The Atlantic Monthly, Volume 07, No. 44, June, 1861 Creator online

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troops ashore.

The middies of the Naval Academy no doubt believe that they had their
quarters secure. The Massachusetts boys are satisfied that they first
took the town in charge. And so they did.

But the Seventh took it a little more. Not, of course, from its loyal
men, but _for_ its loyal men, - for loyal Maryland, and for the Union.

Has anybody seen Annapolis? It is a picturesque old place, sleepy
enough, and astonished to find itself wide-awaked by a war and obliged
to take responsibility and share for good and ill in the movement of its
time. The buildings of the Naval Academy stand parallel with the river
Severn, with a green plateau toward the water and a lovely green lawn
toward the town. All the scene was fresh and fair with April, and I
fancied, as the Boston touched the wharf, that I discerned the sweet
fragrance of apple-blossoms coming with the spring-time airs.

I hope that the companies of the Seventh, should the day arrive, will
charge upon horrid batteries or serried ranks with as much alacrity
as they marched ashore on the greensward of the Naval Academy. We
disembarked, and were halted in line between the buildings and the

Presently, while we stood at ease, people began to arrive, - some with
smallish fruit to sell, some with smaller news to give. Nobody knew
whether Washington was taken. Nobody knew whether Jeff. Davis was now
spitting in the Presidential spittoon, and scribbling his distiches with
the nib of the Presidential goose-quill. We were absolutely in doubt
whether a seemingly inoffensive knot of rustics, on a mound without
the inclosure, might not, at tap of drum, unmask a battery of giant
columbiads, and belch blazes at us, raking our line.

Nothing so entertaining happened. It was a parade, not a battle. At
sunset our band played strains sweet enough to pacify all Secession, if
Secession had music in its soul. Coffee, hot from the coppers of the
Naval School, and biscuit were served out to us; and while we supped, we
talked with our visitors, such as were allowed to approach.

First the boys of the School - fine little blue-jackets - had their story
to tell.

"Do you see that white farm-house, across the river?" says a brave pigmy
of a chap in navy uniform. "That is head-quarters for Secession. They
were going to take the School from us, Sir, and the frigate; but
we've got ahead of 'em, now you and the Massachusetts boys have come
down," - and he twinkled all over with delight. "We can't study any more.
We are on guard all the time. We've got howitzers, too, and we'd like
you to see, to-morrow, on drill, how we can handle 'em. One of their
boats came by our sentry last night," (a sentry probably five feet
high,) "and he blazed away, Sir. So they thought they wouldn't try us
that time."

It was plain that these young souls had been well tried by the treachery
about them. They, too, had felt the pang of the disloyalty of comrades.
Nearly a hundred of the boys had been spoilt by the base example of
their elders in the repudiating States, and had resigned.

After the middies, came anxious citizens from the town. Scared, all of
them. Now that we were come and assured them that persons and property
were to be protected, they ventured to speak of the disgusting tyranny
to which they, American citizens, had been subjected. We came into
contact here with utter social anarchy. No man, unless he was ready
to risk assault, loss of property, exile, dared to act or talk like a
freeman. "This great wrong must be righted," think the Seventh Regiment,
as one man. So we tried to reassure the Annapolitans that we meant to do
our duty as the nation's armed police, and mob-law was to be put down,
so far as we could do it.

Here, too, voices of war met us. The country was stirred up. If the
rural population did not give us a bastard imitation of Lexington and
Concord, as we tried to gain Washington, all Pluguglydom would treat
us _à la_ Plugugly somewhere near the junction of the Annapolis and
Baltimore and Washington Railroad. The Seventh must be ready to shoot.

At dusk we were marched up to the Academy and quartered about in the
buildings, - some in the fort, some in the recitation-halls. We lay down
on our blankets and knapsacks. Up to this time our sleep and diet had
been severely scanty.

We stayed all next day at Annapolis. The Boston brought the
Massachusetts Eighth ashore that night. Poor fellows! what a figure they
cut, when we found them bivouacked on the Academy grounds next morning!
To begin: They had come off in hot patriotic haste, half-uniformed and
half-outfitted. Finding that Baltimore had been taken by its own loafers
and traitors, and that the Chesapeake ferry was impracticable, had
obliged them to change line of march. They were out of grub. They were
parched dry for want of water on the ferry-boat. Nobody could decipher
Caucasian, much less Bunker-Hill Yankee, in their grimy visages.

But, hungry, thirsty, grimy, these fellows were GRIT.

Massachusetts ought to be proud of such hardy, cheerful, faithful sons.

We of the Seventh are proud, for our part, that it was our privilege to
share our rations with them, and to begin a fraternization which grows
closer every day and will be _historical_.

But I must make a shorter story. We drilled and were reviewed that
morning on the Academy parade. In the afternoon the Naval School paraded
their last before they gave up their barracks to the coming soldiery. So
ended the 23d of April.

Midnight, 24th. We were rattled up by an alarm, - perhaps a sham one, to
keep us awake and lively. In a moment, the whole regiment was in order
of battle in the moonlight on the parade. It was a most brilliant
spectacle, as company after company rushed forward, with rifles
glittering, to take their places in the array.

After this pretty spirt, we were rationed with pork, beef, and bread for
three days, and ordered to be ready to march on the instant.


Meantime General Butler's command, the Massachusetts Eighth, had been
busy knocking disorder in the head.

Presently after their landing, and before they were refreshed, they
pushed companies out to occupy the railroad-track beyond the town.

They found it torn up. No doubt the scamps who did the shabby
job fancied that there would be no more travel that way until
strawberry-time. They fancied the Yankees would sit down on the fences
and begin to whittle white-oak toothpicks, darning the rebels, through
their noses, meanwhile.

I know these men of the Eighth can whittle, and I presume they can say
"Darn it," if occasion requires; but just now track-laying was the
business on hand.

"Wanted, experienced track-layers!" was the word along the files.

All at once the line of the road became densely populated with
experienced track-layers, fresh from Massachusetts.

Presto change! the rails were relaid, spiked, and the roadway levelled
and better ballasted than any road I ever saw south of Mason and Dixon's
line. "We must leave a good job for these folks to model after," say the
Massachusetts Eighth.

A track without a train is as useless as a gun without a man. Train and
engine must be had. "Uncle Sam's mails and troops cannot be stopped
another minute," our energetic friends conclude. So - the railroad
company's people being either frightened or false - in marches
Massachusetts to the station. "We, the People of the United States, want
rolling-stock for the use of the Union," they said, or words to that

The engine - a frowzy machine at the best - had been purposely disabled.

Here appeared the _deus ex machina_, Charles Homans, Beverly Light
Guard, Company E, Eighth Massachusetts Regiment.

That is the man, name and titles in full, and he deserves well of his

He took a quiet squint at the engine, - it was as helpless as a boned
turkey, - and he found "Charles Homans, his mark," written all over it.

The old rattletrap was an old friend. Charles Homans had had a share
in building it. The machine and the man said, "How d'y' do?" at once.
Homans called for a gang of engine-builders. Of course they swarmed out
of the ranks. They passed their hands over the locomotive a few times,
and presently it was ready to whistle and wheeze and rumble and gallop,
as if no traitor had ever tried to steal the go and the music out of it.

This had all been done during the afternoon of the 23d. During the
night, the renovated engine was kept cruising up and down the track to
see all clear. Guards of the Eighth were also posted to protect passage.

Our commander had, I presume, been cooperating with General Butler in
this business. The Naval Academy authorities had given us every despatch
and assistance, and the middies, frank, personal hospitality. The day
was halcyon, the grass was green and soft, the apple-trees were just in
blossom: it was a day to be remembered.

Many of us will remember it, and show the marks of it for months, as the
day we had our heads cropped. By evening there was hardly one poll in
the Seventh tenable by anybody's grip. Most sat in the shade and were
shorn by a barber. A few were honored with a clip by the artist hand of
the _petit caporal_ of our Engineer Company.

While I rattle off these trifling details, let me not fail to call
attention to the grave service done by our regiment, by its arrival, at
the nick of time, at Annapolis. No clearer special Providence could have
happened. The country-people of the traitor sort were aroused. Baltimore
and its mob were but two hours away. The Constitution had been hauled
out of reach of a rush by the Massachusetts men, - first on the
ground, - but was half-manned and not fully secure. And there lay the
Maryland, helpless on the shoal, with six or seven hundred souls on
board, so near the shore that the late Captain Rynders's gun could have
sunk her from some ambush.

Yes! the Seventh Regiment at Annapolis was the Right Man in the Right


Reveille. As nobody pronounces this word _à la française_, as everybody
calls it "Revelee," why not drop it, as an affectation, and translate
it the "Stir your Stumps," the "Peel your Eyes," the "Tumble Up," or
literally the "Wake"?

Our snorers had kept up this call so lustily since midnight, that, when
the drums sounded it, we were all ready.

The Sixth and Second Companies, under Captain Nevers, are detached to
lead the van. I see my brother Billy march off with the Sixth, into
the dusk, half-moonlight, half-dawn, and hope that no beggar of a
Secessionist will get a pat shot at him, by the roadside, without
his getting a chance to let fly in return. Such little possibilities
intensify the earnest detestation we feel for the treasons we come to
resist and to punish. There will be some bitter work done, if we ever
get to blows in this war, - this needless, reckless, brutal assault upon
the mildest of all governments.

Before the main body of the regiment marches, we learn that the "Baltic"
and other transports came in last night with troops from New York and
New England, enough to hold Annapolis against a square league of Plug
Uglies. We do not go on without having our rear protected and our
communications open. It is strange to be compelled to think of these
things in peaceful America. But we really knew little more of the
country before us than Cortes knew of Mexico. I have since learned from
a high official, that thirteen different messengers were despatched
from Washington in the interval of anxiety while the Seventh was not
forthcoming, and only one got through.

At half-past seven we take up our line of march, pass out of the
charming grounds of the Academy, and move through the quiet, rusty,
picturesque old town. It has a romantic dulness - Annapolis - which
deserves a parting compliment.

Although we deem ourselves a fine-looking set, although our belts are
blanched with pipe-clay and our rifles shine sharp in the sun, yet the
townspeople stare at us in a dismal silence. They have already the air
of men quelled by a despotism. None can trust his neighbor. If he dares
to be loyal, he must take his life into his hands. Most would be loyal,
if they dared. But the system of society which has ended in this present
chaos has gradually eliminated the bravest and best men. They have gone
in search of Freedom and Prosperity; and now the bullies cow the weaker
brothers. "There must be an end of this mean tyranny," think the
Seventh, as they march through old Annapolis and see how sick the town
is with doubt and alarm.

Outside the town, we strike the railroad and move along, the howitzers
in front, bouncing over the sleepers. When our line is fully disengaged
from the town, we halt.

Here the scene is beautiful. The van rests upon a high embankment, with
a pool surrounded by pine-trees on the right, green fields on the
left. Cattle are feeding quietly about. The air sings with birds. The
chestnut-leaves sparkle. Frogs whistle in the warm spring morning.
The regiment groups itself along the bank and the cutting. Several
Marylanders of the half-price age - under twelve - come gaping up to see
us harmless invaders. Each of these young gentry is armed with a dead
spring frog, perhaps by way of tribute. And here - hollo! here comes
Horace Greeley _in propria persona_! He marches through our groups with
the Greeley walk, the Greeley hat on the back of his head, the Greeley
white coat on his shoulders, his trousers much too short, and an
absorbed, abstracted demeanor. Can it be Horace, reporting for himself?
No; this is a Maryland production, and a little disposed to be sulky.

After a few minutes' halt, we hear the whistle of the engine. This
machine is also an historic character in the war.

Remember it! "J.H. Nicholson" is its name. Charles Homans drives, and
on either side stands a sentry with fixed bayonet. New spectacles for
America! But it is grand to know that the bayonets are to protect, not
to assail, Liberty and Law.

The train leads off. We follow, by the track. Presently the train
returns. We pass it and trudge on in light marching order, carrying
arms, blankets, haversacks, and canteens. Our knapsacks are upon the

Fortunate for our backs that they do not have to bear any more burden!
For the day grows sultry. It is one of those breezeless baking days
which brew thunder-gusts. We march on for some four miles, when, coming
upon the guards of the Massachusetts Eighth, our howitzer is ordered to
fall out and wait for the train. With a comrade of the Artillery, I am
placed on guard over it.


Henry Bonnell is my fellow-sentry. He, like myself, is an old campaigner
in such campaigns as our generation has known. So we talk California,
Oregon, Indian life, the Plains, keeping our eyes peeled meanwhile, and
ranging the country. Men that will tear up track are quite capable of
picking off a sentry. A giant chestnut gives us little dots of shade
from its pigmy leaves. The country about us is open and newly ploughed.
Some of the worm-fences are new, and ten rails high; but the farming is
careless, and the soil thin.

Two of the Massachusetts men come back to the gun while we are standing
there. One is my friend Stephen Morris, of Marblehead, Sutton Light
Infantry. I had shared my breakfast yesterday with Stephe. So we

His business is, - "I make shoes in winter and fishin' in summer." He
gives me a few facts, - suspicious persons seen about the track, men on
horseback in the distance. One of the Massachusetts guard last night
challenged his captain. Captain replied, "Officer of the night"
Whereupon, says Stephe, "The recruit let squizzle and jest missed his
ear." He then related to me the incident of the railroad station. "The
first thing they know'd," says he, "we bit right into the depot and took
charge." "I don't mind," Stephe remarked, - "I don't mind life, nor yit
death; but whenever I see a Massachusetts boy, I stick by him, and if
them Secessionists attackt us to-night, or any other time, they'll git
in debt."

Whistle, again! and the train appears. We are ordered to ship our
howitzer on a platform car. The engine pushes us on. This train brings
our light baggage and the rear guard.

A hundred yards farther on is a delicious fresh spring below the bank.
While the train halts, Stephe Morris rushes down to fill my canteen.
"This a'n't like Marblehead," says Stephe, panting up; "but a man that
can shin up _them_ rocks can git right over _this_ sand."

The train goes slowly on, as a rickety train should. At intervals we see
the fresh spots of track just laid by our Yankee friends. Near the sixth
mile, we began to overtake hot and uncomfortable squads of our fellows.
The unseasonable heat of this most breathless day was too much for many
of the younger men, unaccustomed to rough work, and weakened by want of
sleep and irregular food in our hurried movements thus far.

Charles Homans's private carriage was, however, ready to pick up tired
men, hot men, thirsty men, men with corns, or men with blisters. They
tumbled into the train in considerable numbers.

An enemy that dared could have made a moderate bag of stragglers at this
time. But they would not have been allowed to straggle, if any enemy
had been about. By this time we were convinced that no attack was to be
expected in this part of the way.

The main body of the regiment, under Major Shaler, a tall, soldierly
fellow, with a moustache of the fighting-color, tramped on their own
pins to the watering-place, eight miles or so from Annapolis. There
troops and train came to a halt, with the news that a bridge over a
country road was broken a mile farther on.

It had been distinctly insisted upon, in the usual Southern style, that
we were not to be allowed to pass through Maryland, and that we were to
be "welcomed to hospitable graves." The broken bridge was a capital spot
for a skirmish. Why not look for it here?

We looked; but got nothing. The rascals could skulk about by night, tear
up rails, and hide them where they might be found by a man with half an
eye, or half-destroy a bridge; but there was no shoot in them. They have
not faith enough in their cause to risk their lives for it, even behind
a tree or from one of these thickets, choice spots for ambush.

So we had no battle there, but a battle of the elements. The volcanic
heat of the morning was followed by a furious storm of wind and a smart
shower. The regiment wrapped themselves in their blankets and took their
wetting with more or less satisfaction. They were receiving samples of
all the different little miseries of a campaign.

And here let me say a word to my fellow-volunteers, actual and
prospective, in all the armies of all the States: -

A soldier needs, besides his soldierly

I. Good FEET.

II. A good Stomach.

III. And after these, come the good
Head and the good Heart.

But Good Feet are distinctly the first thing. Without them you cannot
get to your duty. If a comrade, or a horse, or a locomotive, takes you
on its back to the field, you are useless there. And when the field is
lost, you cannot retire, run away, and save your bacon.

Good shoes and plenty of walking make good feet. A man who pretends to
belong to an infantry company ought always to keep himself in training,
so that any moment he can march twenty or thirty miles without feeling a
pang or raising a blister. Was this the case with even a decimation
of the army who rushed to defend Washington? Were you so trained, my
comrades of the Seventh?

A captain of a company, who will let his men march with such shoes as
I have seen on the feet of some poor fellows in this war, ought to be
garroted with shoestrings, or at least compelled to play Pope and wash
the feet of the whole army of the Apostles of Liberty.

If you find a foot-soldier lying beat out by the roadside, desperate as
a sea-sick man, five to one his heels are too high, or his soles too
narrow or too thin, or his shoe is not made straight on the inside, so
that the great toe can spread into its place as he treads.

I am an old walker over Alps across the water, and over Cordilleras,
Sierras, Deserts, and Prairies at home; I have done my near sixty miles
a day without discomfort, - and speaking from large experience, and with
painful recollections of the suffering and death I have known for want
of good feet on the march, I say to every volunteer: -



When the frenzy of the brief tempest was over, it began to be a
question, "What to do about the broken bridge?" The gap - was narrow; but
even Charles Homans could not promise to leap the "J.H. Nicholson" over
it. Who was to be our Julius Caesar in bridge-building? Who but Sergeant
Scott, Armorer of the Regiment, with my fellow-sentry of the morning,
Bonnell, as First Assistant?

Scott called for a working party. There were plenty of handy fellows
among our Engineers and in the Line. Tools were plenty in the Engineers'
chest. We pushed the platform car upon which howitzer No. 1 was mounted
down to the gap, and began operations.

"I wish," says the _petit caporal_ of the Engineer Company, patting his
howitzer gently on the back, "that I could get this Putty Blower pointed
at the enemy, while you fellows are bridge-building."

The inefficient destructives of Maryland had only half spoilt the
bridge. Some of the old timbers could be used, - and for new ones, there
was the forest.

Scott and his party made a good and a quick job of it. Our friends of
the Massachusetts Eighth had now come up. They lent a ready hand, as
usual. The sun set brilliantly. By twilight there was a practicable
bridge. The engine was despatched back to keep the road open. The two
platform cars, freighted with our howitzers, were rigged with the
gun-ropes for dragging along the rail. We passed through the files of
the Massachusetts men, resting by the way, and eating by the fires of
the evening the suppers we had in great part provided them; and so
begins our night-march.


O Gottschalk! what a poetic _Marche de Nuit_ we then began to play, with
our heels and toes, on the railroad track!

It was full-moonlight and the night inexpressibly sweet and serene. The
air was cool and vivified by the gust and shower of the afternoon. Fresh
spring was in every breath. Our fellows had forgotten that this morning
they were hot and disgusted. Every one hugged his rifle as if it
were the arm of the Girl of his Heart, and stepped out gayly for the
promenade. Tired or foot-sore men, or even lazy ones, could mount upon
the two freight-cars we were using for artillery-wagons. There were
stout arms enough to tow the whole.

The scouts went ahead under First Lieutenant Farnham of the Second
Company. We were at school together, - I am afraid to say how many years
ago. He is just the same cool, dry, shrewd fellow he was as a boy, and a
most efficient officer.

It was an original kind of march - I suppose a battery of howitzers never
before found itself mounted upon cars, ready to open fire at once
and bang away into the offing with shrapnel or into the bushes with
canister. Our line extended a half-mile along the track. It was
beautiful to stand on the bank above a cutting and watch the files
strike from the shadow of a wood into a broad flame of moonlight, every
rifle sparkling up alert as it came forward. A beautiful sight to see
the barrels writing themselves upon the dimness, each a silver flash.

By-and-by, "Halt!" came, repeated along from the front, company after
company. "Halt! a rail gone."

It was found without difficulty. The imbeciles who took it up probably
supposed we would not wish to wet our feet by searching for it in the
dewy grass of the next field. With incredible dollishness they had also
left the chairs and spikes beside the track. Bonnell took hold, and in
a few minutes had the rail in place and firm enough to pass the engine.
Remember, we were not only hurrying on to succor Washington, but opening
the only convenient and practicable route between it and the loyal

A little farther on, we came to a village, - a rare sight in this
scantily peopled region. Here Sergeant Keeler, of our company, the
tallest man in the regiment, and one of the handiest, suggested that we
should tear up the rails at a turnout by the station, and so be prepared
for chances. So "Out crowbars!" was the word. We tore up and bagged half
a dozen rails, with chairs and spikes complete. Here, too, some of the

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Online LibraryVariousThe Atlantic Monthly, Volume 07, No. 44, June, 1861 Creator → online text (page 18 of 20)