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 58 of 81)
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been shelling us severely ever since we captured Fort Harrison ; fewer
shells came over from them yesterday, and very few to-day. During a
little truce between the pickets, our men find in the brush and bring into
camp a rebel soldier wounded across his eyes, destroying the sight of both.
He had lain there four days. Was from South Carolina. It is believed
that he will live.

Oct. 6. Thurs. Cloudy. Reg. at work on the entrenchments. The
enemy has concentrated the fire from his mortars on Fort Harrison for
several days, but without doing much damage, or deterring our men from
their work. Watchmen give timely notice of a coming shell, and the men
are generally able to secure cover before it strikes and bursts. These
shells plow deejj, and spread gravel by the cart-load.

Major Smith, in the absence of Lt. Col. Grantman. who has been at
home sick since August 9th, has been in command of the 13th excepting
for short periods of absence and for a few days after being wounded on
Sept. 29th, and yesterday wrote to the Governor of New Hampshire urg-
ing sundry promotions in the Regiment. Only six officers present for
duty. No Company has men enough to guarantee the muster-in of a Sec-
ond Lieutenant, — and there are less than 600 men on the regimental
rolls, all told. Major Smith vigorously protests against any idea or plan
of consolidation with any other Regiment.


Oct. 7. Fri. Cool, clear. Reg. still at work on the entrenchments,
and kept in readiness to move at a moment's notice. During all this fore-
noon the enemy shells our lines with all the guns he can bring to bear.
The colored troops move to the right at noon. We are moved into Fort
Harrison in the evening, and our men work all night to-night, tearing
down the old front line of works, and building bomb-proofs. Re-enforce-
ments come in. The enemy threatens an attack, but is quiet during the
night here on our front.

The enemy attempts to turn the right flank of the Army of the James,
but is repulsed with a severe loss near New Market. Tlie Union loss is
about 500 men ; the enemy's loss much greater, and he abandons the cen-
tral road. The part of our lines attacked was held by Gen. Kautz's Cav-
alry ; who are said to have been surjirised at daylight. Kautz met with
a severe loss — nearly all his artillery and many men.

" From one standpoint in front of our Brigade, 280 rebel dead could be
plainly counted. (These were killed while assaulting our line on Sept.
30th.) The last of them are buried to day. Twenty-three deserters
come into our Brigade lines to-night." Prescott.

Oct. 8. Sat. Cold. Reg. still entrenching. Move into the fort
and work all night upon bomb-proofs. The pickets of 1)oth armies join
together — a picket truce — and bury all the enemy's dead to be found
between the two lines. Sixty-five bodies are buried of those killed on
Sept. 30th.

The commencement of this picket truce is thus related : A Lieutenant,
said to be a Lieut. Guild of a New York regiment, being on duty on the
outer Union picket line, and unable to endure the horrible stench arising
from the Confederate dead, takes a newspaper in his hand as a flag of
truce, and makes a dare-devil rush towards the rebel picket line. He is
not fired upon, parleys with the rebel pickets a little while, and then they
and the Union pickets procure spades, join together and bury 560 bodies
— all of Confederates. The bodies are scattered here through the dense
brush, and but for the stench would be difiicult to find. It is believed
that fifteen hundred Confederates were killed near our lines on Sept. 30th,
to say nothing of a much larger number wounded, as the case usually is.

It will never be possible to tell how many more Confederate soldiers
perished in the Reljellion than have ever been reported from the Con-
federate side ; but there must have been very many thousands of such un-
reported rebel dead, scattered all over the Confederacy.

Oct. 9. Sun. Very cold. Reg. entrenching all day. We are in
great exposure and privation ; heavy details at work night and day ; the
utmost vigilance and activity are demanded ; the enemy opposes our work
in every possible manner ; arms are stacked close at hand at all hours ;
and the enemy's fire, chiefly artillery fire, plunges about our lieads con-
tinually. Deserters say that Gen. Lee and Jeff. Davis came within half
a mile of Fort Harrison to-day, examined the ground and discussed the
situation for five mortal hours. Ten deserters came into our Brigade
lines last night.



" The enemy has shelled us severely from his mortars and gunboats.
His 200 lb. shells go screeching overhead, or bursting and plowing great
holes in the gi-ound. His lines of works are very near ours. Eleven
deserters came in to-night ; the most of them belonged to the ' Richmond
City Battalion,' and came from there when we took this place. For two
days of the past week it rained, and we had no shelter whatever, day or
night. Then it cleared very cold, and we had to sleep on the ground un-
der the sky, or walk about to keep warm. We nightly expect to be at-
tacked, and for five nights the men hardly slept a wink. We now occupy
the rebel barracks inside of Fort Harrison." Prescott.

Hospital. We live well here. No hotel need be ashamed of such a
table as the one set here every day. We have the best the market affords,
all generally well cooked and served. The Naval Buildings, where we
are, are clean and roomy. The Severn furnishes excellent soft-shell
crabs in abundance, and most delicious oysters. The only drawback about
the oysters are the numerous pearls, ruinous to the teeth that strike hard
upon them. Dr. B. A. Vanderkieft is Surgeon in Charge of Hospital.
Dr. Joshua B. Sweet is Surgeon in Charge of Section 3, wards A-B,
where the writer is. Both kindly and efficient men. We have interesting
religious services Sunday afternoons and evenings. Bible classes on
Thursdays. Visitors are admitted to see the patients l)etween 12 noon
and 6 p. m. Miss Maria M. C". Hall of Washington, D. C, is Directress.
A most attractive and popular young lady. A paper, '' The Crutch," is
published every Saturday, and contains much matter of interest to the
patients. On the whole an excellent Army Hospital.

Oct. 10. Mon. Fair. Reg. at work on the fort, and acting as its
garrison. Admiral Farragut, and Generals Grant, Meade and Butler
visit Fort Harrison to-day. " They inspect the rebel works, and are in-
spected in turn by every Union soldier who can get near them."

Firing on the picket line has been much less for a day or two, and ex-
cepting for the numerous shells, it is to-day quite safe to go almost any-
where along our lines. Desei'ters say that the people of the South regard
the election of McClellan for President of the United States as the only
hope for the success of the Confederate cause. Such a weight of woe to
our Nation does now the mere name of Democracy threaten.

Oct. 11. Tues. Pleasant. Reg. on outpost picket. Twelve desert-
ers from the 18th Georgia come in. Since the battle of Sept. 29th and
30th the 13th has been constantly under fire.

Soldiers' food — how to prepai'e it : Make a little fire on the ground
of dry, quick-burning wood — if you can get it. One fire will serve for
half a dozen men. Stand on the smoky side, for all sides are about equally
smoky. Put a pint of Virginia water — from the wayside brook or
puddle — into your tin pint-pot, and boil in it for about ten minutes a
tablespoonful of coffee ; putting a little green stick across the top of the
pot to prevent the rich water from boiling over. When your coffee is
nearly done, soak in it for a minute six or eight crackers — ' hard tack '


— and lay them on your tin j)late, being careful not to shake the worms
out ; they eat better than they look, and are so much clear gain in the
way of fresh meat. Worms rarely infest poor bread. Next cut off a
slice of salt j)ork, put it on a stick, and broil it over the fire, dripping tlie
scorched lard, yclept gi'avy, on your hard-bread. When your pork is
cooked, your meal is ready to eat. Now take it, while your eyes are
smarting with smoke, your fingers smutty and burned and your face no
fairer, your clothing and evei'ything begrimed, dirty and greasy ; go,
sit down in the dirt, and eat your mess like gentlemen and hogs, with a
soldier's appetite for your sauce.

Oct. 12. "Wed. Fair, cold. Reg. in camp. Inspection. Three
deserters come in. Gen. Grant's invitations to desert are being accepted
by the enemy's men, in fact growing quite popular — sensible for once
in their lives. About 3 a. m. some of the enemy's men attempted to de-
sert, and were fired upon by their comrades. This firing roused our
army, and we all turned out under arms in a twinkling — grumbled, and
turned in again. Recently a Union man by name Day was wounded in
his back, and the boys, hard up for a joke, urged their Surgeon to report
Day as wounded in the ' afternoon.'

Oct. 13. Thurs. Cold, rainy last night. Reg. in camp. A general
court mai'tial convenes. Three deserters come in, the enemy firing upon
them. Last night the 2d Brigade of our Division was sent over to sup-
port troops of the 10th Corps. This morning troops of the 10th Corps
made a reconnaissance in force on the Darbytown road, and provoked a
spirited little fight. The 13th not engaged, but turned out at noon and
remained several hours under arms in the front trenches, and ready for
action. Gen. Butler tried to dislodge the enemy from a new line of works
they were building, and lost heavily.

Oct. 14. Fri. Cold. Reg. in camp. All our baggage and camp
equipage is at the old camp at Bermuda Hundred. Our shelter tents are
much worn, and the nights are growing very chilly and cold. The enemy
captured a lot of negro troops, and set them at work upon the fortifica-
tions, whereupon Gen. Butler selected an equal number of white rebel
prisoners, and set them at work upon Dutch Gap canal — sending to the
rebel commander advice not to fire upon his fi'iends at work there.

Oct. 15. Sat. Clear, warmer. Reg. in cam]i, in Fort Harrison.
Eight deserters come in from the enemy ; and one more shot, l)y the en-
emy, while running toward our lines. Almost every morning there is
held a ' Deserters' Povvow ' so called, at our garrison camp-fire, where all
deserters from the Confederates are welcomed, warmed and fed. The
road to the poor rebels' hearts runs through their stomachs — it is a lux-
ury to see them eat. They give hunger's best evidence of short commons
in the rebel army.

Hospital. Last item. Lieut. Thompson left Annapolis Hospital Oct.
10th, leaving over thirty pieces of his ankle bones — several of the pieces
half an inch across, and one of them still larger — on the banks of the



Severn. Went to TVasliington and settled up accounts. On Oct. 13th
saw President Lincoln, in the White House, for the last time. lie stood
close by an open window, apparently holding a reception, and occasionally
turning and looking out. It was the second window to the left of the
front entrance door ; and Lincoln stood as it were a full length portrait,
the huge window casings serving as a frame. The writer was too lame,
and in too much pain to go in. To-day rode from Washington to New
York, in the kindly care and company of Mrs. Henry Clay Trumbull
and her two little daughters. Chaplain Trumbull is well known as
Connecticut's ' Fighting Parson.'

Oct. 16. Sun. Fine day, cool. Reg. in camp. Moves camp from
one side of Fort Harrison to the other. The 2d Brigade Band — for-
merly of the Thirteenth — has remained at Bermuda Hundred until
within a day or two ; and now the Bands begin here to make our camp
life more cheerful.

Lt. Col. Grantman honorably discharged the service. He had command
of the Thirteenth, for the most of the time, after Col. Stevens was
placed in command of our Brigade on July 26th ; but was sick much of
the time, when the command of the 13th devolved upon Major Smith.
August 10th Grantman went home on sick leave for 20 days. This was
extended, but not recovering from his illness — chills and fever — he re-
luctantly resigns his commission and leaves the service.

Lt. Col. William Grantman was mustered as a Private May 23, 1861,
in Co. H, 1st Mass. Vol. Infantry. About the middle of June that regi-
ment went to Washington, and from there found its first engagement in
the first battle of Bull Run. Three Companies of the 1st Mass., Co. H
among them, opened the action July 18th, at what is known as Black-
burn's Ford. In this action Grantman was wounded in the left arm, left
side and left groin. After a period spent in Hospital he returned to ser-
vice in October. His regiment spent the winter of 1861-2 at Buell's
Ferry on the Lower Potomac, as a part of Gen. Hooker's Division. The
brigade in which was the 1st Mass. was first commanded by Gen. Hooker ;
afterwards Gen. Sickles' Brigade and the New Jersey Brigade were
joined with it, constituting Gen. Hooker's Division. It was on the Vir-
ginia side of the Potomac opposite this Division's winter camp, where the
rebels established their blockade — so called.

In the first part of April 1862, Gen. Hooker's Division joined Gen.
McClellan on tlie Peninsula, and was engaged upon the fortifications in
the vicinity of Yorktown. On the morning of April 26tli, three Com-
panies of the 1st Mass. were designated to assault a redoubt held by the
enemy. Company H supported by the other two Companies led the as-
sault, which was successful. Here again Grantman was wounded, receiv-
ing two bullets in the upper part of his left thigh.

Recovering from these wounds, he was in Wakefield, N. H., when Presi-
dent Lincoln issued the call for 300,000 volunteers, under which the Thir-
teenth enlisted. The citizens of Wakefield, N. H., came to him and urged


him to acce])t a Captaincy ; and as a result of the patriotic endeavors of
himself and others, who afterwards became officers in that organization,
Company A of the Thirteenth was raised, and Capt. Grantman marched
back to the war at the head of it, carrying with him ' the marks of four
rebel bullets and a buckshot.

After the war he returned to his former business — furrier — in Bos-
ton, and has expended much of his time and means in assisting the
worthy sui'vivors of this war who are sick or reduced in circumstances,
and also the families of such, and of the Veterans who have died.

A quiet, gentlemanly man, intensely interested in tlie good fortunes of
the Thirteenth, both when in the service and afterwards, ready for any
honorable duty or action, generous, clear and cool headed, brave and firm ;
his long, faithful services and many battle scars command silence to
every verbal enlargement and encomium.

Oct. 17. Mon. Fair. Reg. in camp. A squad of deserters come
in retailing, at wholesale, a most doleful account of affairs in Dixie ; ap-
parently making all things appear as bad as possible. Like all deserters
from the enemy, however, these men are fearfully hungry.

The Southron as a deserter is only too happy when he reaches the Un-
ion lines, happy as never before in his life ; but he is cautious about mak-
too much of an exhibition of his happiness. Besides, the conscious dis-
grace of having done a desertion broods over him like a little bluish mist,
in which his eye wanders a l)it, and the tones of his voice drag a trifle
husky. Not so the state of the Southron as a prisoner. Next to bride-
grooms in their honeymoons, the happiest men the writer ever set eyes
upon (and he has seen many hundreds of them in all), have been the
men captured from the Confederate army by the Union army in this war.
What they may be in prison he knows not — though none there have been
reported as dying of melancholy — but down here in the two years be-
tween Fredericksburg and Petersburg, and thence on, these captured fel-
lows exhibit unqualified happiness. Every one of them may have ' spoiled
for the fight,' after the description of Southern writers, and no one dis-
putes their bravery when in clanger ; but he evidently prefers the peace
and comfort that Uncle Sam's retirement camp affords, to any battle he
has ever seen. The ancient boast was that any Southerner could whip
three Yankees, some of them five ; but of late it seems as if each South-
ern soldier would rather live on Union army rations than whip four
Yankees, or even half a dozen of them. There may be exceptions, but
to the vast majority, evidently, capture is a consummation of battle
chances most devoutly to be wished. Southern writers have trussed up
and padded a great many paper knights, but the most of the Southern
soldiers are wonderfully human after all.

Oct. 18. Tues. Cloudy, cold. Reg. in camp. Paid off for six
months. The rebel flag-of-truce boat carries a white flag at her fore ; a
white flag with the red Union at her top, and the diagonal cross of the
Confederacy aft. It is a small river steamer bringing prisoners of war


for exchange. A rebel band frequently comes down upon the boat play-
ing Southern airs, to Union and Confederate alike. The boats passing in
the James are in plain view from Fort Harrison, for a narrow S2Jace. One
deserter comes in at noon.

Oct. 19. "Wed. Fair, cold. Reg. in camp. The condition of some
of the boxes, sent by friends at home to men at the front, when they ar-
rived, after a two or four weeks' trip, would make a pig squeal, and
even a soldier swear : Rotten apples, pears, gi'apes and plums, mouldy
cakes, pies past their prime, cheese all wiggle-wiggle, doughnuts rancid ;
chicken needs no carving, jam fermented and " got loose," cordial weep-
ing, candy in a muss, all mixed topsy-turvy, butter melted and I'un all
over everything, bugs and creeping things holding a grand high carnival

— and clothing smelling like the last rose of summer.

Oct. 20. Thurs. Cloudy. The officers of the Thirteenth have for
a long time desired to have the Spencer rifles, but doubted if they could
obtain them. Gen. Devens sends for Major Smith, without solicitation,
and proposes to arm the Thirteenth with Sharps breech-loading carbines

— a most agreeable surprise.

A grand salute fired, of five rounds from each cannon on our line all
shotted and well aimed at the rebel works, in honor of Gen. Sheridan's
latest victory. The enemy feebly replies with only a few mortar shells.

" A few days since I went out with Major Stoodley from our picket
line to exchange newspapers with the rebel pickets. I waved a New Yoi"k
Herald, they answered my signal with a Richmond paper. After the
usual custom of such errands, each party started to advance half way for
a meeting between the lines ; and we had nearly completed the distance,
when a rebel officer came out and ordered his man back, and we could
not make the exchange. Their orders are now very strict against ex-
changing papers." Prescott.

Oct. 21. Fri. Cool, clear. Five deserters come in, all fired upon
by their own side. Four Subs desert to the rebels from the 2d N. H.

Brigade Review — another ' Brevet Review.'

Oct. 22. Sat. Pleasant, cool. Reg. in camp. Gen. Grant visits
Fort Harrison. Five deserters come into our lines to-night, and forty
more come in at a short distance to the left of us. Our gunners get the
range of the rebel gunboats in the James and start them up the river,
after a noisy contest. The rebels cheer loudly to-night.

Oct. 23. Sun. Pleasant. Reg. in camp. Usual Sunday duties.
For a week or two past our lines here have been very quiet, and nothing
of particular note has occurred. Since the fortifications were satisfactorily
strengthened, the firing between the pickets — by a sort of common con-
sent — has been discontinued, all along the line here, though in the region
about Dutch Gap canal the firing has been continuous. The canal is 2j
miles below Fort Harrison. It is about 300 feet long, 75 wide and 40
deep. Saves seven miles of travel. Many rebel prisoners are now at
work on the canal, in retaliation for the rebels' treatment of our colored


troops when captured hy them. The enemy are continually shelling the
shovelers, and men and horses are killed almost every day.

Oct. 24. Mon. Cold. Reg. in camp. Our lines here are now pro-
tected by a moat and abatis. The enemy has no force to risk in recap-
turing them. Out in front also our pickets are strongly entrenched. A
newspaper exchange is arranged between our Brigade and the enemy —
the pickets making the exchanges. Thus we have the Richmond morn-
ing papers, and the enemy's men can read the Northern papers, can re-
flect, grow wiser, and desert to the Union lines, as they are continually

Of the 1,040 men who left New Hampshire Oct. 7, 1862, and of all
the Recruits received besides, raising our numbers to nearly 1,300, but
610 men are now on our regimental rolls ; 200 of these are absent sick
and wounded in various Hospitals, 200 are detailed, the remainder are
present. We turn out for duty now about 100 men.

The 8th Conn., our good friends and formerly of our Brigade, now re-
duced to 90 muskets, Capt. Charles M. Coitt commanding, are head-
quarters' guard for the 18th Corps. " An easy piece of hard work."

Chills and fever quite prevalent in the Thirteenth, and the force gener-
ally ; and a man suffering from their ' disintegrating ' effects feels, as it
were, like an old barrel with the heads half out, the hoops working off,
the staves all awry, and the whole thing ready — and infamously willing
— to collapse into a shapeless heap of rubbish.

Oct. 25. Tues. Clear, windy, cool. Reg. in camp. Up to this
time the Thirteenth has remained in, or in the vicinity of Fort Harrison,
strengthening its fortifications, and furnishing the usual quotas for picket
and outpost duty, but not engaging in any special battle, service or ex-
pedition. The spirits of the men are revived by the period of rest, and
their numbers somewhat increased by the return of absentees and con-
valescents. A body of negro troops moves in to-day, and mans a portion
of the line at Fort Harrison. A Union vedette near the 1.3th is scooped
out of his little rifle-pit by a large Confederate shell, which bursts, blows
him to pieces, and scatters the pieces all over the field. Asst. Surgeon
Morrill returns to the 13th this evening, Six deserters from the enemy
came in last night.

Here is a little illustration of the uncertainties of war : " About Sept.
25th I served as a member of a court martial at Gen. Ord's Hdqrs. at
Bermuda Hundred. The court adjourned and all the members with
one exception went with their regiments to the battle of Fort Harrison.
After the fight we finished trying the case that came before us, convening
at Mr. Henry Cox's house near Fort Harrison, minus four of our original
membership, of whom three had been wounded and one mustered out.
I had been wounded also, but was able to attend to my duties after a few
days." Lt. Col. Smith.

Oct. 26. "Wed. Fine day. Reg. breaks camp at dark, marches
about one and one half miles to the rear, halts on Mr. Henry Cox's farm,


bivouacs, and receives orders to prepare three days' cooked rations, and
to be ready to move at 5 a. m. to-morrow. Here we are joined by the
rest of the garrison of Fort Harrison and neighboring works, consisting of
our 1st Division of the 18th Coi*ps, now commanded by Gen. Gihiian
Marston of New Hampshire ; and also by a Division of the 18th Corps,
which has come up from the works at Bermuda Hundred ; all together to
form an expeditionary corps under Maj. Gen. Weitzel. Major Smith now
commands the loth, and our 1st Brigade, consisting of the 13th N. H.
81st, 98th and 139th New York regiments, is in command of Col. John
B. Raulston of the 81st N. Y. Much disturbance and several severe fights
occur to-day among the men of our Brigade, who are made drunk on whis-
key obtained from commissaries and sutlers.

To-morrow the whole Union army is to be set in motion, and leaving
only a small garrison along its thirty miles of fortifications is to make the
most powerful demonstration yet attempted on the enemy's present lines ;
if possible, to turn his right flank south of Petersbui'g, and gain possession
of the Southern railroads. The purpose of our force, now here on Cox's
farm, is to gain the nearest possible point to Richmond, and to prevent

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 58 of 81)