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

. (page 62 of 81)
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 62 of 81)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Look-out, better not 'pose me, sah ! "' and starts along. He is stopped,
the card is shown, the private's traps are returned to him — the ten cents
of course being kept by the negro — and the camp-follower goes into the
service of a Lieutenant, with card, but no money in advance — or at any
other time. In a few days the negro is promoted — " 'p'moted, sah " —
to the service of the Major or Colonel, is dressed up finely, and cannot be
touched with a forty-foot pole. But during the various grades of his ser-
vice he has trudged along, sweating and puffing, with a load of a hun-
dred pounds or more, canteens, haversacks, blankets, odd guns, etc., and
the higher grade he serves the less money he gets.

Early in the war we knew one of these black boys whose employer, in
a thoughtless moment, gave him a new half-a-dollar. The negro tied it
up in a rag, polished it three times a day, and showed it to all his ' cullud
f 'wends ' for forty days and forty nights ; and that mischievous fifty-cent
piece cost the Brigade more money than the lucky black owner was worth
— the black boys began to ask money for their services. But they are all
happy ; and that seems to be about all their present life is made for.

Jan. 15. Sun. Pleasant. Reg. in camp.

Jan. 16. Mon. Pleasant. Reg. in camp. The rebel tune of
'Bonnie Blue Flag,' the principal rebel song — unless 'My Maryland'
stands first — is said to be an adaptation of an old air, ' He 's gone to the
arms of Abraham.' Its music, however, is flat, and the rebels have worn
the stuff in it all to rags. Col. Edgar M. CuUen, 96th N. Y., assumes
command of our 1st Brigade.

Jan. 17. Tues. Clear, cloudy, snowy, windy, mixed, disagreeable.
Reg. in camp. Review of Division by Gen. Gibbon. News arrives of the
capture of Fort Fisher by Gen. Alfred Terry and Admiral Porter ; and
a salute with blank cartridges is fired all up and down the Union lines.


This most gallant affair is another feather in the cap of the Army of the
James. Gen. Terry with the same force from our front that Gen. Butler
had in the former attack, and one Brigade more — a total of 8,000 men,
with Admiral Porter and the same fleet, captures the fort after a most
desperate contest, lasting from 3 p. m. until 10 p. m. The Union army
lost 646 men, killed and wounded, and the navy 309. The Confederate
garrison of 2,500 men were all killed or captured. The fort mounted 75
guns, the outworks 94, total 169.

Jan. 18. Wed. Cloudy, cold. Reg. in camp.

Jan. 19. Thurs. Fair, cold. Reg. in camp. New quarters being
built. A change in the position of Companies. The Thirteenth has re-
cently been highly complimented, for general efficiency, by both our Di-
vision and Corps commanders.

In the division of duties one of five officers in our Brigade is appointed
each day as camp brigade-officer, to see that the six regiments are
promptly in line at 5.30 a. m., at Reveille, that they are all out on the
regular terms of drill appointed for the day, and to see to the brigade
prisoners and deserters from the enemy. They also act as trial justices ;
taking the place of regimental courts martial.

Jan. 20. Fri. Cloudy, cold. Reg. in camp. Battalion drill. A
great change for the better in the appearance of the troops. New
clothing, better rations and quarters work wonders in a few days among
the men. Our Reg. and the 139th N. Y. — furnishing together about
160 men besides usual details — are to be consolidated in one battalion
for purposes of drill. After the various details are taken out, fe.w regi-
ments have in cam^i, for drill, so many as ten men in a company.

Jan. 21. Sat. Cold, snowy and rainy, the rain freezing as it falls.
In accordance with an order issued by Gen. Gibbon, commanding the
24th Corps, granting one furlough of 20 days, at each inspection, to the
best soldier in each Division, the Thirteenth receives a liberal share of the
honors. The first furlough granted under this order was given on Dec.
18, 1864 to Sergeant M. C. Shattuck of B ; no small compliment in a
Division of 20 regiments and over 6,000 men.

The plan is this : Every foui'th day, at inspection, each commander of
a Company selects the man whom he considers the best soldier he has.
These men go before the commander of the Regiment, who selects one
man from among them for examination by the commander of the Brigade.
The commander of each brigade selects one man from all those sent to
him belonging to his brigade of four or five regiments. These men ap-
pear before the commander of the Division, who selects one of them to re-
ceive the furlough ; his name is then announced to the whole Division.

Under a similar order, the best appearing regiment, in the Corps, pres-
ent at the weekly general inspection is exempt from picket duty for one
week, and furnishes the guards for Corps Hdqrs.

Jan. 22. Sun. Rainy. Reg. in camp. Ex-Quarter-master Person


C. Cheney, E. M. Tubbs, A. P. Morrison, J. H. Ames, and Messrs. Scrip-
ture, Parker and Spaulding, all from New Hampshire, visit the camp of
the Thirteenth. The Reg. receives Quarter-master Cheney with welcom-
ing cheers.

Jan. 23. Mon. Rainy, and exceeding muddy. The entire coun-
try, wherever troops move, is a quagmire as soon as the soil is disturbed
by the action of feet, hoofs and wheels. The guests of the Thirteenth
visit Fort Harrison, our lines of works and the Dutch Gap canal. At
night the Thirteenth is suddenly called out into the front trenches, and
our whole Union force mans the works.

To-night — or rather, in the early morning of the 24th — in the pursu-
ance of a grand scheme to gobble the entire Army of the James, and to as-
tonish the world, the rebels mass a large body of infantry on our right,
and their rams and gunboats steam down the James to the lower end of
Dutch Gap, having succeeded in breaking a chain thrown across the liver
near the Gap. Tliree of these vessels run past Fort Brady to near the
Howlett House Batteiy. The fleet consists of the iron-clads Richmond,
Virginia and Fredericksburg, five gunboats and three torpedo boats. The
gunboat Drewry runs aground, is abandoned, and as it keels over, it is
blown up by a large shell from Battery Parsons ; the rest of the fleet es-
capes up the river towards Richmond at night. Our shore batteries badly
damage the whole fleet, while the huge guns of the iron-clads nearly de-
stroy several batteries. The noise of the contest is tremendous. The
rebel infantry make no attack. The whole affair is a failure.

Company C, numbering thirty-two men, has been during all the fall
and winter on detached service in Redoubt McConihe on the Bermuda
Hundred line. This redoubt is several hundred feet in advance of the
main line, and occupies the sharp conical hill on which the Thirteenth
encamped on May 18, 1864. It is a little less than a mile from the
James. Its position is very exposed, close up to the rebel rifle-trenches ;
the enemy, however, have no fort on its immediate front. In front of
the redoubt is a strong, dense abatis, and a wide, deep ditch encircles it.
The enemy has harassed the garrison every night with attacks or feints
— making himself as ' unchivalrous and as ungenerous ' as possible ; but
the capture of the redoubt would be of small consequence to him, for a
large Union fort near it, to the rear, could knock it all to pieces in a few
minutes. The garrison has consisted of Co. C 13th, and a Comjiany
from a Pennsylvania regiment of heavy artillery, with four brass ' Najio-
leon ' guns. The total a garrison of about 100 men. The negro troops
occupy the positions to the right and left. The whole garrison has turned
out every morning at five o'clock and manned the works, the cannon
ready to fire, the muskets at the loop-holes, and so remained until day-
light. A messenger is sent to the Thirteenth, at Fort Harrison, once a
week — a sixteen mile tramp. Capt. James M. Durell took command of
this redoubt and garrison on Sept. 1, 1864 ; but was appointed on the


staff of Gen. Graham, and Lieut. Royal B. Prescott was placed in com-
mand, in his stead, on Dec. 16, and remained there until Jan. 23. Here
is a bit of his experience, given in a letter dated Jan. 7, 1865, a sketch
of the pressure on thousands of guardsmen at the front :

'' I am under the very strictest orders ; am confined to these narrow
limits day and night without relief ; am responsible for the redoubt and
everything in and around it ; it is my duty to take every precaution to
guard against a surprise ; I must employ eveiy means for its defense,
and must regulate and determine every feature and movement of all the
2)roceedings, day and night. I hear every little noise that occurs during
the night, and am in a half conscious state all night long. I hear the
tread of the sentinel at the gate of the redoubt, and startle at the sound
of his musket as it strikes the ground at varied intervals ; while the
sound of a musket-shot on the picket line brings me up in an instant.
When I think of the situation here, I almost think I am not myself, but
some other fellow. The rebel band played ' Dixie ' one evening, when
the negi'o troops on our left struck up ' Rally Round the Flag, Boys,'
rendering the chorus with a great deal of vigor." Lieut. Prescott.

Lieut. Prescott and Company C are relieved to-day, and rejoin the
Thirteenth at Fort Harrison, crossing the James over the lower ponton
bridge at Deep Bottom. Their whole march of about ten miles is made
in a drizzling rain and through almost liquid mud knee-deep, the men
heavily loaded with muskets, equipments, tents and camp utensils ; and
the whole day, from ten o'clock a. m. until five p. m., is required to make
the journey. " When they arrived they all looked as if they had been
rolled in a brick yard."

Jan. 24. Tues. Pleasant, a little rain. Thirteenth in the trenches
all day, and severely shelled — some rebel shells even reaching us from
Fort Gilmer. A demonstration is expected from the enemy's left upon
our right. The most of the enemy's shells to-day are directed upon Fort
Harrison. About dark the Thirteenth, with our Brigade, leaves the front
trenches and returns to camp, not having fired a shot. The trenches are
wet, however, and the men come in well bespattered with mud.

Jan. 25. "Wed. Clear, cold. Thirteenth in camp. Orders re-
ceived this morning for the 13th to have two days' cooked rations, and
eveiything in readiness to move at a moment's notice. The guests of the
13th go to the Petersburg front ; having visited our camp at a most in-
teresting time, when they could enjoy a touch of real war at the front,
hear the roar of cannon, the crack of shells and the whistle of bullets as
much as tliey pleased.

The men thoroughly enjoy teasing an unpopular First Sergeant. He
calls the roll of the Company morning and evening ; often when it is dark
he must needs use a candle — a tallow dip — and frequently makes a
mess of the roll in more senses than one. The men on such occasions
insist on having their exact names called before they will answer :
" Here." We must borrow a story to illustrate this kind of sport.


First Sergeant (calling the roll). " Ebenezer Jones." No reply, and
Jones stands in his place dumb as an oyster.

1st Sergt. '' Jones — why don't you answer to your name, sir ? "

Jones. " My name is Eben, not Ebenezer."

1st Sergt. " I see no difference."

Jones. " Well, I do, a heap ; and Ebenezer is not my name. Now
Sarjunt, your name is Peter Gamble, is it not ? "

1st Sergt. "Yes, it is."

Jones. " Well — would you answer to the name of Peternezer
Gamble ? "

1st Sergt. " Of course not."

Jones. " That settles it ; my name is Eben Jones — Heere ! "

The Company laughs ; and that was all that Jones was aiming at.

Jan. 26. Thurs. Very cold. Reg. in camp. Musketry practice
with blank cartridges.

Jan. 27. Fri. Cold, snowy. Reg. in camp. Lieut. Prescott starts
from camp on ten days' leave ; visits Baltimore and Philadelphia, but
does not go to New Hampshire. A business trip.

Jan. 28. Sat. Very cold. Reg. in camp. There has been of late
a little 2)ieket firing near us, the spent bullets coming over. A spent bul-
let, turned from its course by a twig or other slight obstruction, flies to
the earth with a final sharp, spiteful snarl like that of a small hurt cat ;
but for vicious music in the air a ramrod shot from a rifle surpasses all.
They come whirling end over end, and every way, whijiping out of the
air a multitude of sharp screeches and cutting sounds, which, were their
cause unknown, might well be attributed to the infernal imps themselves.

Jan. 29. Sun. Cold, fair. Reg. in camp. Inspection.

Jan. 30. Mon. Fair. Reg. in camj). The rebels the other day
struck up ' My Maryland,' when a bad lot of Union men near by answered
them loudly with the same air accommodated to a verse composed almost
wholly of the vilest possible profanity. The rebels were disgusted and
quit. Our men then sang another verse in the sweetest words and terms
they could invent. Tliis re-assured the rebels, who were for once outdone
in profanity, and they soon renewed the original concert.

Jan. 31. Tues. Pleasant. Reg. in camp. The Reg. has remained
in camp the most of this month furnishing details for woi-k on the fortifi-
cations, and for picket duty. We have drilled on all days when the
weather and mud would permit, and had a Dress-parade on almost every
afternoon during the month. Generally quiet along the lines here. On
the whole one of the stupidest months since the war began.

Feb. 1. Wed. Cold, clear. Reg. in camp. Battalion drill ; 238
men present for duty. Orders are received to prepare four days' cooked
rations, and to have sixty rounds of ammunition per man.

Capt. George N. Julian honorably discharged the service because of
expiration of his term of enlistment for three years.

When a little over twenty years of age he was mustered as a private,


July 31, 1861, in the Second Battery of Massachusetts Light Artillery —
known also as Battery B, and as Nims' Battery, having heen organized
by Capt. Ormand F. Nims, May 15, 1861. With this Battery Julian
enjoyed the privilege of a plenty of sharp artillery practice on that ever
memorable occasion when Commodore Farragut ran the rebel batter-
ies at Vicksburg June 28, 1862. Nims' Battery was most hotly engaged
at that time behind the levee opposite that city. This was the only im-
portant contest this Battery was actively engaged in while Julian was a
member of it ; but the Battery was in position when Commodore Farra-
gut sailed down past the same rebel batteries.

July 30, 1862, Julian was discharged to receive promotion to a Lieu-
tenancy in an unspecified New Hampshire Regiment. A higher rank
awaited him, and co-operating with Dr. William D. Vinall of Exeter he
enlisted such of the men of Company E as came from Exeter and vicinity,
and was in due time commissioned as Captain of that Company, which he
commanded until the summer of 1863, when he received the appointment
of Acting Assistant Inspector General on the Brigade Staff, as this his-
toiy previously recards.

In the capacity of Acting Asst. Inspector General, he exercised a
most microscopic scrutiny into every bit of war materiel that passed
through his hands, while he compelled a thorough cleanliness, and the
greatest possible care, of clothing, arms and equipments ; gaining the
name of being too particular, if he erred in any direction.

No man of the army ever saw this man flinch or quail in the face of
danger ; on the contrary he kept at the front, was bold and daring to the
very verge of rashness, strong, and quicker than a flash. " The quickest
officer in the Thirteenth Regiment ; and more often too prompt than not
prompt enough." Lt. Col. Bowers.

Feb. 2. Thurs. Warm, clear. Reg. in camp. Flour and corn
meal are now easily obtained, and tin kitchens, or 'Dutch ovens,' are im-
provised to bake the wonderful cakes upon. Forms are made of boards.
A few old fruit cans are unsoldered by heat to furnish a tin covei'ing for
the forms. Half the cakes baked upon them before the fires are almost
utterly indigestible. A part of them, however, made by skillful hands,
are quite an agreeable change in the way of rations. Half a canteen un-
soldered by heat, and held in a split stick, makes an excellent little fry-
ing-pan ; the tin soon burns off, leaving only the thin iron.

Feb. 3. Fri. Cloudy, snowy. Reg. in camp. The talk about con-
solidating the old I'egiments into five companies each, and mustering out
all Colonels and Majors, retaining Lieut. Colonels, causes much uneasi-
ness and mischief. A worse thing could not be done the service than to
break up these old regiments.

Feb. 4. Sat. Pleasant. Reg. in camp. An ingenious fellow fas-
tens upon his shoes strips of hoop-iron, and enjoys as much of ' skating '
on them as the interests of the service will permit.

Feb. 6. Sun. Fair. Reg. in camp. For several days and nights


an almost continual cannonading has been heard going on in the neighbor-
hood of Petersburg. We remain under marching orders. Inspection to-
day gives us the position of guard for one week at Maj. Gen. Gibbon's
24th Corps Hdqrs. ; for which service a Captain, a First Lieutenant, a
Second Lieutenant and 100 men are detailed. Lieut. Prescott returns to
camp from leave, and is at once detailed with this guard.

Some one chaffing an old negro, among other things asked him when
we were again to have peace. The old man answered : " Well, Vol., I
rek'n when dey stops de fightin', sah — sartinly not afore, sah."

Another asked an old negro deacon if he thought negroes belonged to
the human race. He replied instanter : '' Fo' de Lor', yas, sah ! Doan
de good Book done say to de people, ' Increase de multiply ' ? I done
preaches dat Torgy, sah. Dey 's people shu' 'nuff ! "

Feb. 6. Mon. Fair, cold. Reg. in camp. The pickets were treated
to a shower of hail last night. Last week the enemy's forces fell
short by 80 deserters at this point, — all of them sick of the Confeder-
acy's war. Brigade drill in the afternoon by Col. CuUen commanding
our Brigade.

Feb. 7. Tues. Cold, rainy, snowy, sleety, wretched weather. Reg.
in camp. Somehow the negro slaves manage to get past the Confederate
lines, and come around our lines here in large numbers. They are gener-
ally ill clad, suffering and half starved ; and to-day hundreds of them
are seeking shelter from the storm, and begging for food and clothing all
through the Union camps. The negro question is a terribly tough one.

Feb. 8. Wed. Cold, clear. Reg. in camp. Lt. Col. Smith takes
a leave of absence for twenty-five days.

Two substitutes are hanged for desertion and other crimes. One of
them selected his grave ; merely remarking coolly, as he looked it over :
" It is a rather pinched up affair."

The appearance of a regiment which has just received a new outfit of
clothing, caps and shoes is most woefully ridiculous. Manufacturers of
army clothing stretch a man out upon a sheet of paper, mark around him
with chalk, and cut the figure out for a pattern ; they all agree that there
are no taU men who are lean, and no short men who are fat. Trousers
long enough for the lean six-footer give tent room in their amplest parts
for the small man too, Avith more or less of space to spare ; while the
short, fat man can hardly be squeezed into the pair of trousers that are
of the right length for him — his legs looking like two large links of sau-
sage, sky blue, stuck side by side into a larger link. Thus the short men
are " tighty," and the long men are ' baggy ; " cloth must be put in, and
cloth must be cut out. The pants, too, are often cut preponderous for-
ninst ; like the boy's trousers which did not signify whether the wearer
was going to school or coming home. Besides, all the clothing, packed
like waste paper in huge boxes, comes out wrinkled, creased, puckered,
shriveled, t\visted, cram-sided and out of joint enough to make a Jew old
clo' dealer blush for shame.


No man ever saw a pair of narrow army shoes ; they may be short but
never narrow. The smaller sizes are nearly square, or a broad oval, so
that small feet can almost turn around within them. One little fellow in
Company E 13th used, while on drill, to kick the toes of his shoes to the
front — after he had got there himself. The army caps — ' skull covers,'
as the boys call them — make the men look like natural born fools, grow-
ing fooler and fooler every day while they wear them ; and pass from
man to man, over and over again, in the vain hunt for a head, and a face,
caricatured enough to fit them. The poor men, conscious of their gro-
tesque appearance in the general rig, go about looking aslant, downcast,
beseeching, shame-faced, and appearing as much as to say : ' We know
we look bad — like blue chimpanzees and idiotic baboons ; but please
don't laugh at us, we are Union soldiers, we cannot dress any better.'

It is the same all through the list. Overcoats ' dress-coats,' blouses
and pants must visit the Company tailors — of whom how many takes it
to make a man ? — to be made over, only to return looking worse than
aforetime. The shirts, drawers and stockings are worst of all, past com-
ment, and a scarecrow Avould play high dandy to any man dressed in them
alone, while the rebels would take him for tlie Yankee devil himself.
The prime trouble is that the clothing is all ' theoretical regulation,' while
the soldiers had practical, and very many different styles of fathers.

Feb. 9. Thurs. Fair, cold. Reg. in camp. A man of the 13th
writes: "At 1 p. m. the 2d Brigade Band escorts a man to his own
funeral." A man of the 12th N. H. shot for desertion. The 3d Division
of the 24th Corps is formed in a hollow square open on one side. The
band precedes, followed first by 20 guards, next the prisoner, next ten
men detailed to shoot him, one of their guns being loaded with a blank
cartridge. These executions are horrible ; but what can be done ? De-
serters unpunished would soon destroy the efficiency of the army ; the
bad must go to save the good, and subserve the cause of freedom.

Feb. 10. Fri. Pleasant. Reg. in camp. Brigade drill. Evening
schools instituted for officers. The Subs, have been very troublesome of
late. They are many of them representatives of a peculiar, a sort of half-
abandoned, class of men — a class that the most of us regular volunteers
knew nothing about before we enlisted. The better class of recruits are
as reliable as volunteers.

Feb. 11. Sat. Cold, clear, muddy. Reg. in camp. Division re-
view this afternoon, on the New Market road, by Maj. Gen. Devens.

News received to-day of the' discharge of Brev. Brig. Gen. A. F. Ste-
vens, formerly Colonel of the 13th ; honorably discharged on account of
disability, caused by wounds received in the charge at Fort Harrison.
This discharge was considered premature, and he was afterwards reim-
bursed in pay and emoluments.

Feb. 12. Sun. Cold, clear, windy. The dust bloAvs through the
men's quarters in camp as if they were sieves. Reg. furnishes guards for
24th Corps Hdqrs. for one week. Our 24th Corps reviewed by Generals


Ord and Gibbon on the New Market road at 10 a. m. Wind blowing a
gale ; the men clad in dress-coats and frozen skins. The review is buried
in clouds of dust. One soldier of the 13th writes : '' We went without
overcoats on, and we nearly froze to death."

Feb. 13. Mon. Fair. Reg. in camp. Our pickets and the rebel
pickets are less than 100 yards apart in many places. They indulge in
long confabs every day, picket firing being quite generally suspended by
a sort of common consent. A part of the 13th, 2d, 10th and 12th N. H.
Regiments come on duty together to-day.

Feb. 14. Tues. Fair. Reg. in comp. Drilling again. Company
drill forenoon, Battalion drill afternoon.

Feb. 15. Wed. Rainy day and night, rain freezing as it falls. Reg.
in camj).

Prisoners tell us that when a deserter or other criminal in the rebel
army is executed, his brigade is drawn up without ai-ms, and forming
three sides of a hollow square, the fourth open. The deserter with the
firing party, marches around the whole line, inside the square, preceded
by a band usually playing the ' Dead March in Saul.' The deserter is
then tied to a stake in the open end of the square, and shot ; and left

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 62 of 81)