impoverished and hungry army to


leave their own desolated and ravaged coun-
try and seek to replenish their stores from
these abundant sources.

As we n eared Gettysburg the country be-
came more broken and hilly, very much of the
land becoming untillable and the soil appear-
ing to be much less fertile.

We arrived in Gettysburg about seven
o'clock in the evening of the 2d of July, and,
having secured quarters in a private family at
one dollar and a quarter per day, after a good
supper we strolled out to take a view of the
town which has given its name to one of the
world's greatest and most decisive battles.

Gettysburg is a dull, sleepy old town of four
thousand or five thousand inhabitants, the
most of whom seem to get their living from
visitors who come from all quarters to look
over the battlefield, either by furnishing them
board or conveyances, or selling relics, badges,

The dwelling-houses are nearly all built on
a line with the sidewalks, which are paved
with brick ; consequently they have no front
yards, but the doors open directly into the
street. The people all have a peculiar brogue,


which gives a Northerner the impression that
they are foreigners, while in fact many of them
are descendants of American born parentage
for several generations.

Gettysburg is situated on the north slope of
what has become widely known as Cemetery
Ridge, but it extends across the valley toward
another range of low hills lying southwest of
the town, and known as Seminary Ridge, from
the fact that a Lutheran seminary occupies a
commanding site on the ridge. General Lee
occupied this building as his headquarters dur-
ing the battle, and from the observatory on
the top he watched through his field glass the
charge of Pickett on the last day, and when he
saw him hurled back, crushed and defeated, he
is said to have remarked to an English officer
at his side, " All is lost ! " and with a heavy
heart gave the order for retreat.

The town and surrounding country fairly
thronged with people, a majority being Union
veterans, but there were immense numbers of
citizens, and especially ladies, from all parts of
the country. As far as the reunion of the
Gray was concerned it was almost a failure, as
I do not believe there were over five hundred


ex-Confederate soldiers on the ground all told.
The truth is that the rebel soldiers have no
great desire to visit the place where they got
so thoroughly whipped : besides, if they had
such a desire, the great majority of the rank
and file are poor, and being widely scattered
over the South it is very difficult for them to
come so far. The Cumberland Valley Rail-
road Company has built a road from their
depot in Gettysburg to the foot of Little
Round Top, a distance of about three miles,
and during the excursion season trains are run
at frequent intervals to accommodate the thou-
sands who visit the battlefield.

Early on the morning of July 3 I was on
board the train and on my way to Little
Round Top, which is a bare, rocky, sugar-
loaf-shaped elevation, rising a few hundred feet
above the surrounding country and overlook-
ing a large part of the line of battle. About
a half-mile to the south and west is what was
known as the Devil's Den, a rough, rocky ridge
where huge bowlders are piled one upon an-
other and forming an admirable position for
offensive or defensive warfare. At one point

two huge rocks are lying side by side with a


space of a few feet betwixt them, while on top
of these and overlapping them both is another
huge rock which projects some feet over the
other two on the front side. In front of the
crevice is a smaller rock extending nearly up
to the large one overhead. This rocky fortress
formed an admirable position for the rebel
sharpshooters to operate, and during the after-
noon of the second day's fight they amused
themselves by picking off our artillerymen on
Little Round Top. One fellow especially got
in between those large rocks and played the
very mischief with our men, till one of our
twelve-pounders sent a shell directly into his
place of retreat, which, exploding, made the
fellow think that the end of the world had
come, as indeed it had to him and two or
three others, who were found dead in there
after the fight was over.

Around the brow of Round Top our men
threw up a line or two of stone breastworks
for defense, and these are still preserv^ed in as
nearly the original position as possible. Sev-
eral cannon are also in position here, and on
the very summit some artillery company has
erected a very fine monument. Between the



Round Top and the Devil's Den is a wide,
open valley through which runs a small stream
called Plum Run. This region is known by
the suggestive name of the Valley of Death.
It was the scene of a most terrific struggle,
having been fought over several times during
the fight. Across this valley our soldiers
charged in an unsuccessful attempt to dislodge
the rebels from Devil's Den, and in return
they charged across the same space in^ at-
tempting to get possession of Little Round
Top. When the fight was over the Valley of
Death was strewn with the dead of both ar-
mies, almost as thick as autumn leaves.

But the principal point of interest to me was
the Peach Orchard. I wanted to visit that
bloody angle again where so many of my
brave comrades fell and with their best blood
forever consecrated that soil to freedom. I
also wanted to visit the spot in the corn field
where Jimmy Lunger planted his battery to
see if any young batteries had come up. So
leaving Little Round Top I passed down
across the Valley of Death in a westerly direc-
tion to the place known as the Wheat Field,
where the Second Division of our corps had a


most bloody fight at the same time we were
engaged in the Peach Orchard.

I found a large encampment of New Jersey
troops, whose transportation had been furnished
by the State, and many of whom had dedicated
monuments, which had also been provided by
the State. At length, after half an hour's walk
through the dust, I arrived at the historic spot.
The old peach orchard had disappeared long
ago, and a new one, now loaded with half-
grown fruit, had taken its place. The corn
field had disappeared, had given place to a
meadow. The house which had stood in the
angle was gone, and a larger one had been
erected on the spot. Many local features had
changed, but the general topography of the
place appeared the same as when twenty-five
years ago two mighty armies had met in deadly
hostility. A wonderful contrast existed be-
tween those two visits. Now all was quiet
and peaceful. The broad green fields were
smiling under the gentle reign of peace, while
the birds warbled their sweetest notes and
everything seemed glad and happy. Then
the very earth trembled and shook beneath
the tread of contending hosts ; the fruits of


industry were trodden under foot ; the af-
frighted birds flew away in terror, while the
air vibrated with the mighty thunders of war.
After wandering over the ground for some
time and cutting a memento in the shape of a
cane from a peach tree, and finding the markers
which had been placed to designate the places
where we fought, I took the Emmitsburg pike
and started on my return to town. It was
getting near noon, and, to tell the truth, I was
getting hungry, and as Jim was not there to
bake some of his wheat pancakes my only
chance seemed to be to get back to my head-
quarters as soon as possible. Passing on to-
ward Gettysburg, I soon reached the house
where General Sickles had his headquarters
during the first part of the fight. Passing
around to the east side, \o ! from the same
window from which it was suspended twenty-
five years before hung the old corps battle
flag. In a few moments a carriage drove up,
and among the occupants were Generals Long-
street and Sickles sitting side by side chatting
as pleasantly and friendly as if they had been
brothers. Alighting from the carriage, they
were immediately surrounded by a group of


soldiers anxious to shake hands with the dis-
tinguished chieftains. Taking General Long-
street's hand, I said, "General, you made it de-
cidedly hot for us here twenty-five years ago."
^' Yes," he replied, " and we had no cause to
complain of you on that score." After a few
moments of general conversation some of Gen-
eral Sickles's aids came out of the house with
several suspicious-looking bottles and some
glasses in their hands, which they placed on
the table in the yard. They said they con-
tained ////z^//, and General Sickles invited Long-
street in with the remark, " Twenty-five years
ago, general, we were punching each other
back and forth over this ground ; now come in
and let xne punch you again."

I had no sympathy with that part of the
program, and turning on my heel I left in
supreme disgust, actually ashamed that two
opposing generals could not meet in reunion
without indulging in the accursed cup in order
to heighten the tone of their fraternal feelings.

And by the way, I have no doubt that
whisky constituted an important element in
originating and carrying on the war. In nearly
every Southern convention the delegates, under


the maddening influence of rum, passed the
ordinances of secession and performed many
other mad acts which they would not have
done while sober.

That afternoon I attended the great mass
meeting which was held in the National Ceme-
tery and addressed by George William Curtis,
the rebel General Gordon, and some others.
There was such a crowd that I could not get
near enough to hear much, so I took a stroll
around the cemetery. It is a beautiful place,
and shows the tender interest which our
government feels in the last resting places of
multitudes of our country's defenders. Near
the middle of the grounds, on a commanding
elevation, stands the monument, sixty feet
high, erected to the memory of that brave and
gifted soldier, General John F. Reynolds, who
was killed in the first day's fight by a sharp-
shooter. The graves are arranged in groups
of semicircles, each one marked by a neat
stone giving, when known, the name, company,
and regiment of the soldier, but a large num-
ber are simply marked " unknown." I sought
out the plot where the dead of my own regi-
ment were lying and found some of my own


company. I looked especially for the grave
of my boyhood friend and playmate, Oliver
Morse, but having nothing upon him to iden-
tify him he was buried among the unknown,
so I was denied the privilege of dropping a
tear to his memory upon his grave. But,
thank God, the great Victor over the grave's
cruel dominion knows where he sleeps, and
when eternity's bugle note shall sound he will
come forth from the dwelling place of the dead
to the abode of the immortals.

Adjoining the National Cemetery is the Get-
tysburg Cemetery, which, as it contains several
places of interest, I visited. Here is the grave
of the " hero of Gettysburg," John Burns, who,
taking down his old-fashioned long-barreled
rifle, went out upon the battlefield and fought
valiantly for the Union till, disabled by a
wound, he was carried bleeding from the field.
Here is also the grave of Jennie Wade, a beau-
tiful young lady, and the only woman killed
during the battle. She was engaged during
the first day's fight in baking bread at her
home on Baltimore Street, when a stray bullet
from a rebel musket passed through two doors,
struck her in the breast, and killed her in-



stantly. The house still stands opposite the
Battlefield Hotel, and visitors may see the
bullet holes through the doors and the spot
where she fell. A writer has recently said :
** Everyone has read of the sweet and comely
Jennie Wade, who was the only woman killed at
Gettysburg. It is not so well known that she
was engaged to and corresponded with Corporal
Skelley, for whom Gettysburg G. A. R. Post
No. 9 was named. He fell at Winchester; this
she had not yet learned. Was it not poetic
justice, if yet unkind fate, which led that stray
bullet to snap the golden cord ere the news of
her lover's death had broken her heart } "

While at the cemetery I met a lady who
was living in Gettysburg at the time of the
battle. She said that for three days they lived
in the cellar, which was full of women and
children. Some one asked her what they
were doing. She said that some were trem-
bling, some were crying, and some were pray-
ing. She said that she did more praying dur-
ing those three days than she ever had before
or since.

The next day I visited Gulp's Hill, lying to
the east and south of the town. The earth-


works are still there, although grown over with
sod, and the trees still bear the marks of bat-
tle, the scars being plainly visible. Still further
to the east is Wolfs Hill, which marked the
extreme right of our infantry line. Here
amono^ a larq-e number of beautiful monu-
ments, marking the places where Union regi-
ments fought, is one erected to the memory
of a rebel officer who fell at this point. Per-
haps I was wrong in feeling as I did, but I
could not suppress a feeling of disgust min-
gled with indignation that a monument should
be erected on the free soil of the old Keystone
State in memory of a man who fell in endeav-
oring to perpetuate the vilest system of human
slavery which ever cursed our earth, and who
only met a traitor's doom while leading for-
ward men to destroy the lives of brave and
loyal citizens of the North. It may be argued,
on the other hand, that it was not the principle
which was designed to be honored, but the
personal bravery of the man. Well, courage
without principle is mere brute instinct, and is
totally unworthy either of honor or perpetuity.
If they must build monuments in honor of
the dead let them be placed on the soil moist-


ened by the sweat and blood of the me
whom they enslaved, but not on the soil for-
ever consecrated to freedom.

Cemetery Ridge is also a very interesting
point, especially the part where Pickett made
his famous charge. Here is the clump of oak
trees which was the objective point to the
enemy, and which formed their guide in the
advance. These trees are now surrounded by
a high iron picket fence in order to preserve
them from the ravages of the relic hunter.
Just below is another monument erected to
the memory of the rebel General Barksdale,
who was killed at that point in the charge,
which was the most advanced point gained by
the rebels, and marks what is called the high-
tide watermark of the rebellion. Just beyond
is a monument which shows where General
Hancock was severely wounded during the
same charge.



T^VER since the 15th day of June, when I
-■— ' was overcome and prostrated by the heat
on the march near Bull Run, I had had des-
perately hard work to keep my place in line of
duty. The day previous to the battle of Get-
tysburg I had been obliged to take passage in
an ambulance, and was unfit for duty the
morning we went into the fight ; but the ex-
citement of battle furnished a stimulus which
kept me up while it lasted, and by almost
superhuman efforts I kept along with the regi-
ment till Lee's army was safely across the
Potomac and there was no prospect of an im-
mediate battle ; then the reaction came on
and I was completely prostrated. After a
few days, with a large number of others more
or less disabled, I was sent to a hospital in
Frederick City. While here the people showed
a greater interest in us than in any other place
I had yet found. The colored people espe-
cially were very kind, and I distinctly remem-


ber one good old motherly lady, who, though
her skin was as black as ebony, had a great
big white soul inside, and who came through
the old church, in which we were temporarily
quartered, every day with a big pail of soup
which she dealt out with no stinted measure
to those who were not too sick to eat it. I
shall never forget the expression of sympathy
and interest which the old lady wore upon her
black face as with tearful eyes she glided from
cot to cot like an angel of mercy, ministering
to the wants of the men who had come to
strike off the fetters of bondage from her race.
After remaining here about a week quite a
number of those able to travel were loaded on
the cars and sent to Baltimore, where we re-
mained overnight, and in the morning were
sent up to a sort of hospital camp in the sub-
urbs of the city. We didn't fare so well here
as at Frederick City, for we soon learned that
a majority of the people of Baltimore had no
great love or even respect for Union soldiers.

Connected with this hospital there was a
camp containing several hundred convalescent
soldiers, many of them ready for duty and
waiting for transportation to their regiments.


There was a sutler connected with this camp
who by some means had incurred the enmity of
the boys, and they determined to get even with
him. He occupied a board shanty near the cen-
ter of the grounds, which was all inclosed ex-
cept a section in front, which, being let down to
a horizontal position, formed a counter over
which business was carried on. One night
about the first of September, soon after dark,
about fifty or seventy-five soldiers gathered in
the woods behind the sutler's shanty and be-
gan to throw stones and clubs at it and to
yell, ** Charge on the sutler ! " This was kept
up for about a half-hour, when a grand charge
was made, the boys rushing pellmell toward
the building ; but just as they reached the rear
side the sutler, who was just about frightened
out of his wits, went tumbling head first out of
the opening in front, landing upon all fours.
Gathering himself up, he started on a keen run
for his home in the city, and probably never
stopped till the door closed behind him. The
boys tore the shanty all to pieces and carried
off everything that they could make use of,
and then set fire to the remainder. The sutler
never came back to look after his property,


but doubtless charged it up to Uncle Sam as
his contribution toward carrying on the war.

One day a soldier sat in his tent cleaning his
gun, which he supposed was not loaded. He
put a cap on the tube to clear the dirt out of
it, and, pulling the trigger, the gun was dis-
charged and the ball passed through several
tents and finally struck a young soldier in the
side of the neck just above the shoulders, go-
ing clear through his neck and killing him in-
stantly. He was sitting in his tent and was
playing on a fife when he was so suddenly
mustered out (jf time into eternity.

About this time I was taken much worse,
so I was confined to my bed a good share of
the time. One afternoon — I think it was the
lOth of September — while dozing on my bed I
heard a little unusual noise and opened my
eyes. Who should stand by my bedside but
my father and a young man of our company
who had been home on a furlough and was on
his way back to the front. Of course I was
glad to see them, especially under such cir-
cumstances. Father said he had come to take
me home, but I told him it took more than
two to make such a bargain as that. The


next morning he went down to General Robert
Schenck's headquarters, who was in command
of that department, and told him he would
like a thirty days' furlough for his sick
boy. The general forthwith sent an order to
the surgeon in charge to make me out a fur-

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Online LibraryJ. D. (John D.) BloodgoodPersonal reminiscences of the war → online text (page 8 of 16)