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given. Finally, however, the red tape did give out and
the boys were started on their way rejoicing. Loaded in
box cars, in or on top of freight (we did not have palace
cars, nor did we ask or wish for them), we were a happy

When we reached Blmira, the State rendezvous for
recruits for the State of New York, we quartered in a
three story, wooden warehouse; it had been used so much
for this purpose that it had the appearance of being used
many years for a cattle pen to which the city scavenger
never had access. But we were the younger boys of the
family, the older ones having gone on before; they were
requiring a good deal of attention, and Uncle Sam had
not yet got to us with suitable bed clothing, so while we
remained in these quarters our beds were on the muddy
floor; we Were young, however, and soldiers too, and ex-
pected to see hardships, for we were soon to be engaged
in the gentle occupation of killing or being killed, and
did not complain of a muddy bed. After remaining at
these quarters a few days, we removed to the barracks for
a few days more, when we got transportation to the regi-

We reached Baltimore in due time and were marched
to Fort McHenry, the regimental headquarters, when I
found Company £ had received its quota. But we were
informed that Companies L and M were not yet complete
and we were requested to join one of the new companies.
Company L would be commanded by Captain S. D. Lud-

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den, of Batavia, New York, who had not at that time made
his appearance in the regiment, and had never been seen
by any of the Lewiston boys, bnt was said to be a gallant
yonng officer, twenty-four years of age, who had served
in the army the first two years of the war, and at the ex-
piration of his enlisted term returned home with the hon-
ors of a First Lieutenant's commission; also, during his
stay at home, as Governor Seymour's officer, he had re-
cruited three hundred and fifty men for the United States
service. The result of a brief consultation among the Lew-
iston boys was in favor of Company L, and I believe there
was never a murmur of regret as to choice.

Companies D, F, L and M were located at Fort Fed-
eral Hill, where they remained until the spring of 1864,
engaged in drill and guarding the city of Baltimore.

As spring came and the sun grew warm, the snow
melted away. Frequent reports came to us through the
press of the preparations, concentration and movements
of troops at the front; all seemed to point as strong evi-
dence to a lively coming summer campaign. Time was
seeming long; garrison duty was tame soldiering; I was
anxious for active service and desired to see something of
the excitement of war. I longed to see the great army in
motion and to be with it.

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On the 9th day of March, 1864, General Grant was
commissioned Lieutenant General, and on the 12th, by spe-
cial order of the President, assigned to the command of
all the armies of the United States. And now came orders
to all Heavy Artillery regiments to report at the front for
duty. The boys were jubilant with the prospect of being
relieved from the oft-repeated white glove, dress parade
duty at the fort.

At country's call we in line did fall,

Though the storms did almost drown us;

Both night and day we marched away,
For the dear ones left behind us.

Well I remember that Sabbath morning when, with
buoyant step and hopeful hearts, we marched out of Port
Federal Hill, through the streets of Baltimore. The rain
was falling in torrents, and our regimental band before us

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gaily played "The Girl I Left Behind Me." What glory
there seemed in store for the young soldier I Merrily we
tramped along through the rain and running water until
we reached the Baltimore & Ohio Railway Company's
yards, where we waited in the rain several hours for a
freight train which was being prepared to carry us to

We were on our way to the battlefields, thirsting for
the sights there to be seen, believing that a great responsi-
bility rested upon us, that we would act a very important
part in the great drama, and with our aid the national
troubles would soon be settled. I can frankly say we very
soon had the opportunity of knowing why we were there
and the kind of material we were composed of. I» have
sometimes thought that possibly the war could have been
brought to a close if we had not been there, but I am pleased
to know we are honored with the credit of having done
our duty well on the field of battle. I am credibly in-
formed that our regiment ranks second on the rolls as hav-
ing lost the greatest number in battle.

Our train was got ready for us at last and we reached
Washington the second night. We were quartered in a
large, open building, and the next morning, after break-
fasting on soft bread and coffee, we were called into line
and marched past the Capitol and down Pennsylvania
Avenue towards the Potomac River. The doors, windows
and roofs of buildings were occupied to their fullest capa-
city; the streets were thronged with anxious people watch-

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ing our moving column, eighteen hundred strong,— a mag-
nificent regiment or a small Artillery brigade. Many amus-
ing and encouraging words were given us as we passed
along. Some said it was the finest regiment that had passed
through Washington; others remarked that we would not
be long in closing accounts with the Rebels, and some said
we must whip the Johnnies and come back soon for "the
girls we left behind' ' were waiting for us. We arrived at
the River, where the transports were waiting for us, and
were soon on board, longing to move down that memorable
stream, which many of us had never seen before but had
often heard mentioned in 1861 and '62.

It will be remembered by all who were in sympathy
with the National cause in those days, that after the first
battle of Bull Run, General McDowell, the first commander
of the Union forces in the field, was relieved and General
McClellan assigned to command the Department of Wash-
ington and Northeastern Virginia, and later, to command
the armies of the United States, with his headquarters at

The Confederates were actively preparing for war and
rapidly increasing their strength and number. The inac-
tivity of the Federal Army caused a great deal of dissatis-
faction throughout the North. The people were in dark-
ness by reason of the splendid Army of the Potomac lying
in idleness, and for many months were kept anxiously
watching, expecting at any hour to hear of a dashing move-
ment with a brilliant victory to our arms. But no news

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eame,— only the old, fatiguing repetition, "All quiet on the
Potomac." Thus we often heard mentioned the Potomac.

The aspirations to political distinction seemed to be a
prevailing epidemic in the first years of the war, and the
representatives of the National cause were so divided in
sympathy that had not our cause been mercifully guarded
by the All-wise Providence, we surely would have perished.
The President was sorely distressed. The parental Lincoln
was certainly bereft of all patience when he said to Gen-
erals McDowell and Franklin, "If General McClellan does
not want to use the army, I would like to borrow it, pro-
vided I can see how it can be made to do something."

We did not have long to wait on our little transports;
they were soon on the way, and steamed down the river un-
til landed at the mouth of Aquia Greek, where we disem*
barked and set foot on the soil of Old Virginia. We moved
back a short distance from the River and went into camp
for the night.

Next morning we struck tents, and commenced our
march across the plain towards the Rappahannock River,
which, with the sun about one hour in sight, we crossed
on a pontoon bridge about one-half mile to the left, or down
the river, from the ruins of Fredericksburg. Night came
on us as we were passing over a narrow road with heavy
timber on each side, and we were allowed to break ranks
and go into the woods to lie down for the night.

When in these later years I reflect on that night's
doings, I think what a lot of Si Kleggs there must have

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been. It seemed to me every man in the regiment was at
a loss as to his own whereabouts and was calling at the top
of his voice for his messmate, and the echoes resounding
in the deep forest added to the intensity. It was the most
confounding clamor of human voices I had ever heard. I
have often wondered why the Johnnies did not come down
and gobble us up, and if our comrades, who were unfor-
tunately confined in Libby prison, were not disturbed in
their troubled slumbers with our noises. I remember call-
ing to one comrade for several seconds; he afterward told
me he was not more than four feet from me, preparing our
blankets and trying his utmost to convince me he was not
a deserter. We at last found ourselves installed and enjoy-
ed a sound and refreshing sleep.

At the first gray of the morning, when I awoke, I was
surprised to see a part of the regiment in line. No one
said anything about breakfast, and I believe we got none.
The officers were forming the men in line as fast as they
could be awakened, not speaking a word above a whisper.
Our battle flags were uncovered and given to the breeze.
Lieutenant Van-Dake, pointing to the colors, remarked,
"That is what you are fighting for!" I thought we must
be very near the Johnnies and were going to have an in-
introduction, but we saw no enemy and marched on to

The Eighth New York, with other Heavy Artillery
regiments, arrived at Spotteylvania under command of
General B. 0. Tyler. It was called the Artillery Division

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and was halted near the right of the line and in rear of
the moving army.

The Eighth New York was marched and counter-
marched, held in reserve, went into camp for a few min-
utes, then marched again ; thus ^continually maneuvering, as
if sparring for trouble. Finally we went into camp where
we remained over a night, in the edge of a heavy piece of
timber that immediately opened into a large clearing with
standing timber on three sides. Near us was a building,—
I thought at that time a court house,— a wooden structure,
which appeared to me to be about forty feet wide and
about sixty feet long. It was one story high, with square
front, clap-boarded outside, unpainted, and owing to the
dense growth of timber about it> was visible only a short
distance from a front view.

General Grant had ordered a flank movement to the
left, to the North Anna River, for the supposed purpose of
getting in the rear of General Lee or forcing him to an
open field fight.

The morning after our going into camp our troops on
the right began moving past us to the left; tramp, tramp,
tramp, the boys came marching by until late in the after-
noon, when it seemed all had gone and our regiment was
left in quietness and solitude. But quietness was not long-
lived in those days; we soon heard firing on the right,
where our troops had so recently been, We could not hear
musketry, but the Artillery firing was grand. The first
report burst upon us like a thunderbolt from a clear skjr;

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the firing increased with great rapidity and grew louder
every moment, until we could hear the continuous booming
of the cannon of many batteries.

As I stood on the open ground, I could see the smoke
from the guns rising above the hills and tree tops between
us and the field of action. The roar of cannon was loud
and incessant, and it seemed all the elements of Heaven and
earth were in conflict. The ever-watchful Lee had evi-
dently in some way obtained information of General
Grant's movements to the left, and ordered General Ewell
with his corps to make a strong demonstration on our ex-
treme right and rear. Ewell had carried out the instruc-
tions of his chief. Crossing the Ny River above our right,
he captured the road leading out from Fredericksburg on
which our silpply trains were moving, and charged our
weakened line.

I do not know how long we stood looking toward the
roaring batteries; perhaps not three minutes, but I remem-
ber I felt as if I would like to be near enough to see what
they were doing. I was soon to be allowed that privilege,
for while we were still gazing towards the field of conflict,
a comrade remarked, "A messenger comes!"

At that moment a gray horse with a rider appeared,
but far away, and could be seen only at intervals, as if ris-
ing to the summit of a hill, then descending towards the
valley, but steadily galloping towards us. Now we saw
him, now he was lost to our sight; once more he was on
the hilltop; again he descended to the valley; and now he

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again rose to view, now descending to the open field. He
is nearer. We can see him more clearly and watch him
nobly holding his pace, straining every muscle to fill his
mission. At last, with drooping head, extended nostrils
and reeking sides, the gallant steed is halted at our regi-
mental headquarters; the voice of the noble Porter, clear
on the soft Southern air, commands, "Pall in! Forward!
Double quick! Mkrch!"

The boys, (for such we were, I being but eighteen
years of age, and some of us yet younger), were eager for
the send away. I can justly say I never ran a longer or a
better race. There were no spectators in a grand stand
to witness the contest; there was no recall; we were off
with the first word. And the brave boys who were stub-
bornly contesting the field at the mouth of the enemy's
guns, and against superior numbers, were our timers. It
was a two-mile dash, a run from start to finish. Many
of the heavy men, unable to endure the hardship, fell by
the wayside. Talk about Star Pointer, Dan Patch and
the great Cresceus will all do very well for the sports in
these peaceful times, but those were days when a nation's
life depended upon speed.

Field services were new to us and we were nearly all
laden to equal the little Spanish pack burro of the West-
ern mountains. It was a common occurrence with new men
in the field to want to carry everything that had been sent
them from home, and in our case it seemed impossible to
understand otherwise until taught by actual experience.

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Here let us pause a few moments and see this army
of men, each carrying a Springfield musket, belts, car-
tridge box with forty rounds of ammunition, haversack
with the amount of rations necessary and usually carried
in the enemy's country, blanket, shelter tent, canteen with
water (when we could get it), a well filled knapsack,— in
all, weighing from sixty to eighty-five pounds, running over
hills, through swamp and wilderness, to get to a fight!

As we ran and neared the enemy, we cast our heavy
knapsacks in a pile and one comrade was left to guard
them. We ran onto the field a short time before sundown,
immediately swinging into line, charged the enemy, and lis
was forced to a hasty retreat. With darkness the fight
ceased and all was quiet. And with the exception of an
occasional musket shot on the outer picket post, or the
shrill whistle of the whippoorwill, the night was still as
death itself. We slept on our arms in line through the

*Personal Memoirs of General Grant, Vol. 11, Page 239:
" Lee, probably suspecting some move on my part and seeing
our right entirely abandoned, moved Swell's corps about five
o'clock in the afternoon, with Early's as a reserve, to attack us
In that quarter. Tyler had come up from Fredericksburg and
had been halted on the road to the right of our line near Entail-
ing's brigade of Warren's troops. Tyler received the attack
with his raw troops, and they maintained their position until re-
inforced in a manner worthy of veterans.

Hancock was in a position to re-inforce speedily and was the
soldier to do it without waiting to make disposition. Burney was

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thrown to Tyler's right and Crawford to his left, with Gibbon
as a reserve, and EJwell was whirled back speedily and with
heavy loss."

In the morning reconnoissances were made; the bat-
teries threw shells into the woods at different points, with
no response from the enemy. Our dead were buried and
we marched back leisurely over the ground we had so hur-
riedly traversed but a few hours before. Some of us did
not return, for we had experienced the genuineness of the
fortunes of war, and we had learned lessons never to be
forgotten; we certainly did not forget them during our
soldiering days. First, self preservation; second, not to
burden ourselves with luxuries so convenient while in gar-
rison. So knapsaeks with extra clothing were thrown
away by the carload; some did not save a single blanket.
It was a grand picnic for the veterans, hardened to field
service, who, with smile and jest selected such articles from
the discarded goods as best suited their fancy. The mus-
ket, cartridge box, haversack and canteen were even too
great a burden for the tired and footsore soldiers, unaccus-
tomed to field service, on their long and hasty marches
through the suffocating dust and hot Southern sun.

John Daird Wilson, in his history of the "Great Civil War"
says: "The National right flank was guarded by a body of foot
artillerists who had just come up from the defenses of Washing-
ton and who had never before been in foattle; they were under
the command of Gen. R. O. Tyler. Swell's attack was promptly
met. The Artillerists, ignorant of the Indian devices to which

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the veterans were accustomed to resort while fighting in the
woods, fearlessly exposed themselves, firing furiously and ul-
timately compelling the enemy to fall back from the road and
into the woods beyond. Tyler's men suffered severely, but the
honors of repulsing the enemy belong to them/'

Horace Greeley's American Conflict, Vol. 11, page 573:

" Lee threw forward Swell against our weakened right held
by Tyler's division of foot artillerists recently drawn from the
defenses of Washington, by whom he was gallantly repulsed and
driven off, though not without severe loss on our side. The
reckless fighting of the Artillerists — mainly veterans in service
but new to the field— excited general admiration, but cost

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Our regiment was now jointed to the second division
of the Second Army Corps, and from Spottqylvania we
turned to the left to participate in the great flank move-

Some historians have it, the country over which the
National army marched from Spotteylvania to the North
Anna River was fertile and beautiful ; I have no doubt of
its fertility and it may have been beautiful. According to
my recollections, our march was a circuitous one, the
greater part of the way being through underbrush and
heavy standing timber. The weather was very hot. I re-
member seeing some of our soldiers on their hands and
knees crawling on the ground under the thick brush, suf-
fering with sunstroke. One young lieutenant, sick and un-
able to keep up with his command, canje up sometime in
the night, crawled under a wagon and died there before

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When we arrived at the river under the flying shell
from the Confederate batteries, we marched from one point
to another as if in search of a fording place, but the banks
were high and steep, and we received orders to cross on
the plank bridge (a little further to our right, I think,—
Tyler's bridge), to the south side, and move forward. Up
to this time, Captain Ludden had not been with us in the
field, having been detained as Judge of Court Martial at
Baltimore, but he now came up and took command of Com-
pany L.

Our regiment had already begun to cross the bridge,
with arms at right shoulder shift. At this place the Con-
federates had constructed strong works and posted batteries
on the south bank, commanding the river. Some distance
to the right of the bridge was a redan, from which, when
we were fairly on the bridge, the enemy opened fire on us,
cut our column in two, killing and wounding four men.
"Trail arms!" was the immediate command, and the regi-
ment moved on in perfect order.

On the north bank, at the right of the approach of
the bridge, the Federals had posted a battery which im-
mediately opened fire and silenced the Confederate guns,
and we were troubled with them no more. The regiment
filed to the left from the bridge, came to a front and
marched in line up the hill and into the woods. The fight-
ing continued till dark. We slept on our arms in the
woods through the night and a very heavy rainfall drenched

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The next morning, recreating the river, we again
turned to the left, the objective point being the Pamunkey
River, a stream formed by the junction of the North and
South Anna Rivers. We were constantly advancing, cross-
ing streams and skirmishing, until in the night of June
first, when we moved to the left upon Cold Harbor, a point
ten or eleven miles from Richmond and where roads cen-
tered from Richmond, White-house, Besthesda Church, and
Old Church. And from there many roads diverged also
towards different crossings of the Chickahominy. The
Second Division of Hancock's Cavalry (as the corps was
called by reason of its agility), was about the last to reach
Cold Harbor.

The sun was shining on the morning of the second day
of June when our regiment arrived and took position on
the left. We were the rear of the corps. This second day
of June was occupied in placing troops and making prep-
arations for an assault on the enemy's works. At night all
was in readiness.

On the morning of the third, at the earliest dawn, the
signal gun boomed forth its warning. Our army was at once
in motion. A light rain was falling, and through the dim
light we could see the gray uniforms, the rows of shining
bayonets, and the enemy serenely waiting and watching our
movements from behind strong fortifications*

Swiftly we advanced. The second division of the Sec-
ond Corps occupied the left, and our regiment (Eighth New
York Heavy Artillery), was the extreme left of the line.

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We advanced over a divide or rise of ground Between
this high ground and the enemy's works was a swamp in
which grew brush. The brush in places had been slashed,
and in other places the tops were woven together, forming
a network which, with water and mud, we were wading
through, in places nearly body deep, proved a great ob-
struction to our advancing army.

Nearer the enemy's works the swamp grew wider; our
command became separated. The Company to which I be-
longed moved at a left oblique into the woods and onto the
higher ground, where we were immediately engaged with
the enemy in a musket duel at short range. This was the
right of General Lee's line and seemed to be strongly
guarded, but owing to the large standing timber, the thick
underbrush and their strong earthworks we could not well
see our opponents. A good deal of the time our firing was
necessarily at random. There was also thick and heavy
timber at our left and rear. I feared an attack from that
quarter more than our enemy in front. I was afterwards
informed that Sheridan's Cavalry was guarding our left

The morning light was dimmed with the mist when we
began the advance. In a moment the battle was on and
raging terrifically. The hour grew more gloomy, the air
seemed completely filled with screaming, exploding shell
and shot of all descriptions, and our soldiers were falling

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Online LibraryNelson ArmstrongNuggets of experience: narratives of the sixties and other days, with ... → online text (page 2 of 12)