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 16 of 16)
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the bottom of a wagon. Arriving at the spot where they were to be shot
to death, they got down from the wagons, their coffins were taken out
and placed end to end before the open graves. Then the firing squad of
twelve men were drawn up about a dozen paces in front of them. They
knelt by their coffins while a Catholic priest, who had come up from
Fortress Monroe, conducted the appropriate offices of the church. Then
they arose, their handcuffs were taken off, and they removed their
coats and vests. Their eyes were bandaged, their wrists tied with white
handkerchieves, and each seated on his coffin. What an awful moment it
must have been for them when they heard the click of the gun-locks as
the executioners cocked their pieces. The next instant they fell back
across their coffins, each pierced by five bullets. Holt did not die
for several moments, and raised his hands a number of times. There are
some eighty or ninety deserters under guard down town, and more will
follow in the way these two have gone.

George Colby is down here, and is going into a little sutler business
on his own hook, as he does not think Mr. Bailey will take the risk and
bother of doing business under present conditions.



YORKTOWN, VA., _April 21, 1864_.

Today is, I believe, the third anniversary of my entrance upon a
military life. It is entertaining to hear the old fellows count up the
number of days that lie between them and home. The 9th of May appears
to be the generally accepted date of release, but I am afraid the wish
is father to the thought. The first thing I hear in the morning is
something like this: “Well, only eighteen days more!” or “Only eighteen
loaves more of army bread for me!”

Since I wrote last we have moved our camp about a mile, and are now in
a delightful location, on a smooth, grassy slope close to the river
and near the spot where Egin and Holt were executed. At the right of
the camp is the last parallel in which I put in a night’s work two
years ago. The very tree under which I shoveled so diligently is still
standing, close by an angle of the trench. I sometimes catch myself
imagining the siege is still going on, and when the sunset gun is
fired, involuntary duck my head below imaginary earthworks and listen
for the rush of the shell.

A great army is being gathered here. Troops are pouring in, by
regiments and by brigades. Several regiments have arrived from Hilton
Head, S. C., among them the Fourth New Hampshire. I hear the Third is
expected. The negro troops who have been stationed here during the
winter are going to Fortress Monroe, and from there, I understand, to
Port Royal, and troops are coming here from Norfolk and Portsmouth.
The Tenth and Thirteenth New Hampshire are on the way and will be here
today. We will soon be ready for another advance on Richmond, and,
to tell the truth, I rather like the idea of seeing a little more of
active service before I go home. Gen. Smith [W. F.—“Baldy,”] who, it
is supposed, will lead this column of advance on Richmond, arrived
yesterday, and was escorted to headquarters with great parade, which
there were indications was not exactly to his liking. He is a western
general, one of Grant’s favorites, a big, rough-looking, grizzled old
fellow, without any frills, and I hope will not disappoint expectations.

It was at first intended to send this regiment to Williamsburg, but
there were so many desertions it was not deemed advisable, and we may
be kept here. But the execution of the two deserters has had a good
effect, and there has not been a single case of desertion since that



WILLIAMSBURG, VA., _April 20, 1864_.

Since my last letter we have made our first hitch up the Peninsula, and
are now about two miles from Williamsburg and one mile from the spot
where, two years ago the 5th of May, we had the little scrimmage known
as the battle of Williamsburg. We got our orders to march last Friday
afternoon, started about sunset, and marched until one o’clock, when
we arrived at our present location. Now, who do you suppose I saw last
Friday? None other than our old friend Frank Morrill. I was just out
of camp at Yorktown, heading for town so as to get my mail off before
we started up here, when I heard my name shouted, and turning around,
saw some one galloping toward me. And who should it be but Frank! The
Third Regiment has not come up yet, and it is not definitely known that
they will come, but Frank is signal officer on Gen. Terry’s staff and
so came up with the General. [I never saw him again. He was mortally
wounded, before Petersburg, in July.]

I have to go clear to Yorktown, now, for my mail. I leave here about
one in the afternoon and get back about sunset. For a horse they have
given me a great, stout, rawboned “buckskin,” a hard-rider, and the
immediate physical effects on a fellow as soft and out of practice as
I am have been slightly disastrous. The first day I wore out the seat
of my pants, and it didn’t stop wearing when it got through the cloth.
As I have to make the trip every day, I am having a pretty tough time
getting acclimated, as it were.

Everything here indicates that we will soon be on the move. Orders
were issued, day before yesterday, limiting the personal baggage of
officers below the rank of brigadier-general to one small valise—to
become operative in five days. There are to be only two wagons for
each regiment, one of these exclusively for the hospital department.
We may not move, though, for a fortnight. Whether or not we are to be
discharged before the 4th of June is the main subject of discussion
now. If we are not, we may, and probably will, have a chance to see
“the dirty Chickahominy” again, and possibly the city of Richmond. When
we old fellows are discharged, the Second Regiment is likely to be
still further reduced in numbers by transfers to the navy, as permitted
by recent orders. Now that I am counting my time by days, I am not
troubling myself about how large or how small the regiment may be.



WILLIAMSBURG, VA., _May 4, 1864_.

This letter may be the last I will write you from the army, as there
is a prospect of our being discharged on the 9th of May. Our “final
statements” were made out yesterday and forwarded to headquarters.
But they may decide at headquarters that our time is not up until
June. In that event we will have a chance to march a piece in this “On
to Richmond” movement. A big pier is being built on the James River,
about three miles from here, indicating that we are to take boats there
for some point—perhaps to go up the river as far as Fort Darling and
attempt to take it as a preliminary to the capture of Richmond.

We are having nice weather now, but night before last we had a great
thunder shower. It came up very suddenly, about sunset, and was the
blackest, ugliest-looking sky I ever saw. The rebels have, for some
time, been very busy planting torpedoes in the roads leading toward
Richmond, and a few days ago a squad of four were scooped in while
engaged in this laudable undertaking.

Day before yesterday two regiments of negro cavalry came up from
Norfolk, and yesterday I rode up from Yorktown with a couple of the
troopers. They kept me in a roar of laughter relating their experiences
in the army, which were inexpressibly funny.



_May 9, 1864_.

I have just time to write a short letter before going to the Landing
to attend to my mail. The indications are that we are going to have
a fight today. The Corps has marched out toward the rebel lines, and
now a long train of ambulances is going by, which is ominous. This is
the day when the old men of Company I figure their time is out, and
it is not impossible that some of them may get their final discharges
today. I shall go to the Landing, about four miles, for my mail, at
ten o’clock, and then hurry out to the front to see how matters are

We broke camp at Williamsburg on the 4th and embarked from a temporary
wharf on the James River. The next morning the bulk of the expedition
came up from Fortress Monroe, and it was a great spectacle. As far as
the eye could reach swarmed vessels of every description—transports,
tugs, ironclads and gunboats. About dark we were at Bermuda Hundred, at
the mouth of the Appomattox River. We mounted men were on a different
boat from the regiment, and after a vain hunt of a couple hours
we gave up trying to find the Second that night and camped by the
roadside, picketing our horses and with our saddles for pillows. The
next day the troops advanced to our present position, and Heckman’s
brigade, of our division, had a smart little fight. Yesterday our boys
were throwing up a redoubt down by the Appomattox, but today the work
is discontinued and the men have gone out to fight.

I met John Hynes yesterday, on the road to the Landing. [John R., an
old-time Manchester printer, in the Third N. H. Regiment.]



_May 13, 1864_.

Yesterday morning the Second set out, with the rest of the army, for
a raid on the Danville Railroad, and are expected back today, as they
took rations for but two days. My duties required that I should stay
here, and right glad was I, as it rained nearly all day and through the
night, and I was much more comfortable under a good shelter tent than I
would have been plugging through the mud. There were about half a dozen
left in my camp squad, and we had a jolly time of it. We bought a beef
liver and some potatoes for dinner, and sirloin steak and potatoes for
supper, and Johnny Powell and I fixed up a tent in which we slept as
snug as a bug in a rug.

Day before yesterday Gordon got instructions to make out our final
statements, which are the preliminaries to a discharge. He was at
work on them when marching orders came, when, of course, he suspended
operations until he gets back from this raid, which will probably be

_May 17._

I think it is about time to finish this letter. The army has been for
five days on a movement against Fort Darling, and got back today. [Here
follows an account of the Fort Darling expedition, substantially as
given in the succeeding letter, and the reason for duplicating which is
made clear in that letter.]



POINT OF ROCKS, VA., _May 18, 1864_.

This morning I received your letter, dated from Manchester. Yesterday I
sent a letter off directed to New London, but as you have concluded not
to go there I suppose your chances of getting it right off are not very
good. So, to relieve your anxiety, I write again. Our date of discharge
has at last been definitely settled, and you need not expect me before
the 7th of June. That is General Butler’s fiat, which is law.

This army has had some fighting to do since it landed here. At this
very moment the rebels are attacking a portion of our intrenched line
not half a mile from where I am sitting, and there is a terrific uproar
of cannon and musketry. A week ago the army went out on an expedition
to stir up the rebels. They skirmished with them, drove them toward
Fort Darling, and took the outer line of rifle-pits. I took the
regimental mail up, and found the boys within five hundred yards of a
large rebel fort, over which two big garrison flags were floating. They
were behind a good log breastwork, and our skirmishers were well out
in front, behind logs and stumps, popping away so industriously that
the rebels were not working a single one of their cannon. I stayed as
long as I could find any excuse, to distribute my mail and to watch the
sport, then rode back to camp. The next morning, before I had rolled
out of my blankets, I heard heavy firing up the river, and knew that a
battle was on. It was a couple hours before I could get started with my
mail. The road, after I had gone a piece, was full of wounded men on
foot and ambulances loaded with mangled humanity. One driver told me he
had in his wagon the body of Captain Platt, who was killed by a bullet
in the head.

When I reached the regiment I learned the full story of the fight
The morning was a very foggy one, and the rebels crawled silently
toward our lines, and then rushed for our breastworks. But there was
an obstacle in the path that they hadn’t dreamed of. Our fellows had
busied themselves during the night in weaving telegraph wires among
the stumps out at the front, and when the rebs charged they suddenly
found themselves sprawling every-which-way, while our boys were pumping
lead into them as fast as they could load and fire. The rebs came on
again and again, until the ground in front of the Second was carpeted
with dead and wounded rebels. But the rebels managed to get through
the lines to the right and the left, and the army fell back and formed
a new line of battle a mile or less to the rear of the old position.
Although there was light skirmishing all day, at some points, the
rebels had done about all the attacking they cared to for one day.

I stayed with the regiment all day, to see the fun if there was any
more going. One time I thought there would be. The brigade was called
to attention and moved forward in battle line, across the fields,
toward the woods where the morning’s fight had taken place. Old
“Buckskin” and I thoughtlessly jogged along behind the Second. Before
we were within ordinary rifle range of the woods, a bullet “pinged”
by not far from me. Pretty soon there was another. And then another!
Looking up and down, I saw I was the only mounted man on the line, and
it dawned upon me that some sharpshooter with a long-range rifle had
picked me out as the boss of the expedition and was trying to get me.
And he could shoot, too. My pride wouldn’t let me turn and run, badly
as I wanted to, and I was about to drop to the ground and walk when the
bugles sounded a halt, and we about-faced and marched back—and I was
mighty glad to go.

During the night our army came back into the camps. This morning the
rebels appeared in front of our lines and lively skirmishing has been
going on all day. The army is engaged in throwing up intrenchments, the
Second working as hard as any of them.



NEAR PETERSBURG, VA., _May 24, 1864_.

The discharge of veteran regiments in this command has already begun.
Yesterday I went down to Bermuda Hundred with my tentmate, Johnny
Powell, and on our way back we met the First Connecticut Heavy
Artillery on their way home, their time having expired. The present
camp of the Second is delightfully located, in a beautiful pine grove,
shady, cool and clean, just to the rear of our rifle-pits. I now have
about fifteen minutes’ work each day, carrying the outgoing mail down
to brigade headquarters, a distance of a dozen rods, and bringing the
regimental mail up over the same course.

Colonel Bailey is determined to go home when we do, and probably will.
The regiment will then be reduced below the minimum entitling it to a
colonel. Also, if War Department orders are enforced, it will have to
be consolidated into companies of one hundred men each and superfluous
officers mustered out. Bailey has written to Major Davis, Gen. Butler’s
Assistant-Adjutant-General, expressing his wish to be mustered out with
the old men and stating the facts in regard to the regiment. His wife,
I know, has set her foot down against his staying in the army longer
than he is obliged to—just as mine did.

We are having a very quiet time along the lines, just now. For two or
three days there has hardly been a shot fired. We have intrenchments
behind which we can defy the whole rebel army. But the other night we
had noise enough down a little to our right. I had just turned in when
it started, and in five minutes there was such a riot that the regiment
turned out and manned the breastworks. But our section of the line was
not molested, and in half an hour the firing had degenerated into an
occasional straggling shot, and the regiment turned in again.

Well, as Bill Pendleton says, “Every day is like an inch on a man’s



NEAR PETERSBURG, VA., _Friday, May 27, 1864_.

In my last letter, written three days ago, I promised to write one more
letter from the army. The chances are that if I do not write _now_ I
may not have another opportunity, as we are evidently getting in trim
to move within a day or two, and we may not get settled down again
until we are discharged. Last night an order came here that all men in
the regiment who are unable to travel in light marching order shall
be sent at once to the division hospital. We will doubtless move very
soon—perhaps before tomorrow morning. Hen. Pillsbury has just come in
with the news, coming from Dr. Merrow, that we will march within a few
hours, a good part of Butler’s force going to reinforce Grant. If so,
we will have some hard marching to do.

Now that the time for my release draws nigh, I must say I am getting
very impatient. Bill Ramsdell says: “When I get my discharge in my
hand, I shall feel as if I had shaken off a man who for three years
has had his hand at my throat, trying to strangle me.” And with his
experience, I do not wonder that he feels that way.

Since I began this letter the preparations for departure have set in in
good earnest. The shovels which we have used in throwing up defensive
works are being loaded up, the sick men have taken up their line of
march for the hospitals, and the cooks are busy preparing two days’
rations. If Grant has got Lee back pretty well toward Richmond, it may
not be a very hard march to join him. But if he is still at the Anna
rivers we will have some right smart “huffing” to do. At any rate, I
will not be troubled with a heavy load—only what I may need to make
myself comfortable. I have turned in my horse, and will “frog it” with
the boys, which will be rather pleasant, and I will not have the horse
to care for. It has been some time since I have received a letter from
you, but suppose you do not write for fear I may not get it, being
liable to start for home any day. Good bye, for a very short time.

* * * * *

_This was the Soldier Boy’s last letter from the army. The Eighteenth
Army Corps did join Grant, being transported to White House, on the
Pamunky, by water. The Second gloriously maintained its ancient
reputation in the sanguinary battle of Cold Harbor, and an ill fate
took heavy toll from the little handful of old men whose faces were
already turned joyously toward home and the loved ones. Three company
commanders—including Captain Gordon—were killed, and the rank and file
were decimated. Immediately after this terrible sacrifice the remnant
returned to New Hampshire and were mustered out._


[1] Many, many years afterward, Ed. came from Dayton, Ohio—where he
was an inmate of the National Military Home—to the Weirs reunion,
especially “to see Mart. Haynes.” There, in the Second Regiment house,
he told to an interested audience the story of his being wounded and
of being discovered and relieved by me, substantially as given in
my letter, but with greater elaboration and detail. And he closed
with a climax which I had omitted in my letter and in the long lapse
of years had all but forgotten. “Then Mart. said, ‘Ed., it’s going
to rain, and you are in no shape to lay out without any cover. I’ve
lost my whole outfit, but I’ll see if I can’t pick up something for
you.’ And he went off, and in half an hour he came back. He said,
‘Don’t ask any questions, Ed.’ And he covered me up with an officer’s
overcoat—a splendid garment, heavily braided—tucked me in, and made me
comfortable. I honestly believe he saved my life.” I loathe a thief,
but I am glad I stole that overcoat.

—————————————————— End of Book ——————————————————

Transcriber’s Note (continued)

Obvious punctuation errors in the transcribed text have been repaired.
Variations in spelling and hyphenation have been retained as published
in the original book, except as follows:

Page 10 – “tommorrow” changed to “tomorrow” (he will be hanged today
or tomorrow)

Page 12 – “ammunion” changed to “ammunition” (a large supply of

Page 13 – “Centerville” changed to “Centreville” (were encamped about
a mile from Centreville)

Page 14 – “Centerville” changed to “Centreville” (Before reaching

Page 24 – “pleasares” changed to “pleasures” (the pleasures of

Page 25 – “divison” changed to “division” (The infantry of this

Page 32 – “dischagre” changed to “discharge” (accidental discharge)

Page 35 – “a wouldn’t” changed to “I wouldn’t” (it was a question
sometimes whether I wouldn’t)

Page 35 – “sightseeing” changed to “sight-seeing” (who drop down

Page 43 – “seige” changed to “siege” (siege artillery)

Page 44 – “probable” changed to “probably” (our camp is probably a
mile and a half from)

Page 52 – “venomons” changed to “venomous” (fairly venomous)

Page 53 – “to to take” changed to “to take” (joined in season to take
part in the fight)

Page 58 – “to to be” changed to “to be” (Company I happened to be one)

Page 60 – “seive” changed to “sieve” (a fine sieve)

Page 67 – “a lots” changed to “a lot” (The actual fate of a lot of the

Page 69 – “Bull Ren” changed to “Bull Run” (killed at Bull Run)

Page 70 – “tournequit” changed to “tourniquet” (pocket tourniquet)

Page 70 – “To-night” changed to “Tonight” (NB ‘tonight’ used 18 times,
‘to-night’ this once)

Page 74 – “reboubts” changed to “redoubts” (There are redoubts and
rifle pits)

Page 86 – “may” changed to “way” (made its way back to the old camps)

Page 90 – “Sergeant Major” changed to “Sergeant-Major” (Frank Wasley
is now Sergeant-Major)

Page 93 – “as it it is” changed to “as it is” (as it is a delightful

Page 132 – “matrass” changed to “mattress” (a good mattress, made by
filling my bunk with hay)

Page 134 – “matrass” changed to “mattress” (a good mattress and half
a dozen quilts)

Page 146 – “Farnham” changed to “Farnam” (You ask me about Charlie

Page 157 – “nonchalently” changed to “nonchalantly” (I answered,

Page 164 – “seige” changed to “siege” (the siege is still going on)

Page 169 – “throught” changed to “thought” (One time I thought there
would be)

The single footnote has been re-indexed using a number and moved to
the end of the book.

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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 16 of 16)