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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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 11 of 81)
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arguments of his Grand Division Commanders, he countermanded the
orders, and the attempt was not made.

The losses reported, in these five days of battle, in officers and men,
are, killed, 1,339. Wounded, 9,060. Missing and prisoners, 1,530.
Total, 11,929. The enemy's total loss, 5,309. The enemy having the
advantage in position, and fighting almost wholly behind entrenchments
or natural cover, while the Union Army assailed his positions from open

Lossing states that the Confederate army numbered 80,000 strong,
with 300 cannon. The Union losses were, in Hooker's Grand Division,
3,548, Franklin's 4,679, Sumner's 5,494, with 50 engineers. Killed
1,152, wounded 9,101, missing 3,234, total 13,487. The Confederate
loss was about half that of the Union loss.

Capt. F. Phisterer gives the Union losses : killed 1,180, wounded
9,028, missing 2,145, total 12,353. Total Confederate losses 4,576.

The accounts are thus seen to differ somewhat, but the Union loss may
be placed roundly at 12,000 men, and the Confederate loss at about one
half that number. It may be proper to add here that the items on
page 71, drawn from Confederate official reports, were written in 1884,
and the maps, and their descriptions, were made in 1885 ; both long
previous to any of the recent (1886-7) popular publications relating to
this battle.


Confederate Gen. James Longstreet's account in the Century of Au-
gust 1886, with accompanying map, phices the charge of Gen. Getty's
Division as follows : from the south side of the R. & F. Raiboad, well
down towards Hazel Run, across the meadows lying along the north side
of that Run, across tlie trenches of the unfinished railroad (but no canal),
to the portion of the plateau southwest of the brick house, and to the
southwest end of that plateau where it reaches up to the Telegraph road
and the stone bank-wall along the side of it — the course of the south
arrow on his map. All this in direct corroboration of the location of
the position, as seen by the writer on the night of the charge and remem-
bered clearly, and also recognized by him on visiting the spot in May
1885, and of the statements made to the writer by Gen. Getty.

Gen. Longstreet states that there were over seven thousand Federals,
kUled and wounded, lying in front of Marye's Hill.

" Nearly all the dead were stripped entirely naked by the enemy.
A woman who lived in one of the houses near the stone wall said : " The
morning after the battle the field was blue ; but the morning after the
Federals withdrew the field was white." Century.

The legend of poetry, romance and horror will cling in the popular
imagination to the battle of Fredericksburg forever, notwithstanding all
its failures ; for its figures and scenes were large and bold, its actors
courageous in the extreme, their experiences pitiable to the last degree,
and unfortunate beyond compare ; while local superstition peoples the
battle-ground with visiting myriad ghosts of the fierce combatants. The
Confederate glory, however, of having l^en behind that stone bank-wall,
in comjjarative safety and unpressed, and in numbers sufficient to over-
whelm easily any force of the Union army that could approach, pales
into utter insignificance beside the picture of Gen. Barksdale's men fight-
ing among the buildings in Fredericksburg, for many hours on Dec. 11,
while Gen. Burnside's batteries were knocking the whole city about their
ears, and firing it also in many places. This was coui'age ; only equaled
by the repeated dashes of the Union troops against the stone bank-wall
at the foot of Marye's Hill.

Dec. 17. Wed. Cold, raw. Reg. in camp, and a miserable camp
at that, trying to get dry and warm. There is still considerable firing
going on across the river, between the Union and Confederate artillery ;
and occasionally a stray shell from Marye's Heights flies screaming high
and wild over our camp, stirring up the Virginia mud in the distance.
We march down near the river about opposite the centre of the city, and
support a battery. Pass the night on the frozen ground, without shelter,
and in the teeth of the raw, chilling north wind. Two or three Com-
panies from the 13th have this experience every night. The boys find a
large potato field, near the batteries, belonging to some careless farmer
who harvested only about two thirds of his crop, and we rapidly appro-
priate what the farmer left. The writer has occasion to visit camp to-


day from the batteries, and while going across lots to save distance,
observes quite a large white pile of something not far away, somewhat
flat and irregular. Curious to see what it is, he goes nearer, and finds
it a collection of human legs, arms, hands and feet — one view like that
is enough for a lifetime.

" Charles Leathers of Co. F was severely wounded Dec. 13, and lost
his gun ; but when brought into camj) in the ambulance, he had with
him about thirty pounds of vei'y excellent tobacco, all of which was pur-
chasi'd by the men of Co. F at a good price." Lieut. Young.

Dec. 18. Thurs. Cold, with some snow. Reg. in camp, if we may
call it such a nice name. Came here about 4 p. m. to-day. A deep
hollow, a long densely wooded ravine, in rear of the Falmouth batteries,
and fidl of soldiers ; multitudes of little fires fill the air with smoke, and
the boys call this place " Smoky Hollow." This is the headquarters of
the pickets, and about one mile nearer the city by the road, than our
camp north of the Phillij^s House. A large detail from the Union army,
several men in it from the 13th, one of them George E. Garland of E,
unarmed and provided with ])icks and shovels, go over on the battle-field
to-day and bury the Union dead. The men of the 13th help bury about
700 bodies. The enemy have stripped the dead of every article of cloth-
ing fit for use, and the bodies are laid away in their last resting place,
merely thinly covered with such pieces of blankets or clothing as can be
found. So say the men of the 13th burial party.

As a matter of actual measurement some of the dead of the Thirteenth
are found, lying where they fell, within forty yards, 120 feet, of the
muzzles of the enemy's cannon, Col. Alexander's.^ A statement is going
the rounds of our camp, that the enemy also stripped the clothing from
some of our men, who were very badly wounded, while they were stiU
alive, and so left them to die, in the sharp December air, without cloth-
ing, shelter, attention or care ; as was clearly evident from the marks
made by these severely wounded men, in the earth where they lay, after
they had been stripped of their clothing. One soldier of the 13th who
helped bury the dead says : " Among about seven hundred bodies of our
men, who were buried by us, scarcely one had any clothing on which was
fit to be worn ; all were stripped."

Dec. 19. Fri. Very cold. Thirteenth at work on camp. A large
detail on picket near the siege guns on Falmouth bluffs. These men
lay on the ground last night while ice formed, over the puddles of water
beside them, half an inch thick. The reserve bivouacs in Smoky Hollow.
Fiom these guns there is a fine, extended view of the city, and of the

^ It is claimed that some bodies, of men belonging to Gen. French's Division, were
found nearest of any to the stone wall. It should be borne in mind that Gen.
Getty's Division charged upon the southwest end of the stone wall, where the road
turns the corner westward ; while French's Division had charged upon a portion of
the stone wall a long way to the north and east of Getty, and near the brick house,
and the several roads leading up to the hill where Marye's house stood.


enemy's lines on the hills beyond. Almost every house in the city
has smoke issuing from the chimney. More than one family on return-
inar must have found things mixed, even if their house was not smashed
to flinders and blown all over the neighborhood.

A great deal of adverse criticism is made upon the bombardment of
Fredericksburg, and it is well to state that a demand had been made for
its surrender, and had been refused ; anijjle time was given for the re-
moval of all the unarmed people, nearly all of them had abandoned the
city, and the city was used by the enemy for direct military purposes ;
the houses were used to protect the enemy's sharp-shooters. Gen. Barks-
dale's men, who three or four times drove our pontonniers, with heavy
loss, from the ponton bridge they were trying to build, — the fire of our
artillery was directed chiefly upon these buildings. Gen. Burnside took
unwilling command of the Army of the Potomac, by peremptory order,
after he had twice declined ; his pontons required for crossing the
Rappahannock to the city were delayed until nearly two weeks had
passed after Gen. Sumner's advance had reached Falmouth, for which
delay Gen. Burnside was in no way responsible ; meanwhile the enemy's,
garrison in the city was largely re-enforced, and Gen Lee, divining Gen-
Burnside's purpose, had started his whole army for the heights in rear
of the city and vicinity, and a large force had arrived and entrenching
begun. The failure of the arrival of the pontons lost to Northern arms
the battle of Fredericksbm'g, " and soaked the streets and lanes of the
city with Federal blood."

Gen. Lee had an army 2:)resent of 80,000 men, and held Marye's
Heights with a triple line of works ; while the hills, canals, railroad, and
the famous Stone Wall, combined, made his position impregnable to
assault. The special advantages of his position could not possibly be
known to Gen. Burnside. " When our troops found, on the morning
of Dec. 16, that Gen. Burnside had retreated across the river, it was a
matter of amazement to the whole rebel army." (Confed.)

Dec. 20. Sat. Very cold. Quarter-master Cheney and Capt. Stood-
ley rejoin the Reg. The Government furnishes a lot of woolen mittens
for the men ; slack-twisted, loose knit things, consisting of a wrist, a
thumb, a hand, a forefinger cot, and a bag, for the other three fingers,
shaped like a mule's jaw, and about as large. The men are on short
rations now, and have been since the battle.

Dec. 21. Sun. Cold. A part of the Reg., a different detail every
night, go out on the bank of the river to support a battery. We lie there
on the bleak plain, with no shelter, tents or protection of any kind, and
no fires allowed, the weather extremely cold and a high wind blowing
from the north. This is our experience these winter nights. A native
gives distance in this way : " Right smart go — er'ekn ; 'bout three
screams and a holler."

Company — , said to be K, loses two kettles of baked beans at Smoky
Hollow. In any Regiment except the moral Thirteeeth they would


be reported stolen, but here as lost in action. The top joke of the
affair is the investigation. A number of men are called up, and have
their breath smelled, to detect the odor of baked beans ; and this, too,
before any of the beans have been eaten. After this conclusive test, the
men, who saved i\\e beans after they were lost, warm them over and eat
them. It is wickedly reported that Company E loans the fire with
which to warm the beans, but no one knows who caused them to be lost.
Beans baked with pork always cause trouble.

Dec. 22. Mon. Terribly cold last night. The ground freezes be-
side the men as they lay, and the pools of water near are covered with
ice. Again our pickets have no fires, except now and then a little one,
and no shelter at all. Two severe nights. Reg. assembles early this
morning at its camp in Smoky Hollow, where we can cook and eat
breakfast. We leave this camp for our permanent winter camp this
afternoon ; arriving there about dark, and too late to see well enough to
properly pitch our shelter tents. '' We remained in Smoky Hollow,
about one mile from camp, near Falmouth depot, three days, returning
to our regular camp to-night." Albion J. Jenness.


Dec. 23. Tues. Cold, clear. The Thirteenth wakes up this morn-
ing in Falmouth Camp, the which no man of the army ever can forget.
It soon rejoices in the appropriate names of " Foulmouth Camp," and
" Hell-mouth Camp." This morning is very frosty and sharp. Ice
formed thick last night, and we make holes through it, on the brook near
by, to obtain water for cooking and washing ; no other water to be had
anywhere near camp this morning. No place here for squeamish stom-
achs ; these pieces of yellow soap (rebel) on these sticks were put here a
few months ago, and have been washing into the brook in every rain
since that time. That dog's bones have evidently been here in the brook
for several months also — pretty white and clean now. That kitchen-
midden stuff yonder also improves the water. On the whole a fine place
to procure water for coffee, cooking and bathing ; rebel soap, rebel dog,
rebel wash-tub. Rations poor, quarters poorer, men sick, great discon-
tent, and suffering beyond mention. Our camp rises into a vast city of
miserable hovels and tents, containing a hundred thousand inhabitants
in evei-y stage of sickness and misery, where for month in and month out
no white woman or child is to be seen. Division Insi)ection, and Review
of the 9th Army Corps, is made to-day by Gen. Sunmer.

Dec. 24. Wed. Cold, very. We are near the Phillips House? near
and on a part of the same camp ground we occupied Dec. 16, and very
near where we sjient the night of Dec. 10, just before entering Fdsbg.
That city is in full view from a point near the camp of the Thirteenth.
Almost every night two companies of the 13th go out on picket. No
firing on the picket lines. Should the enemy fire upon our men now,


our batteries would instantly shell the city. This commands a peace.
Here are two huge armies, each of nearly 100,000 men, and each aiming
for the other's destruction, encamped side by side, a narrow river only
separating them ; one is afraid to move, the other dare not, neither can,
and so they stay, and keep as quiet as a New England village on Sunday.
The })ickets frequently cross the river, both ways, antl fraternize.

Five or six hundred yards northwest of the Phillips House, that is to
the right of the Phillips House as one looks down the road toward Fred-
ericksburg (and directly on the line between the Phillips House and
the Clews House situated a mile or two to the northwest of it), a ravine
in the field falls to the right, and northward to a brook ; the first ravine
to the westward and the first brook to the northward of the Phillips
House. This ravine was the roadway from camp to the White Oak road
running into the city past the Phillijjs House. Prof. Lowe had his bal-
loon in this ravine a little south of the brook, and we will therefore call
it Lowe's Ravine. This brook is the south branch of Claiborne Run ; the
R. & F. Railroad following the north branch through the bluffs. Go
down Lowe's Ravine northward to the brook, turn to the right and follow
the brook back eastward up into the country. Just north of the brook is
a wide strip of ground sloping southward to the brook and draining into
it ; really the south slope of the ridge next north of the ridge on which
the Phillips House stands. This whole slope is checkered with tent cel-
lars, mixed up, and angling in every direction, as the contour and drain-
age of the land demanded. Three or four hundred yards up the brook
eastward from where Lowe's Ravine and the brook meet is an irregular
cluster of tent cellars. The company tents on the north side of the brook
looking eastwartlly, and the tents of the field and staflE on the east side.
The brook here turns somewhat towards the north. The ends of the
company, or rather division, streets are widest down near the brook, and
narrower where they rise upon the slope ; though on the whole quite
irregular, and thrown upon the curve of the slope something like the ribs
of a huge fan. This is the camp of the Thirteenth N. H. Vols.

Company E, the fifth (5th) company from the right of the Regiment,
was located on the left, or east side, as one looks towards the brook, of a
very deep gully, twelve feet deep at least, extending down towards the
brook ; tlie only very deep gully, and the deepest, in the 13th camp,
and was called Capt. Julian's ' hole in the ground.' The writer had his
tent under a large pine-tree on the east side of this gully, and near the
head of it. Cajjt. Julian's tent was at the head of the gully, across,
northward. From the position of Company E on the east side of this
deep gully and quite prominent landmark, the huddled tents of the
Regiment can be made out. The whole camp-ground is now (1885) cov-
ered with a vigorous growth of young trees. The Thirteenth encamped
here quite closely massed in divisions, the right of the Regiment to the
westward, all facing southward and eastward, and was not crowded upon
by the tents of other regiments. Cross the brook eastward and you


come upon the cellars of the huts of the field and staff officers, where
the earth was ridged up around the log walls of the miserahle quarters
to keep water out of the cellars, and from the earth floors of the huts. The
Hospital tent was on the hill just north of the centre of the line of the
company quarters, nearly north of Co. E. Here the many sick men, who
could do so, went every morning to receive their allopathic doses ; ho-
moeopathic practice heing unknown in the army — unless medical supplies
ran short. The regimental parade ground was an old cornfield a little
northwest, that is to the right and rear, of the camp, and almost exactly
due north of the Phillips House. The ground rose gradually northward
from the hrook, past the camp, to this parade ground, from which a large
part of Fredericksburg became visible as the forest fell.

Firewood for camp was obtained from the low ground lying north and
west of this old cornfield, some of it brought from a distance of more
than a mile on the shoulders of the men. Dry Avood was very scarce.
The most popular wood was dead laurel, standing densely along the brooks
and forks of Claiborne Run ; and hundreds of the roots were carved
into tobacco pipes by the men. The Thirteenth was crowded upon a
small space near the bend in the brook ; and more than one member of
the Reg., and one of the non-commissioned staff in particular, will dis-
tinctly remember how an ill-considered leap across this brook resulted in
an involuntary and splashing sit-down in it, soiled clothes — and com-
ments on the margin. However, it was a most convenient brook, the
water in it perhaps averaging two feet in width by six inches in depth.
The men and officers performed their morning toilets here, long rows of
them about daybreak ; muddy boots, smutty kettles, and soiled clothing
were scrubbed here ; and some huge fools used the water for cooking
until strict orders were set to the contrary. 'T was a rich and busy
brook of real Virginia water. The camp of the 4th R. I. Vols, was
eastward of the field and staff of the Thirteenth, and to the eastward,


A. Rappahannock River. B. Richmond & Fredericksburg R. R.

C. Orange Turnpike, or White Oak road, passing the Phillips House N.

D. Major Lacy. H. Hoffman. N. Phillips House.

F. Ruins of a house. G. Roy. K. Claiborne Run.

P. Road to central ponton bridge.

L. Ravine in field where Prof. Lowe had his balloons.

E. Wood road leading from Phillii)s House and passing north of the

camp of the Thirteenth, to Thirstley's house half a mile distant.
M. Camp of Thirteenth, company tents. R. Tents of Thirteenth,

field and staff. S. Camp of the 4th R. I. Regiment.

T. Fredericksburg. V. Stafford Heights.

The whole region about Claiborne Run is rough and timbered, but

the timber is most dense near the part of the Run north of the

Phillips House.


Tracing of Official Map. Scale, three inches to one mile. With points located by the writer in

May 1885.


rather than northward, of the Phillips House. The land occupied hy
them being a little higher than the land occupied by the Thirteenth.
While visiting the camp, in May 1885, the writer found a mass of iron
filings, nails, etc., all concreted by the rust, on the spot where Lowe's
balloon was located, and supposed to be some of the ballast or weights
used during the ascents of the balloon.^ It was partly buried in the earth,
but after some digging, and pounding with a stone, a piece of the mass
was secured, and brought home. Many old jiieces of canteens, remains
of chimneys, tin cups, and other cam}) debris are still to be found about
our old camping ground, but nearly wasted by the rust and exposure of
these many years.

Dec. 25. Thurs. Chilly. The Reg. goes on picket for 24 hours.
Yesterday the 13th turned out only about 200 men for Battalion drill,
fewer still are fit for active duty to-day. It is fearful to wake here at
night, and to hear the sounds made by the men about you. All night
long the sounds go up of men coughing, breathing heavy and hoarse with
half choked throats, moaning, and groaning with acute pain. A great
deal of sickness and suffering on all sides, and little help here, near or
in the future. This camp of 100,000 men is practically a vast hospital.
Twelve men of Co. G are sick with the measles — now ejjidemic in camp.

Dec. 26. Fri. Fine day. Cold. The men endeavor to fix up their
quarters a little ; the day being set apart for the purpose of putting logs
under the tents. The mud is everywhere, and we are in it all the day,
and not much better situated at night. Our tents are too small for
fires inside, though a few manage to have them ; the wood is wet or green
and the fires smoky. We build large fires outside our tents, and stand
around them, in the vain endeavor to get dry and warm. Food is scanty,
and poorly cooked at best ; smoky, scorched, stewed, greasy. All is
damp and cold, and sleep where we will, we wake stiff and rheumatic.
New Hampshire is well represented here ; her 2d, 5th, 6th, 9th, 10th,
11th, 12th and 13th Regts. are encamped within a circuit of less than
two miles, and all very similarly situated.

The Thirteenth left New Hampshire with 1,040 men, but now numbers
less than 400 effectives, and few of these are really well men. Disease
kills more than bullets. An average of 250 men of the Thirteenth at-
tend the morning Surgeons' call, besides the sick in hospital. Flour is
selling in camp at the rate of $25 per barrel. Butter costs 85 cents a pound.
A Captain in the 13th closes a letter late to-night with these words, a
volume in a sentence, for it is the experience of hundreds, and a picture
of the way we live, as there are no fires in our tents : " Good night ; I
must now go out of my tent to the fire and warm a plate of beans to eat,
so as not to go to bed hungry." " Capt. Julian.

Dec. 27. Sat. Pleasant. Reg. still at work on camp, and trying to
bring it into passable order, a difficult job. The ground is a rough hill-
side among pines, is much cut up by ravines or gullies, and falls to a dirty,
^ Possibly remains of material used in the manufacture of gas.


iTuuldy brook. One huge gully, 12 to 15 feet deep, directly west of Co.
E, is the recej)tacle for all sorts of camp waste. There can be on this
camp ground neither order nor regularity. Capt. Stoodley is selected
to straighten out the crooked lines of tents, huts, and does his best, but it
is of little use. Lt. Col. Bowei's and Chaplain Jones, for the sake of a
joke, accuse Capt. Stoodley of adopting, for this camp, the ground plan
of Marblehead, Mass. ; but the plat of that tangle-jointed town is out-
done here in spite of all engineering.

The men of the 13th persist in declaring that many men of the 25th
New Jersey laid down early in the assault, on the evening of Dec. 13,
and that we ran over them ; and the outcome is a decided coldness be-
tween the men of these two regiments. There is danger of a fight over
the affair. Threats are freely indulged in. An unprofitable squabble.

Dec. 28. Sun. Pleasant. Religious service at 11 a. m. One ofiicer
in the 13th writes home : " I never more shall roam ; never more shall
have a Western, or any other, fever ; have come to the conclusion that
New England is the Garden of Eden." A jirivate writes home : " Cap-

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 11 of 81)