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James L. (James Lorenzo) Bowen.

History of the Thirty-Seventh Regiment, Mass. Volunteers in the Civil War of 1861-1865 : with a comprehensive sketch of the doings of Massachusetts as a state, and of the principal campaigns of the war online

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Online LibraryJames L. (James Lorenzo) BowenHistory of the Thirty-Seventh Regiment, Mass. Volunteers in the Civil War of 1861-1865 : with a comprehensive sketch of the doings of Massachusetts as a state, and of the principal campaigns of the war → online text (page 1 of 44)
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Extract from Report of Major-General Frank Wheaton,
Commanding ist Division, Sixth Corps. (Page 1029, Volume
42, Series 7. "Official Records, War of the Rebellion.")

In the Field, Dec. i/th, 1864.

One Regiment of this Division is now on detached ser
vice at Winchester, Va., and no recommendations for that Reg
iment have been forwarded by the commander of the brigade
to which it belongs, viz: the Thirty-seventh Mass. Vols.; and
I have the honor to make the following recommendation, as
the facts referred to are personally known to me: Lieut-Col.
George L. Montague commanding Thirty-seventh Mass. Vols.
to be Colonel by Brevet for distinguished gallantry in the battle
of Spottsylvania Court House, Va,, May J2th, J864, in which
battle he was severely wounded.

(Sd.) FRANK WHEATON,

Major General Commanding."

The Commission as Brevet Colonel was duly issued by
the War Department, signed by the President and Secretary
of War.




Battle Flags ol 37th Reg t Mass. Vol s, as preserved at the State House, Boston.



HISTORY



OF THE



Thirty-Seventh Regiment



MASS. VOLUNTEERS,



CIVIL WflR OF 1861-1865,



WITH A COMPREHENSIVE SKETCH OF THE DOINGS OF MASSACHUSETTS

AS A STATE, AND OF THE PRINCIPAL CAMPAIGNS

OF THE WAR.



BY JAMES L. BOWEN.



CLARK W. BRYAN & COMPANY, PUBLISHERS,

HOLYOKE, MASS., AND NEW YORK ClTY.
1884.



. 5



COPYRIGHT, 1884,

BY JAMES L. BOWEN.



CLARK w. BRYAN & Co., PRINTERS, HOLYOKE, MASS.
in BROADWAY, NEW YORK.



TO

THE MEMORY

OF

THOSE BRAVE MEN
WHOSE NAMES FORM OUR ,

ROLL OF HONOR
THIS RECORD OF THEIR SACRIFICE

AT DUTY S CALL
IS REVERENTLY DEDICATED

BY

THEIR COMRADE



OUR ILLUSTRATIONS.



It is believed that no illustration \vhich could be presented as a
frontispiece would be more universally pleasing to members of the
Thirty-seventh regiment than a faithful portraiture of the colors
which for nearly three years they faithfully followed. The tattered
standards were therefore carefully taken from their resting place in
the State House, at Boston, photographed by E. F. Smith of that city
in several different positions, and from the most satisfactory pro
duction the accompanying picture was made.

The excellent view of " Camp Edwards," directly after its occu
pation by the regiment, before the later decorations were added, is
reproduced from the larger lithograph drawn by Hospital Steward
W. A. Champney. Both of the present lithographs are from the
establishment of Milton Bradley Company of Springfield.



TO THE READER.



The first attempt at a historical sketch of the Thirty-seventh
Massachusetts Regiment was a paper read by General Edwards at
the reunion in Springfield, September 19, 1871. While the docu
ment thus presented was necessarily little more than an epitome
of the service of the organization, it excited great interest and woke
the demand for a more complete and detailed production. The
following year, at the reunion at Pittsfield, September 24, the first
appointment of a historian was made, E. P. Bridgman being selected.
Two years later, at the Bernardston gathering of 1874, Colonel
Montague was appointed historian, and the following year the
office passed to Lieutenant S. E. Nichols, the following vote being
taken : " That Lieutenant Nichols be urgently requested to fill the
office of historian of the regiment. In case of his refusal so to do
the matter to be left in the hands of the Executive Committee."

At the Northampton reunion of September 8 and 9, 1876, " It
was voted that Comrade W. E. Lewis be appointed historian of the
Association, that he be authorized to employ any assistance he
deems necessary, and that this organization pledge itself to give
him all details in their possession of interest to the companies or
regiment, and that he shall have authority to draw upon the treas
urer through the secretary for such disbursements for this purpose
as in his judgment shall be deemed proper. Upon Comrade
Lewis s acceptance of this office a vote of thanks was tendered him
by the association."

At the Northampton reunion of 1877 Lieutenant Lewis was re-
elected historian, though no report was furnished regarding his
work. At the meeting of 1878 at Westfield a communication was
read from him stating that " the history would probably be ready
for publication by the next annual reunion," and he was again
elected to the position. The following year no definite action was



10 TO THE HEADER.

taken regarding the history, but the records show that a letter was
read from Comrade Lewis, containing, it wou^d seem, no specific
information. At the gathering of 1880 a letter was read from the
historian " expressing expectation that the history of the regiment
would be completed during the coming year." At the same time
" the committee on the history was newly constituted to consist of
the following members: W. E. Lewis, S. E. Nichols and William
Bliss." The record of the meeting of 1881 says: "It was voted
that General Oliver Edwards, Colonel George L. Montague, Cap
tain William Bliss, Colonel Thomas G. Colt, Lieutenant S. E.
Nichols and Lieutenant William E. Lewis be a committee to have
full charge of the revision and publication of the completed history
of the Thirty-seventh Regiment."

At the meeting of the association at Westfield, September 19,
1882, a report of progress was made by the committee, of which
Comrade James L. Bowen was elected a member. At a meeting
of the committee held some three months later Comrade Bowen
presented briefly his idea of the form which a fegimental history
should take and it was voted to instruct him to prepare a history
of the regiment on such a plan. At the 1883 reunion Mr. Bowen
made a report of progress, saying that it was hoped to have the
book ready for delivery during the early part of the coming year.
To fill the vacancy in the committee caused by the death of Colonel
T. G. Colt, Captain Walter B. Smith was appointed, and Captain
H. M. Abbott was added to the number.

Somewhat longer time than was anticipated has necessarily been
consumed in the preparation of the book, but it is hoped that the
work may be found sufficiently satisfactory in character to compen
sate for the delay. S. E. NICHOLS, Secretary.

BUFFALO, N. Y., AUGUST, 1884.



PREFACE.



In this age of book-making no apology is needed for presenting
in permanent form the present narrative. As will be seen by the
statement of the History Committee, the matter of preparing a
history of the Thirty-seventh Massachusetts Regiment had been
long discussed, and numerous steps taken looking to that end,
when at a meeting of the Committee held at Pittsfield, December
15, 1882, I was asked to undertake the task. The invitation was
accepted, not without serious misgivings. Arduous duties in con
nection with daily journalism promised very little leisure for the new
undertaking ; my retirement from wounds previous to the later
campaigns of the regiment prevented that full personal knowledge
of its movements so desirable ; my position as a private soldier
was not one to especially qualify for the historian s office ; the rec
ords of the regiment were found to be missing or incomplete ; its
members were widely scattered, many of them with details of soldier
life quite driven from mind by the stress of 20 years of active civil
pursuits. For these reasons leniency is craved for any shortcom
ings which may appear in the following pages.

The book has been written with a sincere desire to do justice to
a deserving organization ; having no prejudice and no individual
ends to serve, I have sought to record the work of the regiment
faithfully and impartially. The scope of the volume has been
broadened to include features which, while not directly connected
with the story of the Thirty-seventh regiment, it seemed after this
lapse of time desirable to present, that the doings of the regiment
might be traced with an understanding of contemporaneous and



12 PKEFACE.

relative events. The details of personal history have not been
closely followed, and in most cases no attempt is made to trace
the fortunes of individuals subsequent to the disbanding of the
organization. It did not seem to me either desirable to undertake
to do so in connection with the extended scope of the work or
possible to make such a record if attempted in any way satisfac
tory or complete. At the same time I have striven to follow the
regiment closely in its varying fortunes, and to reproduce its ex
periences on the inarch, in camp or on the field of action, with the
unfolding of military life as it presented itself to the citizen-
soldier.

I desire to express my sincere thanks to all comrades and others
who have kindly assisted me in collecting material for the volume.
Necessarily I have been obliged to make many demands on the
time and patience of others. In this direction I have met only
kindness and encouragement. I feel under especial obligation to
General Charles Devens, General H. S. Briggs, Mrs. E. J. Morse
and Rev. J. W. Lane ; and among members of the regiment to
Lieutenant Colonel Hopkins, Sergeant A. G. Taylor and George
C. Clapp, in addition to the History Committee, all of whom have
responded promptly to all demands made upon them. I must
especially mention the tireless and invaluable services of the
Secretary, Lieutenant S. E. Nichols.

In the hope that to the survivors of the regiment and the friends
of the fallen the book may prove an acceptable record of their
deeds in the day of supreme trial, it is sent forth. J. L. B.

SPRINGFIELD, MASS., SEPTEMBER, 1884.



CONTENTS BY CHAPTERS.



I.FROM SECESSION TO ANTIETAM. . 17

The Election of Lincoln.

Revolt of the Southern States.

Opening of the War.

The Operations of the Army of the Potomac.

II. MASSACHUSETTS IN THE WAR. . 42

The Record of the Commonwealth.
Its Public Men.
Its Soldiers.
Its Citizens.

III. THE THIRTY-SEVENTH REGIMENT. . 58

The Gathering at Camp Briggs.
Character of the Command.
The Original Roster of Officers.
Personal Notes and Incidents.

IV. FROM PITTSFIELD TO DOWNSVILLE. 68

The Journey to Washington.
Life at Camp Chase.

Via Frederick and South Mountain to the Army
of the Potomac.

V. THE ADVANCE TO FALMOUTH. . . 82

The Expedition to Hancock and Cherry Run.

Into the Land of Secession.

A Change of Commanders.

Incidents by the Way.

White Plains and " Camp Misery."



14 CONTEXTS BY CHAPTERS.

VI. ON THE RAPPAHANNOCK. . 104

The Battle of Fredericksburg.
In Winter Quarters.
The Mud March.
Camp Edwards.

VII. THE ARMY UNDER HOOKER. . 127

Events in the West.

Chancellorsville, Marye s Hights and Salem Church.

VIII. TO GETTYSBURG. . 153

After the Defeat.
The Skirmish with A. P. Hill.
The Northward Movement.
Exit Hooker, Enter Meade.
The March to the Battle-field.

IX. THE TURN OF THE TIDE. . 175

The Battle of Gettysburg.

The Thirty-seventh Tried by Fire.

The Pursuit of Lee.

Climbing the Mountains.

Once More in Virginia.

X. THE REGIMENT IN NEW YORK. . 202

The Union Victories.

Northern Treachery and Disloyalty.

The Riot in New York.

The Thirty-seventh sent to the City.

Its Creditable Service There.

XI. AGAIN AT THE FRONT. 223

The Return Trip.

The Fortunes of the Army.

The Victory at Rappahannock Station.

The Dismal Expedition to Mine Run.

Changes and Promotions.



CONTEXTS BY CHAPTERS. 15

XII. WINTER ON THE RAPIDAN. 245

The Closing Year.
Progress of the War.
The Winter Camp and the Life in it.
A Futile Expedition.

XIII. NINE DAYS OF CARNAGE. . 267

The Reorganization of the Army.
The Grapple in the Wilderness.
By the Left Flank to Spottsylvania.
Death of Sedgwick.
"The Angle."

XIV. A GLANCE TO THE REAR. 299

The Wounded and Dying.
Hospital Scenes and Incidents.
The Christian and Sanitary Commissions.

XV. SPADES AND BULLETS. . 313

The Closing Struggles at Spottsylvania.
" By the Left Flank."
Crossing Swords at North Anna.
The Death Harvest at Cold Harbor.

XVI. GOING TO MEET EARLY. . 337

In Front of Petersburg.
At Reams Station.
Early in Maryland.
Fort Stevens.
The Spencer Rifle.

XVII. THE CAMPAIGN UNDER SHERIDAN. . 357
The Wagon Trains.

Seeking Early by March and Countermarch.
Sheridan at the Helm.
The Fight at Charlestown.
The Battle of Opequan.



16 CONTENTS BY CHAPTERS.

XVI [I. THE SERVICE AT WINCHESTER. . 382

On Provost Duty.
Changes and Promotions.
Battle of Cedar Creek.
Sherman s Campaign.

XIX THE PETERSBURG CAMPAIGN. . ; 396

Again in the Trenches.
Days of Siege.
At Hatcher s Run.
Preparing to Strike.
Fall of Petersburg.

XX. ONE COUNTRY AND ONE FLAG. 413

Lee s Flight and the Pursuit.
The Grapple at Sailor s Creek.
The Surrender at Appomattox.
In Search of Johnston.

XXL THE CLOSING SCENES. ... 425

Facing Northward.

Reviews at Richmond and Washington.
The Final Roster.
Mustered Out.
The Welcome Home.



CHAPTER I.



FROM SECESSION TO ANTIETAM.



THE ELECTION OF LINCOLN. REVOLT OF THE SOUTHERN
STATES. OPENING OF THE WAR. THE OPERATIONS OF
THE ARMY OF THE POTOMAC.

THE election of Abraham Lincoln of Illinois and Hannibal
Hamlin of Maine, the Republican candidates for President and
Vice-President of the United States, November 6, I860, fur
nished the pretext for an attempt on the part of the Southern
states for a division of the Union. In this movement South
Carolina had been a leader, and its Legislature was the first to
adopt an ordinance of secession, which was done on the 20th of
December. Mississippi, Florida and Alabama followed her ex
ample on the 9th, 10th and llth of January, 1861, Georgia on
the 19th, Louisiana on the 26th and Texas the 1st of February.
The action of these seven states, in declaring themselves no
longer a part of the Federal Union, was thus taken long before
the inauguration of Mr. Lincoln, and while th.e national gov
ernment remained in the hands of their political friends. Pres
ident Buchanan, undoubtedly loyal at heart, sat in his high
office, dazed and helpless before the sweep of the tempest.
Uncertain as to his duty, he met the most conflicting opinions
from those to whom he turned for advice. Questions had
arisen on which the Constitution shed no light the situation
was one which had not been provided for in the formation of
the nation. But had his duty been never so clear, the President
had no power with which to oppose the revolution. He sat in
the midst of disloyalty. The cabinet, Congress, the depart-



18 PROM SECESSION TO AKTIETAM.

oietxts, (lie army ^ and navy were swarming with secessionists,
and it yvas impossible to determine who was true and who false
Apt the aqiinfry he professed to serve. Men were daily resigning
;t\iglT ;ppsitiQn}3 of iyxistjand hastening to join the councils of the
conspirators. In the mean time the government property
throughout the southern states and along the coast was being
taken possession of in the name of the various states, and so
well had affairs been manipulated in the interests of treason that
at very few points was it possible for any resistance to be made.
Forts, arsenals, naval vessels, navy-yards, custom-houses and the
branch mint at New Orleans shared a common fate. Three
forts on the Florida coast held out, Pickens, Jefferson and
Taylor, and Fortress Monroe at Old Point Comfort, Va., was
also saved to the Union; with these exceptions the entire gov
ernmental possessions were seized throughout the sea-board
states south of the Potomac.

A convention of delegates from the seceded states met at
Montgomery, Ala., on the 4th of February, and five days later
the " Confederate States of America" were proclaimed a nation,
Jefferson Davis of Mississippi being elected president, and
A. H. Stephens of Georgia vice-president. On the 18th they
were inaugurated, amid the most enthusiastic demonstrations
throughout the Confederacy. Blinded and deluded, the Southern
people indulged the wildest visions of a speedy and bloodless
success, and the demagogues who were luring them to ruin were
hailed as the heroes of a glorious cause.

A very different feeling prevailed at Washington and through
the loyal states. The magnitude of the conspiracy and the
threatening attitude of the insurgents, who were organizing in
every part of the South, excited fears of some desperate at
tempt to prevent the inauguration of Mr. Lincoln ; but the
prompt measures of General Winfield Scott, in command of the
available fragments of the United States army, prevented any
hostile demonstration, and the ceremony transpired March 4 in
the presence of an immense gathering of people without dis
turbing incident. The inaugural address of President Lincoln
was conciliatory, almost to weakness, and its tenor was revoiced



THE OPENING OF THE CONFLICT. 19

in the closing sentences : " We are not enemies, but friends.
We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it
must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of
memory, stretching from every battle-field and patriot grave to
every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will
yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as they
surely will be, by the better angels of our nature."

But words of reason and kindness had no power over ears
split by the din of demagogues, and the inevitable conflict drew
near. The initial clash was to come at Charleston, S. 0., where
Major Anderson, whom the opening of the troubles found in
command of the fortifications of the hnrbor, had with a few
men been for months practically besieged in Fort Sumter. As
early as January an attempt had been made by President
Buchanan to send provisions to the garrison, but the unarmed
steamer carrying the supplies had been fired upon at the entrance
to the harbor and returned to New York. On the 6th of Feb
ruary President Buchanan refused a demand made by Isaac W.
Hayne for the surrender of the fort to South Carolina, and
rapid preparations were made for its reduction. General P. T.
G. Beauregard was assigned to the command of the rebel forces
early in March, and as Major Anderson refused to surrender his
trust without explicit orders from his government, fire was
opened on the fort April 12, and the following day terms of
evacuation were agreed on.

The fall of Sumter marked the end of hesitation and ban
ished all hopes of conciliation. The most important events fol
lowed rapidly. On the loth President Lincoln called for 75,000
militia to serve for three months and ordered Congress to assem
ble in special session July 4. On the 17th President Davis of
the Confederacy authorized privateering, and on the same day
Virginia, which had been dallying over the question, finally de
cided upon secession. This precipitated like action in North
Carolina, which was taken May 20, while Arkansas had also se
ceded on the 6th. The situation now became intensely critical.
On the 19th of April the President proclaimed a blockade of the
Southern ports, but it was at first only a paper blockade, for the



20 FROM SECESSION TO ANTIETAM.

government had no navy worthy the name, though the rapidity
with which one was created was little shfort of marvelous. At
the same time the first of the troops called from the loyal states
began to arrive, the Sixth Massachusetts regiment fighting its
way through a mob in the streets of Baltimore ; reaching the
Capital that evening, but leaving the route behind it closed and
Washington cut off from communication with the loyal portion
of the country till General Butler with the Eighth Massachusetts
regiment and some other forces opened a new route by way of
Annapolis. Fort Pickens had been strengthened on the very day
that the attack opened on Sumter. Fortress Monroe was saved
from the designs of the Virginia forces under Magruder by the
arrival of the Third and Fourth Massachusetts regiments, fol
lowed by others ; Baltimore was garrisoned and brought to its
senses, though unwillingly ; and the Capital was soon safe from
immediate danger ; the whole galaxy of the Free states rose to
the support of the Union ; but on the other hand many of the
ablest officers of the army, including Hood, Lee and the John
stons, had resigned their commissions to enter the Confederate
service ; the fragments of the United States arn^y in Texas were
captured in detail ; the sturdy efforts of Governor Houston to
hold that state loyal to the Union were overcome and himself
finally swept from his loyalty by the current ; the border states
of Kentucky, Tennessee and Missouri were strongly urged to
secession, and it was a question whether or not they could be
saved for the Union. Tennessee, in fact, voted secession in
June, though the people of East Tennessee, like those of West
Virginia, remained loyal and fought bitterly and bravely for
their principles.

No sooner had the ordinance of secession passed in Virginia
than active military operations were begun by a night expedition
for the capture of the government armory and arsenal at Har
per s Ferry. The loyal soldiers in charge of the post amounted
to some 40 men under Lieutenant Roger Jones, and while the
insurgents were preparing to march upon the place three com
panies of Virginia militia stationed there voted to disband. On
the night of the 18th of April, learning that a large force was



THE GOVERNMENT PASSES A CRISIS. 21

within a mile of the place, Lieutenant Jones fired the shops and
arsenal and retreated with his little command into Pennsylvania.
Thwarted in their attempt to capture the arms and buildings,
the Confederates held and fortified the adjacent hights and
gathered there a considerable force, threatening Washington and
cutting off communication in that direction.

The situation had become most perplexing. Scores of regi
ments were ready to set out for Washington, but the way was
blocked and they had no weapons. The arsenals in the loyal
states had been depleted to put their contents within reach of the
plotters, and the President, Secretary of War, and General Scott
were hemmed in at the Capital. Fortunately General John E.
Wool, in command of the Eastern Military District, comprising
the region east of the Mississippi, was at New York, and feeling
that the occasion demanded prompt action, he at once ordered
the troops supplied with whatever arms could be obtained, and
in securing transportation and forwarding soldiers he rendered
a service that won the admiration of the people. Invaluable as
was this service, it provoked so much official jealousy that Gen
eral Wool was rebuked for taking such responsible steps without
orders and sent to his home at Troy ; but the popular indigna
tion at the injustice was so strong and so vigorously expressed
that he was in a short time given command of the district of
Southeastern Virginia, with head-quarters at Fortress Monroe.

But the severest blow to the government was the loss of the
Gosport or Norfolk navy-yard, which was evacuated and burned
on the night of April 21, it being deemed impracticable to hold
it longer. Here was a vast amount of naval property, heavy can
non to the number of 2,000, and 11 of the most valuable war
vessels of the United States navy, though none of the latter were
in a sea-going condition. A few were got away, and the rest with
the buildings and stores were set on fire and abandoned; but the
work of destruction was by no means thoroughly done, and the
Confederates under General Taliaferro rescued millions of dol
lars worth of property, including the partially burned Merrimac,
which was afterward to become so famous.

Thus far the government had struck no offensive blows, and



22 FROM SECESSION TO ANTIETAM.

those which it had dealt in defense of its possessions had been piti
ably weak. With the management of affairs so largely in the hands
of Southern men and sympathizers with rebellion, the way had
been skillfully paved for the humiliation of the nation during
the last months of Buchanan s administration. The arsenals at
the North had on some pretext been nearly stripped of arms and
munitions of war to supply those in the disaffected states, and
the first care of the conspirators had been to secure these sinews
of war for their own use. This work being completed, the Con
federate Congress on the 6th of May formally declared war
against the United States.

In the mean time the situation at Baltimore was becoming
unbearable. Following the assault upon the Sixth Massachusetts
regiment and the destruction of the railroad bridges near the
city, cutting off rail communication with New York and the
East, the spirit of secession for a time ran wild and the city be
came an active rebel stronghold. Armed men poured in from



Online LibraryJames L. (James Lorenzo) BowenHistory of the Thirty-Seventh Regiment, Mass. Volunteers in the Civil War of 1861-1865 : with a comprehensive sketch of the doings of Massachusetts as a state, and of the principal campaigns of the war → online text (page 1 of 44)