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 4 of 81)
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Captains in the Thirteenth are furnished with the wrong rolls in blank,
and after expending many hours of labor upon them, receive correct
blanks, and, with the proverbial cheerfulness of patriotic soldiers, do the
work all over again. The work consists of wa-iting the names of a hun-
dred men, and appending numerous remarks to each name.

Nov. 20. Thurs. Heavy rain-storm. Reg. with the Brigade started
out for a Review, but it is postponed on account of the storm. Chess,
checkers and cards wliile away many a dreary, slow hour in a rainy
camp. Nearly 300 men to-day on the sick list. The three great " cure-
alls " in the army are quinine, mercury and whiskey. Our regimental
Hospital is in an old house formerly occupied by overseers or slave driv-
ers. This has been a cold, wet week, and sickness increases so rapidly
that the Medical Inspector demands the exercise of greater care of the
men, and a shortening of the hours of drill and labor. Dress coats re-
ceived — made of a sort of blue broadcloth.

Nov. 21. Fri. Clearing. Reg. at work on its camp. Cooking
utensils are inspected, and every man is provided with a new tin plate,
tin cup, knife, fork and spoon ; and every Company with its full number
of kettles and cookmg utensils. As a result things look more nicely now
when the men file around to the cook's tent for their boil, roast, hash,
soup, coffee and bread. After drawing their rations the men go, sit
down, and devour them like gentlemen, and hogs. One soldier of the
13th writes home : " When we get home again we will not any more
sit at table to eat, but will seize our grub in our fists, and eat it on tlie
wood pile, or m the back yard — like soldiers."

Gen. Burnside's army is concentrating along Stafford Heights opposite
Fredericksburg. Generals Hooker and Sumner desire to ford the Rap-
pahannock, the bridges having been destroyed and the pontons delayed

1862 CAMP CASEY. 25

in coming. Gen. Burnside regards the attempt too hazardous and refuses
to give his consent. Gen. Lee about Nov. 18th reenforced his small
garrison in and about the city and is now rapidly occupying the heights
beyond. He believes that Gen. Burnside can, and will, cross the river,
and proposes to fight him after he has crossed. Gen. Sumner to-day de-
mands the surrender of the city — Gen. Patrick, Provost Marshal Gen-
eral of the Army of the Potomac, crossing the river under a flag of truce
with the demand — wliich is refused.

Nov. 22. Sat. Fair. Reg. expends a great deal of (wasted) labor
in grading and turni)iking its Company streets. The " bulge-barrel," the
old stubs of brooms, the shovels and an old plantation hoe or two carried
by the police gang in procession all about camp, is one of the pictures of
camp life not to be forgotten. The police gang is composed of men sen-
tenced to clean the camp as a punishment for small misdemeanors. They
almost always behave with the utmost stupidity, mere automatons, never
looking up or exhibiting a spark of intelligence while at work. The
worst labor in the affair is done by the Corporal, and his guard, who must
keep the men at work, whether the camp needs cleaning or not. TJie
" bulge-barrel " has two sticks nailed to the sides, both sticks with long
ends extending so that it may be carried upright by two men.

Nov. 23. Sun. Exceeding cold and raw, wind northwest. Reg.
goes on picket for 48 hours, beyond the earthwork defenses, and about
seven miles from camp, toward the southwest, their position said to be
near Falls Church again. Whole Reg. excepting the sick leaves camp
at 8 a. m. with two days' cooked rations. The First Sergts. now have to
look after the rations, baggage, cooking utensils, etc. This is too much
care. Some of the Companies have a non-commissioned officer and four
or five men, whose especial business it is to see to these matters, detailed
by the First Sergt. and reporting to him. Royal B. Prescott appointed
Hospital Steward ; and receives $30 per month for doing work enough
for two men. He is overworked, and would break down if he had not an
exceedingly strong physique ; his endurance is wonderful.

Nov. 24. Mon. Very cold. " Water freezes solid in more than a
hundred canteens," as the men carry them at their side while on picket.
A body of Union horsemen, coming in from a scout, create a pretty little
scare in the night. One timid youth declares that he can see " three
species of cavalry," and the phrase becomes a by-word. Virginia weather,
and mud, is responsible for nine tenths of the profanity in the army.
One man in the Thirteenth has suddenly given up the use of profane
language ; declaring that " no hard words can possibly do the weather
and mud here any degree of justice, and he is tired of trying."

Nov. 25. Tues. Cold, raw, rainy. The Band again meets the Reg.
a short distance out, and escorts it to camp. Reg. returns from picket
about noon, and is soon set at work upon the camp ; this is too much
labor and exposure after a long march, and the men very tired and wet —
it is abominable cruelty and foolishness. Many men are made sick by
this needless job. There is much hard talk, and mutiny is threatened.


Nov. 26. Wed. Cold. Reg. drilling all day. Capt. Stoodley is
taken down with jaundice, aggravated by the extreme fatigue, exposure
and labor of the last three days, including yesterday's useless work on the
camp. Many more men than usual require medical treatment this morn-
ing. Raised flour bread, from the bakery at Alexandria, sometimes
comes hot to our camj), and welcome.

Nov. 27. Thurs. Thanksgiving Day. Reg. at work until 10 a. m.,
also have a Dress-parade about sundown ; all the rest of the day is ob-
served as a holiday. Many boxes, filled with good things, are received
from home, and the officers and men enjoy themselves generally. Somo
of the men have no home, nor friends, to receive boxes from, and those
more fortunate share with them liberally. Capt. Julian entertains, roy-
ally, Capt. Rollins, and friends, of the 2d N. H. V., now on their way to
Washington from the front.

Nov. 28. Fri. Warm. Reg. driUing, and at work on camp. The
stragglers' camp is about one mile distant, of men unfit for duty, but not
sick enough for hospital treatment : " Like a dress too clean to wash, but
too dirty to wear," as one soldier of the 13th wTites. Another writes :
" Many men are sick with fowlness of the stomach."

Nov. 29. Sat. Reg. drilling. The most intelligent men give the
least trouble. As one soldier puts it, Sergt. Batchellor of D. '• The grum-
blers in the army are chiefly those who never see the inside of a book
or of a paper."

Down at Fredericksburg Gen. Lee, his army 80,000 strong, is en-
trenching on " Marye's Heights," and along the Rappahannock, undis-
turbed ; and Gen. Burnside jirepares unwillingly to cross the river. A
battle is to be fought because of political necessity, and after various de-
lays have stolen away the promise of success. " Public feeling demands
a movement ; " and the public that entertains that feeling has not enlisted.

Nov. 30. Sun. Pleasant. Orders are received to be ready to
march to-morrow at noon ; in heavy marching order, with shelter tents,
and two days' cooked rations in haversacks, and five in teams. All is
now bustle and hurry. There are tents after tents as far as the eye can
see in any direction ; the whole camp, thousands of men, are like oui"^
selves, preparing to move. Many of our men are still very sick. Capt.
Stoodley, and several other members of the Regiment are dangerously
ill. They are to be sent to Washington. There is a sudden weeding
out, and several men are discharged the service. The first, and new,
shelter tents issued to the Reg. There is no Sunday in the army. Col.
Dexter R. Wright's 1st Brigade of Casey's Division, for the march to-
morrow, consists of the 15th Conn., 13th N. H., 12th R. L, 25th and 27th
N. J. Regts. We march under sealed orders, and take 100 rounds of ball
cartridge per man. The men have been expecting to remain here during
the winter, have taken much pains to fit up their quarters, and have been
at no little expense besides, and do not at all relish a move ; " all their
fixings and expense to be left here free gratis for nothing," as they put

1862 CAMP CASEY. 27

it, for the benefit of some one else to them unknown. On the other
hand they are very desirous to take a strong hand in 2)utting an end to
the war, and their patriotism and devotion to the cause of the Union out-
weigh all other considerations. The camp resounds to-night with hymns
and patriotic songs. Notwithstanding the fact that the Thirteenth are
raw troops, and have been put into rough military service at once as if
they were hardened veterans, and allowed little rest for many weeks, still
in the main they have borne and endured their labors and exposures
cheerfully and admirably ; relieving it all by the sjwrt, play and merry-
making common to a camp of young men and boys.

Some person of genius invented a steel vest warranted proof against
minie bullets at short range. Hundreds of officers and soldiers have pur-
chased them and worn them until reaching the front, and a few days
longer ; but generally with the result indicated by the following remark
made in a letter by a member of the Thirteenth : '' The soldiers, both
of our own regiment and of others, throw away their steel vests, and one
can pick up any quantity of them about the camp — too heavy to carry."


Dec. 1. Mon. A warmish day of drizzling rain. The Thirteenth
breaks camp at 12 noon, gets fairly in line about 2 p. m., and with the
First Brigade marches to Washington over the Long Bridge, and on be-
yond the Capitol, across the Eastern Branch of the Potomac into Mary-
land, and bivouacs about 7 p. m. in a field near the village of Uniontown, six
miles below Washington, after a march of about fifteen miles from Fairfax
Seminary. Many who attempt to march are so sick that they have to
give up their arms and baggage to the teams, and follow as best they
may, and others weaker still halt along the way.

The writer and three or four other men give up their arms and knap-
sacks on Long Bridge. On reaching Capitol Hill in Washington about
6 -p. m. they are obliged to stop, from sheer exhaustion. They sit down
and lean against the trees and fences, feeling forlorn enough, and are
taken up by the ambulance about 9 p. m. All of us have been sick for a
number of weeks, and as it happened all had been offered their discharge
from the service that very morning, and had refused to accept it ; and the
ambulance is turned into a debating hall, the question being whether to go
ahead or to give up. But the " Ayes " have it, and we decide to go ahead.
The writer and one other man were of the Thirteenth, the rest were from
other regiments; and one was a pale, thin, but j^lucky little stripling ap-
parently not eighteen years of age. On reaching the camp the writer is
invited to turn in, under a large tent, with the non-commissioned staff of
the 13th — the tent crowded full. During the night his bedfellows, being
too warm, throw off their blankets upon him, and when he wakes in the
morning he is in a proper condition to be run through a wringing ma-
chine. But the sweating does more effective service against the chills
than a peck of quinine.


The Regiment marches under many disadvantages. Teams are not to
be had in sufficient numbers, many stores purchased with the hospital
fund, and much needed, have to be left behind, and the men have only
what they can carry with them upon their persons. The sick in Hospital
and a number of half sick men belonging to the Thirteenth, and to the
rest of the First Brigade, 283 in number, are left behind at Camp Casey
in charge of Dr. Twitchell and Quarter-master Cheney, the latter having
chai'ge of the property of the Brigade which is left behind.

Dec. 2. Tues. Very fine day. Reg. continues its march at 8 a. m.,
dow'n into Maryhmd. At Surgeon's call a number of sick men are sent
back to Washington. The writer, and others of the sick, who can go
ahead, are allowed to march as they please, and wliere they please ; only
required, if possible, to keep with the brigade. Our Brigade bivouacs
at 6 p. m. on the south side of a large hill, four tliousand men on a few
acres, and very much crowded together. Distance to-day fifteen miles.
We are one mile from Piscataway. The roads are magnificent, the coun-
try rich, with pigs, chickens, and other small ' fruits ' in plenty.

Dec. 3. Wed. Pleasant, cool. Reg. marches at 10 a. m. and
passes Piscataway. We pass Ft. Washington (or Foote) and the men
strain their eyes to catch a glimpse of Mount Vernon, said to be in view.
The men are heavily loaded with guns, knapsacks, blankets, rations,
cooking utensils, shelter tents, and a multitude of things which more ex-
perienced soldiers never carry — a heavy marching order indeed. Off they
go, however, this morning, half the Thirteenth and as many more men
from the 12th Rhode Island, in a wild chase after a large lot of pigs,
lambs, hens, turkeys, etc., and they do not come empty away. We have
a rush to-day with the 12th R. I. and 89th N. Y. Regts. They were in
rear of the loth yesterday, and pressed us hard, calling us the " New
Hampshire babies," and other petty names. To-day we get in their
rear, and march straight through the most of them, pushing them as hard
as we can, and taking advantage of all their short halts to rush on past
them, and leave them straggling all along the roadside. Distance to-day
called twenty miles. We encamp to-night about 5 p. m. in an oak grove,
six miles northerly of Port Tobacco. Several men have an excellent din-
ner at a farmhouse for six cents each. The host remarking, when they
paid their scot: " 'Boutther cost on 't, er'ekn."

Dec. 4. Thurs. Very fine day. Reg. marches about 9.30 a. m.
Our camp last night was a pell-mell huddle, as usual. Plenty of wood,
and rail fences feed a thousand fires. An army encamped at night is
a fine spectacle. The 13th were close on the roadside, and until very
late at night sti*agglers kept coming in ; and when any one inquired for
the camp of the 12th R. I. or of the 89th N. Y. they were invariably
directed wrong — a touch of soldier's fun. Many of the men this morn-
ing practice with their rifles on the numerous gray squirrels in the grove.
A man of Co. E brings down two from the top of one of the tallest trees.
To-day we march about twelve miles, and encamp at 5 p. m. at a place


called Cedar Hill on Robert Ferguson's farm ; but on abominable
ground, low, wet and muddy, six miles west of Port Tobacco, which
tumble-down j^bice we passed about noon. The citizens are not all
friendly, if any are. The writer and Lieut. Carter went a little out of
the way, to-day, at Port Tobacco, to see the town, and interview a few
of the natives whom we saw lounging about. They were so uncomfort-
able and surly, however, we left them to their meditations.

About midforenoon, the writer, Lieut. Carter, and several men struck
across a field to avoid marching around a bend in the road, and as we
came out near a house by the roadside, and ahead of the Brigade — a
house that we had no notion of approaching, excepting as the path we
followed led close by it — two bullets whistled past our heads, and
struck the house with a loud noise. Turning quickly we saw, on a hill,
some five or six hundred yards distant, three men with guns, and
with them two or three women. The house was closed, and the fool-
ish inmates had retreated to the field. We passed on without receiving
any more of their cowardly compliments, while a squad of cavalry was
seen taking them in hand.

Dec. 5. Fri. Morning cold and cloudy. Reg. marches at 8 a. m.
Shelter tents have been scarcely unrolled during the very pleasant
weather we have had since we left Camp Casey. The boys have in-
dulged in any amount of fun ; and many a camp song, and especially
My Maryland, afterwards had this refrain :

" how the pig's and chickens suffered ;
When we marched — down — thar ! "

Tobacco too, tons of it, hanging in the barns to dry, is made use of lib-
erally, " for fear it may spoil." Little or no wanton mischief has been
done. The soldiers care for little besides something nice and fresh to
eat, and they obtain at farmhouses a great many things by purchase.
But there is one black sheep, at least, in every flock. To-day, however,
ends all the enjoyment to be had in our march through Maryland. Half
the route has been through forests of pine and oak ; and " Maryland,
my Maryland," has been sung a thousand times, making the woods ring,
and ring again. Five or ten thousand soldiers singing together yield a
tremendous volume of sound. The whole body on this march numbers
about fifteen thousand men. At 11 a. m. a severe storm of rain sets in,
and under the tramp of the soldiers' feet, the clayey roads soon become a
succession of hillocks and quagmires. A number of men are badly
ruptured by slipping on the wet ground. At 2 p. m. the Reg. is halted,
in a grove, about two miles from Liverpool Point, " Blue Bank," and
preparations are made for the night. Soon after the Reg. is halted,
the rain turns to snow. The shelter tents afford but little protection
against the driving storm. All the neighboring barns, stables, houses,
etc., are turned into temporary barracks.

Albion J. Jenness, Company E, 13th, writes home, grimly, of to-day :


" "We went into the woods to camp, on the afternoon of Dec. 5th, and built
large fires ; beside which we soon got dry — as it began to snow instead
of rain." Another writes : " The rain commenced in the morning of
Friday, rained until 2 p. m., then turned to snow, and near morning of
Saturday cleared very cold."

The writer, and about a dozen other half-sick men, not daring to
sleep in tents, after tlie Reg. encamps push on through the snow a mile

or two, and liire lodgings at the house of Mr. Childs, near the bank

of the Potomac, and enjoy an excellent supper, night's rest, and breakfast
in the huge kitchen, where a great, roaring fire is kept burning all night
on the ample hearth. There had been trouble here during the day, Dec.
5th, between Mr. Childs's family and some soldiers of a New Jersey
Regiment — they of the white leggings, they said — and we mount guard
over the family and premises all night. The most the guard has to do,
however, is to keep the fire burning, for which purpose one man of the
party is awake, a fire guard, gun in hand, and with a bayonet for poker.
The night is very cold. The trouble of the day came of a dispute be-
tween the " bummers " from the N, J. Regt. and Miss Childs. As near
as we could learn, they attempted to burglarize the house, or something
of the sort, when Miss Childs, a spare, tall, lithe, spirited lady of per-
haps eighteen summers, seized a shot gun and fired upon them. They
caught her and took away the gun. There was a fierce struggle, in
which nearly all her clothing was torn off, leaving scarcely anything
upon her but her dress waist, stockings and slippers. She broke away,
and in this light running costume, ran through the snow, rain and freez-
ing air half a mile to a neighbor's house ; some of the bummers following
and trying to catch her, but they could as easily have run down a deer.
She escaped with no further harm than a few slight scratches and bruises.
This occurred but a few hours before we reached the house. The bum-
mers, smarting with the well deserved dose of small shot from the young
lady's gun, had threatened to return, and Mr. Childs, when we arrived,
was preparing to set out for Hdqrs. to procure a guard. We could serve
as well, having ten guns, and ammunition for them, and he accepted our
offer to protect the house. On the morning of Dec. 6th, we are let off
scot free, with the blessing of Mr. and Miss Childs. She is remarkably
pretty, and beauty lends a special grace to any young lady's blessing.
The cook was set at work early, and each man of our party, on leaving
the house to rejoin the Reg., now waiting down on the river bank to
cross, is presented by Miss Childs with a fine large " hoe cake," cooked
in Virginia's best style, with : " Here, please take these, and may God
bless you." The family were not Secessionists.

At one house where we applied for lodgings, we saw a few young
slaves, two of them girls twelve or fifteen years old, sweejjing snow off the
piazza and steps. They had on scarcely clothing enough to cover their
nakedness, and were barefooted. We remonstrated with the man of the
house in reference to such treatment. He said : " It did n't hurt 'um


any, they had n't got their winter clo'se yit, he wiir n't treaten 'um hard ;
and besides, he loved them as well as he did his own children." They
were light mulattoes — and we told him we believed all he said, and
passed on.

" Hosp. Steward Prescott, Charles W. Green of B, Henry Howard of
E, Manson S. Brown of C, and Robert Rand of K, also went to a farm-
house about dark and procured lodgings. The farmer had six very fat hogs,
in a pen a little distance from the house, besides other stealable property
near by, and wanted a guard. The party were received by the farmer,
who dragged in feather beds and sjjread them upon the floor of his best
room, and built a large fire, for his lodgers. They wanted him to drive
his hogs up nearer to the house, but he said they were too fat to drive,
and they were left in the pen where they were. The lodgers were to
stand guard for two hours each, during the night, upon the piazza of the
house, having the pen in view. All went well until Green came on at
the third watch. He stood for a while, when utterly overcome by weari-
ness he laid aside his gun, came in, threw himself upon the feather bed,
and soon was sound asleep. Very early in the morning the whole party
were roused by a furious storm of profanity in an adjoining room. It
was from the farmer. While the guard slept the wearers of the white
leggings had rapped every hog on the head, and carried them all off ;
not a stpxeal or a bristle left." Prescott.

Dec. 6. Sat. Very cold. Six inches of snow on a level. Army
shoes are poor things excepting upon dry ground. The snow partly dis-
appears in a i)lenty of mud made by yesterday's rain. The ground being
but little frozen, the slushy mixture is knee deep, and scolded about
enough, as it fills up, or pulls off, the men's shoes. The Reg. marches
at 10 a. m., plunging through the snow and mud, and reaches the Poto-
mac, at Liverpool Point, at 11.30 a. m.. after a march of about two miles.
Here we have to stand in the slush, exposed to a strong down-river wind,
the cold increasing all the while, until near sunset, nearly seven hours,
waiting for transportation. Only one regiment can cross at a time, and
we are the fourth one in our Brigade to go on board. We go on board
the steamer about 6 p. m. Here on the boat we are packed and crammed
for over two hours ; some are almost roasted, and others, exposed to the
sharp north wind, are neax'ly frozen, while crossing the river, a distance
of about five miles. The wind grows very severe, and the temjierature
falls below zero. We debark at Aquia Creek at 8.30 p. m., stand about
on the wharf a while, with no protection from either wind or cold, then
march about two miles inland, and bivouac at 10 p. m. just below the
railroad on a rough hillside falling to a ravine, among some fallen timber,
and in six inches of snow. A part of the Reg. crowd into some old rebel
barracks with the roofs off. The Reg. is not fairly settled before mid-
night. It is a clear, starry, moonlit night, and exceeding cold. The
field and staff officers of the Reg. have neither tents nor blankets, mess-
chest nor eatables ; all these having been left across the Potomac to follow


in the nest steamer, wliich is late, and cannot land on account of the ice.
Some of the field and line officers '' bunk down " with the men, who
have shelter tents, while others tramjj, thrash their hands, whistle and
scold around the fires all night long. This is the toughest bivouac the
Thirteenth ever experiences in all its history.

Just as the 13th approaches the wharf to cross the river, a black boy,
about 20 years old, apj^ears and wants to cross to Virginia, and so escape
from slavery. He is provided with a suit of Uncle Sam's army uniform,

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 4 of 81)