AS SEEN FROM THE RANKS
Campaign in the Army of the Potomac.
"We must be brief when Traitors brave the Field."
Carleton, Publisher, 413 Broadway.
M DCCC LXIV.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1864, by
GEO. W. CARLETON,
In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for the Southern District of New York.
Printer, Stereotyper, and Electrotyper
81, 83, and 85 Centre Street.
"Greek-fire has shivered the statue of John C. Calhoun in the streets of the City of Charleston,"—so the papers say. Whether true or not, the Greek-fire of the righteous indignation of a loyal people is fast shattering the offspring of his infamous teachings,—the armed treason of the South, and its more cowardly ally the insidious treachery that lurks under doubtful cover in the loyal States. In thunder tones do the masses declare, that now and for ever, they repudiate the Treason and despise the Traitor. Nobly are the hands of our Honest President sustained in prosecuting this most righteous war.
In a day like this, the least that can be expected of any citizen is—duty. We are all co-partners in our beneficent government. We should be co-laborers for her defence. Jealous of the interests of her brave soldiery; for they are our own. Proud of their noble deeds; they constitute our National Heritage.
If these campaign sketches, gathered in actual service during 1862-3, and grouped during the spare hours of convalescence from a camp fever, correct one of the least of the abuses in our military machinery—if they lighten the toil of the humblest of our soldiers, or nerve anew the resolves of loyalty tempted to despair, the writer will have no reason to complain of labor lost. Great latitude of excuse for the existence of abuses must be allowed, when we consider the suddenness with which our volunteers sprang into ranks at the outset of the Rebellion. Now that the warfare is a system, there is less reason for their continuance. Reformers must, however, remember, that to keep our citizen-soldiery effective, they must not make too much of the citizen and too little of the soldier. Abuses must be corrected under the laws; but to be corrected at all they must first be exposed.
Drunkenness, half-heartedness, and senseless routine, have done much to cripple the patriotic efforts of our people. The patriotism of the man who at this day doubts the policy of their open reproof can well be questioned. West Point has, in too many instances, nursed imbecility and treason; but in our honest contempt for the small men of whom, in common with other institutions, she has had her share,—we must not ignore those bright pages of our history adorned with the skill and heroism of her nobler sons. McClellanism did not follow its chief from Warrenton; or Burnside's earnestness, Hooker's dash, and Meade's soldierly stand at Gettysburg, backed as they were by the heroic fighting of the Army of the Potomac, would have had, as they deserved, more decisive results.
The Young Men of the Land would the writer address in the following pages—"because they are strong," and in their strength is the nation's hope. In certain prospect of victory over the greatest enemy we have yet had as a nation—the present infamous rebellion—we can well await patiently the correction of minor evils.
"Meanwhile we'll sacrifice to liberty, Remember, O my friends! the laws, the rights, The generous plan of power delivered down From age to age by your renowned forefathers, (So dearly bought, the price of so much blood;) Oh, let it never perish in your hands! But piously transmit it to your children. Do thou, great liberty! inspire our souls, And make our lives in thy possession happy. Or our deaths glorious in thy just defence."
TABLE OF CONTENTS.
CHAPTER I. PAGE
The Advent of our General of Division—Camp near Frederick City, Maryland—The Old Revolutionary Barracks at Frederick—An Irish Corporal's Recollections of the First Regiment of Volunteers from Pennsylvania—Punishment in the Old First, 9
The Treason at Harper's Ferry—Rebel Occupation of Frederick—Patriotism of the Ladies of Frederick—A Rebel Guard nonplussed by a Lady—The Approach to Antietam—Our Brigadier cuts Red-Tape—THE BLUNDER OF THE DAY AFTER ANTIETAM—The Little Irish Corporal's idea of Strategy, 15
The March to the River—Our Citizen Soldiery—Popularity of Commanders, how Lost and how Won—The Rebel Dead—How the Rebels repay Courtesy, 27
A Regimental Baker—Hot Pies—Position of the Baker in line of Battle—Troubles of the Baker—A Western Virginia Captain on a Whiskey Scent—The Baker's Story—How to obtain Political Influence—Dancing Attendance at Washington—What Simon says—Confiscation of Whiskey, 33
The Scene at the Surgeon's Quarters—Our Little Dutch Doctor—Incidents of his Practice—His Messmate the Chaplain—The Western Virginia Captain's account of a Western Virginia Chaplain—His Solitary Oath—How he Preached, how he Prayed, and how he Bush-whacked—His Revenge of Snowden's Death—How the little Dutch Doctor applied the Captain's Story, 47
A Day at Division Head-Quarters—The Judge Advocate—The tweedle-dum and tweedle-dee of Red-Tape as understood by Pigeon-hole Generals—Red Tape Reveries—French Authorities on Pigeon-hole Investigations—An Obstreperous Court and Pigeon-hole Strictures—Disgusting Head-Quarter Profanity, 59
A Picket-Station on the Upper Potomac—Fitz John's Rail Order—Rails for Corps Head-Quarters versus Rails for Hospitals—The Western Virginia Captain—Old Rosy, and How to Silence Secesh Women—The Old Woman's Fixin's—The Captain's Orderly, 70
The Reconnoissance—Shepherdstown—Punch and Patriotism—Private Tom on West Point and Southern Sympathy—The Little Irish Corporal on John Mitchell—A Skirmish—Hurried Dismounting of the Dutch Doctor and Chaplain—Battle of Falling Waters not intended—Story of the Little Irish Corporal—Patterson's Folly, or Treason, 83
Reconnoissance concluded—What we Saw and What we didn't See, and what the Good Public Read—Pigeon-hole Generalship and the Press—The Preacher Lieutenant and how he Recruited—Comparative Merits of Black Union Men and White Rebels—A Ground Blast, and its effect upon a Pigeon-hole General—Staff Officers Striking a Snag in the Western Virginia Captain—Why the People have a right to expect Active Army Movements—Red Tape and the Sick List—Pigeon-holing at Division Head-quarters, 100
Departure from Sharpsburg Camp—The Old Woman of Sandy Hook—Harper's Ferry—South sewing Dragon's Teeth by shedding Old John's Blood—The Dutch Doctor and the Boar—Beauties of Tobacco—Camp Life on the Character—Patrick, Brother to the Little Corporal—General Patterson no Irishman—Guarding a Potato Patch in Dixie—The Preacher Lieutenant on Emancipation—Inspection and the Exhorting Colonel—The Scotch Tailor on Military Matters, 116
Snicker's Gap—Private Harry on the "Anaconda"—Not inclined to turn Boot-Black—"Oh! why did you go for a Soldier?"—The ex-News-Boy—Pigeon-hole Generalship on the March—The Valley of the Shenandoah—A Flesh Carnival—The Dutch Doctor on a Horse-dicker—An Old Rebel, and how he parted with his Apple-Brandy—Toasting the "Union"—Spruce Retreats, 137
The March to Warrenton—Secesh Sympathy and Quarter-Master's Receipts—Middle-Borough—The Venerable Uncle Ned and his Story of the Captain of the Tigers—The Adjutant on Strategy—Red Tapism and Mac-Napoleonism—Movement Stopped—Division Head-Quarters out of Whiskey—Stragglers and Marauders—A Summary Proceeding—Persimmons and Picket-Duty—A Rebellious Pig—McClellanism, 160
Camp near Warrenton—Stability of the Republic—Measures, not Men, regarded by the Public—Removal of McClellan—Division Head-Quarters a House of Mourning—A Pigeon-hole General and his West Point Patent-Leather Cartridge-Box—Head-Quarter Murmuring and Mutterings—Departure of Little Mac and the Prince—Cheering by Word of Command—The Southern Saratoga—Rebel Regret at McClellan's Departure, 178
A Skulker and the Dutch Doctor—A Review of the Corps by Old Joe—A Change of Base; what it means to the Soldier, and what to the Public—Our Quarter-Master and General Hooker—The Movement by the Left Flank—A Division General and Dog driving—The Desolation of Virginia—A Rebel Land-Owner and the Quarter-Master—"No Hoss, Sir!"—The Poetical Lieutenant unappreciated—Mutton or Dog?—Desk Drudgery and Senseless Routine, 193
Red-Tape and the Soldier's Widow—Pigeon-holing at Head-Quarters and Weeping at the Family Fireside—A Pigeon-hole General Outwitted—Fishing for a Discharge—The Little Irish Corporal on Topographical Engineers—Guard Duty over a Whiskey Barrel, 210
The Battle of Fredericksburg—Screwing Courage up to the Sticking Point—Consolations of a Flask—Pigeon-hole Nervousness—Abandonment of Knapsacks—Incidents before, during, and after the Fight, 225
The Sorrows of the Sutler—The Sutler's Tent—Generals manufactured by the Dailies—Fighting and Writing—A Glandered Horse—Courts-martial—Mania of a Pigeon-hole General on the Subject—Colonel and Lieutenant Colonel in Strait-Jackets, 247
Dress Coats versus Blouses—Military Law—Bill the Cook—Courts-Martial—Important Decision in Military Law—A Man with Two Blouses on, can be compelled to put a Dress Coat on top—A Colored French Cook and a Beefy-browed Judge-Advocate—The Mud March—No Pigeon-holing on a Whiskey Scent—Old Joe in Command—Dissolution of Partnership between the Dutch Doctor and the Chaplain, 264
The Presentation Mania—The Western Virginia Captain in the War Department—Politeness and Mr. Secretary Stanton—Capture of the Dutch Doctor—A Genuine Newspaper Sell, 283
The Army again on the Move—Pack Mules and Wagon Trains—A Negro Prophetess—The Wilderness—Hooped Skirts and Black Jack—The Five Days' Fight at Chancellorsville—Terrible Death of an Aged Slave—A Pigeon-hole General's "Power in Reserve," 295
The Pigeon-hole General and his Adjutant, under Charges—The Exhorting Colonel's Adieu to the Sunday Fight at Chancellorsville; Reasons thereof—Speech of the Dutch Doctor in Reply to a Peace-Offering from the Chaplain—The Irish Corporal stumping for Freedom—Black Charlie's Compliments to his Master—Western Virginia at the Head of a Black Regiment, 313
The Advent of our General of Division—Camp near Frederick City, Maryland—The Old Revolutionary Barracks at Frederick—An Irish Corporal's Recollections of the First Regiment of Volunteers from Pennsylvania—Punishment in the Old First.
"Our new Division-General, boys!" exclaimed a sergeant of the 210th Pennsylvania Volunteers, whose attention and head were turned at the clatter of horses' hoofs to the rear. "I heard an officer say that he would be along to-day, and I recognise his description."
The men, although weary and route-worn, straightened up, dressed their ranks, and as the General and Staff rode past, some enthusiastic soldier proposed cheers for our new Commander. They started with a will, but the General's doubtful look, as interpreted by the men, gave little or no encouragement, and the effort ended in a few ragged discordant yells.
"He is a strange-looking old covey any how," said one of the boys in an undertone. "Did you notice that red muffler about his neck, and how pinched up and crooked his hat is, and that odd-looking moustache, and how savagely he cocks his eyes through his spectacles?"
"They say," replied the sergeant, "that we are the first troops that he has commanded. He was a staff officer before in the Topographical Corps. Didn't you notice the T.C. on his coat buttons?"
"And is he going to practise upon us?" blurts out a bustling red-faced little Irish corporal. "Be Jabers, that accounts for the crooked cow road we have marched through the last day—miles out of the way, and niver a chance for coffee."
"You are too fast, Terence," said the sergeant; "if he belongs to the Topographical Corps, he ought at least to know the roads."
"And didn't you say not two hours ago that we were entirely out of the way, and that we had been wandering as crooked as the creek that flows back of the old town we are from, and nearly runs through itself in a dozen places?"
The sergeant admitted that he had said so, but stated that perhaps the General was not to blame, and added somewhat jocosely: "At any rate the winding of the creek makes those beautiful walks we have so much enjoyed in summer evenings."
"Beautiful winding walks! is it, sergeant! Shure and whin you have your forty pound wait upon your back, forty rounds of lead and powdher in your cartridge-box, and twenty more in your pocket, three days' rations in your haversack, a musket on your shoulder, and army brogans on your throtters, you are just about the first man that I know of to take straight cuts."
* * * * *
It was a close warm day near the middle of September. The roads were dusty and the troops exhausted. Two days previously the brigade to which they belonged had left the pleasantest of camps, called "Camp Whipple" in honor of their former and favorite Division Commander. Situated in an orchard on the level brow of a hill that overlooked Washington, the imposing Capitol, the broad expanse of the Potomac dotted with frequent craft, the many national buildings, and scenery of historic interest, the men left it with regret, but carried with them recollections that often in times of future depression revived their patriotic ardor.
Over dusty roads, through the muddy aqueduct of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, hurried on over the roughly paved streets of Georgetown, and through the suburbs of Washington, they finally halted for the night, and, as it chanced through lack of orders, for the succeeding day also, near Meridian Hill. Under orders to join the Fifth Army Corps commanded by Major-General Fitz John Porter, to which the Division had been previously assigned, the march was resumed on the succeeding day, which happened to be Sunday, and in the afternoon of which our chapter opens.
A march of another day brought the Brigade to a recent Rebel camp ground. Traces of their occupancy were found not only in their depredations in the neighborhood destructive of railroad bridges, but also in letters and wall-paper envelopes adorned with the lantern-jawed phiz of Jefferson Davis. The latter were sought after with avidity as soon as ranks were broken and tents pitched; the more eagerly perhaps for the reason that during the greater part of their previous month of service they had been frequently within sound of rebel cannon, although but once under their fire. During the previous day, in fact, they had marched to the music of the artillery of South Mountain.
That night awakened lively recollections in the mind of Terence McCarty, our lively little Irish corporal. His duty for the time as corporal of a relief gave him ample opportunity to indulge them. He had belonged to the old First Pennsylvania Regiment of three months men, that a little over a year before, when Maryland was halting between loyalty and disloyalty, had spent its happiest week of service in the yard of the revolutionary barracks in the city of Frederick. Terence was but two short miles from the spot. Brimfull of the memories, he turned to a comrade, who had also belonged to the First, and who with others chanced to stand near.
"I say, Jack! Do you recollect the ould First and Frederick, and do you know that we are but two miles and short ones at that from the blissed ould white-washed barracks, full of all kind of quare guns and canteens looking like barrels cut down; and the Parade Ground where our ould Colonel used to come his 'Briskly, men! Briskly,' when he'd put us through the manual, and where so many ladies would come to see our ivolutions, and where they set the big table for us on the Fourth, and where—"
"Hold on, corporal! you can't give that week's history to-night."
"I was only going to obsarve, Jack, that I feel like a badly used man."
"How so, Terence?"
"Why you see nearly ivery officer, commissioned and non-commissioned, of the ould First has been promoted. The Colonel was too ould for service, or my head on it, he would have had a star. Just look at the captains by way of sample—Company A, a Lieutenant-Colonel, expecting and desarving an eagle ivery day; Company B, a Lieutenant-Colonel; Company C, our own Lieutenant-Colonel; Company D, a Brigadier for soldierly looks, daring, and dash; Company E, a Captain in an aisy berth in the regular service; Company F, a Colonel; Company G, a Major; Company H, a Lieutenant-Colonel; Company I, I have lost sight of, and the lion-hearted captain of Company K, doing a lion's share of work at the head of a regiment in Tennessee. Now, Jack, the under officers and many privates run pretty much the same way, but not quite as high. Bad luck to me, I was fifth corporal thin and am eighth now—promoted crab-fashion. Fortune's wheel gives me many a turn, Jack! but always stops with me on the lower side."
"I saw you on the upper side once," retorted Jack roguishly.
"And whin? may I ask."
"When, do you say? why, when you took about half a canteen too much, and that same old colonel had you tied on the upper side of a barrel on the green in front of the barracks."
"Bad luck to an ill-natured memory, Jack, for stirring that up," replied the corporal, breaking in upon the laughter that followed, "but I now recollect, it was the day before you slipped the guard whin the colonel gave you a barrel uniform with your head through the end, and kept me for two mortal long hours in the hot sun, a tickling of you under the nose with a straw, and daubing molasses on your chaps to plaze the flies, to the great admiration of a big crowd of ladies and gentlemen."
Jack subsided, and the hearty laughter at the corporal's ready retort was broken a few minutes later by a loud call for the corporal of the guard, which hurried Terence away, dispersed the crowd, and might as well end this chapter.
The Treason at Harper's Ferry—Rebel Occupation of Frederick—Patriotism of the Ladies of Frederick—A Rebel Guard nonplussed by a Lady—The Approach to Antietam—Our Brigadier cuts Red Tape—The Blunder of the day after Antietam—The little Irish Corporal's idea of Strategy.
The Brigade did not rest long in its new camp. The day and a half, however, passed there had many incidents to be remembered by. Fish were caught in abundance from the beautiful Monocacy. But the most impressive scene was the long procession of disarmed, dejected men, who had been basely surrendered at Harper's Ferry, and were now on their way homeward, on parole. Many and deep were the curses they uttered against their late commanders. "Boys, we've been sold! Look out," cried a comely bright-eyed young officer of eighteen or thereabouts. "That we have," added a chaplain, who literally bore the cross upon his shoulders in a pair of elegant straps. When will earnest men cease to be foiled in this war by treacherous commanders? was an inquiry that pressed itself anxiously home.
But the thunders of Antietam were reverberating through that mountainous region, distinctly heard in all their many echoes, and of course the all-absorbing topic. At 3 P. M. orders came to move a short distance beyond Frederick. The division was rapidly formed, and the men marched joyously along through the streets of Frederick, already crowded with our own and Rebel wounded, to the sound of lively martial music; but none more joyously than the members of the old First, whose recollections were brisk of good living as they recognised in many a lady a former benefactress. Bradley T. Johnson's race, that commenced with his infamously prepared and lying handbills, was soon run in Frederick. No one of the border cities has been more undoubtedly or devotedly patriotic. Its prominent ministers at an early day took bold positions. The ladies were not behind, and many a sick and wounded soldier will bless them to his latest hour. The world has heard of the well deserved fame of Florence Nightingale. History will hold up to a nation's gratitude thousands of such ministering angels, who, moving in humbler circles, perhaps, are none the less entitled to a nation's praise. "Great will be their reward."
To show the spirit that emboldened the ladies of Frederick, a notable instance is related as having occurred during the Rebel occupation of the city under General Stuart. Many Union ladies had left the place. Not so, however, with Mrs. D., the lively, witty, and accomplished wife of a prominent Lutheran minister. The Union sick and wounded that remained demanded attention, and for their sake, as well as from her own high spirit, she resolved to stay. Miss Annie C., the beautiful and talented daughter of Ex-U. S. Senator C., an intimate friend of Mrs. D., through like devotion, also remained. Rebel officers, gorgeous in grey and gilt lace, many of them old residents of the place, strutted about the streets. The ragged privates begged from door to door. Mrs. D., and her friend had been separated several days—a long period considering their close intimacy and their present surroundings. Mrs. D. resolved to visit her, and with her to resolve was to execute. Threading her way through the crowded streets, heeding not the jeers or insults of the rebel soldiery, she soon came in front of the Cooper Mansion, to find a rebel flag floating from an upper window, and a well dressed soldierly looking greyback, with bayonet fixed, pacing his beat in front. Nothing daunted, Mrs. D. approached. "Halt," was the short sharp hail of the sentinel, as he brought his bayonet to the charge. "Who is quartered here?" asked Mrs. D., gradually nearing the sentry. "Maj.-Gen. Stuart," was the brief reply, "I want to visit a lady acquaintance in the house." "My orders are strict, madam, that no one can cross my beat without a pass." "Pass or no pass, I must and will go into that house," and quick as thought this frail lady dashed aside the bayonet, sprang across the beat, and entered the hall, while the sentry confused, uncertain whether he should follow or not, stood a minute or two before resuming his step. From an upper window Gen. Stuart laughed heartily at the scene, and was loud in praise of her tact and pluck.
But all this time our division has been moving through the streets of Frederick, in fact has reached what was to have been its camping ground for the night. The reader will excuse me; older heads and more exact pens have frequently, when ladies intervened, made much longer digressions.
The halt was but for a moment. An aide-de-camp, weary-looking, on a horse covered with foam, dashed up to the division commander, bearing an order from the commander-in-chief that the division must join its corps at Antietam without delay. The fight might be renewed in the morning, and if so, fresh troops were needed. The order was communicated through the brigade commanders to commanders of regiments, while the subordinate field officers went from company to company encouraging the men, telling them that a glorious victory had been gained, that the rebels were hemmed in by the river on three sides, and our army in front; that there was but one ford, and that a poor one, and that the rebels must either take to the river indiscriminately, be cut to pieces, or surrender. In short, that we had them.
These statements were received with the most enthusiastic applause. As the Division proceeded on its march, they were confirmed by reports of spectators and wounded men in ambulances. What was the most significant fact to the men who had seen the thousands of stragglers and skulkers from the second battle of Bull Run, was the entire absence of straggling or demoralization of any kind. Our troops must have been victorious, was the ready and natural suggestion. The thought nerved them, and pushing up their knapsacks, and hitching up their pantaloons, they trudged with a will up the mountain slope.
That mountain slope!—it would well repay a visit from one of our large cities, to descend that mountain a bright summer afternoon. A sudden turn in the road brings to view the sun-gilded spires of the city of Frederick, rising as if by enchantment from one of the loveliest of valleys. Many of the descriptions of foreign scenery pale before the realities of this view. When will our Hawthornes and our Taylors be just to the land of their birth?
Scenery on that misty night could not delay the troops. The mountain-top was gained. About half way down the northern slope of the mountain the Division halted to obtain the benefits of a spring fifty yards from the road. A steep path led to it, and one by one the men filed down to fill their canteens. The delay was terribly tedious, and entirely unnecessary, as five minutes' inquiry among the men, many of whom were familiar with the road, would have informed the Commanding General of abundance of excellent water, a short mile beyond, and close by the wayside. Pride, which prevails to an unwarranted extent among too many regular officers, is frequently the cause of much vexation. Inquiry and exertion to lighten the labors of our brave volunteers would, with every earnest officer, be unceasing. A short distance further a halt was ordered for coffee, that "sublime beverage of Mocha," indispensable in camp or in the field. Strange to say, our brigadier, who habitually confined himself closely to cold water, was one of the most particular of officers in ordering halts for coffee.
South Mountain was crossed, but in the dusky light little could be seen of the devastation caused by the late battle. "Yonder," said a wounded man who chanced to be passing, "our gallant General lost his life." The brave, accomplished Reno! How dearly our national integrity is maintained! Brave spirit, in your life you thought it well worth the cost; your death can never be considered a vain sacrifice!
Boonsboro' was entered about day-break. The road to Sharpsburg was here taken, and at 7-1/2 A. M., having marched during that night twenty-eight miles, the Division stood at arms near the battle-ground along a road crowded with ammunition trains. Inquiry was made as to the ammunition, and the number of rounds for each man ordered to be increased immediately from forty to sixty.
"Pioneer! hand me that axe," said our brigadier, dismounting. "Sergeant," addressing the sergeant of the ammunition guard, "hand out those boxes." "The Division General has given strict orders, if you please, General, that the boxes must pass regularly through the hands of the ordnance officer," said the sergeant, saluting. "I am acting ordnance officer; hand out the boxes!" was the command, that from its tone and manner brooked no delay. A box was at his feet. In an instant a clever blow from the muscular arm of the hero of Winchester laid it open. Another and another, until the orderly sergeant had given the required number of rounds to every man in the brigade. "Attention! Column! Shoulder Arms! Right Face! Right Shoulder Shift Arms!" and at a quickstep the brigade moved towards the field.
After passing long trains of ambulances and ammunition wagons, the boys were saluted as they passed through the little town of Keetysville by exhortations from the wounded, who crowded every house, and forgot their wounds in their enthusiasm. "Fellows, you've got 'em! Give 'em h—l!" yelled an artillery sergeant, for whom a flesh wound in the arm was being dressed at the window by a kind-hearted looking country woman. "Give it to 'em!" "They're fast!" "This good lady knows every foot of the ground, and says so." The good lady smiled assent, and was saluted with cheer upon cheer. Dead horses, a few unburied men, marks of shot in the buildings, now told of immediate proximity to the field. A short distance further, and the Division was drawn up in line of battle, behind one of the singular ridges that mark this memorable ground. Fragments of shells, haversacks, knapsacks, and the like, told how hotly the ground had been contested on the previous day. The order to load was quickly obeyed, and the troops, with the remainder of the Fifth Corps in their immediate neighborhood, stood to arms.
A large number of officers lined the crest of the ridge, and thither, with leave, the Colonel and Lieut.-Colonel of the 210th repaired. The scene that met their view was grand beyond description. Another somewhat higher and more uniform ridge, running almost parallel to the ridge or rather connected series of ridges on one of which the officers stood, was the strong position held by the rebels on the previous day. Between the ridges flowed the sluggish Antietam, dammed up for milling purposes. Beyond, on the crest of the hill, gradually giving way, were the rebel skirmishers; our own were as gradually creeping up the slope. The skirmishers were well deployed upon both sides; and the parallel flashes and continuous rattle of their rifles gave an interest to the scene, ineffaceable in the minds of spectators.
"Do you hear that shell, you can see the smoke just this side of Sharpsburg on our left," said the Colonel, addressing his companion. "There it bursts," and a puff of white smoke expanded itself in the air fifty yards above one of our batteries posted on a ridge on the left. Two pieces gave quick reply. "Officers, to your posts," shouted an aide-de-camp, and forthwith the officers galloped to their respective commands.
"Boys, the ball is about to open, put your best foot foremost," said the Colonel to his regiment. The men, excited, supposing themselves about to pass their first ordeal of battle, straightened up, held their pieces with tightened grips, and nervously awaited the "forward." Beyond the sharp crack of the rifles, however, no further sound was heard. Hour after hour passed. At length an aide from the staff of the Division General cantered to where the Brigadier, conversing with several of his field officers, stood, and informed him that it was the pleasure of the Division General that the men should be made comfortable, as no immediate attack was apprehended. "No immediate attack apprehended!" echoed the Colonel. "Of course not. Why don't we attack them?"
The aide flushed, said somewhat excitedly: "That was the order I received, sir."
"Boys, cook your coffee," said our Brigadier, somewhat mechanically—a brown study pictured in his face.
The field officers scattered to relieve their hunger, or rather their anxiety as to the programme of the day.
"Charlie," said the Lieut.-Col., addressing a good-humored looking Contraband, "get our coffee ready."
The Colonel, with the other field and staff officers, seated themselves upon knapsacks unslung for their accommodation, silently, each apparently waiting upon the other to open the conversation. In the meantime several company officers who had heard of the order gathered about them.
"I don't understand this move at all," at length said the Colonel nervously. "Here we are, with a reserve of thirty thousand men who have not been in the fight at all, with ammunition untouched, perfectly fresh and eager for the move. The troops that were engaged yesterday have for the most part had a good night's rest and are ready and anxious for a brush to-day. The rebels, hemmed in on three sides by the river—with a miserable ford, and that only in one place, as every body knows, and as there is no earthly excuse for our generals not knowing, as this ground was canvassed often enough in the three months' service. Why don't we advance?" continued the Colonel, rising. "Their sharpshooters are near the woods now, and when they reach it, they'll run like Devils. Why don't we advance? We can drive them into the river, if they like that better than being shelled; or they can surrender, which they would prefer to either. And as to force, I'll bet we have one third more."
The Colonel, an impressive, fine-looking man, six feet clear in his socks, of thirty-eight or thereabouts, delivered the above with more than his usual earnestness.
The Adjutant, of old Berks by birth, rather short in stature, thick-set, with a mathematically developed head, was the first to rejoin.
"It can't be for want of ammunition, Colonel! This corps has plenty. An officer in a corps engaged yesterday told me that they had enough, and you all saw the hundreds of loaded ammunition wagons that we passed in the road close at hand—and besides, what excuse can there be? The Rebs I understand did not get much available ammunition at the ferry. They are far from their base of supplies, while we are scant fifteen miles from one railroad, and twenty-eight from another, and good roads to both."
"Be easy," said the Major, a fine specimen of manhood, six feet two and a half clear of his boots, an Irishman by birth, the brogue, however, if he ever had any, lost by an early residence in this country. "Be easy. Little Mac is a safe commander. We tried him, Colonel, in the Peninsula, and I'll wager my pay and allowances, and God knows I need them, that he'll have his army safe."
"Yes, and the Rebel army too," snappishly interrupted the Colonel.
"I have always thought," said the Lieut.-Col., "that the test of a great commander was his ability to follow up and take advantage of a victory. One thousand men from the ranks would bear that test triumphantly to-day. It is a wonder that our Union men stiffened in yesterday's fight, whose blue jackets we can see from yonder summit in the rear of our sharpshooters, do not rise from the dead, and curse the halting imbecility that is making their heroic struggles, and glorious deaths, seemingly vain sacrifices."
"Too hard, Colonel, too hard," says the Major.
"Too hard! when results are developing before our eyes, so that every servant, even, in the regiment can read them. Mark my word for it, Major; Lee commenced crossing last evening, and by the time we creep to the river at five hundred yards a day, if at all, indeed, he will have his army over, horse, foot, and dragoons, and leave us the muskets on the field, the dead to bury, farm-houses full of Rebel wounded to take care of, and the battle-ground to encamp upon—a victory barely worth the cost. Why not advance, as the Col. says. The worst they can do in any event is to put us upon the defensive, and they can't drive us from this ground."
"If old Rosecranz was only here," sang out a Captain, who had been itching for his say, and who had seen service in Western Virginia, "he wouldn't let them pull their pantaloons and shirts off and swim across, or wade it as if they were going out a bobbing for eels. When I was in Western Virginia——"
"If fighting old Joe Hooker could only take his saddle to-day," chimed in an enthusiastic company officer, completely cutting off the Captain, "he'd go in on his own hook."
"And it would be," sang out a beardless and thoughtless Lieutenant—
"Old Joe, kicking up ahind and afore And the Butternuts a caving in, around old Joe."
The apt old song might have given the Lieutenant a little credit at any other time, but the matter in hand was too provokingly serious. Coffee and crackers were announced, the field officers commenced their meal in silence, and the company officers returned to their respective quarters.
The troops rested on their arms all that afternoon, at times lounging close to the stacks. Upon the face of every reflecting officer and private, deep mortification was depicted. It did not compare, however, with the chagrin manifested by the Volunteer Regiments who had been engaged in the fight, and whose thinned ranks and comrades lost made them closely calculate consequences. Not last among the reflecting class was our little Irish corporal.
"Gineral," said he, advancing cap in hand, to our always accessible Brigadier, as he sat leisurely upon his bay—"Gineral! will you permit a corporal, and an Irishman at that, to spake a word to ye?"
"Certainly, corporal!" the fine open countenance of the General relaxing into a smile.
"Gineral! didn't we beat the Rebs yesterday?"
"So they say, corporal."
"Don't the river surround them, and can they cross at more than one place, and that a bad one, as an ould woman whose pig I saved to-day tould me?"
"The river is on their three sides, and they have only one ford, and that a bad one, corporal."
"Thin why the Divil don't we charge?"
"Corporal!" said the General, laughing, "I am not in command of the army, and can't say."
"Bad luck to our stars that ye aren't, Gineral! there would be somebody hurt to-day thin, and it would be the bluidy Butthernuts, I'm thinking." The corporal gave this ready compliment as only an Irishman can, and withdrew.
At dusk orders were received for the men to sleep by their arms. But there was no sleep to many an eye until a late hour that night. Never while life lasts will survivors forget the exciting conversations of that day and night. "Tired nature," however, claimed her dues, and one by one, officers and privates at late hours betook themselves to their blankets. The stars, undisturbed by struggles on this little planet, were gazed at by many a wakeful eye. Those same stars will look down as placidly upon the future faithful historian, whose duty it will be to place first in the list of cold, costly military mistakes, the blunder of the day after the battle of Antietam.
The March to the River—Our Citizen Soldiery—Popularity of Commanders how Lost and how Won—The Rebel Dead—How the Rebels repay Courtesy.
An early call to arms was sounded upon the succeeding morning, and the Division rapidly formed. The batteries that had been posted at commanding points upon the series of ridges during the previous day and night were withdrawn, and the whole Corps moved along a narrow road, that wound beautifully among the ridges.
The Volunteer Regiments were unusually quiet; the thoughts of the night previous evidently lingered with them. The American Volunteer is no mere machine. Rigorous discipline will give him soldierly characteristics—teach him that unity of action with his comrades and implicit obedience of orders are essential to success. But his independence of thought remains; he never forgets that he is a citizen soldier; he reads and reflects for himself. Few observant officers of volunteers but have noticed that affairs of national polity, movements of military commanders, are not unfrequently discussed by men in blouses, about camp fires and picket stations, with as much practical ability and certainly quite as courteously, as in halls where legislators canvass them at a nation's cost. It has been justly remarked that in no army in the world is the average standard of intelligence so high, as in the American volunteer force. The same observation might be extended to earnestness of purpose and honesty of intention. The doctrine has long since been exploded that scoundrels make the best soldiers. Men of no character under discipline will fight, but they fight mechanically. The determination so necessary to success is wanting. European serfs trained with the precision of puppets, and like puppets unthinking, are wanting in the dash that characterizes our volunteers. That creature of impulse the Frenchman, under all that is left of the first Napoleon, the shadow of a mighty name, will charge with desperation, but fails in the cool and quiet courage so essential in seeming forlorn resistance. In what other nation can you combine the elements of the American volunteer? It may be said that the British Volunteer Rifle Corps would prove a force of similar character. In many respects undoubtedly they would; as yet there is no basis of comparison. Their soldierly attainments have not been tested by the realities of war.
There was ample food for reflection. On the neighboring hills heavy details of soldiers were gathering the rebel dead in piles preparatory to committing them to the trenches, at which details equally heavy, vigorously plied the pick and spade. Our own dead, with few exceptions, had already been buried; and the long rows of graves marked by head and foot boards, placed by the kind hands of comrades, attested but too sadly how heavily we had peopled the ridges.
While the troops were en route, the Commander-in-Chief in his hack and four, followed by a staff imposing in numbers, passed. The Regulars cheered vociferously. The applause from the Volunteers was brief, faint, and a most uncertain sound, and yet many of these same Volunteer Regiments were rapturous in applause, previous to and during the battle. Attachment to Commanders so customary among old troops—so desirable in strengthening the morale of the army—cannot blind the intelligent soldier to a grave mistake—a mistake that makes individual effort contemptible. True, a great European Commander has said that soldiers will become attached to any General; a remark true of the times perhaps—true of the troops of that day,—but far from being true of volunteers, who are in the field from what they consider the necessity of the country, and whose souls are bent upon a speedy, honorable, and victorious termination of the war.
A glance at the manner in which our Volunteer Regiments are most frequently formed, will, perhaps, best illustrate this. A town meeting is called, speeches made appealing to the patriotic, to respond to the necessities of the country; lists opened and the names of mechanics, young attorneys, clerks, merchants, farmers' sons, dry-goods-men and their clerks, and others of different pursuits, follow each other in strange succession, but with like earnestness of purpose. An intelligent soldiery gathered in this way, will not let attachments to men blind them as to the effects of measures.
About 10 A. M., our brigade was drawn up in line of battle on a ridge overlooking the well riddled little town of Sharpsburg. Arms were stacked, and privilege given many officers and men to examine the adjacent ground. A cornfield upon our right, along which upon the north side ran a narrow farm road, that long use had sunk to a level of two and in most places three feet, below the surface of the fields, had been contested with unusual fierceness. Blue and grey lay literally with arms entwined as they fell in hand to hand contest. The fence rails had been piled upon the north side of the road, and in the rifle pit formed to their hand with this additional bulwark, they poured the most galling of fires with comparative impunity upon our troops advancing to the charge. A Union battery, however, came to the rescue, and an enfilading fire of but a few moments made havoc unparalleled. Along the whole line of rebel occupation, their bodies could have been walked upon, so closely did they lie. Pale-faced, finely featured boys of sixteen, their delicate hands showing no signs of toil, hurried by a misguided enthusiasm from fond friends and luxurious family firesides, contrasted strangely with the long black hair, lank looks of the Louisiana Tiger, or the rough, bloated, and bearded face of the Backwoodsman of Texas. A Brigadier, who looked like an honest, substantial planter, lay half over the rails, upon which he had doubtless stood encouraging his men, while lying half upon his body were two beardless boys, members of his staff, and not unlikely of his family. Perhaps all the male members of that family had been hurried at once from life by that single shell. The sight was sickening. Who, if privileged, would be willing to fix a limit to God's retributive justice upon the heads of the infamous, and in many instances cowardly originators of this Rebellion!
Cavalry scouting parties brought back the word that the country to the river was clear of the rebels, and in accordance with what seemed to be the prevailing policy of the master-mind of the campaign, immediate orders to move were then issued. The troops marched through that village of hospitals,—Sharpsburg—and halted within a mile and a half of the river, in the rear of a brick dwelling, which was then taken and subsequently used as the Head-Quarters of Major-General Fitz John Porter. A line of battle was again formed, arms stacked, and an order issued that the ground would be occupied during the night.
In the morning the march was again resumed by a road which wound around the horseshoe-shaped bend in the river. When approaching the river, firing was heard, apparently as if from the other side, and a short distance further details were observed carrying wounded men and ranging them comfortably around the many hay and straw stacks of the neighborhood. Inquiry revealed that a reconnoitring party, misled by the apparent quiet of the other side, had crossed, fallen into an ambuscade, and under the most galling of fires, artillery and musketry, kept up most unmercifully by the advancing rebels, who thus ungraciously repaid the courtesy shown them the day after Antietam—had been compelled to recross that most difficult ford. Our loss was frightful—one new and most promising regiment was almost entirely destroyed.
The men thought of the dead earnestness of the rebels, and as they moved forward around the winding Potomac—deep, full of shelving, sunken rocks, from the dam a short distance above the ford, that formerly fed the mill owned by a once favorably known Congressman, A. R. Boteler, to where it was touched by our line—they reviewed with redoubled force, the helplessness of the rebels a few days previously, and to say the least, the carelessness of the leader of the Union army.
The regimental camp was selected in a fine little valley that narrowed into a gap between the bluffs, bordering upon the canal, sheltered by wood, and having every convenience of water. The rebels had used it but a few days previously, and the necessity was immediate for heavy details for police duty. And here we passed quite unexpectedly six weeks of days more pleasant to the men than profitable to the country, and of which something may be said in our two succeeding chapters.
A Regimental Baker—Hot Pies—Position of the Baker in line of Battle—Troubles of the Baker—A Western Virginia Captain on a Whiskey Scent—The Baker's Story—How to obtain Political Influence—Dancing Attendance at Washington—What Simon says—Confiscation of Whiskey.
Besides the indispensables of quartermaster and sutler the 210th had what might be considered a luxury in the shape of a baker, who had volunteered to accompany the regiment, and furnish hot cakes, bread, and pies. Tom Hudson was an original in his way, rather short of stature, far plumper and more savory-looking than one of his pies, with a pleasing countenance and twinkling black eye, that meant humor or roguishness as circumstances might demand, and a never-ending supply of what is always popular, dry humor. He was just the man to manage the thousand caprices of appetite of a thousand different men. While in camps accessible to the cities of Washington and Alexandria, matters moved smoothly enough. His zinc-plated bakery was always kept fired up, and a constant supply of hot pies dealt out to the long strings of men, who would stand for hours anxiously awaiting their turn. A movement of the baker's interpreted differently by himself and the men, at one time created considerable talk and no little feeling. On several occasions the trays were lifted out of the oven, and the pies dashed upon the out-spread expectant hands, with such force as to break the too often half-baked undercrust. In consequence the juices would ooze out, trickle scalding hot between the fingers, and compel the helpless man to drop the pie. One unfortunate fellow lost four pies in succession. As they cost fifteen cents apiece, the pocket was too much interested to let the matter escape notice. A non-commissioned officer, who had lost a pie, savagely returned to the stand, and demanded another pie or his money. The baker was much too shrewd for that. The precedent, if set, would well nigh exhaust his stock of pies, and impoverish his cash drawer.
"I say," said the officer, turning to the men, "it is a trick. He wants to sell as many pies as he can. He knows well enough that when one falls in this mud fifteen cents are gone slap."
"Now, boys," said the baker blandly, "you know me better than that. I'd scorn to do an act of that kind for fifteen cents. You know how it is—what a rush there always is here. You want the pies as soon as baked, and baking makes them hot. Now I want to accommodate you all as soon as possible, and of course I serve them out as soon as baked. You had better all get tin-plates or boards."
"That won't go down, old fellow," retorted the officer. "You know that there is hardly a tin-plate in camp, and boards are not to be had."
A wink from the baker took the officer to the private passage in the rear of his tent. What happened there is known but to the two, but ever after the officer held his peace. Not so with the men. However, as the pies were not dealt out as hot in future, the matter gradually passed from their minds.
To make himself popular with the men, Tom resorted to a variety of expedients, one of which was to assure them that in case of an enterprise that promised danger, he would be with them. He was taken up quite unexpectedly. An ammunition train on the morning of the second battle of Bull Run, bound to the field, required a convoy. The regiment was detailed. Tom's assertions had come to the ears of the regimental officers, and without being consulted, he was provided with a horse, and told to keep near the Adjutant. There was a drizzling rain all day long, but through it came continually the booming of heavy ordnance.
"Colonel! how far do you suppose that firing is?" "And are they Rebel cannon?" were frequent inquiries made by Tom during the day. About noon he asserted that he could positively ride no further. But ride he must and ride he did. The Regiment halted near Centreville, having passed Porter's Corps on the way and convoyed the Train to the required point. After a short halt the homeward route was taken and Tom placed in the rear. By some accident, frequent when trains take up the road, he became separated from the Regiment and lost among the teams. The Regiment moved on, and as it was now growing dark, turned into a wood about half a mile distant, for the night. Tom had just learned his route, when "ping!" came a shell from a Rebel battery on a hill to the left, exploded among some team horses, and created awful confusion. He suddenly forgot his soreness, and putting spurs to his horse at a John Gilpin speed, rode by, through and over, as he afterwards said, the teams. The shells flew rapidly. Tom dodged as if every one was scorching his hair, at the same time giving a vigorous kick to the rear with both heels. At his speed he was soon by the teams; in fact did not stop until he was ten Virginia miles from that scene of terror. But we will meet him again in the morning.
The Regiment was soon shelled out of the wood, and compelled to continue its march. Three miles further they encamped in a meadow, passed a wet night without shelter, and early next morning were again upon the road. Thousands of stragglers lined the way, living upon rations plundered from broken-down baggage wagons—lounging lazily around fires that were kept in good glow by rails from the fences near which they were built. The preceding day these stragglers and skulkers were met in squads at every step of the road. At a point sufficiently remote from danger, their camps commenced. In one of these camps, situated in a fence corner, the baker was espied, stretched at full length and fast asleep, upon two rails placed at a gentle slope at right angles to the fence. Surrounding him were filthy, mean-looking representatives of half-a-dozen various regiments—the Zouave more gay than gallant in flaming red breeches—blouses, dress coats, and even a pair of shoulder straps, assisted to complete the crowd. Near by was tied his jaded horse.
The baker was awakened. To his surprise, as he said, he saw the regiment, as he had supposed them to be much nearer home than himself. One of his graceless comrades, however, bluntly contradicted this, and accused him of being mortally frightened when he halted the night before, as although they assured him that he was full ten miles from danger, he insisted that these rifled guns had terribly long range. The baker remonstrated, and quietly resumed his place by the Adjutant and Colonel.
"I have been thinking, Colonel," said he, in the course of a half hour, riding alongside of the Colonel, and speaking in an undertone, "that I ran a great risk unnecessarily."
"Why?" asked the Colonel.
"You see my exhortations are worth far more to the men than my example. When they crowd my quarters, as they do every morning, I never fail to deal out patriotic precepts with my pies."
"But particularly the pies," retorted the Colonel.
"That is another branch of my case," slily continued the baker. "Suppose, if such a calamity can be dwelt upon, that I had been killed, and there was only one mule between me and death, who would have run my bakery? who," elevating his voice, "would have furnished hot rolls for the officers, and warm bread cakes and pies for the men? Riding along last night, these matters were all duly reflected upon, and I wound up, by deciding that the regiment could not afford to lose me."
"But you managed to lose the regiment," replied the Colonel.
"Pure accident that, I assure you, upon honor. Now in line of battle I have taken pains to ascertain my true position, but this confounded marching by the flank puts me out of sorts. In line of battle the quartermaster says he is four miles in the rear—the sutler says that he is four miles behind the quartermaster, and as it would look singular upon paper to shorten the distance for the baker, besides other good reasons, I suppose I am four miles behind the sutler."
"Completely out of range for all purposes," observed the Adjutant, who had slily listened with interest.
"There is a good reason for that position, it is well chosen, and shows foresight," continued the baker, dropping his rein, and enforcing his remarks by apt gestures. "Suppose we are in line of battle, and the Rebels in line facing us at easy rifle range. Their prisoners say that they have lived for a month past on roasted corn and green apples. Now what will equal the daring of a hungry man! These Rebel Commanders are shrewd in keeping their men hungry; our men have heart for the fight, it is true, but the rebels have a stomach for it—they hunger for a chance at the spoils. The quartermaster then with his crackers, as they must not be needlessly inflamed, must be kept out of sight—the sutler, too, with his stores, must be kept shady—but above all the baker. Suppose the baker to be nearer," said he, with increased earnestness, "and a breeze should spring up towards their lines bearing with it the smell of warm bread, the rebels would rise instanter on tip-toe, snuff a minute—concentrate on the bakery, and no two ranks or columns doubled on the centre, could keep the hungry devils back. Our line pierced, we might lose the day—lose the day, sir."
"And the baker," said the Major, joining in the laugh caused by his argument.
Shortly after that march, matters went indifferently with the baker. Camp was changed frequently, and over the rough roads he kept up with difficulty.
A week after the battle of Antietam, after satisfying himself fully of the departure of the Rebels, he arrived in camp. He had picked up by the way an ill-favored assistant, whose tent stood on the hill side some little distance from the right flank of the regiment.
Two nights after his arrival there was a commotion in camp. A tonguey corporal, slightly under regulation size, in an exuberance of spirits, had mounted a cracker-box almost immediately in front of the sutler's tent, and commenced a lively harangue. He told how he had left a profitable grocery business to serve his country—his pecuniary sacrifices—but above all, the family he had left behind.
"And you've blissed them by taking your characther with you," chimed in the little Irish corporal.
"Where did you steal your whiskey?" demanded a second.
The confusion increased, the crowd was dispersed by the guard, all at the expense of the sutler's credit, as it was rumored that he had furnished the stimulant.
The sutler indignantly demanded an investigation, and three officers, presumed to possess a scent for whiskey above their fellows, were detailed for the duty. One of these was our friend the Virginia captain.
Under penalty of losing his stripes, the corporal confessed that he had obtained the liquor at the baker's. Thither the following evening the detail repaired. The assistant denied all knowledge of the liquor. He was confronted with the corporal, and admitted the charge, and that but three bottles remained.
"By ——," said our Western Virginia captain, hands in pocket, "I smell ten more. There are just thirteen bottles or I'll lose my straps."
The confidence of the captain impressed the detail, and they went to work with a will—emptying barrels of crackers, probing with a bayonet sacks of flour, etc. A short search, to the pretended amazement of the assistant, proved the correctness of the captain's scent. The baker was sent for, and with indignant manner and hands lifted in holy horror, he poured volley after volley of invective at the confounded assistant.
"But, gentlemen," said the baker, dropping his tone, "I've known worse things than this to happen. I've known even bakers to get tight."
"And your bacon would have stood a better chance of being saved if you had got tight, instead of putting a non-commissioned officer in that condition," said one of the detail. "The Colonel, I am afraid, Tom, will clear you out."
"Well," sighed the baker, after a pause of a moment, "talk about Job and all the other unfortunates since his day, why not one of them had my variety of suffering. Did you ever hear any of my misfortunes?"
"We see one."
"My life has been a series of mishaps. I prosper occasionally in small things, but totals knock me. God help me if I hadn't a sure port in a storm—a self-supporting wife. For instance—but I can't commence that story without relieving my thirst." A bottle was opened, drinks had all around, and the baker continued—
"You see, gentlemen, when Simon was in political power, I waggled successfully and extensively among the coal mines in Central Pennsylvania. In those localities voters are kept underground until election day, and they then appear above often in such unexpected force as to knock the speculations of unsophisticated politicians. But Simon was not one of that stripe. He knew his men—the real men of influence; not men that have big reputations created by active but less widely known under-workers, but the under-workers themselves. Simon dealt with these, and he rarely mistook his men. Now I was well known in those parts—kept on the right side of the boys, and the boys tried to keep on the right side of me, and Simon knew it. No red tape fettered Simon, as the boys say it tied our generals the other side of Sharpsburg in order to let the Rebs have time to cross. If the measures that his shrewd foresight saw were necessary for the suppression of this Rebellion, at its outbreak, had been adopted, we would be encamped somewhat lower down in Dixie than the Upper Potomac—if indeed there would be any necessity for our being in service at all.
"He was not a man of old tracks, like a ground mole; indeed like some military commanders who seem lost outside of them; but of ready resources and direct routes, gathering influence now by one means and then by another, and perhaps both novel. Now Simon set me at work in this wise.
"'Tom,' one morning, says an old and respected citizen of our place, who knew my father and my father's father, and me as an unlucky dog from my cradle, 'Tom, did ever any idea of getting a permanent and profitable position—say, as you are an excellent penman—as clerk in one of the departments at Harrisburg or Washington, enter your head?'
"At this I straightened up, drew up my shirt collar, pulled down my vest, and said with a sort of hopeful inquiry, 'Why should there?'
"'Tom, you are wasting your most available talent. Do you know that you have influence—and political influence at that?'
"Another hitch at my shirt collar and pull at my vest, as visions of the Brick Capitol at Harrisburg and the White one at Washington danced before my eyes.
"'Did you ever reflect, Tom, upon the source of political power?' continued the old gentleman, and without waiting for an answer, fortunately, as I was fast becoming dumbfoundered, 'the people, Tom, the people; not you and I, so much as that miner,' said he, pointing to a rough ugly-looking fellow that I had kicked out of my wife's bar-room—or, rather, got my ostler to do it—two nights before, 'That man, Tom, is a representative of thousands; we may represent but ourselves. Now these people are controlled. They neither think nor act for themselves, as a general rule; somebody does that for them. Now,' as he spoke, trying to take me by a pulled-out button-hole, 'you might as well be that somebody as any man I know.'
"'Why, Lord bless you, Mr. Simpson, I can't do my own thinking, and as to acting, my wife says I am acting the fool all day long.'
"'Tom, you don't comprehend me, you know our county sends three members to the State Legislature, and that they elect a United States Senator.'
"'Well, now, our county can send Simon C—— to the United States Senate.'
"'But our county oughtn't to do it,'—my whig prejudices that I had imbibed with my mother's milk coming up strong.
"'Tut, tut, Tom, didn't I stand shoulder to shoulder with your father in the old Clay Legion? Whiggery has had its day, and Henry Clay would stand with us now.'
"'But with Simon's?'
"'Yes, Simon's principles have undergone a wholesome change.'
"I couldn't see it, but didn't like to contradict the old man, and he continued.
"'Now, Thomas, be a man; you have influence. I know you have it.' Here I straightened up again. 'Just look at the miners who frequent your hotel, each of them has influence, and don't you think that you could control their votes? Should you succeed, Simon's Scotch blood will never let him forget a friend.'
"'Or forgive an enemy,' I added.
"'Tom, don't let your foolish prejudices stand in the way of your success. Your father would advise as I do.'
"'Mr. S., I'll try.'
"'That's the word, Tom,' said the old man, patting me on the shoulder. 'It runs our steam-engines, builds our factories, in short, has made our country what it is.'
"I took Mr. S.'s hand, thanked him for his suggestions, with an effort swallowed my prejudices against the old Chieftain, and resolved to work as became my new idea of my position.
"By the way, the recollection of that effort to swallow makes my throat dry, and it's a long time between drinks."
Another round at the bottle, and Tom resumed.
"'Well, work I did, like a beaver; there wasn't a miner in my neighborhood that I didn't treat, and a miner's baby that I didn't kiss, and often their wives, as some unprincipled scoundrel one day told Mrs. Hudson, to the great injury of my ears and shins for almost a week, and the upshot of the business was, that my township turned a political somerset. Friends of Simon's, in disguise, went to Harrisburg, were successful, and I was not among the last to congratulate him.
"'Mr. Hudson,' said the Prince of politicians, 'how can I repay you for your services?'
"Like a fool, as my wife always told me I was, I made no suggestion, but let the remark pass with the tameness of a sheep—merely muttering that it was a pleasure to serve him. Simon went to Washington—made no striking hits on the floor, but was great on committees.
"Another idea entered my noddle, this clip without the aid of Mr. S. My penmanship came into play. Days and nights of most laborious work produced a full length portrait of Simon, that at the distance of ten feet could not be distinguished from a fine engraving. I seized my opportunity, found Simon in cozy quarters opposite Willard's, and presented it in person. He was delighted—his daughter was delighted—a full-faced heavily bearded Congressman present was delighted, and after repeated assurances of 'thine to serve,' on the part of the Senator, I crossed to my hotel—not Willard's—hadn't as yet sufficient elevation of person and depth of purse for that,—but an humbler one in a back street. Next day I saw my handiwork in the Rotunda—the admiration of all but a black long-haired puppy, an M. C. and F. F. V., as I afterwards learned, who said to a lady at his elbow who had admired it, 'Practice makes some of the poor clerks at the North tolerably good pensmen.' I could have kicked him, but thought it might interfere with the little matter in hand.
"'Tom,' said the senatorial star of my hopes one day, when my purse had become as lean as a June shad, 'Tom, there is a place of $800 a year, I have in view. A Senator is interfering, but I think it can be managed. You must have patience, these things take time. I will write to you as early as any definite result is attained.'
"Relying on Simon's management, which in his own case had never failed, next morning saw me in the cars with light heart and lighter purse, bound for home and Mrs. H., who I am always proud to think regretted my absence more than my presence, although she would not admit it.
"Days passed; months passed; my wife reproached me with lost time—my picture was gone; I had not heard from Simon; I ventured to write; next mail brought a letter rich in indefinite promises.
"Years passed, and Simon was Secretary of War at a time when the office had influence, position, and patronage, unequalled in its previous history. 'Now is your time, Tom,' something within whispered—not conscience—for that did not seem to favor my connection with Simon.
"I wrote again. Quarter-Masters, Clerks by the thousands, Paymasters—I was always remarkably ready in disposing of funds—and Heaven only knows what not were wanted in alarming numbers. Active service was proposed by Simon; but you know, gentlemen, I am constitutionally disqualified for that. And after tediously waiting months longer, I succeeded without Simon's aid in obtaining my present honorable but unfortunate position.
"And that reminds me of the whiskey, another round, men." It was taken; Tom's idea was to drink the detail into forgetfulness of their errand. But he missed his men. He might as well have tried to lessen a sponge by soaking it. The Virginia Captain announced that the Colonel had ordered them to confiscate the whiskey for the use of the Hospital, and to the Surgeon's quarters the detail must next proceed. The Captain gathered up the bottles. The detail bowed themselves out of the tent, and poor Tom thought his misfortunes crowned, as he saw them leave laboring under a load of liquor inside and out. At the Surgeon's tent we will again see them.
The Scene at the Surgeon's Quarters—Our Little Dutch Doctor—Incidents of his Practice.—His Messmate the Chaplain—The Western Virginia Captain's account of a Western Virginia Chaplain—His Solitary oath—How he Preached, how he Prayed, and how he Bush-whacked—His revenge of Snowden's death—How the little Dutch doctor applied the Captain's Story.
Taps had already been sounded before the detail arrived at the Surgeon's tent. The only Surgeon present had retired to his blankets. Aroused by the blustering, he soon lit a candle, and sticking the camp candlestick into the ground, invited them in.
And here we must introduce the Assistant-Surgeon, or rather the little Dutch Doctor as he was familiarly called by the men. Considering his character and early connexion with the regiment, we are at fault in not giving him an earlier place in these pages.
The Doctor was about five feet two in height, hardly less in circumference about the waist, of an active habit of body and turn of mind, eyes that winked rapidly when he was excited, and a movable scalp which threw his forehead into multiform wrinkles as cogitations beneath it might demand. A Tyrolese by birth, he was fond of his Father-land, its mountain songs, and the customs of its people. Topics kindred to these were an unfailing fund of conversation with him. Thoroughly educated, his conversation in badly-broken English, for he made little progress in acquiring the language, at once amused and instructed. Among his fellow surgeons and officers of his acquaintance, he ranked high as a skilful surgeon on account of superior attainments, acquired partly through the German Universities and partly in the Austrian service, during the campaign of Magenta, Solferino, and the siege of Mantua. With a German's fondness for music, he beguiled the tedium of many a long winter evening. With his German education he had imbibed radicalism to its full extent. Thoroughly conversant with the Sacred Scriptures he was a doubter, if not a positive unbeliever, from the Pentateuch to Revelation. In addition to this, his flings at the Chaplain, his messmate, made him unpopular with the religiously inclined of the regiment. He had besides, the stolidity of the German, and their cool calculating practicalism. This did not always please the men. They thought him unfeeling.
"What for you shrug your shoulders?' said he on one occasion to a man from whose shoulders he was removing a large fly blister.
"Bah, wait till I cuts your leg off—and you know what hurts."
"Here, you sick man, here goot place," said he, addressing a man just taken to the hospital with fever, in charge of an orderly sergeant, at surgeon's call, "goot place, nice, warm, dead man shust left." Remarks such as these did not, of course, tend to increase the comfort of the men; they soon circulated among the regiment, were discussed in quarters, and as may be supposed greatly exaggerated, and all at the Doctor's cost. But the Doctor pursued the even tenor of his way, entirely unmindful of them.
About the time of which we write, a clever, honest man died of a disease always sudden in its termination, rheumatic attack upon the heart. The Doctor had informed him fully of his disease, and that but little could be done for it. The poor man, however, was punctual in attendance at Surgeon's Call, and insisted upon some kind of medicine. Bread pills were furnished. One morning, after great complaint of pain about the heart, and a few spasms, he died. His comrades, shocked, thought his death the effect of improper medicine. The Doctor's pride was touched. He insisted upon calling in other surgeons; the pills found in his pocket were analyzed, and discovered to be only bread. The corpse was opened, and the cause of death fully revealed. As the Doctor walked away in stately triumph, some of the men who had been boisterous against him, approached by way of excusing their conduct, and said that now they were perfectly satisfied. "What you know!" was his gruff reply, "you not know a man's heart from a pig's."
Many like incidents might be told—but we must not leave these Captains standing too long at the door of the tent; with the production of the light in they came, with the remark that they had brought hospital supplies. In the meantime several officers, field and company, attracted by the noise and whiskey; came in from regimental head-quarters.
"Must see if goot," and the Doctor applied the bottle to his lips; it was not a favorite drink of his, and tasted badly in lieu of Rhine wine or lager.
"May be goot whiskey."
"Let practical whiskey drinkers have a chance," said two or three at once, and the bottle went its round.
The test was not considered satisfactory until another and another had been emptied.
The increasing confusion aroused the Chaplain, who hitherto had been snugly ensconced beneath his blankets in the corner opposite the Doctor.
"Here, Chaplain, your opinion, and don't let us hear anything about putting the bottle to your neighbor's lips," said a rough voice in the crowd. The Chaplain politely declined, with the remark that they appeared too anxious to put the bottle to their own lips to require any assistance from their neighbors.
"Chaplain not spiritually minded," muttered the Doctor, "so far but three preaches, and every preach cost government much as sixty tollar." The calculation at the Chaplain's expense, amused the crowd, and annoyed the Chaplain, who resumed his blankets.
"When I was in Western Virginny, under Rosecrans,"—
"The old start and good for a yarn," said an officer.
"Good for facts," replied the Chief of the Detail.
"Never mind, Captain, we'll take it as fact," said the Adjutant.
"We had a chaplain that was a chaplain in every sense of the word."
"Did he drink and swear?" inquired a member of the Detail.
"On long marches and in fights he had a canteen filled with what he called chaplain's cordial, about one part whiskey and three water. I tasted it, but with little comfort. One day, a member of Rosy's staff seeing him pulling at it, asked for it, and after a strong pull, told the chaplain that he was weak in spiritual things. 'Blessed are the poor in spirit,' was the quick answer of the chaplain. As to swearing, he was never known to swear but once.
"I heard an officer tell the Adjutant a day or two ago, that what was considered the prettiest sentence in the English language, had been written by a smutty preacher. I don't recollect the words as he repeated it, but it was about an old officer, who nursed a young one, and some one told him the young one would die. The old officer excited, said, 'By G—d, he sha'nt die.' It goes on to say then that an Angel flew up to heaven, to enter it in the great Book of Accounts, and that the Angel who made the charge cried over it and blotted it out. That is the substance anyhow. Well, sir, if the Third Virginny's Chaplain's oath was ever recorded it is in the same fix."
"Well, tell us about it, how it happened," exclaimed several.
"Why you see, Rosy sent over one day for a Major who had lately come into the Division, and told him that 300 rebels were about six miles to our left, in the bushes along a creek, and that he should take 300 men, and kill, capture, or drive them off. The Major was about to make a statement. 'That's all, Major,' with a wave of his hand for him to leave, 'I expect a good account.'
"That was Rosy's style: he told an officer what he wanted, and he supposed the officer had gumption enough to do it, without bothering him, as some of our red-tape or pigeon-hole Generals, as the boys call them, do with long written statements that a memory like a tarred stick couldn't remember—telling where these ten men must be posted, those twenty-five, and another thirty, etc. I wonder what such office Generals think—that the Rebels will be fools enough to attack us when we want them to, or take ground that we would like to have them make a stand on."
"Captain, we talk enough ourselves about that; on with the story."
"Well, four companies, seventy-five strong each, were detailed to go with him, and mine among the number, from our regiment. The chaplain got wind of it, and go he would. By the time the detail was ready, he had his bullets run, his powder-horn and fixin's on, and long Tom, as he called his Kentucky rifle, slung across his shoulder."
"His canteen?" inquired an officer disposed to be a little troublesome.
"Don't recollect about that," said the Captain, somewhat curtly.
"On the march he mixed with the men, talked with them about all kinds of useful matters, and gave them a world of information.
"We had got about a mile from where we supposed the Rebels were; my company, in advance as skirmishers, had just cleared a wood, and were ten yards in the open, when the Butternuts opened fire from a wood ahead at long rifle range. One man was slightly wounded. We placed him against a tree with his back to the Rebels, and under cover of the woods were deciding upon a plan of attack, when up gallops our fat Major with just breath enough to say, 'My God, what's to be done?'
"I'll never forget the chaplain's look at that. He had unslung long Tom; holding it up in his right hand, he fairly yelled out, 'Fight, by G—d! Boys, follow me.' And we did follow him. Skirting around through underbrush to our left, concealed from the Rebs, we came to an open again of about thirty yards. The Rebs had retired about eighty yards in the wood to where it was thicker.
"Out sprang the Chaplain, making a worm fence, Indian fashion, for a big chestnut. We followed in same style. My orderly was behind another chestnut about ten feet to the Chaplain's left, and slightly to his rear. There was for a spell considerable random firing, but no one hurt, and the Rebs again retired a little. We soon saw what the Chaplain was after. About eighty-five yards in his front was another big chestnut, and behind it a Rebel officer. They blazed away at each other in fine style—both good shots, as you could tell by the bark being chipped, now just where the Chaplain's head was, and now just where the officer's was. The officer was left-handed. The Chaplain could fire right or left equally well. By a kind of instinct for fair play and no gouging that even the Rebs feel at times, the rest on both sides looked at that fight, and wouldn't mix. My orderly had several chances to bring the Rebel. Their rifles cracked in quick succession for quite a spell. The Chaplain, at last, not wanting an all-day affair of it, carefully again drew a bead on a level with the chip marks on the left of the Rebel tree. He had barely time to turn his head without deranging the aim, when a ball passed through the rim of his hat. As he turned his head, he gave a wink to the orderly, who was quick as lightning in taking a hint. A pause for nearly a minute. By and by the Rebel pokes his head out to see what was the matter. Seeing the gun only, and thinking the Chaplain would give him a chance when he'd take aim, he did not pull it in as quick as usual. My orderly winked,—a sharp crack, and the Rebel officer threw up his hands, dropped his rifle, and fell backward, with well nigh an ounce ball right over his left eye, through and through his head. Our men cheered for the Chaplain. The Rebs fired in reply, and rushed to secure the body. That cost them three more men, but they got their bodies, and fast as legs could carry them, cut to their fort about three miles to their rear. We of course couldn't attack the fort, and returned to camp. The boys were loud in praise of the Chaplain. Their chin music, as they called camp rumors, had it that the officer killed was a Rebel chaplain. Old Rosy, when he heard of it, laughed, and swore like a trooper. I hear he has got over swearing now—but it couldn't have been until after he left Western Virginny. I heard our Chaplain say that he heard a brother chaplain say, and he believed him to be a Christian,—that he believed that the Apostle Paul himself would learn to swear inside of six months, if he entered the service in Western Virginny. Washington prayed at Trenton, and swore at Monmouth, and I don't believe that the War Department requires Chaplains to be better Christians than Washington. Our old Chaplain used to say that there were many things worse than swearing, and that he didn't believe that men often swore away their chances of heaven."
"Comforting gospel for you, captain," said that troublesome officer.
"He was a bully chaplain," continued the captain, becoming more animated, probably because the regimental chaplain, turtle-like, had again protruded his head from between the blankets. "He had no long tailed words or doctrines that nobody understood, that tire soldiers, because they don't understand them, and make them think that the chaplain is talking only to a few officers. That's what so often keeps men away from religious services. Our chaplain used to say that you could tell who Paul was talking to by his style of talk. I can't say how that is from my own reading; but I always heard that Paul was a sensible man, and if so he certainly would suit himself to the understanding of his crowd."
"Our old chaplain talked right at you. No mistake he meant you—downright, plain, practical, and earnest. He'd tell his crowd of backwoodsmen, flatboatmen and deck hands—the hardest customers that the gospel was ever preached to,—'That the war carried on by the Government was the most righteous of wars; they were doing God's service by fighting in it. On the part of the rebels it was the most unnatural and wicked of wars. They called it a second Revolutionary War, the scoundrels! When my father and your father, Tom Hulzman,' said he, addressing one of his hearers, 'fought in the Revolution, they fought against a tyrannical monarchy that was founded upon a landed aristocracy—that is, rich big feeling people, that owned very big farms. The Government stands in this war, if any thing, better than our fathers stood. We fight against what is far worse than a landed aristocracy, meaner in the sight of God and more hated by honest men, this accursed slave aristocracy, that will, if they whip us—(Can't do that, yell the crowd.) No, they can't. If they should, we would be no better than the poor whites that are permitted to live a dog's life on some worn-out corner of a nigger-owner's plantation. Would you have your children, Joe Dixon, insulted, made do the bidding of some long-haired lank mulatto nabob? (Never, says Joe.) Then, boys, look to your arms, fire low, and don't hang on the aim. We must fight this good fight out, and thank God we can do it. If we die, blessed will be our memory in the hearts of our children. If we live and go to our firesides battle-scarred, our boys can say, 'See how dad fought, and every scar in front,' and we'll be honored by a grateful people.' And he'd tell of the sufferings of their parents, wives, and children, if we didn't succeed, till the water courses on the dirty faces of his crowd would be as plain as his preaching.
"And pray! he'd pray with hands and eyes both open, in such a way that every one believed it would have immediate attention; that God would damn the Rebellion; and may be next day he'd have Long Tom doing its full share in hurrying the rebels themselves to damnation.
"And kind hearted! why old Tim Larkins, who had a wound on the shin that wouldn't heal, told me with tears in his eyes that he had been mother, wife, and child to him. He went about doing good.
"And now I recollect," and the Captain's eye glistened as he spoke, "how he acted when young Snowden was wounded. Snowden was a slender, pale-faced stripling of sixteen, beloved by every body that knew him, and if ever a perfect Christian walked this earth, he was one, even if he was in service in Western Virginny. The chaplain was fond of company, and, as was his duty, mixed with the men. Snowden was reserved, much by himself, and had little or no chance to learn bad habits; that is the only way I can account for his goodness. I often heard the chaplain tell the boys to imitate Snowden, and not himself; 'you'll find a pure mouth there, boys, because the heart is pure; you'll see no letters of introduction to the devil,' as the chaplain called cards, 'in his knapsack.' By the way, he was so hard on cards, that even the boatmen, who knew them better than their A B C's, were ashamed to play them. He would say, 'Snowden is brave as man can be; he has a right to be, he is prepared for every fate. A christian, boys, makes all the better soldier for his being a Christian,' and he would tell us of Washington, Col. Gardner, that preacher that suffered, fought and died near Elizabeth, in the Jerseys, and others.
"In bravery, none excelled Snowden. We were lying down once, but about sixty yards from a wood chuck full of rebels, when word was sent that our troops on the left must be signalled, to charge in a certain way. Several understood the signs, but Snowden first rose, mounted a stump, and did not get off although receiving flesh wounds in half-a-dozen different places, and his clothing cut to ribands, until he saw the troops moving as directed. How we gritted our teeth as we heard the bullets whiz by that brave boy. I have the feeling yet. We thought his goodness saved him. His was goodness! Not that kind that will stare a preacher full in the face from a cushioned pew on Sunday, and gouge you over the counter on Monday, but the genuine article. His time was yet to come.
"One day we had driven the rebels through a rough country some miles, skirmishing with their rear-guard; the Chaplain and Snowden with my company foremost. We neared a small but deep creek the rebels had crossed, and trying to get across, we were scattered along the bank. I heard a shot, and as I turned I saw poor Snowden fall, first on his knee and then on his elbow. I called the Chaplain. They were messmates—he loved Snowden as his own child, and always called him 'my boy.' He rushed to him, 'My boy, who fired that shot?' The lad turned to a clump of bushes about 80 yards distant on the other side of the creek. Long Tom was in hand, but the rebel was first, and a ball cut the Chaplain's coat collar. The flash revealed him; in an instant long Tom was in range, and another instant saw a Butternut belly face the sun. Dropping his piece, falling upon his knee, he raised Snowden gently up with his left hand. 'I am dying,' whispered the boy, 'tell my mother I'll meet her in heaven.' The Chaplain raised his right hand, his eyes swimming in tears, and in tones that I'll never forget, and that make me a better man every time I think of them, he said, 'O God, the pure in heart is before thee, redeem thy promise, and reveal thyself.' A slight gurgle, and with a pleasant smile playing upon his countenance, the soul of John Snowden, if there be justice in heaven, went straight up to the God who gave it." Tears had come to the Captain's eyes, and were glistening in the eyes of most of the crowd.
The Dutch doctor alone was unmoved. Stoically he remarked, "Very goot story, Captain, goot story, do our Chaplain much goot."
The crowd left quietly—all but the Captain, who, never forgetting business in the hurry of the moment, drew a receipt for the transfer of thirteen bottles of whiskey to the hospital department, which the doctor signed without reading.
A Day at Division Head-Quarters—The Judge Advocate—The tweedle-dum and tweedle-dee of Red-Tape as understood by Pigeon-hole Generals—Red-tape Reveries—French Authorities on Pigeon-hole Investigations—An Obstreperous Court and Pigeon-hole Strictures—Disgusting Head-Quarter Profanity.
"The General commanding Division desires to see Lieutenant Colonel ——, 210th Regiment, P. V., Judge Advocate, immediately," were words that met the eye of the latter officer, as he unfolded a note handed him by an orderly. It was about nine in the forenoon of a fine day in October. Buckling on his sword, and ordering his horse, he rode at a lively canter to the General's Head-Quarters.