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 69 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 69 of 81)
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settled offhand ; liquor stores to be closed ; houses of ill repute to be shut
up ; the inmates to be fed ; stolen goods to be found ; a stolen mule found,
an order wanted by the owner to take it ; sentences to be passed on persons
arrested for sundry misdemeanors ; guards to mount ; a man wants some
non-paying tenants ejected ; a poor woman appears begging for some-
thing for her starving children to eat ; some one has thrown a dead negro
baby into a back yard, and it must be buried at once ; paroled Confed-
erate officers asking for rations ; Confederate soldiers to be sent with
suitable orders to Libby ; man wants a guard to protect his property
(more probably he is afraid of his " neeg-urs," and wants his head pro-
tected) ; Northern visitors want to be escorted to all '' points of interest "
at once ; a bevy of beautiful young women (and Virginia girls are pass-
ing beautiful) come in asking for a guard for their houses, and to see
what sort of creatures these Yankees are ; a permit to sell goods (and
bads) wanted by a man-looking thing from Judea, via New York, and
mostly nose ; fifty-one negroes, with one hundred and two complaints ;
several persons with quarrels to be settled ; all callers impatient with
waiting — and all wanting to be attended to first — and this pile is
about half the deposit ; while the office is packed and jammed with people
half the time, and occasionally smelling like the Black Hole in Calcutta.

There is an awful state of society in Virginia now. The negroes are
almost in open insurrection, idle, indolent and insolent. There are numer-
ous cases where the wives of absent Southern soldiers, and the wives of
negroes also, have thought their husbands dead, and have married again,
some having children by this second marriage. The original Benedict
now turns up, blue ; and Enoch Arden is played again, with peace or
with war.

Wm. H. Spiller of Company C was one of the very few men of the
Thirteenth who went with Gen. Ord's Flying Corps sent to head off Gen.
Lee in the Appomattox valley. He states : '' The column had a plenty
of marching and some hard fighting. I was very tired on the night of
April 1st, having been in the saddle for a large part of three days in
succession, but slept soundly through the fearful cannonade that pounded


all that night upon Gen. Lee's works surrounding Petersburg. About
daylight on the morning of April 2d an advance was made all along our
front, on the rebel works. Gen. Gibbon, commanding the 24th Corps
contingent, had two very serious fights, first he captured Fort Alexander
with a rush, but his first attack upon Fort Gregg was repulsed ; but he
finally took it with thirty or forty of its brave defenders, some one hun-
dred and fifty of them having been killed or wounded. Gen. Gibbon lost
about 500 men that morning. Our troops now held the outer line of the
Confederate works.

" On the morning of April 3d I saw our troops preceded by skirmishers
advance upon the Confederate inner line — but the enemy had fled. We
expected a triumphal entry into I'etersburg ; but Gen. Grant was in
command, and there was to be no picnic so long as Gen. Lee's army held
together. The advance was stopped, breakfast was eaten, and an horn-
later the chase commenced, Gen. Lee having the start by several hours.
Gen. Ord's column advanced along the Southside Railroad, and Gen.
Meade south of the river, while Gen. Lee was north of the river.

" I was at this time serving as Orderly to Brev. Brig. Gen. Theodore
Read, Asst. Adjt. General Army of the James. The first incident, that
I recall, of this day's march, occurred about noon : Gen. Ord and staff
had left the head of the column, and had ridden into a grove of pines by
the roadside to rest, and allow the troops to pass ; as was his custom
while on the march, in order, I presume, to see for himself that they kept
well closed up. Gen. Ord and staff formed one group, we orderlies an-
other, and the cavalry escort a third — all quite close together. All were
dismounted. Soon cheering was heard from far down the line, and
rapidly coming nearer and louder, when Gen. Ord said : ' Gen. Grant
must be coming. Gentlemen mount, and give the General three cheers! '
All mounted, and a few minutes later Gen. Grant and staff rode into the
grove. Three cheers were given him with a will ; Gen. Grant acknowl-
edged the salute, talked a moment with Gen. Ord, and then turned to
one of his staff and asked him to read a dispatch — it was from Gen.
Weitzel announcing the fall and his occupation of Richmond ! We in-
stantly made the woods ring with our hurrahs ; the troops now marching
past caught up the glorious news, passed it along, and we could hear their
loud cheers pass to right and left, ringing up and down the line, until the
sounds were lost in the distance.

After hearty congratulations had passed between the parties. Gen.
Grant took his leave. AVhen Gen. Gi*ant rode out of the grove into
the road, a baggage wagon was going by, from the rear end of which a
turkey had flopped out, and was fluttering and struggling along, with
one of its legs fastened to a rope that hung from the ribs of the wagon.
As Gen. Grant rode past he smiled, and jocularly remarked to the men
on the wagon : ' Boys, everything is lovely — but your goose hangs low.'

" A few moments after this Gen. Ord and staff mounted, and started
on a gallop toward the head of the column.

1865 IN RICHMOND. 585

" During these rides from the rear to the head of the cohimn when on
the march, we used (when possible) to take to the fields and woods along
near the road so as not to bother the troojjs with dust or crowding, and to
save time. We had to jump fences and ditches, dodge trees and duck
under low hanging branches. I rode a little black Kentucky mare, cap-
tured from a rebel Major, near Fort Darling, by Gen. Read, that was
equal to any emergency — she was a ' daisy ' and could run like a deer.

" We halted at Nottaway Court House for about two hours to rest,
and I wandered down the street on a foraging expedition. I was aliout
to open the door of a small building on my left, ajjparently unoccupied,
when I saw Gen. Grant sitting alone, on the piazza of a house on the
opposite side of the street. His staff were in the house, their orderlies
and horses at the rear ; but there sat the grand hero Grant, the com-
mander of all our armies, and at that hour at the head of a victorious one,
close upon the heels of an enemy, and in one of the most exciting pursuits
known in modern warfare, quietly smoking his cigar as usual, and appar-
ently as unconcerned as any private in the ranks. I can never think of
Gen. Grant without developing this picture, all as vivid as I saw it then.
I saluted him, he recognized it, and then I quietly withdrew.

" On the evening of April oth we reached Burkesville, and there en-
camped for the night. The next morning at an early hour I called Gen.
Read, and he made preparations to perform a duty assigned him the
previous evening by Gen. Ord ; and that was to take a small body of
about 500 infantry and cavalry, and proceed with dispatch towards Farm-
ville, either to cut off Gen. Lee's retreat in that direction, or, if too late
for that, to save the bridge for our pursuit. As Gen. Read mounted his
horse to depart upon this expedition, I asked him if I was to go also, and
he replied : ' No — you follow with Head-quarters.' Little did I think,
as he rode off, that that would be the last time I should ever see him.

" We moved an hour or so later, and were met by the rumor that Gen.
Read had been killed, and his force all captured or killed. I hurried for-
ward to the spot where the engagement took place, and there met an old
colored man, a slave on the plantation where the fight occurred, and he
told me the story of the fight as he saw it. He said that Gen. Read
attacked the enemy very gallantly — ' but dar was a heap mo' rebels dan
of de Yankees.' Gen. Read had struck the advance brigade of Gen.
Lee's army. He fell while at the head of his men, and being outnum-
bered and overpowered, those who were left of them had no recourse but
to surrender. The old colored man told me where the General's body
was. He said that the rebels stripped the l)ody ; and I heard afterwards,
from the parties who removed the body, that such was the fact. Some
of Gen. Ord's staff came up, and the body was sent at once to City Point.
I felt very sad at the General's death, for I had been with him a year,
and he had always treated me with great kindness and courtesy.

" I recently (Nov. 4, 1887) met John Atkins, who was Orderly Ser-
geant in the battalion of cavalry stationed at Gen. Ord's Hdqrs., and who


was taken prisoner at the time Gen. Read was killed. Atkins says :
' Gen. Read was shot while making a speech to his troops. His body fell
into the rebels' hands, and they stripped the body of everything, as also
the body of Col. Washbm-ne, who was killed a few minutes after Gen.
Read fell. They also stripped me (Atkins) of all I had on me except
my shirt and drawers, and on the night of my capture by them I nearly
froze in the chilly air.'

" Gen. Read was brave to rashness. One afternoon, just before sunset,
a few days before the Mine explosion, at Petersburg, he mounted his
large white horse, lighted a cigar, rode out to, and up on the top of the
Union earth-works, and sat there smoking for several minutes, oblivious
of both shells and bullets, and I stood watching him (at some distance to
the rear), fearing that he would be shot, and indignant at such a risk.
He seemed to feel that he was going to be killed, and courted death at
every chance. He had been married but a short time before he was killed,
and I think he left his bride at City Point, when he started upon this, his
last campaign.

" After the death of Gen. Read, I was ordered to join Gen. Ord's pri-
vate orderlies, as one of them, and we proceeded, as soon as troops enough
came up, to drive the rebels from our front. We moved with great
rapidity during the whole pursuit, and marched nearly aU of the night of
April 8th. On the forenoon of April 9th we maintained a rapid pace.
Evidences of Gen. Sheridan's work were plenty all along the road. I
rode up to one abandoned rebel caisson, behind which lay a dead Con-
federate officer, and upon opening the ammunition chest found a Sharps
carbine, which I now have, 1887. It had probably been captured from
our cavalry.

" As we were going forward at a good pace on April 9th, suddenly
Gen. Custer came riding up to Gen. Ord in great haste, and pointing with
his sword off a little to our front and right, said in a kind of triumphant
shout : ' Go in. General, and give it to them ; General Sheridan has got
them sure ! ' and wheeling his horse, was off again to the front like a flash
of light. Gen. Ord instantly hui-ried staff officers and orderlies to different
parts of the column ; and in an incredibly short period of time solid ranks
of our infantry were forming in rear of our line of dismounted cavalry.
When all was ready. Gen. Sheridan withdrew his cavalrymen, and there
stood the Veterans of the old Eighteenth Corps, now 24th Corps, and
the gleam of their sharp bayonets made the now discoui-aged and beaten
Army of Northern Virginia ' Stop, short, — never to go again.'

" The day was fine, and that afternoon this famous Confederate army
was massed in a large field, with woods on either side of it, on a hillside
north and east of Appomattox, while our army lay upon the hills over-
looking, and to the south and west of the ])lace. Generals Ord and Gib-
bon rode down to the McLean house, where the surrender was made.
While the surrender was taking place, the officers and men on our side
— not knowing what was going on — commenced talking of the situa-



tion, and were speculating how long it would take to clean the rebel army-
out just as it now lay, and wondering what was coming next. For an
hour or so everything was quiet ; then suddenly a long, loud shout went
up, which was quickly echoed from hill to hill by our exultant troops, and
several bands began to play ; but in a few moments this all ceased and
quiet reigned again. Whether this cessation of outward jubilation was
from a spontaneous desire on the part of our men to show respect and
l)ity for their fallen but brave foe, or was caused by an order from Gen.
Grant, I know not.

" The rest of that eventful Sunday afternoon was passed in quiet ; in
congratulations, letter writing, telegraphing and in sending dispatches and
accounts of this Last Campaign.

" After the many years of war it seems reasonable that the Northern
army should have gone nearly wild with joy — but we did not. I remem-
ber how our men sat there on the high hillside, after the surrender was
made known to us, and looking over where the remnant of Gen. Lee's
army was lying, their artillery and teams parked for the last time ; I
remember how we sat there and pitied, and sympathized with those cour-
ageous Southern men, who had fought for four long and dreary years all
so stubbornly, so bravely and so well, and now whipped, beaten, completely
used up, were fully at our mercy — it was pitiful, sad, hard, and seemed
to us altogether too bad.

" After musing upon, and talking of the situation for a time, I rode down
to the McLean house. I saw quite a number of Confederate officers
there, and among them Gen. Pickett. I regarded him rather the most of
all, because, no matter where our Division (Getty's) was — at Fredericks-
burg, Suffolk, Cold Harbor, or at any other place — it was always Gen.
Pickett's Division of Gen. Longstreet's Corps that confronted us.

" I had but little time to look about, for Gen. Grant at once ordered
Gen. Ord to Richmond, to take command of the Department. Starting
immediately we reached Richmond on Wednesday Ajjril 12th, and took
up our quarters in Jeff. Davis' house ; where I slept that night on a mat-
tress, for the first time in three years. I remained as a private Orderly
for Gen. Ord until mustered out with the Thirteenth in June 1865. Gen.
Porter's article, ' Grant's Last Campaign,' published in the November
Century, 1887, which I have read since writing the above, confirms my
statements in many particulars." Wm. H. Spilleb, Company C.

April 11. Tues. Cloudy, misty, rainy. Reg. still doing provost
guard duty in Richmond. While Richmond is as quiet, and possibly
much stiller than most New England cities, suddenly there bursts from
Capitol Square a salute of 200, guns shaking the city, and making the
rebel element turn pale. These tremendous salvos of artillery are re-
peated in every military Department, post and arsenal, within the author-
ity of the United States, all over land and sea, in honor of Gen. Grant's
recent victories.

A white scamp whom the Provost Marshal cannot make behave himself


is punisliecl by having his head, face, neck and hands smeared all over
with molasses, then he is tied to a post in the public square, while the
flies eat off the molasses. He is a sight to behold — but it cures him;
and certainly such punishment does him no bodily harm.

April 12. Wed. Cloudy, rainy. Reg. doing provost duty in the
city. Capt. M. T. Betton in command of the remnant of the 81st N. Y.
stiU has charge of Libby Prison, and has had within it nearly 3,000 rebel
soldiers as prisoners ; all taken in and about the city, and held awaiting
parole. These are mostly stragglers, ' beats ' and skulkers. Gen. Lee's
best troops stuck to him like men, in the retreat.

Praise of Gen. Lee may be regarded by some persons as out of place
here, but simple justice wrongs no man. This afternoon, with a few
members of his staff, he rides on horseback into Richmond, and goes un-
disturbed and unmolested to his house, where his family await him. A
special guard, a part from the Thirteenth, has protected his property and
family ever since we have been in the city.

He appears dispirited — a disappointed man ; but the great chieftain
though beaten, preserves all his dignity. The weather is wet, cloudy,
gloomy, and the burned, blackened, battered and dirty city necessarily
appears to him as in its worst estate. However, under no form of pro-
cession, escort, or parade could Gen. Lee have returned to Richmond
and to his home, with such exquisite dignity, good taste, and manly
honor, as in this way that he does ; his great army lost, his cause gone
forever, himself under a military parole ; now a Southern gentleman and
a private citizen, though the first citizen of Virginia, he simply and quietly
rides from his camp to his home with a few of his friends.

Peace is now reasonably assured, and the Union army agrees pro-
foundly with the Confederates in the feeling that the war is practically
over, though collisions farther south may still occur ; and ninety-nine out
of every hundred soldiers, on both sides, are brimful and running over
with unspeakable gladness, that this huge and terrible war is ended.
This is unreserved, free and common remark. Surely Virginia now
stands free ; and the Southern army confronting Gen. Sherman and still
others farther south must soon furl their banners.



April 13. Thurs. Rainy. Thirteenth moves from the city to Con-
federate Battery Number Ten, and bivouacs for the night. This Battery
is on the inner line of the rebel earth-works, on the north side of the city,
on Deep Run turnpike, and beyond Cam^j Lee (Confederate). Up to
this time the Reg. has been quartered in the city, at the old St. Claire
Hotel — quarters dingy and dirty.

The better element in Gen. Lee's army, all who were able so to do,
clung to his fortunes to the last. But it contained a class gathered
from the worst, and which grew still worse when free from all social and
civil-law i-estraints. They are numerous now in Richmond as laggards,
skulkers and stragglers, and we have seen enough of them : " Men with
sallow, dirt-begrimed faces ; dull, fishy eyes ; long, yellow, uncombed
hair ; meaningless expression of countenance ; clad in rags ; at home in
filth ; " huddled together about the Provost Marshal's offices. Poor white
trash in very fact ; descendants of England's outlaws and criminals de-
ported to her American colonies, and always the rangers and curse of
Southern mountain, forest and swamp.

April 14. Fri. Clear, warm. Hdqi-s. of the Thirteenth moved
from St. Claire Hotel at 5.30 a. m. to the camp near Battery No. 10 ;
then the Thirteenth goes into the Hospital Barracks at Camp Lee, two
miles north of the city, on the Fair grounds ; but finding a most populous
army of gray -backs in possession — and which did not retreat with Gen.
Lee's army, but waited here for United States rations — the officers de-
cide that any open ground is far preferable to a house with such hosts
for entertainers, and we therefore move out, speedily, and bivouac near
by, on the road-side. We furnish numerous guards for houses on the
outskirts of the city.

Confederate Gen. Johnston, in North Carolina, sends a flag of truce to
Gen. Sherman, upon an errand of surrender or parley, and hostilities be-
tween their two armies are suspended.

The Flag of Fort Sumter hauled down Sunday April 14, 1861, is
again hoisted to-day, April 14, 1865 ; also on the same eventful Sunday
in 1861, President Lincoln himself penned the proclamation calling
75,000 militia men into service for three months.

This night about ten o'clock, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United
States, was assassinated by J. Wilkes Booth, with a pistol, in Ford's
Theatre, Washington, D. C


April 15. Sat. Forenoon very rainy, afternoon clear. Thirteenth
still in bivouac by the roadside near Camp Lee. On the whole we have
been enjoying our Provost duty in the city, and would prefer to continue
it. One Brigade of our Division is now in Manchester, three miles
from liichmond ; one on the road to Fort Harrison, three miles out ; and
ours here north of the city, two miles out. Col. Mosby, the guerilla
chief, and his band ai-e reported to be near Richmond. The Thirteenth
during to-day temporarily occupies the old rebel barracks at Camp Lee,
as they afford a better protection from the storm, but they are exceed-
ingly dirty, and unfit for use. The men protect themselves against the
numberless vermin by applying to their clothing the medical mercurial
preparations, even pulverizing the ' blue pill ' and using that — the mer-
cury an absolutely efficacious protection.

A heavy picket line is sent to-night to the main line of the old Con-
federate earth-works, and cavahy vedettes farther out.

A member of our Band writes : " Band in the city. Officers are too
fond of music. They want us to blow, blow, blow."

April 16. Sun. Very pleasant. Thirteenth moves about half a
mile from Camp Lee, to Robinson's grove, on Grove Street leading to-
ward Hollywood Cemetery, and about one mile from the city.

"We had just staked off ground for a camp, and pitched a few tents at
the grove, this afternoon, when orders came for us to march into Rich-
mond. We march in at 6 p. m., and are quartered in the City Hall.
The officers of the Thirteenth take up quarters in the Council Chambers.
The city guard is increased by 700 men as a precautionary measure.
Col. Mosby is expected to attempt a raid into Richmond. The paroled
officers and men who have come in from Gen. Lee's disbanded army far
outnumber all the Union troops in the city, and mischief is feared. The
most, however, are orderly.

The rebel officers go about in full Confederate army uniform, many of
them with much swagger and importance of manner. The result is a
closer watching and less freedom. The first overt act will precipitate a
fearful riot, in which offenders will enjoy but short respite, for the Union
soldiei's are roused to the utmost stretch of indignation by the assassina-
tion of President Lincoln, for which they instinctively hold the Confed-
eracy in some way responsible.

The writer was in Boston in April 1865, and finds among his notes an
item or two that may not be out of place here, as glimpses of the day :

April 3d. Boston very excited at the news of the fall of Richmond,
and the hasty retreat of Gen. Lee's army ; and the fever of excitement
increases hour by hour as Gen. Grant chases the swift fugitives up the
Appomattox valley.

Ai)ril 10th. All places of business closed at noon, and the day and
night given over to one vast, grand jubilee. Processions mai'ched, bands
played, cannon roared, people shouted, steam whistles blew, bells rang —
until the din became a nuisance, and at night the entire city was a bril-
liant blaze of illumination.



April loth. A paper published about daylight gave the ne\vs of the
murder of President Lincoln ; and copies of the paper sold faster than
they could be handed out. Boston quickly put on the deepest mourning.
As the news flew through the city, it seemed as if the tremor and shudder,
running through the minds of the people, could be felt in the very air and
surroundings, so deep and terrible was it. The principal streets were
soon an endless succession of black-bordered flags, festoons and drapings,
and long floating streamers in black and white.

Amid the profusion of its draj^ings, the front of the Boston Theatre
presented a large white sheet, with these words in great black letters —
from Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act 1, Scene VII. :

He " Hath borne his faculties so meek, hath been

So clear in his great office, that his virtues

Will plead, like angels trumpet-tongued, against

The deep damnation of his taking off."
Sunday April 16th. Attended church in the Old South. Dr. Man-
ning came into the pulpit, as usual, wearing the black gown of his service.
He opened a book and was about to read, when glancing up he saw no
emblem of mourning whatever in the church ; nothing to relieve the dead
uni-color of the whiting finish. He laid down the book, and in the most
deliberate and dignified manner unclasped the large gown at the neck,
and then swung it gracefully, broad over the whole pulpit, threw his
white handkerchief upon it, and again taking his book jiroceeded with the
service. Possibly a more impressive scene never took place in the Old
South church ; and rarely a scene when man, manner, time, place, cir-
cumstance and act so aptly combined for effect. — S. M. T.

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 69 of 81)