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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 3 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 3 of 16)
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_XXIV_

CAMP UNION,
BLADENSBURG, MD., _Sept. 29, 1861_.

Company I goes on guard today, and I can manage to pick out a little
time for writing letters. I wish you could be in camp here Sundays and
see the colored people come in. Sunday is the negro’s holiday, and
they swarm into camp with their apples, peaches, chickens, or whatever
they happen to have that can be turned into money or old clothes. Each
one has a basket, with a crooked stick on which to swing it over the
shoulder. These plantation negroes—mostly slaves—are a quaint lot, not
a bit like the bright colored people you see north. We used to think
the stage negro at the minstrel show was a burlesque. He wasn’t.

Fast Day some four hundred of the regiment marched down to the camp of
the Third and had a jolly time. Roger had got along, but I saw him for
only a moment. Frank Morrill and I took a most cheerful stroll down to
that most cheerful public institution, the Congressional Cemetery, and
saw the tombs of Gen. Macomb, Gov. Clinton, and no end of generals,
commodores and other big men.

The Fourth N. H. Regiment passed here today. I do not know where they
will camp. I have many acquaintances in its ranks.

Have you read about the taking of Munson’s Hill? Wasn’t that a pretty
neat trick the rebels turned on us—mounting stovepipes and wooden
cannons on the forts? The boys are borrowing trouble now through fears
that McClellan will not take us with him when he advances over into
Virginia. It would be decidedly ungrateful not to give us a chance to
square accounts for Bull Run and the run we made after it. I shall
never forgive the rebels for that affair until we have paid them in
their own coin.

The First Michigan Regiment came in today and camped right beside us.
They were at Bull Run as a three months’ regiment, and enlisted again,
for three years, when their time was up.

The fort we have been working on is about ready for business. It
mounts thirteen 32-pounder guns, and would be a lovely thing for a few
thousand men to butt their heads against.

The days are very hot and the nights terribly cold. I put my overcoat
on and wrap my blanket about my legs and feet when I bunk down nights,
and then I am almost frozen. This is a good time to catch the fever and
ague, and I may be in for it.

———————

_XXV_

CAMP UNION,
BLADENSBURG, MD., _Sunday, Oct. 6, 1861_.

The Fourth Regiment are encamped about two miles below here. I went
down to see them one day last week and had a good time. Saw Kin. Foss,
Sam. Porter, “Tulip” Bunten and many others. As I went strolling
through the camp, I noted one street down ahead where there appeared to
be half a dozens fights going on, in various stages of development. I
said to myself, I’ll bet a dollar that’s Charlie Hurd’s company. I won
the bet.

The Third Regiment has gone to Annapolis. This afternoon we are to be
reviewed by Gen. McClellan. He has reviewed us once before, and it may
be that he intends putting us ahead somewhere, and that we shall leave
Bladensburg before long.

So you want me to learn a lot of songs, do you? Well, I have
anticipated your wishes and already commenced. There is one pathetic
local ballad that I have been practicing on and can do pretty well for
a green hand. Here is the first verse, which will give you some idea of
its high artistic merits:

“_A grasshopper sat on a sweet pertater vine,
On a sweet pertater vine, on a sweet pertater vine,
When a turkey gob-u-ler acoming up behind
Just yanked him off of that sweet pertater vine._”

Then there is another that is very popular with the boys. It is easy to
learn, notwithstanding there are 147 verses to it. I will give you the
first verse, and when you’ve got that you’ve got the whole thing, for
they’re all alike. One, two, sing:

“_John Brown he knew that his father was well,
And his father he knew that John Brown he was well,
For when John Brown knew that his father was well,
His father he knew that John Brown he was well._”

Our entire company was out yesterday cutting down woods that interfered
with the range of the guns on the forts we have been building. My
mother, having in recollection her experiences with the family wood
box when I was a boy, would probably have advised against taking me
out. But I am inclined to think that, as a wood chopper I achieved some
reputation this time, as after I had gnawed down a tree of considerable
size some of the boys called the others to come and admire “Mart’s
stump.”

Well, I have strung out a long letter, and some of it you can credit to
the delightful surroundings and conditions under which I am working.
Here is the picture: A big tent—the Quartermaster’s—overlooking from
its back a railroad cut twenty-five or thirty feet deep; an enormous
oak tree deeply shading a large space, with a delicious breeze
rustling its branches; several of the boys sitting around reading
the newspapers, chatting, and looking down upon the numerous trains
that pass below; and your own correspondent, with a big pile of army
overcoats for a backrest.

———————

_XXVI_

CAMP UNION,
BLADENSBURG, MD., _Oct. 21, 1861_.

We are having some of the worst weather the almanac can dish out to
us, and the hospital is full of sick men, some seriously ill. I have,
myself, been off duty for several days, but am now on deck again all
right. It is surprisingly cold, and tents are not the warmest sleeping
apartments in the world. I hope they will take us off down south before
long or give us good barracks.

I had a letter from my uncle Nathaniel the other day. [Nathaniel
Columbus Knowlton of New London.] He wrote that after he went back
from Boston, where he went to see me off, a girl came to my father’s
house, whom they introduced as Miss Lane, and who seemed to be very
well acquainted. About a month after, Addie told him who you was. He
approves.

The two aunts you met at my house are all right. Aunt Polly is the
wife of my father’s eldest brother, Joshua. Aunt Olivia was reared
down south, in a Catholic seminary at Charleston, South Carolina. Her
father, Captain Bailey, was an old time sea captain. Until recently she
has been very decided in her southern predilections. But a summer spent
in Charleston two years ago changed her sentiment very radically. Her
husband—my uncle William—is in the Massachusetts Eighteenth, which is
now at Baltimore.

There is quite a little force of cavalry here with us now. They make a
brave show in their drilling. Gen. Hooker, who commanded this brigade,
now has a division, and Col. Cowdin, of the First Massachusetts,
commands the brigade. I believe we shall move from here before long.
The boys are getting impatient, and will be very discontented if they
hold us here much longer.

You write me of your fingers being cold. If you could only know
how cold I am this very minute, you would realize the pleasures of
letter-writing in camp. It is a cold day, and I am writing in a wide
open tent, which is just the same as out of doors. But we have lots
of good times, notwithstanding the cold; and when we get around the
campfires at night, we talk of home and the jolly times we will have
when we get back to Manchester.

———————

_XXVII_

HILL TOP, ST. CHARLES COUNTY, MD.,
_October 28, 1861_.

You will take note that we have changed our location at last. We are
now forty or fifty miles below Washington, on the Potomac river, below
Budd’s Point. The other side of the river is lined with rebel batteries
for a distance of ten miles, up and down, and we are here with ten or
twelve thousand men to watch them. We have cavalry and artillery with
us. With our regiment is Doubleday’s battery of 12- and 32-pounders.
Most of the Fort Sumter men are in this battery. We left Bladensburg
Thursday and got here last night—a march of four days. As we were in
heavy marching order, all our earthly possessions strapped or hung to
us in some way, you can be sure it was a pretty tired crowd that landed
in here.

_Tuesday Morning._—I tried to write last night, but it was so cold I
had to give up. We are camped down in a deep hollow, where the sun
doesn’t get in till pretty late. Every morning the ground is white with
frost. It takes all our dry goods to keep us anywhere near comfortable,
day or night. Our grub is neither rich nor varied, but it appears to
agree with me—with what I have been able to pick up on the side. A man
who is enterprising can occasionally get hold of a piece of fresh meat.
Until last night, since leaving Bladensburg, every man has been his own
cook. Our tin plates served very well as stew- or fry-pans, and coffee
drank out of the tin dipper in which it was boiled on the coals of the
campfire, has a flavor all its own. But last night the company cooks
got into action again and served out boiled corned beef, hardbread, and
coffee. As it never rains but it pours, our sutler also got along and
opened up shop.

Guard duty in this place is not what it was at Bladensburg. Our company
goes on picket today down by the mouth of the creek we are camped on
[Nanjamoy,] to watch the rebels over across the river. Mail will leave
here three times a week.

Yesterday the rebel batteries were busy throwing shells over to this
side of the river, but our regiment was far out of range of fire.
Before we came down here the rebels used to come over and visit and
forage and gather recruits and scout around with impunity.

The infantry of this division consists of our own brigade—the First and
Eleventh Massachusetts, Twenty-sixth Pennsylvania, and the Second—and
General Sickles’ “Excelsior Brigade” of five New York regiments. The
regiments are strung along for a distance of probably seven or eight
miles, we being the farthest south.

———————

_XXVIII_

CAMP SECOND N. H. REGIMENT,
NEAR BUDD’S FERRY, MD., _Nov. 10, 1861_.

When I wrote you last we were camped in a hollow by Nanjamoy Creek.
Well, we got driven out. It was so infernally uncomfortable that Col.
Marston moved the camp up onto the hill. It is not probable that we
shall stay in this camp a very great while, but when or where we will
move is a riddle. For all that, we are doing a good deal of fixing up
that belongs to a permanent camp. Have built log huts for the company
cooks, which will probably be labor thrown away. But we are having a
good time. The woods are full of small game, although we do practically
no hunting. But the darkies bring in coons, possums, gray squirrels,
rabbits and chickens, all cooked, and well cooked. We have not seen
any soft bread since we left Washington. Our _hard_ bread certainly
does not belie its name. But given a good soaking in coffee, and well
lubricated with butter, I manage to dispose of my share.

Our mail is regular in nothing but its irregularity. A three days’
mail for this regiment got as far as the Massachusetts First, and
then, in some fool freak, was shipped back to Washington. Everybody is
swearing—except, possibly, the chaplain.

———————

_XXIX_

CAMP BAKER,
NEAR BUDD’S FERRY, MD., _Nov. 16, 1861_.

Since my last letter we have moved up several miles and are now
encamped with the rest of our brigade, near General Hooker’s
headquarters. Our location here is a most attractive one, the camp
being in the edge of woods thick enough to afford a perfect wind-break.
This insures us against such a calamity as we were up against at
wind-swept Hill Top, when several tents were overturned.

Yesterday I had a reserved seat at a first-class show. I heard the
rebel batteries on the other side of the Potomac banging away at
something, so I went down to the river—not a very great distance—to
find out what the trouble was. It was a saucy little schooner skimming
down the river, and the rebels trying to hit her. They fired about
sixty shots and never made a score. But it was an inspiring sight all
the same, the big guns flashing from battery after battery as the
vessel came in range, and puffs of smoke in the air or a big splash on
the water marking the grand finish.

It looks very much as though we were going into winter quarters here.
Logs of suitable size and length are being hauled in, to be used as
an underpinning for our canvas houses, and the boys, in squads of five
or six, are already at work on their quarters. My crew is already made
up, a picked squad of congenial souls, and we will get at our building
operations next week.

We had a thunder shower night before last, and it has cleared off very
cold. But there is an abundance of fuel, and half a dozen campfires
agoing in each company street.

———————

_XXX_

CAMP SECOND N. H. REGIMENT,
CHICKAMOXEN, MD., _Nov. 27, 1861_.

For amateurs, the association of house builders I joined has done a
good job. It is on the same general plan as most of the others. First,
you start in to build a log cabin. When the walls are four or five
feet high, you stop, fasten your tent on top—and there you are. It is
astonishing, the room you gain over a plain tent. On the right-hand
corner fronting the street is a fireplace—a big one—built, with its
chimney, of small logs laid cob-house fashion and thickly plastered
with Maryland mud. The bottom is sunk a foot or more, and around the
front is a one-log pen or barrier, which serves a double purpose. It is
just right for a seat before the fire, and it keeps our thick carpet of
straw out of mischief. When we are all fixed up we’ll have bunks and a
table and shelves and pegs and a gun rack and everything required in a
well-regulated family. I am writing by the light of a candle. Roberts
[Orsino,] one of the tent’s crew, is warming himself at the fire and
going over all the songs he has in stock, and the rest of the gang seem
to have no higher ambition, just at present, than to “break up” both me
and him.

Sunday our company went up to “the landing” to help unload two or
three small steamers that bring our supplies down from Washington. The
landing is at Rum Point, over three miles from here, but as near as
boats can get to us, on account of the rebel batteries. As we did not
start to return until after dark, we had a sweet time of it. The roads
here are now nothing but a ditch through woods and fields, filled with
mud of terrible adhesive qualities and of fabulous depth. I thought,
for the life of me, I should never get home. If I tried to follow the
road, I wallowed up to my knees in mud. If I switched off to one side
or the other, I had, in addition to the mud, a butting match with every
tree in the county. It was pitch dark when I landed in camp just ahead
of a smart shower.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day in New Hampshire, and we New Hampshire
boys out here on the Potomac will observe it in a befitting manner. In
our tent we have a big fat goose up on the shelf, with a rabbit- or
chicken-pie or two and a few other fixings. Beat that if you can.

———————

_XXXI_

CAMP BAKER,
CHICKAMOXEN, MD., _Dec. 1, 1861_.

I am just in from our standard show—a little schooner running up the
river and thumbing her nose at the rebel batteries. In all, they fired
seventy shots at her, with the usual result—no damage done. There was
much noise and smoke, a great splashing of the water, and lots of fun
for the boys in the gallery. As every shot they fire costs them from
ten to fifteen dollars, each schooner trip up or down the river must
be an expensive job for them. They must burn up about a thousand good
dollars every time, mainly to amuse a lot of Yankee soldiers over on
the Maryland shore.

Next Tuesday there is to be a grand review of this division, together
with an inspection. These functions are doubtless a military necessity,
but not very popular with the men—especially the inspections. You are
toled out with your entire outfit, and everything is hauled over,
peeked into and examined. They say Gen. McDowell, the old fellow who
led us to Bull Run (and back,) is down at headquarters. The last time I
saw him he was riding down the front of Burnsides’ brigade, in the corn
field at Bull Run, and telling us we had won a victory.

There are a thousand-and-one rumors afloat as to our leaving here, but
I am not expecting to move in any other direction than straight across
the river. Any man with a vivid imagination can make a guess, whisper
it to one or two, and before night it is all over camp as an authentic
tip from headquarters, Gen. Heintzelman’s division is advanced on the
other side almost down to the rebel position, and my guess is that
he will come down on them before long, while we will cross here and
give them Jessie, with the aid of the gunboats. They are getting ready
for us. We can see them digging and throwing up intrenchments on the
opposite hills.

———————

_XXXII_

CAMP BAKER,
CHICKAMOXEN, MD., _Dec. 8, 1861_.

Tomorrow rounds out just seven months of my three years’ term. The
other night, at the meeting of a literary society some of the First
Massachusetts boys have started, the Lieutenant-Colonel of the regiment
said he thought the regiment would be home by March. There’s the
cheerful optimist for you! Our regiment has been in the service just
about the same length of time as the First, and the two will probably
be sent home about the same time. Presumably the regiments first in the
field will go out first, and so we may get home many months before the
later regiments from New Hampshire. They will have to keep them as a
sort of police for a while after the war is really over.

For a day or two we have been having splendid weather. But under foot
it is simply awful. The “Maryland salve” is everywhere. The roads
are a terror now, and in a short time will be absolutely impassible
except where corduroyed with logs laid crossways to make some sort of a
platform for teams.

We were reinforced last week by a brigade of New Jersey troops. Just
below the blockade is a large fleet of gunboats, ready to co-operate in
any move we may make. Last night a big steamer ran the blockade in the
darkness and there was a terrific hullaballoo.

Joe Hubbard has got back from New Hampshire, but the boxes confided to
him have not yet arrived. He says there is one for me, and I am, of
course, very anxious to get it.

———————

_XXXIII_

CAMP BEAUFORT,
NEAR BUDD’S FERRY, MD., _Dec. 15, 1861_.

I wish you could take a peek-in on my luxurious surroundings. I have
a barber’s chair to sit in. It has a canvas back and seat, and was
built by Damon [George B.,] the Jack-at-all-trades of my tent’s party.
There is a good fire, plenty of apples at my elbow, and, all in all,
I am a pampered child of luxury. There are only two besides myself
occupying the castle just at present—George Slade and George Damon—very
companionable fellows, and who have seen a great deal of the world.
Two—George Cilley and Bill Wilber—are in the hospital, and E. Norman
Gunnison (a fellow with a decided talent for writing poetry) is in
the guard house for some infraction of camp discipline. So we three
that are left have plenty of room and get along mighty comfortably.
Slade and Damon are good cooks. We buy flour, butter, sugar, &c., and
cook a big slack of fritters whenever the spirit moves us. And we have
rabbits, chickens, wheat biscuits, and various other camp luxuries. And
occasionally we make molasses candy of an evening. All this, you will
understand, is outside of and in addition to our regular army rations.

Here is our schedule of duty: Reveille beats at sunrise, when we turn
out and answer to roll call. Then comes the breakfast call. At 9
o’clock is guard mount—that is, the company which has been on guard
duty is relieved by another. The remaining companies drill from 9 to
11 and 3 to 5—but now only occasionally, owing to weather conditions.
Dinner call at 12. Dress parade at sunset. Tattoo is beat at 8, when
the roll is called and the men can go to bed. The Colonel says we will
not have much drilling for the rest of the winter.

The boys find plenty to amuse themselves with, and things are by no
means dull here in camp. Quite a number of musical instruments have
found their way in, and there are men here who know how to play them
too—fiddles and banjos and such.

We had a large party of New Hampshire people in camp today—E. H.
Rollins, John P. Hale, Daniel Clark, Waterman Smith, E. A. Straw and
others. There were also four good-looking New Hampshire women, and they
got three rousing cheers at dress parade.

The old rumor factory now has it that the Second is going to Washington
within a few days, to act as provost guard. Joe Hubbard’s boxes have
not yet arrived, and may not for some time yet. The railroads leading
into Washington are buried in freight and express matter, but I suppose
our stuff will get through in due time.

You inquire what sort of a place this is. Well, it comes about as near
to being no place at all as it could and still be on the map. There
are but few houses hereabouts, and a good part of these are just negro
cabins. There is a store a little ways from here, but I have yet to
discover where enough local trade can come from to keep it going. The
Potomac is only about an eighth of a mile from our camp. From the
western edge of the strip of woods in which we are camped one can
see the river for a long distance, with the rebel batteries, and the
upper works of their gunboat “George Paige,” which sticks close up in
Quantico Creek, out of reach of our gunboats. The river here is less
than two miles wide and the deep-water channel runs very near the other
side, so a large vessel has to run close in to the rebel batteries to
get through at all.

We witnessed a lively little brush the other day. The rebels started
to throw up some works on Shipping Point, and the “Harriet Lane” and
five other gunboats dropped down and told them to stop it. The way they
pitched shells onto that point was a caution. And a few nights ago—just
for fun, as near as I could figure it out—one of our gunboats dropped
down to the upper battery and had some sport for a while. I always did
like fireworks, so I got the countersign and went out to take in the
display. It was worth the money.

You have thought to inquire for “Heenan.” Alas! Poor Heenan! It grieves
me to inform you that the other night he got into an argument with a
Company D boy. Just what condition the other fellow was left in—if
still alive—I don’t know. But when Heenan returned to the bosom of
his family he was a sight. His face was badly bruised, both eyes in
mourning, and one thumb chewed to a jelly. He says he wanted his thumbs
to be mates, and the other was crushed out of shape before he left
Portsmouth.

———————

_XXXIV_

CAMP BEAUFORT, _Dec. 22, 1861_.

Our friends over the river have got another battery in good working
order. It mounts a 64-pounder rifled gun, and the other night they
dropped two shells within the camp limits of the New Jersey brigade,


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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 3 of 16)