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 79 of 81)
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He did it in a manful, soldierly and direct way, and stated that although
the troops of this Division were not his except temporarily they were the
first to occupy Richmond, and that it was from me in the early dawn of
the morning that he knew that it had occupied the fortifications of the
city. I trust justice has heen done in the later editions of that work.

" In that 3d Division the First Brigade commanded by Gen. Ripley
(who I hope will be with us here before the day is done) was on the
morning of the 3d of April the leading Brigade, and the Thirteenth New
Hampshire was the leading Regiment of that Brigade. There were no
colored troops to precede us or accompany us, and none there at all until
the arrival of a regiment of colored cavalry at nine or ten o'clock (that
morning), after the city had been in our hands at least two hours.

" When any fact stated as history assumes a poetical shape, nothing
is harder than to confute it by eAndence, however positive. As it was once
asserted without any authority and as it seemed a sort of poetical justice to
the controversies of the great civil war that at the conclusion colored men
and soldiers should take possession of the rebel capital, even the evidence
of the distinguished corps commander with whom we served and who
would and ought to have claimed this honor for his own corps (had it
been justly entitled to it) is ignored and disregarded. Poetic imagination
is allowed to supplant well-attested facts in order that some one may
round an impressive pei'iod or make a brilliant antithesis. I trust I am
not one of those who would willingly detract from the just claims of any
body of troops, whether white or black, or whether they were under my
command or not, but I cannot allow the men I have commanded to be
deprived of the honor rightfully their due. in order to please those who
would prefer what is fanciful and imaginative to that which is accurate
and correct.

" Undoubtedly in taking possession of Richmond the 3d Division was
reaping what others largely had sown in the success which had attended
the operations of the left wing of our army. But the occasion and the
opportunity came to us, we availed ourselves of it promptly and vigorously
and were entitled to whatever of credit there may have been in it. It
was accidental that your Regiment (the 13th N. H.) was the one to lead
our column, it came in the regular order of assignment to march, but you
did your work gallantly and well. It was accidental also in a certain
sense that this Division was the one nearest Richmond, yet this was not

REUNION OF 1887. 695

altogether so, for by its gallant fighting on the previous 29th of Septem-
ber the troops of this Division substantially (although then a Division of
the 18th Corps) had won the nearest point ever taken to Richmond and
had held it through the winter of 1864 and 1865 ; and through its lines
all the communications by flag of truce between the contending armies
had been conducted. On that day your Regiment was in a Brigade gal-
lantly commanded by Gen. Stevens whose absence and the ill health which
is the cause of it we profoundly regret, and Gen. Donohoe whom we are
all glad to see won for himself deserved credit at the head of the Regi-
ment he then commanded.

" None of us will ever forget the sight that met our eyes as we reached
the last range of hills above Richmond. We had been so long near it
yet never able to capture it that it had seemed almost like a fairy city
that would never appear to our sight. Dead on the battle-fields, fortifica-
tions and trenches around it were thousands of our brave companions who
were never to know the joy of final victory. But Richmond at last was
ours and without a conflict, for the losses of the whole Division were but
six or seven men and these among the skirmishers with what were hardly
more than the stragglers of the retiring forces. No sight will ever be
seen by any of us more majestic or more illustrative of the horrors of
war : The lurid flames springing up from the warehouses, the magazines
of ammunition rending the air with their explosions, the three great
bridges across the James burning to prevent our pursuit of the retreating
force, six gunboats on fire in the river (from one of which before the
magazine ex2)loded, my energetic aide, Lieut. Ladd, rescued its flag, which
I have long kept as a most interesting memento), all presented a scene of
terrific grandeur. But beyond this external view there was a moral as-
pect which might well excite the profoundest emotion. The great bell of
time had struck one of those hours by which the progress of nations and
peoples is marked. It had marked the preservation of the American
Union and it had marked the redemption from slavery of a whole race of

" There was some small satisfaction in filling Libby Prison and Castle
Thunder with the two thousand Confederate soldiers belated in their re-
treat whom we gathered up, there was much wider and higher satisfaction
in bringing again to the city so long the stronghold of rebel power the
great Flag under which our columns so long had marched and fought.
Even in Richmond, there were eyes that were wet with tears of joy and
gratitude as they looked again upon its shining folds.

'' The day after the capture I called upon Mrs. Van Lew and her
daughter, two ladies well known for their unflinching devotion to the
Union cause. They had been substantially prisoners in their own house
although not treated with personal indignity. I stood with the elder lady
on the piazza of the river front of her mansion from which the New
Market road is seen over which our troops advanced that morning. ' We
knew,' she said, ' last night that they were going, the sentinel disappeared


from our street. All night we heard the rattling of the army \yagons and
the rumbling roll of the artillery and when morning dawned we came out
here to watch the coming of our troops.' ' Soon after it was light,' she
continued, ' we saw them coming, at first seeming to straggle along both
sides of the New Market road ; why was this ? ' I replied that ' those
were the skirmishers who are always thrown out in front of every moving
column to ascertain if its march was to be opposed.' She then said, ' We
waited a few minutes longer and it then seemed as if a whole wall of
bayonets came up over the hill, flashing in the rising sun and above them
waved the American Flag. General, it was four years since I had seen
the American Flag and my daughter and I sank down upon our knees
and thanked our God that He had permitted us to see it come again and
come in triumph.'

" The Flag which sent those true Christian, Union women down upon
their knees in gratitude and which was the first to enter Richmond waved
above the Thirteenth New Hampshire and was sustained by the strong
hands and stout hearts of its men.

" The good conduct of the Division that day made two Brigadier Gen-
erals, my friends Donohoe and Ri])ley, and one Major General ; of the
latter I will not speak except to say that I thank you and all its men
for their good service.

" It was twenty-two years ago : many of those who were with us then
are gone before us now ; we recall them as we ourselves should wish to
be recalled in the hours of kind and social intercourse, and we pay them
the tribute of our tenderest memory. Of those who survive I congratu-
late you that so many have been allowed to gather here on this most in-
teresting Anniversary. Heads are somewhat balder, beards and mous-
taches are very much grayer, but hearts are unchanged still and courage
yet remains. We could not, I fear, march quite so far or so fast as in the
old days, especially with rifles in our hands, with knapsack and blanket
across our backs, with haversacks containing five days' rations slung over
our shoulders and besides our cartridge boxes with forty extra rounds of
ammunition in our pockets for immediate use. But even if this Avere so
and if we could not manoeuvre so smartly or move so quickly, post us
along a sunken road or behind a low stone wall or by the edge of a wood
and we could convince any troops who might attempt to drive us from
such a position that they had undertaken a very serious contract indeed,
and that it would be better on the whole to let us alone.

" Comrades : I thank you sincerely for the cordial welcome you have
given me. Nothing is more grateful than the regard and respect of brave
men. I trust you will live long to celebrate the anniversary of a day of
which you have a just right to be proud."

Gen. Devens was followed by Gen. Donohoe with a few remarks upon
the friendly relations of the Tenth and Thirteenth ; Gen. Ayling gave a
hearty congratulatory speech ; Chaplain Quint spoke quite at length ;

REUNION OF 1887. 697

next followed Maj. Cochrane with expressions of much feeling and inter-
est eulogistic of his friend Lt. Col. Bowers ; Capt. Bruce read a very-
interesting paper concerning the Fredericksburg campaign ; but of the
remarks of these gentlemen no notes were taken.

Gen. Hazard Stevens was introduced as the first Drill-master of the
Thirteenth, and among other matters related the incident occurring at
Fredericksburg on the evening of Dec. 13, 1862, which he afterwards
wrote out and which has been embodied in the History on page 57.

Lieut. Prescott read a valuable paper on the Medical Staff of the
Thirteenth, much of which has been entered on page 619 and elsewhere
as historical matter. He then read this letter from Lt. Col. Smith :

" Comrades of the Thirteenth : When Asst. Surgeon Sullivan first
wrote to me that we were to have a Reunion in Boston, I fully intended
to be present ; but a long-continued illness decrees otherwise. To your-
selves I leave the fitting words expressing our appreciation of the Com-
rades who have been finally mustered out.

" It seems to me I had less opportunity of becoming acquainted with
the men than any other line officer. I was frequently detailed to serve
on Courts Martial — serving as a member of one for three months con-
tinuously in 1863. When promoted to Major in July, 1864, I almost at
once succeeded to the command of the Regiment, Lt. Col. Grantman be-
ing sick in camp. He was soon sent home on leave of absence because
of sickness ; and until we were mustered out, either Major Stoodley or
myself were always in command. I began to more fully appreciate the
good qualities of our men soon after the command of the Regiment de-
volved upon me. The first and only time I ever doubted them was at
Cold Harbor. I was a Captain then. When we fell back from that
desperate chai'ge on the evening of June 1st, and were lying upon the
ground while the rebel bullets were singing so constantly and closely just
over our heads, I said to Capt. Julian : ' Well, it has been our boast that
the Thirteenth New Hampshire never ran away, but many of them seem
to have left us this time.' Pointing to our depleted ranks and to the
front. Captain Julian quickly responded : ' You are mistaken, they are
out yonder among the dead and wounded.'

" Comrades, I now ask your forgiveness for ever having expressed
such a suspicion.

" That we were apjireciated beyond other regiments in the First Divi-
sion of the 18th Corps, and in the Third Division of the 24th Corps, the
following incidents will show : First in the matter of details. It was an
officer here and a soldier there, until at times we had less than a full
Company of men present for duty in the whole Regiment with two or
more of our Companies in command of Second Lieutenants. We supplied
officers for both Brigade and Division staffs : Lieut. Murray, Lieut. Gaf-
ney, Capt. Curtis, Capt. Julian, Capt. Ladd, afterwards appointed by
President Lincoln Asst. Commissary of Musters ; Capt. Bruce, Capt.
Staniels, Capt. Carter — appointed later Actg. Quarter-master by Presi-


dent Lincoln ; Surgeon Twitchell ai)pointed Surgeon of Volunteers ; Sur-
geon liicihardson appointed 24th Corps Surgeon at Appomattox ; Quar-
ter-master Morrison Brigade Quarter-master ; Quarter-master Cheney
Brigade Commissary ; Asst. Surgeon Small detailed to attend the 10th
N. H., and soon thereafter appointed Surgeon of that Regiment ; Capt.
Betton commanding the 81st New York ; when Richmond was evacuated
Lieut. McConney in charge of an Amhulance train ; Capt. Durell, with
Company C, detailed to command the advanced redoubt — Redoubt
McConihe — on the Bermuda Hundred front, and to protect a force of
green Pennsylvania troops ; Capt. Durell soon placed on the staff of Gen.
Graham, being succeeded at Redoubt McConihe by Lieut. Prescott ; Asst.
Surgeon Morrill promoted Surgeon of the 1st N. H. Heavy Artillery ;
Ca])t. Farr, wounded at Cold Harbor and past doing active service, de-
tailed on General Court Martial ; Capt. Wilson in charge of Division
Ambulance Corps — and these are not all, — where is there a regiment
with a list of details like this one ?

" The Corps commander was continually growling at me. on paper,
about our details ; and asking where and what the details were ; for
whom Adjutant Taggard, our able clerk Cyrus G. Drew of B, and my-
self had to hunt up all this information at least twice a month — but
never was a detailed man or officer returned to the Regiment. At last,
when an aide-de-camp came to me and asked me to assign an officer as
Brigade Commissary. I vigorously protested, and said to him : ' Go on,
and detail the balance of us. If you will do that it will be all right ; but
if you do not do that, I will not designate an officer for that position, nor
assent to having one of us assigned to that position, without making a
vigorous protest to Gen. Ord.' The aide went away with a pretty good
sized flea in his ear ; and that was the last of it.

*' Again when Gen. Gibbon issued orders for Wednesday and Saturday
inspections, the best soldier in our Division received the first furlough
granted under that order, eighteen regiments competing for this honor.
Were we not proud when Sergeant Shattuck received that first furlough ?
We did not stop there ; but of the fourteen furloughs granted under the
order, the Thirteenth captured four.

" Again, in the winter of 1864-5, when Col. Cullen, commanding our
Brigade, had resigned and was going home, there were left only Lt.
Colonels in the Brigade ; the Lt. Colonels of both the 98th and 139th
New York regiments being my seniors in rank. While at Division
Hdqrs. one evening. Gen. Devens tapped me on the shoulder, saying:
' Young man, if you had your Eagles, we should not be sending out of
this Brigade for a commander,' So it seems, that if I had been the senior
officer in our Brigade, when we entered Richmond, the unprecedented
incident would have occurred, of a In-igade and two of its regiments com-
manded by the officers of one regiment — our own old Thirteenth.

" When at Nashua on our return home, I was invited to spend the
evening with Brevet Bi*ig. Gen. Stevens. Said he to me : ' Can you not

REUNION OF 1887. 699

arrange It so that we can camp in my field to-night — I want so much to
camp with the boys once again ? ' My response was : ' General, you for-
get that all our tents were turned over to Quarter- master Cochrane at
Richmond ; and we cannot go in the rain to spend the night in your
field.' So you see I am not the only commander who was proud of the

'' Again, when we were ordered to the post of honor : to lead our
Brigade in the final ' advance on Richmond ; ' its commander was made
general officer of the day, and the first jjicket and guard in Richmond was
posted by him ; to be followed the next day by our Major Stoodley.

" We were very curious to learn the exact reason for this double de-
tail and special honor. Now if any of you, Comrades at the Reunion,
happen to have noses biggest at the end, and of the color of a blood-beet
(as I know there are none of you in this predicament) — just put your
finger tips in your ears while whoever reads this whispers to the rest :
' It was because we knew that neither of you ever touch spirituous

" Well, boys, I can only say in conclusion that I am proud of you all
your entire record through. Yours faithfully,

NoRMAND Smith.

Henrico County, Va., March 29, 1887."

Lieut. Prescott also read a paper, written for the occasion by Lt. Col.
Smith, concerning the ability of the Thirteenth to take care of itself, from
which the following extracts are made :

" Scene first : A bleak hillside near Falmouth, Va., soon after the Battle
of Fredericksburg, Dec. 13, 1862. A Regiment of as honest, sturdy and
jiatriotic men as the Granite State was capable of producing, the men
and officers, however, almost perfectly green so far as military affairs
were concerned. The Colonel, Stevens, sick and half-crazed with the
effects of malaria ; the Lt. Colonel quite an invalid and always averse
to assuming command ; the Major, Storer. ordered to lay out a camp.
The camp-ground so small we scarcely had room to walk betAveen the
terraced sleeping places of the men. Rations supplied: the stringiest
kind of ' mule-beef,' rancid pork, hard bread full of maggots — many a
time myself and the boys taking a stick, knocking these inhabitants out
of a piece of a cracker of the proper size to bite off, and while masticating
that piece, depopulating a space for another bite, and so on ; the boxes of
bread marked ' B. C.,' which the boys interpreted as meaning a vague pre-
historic date of manufacture, preceding Anno Domini. Where in those
days were the West Point officers whose duty it was to care for and in-
struct us ? Quarreling, and in a state of general insubordination. We
then roused and took care of ourselves ; and had the credit of having the
best quarters for men and officers in our Division.

" Well, the Ninth Corps was declared ready to mutiny, and was ordered


to Newport News. There we had ample quarters, plenty of room in
which to walk about — and in ten days what a change ! Here and in
the few succeeding months we had educated ourselves as soldiers, and
were ready for the campaigns in the years which followed. We educated
ourselves in the best ways to preserve our own lives and limbs, and in the
best ways to make the lives and limbs of our enemy's men of the least
possible use to them — except to run. Was there ever a regiment who.
when under fire, could get under cover more quickly, or return the fire .
more sharply, than we ? None. Did we ever fail our connnanders any-
where ? Never. Who could upon the shortest notice put up a finer
camp than we ? No one.

" Last scene — though I could have written many more — in the win-
ter of 1864 : Our line officers had long before this time got all accounts
of picks, spades, shovels and axes off their returns, and did not intend to
receipt for any more,^ but we had to cut our fuel, and needed axes ; and
when the teams brought wood to our camp nearly every one of our men
had a good axe to swing. So the First New York Engineer regiment —
perhaps with reason — accused us of getting their axes. Now, boys, I
understand that Gen. Devens is to be your guest at this Reunion ; but
his authority to put you under arrest has departed, and we will proceed
with our story. Gen. Devens' first move in the matter of those axes was
to order a search for axes in the camp of the Thirteenth. Was that
search a success ? Twice our camp was thoroughly searched, but never
an axe was found.

" These two searches were not a success, and Gen. Devens tried an-
other move. He ordered me to furnish one hundred men, with axes, for
fatigue duty. I immediately complied, sending twelve axes. When the
hundred men reported, they were ordered to return to our camp, but to
leave their axes — every axe. Our men saw the point at once. They
came back to our camp, and reported to me, directly, that they had left
all their axes, twelve of them, at Gen. Devens' Headquarters — but had
returned to our camp with thirteen !

" Were our men reprimanded ? To you I leave the answer. Ever
after that time, when I was called upon to furnish a detail of men with
axes, I returned answer that we could not furnish the axes, for Gen.
Devens had taken them away from us. What could the General do ?
We had a plenty of vim and snap, ready for anything favorable to the
interests of the service, soldierly qualities that a commander always likes,
and he could never catch any of us napping. But did we not all love him,
and try to please him in every way ? Indeed we did."

^ Accounts of these tools were vexatious in the extreme. There was no such thing
as theft in the soldiers' appropriating a few axes or other tools to use about camp ; it
was at the worst a mere minor breach of discipline, for the tools belonged to one
soldier as much as to another, and the most of the exchanges and seizures, however
annoying, were much regarded in the light of practical jokes. — S. M. T.

REUNION OF 1887. 701

Col. George H. Patch was the next speaker ; his remarks were brief,
but during the meeting he took such notes as were required for the ex-
tended account of the Reunion furnislied by him to the Boston Globe, of
which he was the military editor.

Major Stoodley then read the following, which he had written for the
occasion :

" Our Place in the War.

" 'T is well to meet at times and bring anew
Our loyal men and their great work to view ;
To live again those trying times and scenes
That wear too oft the drapery of dreams ;
To clear away the dark and shadowy maze
That time and distance gather o'er those days,
And picture forth, in colors clear and true,
The things these faithful men did dare and do.

*' Go back with me and let us trace with care
Those dark, eventful days when called to bear
Our part in all the work then just began ;
The most stupendous work e'er wrought by man.
The thunder of Treason's cannon, booming forth
O'er fated Sumter, woke the slumbering North.
Aroused at last, the North looked forth to see
How best to meet the great emergency.
The time for idle talk had passed away ;
To act was now the duty of the day.
The grim old giant, War, his hand had shown,
And we must now make manifest our own.
In the first war-meetings one could trace
An anxious heart in every honest face ;
Men said but little ; but their words, well weighed,
The deep, strong feelings of the heart betrayed.
They saw the crisis, aye, and met it too,
As only brave and loyal men can do :
There for their bleeding country pledged their all. "
No unmeaning phrase, nor light affair, this ' AIL'
'T was everything by man held dear —
His home, his friends, his healtli, his limbs, his life,
All these he pledged, if needed in the strife.

" I looked with reverence on those noble few
So ready for the work I too should do.
I envied them what seemed a God-like stand,
As proffered saviors of a dying land ;


Or else as martyrs to the glorious cause

Of human freedom, just and righteous laws.

I honored them as never men before ;

I saw them standing at the very door

Of death for me and mine ; my heart was filled

With worship, and the moistened eyes distilled

The deep, embodied feelings of the soul

In glistening tears that would not brook control.

I wished their noble spirit had been mine,

That I might offer at my Country's shrine

All that I was, or ever hoped to be,

To aid her in her hour of agony.

These wishes were pro2)hetic of the end,

As all true wishes must forever tend.

Whate'er our souls, in their deep longings, crave,

Will come at last to purify and save, —

For pangs and throes must always shadow forth

The nobler, purer, and the grander birth ;

And untold thanks are due those noble men,

For helping others to be ' born again ; '

And in that grand, unmatched, historic day,

Stand forth as men, in manhood's best array.

To follow in their footsteps and to share,

For God and Country, all that men could dare.

" Then came that first great battle — and defeat ;
The shattered columns and the long retreat ;
The list of killed and wounded, — how it fell,
With crushing weight, nor tongue nor pen can tell !
That day a mother, in our street, I met ;
And never, while life lasts, can I forget
The deep and bitter anguish of her tones.
As reeling, most distracted, she bfemoans
Her young son's early death with voice of dread.
And wrings her hands, and cries : ' My boy is dead ! '
How many mothers then, and since, have felt

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 79 of 81)