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 78 of 81)
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In view of the dislike entertained by many members of the Thirteenth
for the crowded reunions at Weirs, in view of the residence of many
members near Boston, in view of having a downright good time without
a single drawback, or an incident to mar the occasion, and in view of
publishing a history of the Regiment, Assistant Surgeon John Sullivan,
John M. Woods of Company I, and Sergeant Thomas S. AVentworth of
Company B, all residing in or near Boston, were appointed at Weirs, on
August 26, 1886, to arrange for a Reunion in Boston on April 3, 1887 —
the twenty-second anniversary of the Thirteenth's entry into Richmond.
As this anniversary fell upon Sunday, the following Tuesday, April 5th,
was fixed upon.

A spirited circular was issued in September 1886, by the gentlemen of
this committee, to every surviving member of the Thirteenth whose ad-
dress could be found. The addresses of the members had previously
been found in considerable numbers by Lieut. Thompson, the writer of
this account, by advertising in newspapers, by circulars, and by sending
to nearly every Postmaster, and to every Grand Army Post, in New
Hampshire, a conspicuous poster to be put up and read of all men — this
while gathering data for the history. He had also in May 1885, while
in Washington, made arrangements with Gen. John C. Black, Commis-
sioner of Pensions, for an exchange of addresses of the Thirteenth. A
few days before the Reunion, Asst. Surgeon Sullivan in Boston copied
his list of addresses which he sent to Lieut. Thompson at Providence,
who added sundry names and then sent the full list by special-delivery
post to Quarter-master Cheney, then U. S. Senator and in Washington ;
the list was immediately placed by him in the hands of Gen. Black, and
the result was a speedy addition of nearly one hundred addresses, received
in time for those members to be notified of the Reunion, and for some of
them to attend.

Over five hundred invitations had been sent out to as many surviving
members of the Thirteenth. The most of them could not accept, many
because of sickness ; the early morning trains, however, centring in Bos-
ton, brought in numerous happy groups of members, and at the hour
of reception, ten o'clock, parlors numbers one and two at the Revere
House were crowded by our Veterans, and there was heard repeated on
every hand the good old salutation of army days — ' How are you ? '

Sheets of paper had been provided, and as each Veteran of the Thir-
teenth arrived the clerk secured his signature. There were present
among others :

REUNION OF 1887. 687

William Grantman, Lt. Colonel. Nathan D. Stoodley, Major.

George N. Julian, Captain. George Farr, Captain.

Rufus P. Staniels, Captain. Lewis P. Wilson, Captain.

Charles H. Curtis, Captain. George A. Bruce, Captain.

Hubbard W. Hall, Captain. James M. Durell, Captain.

William J. Ladd, Captain. Royal B. Prescott, Lieutenant.

Nathan B. Boutwell, Adjutant. Geoi-ge H. Taggard, Adjutant.

Person C. Cheney, Quarter-master. Mortier L. Morrison, Quarter-master.

John Sullivan, Asst. Surgeon. W. H. H. Young, Lieutenant.

Charles M. Kittredge, Lieutenant. S. Millett Thompson, Lieutenant.

Nathan D. Chapman, Lieutenant. Benj. F. Winn, Lieutenant.

James M. Hodgdon, Sergt. Major. Thomas S. Wentworth, Sergeant.

John M. Woods, of Co. I. Manson S. Brown, Principal Musician.

Charles W. Washburne, Band. William Critchley, Band.

James M. Caswell, Band. Nathan Whalley, Band.

David W. Bodge, Color Sergeant. Charles Powell, Color Corporal.

D. E. Proctor, Major, C. T. Charles B. Saunders, Captain, C. T.

Co. A, 6 Veterans ; B, 15 ; C, 6 ; D, 2 ; E, 6 ; F, 7 ; G, IG ; H, 6 ;
I, 18 ; K, 15 ; total (with a few whose names were not obtained) 140.

Invited guests :

Maj. Gen. Charles Devens. Gen. M. T. Donohoe.

Gen. Hazard Stevens. Gen. A. D. Ayling, Adjt. Gen. N. H.

Lt. Col. W. H. D. Cochrane. Chaplain Alonzo H. Quint.
Col. George H. Patch (Representing also the Boston Globe).

At 11a. m. the Business Meeting was opened by Asst. Surgeon Sulli-
van, who called the gathering to order, and read this address of wel-
come :

" Comrades : The committee appointed at the Weirs to arrange for a
Reunion here have sought the address of Comrades, and sent circulars to
them, in the East, South and West. We hope no Comrade has been
omitted, or has failed to receive a notice of this Reunion. The number
present make glad the hearts of your committee. There are to be with
us to-day one hundred and thirty-five Comrades, gathered from the
Canada line to Washington, D. C., and from the great lakes to the

" Now, instead of a Reunion at the Weirs, where but few of us ever
assemble, and are soon lost among the thousands of civilians who congre-
gate there, we have arranged for the use of these elegant apartments,
where we can meet as gentlemen as well as Veterans, and enjoy ourselves
in a manner impossible at the Weirs. At one o'clock we shall have a
Revere House banquet — how different it will be from the ' banquets '
we existed upon from 1862 to 1865 !

" Never since we returned from the war in 1865, have we had so many
Comrades together. Some will meet here to-day who have not shaken
hands for twenty-two years — hands that when last they grasped, were


mere skin and bones, bronzed with a Southern sun, or begrimed with
gunjDowder ; young men whose waists were no larger round than the
waist of a young lady, poor, emaciated, reduced by hardship, sickness and
misery known only by those who have lived for months and years in the
Southern climate and in the face of a deadly foe.

" To-day we meet as Veterans of a terrible war. The empty sleeve,
the single eye, the limb which never moves but with a twinge, the wounds
which often break out afresh, the diseases contracted in the rifle-pits, the
deep trenches, or on the borders of the Dismal Swamp in Virginia, the
gray hairs and -grizzly beards which have come to us with the two decades
and more that have passed since we returned to the peaceful vocations
of civil life, all go to make up the reality of the Veterans that we are. "

" The once familiar faces and voices of many members of our Regiment
who returned with us are not to be with us to-day ; our old commander,
Gen. Stevens is an invalid in Florida ; Lt. Col. Smith is sick at his home
in Richmond.

'' There are others, noble fellows, who have been transferred to another
department : Lieut. Churchill, always ready for a fight or a frolic ; Sur-
geon Richardson, whose burly frame was scarcely large enough for his
big heart ; Capt. Carter, a good soldier and a model citizen ; Surgeon
Small, always so kind and considerate with the sick and wounded ; these
and others have been transferred.

" But we still have with us some whose fingers are not drawn out of
shape with rheumatism, and whose voices are as strong in tone as they
always were. I see among you Comrade Critchley, who can still blow
his horn ; and Adjutant Boutwell, whose voice was not shot away with
the bullet that went through his shoulder ; Lieut. Kitti-edge, just from
his position in charge of the Insane Asylum on the Hudson ; ]\Ianson
S. Brown, whose grip would subdue the best business leg of an army
mule ; and Webster Barnabee, who used to sing so sweetly and so well;
they are all here with us to-day ; and with these to lead us, we want first
to salute the Old Flag by singing, ' Rally 'round the flag, Boys.' "

This song then rang out with a will — reminding us all of the old war-
scenes in the forests of Virginia. After the song came three rousing
cheers. The meeting then organized with Asst. Surgeon Sullivan as
President, and Lieut. Prescott as Secretary. Quarter-master Cheney was
chosen to preside at the banquet.

Lieut. Thompson was then called upon to present the matter of the
regimental history, which he did briefly, and substantially as follows :

" Comrades : Thinking it not necessary, I did not prepai'e any elabo-
rate speech concerning tlie history, and upon the whole think I will not
say much about that ; or anything else, in a general way, beyond con-
gratulating you all most heartily upon your continued life, health and
prosperity which together have made this Reunion possible, and upon the
pleasures, enjoyments and genuine fraternal spirit of this meeting.

REUNION OF 1887. 689

" Nearly a quarter of a century ago you were engaged in making
American history — volumes of it — far more volumes of it than can
ever be written by the pen of mortal man. Of your part in the life and
death struggle which took place in those days — the great South War —
I have gathered a Diary covering nearly every day of your term of ser-
vice. Our amiable friends, Stoodley, Sullivan, Prescott and Woods, who
have read the manuscript, call it a History ; it is not for me to say much
about it. The writing thus done for you should speak for itself ; and
there appears but one way to gain that end, and that way is to publish
the work ; and I now come squarely to the point : I wish a few of you,
who can afford the use of the money as well as not for a little time, to
place in my hands the sum of fifteen hundred dollars to use toward jDub-
lishing that work in book form. It is thought that with that sum, and
the sales that may be made meanwhile, the work can be cari-ied through.
We have calculated the whole affair, amounting to about 600 pages 4X7
of print — the size of the pages of the circular distributed here — as
closely as possible, and to the members of the Regiment and their families,
and to the families of deceased members, the price is placed at $3.50 per
copy carriage paid ; tliere are to be no free lists, no deadheads, no go-
betweens — the whole business is to be managed upon a cash basis."

Tlie call was then made for subscriptions, and in about thirty minutes
the sum named for the fund was subscribed, and several hundred dollars
paid in.

This done, the Veterans at once formed by Companies and marched
into the dining-room in order — forming there in single rank behind the
chairs at table as we formed behind the sand of the captured rebel para-
pets at Drury's Bluff just before daylight began to break on the foggy
morning of May 16, 1864, — in both cases the Veterans ' meant business.'
After a fervent prayer and grace, said by Chaplain Quint, the banquet be-
gan. A temperance banquet it was, as befits Veterans ; there were nu-
merous courses, and all served in the best style that pertains at the Revere
House. There stood beside each Veterans' plate a colored engraving,
printed upon heavy card-board, of the Thirteenth's battle flags (the same
as the frontispiece in the history) and bound with it, by a bit of ribbon,
the menu of the banquet together with a bivouac scene highly suggestive
of the straits of campaigning life.

After the banquet was concluded Quartei'-master Cheney rose and
spoke as follows : —

" Comrades : We all feel that the pleasure of this occasion is very
much lessened by the absence of our Colonel and Lieutenant Colonel,
both of whom are detained at home by severe sickness. Resolutions of
sympathy have been prepared by Lieut. Thompson, and I will now ask
him to read them."

The resolutions were then read and adopted, and the meeting rose and


stood for a few minutes in silence ; an impressive act of resjiect for tlie
memory of our departed Comrades.

Quarter-master Cheney proceeded : " I am much pleased and gratified
by meeting the large number present. In recounting as briefly as possi-
ble the early and eventful days of the Thirteenth New Hampshire, I may
say at this time, that the impressions made upon my mind, during that
trying ordeal, are lasting, and can never be effaced. This Regiment, like
others from the North, was an offering in response to a summons from a
Government that had exhausted every peaceful method to preserve intact
the Unity of the States. Not until it had been humiliated beyond meas-
ure by foes without and traitors within ; not until a defiant foe had pro-
claimed starvation for, or the surrender of the loyal band at Fort Sumter,
followed by actual hostilities, did our Government and the Nation awake
to the fact, that if it would longer exist, it must continue only by an ap-
peal to arras. A hostile Government had been formed and large armies
organized. We had been attacked and our Flag captured. There was
absolutely no other alternative left us — we must fight in self-defense, or
cowardly surrender.

" If this peril had come to us through a foreign enemy, to be repelled
by a united people, as in the earlier days of our history, this struggle
would have been divested of its very worst features ; but this was not so to
be. This Republic, founded only upon God-given rights, was to receive a
baptism of blood flowing from the arteries of a people who had shared
a common inheritance — sealed by the blood of the Fathers. We had
received and enjoyed this bequest ; would we regard it as sacred and
hand it down to our children's children unimjiaired ? This was the ques-
tion of the hour, and one which was uppermost in the minds of the people,
when the call was made for ' Three Hundred Thousand More.' Never
did a people respond with greater alacrity. The emblem of our National-
ity, although riddled with shot and shell, must not trail in the dust, but
must be borne triumphantly into the very citadel whose pride it was to bring
it dishonor. Could we at that time have lifted the veil that obscured our
vision from a glance at the Thirteenth Regiment's future glories, we
should have discerned at the very top of the roll of honor the enchanting
and soul inspiring words : ' Thirteenth Regiment of New Hampshire
Volimteers ; the first in Richmond April 3, 1865,' under a picture of its
battle-flag torn in shreds, but forgivingly resuming its old time place of
Talisman for a re-united and suffering people.

" It was a bright October day, just twenty-four years and six months
ago to-day, when we bade adieu to our loved ones, and left home for
W^ashington and the seat of war. The heart-struggles, the tears and
convulsive sobs, together with the fervent prayers that rose heavenward
for divine aid, even now cause the heart to swell with emotion. In
Washington we were presumably received with open arms. We were
consigned to a Tentless Field for our first night's experience. We had

REUNION OF 1887. 691

arrived too late to make a requisition for our supplies, and we kept our
first ' night-watch ' amid the fog and miasma that arose from the turbid

" At early dawn your Quarter-master was in the saddle to make a fight
for the best of ' what there was left.' As a whole we were reasonably
successful. The matter of securing good teams was important. Our
choice lay between the rattling wild mule, who assumed the defiant airs
of his native heath, and whom we found in process of taming by being
securely fastened at one end of a long rope, while playing away at the
other end were a group of laughing, singing darkies. These mules, like
their former owners, were for ' Secession,' and were trying to kick them-
selves into a greater freedom, but they also had failed to count the cost,
and the colored man took the advanced position. We could take our
pick from these wild mules, or from the broken-down horses and mules
that had been turned back into the Department as unfit for service. We
made our selection from this last class ; the nmles predominating in num-
ber. We had heard that mules never wore out nor died from old age.
We got our teams into camp and commenced a more careful inspection.
We found almost every conceivable ailment quite evenly distributed
among them ; and I suppose it was the length of the requisition for medi-
cines, with which to treat these ailments, that brought from the bluff old
Quarter-master General the emphatic declaration : ' That it was the first
time he had ever seen so much doctoring for a mule.' But we had
chosen wisely. We were not kicked ; and their evening lullabies, and
early dawn echoes, were in harmony with the music of the Union. They
were loyal to the flag, and if the stripes were sometimes too conspicuous,
it was that the stars might twinkle all the more brightly.

" On Dec. 1, 1862, we broke camp at Fairfax Seminary to take position
in the great Army under Gen. Burnside in front of Fredericksburg. The
efiiciency of the Thirteenth had been recognized, and it was classed as
veteran, although it had scarce received two months' drill. I joined you
a few days later at Aquia Creek, being obliged to remain behind to care
for what we could not take with us. The lamented Chaplain Arthur B.
Fuller of the 16th Mass., and known to many of you, was my companion
on the steamer down the river. The next Saturday week there entered
into the heavenly rest one of the brightest and purest of spirits that ever
blessed earth or heaven. This brave Chaplain, with musket in hand, had
fallen on the field of Fredericksburg.

" The impregnable position of the rebel centre, and Gen. Sumner's
attack upon it, I will not dwell upon, for its results carried consternation
to every heart in the loyal North. On the twenty-second anniversary of
this battle, Dec. 13, 1864, in company with two other New Hampshire
officers I visited this historic ground under tlie escort of a Confederate
officer now a resident laAvyer in Fredericksburg. He wondered at the
reckless bravery of Meagher's Irish Brigade, and their mid-day dash in
an unbroken line of attack through an open field upon the rebel infantry.


It was a matter of interest to us all, that, as he pointed out to us the most
advanced spot where our men fell in their assault upon Marye's Heights,
to hear him say it was their (the rebels') general belief that Meagher's Irish
Brigade, who held the post of honor (at the Union centre, in the day-
time assaults), must have become reckless by whiskey, so foolhardy did it
seem to them to rush into the very gates of death. By our own measure-
ments they had come within 24 paces of the rebel infantry, who were
massed in the highway between the stone walls, and covered by heavy
guns in their rear on Marye's Heights. But how absurd the rebels' con-
clusion ! These brave men of Meagher's had received their inspiration
from the fountain of a fearless manhood. Their consecration to duty had
been through tlie revered symbols of a patriotic ancestry ; and most nobly
did they honor the call of their adopted country. Their lips are sealed
in death, but their memories will ever be sacred in the hearts of a grateful

'' The Thirteenth delights to bear testimony to their gallantry, they be
ing among its supporters in that famous night assault of Dec. 13th, when
the Thirteenth bore its own flag nearest to those walls, on the left, along
the sunken Telegraph road under Marye's Heights ; there it was where
its members received their first baptism of fire. Its ranks were decimated,
but it did not waver.

" The intervening days that elapsed, before the Union army again ad-
vanced, were indeed dark and gloomy. In addition to our military re-
verses was the threatening aspect of the business situation. Gold at a
price that suggested National bankruptcy ; the market excited by the
mutterings of a large class of people who did not believe in the wisdom
of President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, which took effect
January 1, 1863 ; the doxibt and uncertainty of the action of England
and other foreign nations ; all conspired to a feeling of great anxiety.

" Almost a quarter of a century has since passed, and still we wonder
at the mysterious way in which a higher type of manhood was forced
upon the American Nation.

" I have made reference to what followed the disastrous battle of
Fredericksburg. We were still in camp at F'almouth almost imbedded in
its fathomless mud ; and our shelter nothing but the little ' shelter tent '
such as is used while on a march. The weather cold, wet and disagree-
able in the extreme. The Army was in constant expectation of being
ordered to advance, and supplies had been graded accordingly, although
we had a fair supply of hard bread, coffee and pork. No class of men,
no matter how great their endurance, could without acclimation resist
such exposure and the insidious climatic diseases which were inhaled
with every lireath. Our Hospitals were full. Our officers' tents were
visited by anxious Surgeons, while the line officers of each Company found
abundant opportunity for a cheering word to the afflicted private. Your
Quarter-master was among the last to yield. That awful chill (that
creeps through every fibre of a man's frame till at last it clutches at his

REUNION OF 1887. 693

very vitals) with all of its attendant horrors, came in its turn. The slow,
dull, flickering fire from the unseasoned pine offered little hindrance to
the piercing midnight frosts which gathered upon the hard couch of the
stricken sufferer, — but I will not recite tales of personal suffering. I
only desire to acknowledge the most tender and careful attention from
those nearest me. The skill of the Surgeons, the watchfulness of Quarter-
master Sergeant Morrison was only excelled by the brotherly ministra-
tions of the Colonel, who personally secured permission from Headquar-
ters to send me to Washington there to be cared for by Mrs. Col. A. F.
Stevens until my own family could reach me. This sickness I did not
recover from for a long series of months. The following August, under
the advice of my physician, I tendered my resignation, and received my
discharge from the service.

" I may say in closing that I have never lost my interest in the Regi-
ment, and always have felt an intense pride and satisfaction in its hours
of triumph as well as being a sympathetic mourner in all its sorrows. I
congratulate you one and all upon the pleasures and enjoyments of this
Reunion, and trust that the ties that bind us together will be strengthened
by the lapse of time."

President Cheney next introduced Maj. Gen. Devens. On rising he
was greeted with hearty cheers by every one present, and was visibly
moved by the genuine outburst of respect, honor and affection ; the Gen-
eral was always exceeding popular with the Thirteenth and much loved
by every memlier of it. As soon as quiet was restored, he spoke as
follows :

" Mr. President, friends and comrades of the Thirteenth New Hamp-
shire Regiment : Ordinarily I can trust myself to speak a few words to
old comrades without any fear of giving way too much to feeling and
emotion. I am not sure to-day that I can preserve the requisite calmness
in presence of the friends who have so cordially received me, and in
memory of all the recollections that are evoked in looking back to a day
such as was April 3, 1865 : a day which ended the long and terrific
struggle of our civil strife ; a day which by the capture of the city which
had been the seat of its power, foreboded the rapid destruction of the

" The words which have first been read and which I wrote twenty-two
years ago to his Excellency the Governor of New Hampshire, I have no
occasion to alter or qualify, far less to take back. They were true then,
they are true now, and will always be historically true. The Thirteenth
New Hampshire was the first Regiment to bring the colors of the Union
into Richmond. This does not rest on my authority. In the most ex-
plicit terms Gen. Weitzel, who was the commander of the 25th Army
Corps, to which the 3d Division of the 24th Army Cor])s was temporarily
attached, and Gen. Shepley who was his Chief of Staff, have asserted
that it was from me, as the commanding officer of the 3d Division that


they learned that the skirmishers of the Division with whom was Capt.
G. A. Biiico, then on my staff, were in possession of all the fortifications
which so long had frowned in front of us ; and that it was hut justice to
this 3d Division of the 24th Corps to say that it was the first to occupy

" When Mr. Greeley puhlished his history of our civil conflict, and
stated that the colored troops were the first to occupy the city of Rich-
mond, I deemed it proper, through Capt. Bruce, to address Gen. Weitzel,
urging him to do the justice to this 3d Division to which it was entitled.

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 78 of 81)