J. D. (John D.) Bloodgood.

Personal reminiscences of the war online

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lough and return to him for approval. The
surgeon was one of those wonderfully impor-
tant, high-toned, overbearing fellows who car-
ried the United States government on his
shoulders. When my father reached his office
he made known his errand before he showed
the doctor his order. The surgeon elevated
his nose and for a moment eyed the gentle-
man with silent indignation and contempt, as
though any mortal man should have the au-
dacity to ask such a thing of him, and then in
iceberg tones informed the petitioner that his
request could not be granted. Then father
took General Schenck's order out of his pocket
and handed it to the chief quinine dispenser.
That gentleman glanced at the order, and then
his plumage dropped mighty suddenly. He
was immediately transformed into a polite
gentleman, and, turning to his clerk, ordered
the papers made out instantly, which was


done, and in a few minutes father was on his

way back to headquarters, where the papers

were approved, and at nine o'clock that night

we boarded the Northern Central Railway train

and were on our way home. We took a berth

in a sleeping-car, both occupying one berth,

but my father, who was quite a portly man,

insisted on taking his half of the berth right

square in the middle, so after a while I got up

and left him in his glory. Besides, I

wanted to see what was the matter with

the cars, for really they didn't seem to move

any faster than a snail's trot, and to stop

every five minutes. We arrived home the

next day, but it was some time before I could

fully realize that for a little while I was free

again. My health improved somewhat, but at

the end of the thirty days I was not well enough

for duty, so I had my furlough extended for

thirty days more, at the end of which time I

reported back to the camp, and soon after was

sent on to Washington, and from there to

Convalescent Camp, near Alexandria, Va.

We had good, comfortable quarters here, and

as the winter was close at hand I concluded

that I would remain here if I could till toward


spring, as our government had come to the
conclusion that winter campaigning in Virginia
was a failure, and nothing would be done in
that line before spring.

Some evangelists from the North visited the
camp, and a very interesting revival took place,
in which a large number of soldiers were con-
verted. John B. Gough, the great temperance
orator, also visited us, and delivered a number
of free lectures for the benefit of the soldiers.
We had a large library well supplied with good
books, and during the time I remained there I
read a number of works on different subjects,
which was a great benefit to me.

One day an order came that every man in
our barrack must present himself with exami-
nation before the surgeon in charge. The re-
sult of my first examination was a recommen-
dation that I be discharged as being incapaci-
tated for active service, but another one follow-
ing soon after resulted in an order that I be de-
tached from my regiment and placed on light
duty in and around Washington. From this
order I appealed to the Hon. E. M. Stanton,
Secretary of War. I either wanted to return
to my old regiment or to be discharged and


go home. The secretary sent an order direct-
ing me to go before a board of surgeons for
another examination, which resulted the same
as before. There being no further appeal, the
only thing to do was to submit to the powers
that be. After remaining at Camp Convales-
cent till the 17th of February, 1864, quite a
large detachment of us was sent over to Gies-
boro Point, where we were assigned to duty as
guard for the government corral, which was a
sort of hospital for horses, where all the broken-
down horses were sent to be doctored up.
Those which were pronounced incurable were
shot and their bodies sold to a contractor for
two dollars and a half apiece. What became
of them afterward I do not know, but while at
the front we used to draw some meat occasion-
ally which we called *' salt horse," and which
was lean and tough enough to have belonged
to a mule. One day while I was watching the
process of shooting a lot of condemned horses
one was brought out which succeeded in get-
ting loose from the man who held it. Of all
the running I ever saw a horse do that fellow
took the lead. It took about forty men a
full hour to catch him. I could not discover



any great disability about him, but some igno-
ramus had condemned him and he had to be
shot with the rest.

The omnipresent sutler followed us over
here and had his tent pitched about as soon as
we got settled. One afternoon he came over
from Washington with a load of goods, and
among the rest was a barrel of sweet cider.
It being late, and the tent being crowded full
of other things, he innocently left the cider
outside, behind the tent. That night I was
officer of the guard, and about ten o'clock one
of the boys came running up to our quarters
with the report that some of the boys had
captured a prize and wanted help to get it into
port. So as many as could be spared went
down and found the cider barrel on the march ;
but by some means they had lost the bung out,
and as it was too heavy to carry, and the only
way to get it to a place where we could safely
draw it off was by rolling it on the ground, it
will readily be seen that whenever the barrel
came over to a certain point there was a con-
siderable leakage. The result was that by the
time we reached the rear of an old log house
about ten rods distant more than half of our


apple-juice had disappeared. Going down to
our large tent, I awoke the boys (there were
about a dozen of them), and taking a big jug
and some pails we repaired to the place where
we left the barrel, and secured about three
gallons of good cider. We couldn't strike a
light safely, nor keep it till morning without
running considerable risk, so we proceeded at
once to get outside of the entire lot, which
took a good share of the night. Nobody got
intoxicated, as it was hardly strong enough for
that, but we all felt decidedly well. The next
morning, when Mr. Sutler went outside he
found to his utter dismay that his barrel of
cider had received marching orders during the
night and had wholly taken its departure. He
went and reported his loss to the commander
of the detachment, and they came around and
searched our tents. They looked everywhere
for it except where it was, but finally gave it
up as a bad job and went off. They didn't
leave any more cider around loose where it
could be a source of temptation to Uncle
Sam's veterans.

We had some- very severe weather for that
latitude during the winter. One morning the


snow was plump eight inches deep, and it
seemed to me that the mercury must have
been down to zero. Our duties here were quite
severe, as most of us were on guard every
third day and night, and often every second
day and night. To stand out of doors in a
blinding rain or snowstorm for two hours at a
time in the dead of night is not a very com-
fortable experience, and was altogether un-
necessary in this place.

On the 1 8th of June we received orders to
leave Giesboro Point, which we did without
any kind of regret, and taking a steamboat we
crossed the east branch of the Potomac and
landed in Washington. We marched through
the city to the upper end of Seventh Street,
and were quartered in some very comfortable
barracks. This was a great improvement over
the former location. Our duties were lighter
than formerly, and consisted in guarding our
camp, in furnishing a squad of men for daily
service at the Central Guard House, where
numerous deserters, spies, and evildoers were
generally kept, and in patrolling the streets of
Washington and picking up soldiers who were
absent without leave. When not on duty we


could visit the various places of interest in the
city, such as the Patent Office, the Smithsonian
Institution, the Capitol buildings, the White
House, and other places of interest. Con-
gress was in session a good deal of the time,
and I used frequently to spend an afternoon
in listening to the speeches of the great
men of the nation. The Smithsonian Insti-
tution offered very many attractions to any
lover of nature or art. Here were gathered
the accumulated treasures and curiosities of
all nations and climes under the sun. All
kinds of birds, beasts, insects, and fishes were
here represented, besides works of art, paint-
. ings, statuary, and all this absolutely free to
everybody, and all through the generosity of
an Englishman named Smithson, who gave an
immense sum of money to found and perpetu-
ate such an institution at the capital of our

Soon after reaching Washington a large
number of us were detailed to go down to
Seventh Street wharf and unload several boat-
loads of wounded soldiers who had been sent
in from the front. This was a very disagree-
able duty, for nearly all of them were helpless,


and it having been several days since they
were wounded their wounds were very sore,
and it was almost impossible to move them
from the boats to the ambulance without
causing them severe pain. They bore their
sufferings with all possible fortitude, and we
were very glad to get them all transferred as
soon as possible.





MONG the officers connected with our

detachment was a certain Captain W ,

a very fine man, and, with one or two excep-
tions, the only decent one among the lot. This
officer was all right when sober, but the trouble
was that such a state of affairs only happened
at rare intervals, and finally ceased to occur
altogether. He kept getting worse and worse,
till one morning he was found dead in his bed,
a victim to the fearful curse of rum. We were
all sorry to lose him, but would have gladly
spared some of the others if we could have
made the change. There was an old German
captain named Erickson, who had the best fac-
ulty of making himself disliked of any officer
I ever knew. One day he went down to
Washington, and, calling on a colored woman
who did his washing, made insulting proposals
to her. The woman reported him, and he was
dishonorably dismissed from the United States
service. But weren't w^e glad, though? We


felt as the little girl did who upon the depart-
ure of a very disagreeable guest said, " Ma,
let's sing the benediction."

The old captain was gone some two or three
weeks, when, to our utter and supreme disgust,
he came back again, and, assuming command
of the detachment, he was meaner than ever.
He had managed by some red-tape process to
get an order issued from the War Department
reinstating him in his position, and knowing
that we were all glad to have him go he took
vengeance on us afterward by every possible
means he could devise.

About the first of July, 1864, we received
intelligence that a corps of the Confederate
army, under the command of General Early,
had again crossed the Potomac, and was al-
ready threatening Washington. This news
created the greatest consternation in the city.
We were ordered to turn in all our extra bag-
gage and equipments and get ready for field
service. We drew sixty rounds of ammunition,
also shelter tents, and were already for busi-
ness. Saturday night, July 1 1, we were ordered
into line at ten o'clock, and remained all night
on the parade ground. Washington was actu-


ally in danger at the time, as nearly all the
defensive works had been built on the west
side of the city on Arlington Heights, while
the east side had been almost wholly neg-
lected. Only two or three small forts had
been built commanding the principal roads
leading to the city. I haven't any doubt that
Early could have capturedand burned the whole
city if he had made an energetic assault when
he first came before it. There were then but
very few soldiers in and around Washington,
as Grant, who was thundering away at Peters-
burg and Richmond, had withdrawn nearly
every able-bodied man to assist him in his un-
dertaking, leaving the capital practically de-

Sunday morning I was sent in charge of
forty men to the Central Guard House, where
we remained on constant duty night and day
for nearly two weeks. The clerks in the various
departments were armed, and every man who
could carry a musket was sent to the front.
Early's forces came within three or four miles
of the city and could have shelled the capital
with guns of modern range if they had had
them. Great was the joy of the beleaguered


city when on the morning of the I2th the
Sixth Corps from Petersburg arrived and com-
menced passing through the city to the east-
ward. Lee's design in sending Early off on
this raid was doubtless to oblige Grant to
loosen his grip on Petersburg and Richmond,
which was becoming altogether too tight for
comfort. In this idea, however, Lee was
doomed to disappointment ; for Grant wasn't
built that way, and evidently thought too
much of his gallant antagonist to let him slip
out of his grasp. The little provincial army
which had stood face to face with Early's
veterans for several days gathered new courage
and hope when they saw the veterans of
Wright's Sixth Corps coming to their aid, and
now felt confident that the nation's capital
would not fall into the enemy's hands.

For two or three days the two armies re-
mained facing each other, with scarcely a shot
being fired on either side, when suddenly the
rebel army was withdrawn, and after ravaging
portions of Maryland and Pennsylvania crossed
the Potomac and soon afterward rejoined Lee's
army at Richmond. On Friday, July 22, we
were relieved from duty and made our way


back to our quarters on Seventh Street. Dur-
inc: our absence some lawless fellows had ran-
sacked our quarters and had carried off every-
thing they could get hold of, including my
knapsack containing all my clothing, portfolio,
and many other things which were valuable to
me only. I never saw any of them again.

About the first of September I was sent
with a detail of men to the south end of Long
Bridge. We were to remain here for ten days,
and it was our business to guard the approach
to the bridge and not allow anyone to cross
without a pass from competent authority.
The weather was warm and sultry, and the
country all along the Potomac was low and
swampy, and consequently the air was full of
malaria. The doctor sent down a gallon or
two of whisky mixed with a liberal portion of
quinine, which we were obliged to take in reg-
ular doses three times a day. Of all the horrid
stuff I ever took that mixture beat all previous
records. Either of them was bad enough
alone, but the two mixed formed the most
villainous compound I ever tried to swallow.
The object of the medicine, they said, was to
keep off fever and ague, which was quite prev-


alent on the south side of the river, but never
troubled people on the north side.

Another terrible pest was the mosquitoes,
which flourished here in all their glory. They
were the largest, hungriest, leanest, most per-
severing and meanest lot of cannibals I ever
had anything to do with. They seemed to
think that Yankees were made on purpose for
them to feast upon, an idea that I had not the
least sympathy with. We had to fight them
by night and by day, and really there was a
good deal of blood shed on both sides. We
were very glad when on the morning of the
tenth day we were relieved by another detach-
ment and sent back to our quarters in Wash-
ington. In about a week from the time we
left Long Bridge every man who had been
there was taken down with the fever and ague.
The whisky and quinine had failed to do its
work, while the malaria had done a thorough
job for every one of us.

I was taken to a hospital near by and dosed
with quinine until I was nearly deaf, dumb,
and blind. My head roared like a young
Niagara, till I finally told the doctor that I
wouldn't take any more of the stuff on any


account, as I might as well die one way as
another, and better too. So after that he
changed the prescription, but I didn't get
much better till about the last of October,
when I told the doctor I wanted a thirty days'
furlough to go home and get rid of my trouble.
He gave me no encouragement, and I went
back to my quarters thoroughly disgusted,
as the following extract from my diary will
show : " Went up to the apothecary shop
again this morning, faint and sick, weak and
weary. Am excused from duty to-day. Qui-
nine pills and potash, carbonate of soda and
other horrible things, with fever and headache,
tribulation and anguish, all seem to be my
portion. If that old Long Bridge was sunk
in the depths of the sea it would be a blessing
to the whole army."

About six o'clock on the evening of Novem-
ber I, while I was lying on my bed, an orderly
came in and handed me a thirty days' fur-
lough. Of course I felt better right away, and
in less than an hour was on the train headed
for Baltimore. I never saw such a crowd as
thronged those cars. It was just before the
November election for President and Vice


President, when McClellan ran against Presi-
dent Lincoln, and every man who could be
spared from any place in Washington was al-
lowed to go home to vote. I got a place to
stand up in a little corner, but didn't get a seat
till two o'clock the next morning, when, on ar-
riving at Harrisburg, there was a thinning out.
I arrived home the next night about midnight
and took them all by surprise, as my visit was
entirely unexpected. My health rapidly im-
proved, and when my time expired I was al-
most entirely free from the fever and ague.
Returning to Washington, I resumed my du-
ties as usual, and during the winter very little
occurred which would be of interest to the
general reader.

About New Year's I attended a public re-
ception given by President Lincoln at the
White House. A long line was formed be-
twixt two rows of policemen, and we passed
through the hallway into the reception room,
where Mr. Lincoln stood, and as we passed by
we had the pleasure of shaking hands with
him and inquiring after his health. Mrs.
Lincoln stood near by, and a little in the
rear was a large crowd of cabinet officers,


major generals, and other men high in au-

About the middle of February I got orders
to report for duty at Long Bridge. I thought
I had had all of that institution I needed, and
consequently I called on the officer in charge
of the whole detachment and explained to
him the result of my previous sojourn at that
place. It did no good, for, as I then sus-
pected, the old Dutch captain, who disliked
me as much as I did him, had secured my as-
signment to that place as a means of venting
his spite upon me. I knew that there was no
danger of fever and ague till late in the sum-
mer, and as my time expired in August I
hoped to escape the dreadful scourge alto-
gether. So I packed up my dry goods, and to
Long Bridge I went, and was assigned to duty
on the north end, which was the foot of Four-
teenth Street. I had about a dozen men un-
der my charge, and was on duty every other
day and night. Our business was to allow no
person to pass over without a pass, nor to
allow any whisky taken over without a written
permission from the provost marshal. We

were quartered in a large brick house at the


south end of the bridge, which was a mile
long, so we had to march across it the morn-
ing we went on duty and back the next. Just
above our quarters was a shad fishery, where
thousands of all kinds of fish were caught,
which we could buy very reasonably, while on
the other side boat loads of oysters were
brought up which we could buy at the rate of
fifty cents per bushel ; consequently we lived
high as long as our money lasted.

Over on Arlington Heights were established
various camps of soldiers. Among them was
one called Freedmen's Camp, where all the
Negro refugees were sent, and those who were
able to work were employed as teamsters and
laborers ; besides, several regiments of colored
troops were organized at this place.

A large number of Irish women used to go
over to those camps to sell pies, cakes, cigars,
etc., to the soldiers. Some of them also un-
dertook to carry whisky across, and it was
really amusing to see the devices to which
they would resort to get it across the river.
A woman came along one day with five large
flat bottles full of whisk}/ concealed under her
skirts; but as it was not fashionable for ladies


to wear their bustles all around them we
readily detected the scheme, and she had to
leave her whisky behind. Standing in front
of our quarters one day, I noticed a woman
coming down the street in a great hurry. Just
before reaching the place where I stood she
crossed over on the other side of the street,
and as no passes were then required of citi-
zens she was going right along over the bridge.
Just as she got opposite me I said, " Hold on,
madam ! I want to see you a moment."

" Indade, sur," she replied, " I haven't got a
drap of the dhirty stuff about me, sur. I
would be the last woman to touch it, indade,
sur, the miserable stuff! "

" Well, never mind," I said, " I'll only detain
you a moment. Just come over a little while."

She continued to declare her innocence, but
after considerable more argument she very re-
luctantly came across, and from the dispropor-
tionate drapery of her dress-skirt I detected a
canteen of whisky. *' Madam," I said, " you
just step into that closet and remove that
whisky, which will save me from the disagree-
able duty of doing it myself."

" Och, you mean spalpeen," she said; " I've


jist got a little cirap of whisky for my poor
seek baby, and now ye're afther taking it away
from me, bad luck to ye."

I ventured to remark that it must be a huge
sort of a baby, and must be desperately sick
to want three pints of forty-rod whisky. She
didn't appreciate my logic in the least, but
that " poor seek baby " didn't get the whisky.





NE day a large, stout, good-natured ap-
pearing colored man came up to the
bridge with a sack of corn meal on his shoul-
der, which he set down on the ground, pleas-
antly remaiking, " Dar, boss, if yer thinks I'se
got any whisky you're welcome to luk fo' it."
Of course we were completely thrown off our
guard by his frank, open manner, and more
from habit than from suspicion one of the
boys commenced poking his fingers into the
outside of the sack, when, his suspicions being
aroused, he remarked, " It seems to me that
that meal is packed awfully solid in that sack."
This led to the opening of the sack, when, be-
hold ! a good-sized jug of whisky was brought
to light snugly covered up on all sides by the
darky's hoe-cake timber. But wasn't that
dusky Hamite sadly demoralized, though? He
stood there in speechless amazement, and would
actually have turned pale if he could. He
trembled like a leaf, and finally stammered


out, " Well, boss, what's yer gwine to do wid
me?" Some one suggested hanging. "Now,
boss, I 'clare to goodness I'se nebber dun sich a
thing afore, and Meed, massa, if yer let me off
dis time dis nigger will nebber do it again!"
After tormenting him a while we concluded to
let him go his way in peace, but minus his
whisky. His sack of meal dwindled down
wonderfully after the jug was removed. It
made me think of the old colored man who
went fishing, and succeeded in catching a good-
sized sucker, after which he laid down on the
bank of the creek and fell asleep. Soon after
another darky came along w'ho had caught a
small fish, and, spying the large fish on the
ground, concluded to trade the small fish for

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Online LibraryJ. D. (John D.) BloodgoodPersonal reminiscences of the war → online text (page 9 of 16)