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Martin A. (Martin Alonzo) Haynes.

A minor war history compiled from a soldier boy's letters to the girl I left behind me, 1861-1864. Dramatis personae, The soldier boy - Martin A. Haynes, Company I, Second New Hampshire Volunteer In online

. (page 11 of 16)
Online LibraryMartin A. (Martin Alonzo) HaynesA minor war history compiled from a soldier boy's letters to the girl I left behind me, 1861-1864. Dramatis personae, The soldier boy - Martin A. Haynes, Company I, Second New Hampshire Volunteer In → online text (page 11 of 16)
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a great many prisoners in our hands. We were not in it, simply because
they didn’t happen to hit the part of the line we were holding, but
struck a little to our right. Today we are waiting for something to
turn up. Out to our front the skirmishers are industriously popping
away, but it is a little early for the real business. Before night,
somewhere along the line, we will probably have a real old-fashioned
Fourth of July celebration, with plenty of fireworks. The armies are
holding practically the same lines we started in on here, but the
advantage is surely with us.

Our new recruits stood up to their work like men—none did better. I
cannot write more now, but when this fight is over and I can get my
hands on some writing paper, I’ll try to do better.

———————


[Illustration: JESSE DEWEY]


———————

_XCVIII_

CAMP NEAR BOONSBORO, MD., _July 11, 1863_.

Knowing how anxious you must be to hear from me, and having a little
spare time on my hands, I have traded a postage stamp for a sheet
of paper and an envelope, and here I am. We have been doing some
pretty tall marching since I last wrote. The rebels retreated from
Gettysburg, leaving their dead unburied and thousands of their wounded
as prisoners. Our army started at once in pursuit, our corps being, I
think, the last to get away. I had ample time to go, at my leisure,
over a good part of the field. And I got rid of that toothache that
I told you about. For two or three days I wasn’t thinking much about
my teeth. But when the strain was off a little, it all came back, and
at last I got simply wild. Bill Stark [hospital steward] gave me some
powder—morphine, I think—to tuck in, but I might as well have used so
much flour. Our surgeons said they didn’t have a pair of forceps in
their entire kit that they could tackle that tooth with. So I started
out to find somebody that had. I had determined, if necessary, to go
into Gettysburg, or even to Baltimore, to find a tooth-puller. The
surgeon of one of the New Jersey regiments was my Good Samaritan. He
was all packed up, ready for a start, but he overhauled a mule’s load,
dug out some forceps that looked like a pair of tongs, seated me on a
cracker box, and fastened on. That was the only time, in my experience,
that it really felt good to have a tooth pulled.

Our corps left Gettysburg at two o’clock on the morning of July 7th,
and now we are lying out here, somewhere within a thousand miles of
Boonsboro, they say. Since the battle we have had reinforcements enough
to organize a third division, and it is said to be larger than the
other two combined. We are being hustled around pretty lively, and are
likely to be rushed off in any direction at any moment. Last night we
went into camp on Antietam battlefield, and I had just got to sleep
when we were tumbled out and started off again. I marched and marched
and marched, until I was completely fagged out. Then Jess. Dewey and I
turned in by the side of the road, slept soundly and comfortably until
morning, then raced on and caught up with the regiment. Just at this
immediate time Company I is a little topheavy. Herm. Sleeper and I are
the only privates on duty, with five non-commissioned officers. The
rest are used up and camped along the roadside, or in hospitals. The
Army of the Potomac is doing some great marching and is in good spirits
for a fight. We are sorry to lose General Sickles. He is very popular
with the Third Corps, being very considerate in marching the men. Right
or wrong, the average estimate of Birney is that he classes his men
along with his horses and mules.

I do a little foraging now, but not as much as when in Virginia. But
I pay for everything I get here, except apples and plums, while in
Virginia I enforce the principle of confiscation. I have fried apples
about every day. I got a pound of splendid butter yesterday for
twenty-five cents, and once in a while I get a loaf of bread, some
biscuits, or a pie.

Jess. Dewey and I have made a calculation, and find that since leaving
Falmouth we have footed it about three hundred miles. My load was
materially reduced by the loss of my knapsack. I picked up another one,
but all I am carrying in it just now is a single piece of shelter-tent
cloth. One of the bummers attached to the regiment found a box in a
ditch, at Emmitsburg, containing two hundred dollars, mostly in gold.
[The finder was a disreputable camp follower familiarly known as
“Culpepper”—the brother of one of our officers—and there is reason to
believe that his loot was the poor-box of the convent at Emmitsburg.]

———————

_XCIX_

CAMP NEAR SHARPSBURG, MD., _July 15, 1863_.

We are now lying in camp with a promise of remaining all day. Not a
word have I had from you for many a day. We move so often and travel
so fast that we cannot complain if the mail wagon doesn’t catch up
with us. The rebels have escaped across the river out of the net we
boys fondly hoped had been thrown around their army, and now we are
anticipating another series of hard marches. Yesterday morning our
skirmishers advanced upon the rebel positions and found them abandoned
and the rebels across the river. This morning the Thirds Corps started
at six o’clock and marched until two in the afternoon with but one halt
of a very few minutes for rest. You can be sure the man and horse who
set the pace at the head of the column came in for the usual amount of
cussing. The day, although cloudy, was very hot, and the road was lined
with stragglers.

We came pretty near having a wild riot here this afternoon. We were no
sooner in camp than a sutler pitched his tent close by and opened up
for trade. Pretty soon there was a big crowd around his establishment,
and some of the lawless began to steal and pilfer. He very naturally
tried to protect his property, and soon there was a wild tumult. It
looked as if the guard that had been posted would have their hands full
to save any part of his gingersnaps and cheese. The major of the Sixth
New York Heavy Artillery, a young bud with shoulder-straps as big as
a barn door, rushed down from their camp, near by, and made himself
conspicuous. His regiment had never seen active service, having done
garrison duty at Baltimore and Harper’s Ferry, and when he ordered the
dirty old fighting men to go to their regiments it was like waving a
red flag before a bull. One of our small boys—a camp follower—told him
to go to H—ot Place. The major made a reach for the boy and missed
connection, then foolishly chased him into our camp, and caught him.
Then somebody knocked the major down, and somebody else picked him up
and pitched him out of camp. In a few minutes his regiment was seen
to be falling in, under arms, whereupon the Sixth New Jersey bugles
sounded the “Assembly,” and every other bugle in the brigade caught
up the call. Just at this time General French came tearing up, who
listened to the major’s story and bluffly told him he had no business
or authority in that camp—and that was the end of it.

We passed over Antietam battleground today—where Hooker fought, and
the bridge Burnside carried by a charge. I have a rebel roundabout,
cartridge box, and plate with letters “C S” on it. I inclose an Indian
arrow head I picked up in the road. It rains almost every day now, and
we must go to work pretty soon and put up our shelter. Jess. Dewey,
Bill Pendleton and I are hitching up together just now.

———————

_C_

CAMP AT ASHBY’S GAP, VA., _July 21, 1863_.

Came up to this place yesterday, and may stay here two or three days,
as it is quite an important position just at the present time. On
the one hand is the little village of Upperville, now devastated and
dilapidated; on the other hand is Ashby’s Gap, a pass through the
Blue Ridge. We are camped in fields on the slope of a mountain, from
which point there is a broad view of the country far to the east. The
bleached skeletons of horses tell of fierce cavalry fights, at various
times, for the possession of the gap; and close to our camp are four
fresh graves of men killed in Stahl’s fight with Stuart. It is a
country of wornout land nourishing a big crop of blackberry bushes. No
sooner are arms stacked than the men make a break for blackberries, and
even an army can hardly make any impression on the supply.

You will probably see Steve Smiley at home before long. Three
commissioned officers and six enlisted men from each regiment are going
home to drill the drafted men, and Steve expects to be one of the
detail from this regiment. Perhaps I will send this letter out by him.
Our mail is a very uncertain factor, both coming and going, judging
from the fact that you had not heard from me a week after the battle.
But as my name was not in the killed and wounded list you were probably
not much worried. We are drawing nice ham for a meat ration now. I
found a lot of little onions in a deserted garden yesterday.

Four of our wounded officers have died in the hospitals. Charlie
Vickery was shot through the back, injuring his spine. The rebels
robbed him of everything he had. A rebel major came along, asked him
some questions, then ordered some rebel soldiers to carry him to a
barn near by and leave a canteen of water with him. The next day this
barn was in the line of fire, and he was wounded again, slightly, in
the shoulder by a grapeshot. When our men got possession of that part
of the field he was carried to one of our hospitals, where he died on
the 11th. He would not believe he had got to die, and did not send a
word to his wife; but after he became speechless he tried to whisper
something to one of the boys, but could not make himself understood.

We crossed the Potomac at Harper’s Ferry on the 11th. I have seen some
wild places, but never any to beat this. Two rivers here unite, rushing
down between towering perpendicular cliffs, with only room for a road
between cliff and river. This is the second anniversary of the battle
of Bull Run. Two years ago this very minute I was making good time
toward Centreville. And here I am, only one day’s march away, and still
on the job. But we will win.

———————

_CI_

WASHINGTON, D. C., _July 28, 1863_.

Suddenly and unexpectedly, after all our troubles and tribulations, the
Second Regiment finds itself in clover. Day before yesterday we were
marching through Warrenton, sweating and puffing, when we saw General
Marston standing in front of one of the houses and looking mighty
pleasant and smiling. Pretty soon it was passed along that he was up
there to get the Second, Fifth and Twelfth regiments for the formation
of a New Hampshire brigade to serve under him in his new department
on the lower Potomac. It seemed too good to be true; but when, after
our next rest, the corps marched on and left us, it began to look
as if there was something in the story, after all. Then we marched
back to Warrenton and camped by General Meade’s headquarters until
yesterday morning, when, about ten o’clock, we loaded onto a train of
flat-cars, and at nine o’clock last evening we arrived in Alexandria.
After waiting over two hours for cars to bring us up to Washington, we
“huffed it” about half way to Long Bridge and bivouacked until morning,
then continued on, took possession of the “Soldiers’ Rest,” and are
waiting for orders.

General Marston’s department, I understand, is to be called the
“Department of St. Mary’s,” and will take in St. Mary’s county,
in Maryland. It is on the lower Potomac, and probably a depot for
prisoners of war will be established, the guarding of which, with the
prevention of smuggling, will comprise our duties. This will be an
agreeable change from the past few weeks—to be in a settled camp, no
more long marches, mail and rations regular, a chance to bathe, fish,
and have a good time on the water. We expect to stay in Washington a
few days, though, until we can get new clothing, and perhaps be paid
off. I shall lay in fish lines and hooks among my prime necessities.

Now I will go back and tell you what else we have been doing since
I wrote last. Last Wednesday, the 22d, the Third Corps left Ashby’s
Gap and reached a little railroad station called Piedmont, and the
following morning marched to Manassas Gap. This pass is about five
miles long, and when we got there the rebels held one end and our
folks the other. Our cavalry had been skirmishing with the enemy for
three days, and this day we moved in and took our turn. The fight
commenced early in the afternoon. The rebels had a strong position
along the crest of a high hill or ridge [Wapping Heights] that blocked
the western end of the gap. For a time our brigade lay massed on the
lower slope of an opposite hill and watched the preparations. And
when the movement started there was something about it that reminded
me of some of the “dioramas” you and I have seen in Manchester.
There was the steep hillside, with the long line of blue dots—our
skirmishers—crawling up and up, and the solid blue lines of the
supporting regiments not very far behind. The height was soon carried,
and we pushed on beyond, our brigade two hundred yards in rear of the
Excelsior Brigade, which we followed and supported.

The Excelsiors made one charge, and it was a hustler. They and
the rebels were facing each other across a deep, rocky gulch. The
Excelsiors charged down through this with a yell. Colonel Farnham, of
the Second Excelsior, and Gen. Spinola dashed ahead of everything, on
their horses, and took two rebel sharpshooters prisoners, although
Spinola was badly wounded. Farnham was the captain of the slave ship
“Wanderer,” which was the cause of so much excitement a few years ago.
By this day’s work the rebels were cleared entirely out of the gap.

The next morning our division advanced into the Shenandoah valley,
the entire Second Regiment being deployed as skirmishers in advance
of the column. We had not gone thirty rods when, on coming into the
road, I came upon the sprawling form of one poor Johnny who had met
his fate the previous day. He was apparently fighting in the shelter
of a sunken road, when a bullet pierced his brain and he rolled down
the bank to the roadbed. The cartridges were scattered from his
open cartridge-box, and picking one up I noted it was of peculiar
construction. None of us have ever seen one like it before. The paper
is set firmly in the base of the bullet, so all one has to do in
loading is to break the two apart with his fingers, pour his powder and
ram his bullet home. It is the toothless man’s sure-pop cartridge fast
enough. [I still have it among my war relics.] We advanced clear to
Front Royal without any serious opposition, then rallied on the colors,
about-faced and marched back to the gap.

I intend to carry this letter down to the post-office myself, so you
will be pretty sure to get it. Hen. Everett is going down before long
and I will wind up so as to go along with him.

———————

_CII_

POINT LOOKOUT, LOWER POTOMAC, MD.,
_August 1, 1863_.

We have a mail at last, and I was fortunate enough to get _four_
letters from you. Now that we are here, it looks as if I would not have
much of anything to do except to write letters. We got here yesterday
forenoon, and are now fairly well settled. We are camped close to the
beach, on smooth, level ground. We have A-tents and a plenty of them,
so we are not crowded for room. Dan. Desmond and I have a tent all to
ourselves. Jess. Dewey is acting orderly-sergeant, so he has his own
tent.

_Afternoon._—I was called away rather suddenly this morning, to go on
guard. Now, coming back to the guard headquarters from dinner, I have
brought my writing materials along, so as to finish my letter today.
Talking of comfort! I am sitting in the shade of big pine trees, within
two rods of the shore of Chesapeake Bay, a delicious breeze blowing
from the water and the waves rolling up on the beach. [This was at
General Marston’s headquarters.] The first thing this morning, when
reveille was blown, nearly every man in the regiment made a dash for
the water, for a plunge and a swim. This was a fashionable summer
resort before the war. The waters abound in crabs, and the boys have
already got to catching them. When I was up to camp this noon one of
the boys had a kettleful on boiling. We had a ration of “salt horse”
[corned beef] today—the first we have had since leaving Washington for
Falmouth. It seemed like an old friend.

On the steamer, coming down, I had a long chat with one of the batch
of prisoners we were taking along. He was a native of Alexandria, and
on the way down the river he pointed out the places where he had been
for a good time before the war. We had been in the same fights, quite
a number, and it was very interesting to compare notes. The day we
left Washington I was on guard at the gate, and there was a flock of
secesh women there to bid good bye to friends and give them things to
eat or wear. Among the prisoners was an Irishman who formerly lived in
Manchester. I recognized him as soon as I saw him. He was down south
when the war broke out, and was forced into the army. He fell out on
the march on purpose to be taken and is very anxious to take the oath
of allegiance, as are many others, especially the foreigners.

———————

_CIII_

POINT LOOKOUT, MD., _August 4, 1863_.

This forenoon “Curley” Converse and I went out to a creek near camp,
hunting for oysters. We found and shucked till we had three pints of
solid meats. There were lots of crabs there, some almost as big as
lobsters, and I soon found out that a crab is a very pugnacious animal.
I ran across one in shoal water hardly deep enough to cover my feet,
and playfully tapped him with my knife, just to see him run. He ran.
So did I, for I was barefooted and he made straight for my toes, with
the water boiling. Soon I encountered another, and just to make sure, I
rapped him. He came on like the other; but there was no surprise this
time, and I speared him with my knife. The boys bring in bushels of
them, and they are excellent eating—as good as lobsters.

George Slade has not been with us for some time, but we expect he will
join us soon. [We did not know it then, but he was in fact a prisoner,
having been picked up by the rebels somewhere below Harper’s Ferry. He
never got back to the regiment, but died at Camp Parole.]

———————

_CIV_

POINT LOOKOUT, MD., _August 8, 1863_.

Ed. Bailey’s father came down here night before last and is going to
be regimental sutler, so they say. There is some pretty sharp talk by
some of the Manchester men, who affirm that he would be more at home as
sutler for a rebel regiment. I do not know, but I guess we can balance
the colonel’s good services against his father’s political shortcomings.

You ask me to tell you about Steve Palmer and —— ——. So the story has
got to Manchester, has it? These are the facts: On the first day’s
march from Falmouth Steve had some whiskey in his wagon, which he was
selling to those who wanted the stuff. —— was officer of the guard
that day. He went to Steve and Steve gave him a drink. Then he brought
a canteen to Steve and said: “Here, Steve, let me have some whiskey
in this canteen and I will pay you when I get some money.” Steve let
him have it, and he went directly to the colonel and reported Steve
for selling whiskey. Steve was at once taken from his wagon and put
into the ranks, and at Gettysburg was very badly wounded, and if he
lives will be a cripple for life. [He died of his wounds.] The affair,
naturally, has created a good deal of feeling. Steve did wrong in
taking liquor upon his team to sell; but there was an element of
treachery in what —— did that I wouldn’t want charged up to my credit.

We are living pretty well now, for army rations. Here is our bill of
fare for the past three days:

_Wednesday:_ Breakfast—Baked Beans, Coffee. Dinner—Beefsteak.
Supper—Coffee.

_Thursday:_ Breakfast—Potatoes, Boiled Pork, Boiled Fresh Beef, Boiled
Salt Beef, Coffee. Dinner—Soup, Parsley Greens. Supper—Coffee.

_Friday:_ Breakfast—Potatoes, Boiled Beef, Coffee. Dinner—Boiled Dish
of Potatoes and Parsley Greens.

In addition, we have, each day, a loaf of “soft tack,” baked here on
the Point, and occasionally a ration of molasses. We call that high
living. And Company I is going to have something extra for dinner
today—roast beef and potatoes. The beef is roasting in two Dutch ovens.

A big school of porpoises went up the river yesterday. They came so
near in shore that some of the boys fired at them, and I should judge
hit some, from the commotion that was created and the way they dug away
from shore. Ed. Bailey and I struck up the beach for an old boat that
lay there, in which to get out and have a crack at them. The colonel
had a carbine and an old stocking full of cartridges, and I picked up
an ancient oar. We got the craft afloat and I paddled it out quite a
piece. But the waves ran high and the water poured through the boat in
a dozen places, until it was a question of pull about or swim for it.
So we put about and got ashore before the old tub sank. Sixteen of us
took a sail out to the mouth of the river two or three days ago. It was
very rough and the boat was terribly overloaded, and it was only by
good seamanship that we saved ourselves from going under.

I have just run across another Manchester fellow—James, who used to be
City Messenger. He is with the Twelfth Regiment sutler.

Now I must tell you the story of Bill Ramsdell, for it is decidedly
interesting, although rather rough on Bill. A short time after we
came on from New Hampshire Bill went to Concord and reported to Major
Whittlesey. Well, no sooner has he reported than he goes away again
and is not seen about Concord for two or three days, when he again
reports; but this time the major puts him under arrest as a deserter,
and when the squad of deserters leave New Hampshire under a guard of
convalescents Bill is packed off with the rest. They go to Boston and
stop at Fort Warren for a time, and while there the prisoners are put
to all sorts of menial work. Part of the time Bill was haying on the
parapet, which was not at all bad, but after that he was given a mule’s
job, hauling coal. A dozen of the prisoners would load a cart, hitch
on and drag it along, dump their load, and so on. All this I learned
from George Cilley, who was left in New Hampshire, sick, and who was
guarding prisoners three or four weeks. He said Bill took it all very
philosophically—he couldn’t help himself. He is now in Washington and
will probably be sent to the regiment before long.

The guard duty is divided now so that we do it one week and the Twelfth
the next. During our week every man is on guard every other day, but we
are not overworked, as we have no drilling to do.

My tentmate, Dan. Desmond, is one of the quaintest old Irishmen you
ever met. He loads me with his adventures and experiences until my ribs
fairly ache from the laughing. Every night he regales me with some
story—and a good one—to go to bed on.

The Seventeenth fellows will be discharged within a few days. Two in my
company have died in the service—Tibbetts, killed at Gettysburg, and
Ingalls, died of disease.

The laugh is on Steve Smiley, and it is too good to keep. The day we
came down from Washington Steve ran down to some place on the street
to get some papers—I don’t know just what. But he didn’t get them,
because the colonel had been there before him. On his way back to the
barracks—only a little ways—he ran into the provost guard, and as he
had no pass they gathered him in and chucked him into the central guard


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Online LibraryMartin A. (Martin Alonzo) HaynesA minor war history compiled from a soldier boy's letters to the girl I left behind me, 1861-1864. Dramatis personae, The soldier boy - Martin A. Haynes, Company I, Second New Hampshire Volunteer In → online text (page 11 of 16)