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 22 of 81)
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Small — and colors all the white marks on the horse jet black. This job
has hardly been completed, when Mr. Secesh appears in the herd, and
still further proves the horse not the horse he was, by being utterly un-
able to find his lost property — the work so well done he does not recog-
nize his own " dear horse," and goes his way lamenting. When it is safe
to do so the color is washed off — and now he is the horse he was. He
does good service in the army, and is brought North at the end of the
war. No one but ' Ambulance Brown ' would ever have thought of dyeing
a horse's moustache — but you see the habit of dyeing moustaches had
grown strong upon him.

Jiily 6. Mon. Rainy. Reg. is up and starts again about 4 a. m., is
jerked around awhile, and at 8.30 a. m. marches from Ayletts to A}'-
letts Station, to a field a little beyond King William Court House, in the
forenoon, about 10 miles. P^ncamps here in the afternoon — about 3 p. m.
— in a heavy rain. A halt is necessary for the stragglers to come up.
The roads are in a terrible condition — awfully muddy. Added to this
the men are thoroughly drenched in the rain, and have the extra diffi-
culty of marching in wet clothes. We remain here until morning. Near
Mongohit road about midnight last night, the enemy came up with the
rear-guard, and threatened mischief ; V)ut the scare had an excellent effect
in stopping unnecessary sti-aggling. It is reported that guerillas have
shot a number of stragglers — and tliey take no prisoners any way. Sev-
eral fine horses were taken last niglit from barns and stables. The writer
saw a valuable roan horse taken from a potato hoard, or small cellar, in a
field quite a distance from any house. He was awfully hungry, heard


somebody coming, called for provender, told where he was, was rescued,
fed, cared for and taken along — no brands.

But at the final halt, as the Division is now together again, the scene
changes. All the captured mules, horses, teams, carts, wagons, and fat
calves led by a string, are filed into a large cattle yard by the Provost
Marshal, and there is a general — and many a special — unloading. At
King William Court House, where, on the way uj), the men could not
have straw to sleep on, they are obliged now to relinquish all the ' practical
fruits ' of this famous raid ; to leave their fresh meat on the hoof, and
their conveyances, shawls, swallow-tail coats, plug hats, umbrellas, fancy
parasols, etc., all so dear to the soldier's heart, and come down to army
rations, and the weather, unprotected. They sullenly and slowly strap
on their coarser soldier traps, and gear, and then march, and — grumble.
The taste for luxuries must hereafter be confined to blackberries and warm
water from the wayside-brook. If you ever go on a raid steer clear of
King William Court House.

Jiily 7. Tues. Warm, heavy showers. Reg. up at daylight, starts
at 7 a. m., marches to the White House, and encamps there at noon. Dis-
tance about nine miles. The troops of both expeditions all come to-
gether here again. Col. Dutton resumes command of our Brigade, and
Col. Donohoe, who is sick, goes by steamer to Norfolk. All sick men
are examined to-night by the Surgeons. Many of our men, who are
utterly used up, are also put on a transport at 9 p. m. — the ' Juniata '
— and sent to our old camp in the Pines. One man of the 13th writes :
" We were stowed away on that transport like dumplings in a steam
box." The Band also go down by boat. Men have marched with galled
and blistered feet, the nails coming off their toes. The fury of the slave-
holders, whose slaves we brought off with us, was intense, their threats
and curses bitter and deep ; but in these days a slaveholder's damn is
not worth a tinker's dam — we smile, the darkeys grin, they stamj},
swear and howl with impotent fury.

July 8. "Wed. Hot ; heavy showers. Reg. marches at 6 a. m. to
New Kent Court House, and about six miles beyond. Distance twelve
miles. Roads one mass of mud. Two wagons are mired in one place,
cannot be extricated, and are burned. The worst roads and worst mud
we ever saw. As we march to-day over a bad corduroy road, old, rotten
and strewn with army waste, a big darkey, leading a mule, gets off the
road with his charge and into a deep slough. The darkey is rescued
with a pole, but the mule goes down, down until his ears and soriy coun-
tenance are alone visible — a sudden struggle, a gulp or two, and a few
bubbles are the last signs of the mule. The darkey's sole comment, given
with a scared grin, was : " 'I, golly I Done gone forebber ! " as he
plainly saw how he himself might also have gone under, but for that pole
and a few strong men. The Thirteenth are all placed on picket, to-
night, as rear-guard, and forage far and wide for something good to eat.

During the first halt, near New Kent Court House, of scarcely half an


hour and In a pouring rain, some of the men have a lunch of ' quick-pig.'
They had caught him a mile or two hack, had knocked him on the head
and partly dressed him while they marched. Instantly upon halting the
pig is cut into very thin slices and distributed, a fire is built — of dry
wood found in some wood-shed by the way, rolled in a rubber blanket
and lugged may be for a mile or more — the thin slices of meat are rolled
in salt, put on a green stick, and broiled in the fire. When a dozen
veteran soldiers start upon an affair of this kind, a halt of ten or fifteen
minutes suffices to furnish them with a hearty meal.

After this first halt, the 13th moves a little way to drier land near
some buildings, and remains there for nearly two hours. Then marches
about four hours to make six miles ; the teams in the train, we are guard-
ing, sticking fast in the mud at every few rods. We are marching to Hamp-
ton as a convoy to the wagon train.

July 9. Thurs. Hot. Reg. marches about 6 a. m., and continues on
for 18 miles towards Yorktown ; a part of the distance is made at the rate
of a forced march. At one halt to-day, after a severe spurt in the march,
one company in the Thirteenth actually borrowed a gun to complete a
stack of three muskets — in order to strictly obey the order : " Halt.
Stack Arms — Rest." At the final halt for the day, about three miles
above Williamsburg, at 7 p. m., there are not a dozen men present in
some of the companies. The sick and lame of the Thirteenth, who go
down on the ' Juniata,' arrive in the Pines at 3 p. m. to-day. Many of
them lost on the raid almost everything they had, and come to camp bare-
foot and shirtless.

July 10. Fri. Hot. Reg. marches into Yorktown, and about 6 p. m.
occupies its old camp, that was vacated June 26th. Distance to-day 18
miles ; as we wind around about somewhat, the whole distance marched
is by some estimated at above 20 miles. The men are terribly tired and
stragglers are coming in all night. As we pass through Williamsburg
the College of William and Mary, battered and worn, is in a ' vacation '
longer than its longest of old. A statue of Jefferson (said to be) also
battered and worn, looks down upon us as we hurry through this capital
of Virginia's proud old days. How this world does turn over and over
as it goes ! Now that the men are in camp again, their change of shirts
and stockings, thrown away with their knapsacks while on the raid, would
be very acceptable ; hundreds of men and officers are in the river bath-
ing, and washing their clotliing, which they wring out and at once put on
again — almost imperative, but a bid for chills and fever.

July 11. Sat. Warm, pleasant. Reg. resting at Yorktown. In
passing through the fortifications near Williamsburg we came to one
point where we could count 13 rebel forts all in one view ; their Fort Ma-
gruder is a woi"k of immense strength. The battle-field is terribly torn
and l)roken even now, and strewn with everything used by an army, and
not (juickly perishable. Over five hundred contrabands have followed
our little army down here from the " Up-country," as they call it. Sergt.


James M. Hodgdon of B, who went to the old camp in the Pines, on the
' Jmiiata,' writes of to-day : " Rainy and warm. The flies bite fearfully.
Took out Companies H and K on a Dress-parade, where I acted as Cajj-
tain, with no shirt on — all right."

July 12. Sun. Very warm ; light showers. Reg. marches at 5
a. m., and encamps on the old battle-lield at Big Bethel. Distance 14
miles. Here also are very strong fortifications. Now come the huge
rijje blackberries in rich abundance. At every halt the men scatter and
pick them. Hence the name of this march — ' Blackberry Raid.' One
halt of an hour to-day is made especially for blackberries, so it is said ; at
any rate several thousand men, in a long line, halt, stack arms, and at
once fall to gathering the luscious berries. They whom the berries fail
to fill, take a lunch from their haversacks.

The showers to-day — like most summer showers in the South — in-
stead of cooling the atmosphere, fill it with a warm, stifling steam, hard
to breathe, clogging the lungs, and really increasing the heat ; a state of
the air in which sunshine is not necessary to produce sunstroke, as it is
called, several fatal cases of which occur in to-day's march.

July 13. Mon. Fair. Reg. called at 3 a. m., starts about 4 a. m.
and marches, via Little Bethel, crossing New Market bridge, to Hampton,
arriving there about 9 a. m., rests all the day, and embarks there at 6
p. m. on the steamer ' Express,' crosses to Portsmouth, and arrives at
our old camp in the Pines at 11 p. m. Distance marched, besides the
sail, 14 miles. The entire tramp, on this raid, is estimated to have been
from 160 to 175 miles of actual marching, our marching time twelve days
and nights, besides the distance made by steamers.

As the Thirteenth comes into camp, every denizen turns out, and the
whole conmiand cheers until the midnight woods ring, echo, and ring
again. Now at midnight we stretcli our weary limbs upon the welcome
bunks in our old quarters, and sleep as only soldiers can — and after the
toughest march in their experience. We find our tents remaining exactly
as we left them, no knot in string or rope untied ; ' the furniture in our
whole absence has not even been dusted.'

While we were waiting at the landing near Hampton to-day, a large
water-spout ' spiraled ' up Hampton Roads, and broke upon a sandy point
near by us. The water came down literally in chunks, for a little while,
in the open country, and soon we were treated to a severe shower of rain.
As the water-spout approached before it burst — or fell in pieces — there
was a lively scattering of the small boats in the bay. An old darkey fish-
ing for soft-shell crabs found himself directly in its track, and being un-
able to row his boat fast enough to escape the monster, sprang out of it
and waded ashore, while his boat soon went up the spout — literally —
and in falling again was smashed in pieces. The old fellow, as he came
ashore, blubbered out : " Thought I was done gone for, dat time —
shuah ! " We thought so too.

Somewhere up the Peninsula the medical department of the Thir=


teenth captured a pair of mules and a wagon, all together worth hard upon
a thousanil dollars, and used them in the interest o£ our tired men upon
the march. They finally fell to the charge of our Asst. Surgeon John
Sullivan ; and the ' Doc's mules ' are exceedingly handy to have in our
I'egimental family.

A shower came up suddenly one day while we were in the road march-
hig, and instantly the army, stretched along in sight for a mile or mcfre,
was changed into a procession with umhrellas and jjarasols of every style
and color — a most ludicrous scene ; while gay colored shawls, cloaks, and
old plug hats were too numerous to mention. The soldier must have his
fun. The writer saw one soldier in the loth on the march, purchase of
a negro woman a dirty, ragged shawl woven in brilliant stripes of red,
yellow and green. He washed it, repaired it, brought it to camp, paraded
in it upon occasion, and finally sent it home. Many similar purchases
were made of old odds and ends as curiosities and relics. The damage
done, on this expedition, to private property, was mostly done by rebel
guerilla parties, who fell back from district to district, as our forces ad-
vanced. Their damage being done to ' fire the Southern heart ; ' an at-
tempt to blackmail the Union soldiers, who foraged for fresh provisions,
and that was about all, excepting for the grotesque or old-fashioned things
with which to make sport. One of tlie amusing features was the con-
spicuous absence of the native white population. Any inquiry about the
man of the house would be answered by the statement that he had ' gone
to mill,' ' gone to see a sick brother,' ' gone to town ' — or gone to any
indefinite place upon any indefinite errand. The darkey usually said :
'Guess he done goned off somewhere ! ' — an answer always given slyly and
with the negro grinning chuckle, as if the white man's sudden absence
was a most amusing thing, but a little dangerous to laugh about just yet-
One dark night a huge deer dashed into the road, over the brush fence,
and collided with a mule team. The mules brayed •with fright, and that
scared the deer more and more. After a short, sharp struggle among the
straps and traces, he extricated himself, bounded over the fence at the
other side of the road ; and his long gallop could be heard for some time,
as he made off in the darkness, as fast as liis legs could carry him. The
orders against firing were so strict that we did not dare to shoot him.

The men of the Thirteenth, and in some cases the officers, when we came
to water at convenient places on the march, took off sliirts and socks,
washed them, wrung them out, put them on again at once, wet, and
marched on. When we reached Yorktown almost the vvliole command
took a bath in the river, and washed their clothing. Think of shirts and
socks worn in midsummer, for three weeks, witliout Avashing!

" It should be nnrlerstood that the Thirteenth wore their knapsacks on
this raid with a change of underclothing In them, but the extreme heat
compelled their throwing them away, contents and all ; and thus they
were scattered aU along the roads, from White House to Fontaincbleau."

Lt. Col. Smith.



Several of the men hid their knapsacks soon after leaving White
House, and recovered them on the return march. Others tried the same
experiment farther up, and lost them because of the change in the roads
on the return route ; and these and their varied contents, snugly tucked
under boai'ds, brush and hedges, await the effect of time, or the futui*e
collector of useless relics.

fiear the wharf at Hampton was a body of raw Ohio troops, hundred-
days men, the officers with white kids, and the men with white gloves
and collars, while the price-mark was not yet worn off their flag-staffs.
One of these asks a man of the Thirteenth : " Are you hundred-days
men ? " " Yes," answers Thirteen, " One hundred days without a clean
shirt — and now it is your turn." Another of these fresh men com-
plained that he had had ' no butter on his bread for more than a week.'

At one aristocratic mansion, near which Ave halted, when far up on the
Penmsula, a number of young ladies had shut themselves in, and refused
to be seen. After a little, our Band is drawn up on their lawn ; and a grand
vocal and instrumental concert, or serenade, is immediately in full chorus,
with many fine male voices rendering popular airs, in rich measure. This
proves to be more than the pretty girls can resist, and soon the mansion
doors are wide open. Later the Band moves up on the piazza, and with
their instruments very near the open windows plays our National airs, re-
sponded to by the young ladies at the piano with ' Stonewall Jackson,'
' My Maryland,' ' Bonnie Blue Flag,' and other Southern airs.

It is said that Spear's cavalry approached within twelve miles of Rich-
mond, and that they helped themselves pretty freely to abandoned prop-
erty. Of quite a large body of them, which we saw, no two were dressed
alike — a motley cavalcade. We marched over 130 miles in the first ten
davs of July. Then in two days marched from Yorktown to Hampton,
28 miles ; making about 160 miles in twelve days, under a midsummer
Virginia sun — and moon. It is regarded as a very severe, and success-
ful march, so far as time, distance and order are concerned. We did not
see half a dozen able-bodied white men, be'tween the ages of 18 and 60,
in the whole trip above Yorktown. Guards were set at all points to pro-
tect rebel property. The excessive rigor of protection made, among the
men, a hero of every successful forager, of whom there were a great many.
Taking was, by order, confined to military necessity, and military necessi-
ties consequently grew every day more and more numerous. The nightly
lullaby was the squealing of pigs and the squawking of poultry. The men
well knowing that what they did not then eat, the rebel soldiers would eat
by and by, for we were on the regular supply grounds of the rebel army ;
and every fifteen of the negroes had a white overseer, appointed, practi-
cally, by the Confederate government. We met negroes everywhere, and
in great numbers. They look upon us as their deliverers and are exceed-
ingly friendly. Their intelligence is surprising. Some of them seem to
act as if they had been waiting forty years for a chance to free their
minds ; and the pent-up accumulation of mental and sentimental matter


is voided in a flood. Amusing and pitiable — both in the extreme. The
enterprising New York Herald, somehow, followed us on the raid. It
reaches our camp, here in the Pines, at 9 a. m., on the next day after it
is jjublished, and seems to sell ten to one against any other paper that
comes to the army.

The opinion prevails throughout the expeditionary force, that if our
body of about 12,000 effective men — and that is a very low estimate of
our strength — had kept together in one column, and had struck straight
for Richmond, disregarding all minor side issues, we could have easily cap-
tured that city, done incalculable damage to the rebel army supplies and
property of the Confederacy, and returned in safety.

Hospital Steward Royal B. Prescott writes, July 20. 1863 : " We had
our knapsacks with us on this march — our Brigade only was so bur-
dened ; and loud and hearty were the curses of the men upon the officer
who issued the order to take them. Manson S. Brown of C carried our
Hospital supplies. Strict orders were issued by Gen. Dix against taking
anything from the inhabitants along the road ; but the inhabitants insulted
the men all they could, hence retaliation upon their property. The
weather was excessively hot. Knapsacks and blankets were thrown
away, collected by the rear-guard, and burned. On the afternoon of July
2d the column reached Mr. Fontaine's plantation. He was gone. His
wife and negroes were left at home. The bummers in revenge (for some-
thing done or said) smashed everything in his house. The parlor floor
was painted with a mixture made of a pot of yellow j^aint, a pot of black
paint, a barrel of flour and a cask of molasses. Gen. Getty was furious
when he heard of this mischief, but a drum-head court martial held that
night failed to convict any one.^ The house and buildings were after-
wards burned. We saw acres on acres, square miles on square miles, of
ripe wheat. Very little damage was done to crops, so they wiU go to feed
the rebel army ; and in a land of immense plenty we are confined to
army rations, and short at that. Men at night fell like logs, went at once
to sleep, in mud, on grass, anywhere, and it was next to impossible to
wake them. On July 4th the slaves of Mr. William Carter, about 150 of
them (he had 210 in all), came to the road — close down to Littlepage's
bridge — where the 13th were, procured boards, laid them in the road,
and sang and danced for a long time. They gave a better show than all
the ' Original Minstrel ' troops that ever traveled. The negroes took all
the horses, mules and carts, and followed our troops in retreat. Hun-
dreds of soldiers — on the return march — took off their shirts, (buttoning
their blouses close about them for decency's sake), washed them and
then slung them over their shoulders, or carried them as banners on
their bayonets, and so marched till the shirts were dry again and then
put them on. The troops looked more like animated bundles of dirty

1 This court mariial was held under a larg'e tree near the house ; and it is said that
Gen. Getty declared that if the rincfleaders in the damajjo to the house -were caught,
he would hang them all on that tree and leave them hanging there. — S. M. T.



rags than like anything else. Many marks of the battle of WilHamsbnrg
still remain. Major Grantman, of the Thirteenth, was present in that
battle, and was severely wounded there, and now graphically describes
the scene. We were absent on the raid for 23 days, and accomplished
— notliing, or about that. Yes, one thing is certain : that raid has added
2,500 patients to the different Hospitals in this department."


Capt. Smith is bitten or stung on his hand by some small creature
while on the return from this raid, and soon shows unmistakable signs
of severe poisoning, by the appearance of rapidly spreading blotches and
dark spots on his hand and arm. A search is made for whiskey, the best
antidote in such cases. After a while some is found which Lieut. Young
has -saved for an emergency. It is liberally administered, Capt. Smith
is placed on an ambulance, and recovers without serious Injury. But for
that hoarded flask of whiskey, he probably would have died. Moral :
The best use to make of whiskey is to save it — for a medical emergency.

A few days after the 13th left the Pines, Lieut. Durell with a Lieut,
of the 10th N. H. gathered a squad of volunteers from the 10th and 13th
to join their reginients. About half a dozen of the men were of the 13th.
On reaching White House a little previous to July 4th this party was not
allowed by the Provost Marshal to leave that point because of the rebel
guerillas, who would be quite sure to gobble the whole party before they
could reach their regiments at the front. The party therefore went
into camp, a little apart by themselves, and waited until the regiments
returned. While here Lucius Gilmore of the Quarter-master Department
of the 10th conceived the idea of obtaining some whiskey. Wearing
habitually a blouse with staff-officer's buttons and a tall felt hat, he now
assumed his best appearance, took his canteens and proceeded to the com-
missary's tent. Here the guard at once saluted him as a general officer,
and the man in charge of the tent without question filled his canteens
with whiskey, which Gilmore paid for with becoming dignity ; returning
at once to the camp of the party, he supplied the men without stint, and
to the unutterable bamboozlement of half of them.

July 14. Tues. Rainy. Reg. in camp in the Pines. Every man
in the 13th is foot-sore and much used up, by these long, rapid mid-sum-
mer marches, made when we were either scorched by the southern sun,
or stewing in the wet — and almost all the time plunging in the mud.
The showers rarely cool the atmosphere. All of Company E, excepting
two or three men, are sent on picket to-day ; all are more or less lame?
and the Reg. enjoys a hearty laugh as these unhappy men of E limp and
hobble out of camp.

July 15. Wed. Showery. A fearful thunder storm to-night — the
whole camp a glistening lake. Reg. in camp all day, and doing little or
nothing. Inspection of arms and knapsacks ; and of the latter there are
very few to inspect. Col. Corcoran's Irish Legion moved last night to
join the Army of the Potomac ; while we remain members of the 2d Div.
of the 7th Army Corps.


July 16. Thurs. Rainy. Reg. does no work. Dress-parade at
evening. Pay-rolls being made out to June 30th, for two months. Many
of the men will be obliged to pay for small articles needlessly lost while
on the raid. A court martial is organized to straighten out sundry un-
necessary irregularities wliich have occurred in these last three weeks.

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 22 of 81)