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 21 of 81)
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in haversacks, and forty rounds of ball-cartridge per man. Lieut. Durell
is sick and will remain in camp ; Lieut. INIurray has not yet returned to
duty (recovering from his wound) ; First Sergeant Thompson will act as
Lieutenant." Capt. Julian.

An idea occurs to Gen. Dix, to create a diversion in favor of the Union
army in Pennsylvania, and to cut off Gen. Lee's conmunication with Rich-
mond on the north. Gen. E. D. Keyes is to move from White House,
almost due west along the York River Railroad, via Baltimore Cross
Roads, with about .5,000 men, to draw away the enemy from Bottom's
Bridges on the Chickahominy river, and to give them battle. He, how-
ever, finds the enemy too strong, and is delayed. Gen. Getty is to ])ro-
ceed from White House northwest, with al^out 7,000 men, nearly his
whole Division, directly upon Hanover Junction, and to destroy there the

1863 CAMP BOWERS. 171

Virginia Central and Fredericksburg -Railroad bridges over the North
and South Anna rivers. Both forces are to join as near as possible to
Richmond — for advance or retreat, as the case may determine.


June 22. Mon. Very warm. Very dark last night. Tliirteenth is
called at twelve o'clock, midnight, of June 21st, leaves camp at one
o'clock this morning, and marches down the main road to Portsmouth.
One man of the Reg. writes : " The night was so dark that all the way we
could get along, in any kind of oi-der, was by the polished barrels of our
guns." In the woods, in the intense darkness, several of our men fall
into the deep ditch by the side of the road, and are fished out of the mud
and water with poles, and not exactly in a proper condition to appear on
a Dress-parade. One man of the Thirteenth somewhat given to stutter-
ing, and who had imbibed a little too freely before he left camp, re-
marked as he was pulled up from a plunge into the road-side ditch : " I 'm
all right ; but I doanunner(hic )stand this 'ere moo(hic)oove — it puts my
head all into a wh(hic)irl." And his remark becomes a by-word.

We embark at Portsmouth, about 4 a. m., on the steamer ' Maple
Leaf,' with the 4th R. I. Arrive at Yorktown about 10 p. m., debark
near midnight, march a couple of miles, and bivouac at 3 a. m. on the
plain near the Hessian burying-ground. Good place for a patriot camp.
The Thirteenth numbers about 400 men now here present for duty. The
men of the Thirteenth take their knapsacks for this march, with one
change of underclothing in them. The painted things are like huge non-
porous plasters upon the men's backs, the straps binding all clothing
closely about the chest and shoulders — a most vicious combination for
hard marching in hot weather. The side of a knapsack worn next a
man's back should be made of something less sweltering than painted
canvas ; it should be made of a piece of flannel that could be removed
and washed — or of sjionge.

June 23. Tues. Pleasant. Reg. called very early. The bivouac
last night was irregular, and the first thing done is to bring the tents into
the proper order of a regimental camp. Many men take a bath in the
river, the water quite clear.

Queer, battered, neglected, dilapidated, little decrepit old Yorktown.
Since Oct. 19, 1781, this town has been historic. Gen. Washington then
had here a victorious Patriot army of about 16,000 men, and Lord Corn-
wallis surrendered to him an army of 7,073 men; the spot is pointed out
to us where the commanders, and also the two armies, stood on that occa-
sion. We are of another Patriot army numbering hard upon two round
millions of men — so large have things grown in eighty odd years.

June 24. "Wed. Showery. Company drill in forenoon. Battalion
drill in afternoon. Here are vast deposits of sea shells, mostly scallops,
and where Gen. McClellan's troops cut into the hills are very many large


springs of water, clear as crystal ; and our men, recently from the low,
flat, muddy region about the Dismal Swamp, cannot drink enough of it.
McClellan's earth-works here are simply immense.

June 25. Thurs. Rainy, cool. Orders received to be ready to
move at a moments notice. Company drill in the forenoon — and a fine
scene it is when hundreds of companies can be seen manoeuvring at once.
Teams at evening are moving off. We are to wait until 3.30 a. m. to-
morrow. Thirteenth to march in heavy marching order. Curiosity
hunters visit the various jjlacesof interest. Among others the tree where
' California Joe,' as a sharp-shooter, concealed himself, and silenced a
rebel battery, and also shot the negro Confederate sharp-shooter who had
killed and wounded many of our pickets, one year ago. Capt. Grantman,
who has been at Norfolk on court martial duty, rejoins the Reg. here.

June 26. Fri. Rainy, warm. Reg. called at 2 a. m., marches at
3.30 a. m., embarks at wharf in town on the steamer ' Hero,' at 6 a. m.,
with the 10th N. H., and moves at 8 a. m. up the York and Pamunkey
rivers to White House Landing, arriving there about 3 jd. m. ; debarks,
moves out half a mile or so, and encamps near a magnolia swamj), at the
north side of the York River Railroad. A little, round monitor fort, of
the enemy's, mounting one gun, was here rendered useless by one well-
directed shot, made yesterday by our gunboat ; the enemy, however,
got off with his gun about 6 a. m., burned the culverts and bridges on the
railroad, and tore up much of the track, behind him, as he retired ; he
also burned a number of buildings, the ruins of which are smoking when
we arrive. The 11th Penn. Cavalry are now clearing our front. The
old ' White House ' here was the scene of Washington's early married
life, and the property of his wife ; the house is now in ruins.

June 27. Sat. Fair ; rained hard last night. Reg. still in bivouac.
In the magnolia swamp near by, the trees in full bloom furnish so much
fragrance that many men are made sick, and our camp is moved farther
away from it. Inspection and Company drill in forenoon. Battalion drill
in afternoon, followed by a Dress-parade. Our picket line is out but a
little way — scarce a rifle-shot from camp. Gen. Spear's cavalry come in
with a long train of captured wagons, many mules and 120 prisoners, and
with them Confederate Brig. Gen. W. H. Lee ; trophies of the lltli l*enn.
Cavalry. Army rations run short, and one soldier of the 13th writes :
" A great supply of nothing to eat ; fried mutton for supper."

June 28. Sun. Showery. Inspection, parade, and prayers by our
Chaplain. The men find a number of Gen. McClellan's unused coffins,
and make them do duty for the living, in the form of bedsteads ; not at
all bad. The bones of a few men, found near camp, are still more sugges-
tive. The ribs and uprights of Gen. McClellan's old army wagons make
good shelter-tent poles. Our commissariat appeared last night, and to-day
we have fresh beef. Gen. Dix and staff pass along the lines.

Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker succeeded in command of the Army of the
Potomac by Maj. Gen. George G. Meade.



June 29. Mon. Very showery ; a clear afternoon. Reg. drills aU
day and lias a Dress-parade at sundown, when orders are i-ead transfer-
ring us to the 2d Div. 7th Army Corps. In some places about us the
ground is literally blue with a kind of passion flower — the vines are said
to grow little gourds called " pop-apples." The rebels collected a large
force of negroes here yesterday for work about Richmond ; but last night
they mutinied, seized boats, made rafts, etc., crossed the river, and came
into our lines. They pass our camp to-day in a large crowd ; men, women
and children all together, each with a bundle. They will be sent to Fort-
ress Monroe. They made a bold dash for freedom, and secured it.

June 30. Tues. Pleasant. Orders to move at call to-morrow
morning, with cooked rations, and in light marching order ; but the 13th
and other regiments in our Brigade take knapsacks — heavy marching
order. Reg. mustered for pay by Col. Wm. Keine of the 103d N. Y.
Company E has several Kenistons, and Col. Keine has them all stand out
until he can muster them beyond a chance for doubt, and causes a laugh
in the Regiment by his remarks — wants to know if there are any more
" Kan-ee-stones." He is evidently of German extraction.

The general orders upon this raid are that the regiments shall be called
out at 3 a. m., have breakfast, and be ready to march at any time from 4
to 7 a. m. — and to halt when the man on horseback gets tired. The
scattering of white citizens hereabout, as the Union army approaches,
shows their classic tastes — the word ' skedaddle ' being excusable Greek.
The word seems to be a product of this civil war. Lieut. Young is placed
on picket on the York River Railroad, and visits the vedettes of the 11th
Penn. Cavalry. They have just killed and cooked a pig, — cooking him
almost sooner than he died. The Lieutenant, not knowing the state of
the meat, is invited to join in the lunch. He does so. There is no salt
to be had, nevertheless all eat heartily of the meat. The result is that all
are made fearfully sick. This experience proves that hunger is not al-
ways the best sauce.

July 1. Wed. Warm, very. Reg. called at 3 a. m. ; crosses the
railroad bridge over the Pamunkey to the east side at 7 a. m. ; marches
to King William Court House near the Mattapony, a march of about nine
miles, and bivouacs at 6.30 p. m. on a low, wet, muddy, plowed field
about half a mile beyond the collection of buildings. During the day the
weather has changed, and a cold rain sets in. The road is an abomina-
tion for mud, the field also. The men are very tired, and procure some
unthreshed wheat, from the stacks near by, to keep their blankets and
themselves out of the mud in to-night's bivouac. We have fairly turned
in, when an order comes from the " General commanding," for the men to
return " every straw of that wheat " to the stacks. The poor men turn out
in the pouring rain, gather up the wheat, and replace it on the stacks
— accompanying their action by very many remarks In ' camp language.'
About midnight fires suddenly break out among those wheat stacks, and
they disappear in smoke, together with a blacksmith shop and a large mill


— the great fires lighting up the entire camp. Instead of a few hushels of
wheat with tlie straw going to a much needed bed in the mud, many hun-
dreds of bushels of wheat, straw and all, go to a useless rest in ashes.
Company li of the Thirteenth is rear-guard to-day. They did not burn
the wheat — but they believe that a lunch of broiled chicken is just as good
for a rear-guardsman as for any other man.

The force now advancing here consists of the 11th Penn. and 2d Mass.
Cavalry ; 8th, 11th, loth and 16th Conn. ; 10th and 13th N. H. ; 3d,
89th, 99th, 103d, 112th, 117th, 118th N. Y. ; 13th Indiana ; lG5th,
IGCth, 169th Penn., and the 4th R. I. Infantry Regiments, and four
Batteries — all under command of Gen. Getty. Occasionally in a turn of
the road nearly the whole force comes into view at once, and, as we
march compactly in good order, makes a fine aj^pearance among the trees
and green fields ; the muskets glistening near and far, in long lines and
masses, and well mounted horsemen dashing here and there. They call
this force the Second Division of the Seventh Army Corps. Our Brigade
is under command of Col. M. T. Donohoe of the 10th N. H.

July 2. Thiirs. Hot, very. Reg. called between 2 and 3 a. m.,
and marches from 4.30 a. m. until about 11 a. m. At 3 p. m. the Reg.
moves on about half a mile and encamps. Several cases of sunstroke
among our troops. Roads abominable. We bivouac near Brandywine.
We are marching through the very granary of Gen. Lee's army, and are
imder the strictest orders to appropriate nothing at all ; while at this very
hour Gen. Lee, with an enormous army, is devastating the quiet fields
and homes of Pennsylvania. Here too are hundreds of acres of wheat,
corn and oats, cultivated under the superintendency of Gen. Lee's own
soldiers, detailed for this especial purpose — one soldier for every ten
or fifteen negroes — and who skedaddle for Richmond as we approach.
Our men are even ordered not to go to wells and springs, along the road,
for water to drink ; in fact, the strictness is exasperating to both men and
officers, and necessarily provokes mere wanton mischief from the hands
of lawless men among us. Still we will, and we do, to some extent, pro-
cure and eat what we want the most — early fruit, chickens, lambs and
young beef. They say that in a field, not far from our camp, is a pile of
fifty or more lambskins — winter clothing, of course, that the lambs have
laid by.

Jiily 3. Fri. A very warm day. Reg. called at 3 a. m. and marches
at 6 a. m. We pass through Mongohit and Mechanicsville, so called.
Have been put upon the wrong road, and are obliged to countermarch.
In crossing a little stream to-day, some men. belonging to a regiment
ahead of us, rush into the water, drink deei)ly, come out. stagger a few
steps — and drop dead. The most of this force is moving in light march-
ing order, and such was the order to our Brigade ; but the 10th and 13th
N. H. Regiments, at least, move in heavy marching order, taking every-
thing with them — knapsacks, blankets, shelter tents, their change of
clothing, etc., etc. Some one has made a mistake, and caused our men



great loss, and fearful suffering from the heat. We make a long halt
about noon. Hot as Tophet. At this noon halt the men enjoy an abun-
dance of blackberries, the ground being covered with them. Cases of
sunstroke very common ; there is scarcely a worse sight than a man lying
dead of sunstroke. The Reg. marches again at 4 p. m., and continues to
march, with frequent halts, till 9 p. m. After a march of 18 miles, the
Reg. bivouacs at midnight on Confederate Gen. Taylor's plantation, said
to be about three miles north of Hanover Court House. The vicinity is
called Horn's Quartei-s. We here liberate 50 or 75 slaves ; some of them
start at once down uj)on our line of march, others remain to follow the
army. The Thirteenth, and a large part of our Brigade, halts here,
while a large force pushes on, across the Pamunkey, for Hanover Junction,
eight miles distant to the northward. Taylor's farm is used as a sort of
headquarters. Union soldiers have been posted to guard the citizens'
property at every house all along the roads ; we see them on doorsteps
and piazzas, under trees, everywhere.

July 4. Sat. Hot. Reg. called at 3 a. m., but we do not march
until after 9 a. m. AVe march about five miles to Hill's plantation in
Caroline County — where we pass through one cornfield said to contain
1,()00 acres, the corn up to our shoulders — and halt at Littlepage's
bridge between 10 and 11 a. m., and remain during the day and night,
along the road and on the I'iver bank. Detachments from the Thirteenth
and the Tenth N. H. are sent upon picket along the river. The rest of
the Thirteenth, acting as Gen. Getty's body-guard, take the day in ease
and peace, along the road and river, among the trees. The force which
crossed the river here last night and this moi'ning, moving towards Han-
over Junction, said to be nearly the whole Division, has a severe skir-
mish with the enemy during the day, and we can plainly hear the artil-
lery engagement ; at times the firing is very heavy. Roundly speaking,
two brigades cross the river, and one (ours) remains here as a reserve.

As the Reg. halts, in an oatfield, to-day just before dinner. Adjutant
Boutwell and Asst. Surgeon Sullivan go to the nearest house, take posses-
sion and try to have a dinner prepared, but fail. However, by pushing
things, they succeed in obtaining an excellent supper for themselves and
a number of other officers. After eating the supjjer, they — like gallant
and honorable soldiers — pay for it. Quite a number of our officers
sleep, to-night, on the floor of the house.

We celebrate the Fourth of July in a novel fashion. We have here a
hundred or more liberated slaves, of all ages, sizes and complexions. One
girl about fourteen j^ears old and several boys would readily pass for
white children. (This girl was sent North, adopted in a good family,
brought up and educated.) These slaves, well aware of the import of
July 4th, are induced to give us an exhibition of their plantation melodies
and dances. They join hands, form a large circle, and pass arotind and
around for half an hour, bending their bodies and knees with a ' courtesy
and a jerk,' as only the negro can ; stamping time with their feet, singing


melodies that no one of us can understand, and occasionally repeating a
yell in every conceivable tone and compass of voice, rapidly and succes-
sively round and round the circle, as if each one in turn were suddenly
struck mad. They give also a number of duets and solos, and dances for
which the music is ' clapped ' on the musician's knee. The play is kept
up for hours, until they are tired of the show — and we also. Sugar, as
a reward for their entertainment, is chiefest in demand. JMany of us are
emptied of our store. The little dai'key will take a handful, fill his
mouth, roll his eyes in ecstasy, and then lick his hands and fingers clean
— that have not been clean before for three montlis.

We bivouac here under the protection of a strong picket. There are
captured near here, from the enemy, about 150 horses, 50 mules, and 50
head of fine cattle. Our forces across the river are aiming to destroy
certain bridges on the Virginia Central and the Fredericksburg Rail-
roads, but find the enemy there in force, and this evening we can hear
heavy firing at Hanover Station ; the firing commencing at 4 p. m.
While the Reg. is broken up, in detachments for picket along the river,
Company C, organized as a special guard, under command of Lieut. Cur-
tis, holds Littlepage's bridge — a post of great importance. Companies
C and E act as brigade rear-guard in the march and movements of to-day.

The Lieutenant of the Thirteenth who had charge of the regimental
Pioneer-corps to-day, which partly tore up Littlepage's bridge and pre-
pared the remaining portion for firing on the retreat of our troops across
it from Hanover Station, came into the camjj of the Thirteenth late at
night thoroughly tired out, and laid him down to pleasant dreams. The
Reg. were lying all about him soundly sleeping — a sleep very much
needed. The Lieutenant had not been asleep ten minutes when he was
seized by a terrible attack of nightmare, and soon brought the larger part
of the Reg. to their feet by belching out the most hideous, blood-curdling
torrent of howls and screams imaginable. It was several minutes before
he could be quieted, while the men near him indulged in much vigorous
' cam]) language.'

Jvily 5. Sun. Pleasant, warm. The good news from Gettysburg
reaches us this morning, and gives occasion for hvely cheering.

Heavy firing is heard near very early this morning, and approaching
nearer, as our forces retreat from the Junction. Wounded men ai'e com-
ino- in on country wagons. The 13th is called about daylight, its pickets
are relieved about 7 a. m. and the Reg. at once assembles in the road
close down to Littlepage's bridge, ready for anything that may turn up.
As the morning and forenoon passes, bodies of infantry march rapidly
past us, and form lines of battle in the fields in our rear, all looking as if
they had experienced a very rough time of it. It is said, however, that
of the force which crossed the river, only the 99th N. Y. and the 165th
Penn. engaged the enemy. Detachments from the 13th and the 10th
N. H., working together, pile upon Littlepage's bridge a large amount of



combustible material. A battery tears across the bridge, rushes past us,
the horses galloijing. jumping over and crushing down fences, and takes
position in our rear, in the field, and prepares for action. Things look
decidedly squally. The skirmishing approaches nearer and nearer, the
firing sharp. The 13th moves back a little out of the road and forms
again in line of battle, across a field, near and in support of the battery.
The 10th are to set the bridge on fire and follow. Just as the last of our
troops have crossed, and the bridge is well on fire, a man suddenly ap-
pears on the roof of his house, oft' to our right, as we face towards the
river — westward — and waves a signal flag to the enemy across the
river. Soon a body of our cavalry takes him in hand, and his house
joins the bridge — in smoke. His was a piece of treachery.

Now comes the hardest marching that we have ever endured. The
13th lead the whole force on to-night's march, and are ordered to reach
Ayletts before one o'clock to-morrow morning. Starting about 9.30 a. m.,
we first go back to Taylor's plantation, about five miles, at the top of our
speed. After a short halt here, near Horn's Quarters, the 13th is joined
by the 10th ; who come up much out of breath, and minus their knap-
sacks, for many of these have also joined the bridge in smoke. Our
Brigade looks very finely drawn uj) in the ample grounds of this splendid
mansion. Ammunition is here specially examined, extra rations are sup-
plied, and near 1 p. m. we march about one mile, and are assigned posi-
tion. At 5.30 p. m. is commenced a forced march, that is kept up until
we reach White House. Sweeping round northward past the Hebron, or
Bethel, church, towards the Mattapony, on a different road from the one
by which we came up, our first halt, except for ten minutes or so, is near
Ayletts, on the Mattapony River at 1.15 a. m. (Lieut. Staniels.) Dis-
tance 18 miles since 5.30 p. m. Soon we are off for another mile, and
at 2 a. m. we bivouac in an open field for about three hours. We march
twenty-four miles in eight hours of marching time ; mostly in the dark,
with scarcely a halt, and the night damp and warm. On this night march
the men suffer terribly from thirst, and actually dip water out of puddles
in the middle of the road, and drink it, after hundreds of horses, mules
and men have splashed through it — ' horse coffee,' as the boys call it,
and with a vengeance !

" Joseph H. Prime of F is a large man. The largest army shoes to be
had are too short for him, and on this raid he has been obliged to go
barefoot the most of the march ; the result is that his feet are very sore,
and on this night march his feet are bleeding, and his ankles swollen, ren-
dering him unable to proceed. Rising to march after one halt he is un-
able to stand, and Lieut. Young, in command of the rear-guard to-night,
lifts him by main strength upon his shoulders, carries him to the teams
and puts him on one of the wagons. The wagon is crowded, and in or-
der to make room for Prime, Lieut. Y'oung pulls out of the wagon a man
— so called — who had no business on the wagon at all, and who wears
a Major's uniform. The lifting of Prime, the tussle with the Major, who


was merely tired or lazy, the march, the labor in keeping up stragglers
and caring for the rear-guard, and the severe cold taken in the morning's
bivouac at Ayletts while sleeping on the bare ground without cover,
brought on a disability from which Lieut. Young has never recovered,
and was the cause of his final resignation of the service. Prime declared
on this occasion, that as soon as he returned to camj) he would apply for
promotion to an official position in a regiment of colored troops. This
he did, and received a commission as Captain in the 25th U. S. Colored
Infantry, Nov. 4, 1863." Lieut. Young.

' Ambulance Brown ' prefers a black moustache on his amiable face to
the huge paler hued one which nature sujjplies. The color he takes along
in his pocket is handy to have in the Thirteenth. For instance : Our
excellent Asst. Surgeon Small finds among the captured horses one that
suits his fancy. A whining rebel citizen appears and begs for his '' dear
horse." The Colonel tells this Mr. Secesh to go among the herd and pick
out his horse, and he will see about its return. Tlie horse had a white
foot or two, a white star in his face and a white nose. Brown, however,
tlie moment he sets his sharp eyes upon this horse, sees that he is a valua-
ble animal, and suspects that he will be demanded. He decides that this
particular horse is not the horse he was, and to prove it, he whips out his
moustache dye — without the knowledge of the Colonel or Asst. Surgeon

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 21 of 81)