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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

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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 12 of 16)
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house, where they kept him over night. The next morning they let him
out and he got on a boat and came down. He is pretty touchy about it,
and the boys like to thorn him about patronizing the “Central Hotel.”

The boys catch some nice fish here, among which are sea trout, which
the natives tell us will be very plenty in a short time. There is a big
kettle of beans on the fire, parboiling, which will be ready baked for
breakfast. You see I have to keep bringing up grub matters; but it does
seem good to have a plenty.

———————

_CV_

POINT LOOKOUT, MD., _August 10, 1863_.

I want something to do, and so “I take my pen in hand,” &c. And yet,
after all, I have been pretty busy this forenoon. We had to move our
tents so as to give the officers more breathing room—delicate souls!
Then I went out and did my week’s washing in a skillful and artistic
manner. When that was “hung out” I watched the operations of a pile
driver. We are to have a sink way out over the river, and the piles for
its support are being driven into the sand.

The toads here! Their number is legion, of all sizes and conditions.
There is the very best of understandings between them and the boys,
for they are our dependable fly-traps. The men drive them into the
tents rather than out. I am fairly in love with some of the bright-eyed
little fellows that are tentmates of mine. They sit so demure and still
until a fly comes within reach, when there is the flash of a tongue,
and one less fly to plague us. Long live the toads, and may they
multiply and increase at Point Lookout.

We had another instalment of rebel prisoners yesterday, five hundred
coming down from Washington. I could not help noticing the feeling
between the men from North Carolina and those from the Gulf States.
On their arrival here the prisoners were formed into companies of one
hundred men each, and as far as practicable those from the same state
were put together. There were not quite enough North Carolinians for
a company, so some Mississippians were put in with them, who began at
once to berate their new messmates, twitting them of being unpatriotic,
and telling the guard that those fellows wanted to get back into the
Union.

Dan. and I are going to fix up our tent. First, we will raise it up
a few inches, so as to give the air a chance to circulate under the
bottom. Then we will build a couple of nice bunks, one on each side,
and between the heads of the bunks a table just big enough to eat and
write on.

_Tuesday Evening, August 11._

I have been on fatigue duty today. This forenoon I was digging a hole
on the beach in which to set a pile post, and this afternoon I helped
pitch some tents for the adjutant. About half a dozen of our boys came
down on the boat yesterday, some of whom had been in the convalescent
camps, or in the distributing camps at Alexandria, ever since the
regiment left Washington for the front. But George Slade was not among
them, and now I am wondering what has become of him and where he can be.

Company I had fried fish both for breakfast and dinner today. They
were fine sea bass, brought in last night by a fisherman in his boat.
He had an iron bucket full of blazing pitchwood for a light, and his
two little bareheaded children were with him—a boy and a girl five or
six years old. They were very pretty, fair-haired, and their appetites
evidently had not been spoiled by indulgence, for their father cut
slices from a huge loaf of bread in his basket, which they put out of
the way, clear, as fast as their little jaws could work.

Well, my boy Dan. has made up the bed and gone to bed, and I guess I
will follow suit.

_Wednesday Evening, August 12._

I made a great discovery today—nothing less than a newspaper in this
out-of-the-way place. It is named _Hammond Gazette_, and is published
for the benefit of the sick and wounded in the Hammond General
Hospital. It is a little fellow, just the size of _The Literary
Visitor_ that George Batchelder and I used to print. This afternoon
I went down and hunted up the office, along with old printer Smith
of the Twelfth—familiarly known in Manchester as “Snuffy” Smith. We
found quite a neat little office, with a real sociable Vermont printer
running the establishment.

About the middle of the forenoon we had a wild gale here, coming off
the bay, and the river was full of vessels fleeing to shelter under
the Point. Desmond and I went out this evening and brought in a couple
boards, which we have cut up into length for bunks; but as we have yet
to make a raise on some nails, we will use them tonight for a floor,
and I guess we will need one, for it looks as if we were going to have
a great shower.

_Thursday Morning, August 13._

Last night we had a holy terror of a storm. The wind blew almost a
hurricane, the water was a continuous deluge, and the thunder and
lightning were terrific. Many of the tents went down, but ours stood
up nobly. Those boards of ours were a perfect godsend, as a brook of
no mean proportions ran through our tent, and we were perched above
it, high if not dry. Jess. Dewey’s tent was one of those that blew
over, and everything in it got thoroughly soaked. I thought, at one
time, ours would have to go. It must have been a sight, Dan. and I each
hugging a tent-pole and holding it down for dear life.

———————

_CVI_

POINT LOOKOUT, MD., _August 18, 1863_.

I was terribly provoked this evening. I had just got comfortably
settled down to write a letter when I was ordered out on a detail. I
soon found it was to load boards, at the wharf, for the sutler. As I
was on guard last night, and going on again tomorrow, it looked to
me very much like crowding the mourners; and more than that, I did
not like being ordered out to do work they have no right to put on a
soldier anyway; but to keep peace in the family I went and did the
work, and now, at ten o’clock, I have got back to my letter. I have
been very busy today, and have something to show for it. Dan. and I got
hold of some more boards and immediately proceeded to build a palace.
We have a good one, the walls four feet high with our big tent perched
on top, a bunk on each side, a table, and lots of spare room, not to
mention a well-fitted board floor.

We have an addition to our company in the shape of a contraband who
come across from Virginia in a little dugout canoe the other night.
We took him in to the cook, and he is earning his keep.

_Wednesday Morning, August 10._

We are getting quite a gathering of prisoners here. Several hundred
arrived yesterday. The increasing force of prisoners calls for extra
vigilance on our part. We now have two Dahlgren boat howitzers posted
so as to command the rebel camp, and are going to have four more. The
rebels are set to do their own work—to dig wells, build cook houses,
&c. In such a crowd you will always find a proportion of smarties, and
a few of the lordly ones kicked up a rumpus and swore they would not do
any work for the United States. They changed their mind when they were
strung up without any parley, and the joke of the thing was that a good
many of the prisoners were tickled to death to see them disciplined.

Did you ever know Sam. Newell? He was one of the squad that enlisted
from our company into the regular cavalry last fall. When we were in
Washington on our way down here, he came on from the front with a lot
of dismounted cavalrymen, and when we came down here he simply got
homesick. So he got on board the boat and came along with us. This was
nothing more nor less than desertion, and he was arrested here and put
under guard. But one fine morning Samuel turns up missing and is not
heard from again for several days, when he appears at the guard house
under full military escort and is again in the toils and more carefully
guarded than before. When he ran away he went up country about forty
miles and let himself to work in a sawmill. The owner has a schooner on
which he ships wood down here to the Point, and the next trip he made
Sam. came along to help work the boat. He kept pretty shady while they
were unloading here, but one of our officers got his eye on him and
Sam. was ingloriously dragged out of his hole. I guess most of those
fellows who went into the cavalry wish they had stayed with the old
Second. They missed that long furlough at home, and life with the
regulars is not like soldiering with your own crowd of old-time friends
and acquaintances.

———————

_CVII_

POINT LOOKOUT, MD., _August 22, 1863_.

Irene [Mrs. Wasley,] Mrs. Col. Carr and some other women came down
on the boat day before yesterday. I got the little bundle, ate the
cakes, enjoyed your cooking, and was delighted with the fine towel. We
now have four or five times as many prisoners here as there are men
to guard them. I put a picture in the mail today. It will look quite
pretty framed, but I value it most as a record up to date of the boys
of Company I. I only wish the copy had been prepared by some one a
little more accustomed to that sort of work.

———————

_CVIII_

POINT LOOKOUT, MD., _August 26, 1863_.

Have just been up to see Mrs. Irene Stokes Wasley, and she had lots to
tell me about you—so much she almost made me homesick. Mrs. Bailey came
down on the boat Monday evening, and we catch a glimpse of her and the
colonel parading. Dan. expresses the opinion that they are a mighty wee
bit of a couple.

The other night, while I was on guard at Marston’s headquarters, we had
a queer lot there under guard. There were fifteen men who said they had
run away from Richmond to escape conscription. Some of them would not
take the oath of allegiance, and it is said they will be returned to
their friends—sent across and landed on the Virginia shore. They were
mostly Irishmen and Jews, and it was the Irishmen who were willing to
take the oath.

Now I must tell you of one of the meanest little skunks that ever
lived. He is a brother of our second lieutenant. He is familiarly
known as “Culpepper,” and the boys hate him devotedly. He is not
enlisted, but ran away from the Reform School and came on with us. He
is one of the most incorrigible little thieves that ever was. On the
march through Maryland, while we were camped for a little while near
Emmitsburg, he had a large sum of money which he pretended to have
found in a box in a ditch, but which some of the boys now believe was
stolen from the poor box of the convent there. Be that as it may, he
has been engaged in two or three bad scrapes here which should furnish
sufficient cause for having him arrested or sent home. His latest
exploit was to crawl into the house of a man named Murphy, near the
camp. He got in through a window, and Mrs. Murphy came in and caught
him rummaging her bureau. She grabbed him, but he fought and scratched
and bit until he got away, and now he is roaming around as big as ever,
notwithstanding Mrs. Murphy declares several dollars in money are
missing. The young scoundrel says he knocked a bag in at the window and
climbed in to get it. His brother pretends to believe he is innocent,
and shields him.

We are going in for improvements here, just as they do in other
enterprising cities. A brick oven is being built which will take in a
pile of beans, meat or bread. Bill Summers, our company cook, is the
architect and mason; the next company’s cook is the tender. Clay is
used for mortar, and where the bricks come from is one of the company
secrets. Another job that it has taken all day to accomplish is the
raising of a flag staff, eighty feet high, on the parade ground in
front of the regiment.

_Evening._—Dan. and I have just risen in our wrath and put an end
to—well, I won’t try to tell how many millions of flies. By the
judicious application of a couple of towels we wiped cartloads of them
from the face of the earth. If any escaped to tell the tale, some fly
historian will record August 26 as the fateful day when a wild Irishman
and a crazy Yankee ran amuck at Point Lookout. Now Dan. is reading,
in peace, an account of the operations at Charleston, the knocking to
pieces of Fort Sumter, and wishing we could take the cussed city.

———————

_CIX_

POINT LOOKOUT, MD., _September 3, 1863_.

Guard duty has been pretty strenuous for a time—every other day, but
with three reliefs. Now, however, the prison camp has been extended,
doubling the number of posts around it, and we are put to it to find
men enough to make two reliefs—the men being on post twelve hours out
of twenty-four, every other day. Monday I marched a beat three hours
at one time, and over four hours at another. But Marston has taken the
matter in hand and ordered up reinforcements—that is, he has ordered
that every man in these two regiments shall take a gun. All officers’
waiters and other bummers are to be returned to their companies for
duty and their places filled by contrabands. If carried out it will
help us out some. Yesterday I had a very pleasant tour of duty, being
on picket some distance from camp, on a narrow neck of land between the
bay and creek, where I could sit down while on post.

There is, naturally, more or less discussion as to the possibility of
the rebels raiding over here from the Virginia shore, but they will not
venture on any such foolhardy expedition. They took two of our small
boats up in the Rappahannock river the other day and are reported to
be mounting heavy guns on them, but they would have about as much show
against our gunboats here as a boy with a bean-shooter would.

Last night about forty prisoners and convalescents came down from
Alexandria, and among the number was Bill Ramsdell. Notwithstanding his
escapades he is a fine fellow and I was glad to see him. Our oven is
completed and is a work of art. There are a great many schooners out
in the river, raking for oysters, and people here say mackerel will be
plenty before long.

Some of our Johnny Rebs have been trying to get away. By some means
three of them got out by the guard the other night and started for
the country. They didn’t get far—only to the creek which makes Point
Lookout almost an island. It is pretty wide at this end, quite a little
pond, and looks more formidable for wading than it really is. One of
their party couldn’t swim, so they finally hid in the bushes, where
they were found the next morning. They didn’t make a very good job of
it. “Hang ’em!” said Marston, “they won’t stay and let us treat ’em
well, when we want to.”

George Slade has not made his appearance yet, and I think he has not
been heard from.

I see by the list of drafted men in the papers that some of the meanest
Copperheads in New London and Newbury have been drawn, and now I am
interested to see what they propose to do. I wish they would send a few
of the worst ones out here for the old Second to break in.

The Paymaster came down here a week ago and paid us up to the first of
July, but he didn’t have to disburse a great amount of money to the
rank and file. The clothing account was squared up, and there were but
very few men who had not overdrawn their allowance. Some did not have
pay enough coming to balance their clothing account. To add insult
to injury, company property, such as canteens, haversacks and rubber
blankets were put down on the men’s clothing accounts. Alba Woods had
74 cents coming to him and I was not much better off. We doubtless have
to thank some desk officer up at Washington, who is drawing, perhaps,
several thousand dollars a year and perquisites, for this raid on the
fellows who are drawing thirteen dollars a month and doing the fighting.

———————

_CX_

POINT LOOKOUT, MD., _September 7, 1863_.

The men who like to fish are having the time of their lives. My
particular passion is crab fishing. The outfit consists of a boat, a
piece of fish or meat on the end of a string, and a dip-net. Three or
four of us coast along the shore, and when a crab is sighted the bait
is thrown to him, he fastens onto it and is tolled up within reach of
the dip-net. There is a big sea turtle here in the cove. We see him
every day. Some of the boys _say_ they are just dying to get hold of
his tail or flippers and be towed out a piece.

What some negroes will risk for liberty was well illustrated by a slave
family that came over last night from Virginia. There were a man and
his wife and three children. They traveled all day, on foot, to reach
the river. Then, although the water was very rough, they all packed
into a little “dugout” canoe and got safely across the six or eight
miles of tossing waters that to them was the highway to liberty. A
syndicate of us bought the canoe, and Sam. Oliver and I tried it out
today.

Day before yesterday we were reinforced by a company of regular cavalry
that came down from Washington on the boat. They were from the same
regiment so many of our boys went into a year ago, and we have learned
the fate of some of them. Rod. Manning was killed, a few days ago, in a
cavalry fight near Culpepper, and Nich. Biglin—our “Heenan”—is supposed
to have been killed, as he had a bad saber cut and a bullet wound and
could not be carried away. [He died in Andersonville.] Father will
remember Rod. Manning as my tentmate at Alexandria. I am glad I did not
blunder into the regulars with the other boys, for although we have had
a rough time of it, they have had a rougher. A third of those who went
from Company I are dead. When the boys went off to get transferred they
urged me to go with them, and perhaps the only thing that saved me was
the fact that I had come off a hard picket turn the night before and
hated to crawl out of my warm nest.

Several more rebel prisoners have escaped, and in consequence of the
growing propensity to run away they have had their watches, money and
other valuables taken away from them, and they have been restricted in
many privileges they formerly enjoyed. I understand a board fence is to
be put around the prison camp, and that will help some; but the crying
need is for more men to do guard duty. Some of the men who ran away
have been recaptured.

Most of our married officers have their wives here and are keeping
house in the little tenements on “Chesapeake Avenue.”

———————

_CXI_

POINT LOOKOUT, MD., _September 9, 1863_.

Bill Ramsdell had his trial today, but I have heard nothing of its
course or result. Bill told me he was going to plead his own cause. In
any civil court he would be acquitted; but this is a military court,
and Bill is only a private, and I am not so sure. It is getting to be
more and more so that there is one law for officers and another for
enlisted men. Shoulder-straps are a great protection to the men wearing
them. For instance: At Washington Colonel Bailey broke a sergeant
for getting drunk, and issued a terrible manifesto decreeing condign
punishment for any one who should disgrace the regiment in a like
manner. Now for the sequel. A few days ago one of our officers appeared
at guard-mount so gloriously drunk that he could not walk straight, and
made a big bull of the whole ceremony, to the disgrace both of himself
and the regiment. Has he been disciplined as the sergeant was? Not on
your life.

_Friday Evening, September 11._

Now for a tale of wild adventure! I came off guard at nine o’clock this
morning, and Sam. Oliver and I arranged to go a-fishing. We did not
get off until after dinner, which for Dan. and I consisted of a big
mess-pan of potatoes and bread and butter. We worked pretty hard to
find some worms for bait, but not a worm could be found on the Point;
so we caught a few grasshoppers and a crab and started in a dugout
for a point about two miles up the river. We fished diligently and
faithfully, but not a fish came to our hooks. But we were repaid for
our trouble by several very near views of the giant turtles which have
lately made their appearance here. Several times they came up close to
the boat. If they can bite as savagely as a “snapper” in proportion to
their size—O, my! Their heads looked as large as a man’s, and their
spread of flippers was tremendous. They would stick their heads out of
the water, give a big puff, and lazily roll under again. As we couldn’t
catch fish, we went ashore, had a good swim, and then went home. Then I
found I had left a rebel officer’s belt on the beach, and I paddled the
boat back again and picked up the belt.

Here is another: Colonel Bailey, Steve Smiley and a few others went out
sailing, yesterday, in a dugout they had rigged up with a keel and a
sail. They had no trouble running out before the wind, but when it came
to beating back they couldn’t get anywhere. They went kiting about,
hither and thither, and their boat did everything but what they wanted
it to. One of our armed schooners fired two shots to bring them to, but
they couldn’t heave to if the fate of the world had depended on it. At
last they came within an ace of running down one of the gunboats, which
obligingly lowered a boat and towed them ashore.

I do not know yet the result of Bill Ramsdell’s court martial, but
he says he is perfectly satisfied with the way he got his side of the
case in. The President of the court did not hesitate to say that Bill’s
treatment had been “shameful” in some particulars.

We have not had a drop of rain here for some time, although it is
cloudy almost every day and looks as if it was going to pour right
away. But we have an almost constant breeze, which is very refreshing,
although it is so late in the season that it begins to be a little cool.

Old Dan. is the prince of story tellers. He tells me stories of Ireland
and of his own adventures there and elsewhere. I like to hear him. He
will start in with some entirely reasonable and probable narrative.
Then he tells me something a little steeper, which I pretend to
swallow. Properly encouraged, he goes on, each time improving on his
last, until Gulliver and Munchausen sink into insignificance. Then I
say: “Och, Dan., what a divvle of a liar ye are!” He twists his picked
nose, snaps his eyes, and the show is over.

———————

_CXII_

POINT LOOKOUT, MD., _September 18, 1863_.

I was on guard yesterday, coming off this morning, and it was a lucky
strike, as a rain storm has just set in. So while the poor fellows
on duty today are paddling up and down in the wet, I will sit in my
comfortable tent, nice and dry. But if the storm holds on tomorrow
my crowing will be over and I’ll be the one out in the cold. Our
Seventeenth men will leave us very soon. Their time is up, but they
are being kept here on the plea of waiting for a mustering officer and
paymaster. There are three still doing duty in Company I. We had six,
but three have died. Since our arrival here the regiment has lost five
by death, four of whom were from the Seventeenth.

A good portion of our Reb prisoners, being out of ready money, have
taken to manufacturing little trinkets for sale to our men. They make
bone rings and bosom pins and other ornaments, some of which are of
remarkable workmanship. And they make wooden fans which are very
ingenious.

If the Fifth Regiment are coming down to help us I wish they would come
along. I have got tired of standing guard every other day as regularly
as days come around. We hear they are not having as good a time at home
as we did. I had rather be out here than to be cooped up as they are,
right at their homes and yet not permitted to spend their time there.

_Sunday Evening, September 20._


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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 12 of 16)