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 60 of 81)
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medical study had been so limited that the law did not permit of his ap-
pointment as Surgeon or Assistant Surgeon, notwithstanding the fact that
his long practical experience as Hospital Steward had fitted him excel-
lently for those positions. Major Smith commanding the Thirteenth, and
others of its officers, thought that his long, faithful and valuable services
should receive a special recognition — hence his commission as First

At dark orders are received to cook three days' rations, and to be ready
to move at a moment's notice. Daring the night two regiments of our
Brigade move out, leaving us to man the works. There has been heavy
firing on the left all day.

Nov. 3. Thurs. Rainy, cold. Thirteenth in camp. Transferred
to the 2d Brigade. In the afternoon we again move, to a new camp-
ground farther to the right. These successive moves to the right take the
13th away from Fort Harrison, out upon the wide curve in the Union
lines tliat sweeps eastward across the New Market road, and then on
southward towards Deep Bottom. The Thirteenth has remained in and
near Fort Harrison until to-day.

Nov. 4. Fri. Very stormy last night ; clears this morning. Thir-
teenth in camp. Drilling resumed. Company drill forenoon ; regimen-
tal and brigade drill afternoon. The non-commissioned officers are to
meet in school twice a week. Many troops sent North to protect the fron-
tier. The most of the 1st Brigade have gone. The 3d N. H. have also
gone. Three men deserted from the Thirteenth last night, scared by the
evidences of a movement in the Union lines.

Nov. 5. Sat. Clear, cold. Thirteenth in camp. We are camped
in nothing but shelter tents, and our bed is the ground. No fires can be
had in the tents, and none outside when it rains. Thirteenth transferred
back to the 1st Brigade.

Nov. 6. Sun. Fine, cool. Reg. in camp. Very particular Inspection.

Nov. 7. Mon. Rainy a. m. Reg. in camp. Our Brigade under
arms — an attack expected. One third of the army under arms all night.
Many of the New York regiments have gone away, we expected to go


with our old 1st Brigade, and had orders to prepare three days' cooked
rations, hut were transferred to tlie 2d Brigade instead. And then again
were put in the 1st Brigade, consisting of two regiments, 13th N. H. and
139th N. Y.

Nov. 8. Tues. Cloudy. Reg. in camp. Voted for President of
the United States. The vote in the Thirteenth stands 104 for Lincoln,
and 41 for McClellan. The 2d N. H. gives fifty odd votes, four of them
for McClellan. The enemy threatened mischief for to-day, hut has kept
quiet. The 13th under marching orders, hut does not move.

Nov. 9. Wed. Cloudy, warm, rainy. Reg. in camp. Log-houses
commenced for winter quarters. They are ten feet long, seven feet wide,
with walls five feet high, and covered with shelter tents for roofs. Two
bunks are placed crosswise, one above the other, at the back end, each
bunk for two men. At the front end is a door, and at one side a fireplace,
the chimney outside the house, and built ujj of sticks and mud. The log
walls of the houses chinked and plastered with clay. Very comfortable
houses. Very heavy and rapid firing below Petersburg heard here this
evening. No notice taken of it here.

Nov. 10. Thurs. Cloudy, warm, showery. Thirteenth in camp.
A quiet day.

Persistent gi"umbling in the Northern army is a habit confined cliiefly
to hirelings. A question principally of character — or of no character.
The habit appears to be a sort of relief to an unoccupied mind. There
are men who grumble while they eat, or drink, or sleep, or play, or sing,
or laugh, or dance, or cheer ; and while they imbibe their whiskey rations
and while they fight. Gi'umbling runs in waves ; on stormy days the
grumble wave runs high, in fair weather the wave is low. But seven out
of every ten of the common grumblers are the stuff cowards, bounty-
jumpers and deserters are made of.

Once on a time there was born to a certain man's kennels, of a small
cross-breed of dogs, a puppy half white and half black, the colors divided
along the median line from the end of his nose to the tip of his tail ; he
was an odd looking scamp with one eye white, the other black. In the
daytime it was difficult to tell which half of him was coming first, and in
the night he necessarily appeared only half a dog. He grew a solemn,
deaconish, long-faced, sorry-eyed dog, and rarely wagged his tail. He
knew little, and could be taught little. He was a curious bicolor-dog.
But what made him a source of abiding interest was his habit of speech.
He rarely or never barked — did not have time — but whether asleep or
awake, dozing or dreaming, chasing or sitting in the corner, playing or
working, eating or drinking, or whatever he was doing, he kept u^) an
ugly, frequent, almost unending cry, an uncertain mouthing mixture of a
growl, a whine of half starvation, and the '' Whi — ii ! " of a poodle dog
stung by two hornets at once. He never let up in that thing for a whole
day during the two years or so of his life ; and the more he ' grumbled '
the healthier he grew. His owner kept him as a curiosity, until he could


be endured no longer. We merely mention him as a fair type of the
common gi'umbler, in the army or out of it.

Nov. 1 1 . Fri. Clear. Thirteenth in camp. Fashion invades
even a military camp in the field. White gloves and white collars are in
demand : " Turn down coUars will do — but the garotte, the choker, is
by far the most fashionable," writes one member of the Thirteenth.

Nov. 12. Sat. Showery, p. m. clear, cold. Thirteenth in camp.
Lieut. Churchill goes home on a twenty days' leave. Gen. Grant sup-
presses sundry New York papers, ordering a wholesale destruction of all
of them that come to City Point. We are thus deprived of our regular
daily paper, and probably of some of the most interesting reading of the
season. All communication between our pickets and those of the enemy
are now strictly prohibited.

Nov. 13. Sun. Very cold, clear. A snow squall in afternoon.
Thirteenth in camp. Usual Sunday duties. Cyrus G. Drew of B receives
a thirty days' furlough by special order. He has acted as clerk at
Hdqrs. for much of his term of service ; and as clerk of Company B when-
ever with the Regiment. A first class clerk, and an excellent penman. It
may properly be said that officers leave camp on a " Leave of absence,"
while enlisted men go on " Furlough," both terms meaning practically the
same thing so far as absence is concerned.

Mess board now costs $5.00 per week, and that for the commonest
necessaries, few luxuries are to be had at any price ; an unending round
of pork, beef and potatoes, bread, coffee and beans, and none very good.

Nov. 14. Mon. Clear, cool. Reg. in camp, and at work on winter

Nov. 15. Tues. Clear, sharp, frosty. Reg. in camp. The pinch
caused by the scarcity of officers on duty in the 13th is very severely
felt. Our officers are practically forced to do double duty.

Recruiting for the 13th is especially up hill work. Recruits seem to
di'ead the 13th because of its rejxitation for hard fighting. The average
man at home nowadays is more fond of dollars than of war. Lieut. Pres-
cott assigned to the command of Company E this afternoon. New cloth-
ing issued to the men of the 13th.

Nov. 16. "Wed. Clear. Reg. in camp. Drilling. Log-houses are
rapidly going up for winter quarters, all along the line. Six deserters
come in ; and all of them who now come in say that there is no danger
of a rebel attack on our lines here, they are so strong.

Nov. 17. Thurs. Rainy. Reg. in camp. Capt. Staniels returns
to duty. Regular monthly inspection. Asst. Surgeon Morrill commis-
sioned Surgeon of the 1st N. H. Heavy Artillery. Receives his com-
mission Nov. 23d ; leaves the Thirteenth Nov. 26th.

Nov. 18. Fri. Rainy. Reg. in camp. Heavy musketry firing
heard this evening on the right of the Bermuda Hundred lines near the
Hewlett House. The occasion is the attack upon, and capture of, a por-
tion of the Bermuda Hundred line (where the 13th were stationed last


August and September, before coming to Fort Harrison), by Confederate
Gen. Pickett's troops. The garrison of Redoubt McConihe — including
Co. C — are not driven out, though the redoubt is considerably advanced
beyond the main line of our eai-th-works. A few men of the garrison are
pushed out to form a corps of observation, and one of them, John C. Palmer
of C, is captured by the enemy. (Palmer was taken to Richmond, after-
wards made his escape, and came into our lines near AVilson's Landing.)
We are ordered to be in readiness ; and turn in at night expecting every
minute to hear : " Fall in — fall in ! " Turning out in the cold is far
more dreaded than any light we are likely to be called into ; to fight (and
win) is glorious, to shiver with the benumbing, ague-breeding cold and
dampness is a mean experience.

Nov. 19. Sat. Very rainy, cold. Reg. in camp. A very fine
camp we now have, with many modern conveniences. The officers'
houses are similar to those of the men, only a little larger. See Nov. 9th.
This rain, however, washes out the clay between the logs, which had
scarcely dried, and all the huts leak badly.

Capt. Staniels appointed Acting Asst. Adjt. General on the staff of
the First Brigade, First Division 18th Army Corps.

Nov. 20. Sun. Rainy, all day. Reg. ordered to remain in quar-
ters. Ammunition issued, and special preparations made to resist an ex-
pected attack by the enemy. Six deserters came in to our Brigade last
night, a fair nightly average. Lieut. Taggard, Adjutant of the Thirteenth,
renders himself popular by promptness and efficiency ; and by his custom
of being particular, exceedingly minute and reliable in all matters concern-
ing rolls, orders and reports. Capt. Farr, absent from the Reg. since his
wound was received on June 1st, returns to duty to-day ; the wound, how-
ever, is only partially healed.

Nov. 21. Mon. Rainy, warm. Reg. in camp. What is left of
Confederate Gen. Early's Army of the Shenandoah is now massed on
our front. They expect an attack ; so do we. We can count three lines
of abatis in front of the enemy's works, and the spaces between those lines
are reliably reported to be thickly planted with torpedoes. We shall
never assault that combination.

Sundry huts built of stakes with brush woven in among them, all well
packed with turf and clay — a method of construction known as 'wattle
and daub ' — in the absence of frost to solidify the structure, are made
by this storm most unattractive heaps of twigs and mud. The man who
introduced them receives no praises. They prove worse than similar
huts did at Frederick s])urg — meaner than a musk-rat's nest, shabbier
than a broken beaver dam.

Nov. 22. Tues. Very cold. Reg. in camp; everybody and every-
thing soaking wet. We have had a steady rain for four days, clearing
to-night cold with a heavy frost. It is most miserable weather, and the
Thirteenth is in unfinished quarters — al-most a repetition of the Falmouth


camp. The mutl plastering — ' chinking ' — of the walls and chimneys
had only partly dried when the rain came on ; this soon washed out, and
many of the clay-and-sticks chimneys fell down, each leaving a huge
muddy hole in the wall, instead of a fireplace, where the storm beat in
and no fire could be built. About half the huts in the Thirteenth are in
this condition to-night. This evening two deserters from the enemy come
in to the Thirteenth.

Nov. 23. Wed. Very cold, clear. Reg. in camp. Our surplus
baggage is still at Bermuda Hundred, though very much needed here.
The men have recently suffered severely while on picket, and in the fre-
quent changes of camp. All furloughs and leaves of absence have been
temporarily suspended, the troops all being needed at the front.

Nov. 24. Thurs. Cool. Thanksgiving Day. Capt. Julian's par-
ents, and with them Miss Charlotte Vinal of Exeter, visit camp.

Gen. Ord has formed a special fund from the savings of the men in
the matter of rations, and with it, through Capt. Witherbee, Corps Com-
missary, has supplied poultry, fruit, nuts, cranberries, etc., in abundance,
for the men of the Thirteenth and other regiments, but officers are ex-
cluded by special orders from the use of articles purchased by this fund ;
consequently the men have a good dinner, while the officers are waiting
for supplies. One officer of the Thirteenth writes that he had hard bread,
butter and a cup of chocolate for his dinner, and that was the best he
could get. Another reports having cod-fish and potatoes, as the best that
he could muster.

" Pleasant day. Thanksgiving. Cod-fish for dinner."

Lieut. Prescott.

Nov. 25. Fri. Clear, cool. Reg. in camp. To-day a bountiful
supply of turkeys, also crackers, cakes, apples, cranberries and knick-
knacks, arrives from New Hampshire for the officers and men of the Thir-
teenth. A team has waited at the James River landing three days for
this shipment ; the steamer bringing it having run aground. The poul-
try now on hand averages about four pounds for every member of the
Regiment. " It is Thanksgiving for a week," writes one man of the Thir-
teenth. The cranberries are a source of much amusement. The ration
of sugar, served to the men, is barely enough to sweeten their coffee ; and
how to make cranberry sauce or pies without any sweetening is a puzzle.
One man made a long string of beads of his portion, and wore them
around his neck as long as they held together.

Nov. 26. Sat. Cold, clear. Reg. in camp. Many officers are be-
ing mustered out on expiration of their three yeai's' term of service. Our
Brigade thus loses eight officers this week. Generals Grant, Meade and
Butler and the Hon. Henry Wilson visit our camp. The mails average
about three days' time in coining from Concord, N. H., to this front. Gen.
Grant is very particular about the mails for his command, because, as he
puts it : " Regular correspondence with friends at home relieves the sol-


dievs of much fret and worry, and makes them more cheerful, healthy
and steady."

Nov. 27. Sun. Clear, Reg. in camp. The officers of the Thir-
teenth take their Thanksgiving dinner to-day, at the quarters of Lt. Col.
Smith, who has charge of the hanquet, and all are seated strictly accord-
ing to rank. Twenty are present besides Lt. Col. Smith, comprising all
the field, staff and line of the Thirteenth now in camp. Two fine large
turkeys, which have come to camp directed to Col. Stevens, do duty with
others on the well spread table.

Nov. 28. Mon. Pleasant, fine. Reg. in camp. Reader — did
you ever eat a Thanksgiving dinner while serving as a soldier, in an
army, in active service, in the field ? If not, you know not how to eat ;
nor how badly a fellow can feel next day !

Nov. 29. Tues. Cloudy, warm. Reg. in camp. The chief specu-
lation in camp is in reference to what will happen when the bulkhead is
blown out of the end of Dutch Gap canal. Some there are who expect a
furious battle — the final struggle for Richmond. The bulkhead is mined,
the rebels have heavy batteries opposite. The work on the canal has been
done under the direction of Maillefort, who blew up Hurl Gate in New
York harbor.

Nov. 30. "Wed. Pleasant, warm. Reg. in camp — " Camp in
front of Richmond." And so is England in front of France — but the
stormy channel roars between.

The ruins of a house, with chimneys standing, is in front of the picket
line on the Varina road (near where Dr. Aiken's house now stands).
Major Stoodley wants some brick from these chimneys, and himself and a
few men go near the ruins to get them. There is every prospect of suc-
cess, when a squad of Confederate pickets suddenly rise up by the roadside,
uncomfortably near, and show fight. The Major retires with his men,
jocularly remarking that " he guesses he don't want any of those brick."
One thing is certain, however, when Major Stoodley is forced to give up a
dangerous job, all other men will find it for their interest to let it alone.

Dec. 1. Thurs. Very pleasant. Reg. in camp. Lieut. Morrison
sick with fever at the field hospital. Lieut. Churchill ajipointed Adjutant
of the ' Substitutes' Camp ' at Concord, N. H.

Dec. 2. Pri. Warm, cloudy. Reg. in camp. An uneasy day.
The enemy shells Dutch Gap, and our batteries near it, tremendously with
heavy mortars. In the afternoon the Reg. is placed under arms in the
front trenches. Orders are issued that neither officer nor man is to sleep,
even for a moment, during the night while on picket, and no fires are to
be lighted. This is most severe, and on long stormy nights the men and
officers suffer greatly. Between 10 and 11 ]). m., very heavy musketry
firing is heard rolling up from the Bermuda Hundred right, and continu-
ing for nearly an hour, the James river serving as a huge sounding board.
" Major Stoodley made a ball-alley to-day." The first in the Thirteenth.

Dec. 3. Sat. Cold with snow. Reg. in camp. The 13th assigned


to its new Brigade — 1st Brig. 3cl Div. 24th Corps. The 1st Div. of the
18th Corps becomes the 3(1 Div. of the 24th Coi'ps. The Tliirteenth en-
gaged all day in digging a ditch and in planting abatis in front of the
works. Lieut Sawyer returns to the connnand of Company E.

Maj. Gen. W. F. Smith — ' Baldy ' — commanded the 18th Corps from
May 2, 1864, to July 19, 1864 ; Maj. Gen. E. O. C. Ord from July 21,
1864, to Oct. 1, 1864 ; Maj. Gen. Godfrey Weitzel from Oct. 1, 1864, to
Dec. 3, 1864. To-day the old 18th Corps is broken up, and the white
troops of the 18th and 10th Corps are to form the 24th Corps — Gen.
E. O. C. Ord commanding, while the colored troops of these two corps
will together form the 2oth Corps. The 10th and 18th Corps being dis-

Dec. 4. Sun. Clear. Reg. receives orders to move, but remains in
camp. The whole army is turned out before daylight, so as to be ready
to repel assaults. All very quiet along our lines. Colored troops come
in this afternoon.

Dec. 5. Mon. Clear, warm. Reg. moves farther to the right, on
account of the reorganization of the corps, to ground previously held by
colored troops of the 10th Corps, and encamps. We thus become the
right of the line of the Army of the James. The negi'o troops of the
10th Corps holding the left of the line.

The Thirteenth is now commanded by Lt. Col. Normand Smith, and
our 1st Brigade, consisting of the 11th Conn., 13th N. H., 19th Wis.,
81st, 98th and 139th N. Y., is commanded by Lt. Col. John B. Raulston
of the 81st N. Y.

Dec. 6. Tues. Cloudy, cold, stormy. Thirteenth in camp, and
fitting up quarters. The 24th Corps is the right of the entire army in
the field, and our 3d Division is the left of the Corps line, bringing the
13th about one mile to the right of Fort Harrison. We were called this
morning at 5.30 a. m., and at daylight exchanged quarters with the colored
troops. The 6th Corps arrives on this front. The numerous changes of
camp subject the men and officers to great inconvenience and discomfort ;
some of the quarters occupied are filthy beyond description.

Dec. 7. Wed. Cold, rainy. Thirteenth in camp. We, with the
rest of our Division, are under orders to remain in readiness to move at
an hour's notice, with two days' rations and sixty rounds per man of am-
munition. The Reg. is called into line at 5.30 a. m. as a regular order.
The quarters, of the colored troops, now occupied by the Reg. are inferior,
and this storm comes on before they can be properly refitted.

Dec. 8. Thurs. Very cold, cloudy. Thirteenth on the front picket
line, without fires, and suffering sevei'ely from the cold. The fires on our
picket lines have been discontinued, by general order, for about two weeks
past, while the enemy's pickets have large, warm fires in plenty, and have
had them all the winter.

" I have seen the general officer of our picket going about and extin-
guishing the tiny fires of a few twigs kindled behind some rock or shel-


tered nook, around which our })oor frozen fellows, on the picket line, were
trying" to warm their benumbed fingers." Lieut. Prescott.

Dec. 9. Fri. Very cold. Snow, rain and sleet at night. About
two inches of snow falls, and is covered with a stiff, sharp crust. This
cuts the horses' feet to bleeding, and tears the men's army shoes to pieces,
as they march through it.

The officers now in charge of our picket lines are required to stay on
the picket line for 24 hours, and to keep awake all night. A battle Is
liable to commence at any hour, and the sleepless vigilance required is
ruining the health and vigor of both officers and men. Picketing was
never before so strict. The Brigade officer of the day is on the picket
line for 24 hours continuously. The Division officer of the day goes
along the entire line twice in the daytime, and twice at night ; and the
Corj)s officer is constantly on hand to see that all the duties are attended
to according to orders. The worst burden, however, falls upon the en-
listed men, besides being watched by the eye of every official grade above
them — every officer and man is watched by a dozen others.

Dec. 10. Sat. Cold, a little snow, much mud and slush. The Thir-
teenth suddenly called into line for action ; turned out three times during
the day, remaining in the front trenches until dark. The enemy again
pounding away with heavy mol-tars, especially about Fort Harrison, and
also making a demonstration on the right. Nothing serious occurs near
us, but Jourdan's Brigade, on our right, loses 25 men killed and wounded.

The officers of the Thirteenth, and other regiments in the Division, go
to Hdqrs. and enter complaint against the order prohibiting picket fires.
If attacked, they state, our men could not possibly defend themselves ;
they could only fire one round and then retire, for their hands are so be-
numbed they could not possibly re-load their muskets. The result of the
complaint is that the picket fires are renewed ; and our pickets again
have an even chance with the rebels. The pickets go out at 4.30 p. m.,
and remain on duty for 24 hours ; some of them in the front rifle-pits,
and some as vedettes on the open ground beyond.

Dec. 11. Sun. Very cold, rainy. Thirteenth called into line in the
trenches at 5 a. m. ; at daylight returns to camp.

The Thirteenth now has upon its rolls only 21 officers and 580 men,
though it has been increased by nearly 300 recruits. We now have 225
men present — less than 200 fit for duty — 125 detached, and over 200
sick and wounded in various hospitals.

Dec. 12. Mon. Very cold last night and to-day. The utmost vigi-
lance Is now demanded here. The force Is short. As an instance : The
Brigade officer of the day is required to remain on the picket line all
night, and to keep awake. He must be moving constantly up and down
the line during all of both day and night. There are but five officers now
in our Brigade who are eligible for this duty ; to be awake all of one
night in every five Is hard work — when added to all other regular duties.
All the other officers, and the men, are equally hard pressed. Thirteenth


and other troops turn out in line of battle at 5 a. m. every morning,
regularly, then stack arms and return to quarters, remaining until late in
the morning with equipments on.

Dec. 13. Tues. Clear, cold. Reg. in camp. Gen. Meade and staff
visit our lines, and make a most particular inspection of them.

Gen. Butler is on his way, with Gen. Weitzel in immediate command,
to attack Fort Fisher at Wilmington, N. C. ; by some considered the
strongest fort which the enemy has, or wdiich has been attacked during
the war. The Army of the James furnishes for the expedition Gen.
Ames' Division of the 24th Corps, and Gen. Faine's Division of the 25th
Corps (colored), a total of about 6,500 men. Admiral Porter goes with
37 vessels, carrying upwards of 500 guns, the most formidable fleet as-
sembled for any special expedition during the war.

Dec. 14. "Wed. Pleasant, some rain. Reg. in camp ; turned out
only for company drill. Six regiments now in our Brigade, eighteen regi-
ments in our Division — and no Brigadier General.

Dec. 15. Thurs. Pleasant. Reg. in camp. Under arms at 5, or
5.30 a. m. The rebel gunboats and rams, about a mile distant, are blow-
ing tlieir steam whistles far more noisily than usual.

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 60 of 81)