Jan. 1st. 1862.
The new year has come and no doubt the most eventful our Nations history has ever recorded. May an all wise providence cause it to be a year of jubilee to use, the beginning of ‘Peace on earth and good will toward men’. Yesterday I was mustered into the service of the U.S. and also mustered out for pay. Two months pay is due.
This forenoon we had brigade drill but the afternoon was given up to sport. There were several games of ball. I spent the day fixing up my quarters and clothes. Considering it of most importance. The day is so warm I have worked without coat or vest. Received a letter from my old friend and fellow teacher Augustus Means giving an account of the Punxsutawney Teachers Institute and commissioned 5th Sergt.
Is a big day in our Regt. Judge Shannon of Pittsburg has presented us with a beautiful flag in the name of our loved state. Fringed with yellow with 105th Pa. Bol. In golden letters on it with our state coat of arms and motto in center and left corner. Appropriate speeches by Col. McKnight and Judge Shannon. A flag was also presented to the 63rd Pa. Col. Alex Hayes commanding made same day with like ceremonies. Also a new pair of pants was issued to each man in the Regt. Light blue for privates and Corporals, black and dark blue to al noncommissioned officers.
The ground is covered with snow the first time since I have been in camp however a very light covering.
The coldest morning we have had this winter. It was a cold job to get up before daylight and fall in for roll call. We have no stove as yet in our new quarters but will have as soon as pay day comes. At present we are all short of funds and a poor place to get credit. Our tent is completed 8 ft. square 2-1/2 ft. of split logs covered with our tent. Have two beds or berths, one above the other, made of poles and barrel staves. Boards are not to be had and we can only work between drill hours. A sermon text, ‘whatsoever thy hand findeth to do do with thy might’ you can judge the discource.
We have this P.M. to spend as we wish. Another man of Co. A. (Capt. Hastings) died last week. His name was Marsh from near Perryville.
Ground froze. Snow 2-1/2 inches deep. Cold nights for camping out.
Am Sergt. of the guard for the first time. Do not have to be out much of the time, have 15 men, have to see that they take regular turns on guard and do their duty. I am on the third relief. We go on guard and do their duty. I am on the third relief. We go on at 2 P.M. off at 4 P.M. on at 6 off at ten A.M. on at 2 at night off at 4 in the morning on at 8 A.M. and stay till 10 A.M. tomorrow morning. When we are relieved so that three sets of guards, each under a Sergt. Is on guard two hours and off four for twenty four hours. Part of my duty today was to attend a prisoner who is in our guard house. He is an old man and was brought in yesterday. Is suspicioned of giving intelligence to the enemy. He told me he was cold there last night so I have him one of my blankets and one of my men got him another and as we keep up a fire I think he will now be quite comfortable. Rogue as he is I pity his grey hairs.
It began raining at 10 O’clock last night and kept it up most of the time till we came off and is still raining. I did not get wet as the Sergt’s. are not required to stand out but can remain in the guard house which is a building about 14x20ft. generally pretty dirty. Mr. Berry, R. Perry’s Bro-in-law was one of my guards and we had a long talk together.
Jan. 9th. 1862.
Out countersign was ‘Ly-be’ and no one was permitted to pass guards unless, when halted, he could give it (whispering) in the ear of the sentinel. Our muster roll came back this P.M. and we expect our pay very soon.
A heavy damp fog hangs over us and the Dr. advised us to keep within as the inhaling is supposed to be unhealthy. This P.M. the paymaster arrived and is now paying the men of the Regt. Each Co. is called by letter, A B C etc. and is marched up to the Col’s. quarters and one man called in at a time as his name is called from the roll. It takes about 75 minutes to pay a Co. consisting of 100 men. Our turn will come about midnight.
The Regt. has received its pay. My pay was $26.56, being a privates pay for 2 months. Sent $15 home by Capt. Hastings. The camp is filled today with hucksters selling almost anything a man would want as a luxury or for use. These characters follow close on the heels of the paymaster selling their wares at exhorbitant figures and they find wiling suckers.
Weather cold, raw and windy. Mr. Polyard started home on a 20 day furlough to regain his health which has been bad for some time. Sermon by Elder Flowers today, who is here on a visit.
Yesterday was cold but pleasant and we were surprised to find 4 inches of snow. It really looks like old Jefferson. Six more prisoners were brought in yesterday by the cavalry, captured near the Pohick church. Nearly the whole Regt. ran out to see them. Creating no little excitement.
Yesterday I was detailed as Sergt. of a guard to take the prisoners to the Provost Marshal in Alexandria. Some of them seemed loth to go but with 6 gleaming bayonets around them they deemed it best to peacefully move on. In passing through the streets of the city they people and soldiers on either side would cheer and hurrah the ‘Wildcats’. I delivered them to the Provost Marshall and we were invited to dinner and accepted with my men. After dinner I went to the Marshall’s office to get my receipt and then returned with my men and delivered my receipt to Gen. Jemison and then was discharged. I found three letters awaiting me on my return. Yours and mothers, Perry’s and Brown’s as I had no letter from you this week you may judge my pleasure.
Raining hard. Geo. Richards is here from the 62nd Regt. Reports all well. The Regt. has received a beautiful Zouave suit of fine material. He will take tea with me. I have the beef now frying. Rice, sugar, molasses, bread and butter, the last pretty strong, will be our menu.
G. R. went back this morning. Our 2nd. Lt. Hugh Brady slept with us last night and declared we had the best quarters in the Co. (We knew it) Am on guard again, have 21 men. Have just mailed a letter to Brown also received a paper with my account of things here. It is dated Jan. 8th. 1862. Countersign is ‘Linden’
A full moon and clear sky gave us a beautiful night. We have now large stoves in our guard house, bought with a subscription raised by the Regt. Cost $100 for four, one for each room. It was my painful duty to inflict punishment on a man by the name of Taylor. He had evaded the guards and went to Alexandria, got drunk and stayed there three days before he was arrested and brought back. The Col’s order was to tie a 40 lb. block of wood on his back and cause him to walk around the bull ring four days in sucession. He was still under the influence of liquor and helped me tie it on saying it was not my fault. He was quite merry about it. It is not a hard or painful punishment. The shame being the worst part of it. He is relieved at 8 O’clock I nteh evening and goes on at 6 A.M.
Brigade drill this P.M., mud awful. My old friend and school mate Jesse Y. Smith on a visit from his Regt., will lodge with me tonight.
Sunday Jan. 19th.
No preaching. Muddy and raining. Letters from Mattie, Laura and Thos. Geerhart. Orders fro the 105th. to go on picket in the morning. We expect no enemy, mud to deep, roads almost impassible. We take three days rations, knapsacks, blankets and some extra clothing, dry socks, a towel, etc. Also 40 rounds of cartridges, canteen and tin cup to each man and each mess of 5 a mess pan and coffee pot. I carried 1lb. boiled pork, 20 crackers or hardtack 2in. wide, 3in. long, 1/2in. thick. 1/2lb. tea, 1/2lb. sugar, small piece boiled beef an onion and 6 cigars in my haversack. Knapsack, blanket, overcoat, pr. socks and mittens, piece of soap and towel, canteen and tin cup, 40 rounds outside. I had greased my boots and oiled my gun putting both in good order to resist the rain which was falling fast. When within 2 miles of Pohick church the companies parted, 2 going to the right the other 8 to the left. My Co. and Co. C were posted on the extreme left reaching from the Potomac to a little town called Acquotinct. My post was about a mile from the town and in a large rove of yellow pine trees. On the ground under them could easily be traced the old furrows or rows on which corn or tobacco once grew. The trees were nearly all the same size. 50 to 60ft. high and 5 to 8in. in diameter stump high. An old Negro told me they had been growing there for over 24 years. The ground was quite free of any other kind of trees or bushes, save a few cedars and a bush called Chapperal, the last somewhat like our Laurel. All are evergreens. This post I reached about 2 P.M. The rain had wet us some but the sweat off our bodies more. I had 5 men after a hasty dinner we began to prepare for the night. We procured an axe and cut a lot of poles and brush of cedar and chapperal and covered a frame that had been put up by former pickets by placing 2 choched posts in the ground 12ft. apart and 8 or 9 ft. high. A pole reaching from one post to the other rested in the crotches and against this we placed poles at an angel of about 45 degrees and covered with the brush on either side a ft. deep leaving an entrance in the rear. A lot of wood had been corded up near by and we procured a good supply and we had a good fire all night, of the old kind. The wood had been cut for charcoal and was dry. We soon found the blaze lighted up the dark woods to far and so placed brush in position to hide the light as much as possible. One man stood on guard constantly and was relieved every 2 hours by one of the others but such a night. Dark and dismal beyond my power to describe. It rained all night long yet our brush roof sheltered us well. I sat up all night thinking of the past and bringing back to my mind the stories I had read of the early settling of our country, the adventures of our forefathers with the Indians and their privations etc. At midnight I relieved one of the men and stood guard in his stead while the rest slept. The wind howled in the tree tops all night and the rain falling in large drops from the trees would sound like the stealthy tread of a foe. At times some officer would pass along the lines to see that all was right and give the men proper instructions then we would hear the startling cry, Halt! Who goes there?, in a loud tone and a lower reply. The murmur would sound weird like. At times we would hear the report of a gun as some fearful sentinel imagined he saw or heard the enemy approaching. Our countersign was viana and rally cry Lincoln but the night passed without serious alarm. At day break I prepared breakfast by boiling a piece of meat and breaking in crackers, making a sort of stew that all seemed to relish. After we had eaten, 2 of my men started out to see what dainties could be had. After being gone an hour or two they returned with a chicken and near a peck of potatoes, paying 50¢ for the chicken and 25¢ for the potatoes. Well, we had pot pie, I being cook again. At night our 1st. Lt. Isaac Fuller took up lodgings with us. The night was cold and it snowed yet with our fire we were very comfortable. I do love, when all is quiet, to go out and stand guard and listen to the winds and the tramp tramp of our men as they approach and challenge each other and let my imagination conjure a thousand moving objects in the dark forests and I stand concealed in the surrounding darkness. No one is allowed to talk or make any unnecessary noise at night. At noon on the 22nd a cavalry men came dashing up the road with orders from headquarters to bring down to the town every man we could spare. I was sleeping at the time as I had slept but little the night before but leaving 2 men at each post we were out in less than 5 minutes with acheer, double-quicking down the road taking with us all the spare men on the line. We found on reporting that we were to go out on a scouting expedition. Away we went over the Ocquocon creek, up the hill and into the woods beyond. After going 1 ½ miles we were halted and I was ordered to take 5 men and scout down a road to our right while the others continued to advance. Five brave fellows volunteered to go with me. We moved cautiously by the side of the road as we expected to have sight of some rebel cavalry who had shown themselves in that neighborhood. Had they shown themselves we would surely have given them a warm reception as the road was lined with a heavy brush into which the cavalry could not have come. We were called back in time to reach our posts a little before dark. The night was not as dark but it rained some. At 10 O’clock 2 of my men were detailed to help to raise and bring in a boat which had been sunken by the rebs. Twenty-four men and officers were out and succeeded in bringing it safely to the town I spoke of. I stood out 2 ½ hours this night trying to locate a man who had, I believed, noiselessly corssed our line between Jos. Hawthornes and my post. We heard him whistle low on either side and the dogs bark as he approached a house but the night was to dark to locate him yet some of the men said they were sure they heard his footsteps. The boys had got another chicken and we had a fine breakfast, with pies also purchased in Ocquocon. We also had milk which gave us an oldtime coffee drink. I slept an hour in the A.M. and after dinner packed up to return. We were relieved by the 4th Maine and at 1 O’clock started for camp. Reaching it at sundown, covered with mud to the knees and tired. I slept without waking, greatly refreshed, no drilling on account of mud. We cleaned guns and mended clothes.
Am on guard again but had time to attend services. Text-Saul Saul why etc. and was more than usually effecting. Many shed tears copiously and no doubt left with new resolves and firmer purposes.
A letter from you telling me of your having a sore throat. It has been so fatal there, has made me fearful of the result.
Our 2nd Lt. Hugh Brady has resigned three officers of Co. D, their military abilities were not considered up to the standard. This will no doubt cause another up roar at home.
I was ordered to drill the Co. today, my first effort. I was chosen by the Capt. Also to fill the 1st Sergt’s place, who temporarily absent although the other Sergts. were all present.
Raining. I spoke this evening to Miss Rebecca Reed and Miss Hannah Dowling and Mrs. Nickelson, who are here to help Quartermaster Nickelson keep a boarding house for the commissioned Officers. An order was read today on dress parade, that reveille should not be beaten till sunrise and that the men should have hot coffee served them immediately to prevent Malaria. (Bully for the order)
Weather clear and target practice at 10 P.M. After setting up a target against a hill opposite, we began firing many, very many good shots were made. We were a mile or more from camp. A lot of men were chopping wood on the other side of the ill and our balls glancing off the trees and stones went whistling among them, they set up a great should and dodged behind the logs stumps and trees to get out of danger. We kept on firing for sometime but when we ceased they came running over, mad as bulls but had no sooner told their story when we too had to dodge in order to escape the bullets of another Co. who began firing in our rear. When they ceased we filed off and returned to camp realizing that we know how bullets whistled. This P.M. our chapel tent was put up. It will contain 3 or 400 people.
A wet snow broke down the large tent, raised yesterday. I am on guard again.
Having slept none last night the Lt. Guard sent me to my quarters about 10 P.M. but I hardly lain down when orders by the officer of the day for all guards to report at police headquarters at once. Many of the guards had been called in on account of the inclement weather.
The sun is shining and snow melting fast.
Snow 4in. deep this morning but beginning to rain. What fair spells we have are spent in squad drill and target practice.
It froze harder last night than at any time this winter but the bright sun is warming the air fast. We are ordered to remove everything from our tents and air everything and burn green coffee in all the tents. Our streets made a queer show.
We know not what a day may bring forth for its raining again. We pickled and dried apples issued to s today, which with the 7lbs. butter and 1 ½yards sausage, which I received from you yesterday, will give us a luscious live for some days to come.
Nothing of interest.
Orders to make wooden guns to practice with at bayonet exercises as it bruises our muskets to use them in practice. Eighth today and the 2 Sabbaths past we have had good sermons and a good attendance. This is the most pleasant day we have had for many a day. Five letters today. Mother and Alice, Laura and others from my former pupils at the Shick school all cheering, welcome ones. We have all been vaccinated as we have had 7 cases of small pox already. My arm is still sore from its effects. No meat has been allowed in the past week. My weight last night was 164lbs. At home I never weighed over 160lbs. The voice of women was heard at the service today in the singing. They came from the hospital and boarding tent. The evening is beautiful and the attendance at church was exceedingly large and it was lovely to see the men wending their way to and from the place or worship and such sermons must tell for good both on earth and in eternity.
A beautiful day. Brigade drill in the forenoon and done splendid marching. Some companies are practicing. Skirmish drill for the first time.
On guard and have been kept very busy as the Lt. of the guard is absent and the charge of the whole is left to me. We drilled our respective reliefs 1/2hr. each this forenoon. This P.M. sad news reached my ears. Watson Yound is dead. Sat. morn beheld him full of lusty life, this eve. his lifeless clay. Truly there is no man that hath power over the spirit, neither hath he power in the day of death and there is no discharge in that war neither shall wickedness deliver those who are given to it. (Ec’s 8-8) Watson had come off guard Sat. morn and was soon after attacked with typhoid fever and became deranged in the P.M. and continued so till death this P.M.
The band is playing the dead march as the body of poor Watson is coming up in the ambulance followed by the sorrowing comrades. At the gate they paid his body its last honors and his clay is now on its way to his friends in Jefferson. Mr. Simpson was carried off in a similar manner last week, only sick a day or two.
A lovely day. All were on the parade ground, drilling, when the papers came in telling of our victories in Tennessee and on the Roanoke, by Burnside. We all stopped while the news was being read and then such a cheer as we set up you seldom hear, even in the army. All seem hopeful of a speedy ending of this war and some even tell what they will do when they return. Poor fellows. Their hopes may yet be blasted.
I caught several grasshoppers today and send you one as a sample. This evening, Feb. 14th. an order was read on dress parade, calling for volunteers to man the new gun boats fitting out on the Ohio river to go up the Tennessee. Some 20 names were received by our Capt. from our Co. I have enlisted in the 105th Regt. and shall stay with it through ‘weal or woe’ till I return or till death may free me.
We are drilling shirmish drill. The commands are all given by bugle signals.
Snowing and 3in. now. News just came of the capture of Ft. Donaldson and cheers are filling the air again. All seem drunk with joy and excitement. We are shoveling and scraping the snow from the Co’s streets by order of the Col.
Rain and sleet. Lt. Fuller is off home on 10 day leave to attend business in Brookville.
Raining and orders to have 24 hours rations and start on picket tomorrow at 10 A.M.
Have returned well and unharmed but oh so muddy. I will now try to tell of our adventures. The 19th it rained and was very disagreeable but at the appointed time we started off in high spirits. My Co. and Co. C were to act as a reserve. After a tiresome three hour march in mud ankle deep we came to the house of one, Potter, and halted. I and 16 others of my Co. quartered ourselves in an old deserted house ½ mile from the Potter house which was made Regt. headquarters. It was quite open but sheltered us fairly well. The next morning early, came orders for me to report at headquarters immediately. On our arrival we found the majority of our Co. for a scouting expedition. Twenty-five started but I was left in charge with orders to keep a guard at the Potter house. Perhaps an hour after they started, Capt. Heine, one of General Herntzelmans Aide, rode up and requested Col. McKnight to give him a squad of men to go with him on a boating expedition. I was called and ordered to detail 10 and follow the Aide. I soon had more volunteers than were needed. I cut off 11 of them and placing rations for 24 hours in our haversacks we followed our leader to the little town of Acotinct where he stopped and giving us a guide told us he would join us at the White Pavilion, a well known building on the bank of the Potomac, a distance of about 4 miles from Acotinct, which we reached about noon. After dinner and awaiting the coming of the Aide I went inside to view it. The building is 200 or 250ft. long and perhaps 40ft. wide. The lower story was divided into 5 rooms. The 1st. a kitchen, 2nd dining room, which was near 100ft in length. The ceiling was beautifully decorated with paper hangings and fresco paintings. The tables and a few seats were all the furniture left. All else had been removed. The next room was a hall and a stairway that led to the bed rooms above. Beyond was a pool and ball room which was fully as large as the dining room and similarly decorated. A small room on the right was a bar room. Beyond this building was another used as a 10 pin alley, very long and very roomy. On the hillside above the house were many fancy benches and beautiful fountains spouting water from lion heads and other images. The whole establishment, our guide told us, was built and owned by a widow, of Washington, as a resort of pleasure for the wealthy of the Capitol and Alexandria who would come down in sail boats and other river craft. Toward evening the Aide came with another quide, a Negro, when we got into the yawl boats that came off from a schooner that lay off at anchor in the river. As soon as we got on board the sails were hoisted, anchors hauled aboard and we sailed rapidly down the river about 7 miles, when we furled the sails and again dropped anchor. We were all wet and toward night it grew very cold and we became very much chilled and no chance to have fire. In the night I went down into the hole of the vessel to get out of the wind. I found it nearly full of oysters and being hungry we cracked some open with our bayonets and swalled them raw. They were cold as chunks of ice. They set every bone shaking with cold. I do think I never suffered worse with cold in all my life. At midnight we jumped into 2 yawls and were rowed ashore, leaving one man in charge of the boats, and other, 18 all told, shouldered arms and started out into the country, the guide leading the way with five men while I and my men, 50 paces back, brought up the rear. The Aide who had gotten a horse somewhere rode between. When we came near a house we would move up on the double quick, post a sentinel at each corner and at each door and one other on any spot where he could see over as large space of country as possible, then I would take the others and enter the house if unlocked but if locked we would rap and demand them to open to us, when we would searched the house from cellar to attic. We found no men except the slaves. In four different houses were white women and their children, who were often greatly frightened and would turn pale and cry. I could not help but pity the poor creatures but was shocked at the ignorance they displayed. At the last house (to illustrate how ignorant and illiterate they were) the conversation took place between the Aide and the mother. The Aide asked, ‘Where are the men that belong here?’, Old lady, ‘Dont know honey, they gone long time. Me here all alone with the brats’ (little ones). Aide- ‘Was there no one here last night?’ O.L. ‘No honey I tell you the trute suh. No man here for long time. Is all dese sogers Yankee men?’ We said, ‘Yes. How do you like our looks? God bless you honey, she said, I like dem all de time. I say so to all de folks about here. Why honey, it was ndt the Yankees what made de wah. I tell de trute honey. It was God Almighty hiself and so she would go on talking both loud and fast but this will suffice to give you an idea of how ignorant the common people are. Not a whit about the black around them. We calmed them all we could by telling them we would not hurt them. We only wanted the men that were bringing things across the river for the rebs. After this talk we started by another road, back to the river. It had begun to break day and we were 10 miles beyond our picket lines so we made all haste possible. We came to the river 3 ½ miles above the schooner and as we followed down to it we took some of the largest, best boats and the others we destroyed by chopping a hole in the bottom or burning them. All the boats had their locks muffled without any exception so as to make a noise in rowing. Some of the light boats and canoes were beauties. We found many up in the tops of the trees hidden by the tick foliage. At 8.30 A.M. we were down opposite the schooner, then going back 1 mile in the country we came to the house of a reb by the name of Chapman, who was in the southern army. His slaves soon furnished us a breakfast consisting of corn dogers and fresh spare ribs with milk to drink. It was the 1st. table at which I had sat since leaving Harrisburg. My how we ate and drank and drank and ate. Yet there was plenty for all. The Aide found there was about 300bu. of oats and 2000lbs of pork and some potatoes on the place and confiscating them, ordered the Negroes to yoke up a couple of teams of oxen and hitch them to carts and take the forage down to the river. Having posted 4 men as sentinels in charge of a corpoal at the house, I went down to the landing with the others to see to the shipping of the forage on board the schooner. We loaded it into the yawl boats that we had captured and then rowed ½ mile to the vessel where it lay at anchor. At 5 P.M. we all boarded the schooner, leaving some of the oats and all the pork to take at some other time. About 2 P.M while at the landing a little incident occurred that perhaps is worth relating. The iron gunboat ‘Yankee’ which constantly cruises along the river on the lookout for rebel craft etc. saw there was something unusual going on up on the Chapman plantation and so landed 25 marines above us, not knowing we were there. A point of land also hid our schooner. They proceeded direct to the house where our party was stationed. The sentinel gave the alarm as soon as he saw them and our party at once prepared to receive them by going inside the house, baracading doors, window etc. supposing it was a squad of the enemy. While the gunboat party thought we were the rebs. At this juncture they Capt., who had been out, rode up and saw how matters stood, spurred his horse forward and explained. The officer in charge of the G.B. crew then began shooting chickens that were running about in the yard, but the joke now comes. Eli Roll of my Co. heard the firing and ran up on the bluff where he would see the house and when he saw the 25 men in line of battle and the smoke of their guns he thought our little party there was either killed or captured and came running back and almost breathless told us we were attacked. We at once grasped our guns and ran to help our party but when I got to the top of the bluff I saw the Negroes with then oxen and wagons coming down toward the landing as usual and the Capt. riding slowly to meet us and the whole party at the house, I comprehended in part the whole affair and I returned with my men but was surprised to find one of the boats gone and our cowardly Roll had fled to the schooner. The Aide, by signs, had commanded his return. He told us he had gone for his gun that he had left there. The boys bored him unmercifully for his cowardly act.
A high wind began to blow as we got aboard and all said was at first hoisted but port was soon taken in and as the tide was rising the waves ran high. We got opposite the Pavalion about 8 O’clock and again dropped anchor. We had taken 6 of the best boats with us and we were now ordered to loosen then and take them ashore. With no difficulty we got them loosened and my men into them, but as none could handle an oar in such a gale. I had to do the rowing. We were ½ mile from the shore and the waves seemed to run 6 or 8ft. high. The night dark as a cloudy sky and no moon could make it, yet could see the shade of the hill and headed for them with three boats in tow. Many of the men were frightened for fear the waves would capsize us. I ordered all to sit down and not say a word but keep cool, then taking the oars I pulled hard for the shore, which we reached after at least ½ hours of rowing. All safe but completely wetted by the water blowing over us. We secured the boats at the little wharf and started for the pavilion. The 2 other boats were brought ashore by the guide and another man, who were old water men. We all went into the pavilion kitchen and in the big fireplace built up a blazing hot fire, dried our clothes and then lay down without dinner or supper and slept soundly till break of day. The guide started early to Acotinct to get men to take the boats around to the creek and up to the town. My men knew little about boating and I was getting tired as an officer ‘I didn’t hefto’. As the day was breaking we all drank our fill at one of the fountains and then took up the line of march for headquarters, 6 or 7 miles distant, which we reached a little before 10 O’clock A.M. hungry, faint and tired, dismissing the men. We fell to eating, having been without food 24 hours. How we did make provisions fly. Hungry wolves could not have done better. Our Regt. was soon after relieved by 2 other Regt’s. and we started for camp which we reached between 3 and 4 O’clock P.M.
Am again on guard. It seems Roll’s cowardly act had been reported to the Gen. by the Aide. An account of which was read on dress parade this evening and he was sentenced to the guard house to serve one on bread and water. He feels bad about it but surely deserves the punishment.
Feb. 24th. 1862.
I have just gotten off guard. The wind began to blow hard at 10 A.M. and at noon it was no longer a gale but a perfect hurricane. At 2 P.M. all the big tents had blown down and several of the small ones. It was with great difficulty any were kept standing. The men kept cheering all the time. Several lost hats and caps. It was a novel sight to see them, and papers etc. flying through the air with barrels and boxes rolling over the ground. At sunset the wind calmed down. They claimed it was the hardest wind known here for years. We succeeded in keeping our tent in place.
Weather calm, clear and pleasant. Have been drilling hard all day.
A pretty morning and clear but this evening raining again. Had regimental inspection today and now an order for the 25 men comes, to work on road tomorrow, from here to Alexandria. All favors an advance of the grand army of the Potomac soon.
After we had gone to bed last night, Capt. Marlin came with orders to be ready to move at shortest notice, each man to take 2 days rations and the 4 wagons to load 2 days more. Thirty men are working on the roads, the rest are busy packing. We find we must leave many things of value and comfort. I have just washed all my socks and shirts and given my boots a tiptop greasing with the last of the tallow.
This A.M. we were again mustered for pay. We are now, this P.M., packing up such things as we cannot carry. We may get up in the night to start (that is why I am writing to you). Yet we may not go for many days or even weeks but can be ready in 5 minutes at any time. Have just received our new guns the ‘Springfield Refeled Musket’. They are lighter, Quicker loaded, have sights and will carry and kill much farther. All are eager now to start with ‘Mr onward movement’ at the drop of a hat.
March 1st. 1862.
I go this morning with 6 men and a corporal to guard Hunting creek bridge, just this side of Alexandria. My orders are to examine all passes and let no one pass without one and no one to carry liquors except by permit by Gen. Hintzelman.
Have returned and find preparations are still being made to move. A most lovely morning as I saw it from the bank of the Potomac. At noon it hailed so the weather varies incessantly. A letter from Bro. Myron tells me they are ready to start with three days rations, that Gen. Banks had already crossed the river. The whole line is surely astir. Two inches of snow has fallen. Lt. Fuller has returned.
March 3rd. 1862.
Wagon loads of spare blankets and clothing were sent away this morning. A blanket apiece went from our tent and we do not sleep as comfortably without them. A drizzling rain is falling on our tens as I write. The snow is quite gone.
Have been shooting blank cartridges all day. A bad accident occurred today while the commissioned officers were drilling. A spent ball struck a gun in this hands of Lt. McEninch, splitting the wood then glancing off it, passed through the forearm of the 2nd. Lt. of Co. F, inflicting a pretty severe wound. No doubt someone was shooting target.
Have acted road supervisor with 25 men today, very faithfully, between our camp and Alexandria. Co. Books have all been taken to Col’s. quarters to be sent away for safe keeping. The signal officers and men of our Regt. have returned from camp of instructions where they have been learning. We go on picket at 8 O’clock AM. tomorrow. While the 63rd. vol. Regt. were scouting on picket, with 50 men, yesterday, they fell into an ambush. A Capt., quartermaster and 1 private were killed and are now lying in a tent in their camp. Many of the boys went over to see them and all are now anxious to avenge their death. The whole thing was badly managed on our part as we had them once in our power but the Lt. Col. In trying to take them prisoners, let slip the favorable moment and the enemy escaped.
Have returned. Had fine weather and a good time. We were stationed at a brick house near the Pohick Church. When marching out I saw lambs a month old and heard frogs croaking. With 32 men we scouted 5 miles beyond our station. I led one wing of the skirmish line but met no enemy. One of our companies lay in ambush and we hoped to draw the Texan Rangers into it but did not succeed. We returned and at noon, with a force of 100 men we went out again. This time as far as Acquocon, a little town on opposite side of Accotinct creek, which is filled with rebel citizens and soldiers. Our skirmishers were fired on from a mill as they were viewing the town from a high bluff this side of the creek. I was about 600 yds. from the town when they fired, which was without effect. The skirmishers were called in and returned 5 or 6 miles and were placed in ambush, expecting the rangers to follow us.
After waiting several hours without results we made our way back to headquarters, about 4 P.M. tired and hungry having eaten nothing since midnight. I saw the place where the 63rd. men were shot, which is only 1 ½ miles beyond our picket lines. (And now an incident.) While lying the last time in ambush, one of the men, an odd genius, went some distance from us and spying 2 men building a fence crawled up the men and took them prisoners and brought then to our officers. They proved to be Union men who had been brought in before. It caused no little merriment. The poor fellow was ordered t escort them back to their work and was severly reprimanded for his zeal and bravery (?). We now rested till relieved by the 4th main and reached camp at 4 P.M. A balloon has been placed just back of our headquarters and every fine, calm day, officers ascend in it with glasses view the landscape. Of course it is held in place by long cables. It is like all balloons described in books. It often ascends three or four times a day. The gas for inflating is made on the ground near by. The balloon is about 35ft. in diameter.
Another accident has happened. George Christie of my company brought an unexploded shell he found near the picket line back to camp with him. He had, as he supposed, taken all the powder out of it and then snapped a cap on it. A terrible explosion occurred. He had the shell in my tent and I was outside cleaning my gun. (He came with me to the army and often came to my tent.) One piece of the exploding shell tore a piece of flesh from his side, another piece broke his leg near the knee and mangled the flesh horrible, another piece dropped at my feet along with one of his fingers. Dropping my gun I sprang in to assist him as he fell out of the tent door. As our tent was full of smoke we placed him in another close by. I took off his watch from his neck, a piece of mangled flesh sticking to id. The Dr. was soon there and ordered him taken on a stretcher to the hospital where he has since had an arm amputated and all his wounds dressed. He bore it all like a hero he is. One other man in the tent with him had his cap knocked off by a piece of the bursting bomb. How any of the others escaped unhurt is a wonder to us all.
Capt. S.J. Marlin, under whom I enlisted, resigned today and received his papers. It is quite unexpected to us all and has created no little excitement. His reason for the act is on account of his wifes delicate health, she being now deranged because of his absence, so he states and so I now believe. He has done much to bring Co. 1) up to the perfect military standing it now possesses.
Drilled most of the day. Troops are moving all around us. Cavalry, Infantry and artillery, the whole line astir.
A lovely day and drilling, drilling as far as the eye can reach. We too are drilling with our knapsacks strapped upon our back and find it a tough business. Yesterday a Mr. Gilbert was introduced to our Co. as our 2nd Lt. He is from Blacks Regt. 62. This kills our hope of having one commissioned from our own Co. None of the Sergt’s. will attend the coming examination, one of which is to supply the 2nd. Lt’s. place.
Busy drilling with knapsacks most of our time so as to be accustomed to the load. Last night at midnight we were aroused to prepare to move and this morning finds us ready with 3 days rations in our haversacks. Richardsons Brigade has gone and we are to follow in a few hours. We got to Alexandria to take boats, we think, for Ft. Monroe. All the troops are in best of spirits at the prospect of getting a more active field. The cooks, the Col. and even the Gen. have also everything packed. As brigade after brigade pass, the bands strike up and play the various national airs. Gen Richarson’s brigade have gone into camp. We shall not move till they break camp again. All men unable to march are being taken to the many hospitals in Alexandria and Washington. None are sure of our destination save the heads of the different Corps. and Divisions. With the forces now moving and God on our side, we feel confident we can trample down all opposition the enemy can place before us. Deserters are constantly coming in claiming our protection. All agree in their statements as to the despondency and destitution of the enemy.
The men who have passed us are living in their little tents and seem quite comfortable, although it is raining. Bro. Myron has come and is now awaiting the coming of his Regt.
Have been down to Alexandria all day and just got back and found several of his regt. here visiting. Their Regt. have been following the enemy and are now camped at Hunters mill, in their little tents about 2 miles above us.
Myron started back this morning. They expect to take ship today. We are also ordered to move at 2 P.M. We are in line now and will move in a few minutes and expect to embark this evening. Richards brigade are moving now. 60 or 70 ships and boars are waiting for the army. The whole country is black with troops. Few men have ever seen such an army and this pageant will be a noted one in history. I am seated on my knapsack as I write but ill have no chance to write more till we get aboard.
I am now sitting on the wheel house on board of steam boat ‘Catskill’. We left camp at 2 P.M. yesterday. Other boats and ships are all around us loaded with men. At 5 P.M. we came aboard our boat and then were taken out about ½ mile from shore. Bands are playing and the boys cheering and banners flying everywhere. There are from 500 to 2000 men on each boat. I slept with my 2nd. Lt. in the cabin last night. We have a splendid view of both cities from the boats. Ladies wave their handkerchiefs and cheer us as we leave. We are steaming down the Potomac and are opposite Mt. Vernon and can plainly see the homestead and tomb of the Father of our country. Now we have lost sight of the capitol. Six P.M. have just passed the batteries at Aquia creek. Everything has been burned, the ruins still smoking. Troops can be seen encamped as we pass different points on the Maryland side.
We are nearing the Chesapeak Bay. I can see the smoke of some of the boats but can’t see their hulls. Others are entirely visable but all are quite a distance apart. The sun appeared to rise out of the water, a beautiful sight. Gun boats have accompanied all the way to protect us from any batteries the enemy may have on the shore. The water looks very blue and salty. 9 O’clock A.M. No land is in sight except on the right. The horizon is dotted with the sails and tops of masts and pipes of steamers and look like a forest of leafless trees. The little, but famous, Monitor is near us at anchor. It does not look larger than a Sandy creek raft and is not higher on the water on which is a large round iron box, in which are 2 large cannon, its only weapon of defense.
We landed at the Ft. and oh what a night. We landed an hour after dark in a hard rain. We marched near 2 miles and were dismissed to shift for ourselves as best we could. It was to dark to put up our shelter tents and the ground was a slop of mud and water. A few of us who kept together in groping around found the stables of the 11th. Pa. cavalry and climbed into the loft above the horses where we found hay to lie upon and shelter from the rain. The morn found us still wet and a damp heavy fog over all. Among the cavalry I found several old acquaintances, among whom were the Baldwin boys of Troy Pa. and in whose tent I am now writing. This Regt. furnished us with all the hot coffee we wanted and as it began to rain again, gave us shelter so that we are again fairly comfortable.
Left our barn barracks and moved ½ mile into the open field. The day is fair and warm and we have put up our little tents and we are quite snug. Four of us are together. Our four oil cloth ponchos from the roof. We are on a small peninsula, the whole of which is quite level as the bay that nearly surrounds us. 3 or 4 Regt’s. of infantry and 2 of cavalry have been here the past 6 or 7 months. They have 2 theaters where they have produced their own scenes and play and is well attended. I also notice a chapel tent with the following inscription over the tent door ‘From the loved ones at home.’ The hospitality shown us by these Regt’s and their kindnesses will long be remembered. This P.M. we gathered wild prairie grass from the soldiers graves on while we will lie while here. Ex-President Tylers house is near by.
I went out early this morning to the seashore and spent an hour gathering clams and oysters, which made us quite a feast and was the first I ever gathered. They lie in great quantities on the shore when the tide is out and we can all get as many as we can use in a very short time. We drilled today and held dress parade. I have no doubt 200,000 men could drill on this ground and not interfere with each other in their movements. Three French vessels anchored here today. While the next move is dark to us we know we must either take ship again or else go up the James river as all other sides are bounded by water. This P.M. Geo. Geist and I finding no sinks had been dug, and knowing the army regulations forbade the depositing of filth within 50 yds. of camp, slipped past the guard when his back was turned and pacing off 50 yards, made our deposit and returned and was arrested and taken by a Corporal and guard to Guard headquarters where Lt. Gilbert, who was Lt. of the guard, was greatly surprised. He passed us on to the officer of the day and he on to the Gen’s headquarters, who heard our case in a very gentlemanly way and then ordered the guard to unfix bayonets and escort us back honorably to our tents. We were considerably amused and very well satisfied with the result. Orders came at once to prepare sinks.
The weather is cool and owing to the sea breeze, the mornings chill us. We marched 2 miles this morning through the once beautiful town of Hampton, which was burned by the enemy sometime ago. There is not a house left standing, only blackened walls of stone or brick showing where stately and costly edifices once stood. Beautiful trees here and there are still standing. We passed ½ mile beyond the town and through a large cemetery, enclosed by a pretty brick wall and came to a stand, our whole division with us. Gen. Porters division is encamped just beyond us.
It rained last night but not before we had our tent ready to protect us. We learned something that adds to our comfort everytime we set them up. I was over to the 62nd. Pa. yesterday and saw Irvin and Martin Shannon. With Irvin I spent hour talking of the past and present. I very much fear these 2 boys are to young to stand the hardships incident to camp life yet they look none the worse for what they have endured in the past and seem to enjoy their new life, especially the younger Bro. We have been washing and brushing up today as we have no chance to attend to it in the two weeks past. (Can’t wash in salt water.) Another division has just marched and encamped on our left. The 62nd. Pa. has moved 3 or 4 miles farther on.
Peach trees in bloom. Am drilling with knapsack today. I am sick today, worse than at any time since I enlisted. I think I have caught cold, sore muscles, aching joints and stiff all over yet I have drilled all day. Today Jesse Templeton (the Col’s. half Bro.) died. His body will be sent home. He was very young, perhaps 16. Capt. James Hamilton, who has been made Capt. of our Co. sometime since, is very well liked. Some days ago I was promoted, I may call it, to 4th Sergt. and J.C. Davis in my place.
No change. Am on guard with 37 men and the only Sergt. from our Regt. Weather very warm. I am quite well again.
Our 1st. mail today from Alexandria. Shannon tells me Mattie had another armful of hay. Balloon ascensions are common. We receive our mail daily and regular and it will no doubt continue as we advance ‘Onward to Richmond’. Since we cannot leave our own camps, the men spend their time in all sorts of ways. Some play cards or other games, others read or write or sing and since the rain ceased, many play ball yet all seem more subdued and less boisterous on the Sabbath, their early training will not permit them to profane it. What an influence early training has upon all our future life. Paymasters are here and we expect our pay soon, which as been due since the 1st. of the month.
The fence rails and not the live timber is being used for fuel.
Brigade review and all sorts of tricks on each other are being played just like we used to do in our boyhood days at home. One of McClelland grand review (grand humbugs) to come off tomorrow.
Wild plum and other fruit trees are in bloom and everything betokens spring is here.
Have been over to the 62nd. Regt. all day. Found the boys all well but under marching orders to move out at four A.M. tomorrow. We got at 7 A.M., all with three days rations. The land here is level as a floor, covered with troops and tents, etc. as far as the eye will reach.
Have march 10 or 12 miles. SO large an army moves slow. The road here and all the way was strewn with blankets, overcoats, pants and shirt and in fact everything the soldier thought could possibly spare and the negroes would follow behind and pick them up. The load by day was to heavy to carry but at night the soldier would wish them back.
Here we are within 2 miles of York Town and batteries of cannon are shelling the Fort or rather the enemys batteries. Deserted camps of the rebs were seen on either side of the road as we came up and rifle pits here and there. McClelland has at least 100,000 men besides cavalry and artillery. It is raining now but our oil cloth ponchos protect us well. We have one mile nearer. How the cannon roar and the shell and balls whiz. Their missiles cannot reach us. We hear one man has been killed in a R.I. battery and several wounded. We are lying in the rear of our ground batteries. A shell has just now passed over us and struck the ground within 3 rods of there I am sitting. It buried itself within 5 ft. of Jacob Mauk but did not burst. It caused considerable excitement. We expect an engagement by our brigade tomorrow.
Sunday April 6th.
Had a good and quiet night and slept fine. I and most of our Regt. are out on picket. I have 6 men on my post which is but a short mill from the rebel camp. We are in a wood. The balloon is up and all is quiet but we look for a bloody time at any moment.
We were relieved at 9 A.M. Neither as pickets or skirmishers have we met any of the enemy. Many deserters have come and say hundreds more would come if they could in safety. It would be a great coincidence if the war should come to an end here where the last great battle of the revolution was fought. I have heard the rebs cheer and seen their sentinels walking their beats. They are enclosed on every side by our forces, save the road to Williamsburg. As soon as our big siege guns come up. The ball will surely open.
We were called up at midnight on the evening of the 9th to meet and expected assault on some parts of our works but it was only a feint and we returned to our tents. It was cold and raining and we were forbidden to take off our accourtrements. I could not sleep. The rails we have been using for fire wood, we got from fences in full view and range of the enemy’s guns. They would send an occasional shell at us but their aim has been so poor, they have quit trying, besides, their shells seldon burst. Our brigade moved back about a mile and we are now in a pretty wood, out of range of the enemy guns. Our camp resembles a big camp meeting only our ground is level, wood and water very handy, but oh such water. We dig down 3 or 4ft. and the water comes up looking very clean but is covered with a green slime in a very short time, which we brush aside with our cups when we dip it up. The trees are red and white oak, chestnut, dogwood and another tree somewhat like our Bass or Linwood. This morning Gen. Porter made an ascension in the balloon and the guy ropes broke and away he went, sailing over the camps, yelling at the men to grab the ropes which passed along close to the ground. He finally landed in a Michigan Regt. and much to their surprise his first inquiry was ‘Where am I?’ He was greatly pleased to find he was not in the enemy’s line where the papers etc. in the basket would have given them an idea of our forces and our location.
After writing the above Gen. Jameson came riding into our camp at full speed, crying out to Col. McKnight to get out his ‘Wild Cats’ and follow him on the double quick. I dropped the letters I had just received from you, John Lyman and Brown and in three minutes we were in line of battle and going. The enemy were advancing and driving in our pickets. We soon met a horseman, a Lt. of the 62nd Pa., coming at full speed, his horse covered with a lather of sweat, who told us the rebs were driving them back and waned 2 Regts. Our positing was naturally on the right but we were ordered to the left and on the double quick we went through the woods and across an open field in front of the rebel batteries 2 miles away. Here they began to shell us but most of the shells fell short, while others passed over us. One shell passed close over the heads of my Regt. with a terrible whiz, causing us to all duck our heads or drop to our knees. As the men scrambled up we all laughed at those who were seen with dust on their knees. I too laughed and pointed to their dirt till someone said ‘What’s the matter with you?’ and looking down I saw my own right leg covered with dust from the knee down but I did not know that I had ducked too. Then the laugh was on me. we formed in the edge of the next woods and awaited the result. There was sharp firing close to our right but we were not molested. At dark we returned. Two men were killed and three wounded on our right. Some said more than 20 of the enemy were seen to fall. They burned a house and barn and retreated. Three of their Regts. had come out to drive off our sharp shooters who were picking off their gunners. Had we gone to the right we would have been in the skirmish. We had 2 brass cannon firing on them all the time we were out. The killed were of the 63rd., the wounded of the 57th. Pa. The enemy were not more than ½ mile from us in plain sight. Our men are working on the roads and work every day. Word has just reached us of our victories at Corinth and Island No. 10. The papers say we have had a great battle here in York Town which is all bosh. We go out on picket for 24 hrs. in the morning, where I would rather be than here in camp and we must now hand in our letters.
We returned from picket last evening. Our picket line was 2 miles from camp and nearer the enemy than any other pickets. As we were relieving the Regt. than on post, our Lt. Col. took Co. A and went some distance in advance of our lines (it was quite dark as the moon had not risen). At the same time the rebs had sent out a small detail to burn a few Negro houses, which were a few rods in front of our lines and from which our sharpshooters had annoyed the enemy no little the day before as they were working at their gins. Co. A and this party came in close contact and their Capt. came up to our men and enquired what troop these were. Seeing his mistake he drew his revolver and leveled it on Corporal Clyde but he seeing the motion drew a bead on him and brought him down. Several shots were exchanged but without farther effect, both parties retreating. We were no farther disturbed that night. The rebs however succeeded in firing the houses, the glare of which lit up a large space almost as light as day. Early in the morning the enemy sent up a balloon, shaped like this on one side and wedge shaped on the other, the basket help by cords, a single rope holding it to the ground. It rose quite fast and while yet rising our sharpshooters began to fire at the person in the basket. One or two shots, only, were fired when he called loud and rapid, ‘Haul me down quick, haul me down quick’. We thought he was hit as he spent no time looking around. Occasionally through the day, the quick sharp report of a rifle now and then told us the sharpshooters were about. They, Berdans, are a great annoyance to the enemy, picking the gunners off as fast as they come up to man their guns. Completely silencing them in a great many instances. These S.S. would slip out at night, in front of our lines, and dig a pit so deep a cannon ball could not reach them and stay till relieved by another the next night, keeping a pop, pop on the enemy day after day.
Idle in camp all day, writing. Weather warm as summer. Thousands and thousands of men are constantly employed on the pits and trenches. The last are so wide and deep that covered wagons can drive in them, entirely out of sight of the enemy.
Heard the first whippoorwill. It almost made me homesick, the trees too are leafing out. The brigades are sending for their big tents, which betokens we think, a long steady siege. A rebel sawmill is near by and is now used to saw timber for the fortifications.
Called up this morning at 3 O’clock and now at sunrise are ordered back to quarters, stacking our arms. We await the orders to move at a moments notice. The batteries near us have been throwing occasional shells into the rebel works all night and we remain ready to assist ours in case the enemy come out to attack us. This P.M. we were called out without arms to work, somewhere, on fortifications. After going 1 ½ miles we were halted in a pretty peach orchard near the rebel sawmill. Some troops have ox teams and are hauling logs from which to saw material for the fortifications. Our balloon is near by and also Gen. Heintzelmans headquarters. After waiting a couple of hours we were marched back, as they were unable to furnish us with tools necessary. Last night we took a rebel battery of 9 guns. Several Regts. of Smiths division, charged on them but after spiking 2 large guns they were forced to retire as the rebs had too many other guns to bear on them. It was a poorly managed affair. Twas reported that Gen. Smith was drunk and has been arrested but this may be a camp rumor.
We were aroused at midnight last night and in 5 minutes were in line of battle. How it thrilled us to hear that constant roar of cannon and musketry. We could hardly restrain ourselves, so eager were all to engage also but no order came. Once the bugle sounded ‘Forward double quick’ but immediately followed by the call to halt. After an hour the firing ceased and we returned to our quarters. I had just fallen asleep when we were again ordered out because of firing again in the same direction. However it lasted only a short time. We again layed down and not disturbed till morning. We learn this morning that the fuss last night was caused by 3 reb Regts. coming up to our picket line. They were allowed to drive our pickets in as far as our reserve and a small field battery placed in ambush. When they were within a few rods, we opened up on them, pouring volley after volley of musketry and grape. The boys say they fairly bellowed out with fear, it came unexpectedly. They broke and fled in utter confusion. The last firing was upon a party of them who had retuned to carry off their dead and wounded. As soon as their purpose was ascertained we ceased firing. Their loss is said to be quite heavy. I don’t know whether we lost any or not. Today we have all been out, 800 strong, making road to get more of our large guns in place. Today I saw the first pontoon bridge. Description is unnecessary. Many of our men were swimming today. I stood on al o on a rifle pit or battery, supposed to have been built by Washington in his siege on this place in the taking of Cornwallace. Large pine and oak trees were growing on the top of them. Many other Regts. are also with us at work. They are supplied with picks and shovels but we are supplied with axes which is policy as we are all woodsmen, while the other Regts. are mostly German and Irish. This road which is as level as a rair road lends to the right of the rebel fortifications.
On Sat. night the 19th. we were again started out on picket, occupying the same posts as the week before. As we marched out several shells were fired at us from the rebel batteries, one of which burst in the air over us, scattering pieces all around. One piece came whizzing directly over the heads of our Co., so close that we all dropped, unconciously, to the ground. When we found none were hurt quite a cheer and laugh arose at the expense of those who had to brush the dust from their clothes. I too was laughing at them when they pointed to my knee and looking down I too had touched ground with my right knee and they all joined in a heartier laugh at my expense. Yet we all consider it wise to dodge our drop under such circumstances. Soon after dark it began to rain and rained all night. We could not and dare not sleep for the rebs kept up a constant target shooting at our lines but we lay quiet not firing a gun, the cowards keeping at a safe distance and seeming to shot at their own shadows and imaginations. Sunday P.M. we were relieved and returned to camp. There was, during the night, heavey firing both on our right and left but we think, of no effect. We get the majority of our news of our doing here from Baltimore and Philadelphia papers. Yesterday it rained all day but cleared in the night. This morning we were called up early and kept under arms till sunrise. Some showers today but nothing worth telling occurred. The papers we get, come next day after printing. We have now, papers of the 21st. The Clipper Herald, Baltimore Inquirer and N.Y. Tribune are the principle ones circulated.
April 23rd. 1862.
Late yesterday P.M., we heard heave cannonading that made the earth tremble. It lasted only a few moments. Large bodies of men are constantly at work, night and day, on the fortifications. We sent out 200 men yesterday and 400 today.
Another Ringgold boy has fought his last battle. Last night Samuel Geist came in from fatigue duty apparently well and hearty. Was taken sick at midnight and went to the hospital. This P.M. at 2 O’clock he was a corpse, yet he seemed to take good care of his health. His sudden death warns us that we too are but mortals and must die and give an account of the deed done in the body. The spotted fever, a fatal disease, is said to have caused his death. It is not supposed to be contageous but is caused by the gasses from the swamps and the water we are compelled to drink. Co’s. A and H and the 4th main have gone with picks and shovels to work on the fortifications tonight. They also have their arms with them. We all have orders to go in the morning at 4.30. The enemy sends an occasional shell toward our camp today, no damage. Today we received a new rig of clothes consisting of Cape blouses, pants, drawers, shirts, socks and shoes. We were ordered to our tends and built a fire in front of them to prevent disease and al feeling chilly are to report to the Dr. at once.
Twenty-four hours again on picket. We passed through greater peril this time than at any other picketing. Both day and night was cloudy and dark and chilly. Behind our line of pickets, our troops are engaged night and day, digging a trench over a mile long, 4 to 5 ft. deep and 12ft. wide, with magazines at short distances for the safe deposit of powder. The enemy were unusually bold and daring. The trench is hid from the rebel view by 2 or 3 rods of brush cut and underbrush and as they could see our working parties enter the woods, yet they could not see where they were engaged. Last night they sent out several companies to spy out our working position, but finding our pickets wide awake and ready they fired a few shots at us as we were rallying, and then retreated. We were not allowed to fire until we rallied and then as they did not follow, we did not fire again or make other noise, but had they come on some of them would have bit the dust. Away on our left there was a brisk little skirmish this morning at day break: during the night the enemy had thrown up a small rifle pit for their sharpshooters that they might pick off our pickets: Our gen. got wind of it and after finding out their position ordered a small force to each side of them, (as they were quite a distance in advance of their batteries.) He then brought 2 small brass field pieces to bear on them in front and then awaited the break of day, when the ball opened and we kept up briskly for near an hour, when the enemy gave up and surrendered. We took 35 prisoners, all sharpshooters. We lost 4, killed, and 13 wounded. The rebs loss unknown in killed or wounded. Our troops were parts of two N.Y. Regts. Their loss must have been heavy as we were on 3 sides of them. We filled up their ditch and then returned. I saw several of the wounded. I have been sleeping some today. A cold rain falling.
Sunday April 27th.
It has been so long since I have spent a Sabbath in camp I can hardly realize it as the Sabbath day. The morn is cool and cloudy and the camp is quiet. I could make more interesting reading perhaps if I should narrate the rumors of all kinds that are in circulation. Some of course prove true but most of them are mere gossip. I wish, however, to treat only of that I see and know. Many of our shells are filled with a liquid that ignites as soon as it bursts, throwing out flames on every side and filling the air with a horrid stench, so that the rebel deserters and prisoners seem very anxious to know what infernal stuff the Yankees put in their shells to make them spew out fire and stink so. They seem frightened out of their wits at the nature of our liquid shells as the fire and smell both are too intolerable to be borne.
Today we complete a trench, that was partly dug last night, across a corn field directly in front of one of the enemys batteries. They threw 26 shots and shells at us, all of which fell or burst very close to us. One shell burst through the embankment that was made by throwing the dirt from the ditch, completely covering with dirt a man in Co. F and although all could tell of hairbreadth excapes yet through Gods mercies, none were hurt. The trench is 4ft. deep, 12ft. wide at the top and 8ft. at the bottom. When we could hear or see a shell coming we would all tumble and pell mell into the trench, close up to the inner side and so the shell would pass over. Our cannon silenced their batters in the P.M. At the first shot from one of our large field pieces made them run. The Capt. of our guns was looking at them through a field glass and as he saw them running I heard him say, ‘Give them another, quick, they are running’ and they did too and, that, right among them followed by 3 or 4 others in quick succession, which made them clear the track. The men joked, worked and talked as merry as if nothing was going on. The trench is now almost extended around the enemys works. Yesterday P.M. we had preaching by our Chaplin. His text was ‘Lord, thou wilt ordain peace for us for Thou hast wrought all our works in us’. After giving out the text he said he would give $5 to the one finding it first, saying it was in the bible and that the money must be placed to a good use etc. I noted it down on a blank leaf of my bible and then listened to his sermon. Five minutes after the service I had found it and in 10 minutes I was in his tent, where were gathered many of the officers and gave him the book, chapter and verse and was the first to find it and report. (Isiah 26) But I think it will be the last of it.
April 29th. 1862.
All quiet in camp today but we can heard the boom of cannon every moment or two. We were called up at 4 O’clock this morning and waited under arms till sunrise and then dismissed but a detail from each Co. was made to clear off a new camp ground.
Merry May as come and with it a beautiful warm day. Night before last we were aroused at 2 O’clock and were in line of battle in a few minutes and marched out, going by a circuitous route, to one of the trenches in the rear of the picket line, we had formerly occupied, expecting an advance by the enemy and remained all day and night in the trench. It rained nearly all the time, making it very disagreeable and muddy. During the day and night the rebels tried to shell us out, throwing balls, shells or canister over and all around us but Gods hand again shielded us in the night. The sight was grand, sublimely so, flash following flash, next the report, then the skip zip of the ball, shell or canister on the ground or the bursting of the shell with now and then a whiz for above our heads as the different batteries of the 2 parties exchanged shots. (We were between the two.) Twice the enemy made a feint as if to storm but concluded to postpone it till some more suitable time. At daybreak we were relieved and returned to camp to which we have moved day before yesterday. It is about 200 yds. back of our old camp. It is not quite as low ground.
We were mustered out today for another 2 months pay. Pretty quiet today save a little cannonading.
Called out at 3 O’clock A.M. yesterday morning and now this morning I can hardly wait to tell it in its proper place. York Town is ours! Our call out was not for fight but to do picket duty. Our Regt. lay in the trenches all day and night, from yesterday noon till midnight the rebs kept up a continual storm of balls, canister and shells upon us. Many pieces flew so close to my head and so thick I quite ceased dodging, but Gods care again shielded me and all our troops, although 200 discharges or more were sent, not a man was touched. The rebs left on the sly, keeping up a show of resistance to the last. As we were directly in front of their lines we were satisfied, as well as thousands of others (Our Gen. also) that they were leaving at midnight. Our troops now occupy the town and Old Glory floats over their entrenched works and our forces are in hot pursuit. We, too, expect to move today or tonight. The whole army is rejoicing over our successes and the bands, for the first time since we came here, have broken loose and our beloved National airs are filling the woods this beautiful morn with soul cheering music. Every face beams with joy. Last night as I sat watching the flash of cannon and saw the shells coursing their way with lightning speed through the air, a feeling came over me. I shall never forget, so awfully solemn, as the sound of the cannon would burst upon my ear. First heavy and sudden, then echo and reecho louder and still louder, then die almost away, then revive seeming to try to outdo the first, but after rising till you would think it would outdo the first echo, then suddenly die away altogether. Gabriels trumpet could not be more solemn or awful. One O’clock P.M. Just received orders to have 2 days rations in haversacks and 2 more besides, to be cooked and hauled after us. Orders to move have just come. We’ll be off in 15 minutes and I must close, don’t know where but expect after the retreating rebs. The men have begun to strike tents. All right we are willing and ready. Have washed my feet and find myself in good order for march or sail.
May 7th. 1862.
Written at Williamsburg Va. I may now in telling of the past few days repeat myself. According to orders we left camp Winfield Scott, our last camp near York Town, on Sunday, May 4th, at 2 PM. I can’t here describe York Town through which we passed some 4 miles and encamped for the night. The road was strewn with secesh trophies. In the fort was quite an amount of military stores with small arms and heavy ordnances. Torpedoes had been concealed in the ground by the enemy, some of which burst and we were told that 2 or 3 had been killed or injured by them. Then our officers compelled prisoners to show where they were hid and take them up. Our course we up the York river, gradually leaving it on our right as we advanced. Our camp was in an open field. I slept well. About 2 O’clock in the morning it began to rain. A little after sunrise our Co. and 3 others were detailed to guard the pioneers of our brigade. We marched some 3 miles and halted. Sharp firing was heard but a few miles in advance. Gen. Keyes and Porters divisions were ahead of us and soon our division passed us at a brisk rate, as the firing and fighting seemed to increase. We followed as far as a church with the pioneers, which is three or four miles back of this place. Here were a great many and a few killed on both sides. We seemed now within a mile of the fight and orders soon came to unsling knapsacks and join our Regt. It had rained ever since morning but as we moved on the double quick it just poured, mud too was nearly knee deep, thinned by the rain. The wounded coming to the rear became thicker and thicker as we advanced. After going to the front and left for three or four we got on the battle field cheering and yelling like fiends. We joined the Regt. and formed on the left. The bullets were still whistling in the trees over our heads but as it was almost dark the firing gradually dwindled away. The loss on both sides was quite heavy but none can tell how great till all are found and counted. It continued to rain all night till 4 O’clock in the morning and we were wet all over. In the latter part of the night the Chaplin, myself and 4 or 5 others built a fire against an old stub of such stuff as we could pick up in the dark. We were in line in the dark pine woods. We did not dare sleep but waited long and anxiously for the day. All night the wounded were being carried to the rear. In the meantime the rebs retreated to their works near the city. At break of day our Co. was detailed as skirmishers, or a forlorn hope, to examine the 1st. fort now known as Ft. McGruder. We advanced out of the woods to an open field in front of the fort. On our left we could see thousands of rebel troops moving off. Over the breast works in the fort we could see a few heads but we did not know how many were concealed behind. We deployed as skirmishers 5 paces apart and then came orders to move forward and scale the works. The 4th. Regt. Maine vols. moved forward behind us in line of battle to support us but they were ¼ mile at least back of us. After marching ashort distance at quick time the Gen. commanding sounded ‘charge bayonet, double quick march’. Then such a yell as we let out, our trembling knees and colorless lips vanished and on we went across the ditch and into the fort. The few rebels who were mounted left as soon as the sound of our yells came to their ears and so it happened that Co. i took first of a Fort at Williamsburg. You will no doubt see an account to that effect in the papers. Five minutes after the last command was given the ‘Glorious Stars and Stripes’ were flung to the breeze over its walls. We passed over a great many of the dead of both parties on the way to the Fort. We were immediately followed by thousands and thousands of our troops who passed on in pursuit on the retreating enemy. We remained in the Fort till near noon examining rebel knapsacks and quarters. Many of our dead had their pockets cut off during the night by the rebs. We found a great many curious articles. Letters, odd clothing, several muskets, 3 pistols, 2 large navy cannon, a lot of sugar beans and pork were among our captures. Several dead bodies lay in and close up to the walls of the Fort. One of our men (D. Vasbinder) found a watch and I captured two kinds of cabbage seeds which I enclose, (the round head and yellow savoy), a singing book and 2 pair of clean socks and right there I threw away the pair you knit and gave me as I had no way to carry them.
Since writing the above I lost this and wrote another but you see I have found it again. We remained in the fort until noon and then moved forward into the town which our regt. was detailed to guard. Lt. Col. Corbet acting as Provost Marshall. I was detailed after helping to pos the guards, to assist him. I had to see to the feeding of near 100 prisoners, take their names, Regts. and Co. Also of the wounded ones in the hospitals in which were 52. I had much interesting talk with them, which would take to much time to relate here. Most of them expressed themselves as tired of the war and many had deserted yet I found a few now and then who were very bitter against us. I talked too with many of the wives of those whose husbands were in the southern army. Their fears and grief seemed great. Many a sad scene presented itself. The tears would oft flow freely down the cheeks of both well and wounded prisoners as we talked of wars honors and our homes. We, with thousands of our troops, left town and camps yesterday forenoon. We marched till 10 O’clock last night, up at sunrise and have march all day, sometimes fast and sometimes slow, having to halt at times for one cause or another every little ways and again at times we could go 2 or 3 miles so that now we are but 16 or 17 miles from Williamsburg. Both days have been very warm and the roads very dusty. Such large bodies must necessarily move slow. Yesterday Gen McClelland and staff passed us at a fast gallop in the afternoon. As the men recognized him cheer upon cheer would the welkin ring. He would raise his hand and salute the men as he passed on. The country is quite level, with beautiful farms or plantations at intervals and on which were many large and pretty residences but the rbs, in their retreat, destroyed all they had time to lay hands on save firing the buildings. Large fields of wheat and other grains were left without fences to protect them. The wheat in the fields is knee high, affording fine pasture for our horses and cattle which we drive with us. All along the road can be seen, that were stuck in mud, wagons, cannon carriages, caisons with ammunition etc. in the water or destroyed by fire. Our troops captured many horses and mules which were astray in the fields and woods, all branded CS. The men would often make a bridle of rope, strap or bark and bind their knapsacks on them. Our loads are hard to bear up under. The gnats are getting very troublesome. I shall not give many more particulars of our progress as the papers will give it more fully and more perfect. We can hear, this evening, the distant report of cannon. When we halt we form in line of battle, stack our arms and lie down in the open. Generally 2 lie down together, placing one oil cloth under and 2 woolen and one oilcloth blanket over us, the dews are very heavy. All sorts of rumors fill the damps, yet we do not know our destination but expect it at or near Richmond, where it is said the rebs are making a stand. Many negroes continue to join us as we pass along.
May 11th. 1862.
This is Sunday and we have remained in camp all day. We write home to friends and sleep, expecting to move in the morning. We carry 2 days rations constantly. We must be quite in the rear now as thousands of infantry, many batteries of artillery and large bodies of cavalry passed us today. Also a large force of mounted lancers, a small red flag hanging at the end of each spear or lance. They make a splendid appearance but are not considered a very effective weapon.
No more today. Troops are still passing our division also a long train of pontoon bridge boats passed today with which to bridge the Chickahominy creek and other water courses as the rebs have burned all the bridges behind them on their retreat.
We have 3 days provisions in our haversacks and may move on at any moment but is folly to ask where. We are certainly now a reserve for some point that may prove weak.
Weather warm and pleasant, roads very dusty but clouds are gathering. We left camp at 10 O’clock A.M. yesterday. We marched 2 or 3 miles and encamped for the night. A pay master is with us. Last night we signed the pay rolls for 2 months pay. He is now paying off the 57th. Pa. Regt. Will have ours as soon as we stop long enough. We have come 6 or 7 miles this A.M. and are now encamped in an old field ½ mile off the main road, our whole division with us. The Regts. of the division lead alternatly. Our led the advance today. Our division is quite in the rear yet. The country is more hilly but none yet of any great height, not more than 50ft.
On the 14th. we received our pay. On the next day we broke camp and moved to this place, known as Cumberland Landing, at the mouth of the Lamunky river. On our way here we passed through Kent Court House, a small village of little importance. It rained all day and we struck our tents, last night, literally in the mud and water on a flat bottom. The soldiers can get almost anything they may want but at almost fabulous prices, for instance a common plate pie 25¢, a 1¢ ginger cake 5¢, rancid butter 50¢ lb. a 5¢ load of bread 25¢ and mouldy in almost all cases, yet everything is bought as if it was the last chance, yet we all had and have enough to eat but it is something new and the men have seen no such things for months. Col. Blacks Regt., 62 Pa. was here when we arrived and I made it another visit. All my acquaintances were well. Their whole brigade left quite early this morning, we know not where. Steam boats and all kinds of sailing craft are here with Sutlers supplies and army stores yet the creek does appear wider than Redbank creek but seems of great depth. This morning is fair and pleasant.
I sent $30 by express to you, directed to P.H. Shannon and enclose rect. Weather same as yesterday. Most of us have been washing our clothes and persons this morning. Last night as I stood and looked over the large camp, it resembled a city to me, lit up as it was with thousands of candles and with its low but mighty hum of voices. Some of the Regts. are drilling now and we have been. Our Chaplin, Rev. Steadman, has just presented me with the $5 promised at York Town to the one who 1st. found the words of his text. May Gods blessing rest upon the use for which it was intended. The evening is warm and corn is ready for hoeing.
Sunday again. God has seen fit to prolong my life with many, very many, of its blessings and I feel thankful this beautiful morning for His manifold kindnesses to me. This is sister Minnies birthday and my thoughts are much of home yet my heart will not complain, neither will I despair but trust Him for His grace. A large force of cavalry and artillery are moving past us toward Richmond this morning. We are now alone again with our division and of course again in the rear but rumors of our moving also in the morning, yet we may remain here days and even weeks. Many sick and wounded are brought here and placed aboard the hospital ships and boats lying at the landing. There are only 3 houses here. All nature has on its coat of green. Birds are singing on all sides and the men seem to be in unusual good spirits and everything seems to be on the gay and happy style. We have 3 days rations in our haversacks and of course may leave at any moment. We are ready now, if ever, and I predict Richmond in the Union within a week.
May 20th. 1862.
On Sabbath eve of the 18th., Rev. Steadman gave us a serman of unusual interest, full of good advice. He held the attention of his hearers much better than I ever noticed before in the army. On Monday morning we received orders to strike tents and at 7 A.M. we were on the march. The last few days was fair and pleasant but now it became cloudy and began to rain and continued till we again pitched our tents some 3 miles above the old camp at 3 P.M. in a beautiful grove of pines. This morning we started at 4 O’clock and advanced 3 miles farther and landed here at 8 A.M. We are encamped in an old field over grown with sassafras a little higher than our heads. Two large white houses are just back of us while in front on either side are pretty forests of small but tall pines. The day is very warm. Co’s. G and F are out doing picket duty which shows we are drawing close to the enemys line. The 75th. Pa. of our brigade were left at the landing. The country is quite rolling and many gullies are common. In these are many cool springs and running water which is a luxury we have been deprived of. We occasionally hear the distant boom of cannon at our front. We are within 4 or 5 miles of the enemy’s picket lines, and must soon meet them face to face in deadly strife. Many of our Regt. are on the sick list but this weather will no doubt favor them and serve to restore them to health again. Sore mouth is common. I have now sore lips and tongue but the help of a little pulverized alum they are getting well fast.
May 21st. 1862.
Rained a little this morning but soon cleared up. We have drilled 5 hours today agreeable to and order by the Gen. to drill that long when remaining one day in camp. It brings the sweat freely yet is no doubt beneficial to the health of the troops. This evening as well as last, the dark pine forests are lit up by fire flies and is a beautiful sight. Whiskey rations are ordered by the Gen. Our Regt. get none of it nor do we want it. Other Regts. have it daily.
My time has been so occupied the past 3 days that it was impossible to keep up my journal. We have been soldering in good earnest. After drilling till 10 O’clock we were called in suddenly with orders to prepare at once to go on picket. In 5 minutes we were all ready and at the hour named we were on the dusty road marching toward the Long bridge which spanned the Chickahominy. We got there, a distance of 5 or 6 miles, at 1 P.M. On the way we passed several deserted rebel camps, the rude shelters built of pine brush, still standing. The bridge had been burnt and some of the trestle work thrown down. Our Regt. was detailed by the Gen. to built a footway across, which was soon accomplished and 10 men of Co. K crossed over and went 2 ½ miles beyond on a scout and Lt. Gilbert of my Co. with six men took another direction in the meantime. I was detailed to take 7 men and cross to the enemy’s side and guard the approach to the bridge. Two of the enemy’s scouts were seen in the distance as we approached but immediately disappeared in the woods and were not seen again. Our scouts on their return reported all houses visited, deserted, save in 2 instances by all except negroes. In a few instances even they were gone. I must record this nights watch as a strange one to me. Not that anything of a dangerous or exciting happening occurred and will seem trivial to those who may read of it. Four of my men stood at the approach to the bridge while 3 others took stations quite a distance in advance. We had been advised that a squad of the enemy’s cavalry might dash upon us during the night and we were to be unusually watchful. The men who remained at the bridge were lying on a platform yet unburned, in readiness to go to the help of the outlying pickets if called. All around us was the dark cypress swamp, save directly in front where was a large field of clover nearly knee high. All over this field and in the tops of the cypress trees were swarms and swarms of fireflies lighting the darkness beyond description. The trees around us were so large that their branches were densly interlocked over our heads across the road and bridge. Mosquitoes filled the air and their humming was as fierce as their bite was painful. There was no moon and the darkness was intense. We seemed to be in a vast cave. Almost over our heads 2 large horned owls would let out gutteral sounds like a maniacal laugh and hoot while the big bull frogs kerr shugged and frogs or fish would plunge into water. An almost superstitious fear seemed to take possession of myself in spite of all I could do and caused me to feel depressed for hours after. A dog too howled all night at the deserted cabin, perhaps 80 rods away. At daylight we built a fire which drove the mosquitoes and gnats away and some of us got a little sleep. Were relieved at 10 A.M. and returned to the Regt. After dinner orders came to march immediately. At 10 O’clock at night we again encamped, marched at 7 the next morning 3 miles farther and then pitched our tents and here our Regt. received its first whiskey ration which is about a gill to each man. As it was raining I took about ½ of mine but felt worse immediately after and felt so chilly that I became alarmed and went to the Dr. who gave me a powder which, with the kind nursing of Henry Gilbreath and others of my Co. who did all they could to warm me up soon got me into a sweat which broke both chills and fever which no doubt would have followed. I have drank all the whiskey I intended drinking save perhaps in some extreme case while in the army. God in his mercy has given me the best of health so far and I shall continue to trust him.
Sunday has come and we find ourselves 5 miles nearer Richmond, having come here since morning, passing over the Chickamomony at bottom bridge, to 2 miles on the Richmond side. We have passed rifle pits and over the ground where yesterday we had a hard but successful skirmish. We are moving parallel with and near the York river and Richmond RR. on which cars are running 3 miles beyond us.
May 28th. 1862.
We are still 10 miles from Richmond and where we encamped last Sunday. Nothing of interest has happened since but today an order causes us to send back 3 miles our knapsacks, keeping only our woolens and oil cloth blankets and what we wear on our persons thus ridding ourselves of all that is not really necessary. Of course we feel the loss of many articles of comfort but we expect a fight almost hourly. The order is certainly in place. Yesterday I was attacked with chills, a severe headache and with sickness of the stomach. Medicine was administered and I was sent to the hospital which I will try and describe though I know it will make the heart sick of those who have loved ones in the army hospitals and read these lines. It is only one of the many that line the road between this place and Williamsburg. The building here is about the size of your kitchen, say 14 x 16ft., with stairway in one corner and a fireplace in the end and only 2 small windows. The room unswept for want of a broom, no furniture of any kind. On the bare floor lay about 14 or 15 poor wretches, some groaning loud with pain, others talking to themselves, apparently deranged, while others with elbows on knees, resting their heads in their hands, seem lost in their own thoughts, no doubt of home and friends far away. I felt better when I saw their condition, so much worse than mine. There was nothing to tempt appitite or cheer the spirits, father I’ll say not. I at once returned to my Co. The night after our knapsacks were taken back it rained very hard and the wind blew some of it in the open end of our little dog tents, and ran down on our oilcloth blankets under us so that when we wakened we found an inch of more of water about our legs, making it rather cool I that direction. But such a state of affairs has not and cannot last long.
We have moved again and raised our tents in a clover field on a beautiful rise of ground in full view of our R road, having moving to our right about 3 miles. Rifle pits are quite plenty around us and our men have felled trees across and on either side of the road over which we came. I was at the hospital when order to march was received and although I had not eaten a ration for 2 days I could not think of staying back so was soon following the Regt. I must confess that I really feel quite well as I am writing sitting on a blanket in the shade of a large apple tree and on the rich and rank clover. The cars pass and repass in full view. The day is clear with a cool breeze blowing constantly. Your letter of the 19th. I read yesterday evening, which may account somewhat for my recovery.
The day cool and pleasant. I had a touch of chills and fever. This is quite common among the men and oft results in regular fever and ague. As yet I have but 2 or 3 cases. A large number of reb prisoners passed down on the cars last night.
Cool and clear but this evening there came up a rain storm with terrible lightning and thunder, the heaviest rain I have seen for years. During the first part of the storm 3 members of Co. G, Jacob Campbell, Geo. Saucerman and Corp. Crooks, who were in their tent near the RR tracks (which their Co. is guarding) were severly shocked by a bolt of lightning which slivered a telegraph pole close to their tent. The Dr. says all will recover, however Saucerman is yet quite ill. I shall go and see them soon. Their friends need have no fears as to their complete recovery. Several heavy showers passed over us during the night. It is no little trouble we have to keep the water out of our little tents at such times. As for us we have succeeded far beyond our expectations and spent a very comfortable night.
June has come. May it bring with it joy to our nations as a harbinger of peace. This morning all our Co. save the sick and guards are out on a scout for some other duty. I felt abundantly able to go too but as the Co. has become rather small it was not necessary for all the Serts. To go and the other Sergts. insisted on my staying because I had been ill so lately. I concluded to do so and take advantage of the opportunity thus offered to wash myself and clothes as I got somewhat behind while sick. Our Co. now only numbers about 50 men and officers effective for duty. We have constant reports of the captures of prisoners. We are all eager to be led against this monster rebellion now coiled up in front of Richmond: I received a letter this morning from our friend Mrs. Jane Wiley. It was full of good cheer: it was the more welcome because unexpected. It is a puzzle to us all to know why we are kept back in this manner, yet we feel that our Generals understand their business: truely the common soldier is a mere machine. A cog in the great wheel. We move here and there, do this and do that without knowing why. It is indeed for an American born soldier to endure it, yet we know it is necessary and no doubt right. Trees are being felled all along the R. road to hinder a sudden dash to destroy the track or some part of it. The Chickahomony is very high this morning. Our Regt. is practicing bayonet exercise every day so that we may use it if ever we come in contact with the enemy. Many luxuries are brought up on the cars from the landing and sold to the soldiers at extravagant prices. A 10 or 15¢ bottle of mustard costs 30¢.
June 2nd. 1862.
I find I dated my last journal ahead of time 1 day and should read as the 31st. On the P.M. about 3 O’clock of the 31st. we were ordered forward in all haste, some 2 or 3 miles where our forces have been engaged with the enemy all the afternoon and were now being slowly driven back. As our Co. and Co. C had that morning been detailed to work on the bridge and were some 3 miles back. I had to wait till they came up. I was not very stout yet and had not gone out with them but when our Co. came in I had forgotten I had been sick. We were soon in hot chase after the Regt. which was about an hour ahead of us but we failed to join them that night. After advancing along the RR about 2 miles we turned off and followed a road parallel with but about 80 rods on the south. We followed this, the Richmond road, a mile or more and came to the fight. We found the 87th. N.Y. had been engaged and had broken in confusion to the rear and were now with shouts and commands trying to rally around a green flag but in great confusion. We advanced at once on the enemy who were in a thick wood and through which the road continued. At the edge of the wood we were halted and lay down till most all our men who had been fighting and got scattered passed singly and in little squads back of us. While lying here Dr. Highhold rode up and urged us to fight like brave men and be a pride to our Co. and state etc. but Gen. Hintzelman ordered him back saying it was no place for a surgeon. While we hear bullets flying over and around us yet none hit us. The Gen. soon ordered us to form on the left of the 57th. Pa., as our Capts. Were unable to find our Regt., and advance into the woods and hold the road if possible. We moved forward 20 or 30 rods and halted. Our 2 Co’s. were now on the edge of a low marsh. Four lines of Rebel infantry would now be seen advancing a little to our right and were soon within a 100 yards of us and we were ordered to fire, which we did with a will. The whole line appeared a sheet of flame. We fired right oblique into the right flank of the enemy nor had we the game long to ourselves, the enemy being 3 to our 1. Their balls came like hail while they steadily advanced. In a few moments it became to hot for the 57th. whose ranks were thinning fast but God favored our little handful for the ground where we were, being low and we lying down, their balls passed over us. We held our ground till the 57th. had got several rods to our rear, the enemy following them up close. All their lines were now almost directly in range and we poured a most withering fire into their flank. Lt. Col. Corbet who had just joined us, ordered us to retire for fear we would be surrounded. The enemy were now giving us their particular attention, their balls tearing up the earth and cutting bushes around us. Four of Co. C were wounded but only one of our Co., Geo. Bower, was slightly wounded. I can hardly but view that it is miraculous. A Lt. Capt. of the 57th. fell wounded within 4 ft. of me as we were retreating. We moved pretty briskly for a short distance and then more deliberately, loading a firing all the while. The 57th., after getting out of the woods, rallied on the right in our first position, where part of the 63rd. Pa. and 87th. N.Y. were pouring volley after volley into the Rebel ranks. We continued to move to the left in the woods in order to avoid the full range of the enemy’s guns, which would no doubt, had we passed in their front, saved the narration here written. We were engaged no farther as they fell back. We lay on our arms that night and were joined b Co’s. and parts of Co’s. of our Regt. during the night. The next morning (Sunday), the Irish brigade and others of our forces advanced and drove the enemy back 2 or 3 miles so that we have not been disturbed worthy of notice. Co. G was guarding the RR and were not in the fight but in the other 8 Co’s. we have lost, in killed and wounded, over 140 men and officers. As to the action of the other Co’s, the papers will soon tell all but I must here speak of the cool bravery and daring of the 2 Co’s C and i. Never were men more brave. They would load and fire apparently as unconcerned as though firing at a target only they worked much more brisk. Today our men have been getting off the wounded and burying the dead. They found, on examination, that the ground over which we fired more thickly, covered with dead, most of whom were hit in the side. I could hardly keep back the tears to see such bravery as our men exhibited under fire. I unloaded my gun 10 times at them and I think with some effect as I stood upon a knoll behind a small tree which gave me a pretty good sight, though I could not see distinctly as the under brush was very thick. I fired more by the flash of guns than by any other means. Our Co. was nearly a rod below me so I had a chance to see them all. Capt. Hamilton and Lt. Fuller are men able to lead anywhere.
We are yet near the battle ground. I am doing patrol duty. Night before last a call for a Sargt. from Co. I was made and it was Sergt. McGriffins turn to go on guard. It was a bad rainy night and as he was sick I took his place and was ordered to report at Gen. Wards headquarters with a squad of 6 men. After spending the night I was ordered to go back 1 ½ miles up the RR., after reporting to the Provost Marshall for orders, which were to arrest all stragglers from our division, that without a pass were trying to get to the rear. There are 4 other details with the same orders on other parts of the line. We made headquarters by the side of the RR where we could have a dry spot and from there, posted a man on the other wagon road with orders to move on any man or squad of men seen going to the rear. This is very necessary when there was a battle about to come off, as hundreds then try to get to the rear on all sorts of excuses to avoid danger or through fear or cowardice. These men we arrest and send them back to headquarters under guard and there they are sent to their various Regts. by other guards or punished as is deemed necessary. The enemy often advance onto our picket lines which keep the whole army on the alert. At night, last night, I reported to my Regt. and was again sent out on picket. The rain fell incessantly all night. The next morning at 6 O’clock I was ordered to report with 6 men at Provost headquarters where my men were detached from the Regt. for provost duty till farther orders and today I am on post near headquarters. Yesterday while on guard a swarm of been came flying over our heads and we at once began drumming on an old tin bucket and throwing dirt and hallooing which caused them to alight on a small tree near by, where they are still hanging. There are perhaps ½ a bushel of them but no one to care for them. I have just bought a $10 confederate bill for 15¢.
We put our tents here at our post last night and were comfortable till morning, although it rained all the time. There is very heavy cannonading heard on our right this morning and has been for several days at certain intervals. Several fine looking Regts. have passed by us today for the front. The woods contain many dead bodies yet, we find, as we pass through them, but today there will be few, in any, left above ground. I would speak of the sensations produced on seeing the dead bodies in all their various stages of decomposition but the though is too sickening. I will wait till time has partially effaced it from memory. I am getting my washing done today as I dare not leave my post to do it myself. I have 6 first rate fellows with me. Our knapsacks are still lying back across the Chickahomony.
It has been raining most of the time. I have been doing provost duty but this morning it looks as if fair weather had come once more. More troops passing us daily, on to the front. We are obliged to send hundreds back to try to get to the rear on various pretexts but have neglected to secure a pass. All are expecting one more great battle before we advance into Richmond. Received a letter from you, the 2nd one written at Shannondale, also one each for M.H. and P.H. Shannon. P.H. tells me he received the money I sent and forwarded it to you. Many men who had been left behind in the various hospitals are coming in so that our Regt. has nearly as many men as before the fight. Long trains of cars pass and trpass, supplying the army with its necessities and taking back the sick and wounded and Rebel prisoners. Many of the new Regts. coming to us, come with clean clothes and blackened boots. This looks well but will fade in a week or so if they lie out as we do. Most of them come from a camp near ‘New Port News’ Washington city etc., as they are no longer needed there. The balloon is up nearly every day.
June 8th. 1862.
The bees left us about 9 A.M. yesterday. I wrote last evening to Aunt Martha Shannon of Shannondale. This morning there was brisk firing of musketry on the picket line but did not last long. As I write there is heavy cannonading away on our right. Sunday seems to be the day usually picked on by them to do their fighting. There was a heavy rain last night but the day is clear.
Raining again, hard for the last 3 hours. Yesterday K.L. Blood came to camp to visit the Regt. In fair weather I am kept very busy but when it rains the men keep close to shelter. Our little tents protect us quite well.
Cleared up last night and a cool breeze blowing this morning, but clouded are thickening and getting blacker. Our division received orders to move at 8 O’clock. We have our tent down all ready to go, but the order may be countermanded. My guards consist of the following men, Geo. Shultz (of corsica) Co.i, Fred Swentzel Co. I, Jno. Rocky Co. C (Clarion Co.), Archibald George (near Shannondale) Co. C, Hiram Milliron (of Shadiger) Co. G and Sam’l. Henderson (Westmoreland Co.) Co. G. We draw our rations direct from the Regt. commissary and not from different Co’s., which makes it more convenient. One large Regt., the 20th. Indiana, have come to our brigade. Their Col., it is rumored, will take command of the brigade in place of Gen. Jemison who is about to resign on account of his health. Since the battle of Fair Oaks there have been several promotions in our Regt. 1st. Sergt. Ceo. Van-Vliet to Sergt. Major, 2nd. Serge. Jno. McGiffin to Sergt. Company I, and too many more to name, for many must be made as commissioned and non commissioned officers have been killed or badly wounded. Our knapsacks have been returned long enough to get a change of clothes and will go back. I think I and my detail will be permitted to retain ours, which will add much to our comfort. We get papers now 3 days after they are published. We get the N.Y. Herald and Philadelphia Inquirer for 10¢ and Baltimore Clipper for 5¢. We pay 30¢ and often 50¢ for cheese and I have seen them pay $3.75 for a quart of preserved peaches and the soldiers buy as freely as if it was home prices and often use up their 2 months wages in a few days in this manner and yet all have enough substantial food. Our rations are as large as ever. Our Regt. and indeed our whole division have moved as ordered about 1 mile to the left, very near where we fought and pitched their tents. We may move our detail tomorrow and may not move at all. We are near our division and that is all that is necessary.
On the evening of the 11th we, too, moved a mile to the left. In coming here we passed over our old battle ground. I stood on the ground where the rebel hosts in line of battle stood and sent volley after volley into our little band of braves. The trees are barked on all sides. Flies are thick over the ground reveling in the blood and pieces of flesh left upon the ground uncovered: all around are still strewed the parphanalia pertaining to an army. Our brigade is encamped in an open field just back of the battle field as we are three-fourths of a mile farther back. Paying masters are busy about us paying off the men and we expect our turn soon: Weather clear and warm. Several redoubts of great strength have been thrown up just in case of a repulse if attacked. Troops are still coming in at all hours.
This day is excessively hot yet the soldiery seems to stand it well, doing all kinds of fatigue duty, even at midday. Word came to me this morning that the 11th. Regt. of the P.R.C. were coming up on the cars. How my heart beats to see my brother once more. ‘Brother’, how the thought cheered me, but I was doomed to disappointment. I went to the depot, the cars came but no 11th. Pa. Regt. They are on the way and I hope before long to see him. The whole reserve corp. are said to be near and will be here in a short time. Today I have had to tie a man to a post. He got drunk and was very noisy and troublesome about the hospital and the guards took him up to headquarters where, for punishment, he was ordered to bury a horse and he declared he would die before he would do it. I have many such cases to deal with. They generally find it convenient to ‘cave in’. Three Co’s. of our Regt. are at Savage Station today, doing guard duty.
Last evening word came in by one of our guards (Hi Milliron) who had been down to the white house landing, that 4 Regts. of Rebs had passed to the right of our pickets and set 3 of our schooners afire and sent a volley into a train of cars, killing a Col. and 2 privates and wounding several others. Last accts. one of the Regts. had been captured. They will be treated as guerillas which they undoubtedly are. I can hardly think it possible that they could come down so far without being observed in time to have men there in force. It was truly a daring act. This morning was one of the most beautiful I ever saw but now the sun is out, clear and burning hot. The enemy have begun as usual on Sabbath morning to fire cannon etc. on our picket lines, they may attack us today as we are expecting daily and hourly, the firing today is directly in our front. One whole brigade are under arms and are moving forward for some purpose but this is not an unusual occurance. All may still be well, they may be simply going on picket. The officers tents are not moved which indicates a return soon. A printed order came to me this morning from and issued by Gen. Geo. B. McClelland to all Provost Marshalls and guards to prevent the trotting or galloping of all horses unless by special printed or written orders. Peaches are nearly full grown and all fruit trees are generally loaded with fruit and cherries are almost ripe but are going to waste. Fields of clover, wheat, Rye, Oats and all other grains and grasses are open to the use of the cavalry and artillery. What is not eaten is tramped into the ground. There are but few houses and fences are all gone. It seems the nearer we get to the great southern metropolis the more of a desert it becomes. Northerners have but a faint idea of the poverty of this country yet the land is quite level and well timbered and the soil looks rich and easy of cultivation, far better and easier than I have seen in three fourths of what I have passed over in Pa. but little if any stone. Good water can be had by digging any place 20 or 30ft. deep. The roads are becoming very dusty again but are generally good. I have gotten this sheet, (the original) under foot but can’t loose it now.
June 17th. 1862.
Evening before last it rained for sometime, very hard. Since then weather has been cool and pleasant. Quite a little excitement was occasioned by the adventure of a guerilla party of Rebs who as near as I could ascertain, got through on the right of our lines and made a sudden dash down the country to White House Landing, setting fire to 3 schooners and sent a volley of musketry into a train of cars, creating no little excitement. Henry Kennedy of our Co., a man who we have counted very cowardly, had sought and obtained the privilege of driving the Sutlers wagon for R.I. Nickelson and so keeping, as he supposed, out of danger in the rear of all the army, happened to be at the landing when the Rebs dashed in. They seized him and he was taken unresistingly on one of the mules to Richmond.
Weather fine, roads good, all quiet. We moved to a large tent this morning, close to Provost Marshalls headquarters, which is perhaps 50 rods from our old quarters. We have made a good floor and imagine we shall be much more comfortable. There was a little firing on our front last evening and heavy firing of cannon in the direction of Fort Darling yesterday morning, which has caused many rumors but like al camp rumors little reliance can be placed on them. However great activity just now is shown in all quarters. The late dry, cool weather is doing more for the health of the troops than all the medical fraternity can do. We got no papers yesterday, it wakes 2 days for N.Y. and Phil. Papers to reach us and as it was Sunday, 2 days before yesterday none were printed. The boys say it takes 2 days longer for Sunday to reach us than it does you are home.
Just enough rain last night to lay the dust. I obtained leave of absence to go visit bro. Myron this morning but when I reached Savage Station I found his division had moved 10 miles to the right to support Gen. Porters division and so I reluctantly returned as it was to far from our division to risk going under present circumstances. There is constant skirmishing on the lines which compels us to keep a large force near the picket line to give it quick support. You will hear of no more surprises on this line. Our Regt. was out all night (last) working in the trenches in our front. Two shells that fell near them and burst, did them no harm only reminding them again of York Town. There are many in our Regt. who are yet unfit for duty. Some men have been sunstruck and so in order that I may not happen to me, I keep a wet sponge in the top of my cap, which is said to be a sure preventitive, it sure keeps my head cool. (By the by, that is a nice thing at anytime.)
Fair and cool. Cannonading on our right quite common but don’t hear of anything being accomplished. I imagine they don’t like our digging so hear their city. I rather think Jeff and Co. are trembling in their boots. There is a house used as a hospital near us and I can see men carried out every day, having died with various diseases. Typhoid fever here generally proves fatal and is quite common but they say all diseases seem to be decreasing fast. We have quite a variety of food just now, part drawn as rations and part purchased of Sutlers. For dinner today I have U.S. crackers (hardtack), coffee, molasses, mess pork, beans, rice, desiccated vegetables, cheese, dried apple sauce, sugar, salt, pepper, mustard and pickles. Enough for a sick man to get well on or a well man to get sick on. These dried apples are a substitute for the whisky ration, discontinued, a sure change for health and safety.
More firing again yesterday evening in front of our Regt. We made more reply and no harm was done. Day warm and breezy. Cherries ripe, but are not allowed to remain long on the trees. The country seems destitute of all wild fruit save a few berries, black berries being by far the most common. I have plucked and eaten ripe currants. Sunday, June 22nd. Has dawned in beauty. Are cool but hazy. All last night there was constant firing all along the lines. Our pickets were driven in several times. We have a ditch, called a rifle pit, dug the whole length of our lines with redoubts and batters at intervals. In this ditch our pickets rally when driven in. In front of the pits the trees have been felled 20 or more rods in width. When the enemy advance on us, we open on them with cannon and musketry form the ditch, being quite hid from rebel view, the dirt of the ditch being thrown in front forms a complete breastwork. All is quiet this morning. We are told we have 50,000 men now in front of the enemy’s lines and they are digging trenches, felling trees etc. Our Gen. seems to be ready for any emergency. Balloons are up every day, reconnoitering the enemy’s position. It seems as if instead of us advancing on the enemy, our Gen. expects the enemy to advance on us. We often hear the enemy’s martial bands as they play on still evenings and the church bells of Richmond can also be often heard faintly, bourn to our ears when brezzes favor the sound.
All quiet. Very quiet so that we wonder ‘whats up’. The sun shines very hot and we expect showers. No news today.
The shower came with terrific thunder and a hard wind. It had no time to soak the ground and the road soon dried off. Occasional firing of musketry along the line. The Rebs seem to be trying to bring on a general engagement but our Gen’s seem loathe to accept their challenge. A great many citizens are here on various errands but most of them are looking after their sick or wounded friends or trying to recover the dead bodies of their loved ones. There seem to be more from Pa. than any other state. Many physicians, too, have come to assist the army surgeons who are quite worn out. Many of the sick who are convalescing are out today enjoying the cool pleasant, but strong, breeze that is blowing. Great activity is being shown today which, in my estimation, betokens stirring events in the very near future. Received 4 letters yesterday. One each from you, Aunt Maggie, bro. Myron and R.L. Perry and one this morning quite unexpectedly from bro. Jno. McFarland. I shall try to answer all today. Gen. Hintzelman and staff have just passed on me their way to the line. A few cannon are heard at intervals otherwise all is apparently as usual. Large details of men, however, are at work every day making cordoroy roads in our front. I just heard a volley of musketry which is not alarming as it often happens when skirmishing parties meet or advance on the picket lines. The roads I speak of are to enable our artillery to move, in case of wet weather, on the swampy ground. The day cannot be many hours distant when the grand armies will be set in motion against each other but if they break through our present lines, with our works to help us, it will be over thousands of their own dead bodies. However they must do something soon, inaction is weakening them more than aught else, and now as we are ready and with God and right on our side, victory must and will be ours. Our army is confident of success and hopeful of a speedy end of the war.
Yesterday, after writing, there was a very fierce engagement all along the line. Our arms were victorious all day but for some reason, to me unknown, our forces here on the lift all fell back to their old position after having driven the army over 1 ½ miles (‘Stragetic Stragetic?’). Of course our Regt. was engaged last night about 10 O’clock ending with the loss of 2 killed and 6 wounded. The 2 killed were both privates of my Co., James Morehead and Silas Irvan. Wm. Slegel and Geo. Beer of Co. G are among the wounded. Sam’l Lingley of my Co. is also severly wounded. I do not know the names of the others wounded. Our Regt. was acting as skirmishers when attacked and many think the Regt. supporting us, the 20th. Ind., fired to quick and did not wait till our men were fairly in, so it placed them between two fires. Today all was quiet till 3 O’clock P.M., when heavy firing of cannon was heard away on our extreme right and increased in fury every moment till it fairly became one constant roar like heavy distant thunder. It lasted till dark. As I write, cheer up cheer breaks upon the still evening air. News has come that Fort Moultsy and Charleston City are in our hands. Never before have I listened to such long and hearty cheers. All seem overjoyed. Every day now will be an age of expediency till Richmond is ours. These prolonged cheers will doubtless strike like a death knell on the ears of the Rebel hoards. It fills me too with a great joy which I can’t express in cheers, ‘tis not my nature.
After retiring last night, all the bands, both brass and marshall, began to play soul stirring music. Keeping it up till long after midnight. Rumors of various victories, one very plausible, is that Gen. Porter had won a great victory yesterday on our right, where we heard the heavy cannonading. But this morning the fight is renewed and we heard the same constant roar. The weather is cool but the air is filled with smoke, giving the appearance of an Indian summer. A rumor has come (‘tis not often I treat of rumors) that the Rebel Gen. Jackson had attempted to come up in our rears and had been signally defeated but I fear the reverse of this as the Sutlers are moving their stores from White House Landing and other points on our right and are now in great numbers in our rear, principally around Savage Station. The excitement was great at first but is subsiding. The Pa. Reserve Corps. are engaged today. Have just had word from Myron that he was well and hearty this morning.
July 4th. 1862.
So many days have passed since I last wrote and I have passed through scenes of such exciting nature that I almost fear I shall be unable to give a full or clear account of all that has happened, within my knowledge, since the 27th. of last month. We received orders on the eve of that through Capt. McCombs, of the 87th. N.Y. Regt., who is Provost marshall and took charge of our detail, to be ready to march at a moments notice. Trains of wagons commenced to move a little before dark, taking 3 different roads leading through White Oak swamp. I lay down but could not sleep. The rattling of wagons and the yelling of drivers urging their teams, was to much to allow sleep to my eyes, knowing as I did that something of great importance was transpiring. The next morning about 8 O’clock, our whole division began to fall back. Our brigade, formerly Jameson’s but now commanded by Gen. Robinson forming a part of the rear guard. After moving a mile or more the brigade halted and occupied the 2nd. line of defence which we held until about 3 P.M. All this while train troops, sick, wounded, fearful civilians and soldiers and indeed everything appertaining to an army were moving to the rear as fast as means of conveyance and circumstances would allow. While our brigade were yet in their entrenchments before the move began. Our detail was ordered down to Gen. Burneys brigade at Savage Station. Here one of the most warlike scenes presented itself to my astonished gaze, that I ever witnessed. A large plain lay before me covered over with troops of all kinds in perfect masses, yet in complete order. The woods, too, on my right seemingly crowded also on my left, large trains of cars were all ablaze with fire. They were filled, not only with provisions but immense quantities of ammunition, cartridges, shells and powder. Heavy explosions took place almost every minute sending up heave columns of smoke, completely filling the air. In the woods, too large piles of ammunition and provision burning, the bursting shells keeping everyone at a distance. Everything that could not be taken away was destroyed. Clothing, ammunition, guns, wagons, carriages and provisions of all kinds went up in smoke, of course to keep them from falling into the enemy’s hands. At 3 P.M. our division again fell back some 2 miles and again formed a line of battle. As I passed our last line of works I saw the enemy’s line of skirmishers advancing through our old camps. I with 2 of my men advanced to the rear of our brigade, the rest of the detail going still farther to the rear to watch stragglers of the division. The day was so excessively hot that many became so exhausted that they could not keep up and fell into the enemy’s hands and many of our sick were left in the various hospitals. This last line we held till morning when all fell farther back to the other side of the White Oak swamp and formed again. The Rebs were now pressing us hard on our left with the intention of cutting off our retreat. Our brigade were moved back some 3 miles to support the left and here I joined them at the same time the Provost Capt. Combs, with the rest of the guard, came up and we joined them. The Pa. R.C. were also on our left and from them I learned that Myron and nearly all of his Regt., 11th. Pa., were captured. Our boys had rested but a few moments when a sharp firing by the pickets warned us of the approach of the Rebs. All sprang to arms. A rail fence close in front of us was thrown and piled up as a slight protection. The whole force formed behin it in the road and lying down, anxiously awaited the onset of the enemy who soon came in view and we began firing. Under the smoke we could see them still advancing. At this moment Gen. Phil Kerney came riding down the line, cheering the boys who redoubled their efforts throwing volley after volley at the legs of the enemy, which we could see under the smoke. At this moment Capt. Combs came and touched me to and ordered me to move with the guards to the rear with the trains. We were where the roads crossed and our trains were driving at breakneck speed across to connect with the road in the read of us without coming to corner turn. We were to take charge of Gen. Robinsons private baggage. We arose under the heavy firing and ran back to where the trains again came into the road, which was filled with wagons, stragglers, the sick and wounded and many whom nothing but fear was urging them on. Ammunition wagons had the preference, then came provision and baggage and all rushing for safety. After going some 5 miles we came in sight of the James river. Climbing a hill, we found ourselves a short distance above the Malvern house (a brick), here we rested under the shade of a large apple tree. The ground all along our road had been low and generally swampy, with here and there a rise, now became as hilly as old Jefferson Co. Pure springs of water, clear and cool were numerous and oh what a luxury they were on that hot dusty road. We were completely covered with dust. The country to this place had been a gloomy waste, with here and there an oasis in the shape of a well cultivated farm, but here all was in a high state of cultivation. Large orchards, splendid farm buildings, showing not only taste but wealth. Corn was here shoulder high, wheat already cut and in shocks, oats also ready for the reaper, all showing a bounteous yield. Here also were large bodies of troops forming a reserve to keep the enemy from the rear. We moved to the brow of the hill to stop for the night. It overlooked the river on which were several gun boats and transports reigning. ‘Monarch of all the surveyed.’ We had but just settled down and taken off our accouterments when a distant report and the near bursting of a shell gave us notice of the presence of the enemy. They were sending their shells in on our left, at first creating some confusion but we soon got a battery of field pieces to bear on them. That soon silenced them. The gun boats, too, began showering the shells in on them and a few Regts. charging. Soon after they took 3 of their batteries and brought them in. The cannonading was the heaviest and most terrific I ever heard but was of short duration. The Rebs now fell back and we were not further disturbed that night. The next morning Andrew Harl and others, with some of my Regt., came to us and the whole brigade came in early. But oh what a sad sight. I looked eagerly for familiar faces but in many cases, to be sorely disappointed. George Geist, how I did miss him, poor fellow. I fear he is gone but I know it is to that home of which we have so often conversed together. Jacob Freese, I heard, was wounded and I snow a prisoner. John Statzel, too, is wounded but was, I think, brought in. Henry Fike, Jno. McGiffin and Steve Sartwel, the last two of my Co. and my own messmates, are missing yet I trust they are safe. I could not refrain from tears to find so many gone. Jacob Campbell is wounded but safe. I could also speak of others who are dear to me but perhaps unknown to you and the knowledge of the fate of many is quite limited. I do not mourn for my brother as dead for doubtless he is a prisoner with many of our Regt. God grant that we may all meet again on earth. On Tuesday morning, July 1st., we again started down the river, leaving the main part of the army in our rear. Going some 4 miles we stopped with our horses and baggage near McClellans headquarters, which seemed to be in tents near the bank of the river or in a gun boat which was tied to the shore. Here we remained all night. Late in the evening I went to the river near the landing and took a good wash and swim. The enemy had been repulsed at Malvern hill with great loss yet the morning of July 2nd. found the army still moving down the river on the City Point road. Ever since we started on our retreat the weather had been very hot but this morning it began to rain and how quick the scene changed. Instead of dusty roads we were soon sinking again to our knees in mud. It rained very hard till noon, after which is moderated a little. All the streams became much swollen making some of them almost impassable. We had to wade water quite up to our waists. This day we were constantly passing lovely country seats and highly cultivated farms. After going some 4 or 5 miles we were halted for some time to guard a house and a grist and saw mill. A family was living there. Their large rich fields of wheat, oats, corn etc. were quite destroyed by the cavalry and droves of cattle which were allowed to graze upon and over them. The sight, to me, was truly painful and almost unconsciously found myself raising a prayer to the God of nations that he might speed the time when war should no more be heard in all our land. Its glories, Devils alone can glory in. We were relieved by Gen. McClellans headquarter Provost headquarter guards. The Gen himself passing game the order personally. About 4 P.M. we moved 1 mile farther where we found our brigade and encamped for the night. The whole army had to literally lie down in the mud and water. Our detail found a small spot of high ground and putting up our shelter tents we passed a pretty comfortable night although it rained very hard toward morning. We built a large fire of logs which kept us warm and by which we soon dried our clothes. The morning of July 3rd. I was sent with a guard to take a prisoner to Gen. A. Porters Provost headquarters. The prisoner had, in firing a gun, shot a man in the leg and ruined a horse. It was all an accident or rather carelessness. We were obliged to arrest all who fired their guns without orders of at the enemy. Here too were immence masses of troops all the way to the river which was in plain view, with transports and all sorts of watercraft afloat upon it. The enemy, this morning, began shelling our camp but the new troops of Gen. Shields division that joined us here the night before, with our aid, set them in motion up the road they came. We were also shelled from across the river but they were soon driver away. Our brigade was advanced 2 miles to the front but my detail remained near where we were encamped the night before. The weather had now cleared up again. The morning of the 4th. dawned gloriously. Strains of music from the various bands fill the air, yet we cant’ help but wish we were with our absent loved ones to celebrate with them the day to us, as freemen, most dear as we were wont in other days. O that our present trials, privations and struggles may secure to us forever the rights our forefathers gave us more than 80 years ago.
With the exception of a little patrol duty and the fixing up of Gen. Robinsons quarters, the 5th. and 6th., Sat. and Sun., passed with us all in a very quiet manner, very little firing on the picket line. On the 7th. I was sent with a detail of 9 men to the landing about 2 miles from camp and report to Dr. Berry. I was by him ordered to gather up all the sick belonging to our division, placing those of different Regts. in squads by themselves. I found over 200 men around the hospital and near the landing, some unable to move, others apparently little ailing. After getting them together, which by the by, was no easy task in the hot sun. They were lying here and there, no one caring for or trying to alleviate their suffering. Some, yes many, were exposed to the hot sun with no shelter whatever from its scorching rays and oft almost perishing for water. It made me heartsick to witness the loathing wretched sight. After getting them together and assorted, a train of heavy ammunition wagons came up to take them to their brigades. It was a painful task to get them into these rough coarse vehicles. Some would beg me to let them alone, others would cry out with pain, while others became completely unmanned and weep and complain like little children. Oh how I did pity them. Noble fellows, they had perhaps left homes where plenty and pleasure reigned. Where their simplest wishes were gratified as soon as made known. All had been deserted to sacrifice their health and strength and perhaps life in sacred discharge of their duty to their country, which was now unable to bestow upon them even the most common gifts of life. The Air is filled almost constantly with music from the various bands. So far this week we have not been disturbed by any movement. They have not forgotten Malvern Hill. We have breastworks of trees and dirt only but are quite effective. They run the whole length of our line. The trees, too, are felled for 25 or 30 rods in front of the works. Our sick like a few rods back of our Regt. and we think are improving daily. Gen. Phil Kerney rides along the line almost every day and is always greeted with tremendous cheers by the entire line. Our Regt. now numbers only about 100 effective men. All the commissioned of Co. I are away sick, only 3 Sergts. are left. Other Co’s. are equally destitute. Capt. Albert Thompson came back yesterday. The field officers are all unfit for duty. This eve Uncle Abe is on the ground and riding along the line. Numerous salutes are being fired and constant cheering is heard. We expect him on our front in a few minutes although it is sundown. Here he comes with a big staff, his long legs and high hat make him look rather awkward as he gallops along. The bands are all playing national airs. Rumors without number are afloat but little credence can be given any of them. We have all settled down with the conviction that this war is not of a day but will be of long duration. We today resumed drawing our rations for my detail at the brigade commissary instead of at the Regt. commissary which betokens a permanent thing of my detail. I have a few men out almost constantly keeping in stragglers.
July 12th. 1862.
Nothing unusual has transpired since my writing on the 9th. on that day I visited the remnant of the 11th. Regt. Pa. R Corp. and also the 62nd, Pa. and saw many of our home acquaintances but oh how the number is lessened. Many are laying low in death, martyrs for their country. More are in hands of the enemy, among whom I learn are Myron Irvin Shannon, Wm. Coulter, Wm. Kelley and many others I have met, companions in arms. Some are wounded or sick and gone north in the various boats used for transportation. Young Martin Shannon is among the sick that are gone north. It makes me feel lonely to miss so many familiar faces. Oh how many hearts will ache, how many firesides be made cheerless by this late reverse. O God, hast thou forgotten to be gracious? Hast thou cast us off forever? Speed, gracious Father, the time when wars and discords shall cease and thy will be done on earth as it is done in Heaven. This day is very warm also the 10th. till in the evening came a pleasant shower, cooling the air, and now the sky is clear with a cool breeze. All is quiet save the him of voices and the sweet strains of martial music.
On Saturday evening as I sat writing the adjt. (Woodward) came to my quarters and asked my to come to regt. headquarters saying the Col. wanted to see me. I followed him to the Cols. tent in which were seated all the officers of the regt. I saluted the Col. who immediately informed me that I was appointed Sergt. Major of the regt. in place of Geo. Vanviet who was promoted to 1st. Lt., company ‘H’. As I was handed my commission I got voice to say that I was not familiar with a Serg. Majors duties. “Well”, said the Col Sergt. Davis of my co. was detailed to take charge of my guards. This promotion was entirely unexpected to me: Yesterday being Sunday I attended preaching which was by a Chaplin of an Ohio regt. His discourse, which was mostly to the sick of our Regt. was to all christians a cheering theme. So eloquent did he portray the love of the dear Savior to sinful man and the future happiness of the redeemed. This morning we have general inspection but not having my accouterments for my new office yet I shall not attend. Morning pleasant but it will be a hot day.
Yesterday I, with my Capt. Hamilton and 2 others, went to a small creek and had a bath. This I do most every day, which is both a luxury and healthful. On our way we passed a funeral. The Chaplin was just performing the last sad rites over the lone soldiers grave. I saw many of his comrades shedding tears. Three volleys were fired over the grave and they left him to his last rest. I have just attended brigade guard mounting. The enemy have fallen farther back. Your letter of the 9th. came this morning. It expresses great anxiety and forbodings as to my fate, also a letter from aunt Martha Shannon.
Our Regt. out on picket. I do not have to go out unless the entire Regt. goes. A cool heavy shower last night has cooled the air and gave us a fine nights sleep. It is clear this morning and so hot it drives us to shade. Preparations are being made to establish a bakery for the benefit of the brigade. The soldiers hail this project with delight as we have had no soft bread for more than 3 months. Our bread, all this time has been hardtack or pilot break as it is often called, which is so hard that boiling will not soften it. Soaked in cold water over night partly softens so we can mix it and fry it. We can get, at times, a loaf of bread from the transports or at the Sutlers, by paying 25¢ for a 5¢ loaf. In accordance with the late act of congress our brass band is about to be discharged. I had the pleasure of Mr. George Campbells company at dinner today (Used to live in Ringgold). He is in the 62nd. Pa. We passed a pleasant hour together as we ate, drank and smoked, talking of by gone days and speculating on our future efforts to suppress this great rebellion. We have fresh beef issued twice a week, also potatoes and now and then a few onions or some other vegetable. Pa. Regts. are doing lots of visiting among each other. We have had some trouble getting good water. Some have dug 20 to 25ft. but get no water. Springs are not numerous enough to supply all, then creek water must supply the deficiency. Ice on the cool springs of Pa. would indeed be a luxury to the grand army of the Potomac.
For some days I seem to be afflicted with a severe cold, causing a severe pain in my head, just above my eyes, causing tears to flow freely and my eyes to swell but I am better now. This mourning I heard the distant booming of cannon away up the river, gun or mortor boats I think. While in camp we have every day either brigade, company or battalion drill, beginning at 6 A.M. or 5 P.M. and lasting 1 ½ or 2 hours and sometimes all 3 drills at different hours.
August 3rd. 1862.
I have written nothing since July 30th. and feel almost like quitting the keeping of a journal for want of time and because of a continued cold which effects not only my head and limbs but has served to make me feel stupid and dilatory about everything. As soon as my duties are attended to I hie to my tent and lie lazily down and nap the hours away. At times I try to rouse up and read or write but soon find myself nodding and my thoughts all wandering in dreams. A short snooze generally restores me to my usual spirits. I have lots of trouble keeping body lice from my person. We can seem them crawling in the sand when the sun shines bright and where the ground has been tented on. The past 4 or 5 days have rolled away, I hardly know how but new life and vigor seem to be returning. Light showers visit us every three or four days, which cools the air and makes me feel like writing again of past events. On July 31st. our Regt. went on picket. The morning of Aug. 1st. was one of much interest to the army here. About midnight we were aroused from our virtuous couches by a terrific cannonading close in our rear. What could it mean? It seemed to be at the landing but ot proved to be a little below and across the river. A battery of field pieces had been brought up to the opposite bank by the enemy and had opened on us at a lively rate. They killed 4 men and wounded 5 of our men. Our gun boats opened on them and our men made a rush and captured 3 pieces of cannon, killed nearly all their horses and 14 of them were found dead the next morning, when our men went over to burn some houses, behind which they had hid. The same morning Col. McKnight took an unceremonious leave of our Regt., having resigned on account of his miserable health. It created but little excitement. To me it was not unexpected as I was often in his tent and knew that it was seldom that he could retain his food after eating. Gen. Kerney came into the tent one day when I was in and taking the Col’s hand he broke out with oath after oath with ‘How are you Col. McKnight by G—you are one of my fighting Col’s.’ and so on, his language was to torid for me to repeat.
Weather hot and sultry. Regt. again on picket. Much activity is shown in preparation for an advance. We have just received orders to have 3 days rations in our haversacks and be ready to move at any moment. Two divisions moved yesterday and last night. This morning we heard heavy firing on our left but it has now ceased. Other divisions will follow soon. Yesterday a letter from Jos. Brown gave me the horrid account of the death of our old fiend, Peter Siler. This makes 5 accounts I have received, it pained me greatly. J.B. Shragers letter with the handkerchief enclosed came also. It was most welcome and I’ll try to answer soon. I have had many dispatches to attend to this morning. We expect our Regt. in from picket soon. Capt. Hastings, Co. A, arrived from home today. He does not look very strong yet. The health of the troops are improving fast. ‘Tis now 4 P.M., the day was the hottest yet but getting cooler now. We have 300 men able to bear arms. All who have lost their guns will carry axes, picks or shovels. We are going sure now. We will not lead as heretofore but will follow. OF course we know not where or when we got nor is it our business to know. We simply obey orders. The men seem anxious to renew the fight for we know it is through those bloody fields that we can again reach our friends and homes. A surgeon, Dr. Ewing, of Westmoreland county, came with Capt. Hastings and joined our Regt. A rumor says our forces have captured 14 guns (cannon) and 3000 Rebs today at Malvern Hill (only a rumor).
August 11th. 1862.
Last night at midnight, orders came to be ready to move at 2 O’clock P.M. today. Our new knapsacks were packed with whatever was not needed at the moment and placed in wagons, leaving us in light marching order. The knapsacks were taken to the landing and put aboard boats. Two O’clock has come and passed and no word to move. We will not go today. Yesterday noon I had a severe attack resembling fever and ague. I reported to the Dr. at once and he gave me 6 or 8 doses of quinine to be taken 3 hours apart. Today at noon it retuned but not as severe. I have now another supply of quinine which the Dr. thinks will end the fever trouble. This fever producing a queer feeling. The sun was shining hot with no breeze when I felt a chill creeping all over me. I went to the cooks fire but could feel no warmth save that part of body next to the fire. A dull headache followed. After 1 ½ hours chill a heavy burning sensation came over me. My skin was dry and seemed parched. Nothing could cool me. The pain in my head increased till I was quite rid of the fever, when it gradually ceased, then I began to sweat in great drops (yes. I’ll say) of refreshing sweat. Then I felt well till it returned the next day. The Dr. thinks it is quite broken and will not return. I feel almost ashamed to tell you that Capts. Thompson of Co. K, Kirk of Co. F, and Lt. Barr of Co. B got beastly drunk this P.M., disgracing themselves before the whole Regt. by their conduce. I hope the like may never be seen again in this Regt. even by the lowest private. The Devil, if I may be allowed the expression, seemed let loose in our camp. The officers are disputing and quarreling this evening, worse than I ever saw before. Thank God it is confined to the above 3 only. All the others are gentlemen and true soldiers and nothing could induce them to join in a row or drunken spree. Cannon are booming as I write in honor of Ex-President Van Buren, late deceased. We are again on hardtack rations. Morning again and all is quite in camp and yesterdays rowdies seem ashamed of their conduct. Flies are terribly troublesome in my tent as they can be, it is brush, brush and spat, spat. Great additions to our army makes a confident feeling of a speedy end of our troubles. Lt. Conser of Co. H came to camp yesterday. All the sick who are not likely to recover for 2 or 3 weeks have been sent to northern hospitals. Thousands of troops, we think, will be left here when we leave prepared to meet the enemy at any time.
(In copying my journal I have left out what I wrote on the 9th, which I insert here.)
The same monotonous routine has been gone through day after day since last writing. We are aroused by the bugle at 4.30 A.M. and get breakfast at 6 O’clock. We go and drill company or battalion drill for 2 or 3 hours, returning at 8 or 9. As soon as we come in there is guard mounting. The new guard consists of a Lt. of the guard, one Sergt., 3 Corporals and 20 men. Then men are detailed to clean and sweep the streets. All of this I have to attend to. This done, all not on duty rest till one O’clock P.M. when they are taken out for another 2 hour drill. Dinner now consists of a pretty plentiful supply of potatoes, onions, dried apples, cabbage, or other vegetables equivalent. Supper and breakfast much the same. We have good bakers bread, coffee, pork & beef, (salt or fresh, one at a time) with sugar and other little extras and at times a soup and the men often add to the meager (?) fare, furnished by the Sutlers at fabulous prices, such things as preserves at 50¢ a pt. Can, mackeral 25¢ to 40¢ a lb., butter (good and stron) 50¢ a lb., cheese 35¢ or 40¢ and cigars, the most common kind, 5¢ and other things at proportional rates. Some days since, men were digging a well and gown down to 25 or 30ft. and came upon a log or stump which was quite sound. The water tasted of it and they had quit. How it came there is a mystery as it no doubt has been covered for ages. Yesterday I received a long letter from Uncle Phil Shannon, telling of the safe arrival of package. Our Regt. again on picket. We hear of cheering news of the progress in getting volunteers and the order to draft so as to put the army force up to 600,000. Ten men or non commissioned officers and 2 commissioned officers are detailed from the Regt. to return to Pa. to recruit for our Regt. ‘Tis Sunday, yet nothing occurs to remind the soldier of the returning day of rest, yet the hearts of many are warmed as they think of past privileges and offer silent prayer and praises for the many mercies and kindnesses extended to us day after day. Have just received your letter from Brookville of Aug. 6th., being but 4 days on the way. I will try and answer your question as to the duties of a Sergt. Major. First of all he is an assistant to the Adjutant of the Regt. in making details, forms and mounts guard. He goes on battalion and brigade drills and assists the Major and Adjutant in the execution of the various commands. His position in line of battle is 8 paces in the rear of the Sergts. or 10 in the rear of the rear line. Besides the above duties he has many things of a more trifling nature that occupies much of his time. He seldom goes on picket or on company drill, attends no roll calls and has many privileges not enjoyed by other non commissioned officers. His rations are drawn at Regt. commissary and not from any Company.
I find that my journal written August 25th. 1862 has been lost. If the reader will turn back to page 53 he will notice my last writing that has been preserved was dated Aug. 11th. 1862. and I must fill the gap from that date to Sept. 6th. from memory.
Friday August 14th. 1862.
We struck tents and were soon marching towards Williamsburg. Which we reached on Monday evening and on Tuesday P.M., the 18th., we were once more in York Town. Here we rested till next day, looking over the old works, gathering and eating oysters etc. Wednesday morning we boarded the steamer ‘Long Island’. I took a bath while waiting the steamers starting. As I looked over the railing from the upper deck I noticed schools and schools of fish, I think almost a foot in length, almost packed about the vessel, moving up and down and around like a great flock of blackbirds we see sometimes in the air. I doubt if a spear, thrusted down among them, could have missed dozens. On our way up the bay and river we had a much better view then when we came down last spring. I remember nothing of great interest that occured while on board the vessel. On Sunday, Aug. 22nd. we were landed on the wharf at Alexandria. We passed through the city and camped near the depot and the next morning were placed on cattle cars and sent out to guard the RR. Soon after dark we reached Manassas Junction where we lay till morning, when we again started down the road, leaving Co’s. B and G at the Junction. Co. H got ogg farther down and Co. D at Cathlets Station and Co’s E and K at Bristow. We went on about a mile farther and camped on the south side of Turkey Run. The next morning, Aug. 26th., by a mere chance, met with Andy Harl. I had ridden on the cars up to Manassas, the evening before, having no special duty, just for fun. As guards of the road, I was expecting to stay a month at least (vain hope). Andy, being in feeble health, I persuaded him to remain with me a few days to recuit his health. We remained with Co’s. B and G till 2 O’clock P.M. and the took the cars for headquarters at Cedar Creek.
(I can now resume copying from my written Journal.)
Sept. 6th. 1862.
With a thankful heart for past mercies to that God who has so mercifully preserved me, both in life and health. I shall try to tell briefly what transpired since my last Journal of Aug. 26th. Andrew Harl and I took, we found afterwards, the last train that got safe down, for the next train was fired into and compelled to return. That same evening Manassas and Bristow Station were taken by the Rebs in heavy force. The guards were either captured or killed or made to ‘skidaddle’. At the time of the attack all our Co’s. were being relieved by the 87th. N.Y., who met the same fate as Co’s H, E, and K or our Regt. who were at Bristow. E and K Co’s. had been relieved and were on the cars on their way to report to headquarters. When they heard the firing they returned at once. It was now dark but they soon found the force of the enemy was much greater than ours and wisely retreated. Co. H was captured being a few moments to late, but Co’s. E and K reached headquarters at daylight, bringing full accounts of the affair. We were all astonished beyond measure to learn that so large a force should get to the rear of our army. As yet we had no idea how large that force might be. About 9 O’clock A.M. orders came to move and soon our whole division and also Gen. Hookers were changing front to the rear to face the enemy. We marched down the RR toward Manassas. At Bristow Station, as we began to ascend a hill, a few shells came over us and we knew the Rebs were near. When reaching the top of the hill and looking down on the plain below a great army lay before us. It was a grand sight in the distance, it was pantomined. Regt. after Regt. moving in line or forming lines for battle. Flags waving and officers with drawn swords, made a scene somewhat, only somewhat, like the battle pictures we see. Our batteries came galloping up to the brow of the hill and wheeling into line immediately opened fire upon them, while our Regt. formed just in their rear to support them. The Caisons were left a little in our rear so as to be somewhat protected by the hill. In getting our positions we had to often move on the double quick and as they day was hot many of the men gave out. The artillery men kept up a constant roar pelting the enemy as hard as possible before they would get our of range. The distance from the batteries to the Caisons was so great the artillery men could hardly keep the guns supplies with ammunition and some jumped up from the ground (we were lying down) and helped to carry the shells to the gunners. While doing this one of the enemy’s shells struck a Caison, bursting all the shells in it and wounding and killing the horses attached to is. We drove the enemy life chaff before us. As we moved on over and down the hill, we found the Rebs had left their dinners all nice and warm over the fire so sudden had we opened on them. Of this we took possession without ceremony. We lay down our arms here from 10 O’clock that evening till morning and then moved in pursuit but saw nothing more of them that day. We got to Manassas at 1 O’clock P.M. but how changed I found it. With the exception of a few Sutlers stores with the very few best private dwellings were burned. We rested here a short time and loaded ourselves with some needed stores that were not wholly consumed and then again took up the pursuit. I found here the dead body of my friend Amos Goupp. Just before our Regt. started, the Col. ordered me to take 2 or 3 men and go back and bury him and any others we might find. Two boys of Co. G, James Walker and Jno. Herwick, who had hidden after the fight last night and so escaped capture, came in to us and I took them to help me. Goupp was a good soldier. He was shot through the side and was badly swollen. We dug a grave at the foot of a large oak stump close to the embankment of the RR, thinking we might identify the spot if called on at some further time. His shoes were taken from his feet, his pockets out off but his blanket had been left and we wrapped his body in it. As we finished digging his grave a sudden shower filled it with water that ran down the embankment and we had to place stones on his body to make it sink. His features were very perfect and we had no sooner got him lowered when his body rolled the stones off and rose at once to the surface. His eyes were opened and he looked so natural we could hardly muster courage to again sink him under the muddy water. Such is oft the soldiers fate. The rain lasted till near sundown but we had to move on and try to regain the Regt. but could not find out what road they had taken. After going 6 miles and darkness coming on we got under the bridge crossing Bull run and slept till daybreak and then started on. Here 3 roads forked and as there had marched troops on them all which should we take. Knowing our position in battle was on the right I took that road, going through Centerville, as mall village about the size of Punxatawney. The country here is hilly. We could here cannon now and followed the sound. After going 6 or 8 miles beyond Centerville night came on again but we were close now to another line of battle. Here we camped again to wait for morning. On the way from Centerville we met the paroled prisoners of Co’s. G, B and H. They were in high spirits and on their way to Washington. This morning, Aug. 30th., I found the Regt. I was alone when I found it. The other 2 men were quite wearied out and could not follow me. The Regt. had been in a fight the day before and had 40 or more killed or wounded and some had been taken prisoners. We drew rations and at 9 O’clock A.M. were moved about a mile to the right in support of a battery. We lay down so as not to be noticed by the enemy, who began to shell other Regts. that passed us from time to time. I had hardly lain down when the Col. sent word for me to report to him at once. When I got to the head of the Regt. he ordered me to take charge of a squad of the 87th. N.Y. and form them on the right of our Regt. and operate them as a company until farther orders. They had been assigned to our Regt. by the Brigadier Gen., when they applied for rations there were, I think 16 or 17 of them. I marched them down along the Regt., which was lying down as the Rebs were sending shell over us every little while. I brought them on the left by file into line. There was a Corporal with them, since known everywhere in the U.S. as Corporal Jas. Tanner. I gave the command to order arms, ground arms, then to lie down. The Corporal and I then passed a few paces to the front and lay down in a little hallow where a tree had been taken out by the root, we were in an old Peach orchard. As we lay there on our sides facing each other. We talked of lives in the past. He was born in York Sate and so was I. He was teaching when he enlisted and so was I and so we talked of past days all through the day till about 4 or 5 O’clock. The enemys shell had generally passed over us and burst in our rear but now they began to shorten their fuse to have them burst in our front and so scatter the fragments among us. I had noticed part of a spelling book, we could see the columns, just ahead of us and I told the Corporal I was going to see what kind of spellers the Rebs used and as I began to crawl toward it I cast my eyes up and saw a shell bursting in the air high up in front of us. My eyes noticed a black speck and then knew it was in range for us. My nose bore hard in the ground and I gathered up my legs close to my body. A whiz and then a thug, looking around I saw the Corporal holding up feetless legs as he had turned on his face, the ½ of the shell which was about 12in. long and 4in. in diameter had torn off his feet and they hung by the mangled flesh. He seemed to be a brave lad but it was a heart rendering sight to see his look as he held up his feetless legs. I have seen many horrid sights but never one that sent such a thrill of painful feeling through me as this. I ordered his men to wrap a bun on each side of a blanket and carry him to the rear. I have since learned that they took him only a few rods from us where 2 surgeons were lying behind a huge boulder where they amputated and dressed his legs and then had him carried back to a stone house, where he lay 2 or 3 days. He was captured and parolled and when the enemy left he was taken to an Annapolis M.D. and recovered. In 1887 I met him again at Wichta Kansas where he was one of the speakers at the State reunion and we have met several times since. His lifes history is to well known in political life as well as among the members of the G.A.R. for me to speak farther of him. The enemy were now turning our left and our men falling back. About 5 P.M. we were relieved to go with the whole brigade to form a picket line at the front as the main army were retreating. After we were in place and in line I was ordered to take one man from each Co. and place them on posts 30 rods still father to the front. I placed them close to a large force of the enemy, it now being dark, and then retired to the main body. Here we lay very still and quiet till 11 O’clock in the night, when we were ordered to fall back as quietly as possible. This was a difficult thing to do as the Rebs had a large force of infantry and cavalry with 2 pieces of artillery within 50 rods of us but it was done and well done. I was ordered to get in the men I had posted. This I did by whispering the orders to each man. In my haste to go to them I left my 2 oil blankets which I had rolled up, tying both ends together and put over my neck and left shoulder. I had dropped them under me and having quite a load I did not miss them till a few moments too late. Had the enemy known we were there it would no doubt have proved disasterous to us. But not a sound was heard nor a funeral note as from the dangerous ground we hurried. So still was the move that nothing was heard save the rattle of the tin cups against the canteens and it seemed they even could be heard ½ miles so quiet was everything. We marched that night to Centerville and lay down and slept till morning, so heavy a sleep that the rain did not waken us but wet us no little. Here all this day we lay inside the old Rebel earthworks, these had been plenty and strong. It is my birthday, August 31st. 1862, and much of my past life came in review before me and my future or rather present prospects made the day rather gloomy yet I felt greatful to our Heavenly Father for protecting me thus far from dangers seen and unseen giving me life health and reason while so many of my fellow comrades had been deprived of all. I am not a believer in dreams but I will tell you of one I had this last night or morning and permit you to interpret it. I stood by a water and in the water a tall pole was raised like a liberty pole, suddenly a great sea serpent rose out of the water looking exceedingly fierce and coiled itself around the pole and reaching from bottom to top. I then found myself in a small boat alone, approaching the eel like snake. As I came near I raised my gun and fired. With the sound of my gun I heard the report of 2 others on my right and the serpent was killed but continued hanging to the pole. I looked again and it appeared skinned, the flesh blood red. The two others who fired were in another boat and in a dispute as to who killed it I awoke and Lo ‘twas a dream. On the evening of the 31st. we moved a short distance to the rear of the town and remained all night and the next day till about 3 P.M., when the bugle sounded attention and we were soon on the road to Fair Fax Court house. We halted again after marching 2 or 3 miles and Gen. Kerney, as we lay at the side of the road, came galloping by with part of his staff and we all arose and cheered him and he throwing his bridle lines into his teeth with his only arm lifted his cap and waved it to each cheer. It was the last cheer we ever gave him for as he turned off to the left to find the alignment of our army, he ran into the pickets of the enemy who called him to halt but instead he lay down along the back of his horse and wheeled to retreat when they fired on a ball passing from his seat up along his back bone, ending his remarkable. He died a brave man and a good General but the most profane person I ever heard speak. We knew not of his death until his body was brought into our lines, the next morning, under a flag of truce. Soon after he passed we were ordered off to the left of the road to near where the two parties were engaged in a severe fight and we were being worsted. Our brigade was not engaged but the rest of our division and many were killed or wounded but check the enemy who were compelled to fall back. We, here, were again placed on picket. As I was placing out our picket the enemy’s pickets fired on us and, shameful to relate, the Sergt. on our left fired a volley in return, thus placing us between 2 fires. Fortunately it did no harm as it was quite dark and a cornfield hid us from view and we dropped down at the 1st. fire. We could hear the enemy talk as we lay there. I returned to the Regt. when pickets were posted. A fence being near and the rain pouring down, Lt. Barr and I placed 3 rails side by side on the fence at an angle of 45 degrees and lay on them. It was a hard bed but we were out of the mud. About 3 O’clock in the morning we again took the road to Fair Fax court house. About the time Kerney fell, the lightning was fearful to see and the fain fell in perfect torrents and continued almost constantly during the night and we were very very uncomfortable. We had a muddy march and were very very wet (you remember, I had lost my oil blankets). We reached Fair Fax at C.H. at sunrise, Sept. 2nd. and halted to make coffee. The rain had ceased and we lay here till noon sleeping and eating roasting ears. Fair Fax C.H. is a small but very pretty town, situated on high ground and has many fine buildings. We came next to Fair Fax Station, then took the road leading direct to Alexandria via of the Pohick church. That night we encamped in a field 16 miles from Alexandria. The night was to cool for good sleeping and we could have no fires as we got orders here to cease burning rails or taking anything from orchards of farm houses etc. we started early the next morning and passing the noted Pohick church, reaching our old camp Jamison about 4 O’clock P.M., halting there a short time. We moved down near the Hunting Creek bridge and encamped and have been here ever since. Day before yesterday we received orders to have 3 days rations in our haversacks and be ready to move at a moments noticed, but up to day, Sept. 7th., we have had no orders to move and all is again quiet. Our men who have been absent, sick or lightly wounded and stragglers have been coming in very fast the past 3 or 4 days. The weather is now dry, cool and pleasant. When writing past happenings on the 7th. inst. I could not, with the limited time then at my command, give more than an outline of what transpired. I would gladly have told how the battle at Bristow station appeared when we drove the enemy. How Manassas, ruined, looked. How the men filled their haversacks from boxes of hardtack, barrels of flour and huge piles of meat the enemy had not time to destroy. How we had to drink of stinking water. How tiresome our march was under the torrid sun. How our feet blistered and legs and shoulders ached. How the old battle field of Bull Run looked, over which we passed, the short but interesting talk we had when we met the parolled prisoners of our Regt. How the road was filled with sick and wounded soldiers, how terrible the road of artillery and musketry. How many and what narrow escapes we made, how many piles of legs and arms and mangled flesh and how many dead bodies I saw and of the men I saw wounded and seeking a surgeon and cowardly sneaks running back. How Generals Pope, Burnsides, Reno, Sumner and Seigle and others looked. All of whom I saw at different times. How I, with the Col’s. permission, threw away my sword and filling my pockets with cartridges and caps, picked up a gun on the battle field and hung to it till we reached this place. How I felt as we were marching into battle or expecting an attack. How thoughts of my Martyred brother would steady my aim, as we neared the scene of action and give me courage to ‘go in’. How and in what manner we were helped to green corn and fruit as we neared Washington. How we felt when we passed the old Pohick church and our old picket grounds and again at old camp Jemison and how the men acted when they got their first mail which they had waited and longed for ever since we left Harrison Landing and how busy all were the next 2 days writing letters etc. I mention al this now that it may be brought again to my mind if ever I see these pages in the future, all of which would take hours and even days to give an account of. Since we have got near Alexandria there have been many men returned who were sick in the hospitals here and elsewhere. Among the 30 or 40, I will mention Jas. K Shaffer, reported dead, Dr. Smith, Col, W.W. Corbet, Saml. Hadden, Wm. H. Grey of my Co., Lt. Mcenich, Capt, Craige of Co. B, since wounded. J.K. Shaffer has since gone back to camp Convalescent as he is yet unfit for duty. We lay where we first encamped till day before yesterday. We then got orders to be ready to move in in ½ hour. We were soon ready and on our way toward Manassas. We did not know where or how far we were to march. After marching about 3 miles, we moved off to the left of the road and halted, made our beds and went to sleep. The next morning we were marched across the road onto a beautiful knoll and encamped. The 121st. Regt. Pa. vols. joined us the night we came here. It is full Regt. but as yet a raw one, causing great sport for us by their awkward movements at guard mounting and on drill and we have many jokes to relate now and more coming every hour. They are from Bradford county Pa. and will no doubt make a fine Regt. in the near future. We have now 3 Pa. Regts and the 20th Ind. in our brigade. A few of the old Regts. have been consolidated and their commissioned officers mustered out or placed in other Regts. This is so at least with the 87th. N.Y. who have united with the 40th N.Y. familiarly known as the Mozart Regt., the 57th. Pa. with the 99th. Pa. Both of these were very much reduced and in the outset had very poor officers. We were now about 3 miles from Alexandria on the Manassas road and encamped, I think to remain some time. On our right and a little in our rear stands Ft. Worth, perhaps 100ft. above us. I can, as I write, see its big black funs peering out of its embrasures ready to send destruction to all traitorous hordes who deem it proper to appear within its range. Ft. Lyons is also in full view and its guns would carry miles beyond us. We have to small a view of the Potomac which is now covered with all kinds of water craft. The camps we now occupy are much more preferable to any other we have had since leaving our old camp in Jemison. We have good springs of water and plenty of it. The RR, too, is just below us so that all in all we have an ideal camp. Many new Regts. are encamped all about us and are drilling every day. It is now 2 P.M. and we have orders to move immediately, leaving all camp equipage under sufficient guard. We know nothing more. All is a mystery to us, but we are still big with hope. God grant that we may goon restore our country to a long lasting peace. The day is cool, cloudy and pleasant and nice for marching.
September 12th. 1862
After receiving orders to march on the evening of the 10th. A ‘right smart’ shower came up but our move was a short one, merely moving up the hill a little back of Ft. Worth. We soon had our little dog tents up and in them and with a warm cup of coffee, passed a very comfortable night, in spite of the rain. I slept with Wm. A. Haines as I did not get my big tent up and we lay awake till long in the night conversing about the loved ones at home (don’t laugh, you would had you been with us) ‘Twas raining a slow drizzling rain, when morning dawned and continued till late in the day. After breakfast I went back to the old camp for a few things I had left, not knowing how long our march would be when we started. On my return I was surprised, most agreeable surprised to find my old friend and fellow teacher, David Brown, with Jas. F. Hawthorn, waiting my return. It thrilled my very soul to see him. He is orderly Sergt. in the 155th Pa. He looked well and heart nor did any joy end here that day. I go after guard mounting, a leave of absence for that forenoon and went with David to his Regt., only ½ mile distant. We passed through the 123rd. Regt. Pa. and stopped to see our old friend Cal. Willson, when who should I meet but Alenzo Young of Duquense Borough in Alegany city and several others of my acquaintances of the same place. As I was greeting them Cousin Schuyler Jackson caught me. Had a bomb burst over my head I would not have been more astonished. I did not get back to my Regt., I fear, at the appointed time. When I got back and my tent almost fixed up and promising ourselves a few days of weeks of quiet, orders came to march immediately. None of us as usual knowing where or how far. After going some 4 miles we turned up on these heights, Arlington, 2 or 3 miles nearer Washington and in full view of it. The Capitol in particular stands out in bold relief and looks really grand. A large full Regt., the 68th. P.V. (Scott Legion) were added day before yesterday to our brigade. J.J.Y. Thomson, of Brookville, visited our Regt. this morning and came most of the way here with us. He is with his son Capt. Thompson, who lies wounded in Washington with a ball through his lung.
September 13th. 1862.
I love our camp here. the sight is beautiful in the extreme. Weather is cool, clear and pleasant and the men in the best of spirits. I see no reason for moving us so often unless it is to give place for new Regts. constantly coming in and forming on our left. The forts and works around the Capitol here are ten times stronger than I expected to find them. We have moved 7 or 8 miles along the line and find everywhere stronger works than at Yorktown. Camps at short intervals can be seen on our right as far as the eye can reach. The new troops are learning the art of war very fast. Faster, I think, than we did as they are generally more intelligent. I have reason for saying and believing this. I have been out nearly 2 hours drilling a large squad of new recruits of the 114th. Pa. and they all seem very anxious to become experts in all the various movement necessary. Our Gen. Robinson told me only last week that no one would be sent home to Pa. to recuit but today orders came for those detailed to go from our Regt. to get ready immediately. They start from Washington for Harrisburg, tomorrow morning. Among the No. are Capt. Steck, Lt. Neill and Corporal Dowling. They may all at different times visit Ringgold and the adjoining neighborhood. I do not fancy them a very profitable, but perhaps a pleasant, tour. I am astonished daily to see so many troops coming in. We are now just in the rear of Forts Richardson and Albany. We have the utmost confidence in the final of this war as being for restoration of the Union and the Abolition of Slavery, the latter I feel MUST BE DONE, though I have not been of that opinion long. The new recruits are a better class of men and more intelligent than the 1st. and with them this war for al the above will be in safe and brave hands. Our Regt. has just gone on picket some 4 or 5 miles in front of our lines. There is very little field artillery here but the Forts are all well mounted with big guns.
Camp near Fort Richardson. Dr. Heichhold has resigned and gone home and we all feel that we have lost a good surgeon and the Regt. has parted with one of its warmest friends. Day before yesterday we had orders to move again and are now encamped 1 ½ miles farther in the front but in the rear of strong works and on higher ground but have not as pretty view as before. New from Harpers Ferry and of the Rebel forces in Maryland engages much of our attention. The papers furnish all the news we have of either our own or Rebel successes. I had the pleasure, last Sabbath of listening to 2 sermons by the Chaplin of the 141st. One a funeral on the death of a Sergt. They all show much more feeling in their religious meetings than I have ever seen in any of the old Regts. Truly the new Regts. are the salt of the land. Many of their Capts. And other officers are or were ministers. The past 3 days have been quite wet and I caught a cold that causes me to cough. I have made and drank some boneset tea and it has given me much relief, shall try another dose.
The sultry weather is clearing up with a gentle breeze. Our Regt. is now divided, 5 companies here and the 4 others are posted 40 or 50 rods on our left to support a battery in case the enemy appear, which I am sure they will not try, yet our guards are mounted and posted as if in the face of the enemy. Quite a commotion has just been created in camp by the arrival of Capt. Consor of Co. H and my old messmate Lt. Vanvliet, they having been parolled and now are on French leave from camp parole at Annapolis M.D. on a visit here. Lewis Boyington has also turned up. He had been reported killed and some said they had seen his body but this P.M. he came into camp a living breathing man. His story is very strange and not very interesting. I will add only that he escaped the Rebs by making good, or bad, use of his heels from the time the first shot was fired till he was safe in Alexandria. Here he got into the hands of the provost guard and was kept by them many weeks in durance vile until finally released by Capt. Espy interfering in his behalf.
September 19th. 1862.
Weather fine, nothing indicated a move. We are just having Regimental inspection to see that the men all clothing clean especially our underclothing. All are watching with deepest interest the success of our arms up the Potomac. Consor and Vanvliet left. The Lt. has had his baggage either lost or stolen. ‘Tis now guard mounting. The drums are beating.
Lovely weather. Camp duties and drills as usual. A Lt. from another Regt. came to Co. B and now fills that position.
September 21st. Sunday
A day of rest say you? It was once but is not known as such to me now. We have already this morning had Regimental inspection and guard mounting and hardly 10 O’clock A.M. Now comes police duty, parades etc.
I listened last eve to a sermon by the Chaplin of the 63rd. Pa., then J.F. Hawthorn and I visited a tent in which negroes were having religious services. Their styly of singing is peculiar to them alone but using hymns and songs in general use by us. They appeared to be very earnest in it all. One of them would take the lead and line the verse from memory in a chanting tone, wording it as near as I can write it like this. ‘Hark fom de tooms all doleful soun, my ears all tend de cry. Ye Libben men come view de groun whorr oo mus shortly lie.’ Slurring each word, the body swinging from side to side keeping time to the doleful music. We heard several others, one beginning ‘Whare now is de good ole brethren’ very lively and returned to our quarters. Weather continuously fine. Nothing unusual today save my getting, cooking and eating a cabbage for my supper, I will add, a part of and not a whole cabbage.
Yesterdays mail brought me a line from Dr. Herchhold asking me to write for the paper my views of his service etc. and sure I have nothing but good to tell. Last night was the coolest of the season and is very cool this morning. Had a few sharp words with the Adjt. this morning regarding the reporting of the several details. We have now 15 camp guards and from 10 to 20 our post guards, the latter generally takes a Co. or part of a Co. Many of the parolled prisoners are returning to the Regt., having been exchanged. Rained a little last night. We are looking with great anxiety to the movements of forces now so close to us and those under Bragg and Buel in Ky. If successful now we expect to return by the 1st of Jan. If not then we expect to go the 3 years or the ‘during’. The whole army seem to be in fine spirits and are anxious for a bold forward movement. The officers of our Regt. are fearful lest our Regt. be consolidated with some other as we are somewhat below the standard number and all such Regts. are liable to be merged in some other. We number 314 yet present in the service for duty though all are not with the Regt., there are, all told, over 600 counting prisoners and sick and wounded or other causes. Many of the parolled prisoners of the Regt. have retuned and are returning daily and we expect all to be exchanged soon. By an order read last evening this camp is to be known as Camp Prescott Smith. Col. McKnight has just returned and is again Col. of this Regt. He was quite boisterously received and in spite of all that has been said to injure him and make him unpopular, he still commands the respect and obedience of the Regt. I will not speak more particularly of his reception, but may tell of it more fully at some future time. Some of those most violent against him (ie the officers) certainly look rather blue over it as his coming was quite unexpected. The Col. will, I doubt not, prove that he is the right man to command this Regt. inspite of lies and reports circulated to injure him and will prove himself in every way worthy of the position which is his and no one elses. There are rumors of some officers resigning but they are truly the unworthy.
September 26th. 1862.
The Regt., this morning, are getting ready to go on picket some four or fives miles.
Not a word have I penned since the 26th for the journal and had almost resolved to give it up, for various reason, but have concluded to go on a while yet and I may not regret it. On the 26th I went on picket, too, some five miles to the front, altho’ Gen. Seigels Corps. were beyond us at Centerville the pickets are still continued. We had a very pleasant time, gathering and eating grapes, apples, corn, etc. All persons passing in or out of our lines had to show passes. We returned on the 27th. On Sunday 28th, besides the usual inspection, we had a brigade review. Col. McKnight took command and when we returned he spoke to us a few moments in regard to our appearance, etc. and said he was yet proud to command so gallant a regt. The same say day quartermaster R.J. Nickelson, for certain causes and a hint as to his conduct handed in his resignation and now today Major Greenawalt has handed in his resignation of his conduct at the battle of Bull Run, charges of cowardice being brought against him. The quartermaster was and is to deeply connected with the Sutter (Sulter?). Vacancies of second Lt. are being filled up, Co’s. A&F filling theirs by election. Orderly Sergt. Doughtery of Co. F resigned last week and I bought his sword and sword harness. Co’s C, E, and G and perhaps co i have 2nd Lts. to fill. The fate of Lt. Gilbert of Co. i is not yet known for sure. This day is very warm. Our Regt. is again united, the three Co’s. on our right joining us yesterday and the whole of our brigade is sight.
We today have had a grand review of two brigades of our division by General Heitzleman out at Bailies X roads, four miles out. Got back at one o’clock P.M. Very hot today and two men of the 20 Ind. Regt. were sun-stuck and died and Oliver Spence, of my company, died today of congestion of the brain, caused by exposure and over exertion. I saw, a few moments ago, Mr. Wash Kelley of Shelocta Ind. Co. Pa., brother-in-law of Coz Andres Jackson. He is visiting the regt.
Cloudy and misty but warm and sultry. Paid for sword, etc, $5, first cost $18. Harness needs a little repair. Out of 160 men we have 46 today doing guard duty. There is till no little excitement in camp owing to recent resignations etc. and much speculation is rife as others may yet resign. While others would not resign unless by force. I can hardly account for my own feelings for the past few days, not that I am unwell for I am not, but I feel uneasy and am moving about aimlessly, almost constantly and scarcely know why or what for. Only when doing duty am I relieved for this feeling. I can hardly content myself to write ten minutes at a time. My mind seems almost flighty and the P. Master tells me that I talk a great deal in my sleep. Is my nature changing or am I becoming week minded? I can’t follow a subject as long or fathon it as deep as heretofore. I almost laugh at my own thoughts sometimes, they are of such a ludicrous nature that they force themselves on my mind. Mind and body more restive then I have realized in all my past life. Why is it?
A bright rosy morning as ever dawned. Everybody seems joyous. The air is so pure, so invigorating. Camp is noisy with news boys crying the Washington, Baltimore, New York, and Philadelphia papers are the fife and drum sounds clear and loud on the air, yet with youthful health and vigor and life blood bounding through our veins and surounded by all the glory of war. The soldier still longs to nestle in ‘the old house at home’, still pants for his native hills and to again mingle with friends of his boyhood days.
October 8th, 1862.
A year has past since I gave myself to my country. During that time many battles have been fought and thousands have fallen, martyrs to the cause, either on the field or in the hospital. Fond parents, dear brothers and sisters, loving wives and kind friends mourn in their loss. History will drop a curtain over all this when she tells of the deeds of those who fell in doing battle for their country in 1861 and on. She love not to paint the sorrows caused by the breaking and tearing assunder of fond hearts bound together by the ties of nature and friendship, neither can she picture to the eye or mind the agonies of the poor soul as he lies upon the gory field writhing with pain of body but more so than pain of heart, to think he must give up his soul to his Maker and close his eyes upon the world without seeing once more, just once more, those who are so dear to him. Never, even now in all his agony, to feel the warm soothing touch of love or hear one word of consolation from the lips of his loved ones. But why reflect on what may yet be my own fate. Better men and more worthy than I have fallen. Let me rather praise my Father above, who has been so kind, for his mercies shown and blessings given to unworthy me. As I write, the band is playing the Dead March as a comrade, Scofield of Co. C, is being borne to his last resting place. On the morning of the 6th we were again on picket, coming in yesterday about noon. While out we enjoyed ourselves hugely. We were at Falls Church, six or seven miles distant. It is a small village but contains three large churches, one called the Falls Church is very ancient. They are not used now for worship as the government uses them for storehouses or anything else needed. During the day we learned that two men were near by with buggies selling liquors to the soldiers. The Col. Sent me with three men to capture them as all such sales are forbiden. We came upon the nests and destroyed one box of liquors that in bottles. When the men saw us coming he ran to tell his man at the buggy, which was hid quite a distance off, and got there just in time to fall in the hands of a provost marshall who had also sent out to capture them. Horse, buggy, men and liquor all were taken and escorted under guard to headquarters. Had I been a few minutes sooner we would have had them ourselves. But the object was effected and we returned very well satisfied. Men on picket are liable to severe punishment if found drunk while on duty. Our duties here everyday in camp would be almost a repitition should I relate them. The boys, or rather I would say a few of them, amuse themselves often in the fore part of the evening at the expence of the owners of little ‘dogeries’ and sutler tents by moving in squads and letting down the tents or overturning the wagon and then helping themselves to whatever suits their fancy or taste and then run to camp with their plunder. This thing the officers, from the Gen. down, generally wink at as it is rather desirable to have such institutions removed as far as possible from camps. Last night, as I saw writing in my tent all alone, I heard a great commotion at a sutlers tent that stood 8 or 10 rods up a slight hill back of my tent and a few minutes after, a soldier came running through my tent … (text unreadable) … carrying a cheese box … (text unreadable) ... my bunk, he rushed out. A moment after came another man greatly excited. He asked me if a man did not come into my tent. I said yes, and he went on through. This man knew I was not the guilty one as I was partly undressed and sat writing, and so he too rushed out but was to late to see his man, who was now safely stowed away in his tent. I have the eggs yet. A big party of boys had gathered around the sutlers tent, which was quite a large one and while he and his assistants were selling and pricing goods, others were quietly pulling up the pins that held down the tent. When all were ready a signal was given. All the pins came up and down came the tent on all within. The boys all grabbed what they could, and scattering, ran away with their booty. As our Regt. was the closest to the sutler, he judged it was some of our men, so he reported his loss to the Col. and told him he believed he could identify the men if he could see them. So early the next morning the Col. ordered every man in line of battle and the sutler was called and beginning at the head of the line, passed slowly down to the foot, peering a moment in each mans face, but our boys stood the test nobly. All were innocent looking as sheep and not a guilty face was found. Then we cheered and jeered the fellow till he was glad to go back to his quarters, a sadder but no wiser man. There may have been a man or two from our Regt. in the fracas, but nearly all were from adjoining Regt. The Col. complimented us on being honest and upright men. Some tents were searched, but not mine.
October 9th, 1862.
Weather continues very warm. Last night orders came to have 2 days rations in our haversacks and be ready to take the field at a moments notice. It creates little stir as such orders are are very common. Of course we may go today and then perhaps not for weeks. One thing is certain, we cannot winter in such tents as the privates are now provided with, being only little shelter tents about one and three fourths yds. square, of heavy muslin made to button together. Four of them make what we call a dogtent. Heretofore they were made of canvas or oilcloth. We are drawing clothing again this evening. I need none this time, indeed have more than I care to carry. We certainly do not want for clothing. We are now getting overcoats etc. I think we shall move a little ways at least. Signs of rain as I close.
October 15th. 1862. Camp near Poolsville Md.
Five days have passed since last writing. On the evening of the ninth we did move at 3 o’clock, having lain in the rain all night. After we got the orders the little tents were all taken down, but my tent being a wedge tent was left standing so I had shelter but got little sleep. Daylight found us on the road toward Georgetown. I saw, on the way, many old aquaintances in the 135th. Pa. Wm. Himes, D Reed and Jno. Keihl. We rested a short time in Georgetown, feeling indeed that we were once more among friends, for little girls and the ladies brought us water, cakes and other provisions, to their doors, for our use and kindly asked of our welfare and with smiles wished us a pleasant journey and telling victories. We continued our march till dark, reaching Rockville in Montgomery Co. Md. We passed through Tanneytown, crossing the canal and the Potomac and encamped with our whole brigade in the Fair ground. The day was cloudy and cool. We were aroused at 1 o’clock in the morning and at 3 A.M. were again on our way to Poolsville. The sun came out and we with our heavy loads soon began to the feel the loss of our sleep and rest. The new Regts. began to throw away a part of their extra clothing and the old Regts., to pick them up. This continued most of the day till ... (text unreadable) ... for the winter. We passed through Rockdale sometime before daylight, still I could see it was quite a large place and contained many find buildings. I counted 5 churches. Shade trees were tick on both sides of the street all the way through. We reached Darnstown, a small village, about noon and got orders to move on as fast as possible. It was hard to add spread to our already tired limbs but was done and we reached Poolsville about 3 A.M. Sunday and encamped in a large field a mile beyond the town, where we now are, making coffee and eating a few crackers. Were again formed in line and throwing off our knapsacks, we started down toward the Potomac. After going about 6 miles in the rain, which began falling about 5 P.M., we were halted and lay down 2 hours near the ferry over which the Rebs had escaped a few hours before. We were just a little to late. The 99th. Pa. were near when they crossed but for some unaccountable reason, let them go over without hinderance. The command ‘Right about. Forward march.’ Came and we reached camp at midnight, cold, wet, tired and hungry. A few tents had been put up by those unable to go on our scout but many had to lie on the wet ground in the rain and were soon fast asleep. I crept into a wagon that was covered and lay chilled till morning. Day before yesterday we rested and the rain ceased. We dried our clothes and ate apples, which were in an orchard nearby and slept, but at 3 o’clock A.M. we were again roused up and soon under arms, and at daylight had marched 6 miles to Whites landing, remaining there 2 hours. We were led through a culvert under the canal and in water almost knee deep, then up the toepath 7 miles to the mouth of the Monocacy. On the way up I saw the tracks where the Rebs had crossed a day or so before. A fine acqueduct is built over the Monocacy. Just below the dock, the Rebs had opened the bank and let the water out of the canal some weeks before but it had been repaired. We lay here three quarters of an hr. and made coffee and ate dinner. About 3 P.M., the 40th. N.Y. were doing picket duty here. ‘Paupaus’, a kind of fruit growing on low bushes and in shape like a long slim cucumber, were growing here in abundance. After eating we started back to camp, arriving there about 10 o’clock at night, having marched over 24 miles under a hot sun and now again today we rest. On Saturday and Sunday we marched over 75 miles and for 3 days and nights had not over 6 hours sleep. Of the incident son the way and how the new Regts. got out of rations, the appearance of the country in general near Balls Bluff, how the canal is filled and guarded, I can’t speak now and so ends this chapter.
Since the 15th. we have shifted our camp around 2 or 3 times and now we are on the extreme left of the brigade, pleasantly located just below a large stone house owned by a farmer not to friendly to our cause. At 3 P.M. today we had brigade drill. The lay of the country between this place and Washington is similar to Jeff. Co., but not quite so rolling. Fine farms with nice commodious buildings are seen in all directions with large thrifty orchards, fences in fine condition and everything else appears in good order. They were stocked, too, with cattle, hogs, sheep, poultry and negroes. Fence rows clean of brush and weeds, a thing quite unknown on the peninsula. The average farmer generally has from 2 to 10 head of horses. The soil is rich and clear. Cool springs are common, most all limestone water, which has caused considerable bowel complaint but all are better now and used to the water. This morning we had our first frost, it was very light. Your birthday is a beautiful one here. While on drill our left rested a short time in the camp of the 114th. Regt. and 2 women, wives of some members of the Regt., stood just before me in a street of the camp. They were mothers, though young, their babies resting their laughing innocent dimpled faces on their mothers shoulders. It made us glad and the sight carried our minds back to our homes and for a moment forget ... (text unreadable).
October 19th. Sunday.
I have just returned from hearing a sermon by the chaplin of the 63rd. Pa. Our secesh farmer, friend was also in attendance. We can hear the church bells ringing in Poolsville. We received our mail last night. It comes about every 3 days. A letter from P.H. Shannon and Geo. Shultz of my Co., who is in the hospital in Rhode Island. By order of the Col. I yesterday took up quarters with the Adjt. so as to be near the Col’s. headquarters.
Heavy frost which the sun is fast melting away. Their is much talk about going into winter quarters. Will the campaign end with no greater results? If it does, another year of war is in store for us. We are now styled the ‘Corps of observation’ as we are here to watch the Rebs in their raids for provisions etc. in this state. Stoneman, a Gen. of some note, has now taken command of our division with headquarters in Poolville for the present. We get our provisions etc. via the Chesapeak and Ohio canal, which will freeze over in the winter. Our bread all comes from Washington, bakers bread 3 days and hardtack, as the boys call it, the rest of the time each week. Fresh beef once a week. Many of the inhabitants here are as strong Unionists as can be found anywhere, while others again are far from being friendly to our cause. We are not permitted to leave camp at all and anyone, men or officers, found by the patrol guards without passes are taken up and sent to Harpers Ferry and made to work on the fortifications and in some instances, lose one or two months pay. Two or three of our Regt. are already there. They would go out for apples or chickens or something else and so were caught. Each Regt. furnishes, each day, a certain number of men for patrol guards, who scour the coutry for straglers.
Cool, with frosts, a high wind blew all day yesterday, nearly upsetting our tents. A number of lod ovens are being fitted up to bake our own bread for the whole brigade. They were built here last year and are in a good state of preservation. We will then have flour issued and will be a great saving and give us a constant supply of good fresh bread. It is just one year ago today since the vows that made us one were pledged. That day I was surrounded by all that makes life desireable, but now how changed. Today I go to the shore of the Potomac to watch the enemy, but the day is clear and the same heavens are over my head, the same earth under my feet and the same God watching over us all and caring for us. I’ll not complain. ‘He doeth all things well’ and has promised to be with me to the end of time. The Regt. started on picket this morning at 8 o’clock. I follow at 2 P.M., having remained behind to take the men who have been on guard at Gens. headquarters, who will be relieved at 9 A.M. today.
Relieved from picket yesterday noon. Our headquarters are just opposite the old battle ground of Balls Bluff. I suffered with cold the first night, but the other 2 nights I slept with the Col. and others in an adjoining barn. Boats were running at all hours on the canal, night and day. Spent most of our time gathering nuts or floating on the canal. A cold rain began falling yesterday morning and before we were relieved we were drenched to the skin and to make our condition more gloomy an order awaited us, to be in readiness to march at 4 A.M. We were thus kept busy till near midnight in making preparations to march. We had 3 days rations to draw and cook and all in a cold drizzling rain. At daylight the wagons were on the ground for the heavy baggage. Tents came down, knapsacks packed and all ready to start. Then orders came to allow but one wagon and one wagon and one ambulance to a Regt. instead of 4, the usual number. We shivered in the rain around the fires and in a barn near by till noon. Then the wagons were ordered to unload and guards were again put out. The clouds now began to scatter. At 4 P.M. the sun came out and a high but cold wind is drying the ground off again very fast and we have quite forgotten what we have suffered and all began to smile again, as our clothes are dry once more and we begin to feel warm and comfortable. We have plenty of clothes but when we are wet to the skin with a cold rain, all the clothes in ‘Dixey’ will hardly warm us. I wear now a pair of woolen pants, cotton drawers, 2 flannel shirts, woolen blouse, socks, shoes and cap and all will have overcoats that are not already supplied. This evening I carry in my knapsack a pair of pants, drawers, socks, 1 shirt, woolen blankets, 1 oil and 1 cotton, half house as we call them (ie tents). The men all carry 100 rounds of cartridges and musket, tin cup and canteen and some vessel in which to make coffee and some, a frying pan, their musket and bayonet. Now we have our tents up again and all goes on as before. Big fires are burning at the end of each Co. street and the men are talking and laughing about them as they warm themselves. I have just returned from drill and feel much brightened up. Dr. Crawfords wife is now in camp. She came with Capt. Consor while we were on picket. It can not be pleasant for her as things now are. The weather is moderating fast. When we march we expect to cross the Potomac. Fresh beef is being issued. The boys in the old camp came up last night, among whom are Jas. Walker, Wm. Haines and Hunter Kennedy. The last is in our Co. and from near Brooksville.
In camp near Leesburg Va. On the morning of the 28th. we were packed up and in line of march by 7 o’clock for the ‘old dominion’. We had received orders, the evening previous, to start at that hour. We took the direct road to Whites Ford, where we arrived about noon. Skirmishers were thrown forward across the river to scout the country. No enemy being found, we began to cross. Some divested themselves of part of their clothing, strapping in on their shoulders. I and most of the others waded without other preparations. The water was very cold, so much so that we, at first entering, could hardly speak, but as soon as Regt. after Regt. recovered their speech, a wild, loud shout went up, they presented such a really laughable appearance, some being quite naked, others in white, red or other colored drawers or shirts. Now and then one would slip on the smooth stones and fall in all over. The water in most places being fully 3 ft. deep. It was great sport for us all in spite of the suffering caused by the cold water, but all got safely over at last. A few pieces of artillery preceded us and now 2 batteries of artillery followed immediately after, from their position on the Md. side, where they had been placed to command the crossing. Once on the Va. side we halted and wrung the water from our socks, pants and drawers etc. We proceded down the river about 2 miles and encamped in line of battle on the old Ball Bluff battle ground. There is an island in the river, just opposite to use. The Potomac here is 400 or 500yds across. The late rains have raised the river about 2ft. We have not been molested thus far. We are 3 or 4 miles from Leesburg, to which place we expect to move in a short time. The evening we came here we built large fires, dried our clothes and from a large stack of wheat straw, near by, we procured straw for our beds and spent a very comfortable night. We have remained ever since. I find that when some of the men can slip out and evade the patrol, they come back loaded with walnuts, apples, chickens and other country produce that they can find, but we are on the ‘Sacred soil’ of Virginia now.
One thing I failed to mention of the sights in Md. That is that in Md., schoolhouses were as common as with us and we often saw the children of the neighboring farmers, wending their way in the mornings with book in satchels, toward the school, sometimes accompanied by a little darkie who generally carried their dinners and books. The sight of these scholors and the schoolhouses, though generally small, were perhaps the most pleasing sight I have had since leaving my own county.
October 31st. 1862.
‘Be in readiness to march at daylight’ were the orders we received last night, but this morning it was postponed till 11 A.M. in order to give time to muster the men for pay. Not to receive the money but to get their Cr’s for the last 2 months. Got word from the paymaster that he would be here to pay us by the 11th. or 15th. of Nov. On the road to this place, Leesburg, which we reached at noon, we saw farms in a high state of cultivation on either side. On nearing this town we halted and formed in good order and with fixed bayonets, bands playing and colors flying, we passed through the city, which by the by is the prettiest town I have yet seen in Va. The whites and negroes had on their holiday attire and sat in their doors, on the porches and looking out of windows with their whole families, save the male portion, most of whom are in the secesh army. Some ladies sneered and scoffed at us, more looked as if their cause was a helpless one, while a very few had a smile or a kind word of welcome for us. We passed through in fine order and encamped just on the opposite side, but will probably advance soon. The country around presents a pleasing appearance. A few old forts and earthworks can be seen here and there on the high hills. All works of last year. We received this morning the first mail we have had since we crossed the river.
On Sunday the 2nd. we were again on the move. Our Regt. being on picket were called in and at 2 P.M. we passed again part way through the city. We took the turnpike road leading to Winchester. We left many of our sick and of the Rebel army in Leesburg. We followed the pike 3 miles and turned to the left on a by road on a direct course for the Blue Ridge Mts., which we could plainly see in the distance. After going 10 or 12 miles and until near midnight, we encamped near a small village called Mt. Gilead. The country was broken, very much like our own, with farms in a high state of cultivation, fences generally lined the road on either side. We were very successful here as well as at Leesburg in getting forage ‘on the sly’. Fresh mutton, pork, chicken, turkey, ducks, geese, and even honey was found in abundance. About 3 P.M. on the 3rd. we were again on the march, passing through Mountainville, New Lisbon and Springhill, all small villages, not as large as Ringgold. At 10 O’clock that night we encamped at this place near a brick gristmill on Goose creek. The men were very tired when they got here. I made coffee and lay down with my tent mate, Chas. Graham the bugler, on a nice bed of corn stalks, which were near by in a field and although they night was cold here in the mts. I had a good nights sleep and arose much refreshed. We expected to march again yesterday but were happily disappointed. In the mill was found large quantities of grain and flour, which our forces took as the fences, pigs and poultry generally confiscated to our use. Men of our brigade started the mill running and most of the grain was ground. This morning the millers house was searched and in it 3 Reb soldiers were found secreted under a bed in an upstairs chamber. The men are rested now in the best of spirits, making the walking ring with shouts of laughter and merry song. Gen’s. Poe and Ward have just passed with their brigades. It is now 9 A.M. and our brigade (Robinsons) will follow in a few moments. As we draw near the Mts. the roads are more uneven and rough. We can hear the distant roar of canon now every day. Our forces are almost constantly skirmishing 6 to 19 miles in advance.
On the 5th. we marched from the mill to the turnpike leading from Meddleburg to Alexandria, which we followed through the last named place and taking a right hand road we passed through White Plains and again took to the right in the direction of Salem, going to within 2 miles of it we, at about 10 O’clock at night, encamped. At 7 A.M. on the morning we were again on the march, taking the van. Our road led through a gap in the high range of hills, a wild rough road full of deep ravines. We had expected the enemy to make a stand here but as we were pressing forward through different passes in large force, they continued to retire before us. We emerged from the gap into open country about dark, marching on until about 9 or 10 O’clock we again encamped and posted out heavy pickets as the enemy were near. Scouts came in this morning with intelligence the bridge over a deep stream some 2 ½ miles in advance had been burned. This stream is about 40ft. wide and too deep to ford and so our whole division moved down within ½ mile of the stream. The 20th. Ind. were on picket here and 2 Cos., having early in the morning before daybreak, taken a position behind the abutment found, when daylight came, that a squad of Rebs were in a house on the opposite side, neither party daring to leave. Our party were relieved in a few hours by a squad of cavalry and 2 pieces of cannon and a few solid shot and the Rebs had to ‘cave in’. Then our men began to rebuild the bridge. The stream is called ‘Carters Run’ and the gaps we came through was in the Carter Mts. Yesterday was cool but today it’s winter and the ground is covered with snow an inch deep, having fallen since morning.
With large fires we passed a pretty comfortable night and now at noon the sun is out warm and the snow nearly melted away. We are within 8 or 10 miles of Warrenton and expect to move as soon as the bridge is completed and we can get another lot of clothing. Some need shoes, others overcoats etc. We are anxiously awaiting our mail, having had none for a week.
On Monday the 10th., about noon, the Gen’s. bugler blew ‘attention’. All were soon ready and under arms. Since the 8th. we had been idly lying in camp, save 24 hours of picket duty. I stayed in camp and washed my clothes, but now we could distinctly hear a constant roar of cannon and all was bustle. Orderlies were riding hither and thither in hot haste, bearing messages from on command to another. A few wounded passed us and then we heard that our forces, consisting of 2 brigades of cavalry and one of infantry were being back. The bugle again sounded ‘forward march’ and we in a few moments were crossing the bridge on Carters Run and the north branch of the Rapahanock, to the scene of action. All along our route were seen trains of wagons returning, guarded by squads of cavalry. We passed on some 3 miles but were not to see a fight this time. We lay on the ground close to our guns, expecting to engage with the enemy in the morning. Day came but the enemy were retreating. They had tried, with a heavy force, to cut off our train in the rear of our advance. They failed and our trains were moving forward again all night. We lay here all day on the 11th., during which Capt. Hamilton went a short distance from camp and gathered a large quantity of persimmons and I ate my fill. When very ripe they are indeed delicious. On the 12th. the whole force, save a small force, began to move back. I was astonished to see so many troops passing. They had gone in the advance at the same time we moved but by another route. We were ordered to return in the P.M. and reached our camp of the 8th. but we did not stop. 1 ½ miles farther on we turned from the Warrenton pike onto a road that led from it to the right and going about 2 miles we encamped in a pretty grove of young pines. We think Fredricksburg is our destination and expect to move very soon but not today as the teams with the clothing are coming up first. Yesterday, just before we started, our Pm rode into cam amid the cheers of all, as we had heard that he was captured with the mail. I was both disappointed and surprised to find there was no letter for me, although 2 from you were due me. The last I received from you was at Leesburg. Rumors of raids are common, but with 1 or 2 exceptions have proved false, but is has caused us to fear for our mail. A small force of Rebel cavalry is scouting or bushwhacking in our rear most of the time. We have just been informed of the removal of Gen. McClelland. There is very little dissatisfaction expressed as there would have been had it occured a few months ago, yet it is plain to be seen that he was once the ‘Idol’ of the army. The whole army seems to be discussing his merits and some are rather loud in their threats at his removal. We find newspaper news is quite stale by the time they reach us and the most absurd rumors are rife that I ever heard. The whole country seems literally alive with troops and at night the camp fires light up the hills as far as the eye can reach. We have plenty of rations and all seem in good health and spirits.
November 15th. 1862
We have lain quietly in camp since I last wrote on the 13th. till last night when we were ordered to relieve the 63rd. Pa. on picket. We got here about dusk. Three Cos. E, C and i were placed on post and the rest acted as a reserve. All was quiet during the night. I slept soundly and rested well on a pile of dry oak leaves, close to a stone fence and against which I am leaning as I write. Col. McKnight did not come out with us as he is under arrest by order of Gen. Robinson for permitting Sergt. Bruce to go to Washington, day before yesterday, for the mail without first consulting him. McKnight will come out all right, the charge being almost frivolous. There has been a ‘right smart’ spell of cannonading this morning, 2 or 3 miles in front, between one of our batteries on this side and a Reb battery on the other side of the river and caused, for a while, considerable excitement in camp. The Rebs seem determined to dispute our crossing . We are now within 3 or 4 miles of Warrenton from which place come our supplies, which come from Washington by RR. An order to move has come.
We are now just in sight of Warrenton. Came here this A.M. We passed through the town which is larger than I expected. I think our brigade is to act as RR guards again. The Col. is in command again this morning without further explanation. The country is quite level here but everything seems to be going to ruin. I heard that the 62nd. Pa. (Blacks Regt.) are posted in the town. Some of our boys got passes and have gone over to see them. I prefer to stay and write. The enemy, in the fight day before yesterday, were driven and large bodies of our troops have passed over. All is quiet today. The balance of our divisions have gone on, while we are left here for some purpose. All prisoners of our Regt. have been exchanged and are now on their way back to us. McClellands removal as quite ceased to be discussed and all seem satisfied and in fact are confident of a more vigorous prosecution of the war. This is Sunday yet card playing and other sports are going on all around me. A great work for the reformation of the soldiers when they return to their homes, if not before, should be at once commenced by every lover of morality as well as every lover of the Saviour of mankind. I shudder which I think of the influence they will have over the minds of the younger members of their peaceful and comparatively guiltless homes when they return. Ah yes, I feel those homes, in many instances, will be sadly, speedily changed. Fathers, Mothers, loving brothers and sisters and you fond wives, could I speak to you all I would urge you to prepare for the work. Begin it now. Let every letter contain an admonition, every prayer a petition that something may serve, by the help of the Most High, to cause them to reflect and shun the many many vices incident to army life. O God, lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. Bring the cause before each class, each praying family and each church. The whistle of the locomotive again cheers us and we feel we have passed into civilization once more. The weather is very cool but I can still write in the open. My fingers get a little numb if I sit long. We are well clothed and by no means suffer for aught. We have just been made glad once more by the arrival of our mail. I have 3 letters but none from you. M.H. Shannon is my most punctual correspondent and one of my most interesting ones. We are now drawing 5 days rations. We carry 3 days in our haversacks and 2 are hauled in the wagons. The health of the Regt. was never better and all seem in the best of spirits and if we ever get into another fight I’ll venture to say that Gen. Stonemans division will acquit themselves as well as they ever did under Kearney. In camp 12 miles from Fredricksburg.
November 20th. 1862.
We have been marching along since the 16th. or rather the morning of the 17th. The first day, to Bealton Station 12 miles from Warrenton. Crossed the RR on the 18th. and marched 6 or 7 miles and encamped in a field. Our Regt. acted as skirmishers on either side of the wagon trains to guard against attacks by squads of Rebel cavalry that are continually hovering near, around the army, to make a sudden dash if opportunity offers. Near the camp were 3 large stacks of straw and it was amusing to see the soldiers go for them. We had soft beds that night. As we were coming from Bealton Station here, we had camped and were carrying away the straw. Orders by the Provost guards to cease came to us, as they wished to reserve the rest for the horses, but some drunken men broke through the guard that had surrounded the stacks and a Capt. of the 124th. N.Y., of Gen. Berrys brigade, who was in charge of the guard caused 2 men to be shot as they would not desist. This exasperated his comrades and they went from him shouting ‘shoot him, kill him, hang him’, and he had to flee for his life. he ran direct for our Regt. and as he passed by the Cols. tent, at the head of the Regt. with the mob close to his heels, he cried out to the Col. ‘Is there no protection for the widows only son?’ in the most piteous manner imaginable. The officers rushed with drawn swords to the Regt. checked the pursuit long enough to enable him to escape to the woods and as it was quite dark, the mob could not find him. I learned that he was later arrested and taken to Gen. Burneys headquarters, but of course will not be punished as he was in the discharge of his duty. It has been raining all day and the roads are very muddy. We changed our camp to a wood near by this afternoon.
We left the above camp on the morn of the 22nd. A heavy rain on the 21st. had beat down the mud so that the roads were in fair condition. We passed the 62nd. Pa. and the 155th. Pa. and I paid a flying visit to each and spoke to many of my old acquaintances, among who were S.S. Jackson and also Alonz. Young of Duquesne borough in the 123rd. and D Brown and Wm. Depp and J.Y. Smith and others 62nd. We marched within 2 miles of Fredricksburg and camped for the night but had to go near a mile for our water. Yesterday morning we went a mile farther, where wood and water is more convenient. Just before starting, S.S. Jackson came to see me and remained till near noon. When I got my tent pitched and we had eaten our dinner, I returned with him to his Regt. and spent the rest of the day there and in the 155th. Pa., which is in the same brigade. I found many very man y dissatisfied with the service, declaring that 10 crackers or hardtack was not enough for 2 meals instead of doing for a whole days rations. I find the new troops generally complain of not having food enough, ye the old troops have plenty and the rations are all the same, but we have learned to feel satisfied with them. Received mail again this evening. There was one from you and one from sister Eva, being her 3rd. letter. Had brigade inspection today. We expect to remain here at least 10 days. If we were where we could get things by express, I think a few apir of boots would find their way to our camp, as well as some other things. Still we are really not in need of any thing, but we find government shoes poor protection against the wet, but in dry weather are more easy to walk in than boots. We have quite given up hopes of being paid for another 2 months, while lying here. I have just learned the noble boy, the brave soldier Jacob Mauk, has gone to his long home. He came to camp Jemison with me and has been in every battle engaged by the Regt. and done his duty nobly. Long may his memory be cherished by his friends as one who has given up his life in the defence of a government, the best and greatest the sun ever shone upon. I loved him as a comrade and a pupil and as a soldier and as a christian boy and deeply do I mourn his untimely death. ‘Brother Soldier’ Fare thee well. There is heavy frost yet there could be no better weather for moving an army.
December 5th. 1862.
Since last writing nothing, worthy of note, has transpired within my range of vision. We have not been idle, drilling and guarding has had to be done and there have been heavy details for wagon guards. We also had to furnish 115 men and 10 non-commissioned and 4 commissioned officers, all under the command of our Major Greenawalt, to do picket duty 5 or 6 miles from camp, going out on the 1st. and gone 3 days. The days have been cool with frosty night. Sun shining pleasantly but today at noon it began to rain a cold dreary rain with, now and then, flakes of snow. ‘Tis evening now, the cold has increased and snow is falling fast and the wind almost upsets our little tents. I pity those unprepared for such a sudden change and there are many such and they have to lie exposed to the peltings of the storm. As for myself and tent mates, Wm. Hendricks the PM., Chas. Graham the bugler and Robt. Banks our color bearer, we are snug and warm to what our fellows are having. During the fair weather we built a pen over which we placed our wedge tent and on the right of the door, built a capital fireplace with a chimney of sods and sticks and the cracks daubed with mud. We have a bright warm fire by which I am now writing. The allotment for guards for tomorrow have come and I must make the allotment for each Co.
The morning bitter cold and ice covers the ground where water stood yesterday, but the sun has come out clear and will soon melt away the snow and ice and smiles are taking the place of pinched wry faces of the men. We had a good fire all night and our little pen was warm and cozy. The new recruits were paid the bounty money, last night, that was due them.
Sunday morn and the weather still cool and freezing nights. There was quite an excitement last night caused by the return of many of the convelescent men and parolled prisoners from the camps near Alexandria, among whom was Ezra Stweart of Co. G who had been home on ‘French leave’ and some of us thing he gave his name to Sadie Hawthorne. He gave me a very interesting account of things in general in Jeff. Co. All look well and hearty. More of them are expected soon. The inspection today was in sham affair. All that could, kept close to their quarters on account of the cold. A requisition has been made for Sibley tents, camp kettles, mess pans etc. which strongly indicates going into winter quarters. Still I can hardly think it will happen yet awhile. Last Sabbath evening a few of us gathered together and spent a pleasant hour in prayer. Many of those who joined with us were of the number who joined with us in camp Jameson. I’ll name a few. Jas. Hawthorne, Stephen Hartwell, Henry Rhodes, Jos. Swisher, David Criswell, O.C. Redic and many others. Although we had agreed to meet tonight we find the weather to cold out doors. We have 66 men wanting arms, who have returned unsupplied. We now receive rations, mail etc. with great regularity and all roads and RR have been completed. Preparations apparently for an advance still goes on and the daily papers can scarcely allay the many rumors.
A clear cold morning as it froze hard last night, but now the sun rays dancing on the snow dazzles the eye so I can hardly keep them open. Officers schools are again established beginning at the manual of arms. I think I’ll join. One hour is allotted to each recitation by order of Gen. Burney.
In camp near Falmouth. During the late cold spell several were frost bitten. One man of the 141st Pa., it is reported, was so chilled, night before last, that he died, but now the weather has greatly moderated. Have been inspected again today by Gen Robinson. He seems determined to keep us in tip top order. He was very particular in noting the cleanliness of our shirts etc. Lucky for mi had just changed and so, presented a pretty clean collar. All were not as fortunate, as some men do not change to average twice a month. I have always tried to keep my person and clothing as clean as possible, changing at least once a week and I think to this I may attribute, to a great extent, my unusual good health. (This may appear odd but nevertheless true)
December 20th. 1862.
Thankful to my Heavenly Father for his protecting care over me I shall endeavor to narrate to you the exciting and terrible scenes I have passed through since my journal account of doing in the Regt. up to the 9th. On the 10th. orders came to be in readiness to move at a moments notice. After 6 O’clock P.M. I spent the day getting ready to leave. Henry Slegle, being in camp and just ready to leave for home in his discharge, I wrote a few lines to you and sent them with him, otherwise nothing of note occurred that day, but on the 11th. … (text unreadable) At daylight the long silence was broken by a single report of a cannon some 2 miles to our left. 15 or 20 minutes after, came another single report followed in a moment by a continuous roar ‘Louder than the bolts of heaven’ all along our front. We were at once moved forward to the crest of the hill where our batteries were firing and lay in line of battle till dusk when we were moved to the foot of the hill into the woods near the RR opposite the city. Here we bivouacked for the night and remained till late in the afternoon of the 12th. when we were marched down the river in full view of the city, which was now in our possession. After going 3 or 4 miles we again bivouacked for the night in a woods on the right of the road a mile or 2 from the river. On the morn of the 13th. we marched down near the river and stacked arms on a high bluff overlooking the great battlefield in front of the city. We could see the heavy masses of our troops as they moved up Marys Heights toward the certain jaws of death. Some 2 miles away, on our left, Franklins Corps were heavily engaged and on our right the heavy massing of troops showed that there was soon to be hot work in that quarter and we could now see line after line move up the hill against the Rebel works from which now a stream of fire and smoke was belching forth. We could hear the cheers of our men above the roar of the cannon and musketry against which they charged to the very cannons mouths. They might as well have tried to storm the clouds. The lines were almost annihilated. They would fall and some would rise and press on, or fall back to some bank for shelter from the hail of bullets and grape. We could not long remain spectators of that awful heart sickening sight. Orders came to ‘forward double quick march’ sounded along the line and we moved ‘right smart’ down the road a mile and a half or more. A few rods only, had been passed over when the enemy’s batteries on the left began to play on us and the balls and shells whizzed fearfully around and over us. Almost every moment a comrade would be seen to fall, but our Regt., with one exception, passed safely through. Lt. Patterson of Co. E was slightly wounded in the claf of the leg. We crossed on the pontoon bridge, 3 of them being laid here for that purpose. On we moved on the double quick, balls and shells falling thicker and faster as we moved to the line of battle. We soon met Gen. Wards brigade as they were coming off the field, badly cut up and ammunition exhausted, the enemy following close in pursuit. Our brigade, all except our Regt. and the 141st. Pa., rushed forward on our batteries and began firing, while we were kept back to support the batteries, if necessary. The other Regts., 63rd., 68th., 114th. Pa. and the 20th. Ind., after firing a few volleys at the enemy who were only a few rods distant, fixed bayonets and charged with loud yells, driving them back to the cut in the RR and their works in the woods. (The 114th. did not hear the command to fix bayonets but charged with the rest. The enemy ran all the same.) While this was being done we lay behind the battery as close to the ground as we could get, our noses were fairly buried, so close did we lie, the shells bursting around and over us and the musket balls flying, too, with their ‘twit twir spat sip’ thick on every side. A shell uncapped the skull of a gunner in front of me and scattering his brains over us, then burst and pieces striking Smoose and Brooks of Co. F, mortally wounding the first and severly thelatter. Another burst soon after, low to the ground a little in front of my Co., mortally wounding Jas. R Bennet and Robt.S. Montgomery and severely wounding David Criswell, Kno. Hileman and Capt. Hamilton and injuring Sergt. McGiffin, Eli Roll and Jno. R.D. Say, slightly. We lay here till near midnight when we were moved in line of battle with the other Regts. farther to the front. About 9 O’clock that evening, the firing ceased. Sabbath morn dawned on us here as we lay on our faces at the crest of the hill in full view of the enemy’s line of battle in the edge of the woods. About 4 P.M. a flag of truce was sent over to the Rebs by Gen Burney, to ask privilege to bring off our dead and wounded that lay between the two armies. All the night long before we could hear, distinctly, the wounded crying for water and help for calling in Him, before whom they would soon stand, to have mercy on them and through the day they would wave their caps and cry out, begging us to come and help them. ‘Oh do come, wont you come? Help, help Oh men, do help’ but no, they would not admit the flag and our wounded could get no relief as their sharpshooters would pick off our men when they would attempt to go to them. The pickets on both sides would pop away at any whom they saw exposed. If an officer came up to our line he at once became a target. This would often cause the wounding of men or horses in our lines. Men and horses were wounded near me in this manner. On Sunday night Cos. I and H were put on picket and toward morning I was ordered to go down to them and inform them that they would soon be relieved form the right flank by another Regt. I groped my way in the darkness, creeping very low and when nearing the picket line I saw before me the bodies of men I supposed were the pickets. Of course all were lying close to the ground and perfectly still, but on going up to them I found they were dead men. In this manner I went up to 3 different bodies before I found our line of pickets. To me it was a horrid thing to go creeping alone among the wounded, mangled dead. As day broke we were relieved by the 99th. Pa. and we fell back 500 or 600 yds. to the road. We had lain on the ground 36 hours, exposed to the fire of the enemy and it was truly a relief and a luxury to get, once more, out of range and allowed to make a cup of warm coffee. Here we remained till near midnight of the 15th, when we were again on the march, often faster than when we came over. As we neared the bridges we saw troops coming from every point in close order, making for the bridges, silently and without confusion. We crossed and passed on to near the camp of the 12th. and again bivouacked a few hours. It began raining in the morning but ceased about 9 A.M., when we were again put in motion and by a near cut and soon reached our old camp and passing a little beyond again encamped and remained ever since.
December 21st. 1862.
Many things of interest occured during the late battle that my brief account would not allow me to narrate. I often merely refer to certain events so that if I look upon these pages again I may bring it back to memory. On Sunday, while the flag of truce was on its way to the enemy’s lines, hostilities cease and as if by magic the 2 armies rose up and the pickets began to converse with each other and all seemed friends again, but as soon as the flag returned, the sharpshooters commenced firing and the 2 armies vanished form each others sight as suddenly as they had appeared to each others view. On Monday another flag was sent over and accepted and now came a more pleasant sight then ever, for till time specified was up for cessation of hostilities, the 2 armies, or those nearest each other, met and shook hands, exchanged little articles etc. until our men were ordered back. All were free in conversation and real friends could not have shown more apparent friendship for each other than was shown while the truce lasted, but as soon as it ended, the work of death again went on. Neither party finished the carrying off of the dead and wounded, but all left the ground the moment the time was up. On Sunday, while the pickets were firing at each other and the cannon sending their death bolts back and forth. We saw 2 Rebs near our picket lines wave a white handkerchief and then come over to our boy’s. As soon as they were safely over, 4 others followed. They were deserters and appeared mad with joy at getting out of the Rebel service. They all expressed as tired of the war. It is the officers, they say, who strive to keep it up. Since we got back we have spend our time preparing winter quarters and are now once more comfortable. Our Regt. had 15 wounded, 2 of whom died. Others wounds are so light that they will soon return to duty and now since we are once more safe in camp and can look over our past dangers and our repulse, we feel it was a big mistake to lead the army against such strong works and great odds, yet we do not feel to blame our commanders but have more confidence in them because when they found the enemy’s works and force impregnable they brought us off in a manner that completely outwitted the Rebel Gen. who, judging from appearances, was preparing for an attack on the 16th. They had their guns ranged to rake us from the right and left to center, but when day broke, Uncle ‘Abrahams’ nest of brids had flown. How any Gen. could move so fast a body of troops without confusion or loss across those bridges in one short night is a wonder to us all. Many might think our repulse would discourage us but thus far I have neither felt or seen signs of it, true we are very very weary of war, yet with our present leaders and the interest the nation shows, we remain confident of future success. Yesterday our camp was crowded with visitors from the 148th. Pa., who have just joined our forces here, among them I have seen Lt. J.B. Furguson (our old music teacher) D. Sprengle, Andy Harp, Geo. Banghman, Dan Smith, D. Snyder and many others. I must mention also the presence of a cow and a real game cock, both (the latter in particular) are great pets with the men. They are owned by the Col. and are really in their place. The Cols. mess have mush and milk every evening besides plenty of rich milk for their tea and coffee. Squads of our men are returning daily, mostly those who have been away as parolled prisoners. Cold and windy the past week but is moderating today. Health of troops good.
December 26th. Camp Pitcher.
This name was given by written order in honor of a true soldier who died as the brave only, die. Killed leading his troops in our recent fight here. On the morning of the 24th., 200 men, one field officer and a sufficient number of commissioned and non-commissioned officers of our Regt. started at 7 O’clock out 6 or 7 miles for 3 days picket duty, so that Christmas was a very quiet day in our camp. We now draw 399 rations. Of this number only 280 odd, carry arms, the others being detailed as teamsters cooks, Capt’s. waiters, hospital attendants etc., while a few are yet unable to bear arms because of some physical disability, disease or wounds. A few try to limp out of service and some indeed should be discharged because of wounds that unfit and will continue to unfit them for duty ought to be discharged as they are only an expense and a nuisance to the govt. and army. The most of the men in camp spent yesterday writing to the ‘Loved ones at home’. Some few who had the means gave themselves a treat on such things as could be had here at the brigade commissary or from the various Sutleries. Our rations now consist of hardtack, beans, rice, pork, fresh beef 3 days each week, sugar, coffee, salt, salt, soap and candles and now and then potatoes, molasses and dried (termed dessicated) vegetables. My mess spread themselves for a Christmas supper. We had plenty of the above named rations and as we some days ago procured a ½ bu. of corn and the P Master took it to a mill in Falmouth and got it ground and we had made several batches of … (text unreadable) But on this occasion we tried a thing a ‘peg’ higher in the science of baking. In our messpan we put a quantity of the meal and poured on enough hot water to scald and wet it. The new mixed in about a gill of lard and salt to season, then borrowed a bake kettle, of the Cols. cook, which had a cover, put the mixture in it and live coals on the cover and let it, the cake, bake till ‘done brown’. It was served with pork gravy and molasses and so we bake and served our ‘Christmas cake’. For dessert we had apples, bought at 3 and 5¢ each. Our experiment proved quite satisfactory to us all. During the day I saw a few, and I am glad to say, a very few ‘shoulder strap’ gentlemen feeling a ‘little mellow’ from the effects of something stronger than water, but generally speaking all was quiet and orderly. In the evening the line officers present met the Col. by invition and spend a few, to them, pleasant hours, but my greatest treat was the receipt, late in the evening, of 4 letters all containing good news and 2 of the letters made me more than glad than aught else for months before, for they contained the news of the redemption and return of the fold of Christ of many who are dear to me by the ties of nature and friendship. Today another large supply of clothing, blankets etc. came to our headquarters, which in my opinion means a stay, for the winter, here. Weather mild with a heavy fog.
December 27th. 1862.
Have been visiting the boys in the 155th, 123rd, and 62nd. Pa. Found all well. Our Regt. has just returned from their 3 days picket. All in good humor and now busy drawing clothing, blankets etc. The camp rings with laughter. Nearly all are running around in their shirt sleeves.
December 30th. Camp Pitcher, near Falmouth Va.
First rain for many days. Spent last Sunday with our old friends, Don Smith and Geo. Banghman. They took dinner with me. We talked and sang of the old songs we used to sing. We have been cleaning camp. It needed it. It looks fine and clean now. When we are on drill we can see the Rebel camps very distinctly. Within the past few days they have put up a great many tents on the late battle field, in full view of most of our army. Perhaps like their quaker guns the yare there for effect. It is almost dark now and we are well clothed and if it keeps dry we have little cause to fear a march or a fight. Gen. J. Robinson, our brigade Gen., left us today, it is said to take charge of a division. We expect to be mustered out for pay tomorrow unless on march.
January 1st. 1863.
January 1st. has passed and was mild as a spring day. After guard mounting I got a pass and with Sergt. J.A. Frease spent a very pleasant day in the 148th. Pa. Regt., 2 miles distant. Took dinner with the Sergt. of Co. E. All but 2 were old acquaintances of ours. They have good quarters built. 4 square of logs over which they had placed their wedge tent for shelter. We spent the day quietly, no noisy merry making, talking only of the past and present. On the way back we saw a few noisy drunken men and, had all been paid off, more would have been under the baneful influence of strong drink. We feel that our present prospects for a speedy close of our Nations troubles are not flattering to us, but we know now that the strong right arm of the rebellion has this day been ‘loped off’. Slavery’s chains are loosened. Yes. Jonathan, not Pharaoh, has let the people go, will not our plagues cease now, or will Jonathan again harden his heart? I trust not. I hope, I believe, he will carry out to the letter all he has promised through His son ‘Abraham’ (Lincoln). On the 31st. of Dec. we mustered for 2 months pay. 6 months are now due. Who’s to blame that we have not been paid ere this? Our new brigade Gen is Col. Heyman of the 37th. N.Y. His first orders came this morning.
Gen. Stonemans whole Corp on grand review today and were reviewed by him in person. While on review, S.S. Jackson came over from the 123rd. Pa. to visit with me. We had dinner and an hours chat. The review was, I think, the best I ever attended. The Gen. was more personal and particular than I ever saw him before, questioning commanders of Cos. as to number, condition of clothing etc. showing unusual interest in the entire Corp, and I see a letter this evening from him congratulating our brigade for its bravery in the recent Fredricksburg engagement. Among the many pleasant things he said are these words, ‘Not one officer was seen stragling or skulking in the rear that wore the ‘Kerney Badge’.
Wash day in our camp. A general rub and squeeze in the 105th. Jno. H. Woodward, our Adjt., has been relieved by the 2nd. Lt. Nesbit of Co. B, as he failed to fill the bill and so has been made 1st. Lt. Co. B. There is now detailed a Sergt. Major to attend to guard mounting instead of the Adjt. The S.M. of one of the Regts. of our brigade each day in succession.
Indian summer. Another review today by Gen. Burnside in person and was fine. The old Gen. looked as rough and tough as a Gen. can well look. All of Gen. Stonemans Corps were present. The balloon was up while the brigades and divisions were assembling and then lowered and Gen. Burnside with his slouch hat appeared with it pulled down over his bald head, close to his eye which could see keenly peering out, closely observing the different Regts. and the condition they were in.
Rain, rain, rain since 2 P.M. Our huts or tents are so small that it is not pleasant to be compelled to remain in them, but we are all doing our best to better our condition and prepare for the expected cold weather yet to come.