At the breaking out of the war I was a resident of the quiet but patriotic town of Groveland. Sumter had been fired upon and all was excitement. I could not work, and on the 18th of April, 1861, walked to Haverhill with my elder brother and Mark Kimball. We went to the armory of the Hale Guards, who were making active preparations to march, and I returned home that night resolved to go with them if possible. The next day we walked to Haverhill again, and I at once interviewed Captain Messer, but was informed that the company was more than full, so I could not go with it.
I had said nothing to my brother or Mark of my intention, but as we were walking home I found that we all had the same desire, - to enlist at once. We talked the matter over and concluded that as company A of the 1st Battalion of Rifles, an old militia company located in West Newbury, and then under arms, would soon be ordered away, we would join it. That night we walked to West Newbury (five miles), found the company at the armory in the town hall and enrolled our names. Company A was one of three that composed the 1st Battalion of Rifles, commanded by Maj. Ben. Perley Poore. They had been organized several years and were known as "Poore's Savages". They were armed with Winsor rifles and sabre bayonets, the rifles and bayonets weighing about fifteen pounds. The uniform was dark green, trimmed with light green, and as I donned it for the first time it was hard to tell which was the greener, the soldier or the uniform. We had a peculiar drill. Most of it, as I can remember, consisted of running around the town hall in single file, giving an Indian war-whoop and firing into the corner of the hall as we ran.
I was a soldier now. I did not walk the streets as I had done, but marched, always turning "a square corner". People grasped me by the hand and congratulated me on my courage. (I did not see where the courage came in.) The Sons of Temperance, of which my brother Isaac and myself were members, presented us at a public meeting with two suits of underclothes and havelocks, housewives, testaments, etc., so that before we received our army outfit we had enough to load a mule.
We waited for orders to march, but none came, and from being heroes we began to be looked up with disgust, and we were the most disgusted of all. As we would meet friends in the street they would say, "Is it not about time to have another public meeting to bid you fellows good-by?" or, "You will want some more shirts before you leave." So mortified did we become that, instead of marching down through the village to drill, we sneaked away through a back street.
The company began to get demoralized. Men were leaving every day, going to other States or to regiments that had been ordered to the front. At last we rebelled, and sent our officers to the Governor with a vote passed by the company, that unless we were ordered into camp at once we would disband. After a few days we were furnished with a large tent for the men, a wall tent for the officers and a supply of rations. Our camp was located on the land of one of our members, Private Sylvester, and was named "Camp Sylvester." We were without arms except three guns for guard duty, as our old Winsors had been turned in. Company A was officered as follows: Captain, Moses P. Stanwood; First Lieutenant, J. Warren Brown; Second Lieutenant, Benjamin Wilson; Third Lieutenant, Isaac H. Boyd; Fourth Lieutenant, Jones Frankle. The third and fourth lieutenants were soon discharged, as army regulations only provided for two. Lieutenant Boyd went into the ranks, Lieutenant Frankle was made major of the 17th Massachusetts.
Our discipline in Camp Sylvester was not as strict as it was later in the war. We mounted one guard. After we had been once around we concluded that the lieutenants ought to stand their share, so we put them on. One night we caught a calf and after the officers were asleep we turned him into their tent. We did many things that later would have sent us to the guard-house.
About the second week in July we were ordered to Lynnfield to join the 19th regiment. We were the second company in camp, Company C of Rowley arriving about two hours before us. Our tents were a peculiar pattern, neither wall nor A, but between the two, having accommodations for ten men, and each tent had three windows or ventilators. For a time we were under the command of Col. Lyman Dyke, who also commanded the 17th regiment, located near us.
At Lynnfield I was promoted to 6th corporal, and my troubles began. I was one day detailed for guard, the 17th and 19th regiments doing guard duty together. When I posted my relief I had one more man than posts, so I made a new post. The officer of the day asked me what I did with the supernumerary. I said that I put him on in rear of the ice-house. He desired to know who gave me authority to create new posts, and I replied I supposed that I was to use up my men. As soon as the guards were posted they began to call "Corporal of the Guard". When I went to them they wanted a drink of water. I asked the officer of the day if it was my duty to carry water to them. He said it was. So I toted the water pail the two hours my relief was on. At night the men went to their quarters. I found where they slept, and made arrangements to call them. I would put my head into a tent and call, "Third relief!" and instead of the men coming out, a boot with an oath came at me. As I could not get enough for a relief I turned out the drummer and had him beat the long roll. This brought out the officer of the day but very few of the men, as they did not know what it meant any more than I did. Collecting what I could we started to relieve the guard, but I soon found that I had more than men enough, as at nearly every post we found the musket stuck in the ground and the man missing. When relieved in the morning I was disgusted with being an officer, and longed for the freedom of a private.
Recruits were fast arriving. Company A went into camp with about sixty men, and every day some new man was voted in, as we had not given up the old militia method of electing our members. Skeleton companies were arriving, consisting of an officer and a few men, who were given a letter and assigned a place in line. Among the first to arrive was Captain Mahoney. His company was given the letter E. Captain Mahoney was an energetic officer and anxious to drill his men. Long before daybreak, with his first sergeant, McNamara, he would turn out the recruits, and as we lay in our tents we could hear him calling, "Left! Left! McNamara, tread on that man's heels!"
It was not very long before we had the required number of companies, the last to arrive being the Boston Tiger Fire Zouaves, and my story from this point will include the regiment as well as Company A.
One day in August we saw a military man looking over the camp. We soon learned that it was Colonel Hincks, who had just returned from three months' service with the 8th Massachusetts. In a few days he was assigned to the command of the 19th and from that moment what had been a uniformed mob became a regiment of soldiers. With him came Lieutenant-Colonel Devereaux, who had been Captain of the Salem Zouaves, and soon after Maj. Henry J. How. One of the Salem Zouaves was assigned to each company as a drill-master, and we soon saw that our three months' drilling had been worse than useless, as we had to begin all over again, and it "was hard to teach old dogs new tricks;" but the Zouaves won our respect and every man was anxious to do his best. Very soon a change took place in the line officers, - a Zouave was commissioned in nearly every company. Company A retained Captain Stanwood, but lost both lieutenants, C. M. Merritt, who had been an officer in the 8th, being made first lieutenant, and Isaac H. Boyd, who had enlisted as a private, second lieutenant.
On August 27 we were ordered to strike tents and prepare to march. That night, for the first time, we slept on the ground, with only the blue sky for shelter. The next day we took cars for Boston. Our knapsacks were slung for the first time and loaded with everything that it was possible to stow away.
Being anxious that my "best girl" should see me in the full garb of a warrior, I arrayed myself in heavy marching order and went to an ambrotype saloon to have my picture taken. In an ambrotype everything is reversed, so my musket is at my left shoulder, haversack and canteen on the wrong side, - in fact, I was wrong end to in every respect.
Our wagon train was larger than that of an army corps in active service. Each company had a four-horse wagon, headquarters two, quartermaster four; I think there were twenty besides the ambulances. We arrived in Boston in the afternoon. It was the second time that I had been in the city, and as we halted on the Common, and no friend came to bid me good-by, the first feeling of homesickness came over me, and I began to realize that at last we were real soldiers and that the enjoyments of camp life at home were fast falling to the rear. We went to New York by the Fall River line. I had never been on a steamboat before and was very sick. Landing in New York, we marched up Broadway. My knapsack weighed a ton and I was so sick that I could not hold up my head, yet dared not fall out for fear I should get lost. We were marched to a barrack and given some thin soup and a testament. I had already two testaments in my knapsack, but I took this, although I wished they had put a little more money in the soup and passed the testament. I do not remember what route we took from New York, but we went part of the way by boat and arrived in Philadelphia the next morning.
Upon our arrival at Philadelphia we heard a signal gun and learned it was to inform the people connected with the cooper's shop that we were coming. We marched to that place and found a nice breakfast served by the first ladies of the city. This was the only home-like meal we had received since leaving Massachusetts, and our hearts went out to the loyal people, and our thanks were expressed in three rousing cheers for them. But we hastened on, and soon took the cars for Washington. At Baltimore we left the cars and marched across the city. We passed through Pitt Street, there the sixth Massachusetts, a few months before, had marked the route with their blood. Every throat was opened as we sang "John Brown," but our knees were a little weak, for we expected a stone would strike us at any moment. We found the roof of the depot in the Washington side of the city filled with bullet holes, the result of the riot of April 19.
From Baltimore to Washington we passed soldiers doing guard duty on the railroad, and for the first time saw men being punished at the guard-house. We saw one man with his head in a barrel, another carrying a heavy log of wood. At night we arrived in Washington and were landed at the Soldier's Rest. A Pennsylvania regiment was ahead of us, so we were obliged to wait until they had been to supper. We marched into the barracks before the tables were reset. The waiters removed the tin dishes, then jumped on to the tables and with dirty brooms began to sweep as they walked along. This was too much for Massachusetts. On the tables not cleared were remnants of the meal left by the Pennsylvanians. Soon the air was filled with bread, pork and tin dippers. The waiters were unable to stand the attack and retreated in good order. After quiet was restored our men cleared the tables and the rations were brought in, consisting of mouldy soft bread, boiled salt pork and very poor coffee. Colonel Hincks being informed of our treatment found the officer in charge and gave him religious instructions. We received nothing better that night, but the next morning when the 19th marched in to breakfast our colonel's "draft had been honored" and we had a square meal.
The Pennsylvania regiment occupying the barracks, we had to sleep on the ground. The night was warm, and being very tired we were soon fast asleep. About four o'clock we were awakened by something grunting around us, and found we were in the midst of a drove of hogs. We had never seen hogs running at large at home, and believing some one's swine had escaped from the pen, we concluded to do a neighborly act and catch them. The race began, but with poor success for us, as they could run a mile in 2.40 or less.
After our sport we found an old pump, where we made our morning toilet. We boys did not mind this new mode of living much; we sang, said "it was all in the three years," and was nothing after you got used to it. Not so with the older men. I remember one instance: returning from the pump I saw one of the men leaning against the barracks, the tears streaming down his cheeks. I said "What is the matter, Peter?" He replied, "I didn't think I was coming out here to be rooted over by d--d hogs." "Oh," I said, "if we get nothing worse than this I won't complain." "Well," said he, "if we do I won't stay." He was discharged soon after.
After breakfast we slung knapsacks and marched down Pennsylvania Avenue to our camp ground on Meridian Hill. We had brought our tents from Massachusetts and all our camp equipage, including bed sacks, but we could find nothing to fill them with, so we spread them on the ground empty. The ground was filled with gravel stones and was not as "soft as downy pillows are," but so hard that I believe the imprints of those stones are on me yet. At Meridian Hill we began active drilling. The duties of the field officers were divided, Colonel Hincks taking charge of the battalion drills, Lieutenant-Colonel Devereaux the manual, while Major How had the instruction of the guard. We were encamped on the side of the hill, and marching in battalion drill was very hard, yet "from early morn till dewy eve" we were executing company or battalion movements.
Since our arrival in Washington all had a fear of being poisoned; we hesitated to buy camp pies of any but old negro aunties, and a guard was constantly posted with loaded musket over the spring which supplied us with water. One night a nervous comrade was on duty, and thinking that, in the darkness, he saw some one approaching to poison the spring, discharged his piece. Immediately the camp was alarmed. Without waiting to fall in line the cry went up "Row! Row!" and without muskets all rushed for the spring. The officers cried "Halt! Halt! Fall in!" but you might as well have undertaken to stop a Dakota blizzard, and not till the men had been to the spring and investigated was order restored. The next day a square was formed and a short but impressive address was delivered by Colonel Hincks which had the desired effect.
On Sundays at this camp we were marched out by companies, seated in the shade and the Articles of War read to us by our officers. As I remember them whatever you did you were to be shot, "or such other punishment as may be inflicted by courts-martial."
At Meridian Hill we had our first Sunday morning inspection; the order was for all men to be in line. This included cooks, teamsters, clerks and all other detailed men. To the regular members of the company it was a grand sight to see these extra duty men in line. Fowler, the wagoner, had not seen his musket since it was given him at Lynnfield and knew nothing of the manual, neither did Uncle Burrill, who was regimental mail carrier. Lieutenant-Colonel Devereaux came down the line and the men threw up their guns for inspection. Fowler had watched the men on his right, and when his turn came threw his gun up in fair shape. The colonel took it, looked at the musket, then at Fowler. "What do you mean by bringing such a musket for inspection?" "It ought to be all right," said Fowler, "it is bran new and I have never used it since it was given to me." With a reprimand the colonel, passing on, soon came to Uncle Burrill, who was not quite as sharp as Fowler, and had not watched the men on his right. When the colonel stood before him uncle remained quiet and modestly blushed. The colonel surveyed him from head to foot. "Why don't you bring up your musket?" Uncle took it in his right hand and pushed it towards him. "Don't you know any better than that?" asked the lieutenant-colonel. "No," said Uncle B.; "I wish that I hadn't come out here, I was sure that I should get into trouble if I did." With a smile the lieutenant-colonel passed on, and after that, extra duty men were excused from Sunday morning inspections.
In a few weeks we broke camp and took our line of march to the front. Our destination was the Potomac, near Poolsville. It was our first march and to us "tender feets" a hard one. The older men of the company laughed at us boys, said we would never be able to march that distance, but before night we left those who had laughed by the roadside. (I think our experience, that the boys fresh from school or from indoor life were able to endure more than men of mature years, was general.) Just before we arrived at Rockville, Md., we received ten rounds of ball cartridges and the command was given, "Load at will! Load!" I shall never forget the sensation I experienced as my ramrod forced home the first ball. We were told that at Rockville a strong secession sentiment existed, and I expected to kill a rebel or be a dead Yankee before night. We marched through the town and found it as quiet as a New England village. The second night of our march we arrived at Poolsville. Here we met the 15th Massachusetts, and Company A of the 19th was entertained by Company A of the 15th. Next morning we marched to Camp Benton, which was to be our home for several months.
We were brigaded with the 20th Massachusetts, 7th Michigan, 42d New York (Tammany regiment), Captain Saunders's company of sharpshooters and Captain Vaughn's Rhode Island battery. Our brigade was commanded by Gen. F. W. Lander; the headquarters of the division were at Poolsville, called "corps of observation," commanded by Gen. Chas. P. Stone. At Camp Benton the discipline was brought to the regular army standard; drills were almost constant; each afternoon we were drilled in battalion movements, in heavy marching order, and in every possible way fitted for active service. Dress coats with brass shoulder scales and leather neck stocks were issued, and when not in line or on guard our spare moments were spent in cleaning brasses. If any men ever earned thirteen dollars a month we did. Besides the camp guard we mounted what was called grand guard, consisting of a detail from each regiment in the brigade posted on the outskirts of the camp, the tour of duty being twenty-four hours. Often the long roll would beat after we had retired for the night; we would turn out and double quick to Edward's Ferry, march up the tow path of the canal, lay on our arms the rest of the night, and the next morning march back to camp. At first we expected the rebels were crossing the river, but as we saw no movement in that direction we looked upon these excursions as a part of the drill, the days not being long enough to give us the desired instructions. The enlisted men were not the only ones who had to work, as the line officers came in for their share. Well do I remember day after day marching to execute the movement "To the rear by the right flank pass the defile." At last Colonel Hincks became discouraged, and throwing down his sword said, "Let every officer go to his tent, take his tactics and study them, and to-morrow if any one fails to understand this movement there will be a vacancy in this regiment." We came out next day and in fair shape executed the movement.
Many incidents occurred at Camp Benton that are pleasant to recall. We were in a country where there were many slaves, all anxious to serve our officers, and nearly every day some citizen would come into camp hunting for his runaway negro. One day a man came to the colonel and was sure one of his negroes was in our camp. Colonel Hincks sent for Sergeant McGinnis of Company K and ordered him to assist in the search. By the look the colonel gave McGinnis it was understood that the slave was not to be found. McGinnis went into the woods with the man. As soon as they were out of sight he halted and cut a switch. "Look here!" said McGinnis, "do you suppose we left Massachusetts and came out here to hunt negroes?" and to add force to his argument he touched the old follow up with the switch. The man was indignant and said he would report McGinnis to the colonel. "Go ahead and I will go with you." Both went to the colonel, and the citizen told his story with tears in his eyes. Colonel Hincks turned to McGinnis and said, "Sergeant McGinnis, is this true?" "Colonel, do you think I would be seen doing such a thing?" was the reply. "No," said the colonel; "Sergeant McGinnis is a man of truth, and I must take his word. You have deceived me, sir; leave this camp and never enter it again." The man, fearing McGinnis might get another chance at him, left as quickly as possible.
Here is another instance of the ready wit of a soldier. We had in Company A an Irishman, who was one day detailed for headquarters guard. The night was dark and rainy and the morning found Mike, pacing his beat in front of the colonel's tent, wet to his skin. Colonel Hincks came out and Mike said, "Colonel, will you allow me to speak a word with you?" "What is it?" said the colonel. "Well, colonel, I wish you believed as you did before the war. Then you believed in putting none but Americans on guard and here I am, an Irishman, wet to the skin, having been on guard all night." The colonel laughed and retired. (Colonel Hincks had edited a Know-Nothing paper whose motto was, "Put none but Americans on guard.")
Early in October we were ordered to the river and picketed it from Edward's Ferry to a point above Harrison's Island. By visits of general and field officers we could see that a movement against the enemy was intended. On the 20th, ten of the best shots of the regiment were selected for some important service. With our officers they crossed to Harrison's Island to reconnoitre. Early the next morning the regiments began to arrive. Two small scows were brought to a point opposite the island and Company A was detailed to ferry the troops across. At first we pushed the boats over with long poles, but the current being very strong they drifted down the river and it was hard to land. After one or two trips a rope was obtained from a passing canal boat and stretched across the river, making transportation much easier.
In a short time we heard musketry on the other side and knew that the battle had begun. The 19th regiment was the last to cross. As we landed on the island the sound of the minie balls greeted us for the first time. We met four men bearing a stretcher, on which was the lifeless form of Colonel Baker of the 1st California. He was the first man we had seen killed in battle. We were marched across the island, meeting wounded and half-naked men who swam the river. On arriving at the other side we found there was work for us to do. The only transportation from the island to the Virginia shore was one scow. By this a load could be sent over, then marched up a steep bank called Ball's Bluff. The rebels, being strongly intrenched at the top, could kill or capture our men before another load could land. At last a retreat was ordered as our men were stampeded. They rushed down the hill and into the boat. The little craft being overloaded was soon swamped, men were swimming the river to escape, and many a poor fellow, not able to swim, went down before our eyes; others were shot by the rebels when almost within our lines. At night those not required at the landing were deployed to the right and left. A drenching rain set in and without overcoats or blankets we remained shivering until morning. Lieutenant Dodge and twelve men, under a flag of truce, were sent over to bury the dead. Alex. Short was the volunteer from Company A, and he received injuries from which he never fully recovered. While the flag of truce was out a rebel horseman was seen pursuing a Union soldier who was running to the river. A man in Company H on the island fired and the horseman fell. Immediately the rebels closed in on the burial party and held them as prisoners. It required all the energy and courage that Colonel Hincks possessed to have them released. The next day we picketed the island, cared for the men we had rescued, and on the morning of the 23d recrossed to the Maryland side, wet, cold and disheartened. A few shots from our batteries told that Ball's Bluff battle was over.
For the number of men engaged this was the most disastrous battle of the war. No man in his right mind would have sent out such an expedition. There was no way to retreat and no chance to send reinforcements, except a scow load at a time. The movement was condemned by every one. It was said that General Stone was a traitor, that signal lights would be placed at a house on the Virginia side and that he would go down to the river and meet men from the rebel army. The truth we never knew but General Stone was relieved, and it was late in the war before he was given another command.
While we were engaged at the bluff Company K crossed at Edward's Ferry with General Lander. They had a sharp skirmish with the rebels and our brave brigade commander received the wound which resulted in his death soon after. We returned to our old camp and were soon busy getting ready for winter.
About this time we were called upon to bear our first loss, not by death but by the resignation of Captain Stanwood. Lieutenant Merritt was promoted to the vacant position, Second Lieutenant Boyd to first lieutenant and Quartermaster Sergeant O. F. Briggs to second lieutenant.
We were about to undergo our first winter in camp and had not learned to stockade our tents; we pinned them close to the ground, dug a flue for a fireplace, building a chimney outside topped with a barrel, and had plenty of smoke but little fire. Neither had we yet learned the art of sleeping in tents; we would put on all our clothes, including overcoats, bring the capes up over our heads, lie down and shiver. Experience soon taught us that to undress and throw our clothing over us was much the better way.
On Thanksgiving the officers of the regiment gave a ball; men were detailed to build a ball-room, and quite a nice building was the result of their labors. Ladies came from Washington and Baltimore and a good time was enjoyed. We enlisted men looked on from a distance and thought of the pleasures we had surrendered for a chance to serve our country.
After getting snugly fixed for winter an order came to move, and soon we were on the march for Muddy Branch, to take the place of General Banks's division, which had been ordered to Harper's Ferry. Here the regiment was assigned various duties. A part of Company A was sent to Rockville. First Sergeant Cook, myself as corporal, and ten men were ordered to Darnestown. Our quarters at Darnestown were in an old barn on the main street, and at Rockville in buildings on the fair ground. Our duty at Darnestown was to prevent men coming to town from camp and to allow none to pass towards Washington, below the rank of a brigadier-general, without proper papers. We had three posts, each at a store. The citizens of the town were in sympathy with the South, but as we behaved like gentlemen they were very kind, often sending us biscuits for breakfast and at Christmas furnishing a liberal supply of egg-nog. We were welcomed at any house, and often when off duty spent a pleasant hour by their firesides. Soon after we began duty Sergeant Cook received a furlough of thirty days and I was commander-in-chief of the Darnestown army.
I had no trouble with the enlisted men, but the officers "kicked" when I asked them to show their leave of absence. My duty was to inspect the coach when it arrived on its way to Washington, and if any officer or soldier was on board to ask him to show his pass. I will relate one instance. I opened the coach door one morning and said, "I will see your leave of absence, if you please," to an officer who wore the strap of a major. He growled out, "Call your officer; I don't show my leave of absence to any enlisted man." I replied, "I am the only officer here; I have my orders in writing from headquarters and know my duty." He put his head out of the coach window and said, "Driver, go on." I called to the sentry on duty, "If that driver starts, shoot him off the box." The driver did not start, and after swearing awhile the major gave in, but declared he would report me, - and he did. In a few days Major How rode up. I turned out the guard, and after presenting arms stood at attention. "Corporal, dismiss your guard, I want to see you a moment." Taking me one side he said, "You have been reported to the headquarters of the regiment." I explained the case to him. He patted me on the shoulder and said, "Corporal, you are right; you are in command of this post, and if the Apostle Paul undertakes to go through this town, unless he wears the uniform of a brigadier-general, don't you let him go without showing his pass, and if he refuses bring him to camp." No corporal in the Union army felt better than I did that day, and I was glad that the major had reported me.
In February we were relieved by another detail from the regiment and ordered to Rockville. The night before we left, Mrs. Hayes, of one of the first families of the town, gave us an oyster supper, and her daughter, who was a pleasant young lady but a red-hot "reb," presented me with a rebel flag. Thirty-eight years have passed since those days, but I shall never forget the kindness of those Darnestown people, and trust that to-day they are prosperous and happy.
After a time we reported to the company at Rockville and found the three field officers examining the non-commissioned officers. Although we had been acting as "non-coms" since we left Massachusetts, none had received warrants from the colonel. First Sergeant Cook and I joined the procession. I was never more frightened in my life, as I had never spoken to the colonel or lieutenant-colonel, and the examination was unexpected. The marks were from one to five. In a few days, at dress parade, Captain Merritt read the list. He called First Sergeant Adams. I thought he meant my brother Isaac, who had been examined as a sergeant, and I was pleased with his good fortune, when the captain called "First Sergeant J. G. B. Adams," and explained to the company that I had passed the best examination and was promoted to that position. I did not want the place. First Sergeant Cook was a good man and was my friend. I went to the captain, told him I would prefer to be second sergeant and let First Sergeant Cook remain. This arrangement was made and I was happy.
Our duty at Rockville was very light. The boys had made the acquaintance of many agreeable people there; I was introduced, and the time passed pleasantly.
The colored people were holding revival meetings. As we had never witnessed anything of the kind before we all attended, without regard to religious convictions. The singing was of that wild, melodious nature that only colored people can render. The clapping of hands and stamping of feet, all in time, cause a thrill of excitement to run through the coldest veins. With the colored people the effect is such that they are lost to all else but the emotions of the hour. When striving with the spirit it is a strife in reality. One night they held a meeting of unusual interest, and Company A was represented by a large delegation. Among the number was Uncle Ben Falls. Ben had joined the company just before we left Lynnfield. He had been a sailor and his kind heart and ready wit made him a favorite with all. That night Ben was deeply interested. He joined in the hymn, and although his voice might not accord with the rest there was no doubt but what he sang with the same spirit. Soon the excitement reached its height; sobs and groans were heard in all parts of the room, shouts of "Glory!" went up from every heart. The spirit took possession of a girl named Malinda, who was owned at the hotel where our officers boarded, and was acquainted with our boys. She shrieked and groaned and in her striving fell to the floor. The people shouted, "Hold Malinda! Oh, Lord, hold Malinda! The spirit has got Malinda! Oh, Lord, hold her!" but none went near her. This was too much for Ben. He rushed to the front, sat on her and held her down. This brought Malinda and the rest to their senses and the meeting soon closed.
We enjoyed the pleasures of Rockville but a short time after our detail joined the company, as we were ordered back to camp. A new company, recruited in Salem and commanded by Capt. Chas. U. Devereaux, a brother of our lieutenant-colonel, had joined the regiment. They were given the letter H and nicknamed the "Lapstone Light Infantry," old Company H being disbanded and the men transferred to other companies.
March 1, by order of Colonel Hincks, I assumed the duties of first sergeant, and of all the trying positions I have ever filled this was the most so. If any one thinks that the life of an orderly sergeant in active service is an amiable one let him try it. When the men are not growling about you the captain is growling at you, and you are constantly between two fires. About one-third of the men in Company A had been members of the "Old Battalion," and the town meeting tactics that prevailed in the militia had not quite died out. I was a recruit, and my promotion was not hailed with joy by the old men. It was said by them that they were detailed for guard rainy days, and that in other ways I favored the new men. They drew up a petition asking for a change, and some twenty men signed it and, through a committee, presented it to Captain Merritt. "What is this?" said the captain. "A petition for a change in first sergeant," was the reply. "Petition! This is mutiny. Go to your quarters, and if I hear more of this I will have every man court-marshalled and sent to 'Dry Tortugus!'" That settled the youngsters, and I was ever after obeyed and respected.
About the middle of March we broke camp and took up our line of march for our first campaign. We bade good-by to our tents, which had sheltered us since we left Massachusetts, and sent them to Washington with our extra personal baggage, where I expect they are to-day, as we never received them again. We marched to the river, then up the towpath of the canal to Harper's Ferry, forded the Potomac at Point of Rocks, and for the first time our feet pressed the sacred soil of Virginia. We saw here the devastations of war, - the ruins of the old arsenal that had been burned by the rebels, the dilapidated and vacant houses, - but most interesting to us was the old engine-house, where John Brown made his gallant fight. This we found filled with rebel prisoners. "Truly," we said, "his soul is marching on." As soon as arms were stacked we rushed to the arsenal ruins for relics. I found an old gun-lock and several other parts of muskets. These I packed in my knapsack, - and the next day threw them away. With other regiments we marched up the valley to join Banks's division, and bivouacked at Charlestown in the field where John Brown was hanged.
The next morning Company A was ordered back to Harper's Ferry for provost duty. The rest of the regiment marched on, but in a few days returned and took position on Bolivar Heights, occupying deserted houses. Captain Merritt was appointed provost marshal at the ferry and everything was soon in military order, the company quartered in houses, the officers boarding in the town. One day Captain Merritt, with a detail from the company, made a seizure of several barrels of whiskey and a keg of gin, which were taken to a vacant store and a guard placed over them. Somehow the keg of gin disappeared; where it had gone no one knew. The next day was our last in town, having been ordered to join the regiment quite early in the morning. I noticed some of the men were very happy, but as we had been called by the other companies "Merritt's Sabbath school children," I thought it possible they were rehearsing for a Sabbath school concert. The increase of the spiritual manifestations told me that the cause of the inspiration must be the gin, and that it was not far away. After searching awhile I found the missing keg in the cellar. Unlike many of the men, it was nearly empty. In the midst of the seance Captain Merritt arrived. He came to order me to have the company in line ready to move at once. When he saw the condition of some of the men I guess he thought we had better move in ambulances. As we were going the rounds of the rooms we met Ben Falls, perfectly sober, having just been relieved from guard. Captain Merritt (referring to the condition of the company) said, "Ben, I am astonished." "Well," said Ben, "it is not my fault; I have been on guard, but I will get just as full as the rest as soon as I find the stuff." When the time came to march all were in fair condition, and before we reached Bolivar Heights, as good as ever. As it was the first offence the men were let off with a lecture from the captain, and as the opportunity was never again presented, the offence was not repeated.
With Captain Devereaux, who joined us at Muddy Branch, came more recruits, and the regiment was now full, Company A having had for a few days one hundred and two enlisted men, several of the old men were discharged, bringing us down to the required number. A fine band was attached to the regiment, and having become very well drilled in the manual, our dress parades were almost perfect, and were witnessed by nearly all the soldiers and citizens in the town.
March 24 we received marching orders. Crossing the river we took cars to Point of Rocks for Washington, where we arrived the next day. We remained in Washington two days, then marched to the navy yard and took the old transport "North America" for Fortress Monroe.
In no place is the life of a soldier so hard as on a transport. Crowded between decks like cattle, unable to cook or even make coffee, they must subsist on what rations are issued and drink the water from the casks. The crews are always liberally supplied with miserable whiskey, which they sell at a high price to those who will buy, and a few men are always found in every regiment who will get drunk if they have a chance. On shore the guard-house can be resorted to, but on board ship there is no relief from this unbearable nuisance. I do not want it understood that drunkenness was general in the army, for many men went through the war without touching liquor, and in my four years' experience I never saw an officer or enlisted man intoxicated when going into battle. I believe that what was true during the war has been true since, and that in no organization - not temperance - can be found so many total abstainers to the number of men as can be found in the ranks of the Grand Army of the Republic.
Our trip down the Potomac was pleasant, but soon after leaving the river a sudden storm struck us; our old craft leaked badly and we feared we should be swamped. The captain dared not continue, and put back to Point Lookout. Here we found a deserted hotel and several cottages. We did not stop to register, but took possession of the rooms and passed a comfortable night. Next morning we re-embarked, and reached Fortress Monroe during the night. The following day we landed and marched to Hampton, where we found the Army of the Potomac awaiting the arrival of our division. We encamped here about two weeks, quartered in Sibley tents. We were not required to drill often, and the time was pleasantly passed in visiting the several Massachusetts regiments in the army.
Early in April the grand Army of the Potomac moved towards Yorktown. It was a grand army, every regiment having its full quota. The experience of the previous months had made them reliable as soldiers. Incompetent officers and disabled men had been discharged, and those now on duty were filled with patriotic enthusiasm. They only desired a chance to fight, clear up the war and go home. Every man had confidence in General McClellan, and almost believed that he was sent by the Lord to lead us to victory. Whenever he appeared every head was uncovered and every voice raised in loud hurrahs.
We marched two days and encamped about two miles from the enemy's works before Yorktown. We pitched our shelter tents for the first time, and began army life in earnest. Our rations were served to us uncooked, and company cooks ordered to the ranks. A company cook is a peculiar being; he generally knows less about cooking than any man in the company. Not being able to learn the drill, and too dirty to appear on inspection, he is sent to the cook house to get him out of the ranks. We were not sorry when the cook house was abolished.
The first day after our rival the 19th and 20th Massachusetts regiments, under command of General Dana, were ordered to reconnoitre the enemy's works. We discovered a fortification near Winn's Mill, and the 19th was ordered to march through a piece of woods, then along the front, and discern its extent. We did this under a sharp fire of musketry. It was not our intention to attack, but as Company E, commanded by the brave but impulsive Captain Mahoney, was fired upon, he ordered the men to charge the works, and would have done so had not Colonel Hincks recalled him. Like a true Irishman that he was, he did not propose to be fired upon and not fight. The regiment behaved splendidly under fire; when the musketry was the hottest the clear voice of Colonel Hincks was heard. "Change front, forward on first company!" was the order, and it was executed as correctly as on drill. We lost the first man killed in this skirmish. Andrew Fountain of Company D, Captain Wass, and several of Company K were wounded.
We went into camp and began to erect fortifications; for nearly a month we were engaged in that work, besides building corduroy roads and doing picket duty. While on picket Wm. Morgan was badly wounded by a piece of shell. He was the first man wounded in Company A.
Our camp was located in a swamp; the rain was almost constant, and the ground like a sponge. Sickness prevailed to an alarming extent; it was not an uncommon thing to march half of the company to sick call, but not all who went were sick. Active service had tired some who, when we were in camp in Maryland, were anxious to fight, and were constantly grumbling because we were not ordered in. Picket duty under fire had given these few the "shell fever." Loss of voice was the trouble with many, caused by severe colds. One day I marched my squad of invalids to the hospital tent; with them was one of the loudest talking men in the company, but that morning he could only whisper. After the doctor had examined them all he gave me the list of excused, and my voiceless comrade was not down. "Hasn't he excused me?" said B. "No," was my reply, in a voice that could be heard a quarter of a mile. "D--n him, I am the sickest man in the company," was his indignant answer; but he went on duty just the same, and never again answered sick call until wounded. Such cases were the exception, however, and every day the number grew less, as our men were ordered back to general hospital.
The works we were erecting were of the strongest kind, as it was intended to besiege Yorktown, and the heaviest guns were mounted for that purpose. Sunday morning, May 4, found the regiment on picket duty. It had been a lively night, as the shelling had been constant. Lieutenant Hume, in charge of an outpost, believed that the rebels had left the works in his front; sending his opinion back to the commanding officer, he started to cross the field. No gun was fired and he continued on. The regiment was then ordered forward double quick, as others had seen Lieutenant Hume and were anxious to be first in the works, but the 19th could run either to the front or rear and our flags were the first to float from the fortifications. We found the portholes filled with Quaker guns (logs of wood). Men of straw were stationed as gunners. Every indication of a hasty retreat was shown, as in the camps in the rear of the works we found fires and breakfast smoking hot, which we eagerly disposed of. We also found letters ready for mailing, which went by northern mail instead of southern, as we sent them home.
We marched back to our old camp, packed up, and Monday morning, in a drenching rain, marched from Winn's Mill to Yorktown. We were on the road all night and only made three miles. The mud was knee deep; we could not go out of line as the ground was full of torpedoes, yet, in all our misery, Company A started one of our old camp songs, which was taken up by other companies in the regiment, then by other regiments in the brigade, and soon the entire army was singing. This continued nearly all night. The next day we took steamers, and at night arrived at West Point. We remained on board until morning, then landed, and finding our forces engaged we were ordered to support Captain Porter, 1st Massachusetts battery. At West Point we saw a feature that we never saw before, or at any other time during the war. It was a human telegraph. A line of men was deployed some twenty feet apart, and extended from the line of battle to headquarters. The men at the front would start the message, and it would be repeated by each turning the head to the rear as he spoke. One message I remember, - "Send a man to take Daniel Webster's place." We supposed Daniel had been shot, but if a man was wanted to fill the place of our lamented Daniel Webster, we did not think Company A could spare the man. After a sharp fight the rebels fell back and we began the march up the peninsula. The condition of the roads was such that we halted more than we marched, but at last we reached the banks of the Chickahominy River, and were ordered on picket between Bottom and Grape Vine bridges.
Saturday, May 31, the battle of Fair Oaks began. We were not relieved from picket until Sunday morning, when we were ordered to the front; here we were marched from right to left and left to right, constantly under fire but not really engaged. We were at times passing over portions of the field that had been held by the rebels, and the ground was strewn with the dead and wounded. When the battle ended we were ordered on picket, where we remained ten days, having a brush with the rebel pickets every day. We were then given a few days' rest and ordered to the front, where we threw up a line of works and remained there while the army held the advance position.
On the 25th of June, General Hooker asked for one regiment from Sumner's corps to assist in the attack on the rebel lines in our front. The 19th was selected. We advanced in front of our intrenchments and were soon hotly engaged. Led on by our gallant colonel, we soon had the rebels in full retreat, and had the army advanced at that time I am confident we could have marched into Richmond in five hours, as we were only a few miles from the city. Just as we were ready to make the final charge an aid came to Colonel Hincks and said, "You are ordered to fall back." "What for?" said the colonel. "Don't you see we have got them on the run?" But the order was peremptory and back we went. Our loss was very heavy for the short time engaged. Lieutenant Warner of Company H and several men were killed; Lieut. J. H. Rice, Sergt. Samuel H. Smith, William R. Meldon, Benjamin Jellison and others, in all about sixty, badly wounded.
While we had been under fire nearly all the time since arriving at Yorktown, this was the first square fight in which we had been engaged. We had no chance for the use of tactics as the woods were thick and we could see little of the enemy; but the officers and men behaved splendidly, and our only regret was to lose so many and accomplish nothing, an experience that the Army of the Potomac often had in the battles that followed.
Company A had in its ranks men of every trade and profession, not excepting the clergy. Our minister might have been a good soldier in the army of the Lord, but was not a success in the Army of the Potomac. At the first fire he scattered and could not be rallied. I said to him, "You have been telling the boys to get ready to die, but you are not in good marching order for the other shore yourself." "That is not it," replied Levi; "I should not have enlisted; it always made me nervous to hear a gun fired and I don't believe I can get used to it." As will be shown later he never did.
Returning to our works we were ordered to throw up traverses between companies. At night cheering began on our right. An aid rode down the line and gave orders to Colonel Hincks to have the regiment cheer. "What for?" said the colonel. "I do not know," was the reply; "it is orders from General McClellan to General Dana." "Give my compliments to General Dana and say that we did our cheering in front of the line yesterday." Soon we were ordered to pack up and leave everything not absolutely necessary to carry. We were ordered into line and remained under arms all night. The next morning we found the retreat had begun, and, before we had recovered from our surprise, were ordered in to support Tompkins's Rhode Island battery, and the enemy was soon upon us.
At the headquarters of the commissary department all was confusion. A pile of hard-tack as large as Faneuil Hall was set on fire. Heads of commissary whiskey barrels were knocked in and the whiskey ran in streams. This was also set on fire and men were burned as they tried to drink it. Blankets, clothing, stores of all kinds were destroyed, and one would think as an army we were going out of business, but such was not the case, as we had enough on our hands to last us the next seven days.
We made a stand at Peach Orchard and found that our corps was to cover the retreat of the army. We were slowly driven back to Savage Station, where a battery went into position and we lay in the rear as its support. One who has never supported a battery can form no idea of this duty, which is to lie just as snug to the ground as you can and take those shells coming from the enemy that the battery does not want. Our position at Savage was a dangerous one. Shells were constantly bursting in our ranks and our battery was being severely tested. It did not seem that our lines could be held much longer, yet we knew that our wagon train was crossing the bridge and we must stand our ground until they were safely over. We heard a cheer, and looking to the left saw Meagher's Irish brigade moving forward on the run. The entire corps, forgetful of danger, sprang to their feet and cheered them wildly. On they went; grape and cannister ploughed through their ranks, but they closed up the gaps and moved on up to the mouth of the rebel batteries, whose guns were captured, and the firing that had been so disastrous ceased. The Irish brigade held the line until night, when our army was withdrawn.
It was the hottest day of the year. As we changed front many fell from sunstroke. Captain Wass was so badly affected that he lost his reason and never fully recovered. Lieutenant Hume was left by the roadside and was soon captured by the enemy. At night we were stationed at the bridge until the last regiment was over, when we crossed and destroyed the bridge.
After we had rested a few hours we were ordered back, and sunrise found us engaged with the enemy. In the afternoon the terrible battle of Glendale was fought. This was June 30. About two o'clock P.M. we were ordered to charge the enemy, who were in a belt of woods. To do this we must charge over an open field. Faces turned pale as we looked over the ground. We grasped our muskets firmer and waited for the order. We had kept our knapsacks until this time, - they had become priceless treasures, filled as they were with little articles for our comfort made by loving hands, and with letters from dear ones at home, - but we threw them into a pile, and the voice of Colonel Hincks was heard: "Forward, double quick," and we moved across the field and entered the woods. Here we met a line clothed in Union blue, and thinking it was the 7th Michigan, of our brigade, - a regiment loved by every officer and man of the 19th, - we reserved our fire, and cried, "Don't fire, boys, we are the l9th Massachusetts." A galling fire in faces our drove us back, but we promptly moved forward again, still thinking it was the 7th Michigan and that they would see their mistake. Again we were repulsed, and believing we were mistaken, and that the line was composed of rebels in our uniforms, we charged with a will. As they rose to receive us we saw that this time we were not mistaken, as they were rebels clothed in part in our uniforms. We had a hand-to-hand fight for a few moments, when we discovered that we were being flanked and withdrew to the edge of the woods.
Under a terrible fire we changed front. Our brave Major How fell, never to rise again; Colonel Hincks was supposed to be mortally wounded and was carried from the field; Lieut. David Lee was killed, and the ground was strewn with our dead and wounded comrades. For a moment the regiment was in confusion, but Captain Weymouth, assisted by Sergeant-Major Newcomb and others, rallied the men on the colors and the line was at once reformed and our position held. Capt. Edmund Rice was in command of the regiment. He was noted for his coolness and bravery, and the men had confidence in him. As I looked down the line of Company A many places were vacant. Ed. Hale, Volney P. Chase, Charles Boynton and several others were killed, while the list of wounded could not be ascertained at that time. Company A had lost men by death, but this was the first time any of our number had been killed in action.
Charles Boynton was one of my townsmen. He was an eccentric man and had troubled Captain Merritt by his peculiar ideas of drill, but he was as brave and patriotic a man as ever shouldered a musket. He had no patience with the slow movements of the army, and I have often heard him say that he wanted to fight every day and close up the job. When advancing in line he would constantly rush ahead of the company, his only desire being to get a shot at the rebels. I do not think it would be showing disrespect to his memory should I relate one or two of the little dialogues between Captain Merritt and Boynton. Our regiment had a peculiar drill in the manual. It was formulated by Colonel Devereaux, and is nearly what is used by the army to-day. After loading we stood with our little finger on the head of the rammer until the order was given to shoulder arms. One day on drill Captain Merritt looked down the line and saw Boynton with his hand by his side. "Put your little finger on the head of the rammer, Boynton," sang out Captain Merritt. "I won't do it," replied Boynton. "Won't do it! Why not?" "Because it is all nonsense; my gun is loaded, and do you suppose I would stand up in battle like a darned fool with my little finger on the head of my rammer? No, sir, I propose to drill just as I intend to fight."
Another day the order was, "Right shoulder, shift arms." The proper way was to make three motions, but Boynton did it in one. "Make three motions, Boynton," said Captain Merritt. "Didn't I get my gun on my shoulder as quick as any man in the company?" was the reply. Captain Merritt was discouraged and ordered me to punish Boynton, but I explained his peculiarities, and assured the captain that he would earn his thirteen dollars a month when fighting began. He let the matter drop. Had the Union army been composed entirely of men like Charles Boynton the war would have ended long before it did.
We held our position until midnight. It was the saddest night I ever spent. The dead and wounded of both armies lay between the lines. The wounded were constantly calling on their comrades for water, and we could hear calls for Mississippi, Georgia and Virginia, mingled with those for Michigan, New York and Massachusetts. Brave men from our regiment crawled over the field, giving water to friend and foe alike. About midnight the order was whispered down the line to move. I had been from right to left of the company keeping the men awake, as we expected the order. As still as possible we crawled over the field. We had gone but a short distance when, looking back, I saw one member of the company had not started. Thinking he had fallen asleep I returned, and shaking him said, "Come, come!" As I drew close to him my eyes rested on the face of Jonathan Hudson, cold in death. He had been killed in the early evening as we lay in line and his death was not known to his comrades near him. It was the saddest sensation I ever experienced. When we arrived at the road we found many of our wounded. Colonel Hincks was on a stretcher, and as the ambulances were full he was carried a long distance before one could be found. Captain Devereaux was also badly wounded and had to be carried. We started with the body of Major How in a blanket as we had no stretchers, but being so very heavy we were forced to leave him.
Without any regimental formation we began our weary march to Malvern Hill, where we arrived at daylight, were at once ordered to support a battery, and witnessed one of the most terrible artillery battles of the war. In the afternoon our brigade was ordered to the woods and held the right of the army. The next morning, in a drenching rain, we started for Harrison's Landing. We marched in three lines, but it was not an army, it was a mob. Artillery was stuck in the mud, wagons were abandoned and burned by the roadside. The only thought of every one was to get to Harrison's Landing as soon as possible. Some did not stop at the landing but took boats for Washington. Among these was our minister, Levi. He had managed to keep out of every battle, and now deserted, joining the advance guard in Canada.
Harrison's Landing when dry was a sandy plain; when we arrived it was a sea of mud. Without shelter, overcoats or blankets we dropped in the mud, and being so exhausted, having been without sleep, except the little naps caught in line of battle, for seven days, we soon forgot our misery. It was two days before we could reorganize our companies. Men were coming in who we expected were killed or captured, but July 4 upon calling the roll, we found that more than half of the men who had left Massachusetts with us less than a year before had either been killed in battle, died of disease or were sick or wounded in general hospital. The death-rate at Harrison's Landing was fearful. Men who had stood the retreat now broke down and soon died. Every hour in the day we could hear the dead march, as comrade after comrade was laid at rest. The subject for discussion around the camp-fire was the disaster to the Union army. Newspapers called it "an important change of base." We knew that some one had been outgeneralled, and although the men had confidence in General McClellan, we believed that while we had been digging and dying before Yorktown we should have been advancing and fighting.
Looking at the campaign in the most charitable light possible, the fact remained that on April 4 the finest army ever mustered began the advance on Richmond; that we had been within five miles of that city, and that July 4 found the army on the banks of the James River, with less than half of the number it had three months before. We were not disheartened. Many had expected that 1862 would see the end of the war, but it now looked as though those who were spared would see the end of their three years' enlistment. The losses in officers had been such that many promotions were made. Four enlisted men were promoted second lieutenants, and I was one of the number. I was assigned to Company I, Capt. J. F. Plympton. By a misunderstanding between Colonel Hincks and Lieutenant-Colonel Devereaux, First Sergeant Driver and myself did not receive our commissions until August, although we continued as acting second lieutenants, the two commissioned by recommendation of Colonel Hincks not being assigned to duty.
It was impossible to obtain officers' uniforms, so I bought a pair of brass shoulder-straps, sewed them on my well-worn blouse, borrowed a sword of Lieutenant Mumford and went on duty, as verdant an officer as could be found in the army of the Potomac.
About the middle of August I was ordered to report to First Lieut. John P. Reynolds for special duty. We were to take charge of the guard of the division wagon train that was ordered to Fortress Monroe. Our duty was an important one. We knew we were liable to attack at any time by guerillas, and constant vigilance was required. We often met small parties of mounted citizens who rode past our train. We believed they were "taking us in," but we had not arrived at the time when men were arrested on suspicion, so we let them pass but kept our train well covered. We arrived at Fortress Monroe in due time, turned over the train and reported to the regiment at Newport News, they having marched a few days after we were ordered away.
While our duty as the advance guard had been arduous, we had not suffered as much as those who marched with the regiment. They had marched rapidly over dusty roads, under a broiling sun, and many had been sunstruck. Among the number was Capt. William A. Hill. He was not able to speak above a whisper for several days, and his condition was serious; but his courage was good and he remained on duty with the regiment. The men having rested a day, and being now veteran soldiers, had forgotten their hardships, and when we arrived were nearly all in the James River hunting for oysters.
On August 24, the brigade embarked on the steamship "Atlantic" for Washington, arriving at Alexandria the 28th, - just one year from the day we left Massachusetts.
My position had changed during the past year from corporal in Company A to second lieutenant in Company I, and it took me some time to get accustomed to the new office. Up to the time I left Company A no man had been punished; but the morning that I reported for duty in Company I Captain Plympton had one man on a barrel and another on knapsack drill, and I thought I had made a mistake in not taking sparring lessons before being promoted.
I found the men of Company I as good-hearted a lot as there was in the regiment, only a little wild. The leader of the company was a young boy; he was about seventeen years old, and a private soldier, yet he was the one who settled all disputes. He was well informed in regard to the movements of the army, and had ideas respecting future campaigns that he was ready to discuss with officers or men. Soon after I joined the company he called on me and made a little speech of welcome, saying that the boys were glad I had been assigned to the company, and assured me they would make it pleasant for me. Such a reception was very gratifying. I was but twenty years of age and doubted my ability to control these men, but I commanded the company for nearly two years, and punished but one man during the time. That boy has since become known and honored by every comrade in Massachusetts. The friendship formed on that day for George H. Patch continued until his death, and the memory of that light-hearted, true soldier will be precious to me while life shall last.
Leaving the transports at Alexandria, we first marched to Chain Bridge, then to Tenallytown, Md. No one seemed to know where they wanted us. We went into camp and waited for orders, which, when received, were to march at once for Centreville, to reinforce General Pope. At daybreak, August 30, we crossed the bridge at Georgetown, and reached Fairfax Court House the next morning, having marched sixty-three miles in sixty-four successive hours. It the hardest march we had made, - twenty-four hours of the time it rained in torrents. The shoes of the men were in bad condition; many marched bare-footed, and it was impossible for them to keep in the ranks. We did not have a hundred men in the ranks when we reached the line of battle.
At Fairfax Court House we found everything in confusion. Pope's army had been defeated at the second Bull Run and were in full retreat. Without time to make coffee we were ordered in, and deployed as skirmishers to the right of the town, as it was expected the rebel cavalry would attack the flank. We remained in this position until the army had passed, when, with the 1st Minnesota, we were selected to cover the retreat. The rebel cavalry came down on us, and we had some sharp fighting as we fell back. At Flint Hill we made a stand. Night had come on and we did not care to be bothered with the rebels any longer. The 1st Minnesota formed a V with two sections of Tompkins's Rhode Island battery at this point, the 19th supporting the battery. On came the rebels, right into the trap we had set. The Minnesota boys opened fire, followed by the battery. The 19th charged with a yell; the rout was complete, as all not killed or wounded turned and fled. We had no time to follow them, as we were quite a distance from the main army. When we rejoined the column our two regiments were mistaken for the enemy, and fired upon by our own ranks. Assistant-Surgeon Hill was killed, Captain Russell disabled by his horse being shot, and several men wounded.
The next day we again crossed the Potomac to Maryland soil. The prospects were not pleasant to contemplate. We had done little but march in retreat the past six months. A line officer has little chance to see what is going on outside his regiment, and his opinion is of little importance, but I believed then, and time has only strengthened my belief, that the leading officers of the Army of the Potomac were perfectly willing General Pope should be whipped. He had taken command of the Army of Virginia with a swell order: "Headquarters in the saddle, spades to the rear, muskets to the front," and they were glad to see the conceit taken out of him. There is a great deal of human nature shown in the world, - even in army commanders.
We now took up our line of march through Maryland. We were not the only ones who had crossed the Potomac, as the rebels had already crossed and were marching north, and we must head them off if possible. It began to look as though they would capture Washington before we captured Richmond. We marched through Rockville, where we had spent our winters so pleasantly, and met many old acquaintances, but missed several of our gentlemen friends who, we learned, had joined the rebel army.
Some of the ladies, who loved the stars and bars, joked us on our "On to Richmond" movement, and were confident the war would soon end with the south victorious. The events of the past few months had been such that we had slight ground for an argument; but we assured them we were satisfied, and all we wanted was to get General Lee on this side of the river. Our march through Maryland was delightful; the farther we got into the interior the more loyal the people became, and our welcome was cordial.
We arrived at South Mountain while the battle was being fought, but took no part in it. The 16th of September we reached Antietam, and formed in line of battle. On the morning of the 17th, with our brigade in the centre, we advanced in three lines of battle, over walls and fences, through fields, under a terrible fire of artillery. The regiment was growing nervous but did not break. Colonel Hincks halted us, put us through the manual of arms, ending with parade rest. Having become steady, we moved forward to a strip of woods, and came upon the enemy strongly posted. Grape and canister, shot and shell, volleys of musketry greeted us, - and our men fell as grain before the scythe.
One-half of our officers and men were either killed or wounded. Colonel Hincks was the first to fall, again terribly wounded. Capt. George W. Batchelder was killed, and the command of the regiment and companies changed fast, as one after another officer went down. At the time we were so hotly engaged in the front we began to receive a fire from our left and rear, and discovered that we were being flanked, and must change front to rear. This was done by the 19th Massachusetts and 1st Minnesota. We were now under command of Colonel Devereaux, and were ordered to take a position near a stone wall. We fired as we fell back, holding the enemy until we had reformed our lines, when we again went in and continued fighting until dark, when we were ordered to support a battery. We then had time to count the cost of the battle. Colonel Hincks was reported dying, and we mourned the loss of our brave leader. Captain Batchelder was dead. He had been my tent-mate since I had been an officer, and had rendered me valuable assistance. Every one loved him; he was an ideal volunteer soldier. Having graduated at Harvard, he entered the army as an enlisted man in the Salem Zouaves at the first call for men, and had worked hard to bring the regiment to the state of efficiency which it had reached.
I had not seen my brother since we had advanced in line. He was left general guide of the regiment, and his place was on the left. As soon as we halted I went to the company, but he was not there. The following day I searched the hospitals, but could not find him, and on the morning of the 19th, the rebels having left our front, I went where their lines had been and found him, with Jacob Hazen of Company C and George Carleton of Company B, near an old haystack. He had been shot in the right side of the neck, the ball passing out of the left shoulder; it had cut the spinal nerve, and he could not move hand or foot. I saw at once that he could not live and had him placed in an ambulance and carried to our field hospital. It was the saddest duty of my life. We had left home together, and had often talked of a happy reunion around the old fireside when the war should end. Now I must write to my old mother that one of the three who had bade her good-by in '61 would never return.
This was war, terrible war! As I was kneeling by his side, hearing his last words, a woman's voice said, "Is he your brother?" I explained to her the fact that I was in command of my company and could not stay with him, but could not bear to have him die alone. With tears streaming down her motherly face she promised me she would not leave him, but would see him buried and would send me word where he was laid, - which promise she faithfully kept. The name of this good woman was Mrs. Mary Lee of Philadelphia, Pa. She had a son in Baxter's Fire Zouaves, who was with her that day. Several years ago, when Post 2, G.A.R., of Philadelphia, was in Boston, I saw that one of the old battle-flags was the Fire Zouaves, and was carried by Sergeant Lee. He proved to be the son I had met that sad day at Antietam; a few months later I visited his mother in Philadelphia, who was working just the same for the soldiers as she had done during the war.
While my brother lay wounded on the field inside the rebel lines an officer of the 8th South Carolina came along, and seeing 19 on his cap asked to what regiment he belonged. Being informed that it was the 19th Massachusetts, he said he had a brother in that regiment named Daniel W. Spofford. My brother told him that his brother was wounded in the battle, and might be on the field. He searched for him but did not find him, as he was able to go to the rear before we changed front. Returning, he had my brother carried to the haystack where I found him, and rendered all the assistance possible. The name of the South Carolina officer was Phineas Spofford. Both brothers survived the war. The Union soldier resides in Georgetown, Mass., the rebel in South Carolina, but he often visits his native State.
I also missed my boy Patch. He was last seen helping a sergeant from the field. He turned up in Libby Prison a few days later. My old company had met with other losses than death. Four men had deserted on the eve of battle. They had taken the canteens of the company to go in search of water. No doubt they are searching yet, as they did not return. Two were non-commissioned officers, and all were intelligent men.
The regiment was now commanded by Capt. H. G. O. Weymouth. Again we crossed the Potomac, and went to camp on Boliver Heights, near Harper's Ferry. We did not lose the battle of Antietam because we held the ground, but made the mistake of remaining inactive while the rebels withdrew to the other side of the river, so we gained nothing.
Soon after the battle we received a large number of recruits, - the best class of men that had joined the regiment. Many of them had waited, hoping that the war would be over, and their services would not be required, but seeing the disasters that had come to the army, resolved to come and help us. Several of them were discharged as commissioned officers, and all rendered very valuable service.
We remained at Harper's Ferry until October 30, when we received marching orders, and the army marched up Loudon valley. The nights were cold, and we suffered severely. While in bivouac near Paris or New Baltimore two feet of snow fell, covering us as we slept. Orders against foraging were very strict. We were not allowed to take hay from the stacks for bedding, or in any way molest private property. The idea of General McClellan seemed to be to carry on the war without hurting any one's feelings, but once in a while we broke over. One night Corporal Phelan and Jack Robinson discovered hens at a neighboring farm-house, and finding the house not guarded took their muskets and went on duty. The people were much pleased to be so well protected. While Phelan entertained the family Jack went on duty outside to protect the hens. Soon a squawking was heard, and Corporal Phelan grasped his musket and rushed to reinforce Jack. They secured three good hens, and forgot to go back to the house, but reported to camp. When they arrived I discovered that they had plunder, and called them before me. With downcast eyes they told the story of their shame and begged for mercy. As an officer I must do my duty, and they must be punished. I ordered them to cook one of the three hens and deliver it to me. With sad hearts they obeyed the order.
We continued the march through the valley to Warrenton, where General McClellan was relieved of the command of the army and General Burnside succeeded him. Nearly all the men were sad at the loss of McClellan. He was our first love, and the men were loyal and devoted to him. I did not share in this sorrow. My faith had become shaken when we retreated from before Richmond, and when he allowed Lee's army to get away from Antietam I was disgusted, and glad to see a change. Sad as the army felt at the loss of McClellan, they were loyal to the cause for which they had enlisted, and followed their new commander as faithfully as they had the old.
We arrived at Falmouth about the middle of November, and went into camp two miles from the town; here we spent our second Thanksgiving. No dance for the officers this year. We had a dinner of hard tack and salt pork, and should have passed a miserable day had not the commissary arrived with a supply of "Poland water," and the officers were given a canteen each. The men had the pleasure of hearing our sweet voices in songs of praise from the "home of the fallen," as our tent was called.
We remained undisturbed until the morning of December 11, when we were ordered to the banks of the Rappahannock River, opposite Fredericksburg. Here we found a pontoon bridge partially laid, and the engineers doing their best to complete it. Our batteries were posted on the hills in rear of our line, and were vigorously shelling the city, but the rebel sharpshooters were posted in cellars and rifle pits on the other side, and would pick off the engineers as fast as they showed themselves at work. At last volunteers were called for by Colonel Hall, commanding the brigade, and the 19th Massachusetts and 7th Michigan volunteered. We took the pontoon boats from the wagons, carried them to the river, and as soon as they touched the water filled them with men. Two or three boats started at the same time, and the sharpshooters opened a terrible fire. Men fell in the water and in the boats. Lieutenant-Colonel Baxter of the 7th Michigan was shot when half-way across. Henry E. Palmer of Company C was shot in the foot as he was stepping into the boat, yet we pressed on, and at last landed on the other side.
As soon as the boats touched the shore we formed by companies, and, without waiting for regimental formation, charged up the street. On reaching the main street we found that the fire came from houses in front and rear. Company B lost ten men out of thirty in less than five minutes. Other companies suffered nearly the same. We were forced to fall back to the river, deploy as skirmishers, and reached the main street through the yards and houses. As we fell back we left one of our men wounded in the street; his name was Redding, of Company D, and when we again reached the street we found him dead, - the rebels having bayoneted him in seven places.
The regiment was commanded by Capt. H. G. O. Weymouth, Colonel Devereaux being very sick in camp. Captain Weymouth went from right to left of the line, giving instructions and urging the men forward. My squad was composed of men from companies I and A. We had reached a gate, and were doing our best to cross the street. I had lost three men when Captain Weymouth came up. "Can't you go forward, Lieutenant Adams?" he said. My reply was, "It is mighty hot, captain." He said, "I guess you can," and started to go through the gate, when as much as a barrel of bullets came at him. He turned and said, "It is quite warm, lieutenant; go up through the house." We then entered the back door and passed upstairs to the front. Gilman Nichols of Company A was in advance. He found the door locked and burst it open with the butt of his musket. The moment it opened he fell dead, shot from a house on the other side of the street. Several others were wounded, but we held the house until dark, firing at a head whenever we saw one on the other side.
As night came on we advanced across the street and the rebels retired. We posted our pickets and went into the houses for rest and observation. The house my company now owned was formerly occupied by a namesake of mine, a music teacher. I left the men downstairs while I retired. The room I selected was the chamber belonging to a young lady. Her garments were in the press, and the little finery she possessed was scattered about the room. Fearing she might return I did not undress, but went to bed with my boots on. I was soon lost in peaceful slumber, when a sergeant came and said I was wanted below. Going to the kitchen I found the boys had a banquet spread for me. There was roast duck, biscuit, all kinds of preserves, spread upon a table set with the best china. We were company, and the best was none too good for us. After supper we went up stairs, and the men were assigned, or assigned themselves, to rooms.
In our investigation we had found a barrel filled with molasses. Every one must fill his canteen, and as he filled it from the faucet it ran over, and the house was molasses from cellar to attic. I opened a trunk in my room and found packages of paper. Thinking they might be bonds or stock I put them in my haversack. The next day I found they were unpaid bills of the music teacher. Going out on the street we found it quite lively. One of the boys would come along with a lady on his arm, but upon inspection it proved to be another soldier with borrowed clothes.
Since we left Rockville I have not mentioned Ben Falls. He had been on every march and in every battle, and had his musket shot from his shoulder at Glendale, but picked up another and went in again. While at Falmouth Captain Boyd, who was now in command of Company A, made Ben a cook, because, as he informed me, he wanted him to live to go home. While we were in Fredericksburg Ben and another man came over bringing two kettles of coffee on poles. Halting before Captain Boyd he said, "Captain, if you have no use for Ben Falls, send me home. How nice it will look when I write to my wife in Lynn that the regiment fought nobly, and I carried the kettles. I either want a musket or a discharge, - and prefer the musket." Captain Boyd granted his request; and it was the last of Ben as a pot-slewer.
The next day we remained in the city, awaiting orders. We buried our dead, sent the wounded back to the hospital, and made ready for the battle which we knew must come. On the morning of the 13th we received orders to advance, and marched up the street towards Marye's Heights by the flank. Shot and shell ploughed through our ranks, but we filed into a field and were ordered forward to storm the heights. It was necessary to move up an embankment, then charge over an open field. A rebel battery on our right had a raking fire on us, but we must go forward. Led by our gallant Captain Weymouth we moved up the bank. The two color bearers, Sergeant Creasey and Sergeant Rappell, were the first to fall, but the colors did not touch the ground before they were up and going forward. Captain Weymouth fell, shot in the leg, which was afterwards amputated. Captain Mahoney took command of the regiment, and he was also seen to fall, shot in the arm and side. Down went the color bearers again. Lieutenant Newcomb grasped one, a color corporal another. Newcomb fell, shot through both legs, and as he went down he handed the color to me. Next fell the color corporal, and the flag he held was grasped by Sergeant Merrill, who was soon wounded. Another seized the color, but he was shot immediately, and as it fell from his hands the officer who already had one caught it.
By obliquing to the left, followed by the regiment, we got out of the line of fire for a time, and lay down. I do not mention this fact to show that I was braver than other men, for every man of the old regiment on the field would have done the same had opportunity offered, but my services were recognized by promotion to first lieutenant, and I was afterwards given a Medal of Honor by Congress for the act.
Looking back over the field we saw the ground covered with our dead and wounded. Captain Plympton was now in command of the regiment, and we waited for darkness to bring in our wounded.
Late in the evening we withdrew to the city, where we remained the next day. At night we were ordered to the front. No man was allowed to speak. Dippers must not rattle against bayonets, but all must be as still as the dead who slept near us. We remained until nearly daylight, found the army was being withdrawn to the other side of the river, and as usual we were to cover the retreat. We recrossed in safety, and waited on the other side until the pontoons were withdrawn. About half of those who went over never marched back. In the battle of the 13th, out of less than three hundred men we lost, in killed and wounded, one hundred and four. Of the eleven men who carried the colors that day eight were killed. I do not believe we killed five of the enemy, if we did one. We found them strongly intrenched, charged upon them, and they mowed us down. Here the rebels lost an opportunity. Had they attacked us while we were recrossing the river they could have captured a large part of the army; but they did not see the chance, and we escaped.
Sad and weary we marched back to our old camp. We had become accustomed to defeat; we knew that no braver army stood upon the earth than the Army of the Potomac, but fate had been against us from the start. We saw our numbers growing less, and no real victory to reward us for the sacrifice.
It only required a few days after returning to camp to reorganize the regiment; promotions were made to fill the vacant places, and active drill was resumed. We took up skirmish drill and bayonet exercise in earnest, and what spare time we had stockaded our tents, expecting to remain until spring; but in army life there is no assurance that you will find yourself in the morning where you lay down at night, and in a few days the army was ordered to pack up. As soon as the order was given it began to rain and continued several days. We wallowed around in the mud, trying to march, but it was impossible, and all were ordered back to camp, after suffering untold misery for two days. Our next move was to break camp, and locate nearer the town. Here we stockaded our tents, and were comfortable.
Were it not for the sadness felt by reason of the vacant places in our ranks, it would have been the happiest winter I had ever passed. Every night the officers would gather in the adjutant's tent, - which was a Sibley, stockaded some six feet from the ground, - and there hold regular campfires. Stories would be told, songs sung and recitations given. We had our orators and our poets. I remember one night, when seated around the camp-fire, the quartermaster, Tom Winthrop, who had enlisted as a private with me in old Company A, read the following tribute to the boys who had gone on: -
OUR FALLEN BRAVES.
Not in the quiet churchyard where their fathers' bones repose,
With loving hands to mark the spot with willow and with rose;
Not in the quiet nooks and dells of the old homestead place,
'Mid scenes of boyhood days time never can efface;
But in strange lands we laid them down, in rough dug soldiers' graves,
And far from home and kindred ones they sleep, our fallen braves.
No mother's wail of sorrow o'er the new sod fresh and green,
Where sleeps the boy she nursed and loved, and fondled when a ween;
No blue-eyed maiden, golden-haired, to drop the bitter tear,
Or mark the spot with loving hands, where sleeps the form so dear;
But comrades knew their honest worth, the sacrifice they made,
And they have marked with thoughtful care where sleep our fallen braves.
We left our heroes at Fair Oakes, we dug their honored graves
Beside the Chickahominy, with its dull, dreary waves.
Not alone they fell in battle, not alone by steel and lead,
The fell malaria swept them off, as fruits fall, ripe and red.
And where the southern laurels bloom, and oleanders wave,
In the swamp lands, drear and deadly, they sleep, our fallen braves.
And oh, it was a fearful lot we buried at Glendale.
Our ranks were thinned like standing corn before the sweeping gale.
And thick their honored graves were strewn, through cornfields, one by one,
They mark the spot when Antietam was bravely fought and won.
And where the fight raged fiercest, by the Rappahannock's waves,
There is many a yellow mound to tell where sleep our fallen braves.
Oh, brave hearts that know no shrinking, oh, strong hands tried and true,
You paled to see your country's stars turn from their azured blue;
And burned your hearts with patriot fire, nerved your arm to right,
Ye were foremost when the call came, ye were foremost in the fight.
And well ye fought and brave ye died, ye were no hireling slaves,
May earth its richest tribute bring to all our fallen braves.
What though no marble monument, no towering shaft of stone,
Is reared above the sacred soil where rest their honored bones;
What though no graven tablet shall, through all the coming time,
Tell to the world heroic deeds of sacrifice sublime.
But we who know how willingly their noble lives they gave,
Will treasure in our hearts the worth of all our fallen braves.
I do not believe there was a regiment in either army where the love was so strong between officers and men as in the old 19th. We had no little jealousies; the men obeyed the officers because they knew that no unreasonable orders would be given. All was peace and harmony. Officers and men were given furloughs, and boxes were received from home. Some of the boxes had been a long time on the road, and when they arrived the contents were in an uncertain condition. It was hard to tell the tobacco from the mince pie. William A. Hill, adjutant of the regiment, had expected a box for some time, and the officers knew that when it came "Billy" would see that all had a share. At last it arrived, and we gathered at headquarters to see it opened. The cover was removed and the smell was not quite equal to the arbutus, but we hoped it was only the top. Another box was found inside containing what was once a turkey, but was now a large lump of blue mould. Nothing in the box was eatable. We held a council and concluded that a turkey that had been dead so long should have a decent burial. The next day the remains lay in state while we prepared for the last sad services. We waked the corpse until midnight, then the sad procession was formed. First came the largest negro, selected from the many servants, as drum-major; then the comb band; next the quartermaster, with the carbine reversed, as a firing party; then the corpse borne on a stretcher by four negroes, two small and two large; then the mourners (officers who had expected to eat the turkey, and were left); all so disguised that none could recognize them. We marched down the main street of the camp, the comb band playing the dead march. Men half dressed came out of their tents to see what was the trouble, but we passed beyond the camp lines, where a grave had been prepared. Here the body was lowered, remarks were made by the chaplain (pro tem.), a poem was read by the quartermaster, and we returned to camp and mourned for the spirits that had departed.
Another jolly time I recall. One day a light snow had fallen, and the men began to snow-ball. Soon companies were engaged and then the right and left wings of the regiment were pitted against each other. I was with the left wing and we were holding our own when the drum corps re-enforced the right. Up to this time headquarters had been spectators, but they became excited, and joined the right wing. With such re-enforcements, the battle would soon be lost to us, but I remembered that some twenty of our negro servants were in rear of the hospital tent, and went to them and offered bounty if they would enlist. They hesitated, but I assured them that I would stand the blame if they joined our forces. Having loaded every one with an armful of snow balls, I charged over the hill and attacked headquarters by the flank. If any one doubts the bravery of colored troops he should have seen my army that day. They rushed upon the foe, regardless of who it was. Their ammunition exhausted, they started on the charge with heads down, and butted all before them. Headquarters vanished. The right wing gave way, and the left held the field. It was the first battle won by colored troops in the war, and proved that they could fight if well officered.
Many of the soldiers quartered near us, and some of our own men, had an eye to business, and were going about the camp selling pies, cookies and other articles of food. The 19th Maine had many men engaged in this business. One day a tall, honest-looking fellow was going through our camp when he passed Sergeant McGinnis. "What do you ask for your pies?" said McGinnis. "Twenty-five cents," replied the soldier. "I won't give it," said McGinnis. "Your colonel was just through here selling them for twenty cents."
While at this camp Colonel Devereaux was called home, and we were without a field officer. Captain Mahoney hearing of this felt it his duty to return. Although on leave of absence from the severe wound received at Fredericksburg he reported for duty. As I have before said, Captain Mahoney was a true son of Erin, brave and patriotic, yet a little peculiar. He brought with him two dozen bottles of ginger ale (?) and at night the officers in full uniform called to pay their respects. We were royally received. Corks were drawn and sociability began. We informed the captain that the regiment was delighted to have him return, that we had not had a battalion drill for several weeks, and were very rusty. He asked what in our opinion we were the most deficient in, and we said the charge. He said he had expected as much, and that the next day we should have a drill. The drill call was sounded, and we fell in. All the officers' horses were away except an old one that was called "Palmer's wood-box." Mounted on this Captain Mahoney took command, and we marched to the parade ground near the town. As the drill was a new thing, the negro women and children assembled to witness it. We started forward in line; the order "Double-quick" was given, then "Charge." On we went; the old horse began to wheel and kick and the centre of the regiment could not pass. Lieut. Eph. Hall was in command of the left company and I the right. Captain Mahoney cried "Halt! halt!" but we did not hear him, and kept on driving the negroes into the town. After we had cleared the field we came marching back; the captain had dismounted and was walking up and down the line mad way through. "Why didn't you halt, Lieutenant Adams?" "Didn't hear you, sir." "Why didn't you halt, Lieutenant Hall?" "Didn't hear you, sir." "D--d lie! consider yourself in arrest. Adjutant, take Lieutenant Hall's sword." Eph. was a lieutenant in Captain Mahoney's company, and while I got off without a reprimand he must be punished. We marched back to quarters and at night called on the captain with a petition for Lieutenant Hall's release. We were well received. The ginger ale was opened, and after much discussion it was thought best to send for Lieutenant Hall and have matters explained. Captain Mahoney forgave him although I am not quite sure Eph. asked him to do so, but the noble old captain's heart was so large that he never treasured up anything against us.
While in camp at Falmouth the base ball fever broke out. It was the old-fashioned game, where a man running the bases must be hit by the ball to be declared out. It started with the men, then the officers began to play, and finally the 19th challenged the 7th Michigan to play for sixty dollars a side. Captain Hume and myself were the committee of our regiment with two officers from the 7th Michigan, the four to select two from another regiment in the brigade. The game was played and witnessed by nearly all of our division, and the 19th won. The one hundred and twenty dollars was spent for a supper, both clubs being present with our committee as guests. It was a grand time, and all agreed that it was nicer to play base than minie ball.
What were the rebels doing all this time? Just the same as we were. While each army posted a picket along the river they never fired a shot. We would sit on the bank and watch their games, and the distance was so short we could understand every movement and would applaud good plays. Our men and theirs met in the river and exchanged papers, tobacco and coffee and were on the best of terms. As the spring months came they fished the river for shad, and as they drew their seines would come so near our shore that they could and often did throw fish to our boys. This truce lasted from January to May, 1863, and to both armies was one long, happy holiday.
In April I received ten days leave of absence, and visited my old home. I had been promoted first lieutenant after the battle of Fredericksburg, and wore my new uniform for the first time. After two days spent on the road I arrived in Groveland. As in the field, I found death had been busy. My father had been called home, and many others had passed away. The second night after my arrival a delegation of citizens waited upon me and escorted me to the vestry used as a town hall, where I was given a public reception. I do not know what the feelings of General Grant were when he landed at California and was given the grand reception after his trip around the world, but if he felt better than I did he must have been very happy. I remained at home six days, and at the expiration of my leave reported back to the camp. I was as pleased to meet the dear old boys as I had been to meet friends at home.
How I love to linger, living over in memory those happy days. I could fill pages with reminiscences of that winter; the horse show February 22, the grand inauguration of Lieutenant Shackley when he received his commission, the blackberry jam at the sutler's tent, the courts-martial in the Sibley tent on the hill, and last but not least, the grand joke which was enjoyed by all; but it would be of interest only to the comrades of the old 19th and I will pass on to the stern realities of war.
At midnight, May 2, we were ordered to fall in, and marched to the banks of the Rappahannock, where a pontoon was again being thrown across. It looked like the 11th of December over again. The officers were called together and ordered to select twenty-five men from the regiment, who would volunteer for whatever duty they might be called upon to perform. One officer was to go with them, and before the words had fully dropped from the lips of Colonel Devereaux Lieut. Johnnie Ferris said, "Please let me be that officer, colonel," and he was accepted. We found it hard to get twenty-five men because all wanted to go, and while the call was for volunteers we had to select them.
At daylight it was found that the enemy had left the city. Our volunteers crossed, and were on the other side to welcome us when we came over. We were the first in the city, but soon met General Sedgwick's division marching in from the left, having crossed below us. We found that Sedgwick was to storm the heights and we were to support him. General Hooker, with the rest of the Army of the Potomac, had marched up the river and engaged the enemy at Chancellorsville, and we were to hold this city. In column by regiments General Sedgwick advanced up the hill. We saw the white flag of Massachusetts as the 7th, 10th, and, I think, the 37th advanced. A rebel battery opened upon them but the line did not waver, and on, on, even to the cannon's mouth they went.
The battery was silenced, captured, and its support fled. We followed close in the rear, and when some two miles from the city were ordered back for provost duty. We expected a "soft snap". Coats were brushed, brasses brightened, and in every respect we "braced up". We turned in early for a good night's rest, but at nine p.m. we were turned out and double-quicked to the left of the city, as our pickets at that point had been fired upon. At daylight "Johnnie [reb] came marching home again" and filled the earthworks on the left and front of the city. Where they came from we could not tell, but they were there, and had a battery which was used to stir us up with good results.
From provost soldiers we changed to sappers and miners. Dirt flew fast as we dug trenches for our own protection, and to obstruct the passage of artillery. We had several men slightly wounded but none killed.
On the morning of the 5th we fell back to our rifle pits in the city, recrossed the river, remained on duty until the pontoons were taken up, and then marched back to our old camp. We had not slept an hour since May 2, and were completely tired out. I slept all night and awoke thinking it was time for breakfast and found it was three p.m.
We moved our camp to a delightful spot on the top of the hill, resumed our daily drills, and were once more under strict discipline. It was very hard to get leave of absence, but Lieutenant Shackley made application, giving as a reason that he required an officer's uniform, having just been promoted, and it was granted. Mose was absent ten days, and then returned, having purchased two pairs of stockings, a linen duster and a brush broom, but he had enjoyed his vacation, and had two cents left of his two months' pay.
June 16, marching orders came; we waited until all had moved, then with two pieces of the 1st Rhode Island artillery took our place in the rear. Two companies were ordered to march half a mile in the rear of the column, and Major Rice was placed in command of this detachment. We marched over ground which we had travelled before. The roads were very dusty and the sun scorching. At times the woods on each side were on fire, and our men suffered badly. June 20 we arrived at Thoroughfare Gap, where we remained three days, to repel an advance through the gap. On the 26th we reached Edward's Ferry, crossed the Potomac, and at noon halted at old Camp Benton, where we had camped in 1861. What changes had taken place since we were there before! Then we were light-hearted, happy boys, expecting to be at home in a year at least. Now those who remained were bronzed and war-torn veterans marching back to meet the enemy on northern soil.
Our old camp was a fine wheat field and nearly all traces of our former occupancy were removed. We passed through Frederick City to Uniontown, Md., where we arrived the 30th, and were ordered on provost duty. We expected to remain here for some time, and on the morning of July 1 Captain Palmer and myself were ordered to dress in our best and make the acquaintance of the families in town, so we could understand where the officers would be most welcome. We had just started on this pleasant duty when the assembly sounded. We returned and found we must march at once, and we did march thirty-five miles, not halting until nine o'clock at night, when we bivouacked on the field of Gettysburg, two miles from the battle-ground. All day we had heard heavy firing and knew that a battle was being fought. At daylight on the 2d we were ordered into line of battle on the left of Cemetery Hill, where we remained under a severe artillery fire until about five p.m.
We had seen the advance of the 3d corps and the warm reception they met; we saw them falling back and the enemy advancing. Lieut. Sherman Robinson and I were lying side by side watching the battle. "Some one must go and help them, Jack," said Robinson. At that moment a staff officer rode up to Colonel Devereaux, and then we heard the familiar command, "Attention, 19th!" "We are for it ," said Robinson, and with the 42d New York, we double-quicked to a point where the line had broken and the rebels were advancing on our flank. I was in command of the color company, had just removed the covering from the colors when a regiment on our left broke; with other officers I rushed to rally them, and was returning to my place in line when I went down. I heard an officer say, "Jack is down," before I really knew that I was shot. I could not rise, and Sergeant Smith and Private Collopee came to me. "Put him on my back, Smith," said the latter, and under a terrible fire he carried me from the field. Our lines fell back as fast as we could go, and I expected that Collopee would be obliged to drop me, and I should fall into the hands of the rebels, but he kept on and landed me in the field hospital of the 3d corps. Everything indicated that we were again defeated, but when our men arrived at the stone wall, by unanimous consent they turned about, and with that wild hurrah that only Yankee soldiers can give, drove the rebels beyond our former lines.
I found myself surrounded by men wounded and dying. An assistant surgeon was in charge and I asked him to look at my wound. He did, and said that I could not live twenty-four hours. I suggested that he stop the blood, as he might be mistaken, but he had no time to waste on me and went along. Upon examination I found that I was wounded in three places, and all were bleeding badly, but I could not tell where the bullets had entered or come out.
The battle was yet raging; men were coming in thick and fast, the last arrivals being mostly rebels. Collopee had waited until the surgeon said that I should die, when he rushed back to the regiment with the information. In a short time Lieut. Mose Shackley appeared before me with one of his company named Younger. "Jack, old boy, they say you are going to die, and I thought you would like a canteen of coffee before you passed up your check," said Mose. "What are you lying on?" he asked, as it was quite dark. I replied, "Only the ground;" and going to a rebel who was slightly wounded but was comfortable, having a rubber blanket under and a woollen blanket over him, he said, "There is a darned sight better man than you are, with no blanket under or over him," and captured one for me. Making me as comfortable as possible, urging me to keep a stiff upper lip, he said he would like to remain with me, but there was lots of fun at the front, and he must return.
I remained in this place until late at night, when a surgeon came with an ambulance, and said I must be moved to the 2d corps hospital, as this was too near the line of battle. Having no stretchers they placed me on a board, and loaded me in. This movement started my wounds bleeding again, and I thought that the words of the assistant surgeon would prove true, but they drove me a mile I should judge, and dumped me by the road side with other wounded. I remained here until the next noon. The day was fine, only very warm. All was still except an occasional picket shot. The silence was broken by one heavy gun, and the shell went whistling over us, followed by another. Then opened the heaviest cannonading ever heard on earth. Shells burst over me, and on all sides. Solid shot ploughed up the ground and I expected my time had come. Many of the wounded could crawl away, but I could not, and must stand it.
When the shelling opened nearly all of the non-combatants were at the front, and they now made the best time possible to get out of danger. I lay near a gate way, where they passed. Down would come a pack mule loaded with cooking utensils sufficient to start a stove and tin-ware store; then a lot of colored servants, or a runaway horse. I would shout and kick; was sure that I should be either killed by shell or trampled to death. Would beg some skedaddler to get another, and take me away. He would stop, look on me with pity and say he would, but before he could capture another, a shell would come along, and his place be vacant. At last I saw a staff officer whom I knew riding to the front, and called to him. He heard me, drew his sword, and drove a couple of men to me, who, finding a stretcher, had me carried to the rear of the barn, where an ambulance was found and I was placed in it. My first sergeant, Damon, had been lying near, and I urged that he be taken with me, and my request was granted. Damon was wounded in the leg, the bone was shattered, and it was necessary that the leg should be amputated as soon as possible.
We started for the rear. The driver was anxious for our safety, and it is possible that he might have thought of himself; at any rate he drove over a corn-field on the jump. Part of the time I was in the top of the ambulance, part on the floor. Damon and I would come together hard enough to drive the breath out of each other; but we were only passengers having a free ride, so we could not complain. When at last we reached our destination I expected we were both jelly, and would have to be taken out in a spoon, but we had held together, that is, I had, but Damon's leg was all broken up, and was soon amputated.
They laid us on the ground on the side of a hill, near a stream called Cub Run. This was the field hospital of the 2d corps, Dr. Dyer, my regimental surgeon, in charge. He soon visited me, and found that one bullet had entered my groin and had not come out, the other had passed through my right hip. I asked him what he thought of it and he said, "It is a bad wound, John, a very bad wound." Officers of the regiment began to come in, and soon there were seven of us lying side by side. They told me the story of the battle. Lieutenants Robinson and Donath had been killed, also many of our bravest and best men. My company the day before had numbered fifteen, officers and men. Only Lieutenant Rice and five men remained. They also told me how well our boys had fought; that at last we had met the rebels in an open field and had won a substantial victory. They described to me Pickett's charge. How they had come across the field in three lines of battle, expecting to sweep everything before them, but when they arrived at our lines they found our boys ready and waiting; that the result was more prisoners than we had men in our line, and our boys had captured four rebel flags besides. It was glorious news; it revived me, and my wounds pained me less than before.
No matter how serious the battle, there is always a humorous side to it which an old soldier never loses. So it was at Gettysburg. When the fire was the hottest on the centre the battery that the 19th was supporting lost nearly all its men. The captain came to our regiment for volunteers to man the guns. Captain Mahoney was the first to hear the call. Going to Company E, he said, "Volunteers are wanted to man the battery. Every man is to go of his own free will and accord. Come out here, John Dougherty, McGiveran and you Corrigan, and work those guns." Lieutenant Shackley jumped to his feet and said, "Come on, boys, we must keep her a-humming," and they stood by the guns until the fight was over.
Ben Falls, who was now a sergeant, had captured a rebel color. Coming in with it over his shoulder, an officer said, "You will have to turn that flag in, sergeant. We must send it to the war department in Washington." "Well," said Ben, "there are lots of them over behind the wall. Go and get one; I did." (I told this story several years ago at a camp-fire. Since then I have heard it told by others, and it is located and dressed up in other ways, but it is my story, and true, at that.)
We lay side by side until the morning of July 4, when the ambulance came to take us to the station. One after another was loaded in. I said, "Save a good place for me," but was informed that the orders of the surgeon were not to take me. I sent for the surgeon, who came and said that I must not be moved for two weeks. I saw the ambulance drive away, then buried my face in the ground and cried like a baby.
Other wounded were brought in to fill the vacant places. Duncan Sherwood of Company A was one, so I had company. Mike Scannell had also remained, being wounded in the arm, and rendered valuable service to Sherwood and myself. Directly in front of us were two amputating tables which were always busy. We saw several men whom we knew placed on them and removed, minus a leg or an arm. The groans of the wounded were constant, and the dead were being carried past us nearly all the time. On my left lay a young boy. He suffered much, but did not complain. One night, when it was time to go to sleep, he whispered, "Good night, lieutenant, I think that I shall go up before morning." I urged him to keep up his courage, but he said it was no use, he should die. In the morning I looked and saw that the poor boy had answered the last roll-call. He lay by my side until afternoon, before they could find time to take him away. I had forgotten to ask his name, and no one knew him. His grave no doubt bears the mark "unknown", and the records of his regiment say, "missing in action."
I remained here six days, and my wounds received no attention only such as my comrades gave. They kept my canteen filled with water, which I used freely, to prevent inflammation. Do not think that I blame the surgeons. No nobler men ever lived than composed the medical staff of the Army of the Potomac; but there were twenty thousand wounded men, Union and rebel, on the field of Gettysburg, and the cases requiring amputation must receive attention first.
One day I was made happy. Lieutenant Shackley and Adjutant Hill came to see me. They had ridden back fifteen miles. Some of the boys had found a chicken, and they had made a broth and brought it to me in an old coffee pot. It was the first thing that had tasted good, and I shared it with Sherwood. Some think soldiers are hard-hearted. No hearts more tender can be found than in the breasts of brave men. When those officers parted from me that day not one of us could speak, and tears ran down our cheeks as we pressed each other's hands.
My mind had been quite active, and I had come to the conclusion that I would move my lodging as soon as possible. One surgeon had said that I would not live twenty-four hours, another that I must remain where I was two weeks. It struck me that to die in twenty-four hours or stay where I was two weeks would neither be pleasant for myself nor those near me.
I talked the matter over with Sherwood. We counted our cash and found we had five dollars each, and we formed a syndicate. We made Mike Scannell our agent, with instructions to bring some kind of conveyance to take us off the field. The next morning he reported with a citizen, a horse and a side-spring wagon. The whole lot was not worth ten dollars, but we paid our money and were loaded and on our way to Littletown, where we arrived in due time, and were driven to a church which had been converted to a temporary hospital. We found it nearly full, but they made room for us. I had a nice place on top of the pews in the broad aisle.
There was no organization of the hospital. Two of the town doctors were doing all they could, being assisted by the women. No doubt our Massachusetts women would do the same work should the emergency arise, but I cannot speak in too high praise of the women of Littletown. They would dress the shattered arm of some poor boy, wash the blood from the wounds of another, thinking only of what they could do to relieve suffering. It was like getting home. My wounds were in a frightful condition. They had not been dressed, and the maggots were crawling into them. As soon as we were settled the ladies came to see what they could do. They were anxious to dress our wounds, but it required more hospital accommodations than the church afforded, so they washed our hands and faces, and made us as comfortable as possible. A real motherly woman asked me what I wanted to eat. I had eaten little except the chicken Billy and Mose had brought me, and when she said she had chicken broth, I said, "Bring me two or three." As soon as possible she came with a large pan full of broth, but the trouble was I could not sit up to eat it. At my suggestion she brought the prettiest girl in the room, who put her left arm around me and let me lean my head on her shoulder, while she fed me with the broth. Oh, it was nice! Either the broth or the young lady's presence revived me. My new friend's name was Lucy. She said "Don't take breakfast until I come, because I will bring yours from home." Bright and early Lucy was on hand with a pan of milk toast. She had seen me eat the night before and had brought enough for six. As she was called away for a few moments, I spoke to the boys who were near, and they soon reduced the surplus.
We remained here two days. While I had the best care they could give I was growing worse. I had a high fever, and my wounds were getting inflamed. At times I would lie in a stupor for hours. One day I rallied and found the church deserted except for Lucy and myself. Soon two men came in. "Are you going?" they asked. Lucy said, "No. Mother told me if any were not able to be moved to bring them home, and we would care for them; he is not able, and must not go." The temptation was strong to stay, but a moment's reflection told me that I required hospital treatment, and I explained the danger to her. The men then carried me to the train and placed me on the floor of a baggage car. Lucy came with us, fixed my head all right, and, as a good sister should, kissed me good-by, and we were off for Baltimore. I was so weak that the rear name of Lucy passed out of my mind, and I have never seen her since, but have ever prayed that the blessings of Heaven be showered upon her, for her ever constant care the last day in the old church saved me from fever.
The ride to Baltimore was terrible. The air was bad. Groans of the wounded were constant, and could be heard above the rattle of the car. I did not believe it was possible for me to live to reach the station, but I survived, although many of our number did not.
We arrived in Baltimore about three o'clock in the morning, were placed in ambulances and driven over the rough pavements to the Newton University Hospital. The next day, for the first time, my wounds were dressed; the surgeon placed a large syringe where the ball had entered and forced water through the opening; maggots, pieces of clothing and bone came out; then they probed for the ball which had entered the groin, found it had struck the bone and glanced downward, lodging in the leg, where it yet remains. We received the best possible care from the surgeons and attendants. Ladies visited the hospital every day loaded with delicacies for our comfort.
I did a foolish thing while in hospital which came near ending my earthly experience. One day an officer, slightly wounded, came in and said the paymaster was at the Custom House and if we could get there we would receive two months' pay. On the bed next mine lay Lieut. "Bob" Stewart of the 72d Pennsylvania, wounded in the leg; neither of us had a dollar, and the thought of two months' pay in our pockets was pleasant. We talked it over that night; Bob was sure he could stand it, but thought I had better not try; still I was anxious to go, so we bribed the nurse, and the next morning, after the surgeon made his rounds, we took a carriage and with the nurse started for the Custom House. I fainted before we had gone a block, but kept on and was able to sign the roll which a clerk brought to the carriage, and received the money. We returned to the hospital and I suffered from fever all day, and when the surgeon made his rounds the next morning he was alarmed at my condition. I dared not tell him what we had done, for the nurse would be discharged if I did. In front of me was a man who suffered from a shell-wound in the back; he was forced to lie on his face and was very restless. I told the surgeon that this man suffered so much that it made me nervous, and he ordered him changed to another ward. It was several days before I regained what I had lost by my foolishness.
I had been here a little more than a week when one day Mr. Robinson, the Massachusetts agent stationed there, came in and asked me if I had a brother named Asa Adams; informing him that I did, he asked if I would like to see him. My answer can be imagined, and in a short time he came in with my brother, who had left home when the news reached him that I was wounded. He had been to Gettysburg, searched the field hospitals, found where I had been, but no one could inform him where I was, as I did not leave my address; he was returning home and stopped in Baltimore, and calling on the Massachusetts agent, found where I was located. As soon as I saw him my mind was made up to go home; the surgeon said it was impossible, but I begged so hard that he consented, and in due time I was placed on my stretcher and carried to a hospital car. The cars were so arranged that the wounded were hung up by the stretchers, being placed on rubber springs. I was hung up on mine, but the motion of the car was such that I could not bear it so was taken down and placed on the floor. More dead than alive we arrived at Jersey City. We found that the mob had possession of New York and we could not cross the ferry. After being carried from place to place, we were placed on a steamer and taken to Bedloe's Island, where we remained several days, then to the Fall River boat. We found great excitement at the boat; several negroes were on board who had been driven from the city. Others jumped from the wharf and swam out to us after we were under way. They reported that the mob intended to fire the city that night.
I received every attention on the boat, was placed in the ladies' cabin, and the lady passengers were constant in attendance, anxious to do something to relieve my sufferings. Handkerchiefs were wet with cologne and given me, and when the boat reached Fall River I had a large stock, marked with nearly every letter of the alphabet. Every few moments some good woman would bend over me and say, "Shall I turn your pillow?" and wishing to please them I would say, "If you please," although it had been turned two minutes before.
We arrived at Fall River in the morning. I was placed on my stretcher, carried to the train and taken to Brockton, where I was loaded into an express wagon and driven to the hotel. Here I was placed under the care of Dr. E. E. Dean, and in the afternoon was driven to Sharon, the home of my brother, where I remained three months, attended by Dr. Dean and nursed by my dear mother and sister.
From Sharon I was taken home to Groveland, where I remained until December, reporting to the department at Washington and my regiment, by surgeon's certificate, every twenty days. I enjoyed the convalescent period much. Colonel Devereaux, Captain Boyd and Adjutant Hill, along with Mark Kimball and several others, had been ordered to Long Island on recruiting service, and I visited them often. I also sat on the platform, with my crutches, at war meetings and was quite a hero. I found quite a change since 1861; then men were very anxious to get to the front, now they were just as anxious to keep away. We had all learned that war was no picnic.
In December I resolved to return to the regiment. My wound was not healed and my surgeon protested, but I was anxious to see the boys. Upon my arrival in Washington what was my surprise to find that I had been discharged by order of the War department November 5, as being unable to perform military duty. With Col. Gardiner Tufts, the Massachusetts state agent, I visited the War Department and was informed that I should receive my discharge papers through my regimental headquarters. If ever a man had the blues I had. My sickness had cost me several hundred dollars, I was unable to perform any kind of labor, was out of money, and could not settle with the government until my papers were received; but Colonel Tufts could always make the path of a soldier smooth and he was able to secure for me two months' pay. From Washington I went to the regiment, which was camped near Stevensburg, Va. I waited until after January 1 for my discharge, but it did not come, and my wound was so bad that the surgeon ordered me home. Colonel Rice was in command of the regiment, Colonel Devereaux being in command of the Philadelphia brigade. I called on Colonel Devereaux, who was very indignant to learn that I had been discharged; he said he would see about it, and I knew that meant something.
One day the colonel sent for me and said, "Jack, I have a letter from Governor Andrew asking that the regiment re-enlist for three years more or until the end of the war; do you think they will do it?" My answer was, "I don't know; there are not many left to re-enlist." He said, "I wish you would go to your old company, A, and talk with them," and I consented. The regiment was encamped on a side hill in shelter tents, and the weather was cold and rainy. I went to Company A; the mud in the company street was ankle deep and everything was as disagreeable as possible. Giles Johnson was first sergeant. I talked with him and asked him to "fall in" the men. Thirteen responded to the call, - all who were on duty of the grand company which had left Massachusetts in 1861. I repeated the story the colonel had told me, then asked for a response from them; for a moment all were silent, then Ben Falls said, "Well, if new men won't finish this job, old men must, and as long as Uncle Sam wants a man, here is Ben Falls." Then spoke Mike Scannell: "It is three years, as you know, since I have seen my wife and children. I had expected to go home when my time was out and stay there, but we must never give up this fight until we win, and I am with you to the end." Others expressed themselves in the same way, and when I said, "All who will re-enlist step one pace to the front," every man in line advanced.
I then saw men of other companies. Ed. Fletcher of Company C said, "They use a man here just the same as they do a turkey at a shooting match, fire at it all day, and if they don't kill it raffle it off in the evening; so with us, if they can't kill you in three years they want you for three more, but I will stay." I next saw Michael O'Leary of Company F and asked him if he would re-enlist. Mike threw his cap on the ground, struck an attitude and said, "By the gods above, by the worth of that cap, I never will re-enlist until I can be with Mary Ann without the stars and stripes waving over me." But I said, "Mike, they are all going to do it." "They are? Then Michael O'Leary must stay." A large majority signed the re-enlistment role, and December 20 they were mustered in for three years more, or until the end of the war. In this instance, as in nearly every other where the soldiers and the government were concerned, the government did not do as they agreed. The conditions of the re-enlistment were, that the soldier should at once have thirty-five days' furlough and transportation to his home. Our men did not receive theirs until Feb. 8, 1864, nearly seven weeks after they had re-enlisted. The weather was very severe, many were sick and all were unhappy.
To my mind the re-enlisting of the three years' men in the field was the most patriotic event of the war. They knew what war was, had seen their regiments and companies swept away until only a little remnant remained. They did not have the excitement of the war meetings to urge them on, but with a full knowledge of the duties required and the probability that many would fall before their term expired, with uncovered heads and uplifted hands they swore to stand by the flag until the last armed foe surrendered.
I could not wait until the regiment received orders to come home, so came alone, took off my uniform, put on citizen's clothes, and began to look for employment. About the 12th of February I saw by the newspapers that the regiment had arrived in Boston. I could not keep away, and went to Beach Street barracks, where they were quartered. Almost the first man I met was Colonel Devereaux, who said, "What are you here for?" My answer was, "I wanted to see the boys." Drawing a paper from his pocket he said, "Get a uniform and equipments, and report for duty in half an hour." "But my uniform and equipments are at home," I replied. "Can't help it," said Colonel Devereaux, "I propose that you command your company in the parade to-day." So I went out, bought a cheap uniform, hired a set of equipments and reported for duty. I found that the paper read: "So much of General Order No. 492 as discharged First Lieut. John G. B. Adams, 19th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteers, is hereby revoked, and he is restored to duty without loss of pay, provided the vacancy has not been filled, evidence of which he must furnish from the governor of his State." We were given a reception and dinner in Faneuil Hall; Governor Andrew, not being able to attend, was represented by our old commander, General Hincks.
From Boston we went to Salem, where we were royally entertained, and then broke ranks with orders to report at Wenham in thirty-five days. While our receptions were grand, and showed that our hard services were appreciated, our joys were mingled with sadness. Everywhere we met friends of the boys who did not march back with us, and our eyes were often filled with tears as we clasped the hand of father, mother, sister or wife of some brave boy who had marched by our side, but now slept his last sleep in the rude grave where we had tenderly laid him.
The next day I went to the State House to see Governor Andrew. I had never met a live governor before, and as my feet reached the executive chamber my heart beat faster than it did when advancing at Gettysburg. Meeting the messenger at the door I was explaining my errand when the door opened, and the governor seeing me said, "Come in." On entering he said, "Well, my boy, what can I do for you?" I began to tell my story, when he interrupted me with, "I know all about it, and it is all right." Pointing to a roster of our regiment my name was in the list of first lieutenants, but it was at the bottom. "There, you see that it is all right," said the governor. I replied, "Not quite; I was the third in rank when discharged, now I am the tenth." "Oh, we will fix that," said he, and taking my name out moved them down one and put me in my proper place. All the time he was doing this he was talking and laughing, making me feel perfectly at home. I was so pleased with the interview that I would have signed an enlistment roll for thirty years if he would have promised to be governor during the time.
The orders to the officers were to do all in our power to obtain recruits while we were at home, but although we worked hard we made little or no progress. Men were enlisting for coast defence regiments quite fast, but the 19th had no attractions, and I only recruited one man while at home. The thirty days were like one long holiday; the towns gave receptions to the men, Company A being received by the town of West Newbury. The time soon came when we must march away, and at the end of thirty day every man reported at Wenham. We mustered five more than we brought home, - three deserters whom we had captured and two recruits. Two boys, Rogers and Fee, who were not old enough, stole away with us and were mustered in the field. I carried a new sword, presented by the citizens of Groveland, and several other officers were remembered in like manner.
Great injustice was done to fighting regiments in allowing them to return without being filled to the maximum. While the State was filling its quota it was, as far as active service went, nearly all on paper. Every old regiment had many brave and well-qualified non-commissioned officers who could not be promoted because only two officers were allowed each company, and, besides, we were placed in line to do the duty of a regiment, when we were no larger than a company of heavy artillery. Yet our men did not complain; with brave hearts, but with eyes filled with tears, they again bade good-by to loved ones, and marched away to face dangers that three years' experience had demonstrated would make vacant places in their thinned ranks.
Colonel Devereaux did not return with us, and the regiment was in command of Lieutenant-Colonel Rice. We had a nice passage to New York, spent St. Patrick's day and Eph. Hall's birthday in Philadelphia, and in due time arrived in Washington. I was detailed officer of the day, Lieutenant Thompson officer of the guard. A little incident occurred there which I think is not known to the officers, but it shows the honor of the men of the 19th. After I was detailed Colonel Rice sent for me and said, "We leave here at six o'clock tomorrow morning. The officers will stay up in the city. I want you to keep every man here to be ready to move at the time stated." After the officers had gone I fell in the men and informed them that we were to move at six A.M.; that as they were tired I should post no guard, and as Lieutenant Thompson and myself had business in the city we should not be able to stay with them, but would see them all at half-past five the next morning. Thompson and I returned about three o'clock, and when the colonel came at six every man was in line ready to march. The next night we spent at Alexandria. The officer of the day put on a strong guard, and half the men got out in some way and made things lively. Thompson and I were complimented by the colonel for faithful performance of duty when we should have been court-martialed.
In a few days we arrived at our old camp and began anew our army life. The first night it snowed quite hard, and we who had been sleeping in nice, warm beds enjoyed the damp, cold ground, with snow for our covering. Active drilling began, reviews were frequent, and it was apparent we were soon to enter on an active campaign. Lieutenant-General Grant took command of the army, and we all felt that at last the boss had arrived. Unlike most of his predecessors, he came with no flourish of trumpets, but in a quite, business-like way. After a grand review by him we were ordered to division headquarters with the 20th Massachusetts for an exhibition drill. The 19th drilled in the manual of arms, the 20th in battalion movements. Both regiments were highly complimented for their excellent work.
The discipline of the army at this time was very strict. So many substitutes were being received that the death penalty for desertions was often executed. We were called out to witness the first and, so far as I know, the only execution by hanging. Thomas R. Dawson had been a member of Company A, 19th, but was transferred to the 20th Massachusetts when our men re-enlisted. He had been a soldier in the English army, and wore medals for bravery. One night while on picket he left his post, and, being under the influence of liquor, went outside the lines and committed an assault upon an old lady. Dawson protested his innocence of the terrible crime, but acknowledged that he was drunk and had left his post. The woman swore against him, and the sentence of the court-martial was that he be hanged. The officers and men of the 19th did all in their power to save him; we signed a petition to President Lincoln asking for a reprieve, and sent it by a Catholic chaplain, Dawson being a Catholic. The President would have been pleased to grant our prayer, but he said the complaint from army officers was that he was destroying the discipline of the army by so often setting aside the findings and sentences of courts-martial, and he dare not do it.
April 14 was the day assigned for the execution. The 2d division of the 2d corps was formed in a hollow square, ranks opened, facing inward. Dawson was placed in an open wagon, seated on his coffin. With him rode the provost marshal and his spiritual advisor. The band was in advance, playing the dead march. Files of soldiers, with arms reversed, marched on each flank, and in front and rear. As they passed our lines Dawson smiled and bowed to those he recognized. When he arrived at the scaffold, which had been erected in the centre of the square, he ran up the steps, and before the black cap was pulled down said, "Good-by, comrades, officers and men of the 19th. I thank you for what you have done for me. May you live long and die a happy death; I die an innocent man." The cap was then drawn down, the drop cut, and poor Dawson was launched into eternity, but not so soon as was intended; the rope was new and stretched so much that his feet touched the ground, and the provost marshal was obliged to take a turn in the rope. It was a horrible sight, and set me forever against execution by hanging. After he was pronounced dead by the surgeon he was taken down, placed in his coffin, and lowered in a grave that had been prepared. The troops marched past and looked into the grave.
I presume that the impressions desired were produced upon the minds of the men, but the remarks were that it was too bad to hang men when they were so hard to get, and if they had let him alone a few weeks Johnnie Reb would have saved them the trouble.
The monotony of camp life was relieved by details for three days' picket duty. Our ranks were being increased by the return of detailed men and the arrival of recruits. Many were ordered to the ranks who had not carried a musket since the day they enlisted. The transportation being reduced to one wagon to a brigade, several who were ordered back were drivers of the festive mule. Among this number was Will Curtis of Company A. One day in passing the wagon train a mule set up one of those unearthly snorts. Will looked at him, and said, "You need not laugh at me; you may be in the ranks yourself before Grant gets through with the army."
We had now quite a respectable regiment, numbering two field, ten line officers, and about three hundred and fifty men. We broke camp on the 2d of May, were ordered to move, and soon found ourselves crossing the river to engage in the Battle of the Wilderness, before we realized it being in the line of battle moving forward. Our first order was to deploy as skirmishers and let the line which was being hotly pressed pass in rear to receive a fresh supply of ammunition, while we held the line.
I had about twenty men in my command. We advanced as ordered, but soon received a fire from our flank and rear, and found that the rebels had broken our lines. I gave the order "By the right flank, double quick," and we went quicker than that. We dodged behind trees as we ran, and the rebels were so near that in looking back I saw them capture Thompson of Company B; with the exception of one other, wounded, all escaped; and the boys thought me a safe man to follow. We rejoined the regiment, and were ordered in again. We fought all day. Sometimes the rebels drove us, sometimes we drove them. The woods were so thick it was hard to tell friend from foe. The dead and wounded of both armies were strewn throughout the woods, which caught fire. It was a terrible sight. We knew where the poor fellows were, but could not reach them, and the air was suffocating with burning human flesh.
None knew the result of the battle. We changed front the next day, and continued the fight. Night came on; it was so dark you could not see a rod before you, but we were ordered to hold our position in the advanced line until recalled. We remained until midnight, then as it grew a little lighter, the moon having broken through the clouds, Colonel Rice went to the right and found we were not connected with any other regiment. At the left he found the same. The officers held a consultation; all agreed that we should obey orders, but should we allow the regiment to be captured because some one had made a mistake? We concluded to fall back until we connected with something, and after a while struck a German brigade. The Dutch commander undertook to drive us back, but we knew our business, and when Colonel Rice found our brigade commander, he was informed that an aid had been sent to recall us several hours before, and in the darkness must have passed our regiment without seeing us. The conversation was on the result of the battle. Most of us thought it was another Chancellorsville, and that the next day we should recross the river; but when the order came, "By the left flank, march!" we found that Grant was not made that way, and we must continue the fight.
Our loss was not very heavy in the Wilderness. We had several wounded and captured, but only three killed. Among the wounded the first day was Color-Sergeant Ben Falls, struck in the leg, and being in command of the color company I sent him to the rear. The following day he reported back, and I asked why he did not stay. "Oh," he said, "some fool will get hold of the color and lose it. I guess I had better stand by."
We marched to Williams's Tavern, where we went into line of battle and threw up works. From this time on we were engaged every day. The 8th, we had a lively brush at Todd's Tavern, and drove the rebels a mile; the 9th, crossed Po River; the 10th, recrossed and engaged the enemy at Laurel Hill. We found them strongly intrenched and a charge was ordered. The opinion of every officer and man was that we could not dislodge them, as we must charge a long distance over an open field. General Barlow was to lead and the 19th was to be the directing battalion. The order to our division was, "Follow the colors of the 19th." With cheers for General Barlow we advanced over the crest of the hill, the rebels opening on us with a terrible fire. Grape and cannister ploughed through our ranks. Both color-bearers were shot down, and for a moment our line melted away; but other hands grasped the colors, and we renewed the charge, only to be again repulsed. No army on earth could capture the works with such odds against it, but we charged once more, then gave it up.
Among the first to go down was Color-Sergeant Ben Falls. He was in advance of me, and as he fell he said, "John, your old uncle has got his quietus this time." I could not stop to reply then, but in the lull of the battle went to him, and found that he was shot through the body; he was carried to the rear, and died the next day. No man in the ranks of the Union army rendered better service than Benj. F. Falls. Always ready for duty, ever cheerful, his influence for good extended through the regiment. Another to fall that day was Sergt. William H. Ross. Until this campaign he had been detailed at the headquarters of the division quartermaster, and one would think he was making up for lost time. From the day we entered the Wilderness until he gave up his life he was conspicuous for his bravery. Corp. George E. Breed of Company C, a brave little fellow, not much larger than his knapsack, was serving his second enlistment, and was not twenty years old when killed. Several others were killed, besides many wounded.
We remained here until the night of the 11th, when men were detailed to keep up the skirmish firing while the brigade was withdrawn. It was a dark, dreary night, and we fell over stumps and fallen trees as we moved to the left. At four o'clock on the morning of the 12th we formed in line. Our orders were to give commands in whispers, have dippers so hung that they would not rattle against bayonets, and move forward. We were soon in front of the rebel works, which were protected by abatis. We tore these aside and passed on. Our regiment, forgetting the orders, gave a cheer, and the rebels were aroused, yet over the works we went, and the fiercest hand-to-hand fight of the war ensued. We captured Gen. Bushrod Johnson and his entire division, including twenty-two pieces of artillery and seventeen stands of colors.
The woods were so thick that in advancing our lines became broken. When we reached a clearing the only officers in sight were Colonel Rice, Lieutenant Thompson and myself. "Where are the colors?" said Colonel Rice. We could not answer the question. At that moment we saw several hundred rebels running back to their lines. Colonel Rice said, "I see a Massachusetts color and will go after it. You and Lieutenant Thompson try to capture those rebels." Hastily gathering men from nearly every regiment in the corps we threw forward a skirmish line and captured nearly four hundred prisoners. After turning them over to the provost guard we returned to the line, found the colors, but the colonel was not there, and the rest of the day we fought where we could get a chance. As I was standing behind the works, waiting for something to do, Capt. Harry Hale, who was serving on General Webb's staff, rode up and said, "We want to get two guns that the rebels have abandoned, which unless we bring them in, will be retaken. Can't you get them?" Calling to the mob (there was no organization of the regiments at that moment), "Come on, boys," we rushed out and brought them in. Turning them on the rebels, we loaded them with everything we could find, - ammunition that did not fit, old musket barrels, etc., - but not knowing how to work the guns we were in about as much danger as the rebels.
While engaged here the rebels had recaptured a small part of their works on our right, and we were ordered to move to that point. Collecting as many men of the regiment as we could find, we marched by the flank to what has since been known as the "Bloody Angle;" here we found hot work. While we were firing the rebels ran up a white flag, and we advanced to receive their surrender, but as soon as we were over the brow of the little hill that had protected us, they fired a volley, killing several of our men. From that time until dark the cry was "No quarter." Part of the time we were on one side of the works and they on the other, each trying to fire over. I saw Ed. Fletcher of Company C shoot a man who was trying to get a shot at one of our boys, and was so near that Fletcher's musket was covered with blood. We continued to fire until our ammunition was exhausted, then we were relieved by the men of the 6th corps. Just as long as we could see a man the firing continued. We slept on the field, ready to renew the battle in the morning, and at daylight waited for the rebels to open. Not a shot was fired and we advanced. What a sight met our eyes as we went over the works! Rebels lay four and five deep in the trenches. Many were alive but unable to move, as the dead were piled on top of them. Our better natures were aroused. We laid out the dead for burial, cared for the wounded, then withdrew to the rear to reorganize our regiments.
While resting in the rear a man from the 6th corps came to me and said, "Is this the 19th Massachusetts?" I answered, "Yes." "Have you a Lieutenant Adams in your regiment?" I again made the same reply. "Well, he is dead. He lies just over the little hill. Here is his revolver case that I took from him." I then understood what he meant. A few days before, finding that it was impossible to carry my revolver on account of my wounds, I had given it to Lieut. Johnnie Ferris, and he must have been the one whom the man had found. We had been fighting so hard that we had no time to think of each other, and I then remembered that I had not seen Ferris since we charged on the morning of the previous day. I went with the man and found Johnnie, shot through the head, in front of the rebel works. He had fallen over a tree that the rebels had cut down, and must have been killed as we rushed through the abatis. His death was a severe loss to the regiment. He had been promoted from the ranks for good conduct; was loved by the officers and worshipped by the men. With sad hearts we laid him to rest near where he fell. We could not find Colonel Rice and feared he must be dead on the field, but after searching and not finding his body, concluded he must have been captured with some of our men when the rebels made the dash on our right flank. This was true. Colonel Rice was captured, but escaped, and rejoined the regiment in August.
One little incident occurring in the fight at the "Bloody Angle," although not connected with the regiment, is worthy of mention. When we were relieved by the 6th corps the 6th Wisconsin was in our front. One of their men was an Indian. He would crawl near the rebel line, wait until they fired, then fire and drag himself back. He could hardly be seen above the ground. I became much interested in his mode of fighting, and his face was impressed upon my mind. One day in 1867, while working in a shoe factory in Lynn, an Indian came into the place selling baskets. The moment I saw him I thought his countenance was familiar and wondered where I had seen him before. It came to me that he was the Spottsylvania Indian. I asked if he was in the army, and he replied "Yes, 6th Wisconsin." Then I was sure he was the man. We talked over the battle and became good friends. He was a very bright fellow, a member of the Masonic brotherhood, but he said, "East no place for Indian," and I assisted him to return west.
We were under fire nearly all the time, marching from right to left, and on the 17th occupied the works taken on the 12th. While here we learned that Lieut. Moses Shackley, who was a first sergeant in the 59th Massachusetts, had been killed the day before. The 18th we fought all day, charged twice on the enemies' works, and lost several men. On the 21st occurred one of the sad events of the year.
John D. Starbird of Company K was one of the three deserters who returned with the regiment. The charges against him had been placed on file on condition that he serve faithfully to the end of the war. While he had promised to do this, he did not intend to, and was only kept in battle at the Wilderness by fear of death from the officers. On the 18th he deserted while under fire, was captured the 19th, tried by drum-head court-martial the 20th, and ordered to be shot at 7 A.M. on the 21st. Early in the morning of that day Adjutant Curtis came to me and said, "Jack, you are detailed to take charge of the shooting of Starbird." I was not pleased with the order, and Captain Mumford, who was ever ready to do a kind act for a friend, exchanged duty with me, I going on picket for him. The detail consisted of eight men from our regiment. Their muskets were loaded by Captain Mumford, seven with ball cartridges, one with a blank. Starbird was seated on his coffin, blindfolded. The order was given to fire. Six shots struck him near the heart; the other musket hung fire, and the ball entered his leg. He died at once.
Those who read this, and do not understand the situation at the time, may think the killing of Starbird unjust and cruel, but it was not. At that time there were in the ranks of every regiment, men who had no interest in the cause. They had enlisted for the bounty, and did not intend to render any service. They not only shirked duty, but their acts and conversation were demoralizing good men. The shooting of Starbird changed all this. Men who had straggled and kept out of battle were now in the ranks, and the result to our corps alone was as good as if we had been re-enforced by a full regiment.
From the 21st to the 24th of May we were engaged in skirmishing, picket fighting, with now and then a charge. On the morning of the 24th we crossed the North Anna River, and about noon advanced in line, our regiment being on the left of Smith's division. Finding the rebels strongly intrenched on the edge of the woods, we charged across an open field and drove them out. It was one of the bravest acts of the war, but it counted for nothing. As soon as we captured the works we sent word back that we must be reinforced or we could not hold them; but no one in the rear seemed to be in a hurry. We could hear the rebels reorganizing their men, and knew that we would be unable to resist the charge, as we were only a skirmish line. I lay on the works by the side of Captain Hincks. Both of us had muskets, and resolved to make the best fight possible. The rebels came in over the works at our left, at the same time advancing in front. We waited until the skirmish line came so near that we could get a good shot. Captain Hincks said, "What is it, Jack; Richmond or legs?" I said, "Legs." We covered our man, fired and fell back. The rebels came on in force; we retreated until we came to a brook, and standing in the water used the bank for a breast-work, and held them until re-enforcements came up. A more angry set of men than we never wore Union blue. We had done a brilliant thing, had captured and held a line of works for two hours against heavy odds, and could have been supported in fifteen minutes as well as not.
As we were falling back after our relief had advanced, and were safe in the rear, a staff officer rode up and swinging his sword said, "Go back, you cowards, go back." We requested him to go where he would require the constant use of a fan, - and kept on. We reorganized our companies and were ordered on picket for the night. We were so disgusted that we paid little attention to duty, but came to our senses the next morning upon finding we were all there was between our army and the rebels. About day-break I heard the picket cry, "Halt! who comes there?" and going to his post found he had a negro in waiting. The darkey had a letter from the rebel commander; it read: "Send Cora to Richey." I did not understand it and sent it to headquarters.
The boy was very intelligent, but he was a strange-looking mortal; had not as much clothing on as the prodigal son wore home from his excursion, but he could sing and dance, besides knowing all about the rebel army. Orders came to send him to headquarters of the division, and I reluctantly parted with G. Washington, whom I had intended to keep as a servant. I saw him several times in the next few weeks, then he went out of my mind. One day soon after the close of the war I was standing on the street in Lynn, when a negro boy went past whistling. It struck me I had heard that whistle before, and I called to him. I asked him if he were from the South, and he said he was. "How came you here?" was my next question. "Oh, I was captured by Lieutenant Adams of the 19th on the North Anna, and came home with Colonel Palmer of Salem." "What became of Lieutenant Adams?" I asked. "Guess he is dead. The rebels done caught him, and we never heard from him again." "Look up here," I said. "Did you ever see me before?" "Golly, you are Lieutenant Adams," and he rushed for me. George Washington remained in Lynn several years. When the war ended he could not read or write, but he passed through all grades to the high school, and after two years there went South; was a member of the Virginia Legislature two terms; and last I heard of him he was with an Uncle Tom's Cabin Company whistling in the plantation scene, being the best whistler in the country.
We were constantly moving by the left flank, marching every night, fighting every day. On the 30th, we were on the Washington Jones plantation, near Totopotomoy Creek, the rebels advancing at night, but being repulsed. Captain Mumford and myself, with our companies G and I, were on the outpost all night; we were very near the rebel lines and picket firing was constant. In the morning we advanced and they returned to their works. Captain Hume, commanding Company K, was on our right, a swamp being between us. Captain Mumford and I had muskets, as it was poor fun being fired at with no chance to reply. We made up our minds to charge the works, so arranged with Captain Hume that he would go to the right around the swamp and we would advance and connect with him on the other side. With a yell we started and the rebels retired before us, some of them to an old church. When we arrived at the crest of the hill we opened on them. Mumford was behind a tree, and had just fired his piece when he fell at my feet, shot through the head. All the fire of the rebels was concentrated on this spot. No man could live a moment unless he lay close to the ground. Assisted by one of my sergeants I placed a rubber blanket under the captain and dragged him to the rear. He was nearly gone. The surgeon came but could do nothing, and in a short time he passed away. As the firing ceased for a time, we made a rude coffin and laid him to rest. We nailed a wooden slab on the tree, enclosing the grave with a little fence. Then I must perform the saddest duty of all, - write to his loved ones at home.
Captain Mumford and I had been warm friends for more than two years, had shared the same blanket on the march, and while at home had been constantly together. He joined the regiment at Lynnfield, a young boy just out of school; had been promoted from second lieutenant to captain, and had shared every march and battle in which the regiment had been engaged. Kind-hearted, generous and brave, I loved him as a brother. In December, 1865, I went to the place where we laid him and brought the body to Providence, R.I., where it now rests.
"By the left flank" we marched on, arriving at Cold Harbor on the morning of June. We were deployed as skirmishers and lay in line until three A.M. the 3d, then were ordered to advance in three lines of battle, charging the enemy, who were intrenched. We stood in line three hours, waiting for the order to advance, and when it came the rebels were ready and waiting for us, yet over the field we went. Men were mowed down by hundreds. Major Dunn, who now commanded the regiment, was struck by a bullet and fell, but rallied again. The colors of the regiment were shot down, but Mike Scannell picked them up and carried them forward. Mike always had an eye to business. When we halted Major Dunn said, "Mike, keep the colors." "Not as a corporal," said Mike; "too many corporals have been killed already carrying colors." "I make you a sergeant on the spot," said the major. "That is business," replied Mike; "I'll carry the colors."
We changed brigade commanders several times that forenoon; first one colonel would fall, then another, until at last a lieutenant-colonel commanded. We reached a ravine within a few yards of the rebel works and lay down. By forming line to the rear, the men lying flat on the ground, we were able during the night to get a few rails and before morning had quite a good breastwork. Lieutenant Thompson and many men were killed in the charge. After the death of Captain Mumford I had slept with Lieutenant Thompson; only three days and another must share my blanket. Like other officers we had lost, Thompson was remarkable for his bravery, had been promoted from the ranks for good conduct, and had distinguished himself in every battle of the campaign.
We were in a peculiar position, - so near the rebel works that we could throw a stone over, and no man on either side could show his head without getting a shot. Rations could not be brought to us until we dug a trench over the hill to the rear, which we did the second night. The second day we were in this place, we saw a pile of dirt in our front, on a little knoll, and once in a while a shot would be fired, followed by a yell. Mark Kimball, Gus Bridges, Frank Osborne and Milt Ellsworth dug out and found Alonzo W. Bartlett of Andrews, Mass., sharpshooter. Bart. had come out after the body of the colonel of the 8th New York, who fell at the foot of the rebel works. He had managed to get a rope around the body, but the rebels made it so hot that he was forced to intrench, which he did with his dipper, and was fighting the war on his own hook. His face was cut and bleeding from gravel stones which had struck him, but he had held his own, and having a good rifle with plenty of ammunition thought he could hold out for as long as they.
For four days the little fort kept up a constant musketry fire. Every man was a dead shot, and the result must have been fearful. The rebels were also doing much damage to our side. No man could stand erect without being shot, and we lost several as they crossed to the spring for water. Among the killed was the boy William Fee, who had followed the regiment from Massachusetts. He was a brave little fellow and had done the full duty of a soldier.
On the 7th a truce was held. A white flag was raised on the rebel works and firing ceased on both sides. General officers met between the lines, and it was agreed to suspend fighting until the dead who had lain between the lines for the past four days were buried. This was welcome news, as the stench was terrible. The men of both armies were soon over the works and mingled together freely. Had they the power to settle the war, not another shot would have been fired. By mutual agreement not a shot was fired by either side for the next two days. On the morning of the 9th a rebel stood upon the works and in a loud voice said, "Keep down, Yanks, we uns are going away;" and the firing was soon resumed as before.
While bringing in the dead we found one man wounded many times, but yet alive. He was first shot in the leg, and being unable to move had taken shots from both sides; had been without food or water four days, yet he revived in a few hours and was able to talk. He had lost all trace of time, but said that he had suffered little, being unconscious most of the time. During the day Bartlett took the body of the colonel to the rear, and was returning to his old place when a sharpshooter fired, hitting him over the eye, which placed him on the retired list for a time.
From the 9th to the 12th the firing was constant day and night; men were killed every hour in the day. Captain Hincks was severely wounded while lying in rear of the works. The duty was very hard. One-half the men must be on guard during the night, and all in line at three A.M. The officer in charge was obliged to go from right to left, as the men would drop to sleep as soon as they were posted, being exhausted from long hours of duty. The mental strain was unspeakable.
While at Cold Harbor about one hundred recruits joined the regiment. They were not brought to the front, but placed in the rear line, with Lieutenant McGinnis in charge. At nine P.M. on the 12th we quietly moved out of the works and marched towards the Chickahominy. This was old ground to us. We had been here with McClellan in 1862. Lieutenant McGinnis had quite a time with his recruits; not half of them could speak or understand the English language, and Bill taught them by the kindergarten method. Standing in front he would say, "Look at me. Put on your bayonets, put 'em on." He would go through the motions, they following. After a few days his "army of all nations" was disbanded, the men being assigned to companies.
Arriving at the James River we crossed on a steamer and halted for rations, but before they could be served were ordered forward, and marched twenty-five miles without a hard tack. We reached the first line of works before Petersburg, and relieved a division of colored troops commanded by our old colonel, now General Hincks, who had been fighting all day. This was a great day for some of us. It had been said that the negro would not fight, but here we found them dead on the field side by side with the rebels they had killed. The stock of the negro as a soldier was high in the market. With no time for rations we went into line and waited until nearly morning, when the detail brought us our hard tack and pork.
Hard fighting every day since the Battle of the Wilderness had reduced our officers to major, adjutant and four line officers, with the addition of First Sergeant Osborne of Company B, who had been promoted on the march. Our men had been reduced to one hundred and forty, including the recruits who had joined us at Cold Harbor. The morning of June 22 we were ordered to advance through a thicket to the edge of an open field. We found the enemy in force, several batteries being so posted that they could protect the field, while the infantry was well cared for behind works. We threw up slight works and both sides were active all day. Our regiment was so small that we were in single rank and the formation was two companies instead of ten, Captain Hume commanding the right and I the left wing.
At noon the officers withdrew a little to the rear for dinner, and in conversation Major Dunn said, "I fell asleep a little while ago, and had had a queer dream. We were lying just as we are here, and the rebels came in our rear and captured the entire regiment." We laughed at his story, said we guessed we should not go to Richmond that way, and returned to our places in line. The firing in our front increased, the batteries doing good service for the rebels. About four P.M. we heard loud talking and cheering on our left and the firing ceased. The woods were so thick we could not see through them, but knowing something was up, I went to the right of the line and reported to Major Dunn. Returning to my place, I met Billy Smith of Company F, who said, "Come with me; if you go farther you are sure to be captured." While I was talking with Smith, Colonel Hooper passed us, on the way to the rear. The colonel had been there and escaped through the tunnel at Libby. He did not propose to go again. I told Smith to go on, but I must return to the company. I soon met two rebels who ordered me to surrender, but I declined. I saw my men standing up and the rebels as thick as mosquitoes. A major of a Georgia regiment demanding my sword, I presented it to him, omitting the presentation speech. With the rebels I went to the right. Captain Hume was standing on the works looking to the left. I called to him, "They have us, Hume." Quick as a flash he stamped his sword into the dirt, broke the scabbard against a tree, saying, "There is the second one the cusses haven't got." In less time than it takes to tell the story we were driven to the rebel rear, and my story for a time will be my experiences in rebel prisons.
We were hurried to the rear, the rebels relieving us of our hats, belts and other personal property as we went. Captain Hume had been a prisoner before and thought he understood the rules of civilized warfare. A rebel officer demanded my belt. Captain Hume said, "Don't give it to him, Jack. Private property is to be respected, and all he has a right to claim is your sword." But the rebel was not so far advanced as this in his study of the articles of war, and turning on Hume, with his revolver and a volley of oaths, made him give up his belt. I gave him mine without more argument. Sergt. J. E. Hodgkins of Company K had received a nice little ounce hat from home. A big rebel standing near the battery on the hill saw it and, like a hawk after its prey, sailed for it, snatching it from his head and throwing him his old one, which would weigh five pounds.
This treatment was a surprise to us. Few regiments in the Army of the Potomac had captured more prisoners than the 19th, yet I never saw private property of any kind taken from a rebel or heard an ungentlemanly word spoken; on the contrary, had often seen the boys share their rations with them and in every way make them comfortable.
When well beyond the lines we were halted and took account of stock. We found that we numbered sixteen hundred men and sixty-seven commissioned officers.
As we had placed our colors in the rear of the line, having dug a pit for Mike Scannell and the other sergeant, - we trusted they were safe, but soon a rebel horseman rode by with them, and trotting in his rear we saw Mike. "How came you to lose the colors, Mike?" I asked. "I'll tell you," said he. "We lay in the pit dug for us, and the first we knew the rebels came rushing over and said, 'You damned Yankee, give me that flag.' 'Well,' I said, 'it is twenty years since I came to this country, and you are the first man who ever called me a Yankee. You can take the flag for the compliment.'"
We could not understand how the rebels got in our rear, but from the best information we could obtain, learned that the 2d and 5th corps were ordered to advance their lines. The 2d did as ordered. By some mistake the 5th did not, and there was a large gap between the two corps. The rebels had seen this, and keeping us hotly engaged in the front, had sent a division around our left flank, and the result was we were "gobbled".
The officer who had charge of my squad was Lieut. Wm. D. McDonald, Company C, 8th Alabama, Wilcox's old brigade, Anderson's division, A.N.V. He was disposed to be kind to us, as he had formerly resided in New York and knew Yankees were human, but he was soon relieved and ordered back to the front. The provost guard took charge, and we were marched to a field just outside the city of Petersburg and camped for the night. We were visited by squads of thieves, each reducing our baggage, which was none too large at first. Some of our men had a few hard tack. The officers had no rations.
The next morning we were ordered to a small island in the Appomattox River. As we marched over a little bridge guards were stationed to take our haversacks, canteens and other property yet remaining, but we soon saw the game and sent over a few empty handed, who, coming down the shore, took charge of the traps we threw to them. By this flank movement we saved our property. We remained on the island that day. No rations were issued and we began to realize our position. We were among a new race of people and saw the beauties of an inflated currency. On our side of the line the "New York Herald" (double sheet) sold for five cents; on this side the "Richmond Examiner," a little, dirty paper, was one dollar, - everything in the same proportion. Every few minutes a large, lank, lantern-jawed rebel would come up, look us over, and ask about the only question they had on hand: "What did you uns come down here to fight we uns for?" It mattered little what the answer was, he would pass on if he did not find any plunder and ask the same question of the next group. The captain of our guard was a spruce little chap and wanted his boots shined; but the so-called Confederacy was out of boot-blacking, so he sent one of his men to us for that article. After asking several and receiving various answers he called to his officer, "Captain, they all don't tote it."
About three o'clock in the morning of the 24th we were ordered to fall in and were marched through the city to the depot, packed in the cars, and were "on to Richmond," where we arrived about noon. We were given a rousing reception. Men, women and children thronged the streets and were sure they had captured the entire Union army. They said, "Right smart lot of you all this time, I reckon." The men swore, the women spit at us, the children joined in the general cry. Just before we turned down Carey Street to go to Libby we halted. I was standing a little aside from the rest, thinking over the situation and whistling to keep together what little courage I had left, when a rebel officer rode up and said, "We will take that whistle out of you in a little while. Corn bread is gitting pretty mouldy down in Libby." I said I guessed not. It was my intention to whistle as loud the last day as I did the first. "Oh, I have heard lots of you fellows talk, but Dick Turner soon fixes them," was his reply. This was the first promise of starvation.
We moved forward and soon stood in front of Libby prison. I could almost read over the door, "He who enters here leaves hope behind." We marched in and passed to the rear of the room. As I looked out of the window I saw them carry out four of our dead boys in blankets, all of them naked, having been stripped of their clothing. We hardly knew what was to come next but had not long to wait, for Dick Turner, who had charge, ordered part of us to fall in. Lieutenant Chubbuck had kept a small revolver in his pocket until this time, but now threw it out of the window into the canal in rear of the prison. We were ordered to stand in line, unbutton our clothing, and, as Turner passed down, were made to open our mouths that he might see if we had any greenbacks in them. He said those who gave up their money should have it again, but those who did not would lose it. I had sixty-two dollars and had just time to put ten between the soles of my shoe. The rest I gave to Turner. After he had picked a squad he ordered them to the front of the room, away from the rest.
The front door was guarded by a thing I supposed they called a soldier, dressed in a black, swallow-tailed coat, his head crowned with a stove-pipe hat and armed with a sporting rifle. He was so thin that he could never be hit by a bullet, as he could hide behind his ramrod in time of danger. I called to the boys, "See what they call a soldier," but as he brought up his musket to fire I found it was alive and I retired in good order.
Lieut. Thomas J. Hastings of the 15th tore a piece off his shelter tent to use as a towel and was made to mark time while the rest were being searched. After our names, rank, regiment, place and date of capture were recorded we were marched to a room in the third story. The one next to ours was filled with our men. A brick partition wall divided us, but some of them made a hole through, and, as they had not been searched, passed a few things to us. Mark Kimball gave me ten dollars, Mike O'Leary a razor, another gave me a spoon. The razor and spoon I carried all through my prison life, and have them yet. The money I returned to Mark some two weeks later. We were not allowed to rest long, as I suppose they thought we required exercise, and were marched to another room over the office. The rooms were perfectly bare. We had no blankets or dishes, as everything had been taken from us. We sat down on the floor, about as blue a collection of humanity as was ever assembled.
In a short time Turner came in to look us over. I asked him if it was not about time for dinner, as no rations had been issued since we had been captured, two days before. He did not like my question and swore at me for several minutes, winding up by saying that no rations would be issued until the next day, and I should be --- lucky if I got any then. I replied that as I was not acquainted with the other hotels in the city I guessed I would wait. He swore some more, said he reckoned I would, - and I did. At night we lay down on the hard floor and tried to sleep, but were so hungry we could not. Besides our hunger, we had many other things to contend with. When we entered the room we thought it was vacant but were mistaken, for we discovered that it was inhabited by "very many curious things that crawl about and fly on wings."
Morning came at last. We got up, washed in an old tank in one corner of the room, wiped our faces on our shirts, and waited for breakfast. While waiting I went to the window to look out. In a second I found myself on the floor and heard the report of a musket. The guard in front had fired at me, but a comrade had seen him as he brought up his piece and had pulled me down. Had he not done so some other fellow would have written this story.
About ten o'clock rations came in and we eagerly fell in to receive them. They consisted of a piece of corn bread as large as a quarter of a brick and twice as hard, bean soup, and a very small piece of rotten bacon. How to draw the bean soup was the question, as we had nothing to draw it in. Lieutenant McGinnis was in rear of me. He said he must have some soup, and, taking a broken pane of glass, he fell in and the line moved on. When it came my turn the negro who issued the rations dipped in his gill dipper and I held out my hands. He turned it in. The soup ran through my fingers, but I secured a few beans. McGinnis held out his pane of glass and drew four rations, one on each corner. We did not touch the bacon. Hungry as we were the smell satisfied us. We went upstairs and sat down to dinner. I ate half my bread, and thinking it unwise to make a pig of myself at my first banquet in Richmond, placed the rest on the window sill, sat down and looked at it, then ate a little more and a little more, until all was gone, and I was as hungry as before.
The next day some negroes came in to swab the floor, and among them we of the 19th recognized little Johnnie, Colonel Devereaux's servant. We had left him at White House Landing, sick with fever, when we started on the retreat down the Peninsula in the spring of 1862, and supposed he died in the hospital, but he must have been captured, as here he was. I was near enough to whisper, "Johnnie." He recognized me and also saw Lieutenant McGinnis, but said nothing. The next day when he came in he dropped some soap near where I stood. He looked as though he was having a hard time of it.
Our enlisted men were not confined in Libby but in an old tobacco warehouse across the street. Three days later we saw them march past on their way to Belle Isle. We watched our chances and exchanged greetings with them. The lines between officers and men in the 19th were not closely drawn. Most of the officers had come from the ranks and the only difference was in the pay. We would have been glad to have remained with them, but the rebels ordered otherwise.
We remained in Libby about a week, receiving re-enforcements nearly every day, until our squad of officers numbered over a hundred. One morning we were ordered to fall in. The same old blankets were given us, dirty and torn, but better than none. We were told that we were going south. A very small loaf of white bread was given each man, but having no way to carry it and being very hungry, we ate it before we left the prison. We filed out and marched past Castle Thunder. This place was used for the confinement of political prisoners. We saw several women and one of them had a palm-leaf fan. On one side was the stars and stripes. As we looked up she turned that side to us and some one said, "Boys, see the old flag." Major Turner rode back and said, "Break the head of the next man who says 'old flag,'" so we did not cheer, but the sight gladdened our hearts. We crossed the river to Manchester. A large crowd were at the station. They told us that our men were dying fast down south and that "you will all get your little piece of land down in Georgia," a prophecy which proved true in very many instances.
The train backed into the depot and we were ordered to "get aboard the coach." A passenger car was in front, and we marched in, thinking that we were to be transported in good shape; but when every seat was taken, they continued to come in, and our entire party, numbering more than a hundred, packed into this one car.
We rode all day without food or water, and found ourselves the next morning in Lynchburg. We were confined in the cars until noon, and it is impossible to express in words what we suffered. We could not walk about, the car was so crowded; we would get down on the floor, stand up, look out of the window, but nothing could drive away the terrible hunger. Outside the cars were hucksters selling bread, pies and fruit, and the sight made us wild. Men opened the windows, took rings from their fingers, and sold them for loaves of bread. I had no rings or anything valuable to sell. I had my ten dollar greenback in my shoe but the orders were very strict in regard to the people taking greenbacks, and I dare not try to pass it for fear the guard would see me and confiscate it.
At noon we were ordered out of the car, and after some delay rations were issued, consisting of twenty small hard tack and a small piece of bacon not properly cured and covered with maggots. This was to last us four days, as we were to march from Lynchburg to Danville, our cavalry having destroyed the railroad between the two places. As I had eaten nothing for thirty-six hours I ate twelve of my hard tack, leaving eight for the next three days. I did not care much for the bacon, but tied it in an old rag, and, finding a stick, carried it over my shoulder.
They marched us five miles, and camped for the night. The sun was so hot that most of my bacon melted and ran down my back, but the maggots still lived. We were commanded by a major who had lost an arm in the service, and had also been a prisoner. He was a first-class man and understood how to march men; would turn us out at daylight, march until nine or ten o'clock, then rest until three. He always selected our camp near a stream of good water, and did everything possible for our comfort. I am sorry I cannot recall his name, as he was about the only man I met in the south who considered our comfort in any way.
Our enlisted men joined us here. We were not allowed to visit them, but, passing them on the road, had a chance to chat a little.
Our guard was not thought sufficient to take care of us, and it was constantly receiving reinforcements from the cradle and the grave. At every cross-road we were joined by old men on horseback and in carriages, and boys from ten to sixteen years of age, armed with shot-guns and pistols. We could get along very well with the men, but the boys were anxious to shoot a Yankee, and we had to keep our eyes open. Lieutenant McGillis was much interested in the boys, and would ask them if their fathers allowed them to play with a gun, and if they were not afraid to lie out doors evenings.
Our march was through a splendid country and the days were fine. We had many good singers among the officers and as we marched through a village they would strike up a song. It would pass down the line and be taken up by the men. Passing through Pittsylvania they were singing "Home Again." I saw several women who were watching us wipe away tears. Whether the tears were of sympathy for us, or because the scene recalled loved ones in the rebel army, we did not know, but it was the only manifestation of anything but hate I ever saw from a rebel woman.
Just before we went into camp one night a citizen walked beside us for a short distance and I saw him exchange glances with Captain Hume. After he passed on Captain Hume said, "We will have something to eat to-night. That man is a mason; he says we are going into camp soon and he will come down and bring me some food." We soon after filed out of the road and into a field. The captain's brother-mason came and walked around until he saw Hume, then passed near and dropped a package containing bread and meat. Although not a mason at that time I shared the refreshments furnished by the craftsman.
We continued the march until July 4, when we arrived at Danville. Here we were turned over to the provost guard and placed in an old warehouse. Our human commander left us, and our best wishes followed him. We were brought back to the realization that we were prisoners by the brute in command. We were very hungry, but that did not trouble them, and we waited until afternoon for rations. At night we were taken out and marched to the depot. Although it was the anniversary of our nation's birth we saw no demonstrations of any kind, and I do not believe that a citizen of the town knew it was a national holiday; but we remembered it, and while waiting for the train to be made up sung "Star Spangled Banner" and other patriotic songs. We collected quite a crowd, but they manifested no interest, only stood and looked at us.
The train ready, we were ordered on board and packed in close box cars, - fifty-six in a car. Only one door was allowed to be opened, and that was filled with rebel guards. We had no room to lie down, but were forced to stand or sit cramped up on the floor. We lay our heads on each other's shoulders and tried to sleep, but it was too hot. We had no water, but one of the guards had an old two-quart pail, and by coaxing, the guard filled it twice out of the tank of the locomotive. I never passed a more uncomfortable night, and when we arrived at Greensborough, N. C., in the morning, and were allowed to get out of the cars, we were happy. Here we were re-inforced by some of Wilson's cavalry officers, captured on the raid. They had been shamefully treated, - some were bleeding from wounds received from the guard. When they loaded us again some were allowed on top of the car, and I was one. Our guards were a lot of home guards, and, like all such, were making a war record by abusing us.
On our car was a loud-mouthed fellow who was constantly insulting us. After a while he became quiet and was nearly asleep. One of the officers near touched me, and motioning to keep still, drew up his feet, straightened out, and the fellow went flying off the top of the car. Turning to me he said, "Jack, didn't something drop?" I said I thought so, but guessed it wasn't best to stop the train to find out, and we never learned whether he landed or not.
We arrived at Augusta, Ga., on Sunday, and were marched to the park. Here citizens visited us and we had a chance to talk to them. The questions were about the same as at Petersburg. "What do you uns come down to fight we uns for?" etc. Talk about Yankees being anxious to trade! There was not a man, woman or child but wanted to barter with us. I sold a hat cord to a woman for twenty dollars, bought a dozen eggs for ten dollars, and invested the rest in a blackberry pie. I shall never forget that pie. The crust was ironclad, and I had to bombard it before I could get at the berries. I ate the inside, but left the crust for the woman to fill again.
We took the cars at night, and next morning arrived at Macon, where we left the train, and our men went on to Andersonville.
A stockade had been erected on the fair ground, and fourteen hundred officers were confined there. This was the first stockade we had seen, and while our names were being taken and we were being searched I had a chance to examine it. It was made of large trees driven into the ground, the inside covered with boards, and was about fifteen feet high. A walk was built around it for the guard, and at each corner was placed a piece of artillery, which commanded the inside of the prison.
The door swung open and we were marched in. Had we entered the lower regions we could not have been more horrified. Nearly all the officers had assembled at the gate, and such a looking set, - half naked, unshaven and unshorn, some dragging themselves along by the aid of sticks, others lying down in the dirt. For the first time my courage failed me, and my heart grew faint as I thought that I must pass through what they had already seen of prison life. They did not look like human beings, and appeared less so as every mouth opened and the cry of "Fresh fish" was heard on all sides.
It is an old saying that misery loves company, and since I entered Macon stockade I have never doubted it. They would crowd around us, and the gang would howl, "Give them air! Don't steal his blanket. Oh! Don't put that louse on them," etc. We made our way through them as best we could, and as the place was crowded lay down in the dirt, the first vacant spot we found. As soon as we were located, and the excitement attending our reception had subsided, we began to walk about. Our newness was apparent, and we would soon be joined by some honest looking prisoners who would begin to inquire how we were captured, would ask all sorts of questions, and before we were aware of it we would be drawing a line of battle in the dirt with a stick and explaining that "we lay here; the regiment on our left broke; the rebels came in there," etc. A little group would gather around us, all interest and asking questions. After we had satisfied this party they would move on, and soon another would come up and we would go over the same ground. After we had gone through this performance four or five times we began to "catch on," and would show when questioned that we were not so very fresh.
I thought our reception was a little unkind, and resolved that I would never be engaged in anything of the kind, but when the next batch of prisoners arrived I was in the front rank, and howled "Fresh fish" as loudly as the rest of them.
The officers of our regiment became divided here. Major Dunn was in one part of the stockade, Captain Hume and Adjutant Curtis with some of the 71st and 72d Pennsylvania in another. Lieutenant Chubbuck found a friend from Quincy, Mass., and went with him; Lieutenant Osborne and I joined Captain McHugh of the 69th Pennsylvania.
Inside the stockade were two old buildings, each filled with prisoners. Many had dug holes under them, and were sheltered in that way, but the last two or three hundred had no shelter. Around the place was a low fence, twenty feet from the stockade, called the dead line, and it meant all that its name implies, for to touch or step over it brought a shot from the guard, which was the only warning. Our rations were corn-meal, issued uncooked, and as no extra cooking utensils were provided for the additional men, we often had to wait until midnight for a chance to cook our dinner. If we could borrow a kettle we made mush, if a skillet, made bread, and if neither, made a cake by making dough and throwing it into the hot ashes; this was called an ash cake. We drew very little salt, so I exchanged my ten dollar greenback, receiving five for one, Confederate money, and paid two dollars a pound for salt and fifteen for soda. The price of everything was so high that my fifty dollars soon vanished.
The only time I heard music of any kind inside the rebel lines was at Macon. Outside the stockade, where the guards were quartered, were two negroes who played the fife and drum. The could play but one tune, "Bonnie Blue Flag." At reveille, guard mounting, dinner call, retreat and tattoo the fifer shrieked and the drummer pounded out this same old tune. I do not think that the southerners are a musical people, for I never heard their soldiers sing around the camp-fires, and believe they left this, like everything else, to the negroes. There was a chaplain confined with us who was a very earnest Christian. Every night he held services on the steps of the main buildings, and, with a voice that could be heard throughout the prison, would pray for our country and flag, and for damnation and disaster to all rebels. The commanding officer came in one day and ordered him to stop, but he said they put Paul in prison, yet he prayed, and while he had a voice he should pray to his God, and use language best suited to the occasion. Courage always tells, and when they found that they could not frighten him they let him pray unmolested.
We had been at Macon about a week when one of the officers came to me and asked me if I would like to escape. I answered "Yes." We talked awhile on various subjects, and on leaving he said he would call for me that night. At midnight he came, and I went with him to one corner of the stockade, where we were joined by three more. We formed a circle with our hands on each other's shoulders, and I took the most solemn obligation ever taken by man. I swore to obey in every particular the orders of my superior officers, to take life if necessary in order to escape, and to kill anyone who should betray us. Our organization was called the Council of Ten, as it was governed by ten officers selected by the captains of the companies. We were divided into companies of thirty-two, each commanded by a captain, and subdivided into squads of eight, commanded by a sergeant; the privates only knew the sergeants, the sergeant knew his captain and the captain his Council of Ten. We had signs, passwords, grips and signals, and a grand rallying-cry. We were ordered to provide ourselves with clubs if they could be obtained, or in place of them have a stone located where we could easily get it.
It was strange to me why this organization was required, but I was informed that traitors were in the camp, that several tunnels had been started, and when ready to open, the rebels would come in, go directly to them, and driving down a crowbar would find them the first trial. It was hard to believe that any Union officer would betray his comrades, and we concluded that the rebels must have some of their men in with us, at any rate our leaders thought that a secret organization was necessary for our protection.
A good part of the time was taken by the rebels in finding out if any had escaped. Every day the commanding officers with the guard would come in and drive us to one side of the prison, then back in single file between two guards, counting us as we passed through. It was not oftenthat the first count was right, and we would be driven back again. It usually took from one to three hours before they were satisfied that "we were all thar."
The last of July it was rumored that six hundred were to leave the prison to be exchanged. The "old fish" took little stock in it. The order of the council was for all of our members to go who could. The next day was all excitement. The rebel officer in charge came in, said that exchange had been agreed upon, and that all would soon go, but only six hundred would go that day. They began to check out the first five squads and Captain McHugh, Lieutenant Osborne (who joined the council the night after I did) and myself flanked out when other names were called. We believed that "the last shall be first." As all who went out were not members of our own order we were directed to tie a string in our buttonholes so that we could be recognized. We were marched to the station and placed in box cars. Our sergeant posted two men over each guard in the car, with orders to seize and tie them when the order was given. This was to be a red light shown from the forward car. Our leaders had maps of the country and had concluded to capture the train at Pocotaligo Bridge, seven miles from the sea-coast, take the muskets from the guard, put the guard in the cars, set the train in motion, then make our way to the coast, signal our gun-boats, and be saved. Thus far everything had worked well. The guards in our car had not a cartridge left in their boxes, as we had taken them all out and had been able to take some of the caps off their muskets. We were as determined a body of men as ever lived, and it would have been liberty or death with most of us. Some in our car had been over the road and knew where we were expected to begin work. We waited for the signal, but it was not shown, and we began to get uneasy as it was evident that we had passed the point. Some jumped from the cars, but we were so near Charleston they were recaptured and arrived in the city as soon as we did. Some one had blundered or we were betrayed. We never found out who was responsible, but always thought we were betrayed by a regular army officer, who was exchanged soon after we arrived in Charleston. I do not think he entered the jail with us.
Disheartened, hungry and tired we arrived in Charleston. We did not know why we had been sent there but in every heart was a hope that it might be an exchange. They marched us through the city down into the burned district. As we halted on one of the streets a woman on the sidewalk said to me, "I don't think they will put you way down under the fire." This was the first intimation I received of what they intended to do with us, but it soon became known that we were to be placed under the fire of our batteries on Morris Island. The noble qualities of the southern chivalry were being shown to us every day, yet this was the most cowardly act of all, - to place unarmed men under the fire of their own guns.
We continued the march to the jail and were turned into the yard. I was more wealthy than when we left Macon. There were several naval officers in our squad and the rebels had allowed them to retain their personal property. While at Macon they had bought most of their food and saved their meal. On the march to Charleston one was directly in front of me. He had a heavy load to carry, and not being used to marching had a hard time. Among his effects was a bag containing about a peck of meal. He would change it from one hand to another, and at last set it down, as he could carry it no further. I was in light marching order and as soon as it touched the ground I picked it up and carried it into our new prison. I also had a broken water pitcher that the guard had allowed me to take out of the gutter, so I had meal and a dish to mix it in.
We found the jail yard a filthy place. In the centre was an old privy that had not been cleaned for a long time, and near it was a garbage pile, where all the garbage of the jail was deposited. A gallows occupied a place in the rear of the yard. The wall surrounding the yard was twenty feet high, so that no air could reach us and the hot sun came down on our unprotected heads.
The cooking utensils we had were those brought from Macon, and were not half enough to supply our wants. The jail was filled with all classes of criminals, male and female, and, with the exception of the women, all were allowed in the yard during some portion of the day. There were also several soldiers of the "Maryland line" who had refused to do duty longer for the Confederacy, and several negroes belonging to the 54h Massachusetts, captured at the siege of Fort Wagner. The negroes were not held as prisoners of war but rather as slaves. Their captors did not know exactly what to do with them. They were brave fellows, and at night we could hear them singing in their cells. I remember a part of one song. It was a parody on "When this cruel war is over," and ran as follows:-
"Weeping, sad and lonely
O, how bad I feel
Down in Charleston, South Carolina,
Praying for a good square meal"
We could hear our batteries on Morris Island, and often shells would pass over us. The second night we were there two rockets were sent up near the jail, and after that the line of fire was changed. The rebels could not account for the rockets and all concluded that they were discharged by our spies, or Union men in the city.
Our home was under a window of the jail. Sometimes it would rain all night and we would have to sit crouched against the walls. Our rations were mostly rice, and we had not half wood enough to cook it properly. Each day a four-foot stick of wood was issued to twenty-five men; we would cut it up into twenty-five little piles, one man would turn his back and another would call the names of the mess, at the same pointing to a pile of wood. If by a chance he or one of his friends received a sliver more than another some one would declare that there was an understanding between the two.
We were visited by the rebel generals Johnson and Thompson, who had returned from our lines, and after that our rations were less than before. One day the rice was so poor and so full of bugs that we refused to accept it and held an indignation meeting. We drew up a petition to General Jones, the rebel officer commanding the department, asking, if the rebels could not or would not issue rations enough to keep us alive, that our government might be allowed to do so. The next day they sent in the same rice, and as the petition did not satisfy our hunger we ate it, bugs and all, to keep from starving. Another day they issued nothing but lard. What they thought we could do with that I never learned, but I drew two spoonfuls on a chip and let it melt in the sun.
We had no change of underclothing, no soap to wash with and were covered with vermin. We hunted them three times each day but could not get the best of them. They are very prolific and great-grand-children would be born in twenty-four hours after they struck us. We made the acquaintance of a new kind here, - those that live in the head. We had no combs, and before we knew it our heads had more inhabitants than a New York tenement-house. After a hard scratch we obtained an old pair of shears and cut each other's hair close to our heads.
We were growing weaker day by day; were disposed to lie down most of the time, but knew that would not do, so resolved to walk as much as possible. We craved vegetables, and scurvy began to appear, sores breaking out on our limbs. One day a naval officer bought a watermelon. As he devoured it I sat and watched him, the water running out of my mouth; when he had finished he threw the rind on the garbage pile, and I was there. I ate it so snug that there was not much left for the next.
Lieutenant Osborne and myself were the only officers of the 19th in the jail yard; the rest we left at Macon. One day a detachment came into the workhouse, the next building to ours, and I received a note, which was thrown over the wall, informing me that Captain Hume and Adjutant Curtis were with them. Exchange stock was unsteady; several officers were exchanged by special order, some of them through the assistance of friends south, others by the influence of friends in Washington. Often the report would come in that a general exchange had been arranged, and the cry would go through the yard "Pack up, pack up, all exchanged." While it was an old story, and some of our comrades had heard it many times, the faintest hearts grew stronger and visions of home would come, only to be swept away by the fact that the morrow found them starving in the prison as before.
The life in the jail yard began to tell on us. At Macon groups would get together, sing old army songs, and merry laughter would be heard as some wit told his story, but now we heard no songs; the men walked about sullen and silent; it required little provocation to bring on a fight, as all were nervous and irritable. Our quarters grew worse each day, as nothing was done to change the sanitary condition of the yard, and six hundred men, each doing his best, could not keep it clean unless assisted from the outside.
About the middle of August we were told by the rebel officer in charge that if we would give our parole not to escape they would provide better quarters for us. At first the feeling was general that we would not do it; but after a while they began to go out, those who had talked the loudest being the first to go. Our little mess reasoned together; we feared that we should die here, as we suffered as much for want of shelter as food; we saw that the chances for escape were very poor, and, as all the field officers had signed, concluded we would. This parole was an agreement that they should furnish us good quarters in the old United States Marine Hospital and we should have the liberty of the house and yard, in consideration of which we were not to escape. We were the last squad to leave the yard and as we went took an old "A" tent that the rebels had brought in a few days before for some sick men. Although we had been in prison but eight weeks we had learned the ropes and took anything we could lift.
We found on arriving at the Marine that we had made a mistake in not being first; then we might have had a parlor, now we must sleep on the upper balcony, but it was such a nice place, dry and clean, that we would have been contented to have slept on the roof. We arranged our captured tent to sleep on and proposed to cut it up for clothing at some future time. We slept soundly that night and were awakened the next morning by a rebel officer and two guards, who were searching for the tent. They took our names, saying we had violated our parole and must go back to jail. We did not spend a real happy day; every hour we expected the guard would come in and march us out, but night found us unmolested and we never heard from it again.
From our balcony we could look out over a part of the city. In our rear were only blackened ruins; nearly every house had been riddled with shot and our own had not escaped; but in front the houses looked clean and each was surrounded with flowering trees and shrubs. It must have been a fine city before the ravages of war came. Our rations were about the same as in the jail yard, but were issued more regularly, and we had a better chance to cook. When we entered the Marine Hospital I saw an old two-gallon can and captured it. It had been used for spirits of turpentine. I unsoldered the top, cleaned it by boiling ashes, and made a bale out of an old piece of hoop. I now had quite an outfit, - my kettle, pitcher, spoon and a railroad spike to split my wood. I was a bloated capitalist.
In a few days a change could be seen in the appearance of the prisoners; those who had been blue and careless of their personal appearance began to brace up. We organized by electing Captain Belger of the Rhode Island Artillery as commander of the prison; he appointed a good staff and issued orders in regard to the cleanliness of the house and yard. A daily detail was made for fatigue duty, and any violation of the rules promptly reported. Glee clubs began to be formed, and we had a fine quartet besides an orchestra of four pieces. Lieutenant Rockwell was the owner of a flute, and in some way two violins and a double bass were procured, which proved of great assistance to all, as it helped to keep us from thinking of our condition.
Lieut. Frank Osborne and I had passed a unanimous vote that we would live through our confinement, and in order to carry it out must take extra care of ourselves. In the yard was a pump and every night we took a bath, one of us getting under the nose while the other worked the handle.
The shelling of the city by our batteries was constant. At night we could see the flash as the old "swamp angel" on Morris Island was discharged, then by the light of the fuse we could see the shells sailing through the air; when over the city they would explode and balls of fire would descend on the houses. At times four or five houses would be in flames at once, then our batteries would pass in the shells at the rate of twenty an hour. We could hear the rebels rallying their fire department, which was composed of negroes, and the engines would go rushing past the prison. These events were very pleasant to us and the more frequent the shells came the louder we would cheer. At times they would burst over us and pieces would fall in the yard. The guards were nearly frightened to death, as they were "new issue" and had never been under fire before; we would have felt a little easier if they had gone farther up town, but acted as though we liked it.
While at the Marine I had a stroke of good luck. We were American citizens and believed in the right of petitions. One day those who had their money taken from them at Richmond drew up a petition and forwarded it to the rebel commander, setting forth the fact that the money had been taken, and the promise that it should be returned, and praying him to interest himself in our behalf. We expected that we should never hear from it again, but in about a week fifteen received their money and I was one of the number. The rest they said would soon come, but it never did. I exchanged twenty dollars, receiving seven and a half confederate for one. My first purchase was a fine-tooth comb, - an article that could be used to advantage, - which cost me ten dollars, a quart of sweet potatoes for two dollars, and ten small onions for fifty cents each. We tried hard to be prudent and not forget that we had once been poor, but our wants were so many that in three days the one hundred and fifty dollars were all gone, and all we had to show was our comb and a darning needle. But our health was improved; we had eaten some of the potatoes raw, and those with the onions had helped our scurvy.
Prisoners were constantly coming into Charleston from various places, and exchange stock was often high. One day a squad of officers who had been in Savannah were marched into the jail yard. From our quarters on the upper balcony we could see them but were not allowed to talk. I recognized Lieutenant McGinnis, also Capt. C. W. Hastings of the 12th Massachusetts, Capt. G. W. Creasey of the 35th, Lieutenants Cross, Moody and Shute of the 59th, besides several others who had been comrades at Macon. They remained a few days, then were sent to other prisons. I wrote a note to McGinnis, tied it to a stone and threw it over the wall. This was in violation of my parole, but I could not help that.
One day about a thousand of our men came into the jail yard from Andersonville. It is impossible to describe their condition; they were nearly naked, their skins were as dark as Indians and dried to their bones. Sergt. Daniel Corrigan of Company E was with them. It was a long time before I could recognize him; he had no shirt and I could see that he was much emaciated, but he walked about, and I was sure that if any one got a ration Corrigan would, as he was the best forager in the regiment. I did not close my eyes to sleep that night, the coughing of the men in the yard preventing it. They remained but one day, then were taken to the fair ground.
Negroes passed the prison nearly every day on the way to Fort Sumter to restore the works which were being knocked to pieces by our batteries and gun-boats. They were collected from the plantations in the country and were a frightened looking set. They knew that their chances for life were small, and they sang mournful songs as they marched along.
The greatest trouble I had was cooking. I had no special qualifications for that work, and could not boil dish-water without burning it on; but according to our rule, I must cook for our mess once in three days. My feet were bare, and the rice or mush would boil over on them, and as I jumped back I was sure to land in some other fellow's fire. Frank was one of the best friends a man ever had and would often take my place, but McHugh was bound that I should learn the business.
October 1 the yellow fever broke out. Our guards were the first taken down, the captain and some of his men dying; then it struck the officers in the prison, and it was not thought safe to remain longer in Charleston, so October 5 we were ordered to pack up and informed that we were to be removed to Columbia. Our squad did not go until the 6th, but they started us so early that we had no time to cook our rice. As we left the prison I bought an apple dumplingof an old colored woman, and am ashamed to say that in my haste I forgot to return the spoon she loaned me to eat it with. If she will send me her address I will send her a dozen as good as the one she lost.
We were sorry to leave Charleston. While it was called the "hot-bed of secession," we had received the best treatment there of any place in the south. Our guards were kind, and we were seldom taunted by the citizens. We marched through the city, taking our baggage, and, as no two were dressed alike, were a queer-looking procession. There were many Germans in the city, and as we had several officers in our party from that land, they were anxious to do them favors. One had a bottle of whiskey and gave it to one of his countrymen when the guard was not looking. Our comrade had on a rebel jacket, and as he indulged quite freely in the whiskey soon got returns and was fairly full, but the guard, thinking that he was a citizen, said, "You get out of the ranks," and he got. Assisted by his friends he was soon passed through the lines, and we afterwards heard from him with Sheridan in the Shenandoah Valley.
Arriving at the depot, we were placed in box-cars, and, as usual on the southern railroads, the train ran off the track in a half-hour after we started, which delayed us several hours. The night was dark and rainy, and several escaped, among them Lieutenant Parker of the 1st Vermont heavy artillery. He was pursued by bloodhounds, and when we arrived at Columbia was brought in so terribly torn and bitten by them that he died before night.
We arrived at Columbia in drenching rain, were taken out of the cars, and remained in a field near the depot until the next morning. We had no chance to make a fire, and were wet, cold and hungry. Along the tracks were cars filled with families who had fled from Charleston and Atlanta. We saw several very beautiful ladies among them, dressed well, and wearing jewelry, but they were silent and sullen.
We were guarded by the Columbia Cadets, a fine body of young men from the military school. The command was given to fall in, and we were informed that we must march about a mile to a camp ground, and should be made very comfortable. On the way we passed the Confederate money factory. As the girls employed there came to the windows we called to them to throw us out a bushel or two, as they could make plenty more. They laughed, threw kisses at us, and for a moment we forgot that we were prisoners, and felt that we were going out on a picnic. We marched about two miles, and arrived at our camp ground. This consisted of several acres, covered with a second growth of wood. A guard line was made around it, and sentries were posted. Twenty feet from the guard line was the dead line. This time it was a furrow ploughed around the camp. Our cadet guards were relieved by the militia, and we were turned in like so many hogs.
These were the comfortable quarters promised. The wood and water were outside the lines, and we had to wait our turn to go out. No sinks were provided, and only twelve men were allowed out at a time. It was terrible. Nearly every man in prison suffered from diarrhoea. It was no uncommon sight to see one hundred men standing in line; many were obliged to remain there nearly all the time.
We were in this condition for more than a week, then eight axes and ten shovels were given the fifteen hundred prisoners, and the guard line was extended an hour a day, to give us a chance to cut wood and gather brush for shelter. Our little mess located under a tree, and our rule was that one should always be at home; but for some cause one day all were absent for a few moments, and when we returned could not find where we lived, as our tree had been cut down.
We had heard much of the sunny south, and did not expect cold weather, but the night of October 9 was so cold that we could not sleep, and a white frost covered the ground in the morning. Our rations were in keeping with the place. A pint of corn-meal, bitter and half bran, a day, and a pint of sorghum molasses for five days. We named the prison Camp Sorghum. Many could not draw the molasses, having nothing to put it in, but my old pitcher worked in handy for that purpose.
As soon as possible we began to build huts. We increased our mess to five, one having a blanket. We dug a hole in the ground two feet deep, covered it with poles set up on ends, then with brush, and outside a coating of dirt. This was first rate when it did not rain, but as soon as the dirt became wet it would soak through the brush and drop on us as we tried to sleep. At night four would lie down, then the fifth would squeeze in, covering us with our only blanket. When we wanted to turn over some one would say, "About." The odd man would get up, all turn over, then he would jam in again. So we lay, packed like sardines in a box, keeping alive from the warmth we received from each other.
After a while sinks were dug, and the lines extended so as to take in the brook that ran in the rear of the camp. Nearly all the men were barefoot, and it was laughable to see us wash. We stood in the water, which was very cold, and danced while we washed our faces and hands.
Besides our other troubles we were in constant fear of being shot by the guard. One evening, as we were gathered in little groups around the fires, we heard a shot and saw Lieutenant Young of the 4th Pennsylvania cavalry throw up his hands and fall dead. Upon investigation we learned that one of the guards had asked another if he supposed he could hit a man at that distance. A doubt being expressed he drew up his piece and fired, with the result as stated. Another time an officer was waiting with his axe on his shoulder to go out for wood. He was standing several feet from the dead line when the guard fired, - killing him instantly. We made every possible effort to have the rebel officers take some action that would prevent our comrades from being murdered. The guard who did the shooting was relieved one day, and the next appeared on duty on the front line of the camp. As far as we could learn he was never reprimanded.
The presidential election was drawing near, and was the subject for discussion in the prison. The rebels were much interested in it, and their papers were filled with complimentary words for General McClellan, the Democratic nominee. They were sure that his election would bring peace, and that the south would gain its independence. They tried to impress us with the idea that the election of McClellan meant liberty for us, but as much as we desired release from captivity, we had learned that what the rebels desired was just what they ought not to have.
The election was held October 17. Why that day was selected I do not remember, but it is possible because we could not wait longer. We were to vote by States, the senior officers of each having charge of the poll. It was an exciting day. General McClellan had many warm friends, who had followed him in battle and loved him as their first commander, but it was evident by the debates that "honest Abe Lincoln" was the favorite with the majority. The polls opened at nine A.M.; the ticket distributors were on hand as at home. I think the polls closed at twelve M. Then all rushed to the bulletin board, where the returns were posted, to learn the result. Lincoln received one thousand twenty-three, McClellan, one hundred forty-three, and two hundred four did not take interest enough to vote. We Republicans were delighted, and expressed our joy by giving three hearty cheers. It told us that a large majority believed in the wise administration of Abraham Lincoln, and although many of them had been in prison sixteen months their faith had not been shaken. The excitement did us all good. The vote of Massachusetts was Lincoln, forty-three; McClellan, five. The only States that went for McClellan were Kentucky and Tennessee. Kentucky gave McClellan fifteen, Lincoln, thirteen; Tennessee, McClellan, thirty-one; Lincoln, twenty-six.
We had another pleasant event. One day some boxes came in, sent by our sanitary commission. They contained drawers, shirts, handkerchiefs and a few dressing gowns. There was enough for one article to each officer, and we drew them by lots. McGinnis was lucky, as he drew a dressing gown, and his clothing being worn out he used it for a full suit. He had been sick, and his hair had fallen from his head; he looked like the "priest all shaven and shorn" as he walked about the prison. I was not so fortunate, as I drew only a handkerchief.
The wardrobes of all required replenishing. I wore the same shirt I had on when captured, and although it had not been washed oftener than was necessary it was too thin for comfort. My light blue pants were worn at the knees and fringed at the bottoms, so I cut off the skirts of my dark blue coat to repair them. My hat was open at the top and the rim was nearly separated from the crown. I found an old piece of tent and made a new crown, and with the thread raveled out of the canvas sewed on the rim. My boots were worn out, and my feet were bare.
No meat of any kind was issued to us at Columbia, but we drew some one day quite unexpectedly. A wild boar rushed out of the woods. It passed the guard and came into camp. Every one was after it, and Captain Brown of a Pennsylvania regiment threw himself on the back of the hog and with his knife cut its throat. Without waiting to dress it, he began cutting off pieces and throwing them to the crowd. The smell of fried pork soon pervaded the camp, and in fifteen minutes after the boar passed the guard every particle was devoured.
Once in a while an officer would trade for a little meat, and while they did not entertain company frequently they sometimes gave banquets. Captains Hastings and Creasey and Lieutenants Cross, Moody and Chute messed together. One day they obtained a shin bone with a little meat on it, and were going to have a grand dinner. I was invited as their special guest. They had some rice and made dumplings out of their cornmeal ration. Captain Hastings was cook, but we sat around to rake the fire and make suggestions. We would taste of it as it boiled, and could hardly wait for the captain to pronounce it cooked. The kettle rested on two sticks, and just as we were getting ready to take it from the fire the back stick burned in two and over went the soup. We looked at each other for five minutes without speaking, then I arose, said I guessed I would not stop to dinner, and went back to my quarters a hungry, brokenhearted man.
The officers were constantly escaping. Every night the guard would fire, and while no one was wounded we knew some one had passed out. The rebels called the roll or counted us every day. This was done by driving all to the dead line and counting from right to left. After the right had been counted we would skip down through the camp and fall in on the left. In that way we made our number good, but so many were recaptured and brought back that they mistrusted what we were doing, and made us stand in line until all were counted.
Frank and I had escape on the brain. We thought of nothing else and were constantly watching our chances. One day I passed the guard and went out to the hospital, but my feet were bare, and I was advised by a sick man who had been out not to try it. I had kept my old boots, although they were worn out, so Captain McHugh cut off the tops, sewed them to the bottoms, making a kind of moccasins, and I was ready for the road.
Our old mess of three were to go together. On the afternoon of November 23 Frank and I were walking around the camp. Directly in front of our hut we saw three prisoners, with their guards, come to the guard line and throw over the wood they had brought in. The sentinels on the beats had been talking together, and, having finished, marched directly from each other, leaving a space between them uncovered. The prisoners with their guards started to return to the woods. "Now is our chance, John," said Frank, and without waiting for McHugh, with our hearts beating like trip hammers, we passed over the dead line, and were outside following the others before the sentries faced about. We kept with the other prisoners until we reached the woods, then pretending that we saw our party over a little hill started to join them, and entering a place where the bushes were thick, dropped and waited. There were several details out for wood, and that was no doubt the reason why the guard did not stop us when we went to join our imaginary squad. They soon marched in and passed very near us, but we were not noticed, and waited for darkness before we moved.
We had a small map of the country and knew the route we wanted to take, but how to strike it was the question, as the night was dark and we did not have the stars to guide us. We struck out at random and soon came to a road; this we followed until we arrived at a plantation. Frank stood guard while I went forward to reconnoitre. I crept up to the house and was looking around the corner when a negro girl came out, and, in a way peculiar to her race, called, "Joe! Oh, Joe!" I spoke to her; she turned her head, screamed, and started on the run, but I followed. For about five minutes we had as pretty a "go as you please" race as one could wish to see. She was soon reinforced by a man with a club. I halted and he came to me. He said, "I know you; you are a Yankee, and have escaped from the camp." I informed him that he was right, and that I wanted to be directed to the main road. "All right," he said, "I will help you, but the first thing you want is something to eat," and, joining the girl, went into the house and brought out meat, bread and a dish of butter-milk. Frank came up, and we ate the first square meal we had seen for months. We then formed in single file, the negro in the advance, and had gone but a short distance when we heard voices, so we went into the woods while he kept the road. It proved to be some of our old guard. They asked the negro who went into the woods. He answered, "Only some of the boys." They called us to come out, but we did not come, so they came in after us. We ran into the woods, but turned and came out again into the road.
We had lost our guide before we had found our road, but continued on until we came to a broad avenue, and taking that walked as fast as possible for several hours, finally coming to a steep bank at the end. We afterwards learned that this was an abandoned railroad. We struck across the country and near daylight came upon a plantation. The negro quarters were some distance from the mansion, were about twenty in number and located in a square. We flanked the mansion and made our way cautiously to the negro quarters. Seeing a light in one of the cabins we crawled up, and looking through the cracks between the logs saw an old colored woman cooking. We rapped on the door and called, "Auntie!" She started, asking, "Who's thar?" We answered that we were Yankees escaped from the prison. She opened the door, looked at us, then to the right and left, and said, "Come in." Going back to the fire she gave a bundle of rags that was lying there before it a kick and out rolled a negro boy. She ordered him to tell her brother that two Yankees were at the house, and that he must come and take care of them. As soon as the boy had gone she invited us to eat. A hot corn dodger was on the hearth and she fried us a slice of bacon. We were tired and hungry, and appreciated her kindness. We must have walked thirty miles since leaving the prison, but found we were only five miles away and in the wrong direction.
Very soon the boy returned with the brother. He was pleased to see us, shook hands and requested us to follow him. He took us to his house, which was outside the square and better than the rest, but we remained at a safe distance until he went in and sent the children away, "because," said he, "children got heap of mouths, and would tell that you were here." We entered the house, and retired with our clothes on, in the bed just vacated by the man and wife.
The plantation was owned by A. R. Taylor, and our good friend was the driver. He was very intelligent, having travelled all over the country with his master. He fully understood the danger he was in, and that if we were found in his house he would hang to the nearest tree, but he laughed at it and said, "Negroes were cheap now, and one would not be missed." We remained in bed all day, locked in our room, the man and his wife going away to work. We had a cold lunch, and before starting at night they made us a nice soup.
We began our journey soon after sunset. The night was clear, the moon shining brightly. Our friend went with us to the Lexington turnpike, and giving us directions left us with many good wishes for our success. We tramped along without speaking, and made very good time. Our road lay through the town of Lexington, and we intended to go around it, but, like all other southern towns, it has no outskirts, and before we knew it we were in its centre. Lights were burning in several houses, and we could hear talking, but pushed on and were safely through. On the other side we met a negro, who gave us valuable information. We walked all night. The country was so open that when daylight came we could find no place to hide, and as a last resort went into a barn, and covering ourselves with hay, were soon fast sleep; but our slumbers were disturbed by an old man who came in to feed the cattle, and for their fodder took our covering. He had two dogs that jumped upon us.
It looked as though our march to freedom was ended, but we drove away the dogs and began to talk with the old man. One of the many resolutions we had made at the beginning of our journey was that we would not be recaptured by any one man. We had seen two persons brought back by one man and did not think it appropriate. We had provided ourselves with stout clubs, and it looked as though we should have a chance to use them. Our friend said, "I can't hear a word," and thinking that he meant he would hear no explanation, we got in position to use our clubs.
Frank said, "I guess he is deaf." Then we asked him by signs if he was; he answered, "Yes." We then told him that we were conscripts going to join General Bragg's army at Augusta, and had lost our way. Frank wore an old rebel jacket, and it would have been hard to tell by our clothing what we were. He appeared satisfied, however, and put us on the road. We had gone but a short distance when we heard the barking of dogs, and knowing if the bloodhounds were on our track it was good-by liberty, we entered a brook and travelled up stream several miles to throw them off the scent, then came out and lay in the woods until night.
When it came time to resume our journey we could not move, as we were exhausted with our long tramp of the night before. We had eaten nothing since we left our colored friend at Taylor's plantation. We crawled out of the woods, and seeing a house, dragged ourselves to it. After waiting a while a negro came out, and we attracted his attention. He saw our helpless condition, and taking us to an old shed, made a bed on some husks and brought a quilt from his house to cover us. He then went for our supper, but returned in haste with a piece of corn-bread and the information that we must leave at once, as the rebel patrol was at the house looking for us, having learned from the old man that we were in the woods. Tired and sore, we returned to the woods and remained until morning.
Our plan was not to travel by day, but hunger drove us. We moved along cautiously, and suddenly came upon the cabins of "white trash." Dogs of all shapes and sizes welcomed us, and a white woman came out with several children clinging to her dress. It was hard to tell which was the most afraid, the woman or we poor wanderers. We asked her if she could direct us to Boatride's plantation, one of the places Ben, the colored man whom we had met near Lexington, had mentioned. She "reckoned not," but we reckoned that we could find it and moved along.
This danger proved to us that it was not safe to be seen by daylight, and we returned to the shelter of the woods. While there a negro boy came along a path, and when opposite to us we spoke to him. At first he was frightened, but as we stood up he came to us and said, "You are Yankees." We asked him how he knew. He said, "I can tell by the blue pants;" some rebel soldiers had told him that Yankees wore blue clothes. We soon became well acquainted, and he promised to bring us food. He kept his word, and said at night he would come and take us to his mother's house. Just after dark he came with another boy, and we were soon made welcome at his home. They were expecting us, and the table was set. Roast pork, sweet potatoes, hot biscuits, butter and plenty of new milk were on the bill of fare. What a feast! To sit in a chair at a table, and eat with a knife and fork like a human being; we could hardly believe it was real. The family consisted of the mother, two daughters and this boy, besides a baby. The daughters were delighted with us and the mother named the baby for me, so (if he is alive) there is today in South Carolina a young man thirty-five years old bearing the of John Gregory Bishop Adams, besides several others belonging to the boy's family. They also said we were the handsomest men they ever saw. Well, we must have been. I had on the clothes described in a previous chapter, was twenty-three years old, and, having never shaved, my face was covered with white hairs an inch long. Frank looked better, but did not wear his party clothes on this occasion. The old lady said master told them not to go out after dark because the Yankees would catch them, but wondered what he would say to see them now. They were owned by a Dr. Vose, and I should judge he was a kind master. We were not anxious to leave our good friends, but felt that we must be on our way, so we bade them good-by, and, guided by the boy, began our night's march. He went with us about two miles and gave us in charge of a man who travelled with us until early morning, then hid us in a barn on the plantation of a Mr. Williams.
The next day was Sunday, and we were on exhibition from morning until night. We were stowed away in the loft, and our first visitor was a man with our breakfast. After that a constant line of white eyes could be seen in the darkness as the procession filed past. The usual salutation was, "Hello, boss! how has you been?" Then followed all sorts of questions. One asked if we toted ambitions (meaning arms). We told him that we had some ambitions left. He said that was good, because we might have to use it. They asked if we belonged to Mr. Grant's or Mr. Sherman's company; but while they were ignorant of many things, they were all loyal and ready to do anything for us.
We left the barn at night and ate supper in the field. A negro guided us several miles, then gave us in charge of two others, who promised to remain with us until morning. With the negroes as guides we seldom travelled in the road, for they knew all the short cuts. Our new acquaintances were not very sharp, as they had had a hard master, but they rejoiced that the Yankees had killed him. The face of one looked like a skimmer, for his master had fired a charge of shot into it. They were very superstitious. Coming to a fence, Frank and I were getting over in different places, when they pulled us down, and said all must get over in one place, because there was luck in it. Here we saw a man crossing a field with a lantern. Calling their attention to it they said it was not a man, but a Jack-o-lantern going to the graveyard. When we arrived at the main road our guides left us, as they had never been so far from home before. We were glad to part with them, yet they did the best they could.
Following the Pike road until daybreak, we came to a plantation that answered the description Ben had given us of Boatride's. He said that his brother Dick lived there and would help us. We made our way to a cabin, called up a colored man and asked him if his name was Dick. He didn't know, didn't know Ben, didn't know anything that he proposed to tell, but at last light broke through the clouds. We found he knew enough, only feared to trust us. He said that colored people had to be very careful, as all kinds of ways were used to trap them. He hid us in the barn. The colored women came in, and although they did not speak to us, left food in abundance where we could get it. The old master came in twice, but not having been introduced we held our peace.
At night Dick came for us and took us to his house. He had invited his friends, and the house was full. They sang to us, and, besides giving us a nice supper, they packed a haversack with bread and meat for us to take. Being on the main road, we thought it best not to take a guide, but found traveling quite difficult, as the road was lined with refugees fleeing from Augusta, and we often had to flank them, which made our progress slow.
Morning found us about fifteen miles from Augusta. We hunted up a negro, and using Dick's name for reference, he put us into the second story of a barn. We climbed up on a plank which he removed so no one could get at us, neither could we get out. Through the cracks of the barn we could see men, single and in companies, going to join General Bragg's army at Augusta. The negro said that Sherman was expected there, and our plan was to get as near as possible, wait until the city was taken, then enter. One night more and we would be within a few miles of our destination.
When it became dark our man put up the plank and we came down. We made about ten miles that night. The settlements were growing thicker and the roads and woods were full of refugees. We halted at a cabin where they were having a first-class minstrel show. The negroes were seated in a circle around the fireplace and the old banjo was a-ringing. We walked into the room. The music ceased, and they thought the d--l had come. We explained our position and asked them to care for us. While they were anxious to do so, they could not make up their minds where would be a safe place. It was suggested that they hide us in the cabin. This had two rooms, but the master had locked the door of one and taken the key. The partitions did not run to the roof. One of the boys climbed up and pulled up a board so that we could drop down into the other room. Making a ladder out of stools and negroes, we ascended, then dropped. We found a bed in the room, and a hole in the bottom of the door, made for cats to pass in and out; this was used as a dinner hole, the negroes passing rations through it. We awoke in the morning much refreshed, but when I looked at Frank I was startled. He was as black a negro, and he broke out laughing when he saw me. In reaching our room we had passed through several years' collection of soot and had taken some with us, and, not having a key to the bathroom, were forced to keep dark all day.
The negro came at night and unlocked the door, having obtained the key through the house servant. They said, "We are going to take you to out to see a white man." We answered, "Oh, no! We take no stock in white men." But they replied, "He is one of you'ns. We talked with him to-day, asked him if he would like to see a Yankee, and he said he reckoned he would. Then we told him we had two hid, and he asked us to bring you to his house." We had the most perfect confidence in the negroes, and followed them to a house where we found a true Union man. His name was L. H. Packard, from Kent's Hill, Maine. He prepared supper and made us feel at home. Mr. Packard had lived in the south eight years, had been married, but his wife was dead, leaving two little girls, one five, the other seven years of age. His life had not been a happy one since the war, as he was resolved not to enter the rebel army. He had worked in a flour-mill and in several other industries, and was now making shoes for the rebels. He gave me the address of his sister in Maine, and I promised to write to her if I lived to return home.
He could give us no information in regard to Sherman's army. Like ourselves, he had expected they would come to Augusta, but they had not, and he feared they had gone toward the sea. We remained with him several hours, and made his heart glad by the news we brought from God's country. When we parted he gave us forty dollars in confederate money, and I gave him a little badge of the 2d corps. He took us to the trundle-bed where his little girls were sleeping. They awoke and kissed us good-by. The name of the sister in Maine was Mrs. H. H. Bulen. As soon as I reached home I wrote to her, sending my photograph.
In the month of October, 1889, two ladies called on me at the State House; one was Mrs. Bulen, the other her brother's child, the younger of the two whom I saw twenty-five years before in a trundle-bed in South Carolina. My good friend Packard died a few years ago in this State, having returned north soon after the war. His daughter remembered seeing us that night, and also remembered the corps badge which her sister, who resides in Philadelphia, had.
Our friend Packard sent one of the negroes with us as guide, armed with an old-fashioned horse pistol. He was apparently very brave, would march in advance of us, and say, "I'd like to see anybody take you'ns now;" but hearing the least noise, would forget that he was our protector and fall back in our rear. He was the only armed guide we had on our journey; and our experience with him was such that we did not care for more.
We were in doubt what to do, as Sherman, not coming to Augusta, had forced us to change our plans, but concluded we had better cross the Savannah River and try to strike him in Georgia. Our guide turned us over to another, who advised us to remain with him until the next night, which we did.
After supper, in company with the negro, we started for the river. He knew all the short cuts through the swamps, also the location of creeks, and coming to one he would cross on a log, but we, not knowing in the darkness where to step next, would walk in. Then he would turn around and say "Creek thar, boss," a fact we had already learned. In the distance we heard a strange noise, which grew louder as we walked along. We asked what it was, and were informed that it was the shouters; that they were having a shouting meeting on the plantation where we were going. Arriving at the plantation, we found it a singular village. The houses were set on posts some eight feet from the ground, as the river overflows in some seasons of the year. No white people were there, as it was owned by the man who owned and lived at the place where we found Mr. Packard, and this swamp plantation was in charge of the driver named Isaac. Our friend called him out, told him who we were, and what we wanted; he said, "Come right in," and turning to the meeting, of which he was in charge, said, "Meeting dismissed without prayer." All gathered around us. We sat up until morning, talking of the north and of freedom, - subjects they were anxious to hear about, - and they asked many intelligent questions.
The past few days my feet had been bare, - my old boots not being able to stand the rough service required of them. An old colored woman kept her eyes on my feet, and began to untie her shoes; taking them off, she came to me and said, "Honey, take these shoes." "Oh, no," I replied, "you will not get another pair, and a cold winter is coming." "No matter if I don't," she said, "ain't you suffering all this for me, and hadn't I ought to go without shoes if they will help you get home?" and she forced me to take them. They were rudely made, the uppers being untanned and sewed with rawhide, while the bottoms were pegged on with home-made pegs, but they did me good service, and I wore them inside the Union lines three months later. Another gave me a pair of socks, and washing my bleeding feet, I was once more comfortable.
We could find no trace of Sherman's army, and remained with Isaac two days. We slept in the barn and were well supplied with food; we also had plenty of peanuts, as they grew on this plantation, and were called "ground peas." At night the negroes held another meeting, and at their request I read the Bible to them. My scripture lesson was the third chapter of John. They asked me to pray, but I excused myself. I never attended a meeting where all were so earnest. The singing was grand. They sang one song where all shake hands, and the words were, "My brother, ain't you mighty glad you're going to leave this sinful army," etc. They kept time with their feet and hands, closed their eyes, and swayed from side to side as they sang.
The next day we decided that it was best to cross the river. The rebels had cut holes in all the boats, and sunk them; but the negroes were sharp, and had taken them up, repaired them and sunk them again, so all they had to do was turn the water out and they were as good as new.
We embarked just as night was closing in, a negro taking the paddle. The entire inhabitants followed us to the shore and knelt in prayer for our success; no cheers were given, but with hats, aprons and bandannas, they waved their farewells. They remained until they saw us safely landed on the Georgia shore, and we felt that we had parted with dear friends. Our boatman secreted his boat and guided us to the turnpike.
We travelled without interruption for about two hours. The moon was very bright, and all was quiet save the sound of or own footsteps. We had just crossed a bridge when we heard horsemen approaching, so dropped by the roadside, under the shadow of a tree. We did not dare breathe as the five rebel cavalrymen rode past. Renewing our journey, we soon saw a fire by the roadside, and creeping up to it saw a rebel picket on duty, his three comrades sleeping by the fire.
Thinking it dangerous to go on, we turned up a lane and found a negro, who secreted us. From him we learned that the roads were all picketed, and that the mounted patrols were constantly riding up and down. Danger was on every hand, but we still had faith. We remained with the negro through the day, and at night started again; we could not travel in the road, as the pickets were very thick, but made our way slowly through the woods. Arriving at a plantation, we found the negroes much excited. One of the girls started for the mansion, saying she was going to tell master. We caught her and told her she must take care of us, but she would not talk, and turned back to the house, where all the colored people were gathered. We followed and walked in. I was the spokesman and told our story. They asked if we came through the yard. We said we did; they could not see how we got through, as ten rebel cavalrymen were sleeping on the piazza. While we were talking a white woman appeared. She was quite good-looking, had long, curly hair, and her dress was clean and becoming. She said, "I will take care of you;" we thanked her, but said we didn't care to trust a white woman. This pleased the negroes, as she was a slave and a field-hand besides.
The story she told us the next day was a sad one. The overseer of the plantation was a brute, but had charge of all the slaves. She was employed in the house and he desired to make her his mistress, but she repelled his advances and was severely whipped; again he urged her, with no better results. He then drove her to the swamps to work, and she was employed carrying heavy logs on her shoulders. This was one of the damnable features of slavery. Her brother, named Pat, was the driver. (I have several times used the word driver and some may not understand its meaning. The driver is an intelligent, faithful slave, selected by the overseer as foreman. He turns out the slaves in the morning by blowing a horn, gives them their tasks, and has charge of them in the field.) She took us to his house, which was better than the rest, and we slept in the room with Pat and his wife.
We were awakened in the morning by the firing of cannon, and the negroes came rushing in with the news that Sherman was coming. The firing grew nearer and nearer, musketry could be plainly heard, and through the cracks in the logs of the house we could see smoke where barns were burning. The negroes grew more and more excited and reported often. "They are coming, boss, they are coming. Massa Sherman's company will soon be here! They done burn old Sam Jones's barn, and they are fighting down by the creek; fo' night you will be with them."
Our hearts beat hard and fast. Wheeler's rebel cavalry were forming, and after advancing, fell back. We were sure that night would find us safe under the old flag. We congratulated ourselves on our good judgment, talked of the foolishness of those who had tried to escape through the mountains, when our plan was so much easier, and concluded that of all the men who had escaped we were a little the smartest.
Night came on. The negroes said they would not cross the creek until after dark, and we waited. All night these faithful negroes kept watch for us, and in the morning, with long, sad faces, reported that "Massa Sherman had done gone down the river." We could not follow by day, but started quite early in the evening. We had gone but a short distance when we struck a company of cavalry camped on the roadside. We entered the swamp to flank them, but it was so dark that we lost our way, and after travelling all night, tearing our clothes and scratching our faces and hands, we came out where we entered, and again passed the day at Pat's house. We were rather discouraged, and the colored people felt about as badly as we did, yet did all they could to cheer us up. Our friend, the white slave, made us gingerbread and biscuit to take with us, and said many comforting words.
With a firm resolution to get through the lines we began our journey. It was a dark, rainy night, and we had to guess our route. We came to a place where the road forked. Frank was sure he knew the road we ought to take, and I was just as confident that he was wrong. We scolded each other for an hour, not daring to speak above a whisper. These cat-fights occurred nearly every night, and we made up in the daytime. One not in our place might think it strange that we should lose our temper, but we were strained up to the highest point, and were nervous and irritable. It was the same with nearly all who escaped. I have known two men who were fast friends who were never the same after they were recaptured, Not so with Frank and I. He was such a dear, good fellow that he gave in to me nearly every time.
Finding we were on the wrong road we struck across the country and came upon a nice cabin near a large house. We were listening under the window, and could hear the hum of a spinning-wheel. As we stood there a woman opened the shutter and, as the day was just breaking, she saw us. We entered the house and found a yellow man in bed. He said, "Go away from here." We told him who we were, but he would do nothing for us. We had our clubs, were in good fighting condition and holding them over him made him swear that he would not tell he had seen us. The woman was friendly and gave us directions how to reach the creek, but we dare not take the road, fearing the yellow fellow would forget his promise. This was the first instance a man with a drop of negro blood in his veins had refused to help us. We turned into the woods, but they were so thin that we were forced to cut down small pine trees and stick them in the ground where we lay down. It was so cold we could not sleep, and as we dare not travel through this open country, we kept alive by rolling over and over on the ground. Besides being cold we suffered for food, as we had eaten nothing since the previous day. We could endure it no longer, and late in the afternoon resumed our tramp. Calling at a cabin, a negro baked the last morsel of meal he had in the house for us, and after we had eaten it, directed us to the creek. Here we found a new trouble. Kilpatrick's cavalry had burned the bridge, and we had "one wide river to cross."
We made a raft out of pieces of plank, and went over all right. Frank was on the forward end of the raft; as we reached the opposite bank he caught a grape-vine and swung himself on shore. He left the raft and so did I, the only difference being that he was safe on land while I went into the water and came up under the raft. He fished me out, and with my clothes nearly frozen on me we continued our journey. Arriving at an old mill we called up the miller. He let us in, but was afraid to keep us, as the rebel pickets were very near, and liable to come there at any time, so we must keep in the woods. I was too wet to lie down, so we ran along in the edge of the woods. We saw places where Sherman's army had camped only the day before, and the fires were still smoking.
As we were running along we saw a negro coming towards us on horseback. Driven by hunger, we hailed him and asked for food. He said he was going to mill, but would return in about an hour and would take us to a place where he could feed us.
We waited until he returned, when he told us to keep him in sight and follow along in the woods; we had gone only a short distance when he began to whoop and put his horse into a gallop. What was up we could not make out until, looking towards a shanty, we saw a rebel soldier walking towards us on crutches. He came near and said, "Come out, boys, and have a talk." We looked at each other, then at the Johnnie Reb. There were two of us with two clubs, and, so far as we could see, only one rebel, and he a cripple; so we came out. The negro came riding back, and we asked him what it meant. He looked frightened, but said, "I know this man; his father raised me. He fought, but he never wanted to fought." The rebel said it was not safe to stay there, but designated a place where he could meet us; he mounted the horse behind the negro, and we went through the woods.
Arriving at the place designated, we saw our Johnnie jumping and coming all sorts of gymnastic performances. We demanded an explanation; he said "I am as sound a man as there is in the Confederacy. I was slightly wounded at Atlanta, and was sent to guard your boys at Andersonville. I saw them starved to death and swore that if ever I could help one get away I would. Now is my chance, and I'll be dog-goned if I don't do it." He was a typical rebel in every respect, a regular Georgia cracker; hair long, high cheek bones, tall and slim, but he talked well and appeared earnest. After the negro had turned out the horse he came to us and he and the rebel talked over the situation. The trouble was what to do with us now we were with them. Johnnie suggested taking us home; the negro said it would not do, as his wife's sister would betray us; but Enos (his name was Enos Sapp) said the Yankees had her husband a prisoner and he reckoned she would be mighty glad if some one would help him. They talked over all the chances of the rebels finding us. We listened with much interest.
At last Enos said, "Gentlemen, I am going to take you to my house; it may make a row, but I am boss of my own ranch." Being in his hands, we could do nothing but go with him. The house was only a short distance off. Enos walked on his crutches. He said if the war lasted thirty years he should use them until the end. When we arrived we found two log houses; in one were two women and five children; the other was the servants' quarters. Poor as our friend was he owned slaves; one, the man we had seen in the woods; the other, the man's mother, a poor broken-down old woman. He introduced us to the women as two friends of his. They sat in their corner of the fire-place smoking corn-cob pipes, and said very little to us, not because they were displeased but because it would require an effort to talk. We made ourselves at home. One of the women asked me if I would have a smoke. As I had little chance to indulge in my favorite habit I gladly accepted her offer. She took the pipe out of her mouth and handed it to me. That broke the ice; we talked upon various subjects, mostly of war. Enos's wife said the Yanks used them better than their own men, as the rebels took her best horse and the Yanks left the old one. They didn't seem to know or care what army we belonged to. Supper was announced and we went outside to the other house. I suppose this was the dining hall. The table was set, but there was not a whole plate on it or two pieces alike. The old colored woman waited on the table, poured the tea and passed the food.
Our host was a religious man and asked a blessing at the table, but he had a hard time carving the pork and remarked that it was tough as h---. After the vesper meal we returned to the mansion. The pipes were the first thing, and as they all wanted to smoke, they fixed up a new one for me. Enos then told them who we were, and we saw indications of fear on their faces. The sister, whose husband was in a Yankee prison, asked if we knew Sam. We could not recall him, but without doubt had met him, and assured her that wherever Sam was, if in a Union prison he had enough to eat, a good bed and all the comforts of life, more than he would have at home. They questioned us about our Yankee women. They said they had heard that they wore good clothes and had jewelry; we told them they had been rightly informed, and they said, "Why, you all have no slaves; where do they get them?" Our answer was that our women worked. We told them of the mills in Lowell and Lawrence, of the shoe shops in Lynn, and other places where women were employed. "Well," they said, "we would like nice dresses and jewelry, but we could not work; no woman could be a lady and work." So those poor deluded creatures were happy in thinking they were ladies, while they wore dirty homespun dresses, ate hog and corn-bread, and smoked pipes in the chimney corner.
When it came bedtime Frank and I were puzzled what to do. The rain came down in torrents and we had been so wet and cold, besides being very tired, we thought it best to remain over night, but there were only two beds in the room and eight people for them; where did we come in? One of the women got up and from under one of the beds brought out an old quilt and a blanket; she said we could make a "shake-down" before the fire. We were glad of that, for we had had no chance to skirmish since we started, and there were too many of us for a bed. The women went behind a curtain that was let down in front of the beds, undressed the children, tucked two in one bed and three in the other; the man and wife slept with two, the sister with three.
Both of us could not sleep at once, so we divided the watch; neither slept much. After they thought we were asleep the wife said to Enos, "I don't like this; I feel sort of jubus. If my uncle knew these men were here they would hang you before morning." "Don't care a d--n" said Enos; "I said that I would help them and I shall do it; what did they all do for you when I was fighting? Not a thing; I tell you this is a rich man's war and a poor man's fight. I have got my eyes open." After that we felt safe and went to sleep. We turned out the next morning feeling much refreshed, but the rain continued to fall and we could not travel, although every hour was precious to us.
Frank made the women happy. They had some old shoes that were ripped, and being a good cobbler, he repaired them. We said if we had some stock we would make them new ones, and they wanted us to wait until they got the stock. It rained hard when night came, but we must be on the road, and the negro was sent with us. We clasped the hand of Enos, gave him our address, and told him if we could ever be of service to him not to fail to call. I have never heard from him since, but remember him kindly as one of the few rebels who gave me a kind word and treated me like a human being.
We travelled all night. Everything indicated that the army had just passed over the ground, - fences were gone, barns had been burned, there was no crowing of the ***** in the morning and the grunting hog was a thing of the past. At daylight, wet to the skin, we halted at a negro cabin. He welcomed us, but, like everything else, had been "cleaned out." He was old and the only one left on the plantation, all the rest having gone with "Massa Sherman." Our army had passed the day before, and he was delighted with them; said they had bands just like the circuses and guns that they loaded in the morning and fired all day.
After drying our clothes before the fire and cooking an ash-cake he took us to a barn across the road and covered us with husks. Sherman was but ten miles away, and we felt confident that this was our last day in the rebel lines. We planned to leave the road and travel through the fields. If the pickets halted us, we were to run and let them fire. We believed that they could not hit us in the darkness, and that the firing would alarm our pickets, who would protect us.
About four in the afternoon, we sat up in the husks, ate the last of the cornbread the negro had give us, then covered ourselves over to wait for darkness. While we were hidden from view we did not entirely cover our haversack. In a short time we heard voices, and a man said, "There is a haversack: I am going to get it." As he walked over the husks he stepped on me, but I did not squeal. As he picked up the haversack, he saw Frank's arm and cried, "The barn is fill of d--d Yankees." We heard the click as they cocked their pieces, and thinking it about time to stop further proceedings, we lifted up our heads. "Throw down your arms," was the next order. We explained that we had performed that sad duty several months before.
After much talk they let us come out. Our captors were Texas rangers, the hardest looking set of men I ever met; dressed more like cowboys than soldiers, armed with sabres, two revolvers each, carbines, besides a lariat hung to the saddle. There were but three of them, and we resolved to make an appeal for one more chance. In the most earnest manner possible we told the story of our long service in the field, our starvation in prison, our long tramp for liberty and our near approach to our lines, and begged them to let us go. I think we made an impression on them, but after conferring they said, "You are loyal to your side and we must be to ours, but we will use you well while we have you in charge."
The rest of the company came up while we were talking. They had thirty-six prisoners, captured from Sherman's army. These were known as "Sherman's bummers." My experience with the Army of the Potomac had been such that I looked with little favor on the bummers. Had they been with their comrades they would not have been captured, but they were, like a large part of that army, scattered over the country, not foraging for the army but for themselves, and the loyal negro was "cleaned out" the same as the "reb." It was demoralizing, and had the rebels been in force on this flank or rear, disasters instead of success would have overtaken that grand army before it reached the sea. With the bummers we were turned into the corn and slept in the husks that night.
Bright and early the next morning we were turned out and were soon on our way back to Augusta. The old negro came to see us off; as his eyes fell on Frank and me a look of sadness came over his face. Our guards were well mounted and they made us "hiper." We marched several miles without a halt, when we came to a brook, where all were given a chance to quench our thirst. As we had no cups we lay down and drank. One by one the boys got up and started on, I alone remaining. I was sure that the guards were gone and was ready to run for the woods, when, looking over my shoulder, I saw one with his revolver pointed at my head. "Thought you had got away, didn't you?" "Oh, no !" I replied. "I was very thirsty and it took me a long time to drink. "Well, I am looking after you," and he made me "double quick" until I caught up with the rest.
We halted at night in a grove near a large mansion. We were hungry and footsore, having eaten nothing that day, and having marched thirty miles. The lieutenant commanding the guard went to the house and demanded supper for seventy men. The old man said he had nothing, that Sherman's army had stripped him of all he had. "Never mind the story," said the guard, "bring out the grub." After declaring over and over again that he had nothing, the officer said, "we will see," and sent a sergeant and some men into the house. The old man changed his tune a little, said he would try to find something, and after a short time brought out a bag of meal, some sweet potatoes and a side of bacon. All shared alike, the prisoners receiving the same as the guard. The night was as cold as any December night in the north, and the guard drew on the old man for a good supply of wood. Unlike our army, they did not go after it but ordered it brought to them. They built several large fires, and then posted guards for the night.
We were in a small space and there were only seven men on posts. I believed there was a chance to make a break if we could only make the men understand it. Frank and I formed our plans and began to work them. I had lain down by the side of two prisoners and got them interested, then stood up, warmed myself, and was sauntering over to the third, when one of the guards cocked his piece, and said, "Yank, you get up on that stump; I don't like to see you moving about so much." I tried to explain that I was so cold that I could not sleep and must move to keep warm but he replied, "I think I shall feel better to see you on that stump." So I took the stump and held it until daylight. Another draft was made upon the old man for breakfast, and we continued the march.
The citizens along the route were very bitter, and at times the guards had hard work to protect us. Women came out with revolvers, looking for the Yanks who had broken open their trunks. Although our guards were very kind to us they did not take so kindly to Sherman's men. While in a ravine they halted us, and proposed to strip us. Frank and I protested. They said, "These men have robbed our people and ought to be punished." We told them they would get enough when they arrived at the prison, and that it was too cheap business for gentlemen, as they had proved themselves to be. This aroused their pride, and they let the boys march on.
At Waynesboro the citizens were determined to kill us. One old man struck a boy over the head with a hickory cane, breaking the cane in two. It looked as though we should have a hard time, but the guards stood by us, and declared they would shoot the next one who struck us. The women were worse than the men, and could hardly keep from scratching our eyes out. All were going to die in the last ditch, live in the mountains, walk to Europe, or do anything except live in the same country with Yankees. We were called every name that was bad. One woman said the Yankees were so mean that when they went through the town they stole a woman's false teeth. It was suggested that if she had kept her mouth shut they would not have known she had false teeth. The guards laughed, and the woman jumped up and down, mad way through. She was about as angry with the guards as with us.
We took cars here for Augusta; the Texans said Georgians were mighty mean people, and they reckoned we had better get to Augusta before we had trouble. We arrived at Augusta late in the afternoon. The people expected us and were in line on each side of the street to welcome us. Old men called us "Yankee-doodles;" boys called us "Blue bellies;" the women yelled all sorts of vile words. We marched up the main street into an old stock yard; an officer, dressed in the uniform of a captain of our army, stood at the gate, and the first words we heard were, "Halt, d--n you, halt! Would you go to h--ll in a moment?" Our Texas guards left us here; they shook hands with Frank and me, wished us good luck, but reckoned we would have a right hard time with this fellow. The "imp of darkness" who commanded the place was a Tennesseean, named Moore. He was surrounded by a gang of cutthroats, mostly deserters from our army, who, having jumped all the bounties possible, had joined his gang; nearly all were dressed in uniforms of blue.
We were turned into a mule pen, and while resting there a boy about seventeen years old, dressed in rebel gray, came to me and said, "They are going to search you; if you have anything you want to save, give it to me." "But you are a rebel," I said, and I can't trust you." He answered that he was not, only galvanized (had taken the oath); that he had been a prisoner at Andersonville and had not courage to hold out, so he had gone over to the other side, but assured me that if I would trust him he would be true. While I hated the sight of him for his treason, he was better than the rest. All I had was my diary; it was very imperfect and of no real value; but in it I had noted the places where we had stopped while out, and I felt if Moore got it the negroes who had assisted us would suffer, so I gave it to him.
Soon after Moore came in. He swore at us collectively, by detachments and individually. Looking at me he said, "I swear you look like the breaking up of a hard winter." He drew us into line and the picking began. Frank had a corps badge that he had made while at Charleston; it was cut out of bone, and was the work of days, but it had to go. As the Tennesseean came to me he said, "That cuss isn't worth picking," and passed me by. From the men they took everything; pictures of friends at home, and when it was a picture of a lady, coarse remarks would be made. After all the articles had been taken from their pockets, the order was given to take off pants, blouses and shoes, and when we were turned back into the pen they were nearly naked.
The pen was very filthy; the mules had recently vacated, it had not been cleaned. Moore said, "Make yourselves as miserable as possible, and I hope to God not one of you will be alive in the morning." Gangs of the roughs came in and tried to trade. One of the boys came to me, saying, "I have a watch that they did not find; one of these men says he will give four blankets for a watch, and I think I had better let him have it, as we shall freeze to death here." I assured him that he would lose his watch and get no blankets, but he was so cold he could not resist the temptation, and gave the fellow the watch. When he came in again he asked for the blankets. The wretch knocked him down and kicked him; that was all he received for the watch.
My galvanized friend turned up and said they were coming after my jacket, - that they wanted the buttons. I took it off and laid it under another man. Soon they came in and asked for the officer with the jacket, a friend outside wanted to talk with him. They shook me and asked where he was. I replied, "He lay down over the other side." They carried pitch-pine torches and looked at every man but failed to find the jacket. We managed to live through the night, and in the morning my boy returned the diary, and Frank, two other officers who had been recaptured, and myself were taken out to be sent to Columbia. As we passed out I heard one of the gang say, "There is the cuss with the jacket," but he did not take it, and we marched to the depot.
The rebels must have entertained the idea that Yankees could live without food, for they issued no rations to us either at night or in the morning, and we were hungry enough to eat a raw dog. Our train was one of those southern tri-weeklies which went from Augusta to Columbia one week and tried to get back the next, and stopped at every crossroad. At one place an old negro woman was selling sweet potato pies. I had a Byam's match paper and bought one with it. She asked, "Is it good, boss?" I replied that it was worth five dollars in Confederate, and she was satisfied. I think she got the best of it, for the thing she sold me for a pie was a worse imitation of that article than the match paper was of Confederate money. At another place I bought a two-quart pail two-thirds full of ham fat, paying for it with one of the five dollar bills Packard gave us.
We spent the entire day on the road, arriving at Columbia at seven o'clock in the evening, and were put in jail. We were not confined in a cell, but in a small room with a fireplace; we found a fire burning on the hearth, and went to work. As we had had no opportunity to examine our clothes since we escaped, their condition can be imagined. We took bricks out of the hearth and spent an hour reducing the inhabitants. It sounded like the discharge of musketry, and the list of killed was larger than in any battle of the war.
In the morning we were ordered out and marched through the city. We learned that Camp Sorghum had been broken up and our officers moved to the lunatic asylum. The gate of the new prison swung open, the crowd gathered, expecting to see "fresh fish," but instead saw four ragged, dirty, old tramps. We were received with a grand hurrah, and they gathered around to hear our story. We had been out just four weeks, and had travelled more than three hundred miles. While we were much disappointed we were not discouraged. Our trip had done us good; we had gained in flesh, had thrown off the stagnation of prison life and were ready to try again. We found many changes inside. Major Dunn and Captain Hume had received special exchange; others had escaped, and the squads were broken. We were assigned to squad fifteen, composed of men who had escaped, and we were a fine collection of innocents.
Before we escaped from Camp Sorghum an order had been issued by the rebel commander that if any more escaped they would put us in a pen, and the removal to Asylum Prison was the result.
There were about two acres enclosed. On three sides were brick walks; on the fourth a high board fence which separated us from the insane. Sentry boxes were built around the place and two pieces of artillery were pointed at us through the fence. Inside was a wooden building used for a hospital. The frames of about thirty small buildings were up and eleven were covered. The work had been done by our officers, and the rebels promised to send in lumber to cover the rest, but it never came. The eleven would accommodate about three hundred, the rest being quartered in a few old tents. Our squad had neither buildings nor tents, and we huddled together on the bare ground. It was so cold that we walked most of the night to keep from freezing.
I received eight letters upon my return. They had been written at various times, but all came in one mail. My friends had heard from me but once, and that was a letter written and sent out by an officer who was exchanged at Charleston. I had written several letters, but suppose they were never sent north.
Frank was taken sick and sent to the hospital. I visited him every day. The only advantages he received from being in the hospital were a roof to shelter him and his mush made thinner, called gruel. He only remained a week, as he chose to be with us.
Christmas day came and we were anxious to celebrate in some way. I had held on to ten dollars that Packard gave me, as I feared we should require it for salt, but concluded to have a nice dinner, so I bought a squash and we feasted on boiled squash and salt.
Soon after January 1 a chance was opened to get a little money. A named Potter, claiming to belong to Rhode Island and to be a Union man, made arrangements with the rebel officers to let us have six for one in gold or two for one in greenbacks. At that time outside the walls gold was fifty for one confederate, and greenbacks, twenty-five. We gave this noble-hearted (?) man bills of exchange on friends at home, and were obliged to endorse them as follows: "This money was loaned me while a prisoner of war, and I desire it paid."
The arrangements were made through a rebel officer and done on the sly. We did not get the money, but an order on the rebel sutlers, who put up a tent inside and did a thriving business. The bills of exchange were sent north - how, we ever knew - and in nearly every instance paid by our friends, who believed they were repaying a friend for kindness to us. We were obliged to obtain the money to keep from starving, and our necessities were such that we would have given twice the amount charged, but it was a grand swindle nevertheless, and persons both north and south were engaged in it. I managed to get into the ring and gave a draft of fifty dollars, receiving three hundred dollars in Confederate money. One not acquainted with the prices and value of the money would think that I was quite well off, but in two weeks it was all gone, and yet we were as prudent as possible. We first purchased some coarse cloth, paying fifteen dollars per yard. Then bought some cotton and made a quilt; we paid at the rate of a dollar and a half per pound for the thread to make it with. Pork was seven dollars per pound, tea one hundred and twenty dollars per pound, shoes one hundred dollars per pair, lead pencils three dollars each, fools-cap paper two hundred and twenty-five dollars per ream, envelopes twenty-five cents each, other things in the same proportion; but the money put new life into the prisoners, and many a man came home who would have died without it.
I was always blessed with friends, and am indebted to many old comrades for favors. Frank and I had slept (or tried to) on the ground, without shelter, for two weeks. One day Capt. Louis R. Fortescue of the signal corps said, "Jack, I believe we can make room for you and Frank in our shebang." He was with a party of officers of the 18th Pennsylvania cavalry, and they said by packing snugly we could come in. It was snug quarters, but neither they nor we growled. My ham fat was a fortune; our new mess owned a piece of iron - I think it was the side of an old stove - and it was used to cook cornmeal cakes on. If any one outside the mess wanted to cook on it they paid one cake in ten for the privilege, but it was a hard job unless it was well greased, as the cakes would stick. It was soon known that I had the fat, because when we cooked we greased the griddle with a rag soaked in ham fat. Outsiders would say, "Jack, lend me your grease," but I had an eye to business, and would ask, "How many cakes will you give me?" We fixed the tariff at one cake in ten, so that when we had plenty of business for the griddle and greaser our mess fared well.
We were very discontented and were bound to escape the first possible chance; many tunnels were planned and one nearly completed when the rebels came in and, driving the prisoners out of the tent where the shaft was sunk, with little trouble discovered it. We were confident we had been betrayed, and suspicion fell on a lieutenant who was quite intimate with the rebel officers. A committee was appointed to investigate. Before night a notice was posted on the bulletin board that "General Winder has ordered that unless tunnelling is stopped all buildings, tents, lumber and shelter of any kind will be removed from the yard, and that he will use force for force if any attempt is made to punish prisoners who report tunnelling to these headquarters," signed by Major Griswold, commanding prison. I will not give the name of the lieutenant, because I may do him injustice, but, while our committee could not obtain information enough to try him, all believed that he was the man, and we did not see him after we left Columbia.
February 8 was a day of thanksgiving. News was received that General Winder was dead. He was commander of all the prisoners and largely responsible for our treatment. Before the war he was a citizen of Baltimore, and was selected for the position he held by Jeff. Davis because no suffering could touch his heart.
The information was given us in this way. The prison was calm and still, when the voice of Lieut. David Garbett was heard: "Hell has received reinforcements; Winder is dead." A cheer went up from every man in the prison. If the guards knew the cause of our joy they made no effort to stop it.
February 13 a meeting was held to organize the National Legion. It was proposed to have it take the form that was afterward adopted by the Grand Army of the Republic, and I have always believed that the men who organized the Grand Army were some of them members of our prison association, for when I joined the Order in 1867 the grip was the same as our old Council of Ten.
Tunnelling began in earnest, and several tunnels were well under way. The plan of operation was to sink a shaft from four to five feet deep, then dig from that. The digging was done with a knife, spoon or half of a canteen. Our squad began one from house No. 1. We were more fortunate than some, for we had secured a shovel, cut it down with a railroad spike, and sawed off the handle. With this we could lie on our bellies and work with both hands. The digger had a bag, - usually made out of an old coat sleeve - and when he had filled it he pulled a string and it was withdrawn by comrades at the opening. They would empty it into their coat sleeves, and with their coats thrown over their shoulders would walk about the prison, dropping the dirt wherever they could. Usually when digging a tunnel we made holes in various places during the day, so that new dirt would not attract attention. The man inside had to be relieved often, as the air was so bad one could not remain over fifteen minutes.
We were obliged to dig fifty-six feet before we were outside of the wall. As work could only be done at night, our progress was very slow. Fifty feet had been excavated, and it began to look as though we should be free again, but on February 14 the order came to move, and half the officers were taken out, marched to the depot, fooled around nearly all night in a drenching rain, then marched back to prison again, as they had no cars to take us out of the city. We renewed our work in the tunnel, continuing all night and the next day, but before we could get it beyond the wall they moved us. We covered up three of the officers in the dirt at the mouth of the tunnel, but when the rebels were making their last round through the prison to see if all were out they were discovered.
We left Columbia, but no one knew where we were going. After a slow run of three hours the engine struck a cow; as the cow would not get off the track the engine did, and we were delayed several hours, but we did not mind that. Having no destination we might as well be in one place as another. After being two days on the cars, we arrived at Charlotte, N. C.
It was quite evident that the rebels were near the last ditch. Our South Carolina guard would not go into North Carolina, and we had a new guard from the latter State. We left the cars and marched to camp, where an order was read, signed by Adjutant-General Cooper, that a general exchange of prisoners would begin at once. Many took no stock in the order and escaped, but the guard did little or nothing to prevent them, and the next day the officers commanding in the city requested us to remain in camp, as they had a strong police guard in the city and we might get into trouble.
We had had some fun mixed with our misery. Our band had retained their instruments, and while they had not played at Camp Sorghum for want of strings, with the money we received they bought new ones, and our glee club was as good as ever. The citizens often came from the city to hear them sing.
One day we had a rich treat. The adjutant of an Ohio regiment wrote a song called "Sherman's March to the Sea," Major Isitt and Lieutenant Rockwell arranged the music, and one night the glee club sang it from the steps of the hospital. The boys went wild over it, and even the rebels could not fail to appreciate it. We also organized the I. O. of M. E. (Independent Order of Mush Eaters), and met in house No. 9. It was not a charitable organization, as we had no charity for any one. Our meetings were opened by the prisoners forming a circle, one man in the centre with a stick. He must do something for the entertainment of the brothers, then give the stick to another, who must do the same, and so on, until all had done their part.
We brought out some fine talent, and were the liveliest crowd in prison. Often we would go out and catch some fellow, who was despondent and nearly dead with the blues, bring him before the Grand Mogul and try him for some offence by court-martial. While he would get mad, kick and swear, it revived him, gave us lots of fun, and as we elected him a Mush Eater, it gave him a chance to enjoy the meetings. I remember one lieutenant of an Illinois regiment who had dug a hole in the ground and declared that he would not come out, but would die there. One night he came out, was tried and sentenced to be marched around the camp. The sentence was duly executed, the comb band playing the "Rogue's March." He began to improve after that, attended the meetings regularly, and, I believe, was elected to the office of Deputy High Grand M. E. We undertook to capture a captain of a Tennessee regiment, called "Puddinghead Hayes," but, as he could whip any two of us, we let him alone.
One afternoon at three o'clock the order was given to "fall in." It was an uncommon call at this hour, and "exchange" thoughts came to all. Soon the adjutant introduced us to a new commander, a Dutchman who had just come from the north, having been captured at Gettysburg. Said he: "Ghentlemens, I comes to take command of you. I have been in Fort Delaware fifteen months. You peoples teach me how to behave myself. I does for you all I can. You treats me like ghentleman, I treats you like ghentlemen. This place not fit for hogs. I sends in one hundred load of straw, right away, quick. Break ranks, march!" He went through our quarters and swore worse than we could at our treatment. He then went to the hospital, had a row with the surgeon because he had done nothing to make us comfortable, and kicked up a row generally in our behalf. We felt that "the morning light was breaking" for us, and that we should now be made comfortable. The major came in the next day with more suggestions, but in a day or two we saw him no more. He was not the man the rebels wanted, as they were not anxious for our comfort, and his official head was removed as soon as he made requisition for the straw.
On the 20th, two hundred of us left to be exchanged. We had quite a pleasant ride to Salisbury. Here I saw some of my men, the first I had seen since we left them at Macon, in July. I remember two, my first sergeant, James Smith, and Private Jerry Kelly. I dare not undertake to describe their condition; they were nearly starved to death and could only walk by the aid of sticks. They told me of the other boys captured, - that Lubin, a young recruit, had died three days after entering Andersonville; that Sergt. Geo. E. Morse and Levi Wooffindale of Company G, and many others, had died at Andersonville, Florence and other prisons; for, like us, they had been carted from one place to another, but their faces brightened as they said, "Not one of the boys went back on the old flag." I had been proud of the 19th regiment from the first day I joined it, but never did I see the time when I loved and respected those boys more than that day.
More than thirty thousand were crowded into the pen at Andersonville. They had seen their comrades die at the rate of two hundred a day; they had been offered plenty of food and clothing, and no fighting, if they would renounce their allegiance to the old flag and join the southern Confederacy, but they said, "No! No! Death before dishonor!" and waited to join their comrades beneath the starry flag if they lived to be free, if not to join those who had been loyal and true in the camp on the other shore.
We went from Charlotte to Goldsboro, where we arrived the next morning. Here we saw the worst sight that the eyes of mortal ever gazed upon. Two long trains of platform cars, loaded with our men, came in. They had been three days on the road, expecting to be exchanged at Wilmington, but as the city was being bombarded, were turned back. As they were unloaded not one in fifty was able to stand. Many were left dead on the cars, the guards rolling them off as they would logs of wood; most of them were nearly naked, and their feet and hands were frozen; they had lost their reason; could not tell the State they came from, their regiment or company. We threw them what rations we had, and they would fight for them like dogs, rolling over each other in their eagerness to get the least morsel. I remember one poor fellow who had lost his teeth by scurvy; he would pick raw corn out of the dirt by the railroad track and try to eat it. We gave them everything we had. I took my only shirt from my back and threw it to them; others did the same. The rebels allowed us to mingle with them, and with tears streaming down our cheeks we did what we could.
Lieutenant McGinnis and I were looking for our men, when we found one named Thompson, of his company. He was a noble fellow, one of the largest men in the regiment; the only clothing he had on was part of a shirt and that was covered with vermin; he had lost his sight and was almost gone; he died while we were with him. I took a little fellow in my arms and carried him across the street; he could not have been over sixteen years old, and did not weigh more than fifty pounds; he died just as I laid him down.
The men were marched to a camp, and the route was strewn with dead and dying. The citizens gathered round, but I saw or heard no expression of sympathy. One of our officers said, "My time is out, but all I ask is a chance to once more take the field; I would try and get square." A rebel officer heard him, and replied, "You are just the man I would like to meet." Our officer stepped out and said, "Here I am, I have been more than a year in prison, but I will whip you or any other rebel you can furnish." The rebel sneaked away, and said he would not disgrace himself by fighting a Yankee except in battle. We wished he had given our man a chance.
We were again ordered on board the cars, and it was reported that we were going to Richmond for exchange. We went as far as Raleigh, where we halted, left the train and marched to an old camp. There were a few houses standing, but not enough to hold one-fourth of our number. The rain came down in torrents and we stood all night under the trees. I never passed a more uncomfortable night, for besides being wet and cold, I suffered with hunger.
On the 23d they loaded us on the cars again, and had just started, when the engine ran off the track. This time the cause was an open switch. We believed that the switch was intentionally left open, but the train ran so slowly that we were off the cars as soon as the engine left the track, and no one was hurt. We were then taken to Camp Holmes, some three miles out of the city, and paroles were made out and signed. This settled the question of escape and we began to feel happy. We remained here until the 26th, and began to think that the parole was another trap to keep us with a small guard. All were excited, and had they not moved three hundred at noon I don't believe a man able to travel would have remained in camp that night.
On the morning of the 27th we found ourselves in Goldsboro again, and were marched to camp. Here we had to sign another parole, as the first was not made out properly. All these delays were terrible; our nervous condition was such that we could not sleep, and days were as long as weeks. We received very little food, and here I sold the last thing that would bring a dollar, the buttons on my jacket. These brought me eighteen dollars, - two dollars each. It would buy just food enough to sustain life. At night the rebels gave us some rations, but, hungry as we were, we sent all to the enlisted men.
The 28th, at five P.M., we again went on board the train, and at daylight, March 1, were at Rocky Point, three miles from our lines. Here we left the cars, the rebel guard formed in line and we were counted through. As soon as we passed the rebel lines we ran down the road, cheering and singing. About a quarter of a mile further on the guard stopped us and formed us in some kind of order. Although we were with the boys in blue we did not fully realize that we were free, and clung to all our prison outfit. We marched about a mile to the northeast bridge, on the Cape Fear River, and on the other side saw an arch covered with the stars and stripes. In the centre of the arch, surrounded by a wreath of evergreen, were the words, "Welcome, Brothers!" I have no idea what the joy will be when I pass through the pearly gates and march up the golden streets of the New Jerusalem, but if it is half as great as it was the morning of March 1, 1865, when for the first time for nearly nine months I saw the old flag, I shall be satisfied.
One who did not understand the situation would have thought that an insane asylum had been turned loose. We hugged each other, laughed, cried, prayed, rolled over in the dirt, and expressed our joy, each in his own way. Those who had clung to their meal threw it high in air, and for once meal was plenty.
The 6th Connecticut were encamped near, and their band played national airs as we marched over the bridge. We also found our true friend, the colored man, not as a slave, but as a man and a comrade, clothed in loyal blue and fighting for a flag that never, until President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, had protected him. As soon as we were over the bridge they began to provide for our wants. Hard-tack boxes were burst open, coffee and meat were furnished in abundance; but we had been starving so long that we did not think it would last, and I remember that I packed my old jacket - now fastened together with wooden pins - full, and as it settled down crowded in more. We drank so much coffee that we were nearly intoxicated.
We cheered the boys who had provided so well for us, and started for Wilmington. We did not march, but hobbled along as best we could, anxious to get as far as possible from the rebels. We clung to our instruments, and carried the big base viol by turns. It was my turn to carry it, and McGinnis and I started down the railroad. We had gone but a short distance when we met an officer, who asked me where I got the big fiddle. I toll him I had played it in church before I enlisted; that I carried it with me when I left home and had it on picket; was in the middle of a tune when the rebels came on me, and as I could not stop playing was captured. The man looked at me and said, "I believe that's a d--d lie." "Well," I said, "you have a right to think so," and we moved along. I do not remember what became of the instrument.
Arriving at Wilmington, we were collected together and rations were served. Here we were placed under guard to prevent our eating too much, but we would capture the rations each side of us and fill our pockets. As soon as we had eaten all we could, we would pass out, and in half an hour try to flank in again. The sanitary commission were on hand with barrels of weak milk punch and gave us all we wanted; as we wanted everything to eat or drink that we saw we destroyed large quantities of it. While standing on the street an officer rode up whom I recognized as Col. Henry A. Hale, formerly a captain in my regiment. He was serving on the staff of the general commanding the department. He took me to a gunboat in the river and bought me a suit of sailor's clothes. After a good bath I was transformed from a dirty prisoner into a respectable Jack Tar. I threw my old clothes overboard, and they floated down the stream freighted with a crew which had clung to me closer than a brother for the past nine months, and whose united voices I thought I heard singing "A life on the ocean wave" as they passed out to sea.
I returned to the city and walked about, often meeting some of the men of my regiment, among them Michael O'Leary of Company F, who looked as though he had just come off dress parade, having a new uniform and his shoes nicely polished. He was delighted to see me, said that the rebels had urged him to take the oath of allegiance, but he had told them he could never look Mary Ann in the face if he went back on the old flag. He told me of a number of the men who had died, among them my old friend Mike Scannell. That night I stood in front of the theatre, my hands in my empty pockets, wondering if I should ever have money enough to purchase a ticket.
March 3, we went on board the transport "General Sedgwick," bound for Annapolis. We pulled out near Fort Fisher and lay over night. Some of us went on shore at Smithfield and had a nice time. On the 4th we got under way. It was the second inauguration of President Lincoln, and all the ships were gaily decked with flags. We passed out over the bar. The ship was crowded; my berth was on the floor between decks. I find the last entry in my diary is, "Oh, how sick I am!" I did not come on deck for four days, and suffered more than I can tell. The sea broke over the ship, and the water came down the hatchway. A western officer, suffering near, aroused me by exclaiming, "My God! Jack, there is a board off somewhere; don't you see the water coming in?" I didn't care if they were all off.
We arrived at Annapolis and quartered in the several hotels. The following day we received two months' pay. I bought a good uniform of a Jew for seventy-five dollars, it was a nice blue when I first put it on, but before I arrived home it was as brown as a butternut. We ate from six to ten meals a day for a week, then received thirty days' furlough and came home to friends who had almost given us up for dead.
I never looked better than when I arrived home. I had bloated so that I was the picture of health, and no matter what account I gave of prison life my face contradicted it, so I said little. After thirty days at home I did not feel able to return, and received an extension. The war was nearly over, Richmond had fallen, and I was miles away, a paroled prisoner, not allowed to bear arms until exchanged.
While at home I had the pleasure of meeting my old comrade, Isaac H. Boyd. He had started as a private in Company A, and was now major of the regiment. I left him one Saturday at the Providence depot in Boston, he returning to the front. In two weeks I received his body at the same depot. He was killed in the last battle of the war, the day before Lee surrendered, - one of the bravest officers who ever drew a sword.
Early in May I returned to Annapolis, and was pleasantly quartered in the house of a Mr. Harper, the only man in the city who voted for President Lincoln in 1860. While standing on the street one day, a small squad of prisoners passed. This was an unusual sight, as all had come through the lines weeks before. I heard a voice say, "How are you, captain?" and looking up saw a white head sticking out of a bundle of rags, and recognized Sergt. Mike Scannell. I said, "Mike, you are dead." "Not yet," was the reply; "but I have been mighty near it. I was sent out to die at Andersonville, from there was taken to Blackshire, Fla., kept until the war was over, then taken within several miles of our lines and turned loose." With him was Mike O'Brien of my company,- hard looking, but full of courage.
On the 15th of May I was discharged by general order, went to Washington, received my full pay, with transportation to West Newbury, Mass. I waited to see the grand review of the armies before returning home. The first day the Army of the Potomac passed. As the 2d corps drew near I became anxious, and walked towards the Capitol. The white trefoil came in sight, and at the head of the dear old regiment rode Colonel Rice. He saw me and turned out of the line to shake hands. Next came Captain Hume, - the only line officer commissioned when we were captured. He stopped, and the boys came from every company; for a few moments I held a reception. Colonel Rice urged me to come to the regiment, saying he had found a place for me. I informed him that I was discharged, and was going home, but he said, "Come and see me day after to-morrow." In compliance with his request I went out to Munson's Hill to visit the regiment, and before night was mustered as captain, and assigned to the command of Company B.
The duty was very pleasant. I was in command of the regiment a few days during the absence of Colonel Rice and Captain Hume, and was two weeks on courts-martial detail. June 30 the regiment was mustered out of service, and left for Massachusetts, arriving at Readville July 3. We were invited to take part in the parade in Boston July 4, and Colonel Rice was quite anxious that we should. After we went to our quarters for dinner Colonel Rice was called to Boston. Nearly all the officers had business there, and when we boarded the train found the men taken the same way. The colonel did not blame them, and said it was all right if we would report at 9 A.M. the next day at the Providence depot. All promised. I did not expect they would come but went to the station at the hour named. I found Colonel Rice and one private. We waited a while, but no more reported, and as we three would not make much of a show, concluded to give it up.
July 20 we assembled at Readville for final pay. The men returned to their homes and took up the duties of citizens which they had laid down to become soldiers, - and the 19th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteers became a thing of the past.
The regiment had been frequently complimented by its superior officers for soldierly conduct, and the following General Orders will show the opinion in which we were held: -
Headquarters 2d Army Corps, July 23, 1862.
General Order No. 21.
The general commanding would hereby announce to this corps d'armee the fine appearance on the review to-day of the 19th Massachusetts and 1st Minnesota regiments. The condition of these regiments is an honor to their States, and reflects great credit upon their commanders.
By command of
L. Kip, A. D. C. and A. A. G.
W. D. Sedgwick A. A. G.
Headquarters 2d Division, 2d Corps,
Edward's Ferry, Va., June 26, 1863.
General Order No. 105.
The 15th and 19th Massachusetts Volunteers, for marching to-day in the best and most compact order, and with the least straggling from their ranks, are excused from all picket duty and outside details for four days.
By command of
Brigadier General Gibbons
Of the thirty-seven commissioned officers who left Massachusetts with the regiment in 1861, only one returned, - Col. Edmund Rice, who went out as captain and came home colonel commanding the regiment.
Fourteen officers and two hundred fifty men were either killed or died of wounds received in action, and four hundred forty-nine were discharged for disability, occasioned by wounds or disease contracted in the service.
In no better way can I close my story than by quoting from the 1865 report of Adjutant-General Schouler: -
"No better regiment has had a more eventful history, or has fought more, fought better, or performed its duties with more promptitude or alacrity. During its existence the regiment has been engaged in forty-five battles and skirmishes, in six of which it has lost from one-third to five-sixths of its men. It has captured and turned over to the War Department seven stands of colors (1st Texas, 14th, 19th, 53d, and 57th Virginia, 12th South Carolina and 47th North Carolina) and six pieces of artillery. When it is said that the regiment has been characterized by the most kindly and brotherly feeling, the best discipline and alacrious obedience in all ranks, that it has been frequently commended and never censured by its superior commanders - the story is done."
Note: by Captain John G. B. Adams, 19th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteers