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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Color-Corjjoral Charles Powell (of K), and no other flags of the Union
army were planted on this Battery at all. When the five cannon — one
iron gun and four 12 lb. brass guns — captured here were drawn together
and turned looking towards Petersburg from the high brow of this bold
hill, and the Flags of the Thirteenth were set waving above them, the
scene was a hapjjy hour for cheers — three times three and a tiger.

" The prisoners, 125 or more of them, captured with Battery Five were
placed in charge of Sergeant James R. Morrison of K, who marched
them to the rear ; meanwhile Corporal John H. Mawby of K, Avho had
served in the U. S. Navy, with the assistance of other men turned some
of the captui'ed guns, which were double-shotted, and fired a couple of
rounds at the fleeing rebels who had escaped the general capture."

Capt. Betton.

The Thirteenth had on the morning of June 15th, present for duty,
fifteen officers and one hundred and eighty-nine men ; the night report
gives four officers wounded, four men killed, thirty-eight wounded and
three missing.

Capt. E. E. Dodge is wounded in the leg just above the knee, the bone
badly broken, just before reaching the Battery ; Lieut. Charles B. Gafney
in the thigh, and Adjutant Nathan B. Boutwell in the shoulder, when in
front of and near the Battery ; and Lieut. S. Millett Thompson in the
left ankle — a round ounce-bullet going sti'aight through it — while he
was moving the flankers to the front and right during the preliminary
movements in the charge. All these wounds are sevei-e, and caused by
round bullets.

The wounded officers and men of the Thirteenth are taken back to the
house, buildings and grounds of Mr. Thomas Rushmore, near the Appo-
mattox river, a little over a mile northward from the battle-field. His
whole establishment is turned into a hospital. An old piano found about
the premises, after having the legs sawed off, is used as an operating
table for our Asst. Surgeon Sullivan ; and the above named wounded
officers and the wounded men ai-e placed on it — while he skillfully plays
the instrument ! After having their wounds dressed, the officers and
several of the men of the Thirteenth pass the night in Mr. Rushmore's
house ; lying side by side, heads to the north, on the floor along the north
side of the room to the left of the front entrance to the house.

Mr. Rushmore and his little son, ten years old, were seized by the reb-
els a day or two before the battle and imprisoned in Petersburg. His
life was threatened, and Mrs. Rushmore and her two daughters were
plunged in the depths of worry, fear and despair, never expecting to see
father, son and brother again. Mr. Rushmore was from New York city.
Mrs. Rushmore and her two daughters — Augusta aged about thirteen or
fourteen years, and Virginia aged about ten or eleven years — are up all
night caring unceasingly for the wounded — the sweet humanity of it I
Tliey tear up all suitable cloth in the house, even to sheets and under-


clothing, into bandages ; and bring milk, coffee and food without stint so
long as there is any left to bring. Through the day, and as late as she
can see to-night, little Virginia has been all about, up on the field and
everywhere, all regardless of flying shells and bullets, carrying a little tin
pail and cup and giving water to the wounded and dying ; occasionally
sitting down and crying bitterly for her little brother, who, as she sup-
posed, had been killed.

The writer fainted from loss of blood at the edge of the woods just on
reaching Mr. Rushmore's field, and while being carried back from the
battle-field, and had been left lying upon the grass in front of and near
Mr. Rushmore's house. The first thing he recalls after leaving these
woods — having a long time previously heard the tremendous Northern
cheering at the capture of Battery Five — was this little Virginia Rush-
more trying to rouse him, and then giving him a draught of nice cold
water. This could not have been far from nine o'clock in the evening.

Mrs. Rushmore had charge of the house and a few servants, and Au-
gusta brought to the officers of the Thirteenth a good supper, and next
morning a breakfast ; and when the ambulance took them away on the
morning of the 16th, she appeared with two or three quarts of rij^e cher-
ries and handed them up to the officers of the Thirteenth, who soon rode
away eating them ; and hardly anything could be more refreshing to these
suffering men than were those cherries. ' Ambulance Brown,' who was
driving, offered some of these cherries to the wounded rebel officer men-
tioned below, who a little later was placed on the ambulance, but he ut-
terly refused to even so much as look at them. His manners were not
those of a hero.

The general movement of to-day is made in this manner : Kautz's
cavalry, about 2,400 strong, though not all on this line, precede the Union
forces, meeting the enemy's vedettes about 6 a. m, and forcing them back
until they came upon a considerable body of the enemy entrenched, about
two miles out from Broadway landing, near the City Point Railroad, in
an open field on Baylor's farm, and having with them two guns ; when
Kautz moves to the left, and Hinks' colored division of infantry, which
has been following Kautz, moves up, assaults the enemy, and captures
one gun and several prisoners, losing about 70 men of the 5th and 22d
U. S. colored regiments.^ This delays the advance until 9 a. m. Hinks
now moves to the left, and Brooks' division, in which we are, which has
been following Hinks, on the Jordan's Point road, moves up and crosses
the ground just charged over and captured by Hinks, passing among his
dead and wounded, and into heavy timber beyond, and near the City
Point road. Martindale is advancing on the right along the Appomattox.

^ A negro suffers much less when wounded than a white man ; of a lower or less pro-
nounced nervous organization, the wound gives him a less exhaustive shock. To-
day the writer saw many negroes moving back with bullet holes in various parts of
them, and of such a character as would inevitably have sent a white man upon a
stretcher. The negroes walking back using their guns for canes or crutches, and
cheerily saying they were not much hurt.


The advance is now made all along the line, through the woods and
slashing, driving back the enemy from tree to tree, from stump to stump,
until near mid-afternoon, when the skirmishers can advance no farther
except by going into open ground. Meanwhile Gen. Brooks' division
has moved up and massed near his guns. There now lies directly in
front of, and in plain sight of, the Thirteenth, a line of fortifications ;
" Forming a salient covered by a powerful pi'ofiled work, heavily flanked
with earth-works and rifle-trenches en echelon." These lines are de-
fended by Wise's Legion, and by citizen militia, home guards, etc. A
charge is decided upon at 5 p. m. by Gen. Smith ; and " towards 7 p. m."
Gen. Brooks captures these works on the salient with skirmishers. The
enemy's lines here being in our hands by 7 p. m.

The foregoing account was written in the main, before the writer's
visit to the field, with Lt. Col. Smith, in May 1885.

To find Battery Five, and our positions in the summer of 1864 : Follow
the City Point Railroad out from Petersburg, northeast, for about two
and one half miles, and we come to a range of bluffs running from near
the Appomattox river, southward. On the first bluff we come to, and on
the right hand side of the railroad, south, and around which the railroad
bends to the north, is Battery Five, mounted high on the very steep bluff,
a few yards only from the railroad, and between the railroad and Mr.
Charles Friend's house. Battery Five is in the outer line of the oldest
Confederate defenses of Petersburg, is the fifth Battery south of the
river, while south of it in the next three miles the numbers run up to
twenty or more. After this line was broken, on the evening of June 15th,
the Confederates retired, on the night of June 17th, to an inner line situ-
ated about one mile nearer Petersburg, and running south from the river
about two and a half miles to Fort Mahone, then sweeping westward.

Battery Five faces almost due east — the north face 50 yards long,
the east face, the front, 100 yards, the south face 50 yards, straight, then
curves inward along the edge of the bluff some 25 yards further ; is
nearly square with the west side, or rear, open towards Petersburg. The
parapet is very bold and high, and the work is protected by a ravine fall-
ing 30 to 40 feet on the east and north sides. Due east from the Bat-
tery, across a wide, clear field, is a line of woods about 700 yards distant;
and about half way between the woods and the Battery was a line of
Confederate rifle-trenches (since leveled) running clear across the field
right and left, north and south. The color of the thrown up subsoil
marks their position.

Now cross this field due east to the line of woods, turn and face west
towards Battery Five. The 13th lay in these woods, stretched out in a
long line as skirmishers, on the afternoon of June 15th facing west. Lt.
Col. Smith — then Captain of Company H, and commanding that Com-
pany, the third from the right of the Reg. — started in the charge from
a point (recognized) a little north of east from the centre of the Battery.
Lieut. Thompson of E, having with him about 40 men of the 13th acting



as flankers on the left of the Reg., started in the charge from a pomt
(recognized) a little south of east ; so that the general direction of the
charge of the 13th on Battery Five was almost due west, striking the east
front of the Battery, the Reg. naturally narrowing front as they came up,
and enveloping the Battery as they captured it. The most of the Reg.
who entered the Battery mounted the east and north parapets, which
were least exposed to a flanking rebel fire.

West from Battery Five, towards Petersburg, lies a generally flat strip
of land, wide and cut here and there by ravines draining northward into
the Appomattox river. To the right, northward, is Mr. Beasley's house
in a broad field running to near the Battery ; this field was full of grow-
ing corn. Mr. Thomas Rushmore's house — where Dodge, Boutwell,
Gafney, Thompson and others were taken, and spent the night of June
15th — is about one and one half miles northward of the Battery. Mr.
Charles Friend's house stands about one quarter of a mile south — to the
left — of the Battery; this house became Gen. W. F. Smith's Hdqrs.
after the Union line was established.

After the Battery was captured, the Thirteeth were moved to the left
and stationed for that night's bivouac on the steep, high bluff-side near
and just west of Mr. Charles Friend's house. Their position here — on
a steep slope some 40 or 50 feet high, and falling toward the enemy and
Petersburg — was directly between Mr. Friend's house and a building on
the flat ground in front, and about 500 or 600 yards distant. This build-
ing and the vicinity of it, was held by the Confederates, who kept up an
annoying fire the next day. The 10th N. H. made a most gallant charge
upon them, dislodging them and capturing a number. It was in this
movement of June 16th that Capt. James Madden of the 10th was killed.

The next position of the 13th on the line, as we shah see under date of
June 21st, was nearly a mile nearer Petersburg, north of the railroad,
and in the first ravine crossed by the first bridge on the railroad west-
ward from Battery Five, confronting the enemy's new line of defensive
earth-works. To return to the narrative of the day :

During the charge Sergt. George B. Kimball of H got within ten feet
of the Confederate rifle-trenches in the middle of the field, and saw a gun
being aimed at him by a Confederate soldier, when he instantly raised his
own gun and demanded a surrender — and Johnny surrendered like a
sensible little man.

Capt. Smith of H during the charge receives a bullet through his
blouse pocket, smashing a small vial containing extract of ginger, and
cutting ten holes in his folded pocket handkerchief — doing him no harm.
Capt. Smith puts it well when he writes : " Two companies of the 117th
N. Y. were added to the skirmish line ; they took charge of the prisoners
we captured in the ' French rifle-pits', and escorted them to the rear —
coolly claiming the credit of their capture. Meanwhile the 13th captured
Battery Five ; the 117th N. Y. took charge of some of the prisoners cap-
tured there also — but the Battery they could not take to the rear."


A story went the rounds after the charge, that Capt. Clark, Gen. Burn-
ham's Adjt. General was asked why the assaulting column, then just going
in, was made no stronger, and he replied : "■ There are already men
enough in that column to be slaughtered."

Capt. Follett, Chief of Artillery of the 18th Corps, states that the
charge was the most splendid sight he ever saw, and he thought it one
of the greatest feats of the war.

It is said that the Confederate Chief of Artillery remarked when the
Battery was captured : " I expected you to mass your force and advance,
and had got the grape ready to cut you to pieces ; but the idea of a
skirmish line advancing upon forts never entered our heads."

The following is added as incidental : The writer was shot after hav-
ing received the order to charge, and after leaving the slashing ; and as
soon as he was struclv he went upon his hands and knees for a couple
of rods or that matter first to the protection of the large stumps, and
then still farther back among the slashing where his boot was pulled off
and about a tumbler full of blood poured out of it, and a handkerchief
was twisted around the ankle to stop further bleeding. The Thirteenth
meanwhile shouting and rushing upon Battery Five.

A short time after he was shot, he was being carried — sitting on a
musket borne by John Riley a recruit of E, a splendid soldier in every
respect, and another man — deeper into the woods for protection from


A. Road from City Point to Petersburg.

B. Railroad cutting bluff and ravine C C, and crossing Harrison Creek

D, by the first iron bridge, about three fourths of a mile west of
Battery Five. The creek runs north into the Appomattox.
3, 4, 5, G, 7. Rebel Batteries, so numbered, in a circuit of nearly two
miles. Number 5 is on the end of a steeji bluff.

E. Face of long steep bluff looking towards Petersburg.

F. Mr. Cliarles Friend's house. G. Mr. Jordan's house.

M. Point near where Cajit. James Madden of the 10th N. H. was

L. Negro troops in the slashing an eighth of a mile to the left of the
loth. A line of their skirmishers were at some distance to their
front among the trees of an orchard, engaging the rebel skir-
mishers posted in and in the vicinity of Mr. Friend's and Jor-
dan's houses.

H. Thirteenth deployed as skirmishers near the edge of the brush and
slashing I, with flankers thrown out to the left and rear ; the
centre of the Reg. in front of the centre of Battery Five, and
awaiting the order to charge.

K. * French rifle-pits ' running across the field north and south about
half way between the slashing and the Battery. The distances
are given in yards.


From a sketch maiie by the writer iu May 1S85.


the rebel shells and bullets now flying furiously, when he comes upon a
man of the Tliirteenth standing close — as the bark — to a small pine-
tree. He orders the man to join the Regiment. The man replies that
he is sunstruck (!), but moves on. He has not moved six feet from the
tree, when a rebel percussion shell strikes it at about the height of the
man's shoulders, bursts, tears a portion of the tree into splinters and the
top comes down with a crash, while the pieces of the shell and tree fly
forward and all of us move away as quickly as possible — a close shave
for the whole party. The man's eyes stick out and dilate with fright till
they ' appear as large as saucers,' and he moves on toward the front,
dodging bullets, steering clear of trees, and looking back over his shoul-
der at Riley, who tlireatens to shoot him, laughs at his fright and shouts
at him a stream of Irish and English expletives, and observations un-
complimentary. Riley appears to have kissed the ' Blarney Stone ' on
both sides. After the man is well away towards the front, Riley turns
to the writer remarking : " He is the only man of the Thirteenth whom
I have seen shirking to-day."

Up to this time the shouting and firing of the charge had continued
incessantly ; and immediately after this affair of the man and the shell
and tree we hear the burst of tremendous cheering at the caj^ture of Bat-
tery Five. We proceed through the woods, and after seeing the open
field and Mr. Rushmore's house the writer remembers nothing further
for an hour or two, as previously mentioned. Riley and his companion
were now not to be seen, and had probably returned to the front.

The following extracts from Capt. Smith's letters, written from the front
a day or two after the battle, clearly state the main facts : " We crossed
the Appomattox about 2 a. m. June 15th. Gen. Hinks captured one gun
on Baylor's farm ; his negro troops walking off with bullet holes in them
after their charge. The Thirteenth was deployed as skirmishers about 10
a. m., advanced upon the left side of the City Point road, and went for-
ward into the slashing cut about eighteen months ago. Here the Con-
federate commander of Battery Five could be heard by the Regiment
giving his orders : ' Load — Fire ! ' Before we charged eighteen pieces
of Union artillery opened on Battery Five, and the two Batteries to the
left of it. The Thirteenth charged about 6.30 p. m., as skirmishers five
paces apart. Capt. Julian was the first man to enter Battery Five. We
captured a part of the 28th Virginia Regiment, five guns and ammunition,
and turned the guns on the flying enemy. No men were ever so wild as
ours were after the capture ; and pretty soon three lines of our troops
came up, out of the woods, and gave three cheers for the Tliirteenth New
Hampshire Regiment." Capt. Normand Smith.

The whole skirmish line num)>ered about fifteen hundred men, the
Thirteenth in front of Battery Five, and stretching wide to right and left
of it. The 18th Corps captured, in all for the day, 18 pieces of artillery,
and about 700 prisoners. Gen. Burnham, of course, reported for his own
brigade only, in giving his number of prisoners and guns. The excite-


ment in Petersburg was most intense. The enemy fired to-day round
bullets and buckshot.

Gen. Grant, in his Memoirs, Vol. II. page 295, does the white troops
an unintentional injustice, probably following some item of serious misin-
formation, when he states : " Smith assaulted with the colored troops ; "
as if it was the colored troops alone which made the evening assault as
skirmishers. The morning assault at 9-10 a. m., upon an out-work on
Baylor's farm, when one gun was captured, was made by Gen. Hinks'
colored troops ; but the evening assault, made about 6.30 or 7 p. m.,
when the long line of the enemy's works, including Battery Five was cap-
tured, with guns and many prisoners, was made by the Thirteenth New
Hampshire with other white troops ; after which Martindale on the
right and Hinks on the left followed up the advantage gained. Gen.
Humphreys states that the Petersburg defenses, before our charge, con-
sisted of a line, encircling the city and about two miles from it, of strong
redans or batteries, connected by infantry parapets with high profiles, and
all with ditches. Gen. Brooks' division moved up along the City Point
wagon-road, and advanced to the charge about 7 p. m., after which came
the work of Generals Martindale and Hinks ; their action also brilliant
and successful. The advance was a march of six or seven miles. Gen.
Lee, to-day and to-night, is rapidly crossing the James river at Drury's
Bluff, 18 miles from Petersburg, and coming down with all dispatch. He
adds, page 207, that the force of the enemy in their entrenchments here
at this time, besides the artillery, consisted of Wise's brigade, 2,400
strong, the militia, and Dearing's brigade of cavalry.

He further states, page 208, in reference to the colored troops under
Gen. Hinks — making the account of the Thirteenth clear, and correct-
ing the error made in Gen. Grant's Memoirs : " About seven o'clock the
skirmishers (of Brooks' division) advanced, and the artillery opened
upon the salient — Redans 5 and 6 — which made no reply. The skir-
mishers met a sharp infantry fire, but carried the works, taking between
200 and 300 prisoners and four (five) guns. The lines of battle followed
and occupied the entrenchments. Gen. Brooks was formed to resist an
attack, while Gen. INIartindale on the right, and Gen. Hinks on the left,
were following up the advantage gained. Five of the redans on the left,
from No. 7 to 11 both inclusive, were captured by Hinks' division, the
last. No. 11, at the Dunn house about nine o'clock in the evening."

It will be seen, therefore, that the colored troops followed the white
troops in the evening's work ; the white skirmishers first breaking the
enemy's line at and near Batteries Five and Six. Battery Five was the
first to fall, captured, with its five guns, its garrison, and other Confeder-
ate troops who had taken refuge in it from the rifle-pits previously taken,
all by the Thirteenth New Hampshire Regiment.

The writer must here — and most reluctantly, for he desired very much
to see the war through with the Thirteenth — drop the personal part of


the narrative, and hereafter depend altogether upon statements of other
officers and men for items fi'om the front, the battle line and camp ; while
he goes to a military Hospital for four hot summer months, with a bullet
hole through a badly smashed left ankle, and the round ounce-bullet, that
made it, in his pocket — thanks to Assistant Surgeon John Sullivan ; and
after those four long and suffering months, to be discharged the service,
for disability, and sent home, while still unable to walk a step on the
smashed hmb and obliged to use crutches. He was laid up for sixteen
months. (The wound has never fairly healed.) Since a little sketch of
this Hospital life may now be of interest to some one, he will presume to
enter an occasional item under the heading Hospital ; as of a personal ex-
perience similar to that shared by thousands of our comrades in arms.


June 16 to September 27, 1864.

June 16. Thurs. Fair, hot, dusty. Last night the enemy occupied
a ravine near Battery Five, and attempted to entrench, but were driven
back. The Tliirteenth remains in line of battle under arms to the left,
south, of Battei-y Five, on the bluff-side west of Mr. Charles Friend's
house and in his door yard. This is a greatly exjiosed position on the
steep slope looking towards Petersburg, vehich is a little over two miles
distant. Details from the whole force here are throwing up entrench-
ments. The Thirteenth is ordered to lie on its arms night and day. No
officer or man is allowed to leave the line beyond a few rods. Attack
momentarily expected. The enemy is making almost superhuman en-
deavors to recover his lost ground here. The Thirteenth is moved into
suppoi't of a battery of nine field-pieces arranged in a semi-circle on the
bluff, thus being a little less exposed. There is a great deal of firing all
day, but it nearly ceases at dark.

At this point the covmtry appears to have been at one time the bank
and bed of the Ajjpomattox river. In western phrase, we occupy the
' bluffs,' the enemy occupies the ' bottoms." We are disposed along the
ancient river bank, now a line of bluffs thirty to seventy feet high ; the
enemy at our front is on the ancient river bed, now an immense flat, cut
up by numerous small ravines and ridges, with brooks and strips of
swampy land. To the left the enemy occupies the hills near Petersburg.

This morning Gen. Grant with his staff, and Gen. Burnside, came up
to Battery Five, captured by the Thirteenth, and passed along the line,
surveying the position for a considerable time. While standing near him,

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 47 of 81)