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 14 of 81)
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" Yesterday the sick of the Thirteenth, nearly forty in all, were taken
from the regimental Hospital to the station in ambulances before noon,
and placed in box cars. About 4 p. m. an orderly galloped up to the
Thirteenth Hdqrs., and a moment later the voice of Lt. Col. Bowers was


heard ordering : ' Fall in Thirteenth ! ' Never was an order obeyed with
more alacrity. The 13th Band struck up ' Marching Along.' And as
we passed up over the hill near the Phillips House, we could see our
abandoned camp, with its mud chimneys and smoking fires presenting
the appearance of a city in ruins. The troops went cheering — glad to
get out of that swamp of mud." Prescott.



Feb. 9. Mon. Fine day- As we move down the bay the air is full
of wild birds, small and large, with ducks, geese and gulls by the thou-
sand. The officers and others use their revolvers freely upon the multi-
tude of feathery game. The use of rifles in the same sport is much de-
sired, but altogether forbidden — Uncle Sam's ammunition is not for the
feathered bipeds. Many transports and war vessels are passing to and
fro on the water, and an enormous fleet hovers around Fortress Monroe,
which we pass about 9 a. m. ; we lay at anchor two or three hours, and
debark at Newport News at 12 noon. About 4 p. m. we are placed
in the old barracks nearest the shore, three companies in a building.
The whole 9th Army Corps is to rendezvous here, numbering 25,000 to
30,000 men of all arms. The 13th last October had 101 men to a com-
pany ; now from 36 to 55 men per company are reported for duty. The
effective force of the Thirteenth is reduced by more than one half.

Feb. 10. Tues. Warm, fine day. Reg. improving quarters, and
eating oysters enough for three regiments. Fine camping ground here ;
a broad, long, sandy plain, running along the bay, clean and dry.
Monitors are at anchor in the bay, and almost numberless vessels of
various kinds. " Got some soft bread," one soldier in the 13th writes.
Another writes : " Letters are as welcome to the soldier as food to the
starving beggar."

Feb. 11. "Wed. Fair, with a few showers. A wonderful change in
the appearance of our men, even in these three days : they are cleaner,
healthier, more cheerful. This is Paradise to Falmouth. Rather chilly
in quarters, however, without fires. Troops are constantly landing in
great numbers. We drill for a few hours. The officers have wall tents,
the men remain in barracks, which are warmer.

Feb. 12. Thurs. Pleasant, breezy, cool. Battalion and Company
drill. We have now soft, fresh, nice flour bread ; the first the men have
had for many weeks. Lieut. Durell of E at home on 15 days' leave.
One man of the 13th is sent to the General Hospital, and the first re-
mark made about his case, by the Surgeon, is : " Rub this man down
with a brick ; let us find him before we attempt to cure him."

Feb. 13. Fri. Fair, cold, breezy. " I prescribed for the sick men
of two companies this morning for the first time." (Prescott.) Bat-
talion and Company drill all day. The Thirteenth not being considered
quite proficient enough in drill, the Brigade commander sets about a


reform ; and puts us under such strict orders of regularity that we pull off
boots, go to bed, sleej), dream, wake, rise, dress, march, drill, eat, drink,
and pick our teeth, all in one time and two motions, as the tactics say.
One of our Regiment's mules plunged overboard and swam ashore from
the transport to-day ; the change of camji and the weather have " mettled "
man, horse and mule.

Feb. 14. Sat. Fair, cold, windy. No drill. Hawkins' Zouaves are
standing in line, and on parade. A sutler's wagon drives by with a load,
several barrels, of ginger cookies. A sick zouave near by asks the driver
for a cookie, and is abusively refused. Instantly the zouave regiment
breaks ranks, drops muskets, and " goes for " that load of cookies, and for
several minutes nothing can be seen but a struggling pile of red legs,
and flying about the tangled mass a fountain - like shower of cookies.
After all is over the sutler is paid for his cookies by the impulsive
zouaves, and freely admonished. The writer has just time to see the
scrimmage, and gives a zouave's version of the affair. An army cookie is
about four inches across and half an inch thick and of the average density
of a boot-heel, its color ranging between tan and black ; is made of gin-
ger, molasses — and other things, and contains more seeds of biliousness
and griping stomach-ache than can elsewhere be found in the same sj^ace.
They are best eaten with pickles, half and half — by the hogs.

Feb. 15. Sun. Sunshine and shower. Dress-jjarade and religious
services at 5 p. m. The Chaplain is a good man, but a little too solemn.
There is of necessity solemnity enough here without any shadow of yield-
ing to it. The fact is Chaplain Jones' sympathies have been exceedingly
wrought upon by the sufferings at Fredericksburg, and his health is by
no means rugged. The Rhode Island boys receive two schooner loads
of fresh vegetal)les, sent by the State. We are sorry it was ever said
that " New Hampshire is a good State to emigrate from ; " — what if
that very phrase sliould put it into the head of some one to believe it!

Feb. 16. Mon. Fair. Drill both forenoon and afternoon. A num-
ber of men from upper New Hampshire, sent into the woods to chop, say
that they never saw such fine timber before. If we stay here six months
there wall not be one tree left of a thousand.

Feb. 17. Tues. Hard rain storm all last night and all day to-day.
Keg. keeps within doors ; smokes, jokes, makes merry, sings, plays games,
and begins to enjoy life again. There is but little grumbhng now, though
the weather is cold, we can have no fires, and rations are short and poor
with us, while the men from New York and Rhode Island are feasting.
When on Dress-parade, we face toward the water, and there is no need
to command " Eyes front," for the view is magnificent. Our ammunition
remains a1)oard ship, a fact that makes a long stay in this splendid camp
a matter of great doubt.

Feb. 18. Wed. Storm continues and is furious towards night. No
work done. A party goes duck shooting, and has great success. Tliere
is a slave wliipping - post near camp which shows the wear of much use ;


a wooden bar nailed across a tree about as high up as a man can reach.
The victim's hands were tied to this while the lash was laid on. There
is scarce a plantation in all the South without its whipping-post.

Feb. 19. Thurs. Rainy forenoon, a clear and cold afternoon. Dress-
parade at 5 I), m., with a turn of poor drilling. It is so very pleasant
here that the men refer to the Fredericksburg camj) as Camp Misery,
and call it many other names too hard to print. Lieut. Holmes resigns,
and is honorably discharged the service.

Feb. 20. Fri. Clear and fine, windy. Drill forenoon and afternoon.
At Dress-parade the announcement is read that a deserter is to be shot ;
sending a shiver down men's spines. Our men are ordered to have their
shoes blacked, and also ordered not to leave camp " at all ; " but when
they do leave, to wear their coats buttoned up to the throat, to stand and
walk erect, to wear a belt, to have all buttons and brasses shining, and to
set their caps on their heads with a tfy-square, or in words to that effect.

Feb. 21. Sat. Splendid weather, very warm at noon. Reg. fitting
up camp and quarters. The ' Congress ' and the ' Cumberland,' sunk
on Sat. March 8, 1862, by the rebel war-ship ' Merrimac,' are just off-
shore, the ends of masts, and a few timbers only appearing above the
watei". The little monitors lay out in Hampton Roads, waiting to see
what may turn up. All the vessels in the stream, and several batteries
on the shore, are constantly practicing at target firing ; and the shells
skimming along the water, or dropping in vertically, burst and throw up
handsome fountain-like jets of white water, while we sit, in the sunshine,
on the shore, and watch the play. No drill on Saturdays. What Avould
the Base-ballists of the " Great National Game " now, 1887, think to
see some thousands of men, representing almost every company in the
Ninth Army Corps, engaged in playing base ball ? It is safe to say that
two hundred games are going on at once, on some of these days, on
this plain ; probably double that number at times.

Feb. 22. Sun. Snowy, rainy, and the coldest day since we came
here. A snow storm commenced last night about 8 o'clock. Four inches
of snow fell, and this morning it is flying about in a driving northeast wind.
Reg. remains in quarters all day. The barracks leak, are filthy and
vile, are crowded, too, with three companies in each building. The men
improvise all sorts of crazy contrivances to guard themselves against the
cold and the snow ; hoping, as the man said when he wrapped himself in a
fish net, " to tangle up the cold to some extent." Several vessels are
blown high and dry upon the shore. Hundreds of others are tugging
at their anchors, and bounding and plunging like a multitude of huge,
black, ungainly porpoises.

Feb. 23. Mon. Fair, and very cold. Reg. drills, despite the snow,
both forenoon and afternoon. The boys say : " They are fattening us now
to kill." At any rate we live Avell, rations having improved greatly of
late, and we have a plenty of healthful exercise called drilling, on a
splendid smooth drill ground. Col. Stevens and wife leave camp for


home ; Col. Stevens has twelve days' leave. Lt. Col. Bowers in com-
mand of the Reg. There is much ill feeling now in the army concerning
the negro slaves, who, as freedmen, are numerous here and arrogant.
Many of the soldiers have an idea that all our sacrifices are forced
upon us especially for the benefit of the negroes ; the idea being suggested
by the newspapers insisting that there must be no peace until slavery has
been abolished. A party of officers, who have not seen a white woman
for over two months, visit Norfolk — and stare. One of them pretends to
be frightened, and wants to know " What those queer creatures are, going
about in those Sibley-tent sort o' things."

Feb. 24. Tues. Fine day but cold. The Thirteenth is reorganized,
and the Companies take their new places in the line, according to their
Captains' rank, determined by the date of their muster-in. Many are
extremely dissatisfied, contending that a minute, or an hour, is as good as
a day in any such question of precedence. The change in rank is caused
by an order, from the Adjutant General of the army, directing that all
officers are to rank according to the date of their muster-in, and all mus-
tered-in on the same day are to draw lots for precedence. About as fair,
and about as wise, would it be for Gen. Hooker and Gen. Lee to " draw
lots " for victories and defeats. But worst of all, orders are set as a wall
against all duck-shooting. No more broiled duck, and wild duck broiled
is good. Half the Reg. has been under arrest for shooting duck ; dead
duck and lame duck are all the fashion. A supjily of new clothing
issued to the men, and greatly needed. Our Brigade go out on review —
a frozen review.

Feb. 25. "Wed. Fair, sunny. The Ninth Corps inspected and re-
viewed. A very fine display ; the finest review we have yet seen. Ver^
slow, however, occupying upwards of five hours. The men of the 13th
stand in line, with arms at a shoulder, for over two hours at a stretch.
Hard work to " hold up your gun up " for that length of time, and with-
out changing your position. The review ground is a long, smooth, nearly
level plain, about two square miles in extent. There are 37 regiments of
infantry, 6 batteries and a small body of cavalry in line — above 25,000
men, forming a line over a mile in length. The thousands of bayonets
and the sea of trappings glittering in the sunshine, the dashing horsemen
and wheeling columns are all very fine ; but the long lines of tattered
battle flags tell the tale of many a Ninth Corps field of battle, blood and
death, of victory and of defeat. Many of these flags have but a narrow,
fringed strip of bunting iqi and down the staff.

Feb. 26. Thurs. Clouds and sunshine, cold ; a heavy rain at night.
Reg. resting from their work of yesterday. We start out for a drill, but
a thrice welcome shower sends every man to his quarters. Dress-])arade
at evening. Tlie 103d N. Y. have a fine band, and late last night they
played a delightful serenade near our camp.

Feb. 27. Fri. Fair, windy, quite cold. Company and Brigade
drill, and rather long hours of it. Wild geese are flying over now in


great flocks. Immense numbers of porpoises are sporting in the bay
near camp ; and both they and the wikl geese overhead go through their
evohitions with as much promptness and regularity, nearly, as some of our
brigades. A quick - speaking officer on Brigade drdl, seeing a muddy
place near by, and being proud of the well blacked shoes of his Company,
orders : " Forward — don't puddle your boots, boys — March ! "

Feb. 28. Sat. Rainy. Inspection in general, camps and all, lasting
about five hours. Reg. mustered for pay by Lt. Col. John Coughlin of
the 10th N. H. Another day of rest would be most acceptable. On the
whole, this month of February has been a time of great gain to this corps
of the army, and the last part of the month has been very delightful in
most resjDects. Many officers and men have visited Fortress Monroe and
Norfolk, and hundreds of photogi-aphs of soldiers have traveled homeward.
White collars and gloves aVe the fashion. The men and officers wear
them while on camp and provost guard duty. We have no picket duty
of consequence to perform at Newport News ; the enemy not near enough
to cause serious concern.

March 1. Sun. Fair, with showers, cold. Division guard-mount-
ing, a big show. Company inspection and Dress-parade. Lieut. E. W.
Goss placed in command of Company I.

March 2. Mon. Fair. Drill forenoon and afternoon. A cold
east wind blows all night. This tongue of sand is the wind's playground.

March 3. Tues. Fair, splendid day. Drill, drill, drill, Brigade and
Battalion. All the members of the non-commissioned staff are required to
drill as regularly as their duties will permit. Officers' mess board is good
here now at a cost of $2.00 per week. Asst. Surgeon Sullivan returns
to camp from home.

March 4. Wed. Fair, cold. Company, Battalion and Brigade drill.

March 5. Thurs. Fair, " confounded " cold. General Inspection
at 9 a. m. Company drill forenoon, Battalion drill afternoon. Dress-
parade. The war vessels in the Roads move up the stream into a naval
line of battle. We enjoy a wide view of a large fleet. The rebel " new
Merrimac " is said to have come down within sight of our fleet.

The burden of the battle of Fredericksburg, and of the winter camp,
follows some men even here, and they cannot throw off the incubus, but
remain unuttei'ably solemn, doleful and dirty. There is one of them in
the Thirteenth, a man who became depressed while burying our dead on
the battle-field. Something must be done with this man to break the
spell ; kindness, scolding or extra duty has had no effect. So on this ex-
ceeding sharp, frosty moi-ning at Roll-call, about daylight, the poor fellow
is ordered to step three paces to the front, and then to turn about and
face his company in line. A corporal — a grim old sailor — and two
strong men are ordered to the front beside him. These take their places,
and are then directed to procure sea sand and soap, and to take this man
at once to the brook, to strip him, and to scrub him from head to foot,
with the soap and sand, as they would scrub a dirty floor. The brook is


frozen over, and the water is of course icy cold. They start for their
work ; but when about half way to the brook, the man oifers to keep him-
self " satisfactorily clean " if he can be spared this disgrace. He is al-
lowed to try for himself, and directed to report within two hours ; and as
a matter of fact, within a week he is about the biggest dandy in the com-
pany to which he belongs.

March. 6. Fri. F'air morning, cold. Battalion drill in afternoon
broken up by a rain storm. Col. Stevens returns from home. Lieut. Ladd
returns to the Reg. from his long sickness at Washington ; has been ab-
sent since about Dec. 1, 1862.

March 7. Sat. Wet and muddy, no drill. The boys say " they
have had enough of drilling, and would like to try a little sheeting for a
week or two." A soldier in good health sleeps as soundly as a child.
Saturdays are now usually devoted to cleaning camp, arms, etc., not much
else done to-day excepting a Dress-parade about 5 p. m., at which sundry
promotions are announced.

March 8. Sun. Pleasant. Usual Sunday work. Inspection of arms
at 9 a. m., when we all get wet in a shower, our arms, clothing, every-
thing ; a thunder shower in jMarch. Surgeon Richardson starts for home
on leave ; he has been in poor health for a long time.

March 9. Mon. Fair. Reg. inspected by Capt. Hazard Stevens
of Gen. Getty's staff. Drill pronounced good. The Thirteenth is a well
drilled and fine appearing regiment. Of late, especially, almost every man
has exhibited great pride in doing, and appearing, as well as he can.

The battle between the rebel iron-clad ram Merrimac, ten guns, and
the Monitor, two guns, took place, off this shore, March 9, 1862. The
Merrimac withdrew, disabled, to near Craney Island, and soon afterwards
was blown up, and sunk in shoal water that just covers the hulk.

(July, 1887. The Merrimac has been raised and broken up recently,
and sold in Richmond for old iron.)

March 10. Tues. Very stormy, cold. No outdoor work. Reg.
votes for N. H. State governor ; casting for Ilarriman 82 votes, for Gil-
more 153, and for Eastman 324. (Luey's diary.) The Reg. being in
old and dirty barracks, finds it very difficult to keep arms and clothing
clean. Some of the men, a very few, however, are exceeding careless,
and vigorous measures have to be adopted to inculcate practical ideas of
personal cleanliness.

March 11. "Wed. Rainy forenoon Clears, and we enjoy a walk-
round of ten or fifteen miles, in a long Battalion drill ; something special.
The whole 9th Corps is drilling, all up and down the plain as far as we
can see, a grand and stirring scene. Sea breezes, clean camping ground,
splendid rations, for the most part, and the great change in every respect
from the winter camp, has generally transformed the men of the Ninth
Army Cor])s, into fine and magnificent soldiers, self-respecting, erect,
strong, healthy and hearty ; the change in the appearance of the troops,
in one short month is wonderful indeed, while the common camp sports,
frolics, play and entertainment have increased a hundred fold.


March 12. Thiirs. Fine day, but cold. Company and Battalion
drill. Orders arrive at 11 p. m. for the Reg. to be ready, with two days'
cooked rations, to move to-morrow morning at nine o'clock. The cooks
and those in care of rations and camp equipage work all night. A soldier
in camp is always uneasy — to a live soldier camj) life is no life at all.
The boys are glad to escape this everlasting, long, hard drilling, let come
what may, and greet this move with shouts and cheers. We are going
to Suffolk. The enemy, bold and appearing in force, is threatening our
outposts on the Blackwater. and driving them in. The Thirteenth are
desirous to enter upon an active campaign ; to strike into the business for
which they enlisted, to do their part to close this war, and return to the
callings of civil life, in a permanent Union.


March 13. Pri. Clear, cold. Thirteenth promptly in line and
ready at 9 a. m. (one account states that the Reg. was all ready to march
at 8 a. m. — an hour ahead of the specified time), and marches quickly to
the ' Landing ' — an old ramshackle affair, and an open bid for accidents.
Here we embark on the steamer ' Croton,' leave the wharf about 11 a. m.,
and sail to Norfolk, sixteen miles, arriving about 2 p. m. ; debark here,
and the boys have two hours to look about the city. As we sail past the
frigate ' Minnesota ' her sailors man the yards and cheer. The weatlier
grows colder and is very damp and chilling. A number of sick men be-
longing to the 13tli, taken a few hours ago from the warm Hospital at
Newport News upon the comfortable steamer, are led, after we cross to
Portsmouth, to some open platform cars. The ride of 20 or 25 miles on
open cars would be almost sure death to several of these men, and Asst.
Surgeon Sullivan — in whose care they are — protests against such treat-
ment. Protests being of no avail he puts his foot down, and refuses, with
all the force he can, to have them put on the open cars at all. A war of
words ensues, and a considerable delay is caused, but the thing is settled.
Box cars, with a good supply of hay, are found, are attached to the train,
the sick men are put in, and we move on toward Suffolk about 5 p. m., the
most of the Reg. on open platform cars. After a slow ride of about 21
miles, we arrive, all half frozen, at our designated camping ground, a
mile below Suffolk, at 6.30 p. m. Too late and dark to pitch our tents,
and the most sleep on the ground in the open air. (" Devilish cold night."
LuEY.) Norfolk and Portsmouth are now very much dilapidated, neg-
lected in appearance, and very dirty.

Gen. Getty's whole Division — 3d Div. 9th A. C. — numbering about
eight thousand men, comes up here to re-enforce Gen. Peck, who has
about eight thousand troops partly entrenched, and is threatened by Con-
federate Gen. Longstreet with 30,000 men, all so posted to the west and
north that they can be concentrated upon Suffolk in twenty-four hours.
They call us now the " Army of Suffolk." The Thirteenth in the 3d


Brigade of Getty's Div., Col. Button, 21st Conn., commanding. The
order was issued for the 1st Division to move from Newport News to this
point ; but through some mistake our 3d Division was sent here instead.

March 14. Sat. Very cold, clear. Reg. pitches its shelter tents, in
order, this morning, and fits up camp generally. The main road from
Suffolk to Portsmouth runs very nearly east and west where it passes
our camp, and just below camp forks, into Jericho road to the left, and
White Marsh road to the right. Our camp, on the north side of the
main road, and close upon it, about one mile below Suffolk, is on a strip of
low land, some of it very wet, a mere neck, between two swamps. The
famous Dismal Swamp is near by on the south side, and on the north side,
the Nansemond river, about one mile distant. Brig. Gen. Michael Cor-
coran, of the old 69th New York, has his " Irish Legion," four or five
regiments, encamped about half a mile distant from us, across the road,
southward. They have an enormous assembly tent, quite large enough
for a hus'e circus. (Gen. Corcoran was killed by his horse falling ujion
him. Dec. 22. 1863.)

March 15. Sun. Damp, chilly, hazy. Reg. lays out camp-ground
anew and pitches A tents for the officers. Usual Sunday duties. A
number of us visit Suffolk, and find a low, mean, dirty place, which has
long been wasting in carelessness and neglect. The father of Geo. H.
Rollins of E visits camp and tries to obtain a discharge for his son, but
without success.

March 16. Mon. Fair. Regimental courts martial are instituted.
Drill resumed. On coming up here, the other niglit, the 16th Conn, were
dumped from the cars, half frozen and without officers, tents, rations,
guides, or anything — their train having been cut in two somewhere on
the road. It was as dark as Egypt, and they knew neither where to go
nor where to stay. They started off, however, for somewhere. First
they tumbled down the railroad bank five or eight feet, then rolled over
in water and mud two or three feet deep, then climbed up a steep bank,
smashed through a fence, straggled through brush to clear ground and
halted ; then they nearly tore down a good house for firewood and built
several large fires, and finally a New York regiment, hearing their noise,
sent out and took care of them.

March 17. Tues. Pleasant. Reg. not doing much excepting work on
the camp. St. Patrick's Day, and Corcoran's Irish Legion celebrate it in a
high, barbaric fashion. Gathering all the horses he can, he mounts them

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 14 of 81)