A MEMORIAL OF WHAT WAS ENDURED, SUFFERED AND ACCOMPLISHED BY THE
(N. Y. S. N. G.,)
OTHER REGIMENTS ASSOCIATED WITH THEM, IN THEIR PENNSYLVANIA AND MARYLAND CAMPAIGN,
Second Rebel Invasion of the Loyal States
IN JUNE-JULY, 1863.
"Quaeque ipse miserrima vidi, Et quorum pars * * * fui"
Brooklyn: A. H. ROME & BROTHERS, STATIONERS AND PRINTERS, No. 383 Fulton Street. 1864.
To William Everdell, Jr.,
Late Colonel Commanding 23rd Regiment (N.Y.S.N.G.)
IN TENDER REMEMBRANCE OF HIS HIGH SOLDIERLY BEARING AND NEVER-FAILING COURTESY TO THE LEAST OF HIS COMMAND; OF HIS WATCHFUL SOLICITUDE THAT NEVER SEEMED TO SLEEP; OF HIS EMINENT DEVOTION TO HIS MEN,—SEEKING OUT THE OVER-FATIGUED ON THE MARCH IN ORDER TO RELIEVE THEM OF THEIR BURDENS AND CHEER THEM WITH KIND WORDS, HELPING THE EXHAUSTED AND THE SICK TO PLACES OF REST, AND SHARING WITH THE REGIMENT THE EXPOSURE AND DISCOMFORT OF THE BIVOUAC HOWSOEVER MISERABLE; THE GALLANT COMMANDER AND THE SOLDIER'S FRIEND,
This book is gratefully inscribed.
If any one, taking up this book casually, should wonder why it was written, it may suffice to observe that "Gettysburg" is probably destined to mark an Epoch of the Republic;—as being one of the very few decisive battles of the Great Rebellion. Accordingly, whosoever took any part in it may hope to share its immortality of glory.
But, says one, the militia were not engaged in the battle. True; neither was the reserve of eleven thousand men, under General French, at Frederick and elsewhere. Yet who would withhold from these veterans the honor of having been participators in the great struggle? They had their part to play—not so direct, nor conspicuous, nor important a part as they played whose valor won the day, yet important withal. Enough for the militia, they offered their lives for the Fatherland, and stood instant, waiting only for orders to hurry into the front of battle.
To the militia force, mainly of the cities of New York and Brooklyn, was from the first entrusted the defence of the valley of the Susquehanna. The Army of the Potomac could afford no protection to Harrisburg and the rich agricultural regions lying around it. For General Hooker, notwithstanding his vigilance and activity, had not prevented the advance corps of the enemy, under General Ewell, from penetrating to the very banks of the Susquehanna. Whether or not he cared to prevent it, is not here considered. A little later, to be sure, Lee became evidently alarmed on account of his extended line and made haste to contract it. But during the few days of panic that intervened between the first appearance of the enemy along the Susquehanna and their hasty departure therefrom, nothing stood between them and Harrisburg save the militia, whom General Halleck in his Official Report reviewing the military operations of the year 1863, saw fit to allude to as follows:—
"Lee's army was supposed to be advancing against Harrisburg, which was garrisoned by State militia, upon which little or no reliance could be placed."
York had fallen; and, notwithstanding the Mayor of that city—be his name forever buried in oblivion—went out to meet the enemy hoping doubtless to secure his favor by craven submission, a heavy ransom had been exacted for its exemption from pillage. A rebel detachment had fallen upon and put to flight the force guarding the bridge over the Susquehanna at Columbia, and thus compelled the burning of that fine structure; while Ewell with the main body of his corps was moving cautiously up toward Harrisburg. Finally, when within five miles of Bridgeport Heights, having driven in the force of skirmishers who—militia, be it observed—had for several days gallantly held in check the head of the advancing column, he halted. The state capital was a tempting prize, but scarcely worth to him the risk of a desperate battle. The gates of the city were shut, and Ewell hesitated to hurl his masses against them. It is not now pertinent to enquire what might have resulted had he chosen to attack. He did not attack, and the capital of Pennsylvania was spared the shame of having to pass beneath the yoke of a conqueror. To the militia of New York and Brooklyn, in the main, is due the praise of having saved her that humiliation.
The reason which prompted this bold and enterprising commander to observe unusual circumspection in his advance up the Cumberland Valley is obvious. He held the extreme right of the rebel line, whose left could not have been much short of fifty miles distant. The militia of Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Jersey and New York, had been summoned in haste to the border, and for ten days they had been pouring down in unknown numbers. Thus Ewell found himself confronted by an unreckoned host, whose numbers would naturally, by one in his exposed situation, be magnified. The position of defence was a strong one, and to have failed in an assault upon it might easily have involved his destruction, and, as a consequence, the destruction of the whole rebel army. Could he have had a day or two longer to enable him to gain correct information of the strength of the works, and of the garrison, he would not probably have hesitated to attempt the capture of the place. But the action of the great drama was now moving forward with startling rapidity. Meade was concentrating on the flank of Lee, who saw that not a day was to be lost in distant and secondary expeditions. Ewell was accordingly recalled with all haste; and happy had it been for the Union cause had the General commanding the Department of the Susquehanna been early enough apprised of the hurried withdrawal of the enemy to make the services of the militia available at Gettysburg.
But the defence of Harrisburg, which was the main objective of General Lee in his raid up the Susquehanna Valley, is not the only title which the New York Militia hold to the gratitude of Pennsylvania and of the Nation. Who shall undertake to say how far the result of the battle of Gettysburg was determined by the fact of Union militia reinforcements being near at hand—their strength vastly over-estimated, there is no doubt, by both armies? Indeed there was reason to suppose, and many believed, while the battle was raging, that they had already come up and were actually engaged. The moral effect of such a report circulated through the ranks of contending forces, and even half credited, is immense. The one it fills with enthusiasm and animates to heroic endurance, for it summons them to victory; the other it fills with terror, and makes effort seem useless, for it is to them the omen of coming defeat. Nevertheless there can be little doubt that at the close of the third day of conflict the rebel army was still a powerful host—its organization not irreparably broken, its numbers equal if not, indeed, superior to those opposed to it. True, it had been repulsed with terrible slaughter, but it was far from being vanquished, for it was made up of hardy and oft victorious veterans, to whom repulse was not defeat. General Meade did not feel strong enough to assume the offensive; and who shall undertake to say that there had yet arisen an imperious necessity for the withdrawal of Lee across the Potomac, except as involved in this very matter of reinforcements?
With regard to the ungenerous disparagement contained in the remarks of General Halleck it is quite likely that he merely meant to say that the troops hurriedly collected at Harrisburg were untried, and therefore ought not to be entrusted with any critical service. But the words, as they stand, carry with them a sweeping detraction and are nothing less than calumnious. The Brooklyn Twenty-Third—or rather the Division, taken as a whole, with which it was incorporated—has only to point to its record as given very imperfectly in the following History, and especially to the farewell orders of General Meade, and of the commander of the Division, Brigadier General W. F. Smith, to whom the nation is now looking as a military chieftain of great promise, for a vindication of its fair name.
But it is not on account of any supposed historic value attaching to the story it tells, that this book has been written. It was undertaken rather as a memorial of the campaign of the Twenty-Third Regiment and of other regiments with which it was from time to time associated, interesting chiefly to the men who participated in the events described, and to their friends. These will find herein a portraiture, faithful so far as it goes, of the daily life they led amid the monotony of the camp, the excitement of the siege, the perpetual worry of the bivouac; of the martial achievements they performed, and some they narrowly escaped performing; in a word, of the sum total of the services they rendered to the Nation during those momentous Thirty Days.
The statistics of the book have been compiled with care and fidelity. The distances of that part of the line of march which lay in Cumberland, Adams and Franklin counties, Pennsylvania, have been measured off carefully on elaborate county maps, kindly loaned for the purpose by Colonel Everdell. For the remainder of the route, no similar guides being accessible, only approximate results were attainable. If any one is disappointed to find these distances shorter than his own rough estimates, he is reminded that the reckoning is made in those tantalizing "Pennsylvania" miles—probably the longest on the globe—with which we became so painfully familiar.
Having for the sake of the general reader scrupulously avoided throughout the following narrative all allusions of a merely private or personal interest, I should be wanting in good feeling, were I to let this opportunity pass without paying my respects to those of my companions in arms, to whom I am indebted for friendship, for kindness and for sympathy. I am the more incited to make this acknowledgment from the belief that I am not alone in cherishing such grateful recollections—that many a heart will respond tenderly to all I shall say.
Who of my company can soon forget the tender solicitude of Acting Captain Shepard for his men—on the march, helping the weary by bearing their burdens at the expense of his own strength, itself delicate; at the bivouac, providing suitable care for the sick; and ever prompt to spend himself for his command in a hundred delicate and unnoticed ways? Or, the intelligent activity of Acting First Lieutenant Van Ingen, the thorough disciplinarian and dashing officer; to whose energy and forethought the company were primarily indebted, at the end of many a hard day's march, for an early cup of hot coffee, and a bed of rails which otherwise had been a bed of mud? Nor should I do justice to my emotions did I fail to bear record to the prudence and sagacity of Acting Second Lieutenant Hunter, whose dignity of character, finely blended with genial humor, at once commanded the respect and secured the attachment of his men; who was watchful against danger and cool in the midst of it; who knew his duty as a soldier and loyally discharged it, however distasteful it might sometimes be to himself or his command.
Nor can I forget the genial and capable Sergeant-Major Ogden, as ready to surrender his horse to a foot-sore soldier as to cheer the drooping spirits of his company by his patriotic and exuberant singing while "marching along"; Dr. Bennett, the amiable and popular Assistant Surgeon; Story, the ever-punctual and faithful Orderly, who had the art to soften distasteful requirements by a gentlemanly suavity; Sergeant Blossom, self-respecting and respected, perpetually finding something to do to render the general hardships more endurable, and going about it with so little ostentation that it too often passed unappreciated; Hazard, genial, impulsive, generous; Howland, who, on the march, bore the heaviest burden with the least murmuring; and with exemplary fidelity was ever to be found in his place as the guide of the company, plodding along unfalteringly; Corporal Hurlbut, snatching from an exhausted comrade the musket which was dragging him down, to bear it upon his own weary shoulders; Thornton, whose common sense and merry wit and kindly disposition gave him an entrance to every heart; Allen, modest, amiable, faithful in duty; Deland, with a heart big enough to contain the regiment; Van Ingen, tender of sympathies as a girl, and strong in every manly virtue; now greeting with kindly recognition some neglected and unnoticed soldier; now helping another to bear his burden, though struggling wearily under his own.
Green be the memory, too, of Shick, who kept the pot boiling while the rest slept, on many and many a dismal night, that they might have cooked rations for the morrow's journey; and Wales, the intelligent counsellor; and Stevens, spirited, attentive, generous, and a model of personal tidiness; and Hubbell, who hid beneath a mask of indifference a warm and generous heart; and Lockwood, the upright, trusty and solid soldier; and Palmer and Johnson and Burr—members of the regiment only during the campaign—who won the praise of all by their affable manners and their assiduity in whatsoever capacity. And finally, I greet with grateful remembrance thee, O youthful Hood, whose winning manners early gave thee the key to my heart; and thee, Oliver, handsome as Apollo and a thousand times more useful, the mirror of virtue and refinement, whose praises were on every lip for every soldierly quality.
Would that I might add to this pleasing roll of personal acquaintance and friendship the names of others of my comrades, as genial, true and gallant, doubtless, as the regiment affords, but whom it was not my happiness to know.
I must content myself, in closing these prefatory remarks, with expressing my thankfulness for having been permitted to share in a glorious service with as noble and gallant a regiment as ever offered itself, a free sacrifice, on the altar of Country and Liberty.
It is due to the Twenty-Third Regiment that I should not conclude without observing that the memorial which follows is not in any sense to be considered as representing that regiment. Having been connected with the Twenty-Third only during its absence, it would be simply a piece of impertinence in me to claim to speak for it. And this very circumstance of being an outsider has given me an advantage. For, unconscious of any motive except to tell the truth and render praise where I believed it to be due, I have felt at liberty to say many things which modesty would have forbidden a member to say, as well as some things which one representing the regiment might have thought had better been left unspoken. I have aimed to give, simply, truthfully, the story of the life we led, in all its lights and shadows, as far as my limited opportunities furnished the materials.
OFF TO THE WAR.
The Pennsylvania Governor, Curtin, cried to us for help; the President called out from the White House that he wanted us to come down to the Border; our Governor, Seymour, said go, and accordingly we hurriedly kissed those we loved best, and started for the wars. Let us look at the record in order:—
Monday, June 15th.—News comes that the rebel General Lee is on the march for the free States. The President issues a Proclamation calling immediately into the United States service one hundred thousand men from the States of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland and Western Virginia; supplemented by a call on New York for twenty thousand more, all to serve for six months, unless sooner discharged. To this proclamation the various brigades of New York State National Guards respond with the greatest promptitude and alacrity. Special orders leap from numberless head-quarters, while armories and arsenals are quickly alive with the first nervous movements of excitement.
Tuesday, 16th.—The whole city is moved with a common impulse. The rebel invasion; the startling call of the President; the alarming cry of Governor Curtin on New York for instant help; the energetic action of our State authorities; the thrice-tried patriotism of Massachusetts, reported as springing again to the rescue of Government with all her available militia force—all these conspire to animate every patriotic bosom with a fresh "On to Richmond" zeal. Militia men lose no time in reporting for duty, and volunteers bustle about to secure places in the ranks of their favorite regiments. A dozen regiments are under marching orders—a good deal of excitement and chagrin is caused by the rumored passage of the famous Massachusetts Sixth through the city, bound for the seat of war, beating New York a second time. The rumor proves to be unfounded. Orders are issued by Brigadier-General Jesse C. Smith to his Brigade, now comprising the 23d, 57th, 52d and 56th, to make instant preparations to leave for Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, for short service—three months or less, according to the emergency; there to report to Major-General Couch, commanding the Department of the Susquehanna.
Wednesday, 17th.—The gallant Seventh is the first in the field from the State, as is fitting. They are off at an early hour of the day, followed in the evening by the Eighth and Seventy-First. Martial enthusiasm pervades all classes, welling up from the several armories and overflowing the twin cities.
Thursday, 18th.—The Brooklyn Twenty-Third are ordered to assemble at their armory, corner of Fulton and Orange streets, at 7 o'clock, A.M., fully armed and equipped, and with two days' cooked rations in their haversacks, to march at 8 o'clock precisely. The gallant fellows are up with the larks: a hundred last things are done with nervous haste; father and brother give and receive the parting brave hand-grip; mother and sister and sweetheart receive and give the last warm kiss; and with wet eyes, but in good heart, we set out for the rendezvous. There is remarkable promptitude in our departure. At the instant of 8 o'clock,—the advertised hour of starting,—the column is moving down Fulton street toward the ferry. The weather is auspicious—the sun kindly veiling his face as if in very sympathy with us as we struggle along under our unaccustomed burden. From the armory all the way down to the river it is a procession of Fairy-Land. The windows flutter with cambric; the streets are thronged with jostling crowds of people, hand-clapping and cheering the departing patriots; while up and down the curving street as far as you can see, the gleaming line of bayonets winds through the crowding masses—the men neatly uniformed and stepping steadily as one. Bosom friends dodge through the crowd to keep along near the dear one, now and then getting to his side to say some last word of counsel, or to receive commission to attend to some forgotten item of business, or say good-bye to some absent friend. As we make our first halt on the ferry-boat the exuberant vitality of the boys breaks out in song—every good fellow swearing tremendously, (but piously) to himself, from time to time, that he is going to give the rebels pandemonium, alternating the resolution with another equally fervid and sincere that he means to "drink" himself "stone-blind" on "hair-oil". What connection there is in this sandwich of resolutions may be perhaps clear to the old campaigner. To passing vessels and spectators on either shore the scene must be inspiriting—a steamboat glittering with bayonets and packed with a grey-suited crowd plunging out from a hidden slip into the stream, and a mighty voice of song bursting from the mass and flowing far over the water. To us who are magna pars of the event, the moment is grand. Up Fulton street, New York, and down Broadway amid the usual crowds of those great thoroughfares, who waved us and cheered us generously on our patriotic way, and we are soon at the Battery where without halting we proceed on board the steamboat "John Potter" and stack arms. There is running to and fro of friends in pursuit of oranges and lemons—so cool and refreshing on the hot march—and a dozen little trifles with which haversacks are soon stuffed. One public-spirited individual in the crowd seizes the basket of an ancient orange-woman, making good his title in a very satisfactory way, and tosses the glowing fruit indiscriminately among the troops, who give him back their best "Bully Boy!" with a "Tiger!" added. Happy little incidents on every side serve to wile away a half hour, then the "all a-shore!" is sounded, the final good-bye spoken, the plank hauled in, and away we sail. A pleasant journey via Amboy and Camden brings us to Philadelphia at the close of the day. There we find a bountiful repast awaiting us at the Soldiers' Home Saloon, after partaking of which we make our way by a long and wearisome march to the Harrisburg Depot. At night-fall we are put aboard a train of freight and cattle cars rudely fitted up, a part of them at least, with rough pine boards for seats. The men of the Twenty-Third Regiment having, up to this period of their existence, missed somehow the disciplining advantages of "traveling in the steerage," or as emigrants or cattle, cannot be expected to appreciate at sight the luxury of the style of conveyance to which they are thus suddenly introduced. But we tumble aboard and dispose ourselves for a miserable night. A few of us are glum, and revolve horrible thoughts; but the majority soon come to regard the matter as such a stupendous swindle as to be positively ridiculous. They accordingly grow merry as the night waxes, and make up in song what they lack of sleep.
Friday, 19th.—The darkest night has its morrow. We reach Harrisburg thankfully a little after daybreak, and bid adieu, with many an ill-suppressed imprecation, to the ugly serpent that has borne us tormentingly from Philadelphia. Just sixty-four hours have elapsed since the orders were promulgated summoning the Brigade to arms. We are marched at once to Camp Curtin, some three miles out of town, and in the afternoon countermarched to town and thence across the Susquehanna to the Heights of Bridgeport—the latter being accomplished through a rain storm. As we enter the fort the Eighth and Seventy-First, N.Y.S.N.G., which had got a few hours' start of us, move out, taking the cars for Shippensburg on a reconnoissance.
CAMP LIFE ON THE SUSQUEHANNA.
In hastening thus to the rescue of our suddenly imperiled government, we gave ourselves to that government without reserve, except that our term of service should not be extended beyond the period of the present exigency. Ourselves stirred with unbounded enthusiasm as we fell into line with other armed defenders of the Fatherland, we expected to find the inhabitants of the menaced States, and especially the citizens of Harrisburg, all on fire with the zeal of patriotism. We expected to see the people everywhere mustering, organizing, arming; and the clans pouring down from every quarter to the Border. At Harrisburg a camp had indeed been established as a rendezvous, but no organized Pennsylvania regiments had reported there for duty. The residents of the capital itself appeared listless. Hundreds of strong men in the prime of life loitered in the public thoroughfares, and gaped at our passing columns as indifferently as if we had come as conquerors, to take possession of the city, they cravenly submitting to the yoke. Fort Washington, which we were sent to garrison, situated on what is known as Bridgeport Heights, we found in an unfinished state. In the half-dug trenches were—whom, think'st, reader? Thousands of the adult men of Harrisburg, with the rough implements of work in their hands, patriotically toiling to put into a condition of defence this the citadel of their capital? Nothing of the sort. Panic-stricken by the reported approach of the enemy, the poltroons of the city had closed their houses and stores, offered their stocks of merchandize for sale at ruinous prices, and were thinking of nothing in their abject fear except how to escape with their worthless lives and their property. In vain their patriotic Governor, and the Commander of the Department of the Susquehanna—his military head-quarters established there—sought to rally them to the defence of their capital. Hired laboring men were all we saw in the trenches! What a contrast to this the conduct of the Pittsburghers presents! They too had a city to defend—the city of their homes. The enemy threatened it, and they meant to defend it. Their shops were closed; their furnace and foundry fires, which like those watched by the Vestals had been burning from time immemorial, were put out; and the people poured from the city and covered the neighboring hills, armed with pick and shovel. "Fourteen thousand at work to-day on the defences," says the Pittsburg Gazette of the 18th June. Such a people stood in no need of bayonets from a neighboring State to protect them; while the apathy of the Harrisburgers only invited the inroads of an enterprising enemy.
And so the Twenty-Third was ordered into the trenches! This was so novel an experience to the men that they took to it pleasantly, and for two days did their work with a will. It must have been amusing, however, to an on-looker of muscle, in whose hands the pick or spade is a toy, to watch with what a brave vigor hands unused to toil seized and wielded the implements of the earth-heaver; and how after a dozen or two of strokes and the sweat began to drop, the blows of the pick grew daintier, and the spadefuls tossed aloft gradually and not slowly became spoonfuls rather. But we rallied one another and dashed the sweat away; and again the picks clove the stony masses damagingly, and the shovels rang, and the parapets grew with visible growth. Gangs of men relieved each other at short intervals; and in this way we digged through Saturday and Sunday.
On our arrival at the fort we found tents pitched ready to receive us, just vacated by the New York 8th, and 71st, before alluded to. But we were ordered to shift camp a day or two afterward and accordingly had the work of camp-making to do over. The site selected was a rather steep hillside, where the pitching of tents involves a good deal of digging. First, you must level off a rectangular plot some six feet by seven as a foundation for your structure. (This description refers to the "A" tent, ours being of that pattern.) Then you must set your tent-poles in such positions as that the tent, when pitched shall preserve nicely the rectilinearity of the street and its own equipoise. After that the canvas is stretched into proper position by means of pegs driven firmly into the ground on every side. Then follows carpentry work. Three or four joists, if you can procure them, are laid flat on the ground and half imbedded in the soft earth, and across these is fitted a board flooring. A pole is next adjusted close under the ridge-pole of the tent to accommodate a variety of furniture, whose shape or appendages suggest such disposition. And finally, a rack or framework is set up next the rear wall of the tent, for the support of the muskets of the mess.
Thus furnished, a tent has all the essential parts which belong to it in a well-ordered camp, according to the domiciliary fashions prevailing in the Twenty-Third Regiment. But beside these there are certain other constructions that seem to spring with the ease and grace of spontaneity from the hands of an ingenious and experienced contriver of a tent-home,—if so sacred a word may be used in so profane a connection. Not a little ingenuity is called into play in disposing advantageously about the tent the necessary personal paraphernalia of the soldier, not to mention the dozen little conveniences that incommode everybody, but which, nevertheless, silently accumulate by virtue of the volunteer's perpetual outreach after the shadow of his accustomed home comforts. Room must be found for four to six muskets, according to the number of the mess, and as many knapsacks, haversacks, belts, blankets, rubber-cloths, canteens, sets of dishes (!), boots or shoes, and a box to hold blacking and brushes, soap, candles, etc. Beside these, there is apt to be—unless the mess pass, as they ought to do, a prohibitory law on the subject—an assortment of towels, handkerchiefs, stockings and other articles of apparel which the owners thereof have lately washed, or have gone through the motions of washing, and have hung up overhead to dry, where they are forever flapping in your face when you stand upright in the tent. The blankets and knapsacks are at night used to eke out the appointments for sleep,—the first to soften the floor to the bones of the sleepers, the second to serve for pillows. These, especially the former, are looked upon by the genuine soldier as effeminate; while the greenhorn bitterly complains of them as a very satire on helps to sleep.
There are nooks in a tent, as there are in every builded house, that seem to be just the places for some little oddities of contrivance or other. But there is one appendage in particular which is quite apt to possess the mind of the greenhorn. He is early disgusted with the dirty, grovelling life of your easy-going, shiftless, contented old campaigner, and inwardly resolves to adopt a genteeler regimen. So he builds him a cellar for the cool deposit of wines, butter, milk, eggs, and whatever other delicacy his dainty stomach may require. In the tent flooring he cuts a trap door admitting to the sacred enclosure. You are reclining perhaps in your domicile opposite, dreamily coloring your meerschaum, and watching Mr. Greenhorn. As his work develops itself to your comprehension you wrinkle your face with mischievous merriment, wondering whether he does not see, as you do, that there is a laugh to come in there by and bye. The day passes and time wags merrily on. A day or two afterward, at a certain "fall in for rations!" you notice in your enterprising neighbor an unusual nervous restlessness and a disposition, now for the first time shown, of winking slily at you without provocation, and chucking you in the ribs. You know at once that there is something in the wind, and suspect that the aforesaid laugh is to come in pretty soon. Instinctively connecting his conduct with that cellar which so much amused you, you are curious enough to follow up the thread he has unwittingly slipped into your fingers. Accordingly when he returns to his tent with provender in hand you watch him closely. He lifts the trap door and draws out a crock of butter, enough to last the mess a fortnight. With this unctuous gold of the dairy he overspreads his tough hard tack and shares his happiness with his messmates. You slily give the alarm to the street, and in a minute there is poking in at the tent door and overhanging the festive party a struggling crowd of hands, each bearing in its fingers a hard tack, or fragment thereof, clamorous to be buttered. You return to your tent roaring with laughter, and subsequently observe that your dismayed neighbour is spared the trouble of returning the crock to the cellar! The same cruel fate awaits a crock of milk which he was lucky enough to get of the old woman under the hill, but so impolitic as to expose in broad daylight on the company parade. His wine—for it is evident there is something of the sort in reserve,—he resolves—so you infer,—to manage more astutely. Accordingly in the sly of the evening, the flaps of his tent closely drawn, though not so closely as to keep out a mischievous eye, the stump of a tallow candle shedding a forlorn, nebulous light on the assembled mess, he draws forth a bottle of fine old sherry. It is not long before sounds of merriment, of singing and shouting and laughter, betoken an unusual cause of excitement within that tent. There begins to be a movement among outsiders, and you proceed presently to make an investigation. You peep in; another joins you; then another; and soon there is a crowd. All make themselves at once quite at home, sitting down on the edge of the tent, on each other, on the ground, anywhere. The master of the feast is by this time overflowing with the milk—the wine rather—of human kindness. He feels no dismay now at the sight of his uninvited guests, but greets them with cordial and good humored welcome, not noticing in his mellow mood, as you do, coolly surveying matters, that another of the aforesaid laughs will come in presently. His self-love all a-glow with satisfaction, he offers you a "glass of wine," (in a tin cup). You take the bottle also, and pass it around. He makes absurd speeches at which he laughs with boisterous glee, and at which you laugh too, and all laugh. He sings absurd medleys for which you improvise absurd choruses which make things go along as pleasantly as possible. Meanwhile the bottle is returned empty. He takes it, insists upon re-filling your "glass" from it, and tips it up over your cup. Then with a comical leer at you at the idea of attempting to pour wine from an empty bottle, he turns, dives into his cellar and fishes up another. You bid him go on with that capital song, offering to save him the trouble of unsealing and dispensing the jolly red wine. All grow rapidly merry, and so flows with a like looseness the song and the solace, till both are exhausted; and as the hour of "taps" approaches you bid your duped and fuddled host good night. The crowd follows suit, and soon the five small strokes of the drum find the company street deserted, lights extinguished, and each tent tenanted by its own for the night, though there still lingers in the air a suppressed murmur of drowsy song and laughter. (Moral:—A knowing campaigner never builds him a wine cellar.)
To our tent city we gave the name of Camp Couch in honor of our aforetime fellow-citizen of Brooklyn, the distinguished Major-General commanding the department. In acknowledging this honor the General remarked that he "was not unmindful of the great service rendered by our regiment and the troops of New York in so promptly responding to the call of our commanders to assist in repelling the threatened invasion of Pennsylvania." The life of duty we led there is well outlined in the following programme for each day, published in General Orders:—
"4.50 A.M. Drummer's call.
5.00 A.M. Reveille:—when roll will be called by the First Sergeant, (superintended by a commissioned officer,) on the company parade,—the troops parading without arms. Captains will report absentees without leave, to the commanding officer.
5.30 A.M. Police call:—when the quarters will be policed, as also the grounds immediately around them.
7.00 A.M. Breakfast call.
8.00 A.M. Guard mounting:—at this time the police party will parade without arms and police the grounds.
8.30 A.M. Surgeon's call:—when the sick will be paraded (!) by the First Sergeant and marched to the Surgeon's quarters to be examined (!).
9.00 A.M. Drill call:—for company drills.
12.00 M. Dinner call.
4.00 P.M. Drill call.
5.30 P.M. Assembly.
5.45 P.M. Evening parade, when the weather permits; at which time there will be by company an inspection of arms, cartridge boxes, and cap pouches. "Retreat" will beat off at every parade, and orders will be published.
9.00 P.M. Tattoo:—roll call without arms;—any special instructions to troops published.
9.30 P.M. Taps:—when all lights will be put out in quarters except the Guard House, the quarters of the Officer of the Day and Head-Quarters.
When the long-roll beats every one will repair without delay, armed and equipped, to his company parade ground.
All firing except by sentinels in enforcing orders and giving alarms is strictly prohibited. All loaded muskets will be kept at half-cock and great care taken in disposing of them and handling them. No troops will carry arms with fixed bayonets either in or out of quarters."
Our stay at Bridgeport Heights was so brief that the daily recurring camp duties had not time to crystallize into wearisome routine. Each day was enlivened by some novelty or amusing incident or other, which served alike to break the monotony of our work, and to hurry forward the hours with pleasing animation. Besides, the spot itself was pretty, and the views from it as beautiful as woods and water and mountains and far-spread blooming valleys, could well conspire to produce.
Toward the river the hill descends by a double slope,—the upper gentle, the lower abrupt. The camp was spread upon the former,—the company streets looking off toward Harrisburg and terminating at the brow of the bluff. The latter was covered with timber, but so thinly toward the top as not to intercept the view. Looking down from the crest of this bluff the eyes rest upon a ribbon of land one hundred feet below, dotted over with small white houses and little plots of garden, and divided lengthwise by a country road. Beyond is the river, in the midst of which lie four or five wooded islands. One of these stretches up and down for a mile or more, and is made picturesque by cultivated fields and a farm house nestled among trees. The river is moreover broken in the present stage of the water by innumerable shallows where tall grass grows. These green islets appear to be Meccas to the neighborhood cows; for you may see them daily in solemn file making pilgrimage thither by the fords. The opposite shore spreads out in a plain on which stands Harrisburg clustered about its looming capitol. The landscape up the river is bounded by the Blue Ridge, five miles off, which melts away behind the city in the far distance. Through these mountains the Susquehanna has broken its way, forming a gap whose abrupt sides finely relieve the monotony of the range. From the summit of the camping ground the view down the river is even more charming. There the eye wanders over an immense region warm with ripening wheat fields and white farm houses, and cool with hills, woods and water. In the distance the winding river, alternately hidden and revealed by jutting headlands and retreating intervales, loses its proper character and becomes to the eye a cluster of lakes embosomed in woods. Of these lakes you may count ten or a dozen.
In the first days of our tent life, before the hillside had become a nuisance, it was pleasant, of a warm forenoon, after the morning drill was over, to sit under the trees at the foot of the camp, and catch the cool breeze as it crept up the bluff. Here the news was read; here the rations were eaten and the siesta enjoyed,—though stay-at-homes may think the latter an absurdly superfluous luxury, taking into consideration the quality of the former! Here the letters from home—so welcome to the soldier—were devoured again, and with his inverted plate for a writing desk, roughly answered. Here some dreamed reveries, and gazed across the river anxiously homeward, remembering the advancing columns of the enemy and the perils of our situation. Here we discussed the cupidity and poltroonery of the Harrisburgers, the ever-shifting probabilities of the campaign, the loveliness of the landscape, the demoralizing influences of camp life, be it never so guarded, and the vivid contrasts of home comforts and refinements with the coarseness and discomforts of our present lot.
It would be pleasant to rehearse the many scenes and events which filled up our days in camp:—the duties of the guard, alternately roasted under the glaring sun of the parapet, and suffocated in the crowded guard-tent; the varied employments of the police,—the scavengers and involuntary retainers of the day,—now scrambling in irregular file down the bluff carrying pails and canteens for water, now bearing from the commissariat huge armfuls of bread, or boxes of hard tack, or quarters of fresh beef, or sides of less appetizing bacon, now "putting things to rights" in the street of the company, and called on all day long for multitudinous odd little jobs; the foraging parties dragnetting the country round for sheep, poultry, eggs, milk, and the like,—and this not to the owner's loss be it remembered; the morning wash in the Susquehanna; the evening swim; the drills and dress parades; the half-holiday in Harrisburg, whose baths and restaurants and shops, whose fair ladies, (where there were cherry-trees in the garden!), whose verandahs with easy chair and a Havana and quiet, made the place to us a soldiers' paradise; and this notwithstanding the mean spirit of the people made us despise them. Nor should mention be omitted of the benevolent visits of Harrisburg matrons to our hospital, bearing to the invalid sympathy with timely comforts.
 And here it seems no more than common gratitude to mention a name, though to do so is to "break the custom" of this history. Through all those days and nights of terror there was one house in Harrisburg—and it is to be hoped many others, also—from which the starry banner was ever kept flying. The noble lady of this house solicited the privilege of receiving into her family any of our men who might be taken seriously ill. Her generous wish was complied with, and one of our number—how many others I know not—owed, doubtless, to her kind nursery, the blessed privilege of getting home to die in the bosom of his family. The regiments ought not soon to forget the name of Mrs. Bailey.
It would be pleasant to linger around the doors of the tents in the hush of a beautiful evening, when, the work of the day ended, a sort of vesper service would be improvised, and melodies commemorative of love, home, patriotism and human freedom sung; or a box, enticingly suggestive, just received from home, would be opened, and its contents of various dainties distributed with open-handed liberality to regale a score of comrades. It would be pleasant to recall, incident by incident, the evening meetings under the open sky for prayer, the affectionately pleading and encouraging words of our gentle chaplain, the hymn of trust and hope, the supplication of the volunteer whose lips were touched with tender remembrance of loved ones far away, into whose faces he might never look again. But important events await our narrative and we must hurry forward.
While we were thus quietly encamped, our gallant comrades of the Seventy-First and Eighth Regiments N.Y.S.N.G., whose places we had taken on our arrival at Bridgeport Heights, were having an active and arduous campaign at the front. On the evening of the 19th these two regiments under command of Colonel Varian, of the Eighth, proceeded to Shippensburg, "for the purpose," says Col. Varian in his report, quoting from the orders he had received, "of holding the enemy in check, should he advance; but under all circumstances to avoid an engagement; but if pressed too hard, to retire slowly and harass him as much as possible; the object being to give our forces at Harrisburg time to finish the fort and other defences, and be in readiness to receive the enemy should he advance to that point." On the 28th they arrived back in camp, having satisfactorily and most gallantly accomplished all they were sent to do. "It was," as General Couch remarked in a congratulatory order, "one of the most successful expeditions he had ever seen accomplished, according to the number engaged in it: viz., advancing fifty-two miles beyond all defences and support in case of an attack, and holding the enemy in check for a period of six days."
 The following thrilling incident is narrated by Col. Varian:—"Upon arriving within a mile of Chambersburg, I received intelligence that our cavalry pickets had been driven in, and the enemy's cavalry were about entering the town. I halted my command. *** loaded the muskets, and started for the town. Marched down the principal street in column by companies *** amid the enthusiastic plaudits of the whole population,—they looking upon us as their deliverers, and receiving us with a welcome that must be seen and felt to be properly appreciated, entertaining the entire command with such refreshments as could be hastily procured. *** And amid the general congratulations the Stars and Stripes were run up the flagstaff amid the wildest enthusiasm."
Friday, 26th.—Commandants of regiments ordered to have their commands in immediate readiness to move or attack. Commandant of artillery in the Fort to see that his guns are in position, and that he has the requisite amount of ammunition.
Our camp, like every community, had its share of alarmists, who daily saw or heard of the enemy within five miles, ten miles, fifteen miles of us; at Carlisle, just beyond Carlisle, or wherever the thermometer of their fears placed him. Indeed the above orders, so closely following each other, had a decidedly threatening look. Still the opinion of those who had most faith in General Hooker, notwithstanding the tangled rumors of the hour, was that we should not see the enemy unless we went in pursuit of him; and to this pass we quickly came. It appears that information had been received at head-quarters, that the invaders had reached the vicinity of Carlisle, some eighteen miles west from Harrisburg, our small force having fallen back before them. They were said to have anywhere between five thousand and twenty thousand men, and to be advancing rapidly. These transpiring events, if true, were stirring enough, and gave a fine edge to an order on Friday for a reconnoissance by the whole regiment. We marched out of the fort with very uncertain feelings. The rain was falling, but we thought little of that: the roads were heavy—that troubled us more.
When the head of the column had reached a point some four miles or more out, we were halted. There were two parallel roads, a short distance apart, to be guarded. On these barricades were erected. Pickets being posted, the remainder of the regiment rested for the night in barns, sheds, or whatever offered shelter. Lively sensations must have coursed through the breasts of those who were now for the first time called to perform the duties of the night picket—a duty always trying, and particularly so now, in that we supposed we were in the near presence of a watchful and enterprising foe, who was advancing in force against us.
Saturday, 27th.—The night passed without excitement beyond what the imaginations of those on duty may have experienced. No rifle shot was heard; no skulking foe, suddenly detected, was caught trying to escape;—though many a wind-shaken bush, doubtless, was taken for a dodging rebel, and many a stump threateningly ordered to halt! Some four miles out, on the Harrisburg and Carlisle railroad is a little settlement called Shiremanstown which was the scene of an adventurous incident. There, on Saturday, a small picket force was stationed. It was an outpost, selected on account of its commanding a view of the Carlisle road for some distance. The village contained a church which supported a steeple; and in the top of that steeple three or four of our men were posted as sentinels, to keep a bright lookout for the enemy; and, the moment the latter showed themselves, to ring the church bell for an alarm, and then take to their heels! However illy this skedaddling programme may have suited the men, it is not to be doubted that they would have performed their part well—both the skedaddling and the ringing. Each, doubtless, looked sharply to be the first to catch sight of the expected cavalry troop, coming tearing up the road; and each stood ready on the instant to give the preconcerted signal, and then to pick their way down the uncertain passages of the steeple and trust their safety to the loyalty of their legs. The position was a trying one, and the brave fellows who performed the duty have in their memory at least one animating picture of patriotic service. No enemy appeared, and the skedaddle was spared. Different was the fortune of the pickets who relieved ours if we may believe what some of our men, who visited the place some days afterward, were informed by the villagers. During the night the enemy made their appearance, the bell was rung and the skedaddle enacted! Rebel troopers coming up were in hot rage against the innocent residents, charging them with sounding the alarm, seeming not to suspect that the pickets of the Yankee militia could have shown such audacious enterprise. After dark we returned to the fort, reaching it about midnight through rain and mud, wet, hungry and weary.
Sunday, 28th.—A day of animation in camp, and to the timid few one of excitement and alarm. The troops in the fort are drawn up in line of battle, and assigned positions at the breastworks, where arms are stacked. The now dangerous guard-duty on the parapets is performed with the usual alacrity and promptitude, some of us perhaps not realizing the near presence of the enemy. There is great activity on every hand to perfect the defences, and guard against sharpshooters. Squads of men are sent out to cut down trees and destroy whatever may afford cover to an enemy. A lady-resident sends up word that she does not wish to have the trees about her house cut down, as she intends to stay, and wants the trees to protect her against the shot. Our engineer, without arresting the destructive process, sends back his compliments and advises the unterrified female to remove herself and traps to the other side of the river as expeditiously as possible.
It is an animating sight to watch from the parapet all these various operations going on. The crackling of branches draws attention to yonder tree which comes tumbling to the ground with a crash—others follow rapidly and the axmen's blows resound on every side. On yonder knoll a company of mowers are rapidly leveling the tall wheat. Here inside the fort an artillery officer is drilling a squad in artillery firing: and there a gang of contrabands, now for the first time, very likely, receiving wages for their labor judging by the spirit they throw into their work, are putting the finishing touches on the ditch and parapet. Outside yonder a squad of men is tearing in pieces a twig hut which workmen have built for their tools. And so the final work of preparation goes on with great spirit, and is soon completed. There are still no signs of the approach of the enemy except what we observe about us in a sort of expectant air among the officers, and in the qui vive of the whole garrison. The skirmishers have all been driven in however, and we are liable at any moment to be startled by the roar of the enemy's artillery, opening an assault.
While affairs were thus culminating in the fort, an exciting spectacle was presented outside. For several days previously we had seen, whenever we went down to the river-side to bathe, or to draw water from the well, a stream of people with farm and household properties, coming in by the Carlisle and river roads, and pouring across the long bridge into Harrisburg. By day or night this living stream seemed never to cease. Men, women and children, white and black, some in carriages, some in wagons, some on horseback, some on foot, hurried along. Their horses and cattle they drove before them. A portion of household furniture—such evidently as could be hastily removed—went jolting along in heavy field wagons into which it had been hurriedly tumbled. Loads of hay and grain, of store goods, and of whatever property of house or field was thought to be in danger of appropriation or destruction by the rebels was taken with them. Some had come from beyond Mason and Dixon's line, as was evident from the color and style of their servants. Of the unmistakable genus "Contraband" there was a large assortment also. They came along in straggling companies, their personal goods and small stock of cabin wares usually tied up in bundles and slung upon a stick across the shoulder. In fact the whole valley was literally pouring itself out northward, and in wild confusion. If in that motley crowd of fugitives there was one brave heart worthy to enjoy the free institutions which the starry banner symbolizes, he must have hung his head in shame as he passed under the shadow of the fort whose protection he sought, where he himself should have been, one of ten thousand ready at command to be hurled against the invaders. Time enough had elapsed since the danger first threatened for the removal to a place of safety of the greater part of the property which the enemy most coveted, and the subsequent marshaling of the farmers for defensive battle. But relying on the hope of the enemy being turned back before he could reach them, they had consulted only the interests of the harvest, and had gone on "gathering into barns." Those were trying days, it is true, and much sympathy ought to be felt for the citizen taken thus at disadvantage; but the cry of alarm had been raised, the Governor had summoned the people to arms, the central government seemed helpless to defend Harrisburg except as it was defended indirectly by the army of the Potomac then covering Washington, and the only certain reliance for the safety of the valley was the hastily raised militia, chiefly from a neighboring State.
During that never-to-be-forgotten Sabbath day, so strangely "kept," there was no flurry among the garrison, judging by the men of the Twenty-Third, nor any fear shown at any time among those upon whose courage the fate of Harrisburg seemed likely to rest. While in that threatened city the chief authorities were staggering under the herculean work of organizing an unwilling or at least an indifferent people into a disciplined force capable of resistance, and of infusing into them somewhat of the patriotic zeal which shone so brightly in the conduct of their fellow-citizens of Pittsburg; while in that city there was feverish alarm on every hand, and families were ignominiously flying with their household goods, crowding the railway trains and the common highways in their eagerness to escape; while the State officers were sending off to Philadelphia the archives of the capital, and were themselves hastening or preparing to remove to the metropolis, which was to be the provisional capital on the fall of Harrisburg; while there existed on the opposite side of the Susquehanna these symptoms of alarm, there prevailed among our untried but trusted men, coupled with animated speculations concerning the enemy, the calmness of a summer evening. And this when it was evident to most that there was an enemy just outside our ramparts whose strength was supposed to be many times our own, and whose valor was renowned, waiting for the signal to be launched against us.
There may have been among the general officers of the militia a feeling of anxiety. Indeed it would be strange were it otherwise. But this anxiety was doubtless due to the novelty of their position, together with their sense of the solemn responsibility which a commander bears in the hour of battle—a sense undulled in them by familiarity with scenes of carnage. But among the men there was the repose of confidence and courage. Whether hastily called to the breastworks and formed into line, expecting, it may be, to see the enemy drawn up on the distant hills; or dismissed with orders not to leave our company parade, and to lose not an instant in "falling in" at the first tap of the "Assembly," as the signal for regimental muster is called, or at the more ominous and alarming sound of the "Long-Roll;" whether retiring to our tents for the night, ordered to sleep on our arms; or awakened suddenly by the sharp "Halt! Who goes there?" of the passing sentinel; there seemed to cover the camp of the Twenty-Third—and the same was probably true of every other camp in that menaced stronghold—a mantle of repose such as they feel who fear no evil. Nevertheless had an assault been made with one-half the force, say, which carried the works of Winchester a few weeks previously, and with the same impetuous valor, there can hardly be two opinions as to the result. We should have resisted bravely and hurled back the enemy, green though we were; but a resolute persistence of assault by so superior a force would have compelled us to fly. For though our position was naturally strong its defences appeared to the uninitiated to be wretchedly inadequate. The number of mounted pieces was only thirteen, nearly all of which were three-inch rifles, carrying about a ten-pound bolt, manned, in part at least, by a militia company, tyros in the service of that arm, though as brave, patriotic and intelligent a set of men as the militia call had summoned to the field. Of the infantry only three or four regiments had been under fire, and these only in light skirmishes. Besides, the construction of the defensive works appeared to some of the unprofessional of us to be extremely faulty. The soil of the place is a slaty clay known geologically as shale. This being thrown up to form a breastwork constituted, as was thought by some of those whose duty it was to be to stand behind it and deliver their fire when the order came, a source of greater danger to them than rebel shot or shell. A ball striking the parapet near the top would have scattered a shower of stones into the faces of the men standing behind it, thus acting with almost as fatal effect as a shell bursting in the very midst of them. But it is to be presumed the fortifications were constructed on scientific principles by men specially trained for this business. At any rate, we were fortunately spared the experimental test of the theory.
Peculiarly impressive were the religious meetings we held, one in the forenoon and one at dusk, at which brave resolutions were reaffirmed with mutual plight, while the dear ones at home were remembered tearfully, and commended tenderly and trustingly to the Father's care. And it is pleasant to remember how, when the critical hour seemed to be at hand, our femininely sympathetic chaplain passed along the lines with a beaming countenance, bidding us rely on strength from above, and commending us with words of christian cheer to the divine protection.
Our greatest distress on that memorable Sabbath day was on account of our friends at home, stricken with fearful solicitude by reason of the dangers that impended over us, even tormented with skeleton rumors, as we learned, of "the enemy having engaged us;" of "our being cut to pieces;" of "crowds of wounded and dying troops being brought into Harrisburg from across the river." These lying reports we could not correct, since telegraphic and all other communication between camp and Harrisburg was at that time interdicted.
Had we known positively the intention of the enemy as since brought to light by the report of General Lee, and that the famous old corps of Stonewall Jackson was but a few miles off, preparing to pounce upon us, we should not have felt so composed, nor lain down at night with so little anxiety about the morrow. As it was, many a lad wrapped himself in his blanket that night for a little uncertain slumber, expecting surely to be awakened by the "Long-Roll," and to be led forth to battle. But we slept tranquilly till the morning muster-call broke our dreams. The double force of sentinels that kept watch all night saw from the walls nothing more alarming than branches of trees or bushes nodding in the wind; though there is no witness to testify how often a stump or rock was challenged by them in their sleepless scrutiny of every suspicious thing around them.
 "Preparations were now made to advance upon Harrisburg; but on the night of the 29th, information was received from a scout that the Federal army, having crossed the Potomac, was advancing northward, and that the head of the column had reached South Mountain. As our communications with the Potomac were thus menaced, it was resolved to prevent his further progress in that direction by concentrating our army on the east side of the mountains. Accordingly, Longstreet and Hill were directed to proceed from Chambersburg to Gettysburg, to which point Gen. Ewell was also instructed to march from Carlisle."—Extract from Gen. R. E. Lee's Report of the Battle of Gettysburg.
Monday, 29th.—It was bruited about camp that the Twenty-Third would be called on to furnish a detail of men to go out as scouts, and many a breast fluttered with anxious debate upon the subject. Without, was danger and honor; within, security and shame. Who had the courage to go out to the very advance, taking his life in his hand, with no more than musket range between himself and the enemy? We had already been drawn up in line of battle, solemnly awaiting the enemy who was expected to open fire on us at any moment, and there had been no flinching. But then we had the moral support of numbers to keep up our courage. The whole regiment stood shoulder to shoulder and each man felt the safer for having his comrades all about him. But to go out from the presence of these comrades, to march out of the carefully guarded fort, where all were friends and defenders together, into the open country which the imagination filled with enemies; to take position alone in some distant covert perhaps, warily lying in wait like a wild Indian for the equally wary foe, when the pushing aside of a twig or the crumpling of leaves beneath the feet might betray you to your instant death; and so to watch for hours together whether by day or by night, in storm or in shine—this was something to try of what stuff we were made.
We were ordered up in line early in the day, and a call made for volunteers. Instantly five times the number needed stepped forward eager competitors for the post of danger. The squad was at once formed, and in company with similar detachments from the Eighth and Fifty-Sixth N.Y.S.N.G., marched out of the fort amid a tempest of cheers. When we saw that our brave comrades were really gone we turned back with heavy hearts, for it seemed to our imaginations that as their object was to spy out the enemy, they would not fail to find him, and that then there would be unavoidably an action, which meant death to some. We conjectured sadly which one of these brave fellows it might be upon whose living face we had looked for the last time; who, the first of us all, should have bound about his brows the laurel wreath of glory. At night-fall the Seventy-First returned to the fort from the front.
Tuesday, 30th.—During the forenoon did little else than hold ourselves in readiness, keeping a bright lookout for the enemy; till at length we began to think—many of us with a speck of disappointment mingled with a sort of settled indifference—that we should lose the chance of giving him a taste of our quality. After noon we were ordered to shift camp. This augured serious work, inasmuch as the object of the movement was to contract the camp limits, and thus make room for more troops within the fort. After the order was issued directing us to prepare for removal it was curious to note what a change a few minutes produced in the appearance of the company streets. The first step was to clear tents. Before each door arms were stacked, and on a blanket spread on the ground were rapidly piled knapsacks, haversacks, blankets, boots and shoes, tin-ware, rough boxes, shelving, and an indescribable variety of loose matter; altogether an astonishing mass of tent furniture, considering that these canvas houses, some five feet by six in dimensions, accommodated—if so satirical a remark be allowed in sober history—four to six persons besides, according to luck and court favor. Next followed the order to strike tents. In a twinkling the white walls collapsed, and the sun glared down upon a field flat and waste. Each mess, directly on having their new site assigned them, went to work like beavers to rehabilitate their domicils, but it was dark before the new village was fairly settled. There remained, besides, for the morrow many supplementary items of work, among which was the building of company kitchens. Where the ground is level no preparation of it is needed for this purpose; but on a steep slope a good deal of digging is necessary. Indeed where there is any considerable slope whatever, it is better to level the ground. Labor in constructions for the benefit of your culinary corps is most judiciously invested. A broad and level plat with convenient arrangements for boiling the pot and preparing the rations, the whole covered with a screen of some sort from the sun and the weather, will give you better coffee, better soup, better everything—not to speak of the occasional substitution of a bake or a roast in place of the inevitable boil—than if you have failed to provide for the comfort of your cooks. All this can be done easily where there are so many interested hands to help. An enterprising head to manage and direct operations is the common want. Possessing that a company is pretty sure to have a successful culinary department; and just this makes all the difference between excellent and execrable rations. The commissary supplies of the army, judging by the experience of the Twenty-Third, are abundant and good; better, it is believed, than the average fare of American farmers, except in the matter of fresh vegetables; but bad cooking spoils the best rations.
To construct a plat on a steep slope for the kitchen: lay out a square of liberal dimensions—eight feet on a side should be a minimum perhaps. Along the lower side and half-way up the adjacent sides firmly drive stiff stakes, sixteen or eighteen inches apart, reaching a little above the destined level of the plat, and pile bushes or twigs against them on the inner side, interweaving them as much as possible, and making a matted wall. Then with pick and spade dig down along the upper side of the square, and half-way along the adjacent sides, tossing the earth against the twig wall, and packing it well down, till you have a level to suit you. There will be subsequently a gradual subsidence of the loose earth to some extent, against which you must provide. The centre of course must be the highest part in order to shed rain. If the soil be clayey, you will have a sticky mud with every fall of rain unless you put on a covering of gravel, slate, or the like. On one side steps should be dug out leading down from the table where rations are dispensed. Stakes should be driven at the extremities of the steps so as to hold firmly a stiff limb of a tree or a stick laid against them and along the edge of the step. Without this precaution your steps will not last longer than a day or two. If boards for a shed are not to be had, a bower can be constructed of branches of trees, such as any old soldier knows how to build.
Wednesday, July 1st.—Picket force returned without loss; but they had met the enemy, as the following report of the Officer Commanding will show:—
Fort Washington, Harrisburg, Pa. } July 1st, 1863. }
COLONEL WM. EVERDELL, Jr., Commanding 23rd Reg. N.G.S.N.Y.
I have the honor to report that in compliance with General Orders No. —— of June 29th, from Gen. Knipe, commanding Second Brigade of First Division of the Army of the Department of the Susquehanna, I assumed command of a detachment composed of three companies, viz.: one from the 8th, one from the 23rd, and one from the 56th regiments of the N.G.S.N.Y.—in all about 150 men—for picket duty at Oyster Point Station; this being the advance post, and about three miles to the front and west of Harrisburg. Before arriving at the front I heard heavy cannonading at intervals of from five to ten minutes. Fearing a sudden attack, and not knowing the strength or intention of the enemy, I hastened without loss of time to establish my pickets, detaching for that purpose a portion of company ——, 8th regiment, commencing from the Carlisle turnpike in a direction due north across the fields and beyond the railroad; and establishing in a like manner a portion of the 23rd regiment from the Carlisle road due south, under command of Lieut. —— of company —— 23rd; thus guarding the main roads and entrances to the city of Harrisburg.
While thus engaged in throwing out my sentries the firing from the enemy increased, and became more rapid, evidently with the intention of shelling us from our position. I therefore, as soon as practicable, deployed the companies of the 8th and 23rd regiments as skirmishers, keeping the remaining company as a reserve.
To gain a better position, and to obtain a clearer view of the enemy's location, I advanced over a corn-field to a small wood situated on more elevated ground. But on entering this wood we were exposed to a constant fire of shot and shell from the rebel batteries. Fortunately none of our men were disabled or wounded. The skirmishers advanced about the distance of a mile, keeping up a steady fire. At 4 P.M., firing gradually ceased, and scouts returned reporting the enemy having fallen back.
Late in the evening I was informed that small groups of rebels had been seen in the immediate vicinity; and to guard as much as possible against being surprised, I sent out a squad of the reserves of the 56th regiment as videttes, doubled the guards, and carefully reconnoitered to the front, and north and south of the Carlisle and Chambersburg road, but failed to discover any enemy in our vicinity, until 3 A.M. of Tuesday, the 30th, when two of their scouts were seen endeavoring to get inside our lines. Our pickets fired upon them and wounded one through the knee, and took him prisoner; the other escaped. The prisoner stated that he and his companion belonged to General Jenkins' Brigade of Virginia troops, and that they were bearers of despatches to that rebel general. At 9 A.M., I received a communication from Gen. Knipe ordering me to return with my command to Fort Washington.
I cannot speak in too high praise of both officers and men *** for their willingness and alacrity to execute every order issued, for their watchfulness and vigilance, and for their determination displayed while momentarily expecting to be attacked by the enemy. *****
JOHN A. ELWELL, Lt.-Col. 23rd Reg. N.G.S.N.Y. Com. Detachment.
We had just got settled in our new quarters when, on the afternoon of Wednesday 1st of July, came marching orders. The enemy was retiring and we were to give chase. We were ordered to provide ourselves with two days' cooked rations and to move completely equipped, with packed knapsacks, blankets, and all the paraphernalia of a marching column. This included a square of canvas, two of which buttoned together, constitutes what is called a shelter-tent, for the accommodation of two men. This pointed plainly enough to a vigorous campaign, and every man was pleased with the prospect. It was toward evening when we left the fort, taking the Carlisle road. Though the day was warm we kept up a brave spirit for some two or three miles, singing and shouting, stimulated by the exciting expectation of meeting the enemy face to face, and animated by the beauty of the country through which we were passing. But after an hour or so our heavy burdens, the still hot sun, and the roughly macadamised road began to tell on us. Some becoming exhausted were relieved of a part of their load by officers, or by comrades who were stronger; field and staff officers in several instances gave up their horses to the o'erwearied ones; while other riders piled up knapsacks and blankets before them and behind them till they were almost sandwiched out of sight. One fellow was noticed who had been so lucky as to pick up a small hand-cart on which he had packed his luggage, and had induced, by means of an emollient of greenbacks, a small boy to drag it along. In such ways as this, and by rendering each one to his neighbor a little timely help now and then, we managed to reach Trindle Spring Creek, a small stream which crosses the road about seven miles out from Fort Washington; though when we think of the weight we bore, of the warm afternoon, and of our being totally unused to such hardships, it is a little remarkable that we got through so well. The following tabular statement exhibits the actual avoirdupois weight of our equipments—a fair average being taken, some being more and some less than the estimate.
lb. oz. Musket, 10 8 Belt, etc., 1 10 Forty rounds ball cartridges, 3 6 Knapsack, packed, 9 0 Haversack, containing two days' rations, with a few trifling extras, 2 0 Woolen Blanket, 5 8 Rubber Blanket, 2 8 Canteen, half-filled, 2 8 Overcoat, 5 0 A half shelter-tent, 2 0 Total, 44 lbs.
This is about the weight of a healthy boy, eight years old. Some carried even more than this, viz.—an extra pair of heavy government shoes, together with an assortment of tins, such as cup, plate, teapot, etc.
We were halted in a clover field a little after ten o'clock. The night was dark, the sky being overcast; and here we had our first bivouac. No sooner had we reached the spot than we saw what convinced us that we had entered in good earnest upon the business for which we professed to have left our homes; for far away to the front rose the heavy boom of artillery firing, and a bright light reflected from the clouds indicated that a conflagration was raging in the same vicinity, probably at Carlisle. This proved to be a demonstration of the rebel General Fitz Hugh Lee against the small force of militia under General W. F. Smith then holding Carlisle. The former it appears was escorting a train which was on its way toward Chambersburg, and fearing an attack from General Smith made a show of taking the offensive and demanded a surrender of the place. This was refused; whereupon the rebel officer contented himself with shelling the town, which resulted principally in the burning of the government cavalry barracks situated there. At length having by his audacity gained security for the train he withdrew. In recognition of the service rendered to Carlisle by General Smith on this occasion of alarm, some ladies of the place have since presented to him the compliment of a silver urn:—the only instance, by the way, which the citizens or government of Pennsylvania is known to have furnished of their appreciation of the service they received at the hands of the New York Militia.
On coming to a halt in the field of our bivouac, our officers were considerate enough to spend but little time in getting us into line and stacking arms. Straps were unbuckled and luggage tumbled, a dead weight, to the ground in less time than it takes to tell it. We spread our rubber blankets upon the wet grass, and drawing on our overcoats dropped down to rest, each man behind his musket. Some of the less weary went in search of water to drink, and some had the wisdom to bathe their hot, overworked feet in the neighbouring brook.
It was a new experience to most of us—this lying down with the clouds for our coverlid, and serenaded with the music of distant battle. Though we did not wrap ourselves up sentimentally in the dear old flag, it seemed as if the God of battles looked down from on high upon our shelterless condition, and folded us in his own more glorious banner of clouds. If our anxious mothers could have seen us at that moment lying down to sleep without protection from the night air and the rain which threatened, they would have most piteously bewailed our lot. Many of us expected that the morning would find us coughing, sneezing and wheezing, or moping about feverish on account of broken sleep, if not pinned to the ground by the sharp needles of rheumatism. But notwithstanding the strange sounds which filled our ears and our imaginations, we hardly had time, after stretching ourselves upon the ground, to review our situation before sleep caught us: and we slept gloriously well. Not a man of us, it is probable, who made a prudent use of blanket and overcoat, but rose next morning refreshed.
Now that the stirring events of those days are history it may be interesting to notice as we go along the rapid evolution of the drama of Gettysburg, which we, so lately menaced in our stronghold at Fort Washington, little dreamed was being consummated with such tremendous suddenness. It was so lately as the Sunday just passed that we were kept under arms all day expecting an assault from Ewell, who was known to be threatening Harrisburg with the greatest part of his corps. On Monday the reconnoissance had developed the presence of the enemy still investing our position. But on the night of Monday, 29th, Lee first learned with surprise of the dangerous proximity of Gen. Hooker, threatening his communications, and resolved to concentrate his now somewhat scattered army eastward of the South Mountains. Accordingly Ewell must have moved off from our front the same night, or early on Tuesday morning, since he re-appears upon the scene on Wednesday afternoon at Gettysburg, where he arrived between one and two o'clock, P.M.—just in time to check, with the aid of other reinforcements, the advance of General Reynolds and to drive him back with heavy loss. These reinforcements must all have made forced marches and they could have been in no condition to follow up the advantage gained. Lee was doubtless well content to have turned back, with his fatigued battalions, the rising tide of victory, and nolens volens, left General Howard, who succeeded to the command of the field on the fall of the lamented Reynolds, at liberty to establish himself unmolested on the now famous cemetery heights. It is interesting and instructive to notice further, that this corps of Ewell, whose reported withdrawal from the investment of Fort Washington was apparently the signal for our advance, reached Gettysburg, and was there instrumental in snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, absolutely before our movement began!
Thursday, July 2d.—At 3 A.M., we are aroused from sleep by a whispered summons to get ready to move at once without making the least noise! This looks like work. The reflection of the fire in front has disappeared, the cannonading is hushed, and all is still. What does it mean? A report comes flying through the field that the enemy have driven back our advance and that these are falling back upon our lines.
We waited under arms, looking as we stood there under the star-light drawn up over the whole field, like a spectral host. Was there a rebel ambuscade over yonder in the woods, watching for us to take up our unsuspecting march toward Carlisle in order to swoop down upon us unawares? A cowardly suggestion, but still one which occurred very naturally to raw troops thrust in this way into what, for aught they knew to the contrary, was the very front of danger. This was the first feeling; but soon we grew calmer and remembered that even if our advance had been compelled to fall back, they were still between us and the enemy; and that moreover if they had met with disaster, there would be fugitives enough very soon to tell the story.
We waited impatiently for orders to march; and waited, and waited, till at length dawn began to flush; and by and bye, when it was quite day, the column moved.
"The King of France, with twenty thousand men, Marched up the hill and then—marched down again."
Back toward Harrisburg—one mile—two miles—three miles nearly; and there by the road-side we halted. Was the enemy in pursuit? Were we falling back to Harrisburg? Or what was the matter? Whether the halt was for five minutes or for all day every one was in blissful ignorance, including, very likely, our commanding officer himself, Brigadier-General Knipe.
We were in a tributary vale of the renowned Cumberland Valley, a beautiful farming country. Farm houses lay scattered along the road, almost within hallooing neighborhood of one another. Although the order was, on leaving the fort, that each man should provide himself with two days' cooked rations, yet some, in the hurry and excitement of departure, had been careless about it; while others had used their supply improvidently. Thus it happened that on this the very first morning after setting out, there were not a few hungry stomachs that had to trust to luck for their needful provender. Beside this there was a prejudice with many against "hard tack" and cold meat with spring water to wash them down; particularly when brought into competition with the possible supplies of a prosperous farmer's garden, cellar and field. It was not strange therefore, that there were eyes which rested greedily on every house we passed, nor that some of the men should improve the earliest moment when we came to a halt, to run for a call upon the nearest housewife.
Five minutes—ten minutes—half an hour—an hour; and still no move. It is evident the halt is more than a rest. Shelter-tents and rubber-cloths begin to appear along the fences, spread for a screen from the sun. Every near tree has its crowd of loungers underneath. At first it was only by the road side, but now the adjoining fields too must furnish their contribution of shade. Further off yonder a company of fellows are mixing promiscuously and socially among a herd of cows; in fact there is amateur milking going on, it is evident. Do you see that farm house three-fourths of a mile over yonder, glancing white among thickly clustering trees? and that string of lads along the fence down there, on their way toward it? They are bound thither, doubtless, in search of a comfortable breakfast. But they are not good soldiers to venture so far now. If the column should be ordered forward again before they return, they will be in trouble unless their officers fail to do their duty in the matter.
Another hour passes—it is ten o'clock—it is eleven o'clock—it is noon. By this time every man in the brigade has taken thought doubtless how to dispose of himself pleasantly or at least comfortably for the rest of the day. All are indifferent as to marching—everything about us having apparently come to a dead stand-still. The most absurd rumors have been flying about all the forenoon, the members of the Twenty-Third having nothing to do in their yawning idleness but to toss them back and forth like shuttlecocks. Among other luminous reports—the more alarming the more likely to be believed—is one that the rebels have struck in upon our line of communication by the flank and taken Fort Washington, ensuring the capture of the whole brigade. This ridiculous story finds credence in some coward bosoms, the wish being father to the thought; since capture means parole, and parole means home perhaps. Some one proposes to send out a party to gather up all the rumors that come floating in like drift wood and have them burned. It is needless to say that the proposition is handsomely received, but there appears to be practical obstacles in the way of carrying it out.
Some venturesome and enterprising foragers bring in word of a beautiful river one-third of a mile off; and as we have no orders against rambling, and as the provost guard is withdrawn, one squad after another breaks away, till there is hardly a corporal's guard left in charge of the arms. A few turns down a narrow little-traveled road edged with shade trees, bring us suddenly full upon a charming stream of water. It is a hundred or a hundred and fifty yards wide, swiftly flowing, and heavily wooded on the opposite side. On the hither bank it is bordered by a single row of gigantic oaks and willows, four to six feet through, standing within four to eight feet of the water, and almost on a level with it. Beneath these magnificent trees runs a country road leading to farm houses, suspected not seen, along the river. This stream rejoices in the euphonious name, as one of the residents there tried in vain to inform some of us, of the Conedoguinet.