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 70 of 81)
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April 17. Mon. Pleasant, clear. Reg. remains in quarters in City
Hall during the day. Among the citizens this is a season of stupid rest.
There is no business ; everything is at a dead stand-still ; few have any
money ; there is nothing to do ; and many spend the most of their time
sitting on the door-steps, and discussing the past, the present and the
future. To a large number all is equally blank and promiseless ; choking
down wliatever rising pride they may feel, they form an endless proces-
sion to and from the places where U. S. army rations are distributed.

April 18. Tues. Clear. Reg. returns from the city at 1 p. m.,
and fits up a ])ermanent camp, at Robinson's grove on the ground we
staked off last Sunday. Just before arriving in camp we are thoroughly
wet in a shower. We are here ordered to make use of unoccupied sheds,
etc., and to pick up other suitable lumber, wherever it may be found ; and
we make for ourselves roomy and comfortable huts, with shelter tents for
roofs. We are in an oak grove, about half way between the city limits
and the inner line of rebel earth-works, where we have stationed a strong
line of pickets.

Col. Ripley goes home on fifteen days' leave, and Col. Nichols assumes
command of our 1st Brigade.

April 19. Wed. Pleasant, a very warm afternoon. Reg. at work


on new camp at Robinson's grove. The assassination of President Lin-
coln spreads a gloom over the Union army, as well as over the entire
North. The citizens of Richmond for the most part also feel very badly
about it. All honorable men condemn it. The people here are very
severe upon Jeff. Davis. Gen. Lee keeps at his house, closely shut in.
Several of our men have been jioisoned since we came into the city.
Minute guns fired in Richmond during the funeral of President Lincoln.
Duties susjjended as far as possible.

April 20. Thurs. Pleasant a. m., showery p. m. Reg. In camp.
All food supplies are high in price. Some of the peojjle have lived on
corn bread and water, month In and month out. Mr. Robinson, the
wealthy owner of this grove, states that he has not had coffee, for use in
his family, half a dozen times in these last two years.

April 21. Fri. Very warm. Regular monthly Inspection by Capt.
Curtis of tlie Thirteenth, acting Asst. Adjt. General on the staff of our 1st
Brigade. The Thirteenth was sent on picket to the outer lines yesterday,
returning to camp about 10 a. m. to-day.

Col. Mosby, to-day, holds a formal review of his rebel guerilla band
of about 600 men ; tells them that disbanding is preferable to surrender ;
and simply saying : " I am no longer your commander," — he and they
depart, no one knows whither. He remained in hiding until Gen. Grant
succeeded in sending him word that he might avail himself of the privi-
leges of parole extended to the soldiers of Gen. Lee's army.

April 22. Sat. Cloudy, cold. Reg. In camp. Richmond Is very
quiet, but the unstable element Is immense. The larger number appear,
however, to be exceeding glad that the war is over, and are peaceful
and quiet. They all need watching though, for the paroled soldiers by
tills time outnumber three times over all our white troops hereabout, on
duty as provost guard.

April 23. Sun. Windy, chilly. Reg. in camp. The Mayor of
Nashua, H. T. Morrill and other guests of the Thirteenth, visit Fort Har-
rison, and other points on the line, in company with Quarter-master Mor-
rison, Adjutant Taggard, Lieut. Prescott and other officers of our Regi-
ment. Gen. Lee's paroled troops have been passing our camp all day ;
and Falstaff's nondescripts were beaus, fops and dandles to these dirty,
ragged, sour, whitey-yellow, thin, haggard, dejected creatures. The poor
fellows have had a hard time of it. Our soldiers entertain for them a
genuine sympathy, and extend to them a great many kindly courtesies.

April 24. Mon. Clear. Reg. in camp. There Is no Brigade sta-
tioned in the city now. Our 1st Brigade 3d Div. 24th Corps Is about
one mile out, on the Fredericksburg road ; the 2d is In Manchester about
one mile from Richmond ; the 3d is scattered to various points around
the city, sending in detachments every day for Provost duty.

April 25. Tues. Very warm. Thirteenth called at 4.30 a. m.,
leaves camp at 6 a. m., and with the 3d Division of the 24th Corps, as-
sembling from the various Brigade camps around the city, receives the


other two Divisions — 1st and 2d — of the same Corps on Broad Street
in Richmond. They ai"rive and marcli into the city about noon to-day.
The reception lasts for several hours, while arms are presented, colors
dipped, cheer follows cheer, crowds gather and stare, and negroes shout.
After the reception, the whole Corps moves together to a new camp in
Manchester, about two miles from Richmond, on the Broad Rock road,
near the race-course.

We venture to say that no corps of the army will enjoy a more en-
thusiastic reception than these men who marched to the left with Gen.
Ord. These 1st and 2d Divisions of the 24tli Corps constituted a part of
Gen. Ord's ' Flying Column,' which marched from Fort Harrison March
25th, to head off the retreating columns of Gen. Lee's army, accomplish-
ing the feat at Appomattox Court House. In their final rush in that
most exciting chase, they marched April 6th, 18 miles ; 7th, 22 miles ;
8th, 27 miles ; 9th, 37 miles.

On April 9th Gen. Sheridan had thrown a thin line of cavalry across
Gen. Lee's route of retreat, and just as these men of the 24th Corps
swept around into line of battle in rear of the cavalry. Gen. Lee was about
to continue his retreat. Our troops had not an hour to spare. As Gen.
Lee's advance guard approached the cavalry vedettes, they withdrew from
before his front ' as a curtain is drawn aside,' revealing the long lines of
Gen. Ord's infantry, which now no present rebel power could pass, and
the surrender immediately followed. Surgeon Richardson of the Thir-
teenth had charge of the field Hospital, and he states that ten hundred
and sixty wounded men, belonging to these two Divisions and the Fly-
ing Corps, passed through his hands during the expedition, to say nothing
of the killed, and of the men who fell out, used up by the forced march.

In returning to Richmond the two Divisions marched by way of Lynch-
burg, a distance of 120 miles, and arrive exceedingly dusty, bronzed,
dirty and ragged. A few days in camp, however, will repair all that ;
and greetings are now cordial and congratulatory beyond description.
The 24th Corps is to perform the agreeable office of ' mine host,' and re-
ceive in Richmond all the visiting corps, as they march through the city
on their way to Washington.

The homeward march, along Virginia's chief thoroughfares, of these
two or three hundred thousands of dusty, bronzed and war-worn Veterans,
moving in huge, solid masses from their two thousand and more of battle-
fields, is no inconspicuaus scene in the large, grand moving panorama of
this eventful month of April. While hasting away, to every town and
hamlet in the South, there spreads the constantly dividing stream of the
beaten, dispirited and unfortunate men in gray ; organized, unorganized,
troops, bands, companies, squads, twos, singly, they pass off the broad
stage of their awful drama — and disappear.

April 26. "Wed. AVarm, clear. Thirteenth fitting up a camp two
miles southwest of Manchester, on the Broad Rock road, near the race-
course, and the rebel Battery No. 16, a little west of the Petersburg


turnpike. A very pleasant camp in shelter tents pitched on an open,
grassy plain. The ground, however, is a trifle low and damp. Dry
weather will soon remedy that difficulty.

Sundry officers of the Thirteenth call, in a friendly way, upon the
family of Mr. Lipscomb, a farmer living near our camp, and his daughter-
in-law, to entertain the visitors, regales them with music on the piano,
and sings a few secession songs — 'Bonnie Blue Flag,' ' Farewell to the
Star Spangled Banner,' and others. Major Stoodley, as well as the
others, fails to appreciate this kind of entertainment, and all the officers
leave the house. Now, of course, the Confederacy is a mere matter of
history, but it is hard for the people to realize that fact. We note this
circumstance as a mere indication of the popular feeling.

General Joseph E. Johnston to-day, at Durham's Station, North Caro-
lina, surrenders, to General W. T. Sherman, his army numbering about
30,000 men.

April 27. Thurs. Pleasant. Thirteenth in new camp. The ladies
of Richmond give an entertainment for the city's poor. Tickets $2.00.
Tableaux are the chief feature. The 2d Brigade Band — formerly Thir-
teenth — furnishes the music for the occasion. A large building has been
fitted up for homeless negroes, hundreds of whom are flocking into the
city. They find no employment, and are soon in a destitute and starv-
ing condition. A hungry negro is apjiarently as void of delicate taste as
an animal ; he will eat almost anything that is eatable, and not wince at
taste, condition or appearances. The blacks will fatten where white peo-
ple would starve.

April 28. Fri. Pleasant. Thirteenth in camp. After the excite-
ment of the last six weeks, this camp life falls exceeding quiet, monoto-
nous, stale and flat. Our troops are scattered all through the country, as
guards to protect property and life and to preserve order.

It cannot be denied, the evidences are too exact and too numerous,
that a deep-seated and ever-abiding dread pervades the whole ex-slave-
holding class — with scarcely an excejition — that somehow, in the dark-
ness of night or in the light of open day, they know not when or how,
the ex-slaves will avenge their wrongs, will resent their stripes, will claim
their rights so long denied, and may plunder, destroy, burn, maim or
assassinate. The ability resides in this now mixed race — and the half
white are the worst — to do an incalculable amount of mischief. AVill
they strike ? Will they not strike ? Where ? When ? How ? These
are the fear-born questions, and common talk everywhere about here
among the white peo])le.

April 29. Sat. Rainy, windy and fair. Thirteenth in camp.

April 30. Sun. Pleasant. Showers last night, and very much
needed. Thirteenth in camp, and mustered for 2)ay at 9 a. m. Dress-
parade at evening. The boys have a cool way of quieting the yarn-spin-
ner. If any story does not meet their approval, they express their opin-
ion, at the close of it, by remarking sarcastically : " Then the Band
played — and then the Thirteenth cheered I "



May 1. Mon. Clear, cold. Thirteenth hi camp. Capt. Betton re-
turns to the Thirteenth, from his command of the 81st N. Y. and charge
of Libby prison. By orders of Gen. Devens, Capt. Betton has sent to
Gov. Andrew of MassacTiusetts the lock and key of the outer door of
Libby, and they are preserved in the State House, Boston.

News received that the War Department has issued an order relating
to the reduction of the Volunteer army. The men are very jubilant at
the prospect of a speedy return to their homes.

May 2. Tues. Very cold and chilly. Thirteenth in camp. Com-
pany drill in afternoon and a Dress-parade. We have recently had hun-
dreds of evidences of what has been previously noted in these pages, viz :
the Southern people are the more religious : talk, ceremony, devotion,
prayerfulness and all that ; the Northern people the more Christian :
kindly work and sympathy, practical help, human nature Christianized.

May 3. "Wed. Clear, cold. Thirteenth in camp. These are the
days when great mails go North — everybody wi'iting letters.

May 4. Thurs. Windy, rainy and clear. Reg. in camp. A dis-
gusted teamster apjjears to the commander of the Thirteenth, and wants
to go back to the ranks. He says he has been kicked, by the mules,
upon every j^art of his body excepting one spot about an inch square just
over his heart — ' if a mule should kick him there, he would be instantly
killed.' He is relieved.

Gen. Richard Taylor surrenders, to Gen. E. R. S. Canby, all the Con-
federate forces remaining in arms east of the Mississippi River, at 7.30
p. m. to-day, at Citronelle, Alabama.

May 5. Pri. Rainy. The Reg. with other troops of the 24th Corps,
leaves camp about 7 a. m. ; moves as far as the Ponton bridge, on the way
to Richmond, to receive the 2d and 5th Corps, of the Army of the Poto-
mac ; but the reception is postponed on account of the weather, and the
troops return to camp. A six-mile march for nothing, save a drenching
in the cold rain, and a liberal coating with the mud.

The 5th Corps encamps near us. These two Corps passed the camp of
the Thirteenth while coming in, and presented for two days an almost
uninterrupted stream of cavalry, artillery, infantry, teams and ambulances.
A war-worn and weather-beaten host. About 40,000 troops are in Rich-
mond to-day.

Many of these troojjs having no arms march with old brooms, and hun-
dreds of little broom-corn clothes brushes are stuck in the muzzles of the
muskets and borne aloft — the broom the emblem of a clean sweep. War
songs are sung in the very grandest of choruses — by the victorious war-
riors themselves.

May 6. Sat. Very warm. Reg. turns out at daylight, and at an
early hour assembles with the 24th Corps, goes to Richmond, and re-
ceives the 2d and 5th Corps of the Army of the Potomac. The column
is seven hours — from 9 a. m. to 4 p. m. — in passing a given point.
There are about 50,000 troops in all, and the movement is very slow.


Our receiving column stands in line, the 24th Coi'ps extending along
Broad Street for nearly a mile, and as each General passes at the head
of his troojis, our men give three cheers, present arms, and dip their
colors. Occasionally several thousand voices join in some loud chorus,
or grand old army song. We also cheer every regimental flag that passes ;
at least two hundred sets of three cheers each, though some are con-
siderably flatted. A long, hard, noisy, hoarse job.

One soldier of the 13th writes home : " While the troops were passing
Gen. Lee's house, the house was kept closed."

May 7. Sun. Very pleasant. Reg. in camp. Inspection a. m.
Everybody hoarse and sore, from giving orders and cheering yesterday.
Lieut. Murray returns to the Reg. from parole camp. Dress-parade at
evening. The Thirteenth not so large, now, as three of its com})anies
were when the Regiment first entered Virginia. The 14th Corps, in Gen.
Sherman's army, are passing our camp to-day.

May 8. Mon. Fine day. Reg. in camp. Regimental drill in
afternoon. " The men take no interest in drill, camp duties or anything
connected with a soldier's life, they are simply almost crazy to go home,"
— writes a man of the 13th.

May 9. Tues. Showery — afternoon. Reg. in camp. Drilling
now is voted a nuisance, and declared off. The men go through a few
manoeuvres, then are allowed to stack arms and rest ; and they rest very
slowly because they are very tired of drilling. They sit on the grass,
and toss pebbles at the stalks of dead weeds ; which exercise they now
regard quite as important as the drilling for a war that is over and done.
It is like singing that old song : ' Rally Round The Flag,' now that there
is no need to ' Rally once again,' or ' Shout the battle cry.'

May 10. Wed. Pleasant ; rainy at night. Regimental drill.
Gen. Custer's cavalry pass through Richmond.

May 11. Thurs. Very warm, thunder showers. Reg. in line at
4.30 a. m. and with the 24th Corps goes to Manchester and receives the
14th and 20th Corps, of Maj. Gen. Wm. T. Sherman's army, while they
are marching into Richmond, on their way to Washington. The Thir-
teenth stands for six hours on Main Street, in the intense heat, while
these two Corps march past. His whole army passes through the city,
occupying three days in the passage. They have marched up from Ra-
leigh, N. C, since April 30th, a distance of 150 to 175 miles. They have
many pack mules with them carrying the men's baggage, as well as that
of the officers. On one of these mules are riding two little girls, with
light hair, blue eyes and fair complexion — liberated slaves, to be taken
North and educated. The chief interest of the day centres in Gen. Sher-
man — ' Old Tecumseh ' — as he rides at the head of his army. At 2.30
p. m. the Thirteenth returns to camp.

Of the war songs now sung in the armies of the Potomac and James,
' Old John Brown,' and in Gen. Sherman's army ' Marching Through
Georgia,' are by all means the favorites. Both have spirited, stirring



music, and have a roll, swing, rhythm and general sentiment good for all
time, war or peace, and both are magnificent, though simple, tunes for
troops to sing while marching.

May 12. Fri. Pleasant ; heavy rain last night. Regimental drill
this afternoon — for a few dull minutes ; then we stack arms and toss

The lath and 17th Corps^ of Gen. Sherman's army, pass through Rich-
mond, followed by two Divisions of Gen. Sheridan's cavalry. These now
are surely rough riders. Our Brigade does not go into town to receive
them, and so escapes an exceedingly fatiguing piece of work.

May 13. Sat. Veiy warm. In compliance with the request of
Major Stoodley, commanding the Thirteenth, Gen. Devens gives our
Regiment a holiday. He furnishes us with transportation, and we visit
Fort Darling, and our old battle-field at Drury's Bluff ; leaving Rich-
mond at 7 a. m., and returning about 6 p. m. We find the lines about
Drury's Blufl: but little changed. It is a year since our severe engage-
ment there on May 14th, loth and 16th, 1864. The field of that affair
is still deeply marked with the evidences of the conflict. Trees battered,
ground dug up ; shells, shot, ai"my gear, and human bones scattered about
in plenty. The rebel dead were poorly buried, and the bones have in
many cases been dug out and scattered by animals.

May 14. Sun. Very fine day. Inspection at 9 a. m. We talk
over the trip of yesterday, and vote a perpetual thanks to Gen. Devens.

A battle is a mere incident in the soldiers' life, often an accident, their
real work is to drill. Turn to the right, turn to the left ; face this way,
face that way ; dress up, align, touch elbows ; eyes front, toes square ;
move forward, sidewise, backward, oblique ; turn about, wheel about,
and do just so — then do it all over again, four thousand times ; ' hold
up your gun up, plunk it down ' ; manualize, evolute. quick, slow, double-
quick, inextricably commingled. Drill is a shirky business ; dryer than
chips, more lifeless than the awkward squad and duller than army stories
told the fortieth time. The boys say, ' drill begins with a big, big D,
and has more 1 in it twice over than the whole universe calls for.'

May 15. Mon. Pleasant. Reg. in camp. The troops of Generals
Grant's and Sherman's armies, in passing thi-ough Richmond northward,
march up to Manchester through Chesterfield County, cross the James on
pontons below Mayo's bridge, into 17th Street, pass through the city
along Main or Broad Street, and out on the Brook turnpike, toward
Charlottesville, going to Fredericksburg. Immense crowds of citizens,
of all classes, pack the sidewalks, fill the windows and balconies, and
cluster upon the roofs of buildings, while the trees are full of boys, black
and white together.

Many of these organizations now passing shout sundry ' war-cries,' or
what serve as such. The Thirteenth, to the writer's knowledge, never
formally adopted any war-cry, for use in battle or elsewhere. Whenever
roused or excited in the natural love of combat, adventure or danger,


the men have frequently shouted to one another, and even to the enemy,
after the common manner of usmg slang phrases : "• Set up them pins ! " —
and this call, in its various applications, prohably comes about as near to
a war-cry as the Thirteenth ever had any need of approaching.

May 16. Tues. Pleasant. Reg. in camp. Chills and fever again
very prevalent here among the troops. First — freeze and shake ; sec-
ond — burn with fever ; third — perspii'e like rain ; fourth — feel used
up for a week ; then repeat. New clothing issued to the men. Drill,
all da3^ Dress-parade at evening.

May 17. Wed. Very warm ; tliermometer indicates 90" in the
shade. " I saw, at Hollywood Cemetery to-day, the skull of one of our
soldiers, on which was written : ' The skull of a Yankee — may his soul
rest in hell.' Signed by three rebels." Lieut. Pkescott.

May 18. Thurs. Rainy, warm. Reg. in camp. The custom con-
tinues in war, and in peace the same : The bands play ' Smith's March,'
or the ' Dead March in Saul,' on the way to a soldier's burial ; and
' Pickerel Reel,' or some other tune equally lively, on the return.

Many of the men are now so uneasy that discipline necessarily grows
very strict. No one is allowed to visit the city, or even leave camp,
without a pass, which is scrutinized by three or four lines of guards be-
tween the camp and the city. Passes are granted with caution, and only
to men regarded safe, and as a reward for good behavior.

May 19. Fri. Showers, warm. Reg. in camp. Monthly inspec-
tion at 8 a. m. A short term of drill.

Visit the fields, and woods, have nothing to do, and nothing to trouble
you, and you will not find, in all the wide world, anything so inexpressi-
bly inviting to exquisite, delicious, ineffable laziness as the gentle, mild,
soft, sunny, Virginia May day. This climate clips the wings of all push
and energy. As a wordy free negro puts it : " Wlien de warm spring
comes on, I 'sperience a degree of drowsy lassitude ; but when de cool
autumn 'preaches I begin to recuperate."

May 20. Sat. Warm, showers, thunder, wind. Reg. in camp.
No drill nor parade. Congress advanced the piiee of rations from 30
cents to 50 cents per day, and a servant's pay from $10 to $16 per month,
to date from March 1, 1865, thus materially advancing the pay of offi-
cers. All officers, also, who serve until the end of the war, are to receive
thi'ee months' additional pay.

An Irishman in the Thirteenth inquired of a negro what part of the
country he came from. The negro replied " The Island " — naming
some island along the coast. The Irishman misunderstood him, and
thinking that the negro said he came from Ireland, fired u]) instantly
and exclaimed : " Out wid yes ! There 's niver a nagur in all Ireland, —
an' did n't St. Patrick druv um all out, begorra — wid the snakes, frogs
and sich ? " Refusing to listen for a moment to any explanation, he
forthwith chased the negro out of camp.

May 21. Sun. Clear, cool. Reg. in camp. Inspection a. m. The


Thirteenth was never so uneasy, and so impatient to return home, as now.
Discontent is very outspoken, too. Farmers are especially uneasy, for
they are losing their spring's work on the home farm. The citizens here,
however, feel so insecure that they terribly dread the departure of the
Union soldiers. Dress-parade at evening. The day closes with a heavy
and windy thunder storm, drenching everything, and everybody, in tents
and out — a shower well worthy of Quippee's longest word.

May 22. Mon. Showers. Reg. in camp. Dress-parade at even-
ing. For about a week past, we have really done little besides eating
and sleeping. Drilling is exceedingly unpopular. Our Reg. is blamed
for not drilling with all its might. Our argument and feeling against
much drilling now is that we have comjileted all the work which we en-
listed to do, have done that work well, and there is not even a shadow of
use or sense in preparing for that which surely is not coming ; having
thus decided the whole case in our own favor, we stack arms and rest —
toss pebbles — until the drill hour is up. Then return to camp, brush
off the dust, read the papers, write home, and plan for civil life, when
once more we reach our New Hampshire homes.

Jeff. Davis, partly disguised, was captured at Irwinsville, Irwin County,
Georgia, 75 miles southeast of Macon, on May 10th ; and goes to a case-
mate in Fortress Monroe, to meditate uj^on the mischief he has done.

May 23. Tues. Clear. Thirteenth in camp. Company drill in
afternoon. Dress-parade at evening. So many Northern people are
now visiting Richmond that the streets present much of the appearance
of a Northern city. It is as quiet as a country village.

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 70 of 81)