John K. Duke.

History of the Fifty-third regiment Ohio volunteer infantry, during the war of the rebellion, 1861 to 1865. Together with more than thirty personal sketches of officers and men online

. (page 16 of 24)
Online LibraryJohn K. DukeHistory of the Fifty-third regiment Ohio volunteer infantry, during the war of the rebellion, 1861 to 1865. Together with more than thirty personal sketches of officers and men → online text (page 16 of 24)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Lumber River. The roads were bad and seemed to have no bot-
tom. The pontoon was laid and we crossed over at 3 p. m., and
marched six miles to Rawdensville. It was still raining and the
roads became almost impassable. Went into camp at about dusk,
having marched fourteen miles.

We had reveille at 6 a. m. on March 10th It was still rain-
ing and the roads were swampy. We spent most of the day cor-
duroying them. The trains reached our command, and we
moved out at 4 p. m., marching one mile and camping. Reveille
at 5:30 a. m. on the 11th, and at 7 a. m. we were marching. The
roads were bad, and we moved slowly. We crossed Cock Fish
Creek at dusk, and marched on the road to Fayetteville, going
into camp at 10 o'clock after marching 13 miles.

March 12th we were called up by the bugle at 5 a. m., and
marched at 7. We moved five miles, going into camp at noon in
the vicinity of Fayetteville. We visited the town during the
evening. It was principally noted for a large arsenal.

March 13th, we were called at 7 a. m., but remained in camp
all day. At 6 a. m., on the 14th we were called out with orders to
march at 8 a. m. The time, however, was postponed and we did
not string out upon the road until 4 p. m. We crossed the Cape
Fear River on pontoons at dusk, and went into camp one mile
from the river. The arsenal at Fayetteville was destroyed by fire
during the day.

March 15tli, we had reveille at G a. m., and marched at 12 m.
on the Goldsboro road in a severe rain and thunderstorm. We


went into camp at 5 o'clock at Bethany Camp Oronnd, having
marched 12 miles. On March Kith the reveille sounded at 5 a.
m., and we marched at i>, crossing the Black River, where we re-
mained during the day, camping at Ray's Store, five miles west of
the main Goldsboro Road. The roads were bad, and we marched
only 12 miles. On the 17th we were up again at o a. m. and
marched at 7 o'clock on bad roads. We moved to the Goldsboro
road, marching six miles, and going into camp at noon near Bea-
man's Cross Roads. We were now just 40 miles from Raleigh
and Goldsboro.

On the 18th we were summoned by the reveille at G a. m.,
but did not march until 2 p. m. We moved upon the road leading
north and east, but very slowly, as the country was swampy. We
heard heavy cannonading on the left during the evening. We
marched until 11 p. m., when we received orders to return imme-
diately to the assistance of the 14th Corps. Johnston with 40,000
men had attacked them and was causing considerable anxiety.
We marched all night. March the 19th, we arrived at the battle-
ground of the 14th Corps at daylight, having marched 22 miles. All
was quiet, the enemy having fallen back. The command moved
into position and camped for the night.

March 20th we were up at 5 a. m., marched three miles, and
went into position on the front line and the right of the 14th
Corps. Several were wounded during the evening. There was
slight skirmishing while constructing works.

On March 21st we had reveille at G a. m., and proceeded at
once to advance our skirmishers on the enemy's lines. Johnston,
however, had made a hurried retreat when he discovered that the
17th Corps had struck his rear at Bentonville. We marched at
noon towards Goldsboro, and went into camp within five miles of
Fallen Creek, having marched 10 miles. We were out again at G
a. m. on the 22nd. We marched six and a half miles, crossing
Fallen Creek, when we discovered that we had no orders to march
and halted, going into camp at 10 o'clock.


On the 23rd we had reveille at 6 a. m„ and proceeded npon the
line of march at 7, reaching Neuse River at noon, crossed on pon-
toon bridge, and went into camp on the Newberne Railroad. On
the 24th we reached Goldsboro and camped. Here ended our
campaign for the Carolinas.

Since leaving Savannah we had trudged over 500 miles
throngh Dixie, capturing over 100 prisoners with their arms. Our
losses were :

8 enlisted men killed,
17 enlisted men wounded.
10 enlisted men missing.

The missing, no doubt, were prisoners of war.

Brigadier-General W. T. Sherman, in his official report of
this campaign, says, "I cannot close this report without express-
ino- my admiration for the patience and courage the officers and
regiments of this brigade have shown during the long and arduous
campaign which has just closed. Often without bread, and many
of them barefooted and destitute of clothing to make them com-
fortable, inspired by the zeal of true patriots, they have cheerfully
performed all their duties."

The troops of this army as they filed into Goldsboro were
certainly a motley looking crowd. They were mounted upon all
sorts of animals; dressed in various costumes ; and some were so
scantily dressed that they would scarcely have been admitted into
good society. General Sherman's attention being called to some
of the boys who had only drawers and no pants, he said, '' Yes, but
see what legs ! I should be tempted to trade both of mine for
one of theirs."

In reference to these barefooted men. General Jones in his
official report says, "they deserved the sympathy of all who wit-
nessed it, at the same time they were the last to complain." An-
other writer quotes this remark of one of the men : "My shoes



gave out eleven days ago, sir ; but 1 don't care, my feet are getting
used to it ; but the corduroy is awfully hard to travel over."

The southern people who were following the army, and
those denominated "bummers," had borrowed of our erring south-
ern brothers their buggies, hacks, and in fact everything upon
wheels, and loaded them witli ihe rich edibles of the country.





March 25th, Goldsbufo. Our army was principally employed
in reorganization, i. e., in clothing onr nearly naked army, that
for about ten months had been upon the tramp ; in supplying our
ordnance trains and general supply trains, condemning the sick
and lame animals, and in fact in weeding out all unnecessary im-
pediments to another successful campaign. Some idea can be
gleaned of this enormous task if it is stated that 25,000 pairs of
shoes had replaced a limited number of worn out ones, and 75,000
suits of clothing had been distributed to equip our army. Add to
this a large amount of provisions for the army and provender for
the animals, and you have but a faint conception of what is requir-
ed to subsist an army of 100,000 souls.

The location of our camp in and about Goldsboro from a sani-
tary point was excellent ; water abundant, land rolling , and the
scenery i'^spiring. It appeared, however, from surface indications
that our stay here was not to be of long duration. Appearances
seemed to indicate that the war would end on the basis of a restored
Union. The existing feeling was that not more than one more
campaign could at best be reasonably expected. It seemed as
though, with General Grant hammering at General Lee's front,
and General Sherman's 100,000 seasoned veterans threatening to
pounce upon his rear in the near future, the controlling powers of
our enemy ought to hasten to arrange for peace if for no other
than humanitarian reasons. The blood and treasure of both the
North and the South had been expended freely upon the altar of
the country in the effort of our erring Southern brother to erect a
separate government. While this vast army of ours, if it had it


in its power, would end the war on lionoray:)le terms, yet should it
be necessary in order to accomplish the recognition of United
States authority, to shed further blood, woe to the foe who should
coujpel it This was the sentiment.

The 26th and 27th of March were occupied in completing our
camp. On the 27th, our brigade accompanied the division sup-
ply train on a toraging expedition, more especially for our horses
and mules than for the soldiers, as the bovs understood how to
take care of themselves. We went some ten miles upon the right
of the right wing of the army and "struck it rich " for both man
and beast. We returned at dark, tired and hungry for black coffee,
hardtack, and some of the smoked hams we had dug up that had
been hidden in the swamps. One of the boys, not religiously
but humorously inclined, pronounced a so-called blessing as we
squatted upon the ground to partake of our supper :

" Oh ! Thou who blest the loaves and fishes,
Look down upon these old tin dishes,
By Thy great power these dishes smash,
Bless each of us and damn this hash."

March 29th was spent by the historian on the picket line. It
rained nearly all day and night. All was quiet in camp and

The time from April first to the ninth inclusive was quietly
spent in camp in the performance of the usual army duties.

On the morning of the 10th we had reveille at 7 a. m., and
the column marched out at 8 a. m. There was considerable ex-
citement, caused by rumors flying thick and fast as to our objec-
tive point, and as to the whereabouts of Johnston's army. Yet
there was pictured in the faces of all the rank and file that stern
determination to see the end of it, and that each should be one of
the units in that grand finale. As General Grant was subsisting
his army over the Raleigh and Danville Railroad, it was conceded
that the objective point was first to sever that communication with


the South, and that it could be most effectually accomplished at
the junction of that road at Ashboro, (30 miles from Raleigh.
While our boys were elated over the rumored surrender of Lee's
army, yet the prospect of another raid or chase after Joe Johnston
was somewhat discouraging. The private soldiers of the rank
generally carried as much intelligence beneath their hats as was
to be found, proportionately, among those who were fortunate
enough to be in command. Hence it was understood that Gen-
eral Johnston was possessed of the ability to retreat as well as fight,
and the rank and file felt as they expressed it: "God only knows
where we shall go in this final pursuit of Johnston, or where and
how it will end. "

It rained all day, but we marched 15 miles, passing through
the small village of Pikeville, and went into camp weary and wet
to the skin. It rained most of the night.

On the morning of April 11th we broke camp at 9 a. m., and
passing over an exceedingly poor country, crossed Little River
about night fall, going into camp at 8 p. m.

On the morning of April 12th as the command was sum-
moned to march , it was again currently rumored that General
Lee had surrendered to General Grant. This announcement ran
from mouth to mouth until finally as the column was about to
move, as we thought, we were formed in hollow square and the
following Special Field Order No. 54 was read to the command :

Headquarters Alilitary Division of the ^
Mississippi^ in the Field. \

Smith field, North Carolina, April 12, 1865. J

The general commanding announces to the army that he has
official notice from General Grant that General Lee surrendered
to him his entire army, on the 9th inst. at Appomattox Court
House, Virginia.

Glory to God and our country, and all honor to our comrades
in arms, toward whom we are marching.


A little more labor, a little more toil on our part, the great
race is won, and onr Ciovernment stands regenerated, after four
long vears of war. W. T. SHERMAN,

Major-General, Commanding."

The announcement was the signal for an outburst such
as it is not accorded to any one to witness more than once in
a lifetime. The grizzly veterans, while expecting it were
surprised. They shouted, they yelled, they prayed, they
cried, they hugged and kissed each other. The thought of peace,
the surrender of General Johnston to our army, our return to
home and family, was enough to cause rejoicing.

On the morning of the 13th we broke camp at 11 a. m. and
marched 18 miles, camping one and a half miles from the Neuse
River. As a result of the foraging of the writer, our mess enjoyed
the following menu for supper, ham, biscuits (minus butter-milk)
coffee, molasses, potatoes, and a goose which had been with Noah
in the ark, the latter, however, was not cooked until night so
that it might serve as lunch for the next day.

On the morning of April 14th we had reveille at 6, and
moved out at 7 a. m., crossing the Neuse River, we stacked arms
and waited for the Third Division of the 15th Corps to pass by.
We moved at 10 a. m , and passed through Raleigh, the capital
of North Carolina. This was a small city, but wealthy, contain-
ino- a o-ood state house and a rather modern insane asylum.
General Sherman with some of his staff was inspecting the
asylum, when one of the inmates with a disordered mind de-
manded of him his walking papers. The victim declared he
had remained there long enough and wanted his papers.
The General spoke kindly to him in these words : "When the
papers come up to me in regular shape, I will attend to them.
Meanwhile you must be quiet and put your faith in God""
"In God?" answered the man, fixing his keen gray eye upon
the face of his interlocutor. "Yes, in God ; you certainly be-


lieve in Him and His power to take care of all of us."
The old man who had been born and reared in Massachusetts,
hitched his body a little upon one side, but did not remove his
fixed gaze from the General's face as he rejoined: "In God ? Well,
I think I do believe in a sort of Divine Providence; but when it
comes to the question of power, it strikes me that for a man who
has been walking about over the country whipping these cursed

rebels, you have a d d sight more power than anybody I

know of." At this the General smiled and turned away.

We passed four miles beyond the city of Raleigh, camping
upon a hillside. During the night it rained very hard, drenching
us to the skin, as we had no tents up.

Upon April loth General Sherman received couriers from
General Johnston transmitting letters, of which the following is a
copy :

" The results of the recent campaign in Virginia have changed
the relative military condition of the belligerents. I am, there-
fore, induced to address you in this form of inquiry whether, to
stop the further effusion of blood and devastation of property, you
are willing to make a temporary suspension of active operations,
and to communicate to Lieutenant-General Grant, commanding
the armies of the United States, the request that he will take like
action in regard to other armies, the object being to permit the
civil authorities to enter into the needful arrangements to ter-
minate the existing war."

To which General Sherman replied, as follows :

" Headquarters Military Division of the Mississippi^ ]
" In the Field, \

" Raleigh, N. C, April 14///, 1865. j

" General J. E. Johnston, Conwianding Confederate Army:

" General — I have this moment received your communica-
tion of this date. I am fully empowered to arrange with you any


terms for the suspension of further hostilities between the armies
commanded by you and those commanded by myself, and will be
willing to confer with you to that end. I will limit the advance
of my main column, to-morrow, to Morrisville, and the cavalry
to the University, and expect that you will also maintain the pres-
ent position of your forces until each has notice of a failure to

'' That a basis of action may be had, I undertake to abide by
the same terms and conditions as were made by Generals Grant
and Lee at Appomattox Court House, on the 9th instant, relative
to our two armies ; and, furthermore, to obtain from General Grant
an order to suspend the movements of any troops from the direc-
tion of Virginia. General Stoneman is under my command, and
my order will suspend any devastation or destruction contemplated
by him. I will add that I really desire to save the people of
North Carolina the damage they would sustain by the march of
this army through the central or western parts of the State.
" I am, with respect, your obedient servant,


" Major-General."

The result of this correspondence was an interview between
Generals Sherman and Johnston at or near Durham Station,
North Carolina, on the morning of the 17th. Just as General
Sherman was about to start on his mission of a conference with
General Johnston he was handed by the telegraph operator a tele-
gram from the Secretary of War, announcing the assassination of
President Lincoln. The general did not impart the information
of the telegram until his return from the confeience. The result
of the armistice was unsatisfactory and is a part of the history of
the country, but not a part of the history of the 53rd Ohio. On
the return of General Sherman he issued Special Field Order No.
56, to wit :


" Headquarters Military Division of the Mississippi^

" in the Fields
Raleigh, N. C, April \lth, 18(>5.

"The general commanding announces, with pain and sorrow,
that on the evening of the 14th inst., at the theater in Washing
ton City, his Excellency the President of the United States, Mr.
Lincoln, was assassinated by one who uttered the state motto of
Virginia. At the same lime, the Secretary of State, Mr. Seward,
while suffering with a broken arm, was also stabbed by another
murderer in his own house, but still survives, and his son was
wounded, supposed fatally. It is believed, by persons capable of
judging, that other high officers were designed to share the same
fate. Thus it seems that our enemy, despairing of meeting us in
open, manly warfare, begins to resort to the assassin's tools.

"Your general does not wish to infer that this is universal,
for he knows that the great mass of the Confederate army would
scorn to sanction such acts, but he believes it the legitimate conse-
sequence of rebellion against rightful authority.

" We have met every phase which this war has assumed, and
must now be prepared for it in its last and worst shape, that of as-
sassins and guerrillas ; but woe unto the people who seek to ex-
pend their wild passions in such a manner, for there is but one
dread result !

" By order of Major-General W. T. Sherman,

" Assistant Adjutant-General. "

During the evening of the 17th and during the whole of the
18th the assassination was the only topic of conversation with the
soldiers. It was evident that, if another opportunity was given
the Army of the Mississippi to meet the opposing army of General
Johnston, that revenge would be sweet, as all or nearly all said :
*' Let's carry the black flag into our next engagement."


It had been ag^reed by and between Generals Sherman and
Johnston that 48 hours notice should be given by either party
should it again become necessary to resume hostilities. This no-
tice was served upon General Johnston on the 26th, together with
the information that the former treaty had not been ratified by
the United States Government. Preparations were at once made
for a general advance all along the line. General Johnston
thoroughly understood what it meant, and with all the dis-
couragements and defeats before him he decided to ask again for
a further cessation of hostilities. During this interview the sur-
render of his army was arranged for, so upon the morning of
April 27th, in the year of our Lord 1865, the war of the rebellion
was virtually ended.

To depict the scenes following the announcement of the sur-
render would require descriptive powers of the highest order.
It is even doubtful whether words could describe them or wheth-
er an artist could portray them upon canvass. The southern
armies had been destroyed ; their country impoverished by the
march of our army through a thousand miles of the south, with
the destruction of almost everything within sight that could pos-
sibly be of any use to them. The task of the rehabilitation of
their country was now before them, a just punishment for their
rebellion against one of the best governments beneath the sun.

On the 28th of April we received orders to take up our line
of march to Washington, D. C. "Homeward bound ! thank God !"
was the general exclamation. If this peace accomplished at
such a sacrifice was the cause of rejoicing to our friends in the
northland, what must it have been to those who fought the gi-
gantic rebellion to a finish? This army of 100,000 had been vic-
torious upon about every battlefield, our comradeship was that of a
great family, and we rejoiced that we could soon be at home, in
the enjoyment of all that that blessed word means ; yet, when
the hour of separation came, many and many a tear was shed.
The friendship shot into us by actual contact for four years of
horror will not be obliterated while reason sits enthroned.


On April 29th we took up our line of march toward Washing-
ton, by way of Richmond. We marched 12 miles, passing through
a poor section of North Carolina. The weather was delightful.
We crossed the Neuse River at 2 p. m.

On Sunday morning, April 30th, , General O. O. Howard,
true to his Christian instincts, ordered the loth and 17th Corps to
observe the Lord's Day, as the war was over. To us, the weary
and way worn, how great was the joy !

On the morning of May 1st we had reveille at 4 o'clock and
marched at 5:30; we passed through Rollsville and camped at
Lewisburg after marching eighteen miles. May 2nd, the bugle
sounded at 6 a. m. and we broke camp at 8, and marched until 5
p. m., covering some twelve miles. May 3rd we were up at 5 and
on the road at a. m., passing through Warrentown during the
day. A novel and inspiring sight greeted us as we were passing
through this village. A squad of ex-Confederate officers stood by the
wayside and reviewed us en route. If within a few short days
these same officers had presented themselves to our view, our com-
pliments and cards would have been tossed to them with a minie
ball ; but in lieu of such acts of legalized murder such interrogat-
ories and remarks as these were made : " How are you, John-
nies?" "Are you glad you are alive?" " Hov/ do you enjoy
peace ? " '' Did you find your wives and babies well ? " " We
are on the road to see our wives, babies, mothers, fathers, and
sweethearts." "Say, Johnny, we abandoned a lot of lame mules
at Raleigh, go and get them and go to farming." And much
more of the same character. Here for the first time in months our
eyes were greeted by the sight of refined womanhood. The first
thought of many a one was "This is Paradise Regained," with angels
in abundance. To see these haggard veterans tip their hats in
recognition of virtue and womanhood would have softened the
hardest heart, and he who would have attempted anything else
would have done so at the risk of his life. Patriotism, bravery,


and manhood are but synonymous terms. We marched during the
day twenty-seven miles.

On May 4th we had reveille at (I a. m. and marched at 7, but
stacked arms until 1 p. m., and then proceeded to cross the
Roanoke River on a pontoon bridj^e. Soon thereafter we crossed
the state line of North Carolina into "old Virginny." After
marching eighteen miles we went into camp for the night.

On the morning of the 5th we were awakened by reveille to
find it raining, but we moved out at 7 a. m., and marched twenty-
eight miles. May (Uh, reveille sounded at 5 and we marched at
G a. m. We passed Dinwiden Court-house and inarched eighteen
miles, camping in and around a fort and fortified position formerly
held by our adversaries. Sunday, May 7th, we marched six miles
and camped at 10 o'clock within half a mile of Petersburg, with
the Second Division in the lead. On the 8th we rested through-
out the day, occupying most of the time in washing our rags and
tatters, ourselves included.

On the 9th we had reveille at 6 a. m., and marched at 7:30,
passing through Petersburg. This had been a nice city, but the
havoc of war was everywhere visible. House after house had been
riddled by cannon shot. In passing through the village we were
reviewed by Generals Howard, Logan, Sheridan, and Hazen. We
marched nineteen miles and camped. The 10th, 11th and 12th
were occupied in the usual line of inarch, covering in the three
days something like forty odd miles.

On the 13th we moved at 6 a. m., and passed through Man-

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 16 18 19 20 21 22 23 24

Online LibraryJohn K. DukeHistory of the Fifty-third regiment Ohio volunteer infantry, during the war of the rebellion, 1861 to 1865. Together with more than thirty personal sketches of officers and men → online text (page 16 of 24)