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Nuggets of experience



Nelson Armstrong



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NUGGETS OF EXPERIENCE



NARRATIVES OF THE SIXTIES AND OTHER
DAYS, WITH GRAPHIC DESCRIPTIONS OF
THRILLING PERSONAL ADVENTURES

^ B Y =



Dr. Nelson Armstrong, V. S.



LATE OF THE EIGHTH NEW YORK HEAVY ARTILLERY *>
VETERAN OF THE SECOND ARMY CORPS <* TWENTY-EIGHT
YEARS A MEMBER OF THE GRAND ARMY OF THE REPUBLIC

Charter Member of Phil. Kearney Port. No. 7, 1876, Yankton, Dakota Territory
Joined Garfield Pott. No. 25. Wichita. Kan., by Card. 1094



PRESENT MEMBER

W. R. CORNMAN POST, NO. 57, BY CARD

SAN BERNARDINO
1904



Cloth Bound - Price $1.50



Times -Mirror P. iod B. House
1906




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COPYRIGHT 19M
DR. NELSON ARMSTRONG



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Dedication.

I deem it fitting that this little Book be dedicated to my
comrades, the Veteran heroes, of the stormy and rebellious
days of the Civil War, (who are dear to me as brothers), their
sons and daughters, the patriotic and liberty loving citizens of
our United States of America.

With esteem and affection of the Author.



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ILLUSTRATIONS.

Page

Frontispiece ... - .-. i

Officers of the Eighth New York Heavy Artillery - 31

Billy McCabe Defying the Johnnies - - - 71

The Quarter Dash at Piatt Creek 123

There are the Indians 139

The House That Became Historic 165

Captain Lavender, with Yawl and Crew - - 175

I Have "Got" You, Old Man - - - 207

The Redwood Cabin on the Hill 229

Last of Our Happy Days 247



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CONTENTS.

CHAPTER I.

Boyhood, and Day Leading up to the War.

Election of 1856 — Stormy scenes on the floors of Congress —
Old Bowie Knife— Another Presidential Election— Days that
tried the soul of man — Three boys— Noble aged patriot.

CHAPTER II.

The Sixties.

Historical Review of the Eighth New York Heavy Artillery,
(one hundred and twenty-ninth infantry) — Its enrollment, or-
ganization, transformation— Duties in the defenses of Washing-
ton — March to the front — Movements with the army of the Poto-
mac in the overland campaign — Siege of Petersburg.

CHAPTER III.

General Grant Lieutenant General — The Eighth New York
Heavy Artillery leaves Baltimore — March through Washington —
The Potomac — Landing in old Virginia— the night in the woods —
Arrival at Spottsylvania— The first engagement— The gray
horse — A two mile dash — Charge on the enemy.

CHAPTER IV.

To the North Anna River — Crossing the bridge under Are —
The turn to the left— The Chickahominy — And Battle of Cold
Harbor — Captain Ludden a prisoner three minutes — Tribute to
Colonel Porter— Sergeant Joseph Shaw.

CHAPTER V.

In the Shadow of the Wilderness — The Dawn— General
Grant's strategy — Sherman and the western boys — Sheridan in



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the Shenandoah — Historic march — Charge the enemy's works at
Petersburg— Death of Lieutenant Colonel Bates — Captain Lud-
den, a prisoner, goes to Richmond — Captain Ludden's return to
the Regiment— Colonels Murphy and Mclver— The boys in the
blue and the gray.

CHAPTER VI.

Battle of Hatcher's Run (Boydton Road).

Leaving the line in front of Petersburg — My difficulties-—
The new recruit — on the flank — Captain Ludden in command of
the Regiment — Death of Lieutenant Fellows — Officers assembled
— Rebel battery opens fire on the house — The boys on horse —
We charge »the enemy — The Refbel prisoner — Two brigades to
the rear — Memories of General Grant — Billy McCabe — The Re-
trograde march — The wounded Lieutenant — Return to the line
in front of Petersburg.

CHAPTER VII.

Some of the reasons why the comrades are clinging together
today.

CHAPTER VIII.

Eighth New York Heavy Artillery (129th Infantry) Volun-
teers.

Official Reports.

Letter of B. D. Morgan, Albany, N. Y.— Letter of Thos. Hill-
house, Adjt. General — Regiment arrives at Baltimore — Trans-
formation — Joins Second Army Corps — Major Gen. John Gibbon's
Report of Cold Harbor— Major Erastus M. Spaulding.

Battle of Ream-Station.

Report of Colonel Murphy — Maj. Gen. John Gibbon — Gen'l
Order No. 63 — Letter of Major Gen. Hancock.

Hatcher's Run or Boydton Road.

Report of Brig. Gen'l Bgen— Col. James Willett— Thos. A.
Smith, Brig. Gen'l.— Gen'l. Order No. 41— Major General Meade.



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CONTENTS

CHAPTER IX.

America's Heroes of Freedom.

Two score years — Lee and the two Johnsons — Senators and
Representatives — Brave men wept — Seized forts and arsenals —
Grant and Sherman — Logan's encouragement to the Government
— The President's call for Volunteers — Battle of Bull Run — In-
crease of the army to five hundred thousand — Four long years —
The enemies' country— All the same gnawed hard-tack— An army
of Patriots — Our country could not be divided — Invincible army —
Gathering of the Veterajns — Ties that bind men most closely
to each other — The fallen comrades — American, we love thy
name.

CHAPTER X.

Our social meeting day — The year of Sixty-Three — Auld
Lang Syne — Happy days of yore — Flowery Florida.

CHAPTER XI.

The Postponed Horse, or Across Dakota Territory in 1880.

A contemplated journey to the gold fields — My new friend —
Trotting horse Turk Gold-dust — Fitted out for a campaign on
the open prairies — White-Swan and Fort Randall — Piatt Creek —
The quarter dash — Fort Thompson — A night with old friends —
Indian agencies — The Big Muddy — Big Bend — Birth of contem-
plation—Fort Perrie—-The Village Hotel— Wakpa Shicka.

CHAPTER XII.

Bad river— The storm at Plum Creek — Indians on the war-
path — Dead Man's Creek — Cheyenne River — A greater misfor-
tune — The Indians in sight — The phantom Horse-guards.

CHAPTER XIII.

Elk Creek Valley— My reverie— Bull-dog Ranch — Scoop-
town— Bowlder Park— Metropolis of the Black Hills— Arrival
at the Race Track — Runners about Camp — The strange horse —
President of the Trotting and Racing Association — The post-
ponment — Corpulent butter — Two gentlemen became the owners
of my Trotter — Eastward Bound — Curley and Auld Lang ®yne.



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CONTENTS

CHAPTER XIV.

Ten Days fn the Flood on the Missouri River, 1881.

The cold winter — Breaking of the ice — A venturesome peo-
ple — The Steamer Western — The gorge unbroken — Hanson's
landing — Our first duty as rescuers — The blessings of a de-
lighted young wife — The house that became Historic.

CHAPTER XV.

Arrival at the Park's Place— The little skiff at sea— Terrific
storm — Thirty-six hours imprisonment — Danger not fully real-
ized — Mercury hovering around zero — In younger days — Preter-
natural scenery — Arrival of Captain Lavender with yawl and
crew — Searching the icy country for an outlet — Singing on the
water a bad omen — Captain Noble at the helm.

CHAPTER XVI.

My craft — Captain Noble a stranger — Receding of the waters
— The Hardy s — Return of the water — Crowded apartments —
West's Harbor — Religious services — Monday, April fourth — A
hard and a long pull — The Nelson Family — We took a walk — Re-
turn to the troubled waters — The widow and family — Blinding
snow storm — Brave hearts and willing hands.

CHAPTER XVII.

Paper of 3. K. Felton

Necessity of more boats — The Iron life boat— Our appear-
ance hailed with joy — Crashing ice and roaring waters — Hemmed
in by the gorge — Helping along the old and encouraging all —
The sturdy hearts and willing ones.

CHAPTER XVIII.

The Days of the High Wheels, or How Dakota Belle Trotted
away with the stakes.

Mitchell an aspiring town— The Race-Track— The favorite
gray mare — Excitement running high — The young mare that was
raised in Dakota— Faint hopes — The third day of July— The im-



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CONTENTS

mense crowd of people — A newly aroused intelligence — A des-
perate trio— Plenty of ice the balance of the season.

CHAPTER XIX.

A Feast With the Hawkeyes.

Unlike Uncle Isaac Crossman — The Hawkeye Club — So says
the Doctor— Beach and Gould — Natural Scenery— More ex-
perience than capital — All smiles and attention — Invited for an
outing— A Tam-O-Shanter ride — The old mare's blood was roiled
— Jack's obligated duty.

CHAPTER XX.
A Comrade's Letter.

CHAPTER XXI.
Twice an Out-Cast — A Warden's experience.



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PREFACE.

In preparing this work, which has been a labor of
love, as well as a necessity, I make no claim to profound
investigations, or literary merit The sentiments and style
are my own, written from memory, after so many years*
I have simply attempted to narrate facts and events as
they appeared to my personal observation. Whatever the
defects, I crave the indulgence of my comrades in arms,
their descendants, and a generous and grateful public

One by one, the heroes of the great struggle are an-
swering the last roll-call, and passing to that great be-
yond, whose streets are golden paved, and where shot and
shell from an hostile army's guns, and the dangers and
difficulties of a soldier's life are unknown. Nearly two
score years have elapsed since the restoration of peace.
There are still living many comrades whose experiences in
the days of hostilities— and in peaceful times— were simi-
lar to my own. To them the following reminiscences will
recall many fading recollections; and I trust prove of more
than a passing interest. To their children, they will recall
valiant deeds performed by noble mothers and sons and
daughters at home bereft of a husband and father's care
in those agonizing days of Civil War.

Having lost my health in the service of my country
during the Eebellion, the days of the nation's peril, I have

8



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PREFACE

suffered these many years with disablements contracted
there. I have sought climate and physicians, hoping to
regain health or repair damage received at that time, but
without success. The experiment has been to me a costly
one. I find myself in these late years unable to perform
any part of manual labor, and with only a small remit-
tance from the government to live upon. Desiring however
to earn my support, I have selected from my personal,
adventurous experiences the narratives contained in these
pages, hoping my friends and patrons will find them enter-
taining and of benefit, and that I may receive from them
a small revenue that will aid me to live in a fairly com-
fortable manner through declining years.
Devotedly yours,

NELSON ARMSTRONG.



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Stories of the War
of the Rebellion



1861 ISHtr 1865




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CHAPTER I



ELECTION OF 1856— STORMY SCENES ON THE FLOOBS OF
CONGRESS — OLD BOWIE KNIFE — ANOTHER PRESIDENTIAL
ELECTION — DAYS THAT TRIED THE SOUL OF HAN — THREE
BOYS— NOBLE AGED PATRIOT.

My parents were born in St. Lawrence County, New
York. They were of Scotch-Irish descent. At the time of
my birth they were residing in Canada, where my father
was interested in the lumber business, and through the in-
fluence of Canadian friends I was named for the Lord
Admiral of the British Navy, Lord Nelson. When I was
six years old we removed to Niagara County, in the State
of New York, there being a large family of children.

After my tenth year had passed, I was but very little
of my time at home. Living at Niagara Falls, and having
a great fondness for breaking and riding horses, I readily
found employment. Later I went to Lewiston, near which
place I was engaged in work at farming and handling
horses, which seemed to me a pleasant and smoothly run-
ning occupation and the kind I enjoyed. The general
routine of labor was followed year after year, I attending
the district school in the winter months, and I think the
people in those days were really happy; they seemed con-



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22 NUGGETS OF EXPERIENCE

tent with their lot in life,— at least, those that I knew and
heard of.

My earliest recollection of a Presidential campaign
was in 1856, which resulted in the election of James Buch-
anan. The national troubles at this time were brewing,
and while the planters, mechanics and industrious people
were happy and prosperous, the politicians and bu^ybodies
in the South were scheming and plotting secession. There
were many stormy scenes on the floors of Congress, and
towards the close of the administration matters reached
a boiling heat.

It was about this time the Hon. John F. Potter, Rep-
resentative from Wisconsin, acquired the title of "Old
Bowie Knife." In April, 1860, when treason had raised
its hand to stab the Nation to the death, and a hot debate
was going on in the House, member after member from
the South arose and poured his wrath upon the heads of
the "mudsills" of the North. And now came the turn in
the tide— Owen Love joy, a bold and fearless man from
Illinois, arose to reply. He denounced the institution of
slavery in a manner unheard of before in the halls of Con-
gress; the Southerners winced beneath his sledgehammer
blows. Lovejoy marched down one aisle and up another
among the Southern members, shaking his fist in their
faces and denouncing them in unmeasured terms.

While this was going on, Boger A. Pryor, a Virginian,
later a lawyer in New York City, advanced to the center
of the hall in a towering passion exclaiming, "The gentle-



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NUGGETS OF EXPERIENCE 23

man from Illinois shall not approach this side of the House
shaking his fists and talking in the way he has talked ! It
is bad enough to be compelled to sit here and hear him
utter his treasonable and insulting language, but he shall
not, sir, come upon this side of the House shaking his fists
in our faces."

At this time Mr. Potter arose and said: "We have
listened to the gentlemen upon the other side for eight
weeks when they denounced the members upon this side
with violent and offensive language. We listened to them
gently and heard them through, and now, sir, this side
shall be heard, let the consequences be what they may!"

This of course drew the fire and the brunt of the battle
onto Potter, and Pryor was quick to rain down his abuse
upon him, but the man from the Badger State stood by
his word, and a few days later received a note from Pryor.
Hindman, of Arkansas, delivered it. It only asked Mr.
Potter to leave the District to receive a written communi-
cation. Potter answered that as the note contemplated a
duel, and as his disqualification was contained in the Consti-
tution of Wisconsin, he would not leave the District.

This was followed by a peremptory challenge, which
Potter accepted, and quickly named the common bowie
knife as the weapon, the duellists to be locked in a room.
Chisholm, Pryor 's second, protested against so barbarous
a weapon, but Lander, Potter's second, would consent to
no other, but offered to substitute himself for Potter with
other weapons. This could not be agreed to, and no further



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24 NUGGETS OF EXPERIENCE

demands were made upon Mr. Potter. At the Convention
which met at Chicago in June following, he was presented
by the Missouri delegation with a bowie knife, seven feet
long with a blade three inches wide; the handle was of
ebony and the blade was beautifully polished steel. On
one side of the blade was the inscription: " Presented to
John F. Potter of Wisconsin by the Republicans of Mis-
souri, (1860.) " On the opposite side was: " Will always
meet a Prior engagement."

Another Presidential campaign came on in the fall
of 1860, and Mr. Lincoln was elected President of the
United States. This the Southern leaders alleged a suffi-
cient cause for secession and rebellion, and at once pro-
ceeded to take possession of the United States mints, the
forts, the arsenals, and even tore down and insulted the
Nation's flag. They said the North was made up of mean
manufacturers, of traders and farmers, who were cravens
and cowards and would not fight.

Even after forts had been taken and public arms
stolen from the arsenals and distributed among the enraged
militia in the South, the brave, patient and honest freemen
of the Great North could not realize the fact, and did not
until Beauregard began to fire upon a garrison of United
States troops in Port Sumter. Then, in a mighty upheavel,
the people arose. The thunderbolt had burst forth in all
its barbarity. Those were days that tried the soul of man.
We had no choice; a civil war was forced upon us and the
country called upon her patriotic sons for' protection, and



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NUGGETS OF EXPERIENCE 25

all mankind have recognized in the people of the North
a brave and stubborn race.

In the family in which I lived there were three boys;
though they were not of the one family, they were to each
other as brothers. All of them signed allegiance to their
country in her hour of need, and two had early gone forth
in obedience to the call to arms. I, being the youngest
of the number, was the last to leave home, but the struggle
continued and the time came when my services were also
needed. Of the three athletic and aspiring young men,—
one son and two adopted, —who left the home of that noble,
aged patriot, Cyrus Peet, (whose energetic support and
encouragement were ever for the Union and who asked
only to be permitted to remain in this life until Peace and
Freedom be restored to the National cause,— he passed
away soon after),— one in his fourth year of service lost a
leg in battle near St. Mary's Church, resulting in his death;
one a little later succumbed to typhoid fever at City Point
hospital. Although both departed this life on the soil of
Virginia, the battlefield of the Rebellion, their remains
are resting in the little churchyard at Lewiston, New York,
and after the war I alone returned in life, but a mere frag-
ment of my former self, to the old home.



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Gbe Sixties



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CHAPTER II



HISTORICAL REVIEW OF THE EIGHTH NEW YORK HEAVY AB-
THiLEBY, (ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY-NINTH INFAN-
TRY)— ITS ENROLLMENT, ORGANIZATION, TRANSFORMAr
TION— DUTIES IN THE DEFENSES OF WASHINGTON-
MARCH TO THE FRONT — MOVEMENTS WITH THE ARMY
OF THE POTOMAC IN THE OVERLAND CAMPAIGN— SIEGE
OF PETERSBURG.

The One Hundred and Twenty-ninth Regiment, New
York Infantry Volunteers, was recruited and organized at
Lockport, New York, in the summer of 1862; composed of
the good, moral and able-bodied young men of Niagara,
Wyoming and Genesee Counties, and some who were filling
prominent positions at time of enlistment. It was com-
manded by Colonel Peter A. Porter, of Niagara Falls.

Some time after being assigned to duty, this regiment
was transformed into Artillery, and was afterward known
as the Eighth Regiment, New York Heavy Artillery Volun-
teers, and was placed in the defenses of Washington, D. C,
headquarters at Port McHenry, Baltimore, Maryland, with
permission to recruit two new companies; also to fill up
the ten old companies to the Artillery standard.



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30 NUGGETS OF EXPERIENCE

In 1863 the war had been going on more than two
years, during which time my attention had been particu-
larly given to the operations of the Army of the Potomac
Novel and exciting reports of daring deeds at the front
were current; officers were in all parts of the country re-
cruiting soldiers ; bands of music were playing; drums were
beaten, guns were fired, patriotic speeches were made; the
people hurrahed, and men enlisted for the war. I was
seized with a sudden, aspiring desire to become a soldier,
to be one to take part in the struggle for the cause sacred
to all true in heart. I believed my country needed my
services; my patriotism was aroused to its utmost

Officers were instructed to enlist men, allowing them
the privilege of choosing their company and regiment I
knew Company E of the Eighth New York had been re-
cruited at Niagara Falls. I, having lived and attended
school there when a small boy, was personally acquainted
with its Captain and nearly all of its members, and some
of them had written that they were holding a place in the
company for me. I reported at the recruiting office at
Lockport and succeeded in passing examination. Before
taking our final leave for the regiment, I found there were
fifteen (myself making sixteen) Lewiston boys who had
enlisted for the Eighth New York Heavy Artillery.

A few days were required after enlistment to prepare
the new recruits for going to their regiments. A certain
number must be ready to move at the same time; clothing
must be drawn; speeches were to be made and good advice



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NUGGETS OF EXPERIENCE 33


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