S. Millet Thompson.

Thirteenth regiment of New Hampshire volunteer infantry in the war of the rebellion, 1861-1865: a diary covering three years and a day online

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Copyright, 1888,

All rights reserved.

The Riverside Press, Cambridge:
Electrotyped and Printed by II. 0. Houghton & Co.


To my own family, to ray Comrades in the Thirteenth
Regiment of New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry now
surviving, to the memory of the dead, and to the families
of all, I most heartily dedicate the historical pages of
this book.

S. MiLLETT Thompson.

Providence, Rhode Island,

April 27, 1888.



In this book the Thirteenth Regiment is treated of as a unit. All
personal items, whether concerning myself or any other member of the
Regiment, are entered to do an act of justice, to relate an occurrence
either of a limited or a general interest, or to fix a date or fact. Eulo-
gies, obituaries, and the making any one person prominent to the dispar-
agement or exclusion of others, have been carefully avoided. Repetitions
and duplication of statements have been entered only to make the nar-
rative more clear, or as matters of corroboration ; the book, running
between a narrative and a diary, must needs be complete with each day,
and still maintain the form of a narrative.

I have nothing to say against the collective body of the regular volun-
teer officers and soldiers of the Southern army as such ; though fre-
quently carried out of the right by the external pressure of their own
section, they were infinitely better than the order of things which they
represented ; they were the very best men the South possessed, and I
cannot, and would not if I could, detract from or wipe out their bravery,
courage and honor.

Adhering to plain facts, I have endeavored to reproduce, as nearly as
maybe, the affairs, sentiments and spirit of the times of the war; for
the sjiirit of a day, a time or an age is the very soul of its history, with-
out which a string of bald facts is a bit of mere book-keeping.

It is desired that the reader of this book shall gain some idea of what
it cost, in labor, fighting and suffering, to re-unite the dissevered States
of the American Union ; for every regiment in the Northern army had
experiences similar to those of the Thirteenth, and many of them suf-
fered more severely and lost more heavily, — and to gain that idea in
some measure multiply this Thirteenth Regiment's work and sacrifices
by 2,050, the number, equivalently, of regiments in the Northern army
engaged in that war.


Slang phrases, and a sort of camp language, were used in the army
immensely ; they are not classic, but when a hapjiy plirase, or a slang
phrase of a reasonable character, condenses a page into a line and con-
veys its meaning clear, that phrase should be written until it becomes
classic — grammarian dignity is the stage-coach, terse phrase the light-
ning express. Still, we hold all marred language under protest.

In making the sketches and tracing the maps, the chief aim has been
not to be artistic, but by outlines to enable any person, with this book in
hand, to find the exact spots where the Thirteenth camped or fought ;
and nearly all the plats and maps look the way the Thirteenth faced or
moved. Both sketches and tracings I made with my pen, and they are
reproduced here by photogravure process. The official maps used were
those of Brevet Brig. Gen. N. Michler.

No statements have been drawn from cheap newspaper accounts, popu-
lar yarns or realms dimesque. The negro is represented without preju-
dice or favor, and as I saw him ; and the broad things said of him, or
by him, have been entered merely to show what he was. Swearing
enough was done in the army to last any reasonable people until the
millennium, and I have seen no need of repeating it here. The ideas and
opinions ventured are such as I have entertained for many years, some
during the war, and have seen no reason to change.

It was thought best to use the word battle for all engagements inscribed
upon the flag. Names are attached to quotations by courtesy, to show
whence the statements came. Col. Stevens was applied to for historical
data the same as all the other officers of the Regiment and large num-
bers of the men, but he furnished nothing for this book.

The war was no holiday excursion, and but for the soldiers' fun the
army had gone half mad ; the few jokes in this book have been put in as
a common property ; the Thirteenth, as well as tli« army as a whole,
laughed' far more than it wept, and will remember its enjoyments far
beyond the fading of its woes ; but to reproduce the sports of the sol-
diers, to describe their merry-making and fun, to relate their yarns and
stories, to write their laughable anecdotes and jokes with any reasonable
degree of clearness and justice, were impossible for any man, and I will
not presume to make the attempt, and have carefully avoided all attempts
at being funny.

My interest in the war and its results was increased by the fact that
when a boy, twelve to fifteen years of age, I had served as a conductor
on the Underground Riiilroad ; that is, guiding numerous escaped slaves
through New Hampshire woods toward Canada.


While temporarily engaged in business in the West in 1877-9, I
employed a number of evenings in writing for my family such reminis-
cences of my army life as came to mind. Upon informing Asst. Surgeon
Sullivan of this in 1880, he first of all suggested to me the idea of writ-
ing this book, and urged me to do it. I hesitated for a while, but finally
undertook the work — not because of any ability of mine to do the sub-
ject full justice, but simply because no one else arose to do a much
needed work — the meagre early accounts of her Regiments reflecting
too small a measure of credit upon our State. Though entering upon the
work with hesitancy, I believed it to be the sheerest folly for history to
wither upon the stem of any man's modesty — such stems are too dry and
dead : modesty was not instituted to choke facts into oblivion, excej^ting
such facts as are most shameful and unfit to print.

The most of this book has been written offhand. I am not a profes-
sional writer ; and whether able or otherwise, after examining the many
letters, diaries and 23apers required in the work, after reading every
reliable publication that I could obtain bearing upon the particular service
in which the Thirteenth took a part, after visiting the fields and camps
in Virginia twice for data and measurements, after making all the tracings
and sketches, after the necessary correspondence and the arranging and
writing of all, and attending to my private business at the same time, I
have had no spare time in which to smooth sentences or polish para-
graphs, — this book must be taken, as it were, in fatigue dress, there is
no attempt at dress-parade about it, and the plain facts must stand as
they are in their plain words.

In tlie compilation of data for this history I have drawn my information from the
following sources: Official papers and statements furnished by, and diaries and letters
written during- the war by, Lt. Col. George Bowers ; Lt. Col. William Grantman ;
Lt. Col. Normand Smith (letters) ; Maj. Nathan D. Stoodley (diary and letters) ;
Capt. Charles 0. Bradley ; Capt. George N. Julian (letters) ; Capt. Charles H. Cur-
tis ; Capt. M. T. Betton ; Capt. Buel C. Carter ; Capt. James M. Durell (official
papers) ; Capt. William J. Ladd ; Capt. Rufus P Staniels (diaries) ; Quarter-master
Mortier L. Morrison ; Asst. Surgeon John Sullivan ; Lieut. W. H. H. Young ; Hos-
pital Steward and Lieut. Royal B. Prescott (diaries and letters) ; Lieut. S. Millett
Thompson (diary and letters) ; Lieut. Henry Churchill ; Adjt. Nathan B. Boutwell ;
Adjt. George H. Taggard (diary) ; Sergt. Major James M. Hodgdon (diary) ; Mu-
sicians : James M. Caswell ; Charles W. Washburn (letters). Sergeants : W. G.
Burnham ; Charles W. Batchellor (letters) ; Thomas S. Wentworth. Privates :
Cyrus G. Drew (diary) ; Albion J. Jenness (letters) ; Horace W. Waldron ; Henry
S. Paul ; William B. Luey (diary) , and others both officers and men whose names
are mentioned in the text. Above diaries and letters were written at the front.

Besides the above, the following named sources of information among others were
consulted :


Gen. A. A. Humphreys' Viiginia Cam- Tenny's Civil War.

paign of 1864 and lyti.j. Military and Civil History of Connecticut.

Capt. Frederick Phisterer's Statistical Capt. James A. Sanborn's MS. Hist. 10th

Record. N. H. Regiment.

New Hampshire in the Rebellion. Pollard's Lost Cause.

Burnside and the Ninth Army Corps. Greeley's American Conflict.

C. C Coffin's — ' Carleton's ' — -writing-s. Lossing's Civil War.

Adjt. Generals' Reports of all the New Moore's Rebellion Record.

England States, New York and New N. H. Adjt. General's Reports.

Jersey. A bound volume of New Hampshire

Official papers, letters and rolls in State Newspapei-s sent by A. S. Batchellor,

House, Concord. Esq-? of Littleton.

Lt. Gen. U. S. Grant's Memoirs. Muster out RoUs of the Thirteenth.

The manuscript, excepting the addition made after the Reunion of
1887, was read before publication by Major Nathan D. Stoodley, Asst.
Surgeon Sullivan, Lieut. Royal B. Prescott and Sergeant James M.
Woods of the Publication Committee, who were privileged by the
writer to correct, amend, add to, or cut from, the text as in their judg-
ment was in the interest of the history. The Thirteenth and the writer
are greatly indebted to these gentlemen for their unwearied efforts,
painstaking care, and unswerving, hearty fidelity to the best interests
of this history, its subject and its writer. We have worked together as
one, in the spirit of the belief that the noble acts of each member of the
Regiment are the joint property and heritage of all, — nevertheless the
writer assumes all responsibilities, and takes to himself all blame that
may attach for any inadvertences occurring in the book.

Previous to the committee's examination the writer had revised the
manuscript in consultation with Major Stoodley, Lt. Col. Grantman and
Lt. Col. Smith, — the purpose being to furnish so far as possible an abso-
lute record to stand as an authority.



Authorities for the Work ..'..... Preface


JULY 1, 1862, TO DECEMBER 10, 1862.


Call for Troops 1

Camp Colby, at Concord N. H 2

March to the Seat of War . • 9

Camp Chase, at Arlington Heights 11

Camp Casey, at Fairfax Seminary 20

March through Maryland to Fredericksburg .... 27


DECEMBER 11, 1862, TO FEBRUARY 8, 1863.

Battle of Fredericksburg 36

Camp opposite Fredericksburg 88

Move from Fredericksburg to Newport News . . • 108

FEBRUARY 9, TO MAY 16, 1863.

Camp at Newport News Ill

Camp near Suffolk 117

Siege of Suffolk 126

Battle of Providence Church Road 139


MAY 17, 1863, TO APRIL 18, 1864.

Camp in ' The Pines,' at Getty's Station 161

' Blackberry Raid ' 171

Camp Gilmore, at Getty's Station 195

Thirteenth goes Home to vote 238



APRIL 19, TO MAY 11, 1864.

Spring Campaign of 1864 250

March to Yorktown, and Camp there 251

Move to Bermuda Hundred 256

Battle of Port Walthall 259

Battle of Swift Creek 263


MAY 12, TO MAY 27, 1864.

Advance on Richmond 279

Battle of Kingsland Creek 279

Battle of Drury's Bluff 284

Camp at Bermuda Hundred 322


MAY 28, TO JUNE 15, 1864.

March to Cold Harbor . . • 335

Battle of Cold Harbor 338

Move to Front of Petersburg 374

Battle of Battery Five 382

Thirteenth captures a Redan with Five Cannon . . . 387


JUNE 16, TO SEPTEMBER 27, 1864.

Siege of Petersburg. In the Trenches 404

Sketches of Life in a Military Hospital 405

Mine Explosion and Crater 431

Return to Bermuda Hundred 447


SEPTEiVIBER 28, 1864, TO FEBRUARY 28, 1865.

Battle of Fort Harrison 458

Before Richmond 490

Battle of Fair Oaks 499

Winter Camp near Fort Harrison 508

Company C in Redoubt McConihe 527



MARCH 1, TO APRIL 12, 1865.

Last Campaign 537

Roster of Gen. Devens' 3d Division, 24th Corps .... 549

Surrender of Richmond 552

First Flag hoisted in Richmond 559

Thirteenth the First Regiment in 563


Close of the War — Peace 589

Assasination of President Lincoln 589

Scenes in Boston, April 3-16, 1865 590

Welcoming the Homing Army Corps 595

Thirteenth mustered out and starts for Home .... 606

Personal Notes 612

Band of the Thirteenth 625


Roster of the Thirteenth 638

Reunion at Boston, April 5, 1887 686

Index 709



Flags of Thirteenth Frontispiece

Regiment of Infantry in Line of Battle 7

Camp Chase 17

Part of Fredericksburg Battle-field 43

Part of Fredericksburg Battle-field 47

Fredericksburg 51

Region nt;ar Falmouth Camp 91

Providence Church Road 149

Suffolk and Vicinity 155

Camp Gilmore and Vicinity 197

Swift Creek — Plat 271

Swift Creek — Map 275

Drury's Bluff and Vicinity . • 313

Drury's Bluff 317

Bermuda Hundred 331

Cold Harbor 353

Cold Harbor and VicnaTY 377

Confederate Battle Flags 391

Battery Five 399

Petersburg Front 411

Position of Thirteenth on Petersburg Front .... 415

Fort Harrison 469

Fort Harrison and Vicinity 473

Fair Oaks and Vicinity 505

Forrester Papers 561

Richmond and Vicinity — Two Maps 636, 637


The flags at the right — National — and at the left — State —
were received by the Thirteenth at Concord, Oct. 5, 1862. These
two flags and the two small flags — ' Markers ' — were carried by
the Thirteenth through its term of service, its camps, marches and
battles, until Dee. 27, 1SG4, when the first flag, the markers being
retained, was returned to the custody of the State. The flag in
the centre was received Dec. 27, 1864, with the names of the bat-
tles inscribed thereon — see page .519; and this one with the old
State flag were the two carried into Richmond by the Thirteenth
on April 3, 1865. All these flags are now preserved, in a glass
case, in the rotunda of the Capitol at Concord.



July 1, 1862, to December 10, 1862.

July 1. Tues. At the instance of the Governors of seventeen loyal
States, Abraham Lincoln, President of the. United States, on this day
issues a call for 300,000 volunteers, and under this call enlistments at
once commence, and there enlists for three years : —



Rockingham, Hillsborough, and Strafford Counties each furnishing
two companies, and Merrimac, Grafton, Carroll, and Coos Counties one
company each ; assembling from all parts of the State, from Connecticut
River to the lakes of Maine, from tide water to Canada line.

Under this call for 300,000 men for three years, New Hampshire fur-
nishes 6,390 men — 1,337 men above its quota. Total enlistments in
all the loyal States and Territories are 421,465 men — 86,630 men above
all their quotas.

" We are coming-, Father Abraham, three hundred thousand more."

Sept. 1. Mon. Capt. N. D. Stoodley's 130 men for Company G
met for drill, for the fii-st time, Monday, August 18, in Peterboro', and
have since been drilling there. About the same time 104 men, enlisted
in and about Littleton for Company D, by Capt. Farr, and Lieutenants
Kilburn and Saunders, commenced drilling ; and in the other recruiting
centres about equally early and speedy activity and preparation have
been going on.

Sept. 6. Sat. Company E drilling ; a part at New Market, and
about sixty men in the Town Hall at Exeter. The Avriter enlisted
as a private, and knew nothing whatever about military drill. Capt.
Julian promised to have him appointed First Sergeant of the company,
if he would drill the men before they went into camp at Concord.
Whereupon the writer purchased a book of tactics, borrowed a gun, shut
himself up in a room for a day and a night of hard study, then met his
men in the Town Hall, Exeter, and commenced a month of drill —
amateur in every respect. The men had assembled, and drilled some-
what, previous to this date.



Sept. 11. Thurs. Company C, enlisted by Capt. Bradley and Lieu-
tenants Curtis and Staniels, goes into camp at Camp Colby, Dark Plains,
near Concord. The first company in camp.

Each man of the Thirteenth, on coming into camp, receives a woolen
blanket, a rubber blanket, a knife, fork, and spoon, all wofully cheap, a
tin plate and a tin dipper.

Sept. 12. Fri. Co. G goes into camp at Dark Plains to-day. Co.
E leaves Exeter and New Market at 5 p. m., arrives in barracks at
Camp Colby at 9 p. m., having been delayed for a time in Concord while
waiting to receive blankets. There is much mud in the road, the even-
ing is rainy and very dark, most of the men are merry and full of sport,
some can sing, all can yell, and the trip, on the whole, is one not soon to
be foi'gotten.

The Littleton Company, D, arrived in camp to-day, about half an
hour after the arrival of Co. G. Every man of Company D can read
and write, and there are but few in the whole Regiment who cannot.

Camp Colby is about one and one fourth miles from Concord, near the
Chichester road.

Sept. 13. Sat. The men of the 13th, in the barracks, last night,
represented the entire animal creation, and for six or eight hours nearly
five hundred men together howled, crowed, bleated, barked, roared,
squealed, yelled, screamed, sung, and laughed to the limit of vocal
powers. They lay on boards, "■ boxy-shelves," having a blanket and
about two ryestraws per man for a bed. They are all up at 5 a. m. to-
day, the roll is called, and all are set at work to clear, of brush and
bushes, the ground for their tents.

The larger jmrt of the Regiment comes into camp to-day, — a total
of seven or eight hundred men. A motley company, many in their
worst suits of clothes, the most looking as if they had not slept for a

Last night's entertainment used up many of the men. Bedlam,
Noah's Ark, a Hen Convention, and the Plain of Babel were all sought
to be outdone tAvice over. One more such night would fit all the men
for the madhouse. The funny fools were all there, and the drunken
fools also ; all striving and straining to see who could be the most fool-
ish, and each seemed to exceed all his fellows. A few feathers were the
cause of a fui-iouj struggle for possession by at least an hundred men.
One man found a few straws, cut them up into inch pieces, distributed
the pieces to his friends, who solemnly placed them on the boards, under
various parts of their bodies, and instantly fell to snoring loud enough to
wake the dead. But this only served to provoke numerous contests in the
bunks. Bottles were passed around, emptied, and then thrown out of
the windows, where they lie this morning, mutely explaining the cause

1862 CAMP COLBY. 3

of last night's uproar. General good nature prevailed, however, and
scarce an angry word was heard ; a night of rough, coarse fun, and hoys'
wild play.

Sept. 14. Sun. Tents are now up, the most of the work done yes-
terday, and the camp begins to present a very respectable appearance.
But we are located on a most unattractive ground. As one man of the
13th writes : " The smutty-est, pitch-piney-est, huckle-bei-ry-est, darned-
est, scrubby plains in all New England."

When the men file around with their tin plates and cups this morn-
ing for their breakfast, some of them take in a svipply of " grumble " that
lasts until the end of their term of service ; the breakfast is execrable,
there is a general storm of hard words, and the food is thrown in all
directions to pave the camp, while exjiressions of resentment and disgust
are by no means restrained.

Notwithstanding the rough and much worn clothing of the men, and
their generally wearied demeanor, there is ample evidence that we have
here a body of men made up almost wholly of the best young men of our
State, such as are born to command a reasonable degree of respect even
while mere enlisted men.

Sept. 15. Mon. Some of the First Sergeants have "A" tents for
their own use alone. These tents are about seven feel square on the
ground. The First Sergeants and the Adjutant have more work to do
than all the other officers put together. Field officers, in new trappings,
find a wonderful amount of work in standing, in martial attitudes, near
their tent doors ; looking at the crowds of visitors of coui"se. They are
strangers to our camp.

There are nine companies now in camp, 956 men ; and since no com-
pany was the last company to arrive here, we must pass the tenth com-
pany in respectful silence.

Sept. 16. Tues. To those who have lived in houses, the first impres-
sion of a tent is that of very close quarters. Some tents have floors,
others are provided with straw to cover the ground. The days are warm,
nights chilly. Diarrhoea prevalent.

Sept. 17. "Wed. First Dress-parade. Many have come into camp in
their jjoorest suits of clothes for economy's sake, and the appearance of
the line can be better imagined than described. Drill is aching funny.
We are all green. Mistakes are corrected by making still worse mis-
takes. The men in the ranks, grin, giggle and snicker, and now and
then break out into a coarse, country haw-haw. We are reminded of the
young men squads in the old Militia muster days.

Sept. 18. Thurs. Co. G examined by Surgeon Twitchell. He is very
critical and careful, but rapid, and completes the examination of the Regi-
ment in a few days. The storm, about our food, that broke out last Sun-
day, has taught the purveyor of our rations to furnish better material,
and to serve it in a more acceptable manner.

Sept. 19. Pri. Companies E and G mustered in by Capt. Chas.


Holmes U. S. A. Capt. Stoodley and Lieut. Foi-bush are mustered in
with their company. Capt. Buzzell is taken suddenly ill. (He does not
join the Reg. again for nearly two months.)

Sept. 20. Sat. To-day completes the muster-in of the rank and file.
In the equalization of com2)anies, Co. E receives several men from Co. I.
and among them Royal B. Prescott, of Nashua, on duty in the Hospital
Department. The week has been very rainy.

Sept. 21. Sun. The camp is crowded with visitors, an inquisitivf
nuisance. Patriotism develops early in New Hampshire. A little gii-
was asked to sing the song beginning, " I want to be an angel," when
she answered, " No I don't ; I want to be a soldier." Children are beat-
ing drums, blowing horns, whistling marches and singing patriotic songs,
all up and down the State, from Canada to the sea.

Sept. 22. Mon. Uniforms received. The 10th N. H. leaves Man-
chester for the seat of war. They number 928 men. Many of the 13th
go down to see them depart. The 12tli and 14th Regts. are encamped
near us.

Sept. 23. Tues. The field officers are mustered in to-day, and the
oi'ganization of the Tliirteenth is now complete.

One night while in camp here, between one and two hundred men
manage to elude the guard. A large party of them return from the city
to camp, in the small hours of the morning, and plan to enter within the
guard lines. Ranging themselves a few yards apart in a long line, tying
handkerchiefs around their faces and turning up coat collars by way of
disguise, at a concerted signal they make a simultaneous rush past the
sentinels. The most of the sentinels cried : " Halt ; who goes there ? "
But some of them called out : " Stop ; what 's yer name ? " No one of
the party halted or stopped, however, but each gave the sentinels a differ-
ent answer as they rushed past the bewildered fellows to their quarters ;
'Pete,' 'Jim,' 'Dick,' 'Bill,' 'Tiger,' ' Reb,' 'The devil,' 'Spoons,'
' Beans,' and all sorts of names were given ; and one minute later every
one of our party was under a blanket in his tent and fast asleep.

Sept. 25. Thurs. Regiment furloughed until Monday eveninr ' >t.

Sept; 29. Mon. The men and officers are coming in, from their last
visit to their friends and families, to-day, and as they assemble it may
be well to note a few of the circumstances, and record the " Spirit of the
Times," in which this Thirteenth New Hampshire Regiment has been

Online LibraryS. Millet ThompsonThirteenth regiment of New Hampshire volunteer infantry in the war of the rebellion, 1861-1865: a diary covering three years and a day → online text (page 1 of 81)