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 67 of 81)
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so that a pressure of seven pounds only was necessary to explode one of
them. No accidents occurred with them, however, and theu- removal
merely served to delay the march a very little. We have moved so rap-
idly that our advance to the city is practically a. forced march, and we
have not fired a shot this mornino-.

The city corporation now, 1865, extends only to between Nicholson
and Denney streets, where they abut on Rocketts street and Williams-
burg avenue.

Capt. Rufus P. Staniels, of Company H, was appointed Nov. 19, 1864,
Actg. Asst. Adjt. General on the staff" of the 1st Brigade, 1st Div. 18th
Army Corps, the Brigade then commanded by Lt. Col. John B. Raulston

^ The colored troops, organized or unorganized, were not allowed to be the first to
enter Richmond this morning- for many obvious reasons. Collisions would have been
almost inevitable ; while the state of the city at this early hour demanded the stronger
and steadier hand of the white troops, in order to restore order and maintain peace.
Some colored troops marched into the city about 10 or 11 a. m. — S. M. T.


of the 81st N. y. Jan. 15, 1865, Lt. Col. Raulston was mustered out of
the service, and on Jan. 16th Col. Edgar M. Cullen of the 96th N. Y. as-
sumed command of the 1st Brigade, and on March 22d Col. E. H. Ripley
of the 9th Yt. succeeded him in that command. Cajit. Staniels remained
in the same jjosition, on the staff of each successive commander belong-
ing to the 24th Corps, and makes the following statement :

" On the morning of April 3, 1865, I was Actg. Asst. Adjt. General
on the staff of Col. E. H. Ripley commanding the First Brigade, 3d Div.
24th Army Corps. Our Division, commanded by Gen. Charles Devens,
approached the city of Richmond by the New Market road, Col. Ripley's .
— the First — Brigade leading. As we came to the junction of this road
Avith the Osborne turnpike, the colored troops were seen approaching on ,
that road. Our position, however, was in advance of theirs, and before
the head of the column of colored troops arrived at the junction of the
two roads, the First Brigade, the Thirteenth New Hampshire leading,
had passed the junction by more than half its length.

'' A member of Gen. Devens' staff came to Col. Ripley and ordered
him to send an officer to remain at the junction of the two roads, and
when the commanding officer of the colored troops came up to that point,
to direct him not to break in upon our Brigade, but to march parallel
with our column in the fields beside the road, and thus prevent confusion,
for there was not room enough in the road for the two columns to march
side by side. The colored troops were not standing ujjon the order of
their going, but were rushing, while the white troops — of Gen. Devens'
Division — were much in advance, and marching in a compact column.

" Col. Ripley sent me to deliver this order. I rode back, took my
place at the junction of the two roads, and when the head of the column
of colored troops came up, I delivered Gen. Devens' order to the com-
mander of it. After a little hesitation he complied with the order, and I
remained in front of his advance until the white troops had all passed the
junction. After seeing that Gen. Devens's directions were complied with,
I left the colored troops, and again joined Col. Ripley at the head of the
Brigade and the colunni of white troops, which maintained its advance
and order in the march, the Thirteenth the leading Regiment, and entered
the city alone ; the colored troops having been halted outside of the city
near Rocketts. '

" I had been sent back once before on an errand this morning, and was
anxious to be one of the first to enter the city, and my impatience can
well be imagined as I sat on my horse waiting for the negroes to be halted
and the General's order to be carried out ; the instant that was done I
galloped to the head of the column of the white troops again, and was in
time to enter the city as I had desired, in my proper place in the colunui."

Capt. R. p. Staniels.

Now conies the final entry into the city — more rapid than fox'mal. The
Thirteenth leads our Brigade, and the order to march is given at the point
where the Osborne pike passes the brick yards, and we move rapidly


straight along into the city. Major Stoodley, commanding the Thir-
teenth, first orders the drum corps and 1st Brigade Band to play ' Yan-
kee Doodle,' but after a little changes it to ' The Battle Cry o£ Free-
dom ' ; that being, in his opinion, the tune most approjjriate for the

From the brick yards we march along the Osborne pike to near its
junction with the present Nicholson and Denney streets, where we turn
to the left across ' Old Field,' entering Rocketts street at its junction with
Nicholson street. Thence along the following streets : Up Rocketts to
Main, up Main to 17th ; where the heat of the fire is so intense and the
smoke so blinding, that the column is forced to the right up 17th to
Franklin ; thence we move up Franklin to Governor, up Governor to
Capitol, along Capitol to the main entrance to the Capitol grounds oppo-
site 10th Street, where Ave enter the Cajjitol grounds, halt and stack arms
on the grass plat between the Governor's mansion and the Capitol. The
time of arrival here a little after 8 a. m.

As soon as we arrive in Capitol Square, Br. Brig. Gen. Edward H.
Ripley, formerly Colonel of the 9th Vt., now commanding our 1st Brigade
receives orders to patrol the city, restore order, and to put out the fires.
Soon the 13th is sent on Provost-guax-d and patrol duty, to various parts
of the city.

Entering at once upon our duty as patrols, before we have been in the
city an hour, we mai'ch through the streets, in squads and Companies —
the total force of the Reg. present to-day not exceeding 200 men — being
neither molested, insulted nor disturbed on the way, and occupy, near the
city lines, seven of the roads leading out of the northern side of the city,
besides furnishing guards for pai'ticular stations. We have orders to
allow no one to pass into, or out of, the city. Our posts are all taken on
these streets, and stations, some time before 9.30 a. m., and we remain
on them until 5 p. m., when we return to Capitol square, and are assigned
quarters in the St. Claire Hotel, opposite the northeast corner of the
Capitol grounds, and opposite the north end of Capitol street. Many of
the men of the Thirteenth are on duty all night.

A few incidents of the entry and occupation of the city may be of in-
terest : As the Thirteenth, leading the 1st Brigade, comes up the street,
near the centre of the city, some one in the distant crowd shouts : " The
Yankees ! The Yankees ! God bless the Yankees ! " and in thousands of
throats the frantic screams of the mob are instantly changed to acclama-
tions of welcome. We are Richmond's saviors this morning. The col-
ored population has turned out and gathered by thousands, and their
demonstrations of gladness and joy know no bounds. " God bress da
Yankees ! " " We 's free — we 's free ! " " Bress de Lord — O bress de
Lord ! " "0 Lord — we knowed you was a-comin' ! " and similar shouts
are heard on every hand. The negro slave, a little along in years, is the
most demonstrative religious specimen of mankind on earth ; and like his
white over-demonstrative brother in that thing, can lie and cheat, and


steal chickens — or anything else — without a single prick of conscience
in all his life. But the ex-slave is genuinely hapjjy all over on this April
morning, when pops the first spring bud of his new freedom. The negroes
offer to carry our men's blankets and knapsacks, their guns — anything,
so they may help or favor their deUverers. They offer fruit, food — per-
haps their last morsel — and, in many instances, liquor, and the officers
have to seize it, and dash the vessels and bottles in pieces on the ground,
or with their swords, to prevent drunkenness.

As one writer truthfully says : " The negroes seem to think that the
' Day of Jubilee ' has fully come ; they shout, dance, sing, wave their rag
banners, shake our hands, bow, scrape, laugh all over, and thank God for
our coming."

Richmond contains nearly double her usual population, and the half
are negroes. A huge, motley crowd, with here and there a scowling son
of mischief, but by far the most part in wild ecstasies for joy, lines the
streets as we pass along.

Our drum corps and Band play the popular Union airs of the war, as
we march along the streets — somehow the Richmond negroes have
learned these tunes, and now sing them — and many a little National flag
is waved over us from the balconies, windows and house tops. It is a
triumphal procession in miniature. The multitude of little U. S. flags is
most surprising ; hundreds of them not more than a foot long, and many
wrought on silk, are fluttering along the streets.

The worser side of life is not wanting here by any means. Hurrying
off, along the side streets and alleys, are many vehicles, of every describ-
able variety, filled to overflow with people and goods ; drayloads of mer-
chandise ; handcarts and wheelbarrows and hundreds of people loaded
down with furniture and household goods and stores of every sort ; all
seeking a refuge from the spreading, threatening fires, or a hiding-place
for their plunder.

As we march into Capitol Square, we find it strewn and covered with
furniture and household implements of every style and kind, which have
been dragged here and deposited, in this most convenient open space, to
save them from destruction in the burning buildings ; and here, huddled
together among these last relics of many a burned-out home, are large
numbers of women and children, black and white together, hungry, des-
titute and helpless.

Lieut. Prescott's pickets, and possibly a few cavalry vedettes, in all
scarcely one hundred men, have preceded us ; but our Thirteenth is the
first organized body of Union soldiers to bring its colors into the city, and
our First Brigade are the only troops here.

The fires at this time — between 8 and 9 a. m. — are raging with un-
abated fury, and the shells are continually exploding in the neigh1)orhood
of the arsenal. Our troops organize fire companies, pressing in the white
and the black citizens together, to work with them, and succeed in stopping
the fires in certain directions — but the task is herculean. Stores, mills,


warehouses, bridges, depots, houses, acres upon acres of buildings of every
sort, are burning on every hand ; dense volumes of smoke, flashing
masses of flames, and clouds of fiery cinders, and burning brands, fill the
air, which resounds, jars and vibrates, with the incessant explosions of
vast numbers of shells, and the stores of gunpowder ; so noisy is it all
that our troops left behind at Fort Harrison think we are having a fierce
battle in the city. By night, however, the fires are under control, or cease
in those districts where there is nothing more left to burn.

The enemy in his haste took little care of stragglers from his lines, and
we capture above a thousand Confederate soldiers in the city ; and in the
hospitals, and in private houses here we find about 5,000 of his men, sick
and wounded. The able-bodied rebel soldiers and officers are packed
into Castle Thunder and Libby Prison ; which is said to be mined, and
the mine charged with gunpowder enough to blow the whole structure,
with all its inmates and contents, to the very skies.^ Our First Brigade
are the only Union troops quartered and on duty in the city ; but other
Union troops are surrounding the city on all sides. The 2d Brigade
halted outside the city, and went into camp on the Williamsburg pike
near Gillie's Creek. Several batteries of Union artillery follow our trooj)S
to the city, and halt in advantageous positions near Rocketts about 9 a. m.
The colored troops halted at the brick yards, and went into camp. A
small body of them entering the city, and going out again, about ten or
eleven o'clock in the morning.

One soldier of the 13th writes home : " We marched into Richmond —
and the rebels cleared the way."

The torch was applied to Richmond about daylight, the rebel soldiers
were coming into the city all the morning, hundreds of them hiding and
deserting the Confederate flag, the balance passing over the James to fol-
low the fortunes of Gen. Lee, and a little after sunrise the bridges over
the James were fired.

No language can adequately describe the scenes and incidents of last
night, and of to-day, or the woeful appearance of Richmond as we enter it
on this pleasant April morning. All through the latter part of last night
— after the first crash which occurred near the hour of daylight, about
half past four (4.30 a. m.), probably a little earlier, there was an almost
incessant series of tremendous explosions ; their huge flashes lighting up
the country for miles around, while the earth quivered and trembled even
at gi'eat distances. An explosion may have occurred still earlier near
Petersburg, but near us the first note in the awful scale was struck near
4.30 a. m., when the rebel gunboat in the James not far from Drury's
Bluff — some think it was the floating magazine or powder-boat — was
blown up. That unexpected, sudden and terrible crash burst out upon

^ It appeared, however, upon examination that the powder had been removed be-
fore this time ; but the excavation for the mine — made and filled with gunpowder
about the time of the Dahlgren affair, which occurred March 4, 1864 — remains in
evidence of the plot.


the quiet night, resounded, roared and echoed far and wide, and blazed
and glared also, like the sudden eruption of a small volcano. Then fol-
lowed in rapid succession, the explosions of the magazines of numerous
forts encircling Richmond, besides many more on the enemy's long lines
running out south and west. Then burst the vast stores of powder and
fixed ammunition — on board the gunboats, and the iron-clads, in the
laboratories, store-houses, and arsenals, and in the outlying places of se-
curity — a rapid series of terrific explosions, with the noise of many thun-
ders, following close one upon another, until the fearful and deafening
crash of hundreds of tons of powder, and of thousands upon thousands of
shells, flashed their blinding glare on every hand, rent the air, and shook
the very hills.

" In Richmond, when about 5 a. m. the powder magazine blew up, the
earth seemed to writhe as if in agony, houses rocked like ships at sea,
w^hile stupendous thunders roared around ; it would almost have awakened
the dead." So writes a citizen.

Large buildings were crushed to ruins by the concussion, as an eggshell
can be crushed in the hand. Block after block went down, blown to
shapeless piles, and strong walls of brick and stone, at great distances,
were cracked and rent from eave to foundation. IMany houses were piled
bodily in the streets, others tipped over at every angle from their founda-
tions ; while hundreds of chimneys fell over, and went rumbling down the
roofs to the ground, thousands of glass windows crashed, rattled, rang
and fell throughout the city, and the air was filled with huge volumes of
blinding smoke, and choking dust. Rarely in civil life are people so ex-
posed, or so dangerously threatened by countless objects falling every-
where along the streets, and a more direful din never pelted human ears.
This explosion was the first great gun in the city. Then followed the
arsenal, said to have contained 750,000 loaded shells, their incessant ex-
plosions continuing for several hours, and sounding at times like a grand
battle of all the nations of the world in arms ; while the thousands of
pieces of the shells rained down, over the whole contiguous district, like
the countless drops from some huge fountain — if such a simile can be
used. Great fires instantly ensued, and hundreds of the people dashed
out and ran for their lives, scarcely knowing which way to run, and a
large number were killed. Soon one third of Richmond's finest edifices,
and hundreds of outlying buildings, were huge, roaring and unapproach-
able masses of flame ; the smoke of which rolling up in dense masses of
black covered the city and near vicinity like a vast pall, and shutting out
the light of the sun.

In the very midst of this scene of indescribable confusion, noise and
destruction, Lieut. Prescott of the Thirteenth, with his sixty or more
pickets from the 1st Brigade, was hurrying into the city. About an hour,
a little more, after Lieut. Prescott came in with his pickets, the Thir-
teenth followed, while the storm of fire and shell was scarcely any abated,
and amid the heat, smoke and flying cinders.


But as the Thirteenth came into the city, notwithstanding the fearful
and terrific noise, fire and confusion, there were, in the outskirts of the
city, cattle quietly browsing in the pastures, men at work in the gardens,
and digging in the fields, and women hanging clothing upon their lines to
dry ; the cattle, the women and the men, all apparently about equally
moved by the awful events of the morning — that is, not moved at all ; a
most laudable case of strict attention to business !

All through the night, too, before the Union troops came in, the city
had been given up to sack and pillage, and the fury of the mob. Stores
were gutted, and their contents strewn in the streets. The militia and
city police seem to have broken all bonds of order and restraint, and
joined hands with the worser remnant of Gen. Lee's army left straggling
in the city ; and all three together apjiear to have vied with the meanest
rascal and the lowest slave, in the hell and license of indescribable mis-
chief — all filled and crazed alike with the abundant liquor, that was
seized and poured out like water, to be dipped up and drank without stint.
The Confederate military authorities had in retreating — between daylight
and sunrise — caused to be fired the huge flouring mills and warehouses,
among the most extensive in the world, the vessels in the James, and the
bridges over the river ; in short almost everything combustible that could
be of use to the Union forces. There was no fire brigade fit for duty,
and the fires, from the huge mills and warehouses, spread unchecked on
every hand, in the densest parts of the city, until five or six hundred
buildings were destroyed.

We will now add a few special statements made by officers of the Thir-
teenth, and by other persons who held positions of authority in the city,
at the time of its surrender and occupation. Lt. Col. Smith acting dur-
ing April 3d as General officer of the day.

Lt. Col. Smith writes as follows : " Before Richmond April 2d. I
have just seen a dispatch, of to-day, from Gen. Grant to Gen. Weitzel,
in which he says : ' A heavy battle is going on to-day. The 6th and 9th
Corps are inside the enemy's lines. The 2d and 5th Cor])s are sweeping
around to the west. Everything is working gloriously. If any weakness
is exhibited near you, push. U. S. Grant.' "

And again, the next day, Lt. Col. Smith writes : " City of Richmond,
April 3, 1865. We fell in at daylight this morning. The Thirteenth
had the lead. The picket lines advanced, and found the enemy were
gone. Excepting the picket lines, my Regiment was the first in the city ;
and we marched in with my drum corps playing ' Yankee Doodle'. I
have posted the first picket and patrol in the city of Richmond. No
troops but this (1st) Brigade are in the city. It is now 11 p. m. The
city is quiet. The explosion of shells, in the burning buildings, yester-
day, was incessant. Our troops, left behind us in Fort Harrison, thought
we were having a battle. Jeff. Davis's Ordnance and Quarter-master's
accounts are pretty well settled." Lt. Col. Smith.

Lt. Col. Smith also states : " Color Sergeant Van R. Davis of H car-


ried onr colors into the city on the morning of April 3d." This was the
new tlag with the list of battles inscribed upon it ; the other color of the
Thirteenth — the old State flag — was carried into the city this morning
by Color Coi'poral Hiram C. Young of H.

The passage through the streets, on entering, was necessarily slow, and
we halted in Capitol Square some time before 9 a. m., so that the Thir-
teenth must have crossed the city line very near to 8 a. m. ; one account
states that the Brigade reached Capitol Square at 8.30 a. m.

Maj. Gen. Charles Devens, in a letter written by him to Governor
Smyth of New Hampshire, and dated at Richmond, Va., June 22, 1865,
speaking of the Tenth, Twelfth and Thirteenth Regiments of N. H. Vols,
states : " On the formation of the Twenty-Fourth Corps, all these Regi-
ments formed a part of the Third Division, to which, they have, until
now, belonged ; and were of the fix'st column that entered Richmond on
the morning of April 3,1865 — the Thirteenth New Hampshire being the
first Regiment of the army whose colors were brought into the city."

In a letter written to his wife, from Richmond, under date of April 5,
1865, Major Stoodley states : " While entering Richmond on the morn-
ing of April 3, 1865, our Thirteenth Regiment led the column of troops,
and was the first Regiment in. Some few cavalry, and a part of our
picket line were in before us (Lieut. Prescott's pickets as related above)
— but Ours was the first Flag. I caused the drum corps to play ' Yankee
Doodle,' thinking that the best tune for the occasion, and from that
changed to ' Down with the traitor and up with the Star ' — the good old
* Battle Cry of Freedom.'

" The sides of the streets were crowded with people, mostly negroes.
They shouted, they danced, cried, prayed, sang, and cut up all manner
of wild capers. The most common expression was ' Thank God, thank
God, deliverance has come.' I state what was a literal fact, the people
were in a state of starvation. The rebels had set fire to the warehouses
and workshops, and the fire had got under great headway before we
entered the city, and we heard one rebel ram blow up, after we came
into the city. It is estimated that 600 buildings were destroyed. No
warning at all was given of the purpose to fire the buildings, and the ex-
plosion all day of large quantities of shells and ammunition sounded like
a grand battle. Many of the people were burned to death. In one place
lay three bodies of little girls, five or six years old, burned to a crisp.
In a house near by, seventeen persons were killed by the explosion of the
powder magazine — which was (also) fired without giving any warning
at all. Destitution prevails here to an alarming extent.

" Ours is the only Brigade in the city, and keeping order is no play.
(1st Brig. 3d Div. 24th Array Corps.) We are doing provost duty. Lt.
Col. Normand Smith of the Thirteenth was Division officer of the day,
the first day, April 3d, and I relieved him, and took it yesterday, April
4th. ^ I patrolled the streets myself the most of last night, taking what I

^ This was a verj* unusual proceeding, and a great compliment to Lt. Col. -Smith,


considered the worst districts under my own eye. Very many of the
best citizens have told me, yesterday and to-day, that the city has been
more quiet and orderly since we have been here, than for many weeks
before, and that they feel safer under our rule than they did under their
own. Capt. M. T. Betton of K has command of Libby Prison. Gen.
Weitzel occupies Jeff. Davis' former Hdqrs. Gen. Devens occupies the
Government House where Gov. Smith resided.

" While marching into the city we were greeted, from many and many
a window, with the waving of the Old Flag, and our troojjs cheered
whenever one was displayed. As soon as our column halted in front of
the Capitol, on the morning of April 3d, I was ordei-ed to take the Thir-
teenth through the city, and occupy the roads leading from it. And our
little Thirteenth, with less than two hundred men, marched alone through
the princii)al streets unmolested, and without any insult being offered to
us. I put our little force so as to control seven roads, and on the princi-
pal one, on that (north) side of the city ; and held them from nine thirty
o'clock a. m. (9.30 a. m.) till five o'clock p. m., allowing no one to pass

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 67 of 81)