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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ings. I was about to take the package, but just then I saw Gen. Godfrey
Weitzel, with his staff, coming down the hill, riding along the turnpike,
and I at once referred the Mayor to him, as the proper officer with whom
to treat. The Mayor then proceeded southward down the turnpike to
meet Gen. Weitzel.

" A few minutes only after my conversation with the Mayor, Gen. Weit-
zel came up to the creek where we were waiting, and ordered me to fol-
low him into the city, which I proceeded at once to do, crossing the creek
into a wide street, or road, where we immediately came into Richmond.
We soon, however, lost sight of Gen. Weitzel in the dense smoke of the
burning city, and while he turned off to the right, I deviated to the left


toward the river, probably down 29th or 30th street, until I saw a sign
'Main St.' on a lamp post, when I turned my little column of men into
that street, and marched along.

" The crowd of people was soon very dense, and we had much difficulty
in forcing our way through it. The people pressed their way into the
ranks, tried to relieve the men of their loads, of blankets, etc., urged liquors
upon them, and testified their joy at seeing them, in every conceivable
way, and by the most extravagant expressions and actions. I smashed
several vessels of liquor with my sword, to prevent its effect upon the men.

" The heat at the corner of Fourteenth and Main streets was so intense
that we were forced to turn aside again to the right toward Franklin
street. There was a drug store at this corner, and the proprietor was
standing on the steps as we came up. I asked him to direct me to the
Capitol, which he did ; and he volunteered the further information that
the Confederate General had just passed up Broad street at the head of a
body of Confederate cavalry. The city fire engines were burning in the
street, having been abandoned to their fate, the heat being so great that
they could not be worked. We had to double-quick as fast as possible,
as we passed on, to escape the heat, and our whiskers, hair and clothing
were singed by it. It was now near seven o'clock (7 a. m.), and we were
almost suffocated with the smoke and heat, were fatigued and hungry.
Turning out of Main through Fourteenth street, and then proceeding
along Franklin street, in the direction indicated by the gentlemanly pro-
prietor of the drug store, we soon saw the Capitol near by on our left.
We marched at once to the Capitol, and I ordered the men to stack arms
and rest in the Capitol grounds. Our whole movement in entering the
city was very hurried.

" I arrived in the Capitol grounds at seven twenty o'clock (7.20 a. m.),
as set down in my diary at the time. There was no flag visible on the
Capitol, and no flag of any kind whatever on the flagstaff on the Capitol,
when I arrived.

" As we marched into the city behind General Weitzel, the sound of the
trains, conveying the last of the rebel troops out of the city was distinctly
heard, and they had barely time enough to get away.

" The appearance of the city, and of the people, along our entering line
of march, beggars all description. The condition of the poor people was
pitiable in the extreme. Women barefoot and thinly clad, with tears
streaming down their cheeks, cried ' Thank God ! ' ' Thank God ! '
One poor woman, who had four little, pale, starved children clinging to
her skirts, herself shoeless, bonnetless, miserably clad, grasped my arm,
while the tears ran down her cheeks, and begged for something to eat,
saying that her children had tasted no food since Sunday morning, and
then only a little meal. She said she was sick, and that she was so was
too plainly evident. I gave her the contents of my haversack, others
gave of their supply ; and one man in the ranks, William H. Gault of H,
a large, brawny man, dashed his hand across his eyes, then gave her his


entire three dayti' rations of hard bread and meat, and then thrust a ten
dollar greenback - — ■ all the money he had with him — into her hand,
swearing like a trooper all the time by way of relieving his feelings.

" The air was full of the cinders, smoke and ashes of the burning city,
and the bursting of shells in the arsenals and storehouses of ordnance was
incessant for many hours.

'' The first body of Union troops that entered the city of Richmond on
the morning of April 3, 1865, was my detachment — the pickets from
the First Brigade.

"It is customary when troops are advancing, for a line of skirmishers
to precede, sweeping the country before them, picking up Confederate
stragglers wherever met, but I saw none of such skirmishers. My men
wei'e of the picket line and not skii'mishers. I was in advance of all the
skirmishers, pushing forward with my pickets of the First Brigade in a
little solid column of fours, along the New Market road directly toward
Richmond. The only Union soldiers that I saw in or near Richmond,
excepting my men, Lieut. Keener's, and Gen Weitzel and staff, were the
three white cavalrymen at Gillie's Creek ; and the only orders I received,
during all that morning, were from Lieut. Col. Bamberger of the 5th
Maryland at the moment of starting, and later on Avhen just outside the
city limits, from Gen. Weitzel himself.

'' There was no flag visible on the roof of the Capitol Avhen I entered the
grounds, from the point where I entered them — the southward corner ;
and there was no flag whatever then on the tall staff on the roof ; but
within a few moments a flag was run up on the Capitol. It suddenly ap-
peared on the flagstaff on the roof, and immediately afterwards I had a
conversation with the man who raised it, and took down his name and resi-
dence. He was a light colored boy, apparently about seventeen years of
age, and he gave me his name as Richard G. Forrester, living at the cor-
ner of College and Marshall streets. He was In no way connected with
the Union Army. He stated to me that when the State of Virginia
passed the Ordinance of Secession, he was a page, or errand boy, em-
ployed in the Capitol. The Secessionists then tore down the very flag,
which he had just now re-hoisted on the Capitol, and threw it among
some rubbish under the eaves, or roof, in the top of the building. At the
first convenient opportunity afterwards, he rolled this flag in a bundle,
so that he could remove it undiscovered, carried it to his home, and placed
it in his bed, where he had slept on it nightly since that time. This
morning, he said, as soon as he dared after the Confederates left the city,
and — as he put it — ' When I saw j'ou 'uns comin',' — he drew this old
flag from its hiding-place, ran to the Capitol with it, mounted to the top,
and run this flag up on the flagstaff, whence the Confederate flag had
been so lately removed ; and this, he claimed, was the first flag hoisted
in Richmond after its evacuation by the Confederates.

" After talking with him, I went up through every room in the Capitol
and found it entirely deserted, not a person to be seen in it.


" During the few minutes while we waited in the grounds, a few of the
men had passed across the street, and were sitting among the trees near
the old Powhatan Hotel. Hearing a wordy altercation going on among
them, I went across to investigate the cause of the disturbance. Here I
found that William H. Gault of H, a quick, impulsive man but withal
generous-hearted — the same man who gave the poor woman the ten dol-
lars and his rations as we came into the city — had been listening to a lot
of secession talk, made by a citizen, until his indignation could enduie
such stuff no longer, and he had taken the citizen to task for starving the
poor people of Richmond. Hard words ensued. Gault suddenly sprang
to his feet, seized his gun, aimed at the citizen, and possibly would have
shot him then and there, if I had not interfered and struck up his gun.
Gault's indignation, at what he regarded as sheer hypocrisy, knew no

" Soon after arriving in the Capitol grounds, the men resting themselves
at full length on the grass after the fatiguing march and exciting scenes
through which they had passed, an orderly rode up with orders for me to
report immediately to Gen. Godfrey Weitzel at his Hdqrs. in the house
recently occupied by the absconding President of the late Confederacy.
Arriving in Gen. Weitzel's presence, he turned to me and in severe tones
inquired : ' Are you the officer who was in command of the men I met
at the outskirts of the city early this morning ? ' 'I am. Sir,' I replied.
' And did I not tell you to follow closely behind me on entering the
city?' he further inquired. To this I replied that I had done so until
the smoke had become so dense and suffocating that I could not follow,
and could no longer see clearly in any direction, and that under these
circumstances I had deviated somewhat from the course he had taken,
and so had failed to keep up with him. I then narrated to him all the
circumstances that had befallen me since I had parted company with him,
at the close of which he expressed himself as being perfectly satisfied
with my explanation, and then inquired where I had left my men.

" After being informed he ordered me to take a squad of from six to ten
men, to patrol the streets, arresting every person found in Confederate
uniform or bearing arms, and to conduct them to his Hdqrs. ; and also
to order all colored persons to their homes on pain of arrest. He further
ordered me to divide the remainder of my men into small squads of about


Lietit. Prescott still, 1887. preserves the two papers received this morn-
ing from young Forrester. The larger paper is apparently a piece torn
from one of the C. S. A. Government's common blue envelopes ; the
smaller paper is a leaf from a small pocket memorandum book or diary.
The writing is in pencil but clear and legible, though evidently the writ-
ing of a person of limited education. The cut opposite is correct and
literal in every particular.



^^^fe^ /IX" w

m ^•






From a Photograph.


ten men each, and to dispatch them upon a similar patrol. This I did
at once on returning to the Capitol grounds, and while making my first
patrol, T came upon a column of Union troops, all white troops, the Thir-
teenth New Hampshire Regiment at their head, marching up Franklin
Street with their colors flying and their drum-coi-ps playing ' Yankee
Doodle.' 1

" Excepting my pickets, these were the first Union troops to enter the
city after its evacuation by the Confederates ; the Flag of the Thirteenth
was the first Flag of the Array to come in. On coming near this body
of troops we immediately halted, on the west side of the street, presented
arms, and saluted the passing column. There was a mutual recognition,
and remarks and cheers naturally incident to such an occasion. After
the column passed us, I proceeded on the duties of my patrol. In this
duty of patroling the streets of Richmond, I was engaged for the greater
part of two days. Changing the men every two or three hours, I collected
large numbers of Confederate officers and soldiers alike, and marched
them to the place indicated ; from whence they were consigned to Castle
Thunder and Libby Prison, until those two famous buildings would hold
no more — being literally packed from cellar to roof.

" As soon as Gen. Patrick was appointed Provost Marshal, which hap-
pened very soon after our occupation of the city, I was ordered to take
my prisoners to him, and among the arrests I remember a number of
prominent and influential citizens of Richmond and vicinity ; among them
the Second Auditor of the Confederate Treasury, on April 4th, the two
Editors of the Richmond Examiner, on April 8th, and the Editors of the
Richmond Times, all of whom were sent to Castle Thunder."

Lieut. Royal B. Prescott.

1887. Lt. Col. Smith has recently looked over the ground with special
reference to the incidents of Lieut. Prescott's early morning march to-
ward Richmond on April 3, 1865, and says : " I am sure Lieut. Pres-
cott did not halt at Ahnon Creek, for the hill is winding and steep be-
yond there, and he could not have seen any distance at that point. Just
above the junction of the Osborne and New Market roads, toward the
river and city, and between the road and river, is a depression and an-
other rise beyond, on which stands Tree Hill the residence of Mr. Stearns.
This bli.ff extends with the depression to near the flag of truce bluff —
the point where the Mayor of Richmond set up his white flag that
morning — where it terminates. This bluff, Mr. Steai-ns', is nearly in
line with the road past the brick yards. The brick yards, where the col-
ored troops were halted by the roadside, are between the flag of truce bluff
and Gillie's Creek. When coming round the hill myself, with the Bri-
gade, I saw the explosion of the dispatch boat Allison at Rocketts wharves,

^ Observe that this meeting must have been at some distance from^ the Capitol
toward Rocketts, because it ocemTed before Major Stoodley had changed the tune
to ' The Battle Cry of Freedom. ' See page 57-4.


aiid at the same time saw the burning bridges across the James. Gillie's
Creek bridge is near these wharves, the section was not covered with
buildings as it now is, and Lieut. Prescott could have seen a considerable
distance to his rear from this point." Lt. Col. Smith.

To return to the narrative of the day :

Even at the risk of repetition, the following from the pen of Henry A.
Pollard, and published by him editorially in his paper, ' The Richmond
Times,' in the issue of April 28, 1865, which now, December 1886, lies
before the writer, seems appx'opriate to enter under this day. The copy
is given here word for word, and the statement in the article passed un-
challenged :


" In the comjjilation of our narrative of the scenes and incidents attend-
ant upon the late evacuation of Richmond, we purposely refrained from
deciding or saying anything as to which were the first troops, or organ-
ized body of soldiers to enter the city. The simple fact that it was a
matter of dispute, and seemed not to be definitely settled, rendered this
the most proper course for us. Since then we have come into possession
of information from a most trustworthy and authoritative source, which
would appear to decide the question.

" The truth of the matter seems to be about this : On the night before
the evacuation, the Federal picket lines opposite the defenses, upon the
north side of the James, were respectively held by Lieutenant Royal B.
Prescott, commanding Company C, Thirteenth New Hampshire Regi-
ment, of the First Brigade, Thii'd Division, of the Twenty-Fourth Army
Corps, and Lieutenant David S. Keener, commanding Company F, Fifth
Maryland Regiment, Second Brigade of the same organization. Lieu-
tenant Prescott's line being on the left of the First Brigade joined the
line of Lieutenant Keener, who occupied the i"ight of the Second Brigade.
The first intimation they received of the evacuation of Richmond was the
exjjlosions of the magazines at Drewry's Bluff, as well as the glare of the
fires just commencing in the city, about half past four a. m. The Divi-
sion officer-of-the-day ordered Lieutenant Prescott to advance immediately
his picket lines, which he did. On arriving at the Confederate lines he
discovered that the pickets had been withdrawn, when Lieutenant Pres-
cott and his men continued to advance until reaching the small bridge
over the stream which flows close to Stearns' establishment, just outside
the city. They were confronted here by three of the New York cavalry,
who informed them that they had been posted there with orders to allow
no troops to enter the city until the commanding General came up. Lieu-
tenant Keener with about thirty men here joined Lieutenant Prescott's
squad, which numbered about the same. After a halt of some ten min-
utes General Wilde ^ rode up, attended by his staff, and proceeded to
advance into the city — the city having been previously surrendered by
the INIayor.

^ Gen. Wilde probablj' accompanied Gen. Weitzel. — S. M. T.


" Thus Lieutenant Prescott and his squad of men were the first ^ troops
to enter the city. Their line of march was up Main street, coming at a
'double quick.' The city was then a sea of flame, and arriving at Four-
teenth street, they were compelled, by the intense heat, to turn up from
Main street — pressing up Fourteenth street to Franklin. Thence they
immediately made for the Capitol grounds, which they reached about 7
o'clock, just as the flag was being raised over the building. Stacking
their arms and resting for a short space of time, they were then ordered
out to patrol the streets and suppress the pillaging, and aid in subduing
the flames.

" The first bodi/ ^ of troops to enter Richmond was the First Brigade,
Third Division of the Twenty-Fourth Army Corps, followed by colored
troops. The first regimental organization was the Thirteenth New Hamp-
shire, they holding the right of the Brigade. They entered the city with
colors flying and their bands playing ' Yankee Doodle.' These facts
are to us narrated with a degree of accuracy which admits of no doubt.

" Lieutenant Prescott, who may be considered one of the first to enter
the city, has been on duty of various kinds in and around the city since
its occupation by the United States forces, and has commanded the good
feelings of the citizens by his general courtesy and considerate de-

Extract from a letter dated Richmond April 29, 1865 : " The Editor
of the Times, of which I send the copy of April 28th, is the same
Mr. Pollard whom I arrested in April, while he was at supper in the
Spottswood Hotel. I arrested him by special order, and have preserved
both that order and the receipt I received when I delivered him up to
tho keeper of Castle Thunder, and propose to keep them as remembrances.
Mr. Pollard was released, and allowed to continue his business as Ed-
itor of this paper." Lieut. Prescott.

Gen. Grant in his Memoirs states that Gen. Weitzel took possession of
Richmond at about 8.15 a. m., April 3d.'- That the rebel civil Govern-
ment left the city about 2 p. m., April 2d ; and he does not fix the respon-
sibility of firing the city upon any person in particular.

We will now return to the Thirteenth ; the main facts concerning the
march to and into Richmond and the route of march have been fur-
nished to the writer by Major N. D. Stoodley, and by Lt. Col. Normand
Smith ; with the latter of whom the writer visited the ground, in May
1885, and also with him went over both the route and the account entire
and in detail.

The Thirteenth was encamped, on the day and night of April 2d, in
its last camp at the front. In the afternoon of April 2d, Lt. Col. Smith
read a telegraphic order from Gen. Grant directing Gen. Weitzel to as-
sault the works on this front at daylight of April 3d. With this in mind,

1 The italics are Pollard's in both instances. ^ Probably the " formal surrender "
at the Mayor's office, as mentioned in numerous accounts. — S. M. T.


and tlie Tliirteentli having been designated to lead our Brigade, Lt. Col.
Smith has the Tiiirteenth drawn u]), in the New Market road at the
Ci-oss-way, on this morning of April 3d, all ready to assault, or to march
for Richmond, nearly half an hour before the rest of our Brigade comes
into line. The Thirteenth are standing in the road, at a rest, close up
to the curtain at the Cross-way, and at the head of our Brigade when the
final order to march is received. We are now about six miles from the
Capitol in Richmond.

As our Regiment is armed with the Sharps carbines, we prepare to
form in line of battle in front of the Brigade, or to skirmish, as the case
may demand. But Lieut. Prescott has advanced over the ground to the
left — west — of the New Market road, and no enemy appears. Of
course if no enemy is found to the left of the New Market road, all of his
troops must needs have withdrawn from the right front — east of that
road — because they were farther from the pontons in the James to be
crossed in their retreat.

Our column is fairly in motion about an hour after daylight. The en-
emy has left many of his torpedoes planted along in front of his works,
and our men follow the beaten paths to avoid exjiloding them — a rebel
deserter serving as a guide. Bits of bright-colored doth are found tied
to sticks and set up to mark the location of the buried torjiedoes, and a
number of the torpedoes are removed to prevent accidents.

We pass the works of Fort Gilmer, which is surrounded by three strong-
lines of abatis and one line of torpedoes. In his haste to evacuate the
works, and to secure secrecy, he has left his camp standing nearly intact ;
the heavy guns are all in position, and not even spiked ; some of his light
field batteries are also left intact, and even much of the furniture in the
officers' quarters is left undisturbed.

Our line of march is followed up rapidly along the New Market road,
in column of fours, until the exceeding strong lines of the Confederate
defenses are passed, when it appears that the colored troops may reach
the city first. We hurry forward, a part of the time at a double-quickj
and the race is kept up until the colored troops, coming in on the Osborne
pike, are halted.

While on the march toward Richmond, and after we have passed the
Confederate works near Fort Gilmer — about 6.30 or 7 a. m. — Lt. Col.
Smith is detailed as General officer of the day, and the command of the
Thirteenth devolves upon Major Stoodley. Lt. Col. Smith does not have
his sash with him, and hurries about through our whole Brigade, on a
fruitless hunt for an officer's silk sash ; finally having to borrow a First
Sergeant's worsted sash, of some one in the 13th, to wear while caring
for the dire needs of the Confederacy's proud capital city, on this awful
April morning.

The Thirteenth, followed by our 1st Brigade, hurries along the New
Market road, keeping in that road all the way, toward the city, until
they come to its junction with the Osborne pike. A strong line of Con-


federate earth-works crosses these two roads near their junction. Here
at the junction, some of the colored troops, probably the best marchers
among them, having come up on the Osborne pike, crowd into the road
in an unorganized condition, and march along by the side of the white
troops ; who preserve their own organization compact, and are marching
by the right flank — in column of fours — as they have been all the

We press on, now along the Osborne pike, still preserving both our
regimental position and organization complete, and the Brigade likewise,
despite the colored soldiers scattered along in the roadway beside us, until
we reach the brick yards, about half way between Almon's and Gillie's
creeks, when Gen. Devens, probably seeing that it is not best for an un-
organized body, of any kind of soldiers, to enter the city at tliis time,
halts the colored soldiers at the brick yards, allowing the white troops to
pass on toward the city ; the 13th N. H. leading our 1st Brigade, which
is composed entirely of white troops.*

We have marched up all the way by the right flank, momentarily ex-
pecting to be deployed as skirmishers, or to swing into line of battle, the
deserter's statements concerning the evacuation of Richmond not being
fully credited ; but our last battle has been fought.

As we come along, the white flag of truce hoisted by the Mayor of Rich-
mond is still flying from a pole set up on a spur of Tree Hill ; at the
point where the pike bends around it, before reaching Gillie's Creek.

Before starting from camp this morning our Regiment and the other
troops expected a hard fight when they should advance, and carefully
prepared for it, besides keeping a perfectly compact organization on the
whole march. The most dangerous incident of the morning, however,
was the passing and removal of the enemy's torpedoes. They were buried
about three or four feet apart, between the lines of abatis, in front of the
enemy's earth-works, and just merely covered with a thin layer of earth,

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 66 of 81)