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 71 of 81)
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May 24. Wed. Clear, cool. Thirteenth called at 4 a. m., goes to
Manchester and Richmond with the Third Division, and receives the 6th
Corps on its march to Washington. More standing in line for hours,
more presenting arms, more dipping colors, more repetition of orders,
more cheers, and more hoarseness. Nevertheless, it is on the whole a
most glorious spoi't. There is a meaning now to the tune and words of
' Hail to the chief who in triumph advances,' that we Veterans can feel.
Thirteenth returns to camp at 11 a. m.

While these two days pass, dull enough here at the best, 200,000 of
our fellow Veterans in this war pass in Grand Review, in Washington,
before Gen. Grant and the President. Gen. Meade's Army of the Poto-
mac on May 23d, and Gen. Sherman's Army on May 24th. These
armies each require about six hours in passing a given point.

May 24, 1861, at Fortress Monroe, Gen. B. F. Butler first gave to the
escaped slaves a legal status as ' Contraband of War ' — hence their name
' Contraband.' Now at the tap of every Union drum they literally
swarm. All questions between the races in America are to be settled
m the times when the questions rise. Now the ex-slaves are Freed-men
enveloped in a sort of halo, but they multiply most rapidly ; and we are
thinking that on some coming day, here in the South, the negroes will
prove a band contra to peace, or provocative of war. No state half


white and half black can maintain a perpetual peace. The white man,
as natm-e's highest and best type of man, must rule, should rule — and
will rule, or both fire and wool will fly.

May 25. Thurs. Showery. Thirteenth in camp. A large detail,
the first from the 13th, at work repairing Mayo's Bridge over the James
— leading from Hull Street, Manchester, to Fourteenth Street, Richmond.
The men most heartily despise this job, and grumble about it exceedingly.
' They declare they did not enlist to work out road-taxes here ; nor to
repair the enemy's highways and bridges for his use again. Better com-
pel the disarmed enemy to do this work. This is one of the three bridges
over the James that the rebels burned on the morning of April 3d,
after their troops had crossed in retreat. A vast host of the rebels late
in arms are this day straggling, loafing, begging, stealing, all over the
late Confederacy, from the head of it in Virginia to the tail of it in Texas,
and there are several thousands of them here within easy call — the
devil take their bridge.' And so the men grumble, for now they want
to go home. The Union army is now using two ponton bridges near
this highway bridge, but they are being so frequently damaged by the
swift current of the river and hard usage, that it is deemed best to repair
this bridge of Mayo's.

Lieut. Prescott, Quarter-master Morrison and Adjutant Taggard to-
day visit the old lines of the two armies, below Petersburg. They find
many of the rebel dead still lying unburied ; in one place are fifteen or
twenty of them with clothing and equipments on, lying just as they fell.
The works which they visit are scarcely changed in any way. Little
has been done to repair the breaches and damages done to the city of

May 26. Fri. Very rainy last night and to-day. Reg. in camp,
about four miles from the city, doing nothing but a little guard duty.

Gen. E. Kirby Smith, at New Orleans, surrenders to Maj. Gen. E. R.
S. Canby his forces in Texas ; and the last armed force of the Confed-
eracy disbands and disappears. After the rebels cease to be rebels, the
term Confederate is the more appropriate.

The War of the Slaveholders' Rebellion is concluded. Slavery, the
' Corner Stone of the Confederacy,' is no more. The Union army line
from Mexico to Maryland is assembled and assembling to the north and
east as a curtain is drawn aside. The Confederate line, lately confront-
ing it, is scattered and scattering to the four winds. As they all with-
draw, the wide country opens to light and freedom, and peace resumes
her true vocations.

May 27. Sat. Very cold, rainy and gloomy day. Reg. in quar-
ters. One soldier of the 13th wi-ites : " We are within three miles of
Drury's Bluff ; but now we are on the other side of the breast-works, and
the rebels are not so plenty hereabout as they were last year at this

May 28. Sun. Pleasant, cool. Reg. at work on the bridge. The


13th has about 100 men sick in hospital. One of Col. Mosby's guerilla
Captains wants to sell to Lt. Col. Smith a thorough-bred horse — former
owner not cited !

May 29. Mon. Pleasant, warm. Inspection in the morning. Reg*
at work on the bridge. A visit to BeUe Isle reveals a horrid scene of
filth, and shows how terribly our men must have suffered when confined
there as prisoners ; at times as many as 13,000 of our soldiers were there
crowded upon about two acres of land, and some of them so 2)oorly housed
and cared for that they froze to death.

We are asked to describe a ' Copperhead,' but the task is extremely
inconvenient if not altogether impossible ; we recall no good word in the
English language that roundly ajjplies to him, scolding is out of our line,
and we are morally persuaded not to use such awfully bad words as would
properly meet his case — if indeed any such competent words there be.
He is a little or big politician, of marked double-dealing propensities, liv-
ing in the North, but wiggling for the South, and still too big a coward
to go down there and fight for it — hence thoroughly despised by both
sections. He not only sits ' upon the fence ' so as to save his head by
jumping either of two ways, as personal danger may suggest, but he
mounts a fence-crossing, that he may have four ways to jump ; and sits
hissing at freedom, Union and everything Northern, glowing all over in
hapjjy resplendency with slavery and everything Southern, and snapping
his venomous jaws at the back of every Northern patriot and soldier.

May 30. Tues. Pleasant, warm. Reg. at work on the bridge.
Orders have been issued for the muster-out of all Union troops whose
terms expire before Oct. 1st — about 500,000 men. One member of the
13th writes : " Soon we shall all be citizens, and forget that the war ever

May 31. Wed. Reg. moves down near Mayo's bridge at the James
River early this morning, so that the men may more conveniently work on
the bridge. Detail at work.

The 2d Brigade Band goes on a serenading tour in Richmond this
evening. Plays at six different places. The Richmond papers speak of
it as : " The very splendid Band attached to Gen. Devens' command." So
the boys of the Thirteenth, now remaining in this old Thirteenth Band,
are complimented. Here at the bridge the Thirteenth occupies the camp
of the 188th Pennsylvania regiment.

June 1. Thurs. Clear, hot. Reg. in camp. A detail of about
one third of the Reg. at work on Mayo's bridge. National Fast Day.
Very quiet in Richmond. Captain Lewis P. Wilson returns to the Reg.
from the charge of our 3d Division Ambulance Corps.

June 2. Pri. Very warm. Detail from the 13th at work on
bridge ; and the weather is so hot our men can work but half the day.
The officers have to go in charge of the work every day.

June 3. Sat. Very warm. Reg. in camp. Our 3d Division of
the 24th Corps reviewed this afternoon by Gen. Devens.


The last review of his Division. He makes a fine sj^eech, his farevv^ell
address. The Division is soon to he broken up. The affair doses with
tlu'ee rousing cheers for Gen. Devens, whom the soldiers have always
liked. After our troops are dismissed, the officers of each regiment in
the Division are invited to a reception at Gen. Devens' Hdqrs. The 2d
Brigade Band furnishes the music. Five other bands in this Division.

" Because of the work on Mayo's bridge, the Thirteenth do not appear
on this review. Prices are enormous here now, and we have to pay
fabulously for everything we eat." Lieut. Prescoit.

June 4. Sun. Very warm. Reg. in camp at the bridge. Inspec-
tion a. m. Dress-parade p. m. Major Stoodley, Captains Betton and
Hall, Lieutenants Ferguson, Wheeler, Taggard, Hardy, Prescott, Sher-
man, Quarter-master Morrison and Dr. Emory visit Belle Isle, and wit-
ness evidences of the intense suffering and awful misery of the Union
prisoners who were confined there.

June 5. Mon. Clear, hot. Reg. in camp. Lieut. George H.
Taggard mustered in as First Lieutenant and Adjutant.

He was first mustered September 19, 1862, as Commissary Sergeant.
It ought to be said of him, though he would prefer no particular mention,
that the Thirteenth is greatly indebted to him for his conscientious and
efficient care in seeing that the Thirteenth w^as not imposed upon in the
many distributions of rations. There were those who would show favorit-
ism if they could, but any attempt to do this against the interests of the
Thirteenth was sure to arouse Taggard's indignation, and to meet with
his instant denunciation and exposure. His efficiency was constant, posi-
tive as well as negative, and day, night, cold, heat, fair weather or storm
found him on hand all the same, with his busy pencil and memorandum — ■
and his two and two always counted plump four. He was as quick to
speak for the Thirteenth to a Major General as to private Bangs ; and in
his position as Commissary he was an unqualified success.

On March 16, 1864, he was promoted to Second Lieutenant in Co. F ;
and on November 3, 1864, he was promoted to First Lieutenant in the
same Company. He commenced acting as Adjutant of the Thirteenth on
Sept. 1, 1864, and on May 30, 1865, he was commissioned by Gov. Joseph
A. Gilmore as First Lieutenant and Adjutant, in place of Adjutant
Nathan B. Boutwell resigned, and discharged on account of disability
because of wounds received in action.

In Taggard's position as Lieutenant and Adjutant he is mentioned in
the body of the history ; but it is fair to add that the commanding
officers of the Thirteenth have mentioned him with unstinted praise.

June 6. Tues. Cloudy. Reg. in camp. The Reg. as a whole has
not worked on the bridge continuously day after day, but has furnished
large details for that work for nearly two weeks, when the weather has
been suitable for men to work in at all. The labor is hard and the ma-
terials heavy to handle.

It is astonisliing how very brave some men are now that the war is over !


Surprising, too, to see how great a thing can be made of a little — and
that little borrowed. Steep reminiscences began to sprout within three
seconds from the moment of Gen. Lee's surrender at Appomattox, and
before the ink he wrote with was dry ; and have since grown and flour-
ished like a Japanese yam, and are about as bodiless and brittle. The
boasting rear brave is the front coward. In the theatre of this war has
been presented the drama in which the noble have played the noble parts, .
and these other amusing gentlemen the bits of comedy and roaring farce.

June 7. Wed. Very warm. Our 3d Division reviewed by Gener-
als Ord and Gibbon on the Fairfield race-course, about one mile northeast
of Richmond. All together a very long march. Much suffering from
the heat. Thirteenth relieved from work on the bridge that it may ap-
pear on the review ; and receives a special commendation from Gen. Ord,
' as one of those Regiments that become prominent and useful in every
position where they are placed.' All Richmond turns out. An immense
crowd of people.

Men of the Thirteenth on guard, at city residences and farm houses,
report many instances of provisions laid by for the day when the very
worst should occur. A barrel of flour, a small quantity of corn meal, or
other edible that would not readily spoil, packed carefully away among
old boxes and bundles in a store-room, out of the probable reach of Con-
federate searching parties ; all awaiting the hour when starvation should
make their use an absolute necessity.

June 8. Thurs. Very warm. Thirteenth is relieved from the
work on the bridge, by the 40th Mass., this morning, and at once moves
back to its old camp-ground on the Broad Rock road. As the Thirteenth
passes through Richmond nowadays, the crowds that line the streets
often cheer us as we pass along. The negro especially cannot be demon-
strative enough in his own peculiar way. His oil-polished ebony face
lights up with white of eyes and white of teeth, while he gives a most
hearty negro chuckle, and a " Goo' Mornin'," as he meets a familiar face
among us. The negroes point to the Thirteenth and remark : " Dere
goes the fus' Reg'munt dat done came inter Richmond." We have a
high standing in their regard. He is a rare and a bad darkey who ' goes
back ' (as his expression has it) on a Northern soldier. The writer has
never heard of a case of the kind.

The old plantation negroes have a peculiar chuckle, a guttural, rolling,
deep-toned sound, brimming over with good nature, just as if they were
literally too full for utterance, in selected words, and so break out all over
in nature's own expression, a hearty, whole-souled, bubbling-over chuckle.
Letters cannot express it, though it is something like " Er-hurckh ! " given
in the lowest possible tones of the voice, and accompanied with good-na-
tured laughter. When some old black couple have first found themselves
safe within the cordon of Uncle Sam's bayonets, that chuckle invariably
follows the first wild expression : " We 's free — bress de Lord, we 's
free I " Freedom means a whole new world to them ; but in less than


two generations that hearty chuckle will disappear, as something smack-
ing too much of " Ole Slave'y times, you know, sah."

June 9. Pri. Very warm. Thirteenth in camp, and the men rest-
ing. The muster-out rolls are received to-day with orders to fill them out
at once ; and the commanders of Companies and their clerks spend the
entire day upon them.

The occasion for having so many First Lieutenants in the Thirteenth
was this : After the fall of 1864; no Second Lieutenant could be mus-
tered in a Company having less than 80 men on its rolls, hence some First
Sergeants and members of the non-commissioned staff were mustered in
as First Lieutenants, in order to have a proper number of line officers in
the Regiment. An irregular proceeding, but unavoidable under the cir-

June 10. Sat. Stormy, cool. Thirteenth marches from camp at
7.30 a. m. to the review ground — the same Fairfield race-course — arriv-
ing about 10 a. m., but the review is postponed on account of the storm.
The whole 24th Corps assembles here, and the men lounge about in the
woods until 3 p. m. A heavy thunder shower then comes up, drenches
every one of us to the skin, and spoils every new suit in the command.
The rain continues to pour for over two hours. Sucli a streaked and
bedraggled crew — the very darkies laugh at us ! The march is full ten
miles to go and return, and the Thirteenth does not arrive in camp again
till about 8 p. m. " The men are as ugly as dogs, and do a good deal of
hard swearing about this day's work," writes an officer of the Thirteenth.

June 11. Sun. Warm, murky. Inspection at 9 a. m. Dress-
parade at 6 p. m. No troops are to be mustered out until after a review
of the Corps. Gen. Patrick is relieved from the duty of Provost Marshal,
succeeded by Gen. Turner.

As one of the many proofs that familiarity breeds contempt, the follow-
ing has been observed by Adjt. Gen. A. D. Ayling, who has served in
this war in both the artillery and infantry : Artillerymen are most dis-
turbed by and most dislike bullets, while infantrymen are most disturbed
by and most dislike shells ; a curious illustration of the desire of men to
meet a foe armed with their own familiar weapons.

June 12. Mon. Cloudy, close. Thirteenth in camp. We have
furnished, all along, a large number of guards for the plantations here-
about. A pleasanter position is not easily found, if the proprietors are
agreeable. A horse-race to-day at the Broad Rock course is attended by
all who can get out of camp.

June 13. Tues. Very hot, showers in afternoon. Thirteenth
leaves camp at 12 noon, marches to the review-ground, appears on the
review with the 24th Corps, and returns to camp, arriving at 9 p. m.
The review is held at .5.30 p. m. on the Fairfield race-course, Mechanics-
ville, by Maj. Gen. John Gibbon, who to-day delivers his farewell address
to his troops — the 24th Army Corps. We form a straight line, when
in line of battle, over a mUe in length, and are on a splendid field. Our


last Grand Review ; and a very fine display notwithstanding the heavy
rain. On arriving in camp at night the men are bespattered with mud,
and there is scarcely a dry thread in the clothing of any of the troops.

The 9th Vt. and 118th N. Y. are mustered out to-day, and will start
for home to-morrow morning. Brev. Brig. Gen. E. H. Ripley bids our
1st Brigade adieu, and will go home with his regiment.

June 14. Wed. Hot. A heavy thunder shower at night. Thir-
teenth in camp, and everybody half used up. Reviews are quite as labo-
rious as the average of battles. The entire Union army is still in mourn-
ing for President Lincoln. The officers wear on their left arms a crape
rosette about two inches across, the men a similar rosette but smaller.
These emblems of mourning are to be worn by members of the army,
for six months from the date of President Lincoln's death.

June 15. Thurs. Hot, misty. Thirteenth in camp. Lt. Col. Noi -
mand Smith returns to the Thirteenth from his special duty as Provost
Marsbal of the First District of Richmond. He was appointed April 4,
1865, and has served until to-day. The chief officers of the Confederate
army, and the more prominent citizens, have taken their oaths of alle-
giance before him. In his absence the command of the Thirteenth de-
volved upon Major Stoodley, who has held it ever since we came into
the city. Cyrus G. Drew of B and Sergt. John P. Haines of C have
been serving as clerks for Lt. Col. Smith in the Provost Marshal's office.

June 16. Fri. Rainy, sultry. Thirteenth in camp. Captains
Farr and Durell return to the Thirteenth from detached service.

June 17. Sat. Warm, rainy. Reg. in camp. The 40th Mass.
and 21st Conn, start for home this morning.

June 18. Sun. Very warm. Inspection by Lt. Col. Smith, Com-
pany by Comjiany. No Dress-pai'ade — weather too hot. Reg. in camp
— and the uneasiest set of do-nothings who ever sat and waited for
something to turn up. A little guard duty in camp ; no drill, no picket,
no war ; the most onerous duty that falls to us is to eat our army rations,
of which we are thoroughly tired, and to do the heavy standing ai'ound.
We are prisoners of war. We play cards -and other games from morn-
ing until night. Cannot go anywhere, have nothing to do ; and so we
lounge about the camp and merely exist, and wait for the muster-out.
While the men are idle, the officers are compelled to employ all the time
they can get upon the muster-out rolls.

The departures of regiments are quite informal. Not much parade
about it. The men pack up, fall into line as if to start upon an ordinary
march, and move off, amid more or less cheering, and many hearty fare-
Avells from the soldiers who remain in camp, and who gather informally
at the roadside while the departing regiment passes by. Thus the Veter-
ans part, probably never to meet again.

June 19. Mon. Showery, very wai'm. Reg. in camp. The Thir-
teenth assembles now, officers and all, about 300 persons.

It is due to the fair history of the Thirteenth to say that in no case


were the men of this Regiment ever plied with whiskey, or any other in-
toxicant or stimulus, to specially nerve them to duty or to hattle. They
have been too brave, too willing, too patriotic and too efficient in all re-
spects to need anything of that sort. Whiskey rations were issued in
canip to counteract the effects of climate, over-work or malaria, but never
for any other purpose ; and even for those medical purposes hot, strong
coffee would have been better.

The 139th N. Y. mustered out, and starts for home this afternoon.
Capt. William J. Ladd visits our camp this afternoon, and examines the
muster-out rolls of the Thirteenth.

June 20. Tues. Very warm. Thirteenth in camp. RoUs are be-
ing prepared for the final nmster-out, a very slow and difficult piece of
work. Ten separate rolls are required for each Company. Every offi-
cer and man who ever belonged to the Thirteenth must be entered with
his entire military history ; battles, wounds, pay, arms, ammunition, and
equipage of each man, and the entire accounts of each officer must be
squared up ; in short the rolls cover everything concerning the military
life of each officer and soldier, and all army gear to him pertaining.

Our Broad Rock camp is located close up to the race-track, and the
road to camp runs southwest from Manchester, and west of the Rich-
mond & Petersburg Turnpike and Railroad. Our First Brigade Hdqrs.
are at Mr. David Mc Daniel's house.

June 21. Wed. Very warm. The Thirteenth Regiment of New
Hampshire Volunteer Infantry is this evening, at Broad Rock camp,
mustered out of the military service of the United States by Capt. Ladd.

" Battalion drill this afternoon. After which the mustering officer
came over (from the city), and during the evening we were mustered out
of the United States service." Lieut. Prescott.

The Reg. has been in that service thirty-three months ; a long, hard
term. Those who are unfortunate enough to read this Diary through
may have some realizing sense of that length and hardness ; though, may
be, less as to that, than as to this.

The war is over — now for Home. The mustered-out officers and
men are now war Veterans — the American Nation's truest noblemen.
They may pass down no gorgeously emblazoned coats-armorial, but better
far, an American soldier's name, and honor too, all untarnished.

It takes about three hours time to muster out a regiment ; and our
Regiment is one, of a total of 2,050 regiments who have served in this
war — if all organizations were reduced to infantry regiments.

The Thirteenth has been in the First Brigade — consisting of the 13th
N. H., 11th Conn., 19th Wis. and 81st, 98th and 139th N. Y. regiments
— and in the 3d Division of the 24th Corps, since Dec. 3, 1864.

The Thirteenth is to report to the State authorities at Concord, and
therefore retains its organization, arms and equipments complete. INIany
l)urchase their guns at $6.00 apiece, to preserve at home as souvenirs of
the jrreat civil war.


The Recruits of the 10th, 12th and 13th N. H. V., about 400 men,
whose term of service will not exjjire until Sept. 30, 1865, will go into
the 2d N. H., which remains near Richmond in the 2d Brigade, 3d Div.
24th Corjis. When these Recruits of the 13th were transferred to the
2d N. H. they did not want to go, and it required strong nerves, on the
part of the guard and its commanding officer, to carry out the order
transferring them. They naturally and properly desii*ed to go home
with the Regiment, and threatened hard things, but finally yielded.

Our sutler, for a number of months past, Charles F. French, of Peter-
boro, remains in Richmond.

June 22. Thurs. '' A splendid day." The Thirteenth breaks
camp — our last camp in Virginia — on the Broad Rock road, at 4 a. m ;
at 5 a. m. forms line ; is joined in Manchester by the Tenth and Twelfth
N. II. Regiments ; marches to Richmond ; embarks, together with the
lOtli and 1 2th, at Rocketts, on the Steamer ' State of Maine ; ' and starts
from the wharf at 8 a. m. for home ; arrives at City Point at 11 a. m., at
Fortress Monroe at 5.15 p. m., stops half an hour, then sails north.

We form a provisional — Homing — Brigade, consisting of the lOth,
12th and 13th, N. H., under command of Brevet. Brig. Gen. Michael T.
Donohoe, Colonel of the Tenth.

As we sail quietly and slowly down the James River, this clear summer
morning, among these many frowning forts and batteries, we can hardly
realize our own identity. A few days ago we saw them swarming with
hostile soldiers, and belching a murderous fire of shot and shell ; now
they are mere Virginia clay banks, half buried in rank grass, weeds and
trailing vines ; are dilapidated, weather-worn, silent, uncared for, and of
no possible use — as worthless as the mud at the river bottom. While

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 71 of 81)