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 49 of 81)
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extreme right regiment of our Brigade, Division and Corps. The 2d and

DESCRIPTION OF PLAT.

A. City Point Railroad ; with City Point road, T, near it.

B. Heavy Union rifle-trench, with many bomb-proof s . and traverses,

occupied by the Thirteenth at the extreme north end, on the river
bank just west of Mr. John Hare's house, C. Dotted lin», a
long covert way.

D. Mr. Alexander Pace's house, nearly east of Mr. Hare's house.

E. Ft. McGilvery. VIII. Battery No. 8.
F. F. Old Confederate trenches captured.

G. Battery Five — near as the arrow points — on old Confederate
line, captured by Thirteenth June 15th.

H. Harrison Creek, with iron bridge at railroad crossmg.

K. Brooks in little ravines where were rear camps.

L. Deep ravine between the rebel trenches and their front rifle-pits.
L. V. S. Confederate lines (new) see June 18th. The Union fine faces
west ; the Confederate line faces east. The Union main line
B, and the Confederate main line L. V. S. were less than 300
yards apart where the Tliirteenth was on the river bank.




PETERSBURG FRONT.
Right of Gen. Grant's line, abutting on the Appomattox River.

From a sketch made by the writer in Ma>' 1885.



1864



SIEGE OF PETERSBURG. 417



6th Corjjs, with Wilson's and Kautz's Divisions of cavalry, move to the
west of Petersburg and towards the Weldon Railroad. Our Brigade is
expected to garrison forts and earth-works as a reserve, and not to engage
in any active field operations on the Petersburg front ; still retaining our
organization with the Army of the James.

Hospital. We all feel very badly about the death of Capt. Dodge.
He was a very efficient and brave officer, a kind friend and a genial
companion, and in losing him the Thirteenth meets with a very great loss
indeed. Capt. Dodge's wife came out here to take care of her husband,
and arrived just in time to accompany his embalmed body home. Her
sorrow was most pitiful, and she had the sympathy of every person wlio
knew of this terrible bereavement.

All four of us were severely wounded ; Adjutant Boutwell's wound is
especially severe, the bullet passing through his shoulder and breaking his
collar bone. Gangrene makes its appearance in his wound, and he is
to-day removed to the gangrene ward, a tent outside. Of these four
wounds, Boutwell's did not heal for eleven years, Thompson's has never
healed soundly at all, Gafney carried the bullet in his leg for eighteen
years, Capt. Dodge died.

June 23. Thurs. Fair, very hot. Reg. in front trenches at work
until 11 p. m., when it moves about one and one half miles to the rear
and bivouacs in dense pine woods. A great deal of shelling to-day all
along the lines. Rev. A. J. Patterson distributes to the 13th sundry
stores sent by the Ladies' Soldiers' Aid Society of Portsmouth, N. H.

This afternoon the enemy opens upon our Brigade with three large
mortars, dropping the shells almost vertically down behind our trenches.
Several men in the Brigade are struck down by the pieces of exploding
shells. One mortar shell drops and explodes in Company K's trench, a
piece of it severely wounding Sergt. James R. Morrison of K in the head.
Col. Stevens' mess — himself, Capt. Smith, Quarter-master Morrison,
Capt. Stoodley — a clerk and the Colonel's cook are in Mr. Alexander
Pace's house, some of them writing, some reading, and some eating sup-
per. A rebel shell comes down through the roof and bursts in a cham-
ber over their heads, the pieces flying about, knocking the table to pieces,
badly smashing the house, scattering the supper, and burying everybody
and everything in splinters, plaster, dust and rubbish. Strange to say
only one of the party is seriously hurt, the Colonel's cook, George H.
Weeks, who is sent to New Hampshire to recover. Andrew Hanou of
H is in the house, takes refuge by the chimney and is unhurt. A large
rebel shell soon strikes the ground very near the house and explodes
heavily jarring the house, but injuring no one.

June 24. Fri. Very hot. Reg. at the rear in thick woods. Heavy
artillery firing this morning. In the afternoon the Reg. is employed in
cutting abatis. The enemy attacks a portion of our Corps line and cap-
tures 300 prisoners. Thirteenth not engaged. The affair provokes a
terrific noise, resounding through these deep woods like the roar of con-



418 THIRTEENTH NEW HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT. 1864

tinuous thunder. Our troops assault in turn, securing a hold upon a
short line of the enemy's front trenches, and capturing 200 prisoners.
*' Almighty hot — whew! One can hardly breathe." Prescott.

Hospital. Gangrene very prevalent, and the heat of the weather is in-
tense. Wounds all through the Hospital are reported as taking a very
bad turn, and a critical examination is made of every case, to detect any
possible taint of gangrene. This disease cannot be described better than
to say that the flesh immediately in and around the wound dies, turns
dark, and rots in the space of a few hours, and when this dead mass is re-
moved, an angry red bleeding pit, or hole, is left, as if a portion of the
flesh had been scooped out; a place excessively sensitive, sore, painful
and difficult to heal.

June 25. Sat. Very hot. Reg. moves into the front trenches at
dark. The enemy's Batteries across the Appomattox, northward, enfi-
lade a portion of our line. Their fire comes upon us from several differ-
ent points at once. Capt. Smith in command of the Thirteenth. Sergt.
Major Hodgdon sick and sent to the Corps Hospital. We ojien a line of
advanced rifle-i)its during the night.

Hospital. The difference in the nerve of wounded men is astonishing.
There are men here with fearful wounds, and who suffer real tortui'e, but
who never utter a sound because of pain, and scarce a sigh ever escapes
them, even under its worst twinges. Others cry, bawl and bellow like
great hurt boys — make regular asses of themselves. Two of them in
an adjoining room groaned, groaned, groaned, and very loudly, a horrid
duet, a large part of last night. Two other wounded msn not far away,
who were suffering probably as badly as they and were kept awake by
them for a long time, at last actually laid a wager as to which one of
these two special groaners would continue to groan for the longest time.

June 26, Sun. Hot, dusty ; rain much needed. Reg. in front
rifle-trenches, and firing all day. Andrew J. Smith of I happens to rise
straight upright in the trenches this morning, and is instantly shot dead
by the rebels. The least exposure of the figure brings half a dozen bul-
lets over from the enemy.

A dispute having arisen about the capture of Battery Five, an investi-
gation is made at Division Hdqrs., and it is formally decided that it was
captured by the Thirteenth alone ; no Union soldiers excepting members
of the 13th entered the Battery at all until long after it was ca}itured ;
all its garrison as prisoners and all who had taken refuge in the Battery,
all its guns, ammunition and equipage, and all the swords of its officers,
were surrendered into the hands of the members of the 13th, as also its
two battle flags. Besides, the Battery was directly in front of the 13th and
was enveloped by them in the assault to the exclusion of all other Union
troops. So that gold-headed nail is not only driven in and through, but
also officially clinched.

Every ten or fifteen minutes a huge shell, from one of our guns mounted
near Battery Five, screams close over our heads with a sound that



1864 SIEGE OF PETERSBURG. 419

makes one's nerves crawl, to go hunting the enemy in and near the city

— " The Petersburg Express."

June 27. Mon. Very hot. Reg. in the front rifle-trenches all
day, and at 11 p. ni. returns to the rear. Prisoners captured from the
enemy state that the suffering from the heat in the enemy's trenches is far
greater than in the Union trenches, and largely because the Confederate
earth-works more generally face towards the east, the afternoon sun pour-
ing directly into the most of the ditches in rear of them ; while the high
parapets of the Union Avorks afford more protection in the way of shade
to the men in the ditches in rear of them when the sun shines the hottest
and the heat is most oppressive.

To the common reader the following diagram may be of advantage, as
showing in a general way the order of the Confederate and Union lines
now confronting each other for a stretch of twenty or thirty miles in
length. Tlie front rifle-trenches are separated from each other by a clear
space from 150 to 500 yards in width ; and between them are two ranges

— separated by 50 to 200 feet of space — of little rifle-pits for the use
of the vedettes, or ' inter-line pickets,' at night. The reserve camps and
rear trenches of both armies are ranged along in several lines, one in rear
of the other and but a few rods apart, extending back for a mile or more
from the front main lines of rifle-trenches and forts.

Confederate side, facing south and east :

Reserve camps. Reserve camps.

Rear trenches. Rear trenches.

Forts. Covert ways. Forts.

Front rifle trenches — ' main line ' — traverses and bomb-proofs.

Small rifle-pits for C. S. A. vedettes, inter-line pickets, at night.
Small rifle-pits for U. S. A. vedettes, inter-line pickets, at night.

Front rifle-trenches — ' main line ' — traverses and bomb-proofs.

Forts. Covert ways. Forts.

Rear trenches. Rear trenches.

Reserve camps. Reserve camps.

Union side facing north and west.

June 28. Tues. Pleasant, cooler. Reg. in camp at the rear.
About 1 a. m. we are suddenly called out, and at once pack ready to
march ; soon the order is countermanded, and we turn in again. Capt.
Bradley takes with him to the Governor of New Hampshire the two Con-
federate battle-flags captured by the Thirteenth at Battery Five ; one of
them captured by Sergeant James R. jNIorrison, and the other by Cor-
poral Peter Mitchell, both of K, and from Portsmouth. See official letter
of June 28, 1864, in the Adjutant General's Office, Concord, N. H. These
two flags are the only Confederate battle flags now, 1887, in the custody
of the State of New Hampshire.

Hospital. We have here, among a generally efficient corps of officers,
attendants and nurses, one fool for a surgeon, as well as one fool for a



420 THIRTEENTH NEW HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT. 1864

chaplain. They endanger lives and they would do well to start a ceme-
tery in company. This surgeon leaned over Lieut. Thompson's bed, and
thrusting a scalpel into his ankle, turned up the white end of a severed
tendon, asking with a long, stupid drawl : " Whawt 's tha-at ? " His an-
swer was a kick with the well foot — or rather a push as he crouched for-
ward off his poise — that sent him over backwards, brains over head, and
sprawling upon the floor. The dig he made at that tendon hurt like
gouging out a man's two eyes at once. This is one picture of infamous
inethciency. He hurt other patients still worse, and with even less ex-
cuse, and met with still more humiliating treatment at their hands. War
is bad enough in any event, but no words can depict the horrors and sor-
rows caused in war by ignorant and cax'eless men, and none can realize
them save those who suffer. Some of the hospital attendants and nurses
were of such as had proved useless at the front, and so drifted into these
rear positions, though by far the most were very fine fellows. Somehow
a coward appears to be the very composite of all namable inhumanities,
dishonesties and rascalities, meet him where you may.

June 29. "Wed. Hot. At dark the Reg. goes again to the front,
and into the rifle-trenches close down to the river. Fifteen men of the
Thirteenth are sent to the General Hospital to-night, all very sick.

Capt. Charles O. Bradley resigned because of long continued ill health,
his resignation was accepted to date June 10, 1864, when he was honor-
ably discharged the service. Before leaving for his home this morning
he visits the Thirteenth in the front trenches, and bids the members of it
good-by. He was a very efficient officer, expert in drill, courageous in
danger, fond of military life, firm and reliable in all places of trial, and
remarkable not only for his presence of mind in any emergency but also
for his ability to provide almost instant measures of suitable action. His
memory was marvelous. The Thirteenth greatly regrets his departure,
which is unavoidable, the climate here would soon kill him if he remained.

John A. Tuck, Esq., of Concord, furnishes substantially the following :
" Captain Bradley was of a family furnishing a number of military men,
and this fact may account in part for his taste for a military life, and his
patriotic tendencies. Some of his ancestors served with Gen. Wolfe,
and one was killed on the Plains of Abraham. There was one or more
also with Gen. Arnold at the Siege of Quebec.

" His great-grandfather on the maternal side was a noted military man,
and bore the rank of Captain. His father was a member of the old Con-
cord Artillery until it was disbanded. Capt. Bradley was a close student
of history, both ancient and modern, and when quite young was referred
to as an authority by both old and young, whenever disputes arose among
them as to dates or circumstances connected with the history of our own
or foreign countries.

" When the recruiting office was first opened at Concord he with two
others left their work at once and enlisted as three months' men ; the re-
cruiting office was opened in the morning and he and his two friends had



1864 SIEGE OF PETERSBURG. 421

enlisted that morning before nine o'clock — thus being one of the first, if
not the first, to enlist as a soldier in the State of New Hampshire to put
down the rebellion.

" After resigning his commission in the Thirteenth, he re-enlisted Sept.
17, 1864, as Captain in the First N. H. Artillery, then stationed in Wash-
ington, and was mustered out June 15, 1865. Soon after the close of the
war he entered the regular army, receiving a commission as Second
Lieutenant in the 11th U. S. Infantry, was promoted to First Lieutenant,
and on Aug. 25, 1874, was ^Jromoted to Captain, and assigned to the 20th
U. S. Infantry, which rank he held at the time of his death. He was
stationed at different times in almost every fort and station on the frontier
from Dakota to Texas ; was long on duty at Fort Reno, Indian Tei*ritory,
later removed to Fort Maginnis, in Montana, where he died May 14,
1887, from the effects of blood poisoning."

Hospital. An indignation meeting is held, and it is resolved that the
fool surgeon shall be killed if he ever shows his head in our ward again.
We merely mean, however, to literally scare him out. The matter spreads
to adjoining wards, where similar resolutions are adopted. One officer
declares that this fool surgeon needlessly hurt him worse than the bullet
did, when it went through him, and he lays out his revolver to shoot the
fool with when he next appears. We will scare him half to death, and so
set him flying.

June 30. Thurs. Fair. Reg. in front rifle-trenches on the river
bank. Mustered for pay by Col. Stevens. About 5 p. m. the enemy
shells our lines severely. For three fourths of an hour his batteries aver-
age between forty and fifty discharges per minute. Only one man, how-
ever, in the 13th is hit, and he is hurt but little. The rebel fire covers a
mile or two of our lines. Our works are now very secure and strong.

" Water suitable for drinking and cooking j^urposes has been very
scarce hereabout during all the summer, and the best to be had at all of
late has been obtained from a sort of spring in a swamp among some
magnolia-trees. To reach this place our men have had to cross a ravine
upon which the enemy's sharp-shooters have a dead range, and therefore
have watched their opportunity when the firing has lulled a little, and
then ran the gauntlet of the enemy's fire to the spring and return ; not
always in safety, for a number of casualties have occurred, some wounds
severe, some slight.

" Providence came to the relief of our men to-day in a very singular
manner. During the heavy firing a large rebel shell lodged in a bank oh
the bluff-side very near the Thirteenth, exploded and plowed a large
hole in the ground, into which almost instantly poured a plentiful supjily
of excellent water, for the shell had struck a living spring. The shell of
an old drum was placed in the ground over the opening to the vein of
water, the supply of which was constant, clear and cool ; and the boys are
decidedly grateful to the iron monster for doing them such excellent good
service." Henry S. Paul.



422 THIRTEENTH NEW HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT. 1864

The losses In the Army of the James since May 4th have been 6,903,
killed, wounded and missing ; and in the Army of the Potomac, in the
same period, 61,400, of which number the killed and wounded are nearly
50,000 men. Such is war ! The whole Union army is tu'ed out, and
worn out, by the terribly severe duties of the last two months. The need
of rest is most urgent.

The following is given in illustration of the quick native ingenuity of
our old connnander Gen. George W. Getty : " Early in June 1864, Gen.
Getty, who had been wounded at the Wilderness, and having recovered,
was about to return to his command in the Army of the Potomac — viz. :
the 2d Division of the 6th Corps, then just arrived in front of Petersburg
— was ordered to proceed to White House Landing at the junction of
the York and Pamunkey rivers, break up the depots there and march
across the Peninsula with the immense wagon trains, guarded by the few
troops there, to the James River, and thence to the army in front of
Petersburg. His force consisted of two one-hundred-days regiments per-
fectly green and undisciplined, an almost equally raw regiment of colored
troojjs, and about seven hundred dismounted cavalrymen ; mostly old
soldiers, recovered from wounds, who were returning to the army.

" The second day out, the convoy was assailed by Confederate Gen. Fitz-
Hugh Lee with a large force of rebel cavalry. At the first attack, the
hundred-days regiments became flurried, one fired into the other, and both
scattered and took to the woods. The enemy occupied the road in strong
force, and the capture of the entire convoy seemed inevitable. At this
juncture Gen. Getty, first handing his watch and valuables to his aide-de-
camp Lieut. Murray, with directions to deliver them to his wife in case
he fell, personally deployed the dismounted cavalrymen in skirmish order
so as to cover the exposed front and flanks ; broke up the black regiment,
and jilaced a squad of two or three negroes with each veteran white
soldier, and going along the line ordered the negro soldiers to obey the
white soldier over them, and the white veteran to hold his ground and to
make the negroes fight.

" Every one of these cavalrymen felt like a Brigadier General, and the
blacks had no recourse excejjt to stick by the white man, and fight as he
did. Every attack of the rebel cavalry was repulsed, and after striving
for several hours In vain to drive in this unique skirmish line, and get
possession of the trains. Gen. Fitz-Hugh Lee at length gave up the at-
tempt, and drew off. Gen. Getty then collected together his scattered
hundred-days men, cared for his wounded, and the next morning con-
tinued his march without further molestation."

Gen. Hazard Stevens.

July 1. Fri. Hot, dusty. Reg. In front rifle-trenches on the river.
The Band of the 2d Brig. 1st DIv. 18th Army Corps, and formerly of the
13th. is now at Gen. Smith's 18tli Army Corps Hdqrs. at the Charles
Friend mansion on Friend's Hill. The 2(1 N. H. at these Hdqrs. Presi-
dent Lincoln has visited here, and made a long survey of the lines of the
rebel army from this hill.



1864



SIEGE OF PETERSBURG. 423



Hospital. A man here has been hurt by the ' wind of a ball,' and
has somewhat lost the power of direction. He can walk about, but can-
not pursue a direct course for any length of time ; is pretty sure, after
a few steps, to rush off to the right, or to the left, or to turn short around,
and go back whence he came. He acts like a bird shot in the head. He
guides himself along the side of the room by his cane, or trails his cane
in the cracks of the floor. He is apparently as much amused by his own
involuntary antics, as the rest of us are who witness them.

July 2. Sat. Very hot. Muster-rolls being finished in the rifle-
trenches. Reg. returns to the rear at 10 p. m. The whole country round
about us roars, morning, noon and night, with the almost unceasing battle,
battle, battle.

July 3. Sun. Very hot ; dust almost suffocating. Reg. goes into
the front trenches after dark, and occupies a point farther to the left than
before — and about half way between Battery Five, which we captured,
and Petersburg — a temporary change from the right of the line.

Hospital. The wounded in our wards get no breakfast at 10 o'clock

— they usually have it early — and they send a telegram to Surgeon
General McClellan. He soon arrives from Fortress Monroe, having rid-
den at the top of his horse's speed all the way, and the case of neglect
and bad management is laid before him. He calls together before us
all the delinquents, and the neglect is proved. He is a thunder storm
generally ; now he harnesses on a hurricane and cyclone attachment, and
makes the ward ring, and ring again, with denunciations and expletives

— whew ! But that settles it, and we have our breakfast a little before
noon to-day ; and thereafter enjoy a perpetual promptness on the part of
the cooks, waiters, nurses, etc. Surgeon McClellan is very efficient,
and is popular among all the patients in the hospital ; he can be depended
upon to do the right and needed thing, in all cases affecting their health
and comfort.

July 4. Mon. Cloudy, cool. Reg. in the front trenches all day.
Rather quiet along the lines. The Fourth of July celebrated by a Na
tional salute of 34 guns, 30 lb. Parrotts, shotted. We can hear the build-
ings in Petersburg crash when the shots strike them.

Hospital. Adjutant Boutwell has a very bad case of gangrene in his
shoulder. Our Surgeon says that he can see Boutwell's lungs. His wife
is here, and her presence and help may save his life. Lieut. Thompson's
wound also exhibits symptoms of an attack of gangrene. He is flat on
his back, and has not strength enough left to feed himself. Cannot lift
his coffee cup with both hands. He has hired a special attendant, who
comes in three times a day, and washes his ankle in a strong prepara-
tion of soda — finally cleansing the wound with spirits of turpentine at
full strength. Hot is a small word to apply to fire of this kind.

July 5. Tues. Fair, warm. Reg. in front rifle-trenches. At
night returns to the rear in a grove of pines, near K on map page 411,
but not beyond range of the enemy's guns. " The rear camp is in a large



424 THIRTEENTH NEW HAMPSHHIE REGIMENT. 1864

grove of dense pines, a long way to the rear of the Apjjomattox line at
Mr. John Hare's house, and near the river, northwest of Mr. Beasley's
house." Lt. Col. Smith.

July 6. "Wed. Hot, dusty ; no rain has fallen for many days.
Eeg. removes its rear camp across a field into another body of timber.

HospitaL The wounded men here have an excellent Surgeon now ; the
fool surgeon has disappeared, and the fool chaplain also ; the hospital
steward who distributed gangrene gratis has also rejoined his regiment
in the field. An officer knocked this steward flat upon the floor one day,
either for carelessness or malice. He did an immense amount of mis-
chief as a steward ; frequently using the same sponge half washed on
half a dozen patients, distributing gangrene and blood poison from one
to another.

Practice with some huge cannon, the ' Lincoln ' and ' Union ' guns, on
the sand between us and Fortress Monroe, shakes this building we are in
very badly, and many patients are seriously injured by the jar.

Wounded rebel enlisted men here receive the same care, food and
treatment which our own men receive ; there is no difference. In the
rebel prisons and hospitals, however. Union prisoners receive only one
half or two thirds as much per man, in way of rations, as all rebel pris-
oners receive in Union prisons and hospitals ; while the quality of rations
furnished in the rebel prisons and hospitals is far inferior and the variety
less. Fearful accounts are told here, of the rebel prisons and hospitals,
by the sick and wounded Union officers and men who have been ex-
changed ; and the appearance of the sufferers on arriving here furnish un-



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 49 of 81)