THE TWENTY-FIFTH REGIMENT
IN THE WAR OF THE REBELLION
History, Reminiscences, Description of Battle of Irish Bend, Carrying of Pay Roll, Roster.
PUBLISHED JUNE, 1913 PRESS OF THE ROCKVILLE JOURNAL ROCKVILLE, CONN.
Brief History of the Twenty-fifth Regiment, Connecticut Volunteers, from the pen of Colonel George P. Bissell.
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Experiences and Reminiscences of Samuel K. Ellis of Rockville, who went out as a Private in Company G, Twenty-fifth Regiment.
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A Complete Account of the Battle of Irish Bend, Given by Major Thomas McManus.
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How the Pay of a Regiment Was Carried to New Orleans by First Lieutenant Henry Hill Goodell.
BRIEF HISTORY OF THE TWENTY-FIFTH REGIMENT, C. V.
The Twenty-fifth Regiment, Connecticut Volunteers, (George P. Bissell, Colonel), was recruited in Hartford and Tolland Counties, in the fall of 1862. The regiment was composed of the very best material, being almost exclusively young men impelled by patriotic motives, and from the first they took a high stand for efficiency and good discipline.
Later in its history, when the regiment had been tried in marches and battles, it was thus described by Adjutant-General Morse in his report to the Legislature for 1864: "This is one of the best of our nine months' regiments and bore a conspicuous part in the advance upon, and the campaign preceding, the fall of Port Hudson. By the bravery always displayed on the field of battle, and the patience and endurance manifested on many long and arduous marches, it has won for itself a high and lasting reputation."
The Twenty-fifth was mustered into the United States service November 11, 1862, and on the 14th sailed from Hartford for Centerville, L.I., to join at that rendezvous the Banks Expedition. The muster-roll showed 811 men thoroughly drilled and well appointed, except that they were without rifles which were later served to them on the ship after their arrival on the Mississippi River. The regiment embarked November 29, 1862, in two divisions;—one division of five companies under command of Colonel Bissell on the Steamer Mary Boardman; and the remainder under command of Lieutenant-Colonel Stevens on the Steamer Empire City. The destination of the expedition was unknown when the vessels sailed as the sealed orders were not to be opened until we had sailed twenty-four hours to the southward and eastward. The orders, when opened, were found to be simply to report at Ship Island, off the mouth of the Mississippi River, allowing a stop at Dry Tortugas for coal if necessary. The ships duly arrived at Ship Island and proceeded at once up the river to New Orleans where they arrived on the 14th of December, 1862. On the 16th, the Mary Boardman, with several of the other ships proceeded to Baton Rouge, where they arrived the next day. The Empire City landed the left wing of the regiment at Camp Parapet, just above New Orleans. The forces landed at Baton Rouge after a brief bombardment of the city and the Twenty-fifth (five companies), went into camp first on the United States Arsenal ground in the city and later near the cemetery, back of the city, where after some delay the left wing joined the colonel's command and the regiment was once more united and in fighting trim. The regiment was first brigaded under General Albert E. Payne of Wisconsin, a noble and brave officer, afterwards with the Thirteenth Connecticut. The Twenty-sixth Maine and One-Hundred and Fifty-ninth New York, under Colonel H. W. Birge, of the Thirteenth Connecticut, as Brigade Commander, an officer of rare ability and bravery and a disciplinarian of the best stamp. Under his command the Twenty-fifth served during its entire term of service. He led them in many battles and marches and while he was strictness personified, he was so magnanimous, brave, reasonable and such a thorough soldier, that the men worshiped him and would follow him into the face of any fire. Now that he is gone they revere his memory.
The first work of the regiment was on the advance on Port Hudson, March 10, 1863, when Colonel Bissell, in command of his own regiment, two detachments of cavalry and a regular army battery, occupied Bayou Montesano, constructed earthworks and built a bridge across Bayou Sara. This bridge was designed by Sergeant William Webster of Company I, after a West Point engineer had despaired of the job. The regiment was seven miles in advance of the rest of the army and in a very exposed and dangerous position. This position they held under a frequently severe fire till the remainder of the army came up when they joined the column and went on to Port Hudson. They were in the front of the land forces when Farragut sailed by the forts in the Flagship Hartford. From the banks of the river the Twenty-fifth witnessed this grand bombardment and the burning of the frigate Mississippi in the night.
When the object of the expedition had been accomplished (to use the words of General Banks' order), the regiment returned to Baton Rouge, passing a wet and dreary night in Camp Misery, a night which will never be forgotten, nor will any one ever forget the noble act of Quartermaster John S. Ives, who rode his tired horse several miles to Baton Rouge and brought out to the men coffee, which they managed to prepare over small fires and which no doubt saved many a man's life. After a short stay at Baton Rouge, the army made another advance on the west bank of the Mississippi, starting March 28th, 1863, marching with frequent skirmishes, sailing up the Atchafalaya bayou and landing at Irish Bend, where the regiment engaged in its first real battle, April 14th, 1863. The severity of this battle may be judged of as we read in the Adjutant-general's report: "Our loss, as you will see from the accompanying returns of the casualties has been very severe, being in all, ninety-six killed and wounded out of 350 with which the regiment went into action."
From this point the regiment marched up to within six miles of the Red River and of this march the regimental report speaks thus: "What with our loss in battle, details for special service and the number who have given out on our very long and severe marches, this regiment is much reduced and has today only 299 men present of whom but 248 are fit for duty. You will thus see, though this campaign has been eminently successful, driving the enemy before us through the entire valley of the Teche, from its mouth to its source, it has been very trying upon the troops. Four engagements and 300 miles march in twenty days call for proportionate suffering which cannot be avoided."
During May and June the regiment was actively engaged in the siege of Port Hudson, and was almost constantly under fire in the trenches and in the various assaults on that stronghold, leading the advance on the 23rd of May when a junction was formed with General Auger's column which completed the investment of the place. During all the siege the regiment was constantly in the front and finally participated in the glories of the surrender of the fortress on the 8th of July, having been in almost constant, arduous duty, marching and fighting since early in March.
After the surrender of Port Hudson, the regiment returned to Donaldsonville, where it encamped till the expiration of term of service. Colonel Bissell sent to General Banks and offered himself and his command to remain longer in the department if our services were needed; but he replied that there would probably be no more fighting, and thanking us for our offer, he issued an order returning us to our homes. The regiment was finally mustered out at Hartford, August 26, 1863.
In closing this brief sketch of the history of the gallant Twenty-fifth Regiment, a few words may be permitted in praise of the good and true men of which it was composed. With very few and unimportant exceptions, they were of the best sort of men, who were ever banded together for the defense of their country. They submitted to rigorous discipline cheerfully, they marched promptly and they fought bravely. A review of official records shows that the regiment was complimented a great many times by General Grover A. Birge for the promptness with which it always moved and for its bravery as shown time and again in battle and under severe fire.
Ever ready and always pushed to the front in time of danger of an attack, the Twenty-fifth was an organization of which the state need not be ashamed. When it was in the field it was an honor to the army and to the volunteer service of our country, and now that fifty years have rolled by the heart of many a survivor swells with just pride as he says to his children and grandchildren: "I was a member of the Twenty-fifth Connecticut."
In closing this brief sketch of the Twenty-fifth Regiment, of which Colonel Bissell is the author, you will see that he was very proud of the men under his command and if you could have seen him drilling his regiment at that time, as I still see him in memory, you would know that he fairly worshiped them. I am sure the men would have followed him into any fire against overwhelming odds. And now he is gone, the men that are left cherish his memory.
INTERESTING REMINISCENCES AND EXPERIENCES BY SAMUEL K. ELLIS.
In opening the subject of my experiences as a private in the War of the Rebellion, I hardly know how to begin as this is the first time I have attempted to write at length upon this subject. I earnestly hope that all those who read this little book will excuse all grammatical errors.
Fifty years have come and gone and as my life has been spared to see the fiftieth anniversary of my army life, and as I kept a diary during my term of service in the War of the Rebellion, I thought it no more than right and just to myself and descendants that I leave in book form some of the many experiences I saw and passed through during that time. It seemed to me that it was a grand opportunity on this the fiftieth anniversary to do it, if I ever did. Hoping that this account of my army life may be highly appreciated and prized by my children and grandchildren and any others that may be interested, I will endeavor to give a complete account as I saw and recorded events.
I was a Vernon Center boy but was working in the town of Glastonbury, when the war broke out, with Hubbard and Broadhead at teaming and farm work. At this time the gloom was deep but the people were not discouraged. At the request of the governors of eighteen loyal states, President Lincoln, on July 2nd, 1862, called out three hundred thousand men for three years' service, and on August 4, ordered a call for three hundred thousand men for nine months. At this time it was hard to tell what one's duty was, but I had made up my mind to go and of course I have never been sorry, as I look back and say with just pride that I was one who went out to help save our Republic from dissolution and preserve civilization itself on this Western Hemisphere from destruction.
I fear I have been wandering from my subject already but I could not help giving expression to the thoughts that were burning within me. Yes, I was a Vernon Center boy, my father moving there when I was sixteen years old. I enlisted September 2nd, 1862, in Company G, Twenty-fifth Regiment, C.V. Our company met in Hartford, near the old State House (what is now City Hall), on the morning of September 8th. We marched down to camp before noon on that day, but instead of finding tents to sleep in we found a string of barracks long enough for a thousand men. I want to tell you how they looked as I remember them. They resembled the cattle sheds that we see nowadays at our fairs, except that they were built with three tiers, instead of one. The bunks were made for two men, one above the other, about four feet wide. Of course we had to have a little straw to lay over the "soft side" of the boards. This building I believe we named "The Palace Hotel" because of its "great beauty and comfort." I wonder if you can imagine how tempting those bunks looked after leaving the good beds that we had been accustomed to. I think there were some pretty homesick boys that first night in our new quarters, if I remember correctly. But the food! Well, I don't think I had better say much about that, for I had been a farmer boy and I think I had the advantage over some of the boys, as I knew what it was to rough it and go without my dinner in the winter time when the days were short and I would be out in the woods all day chopping, or drawing logs with an ox team.
We left our old camp ground on November 18, 1862, with flying colors, to the tune of "Dixie" and "The Star Spangled Banner," and other patriotic airs. But all this did not occur without many tearful eyes, for the streets were crowded with friends and loved ones that were to be left behind. We pulled out of the dock at the foot of State street on the steamer City of Hartford about four o'clock in the afternoon. We arrived at Williamsburg, L.I., early the next morning, and the good people of that city treated us with all the sandwiches and coffee that we wanted. We marched about ten miles, with a portable bureau or what you might call a knapsack on our backs, before one o'clock that day, to the Centerville race course. We pitched our tents and made things as comfortable as we could for the night as you must know it was quite cold weather, it being the last of November. There is no place that reveals the real character of a man so quickly and so clearly as a shelter tent in an army on the field. All there is in him, be it noble or base, strong or weak, is brought to the front by the peculiar experiences of the soldier. The life of a soldier in camp is tedious and wearisome, but when a regiment starts for the field under a government not prepared for war (ours was not), the real trials of the soldier begin. When our regiment arrived at the camp at Centerville, after a march of ten miles, we found that no provision had been made for us,—and it now being the last of November. In the small hours of the morning Colonel Bissell drilled the regiment on a double quick movement on the race course to warm us up. The regiment was ordered to embark on November 29. The Twenty-fifth regiment was to have started on Saturday when lo! just as we were drawn up in line preparatory to a start, General Banks' orderly gallops up, bringing an order for Companies C, D, F, and G to remain behind and go with the Twenty-sixth Connecticut. Here was a pretty fix, for tents, baggage, and everything had already gone. To add to our troubles up came one of the hardest rainstorms, such as only Long Island can produce. As there was no other place, we were compelled to quarter in the old barn which was later turned into a guard house, where we slept on bare boards. Not a wisp of straw had we to lie on, for it was so rainy we could not gather any.
On the evening of the fourth of December, we received marching orders, and at about 8 o'clock, we were very glad to get away from this forsaken place, which we did in a hurry. We arrived in Brooklyn about 12 o'clock that night and I assure you it was no easy matter to find a place to stay till morning. It was a long cold December night. The men got places wherever they could find them. I and several other comrades stayed with a Doctor Green. We were up early in the morning and the doctor wanted us all to stay and have breakfast with him, an invitation which we accepted with thanks. I wrote a letter to my mother while there.
On the morning of the fifth of December we embarked on the steamer Empire City with the Twenty-sixth Connecticut Regiment. The men of the Twenty-sixth were in the hold of the vessel while the Twenty-fifth men took a deck passage which we didn't appreciate especially at this season of the year, December 6th. We left the Atlantic Dock, Brooklyn, at six o'clock that morning. We hadn't been out long before the water became quite rough and the steamer plunged and rolled dreadfully which made the soldiers very sea-sick.
December 7th was dark and boisterous and the good old ship creaked and swayed on the mighty deep. By the way, I hadn't been sea-sick since we left the Atlantic dock, but I could not help laughing, the first day we were out, to see the guards of the vessel from stem to stern lined up with anxious sea-gazers, their knees knocking together, their countenances ashen and a very intimate connection evidently existing between the stomach and the mouth. Even my risibiles were aroused though myself not entirely insensible to the attractions of Neptune.
December 8th. It was Sunday and when daylight came it brought with it a calmer sea and a more jolly set of soldiers, although the water was several inches deep on deck. That day was spent, as all others, without any religious exercises so we had nothing to do but watch the porpoises, of which there had been a great many in sight all day.
We had been out of sight of land since the previous day at noon. Well, we had found out where our expedition was going. It was going to sea. One thing was certain, we were going pretty far south.
December 9th. The weather had become quite fine. The boys had, most of them, gotten over being sea-sick. As the Twenty-sixth boys began to feel as though they had rather be on deck than down in that dirty hole, we were in pretty close quarters, for I think there were as many as twelve hundred men on this old unseaworthy ship which had been used as a transport in the California trade for a great many years. So I was told by Harlan Skinner, who went out as Sutler's clerk of the Twenty-fifth Regiment. (He was a brother of Town Clerk Francis B. Skinner of Rockville and went to California on board of her in 1849.)
December 10th. We were still out of sight of land. Some of us might be imagined reading the Bible or some other interesting book and others were lying asleep on deck, while the rest were watching and wondering where we were going to land, I suppose.
December 11th. It was much warmer, and very pleasant. We were still out of sight of land. Spying an English vessel, we ran up the Stars and Stripes and they ran up their flag to let us know that all was right. Some of the boys sang out, just for a little fun, that the old Rebel gunboat Alabama was in sight.
December 12th we came in sight of the coast of Florida. We had seen the trees and the snow white beach about all day. We also saw several lighthouses. The porpoises and flying fish attracted a great deal of attention and when a school came in sight, all eyes were turned upon them.
December 13th. It has been very pleasant and there has been a smooth sea, consequently we have had a very pleasant day's sail, with a cool breeze. We have been out of sight of land all day, and we long to be on shore once more. As we are so dove-tailed in, when we try to lie down at night, we get very little sleep.
December 14th, Sunday. We were now in the Gulf of Mexico and there had not been a living thing in sight all day. We had a sermon preached on deck. The text was, "Thou shall not take the name of the Lord, thy God, in vain."
December 15th. We arrived at Ship Island at noon and found about the most God forsaken, miserable hole, man ever got into. The sand was ankle deep everywhere. And such a lot of Negroes; shiftless, lazy dogs, black as the ace of spades and twice as natural. But the little "nigs" kill me outright, they looking so much like a lot of monkeys, I know of nothing so comical. I could sit half the morning watching them and hearing them jabber.
December 16th. We arrived at the mouth of the Mississippi River. A pilot came aboard and took us over the bar in the river in compliance with the rules of navigation. We had a very pleasant day's sail coming up the old Mississippi. We saw many half clad slaves on the banks who seemed much pleased to think that Massa Lincoln's soldiers were coming to set them free. We arrived in New Orleans, La., on the 17th of December and got our fill of oranges and victuals before the peddlers were stopped from supplying us.
I want to tell you here what a beautiful sight a sunrise and sunset is at sea. There is something very fascinating about it.
We arrived at Carrollton, just above New Orleans, and went ashore at Camp Parapet, on the morning of December 18. We pitched our tents in the afternoon and were very glad to be on land once more and have room to lie down at night.
This completes my narrative of our sea voyage which I certainly have never forgotten, after having such an experience as I had on a vessel crowded to its utmost capacity and a deck passage at that.
December 19th. We have cleaned up, washed our clothing and are drying it upon our backs, thereby saving the trouble of hanging it on the bushes to dry.
December 20th. We received our rifles and now I suppose we shall have to put on our accoutrements and get right down to drilling in the manual of arms.
December 21st. I was on guard for the first time at Camp Parapet. I am beginning to find out that camp life in Hartford, Connecticut, was quite different from camp life of instruction at Camp Parapet, La.
From this date I shall omit many of the dates and unimportant events of camp life, as one day we drill the next have inspection, so every day brings us many troubles.
Christmas Day. We don't expect a very elaborate dinner. No doubt we shall be thinking of the good things our friends and loved ones are having at home. Such was a soldier's life fifty years ago.
December 30th. Wrote a letter to mother and put some small magnolia leaves, a magnolia bud, a live oak, a cypress and several other varieties into it which I have in my possession to this day. I had an exquisitely fine sympathy with vegetable life in all its forms and especially with trees.
I wrote at that time: "The country charms me with its magnificent lemon and orange groves. The trees are perfectly bowed down with their weight of fruit. Upon my word, I am in love with the Sunny South. I think when this cruel war is over and I can find my affinity, I shall settle down in this beautiful country for life. But I am not thinking much about that just now, for the girls are not much in love with the Union soldiers. The ladies here wear secesh cockades in their bonnets and it is really amusing to see the curl of the lip and the contempt of countenance with which they sweep by us. Of course it is no wonder, when we take into consideration the way they have always lived, and thought that they were fighting for a just cause."
The object of our expedition was to cooperate with General Grant in the reduction of Vicksburg, but General Banks did not know until he arrived at New Orleans that Port Hudson was fortified and manned by almost as large a force as he could bring against it, or that fifty miles west of New Orleans was a force of five or six thousand men ready to move on the city and cut his lines of communication the moment he moved up the river. In addition to this he was furnished with transportation for only one division of his army and instructions from General Grant. There was only one thing that could be done and that was to destroy the Confederate Army west of the Mississippi; before he could, with safety, leave New Orleans in the rear, and advance on Port Hudson. Therefore, concentrating his army at Donaldsonville, we marched across the country to Burwick's Bay and followed up the Bayou Teche to Alexandra, on the Red River, to the Mississippi. We advanced upon Port Hudson from the north.
On the 15th of January, 1863, our regiments at New Orleans were sent up the river. We went on board a little steamer, called the Laurel Hill at about eight o'clock in the evening. We arrived in Baton Rouge about one o'clock on the sixteenth of January and had our tents pitched before night. We were brigaded with the Thirteenth Connecticut, the Twenty-sixth Maine and the One Hundred and Fifty-ninth New York, under Colonel H. W. Birge as brigade commander. These regiments formed the Third Brigade of the Fourth Division of the Nineteenth Army Corps, General Grover division commander.
January 25th. We were now in the presence of the enemy and the position assigned to the Twenty-fifth was on the extreme left in advance and we were getting our first taste of active service.
January 26th. Our camp was about half a mile from the town, just on the edge of a dense forest and cypress swamp. Last night I went out on picket duty for the first time in Baton Rouge. General Payne warned us that we must look out for the enemy. In the afternoon the officer of the day came running his horse out where we were on picket and ordered us to stand by our arms for there was danger of an attack. Toward night we had a man badly wounded and he was sent to the hospital. During the night there was a great deal of firing upon the out-posts. We certainly thought there was going to be an attack and half the camp was up all night.
January 27th. I came in from picket in the morning. We were relieved by the Twenty-sixth Maine. We fired off our rifles at a target and started for camp. We thought sometimes that Louisiana was a very "quare country," as the Irish man said when he got lost in the woods, and ran up against an owl in a tree, and thought it was a man calling to him. The woods were plentifully stocked with game and we could hear most every sound from the hooting of the owls, growling of wild hogs, to the snarl of the wild-cat and cry of the opossum. It was also a strange sight to see the limbs festooned from tree to tree. Some of them were gigantic. The trees were covered with moss or vines that encircled them. Strange as it may seem, we gathered this moss for bedding. I wonder it didn't kill the whole lot of us, but I think the country agreed with me, for I could sleep right on the ground under the magnolia trees with nothing but a log for a pillow, while some of our sentry kept watch.
[January 28, 1913. It is with great sorrow that I sit down to resume this narrative of my army life, for since my last writing I have lost a dear son by death. He died on the morning of January 7th, after a long and painful illness of seventeen weeks, and was laid to rest in Grove Hill cemetery on the afternoon of January 9th. Strange that this affliction should come on the fiftieth anniversary of my hardships in the Civil War, but I thought that I couldn't proceed until I had made mention of this sad trial.]
And now I must resume my story as best I can. For some weeks we had been very busy doing picket and guard duty, and acquiring the use of fire-arms. Everything seemed peaceful and quiet, but it was fearfully cold. It was very singular weather. Following every rain-storm it cleared intensely cold for several days; then it became very hot again; next we had another storm to subdue the intense heat. I don't think these sudden changes agreed with the men for we had a large number on the sick list. Our ranks were very much reduced by sickness. Some of the companies dwindled down to about half their original number. The result was we had to work very hard; every day we had to have a large number for picket and guard duty. It was a comical sight to see the men going out on picket. First we had our overcoats and fixings, then our cartridge box and belt, then in a sling a good sized blanket and a rubber blanket, then the haversack with a day's rations and lastly the coffee cup and canteen. The boys got up some fine dishes, although we hardly knew how to name some of them, but they were fine. I managed to get hold of some fish and made a delicious fry. Soaked it over night with some hard tack and the next morning threw the pieces into a frying pan (that our company had confiscated) along with a little salt pork; to this I added a little concentrated milk that I happened to have; next toasted some bread and poured the whole over it; why it was a dish fit for anybody. We were glad to be able to get some soft bread; at first we couldn't get anything but hard tack and very little of that. Fresh meat we hadn't tasted since we landed till one day, when out on picket, one of our boys caught a pig and we forthwith skinned and roasted it. You can imagine that that pig tasted pretty good after going without meat for over a month. The next day when we were out on picket, a contraband brought us some fresh eggs and sweet potatoes, but such instances were not very common. Why I became a nine-days' wonder on returning to camp and relating my experience. We managed to get some fun out of camp life, and my health was good (about this time I was flourishing like the owl of the desert and the pelican of the wilderness). One thing we missed was books. The only books we had were our Testaments which I enjoyed reading very much, for I meant to read some of it every day. The Testament I had was presented to me, about the time we left Hartford for the seat of war, by a Vernon lady, and I have it in my possession yet. I prize it still as a great treasure.
February 22d, Sunday, Washington's Birthday. Had inspection in the forenoon and in afternoon we had a sermon preached to us by our chaplain, Mr. Oviate, whom some might remember when he preached in Somers, Connecticut.
February 23rd. I was detailed to go on guard duty this morning for 24 hours. The day was celebrated as Washington's Birthday and the boys had a ball game. At sunset we had a dress parade and brigade review. Most of the boys were getting pretty short of money, and if we sent any letters home we had to have them franked as soldiers' letters. This means that soldiers' letters can be sent without a stamp.
February 24th. Came off guard this morning; had the forenoon to myself; in the afternoon we had a brigade drill under General Birge in the unpleasant duty of reversed arms and rest, a duty which we were called upon to perform quite often those days.
February 25th. I went to the hospital with Sergeant Sam Harding of our company. It was a sickening sight to go over the hospital and see the thin and wasted sufferers, many of them stretched on the floor with only a blanket and scarce a comfort, let alone a luxury of any kind; many of them stricken down in their strength by swamp fever; and one by one they dropped off. They had not even seen the enemy. Poor fellows!
February 26th. It was a very rainy day and we stayed in our tents and cleaned our muskets. Mortar and gunboats are daily arriving at this port. We have six of the former and four or five of the latter. The Confederate gunboats are continually making reconnoissance up the river and occasionally give Port Hudson a taste of their shells. But most of them give her a wide berth and I think they had better. By the way I want to tell you how hard it was for us poor boys to get reading matter. When the New York papers arrived they commanded 25 and 30 cents apiece. You can see that we fellows had to go without, for we had not received a cent of pay since arriving here. You can't imagine what it is to be cut off from all communication from the outer world for a week or ten days at a time as we were and during that interval hear nothing but discouraging rumors and false reports circulated by the Rebels.
February 27th. Came off guard in a soaking rain, in a very cross state of mind, but being neither sugar nor salt didn't melt away; but I felt that I could stand it awhile longer if our hard-tack and salt horse held out as well as it had and I felt it would, for I noticed that it stood by pretty well.
Having a prisoner consigned to my tender mercy to be fed on the bread of affliction and waters of repentance until further orders, this same prisoner did at dead hour of night break from the guard-house and abscond to his quarters, did there fare sumptuously on hard-tack and salt-horse. This coming to the ears of the colonel he did get angry with the officer of the guard and sending this same officer of the guard a pair of hand-cuffs, did order to arrest this delinquent and confine him in close quarters and in this performance a spirited encounter did thereupon take place in which the offender did get upset in one corner and the officer very nearly in the other; this criminal being finally secured did create such a row he was forced to be gagged and bound hand and foot.
That the weather hath proved very unpleasant for some time raining hard most of the time when your humble servant did hope to go round and view the pretty maidens of Baton Rouge and now that our three commissioned officers not knowing better than to all fall sick at once and go to the hospital, it bringeth us many cares when we had to have Lieutenant Goodell of Company F detailed to take command of our company and that the paymaster, (that much desired individual), hath again disappointed us and we are here as usual without a cent to buy anything for our comfort or luxury of any kind.
March 7th. However, this camp life was not to last. Admiral Farragut wished to run his fleet past the batteries of Port Hudson so that we might intercept the Red River traffic and cooperate with General Grant at Vicksburg. Therefore he asked General Banks to make a demonstration behind the fortress. This movement was intended to divert the attention of the enemy. General Banks at once put his army in motion, and our army, with a squadron of cavalry and a battery of regular artillery men, commenced the advance.
March 9th. Had marching orders this morning and struck our tents about seven o'clock. And we have been here all day waiting for orders to start.
March 10th. We had marching orders this morning and left camp about five o'clock; when we got outside the picket lines, our regiment was detailed to do skirmish duty and we immediately deployed on both sides of the road and into the woods, when we came to the remnants of a bridge that had been destroyed by the Confederates. We halted here and our regiment was sent out on picket duty for the night.
March 11th. This morning we had a sharp skirmish with the enemy. One man was killed in Company I. His name was Rockwell.
March 12th. Last night one-half of our regiment stood by our arms for fear of an attack. Sergeant Benjamin Turner and myself were up together on the same post. Our army at this time was within cannon shot of the Confederate works, but they could not get their guns up in time to be of any service. We were witnesses of a terrible scene, at 1:20 A.M. Two rockets burst into the air and in an instant all the guns of the fortress lit up the darkness with the flash of their firing. The fleet replied and until half past one, the roar of one hundred and fifty guns was incessant. To add terror to the awful scene, the U.S. Frigate Mississippi, which had grounded, was set on fire to save her from capture. She was soon wrapped in flames and lighted up the sky for miles around. This good old gunboat which had been in so many battles went up with a terrific explosion. This desperate enterprise consisted of four ships, and three gunboats, the latter being lashed to the port side of the ships. But only the Hartford, which flew the Admiral's dauntless blue, and her consort, the little Albatross, succeeded in running past the batteries. The other ships were disabled by the enemy's fire and dropped down stream. The Mississippi, which had no consort, grounded and to save the lives of her men was abandoned and fired.
March 15th. We started at two o'clock on our return march for Baton Rouge. When we had been on our way a short time, a hard thunder shower came up, and it rained hard until we halted for camp about eight miles from Baton Rouge. It was a wet, muddy place, and we named it Camp Misery. It was very dark and it continued to rain at times during all that long dreary night. Our quartermaster, John Ives, furnished us with coffee which he brought from Baton Rouge. I think that we must have had it about every hour during the night.
I cannot refrain from speaking right here of our first surgeon, Dr. Alden Skinner, who went out with the Twenty-fifth Regiment. For it was at Camp Misery that Dr. Alden Skinner, father of Town Clerk Francis B. Skinner, contracted a cold that developed into pneumonia and resulted in his death a short time later. Dr. Skinner, after whom the Rockville Sons of Veterans named their camp, was a highly respected Rockville physician, who went with us down into that Rebel stronghold in 1862, as many in town will remember. He was a man of many noble qualities. I knew him personally, for I had lived with him one winter when I attended school in Rockville. I felt it a great personal loss, as well as a loss to the regiment when he died. I desire to express myself at some length relative to this good man who gave his life for our country's cause fifty years ago about March 30th, 1863. He was very kind to me when we were encamped at Baton Rouge and especially when that thunder shower came up, as we were marching back from our first advance on Port Hudson. This experience was on Sunday, March 15, 1863. Dr. Skinner was on horseback and I can see him now in memory, as he was in that drenching rain, wet to the skin, as all were. That was the last time I ever saw Dr. Skinner, for he died a few days after in the hospital at Baton Rouge. He was brought home and was laid to rest in our beautiful Grove Hill Cemetery.
March 16th. It cleared off very pleasant this morning. Had breakfast of hard-tack and coffee. We had orders to march, about three o'clock in the afternoon. We marched about ten miles and went into camp on the bank of the Mississippi River. We managed to get some fence rails, build a fire and dry off, I was so drenched it took me nearly all day to get thoroughly dry. I felt much happier upon this old cotton plantation, for it was about as pleasant a place as I had seen in Louisiana. We were situated on a high bluff overlooking the Mississippi River, which spread out before us like a broad lake. The banks were lined with live-oak, and back of us were dense forests. Hardly had we arrived when I was detailed to go on guard duty. Pretty rough on a fellow who hadn't slept any for about forty-eight hours, but most of us were in the same predicament. We were a pretty sleepy set to go on guard but we had to stand it, two hours on and four off, until morning, when our cavalry were driven back upon us without loss. At three o'clock, I was relieved and lying down on the ground I slept like a stone till eight o'clock when the new guard came on. Here let me say, that the thunder storm we had on a Sunday afternoon was very likely the means of saving many lives, as the Confederates, when they found that we were retreating, turned out infantry, cavalry and artillery and pressed hard upon us but the rain Providentially deterred them. The Thirteenth and Twenty-fifth Connecticut Regiments covered the retreating column.
March 17th found us still in Camp Alden, for so we had named our new camp ground. In the afternoon a half dozen of us went out on a foraging expedition. We spotted a cow, which a bullet soon laid low. When we got her dressed, we started for a sugar plantation, a short distance away. We found it entirely deserted but lots of sugar and molasses, as this had not been confiscated by the United States government. We helped ourselves and managed to get a small quantity of the sweetening ingredient up to camp, where we received a warm reception. We were all out of sugar for our coffee and also meat for soup. That was about all the old cow was fit for. We held dress parade at sunset in marching costume. I was quite ragged by this time, having torn the legs nearly off my trousers, and my blouse had been badly torn while skirmishing through the woods and cane brakes.
March 18th. Spent most of the forenoon mending the holes in my breeches. In the afternoon visited the Twelfth Connecticut regiment for the first time in Louisiana. Saw some of the Hartford boys and had a good time generally. After dress-parade went out on a foraging expedition, with several others, after fence rails, as we had to have a fire to keep warm, also to make coffee and soup. I am sure the Rebs had good reason to bring "railing accusations" against us, for I am quite certain there wasn't a rail left within several miles of Baton Rouge.
March 19th. There was an order for inspection of arms this morning. While waiting I, with several others, was detailed to go out foraging after corn. Went out a short distance and got all that we could bring into camp. We received marching orders at nine o'clock in the evening.
March 20th. We were up early and on our way at four o'clock this morning. After a weary, hot march we reached our old camp-ground at Baton Rouge at seven o'clock. As we marched past General Banks' headquarters he came out and saluted, while the bands of the different regiments played and we marched past at shoulder arms. That night we lay on the ground again for it was too late and the men were too tired to pitch the tents.
March 21st. In the morning we pitched our tents, cleaned up and put our old Camp Grover in order once more.
March 22nd, Sunday. We were ordered to be ready for inspection but there was none on account of some of the rifles being loaded. Toward night we were ordered to be ready for marching, and have such things as we could get along without, packed in boxes. It was raining as we were getting ready for another start. Horace Newbury of our company died last night and we laid him to rest this morning under a beautiful magnolia tree.
March 24th. In the forenoon we worked on our guns and in the afternoon we had inspection and dress-parade.
March 25th. I was detailed to go on picket duty this morning. Lieutenant Gorman was officer of the picket. The night was cool and clear and everything was quiet all along the lines.
March 26th. A beautiful morning with the birds singing merrily. I got into camp about eleven o'clock. We had orders about nine o'clock in the evening to be ready for marching. It was very rainy weather and there was very little done in camp.
March 27th. We had orders to march and all was packing and confusion. I was ordered to help put our tents and baggage aboard the boat, the St. Mary. We had all our things aboard this little craft about five o'clock in the afternoon. At last, after being over a week packing up, waiting for orders, we were on the move. We left Baton Rouge at five o'clock and reached this place at nine, (as luck would have it) in a rain-storm. Lay on the ground under the trees all night.
March 28th. We just received marching orders again. Where we were going to nobody seemed to know. I supposed our destination was Brashear City and Burwick Bay, but beyond that nothing was known. Rumor said, Texas and Red River. We took tents and all our baggage and did not expect again to see Baton Rouge.
Sunday morning, March 29th. Arrived in Donaldsonville about nine o'clock last evening. Slept on the ground all night. In the morning had some hard-tack and coffee. We received a mail. I got several letters, one was from mother. I went to a Catholic meeting. Donaldsonville is an exceedingly pretty place, very old-fashioned, shingled-roofed town. A bayou extends through the center, some three hundred yards wide; it runs to the gulf and is so deep that a frigate lies in it about a mile from where it sets in from the Mississippi. The catalpa and China-bell trees were in full blossom and the pecans were leafing out. There was a Catholic church here that looked like a barn outside but quite pretty inside, as I saw for myself, and thither the people who were mostly French and Spanish, were flocking. We here enjoyed the luxury of seeing ladies, in clean white petticoats, walking the streets. And really we had to laugh, for actually those petticoats were the most home-like things we had seen for some months. "Billy" Wilson's Zouaves, who were in our division, were placed under arrest and had their arms taken from them. They got very drunk coming down on the boat and mutinied.
March 30th. You can't imagine how beautiful the flowers were looking. Cherokee roses, jessamines, jonquils, and a great variety of flowers were in blossom. We lived out under the trees with the rain pattering upon us. We were greatly bothered with vermin, which it is almost impossible to pick off. Campaigning evidently agreed with me, for I had gained several pounds since leaving New York.
April 1st. We were on the march very early. Our brigade went ahead as skirmishers. We went through a very pleasant country. We started about seven o'clock on the morning of April 2nd. Our company was guard of the baggage train. We went through a place called Thibodeaux, a very pretty village. We stopped "a right smart way," from Thibodeaux, as the contrabands used to tell us when we inquired the distance of them. We were there only a short time, when we were crowded on to some freight cars like cattle and transported to Bayou Boeuf, arriving at ten o'clock at night, pretty well fagged out.
We had some awfully hot and fatiguing marches and the boys were very foot-sore. I held out wonderfully; did not so much as raise a sign of a blister, though carrying a rubber blanket, a heavy overcoat, canteen full of water, haversack, with two days' rations in it,—by no means a small load as I found after a few miles' march. My nose and cheeks underwent a skinning operation on our Port Hudson expedition and I felt quite badly when I found that they were again peeling.
April 3rd. We have fixed up our shelter tents, and I helped unload our baggage. The day was pleasant but Bayou Boeuf was a very unpleasant place. A comrade came into our camp from the Twelfth Regiment, C.V. His name was Wells Hubbard of Glastonbury, Conn.
April 5th, Sunday. On camp guard I was stationed in front of General Grover's headquarters for the night. During the day we crossed over the Bayou Lefourche to the main part of the town and spent some time in exploring it. It must have been an exceedingly beautiful place before the bombardment a short time before. Many of the houses were lying in ruins. Then there was a very pretty cemetery embowered in red and white roses which hung in clusters over the monuments. I saw on some of the graves fresh wreaths of roses and pinks and on many pictures were hanging showing the weeping survivors beneath a weeping willow. Blue pinks seemed to be a favorite flower and were planted around a great many of the graves. There were some old tombstones at that place. On one was the following inscription:
"Affliction sore, long time I bore; Physicians were in vain, Till God did please, that death should come, And ease me of my pain."
Again we were all packed up and on the move at about 8 A.M. The road, in fact all the way to Thibodeaux, lay along the Bayou Lefourche, a clear and cool stream, on which our steamers were passing bearing the sick and baggage. As we wound along under the catalpa and China-ball trees, the people were out on the piazzas watching us; this seemed to be their occupation almost everywhere. Such a slovenly set you never saw,—the women with frizzled hair and slipshod shoes. They were evidently very poor. But, oh, the fine clover fields we passed. The heart of a cow would have leaped with joy at the sight; and it was just so all the way to Thibodeaux. It must have been a splendid farming country. Sugar cane and cotton fields were also looking fine. After marching about twelve miles we encamped at Paincourtville, pretty well tired out. There were plenty of chickens, pigs, and sheep running loose of which we were not slow to avail ourselves. About the last thing I saw when I had lain down for the night was a porker squealing for all he was worth and charging blindly among the camp-fires over bunks and slumbering soldiers pursued by a band of shouting men discharging all kinds of deadly missiles at him.
April 7th. We were off at 7 A.M. Still among clover fields. On our march we passed some beautiful plantations; one was especially so. It was perfectly embowered in trees, had a smooth-cut lawn. There was a fountain and some swans swimming in the pond in front of the house. On the veranda there were two ladies working and some little children were playing. It was the prettiest sight I had seen in Louisiana. It fairly stilled the boys, seeing those children, and I heard more than one tough fellow sing out "God bless them." At another little white cottage we saw a lady whose husband had fallen in the army. She sent her slaves out where we were with pails of cool water. It was a simple act but we could not help blessing her for it.
And then we resumed our dusty way. The heat and dust were very intense; not a breath of air was stirring. We marched fourteen miles to Labadieville, and camped for the night on a sugar plantation, where we just had sugar and molasses to our hearts' content. Early the next morning we started in a flood of moonlight that silvered the grass with dew-drops. There is something very fascinating in camping-out; the camp-fires far and wide, the hum and bustle everywhere. It makes one forget his troubles.
April 9th. We had marching orders this morning. We marched as far as Brashear City, and camped for the night. It was the hardest day's march of all. The men staggered over the road from fatigue and sore feet. We felt better when we passed from the road into the clover field to lie down. At 6 P.M. came the order to fall in and we were ordered on board the little steamer, St. Mary. We stayed there all night,—expecting to start every minute.
April 11th. Although it was a small boat, the Fifty-second Massachusetts, the Twenty-fourth and Twenty-fifth Connecticut, and a battery with horses, were just packed on board. Just imagine how we must have been crowded together.
April 12th. We steamed out of the bay at 9 o'clock, the Clifton flagship ahead, then the Calhoun, Arizona, Laurel Hill, and St. Mary, also several tugs. We were now under convoy of these gunboats; they were to pilot us up through the chain of lakes from Burwick Bay into Grand Lake, where we arrived about 12 o'clock. It was an extremely hot day for so many to be crowded together, and we slept but little.
April 13th. We went ashore at one o'clock. There was some firing on our picket line at night. I was detailed to go back to the lake and help bring up some rations where our forces were stationed. There was a heavy thunder shower and we slept but little all night.
I want to say here that we landed our forces, after sending out a party to reconnoitre under cover of the Calhoun, which shelled the woods while we came ashore. Our object was to cut off the retreat of the Confederates while Emory's and Sherman's division crossed Burwick Bay to attack them.
April 14th. On this date came the hard-fought battle of Irish Bend. We started out at daylight as skirmishers without any breakfast. When we had gone about a mile, brisk firing commenced on both sides. We advanced very fast, loading and firing as we went. When we had advanced very near the Rebel batteries and supposed that everything was going well, we were flanked by the enemy. We were immediately ordered to fall back a short distance. The Thirteenth Connecticut took our places soon in solid column, when the tune changed and the Confederates retreated into the woods, whence they came. When our brigade got together and formed in line of battle, we were again ordered to the front, where the Rebels sent shells into our ranks from their gunboat Diana. They burned her about two o'clock and retreated.
April 15th. This morning I thought I must write a little in my diary. I think it was through the mercy of God that my life was spared through the previous day's fight. It seemed a miracle that one came out alive. I felt very thankful that I was able to come out of the Battle of Irish Bend without a scratch, after hearing the horrible results. Our regiment suffered severely. For about two hours we were under a hot fire entirely unsupported. We went into the fight with 380 men and lost 83 killed and wounded and 14 missing. Our third brigade was about the only one engaged and we lost in that short space of time over 300 men killed, wounded and missing. Colonel Birge had his horse shot from under him. We had two officers killed and four wounded. It seems almost a miracle, when I think of it at this time, that so many escaped without a mark. We started on the march on the morning of April 15, about nine o'clock pursuing the Rebels very closely through the day. It was a fine rich country that we passed through; the cane and cotton fields were looking finely. We went into camp at night near a sugar mill that had a quantity of sugar in it, to which we helped ourselves. There was considerable firing through the day.
A more detailed account of the Battle of Irish Bend is here given by Major Thomas McManus of the Twenty-fifth.
THE BATTLE OF IRISH BEND.
Interesting Reminiscences of Terrible Conflict Between States.
Horrors of War Graphically Told by General Thomas McManus, Who Was Major of the Twenty-fifth Regiment, Connecticut Volunteers.
By request of Major Thomas McManus I will give a brief account of the country of lower Louisiana and the battle of Irish Bend, as given by him in an address at St. Patrick's Church, Collinsville, April 23, 1893, and published in the Hartford Post of the date of April 14, 1913, being fifty years to a day after that terrible conflict:
Lower Louisiana is a marshy, swampy level stretch of country with an imperceptible coast line. No one can tell where the solid ground ends or where the sea begins. Approaching from the Gulf of Mexico, you find your ship in muddy waters, and by and by you see here and there a speck of mud itself, emerging above the surface, and barely large enough to be noticed, and after a while these small islands grow together and you begin to realize that there are distinctly defined banks each side of the broad muddy channel through which you are sailing, intersected here and there by other channels extending in every direction. Twenty miles perhaps from the place where you first perceived indications of real mud, the land will be firm enough to sustain a few piles supporting a fisherman's cabin or pilot's hut. Ten miles further on and you may see signs of life and cultivation. The river banks have risen to a height of two or three feet above the level of the water. The whole southwestern part of the state is a network of bayous or natural canals, usually narrow and always deep. In summer they are mere channels of drainage, but in spring they are full to the top and often overflowing thus making a system of natural waterways that reach within a mile or two of every plantation with currents strong enough to carry the flat boats laden with sugar, cotton and corn to New Orleans, Brashear or the ports on the coast. Here and there the yet unfilled depressions in the soil form large but shallow lakes, that in the dry season are mere marshes.
This was the region where it was fated that the Twenty-fifth Connecticut regiment should make its spring campaign in 1863. Early in December we had taken possession of Baton Rouge on the Mississippi and had employed our time in practically learning the art of war, and we prided ourselves on our proficiency in drill and discipline. The winter had been, to us who were accustomed to our rigorous climate here, very mild, but we had begun to feel as early as the end of March, a foretaste of that terrible enervation that the coming summer was to bring to our men habituated to our bracing air of Connecticut. We were somewhat hardened to the little outdoor inconveniences of Louisiana. We didn't mind the mosquitoes, although they were ten times as big—a hundred times as hungry and a thousand times as vicious as those we raise here. We didn't mind the wood-ticks, and although we preferred not to have moccasin snakes in our tents, they would come sometimes. We had made a movement on Port Hudson early in March and the Twenty-fifth was in the lead, seven miles in advance of the main army. We had built a bridge over the Bayou Montecino, and had lain on our arms all night awaiting orders to attack Port Hudson, when Farragut's fleet attempted to pass the batteries. Only two of his ships, the Hartford and Albatross, succeeded, while the Richmond was disabled and the Mississippi was destroyed. We had engaged in a night skirmish with the enemy at Montecino, and had lost one man in that affair. We had retired from Port Hudson as rear guard to the column. Ours was the post of danger every time, and we had encountered the worst storm and waded through the deepest mud to be found on the continent and had bivouacked in a field almost as dry as the bottom of Lake Ontario.
With these experiences we felt like veterans, but we didn't then know how much we had to learn. On March 31, our regiment was transported to Donaldsonville, fifty miles below Baton Rouge, from there we marched beside Bayou Lefourche to Thibodeaux and then took the cars for Bayou Boeuf, and after a few days' halt, marched over to Brashear. We knew that something was going to be done, but didn't know what. We knew that somebody was going to be hurt, but didn't know who. We knew that some folks were going to get badly whipped, but it wasn't us. We were certain of that. Our superior officer and officers couldn't tell us anything or wouldn't tell us anything, and I have since come to the conclusion that they were very much like some of the wire pulling politicians of the present day. They didn't know themselves. It may be wisdom sometimes in war and in politics, not to let your followers know just what you intend to make them do, but it's mighty poor policy to let your enemy know it first.
On Saturday, April 11, 1863, the Twenty-fifth Connecticut, less than 500 strong, embarked on the steamer St. Mary, a New York and Galveston liner built to carry 500 passengers at a pinch, but loaded on this occasion with 2,500.
We were crowded. We were just packed as close as the squares of hardtack in the bread barrels, closer than sardines in a box. So close that we didn't have room to sweat. We had to hold our haversacks that contained three days' rations of sheet iron biscuit and salt pork, on our heads. The decks were covered with a solid mass of humanity. We cast off the lines and our ship slowly steamed up the Atchafalaya, now and then rubbing the banks so closely that we could grasp the branches of the magnolia and cypress that formed one green, unbroken fringe on either side.
General Emory's division of Banks' army had already moved up the west bank of the Bayou Teche, fighting its way against the fresh active troops of Dick Taylor. We were in General Cuvier Grover's division, and were expected to sail up Grand Lake and disembark at Hutchins Landing, where the Teche, by a sharp bend, comes within two miles of the lake; and on this narrow strip was the only road (as we supposed) over which an army and especially artillery and baggage wagons could pass. During Saturday night, Sunday, and Sunday night we were crammed, stifled and suffocated on the steamer's deck, as she slowly felt her way up through the muddy and shallow water of Grand Lake. To have run aground would have been disastrous failure to the whole expedition. Towing astern were large flat bottomed scows, loaded with artillery and artillery men. These were indispensable when on Monday morning we found that it was impossible for our ship to approach within half a mile of the shore, and the men were ferried from the steamer to the bank, where a lively little skirmish was going on between some Confederate scouts and Col. Dick Holcomb's First Louisiana. General Grover was ahead of us, smoking as usual, and in his excitement he had lighted a second cigar and was vigorously puffing and pulling at both corners of his mouth. He grasped Colonel Bissell by the hands in welcome, as the colonel leaped from the boat. No delay now, forward! A few hundred yards brought us to the woods. Our skirmishers went through and we soon had orders to follow. We halted at the open clearing on the other side and awaited to hear from General Grover, who had gone ahead to reconnoitre. Off to the southwest we could hear the artillery firing that told us that Emory's forces were having a fierce fight with Taylor's, only a few miles away. Another half mile advance, another halt and again forward. Just as the sun was going down we crossed the Teche over a drawbridge and filed into the main road and skirted the fertile plantation of Madame Porter. This stately, handsome lady, surrounded by scores of fat, happy looking and well clad slaves, stood in front of her elegant home and sadly watched us as we passed. No farm in Connecticut, however carefully supervised, could show better evidences of wise management than this. The houses, fences, granaries, fields, slave quarters and everything, were in perfect order—all were clean, whole, and systematically arranged. The fertile soil seemed to proclaim audibly to our farmer boys its readiness to give back a hundred and fifty fold for its seed and care. The shades of night were falling fast when we filed into an open ploughed field and moved by the right of companies to the rear into columns. We halted, stacked arms, ate hardtack and raw pork, and rested. The ground was soft alluvial; mist came with sundown and rain came with the darkness, and the surface of the earth was soon transformed into soft, deep mud. There was no noise, no music, no laughter. Every man knew instinctively that the morrow's sun would shine upon many a corpse. Our generals had believed, and we had hoped, that as soon as Taylor would find this large force of ours suddenly occupying the road in his rear, he would submit to the inevitable and surrender, but he had not surrendered and would not surrender, and that meant a fierce engagement for us. As soon as darkness had set in, General Grover sent up rockets to apprise General Banks of our position. Sleep was impossible. Colonel Bissell and I sat on a bread box, back to back, our feet in the soft mud and our clothing gradually absorbing the rain that fell steadily upon us. The hours dragged slowly along, and before daybreak our men were aroused, made a hasty breakfast, and in the grey of the morning we set out in advance of our brigade that consisted of the Thirteenth and Twenty-fifth Connecticut, Twenty-sixth Maine and One Hundred and Fifty-ninth New York, Colonel Birge in command. We were all on foot, officers and men alike. Our horses, baggage, and impediments had been left at Brashear to follow the column of General Emory.
For a mile below Madame Porter's plantation the Bayou Teche runs to the southeast and then turns sharply to the southwest towards Franklin, a very pretty village, some five miles below. The road following the sinuosities of the stream runs parallel to it, with a strip of a few rods in width between. We enter an immense cane field, its furrows in line with the road. On the west the field was bounded by a rail fence, beyond which arose a dense wood of magnolias, cotton wood and semi-tropical trees looking like a long green wall. Far in front arose a transverse wall like to the first, and making at its intersection a right angle. At this angle, the road entered the wood, near to the ground this forest was absolutely impenetrable to the sight, by reason of the suffocating growth of briars, vines, palmettos and underbrush. We ought to have occupied these woods the night before, and have hemmed the enemy in the open beyond. We now knew that the foe was in our immediate front. We marched down the field, the right wing deployed as skirmishers, the left wing in close battalion front following a few rods in its rear. By and by a puff of smoke from the green wall in front of us and a second or two afterwards the crack of a rifle. The fight had begun; another puff, another crack then more and more, multiplying as we approached. The bend in the road is now disclosed, the enemy's skirmishers disappeared from our front to reappear in greater numbers on our right. Our skirmishers were called in and we changed front forward on first company, moved down towards the wood on the right, and halting about 150 yards from the fence, we poured a volley into the enemy's ranks. The One Hundred and Fifty-ninth New York came down into line on our left, the Twenty-sixth Maine formed in our rear, the Thirteenth Connecticut took position on our extreme left occupying both sides of the road. The canes of the previous year's sugar crop stood in the field and their volley firing didn't get our range, and our lines were parallel with the furrows. The enemy's shot rattled through the dry stalks, crackling like hail against the windows. The enemy were armed with the smooth bores, every cartridge charged with a bullet and three buck shot, while our regiment was armed with Enfield rifles and so the Rebels, man for man were giving us four shots to our one in return.
The enemy had an immense advantage in position and the conviction was stealing over us that they had the advantage in numbers also. Our men had warmed up to their work; every soldier had long before drained the last drop from his canteen; the sun was rising high and hot and we learned then that there is no thirst so burning and terrible as that which seizes upon the soldier in battle. Every command given by the Confederate officers was as distinctly heard by us as if given in our own companies. Their lines already extended far beyond our flank and their oft-repeated cheers told us how rapidly their ranks were being increased by new arrivals. Suddenly a loud cheer from the Rebels; then the thundering war of a field piece, and in an instant from overhead came a crack, with a rain of iron fragments as a shell exploded right over our line; another roar, a crack, and iron shower and we see to our dismay two brazen guns admirably served, trained directly upon us pouring shell grape and cannister into our ranks, while their musketry fire grew hotter and fiercer than ever. Our men were nearing the end of their supply of ammunition. If the Confederates had charged upon us at this time they would have annihilated our brigade!
Wounded men were crawling to the rear, where Dr. Wood, with McGill and his assistants, stood under their yellow hospital flag. Col. Bissell's voice rang clear and cheerful as ever, but his face was anxious. Down into the field came Bradley's battery at a gallop and very soon their guns were answering the enemy's. Up went Bissell's sword, with a joyful cheer, as he shouted to Lieutenant Dewey "There's music in the air!" Our re-enforcements of artillery gave us renewed spirits but it was in vain to hope for victory against a better posted and overwhelming force.
Hurrah! At last, here comes Dwight's brigade. But suddenly, as if evoked by magic, arose a long gray line of armed men. They had crawled unperceived through the thick high canes and our first intimation of their presence was a murderous volley raking our lines from right to left. Bradley's battery was retreating to the rear, with nine of his men dead or disabled on the ground. "Fall back!" shouted the Colonel. Our right wing was in confusion and disorder. The left wing fell back steadily but only for a few rods, the advancing brigade opened ranks to let us pass and we halted and we formed in its rear and sank exhausted on the ground anxiously watching the fate of our gallant supporters. Ninety-five of our brave boys were dead or wounded, nine-tenths of them by that terrible flank fire. In our last five minutes on the field lay the lifeless bodies of Captain Hayden and young Lieutenant Dewey. Arnold and Wilson lay dead. Lieutenant Oliver had been carried from the field with a bullet in his head, to linger for six weeks before death came to his relief. Lieutenant Waterman stood resolute at the head of his company with his arm bandaged and bleeding. Lieutenant Harkness limped painfully along disabled by a spent bullet. John H. Hunt of Coventry had his side torn open by an explosion, and his sufferings were intense. It was strange that he didn't die instantly, yet he lingered for seven days. John Martin fell dead at the final volley from the Rebels. Old Button was carried off the field, his shoulder mangled, the bone splintered in the socket and with but a few days more of life before him. Graham lay dead. Brooks, the tall young sapling whose extraordinary height made him a conspicuous mark, had fallen pierced by a dozen bullets. Sergeant Taft, with a shattered arm, was carried off the field by his lieutenant. Brennan, Gray, Prindle, Lawton, Holden and Carlos Bissell lay dead. Cook lay mortally wounded. Lieutenant Banning was crippled for life. John Thompson of Ellington had a bullet hole through his jaws, incapacitating him for further service. Goodwin, Lincoln, and Avery Brown were also seriously injured in this battle, as were also many others whom I cannot name.
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April 16th. We started at seven o'clock, marching quite slowly through the day. We were on the way to Newton or New Iberia, distance about 35 miles from Irish Bend,—where the battle took place. It was very hot and dusty and the men were getting very foot sore; a good many had to fall out by the road-side to rest. We had formed a junction with Emory's division and Weitzel's brigade and were at this time in close pursuit of the enemy, seven miles from New Iberia. We had taken a large number of prisoners, three pieces of artillery and several caissons and the Confederates fearful of the gunboats Diana and the Queen of the West falling into our hands burned them. In addition to this the Arizona engaged and blew up a Rebel gunboat. We were in hot pursuit of the Rebels, our advance skirmishing with Rebel General Moulton's rear guard.
April 17th. We were up at three o'clock, and started soon after getting some hard-tack and coffee. Our division was alone, Emory's division having taken a different route. We made a hard march of twenty miles. A great many men fell out, but we pushed the Rebels hard. At 5 P.M. they made a stand and an artillery duel ensued in which we lost a few men. The Confederates then retired, burning the bridge over the bayou. We then halted for the night, supposing that our next move would be Alexandra, via Opelousas, which since the capture of Baton Rouge had been the capital of the state of Louisiana.
April 19th, Sunday. This morning we had a hard thunder shower, arousing us from our bunks and soaking us thoroughly. We started on the march at eight o'clock. It was very muddy and we had to march very slow on that account. We went into camp at night pretty well fagged out. About midnight I was called up to go out quite a distance to an out-post on picket. We had a very hard time of it, for we had to be up until morning and stand by our arms.
April 20th. We marched rather slow on account of it being so excessively hot. We forded quite a bayou where the Rebels had burned another bridge. We went into camp at night at Opelousas, where we expected to have a fight but on our approach, we found the Rebels had retreated from the town, which was pretty good news for us.
Opelousas, April 21st. I will endeavor to give a few of my experiences at this place. Here General Banks gave his worn and tired army a rest. The Twenty-fifth Connecticut took position about seven miles east of headquarters, at Barre's Landing. While we privates were enjoying a suspension of active operations, the officers were unusually busy, as their numbers were greatly reduced by resignation, sickness and death. We were still wondering why that long looked for paymaster had not blessed us with his appearance and we were still in despair about it. Since the battle of Irish Bend we pressed the Confederates hard all the way to Opelousas, fighting their rear guard and taking prisoners every day. Our cavalry made a fierce charge at New Iberia. With sabers drawn they charged into the Texicans, scattering them in every direction. We were then at the port of Opelousas and shipping cotton at a great rate. We had shipped some two thousand bales; there was still a large quantity at the landing and more coming in hourly. We had to all take hold and help load it on the boat. While we were out on picket one day we had the good luck to come across one hundred and thirty bales. Opelousas was a very pleasant little city of several thousand inhabitants. There were some splendid mansions with grounds laid out in fine style. There was a small foundry in the place and two magazines; one of its three churches was stored with powder and ammunition, abandoned by the Confederates in their flight. The people were more Union than any we had previously seen and were of a better class. Provisions were sold at fabulous prices; eggs fifty cents a dozen, coffee five dollars a pound, and flour fifty dollars a barrel, and scarcely any at that. We learned from some of our Rebel prisoners how their soldiers lived. They had only one commissary wagon drawn by three yoke of oxen for an army of five thousand men. They lived principally upon the plantations as they passed along, as we had done.
The slaves appeared to me, all the way through this long march, to be contented and happy with their families in their cabins. I think they lived principally on corn which they ground by hand power and made into corn bread and hoe cake, with plenty of sweet potatoes which grew abundantly in Louisiana. I think they must have gotten along pretty well. At many plantations where the Union soldiers would stop at nightfall for chickens, the slaves would come out of their cabins and plead with us to let them be. This, our boys were very loath to do, and I don't know as anyone could blame them, for a good chicken was a great temptation after a long hard day's march.
May 5th. We started on our return march this morning very early. We came through a little village by the name of Washington. We marched twenty miles and went into camp for the night very tired and some very foot-sore. I was sick all day but managed to keep up with the regiment. It was very hot and dry.
May 7th. This morning I was sick and got a pass from Doctor Wood, our army surgeon, to go on to the ambulance wagon. But found on investigation that there was no room for me, as the wagons were full of sick men unable to sit up. Therefore I was obliged to ride on a baggage wagon all day. Went into camp at night feeling some better. Went out with other comrades and bought some chickens of the darkies. About this time the paymaster arrived. It was a time of great interest to the men, as we had not been paid for more than four months. A great many wanted to send money to their families and friends who, in some cases were in great need. But we were about two hundred miles from New Orleans, the nearest point from which money could be sent with safety. There were no Confederates in arms between us and New Orleans but the country was full of men who had broken all laws and who held any human life very cheap, when money was at stake. How to send home the money the soldiers could spare was a very important question. In a chapter printed elsewhere in this book, entitled "How the Pay of the Regiment was Carried to New Orleans by Lieutenant Henry Hill Goodell," it will be told how it was accomplished.
On May 21st we received marching orders and about noon we embarked on board the little steamer Empire Parish along with the One Hundred and Fifty-ninth New York and the Thirteenth Connecticut. I wonder if anyone can imagine how crowded we were, also taking into consideration that a good many of the soldiers were inclined to be troublesome. Colonel Bissell was taken quite sick at about this time and had to find a place to lie down. Soon after 3 P.M., while the rest of the boats were being loaded we shipped from the dock and away up the Atchafalaya to the Red River where we passed the Switzerland and another little boat watching for Rebel craft. Here we slipped down the Red River to the Mississippi, where we came upon the grim old Hartford, Rear Admiral Farragut's flagship. The Thirteenth Connecticut band saluted her as we passed, with "The Star Spangled Banner" and "Yankee Doodle." At about midnight we went ashore at Bayou Sara, sixteen miles from Port Hudson. A portion of our brigade marched on and left our regiment to unload the boats. It was after 2 A.M. before we had any chance to lie down.
May 22nd, at about four o'clock, we started, breakfastless, to overtake the rest of our brigade. Colonel Bissell was left at a house with a guard. Major McManus assumed command of the regiment. We marched a short distance and found the remainder of our brigade encamped at St. Francisville, which was upon a hill the first we had seen since coming to Louisiana. Soon after eight o'clock our column was set in motion, the Third brigade in advance. As we passed through the village of St. Francisville the people thronged to the doors. Some would curse and swear, while others seemed glad to see us. One woman in a spiteful tone called out to another woman: "Come in, for God's sake, and don't stay there looking at those Yankee devils." The manners of these Southern women were astonishing. They would curse and call us vile names and call upon God to save a just cause. We had a hard march climbing up hill between magnificent hedges of jessamine in bloom, the flowers of which were very beautiful. We advanced very slowly for it was quite warm and the dust was stifling. To add to all this it was a terrible country to skirmish through. We had two men seriously wounded during that day. At about 4 o'clock we halted and our regiment was ordered to the front as advance picket for the night. We deployed into a field near a beautiful creek,—Thompson's,—where the water was knee-deep and very clear. Our forces were ordered across the creek to the edge of the adjoining woods. After a short skirmish we succeeded in accomplishing our object. It rained quite hard and we had to be upon the watch most of the night.
May 23rd. We started on the march, our men pretty well tired out by two nights' duty. But we had no mercy shown us. The Twenty-fifth regiment was ordered to take the advance as skirmishers and a hard time we had of it, forcing our way through bamboo brake, pushing over vine and bushes, wading through water, scratching and tearing ourselves with thorns and stumbling over ploughed fields. It was very hard work and many a strong man gave out with fatigue and exhaustion. At 10 o'clock A.M. we met the advance of Colonel Grierson's cavalry. Our wearied column of soldiers were called in, therefore we were very much pleased to see them. We advanced a short distance and halted near a well of delicious cool water, some two miles from Port Hudson. In a few minutes, General Augur rode up and held a conference with General Grover.
At 7 P.M. I was detailed to go on picket. Rather rough on a fellow to be two days and nights on duty. But a soldier's first duty is to obey without grumbling and so I went, but I could hardly keep from going to sleep. It was a beautiful moonlight night and I stood and watched the bombs from the mortar boats curling around in the sky and bursting in a fiery show, making a splendid sight. The night passed quietly, save for a couple of false alarms. At about 5 o'clock A.M., Jared Wells, my old tent mate, and I went out blackberrying. In a little while we had enough for a good meal for ourselves and some for the boys in camp. This was the 24th of May, under the guns of Port Hudson. We got back into camp about 9 o'clock and commenced making preparations for a Sunday advance on the fortifications. The Second Brigade was in advance and the Twenty-fourth Connecticut lost a few men; at about noon the first earthworks were taken and we deployed into the woods on our right. We lay here for two long hours while shells burst all around us, but we were mercifully preserved, though in great danger.
Soon after 4 P.M., our regiment was ordered out as picket-skirmishers and we were stationed behind trees all through the woods to keep the enemy back. On our right was the Thirteenth Connecticut and on the left was the One Hundred and Fifty-ninth New York. This was the third night that we had been on duty and we were pretty well tired out but it seems they hadn't got through with the Twenty-fifth yet.
May 25th. At about 9 A.M. we were relieved and called in. As we were being relieved by the Twelfth Maine we had to pass over a place commanded by the sharpshooters of the enemy. The bullets whizzed most unpleasantly near, killing one man of the Thirteenth Connecticut. We thought that after being relieved we should get some rest. But about as soon as we got into camp we were ordered to fall in again. We marched out of the woods, over the hill and the entrenchments taken the day before, immediately coming under a sharp fire from the Rebel sharpshooters. We were immediately ordered to fire upon them and drive them out. After a sharp skirmish of half an hour we drove them clear out of the woods and into their rifle-pits. We then occupied the woods, and we kept up such a sharp fire upon them that not one of the rascally Rebs dared lift his head above the works. We were just in time to save the Twelfth Maine from being flanked and cut to pieces.
About 3 P.M. General Weitzel's brigade attacked, and after a severe fight, drove the Rebels out of the woods. While this was going on our right, we could hear the yells, hurrahs and the crackle of musketry, roar of artillery and many other concomitants of the fight, but could see but little. Consequently we stood and fidgeted round not knowing when our turn might come.
May 26th. Our regiment remained on the reserve till 5 P.M., when the four right companies were ordered to the front. We had a splendid view of an artillery duel. The work of Nim's battery was perfect. Our artillery unlimbered two or three guns and their fire was so sharp, the Rebel gunners did not dare load their pieces.
May 27th. We were relieved at about 6 P.M., by the Twelfth Maine regiment, but we were almost immediately ordered out to the support of Nim's battery which had just been put into position. Here we lay five or six hours while the enemy's shells burst in most unpleasant proximity. Then our regiment and the One Hundred and Fifty-ninth New York were ordered out to the support of General Weitzel on our right. We marched on the double-quick down through the woods, when we were ordered by General Grover to advance to the front and carry the earthworks. We were informed that there were hardly any Rebels there. Major Burt of the One Hundred and Fifty-ninth, who was in command, was told that his regiment alone would be able to carry the works and to send back our regiment if it wasn't needed. But we found out very soon that our assistance would be necessary to carry the earthworks. We rushed on through the woods and down a hill, swept by the enemy's artillery. Here we turned to the right and emerged on to a plain. I shall never forget that sight. The valley was filled with felled trees, and heavy underbrush, while thick and black rolled the battle-smoke. There was a hill on our left, strongly entrenched and from here loomed up a big gun. Just below on a little bridge was planted a stand of the Stars and Stripes, the glorious old banner, and gathered around it stood a handful of brave men firing a stream of bullets upon that piece. For six long hours the gunners did not dare approach to load and that wicked looking gun was kept silent. It was here that we had a taste of real war in all its horrors. It was a sort of a floating panorama that passed before me, a hideous dream. There was a roaring and crashing of artillery, bursting of shells and the rattle of muskets, with hissing and whistling of minie balls and battle-smoke lowering down upon us. There were men dropping here and there and all the horrid experiences of war. Still we kept on; there was a short turn to the right and in single file we commenced ascending through a deep ravine. Wading through water, stumbling over and under fallen trees, we finally came to a pit about six feet deep; when we had gotten out of that we were on the side of the hill where we had to prepare to make a charge. It was a wicked place to charge. The nature of the ground was such it was impossible to form in battle line, so to make the attack in three columns over felled trees which were cris-crossed in every shape imaginable. We waited here for a few moments with beating hearts, waiting for the forward charge. The word came and with a terrifying yell we rose to our feet and rushed forward. It was a terrible time, when bounding over the last tree and crashing through some brush we came out within a short distance of the enemy's entrenchments, and it seemed as though a thousand rifles were cracking our doom. This fire was too deadly for men to stand against. Our brave fellows, shot down as fast as they could come up, were beaten back. Then occurred one of those heroic deeds we sometimes read about. The colors of the One Hundred and Fifty-ninth were left on the hill, their color sergeant having been killed. Corporal Buckley of our regiment calmly worked back in that terrific fire, picked up the dear old flag and brought it in, turned to pick up his gun and was killed. He was a noble fellow and much beloved in the regiment.
Resting here a short time, we made a second charge with the same deadly results. Our regiment and the One Hundred and Fifty-ninth New York lost 80 men killed and wounded. It was a terrible position we were in. Sharpshooters on the left picking us off; sharpshooters on right giving it to us and the rifle pits in front. Here we had to stay till after 10 o'clock that night when the order came to fall back, which we did, bringing off our wounded. I was so tired I fell asleep and barely woke in time to get away. We had several killed and wounded in our regiment. I will say here that our little company was not entirely dissolved at this time though reduced to less than 20 men. Our colonel we missed sadly, but earnestly hoped to welcome him back soon. Our regiment numbered 162 men and eight officers at this time.
May 28th. There was lively firing this morning on the picket lines, but the cannons were quiet. We were expecting reinforcements and we needed them if we were ever to take Port Hudson. This was the seventh day of the siege and we were pretty well fagged out. We had to fight for every foot of ground. But we had carried the first two earthworks by storm. It had been one continual fight since we started in but there was a cessation of hostilities for a short time, and the lull was a great relief, for my ears had been half-deafened by the awful roar of artillery and cracking of musketry. There were three men killed and about twenty wounded, and thirty in our regiment missing. Again in our little company we had several wounded, one fatally. So I think that I must have been in great danger several times, but I felt that a kind Providence watched over me, and brought me out safely. The regiment at this time was under the command of Major McManus, Colonel Bissell being sick with remittent fever at Bayou Sara and the lieutenant-colonel prostrated at New Orleans. The colored regiments fought bravely and made some splendid charges.
May 31st. There has been some firing by the infantry and artillery during the day. About ten o'clock last night we withdrew our forces very cautiously, bringing away all the wounded we could reach, but there were some poor unfortunates lying up under the breastworks that it was impossible to reach. Every time we tried to get to them the Rebs would fire on us. We threw them canteens of water but it was of little use. We marched back and lay upon the battlefield of the preceding day.