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 53 of 81)
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iron out. He has carried it there, in a festering wound deep near his
shoulder blade, for over four hot summer months. He declares that :
" It would have killed me long ago ; if I had n't been so — awful — mad
all the time."

Aug. 28. Sun. Cooler, rainy at night. Since coming from the
Petersburg front, we have camped near where we were last May. This
morning the Reg. removes and encamjis near Battery Six. Later in the
day moves again, to a point between Batteries Three and Four, and again
encamps. Companies C, Capt. Durell ; F, Capt. Forbush ; G, Capt.
Stoodley ; H, Lieut. Ferguson, and I, Capt. Goss ; with Lieutenants
Wheeler, Churchill and Taggard, remove to Redoubt Button, the redoubt
nearest to our camp, and which has a garrison of about 100 heavy ar-
tillerymen. Capt. Stoodley in command. The 18th Corps Hospital
moved across the river, taking the place of the 10th Cordis Hospital.

To-day Gen. Grant issues an order offering special inducements to de-
serters to come in from the rebel army.

Aug. 29. Mon. Warm, fair. The little force of five companies,
which went forward to Redoubt Dutton yesterday, rejoins the Reg. this
afternoon. They were calculating upon a fine time, had a splendid camp
and many conveniences in prospect, and are much disappointed. All
quiet on this front. The pickets of both armies mount the front lines of
their earth-works, and remain there with impunity. A large number of
men rejoin the Reg. from the Hospitals. Capt. E. W. Goss of I detailed
to-day as commander of the Division Corjis of sharp-shooters. We of
the 18th Corps have taken the jilace of the 10th Corps. A splendid
spring of water near the camp of the Thirteenth. No one but a soldier,
or a traveler, can fully appreciate good water.

Hospital. A medical board has again decided that Lieut. Thompson's
foot must come off ; and the owner holds to his decision that it must
stay on. This is the third time. These special examinations have a very
bad effect. The examiners send a shiver of terror through a ward, the
instant they appear ; and visions of the ' vivisection ' table, or the fearful
probing for bullets in old wounds, or a return to the front before recovery
— something undesirable is suggested to every patient.

Aug. 30. Tues. Showery, cold night. Reg. in camp, and at work
on the defenses. Pay-rolls being made out. The enemy sends one shell
straight into our camp, where it bursts among the tents — no one hurt.
Quiet on the lines. Dress-parade at evening. Our camp-ground is low
and wet. Rebel prayer meeting and band heard all the evening.

Aug. 31. "Wed. Cool, fair. Reg. inspected and mustered for pay
by Capt. Julian, on Brigade staff. Quarter-master M. L. Morrison de-
tailed as Brigade Quarter-master. There is trouble about rations. The
hard bread is wormy ; very little of berries, fruit, peas, corn or gar-
den produce can be had ; butter is 75c. per pound, ham 26c., cheese
50c. ; tea $2.25 ; eggs 60 cents a dozen, other extras in proportion —
and our sutler can clear only 3300 per month.


Hospital. A Lieutenant from New Jersey is here, with his mother
and sister to take care of him. They fill many orders for us for fruit,
etc., in the town, purchasing at wholesale prices. The Lieutenant's
wound is sixteen inches long, extending from the hip, along near the
bone, to the knee, a bullet hole.

Sept. 1. Thurs. Cool, fair. Reg. moves to a new camp again at
the front. Capt. Durell with Company C detailed to garrison Redoubt
McConihe — also called Battery Three. Lieut. Taggard commences
acting as Adjutant. Quiet along our lines. To-night the pickets from
the 13th go out between the lines as vedettes. The lines are so near,
that Capt. Stoodley, having some news specially aggravating to the rebels,
ties a newspaper to a stick and tosses it over within the rebel picket line.
A rebel picks it uj) — and is at once arrested and marched off to the rear.
We came over here to rest, and are now moving our camp for the fifth
time since we arrived. We have one night on picket at the front, and
one night o£E. The 2d N. H. leaves for Fort Powhatan on the .James.

Sept. 2. Fri. Cool, fair. Reg. in the front trenches all day ; at
dark is relieved and returns to camp in the rear. Very heavy firing
down about Petersburg. Very quiet here.

Sept. 3. Sat. Cold, fair. Reg. in camp. All quiet here. Heavy
firing at Petersburg. The sounds come up here a dull, distant, throbbing
roar ; like a distant railway train crossing a bridge, the wheels striking
every sleeper.

Sept. 4. Sun. Pleasant. Reg. in camp. Brigade Lispection from
10 to 12 a. m. Brigade Dress-parade at 4 p. m., and religious services
at dark, conducted by Rev. Mr. Herbert of Mt. Vernon, a member of
the Christian Commission. Dress-parades are now very infrequent. Capt.
Forbush brigade officer of the day. No firing here now on our picket
lines. Both our own pickets and those of the enemy are sitting about on
the works to-day, staring at each other. The lines about 200 yards apart
— in one place not much over 100 yards. The privates, when the offi-
cers are absent, have numerous communications, tying scraps of paper to
bullets and throwing them across to one another. Circulars, inviting the
rebels to desert, are distributed all along our line, and tossed over to
the Confederates ; they are also rolled in balls and shot over from cannon.

Hospital. Miss Maria M. C. Hall, of Washington, D. C, is Directress
of this Hospital. A refined, educated, highly accomplished, beautiful
and attractive young lady. A younger sister of hers is often here also.

An officer from Northern New York is here slowly recovering from the
work of a minie bullet that bored holes through three parts of him — and
then went on its way rejoicing — he says it sang a regular tune. His
wounds have six openings. Thirty beds in our room ; twenty occupied
by wounded men, nearly all of whose wounds are very severe.

Sept. 5. Mon. Pleasant, warm. Reg. in camp. At work on the
entrenchments in the afternoon. All quiet here. Our pickets are very
near to the enemy ; at one point, here at night they have held one end


of a fallen tree, and the enemy's pickets held the other end. The reliefs
of both, when off duty for three or four hours, have met unarmed, and
enjoyed social games of cards together ; the reliefs on duty meanwhile
preserving the strictest watch. We can hear the rebel officers' commands
within the enemy's main lines. The rebel bands were playing to-day,
and our men were sitting on the top of the earth-works listening. One
of their bands is again playing and deUghtfuUy, this evening. This is
the way quiet reigns on the Bermuda Hundred front ; this big ' bottle '
ajDpears to be filled just now with a soothing syrup.

Sept. 6. Tues. Cold, rainy and windy. Reg. in camp. Gen.
Grant visits our camp and line. Commissary Sergeant G. W. Ferguson,
mustered as First Lieutenant of Co. H, and Sergeant G. Bruce of Com-
pany D appointed Commissary Sergeant.

Sept. 7. Wed. Fair. Reg. in camp. Lieut. C. C. Favor of B
honorably discharged the service by Special Order 244 (Sept. 5th), from
Maj. Gen. E. 0. C. Ord, commanding Dept. of Va. and N. C. Division
review by Maj. Gen. John Gibbon. Dress-parade by IStli after the re-
view. The nights are growing cold, and Capt. Betton is sent to Norfolk,
to look after the Regiment's surplus baggage stored there last spring, and
to see that it is hurried to the front.

Hospital. Miss Dix, tall and stately, issues an order that the nurses
will dress in sombre colors, grays or drabs, and will make no display of
ornaments, jewelry, etc. As a proper reply to such an order. Miss Hall
and other nurses appear in the wards, dressed as elegantly as they jiossi-
bly can ; and every officer who can rise sits uj) or stands up, and we all
cheer these attractive, pure, beautiful, sensible, human women, as they
pass from room to room. That settles it ; and Miss Dix retreats with her
sombre colors, grays and so on, as best she may. She is a good woman,
but sometimes grievously mistaken in some of her notions. Many of
these officers and men now in the hospitals were reared among, and have
been for a life long accustomed to, all the elegancies and refinements of
life in America's best society ; why offend them now — and here on the
shai'pest line between life and death — with a lot of women coming about
dressed like cheap house-maids or scullions?

Sept. 8. Thurs. Pleasant, warm. Reg. in camp. Very quiet-
Last night the Union vedettes between the lines stood their watch only
separated from the enemy's vedettes by about three rods.

Now and then a soldier's letter puts a matter strong and sharp ; chang-
ing the rough words a bit, we here have a specimen : " Murder is awful,
horrid ; swindling, theft and cheating are a fearful curse ; but of all the
crimes known to God or man the worst is the crime of lying, and the
basest of all criminals is the liar — I would give more for one good hon-
est man than for all the pious liars the world ever saw."

Sept. 9. Pri. Cold, cloudy. Reg. in camp. Heavy details sent
out for work on the trenches, and for picket duty. One of the Reg.

writes : " Lieut. wet his commission." The rebels suddenly burst out

with loud cheering to-night, but we do not know the reason for it.


" The State colors of the Thirteenth were carried by myself continu-
ously from June 1st, at Battery Five, Mine explosion, and in the Peters-
burg trenches, until we returned to the Bermuda Hundred front — where
I thought we were at peace with all nations, and even with the rebels on
our front — when I turned in my old flag to Major Smith, then com-
manding the Thirteenth, and acted as right general guide until we went
to the Fort Harrison battle, when I received a new Springfield rifle and
went back to the color-guard. Our flags suffered worst of all at Cold
Harbor. When turned in at Bermuda Hundred the State colors were
useless for field purposes, the bunting a little tattered strijj, the staff
battered and split, and the pieces I had tied together with strings and
straps." Charles Powell, Color Corporal.

Sept. 10. Sat. A fine day. Reg. in camp. A board of survey in-
vestigates the matter of a ' Deficiency in the Brigade's commissary stores.'
Nearly the whole Reg. has a bath in the James River. " One of them
took his swim in a box — pretty full. (Hie!)" The gunboats on the
right in the James are booming loudly to-day.

Hospital. A wounded officer — a Union man — from West Virginia,
has been in the habit of saying a great many spiteful and bitter things
here against the Yankees — the burden of his talk for a month has been
against them. One day he received a new dressing-gown, but was feeling
unusually bitter and sour, and was more than usually abusive in his talk
about the Yankees. The writer thought it was about time, in some good-
natured way, to change that current, and commenced by asking him to
look and see where the bedstead, that he lay on, was made. New Eng-
land. He was next asked to look at the sheets, blankets, mattress, a
mosquito net, a folding chair, a table, and so on with a dozen articles or
more ; and all alike were found by him to be from New England — all
made by the Yankees. Then last of all he was asked to see where the
new dressing-gown was made — for the writer had just received and ex-
plored the ins and outs of one like it — and he found that that was also
made in New England. Thrusting his hands into the pockets, the officer
drew out a letter, written as a random shot by the young lady who made
that gown to the soldier in the hospital who might receive it. It was very
well written, a very sympathetic, tender and sisterly letter. The officer
opened it and began to read. Soon the tears came to his eyes, and be-
fore the letter was half read he broke down utterly, and fell back upon
his pillow crying like a child. He aftei'wards read that letter a good
many times ; but he scolded the Yankees no more.

Sept. 11. Sun. Pleasant. Reg. in camp. Inspection at 10 a. m.
Brigade Dress-parade at evening — the whole command caught in a
shower. Lieut. Dustin returns to the Regiment. The little circulars con-
taining Gen, Grant's invitation to the enemy to desert and to come within
our lines are thrown, bound to a stone, from our lines over within the
enemy's lines. Also thrown up into the air to blow across the lines when
the wind serves, also passed out by our vedettes. It is said that the


enemy metes oat very severe punishments to any of his men canght read-
ing these circulars. It does not seem to have entered the heads of the
rebel authorities to send a counter invitation to the Union soldiers to de-
sert to the Confederates ; they may be rash, but they escape attemjiting
that one impossibility, at least.

Sept. 12. Mon. Pleasant, cool, rains about noon. Reg. in camp.
A quiet day. Comj^ared with the Petersburg front, this place is in a per-
petual Sunday — or we form a sort of rendezvous camp.

Sept. 13. Tubs. Pleasant, cool. Reg. in camp. Battalion drill in
the forenoon. Capt. Goss, now commanding the Division sharp-shooters,
states that one dark night recently when he was posting vedettes between
the lines, he saw a convenient tree, and marched his vedette up to it ;
just as he was about to give him his instructions a rebel vedette rose up
on the other side of the tree and disputed possession, declaring : " This
tree belongs to we 'uns. Is'e got here fust — a long time, er'ekn."
Capt. Goss concluded that neither would run off with the other and left
his man ; and there they remained through the night — Confederate on
one side of the tree. Union on the other side. Why should n't even a
tree laugh, while men thus play the ' awful game of war ' around its
roots ! No ' vexed Bermoothes ' this, nowadays.

While speaking of trees it should be added that the deep shade fur-
nished by the dense pine foliage, however pleasant and grateful it may
seem during a hot, sunshiny day, is indeed most treacherously unwhole-
some. The damp ground, the decaying vegetation, in the absence of the
sun's purifying rays, produce a dangerous state of the atmosphere under
these trees, and half the malaria may well be attributed to shade-aria.

Sept. 14. Wed. Fair, cool. Reg. in camp. Asst. Surgeon Mor-
rill takes a leave of absence. A severe fight on the Petersburg front.
Fever and ague becoming prevalent in the Regiment, on account of our
swampy camp-ground. Our pickets are now pushed out more than half
the distance between the lines. The enemy's sharp-shooters now rarely
send a bullet into our lines.

Hospital. ' The flag-of-truce boat ' lands at Annapolis, this morning,
about 400 Libby prison skeletons — fruits of the rule of Davis & Co. and
their infernal gang. These Union prisoners are covered with vermin,
ragged, starved, uncared for, rotting alive ; have been neglected, treated
inhumanly, and made to suffer for months the tortures of the damned.
Some of them, from sheer emaciation, cannot move hand or foot, mere
skeletons. There are no words to meet the case ; one look at them were
enough to elicit the sympathies of. and to provoke friendly interposition
and kindly offices from the devil himself. Horrible, terrible.

Apropos to this are the resolutions of sympathy for rebeldom freely
offered by the New Hampshire copperheads ; and their recent disti-ibution
up North of 2,000 Enfield rifles among the peace-at-any-price fellows.
And the selectmen of one New Hampshire town, at least, were base
enough to defraud soldiers of their legal right to vote at home last spring


— and were fined $50 apiece for it. A fitting place for Northern cop-
perheads is found at last : they should go wounded, as common prisoners
of war, to Danville, Libby and Andersonville.

Sept. 15. Thurs. Cool, clear. Reg. in camp. Battalion drill.
Two rebel deserters come into our lines this morning. Much trading be-
tween the pickets. The rebels throw over tobacco — some of it very
choice, and our men repay in jackknives, pocket books, pipes, pictorial
papers, and such other things as the rebels express a wish for, and are
not contraband. Col. Donohoe returns to the 10th N. H., relieving Lt.
Col. Coughlin of the command, which he has held for about a year past.

Sept. 16. Fri. Quite warm. Reg. in camp. All quiet here. A
regiment of the 9th Corps, on going into action a few days since, held a
mock auction of flesh wounds, and the bids ran from $5.00 to $50 ; a
slight flesh wound promising the only relief from constant fighting. This
shows how much some of the men hanker after a battle.

Sept. 17. Sat. Very pleasant. Reg. in camp. Details out on
work and picket every day. Regular monthly inspection by Capt. Julian.
Very quiet here. Now and then a 200 lb. shell from the Howlett House
battery screams through the air, making a fearful noise. Lieut. Part-
ridge's signal station received a few of them several days ago. He and
his men had to run for shelter. If one of these shells strikes advanta-
geously, it instantly does an immense amount of damage, the concussion
feared as much as the fragments.

Sept. 18. Sun. Fair, cool, showers. Reg. in camp. Inspection by
Capt. Betton, temporarily commanding the Thirteenth. C. F. Winch,
regimental sutler, boards several officers of the Thirteenth.

Sept. 19. Mon. Fair, cool. Reg. in camp. Large detail shoveling.
Brigade review by Actg. Brig. Gen. A. F. Stevens. The irreverent,
because the Brigade is so small, call it a " Brevet Review." Major Smith
and Lieut. Oliver return from Norfolk ; a four days' trip made for pay
and clothing. The whole army is short of cash ; the longer the war lasts
the slower are the Government payments. Lieut. M. L. Morrison Bri-
gade Quarter-master. The 13th owe a debt to Quarter-master Morrison,
they can never pay. He sees the bright side of everything. With him
the moon and stars are never far away on the blackest night, and the
days are more than half sunshine through the worst of storms. He must
have been born about sunrise on a Avarm, fair and cloudless morning.

Secretary of War Stanton's order to draft men for the army, in all
places where quotas are not already filled, goes into effect to-day.

Sept. 20. Tues. Clear, warm. Reg. in camp. No drill. The
Reg. cheers for the news from the Shenandoah valley. The officers start
their new ' improved ' mess ; an attempt to secure the best of supplies at
wholesale prices. Exceedingly dull times along here. The 13th has 621
men on its rolls, and draws 273 rations for men present for duty. Eighty
men to a Company are necessary to muster a Captain ; sixty to muster
a First Lieutenant.


Hospital. The most cheerful sufferers a person ever saw are the
wounded men and officers. They feel that they have done their duty,
and in most cases look upon their wounds as ' glory-marks.' As one
Western man puts it : " It is bang-up proof that we have been thar."
The Hospitals have their bright sides as well as their dark ones. Cards,
chess, checkers, stories, reading, lively chat and songs cheerily while away
many an hour, while we wait for nature to rebuild the tissues cut by rebel
bullets and shells, and sloughed out by gangi-ene ; all largely a simple
matter too of growth and science of materials — why should we fret ?

Sept. 21. W^ed. Cool, a rainy night. Reg. hurried out this morn-
ing and manned the works at an early hour — no engagement. Drill
during the day, Dress-parade at evening. Officer's mess board now costs
about $5.00 per week. A foraging party from the Thirteenth secure a fat
pig, and very muddy, as most pigs like to be. The lucky soldier when
he struck the pig down remarked : " Here goes the last Southern dynasty."

Sept. 22. Thurs. Cold, a heavy rain in afternoon. Reg. in camp.
All quiet. The men had to-day the first touch of fun for a month, over
the misfortunes, antics and ' monkey-shines ' of a most stupid negro mule-
driver, who upset his team and wagon in a heap, in a deep, wet ditch.
Negro-like, he made the most of the accident, and entered upon the most
childish and awkward methods to extricate his charge. As usual, all
the men stand around and laugh — and none volunteer to helj). He is
left to his own resources, and finally gains the road and moves on with
his charge ; mules, harnesses, wagon, load, himself and all well besj^at-
tered, streaked and plastered with mud.

Sept. 23. Fri. Showery. Reg. in camp. No drill. At work on
the entrenchments in the afternoon. On picket at night.

Hospital. Among a boat-load of officers arrived from Southern pris-
ons are several men so fearfully emaciated by their inhuman treatment
that now they can scarcely move either hand or foot — mere skin-covered
skeletons. One of this large party, however, an officer of the 5th N. Y.,
by name Leatz, is still quite strong, though badly wounded and suffering
severely. He is an elegant personage, a tall, straight Norwegian, with
heavy blonde hair and whiskers, and so nobly bears himself that he is
called the Count. Soon after his arrival he sees, set up at the end of the
room, a pair of boxes hinged together, and provided with sundry shelves
and upon them books — so called. Across the top in gilt letters are the
words ' Soldiers' Library.' He goes to the pretentious affair, while we
curiously watch the result, and selects an elegant volume in covers of
blue and gold, and returns to his couch to read it ; opens the book, gives
it one look, of unutterable disgust, and then throws it as far as he can.
We all laugh, of course, for every man in the ward hns been similarly
cheated by the outward fine appearance of this very book. *' These
pretty covers will please the soldiers ; " probably said some precious piece
of stupidity when he sent it. It was written, like many other gilded
books of its class, by Miss Antiqua Maiden Pious, of Giggle-hollow,


authoress of ' Moon Ray Winglets,' ' Zephyr Wafts of Rill Foam,' etc.,
is all about some little goody-goody Johnny What's-his-name, who had
the world in high consideration and died as young as he could, and the
covers of the ' book ' are a hundred times the most valuable part of the
whole mess of stuff, but a fair sample of the entire lot of books.

Almost the whole ' Library ' is juvenile ; a lot of books too poor to keep
in some generous families or religious Sunday schools, and so sent to the
poor soldiers and officers in hospitals, hundreds of whom could write
books a thousand times more valuable and not half try. What in the
name of common sense do the kid-glove and lace-edging people up North
think the Union army is made of ? These books are rather too weak for
a kindergarten. These outrageous shams weary and pain hundreds of
good men. The merry wags here, however, make a deal of sjiort with
this particular ' Library ; ' reading the silly books aloud, in tones of
wrapt admiration, deepest emotion and unending burlesque. One book
of ' poetry ' in this ' Library ' has been set to music, with variations, and
the stuff is sung by the patients in unison ; each one composing the music
and singing the words after his own fashion. A few minutes of this
indescribable, horrid medley serves to 'bringdown the house,' and the
singers also, with roars of laughter.

Sept. 24. Sat. Showery. The whole camp is roused at 2 a. m.,
to hear the glorious news from Gen. Sheridan — tremendous cheering.
At 7 a. m. a salute, with shotted cannon, is fired all along the lines and
forts, from every gun and mortar, in honor of Gen. Sheridan's victories
in the Shenandoah valley. The enemy replies spitefully with shot and
shell. Hurts no one here. The salute is fired from at least 100 guns,
aimed with all possible precision at the enemy and his works. Thirteenth
on picket all day. For several days past the enemy's pickets have re-
fused to trade, or to exchange newspapers. To-day a paper containing
an account of Gen. Sheridan's victories is rolled around a stone by a man
of the Thirteenth and thrown within the enemy's lines. A rebel soldier
picks it up, and is immediately arrested — an officer seizing the paper.

Sept. 25. Sun. Clear, very cool. Thirteenth in camp. Brigade
picket guard-mounting, and Brigade inspection — the whole lasting until
noon. Religious services at 2 p. m., conducted by Rev. Mr. Herbert.
Brigade review. Brigade Dress-parade at 4 p. m. Too much, altogether

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 53 of 81)