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 29 of 81)
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nicknames as characters, and all as ugly. The name applied to them
most is the " boughten men," that is men who have been bought with a
price in money. There are, however, among them some veiy excellent
soldiers, brave, trusty and prompt. *

Feb, 21. Sun. Fair, cold. Usual Sunday duties. Five more com-
missions fall to men of the Thirteenth for positions in colored regiments
— sixteen in all. " Pi-escott returned to Reg. to-day from the small-pox
Hospital." Taggard.

Feb. 22. Mon. Fair, warmer. No drill. Reg. in camp. In ref-


erence to rations it may be well to say that they ai-e issued, in accordance
with the su2)i)ly, for periods ranging from one day to ten days. There is
an immense amount of waste caused by rations spoiling after they are
issued, and before they can be consumed.

Feb. 23. Tues. Fair. fine. Reg. drills forenoon and afternoon.
Asst. Surgeon Morrill goes home on sick leave.

Feb. 24. "Wed. Fair. Company drill forenoon. Battalion drill
afternoon. Dress-parade at sundown.

Feb. 25. Thurs. Fair. Drill all day. Dress-parade at sundown.
A case of small-])ox in Co. F.

Feb. 26. Fri. Very windy, very dusty. Usual drills all day.
George T. Woodward, David E. Proctor, and Charles B. Saunders, all of
B, receive their commissions in colored regiments.

Toward evening a fire, fanned by this hard southwest wind, breaks all
bounds in the slashing, in front of our works, south of the Suffolk main
road in the swamp, and the whole Reg turns out on the double-quick to
put it out. The fire, however, soon gets into the logs, which we have
piled up for a breast-work, to be manned by the 13th in case of a rebel
attack — see Aug. 20, 1863 — and destroys a long stretch of them. After
burning over an area of the slashing more than a mile square — near
to the front and left of Fort Rodman — the fire, roaring terrifically
and unapproachable, suddenly takes a new direction, the wind changing,
and surges over into the standing timber also. The slashing is dense,
heavy, very dry, and the mass of flame is simply tremendous, and in both
the slashing and forest presents a magnificent display as night comes on.
Hunting out the huge bull pines, their sides besmeared with pitch, the
fire leaps in a moment to their very tops, perhaps a hundred feet, and
they become literally pillars of fire.

Feb. 27. Sat. Fair, cold. No drill. Reg. resting — tired from
fighting the fire. Lieut. Thompson of E with about 50 men watched all
last night by the fire in the swamp ; coming into camp about daylight
looking like a gang of coal-heavers, and pretty well used up. They could
accomplish little, however, in the way of checking the blaze. A great
number of unexploded shells, thrown into the timber in the gunner}; prac-
tice, were bursting, all night, providing showers of chunks of iron ; but
one man was hit. however, and he more scared than hurt. The fire origi-
nated near a white trash cabin ; purposely set or not, no one can tell.

Feb. 28. Sun. Very windy. Usual Sunday duties. Many citi-
zens hereabout wish above all things that affairs Avere now the same as
five years ago — sick of secession. Public men. however, do not change ;
one minister in Norfolk preaches too much in favor of secession, and is
sentenced to work as a street-sweeper for three months.

Feb. 29. Mon. Cold, rainy. Reg. mustered for pay by Col. O.
Kuse, Jr., of the 118th N. Y. Fight at Deep Creek — a skirmish. The
118th N. Y., 10th N. H. and a force of cavalry sent down this morning.
We are ordered to be in readiness to move.



On the whole February has been generally a delightful month, so far as
the weather has been concerned. Duties have been light, the men kept
busy without any especially hard work. Our quarters are excepti(|^ially
fine. If any one is sick, he is removed to our finely arranged and ap-
pointed regimental Hospital — built under the immediate supervision of
Surgeon S. A. Richardson — and elegant in point of architecture and con-
venient in plan. If any one is turbulent, he is placed in our log-made
guard-house, a roomy and attractive building, to cool ofF. If any one is
" sad and sorry," he has convenient choice of three fine theatres near by,
one of them also all our own. If any one is religiously inclined, he will
find these theatre buildings well filled by religious meetings assembling on
every Sunday. In fact the camp is a model winter quarters for an army.
There is a great deal of singing in camp — never so much before. Our
regimental Band plays very finely indeed, and serenades are frequent.
Many of the officers' families are in camp, and receptions and riding
parties are fashionable and numerous. We have had a brother of the
actor, Henry C. Barnabee, in the Thirteenth — evidently a chip of the
family block. A concert or a play can be put on the boards at a few hours'
notice, by our numerous village amateurs and glee clubs ; lady visitors in
camp often taking parts. In short our winter camp much resembles a
New England village, just a little over-stocked with men, and the children
away on a visit.

March 1. Tues. Sunshine and showers. Usual drill. A large de-
tail from the Thirteenth works the most of the day repairing the log
breast-works burnt out by the late fire in the swamp. These commence a
little south of Ft. Rodman and the Suffolk road, and continue, across a
very wet place, for half a mile or more. The men, dressed for the work
in old cast-off clothing, retui'n to camp as snmtty as a regiment of charcoal
venders. Ap2)lications are made for the legal voters of the loth and 10th
N. H. to go home to vote at the New Hampshire annual election — a
twelve days' leave being required. The 8th Conn, return to camp here
from Veterans' furlough, having been absent for neaily a month. Half a
dozen Connecticut regiments have visited home this winter, and enjoyed a
grand good time. While the 8th Conn, has been absent, about 200 of its
men, chiefly Subs, have been training in the 10th N. H. It is said that
the 13th barely escaped a similar nuisance. Along the front, rebel guer-
illa parties are numerous and very troublesome. They attacked our
troops at Deep Creek yesterday, capturing a Lieutenant and several men.
The 10th N. H., 9th and 118th N. Y. and the 8th Conn., are under orders
to proceed immediately to that point, and the Thirteenth ordered to keep
in readiness to move at once.

March 2. Wed. -Fair. Usual drill. At Dress-parade this after-
noon the announcement is read that the officers and men named in the
applications of yesterday are granted twelve days' leave of absence —
from the 4th to the 16th of March — to go home and vote, their transpor-
tation free to their homes and return. All are to wear side-arms, and to


be on special duty and under military orders ; that is, the officers are to
take their sword and belt, and the men to take their bayonet and belt,
and are to wear them wherever they go, and when they vote. This is
done because threats have been made in New Hampshire, that the soldiers
should not come home and vote ; though each man is a legal voter in the
town where he goes to vote. The injustice of this threat is scandalous —
characteristic, however, of the copperheads. Lieut. Thompson of E dis-
tinctly remembers the satisfaction he experienced — and notes it here
merely as a common leminiscence with his comrades in other places —
while taking his squad of six men, himself and all ai-med as per order, up
to the polls in Durham, and all voting together the straight Republican
ticket. There was no need of arms in Durham, but men were there in the
town meeting who indulged in threats, and who would have jirevented these
seven soldiers from voting — though all of them were legal voters — if
they had dared to attempt their threatened opposition. The average able-
bodied stay-at-home, army shirk, and copperhead, has no appetite for cold
steel taken endwise. This is noted as a picture of the times. Under the
caption 'Voters.' we will follow this expedition to their homes and return.

March 3. Tliurs. Fair. Cai)t. Stoodley, being the ranking officer
of the Thii'teenth, not joining in this voting expedition, takes command
of the part of the Reg. remaining in camp. Bullets and ballots are now
to shoot at the same target — The Slaveholder's Rebellion.

Voters, 390 officers and men of the Thirteenth and Tenth N. H. Vols,
take cars at 6 p. m., and are delayed until 1.30 a. m. of March 4th, when
we start for New Hampshire. Cheers aiid swinging of hats. Inasmuch
as the enemy is now threatening our front, there is much hesitancy about
sparing these 390 men just now ; and we have been neai-ly all day try-
ing to get out of camp, starting and halting several times. About 4 p. m.,
however, an orderly appears in camp with the welcome order for us to
take cars at once ; and we march to the station amid the cheers of sev-
eral thousand soldiers — and nearly as many of the colored people, who
somehow understand the meaning of our journey.

March 4. Fri. Pleasant. Reg. in camp. No drill. Orders arrive
for the Reg. to be ready to march at a moment's notice. Troops are
being landed at Norfolk and Portsmouth, and hurried forward to the
front near Suffolk ; including also the 23d Mass., a colored battery, and
a regiment of colored cavalry. They are easy and graceful riders ; a
negro sits a horse as if he and the horse were all in one piece.

Voters after a long delay leave Getty's Station at 1.30 a. m. to-day on
cars ; go to Portsmouth, and at 7 a. m. embark on the steamer ' Guide.'
They pass Fortress Monroe at 10 a. m. The sea very smooth.

March 5. Sat. Very pleasant. Reg. in camp, ready for an imme-
diate move. No passes granted to any one to leave camp. About 200
men only of the Thirteenth are now left in camp, and a\ ho are fit for
duty. These are consolidated in two companies, by order of our Brigade
commander. Capt. Betton commands one company, Caj)t. Forbush the

1864 CAMP GILMORE. 239

other ; Capt. Stoodley in command of the Reg. and camp. The Subs
regard this as their opportunity, and give any amount of trouble ; but
are handled with a quick severity that quiets their vicious ardor for a
season. We of New England never before saw such men as these.

March 6. Sun. Pleasant, cool. Reg. in camp. Large bodies of
troops moving past camp towards Suffolk. Four regiments of colored
infantry pass by ; and about 2,000 cavalry with Gen. Judson Kilpatrick
at their head, go forward to the front about noon. This movement
promises an early spring campaign. Heavy skirmishing last night, sev-
eral miles this side of Suffolk, with the advance of Stuart's rebel cavalry.
Gunboats are shelling the woods ; trains loaded with artillery are mov-
ing towards the front. It all reminds us of the siege of Suffolk.

Voters have it a little rough outside. They are due at Boston to-night,
but will not get there — too much bad weather. The Cajjtain of the
' Guide ' is suspected by some of disloyalty. There are two opinions, how-
ever. At any rate we move too slowly, even for the condition of the sea.

March 7. Mon. Fine day. Reg. in camp. The enemy has re-
tired, and our troo])s occupy Suffolk again. As quiet returns our troops
move back toward Norfolk, and to-day are passing our camp continually,
The 23d Mass. return to their camp — - our nearest neighbors. The most
of the men of the 13th left in camp volunteered to go on the picket lines
at the front, during the recent affair with the enemy near Suffolk.

Voters. The ' Guide ' comes to a dead standstill in a dense fog and
heavy rain storm, near Wood's Holl, this morning, and lays at anchor all
day. Out of patience, about 30 officers and men of the Thirteenth — in-
cluding Capt. Julian and the writer — leave the steamer and go on shore
in small boats. There they charter a cranky, schooner-like fishing smack,
and sail to Mattapoisett, after a terribly rough little voyage in Buzzard's
Bay ; and thence go by cars to Boston, arriving early this evening. The
' Guide ' secures a pilot, gets off about 6 p. m., and reaches Boston about
midnight. The Captain of the ' Guide ' is a Democrat, it is said. The fog
is very dense, but the delay exasperating. It is said that some of the
passengers, who remain aboard the steamer, threaten the Captain towards
night, and give him his choice to move at once for Boston, or they will
send him to Davy Jones's locker. He prefers Boston ; and moves as
soon as he can get up steam. A fui'ious northwest wind soon arises and
blows the fog out to sea.

March 8. Tues. Rainy. Reg. all quiet in camp. " In the theatre
built by the Thirteenth, at the minstrel performance, about 10 p. m., one
of our boys is stabbed in the bowels. Asst. Surgeon Sullivan treats the
case in our Hospital."

Voters debark at Boston at one a. m. The ' Guide ' ought to have
reached Boston Sunday night, March 6th. Those who left the ' Guide '
at Wood's Holl, and came up on the train from Mattapoisett, had a quiet
night, last night, with friends, in Boston. All go north on this morning's
trains. Those who go via the Boston & Maine Railroad, strike a wash-


out at New Market, and are further delayed there, for two hours, and
have to walk half a mile or more to reach another train, backed down to
receive them, and the other passengers. Seven voters reach Durham at
11 a. m. and go to the polls, as ordered, wearing their swords, belts and
bayonets — side-arms. Many belonging to the interior towns of the State
lose all opportunity of voting, on account of the delay of the steamer in
Wood's llolh On the whole a hard, close piece of work, only about two
thirds of the whole party having an opportunity to vote. All go to their
homes for about one week's fuilough.

March 9. "Wed. Showery. Our pickets again driven in by the
enemy, and about twenty of our cavalrymen at the front are killed and
wounded. The 2d U. S. Colored Infantry have a severe brush with the
enemy near Suffolk. At 11 p. m. to-night the Thirteenth is called out
suddenly, is at the Station, a quai'ter of a mile from cainp, in twenty
minutes — quick work. Then rides in the cars, over a rickety road at a
breakneck sjjeed to Magnolia Station, and then marches back to Bowers
Hill, about five miles, nearly using up the night. The road very muddy.
The 13th for this trip is commanded by Capt. Stoodley, and is consoli-
dated in five companies of about forty men each, under Captains Farr,
Betton, Forbush and Carter, and Lieut. Staniels, and has 60 rounds of
ammunition per man. The 13th is joined by the 23d Mass., Col. Cham-
bers, and three companies of the 118th N. Y. Companies B and D are
relieved at Fort Tillinghast by a batteiy from the 18th N. Y. Heavy Artil-
lery, and move forward to the front near Bowers Hill.

March 10. Thurs. Showery. Reg. encamped at Bowers Hill,
Companies A, C, E, H, I and K, consolidated in three companies under
Ca])t. Betton, are ordered to the front, and march again to Magnolia
Springs. Last night's expedition was a regular rush, using up the night,
and as there is much heavy cannonading to-day at the front, the troops
are held under arms all day ; equipments on, blankets rolled, canteens
and haversacks filled — all ready for an instant move.

March 11. Fri. Rainy, cold. Capt. Betton's command returns
from Magnolia Springs to Bowers Hill. The rebels have again retired.
Their late action is regarded as a mere feint to cover the departure of
their immense provision and forage trains. They have stripped, robbed
and impoverished a vast extent of their own realm, carrying off every-
thing they could lay their hands upon, that could be of any possible use
to an army. Refugees report it a worst devastation than troops usually
make even in an enemy's country.

March 12. Sat. Fine day. The rebels have withdrawn from the
Suffolk front. The Thirteenth is relieved by the 118th N. Y., and
marches from Bowers Hill to camp down the main Suffolk road, now
wet, muddy, rough and terribly cut up by teams, cavalry and artillery.
"\Ye learn that hereafter a larger force is to be maintained in that most
uneasy place. Bowers Hill, and that we shall not again be called upon to
visit it as guards or pickets.

1864 CAMP GILMORE. 241

March 13. Sun. Clear, windy, dusty. Reg. in camp, and resting
from their hard jaunt up to the front and back. The Subs behaved very
well indeed on this occasion while at the front. Some of them are very
fine soldiers. They are most troublesome in camp. The 23d Mass. with
artillery is left at the front. During this whole breezy little affair the
portion of the Thirteenth left in cam}), in the absence of the voters, is
divided up arbitrarily into little provisional companies.

March 14. Mon. Pleasant. Reg. in camp. Every man held in
readiness for any emergency. President Lincoln calls for 200,000 more
men — this makes 700,000 in six weeks. We are a part of a mighty
army, one of the greatest ever marshaled in the history of the world —
and we could whip the numberless host of Xerxes' barbarians in fifteen
minutes, and before we got within a mile of them.

March 15. Tues. Pleasant. Reg. in camp — enjoying squad drill
by way of diversion. Surgeon Richardson ordered on duty at our Bri-
gade Hdqrs.

Voters leave Concord this morning at 10 o'clock, and go via Law-
rence to Boston, arriving at 2 p. m. Embark on the steamer ' Guide,'
at the foot of State street, in the afternoon — a close connection by many
and some are left behind — and at 4.30 p. m. cast off for the ' sacred
soil ' of the Dismal Swamp in Virginia.

March 16. Wed. Clear, cold. Squad drill. Major Grantman
returns to the Regiment.

Voters have a lively shaking up while weathering the cape and the isl-
and region ; stormy, cold, and the sea rough. '' Lieutenant, hold up,
you swear too much." " No Cap. you misunder-(hic) hear me ; I never
use profane 1 — (hie) liquor." That was what he said, as he walked
the deck straight as a bee line. A drunken man and a drunken ship in
their union of movement constitute absolute steadiness.

March 17. Thurs. Pleasant. Squad drill, amid clouds of dust.

Voters having a quiet trip. The ' Guide ' sails about as swiftly as mo-
lasses runs in winter. A story goes the rounds aboard that a rebel cruiser
knows of our voyage, and is waiting to swoop down upon us from the
high seas, and gobble us all up, or down, as suits his temper best. A
delightful nightmare to sleep with, and some there are, who are not a
little scared by it. However, we pass Fortress Monroe to-night at mid-
night in safety.

March 18. Fri. Pleasant. Squad drill. Laura Keene playing at
Norfolk. Many soldiers attend. The 10th N. H. goes to Great Bridge,
15 miles distant. They are to engage there in picket and scouting duty,
and in fighting guerillas. Asst. Surgeon Morrill reports for duty from
sick-leave, though not fully recovered.

Voters leave Fortress Monroe about noon, debark at Portsmouth, and
arrive in camp at 3 p. m. — two days late. A furlough of fourteen days ;
two splendid ocean voyages ; an enjoyment of the glorious right of suf-
frage ; a lift at the wheels of Government ; and a smart rap on the cop-


perheads' knuckles — all free of cost to us. Quite a number of the
voters are now arrested for absence without leave, when they could in no
way avoid it ; all passes over, however — and we again settle down to
the business of holding the United States together.

March 19. Sat. Pleasant. Reg. is whole again. No drill. Dress-
parade at sundown. And now, in the spring sunshine, the former slave-
boy, having passed into the Union, through yonder picket line and stock-
ade-gate, stands a Freeman ; dons the waiting uniform — yellow, red or
blue — of his choice, becomes a proud Union soldier, and begins to earn
greenbacks ; and glowing resplendent — almost — of color, eyes and
ivory, well blacked shoes and new shining buttons, salutes you with a
jolly " Goo'-mornin' ! " Bless us, how many such a happy one we have
seen in these last few weeks ! "• Out of the Confederacy " — " Into the
Union " means a Avhole new world to them.

March 20. Sun. Pleasant. Reg. in camp ; usual Sunday duties.

Voters who failed to reach the ' Guide ' befoie she left the wharf in
Boston have come straggling into camp, to be promptly put under arrest
for absence without leave, but nothing comes of it. The number is but
small. The absentees must needs be regarded as on duty all the time
until their return to camp. There is no evidence of their endeavoring to
shirk ; and their time is reckoned as ' lost in action.' This is the last item
of a very pleasant little journey undertaken to teach copperheads silence
and subordination.

March 21. Mon. Cold, windy. Company drill. Half a dozen
men and officers tramp to Norfolk, four miles, to serve as witnesses at a
court martial.

" Three officers and 113 men sent to Portsmouth last night to serve on
provost-guard duty." Lieut. Taggard.

" Receive orders at 11 p. m., March 20th, to take charge of one hun-
dred men, to go to Portsmouth and relieve the 4th R. I., now doing pro-
vost-guard duty there. We start at 12 p. m., and relieve the 4tli R. I.
at 1.30 a. m., March 21st." Lieut. Staniels.

March 22. Tues. Severe snow storm with high wind ; nearly
eight inches of snow falls. The guards and pickets have to tramp through
it, two long hours at a stretch. We never saw a worse snow storm in
New Hampshire so late in March. Reg. fortunately in camp. These
snow storms appear to come here in local showers (literally streaks).
Eight inches in depth of snow falls here ; a mile away fifteen inches are
reported, a little farther away, none at all. Companies B, Capt. Dodge,
and D. Capt. Farr, which have been serving as Heavy Artillery and
garrison at Fort Tillinghast since August 1, 1863, to-day rejoin the
Regiment. As Caj^t. Dodge — ' Old Father ' — puts it : " Returned
from exile in Siberia." Capt. Smith, who has been detached on recruit-
ing service at Concord, has been relieved at his own request, and returns
to duty in the Regiment.

This region has many very estimable ladies, and the writer may be

1864 CAMP GTLMORE. 243

pardoned for mentioning one of them, a young lady of perhaps eighteen
years, Miss Edith Baker, daughter of Mr. Savage Baker, residing at
Hall's Corner, a mile or so west of Portsmouth, their home called '• Rose-
dale," a family from Eastern Shore, Md. Inheriting several slaves with
an estate, she promptly gave them their liberty. Finding many children
in the neighborhood of Portsmouth unable to attend the public school —
if there is any — she gathers them into a free private school, and be-
comes their teacher. Many a sick soldier — Union and Confederate alike
— has received aid at her hand ; and in return both citizens and soldiers
grant the family every possible favor.

March 23. Wed. Stormy, clears at night. The wind has blown
a gale for twenty-four hours, upsetting tents and blowing down chimneys.
Reg. in camji. Instead of drill, we have snow-balling. Thousands of
men at it all over camp. Quarter-master Morrison leaves for liome this
morning. The voters on their return are put on duty at once to a man,
and given the worst places, so as to relieve the soldiers and Subs who re-
mained in camp. Capt. Goss returns to the Reg. to-night.

" My chimney smoked last night so that I could not see ; so I took the
fire-bi-ands and threw them out of doors, and went to bed.'' Prkscott.

This was the experience of nearly half the entire camp, the driving-
rain and the water from the melting snow, washing out the mud mortar
of the chimneys and rendering them useless, while the water leaked and
dripped in through every crack and cranny of the huts and tents.

March 24. Thurs. Clear, cold, windy. Reg. in camp. Nothing
doing except repairing quarters injured in the late storm. Too much
snow for drill ; but the fun at snow-balling is enlisting everybody from
drummer-boy to general. Everybody takes a hand, and the soldiers
take sides, all up and down on the camp's main street ; long lines of ac-
tive men, so far as one can see — squads, companies, regiments. No
school-boy play ; but a l)attle to win in dead earnest, with solid shot at
close quartei's.

The Thirteenth is gratified to learn that George H. Taggard, its Com-
missary Sergeant, is to receive a commission as Second Lieutenant in
Company F.

All officers and men return from their visits to the North much im-

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 29 of 81)