Decrease Font Size Increase Font Size
Login

Military Photos




Civil WarFitchburg, Sept. 17, 1919. The first experience of a soldier is camp life. O! the sweet memories of departed days, how they rise up before us; the ups and downs, the drills, the dress parades, skirmish, rally by fours, guard against infantry, guard against cavalry, the barracks, the bunks, the rations-how they stare us in the face as we look back to the first few days we were in camp in the town of Groton, near the Peterboro and Shirley Railroad, at a place called Camp Stevens.
Preparing ourselves for war, preparing to be shot or shot at; what a blessed privilege! It is a wonder that there were any who could content themselves at home when such opportunity was before them to achieve the honors of heroes by connecting themselves with some regiment that went forth at their country's call to defend the land we loved, protect the homes of our fathers, sisters, and loved ones (but in some instances they were protected by home guards-noble fellows-how they fought and bled for their country). But the call was for men to go forth with muskets in hand, upon the back to be strapped knapsack, canteen, haversack, cartridge box, and blanket-when full loaded about 80 pounds in all-constituting house, victuals and drink, wearing apparel, toilet and all the necessary articles for a summer's visit to Newport, Saratoga Springs, of Martha's Vineyard. With all these we were furnished from time to time as fast as our nerves and constitution could bear until we were completely equipped for the business we were to participate in. But the camp life in our own state is not like facing the stern realities of a campaign-the long and weary march by day and by night in the enemy's country, over new fields, with the fope all about us, liable at any time to be attacked on the right or on the left, in the front or in the rear. While here in camp at home our friends visited us, our burdens were light, all was merry; not as a marriage bell, but more like a campfire. We went to camp in September expecting soon to have orders to march, but October came and still we were here. November all the same. Turkey from friends at home for Thanksgiving-we charged them, we conquered, they fell, and we lived to endure heavier burdens, encounter greater hardships. But the memories of the pleasant days spent in camp at home; how kind the friends, how they encouraged us on to fight for our country! What laurels awaited us; all we had before us to do was to achieve them-not very far off. I trust and hope that we may continue to receive the same kind and encouraging words now that the task is done and the victory won. But what a sacrifice was made! Look at the flags in yonder graveyard. Count the vacant chairs around firesides; they miss them, we miss them. They went forth in full vigor, but we left them under yonder tree or beside the babbling brook and many we know not where. We left the state the 29th of November, 1862, for New York via Groton, Conn. Groton was an old fortified town in the Revolution. It is the site of Fort Griswold, memorable for the massacre of an American garrison at the time of the destruction of New London and Groton by the British troops under Benedict Arnold, Sept. 6, 1781. The British having captured the fort after a desperate resistance, the American commander, Col. Ledyard, surrendered to the officer of the detachment and was immediately killed with his own sword, most of his men being also butchered; 85 of the Americans killed and 60 wounded. Being at so noted a place, and as they was no boat to take us to New York, we had a few hours to look about, although it was evening, and as we strolled about we called at an old mansion. As we were soldiers we were invited in to chat a while. We found an old man and his wife sitting before the open fire, ready and willing to chat with us, and they related the story of how the Americans fought in defense of the old fort and that the Wounded, or some of them, were bought to this very house and laid in the front room and the blood-stained floor was before our eyes. This was of course the first and even the nearest to a reality of anything yet. But the boat is coming up to the wharf, we must soon be off-we must soon be off- baggage and all aboard, she shoved off into the stream and we were on the way. We arrived at New York Sunday morning, November 30, and marched to the city hall barracks for rations. I presume most of the Massachusetts soldiers have been there. We could have enjoyed them better on our return home than we did this first morning from home. We were in the city all day Sunday and at night bunked in a vacant store. Early on Monday morning we were on the march to Camp Banks, Long Island. It was cold; zero weather. I well remember our first night on this lovely island. I slept in a pigsty at a hotel. This was headquarters for Co. C. Others were under sheds and the like. We were all near neighbors and in similar quarters. Our shelter tents and baggage arrived next day, when we pitched out tents, arranged our camp, put things in order as best we could. But let me here recite our various changes from our comfortable homes to barracks at Camp Stevens-a vacant store in New York, to a pigpen, then to shelter tents with zero weather in December. Under these circumstances it was no wonder that the men were uneasy, anxious for something to turn up, which will account somewhat for the lively times while we remained. One night a building 10X10 was erected and occupied by a sulter. Trade was good for a while, but soon trouble was at hand. A few words, a few blows, and in three minutes there was no building, no sulter, and nothing to be seen, not even a soldier. The cause of all this was that Mr. Sulter drew is revolver on the boys, so they cleaned him out. This was the beginning of sorrow and trouble. Next, our rations were poor the way we were fed by contract. Things did not look right-something wrong somewhere. This was soup day-a kettlefull was bought, looked at, turned out on the ground for inspection; the thin part vanished, the thick wouldn't go. There were turnips and potatoes that had been used for candlesticks, the holes and wicks still in them, moldy bread and bad meat, also other various ingredients too numerous to mention. The Fifty-third and some others went down and cleaned them out. O! it was bitter cold and the men began to be sick. What to do we did not know; the colonel had not joined us as yet, but the Field and Staff went up to New York City. What they went for we did not any of us know, but we supposed it was to get warm; I guess they did before they found us again. They left the commander of Co. C in command of the regiment. As soon as the Field and Staff were off a detachment was sent to Jamaica (not old Jamaica but the town of Jamaica) to see if they could find a place where we could get warm. Soon they reported "all right," and we marched to the town. They gave us large storerooms with good coal fires, a good supper, plenty of hot coffee, etc. All were comfortable for the night. Most of us were scattered around some and we did not report for duty until about 8 o'clock next morning. The Field and Staff returned from New York to camp in the evening but there command was not there; naught but a deserted camp could they find-we had left no landmark by the way for them to follow our trail. Of course what they thought or what they said I know not, but the next morning we heard from them with orders to march to New York immediately, but we were like "the boy standing on the burning deck eating peanuts by the peck, his father called him but he could not go, because he loved the peanuts so"-not till we had our breakfast. It was noon before we were in line ready to march. Long will the memories of the good people of Jamaica, L. I., be before us, also the kind and patriotic words of the old veteran, ex-Governor King, hover about our memories as he cheered us on to fight the foe. He also hoped the day would speedily come when all the difficulties would melt away and the glorious old flag float over every state and each star would shine forth without spot or blemish and the old Union be saved. God bless him, as he has long since gone to his rest. We marched back to camp, thence to New York, where we were quartered in the Franklin street barracks. Here we were hived up until December 17, went we went on board the steamer Mississippi to embark for New Orleans. I presume you are all familiar with the way of stowing away such a cargo; on decks, between-decks, and in the hold, laid up on shelves, etc. We lay in the harbor till the 20th, when scarlatina appeared to an alarming extent. We went back to the old quarters, where we remained till January 17, 1863, when we went aboard the steamer Continental bound for New Orleans. The first day's sail was beautiful. The rest of the way was rough; my desire for a storm at seas soon vanished. The storm was terrible, waves like mountains appeared fore and aft and the thing I most desired was land. We passed the Bahama Islands and stopped for coal at Key West. It was Sunday and we all "coaled"-had our own vessels filled to the brim or all they could carry in fair smooth weather. As the storm came on we were uneasy, loath to part with anything obtained at the sunny isle, but, as the storm raged, to tell the truth we fell kinder sick and over went the cargo to save the ship from sinking, as most had a sinking feeling. But on we go; the mouth of the Mississippi river is in view; we enter Southwest Pass and steam on for New Orleans; arrived January 30, landed at Carrolton, five miles above the city, and camped on the shell road. The first night I was very much annoyed by two things; the barking of dogs and a thundershower. I never have been able to decide which was worse of the two. It rained and the water was about four inches deep all over the field; where I lay I guess there was two feet-or at least two wet feet-etc., up along, but we have dried off since. Here we drilled, fired at targets, and sometimes hit them. By the way, there was a fellow connected with the regiment at this time that did a heavy business in "gun oil." I presume those that were there will remember the quality. But the time has come for the troops to move; up the river to Baton Rouge, camped there a few days, then on to Port Hudson. March 6, we broke camp, embarked on board the steamer Crescent City for Baton Rouge, arrived there next day, and camped three miles below the city at Magnolia Grove, a beautiful place, trees in full bloom; you know not their beauty except you see them. This beautiful brings to mind a little trip with Colonel O. P. Goodwin of the Thirty-first Massachusetts Volunteers; he was our brigade commander, Third Brigade. It was past ten o'clock at night, all was still except the tread of the guard when Martin Falan of Company E sang out, "Halt! Who comes there?" Col. Goodwin-"Just let me pass." Falan-"Dismount and give the countersign." Colonel-"Why, let me pass. Don't you know who I am?" Falan-"Dismount, sir, and give the countersign." Colonel-"Let me pass. I am Colonel Goodwin! commander of the brigade." Falan-"Faith, and I am happy to make your acquaintance, but dismount and give the countersign." Thus the talk went on for a few moments. The sergeant of the guard was called before the brigade commander could pass, but as soon as he was over the line he ordered poor Martin arrested for doing his duty. On Mar. 12 the regiment was ordered up the river on a reconnaissance. It embarked on two steamers under the escort of the gunboat Albatross, went up about five miles, landed, and with an escort of a few cavalry scoured the country and returned the same night with a few fat cattle. On the evening of the 13th we marched with the division in the expedition to Port Hudson till near midnight, when we filed right into an old cornfield and camped. This makes the best of campgrounds. Just lie between two cornrows and you are all right. On the afternoon of the 14th we arrived within three miles of Port Hudson. This was the night of the bombardment and passage of part of the fleet past the batteries. We slept on our arms expecting an attack at any moment. A general order from General Banks was promulgated in the morning, stating that the object of the expedition had been accomplished. I presume it was, but we could not see the point. We changed front to rear of Baton Rouge our division halted in a swamp and remained until the 20th. This was a lovely spot. Mud, water, stumps, rattlesnakes, and everything the nature of the place was heir to, enough of everything that was disagreeable and nothing to eat except sugar. I sent a darkey out for sugar and he brought in his hat full. I should judge from the appearance of the hat that it had been worn for the last twenty years, but I presume the sugar did not hurt the hat any and I don't know as it hurt me, but presumed it didn't do me any good. The first night we were here it rained and I should judge the water was less than a foot deep where I lay, but not much less-it was hard to judge the exact depth because the ground was soft. On the 20th we returned to our old camp and remained till April 1, when we left for Algiers, where we arrived on the 2d. Here we had bread and to spare. We had a sulter here and a fellow bought a loaf of soft bread to him every morning but would not sell to us. One morning his horse stopped-some of the boys took a few loaves from the hind end of his cart and he went for them. While he was at the back end they picked out of the front end and so they kept it up till all was gone; then he went. That was the last we saw of him. On the 9th we went to Brashear City by rail to join in the movement through the Teche country. From Algiers to this point it was swampy most of the way and plenty of alligators. April 11 the army began to move up through the Teche country; we marched to Pattersonville, about eight miles. At 12 o'clock next day moved a little further up-about two miles. There was music ahead, we could hear it-the enemy's pickets were falling back-and we pushed on. The batteries and earthworks were in sight and they were sending shot, shell, and railroad iron among us. We were in a sweet potato field and that railroad iron dug potatoes in a hurry, but was very careless with the dirt. It was nearly dark, so we were moved back a little out of the way of the dirt, the firing ceased for the night, and we squatted right there on our arms; but next morning things opened up lively from both sides. The first thing was to support a battery and in the afternoon we skirmished towards the enemy; we were under heavy fire for five hours. Perhaps it might be well to give a little description of the field and earthworks. The Rebs had fortifications on both sides of the bayou. Our Brigade was ordered over on the North side early in the morning. Here we found a plain field for one hundred yards or so, then a long line of catalpa trees so thick they concealed nearly everything in front. Here by the sides of these trees we left our haversacks, blankets, and chaplain, then moved through a thick cornfield. As we came out, on the other side was one of our batteries sending its compliments in full force and quick time. The bayou was on our left. A level field was in front between us and the fort with ditches running across every few yards. We took advantage of them and advanced from one ditch to another in quick time. In these ditches was where the blackberries grew-they were lined with them, all ripe and delicious. Of course we ate and enjoyed them very much, with one exception-the shot and shell came ploughing through the earth that was thrown from the ditches and scattered it all over the berries. It was very vexing to be so intruded upon while picking berries. But it was our turn to the front to release the Thirty-eighth Massachusetts and they fell back. Now we had it face to face-it was tit for tat. We drove them all inside the works and were within 100 yards of their earthworks when darkness gathered around us and all was still, except now and then a stray shot from either side to remind us that they were there; some even fired at shadows. We were ordered to fall back a few yards to a ditch and to stay and hold this point for the night. It was a long, weary, and dark one without supper or blanket. Nothing but the sky above, enemy in front and earth beneath and a bright prospect of an early attack on the morrow. But as the darkness lifted and the eastern light shone in upon us our gallant colonel came along the line with he usual "Good morning." "Take ten men and advance on the works." (Fort Bisland). This seemed to me like a small army to take the fort with. I wondered what the rest of the army was going to do if ten of us were enough to do this little job. They were counted off from the right of Company C and told that we were ordered to take the fort. Forward we went, expecting every moment to see the Rebs running with such a formidable force coming. But on we went, mounted the works, captured the fort, and looked for other fields to conquer. The regiment advanced and the flag of the Fifty-third was planted upon the works; of course while the regiment was coming up we did the cheering the best we could. But the inside showed that our batteries had made sad work with them. Horses were piled up one upon the another. Everything indicated it had been a hot place; cold and deserted now. The relics were few; I believe that a jack-knife, a few Confederate postage stamps and the like were found and I have them here. But the orders were "Forward!" after the retreating foe. Our company and one other were detailed to scour the country and drive in all the cattle, mules, horses, etc., we could find. We came into Franklin that night driving in the cows and they were all guarded and stall fed. At this point I will say that marching had been wearisome and as the cows were all in, I thought I would try my hand at milking just to have milk for the coffee. I milked some and was kicked over a few times by the wild steers, but the cows were what I was after and I finally got about a quart of the precious liquid for family use. I treasured it as gold, yea, more precious, and guarded it anticipating a delightful cup of coffee with milk, but alas how soon our bright prospects are blasted! As we awaited the boiling of the coffee we gathered around that dish of milk with get expectations of the delicious beverage, but alas! Lieut. Hall spilt the milk all in the sugar and as we had more sugar than milk it was lost. The sugar consumed the milk and called for more, and so did we, with all the bitter thoughts you could imagine toward our gallant Hall, who spilt the milk, spoiled our sugar, blasted our hopes, and broke our rest as we did his. But silent and sad we ate our supper and nothing was said except to sift out our vengeance on that d--d Hall. But what is the use of crying for spilt milk now? Oh, never did I again try to imagine how milk would taste. On the morrow onward was the command; day after day we marched. On the 15th we marched in pursuit of the retreating enemy and reached Opelousas the 20th. As we approached the town or city the authorities sent out the white flag for protection. As we halted just before entering the town, supposing we were going into camp there, there were some fine-looking cattle just a little ways from us and we were all hungering and thirsting. One of our sergeants and one man were detailed to provide meat for supper. They attended to that duty, but while so doing we were ordered to march, went through the town, and camped about two miles from the place where the beef was last seen. Here we were in an old cornfield, dark and all worn out with the long marching, and nothing to eat. Most of the men lay down where they were. I was a little worried about the sergeant and the one man, but about 10 o'clock I heard a sound. I harked, it sounded a little like the puffing of a locomotive going upgrade with a heavy train, but it seemed to grow nearer and nearer till lo and behold! The sergeant and the one man and a hindquarter of beef appeared. The beef stopped but the men disappeared for the night. They had swung it on a pole, one at one end and one at the other, and had brought it some two miles in this way and they thought the beef was worth $1.00 per pound sure. I did not believe it was, so thought I would try it. So for a knife to cut it with I found a common case knife and went at it. The meat was still warm, the knife dull, but my courage was good and with much difficulty I sawed off a few chucks. For a spider I took an old till plate. So I had one knife, one spider, and three chucks of beef, no salt and a little fire. I stewed and fried and brunt the three chucks, no salt to add, but it all went down. Then for the rest so sweet, with the soft earth for a bed between two corn rows, so you see there was not much chance to fall out of bed and my covering was large as the east is from the west, the beautiful blue shy; but I never rested better on downy feathers or hair mattress. I have often thought since if I had not eaten those three chucks the cornrows would have squeezed me to death before morning; but the morning dawned upon us and we regulated our camp and remained for two weeks at this point. Most of the duties were drill and picket duty. Had plenty of cracked corn and onions that added to our regular bill of fare. There were one or two little incidents that occurred while here that I will speak of. One morning a corporal came in from the picket and said he was ordered to report himself as under arrest. He said Lieut. So-and-so, officer of the picket of a certain New York regiment, would call and see me about it soon. I questioned him in regard to the cause, etc., and the facts, as near as I can recollect, are these. Said corporal had charge of the post. They were dressing a nice little porker about mid-day, had him hung to a limb of a tree and had just got him nicely dressed. They were looking the property over and thinking what a nice fellow he was, also discussing the best plan for dividing the spoils, when the colonel commanding the brigade, and his staff rode what. The brigade commander says, "Who killed that hog?" Nobody knew. The corporal was called, asked his duty and instructions, which he gave all right. Brigade commander says, "You know your duty. Why disobey in this way?" The corporal says, "My orders were to let nothing pass the picket line. This hog was bound to go over and I just charged bayonets on him and let him come on, but he did not go over and there he is." But the explanation not being satisfactory the corporal was ordered to report to the commander of the picket as under arrest; he obeyed and the commander and corporal both gave me the facts. The corporal wanted to know what he should do. I told him to go on duty and if I did not hear anything from headquarters about it, it was dismissed, and that the end of the arrest and also the pig. One bright, pleasant morning while at this point, about sunrise we saw coming in the distance a long train of six or eight teams, moving fast. As they neared us we observed they were mule teams and colored people. They came right into our lines with their beds and crockery and all their fixin's and the old people in the carts. They had left the plantations about twenty miles away, taking all they could fetch with them, and come to see Marse Lincoln's men. You never saw a happier set of people anywhere. They felt as soon as they were within our lines that they were free. I asked one of them how they got away. "Oh," he said, "we comed away in the night and the dogs didn't bark and the cocks didn't crow," and he threw his old hat in the air about twenty feet and went up half way after it with three cheers for Marse Lincoln. In fact, everywhere on the whole line of march from Brashear City to Alexandria they came in the same way and with the same expressions on their faces and the same songs in their mouths; "Three cheers for Marse Lincoln." They felt that Marse Lincoln was a Moses to them and that the Union army came to bring deliverance. No wonder they had not words to express their feelings, to be delivered from bondage and to feel that they were free. No one could imagine their joy unless they saw it. The emancipation proclamation of Abraham Lincoln is one of the greatest and grandest proclamations that was ever written in this country or any other. It liberated five million people, and I thank God that it came in our day, and that we lived it to see it fulfilled. There is a feeling in our innermost hearts that we have done something to help carry out that proclamation. It is worth something living for, yes, dying for, but I must hasten. The march from Opelousas to Alexandria was one of those shot, quick ones of a hundred miles in less than four days through the dirt, mud, and mire, with the lines of the roads and fences well stocked with the colored aristocracy of the South sending up cheer after cheer for Marse Lincoln and with the genuine expression of joy gushing forth from their very souls. You could see it in their eyes, their faces, and in their very walk. They expressed themselves all over; there was no more work for poor old Uncle Ned, for Marse had gone away. None could imagine the joy and satisfaction of these fellows except he saw it; it was real, genuine, unadulterated, simon pure; they were willing to leave all and follow the army wherever it might go. I presume they would have followed us till this time if they could, nut they did their part as best they could and were willing to do anything-give three cheers for marsa Lincoln, fight, dig, or draw rations. Some noted officers in the Rebel army lived in this section-Dixk Taylor, Governor Moore, and many others. Mrs. Governor Moore said the Yanks would steal all she had, but I don't think they did. I presume she had less after the army passed by, as I feel sure that most of them did not gain much, excepting a more extensive acquaintance with us and our comrades, as we did call and take something, but I don't think we took anything that we could get along without. Some preferred milk, others eggs, other the mothers or father of the eggs; some turned the hives of bees so that their exit was more easily observed by those that followed after, while others, like myself, marched quietly by with slow and steady tread except now and then a halt to rest our weary little feet, as we all had them that walked a-foot. We arrived at Alexandria May 8, went into camp, and remained there until May 15, when we resumed the march, going to Simmesport, a distance of 75 miles, where we arrived May 18. On the 21st both divisions left for Bayou Sara. Our regiment was left at Simmesport for guard until the evening of the 22d, when we embarked on the Laurel Hill and proceeded to Bayou Sara, thence marching some twelve miles to join the division which had arrived in front of Port Hudson. The whole regiment was placed on picket duty for the night. Our march from Bayou Sara to Port Hudson was through St. Francisville, where we halted for a few moments. The courthouse was entered and the mailbags brought out, opened, and distributed among the boys. The mail was mostly composed of letters from the Rebs defending Port Hudson, some from their loved ones, etc., some idea of the strength of Port Hudson and some news importance. But "Forward, march!" was sounded down the lines and on we went through the town. The women of that town will ever be fresh in my memory. Such faces, such threats, with a shake of a broom and with the wish that not one of us would ever return alive! I suppose the cause of such unladylike expressions was unknown by me, but in return the soldiers complimented them with the most flattering words that they could think of, such as "Oh, what a pretty women, anit she handsome?" and many others too numerous to mention. May 24 the army moved for Port Hudson. The Fofty-third was ordered by General Paine as guard for the engineer corps and led the columns. After marching about two miles and entering the wood the scouts reported the enemy skirmishers in our front. The regiment was at once moved forward. Three companies were detailed or thrown out as skirmishers and soon drove them back. Company C was one of the three. We came up to a stream or creek and were ordered to cross it and drive them still further back, but we found them to much for us and fell back into the bed of the stream so that the artillery could give them a little grape. Then we drove them up the hill but received orders to fall back, as this point was to be abandoned for another a little to the east, for which the march was renewed. Camped for the night with five companies on picket at the top of the hill. I had the pleasure of posting the picket. It was one of the worst places I ever saw, just at the top of the hill, in a woods. The canebrake and underbrush was so thick it took a long time to get located, but all were stationed. On top of the hill or bluff was a clear space for forty or fifty rods, then a dense woods appeared. General banks and some of his staff, with twenty cavalrymen, rode up and General Banks, addressing me, said, "Have you see any Rebs up here?" I told him I thought there might be some the other side of the clearing in the edge of the woods, so a dozen or so of the cavalrymen were sent across to the woods to see what was in there. They no sooner disappeared in the woods than crack! crack! went the rifles and galloped, gallop back came Mr. Cavalryman saying the woods were full of Rebs. General Banks turned his horse and said, "I shall penetrate Port Hudson in this direction in the morning," and disappeared with the rest of his party down the steep hill. Well, I felt that we should see a pretty good chance to see a little fighting before the next night, if not before morning. There we were up at the top of a steep bluff, the rest of the regiment half a mile away at the foot of the hill. But all was quiet except the loud yell of the chaplain's horse, about midnight, which brought us all a standing for a few moments. The thought was the yell of the enemy on a charge, but all was quiet again. I don't know whether all chaplain's horses were allowed such privileges, knowing that he was the horse that carried the parson that fetched the mail that lightened the hearts of Jack and me. But very early in the morning the troops came pouring up the bluff. When all were up, we were ordered to join our brigade, the Third, and moved forward about 1 o'clock to the front. The Fifty-third formed a line of battle in support of the Ninth New York, which was the front line. At dark we relieved them, deploying six companies, holding two in reserve. Here was where we got into a tight place, or close one, call it which you please. We were on the ground occupied by the Ninty-first new York regiment. There was some misunderstanding about the deploying-one company deployed forward and the others by the right and left flank; the one that went forward was in the enemy's lines, or nearly so. The adjutant and I went in pursuit of them and found Mr. Johnny was there awaiting us. Our strides to the rear were long and quick. Did you ever see a soldier that couldn't run? But it was dark and we knew the company was in front of us somewhere, and as they were right on the Rebs they opened fire upon us. The 173d and 174th New York regiments just in our rear, opened also, bringing us between two fires. It created a little commotion for a while, but we held the line for the night. In the morning just at daylight we saw a regiment of the enemy deploy in the edge of the woods some twenty rods in front of us and they were ordered to advance. We all lay low; gave the orders for the men not to fire until they could see the whites of their eyes. On they came, and did not discover us until within a few yards of us when we gave them our compliments in the shape of cold lead. Some of them returned theirs and retreated in hot haste, double quick. Our orders were not to advance but to defend and hold the position, so we let them run. Our company took in one of them for a sample and sent him to headquarters. Soon after the attack we were relieved by the 131st new York. May 27, a general attack was made on Port Hudson. Our regiment was ordered forward at 5:30 a. m., moving in line of battle in the rear of the Thirty-eighth Massachusetts under fire of shot and shell. At 7:30 a. m. we were ordered to the front to support the First Maine and Bainbridge batteries; we held this position for two hours. It was a splendid place to see what was going on; the shot and shell and grape came whizzing through the air, cutting the trees and limbs off, and they were falling this way and that among the men and horses. I think nearly every horse belonging to these batteries was killed or wounded. The shells came among us; one struck in front of Company G on our left, burying itself in the ground and covering the men with dirt. One man in Company C was struck in the wrist by a grade shot. He took a double quick to the rear, in search of a surgeon, I suppose, and we never saw him again until we started for home, but we all knew he was not killed by the way he traveled. From this point we were ordered to the front line of skirmishers to relieve the Ninety-first new York. Our course was over the ground that the batteries had just cleared. We stepped light and often, as we were under a raking fire from the rifle-pits. We halted within fifty yards of the Rebel fortifications. All that were there remember the position at this place; Whiting shot in the neck; Foster as he sat by the stump at the top of the bluff, and Palmer, the ball in his side and the lifeblood running like a river down his leg. Palmer said to me, "Do get a stretcher and send me to the rear before I bleed to death." I said to him, "Let's see how badly you are hurt." We looked and found that the ball had passed between the canteen and body, burning the skin on his side and tearing all to pieces the inside of his canteen, the contents of which furnished an usual quantity of fluid supposed to be blood. I said to Palmer, "It won't be safe to move you until the flow of blood ceases, and as soon as that id stopped we think your immediate recovery will be assured." Thus the imaginary powers of man are baffled sometimes. We lost several men at this point. The flag staff was shot off, but was soon repaired by the ingenuity of the color bearer. A small green pole was cut about the size of the staff, a piece of bark about a foot in length was taken from it and slipped on to the staff, wound with cord, making it strong as new, and thus it hangs today in the State House in Boston, with the same bark and cord that was fixed around it on the battlefield in front of Port Hudson. Then there was one other location at this point that I will leave Lieutenant Hall to describe. All that were there will remember the gallant commands and heroic display of men and officers. Our regiment held this position until next day. The loss to the eight companies of our regiment was thirty killed and wounded. May 28 at 6 0'clock p. m. we joined our brigade a half mile or so to the right, remaining till June 1, on picket duty and building fortifications. Here we were camped in a little hallow. We were shelled by day and by night and many of the tents were pierced by musket balls. June 1 our regiment was ordered to relieve the Fourth Wisconsin regiment occupying rifle-pits at the front. It was accomplished, without the loss of a man at 8 o'clock p. m. Remained till June 4, losing five men. This location was not pleasant, the surroundings were very objectionable to me, crouched down in rifle-pits about two and one-half feet deep. If one showed his head about it was shot at; if he went for water or moved in anyway by daylight he was reminded of the danger of his position by the zip of a dozen bullets more or less. Here at this ever-memorable fortification was where I received a little piece of paper which I will read. Whether this was the means of saving my life or not I am unable to say; you can judge for yourself; but here it is in a good state of preservation. On the morning of June 14, 1863, was the general assault on Port Hudson. The orders were received on the day before, the 13th to be ready to move at 2:30 o'clock in the morning upon the works. This was Saturday night; all were busy arranging for this, that, and the other thing, some writing letters to loved loves at home, giving them an inkling of the morrow's work, as the orders had been promulgated giving each regiment its location and the part they were to perform. The night was beautiful and the stars shone forth with unusual brightness as we lay in our camp. I will remember the bed I occupied that night. Surgeon McCollester and myself laid our weary heads at the trunk of a large tree, the roots for our pillow, the ground for resting-place, without blankets, the starry heavens our only covering, thinking of the coming day. We talked of the morrow-we well knew that a hard day was before us, for their strong and well-fortified works stared us in the face. They were well guarded on every side, with all their men behind strong fortifications, and we were to cross the uneven ground between us. And then over some portion of the way were fallen trees, felled toward us, with the twigs cut off, leaving the sharp-pointed limbs for us to crawl through. But two o'clock came and at 2:30 we were in line ready to move. It was a beautiful Sunday morning. Just as the sky was reddening in the east the iron monsters belched forth the fiery shot and shell. Our position was to advance just in front of the marine battery of 100 ponders. These guns were taken from a gunboat and brought here to batter against this strong point. You can well imagine our position, these hundred-pound shots coming over our heads and in return, the shot, shell, grape, and canister; grape and minnie balls rattled and zipped like hail. Oh! how the earth shook! The heavens were lighted by the flash of all this confusion, but "forward" was the order from our gallant General Paine. Four regiments were deployed as skirmishers to lead the charge, the Thirty-eighth Massachusetts, the Eighth New Hampshire, the Four Wisconsin, and the Fifty-third Massachusetts. When one hundred yards from the works they made a charge. All moved forward with great cheering, at double quick, until close to the works, but we were not strong enough to carry them; a few entered but the main body fell back. At this point General Paine, Captain Washburn and myself were severely wounded and Lieutenants Glover and Vose were killed. Of the three hundred officers and men (being but eight companies) who went into battle seven officers and seventy-nine men were killed and wounded. It was a hot old fight and the percentage of loss was heavy, not only to the Fifty-third but to the three other regiments. General Paine and I were talking just at this time and most of the men were killed and wounded at this spot within a very few minutes. I was assisted back to a little sink in the ground by Lieutenant Priest and somebody else. Then I called for a drink, as I was very thirty. I felt for my canteen and found it was gone; a bullet had cut the strap and also a gash about eight inches long on my left shoulder. Captain Fordham was there; he said, "Take mine." I took it and I drank and drank. I never was so thirty before in all my life. It seemed that what I drank was whiskey. I think I drank about a quart, for when I handed it back it was nearly empty; but it was this whiskey that saved my life, for it made me sick and brought up all the blood which had run down my throat. Harriman Longley and Ed. C. Little, fifer and drummer boys of Company D, Shirley, afterwards told me that I was left on the field for dead and that they picked me up and put me on a stretcher and carried me to the rear, where they turned me over to Dr. J. Q. A. McCollester, surgeon of the regiment, who, after examining me, ordered them to take me to a temporary hospital under a tree where I lay all day. I was gathered up by the ambulance corps just before dark and no one knew where I was taken; not even the doctor could account for my whereabouts. The next morning, Colonel Kimball ordered Henry S. Treadwell to start out on a search for me with orders if he found me alive to stay with me as long as I lived. He found me about five miles in the rear at an old sugar house, used as a hospital for the time being, in the care of an old schoolmate from my home town by the name of Wilder, who had helped take me out of the ambulance when brought there, he being a hospital steward of the Thirty-eighth Massachusetts. He stayed by me all night, not thinking I would live till morning. He turned me over to Henry Treadwell as per orders from the colonel. An ambulance train was formed that morning to take the wounded down to Springfield Landing below Port Hudson on the Mississippi river, from which point there loaded on river boats and taken down the river to New Orleans. After being placed in the ambulances the procession moved slowly through the woods, over roots, stumps, and mud holes drawn by wild mules. It was a long-drawn-out procession winding its way to the river. We were in the ambulances all that day and the following night and the following night and arrived at the landing about noon the second day. A naval surgeon who looked me over told Treadwell that I was in bad shape and should not be put on the boat until he had fixed me up a little, saying there was a bunch of maggots under my ear as large as a hen's egg and that they were crawling out of the opening of the wound between my eyes. He twisted a rag, soaked it in turpentine, ran it through the wound and cleaned it out, and I was put on board the boat with a clean bill of lading. We arrived at New Orleans next day. The lieutenant colonel of the Fifty-third was at the landing and saw them bring me off the boat and helped put me aboard an ambulance. As soon as I was aboard he got in and told the driver to drive to the hospital. When we arrived there Dr. Barrett, Assistant Surgeon of the Fifty-third, helped take me out and located me in a front room of the second floor of the hospital. This was the old, historic St. Louis Hotel, which has been torn down to make room for a modern structure. I was in awful shape, clothes all covered with blood and dirt, after four days of rough riding; but I was stripped and washed and put in a clean bed and I have never since seen the uniform that I then wore. I remained in the hospital until August 10, when I went aboard the steamer Meteor for Baton Rouge, where the regiment was. We left for Cairo August 12 and arrived at Fitchburg, Mass., on August 24, where a public reception was given the regiment, which was then furloughed one week to report at Camp Stevens August 31. The regiment assembled at Camp Stevens according to orders, where the making out of muster-out and pay rolls occupied the time until September 2, 1863, when the regiment was duly mustered out of the United States service by Captain J. R. Lawrence. This poem was written by a friend of General John W. Kimball of Fitchburg, Mass., commander of the Fifty-third Massachusetts Volunteers. Captain Stratton was captain of Company C of that regiment and was seriously wounded at the battle of Port Hudson, says, held a campfire at which the poem was read. It was a complete surprise to the Captain, as he did not know it had been written and was not consulted by the program committee in regard to it. The rumbling of cannon has sounded all night. What meant it? An attack, or the enemy in flight? The aid-de-camp galloped to headquarters and back, With request from the Colonel, "Fort Bisland to sack." Still on rolled the cannon and night drags slow. But still no attack, for headquarters said "No." Our anxious hearts beat that night as we wait, Lying close under the fort at our enemies' gate. At length morning dawned, slow, dull and gray; Was the enemy still there? Ah, no one could say; Now the loved Colonel's voice is heard to command: "Captain Stratton, your country and colonel demand. "You choose out ten men, with hearts true as steel, And deploy towards the enemy; for shot and sword he shall fee." With no thought of fear, fame, or historian's pen, But with one thought of home, his friends and his men. The brave Captain started and might never return- Thick fog seemed to multiply trees and brush into men, But still like a phalanx move he and his ten. No sound of drum and clashing of sword, Only one word of command-"Forward"-is heard. Where shall we look for the brave men eleven? Inside Fort Bisland with the brave Fifty-third, And this on the 14th day of April in the year sixty-third. And now once again stands the old bark-bound staff, Where with scorn and derision the enemy had laughed; For the brave Fifty-third Mass. had given him a scare, By the old flag-though shot away-being again raised in air By the brave Sergt. Gilchrest, who knew not fear. With many men lost, Port Hudson was won, Proud victors we stood, for our foes had run. The roaring of cannon which sounded all night, Proved our enemy’s weakness and our Fifty-third's might. The words of Holy Writ declare- "Let him that on the harness girdeth Boast not as he who utteth off." The war is not over, the slaves are not free, The Fifty-third still must march towards the sea. The 14th of June clear and so bright, In spite of Hell's roar or war's deadly strife. The roaring of cannon and whirling of shells Is to many brave comrades, dark death's knell. Our Captain and Colonel together now stood, The one to obey, the other to command- To ride if need be in the thick of the strife, To fight for our freedom, our homes and our life. A bullet from an emy's gun hath sped, And the brave Captain, who before had led, Falls "doing his duty," shot through the head. What boots it now, that before he had said, "Colonel, must we discard the old flag?" Is his work done? Does the great Captain call? Ah, no. "I shall yet back to Leomister go" And see the old flag in Boston's hall, And answer again my Colonel's roll call. Souls our beloved country again know strife, The Captain stands ready and is with us tonight. Comrade, brother and friend, we wish you Godspeed, And when the strife of life's warfare is won, May you receive the great Captain's reward, "Well done! Well done!" Fitchburg, Mass., January 11, 1889. This brief account of my experiences as a soldier in the Civil War was hurriedly written by me about fifty years ago and will tend to give my impressions and memories of that part of the great struggle between the North and the South in which I had a part.
Note: by Joel A. Stratton, Captain of Company C, Fifty-third Regiment Massachusetts Volunteers, 1862-1863.


Comments

Display Order
Only logged in users are allowed to comment. register/log in
Related Links
Military History
Forum Posts

Military Polls

Should international opinion determine the United States targets in the war on terrorism?

[ Results | Polls ]

Votes: 326

This Day in History
1862: Confederates broke through the Union lines at the Battle of Gaines’ Mill on the third day of the Seven Days Battle in Virginia.

1864: Union General William T. Sherman launches a major attack on Confederate General Joseph Johnstons army at the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain in Georgia.

1916: The 4th Marine Regiment defeated Dominican rebels in a stand-up bayonet attack.

1927: The U.S. Marines adopted the English bulldog as their mascot.

1940: The Germans set up two-way radio communication in their newly occupied French territory, employing their most sophisticated coding machine, Enigma, to transmit information.

1944: American forces of 7th Corps (part of US 1st Army) complete the capture of Cherbourg.

1945: On Luzon, units of the US 37th Division, part of US 1st Corps, reach Aparri, on the north coast.

1945: The American carrier USS Bunker Hill is struck by a Kamikaze plane, killing 373 men.

1950: President Harry S. Truman announces that he is ordering U.S. air and naval forces to South Korea to aid the democratic nation in repulsing an invasion by communist North Korea.

1950: Just two days after communist North Korean forces invaded South Korea, the United Nations Security Council approves a resolution put forward by the United States calling for armed force to repel the North Korean invaders.