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 6 of 16)
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_May 19, 1862_.

Just where we are camped now I cannot tell, except that it is in the
woods, within four miles of the enemy and nineteen from Richmond. We
left our camp at Williamsburg last Thursday morning and got in here
this afternoon. This is a heathenish country, swarming with unpleasant
neighbors other than rebels. Day before yesterday when I aroused from
a wayside nap, one of the little snakes—common here, but harmless—slid
out from under me. I gave a yelp and killed him as if he had been a

I thought I wrote you at the time about Solon Porter. He died at Camp
Beaufort, some time before we left there, of apoplexy. He was sitting
on his bunk, cracking a nut between his teeth, when he fell back,
unconscious, and lived but a short time. I was not tenting with him at
the time. He was the third of my Camp Sullivan tentmates to die.

This ink is simply awful, and Gunnison, who is writing out of the same
bottle, is expressing his opinion very freely. That sprig of geranium
you sent me was a fragrant reminder of home. I will inclose a sprig
of cedar from a tree just in front of my tent. When I can I gather a
quantity of these cedar branches for a bed.

A dear little baby rabbit just came running into this tent and we
caught him. The little rascal’s confidence—if that was what led him
here—was well placed. When I get through petting him I’ll take him out
into the woods and turn him loose in the safest place I can find.



WHITE OAK SWAMP, VA., _May 26, 1862_.

We are camped now some ways beyond Bottom Bridge, across the
Chickahominy. We have had a pretty strenuous time of it for the past
week or two, a good part of the time wallowing through swamps, and our
grub supplies very irregular and uncertain. I have had very little
to eat besides hard crackers. My first move when I get “out of the
wilderness” will be to get a good square meal with all the fixings. In
getting to this point, we have, a good part of the time, been literally
ploughing through swamp mud. Sometimes, where the road ran through a
particularly bad morass, the road was built up and retained by logs
along the side, upon which we picked our way after a fashion. But when
one slipped or lost his balance it was a serious matter. And when we
marched in the night-time it was a double terror. The night we arrived
at Bottom Bridge, about midnight and dark as Egypt, I was absolutely
cased in mud, and my gun as well, and I had to lie down as I was and
wait for daylight to get down to the river for a cleanup.

We are now camped on a hill in the swamp [Poplar Hill,] in a nice clean
field of clover. It is going to rain right away, but we have pitched
our tent with extra care, have dug a good trench around it to carry the
water off unless we have a flood. It rains very often, and the other
day we had the fiercest hail storm I ever saw. The stones were very
large and came down like cannon balls. I was out of camp and got behind
a house, but was well pelted for all that.

When I read the new call for more troops I gave up all idea of a speedy
return home. We expect a battle here before Richmond any day, but
whether we will get into it or not depends on circumstances. Our camp
strategists have got it figured out that we will be used to cut off the
retreat of the rebel forces at Fort Darling.



_Sunday, June 15, 1562_.

It has been some time since I last wrote, and you are doubtless getting
anxious. We are now camped on the battlefield of Fair Oaks. We were
not in the battle, but were in line, with skirmishers thrown out and
batteries posted, waiting for the attack that never came and listening
to the rattle of musketry off to our right. We did not come here until
the second day after the fight. Before we started all our baggage was
sent to the rear, and with my knapsack went my writing materials. We
are having rough duty now. Every third day the entire regiment goes on
picket duty for twenty-four hours, which means, as a rule, not even
a cat-nap in that time. I was just settling myself for a good sleep
today, when the cry went up that our knapsacks had come; so I sorted
mine out from the heap and set to work to write some letters.

We arrived here about three o’clock in the afternoon and immediately
went on duty for twenty-four hours. It rained all night—a steady
downpour—and the whole country was flooded. Coming up, we waded for
considerable distances through ponds from ankle to knee deep. Here
it was just mud and water. The trenches we would have jumped into
in case of an attack were half filled with water. Even if it had
been permitted, there was no chance to lie down—no chance for much
of anything but to stand up and take it through the long hours of
the night. I did manage to get a few slicks of cordwood together and
cobbled up a roost that gave two or three of us a sort of perch out of
the mud. Directly in front of me lay a dead horse and a dead rebel.
Within a short distance were perhaps a hundred dead horses—all killed
when the rebels made their rush on our batteries on the first day.
These have about all been cleaned up now, by burning, wood being piled
upon them and great bonfires made.

The battlefield presented one of the most horrible sights imaginable.
Many bodies of men killed in the later stages of the battle were still
unburied. Some were in shallow graves, but as a rule burial consisted
merely in covering the bodies as they lay. The heavy rains, washing
away the covering, had left many gruesome sights. I was an advanced
picket the other night, my position being in the midst of several dirt
piles, with enough in sight to show that each covered a dead rebel.
That day Eugene Hazewell accidentally shot himself through the foot and
had to have a toe taken off. We were posted so near the rebels that
we could hear them talk. We had orders not to shoot wantonly at their
pickets, and we understood they had similar instructions; but if so
they disregarded them and took a shot at a Yankee whenever they could
draw a bead on one.



_June 22, 1862_.

Have been out with a work party all the forenoon, and go on picket
at three in the afternoon, to remain twenty-four hours, and feel as
if I was earning my salary. There can be no question but what we are
putting in full time. We are virtually on duty every minute, for, even
in camp, we are on the alert ready to turn out for a fight at any
moment. Yesterday the rebels attempted to drive in our pickets, and
the result was a very lively little skirmish, as our boys had not got
quite ready to come in. A few days ago the Sixteenth Massachusetts
made a reconnoissance, attacking the rebel pickets for the purpose of
ascertaining their position and strength. It cost the Sixteenth four
or five men killed and eighteen or twenty wounded. The Sixteenth has
recently been attached to our brigade.

I am as well contented in the army as I could expect to be, but still
look forward with pleasant anticipations to the time when I will be
home again. I was talking with Frank Robinson today about the good
times we would have in Manchester. [He was killed, two months later, at
Bull Run.] I had a letter from a friend in Great Falls—one of my old
school chums—and he had so much to say of the happy times in the old
Manchester High School that I had to pinch myself to keep from getting

We are camped in a swamp, and yet water is one of the scarce articles.
We have had no rain for several days, and the sun has dried up most of
the surface water, so it is no easy matter to even fill our canteens.



_June 26, 1862_.

Since I last wrote you I have been in two lively fights—one last Monday
and the other yesterday. Monday afternoon our pickets were ordered
to advance and drive the rebel pickets as far as they could. Company
I happened to be one of the companies on the advanced line, so in we
went. It was a sneak-up, crawling through the thick swamp brush till we
struck the rebel pickets. Jesse Dewey and I, crawling along together,
had the luck to open the ball, and in one minute there was lively
popping along a half mile front. The rebels had no call to make a very
stiff fight—and they didn’t. Gen. Grover, mounted, with his upper works
all that was visible above the bushes, directed the movements, and we
rushed them back a long distance. Then their reserves came swarming
in—and we got back. Our loss was very light. In Company I only one man

Yesterday the entire Division advanced over the same ground, and we
had a mighty stiff fight [battle of Oak Grove.] We found the rebels in
heavy force this time, and it was only after a hard and bloody fight
that we drove them back over practically the same ground we had covered
on Monday. Only one man was killed in my company—John Brown, a fat,
hearty, round-faced, good-natured boy as ever lived. Company B had over
twenty men killed or wounded out of forty-six that went into the fight.
Gen. McClellan arrived on the field in the afternoon and complimented
us very highly for our work during the day.

_Wednesday, July 2, 1861_.

At last I have got a chance to finish my letter. Lots of things have
happened since I commenced it. I have had no good rest for three days
and two nights, so you can imagine the condition I am in. Sunday
morning we marched away from Fair Oaks with three days’ rations in
our haversacks. The way property and supplies were destroyed didn’t
look good to us. The rebels followed closely, and a few miles back we
went into line of battle, posted batteries, and were ready for them.
There was a short and sharp fight a little ways to our right [Savage
Station,] but we didn’t get into it. The rebels were repulsed, and
we moved on again. Along in the night we got into bivouac in the
dark, a great mass of troops, where we could see but little of our
surroundings until daybreak. Then we soon studied it out that we were
at a cross-roads, with an immense wagon train parked near by, and a
heavy force to protect it. During the forenoon the troops were moved
into position to meet any advance from the direction of Richmond. We
were not attacked until the middle of the afternoon, and then a great
battle was fought [Glendale or Charles City Cross Roads.] We whipped
the rebels at every point. The Second Regiment was all over the field,
generally in support of some battery or other regiment. We lost very
few men. I was hit in the groin by a spent ball and crippled about as I
would have been if a mule had kicked me. We were advancing up a slope,
in line, to support a regiment that was breaking. I heard that bullet,
and when it struck me it set me back out of the ranks and I thought I
was shot through and through. I saw some of the boys look back sort
of pityingly as the line went on. It did not take me long to find out
that I was very far from being a dead man. There was a dent in my thick
leather belt, but the bullet had not gone through. It had doubtless
struck the ground and lost much of its force before it hit me. I was
back in my place by the time the regiment reached the crest. But in a
little while I was very lame, and it was only by great effort that I
kept along with the regiment that day and the next.

That night and the next morning we moved on a few miles farther and
took position on high ground not far from the James river. Here another
great battle was fought [Malvern Hill.] The artillery firing was
simply terrific, we having some of our gunboats in action. The rebels
charged again and again, and were driven back every time with frightful
losses. It was a terrible punishment we gave them. We were not actively
engaged, and so lost no men.

I got in here this afternoon pretty well used up. It commenced to rain
last night, the roads were in bad condition, and there were thousands
upon thousands of stragglers. But aides were stationed to direct these
as they poured out onto the flats, and the disorganization was quickly
rectified. Don’t know when I’ll get a chance to send this. Go up and
tell my folks.



_Monday, July 8, 1862_.

Can write only a short letter now, and my old excuse will have to do
duty again—“used up.” We are fortifying our position, and as there
is a good chance of Johnny paying us a visit most any time, we are
putting the house in order to entertain him. We work night and day on
our intrenchments. We are camped in an open field, on a gentle slope
along the crest of which run our rifle pits and earthworks. The weather
is frightfully hot, and as a consequence the men feel very shiftless
and lazy. I do, anyway, and judge the rest by their actions. Quite a
number of our boys were taken prisoners in the retreat. Perk. Lane
is probably among the number, as he was one of the sick sent back to
Savage Station, and they were nearly all taken.

Eddie Dakin, the Captain’s waiter, is going home tomorrow, and I will
intrust this letter to him, to be dropped in the Manchester or some
other post office.


[Illustration: BILL RAMSDELL]



JAMES RIVER, VA., _July 11, 1862_.

Received a letter from you last night. I am writing under very
unfavorable conditions, as it is a rainy day and mud and water reign
supreme. Whenever it rains hard the water beats through the canvas
like a fine sieve. If the wind happens to blow it is pretty sure,
in addition, to beat into one end or the other of the shelter. The
prospect now is that we shall lay in our present position for some time
and have considerable leisure. If we do you can expect a letter from me
pretty often.

We are hard at work fortifying our lines. The camp of our regiment is
immediately to the rear of a redoubt where twenty or thirty cannon
will be mounted. Two eight-inch howitzers are now in position. We are
building rifle pits from the right of this redoubt down to a pond
[Rowland’s mill pond.] When you know that our intrenchments form a line
several miles in length, you will get some idea of the magnitude of
our works. This is a very interesting locality, plastered all over with
historic associations. President Wm. Henry Harrison was born near here,
and down by the river there is a stately mansion built long before the
Revolution of bricks brought from England. In the family burying ground
I saw stones dating back over two hundred years.



_July 19, 1862_.

Rod. Manning, my present tentmate, and I got tired of lying in the
mud, so we sallied over to where they were tearing down a house, about
three-quarters of a mile from here, and managed to gather in a quantity
of the old clapboards. With these spread on a framework of poles, we
have a bunk or platform high enough to keep us out of the water when it
rains, and making a very fair seat when, for instance, I want to write
a letter to you. This is not the only public improvement. We have built
a bough arbor over the front of our tent to give some shade from the
scorching sun, and are thinking of a bough screen at the back end of
the tent to keep out the wind and rain.

Our rifle pits are finished, so we will have no duty except guard duty
and a short drill each day. I hope the North will send reinforcements
on quickly, for I want to see our army advance again on Richmond and
end the war. This is a good place to rest in for a few weeks, where we
can have our supplies landed at our very door from transports.

In the retreat from Fair Oaks our company lost ten men taken prisoners.
We have a pitifully short line now, compared with what it was when we
left Manchester.



_July 23, 1862_.

By the papers I see that a hospital is to be established in New
Hampshire for the care of sick and wounded soldiers from our state.
That is all very nice, but, as much as I would like to see home, I hope
I will never have any use for that establishment. I have been out today
to a review by Gen. McClellan and am pretty well fagged out. Now I will
try to answer some of your questions. There are not many houses about
here—it’s right out in the country. Such houses as there are are mostly
occupied as hospitals. Those outside our lines that would interfere
with the range of our guns have been torn down. Notwithstanding the
ravages of war, it is a most beautiful region. The busy place now is
down at the landing, where the negroes are kept busy unloading supplies
from the transports. Our food, for a few days, has not been quite up
to the New Hampshire standard. Our meat has been “smoked sides”—a very
poor quality of bacon. I have almost forgotten how a real first-class
meal does taste.

“Those curls?” Well, I came to the conclusion, yesterday, that inasmuch
as I had lost my comb and didn’t know where I could get another, heroic
measures were necessary. So I hunted up a camp barber and had my hair
cut and my head shaved, sandpapered and varnished. I was looking at the
little round picture yesterday, and a little end of black hair that
straggled out between the case and the picture reminded me that you
placed it there the night I told you I had enlisted. It was braided and
tied just as you tied it that evening. We had but little idea then that
I was to be so long away.

_Thursday, July 24._

It is about three o’clock in the afternoon, and I have just finished
my dinner. I looked over the miserable piece of miserable bacon
that the company cook handed out to me, and then started off into
the wilderness, and when I came back I had gathered in a pint of
blackberries, which helped out very materially.

General McClellan was around today looking over the intrenchments. One
of his staff had quite a little misadventure down by the pond, where
a lot of us were having a swim. A small canal, or sluice, runs out
of this pond, which is crossed by a frail plank bridge. The General
and staff were crossing this bridge, when a plank gave way and down
into the ditch went one horse and rider. The officer managed to crawl
out—and a very draggled specimen he was—but it took the united efforts
of the whole party to get that horse onto terra firma.

I received a letter from Roger [Woodbury] yesterday. He was of opinion
that the Third Regiment would come up to the Peninsula, as troops were
being sent from that Department to reinforce McClellan. I saw Hen. [W.
H. D.] Cochrane yesterday, and he told me the Third and Fourth were
actually embarked for here.

_Saturday, July 26._

Yesterday morning the Second Regiment went out on picket and got in at
noon today. I had the most enjoyable picket tour in all my experience.
We were out about two miles from camp, and as there were cavalry
vedettes and patrols still farther out, we had no fears of a surprise
attack. There were so many of us that no man had to stand a post more
than one one-hour turn. The rest of the time we were at liberty to
roam, pick blackberries and gather green apples and have a good time
generally. No camp ever had a more perfect picket protection than was
given by that swarm of foragers and sight-seeing scouts. Close to
headquarters was a house—a well-shaded, cozy southern home. The owner
and his two sons are in the rebel army, but his wife and daughter
remain and have a safeguard of our soldiers. And you never saw such a
swarm of little negroes as there was about that place.

Today has been feast day—the greatest dinner within the memory of man—a
genuine “biled dish”—potatoes, beets, onions, cabbage and boiled salt
pork. And just now Rod. Manning is frying some apples that are going to
make a pretty good dish, if I can judge by the smell.

_Sunday, July 27._

Hen. Everett has just been over here, and we had a good long chat about
times in the old printing office in Manchester. The sun is coming up in
a way that promises a hot day—and a hot day down here _is_ hot.



_August 3, 1862_.

Our Division went out, last night, on a reconnoissance most up to
Malvern Hill, where the last great battle was fought on the retreat. We
went on through woods, over stumps, wading brooks and bog holes, until
we were pretty near the enemy’s lines, when Gen. Hooker learned that
Kearney had accomplished what we had set out to do, and we about-faced
and blundered back to camp through the darkness. It was almost three
o’clock when we got back, and I was tired through and through. [The
expedition was really misled by a guide.]

There has been some little stir here for a few days in relation to
transfers to the gunboats, as twenty-five or thirty seamen are wanted
from each regiment. Those who have been to sea and want to go again
have passed in their names, but we do not know as yet who, if any, have
been accepted. Gunnison sent in his with the rest.

The company cooks are preparing a great dinner—soup, with potatoes,
onions and cabbages in it. It certainly is a feast to men who have
learned not to be surprised if they get nothing but hard bread, or even
nothing at all. I have just heard that we are to go out tonight on
another reconnoissance. I hope not. I had much rather lie comfortably
in my tent than go on any such tramp as we had last night.



_August 8, 1862_.

Since I last wrote we have been on quite a little expedition to Malvern
Hill and back. We left our camp Monday afternoon, just before sunset.
It was a beautiful evening, and as we followed a fairly good road we
trudged along very comfortably until about midnight, when we halted
and slept on our arms until daybreak. Bright and early we resumed our
march. The enemy’s cavalry pickets were struck within a few hundred
yards and our cavalry sent them flying, after the exchange of a few
shots. When we came out into a large field I saw that we were on the
ground where we fought on the second day of the retreat from Fair
Oaks—[at Charles City Cross Roads.] Then we swung to the left and
pushed down the road to Malvern Hill—the same we had followed once
before. When we came out into the great open area around Malvern Hill,
one of our light batteries was already engaged with a rebel battery of
four pieces. These guns naturally paid some attention to us, but with
the exception of one shell which burst in our ranks before we filed
out of the road and did some damage, not a man was hit in the Second
Regiment. We had, really, remarkable luck, as they did some very good

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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 6 of 16)