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Three Years in the Sixth Corps
by George T. Stevens
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THREE YEARS IN THE SIXTH CORPS.

A CONCISE NARRATIVE OF EVENTS IN THE ARMY OF THE POTOMAC, FROM 1861 TO THE CLOSE OF THE REBELLION, APRIL, 1865.

By GEORGE T. STEVENS, SURGEON OF THE 77TH REGIMENT NEW YORK VOLUNTEERS.

ALBANY: S. R. GRAY, PUBLISHER.

1866.

Entered according to act of Congress, in the year eighteen hundred and sixty-six,

By GEORGE T. STEVENS,

in the Clerk's office of the District Court of the United States for the Northern District of New York.

WEED, PARSONS AND COMPANY, PRINTERS, STEREOTYPERS AND BOOKBINDERS, ALBANY, N. Y.



PREFACE.

The following pages are offered to my old comrades of the Sixth Corps, with the hope that they may pleasantly recall the many varied experiences of that unparalleled body of men. If much has been omitted which should have been written, or if anything has been said which should have been left out, I rely upon the generosity of brave men to treat with leniency the failings they may detect.

I have endeavored to present without exaggeration or embellishment of imagination, a truthful picture of army life in all its vicissitudes; its marches, its battles, its camps, and the sad scenes when the victims of war languish in hospitals. The story is written mostly from extensive notes taken by myself amid the scenes described; but official reports and letters from officers have been used freely in correcting these notes, and gathering fresh material. The narrative commences with the experiences of my own regiment; then when that regiment became a part of Smith's division, its incidents and history includes the whole. From the organization of the Sixth Corps to the close of the rebellion, I have endeavored without partiality to give the story of the Corps. If I have failed to do justice to any of the noble troops of the Corps, it has been from no want of desire to give to each regiment the praise due to it.

I cannot close without acknowledging my many obligations to the numerous friends, officers and soldiers of the Corps, and others who have favored me with their assistance. I take especial pleasure in acknowledging the kindness of Miss Emily Sedgwick, sister of our lamented commander; Vermont's honored son, Major-General L. A. Grant, Major-General Thomas H. Neill, Colonel James B. McKean, Colonel W. B. French, Chaplain Norman Fox, and Mr. Henry M. Myers. I am also indebted to the friends of Samuel S. Craig for the use of his diary, extending from the early history of the Army of the Potomac, to the death of the talented young soldier in the Wilderness.

The engravings are nearly all from sketches taken by myself on the ground, the others are from the pencil of the well known artist, Captain J. Hope, and all have been submitted to his finishing touch. Mr. Ferguson has executed the wood cuts in a style creditable to his art.

The typographical portion of the work has been done in a style of beauty and finish for which the work of Weed, Parsons and Company is so well known.

18 North Pearl Street, Albany, N. Y.

September 5, 1866.



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.

1. Portrait of General Sedgwick.

2. Illustrated Title Page.

3. The Old Church at Hampton.

4. The Quaker at Newport News.

5. Charge of the Vermonters at Lee's Mills.

6. Charge of Hancock's Brigade at Williamsburgh.

7. Charge of the Seventy-seventh New York at Mechanicsville.

8. Portrait of Colonel James B. McKean.

9. Charge of the Sixth Corps at Burkettsville.

10. White Oak Church, Va.

11. Storming Fredericksburgh Heights by Howe's Division.

12. "What'll Ole Missus do Now?"

13. Church Call.

14. Battle of Fort Stevens.

15. "Why Don't he Come?"

16. "Going Norf."

17. Diagram of the Charge of the Sixth Corps, April 2, 1865.



CONTENTS.

Chapter I.

A New Regiment goes to the War.

Organization of the Seventy-seventh N. Y. V.—Departure from Saratoga—Greetings by the way—New emotions—The noble dead—On board the Knickerbocker—At New York—Presentation of flags—Beauties of monopoly—Hospitality of Philadelphia—Incidents on the route—Arrival at Washington—In camp.

Chapter II.

Army Life at Washington.

Meridian Hill—Neighboring scenery—First Sunday in camp—Drills—Sickness—The Hospital—General Casey—"Why don't the army move?"—Washington blockaded—Burnside's heroes—Orders to move—Something of a train—Smith's division—Our first reconnoissance.

Chapter III.

The Manassas Campaign.

Orders to march—A grand spectacle—Bivouac near Fairfax Court House—The camps at night—Visits to Manassas and Centreville— Dissatisfaction in the army—A deserted country—Lawless soldiers—Fairfax Court House—A representative Southerner—Review by Gen. McClellan—March to Alexandria—"Camp Misery."

Chapter IV.

The Army Transferred to the Peninsula.

The advance to Yorktown—A thunder storm—"Reliable contrabands"—Facing the enemy—A strong position—The Union line—A rebel welcome—Digging— On picket—A dreary country—An enterprising planter—Active work—Battle of Lee's Mills—Charge of the Vermont brigade—Progress of the siege—Ravages of disease—A front seat—Short supplies—The rebels withdraw—Entering the strongholds—Infernal machines—March to Williamsburgh—Victims of disease.

Chapter V.

Yorktown.

The advance to Yorktown—A thunder storm—"Reliable contrabands"—Facing the enemy—A strong position—The Union line—A rebel welcome—Digging— On picket—A dreary country—An enterprising planter—Active work—Battle of Lee's Mills—Charge of the Vermont brigade—Progress of the siege—Ravages of disease—A front seat—Short supplies—The rebels withdraw—Entering the strongholds—Infernal machines—March to Williamsburgh—Victims of disease.

Chapter VI.

Williamsburgh.

Battle of Williamsburgh—The army not organized—The medical department—Hooker's gallant fight—Hancock's charge—McClellan at Yorktown—Night on the battle-field.

Chapter VII.

The March up the Peninsula and the Organization of the Sixth Corps.

March up the Peninsula—Joy of the contrabands—Cumberland Landing—The Sixth Corps organized—At White House—On the Chickahominy—Fight at Mechanicsville—Battle of Hanover Court House.

Chapter VIII.

On the Chickahominy.

Gaines' Farm—The line of battle—Battle of Seven Pines—Sedgwick and Kearney to the rescue—Hooker's charge—A lost opportunity—Golden's Farm—Ditching—Malaria—Chickahominy fevers—A German regiment— Stuart's raid.

Chapter IX.

The Seven Days' Battles.

The army united—Plans and counter plans—Battle of Fair Oaks—Lee's plan—The situation—Stonewall Jackson on the flank—Battle of Mechanicsville—Joy in camp—Porter's corps retreats—An astonished army—Battle of Gaines' Farm—Slocum's division at Games' Farm—Retreat to the river—Battle of Golden's Farm—A young hero—A Union victory—Our right exposed—The sick abandoned—A night of sorrow—The grand retreat commenced—Sad scenes at Savage's Station—A meteor railroad train.

Chapter X.

The Grand Retreat.

Lee's army in pursuit—Sumner and Smith at Bay—Battle of Savage's Station—The Vermont Brigade—Sick and wounded abandoned—Retreat to White Oak Swamp—Battle of White Oak Swamp—An astonished division—A night march—A mystery—In sight of the James—Battle of Malvern Hill—Departure of the princes—Gloom and anxiety—Lee's attack—The rebels demoralized.

Chapter XI.

Harrison's Landing.

March to Harrison's Bar—A scene of confusion—A beautiful landscape—Fourth of July in camp—Gloom at the north—Cause of the disasters—Prevalence of disease—Review by the President—A night demonstration by the enemy—Reconnoissance to Malvern Hill—Departure of General Davidson—A retrospect.

Chapter XII.

Retreat from the Peninsula, and General Pope's Bull Run Campaign.

Premonitions of a change of base—The transfer commenced—Marching down the Peninsula—On board transports—A contrast—Arrival at Alexandria—Unaccountable delays—General Pope's campaign—An obstinate general—Causes of Pope's failure.

Chapter XIII.

The Maryland Campaign.

General McClellan restored to command—March through Washington—Leisurely campaigning—Battle of Crampton Pass—Death of Mathison—Battle of South Mountain Pass—Death of Reno—Surrender of Harper's Ferry—March to Antietam.

Chapter XIV.

The Battle of Antietam.

The Valley of the Antietam—Gathering of the hosts—The battle-field—The battle commenced—Splendid fighting of Hooker's forces—Successes and reverses of Sumner's troops—Timely arrival of the Sixth corps—A gallant charge—Losses of the corps—Burnside's attack—Hours of suspense—The enemy defeated at all points—Retreat of the rebels—Scenes on the battle-field—At the hospitals—At Sharpsburgh—A division of militia—Couch's division joins the Sixth corps—Visit of the President—Recruits—Energy at the north—At rest—Want of clothing—Stuart's raid—Delays—Clear Spring—General Brooks.

Chapter XV.

The Second Advance into Virginia, and the Battle of Fredericksburgh.

Marching in Maryland—Arrival at New Baltimore—General McClellan superseded by General Burnside—Thanksgiving in camp—The grand divisions organized—The march resumed—Fatal delays—In order of battle—The crossing—Fredericksburgh bombarded—Situation of Fredericksburgh—Scenes of activity—The Bernard house—Scenes at the hospital—The battle on the right—Charges of the Pennsylvania reserves—The river recrossed—Reflections.

Chapter XVI.

The Winter at Falmouth.

Camp at White Oak Church—"The mud march"—Return to camp—General Neill—General Hooker supersedes General Burnside—Burnside's magnanimity—General Hooker as a soldier—Reconstruction—The cavalry organized—Business departments renovated—The medical department— Ambulance system—Quartermasters' and commissary departments—Life in camp—Snowball battles—In the Seventy-seventh—The Light division—Review by General Hooker—General John Sedgwick—Scene at head-quarters—Review of the army by the President—Preparing for the campaign.

Chapter XVII.

The Chancellorsville Campaign.

Orders to move—The river crossed—Sedgwick's command—The First corps withdrawn—Gallant conduct of the Light division—Advancing to the heights—The line of battle—The columns of attack—Attack of Howe's columns—Of Newton's column—Of Burnham's—Misfortune following victory—Fight of Bartlett's brigade—The First division at work—A critical position—The Sixth corps surrounded—Savage fight of Neill's brigade—The corps withdraws to Banks' Ford—Recrosses the river—Hooker's operations on the right—Position of the corps—Rout of the Eleventh corps—The rebels repulsed—Jackson renews the attack—The rebels again repulsed—Hooker recrosses the river.

Chapter XVIII.

Second Encampment at White Oak Church and the Pennsylvania Campaign.

The army in its old position—A trip to Dixie—The wounded at the hospitals—Introduction of army badges—Adornments of the camps—The "Third crossing"—The Barnard mansion—Exchanging papers—A broken lieutenant—The Pennsylvania campaign commenced—Restriction of baggage—A severe march—An army bathing—At Centreville—Bristow Station—March to Maryland—General Hooker succeeded by General Meade—Position of the army.

Chapter XIX.

The Gettysburgh Campaign.

The rebels in Pennsylvania—Panic at Harrisburgh—Alarm at Baltimore and Washington—Sixth corps leaves Bristow Station—A surprise—General Meade takes command—Position of the army—Marching through Pennsylvania—An unprecedented march—Exciting news—Battle of Gettysburgh—Death of Reynolds—First and Eleventh corps fall back —Second day's battle—The battle-field—Fighting at Round Top—On the right—The grand onset—The battle decided—Rebel and Union wounded.

Chapter XX.

Pursuit of Lee's Army.

Scenes of the field of Gettysburgh—The rebel hospitals—The sightless rebel soldier boy—The Sixth corps at Fairfield—"Hurrah for the Union"—Kilpatrick's handiwork—At Waynesboro'—On picket—A division of militia—The Vermonters at Funkstown—The army at Funkstown—Meade's failure to attack—New York riots—Return to Virginia.

Chapter XXI.

Camps at Warrenton, the Centreville Campaign and the Battle of Rappahannock Station.

Camp at Hart's Mills—A ride to the Sulphur Springs—Contrabands going north—The Vermonters go to New York—Jersey Brigade at Warrenton—The Sixth corps at Cedar Mountain—Retreat to Centreville—Battle of Bristoe Station—Advance to Warrenton—Battle of Rappahannock Station—Flight of Lee's army.

Chapter XXII.

The Army at Brandy Station.

Encampment at Brandy Station—The Mine Run campaign—Crossing the Rapidan—Battle of Locust Grove—The army on Mine Run—The order of battle—The army withdraws—Back at Brandy Station—Reconnoissance to Madison Court House—Ladies in camp—Chapel tents.

Chapter XXIII.

The Wilderness Campaign.

Preparing to leave camp—General Grant in command—The last advance across the Rapidan—The battle-ground—Battle of the Wilderness—Noble fight of Getty's division—Hancock's fight on the left—Rickett's division driven back—The ground retaken—The wounded—Duties of the surgeons—The noble dead.

Chapter XXIV.

Spottsylvania.

Moving by the flank—The wounded abandoned—The Fifth Corps at Spottsylvania—Arrival of the Sixth Corps—Getting into line—Death of Sedgwick—General Wright in command—Battle of the 10th of May—Upton's splendid charge—Battle at "the angle"—Another flank movement.

Chapter XXV.

The Hospitals at Fredericksburgh.

The journey from the battle-field—Sufferings of the wounded—A surgeon's letters—Rebel hatred—Assistance from the north—A father in search of his boy—The wounded sent to Washington.

Chapter XXVI.

Coal Harbor.

At Hanover Court House—The Eighteenth corps joins the Army of the Potomac—The armies meet at Coal Harbor—Battle of June 1st—Battle of June 3d—Terrible exposure—The army strikes for Petersburgh—Charles City Court House—A centenarian—Review of the overland campaign.

Chapter XXVII.

Petersburgh.

The march to Petersburgh—Smith's successes—The battle of June 18th—The Sixth and Second corps sent to the left—Rebels penetrate the line—Progress of the siege—Sixth corps proceeds to Reams' Station—Kautz's and Wilson's raids.

Chapter XXVIII.

Sixth Corps Transferred To Washington—Battle of Fort Stevens.

The Shenandoah Valley—Hunter's advance to Lynchburgh—The retreat—Rebels advance into Maryland—Battle of Monocacy—Sixth corps goes to Washington—Battle of Fort Stevens.

Chapter XXIX.

The Shenandoah Valley.

The Sixth and Nineteenth corps follow the enemy—Crossing the Potomac—Averill's fight at Snicker's Gap—Return of the Sixth corps to Washington—March back to Harper's Ferry—Return to Maryland—Death of Major Ellis—General Sheridan assigned to command—Back in the Valley—Charlestown—John Mosher—March to Fisher Hill—Return to Charlestown—Fight at Charlestown.

Chapter XXX.

Battle of Winchester.

Encampment at Berryville—Leaving camp—The advance—Taking position—Advance and retreat—Death of Russell—"I know they'll run"—Reminiscences—At the hospitals—A regiment going home—"Why don't he come."

Chapter XXXI.

Fisher Hill.

March up the valley—Strasburgh—The army confronting Fisher Hill—The flank movement—Flight of Early—The pursuit—Guerrilla warfare—Southern refugees—Starting for Washington—Return to Cedar creek.

Chapter XXXII.

Battle of Cedar Creek.

Position of the Union forces on Cedar creek—Demonstrations by Early—The morning of October 19th—Eighth corps straggling—Nineteenth corps routed—The Sixth corps to the rescue—Death of General Bidwell—The Sixth corps holds the enemy—General Wright prepares for another attack—Arrival of Sheridan—The charge—The rout—Guns, wagons and prisoners—The victors in camp.

Chapter XXXIII.

The Final Campaign.

Sixth corps returns to Petersburgh—Condition of the corps—Sheridan joins the grand army—Capture of Fort Steadman—The last grand charge—The pursuit of Lee's army—Tributes to the Sixth corps—Disbanding.



THREE YEARS IN THE SIXTH CORPS.



CHAPTER I.

A NEW REGIMENT GOES TO THE WAR.

Organization of the Seventy-seventh N. Y. V.—Departure from Saratoga—Greetings by the way—New emotions—The noble dead—On board the Knickerbocker—At New York—Presentation of flags—Beauties of monopoly—Hospitality of Philadelphia—Incidents on the route—Arrival at Washington—In camp.

Our regiment was organized at Saratoga Springs, the historic scene of the battle of Bemis Heights and the surrender of Burgoyne—hence its name, "The Bemis Heights Battalion." Hon. Jas. B. McKean, then member of congress, a gentleman of well known patriotism, was made our Colonel. We left our rendezvous on the 26th of November, 1861, Thanksgiving day, having been mustered into the United States service three days before.

As the long train of cars bore us from the station at Saratoga Springs, the thousands who had gathered to witness our departure united in cheer after cheer until all the groves and vales of that charming resort rang with the echoes of the tumultuous shouting.

The thousand brave fellows, who were about to try the stern realities of war, were by no means backward in replying to these hearty expressions of good wishes. Long after we had lost sight of the lovely village, the shouts of the multitude could be heard and the hills rang again with the responding cheers of those in the cars. At each station, as we passed, crowds of people pressed to greet us, and loud and long were the cheers that bade us "God speed."

We were now fairly off for the war. We who had followed the various peaceful avocations of life, in the professions or in the workshops, in trade or in husbandry, had now turned away from the office, the desk, the shop and the plough, to join the Grand Army upon which the hopes of the nation were staked, and which we confidently believed was soon to sweep the rebellion to destruction.

Emotions hitherto unknown to us filled our hearts. We were soldiers, wearing for the first time the army blue, and perhaps soon to be called out to meet in deadly strife an enemy whose prestige for valor was already too well established.

Were we to return to the friends from whom we had just parted, bearing the chaplet of victory, or were we to find a last resting place on some field of the south, never again to meet with wife or sister, father or mother? Four years have passed and those doubts have been solved. Many of those brave men have gone to their long rest.

"Their graves are severed far and wide."

Some sleep beneath the tall pines of Yorktown; and the bright azalia casts its purple blossoms over the graves of many who lie in the swamps of the Chickahominy. The Antietam murmurs a requiem to those who rest on its banks, and green is the turf above the noble ones who fell gloriously at Fredericksburgh. Some rest amid the wild tangles of the Wilderness, and upon the arid plain of Coal Harbor. Many of their graves are upon the banks of the Ny and the Po. The marble monument at Fort Stevens tells the names of some who gave their lives in the defense of the Capital, while the simple headboards of pine tell where repose many in the valley of the Shenandoah, and before Petersburgh. The remains of some have been brought back to the peaceful cemetery at home to rest beside the dust of loved ones.

"'Tis little; but it looks in truth As if the quiet bones were blest Among familiar names to rest, And in the places of their youth."

Must it be said, many of the strongest yielded to the grim monster starvation in the rebel prison pens, and found relief from their tortures in lowly graves at Andersonville and Salisbury.

A little band, with bronzed faces and manly hearts, returned home. Their glorious and unspotted record had preceded them. They needed no song of victory, and they desired no greater marks of honor than their simple silver crosses, the badge of their corps.

No incident worthy of note occurred until we reached Albany, where we left the cars and embarked upon the steamer Knickerbocker, an old dismantled craft, unfit for any purpose but the transportation of soldiers; whose decks were covered with mud an inch in depth, and whose doors having been thrown overboard, a free circulation of the rough November air was allowed in every part. The men had no rations, and some of them became clamorous; but order was soon restored, and rations of bread and ham with coffee were distributed. They could not, however, all be brought to a perfect state of quietude. Some were determined not to submit, and passed the night in carousal, while those soberly inclined tried in vain to sleep. The officers found lodging in the after cabin, where some in berths and some on the floor, we passed a restless night.

As we approached New York in the morning, the sky was hung with heavy clouds, and as we left our rickety old craft for terra firma, the rain poured in fresh torrents upon us. We marched through 14th street and Broadway to the Park. We were to remain in New York until six o'clock in the evening, and the Sons of Saratoga were to present us with a stand of colors and guidons. They commenced by presenting us with an excellent dinner, at which speeches were made by the committee, and responded to by Colonel McKean and others on our part.

Dinner over, the regiment was drawn up in front of the City Hall, where the ceremony of presenting the flags took place. The banner was an exquisite piece of work, of the richest fabric; a blue ground with elegant designs in oil. On one side was represented an engagement in which the American soldiers, led by Washington, were fighting under the old flag—thirteen stripes and the union jack. On the reverse was pictured the surrender of Burgoyne, at Saratoga, under the new flag—the stars and stripes—first unfurled in the goodly city of Albany, and first baptized in blood at the decisive battle of Bemis Heights, which resulted in the surrender of Burgoyne and the virtual success of the Revolution.

We had already a beautiful national flag, the gift of the patriotic young ladies of Mr. Beecher's seminary, at Saratoga.

The hour for departure arrived, and we crossed to Amboy by ferry. We were in New Jersey. We had heard disparaging things of the railroad management of this State, but we were now to realize the beauties of monopoly. We learned afterwards to respect New Jersey's soldiers, many of whom fought shoulder to shoulder with us, and were among the bravest of the brave, but we never forgave her railroads. The men were crowded into a number of shaky old cars, reeking with filth, and redolent of most noisome odors. It was in vain that we protested that these vehicles were unfit for transporting men; we were offered by the agent of the road the alternative to take these cars or remain where we were. We concluded to go on.

At four o'clock we had passed over the whole of the Camden and Amboy road. Another ferry crossed, and we were in Philadelphia. Glorious, generous, enlightened Philadelphia! Many of our men were sick when we left Saratoga, and the unaccustomed hardships, with the cold and rain thus far on the route, had greatly prostrated them. Many others had also been seized with violent illness, so that our single medical officer had been taxed beyond his strength in looking after the wants of the sick, while the little case of medicines with which we started from Saratoga was exhausted. Among the first acts of kindness of these excellent people was the care of our sick. A gentleman, with countenance beaming with benevolence, said to the doctor, "If you will get your sick together, we will conduct them to comfortable quarters, and see that they are well cared for." The heart of the surgeon leaped with joy at finding some one who could and would help to care for the poor fellows.

The sick being collected, our friend mounted a barrel and called to the soldiers to hear him a moment. "You are welcome," said he, "to Philadelphia, and to show you that we are glad to see you, it gives us pleasure to invite every man of you to partake of a warm breakfast which will be ready for you in a few minutes." This speech was greeted by three hearty cheers for Philadelphia.

The doctor soon had his sick removed to the Soldiers' Retreat, a place fitted up by the noble-hearted people of Philadelphia for the entertainment of soldiers passing through their city. The upper part of the building was arranged with exquisite taste and order for a hospital. Here were many sick men left by the various regiments which had passed through the city. Our sick boys were placed in beds, with expressions of gratitude that, notwithstanding their illness, their lot had fallen in pleasant places.

Presently the men were marched into the long saloon, where all took their places at the well spread tables. The repast being over, Colonel McKean called upon the men for three cheers for the Philadelphians; remarking that there need be no fear of raising the roof, for even should such an accident occur he doubted not these generous people would willingly replace it. Then came the cheers; and such cheers! only to be surpassed by the three more and then three more that followed.

The long years of our campaignings never diminished the lively feelings of gratitude we experienced that morning, and to this day our veterans never speak of Philadelphia but with pleasing recollections of the friendly reception given them by the goodly inhabitants of the Quaker city.

The sun was up when we resumed our journey, and again we were met with surprises. All along the track of the railroad, men, women and children, filling the windows of the houses and thronging the wayside, cheered us on our way, shouting and waving flags and handkerchiefs. Children in the arms of their nurses waved little flags from the windows in great glee, while gray haired old men in piping tones cried "God bless our soldiers." This unlooked for, and to us surprising ovation continued until we had passed the limits of the city, and indeed did not cease till we had left the station many miles behind. In the train, the men kept up a continuous cheering; tears stood in the eyes of many, and the most enthusiastic expressions passed from lip to lip.

The experience of our regiment was only that of others who passed through this noble city, and often during our long campaigns, the soldiers of different regiments would gather round their camp fires, and relate to each other the kindnesses received by them in the City of Brotherly Love.

We were cordially welcomed in Delaware, the people waving banners and handkerchiefs, and when those were not at hand, newspapers or even articles from the clothes lines answered to show their good will; and the negroes in the fields swung their hats and their hoes with great spirit.

We reached Baltimore in the evening, where we were kindly received, furnished with supper and sent on our way. After many delays we reached Washington at four o'clock Sunday morning, and were assigned to temporary quarters near the station. Who would have suspected that it was the Sabbath? Now we began to see something of the circumstance of war. Horsemen were galloping in every direction; long trains of army wagons rattled over the pavements at every turn of the eye; squads of soldiers marched here and there; all was hurry, bustle and confusion.

It was night when we reached the ground for our encampment on Meridian Hill. The men had suffered much from cold, and what at that time was hardship. Not less than a hundred of them were sick. It was not long before tents were up, and for the first time the regiment was under canvas.

Our camp was pleasantly located, commanding a fine view of Washington, the Potomac, Alexandria and other points of interest. We were surrounded by the camps of other regiments, some arriving and some departing almost daily. We had not been two days here when we began to get a taste of camp rumors. One rumor declared that we were to have barracks erected, and we were to go into winter quarters, while another assured us that we were to have an immediate taste of actual warfare. These proved quite as reliable as the thousands of rumors which during all our years of service were afloat throughout the army, and acquired the expressive appellation of "Camp Yarns."



CHAPTER II.

ARMY LIFE AT WASHINGTON.

Meridian Hill—Neighboring scenery—First Sunday in camp—Drills—Sickness—The Hospital—General Casey—"Why don't the army move?"—Washington blockaded—Burnside's heroes—Orders to move—Something of a train—Smith's division—Our first reconnoissance.

We encamped on Meridian Hill December 1st, 1861, with 960 men.

Meridian Hill is the most delightful locality in the vicinity of Washington. The plain on which the city stands, extends northward from the Potomac about two miles where it is abruptly terminated by a line of hills. From the summit of these hills stretches back another plain, at an elevation of one or two hundred feet above the first. Along the margin of these eminences were some fine old suburban mansions. On our right towards Georgetown, was Kalorama, a charming spot, once the residence of Joel Barlow, the author of the famous poems "Hasty Pudding" and "The Columbiad." Now the building was converted by the government into a hospital. In close neighborhood to us was Columbia College, also used as a hospital, and to the east was the fine mansion of Colonel Stone, and other superb places, all of which, like Kalorama and the college, were full of sick men.

Meridian Hill was in the center of this line of once beautiful country residences, directly north of the President's house. It had been the residence of Commodore Porter, and the house still bore the name of "the Porter Mansion." The grounds had been elegantly laid out with box and juniper, while the rich groves of oak and chestnut surrounding lent additional charms to the locality. The hill was dotted with the white tents of a dozen regiments, but none were so pleasantly located as our own, under the shadow of those grand old trees.

The mansion itself became our hospital, and for a time also served as our head-quarters. From its broad piazza we could look upon the busy scenes of the city, and watch the vessels passing up and down upon the river. A week had passed before we were fairly established in our quarters, but we rapidly learned the mysteries of the soldier's life.

The weather was delightful; more like September than what we were accustomed to experience in December. Although heavy mists hung over us until nine or ten o'clock in the morning, they were dispelled by the warm sunshine, and then all was bright as midsummer. This lovely weather continued until about the first of January.

The country in rear of our encampment was charming. Fine groves, traversed by streams of pure, sweet water, and fields surrounded by hedges, stretched far to the northward. The dark green leaves of the magnolia were to be seen here and there among trees of larger growth, and the shining, ever-green laurel forming a dense undergrowth, gave the woods a lively and spring-like appearance. On the open plain might any day be seen a regiment of Lancers, wheeling and charging in their brilliant evolutions, their long lances with bright red pennons adding greatly to the beauty of the display, and, as we at that time vainly believed, to the efficacy of the troop.

The first Sunday came, and we had religious services. The regiment was formed in front of the mansion, every man being called out, unless on duty or excused on account of illness. This became an established rule with us for all time; every man was required to attend divine service unless especially excused. Chaplain Tully and the members of the staff occupied the piazza. The chaplain offered a prayer for the loved ones at home, and then we all sung "Coronation," and after the sermon, we sung "Cambridge" and "Old Hundred." The men seemed deeply affected by the simple service, and many a quivering lip betrayed the emotions of the heart.

Drills became the order of the day. Every morning the hill rang from one end to the other with the sharp commands of the company officers to "Order arms!" "Shoulder arms!" as the men exercised by squads. Besides the regular drill in the manual of arms, some of the companies delighted in that system of military gymnastics called the bayonet exercise. In the afternoon Colonel McKean usually trained the regiment in the more difficult exercises of the battalion drill.

But we began to feel the scourge of new regiments. Disease became almost universal. We had but a single medical officer and he was tasked beyond his strength. One hundred and fifty or two hundred men were prescribed for every morning, aside from those so ill as to be in the hospital.

The large parlors of the old mansion were neatly fitted up for our hospital, for which they were admirably adapted. The two principal wards were the large front parlors, which communicated by folding doors; the ceilings were high, and the large open fire places in either apartment served the double purpose of supplying heat and ventilation, so that while about fifty beds were always occupied, the air was kept fresh and pure. Typhoid fevers, typhoid pneumonias, diphtheria, and remittent fevers were prevalent, while now and then the malaria manifested itself in the form of the terrible spotted fever. Besides, as usually occurs when the last named disease prevails in camps, some died suddenly from unknown causes.

By the tenth of the month the majority of the men were unfit for duty. In one company the three commissioned officers were in the hospital, and but twelve men could be mustered for evening parade. The labors of the medical officer who undertakes single-handed to minister to the wants of a regiment of recruits can only be known to those who have tried it. Our doctor was as much worn out by the perplexities of organizing his department as by the actual attendance on the sick. New demands came almost every hour of the day and night, and it was only when the violence of disease had subsided, and another officer was added to the medical staff, that our weary son of Galen found a degree of respite.

We were in the command of General Silas Casey, a noble specimen of a man and a soldier. His manly dignity and kindly bearing impressed all with profound respect for him, and although we were but a few weeks in his command we never ceased to remember him with pleasure. The provisional brigade and division to which we were attached was frequently reviewed and drilled by the general, and made a fine appearance.

Thus the time passed until the opening of the New Year. Our men, like most fresh soldiers, were anxious for a fight, and were heartily tired of what they considered inglorious inactivity. Many of them expressed great fears that they would be obliged to return home without ever hearing the sound of battle. How greatly they were mistaken we shall see as we trace the bloody campaigns of more than three years of hard fighting.

Our friends at home were not unmindful of us. Boxes of clothing and other comforts for the sick were sent in goodly numbers; so our sick were well supplied with bedding and changes of clothing, as well as jellies and other luxuries. Our friend, McMicheal, of Congress Hall, Saratoga, thinking we could better celebrate the New Year with a good dinner, sent us one worthy of his fame as a landlord. Could Mack have heard the cheers of the boys that made the ground tremble as the four hundred pounds of cooked chickens and turkeys were distributed among them, his glory as a caterer would have been complete. With the New Year came stormy weather; rain was the rule, sunshine the exception. The mud became almost unfathomable and it was not uncommon to see the six mules attached to an army wagon tugging and striving with all their power to drag the empty wagon out of a mud hole. Boys who had plied the trade of bootblack gave up their profession and with pail and sponge in hand called to the passer by, "Wash your boots, sir?" During the lovely month of December we had been impatient for action; but now the oft repeated question, "Why don't the Army of the Potomac move?" became ludicrous to our ears.

Thus passed another month in drills and camp duties. Some recruits came to us, while many of the men who came out at first were found unfit for field duty and were discharged.

Distrust arose among officers and enlisted men of our army about the capital, in regard to the manner in which the army was managed. A wilderness of men surrounded Washington, and yet we were blockaded by the rebels on all sides except one.

Government was paying enormous prices for fuel consumed by the army, because the Potomac was closed, and all wood had to be brought by rail from the sparsely wooded districts of Maryland. Provisions sold at fabulous prices, and Washington was in fact a beleaguered city. Some rays of light from the west penetrated the thick darkness; but it cannot be concealed that while the Grand Army stationed about the capital panted for action and longed for the glory of the battle-field, a gloom possessed the spirits of the men, and a feeling, that all this splendid material was destined to a "masterly inactivity," prevailed. Our hopes were newly kindled when the affairs of the War Department passed into the hands of a live man, and when Mr. Stanton's practical energy began to be manifested both in the department and in the field. We heard from Burnside; first sad news, and then of success; and our hearts burned to be with him. Fort Donelson followed Roanoke; and Price's army was routed in Missouri. We envied the men who had been our nearest neighbors, but who had followed Burnside to the South. Glorious fellows! What cared they now for the fury of the waves or the hardships of short rations? We were afraid of being left as idle spectators of great things in which we should not be allowed to participate.

On the 15th of February came an order for us to move in a few days, and join Smith's division. This division lay upon the other side of the river, and although we had been anxious to move we did not wish to get permanently fixed in the mud by moving there. We knew little of General Smith or his division, only that the general had been trying very hard for some time past to get the regiment, and we had little hopes of good from the new arrangement. How little did we then suppose that the cross of that old division would be one of the proudest badges of honor that men could wear!

Sunday night came, and the order to move at once, came also. What a scene of confusion! We had never broken up camp before, and the excitement ran high. The pounding and tearing of boards, the shouting of men and braying of mules, combined in a grand uproar. Bonfires blazed from every part of the camp, and the whole night was spent in tearing down quarters and loading the stuff into army wagons as they presented themselves in great numbers. It was a rare sight. The camp glowing with a hundred fires, and the men and teams moving about among them like spectres. Morning came, and the teams were loaded, and the men ready to march. The teams drove out and formed a line reaching down 14th street from our camp nearly to the White House! One hundred and five six-mule teams constituted the train for our regimental baggage; and so much dissatisfaction prevailed among certain company officers that we were allowed twenty-five more teams next day! Rain had fallen nearly all night, and the prospect looked dreary. As the day advanced the rain came faster and faster, until it fairly poured. The men waded through mortar nearly to their knees.

It was three o'clock in the afternoon when we reached Smith's division and the ground on which we were to make our camp. The prospect was not cheering, and as two or three of our staff officers rode upon the ground, the place seemed forbidding enough. It had been recently the location of a thicket of scrub pines, but the trees had been cut down for fuel, and the stumps and brush remained, so that the mounted officers found much difficulty in reining their horses into the midst. Snow covered the ground to the depth of several inches. Here our men, tired and wet, cold and hungry, were to pitch their tents, cook their suppers, and make their beds.

The men fell to work heartily, and by dark they had cleared off the snow and brush enough to make room for their tents, and many cook fires blazed over the camp.

The regiments of the division showed us much hospitality, and a very pleasant acquaintance commenced on that day, which was destined to become earnest friendship. The next day was spent in putting the camp in order. As rain continued to fall, the mud in the company streets became knee-deep. Our sick, those unable to walk, had been left in our old hospital with a sufficient number of faithful nurses, under charge of the surgeon of one of the regiments that remained.

Let us for a moment glance at the composition of the division of which we now formed a part. We were assigned to the Third brigade. It comprised, beside our own, the Thirty-third New York, Colonel Taylor, a regiment whose gallantry at Yorktown, Williamsburgh and Fredericksburgh fully established its reputation as one of the best fighting regiments in the army. The Forty-ninth New York, Colonel Bidwell, a noble regiment with a noble commander, a regiment which could always be counted on to do all that men could do; the Seventh Maine, Colonel Mason, whose men were patterned after the pines of their own forests, tall, straight and powerful fellows, who never forgot their proclivities for hunting, and who were never so happy as when they could pick off a few rebel pickets with their rifles. The brigade was commanded by General Davidson, who afterwards made himself exceedingly disagreeable to the rebels, and famous at the north by his daring cavalry raids in the west. The first brigade included the Forty-third New York, Colonel Vinton; the Forty-ninth Pennsylvania, Colonel Irwin; the Sixth Maine, Colonel Knowles; and the Fifth Wisconsin, Colonel Cobb; all of them excellent regiments, under command of General Hancock, who has since placed his name high on the roll of fame as the commander of the old Second corps.

The Second brigade was composed entirely of Vermont troops, including the Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Vermont regiments, commanded respectively by Colonels Henry Whiting, B. N. Hyde, E. H. Stoughton, L. A. Grant and N. M. Lord, and known as the "Vermont Brigade," and nobly did they sustain the traditional reputation of the Green Mountain Boys, as stern patriots and hard fighters. They were commanded by General Brooks, who afterward commanded the Tenth corps.

General William F. Smith, or, as he was familiarly known, "Baldy Smith," commanded the division. He is too well known to all who admire a true soldier to require more than a mention here, and his great fame has been well and faithfully earned.

No more splendid material, either for officers or men, ever entered into the composition of a division, and how nobly it played its part in the great drama of the war, it shall be part of our duty to record. Drills, regimental, brigade and division, were again in order, and picket duty now became a part of our routine.

This would not be a faithful chronicle of the doings of the new regiment, were we to forget to relate the history of our first expedition into the enemy's country.

An order came one evening in February for Colonel McKean to take his regiment and make a reconnoissance towards Vienna. His instructions were to pass the picket line, advance towards Vienna, make a thorough reconnoissance and return.

The news spread through the camp, and the regiment was ablaze with excitement. Some who had been on the sick list, and were excused from camp duty, sought from the surgeon permission to accompany the expedition, while a few who had been, up to this time, well, were earnest in their applications to be excused from the march.

The regiment was formed at ten o'clock at night; thick darkness, darkness of the blackest and most intense degree, prevailed. One could scarcely see his neighbor whose shoulder touched his own. We were miles away from the enemy, but the men were to be instructed in performing their movements in secrecy; so the commands were passed along the line, as the companies were forming, in whisper. No lights were allowed, and we left our camp a column of blackness. We were presently joined by a guide who carried a lantern. We passed a great many regiments, all the while observing strict silence.

The mud was deep, very deep; some of the men lost their shoes in the depths of the mire, and some even lost themselves, and were only discovered when they arrived in camp some hours earlier than the regiment. Through the darkness we plodded until we reached our destination, at daylight on the following morning. Here we found bough houses which had been used by rebel cavalry; and the tracks of many horses imprinted only a little while before, whether by the horses of our own cavalry, or by those of the enemy, we never knew. The battalion was halted and scouts were sent to the front and on the flanks. Some of the boys who had lost their shoes in the mud before we had advanced the first mile, had made the whole march in their stockings; while others, who had been sick, looked as though they could never get back to camp. The companies deployed and marched through the woods, but as the enemy was on the other side of Vienna we saw no rebels. It was noon when we reached our camp, tired and covered with mud. Those who went laughed at those who remained behind, and called them "dead beats!" The "beats" tauntingly demanded of the others what all their demonstration had amounted to.

The New York papers heralded the exploit as a grand advance on the enemy, and we said little about it.



CHAPTER III.

THE MANASSAS CAMPAIGN.

Orders to march—A grand spectacle—Bivouac near Fairfax Court House—The camps at night—Visits to Manassas and Centreville—Dissatisfaction in the army—A deserted country—Lawless soldiers—Fairfax Court House—A representative Southerner—Review by Gen. McClellan—March to Alexandria—"Camp Misery."

The first week in March brought lovely weather: birds sang more sweetly, the sun shone more brightly, and bands played more merrily than usual, and friends passed from regiment to regiment seeking social pastime with friends.

We had known no such pleasant times in camp; still we were waiting for orders to advance. During the night of Sunday, the 8th of March, the order came: "This division will move at four o'clock in the morning with two days' rations in haversacks." Little rest we got that night; the hammer and the axe were plied vigorously in tearing down quarters and packing stores, and as the sun rose in the morning the whole army was in motion. It was a sublime spectacle: that immense line of troops pouring along hour after hour, stretching over the hills as far as the eye could reach; a hundred and twenty thousand troops on the move! Just beyond and above them, in the gray sky of the morning, hung a beautiful rainbow. At six our division commenced to march. Rain soon began to fall, and continued all day. We passed through Vienna and Lewinsville, each a hamlet of a dozen houses, and reached our camping ground at five o'clock in the afternoon, tired, and drenched, and hungry.

Great numbers of troops had already occupied the fields, and the whole country seemed alive with men and horses, artillery and wagons. We were in the vicinity of Fairfax Court House, about a mile to the northward, on what was called Flint Hill.

The army, for the first time, was under "tentes d'abri," or, as they are now called, shelter tents. Until now the enlisted men had occupied the spacious Sibley, or the comfortable wedge tents, and all officers were quartered in wall tents; now, line officers and enlisted men were to occupy shelter tents, which they were to carry on their shoulders; and although a small number of wall tents could be carried in the wagons for field and staff officers, yet so imperfect was the understanding, in or out of the quartermaster's department, of what could or ought to be done, that most regimental field and staff officers were left without any shelter at all.

The men proceeded to make themselves as comfortable as possible under their novel coverings, and as evening approached, the hills were magnificently illuminated with thousands of camp fires. Very few men occupied their new tents that night. They had not been accustomed to lie upon wet ground, with only a single blanket wrapped about them, so during all the night groups of soldiers stood about the camp fires, talking in low tones and wondering what was to happen in the morning. The sky was clear and bright when the sun rose, and as we looked out upon the hill tops, dotted with clean white tents, and bristling with stacks of shining muskets, we exulted in the thought that we were part of the Grand Army that was now at work. Soon we knew that we were not to fight here. The cavalry, and some of Porter's division, were returning from Manassas and Centreville, both places burned and deserted. Were we to pursue the retreating army, or were we to return to Washington to take a new start? Parties from the division rode to Centreville and Manassas. The works were indeed formidable and the barracks extensive; and the old chestnut logs with blackened ends, that were mounted in some of the embrasures, had, at a distance, grim visages. The smoking ruins betokened the destructiveness of war. On the old battle-field lay bleaching the bones of horses and men, and here and there might be seen portions of human skeletons protruding from the shallow graves where some pretense had been made at burial. Fragments of shells, broken muskets and solid shot strewed the ground.

Head-quarters of the army were established at Fairfax Court House, and thither repaired the corps commanders to hold a council in regard to our future movements. The country about our camp was rolling and sparsely settled. Nearly all the houses were deserted, and most of them destroyed so far as any future usefulness was concerned. One house, the ruins of which stood not far from our camp, and which had been the most comfortable place in the whole section of country, had been the residence of a northern farmer. Although the house was completely stripped, and nothing of the barns and outhouses remained but the frames, yet there were many evidences of the thrift and comfort of the former occupant. A northern reaper, several horse rakes, ploughs of improved patterns, and other modern implements of agriculture, betokened a genuine farmer. We were told that he was driven from his home early in the war, and had now found refuge among his friends in New Hampshire. But the houses of the southerners had not been exempt from the general devastation, and some who had sought refuge in Richmond had left their homes to ruin. The people were evidently strongly "secesh," although some of them professed to be glad to see us.

It cannot be said that the presence of our army afforded them great protection, for the men, unused to the strict discipline which afterward prevailed, coolly appropriated whatever articles seemed to them to be of use either for the present or the future. It was amusing to see the soldiers of some of the divisions in which less than the usual discipline prevailed, peering and creeping about wherever there seemed a prospect of plunder. Now one would pass with a pair of chickens; next, one bringing a clothes line; then one with part of an old table, and still another with half a dozen eggs. This system of plunder was at length checked, in a measure at least. Fowls, eggs and potatoes could be purchased of the people at fair rates, while rebel currency could be bought for silver at a very considerable discount. Twenty-five cent and one cent shinplasters were brought into camp and laughed at by men who were afterward glad to get shinplasters from another manufactory.

To Fairfax Court House was but a short distance; and a ride to the village afforded a pleasant gallop of a morning. The place, and the country half a mile on each side, was occupied by McCall's division. The village was pleasantly located on high ground, surrounded by fine groves. It contained some pretty residences, which were occupied by officers as head-quarters: their horses, in some instances, being picketed on the porticos, and in others in the kitchens. The village was nearly deserted by its own people, not more than fifty of the original inhabitants being left, though the population of the town before the war was nearly six hundred. Houses which were deserted were generally stripped of everything. The court house was a solid old brick building of very limited dimensions, with a little bell swinging in a comical looking steeple. The court house was by no means an exception to the general rule of destruction; the seats were torn out, and the judge's bench had been split in pieces, and nearly all carried away by pockets full, as relics. At one of the houses where the family still remained, a party reined up and made some inquiries of the pater familias, a hangdog looking specimen, with an old slouched hat covered to the crown with rusty crape, a mark of second-hand gentility in these parts. He said that "this yer war" had caused such a famine among the people, that nearly all of them had been obliged to leave; some had gone to Washington and some to Richmond, "a right smart lot of them had gone to Richmond." He had "reckoned onct or twict" that he would have to go too, but he "had succeeded in hanging on so long."

Our division was reviewed by General McClellan, who was received with enthusiasm. Although many of us were familiar with the appearance of the Commander-in-Chief, this was his first appearance to us as a division. The General appeared a man below the medium height, with broad shoulders, full chest and a round pleasing face relieved by a heavy moustache. He sat his horse well and rode with great speed. While his appearance and address were pleasing, there seemed in his smooth face and mild eye nothing to indicate a man of brilliant genius or great purpose.

At length the council of corps commanders had rendered its decision, and the grand campaign of the Virginian Peninsula was planned. On the morning of the fourteenth of March, with buoyant hopes and exulting anticipations of a "quick, sharp and decisive," and as we devoutly believed, a successful campaign, we left our camp at Flint Hill. It had few charms for us, and we were glad to leave it. How little we yet knew of real campaigning. Although we had notice several hours beforehand that we were to move by daylight, yet many, indeed, the majority of us, marched that morning without breakfast.

No morning sun cheered us as the day began, but the sky was hung with heavy clouds. A drizzling rain, now diminishing almost to a heavy mist, and now coming in fresh showers, made the marching heavy and unpleasant. Grandly appeared that majestic army as it filed down the turnpike to Alexandria. At times the elevation of the road afforded a view of the mighty column for miles to the front, and at other times we could see it pouring onward an endless stream of cavalry, infantry, artillery and wagons, far from the rear.

So grand a spectacle had never been witnessed on this continent before. Our march was rapid and we made no halt for dinner: those who went without breakfast had poor chance for coffee that day.

Towards evening the rain increased, and as we drew off into a piece of woods five miles out from Alexandria, the rain came down in sheets. Near our halting place were some deserted houses. No sooner had we stopped than began the work of destruction, afterward so familiar to us, and in less than an hour there was not a board or timber left of either building. The ground, although quite uneven and sloping, soon became so flooded that tents, even when they could be pitched, were untenable. The men attempted to build fires, but in most instances the floods of water quenched the flames. Some, however, succeeded in starting huge fires, and around these stood the men during the whole night, while the tempest poured in torrents upon them. A few of the officers of the division, among whom was one who afterward became noted for looking out for and providing good things for his regiment as quartermaster, sought refuge in a house not far off, where, for the moderate sum of twenty-five cents each, they were allowed by the people sleeping room upon the floor. Never since the times of Pharaoh was an army so thoroughly drenched. During more than three years campaigning in the field our boys never forgot that night; and to this day they frequently refer to the disagreeable experience in what they not inappropriately term "Camp Misery." Here, in "Camp Misery," we remained several days, waiting to embark for Fortress Monroe.

Without doubt, the rebels all this time knew of our destination; for the people among whom we were encamped were by no means our friends or indifferent to the success of the rebels, and the point of our destination was well known and freely spoken of among them.



CHAPTER IV.

THE ARMY TRANSFERRED TO THE PENINSULA.

Embarking for the Peninsula—Mount Vernon—On the Potomac—Hampton—In camp—Orders to march—A night visit to Fortress Monroe—The advance—A sifting—A Quaker battery—At Newport News—Compliments of the Teaser.

On Sunday morning, March 23d, we marched to Alexandria. The whole of our division, and of the other divisions of Keyes' corps, were there, besides part of Heintzelman's corps and other troops. In the course of the afternoon, this great body of men was embarked upon the transports. The vessels having received their lading, swung out upon the river and laid at anchor during the night. Early in the morning the whole fleet was under way, steaming down the river. We passed Mount Vernon—the bells of the fleet tolling. The tomb lies in the midst of a clump of firs just south and a little below the house; the mansion and the grounds are nearly as they were left by Washington, and the whole looks down upon the river, calling upon the passer-by for a thought upon the great man whose dust lies beneath the fir trees. After passing Mount Vernon, nothing of special interest was seen except the broad expanse of waters of this magnificent stream. A few large mansions, a few inferior houses, and now and then a little hamlet, appeared on the banks; and at Aquia creek could be seen the insignificant earthworks that had covered the few field pieces which for so many months had kept up an efficient blockade of the Potomac.

How different was all this from our Hudson! The country bordering on the river is beautiful; nature has done everything for it, but a cursed institution has blighted it. There is not a country in the world where nature has been more lavish with its blessings, and yet it is forsaken, worn out, almost a wilderness. The magnificent rivers and unsurpassed harbors of Virginia, its natural fertility and the mildness of its climate, present natural advantages scarcely equaled by any country. As we stood upon the deck of the steamer, watching and admiring the ever-varying beauties of the noble stream, some one repeated these lines from Barlow's Columbiad:

"Thy capes, Virginia, towering from the tide, Raise their blue banks, and slope thy barriers wide, To future sails unfold a fluvian way, And guard secure thy multifluvian bay, That drains uncounted realms and here unites The liquid mass from Alleganian hights. York leads his way embanked in flowery pride, And noble James falls winding by his side; Back to the hills, through many a silent vale, Wild Rappahannock seems to lure the sail; Patapsco's bosom courts the hand of toil; Dull Susquehanna laves a length of soil; But mightier far, in sea-like azure spread, Potowmac sweeps his earth disparting bed."

At night we were on the broad Chesapeake. A stiff breeze set our fleet rocking, but we slept quietly, leaving the waves to take care of themselves and the pilots to take care of the boats. Reveille awoke us in the morning to discover on the one side of us the world-renowned Fortress Monroe and on the other the equally famous Monitor. At our bow lay the village of Hampton—or rather the chimneys and trees of what had been Hampton. Orders came for us to disembark here, and we were soon among the debris of the town. A sadder commentary on war could hardly be found than the ruins of this beautiful village. A forest of shade trees and chimneys marked the place where a few months before had stood one of the most ancient villages in America. Hyacinths and daffodils, peach trees and roses, were in bloom in the deserted and fenceless gardens; and the dark green leaves of the japonica and laurel covered many a heap of unsightly rubbish.

The walls of the old church, the most ancient in the State, stood like silent witnesses against the reckless spirit of destruction of the rebels. Although not large, the church had evidently been a fine old structure, having the form of a Greek cross. About it were the graves of the forefathers of the village, reposing under the shadow of those old trees. Many of the tablets were ancient, dating back as far as 1706.



The whole army was pouring out upon this shore, and at Fortress Monroe. Dense masses of infantry, long trains of artillery and thousands of cavalry, with unnumbered army wagons and mules, were mingled in grand confusion along the shore; the neighing of horses, the braying of mules, the rattle of wagons and artillery, and the sound of many voices, mingled in one grand inharmonious concert.

Our division marched along a pleasant route to a field about midway between Fortress Monroe and Newport News. We rested until March 26th, when an order came at midnight for the army to march very early in the morning. We were short of some medical stores and quartermasters' supplies, and officers at once mounted their horses to ride through the thick darkness to Fortress Monroe, to procure the needed articles. Along the road men were already cooking their breakfasts, and artillery was hurrying towards Newport News. At short intervals along the road, sentinels were posted; and as the sounds of the horses' hoofs were heard, the sharp command rung out through the darkness, "Halt! who comes there?" and the galloping horses would suddenly halt at long distance from the sentry.

"Friends with the countersign."

"Dismount and advance one; and give the countersign."

One of the parties, leaving his horse with the other, would advance and give the required word, and on we rode again until suddenly halted by a similar warning. As we approached the fortress, the sentinels were more frequent, until, as we came within half a mile of our destination, the guards were posted so frequently that we had hardly passed one, before the sharp command to "Halt!" was heard again. We crossed the drawbridge, and at length found ourselves in the little village in rear of the fort. Passing here many sentinels who examined us very carefully, we reached the door of the citadel. Here we were halted by a sentinel, and each examined for the countersign. The sentinel called the corporal of the guard; who after satisfying himself that we were Union officers shouted to the sergeant. The great iron door ground upon its massive hinges as it swung open just far enough to permit the sergeant to squeeze through, and again it was closed, and the heavy bolts rung as they flew back to their places. The sergeant, after asking a few questions, went back into the fort, and soon returned with the officer of the guard, who, after receiving the countersign, questioned us closely as to our business, and who we were. Satisfied, at length he ordered a soldier to take our horses, the heavy door slowly opened, and we were admitted within the walls. Such were the precautions in admitting strangers to the stronghold.

At six o'clock the division was in line and on the road. The morning was indescribably beautiful. The vapors that rose from the broad expanse of waters were tinged with a thousand gorgeous hues as they rolled away, dispersed by the morning sun; and the tall yellow pines were crowned with rich golden coronals of light. The road was perfectly level and dry, and the country delightful. Long rows of locusts and pines lined the sides of the road, and the rich groves of oak just sending forth their foliage, were beautifully interspersed with the holly, with its bright red berries and rich evergreen leaves. Peach orchards in full bloom added to the beauty of the scene, and when at times we could see the lines of troops, two and three miles in extent, their muskets glittering in the bright sunlight, the enthusiasm of the men was unbounded.

All the bridges over the route had been destroyed by the enemy, but pioneers advanced at the head of the column, and as the bridges were all small they were quickly repaired. A march of a few miles brought us in sight of the James river; a noble stream, at least five miles wide at this point. Not far from the shore appeared the masts of the U. S. frigate Cumberland, sunk in the memorable fight with the Merrimac. As our march led us along the banks, the views were charming. On one hand was the noble river, and on the other the orchards and groves. Deserted houses, and gardens blooming with hyacinths and other blossoms of early spring, were passed. On the opposite side of the river lay a rebel gunboat, watching our movements.

Our division, Smith's, had taken the lead on the James river road, while Porter's division had marched upon Great Bethel. After a march of fifteen miles, our division was drawn up in line of battle near Warwick. Porter's division had already reached Great Bethel, on our right, and we could see huge columns of smoke rising in that direction, and hear the roar of artillery. An aide dashed up and informed General Davidson that the enemy were in line of battle ready to receive us. Soon the order came to advance; the line swept onward through the woods and over a cleared field, but found no foe. A few cavalry pickets only were seen, and a shell from one of our Parrott guns set them flying towards Yorktown. We passed through the confederate encampments where their fires were still blazing, but soon turned round and bivouacked on ground last night occupied by rebels.

In this advance or reconnoissance of the whole army, the qualities of the individual soldiers composing it were brought out in bold relief. The effect on our own division was marked. During the months we had been in winter quarters, many officers and men had established marvelous reputations for bravery and hardihood, merely by constantly heralding their own heroism. But from this time these doughty heroes went back. Officers suddenly found cause for resigning; and enlisted men managed to get sent to the rear, and never showed their faces at the front again. On the contrary, some who were really invalids insisted on dragging themselves along with the column, fearful that an engagement might take place in which they would not participate. A sifting process was thus commenced throughout the whole division, and to its honor the poltroons were very soon sifted out, and from that time forth, Smith's division never afforded a comfortable resting place for men of doubtful courage. "They went out from us, because they were not of us."

Next morning we retired over the road upon which we had advanced, and encamped near Newport News. As we passed this place on our outward march, we saw at a distance what appeared to be a heavy gun, but as we approached it proved to be a large cart, on which was mounted a great wooden mortar, which had, perhaps, been used by negroes for cracking corn. When we returned a hog's head was fixed in the mouth of the mortar. "There," remarked an officer, "is the first Quaker we have seen on the Peninsula." "You must sketch it," said the colonel of the Seventy-seventh, and the officer obeyed.



The division encamped upon a low plain covered with sedges and reeds, a good enough encampment while the dry weather lasted, but when the rain came in floods two nights after we pitched our tents here, the whole division was inundated, and we moved to higher and better ground.

The masts of the Cumberland greeted our eyes whenever we turned toward the river, and the rebel gunboats made short excursions toward our side of the stream. One day large numbers of men, mostly from the Vermont brigade, were on the shoals of the river bathing and gathering oysters. The gunboat Teazer discovering them, steamed down toward them, and threw some heavy shells, shrieking and cracking among them, causing great consternation among the bathers, and some confusion and much amusement on shore.



CHAPTER V.

YORKTOWN.

The advance to Yorktown—A thunder storm—"Reliable contrabands"—Facing the enemy—A strong position—The Union line—A rebel welcome—Digging—On picket—A dreary country—An enterprising planter—Active work—Battle of Lee's Mills—Charge of the Vermont brigade—Progress of the siege—Ravages of disease—A front seat—Short supplies—The rebels withdraw—Entering the strongholds—Infernal machines—March to Williamsburgh—Victims of disease.

At length, on the 4th of April, the army was put in motion for Yorktown. The General-in-Chief had arrived at Fortress Monroe the evening before, and at once the army became the scene of prodigious activity. Keyes' corps, our own division in advance, took the road along the banks of the James river. The rest of the army, headed by Porter's division, advanced on the more direct road to Yorktown, through Great Bethel, accompanied by General McClellan.

The day being clear and warm, the men soon began to realize the difficulty of transporting large amounts of clothing and camp equipage on their shoulders, and the roadsides were strewn with blankets and overcoats, dress coats and pants. The bushes and trees for miles along the route were thickly hung with articles of clothing, mostly new, and all good. Soldiers who had put on their marching suit would fall out of the ranks, the knapsack would quickly disgorge a new coat and pants, the wearers would as quickly divest themselves of the soiled garments and replace them with the new ones, the others being left on the ground. Whenever a halt was ordered this shifting process became general.

The roads, which at first were dry and firm, were as we advanced badly cut up, and great difficulty was experienced in getting the trains along.

An advance of ten miles brought us in front of Young's Mills, a strongly fortified position five or six miles from Yorktown. The corps was drawn up in line of battle and cavalry sent to reconnoiter the position. The works were deserted, but camp fires still blazed in them. Here we rested for the night. At daylight next morning the advance was renewed. The roads were even worse than the day before. Infantry could get along well enough, but artillery and army wagons had a hard time of it. Each piece of artillery made the road worse, until the axles dragged in a river of mud. We passed the little village of Warwick Court House. There were here a little brick court house, a jail and a clerk's office seven feet by ten, a store and a tavern. There were also two small dwelling houses.

After a march of three miles the division was drawn up in line of battle. We had reached the hostile works before the rest of the army. Skirmishers were sent to the front and we advanced slowly and cautiously through the woods. A terrific thunder storm burst upon us and the roar of the heavenly artillery seemed to mock any efforts at martial grandeur. Seldom, if ever, had we of the northern states witnessed such an exhibition of sublimity and terrible magnificence of the workings of the elements. The vivid lightning and terrific peals of thunder seemed to the men the presage of deadly work to come. The advance was very difficult, the woods being marshy and filled with tangles and briars. The men were scratched and bleeding. The long line of battle presently emerged from the woods and occupied a clearing, in the center of which was a mansion, the late residence of a rebel officer. Some scouts brought from the house a couple of negresses whom they led to General Keyes. They communicated their information with an earnestness that proved their sympathies were not with their late master. It was a picturesque scene; those tall negresses with their bright red turbans and long white woolen gowns, telling with earnest gestures what they knew of the position of the enemy, while the generals and their staffs listened eagerly to their words. They said that when we passed over the little hill just in front, we should be under fire from the batteries of the rebels, who were in large force; "but laws a massa, noting like all dese yer," said they, pointing to the troops of our division.

Cautiously the clearing was crossed, the long line of battle moving in beautiful order—Kennedy's, Ayres' and Wheeler's batteries each accompanying a brigade.

Again we entered a heavy pine wood in which the swamp was deeper than ever, and advancing through it we came face to face with the enemy. Warwick creek, a marshy stream which had been dammed by the rebels, raising its waters into ponds and deep morasses, was between us and their works, and the accessible points were guarded by artillery. Two regiments were at once deployed as skirmishers and sent in advance, and our batteries were planted along the edge of the wood with the line of the infantry. Only Smith's division was in line, the others were waiting on the road for orders to come up.

Along the road, for more than half the distance back to Young's Mills, the brigades of Couch's and Kearney's divisions were resting on their arms, while cannon by scores waited to be called into action.

The enemy was not slow to acknowledge our presence, and as a token of greeting sent some twelve-pound shells crashing among the trees about us. The firing now became brisk on our side, and the rebels replied spiritedly with their twelve-pounders. Hundreds of men were now called up from the rear brigades and detailed to build corduroy roads. Trees were cut down and trimmed of their branches, and laid side by side so as to form a kind of bridge over the swamp to enable more artillery to come up. The rapidity with which such roads were built was marvelous.

By this time the column on the right had reached the works in front of the town. The position here was also strong. Although the Warwick did not interpose, yet high bluffs, crowned with redoubts in which were mounted heavy guns, frowned upon the assailants. Thus far it appears that the leaders of our army had been totally ignorant of the position and strength of the enemy, and had led it up to the works, blindly feeling the way without maps or guides. (McClellan's Report.) The defensive works were now found to consist of a series of redoubts and rifle pits stretching across the Peninsula, seven miles in extent, with high bluffs on the right and Warwick creek in their front on the left.

The position occupied by our division was known as Lee's Mills, and to our right, nearly three miles, was the village of Yorktown. The line of battle was now arranged in the following order from right to left: Heintzelman's corps, consisting of Porter's, Hooker's and Hamilton's divisions, were in front of the town; Sedgwick's division of Sumner's corps on the left of them, and Keyes' corps, comprising Smith's and Couch's division (Casey's division arrived in a few days), held the position on the Warwick at Lee's Mills.

The position of the enemy was, without doubt, one of great strength, and everything had been done to render it more formidable. Yet they were by no means too strong or sufficiently well garrisoned to resist an assault from such a body of men as now appeared in their front. That there were weak points in this line of defenses, stretching seven miles, was afterwards demonstrated; and that the forces behind the works were by no means sufficiently numerous, at the time of our approach, to afford formidable resistance at all points in their extensive line, is now well known.

It appears from the official report of the rebel General Johnston, who then commanded all the rebel forces in Virginia, that at the time of the appearance of our army before Yorktown the works were defended by only about eleven thousand men, and that even after he had reinforced the garrisons by the troops which he was hurrying from Manassas, his army amounted to only fifty thousand men.

The artillery duel was kept up until night. We had lost some men during the day, but not so many as we had feared. First a poor fellow from the Seventh Maine, his heart and left lung torn out by a shell; then one from the Forty-ninth New York, shot in the head; the next was from our own regiment, Frank Jeffords, who had to suffer amputation of a leg; then a man from the Forty-ninth was sent to the rear with his heel crushed. In all, our loss did not exceed twenty men. The casualties in the other brigades were less than in our own.

As night approached, the firing gradually ceased, and nothing but the scattering shots of the skirmishers was heard. We lay down in the swamp with no tents, and many of us without food. Officers and men built platforms of logs and bark to keep out of the water where they were not fortunate enough to find a dry place. General Smith bivouacked near the line of battle, making his bed at the foot of a pine tree, with nothing but his overcoat for shelter. It may not be amiss to say here that General Smith, unlike most gentlemen with stars on their shoulders, was always in the habit of sleeping at the very front.

All the following day, and the next, the firing was kept up steadily on both sides. At night showers of cannister and grape would fall in our camp, and fortunate was he who had a good tree or stump between him and the rebel works against which to lay his head while he slept.

We at length became so accustomed to the continual skirmishing, that unless the firing was in fierce volleys we took no notice of it. The boys of the Thirty-third New York being on the skirmish line on the 8th, charged a rifle pit with shouts and hurrahs, and drove the rebels from it. An attempt was made to retake it, but the boys held their ground.

The men performed herculean labors on the roads, and in throwing up earthworks. No rest was allowed. When not on picket they were cutting down trees or throwing up earthworks or building bridges. Such constant labor soon began to exhaust the strength of the stoutest, and hundreds of them yielded to disease who supposed themselves capable of enduring any amount of hardships. Yet there was now and then a grimly gay episode in this hard routine. Here is an incident that occurred two or three days after we approached the works, and affords a good sample of picketing between us and the forts. Our pickets were within speaking distance of those of the enemy; each party kept, if possible, snugly behind some big stump or tree, out of the reach of his disagreeable neighbors. A good deal of hard talk had passed between one of our pickets and one of the "Johnnies." Finally the rebel thrust his hand beyond his tree holding in it a bottle, and shaking it, challenged the Yankee to come and take it—"crack" went the Yankee's rifle at the hand. "Ha, ha! why don't you hit it? What do you think of Bull Run?" "How do you like Fort Donelson?" responded the Yankee.

While this colloquy was going on, Yankee number two crept round behind a log, and drawing on the southerner, blazed away at him. The son of chivalry clapped his hand to his shoulder and ran off howling. "There, you fool," shouted Yankee number one, "I told you that blind man would be shooting you pretty soon."

The country about us was uncultivated and unhealthy. The lands were low and swampy, and mostly covered with a heavy growth of yellow pines. The few remaining inhabitants were mostly women, negresses and children; now and then a disabled specimen of poor white trash, or a farmer too infirm to be of service in the rebel army, was to be met with. All were alike destitute of enterprise, and the houses upon the "plantations" were of the meanest order, raised three or four feet above the ground upon posts without the usual foundation of stone. The "plantations" consisted usually of about ten or twenty acres of cleared land in the midst of the forest, with narrow roads among the pines leading to neighboring plantations.

The writer inquired of the proprietor of one of these isolated spots, who also had some forty negro women and children, how he managed to support so large a family from the proceeds of so little land. "Well," said he, "I could not support them from the proceeds of the land alone, but you see I sell a few negroes every year and buy corn with the money; so with what we raise and what we get for the sale of the negroes, we get along very well."

"But why do you not cut down some of this forest and till more land? You own a large tract of land which is entirely worthless as it now is."

"There is where you are greatly mistaken, said the enterprising southerner, my timber land is my best property." But of what use do you make it? "Oh, I sell a great deal of wood. I take it to Fortress Monroe and Hampton and get two dollars and a half a cord for it!"

The reader will perhaps understand the profits drawn from the wood lands, when it is remembered that Fortress Monroe was twenty miles distant.

Night attacks by the enemy became common; and it was not an unfrequent occurrence for the whole division to be called suddenly to arms at midnight and stand in line until morning. Skirmishes and sharpshooting continued with little intermission; bullets of rebel riflemen whizzing through our camps or unceremoniously entering our tents at all times. Rebel gunboats approached the mouth of the Warwick and by their assistance the rebel infantry attempted to turn our left flank, but the troops of our division gallantly met their attack and drove them back.

This state of affairs continued until the 16th of April. That morning, word passed through the division that we were to make an assault. Orders came to move, and the division was massed near some ruins, known as "The Chimneys," in front of one of the rebel forts; the Second brigade holding the front line, supported by the First and Third brigades. As we moved round to take our positions, an American eagle whirled above our heads in elegant circles and at length floated away toward the south, the boys swinging their hats and cheering the bird with loud huzzahs.



The fort in our front covered the road from Newport News to Williamsburgh, and could we get possession of it we could turn the flanks of the enemy, obliging him to abandon his position and enabling us either to prevent his escape or to harass him in his flight. In front of the fort the creek had been dammed and a deep morass interposed between us and the works. General McClellan and his immense suite rode to the point from which the attack was to be made, and communicating a few minutes with Generals Keyes and Smith, left the field. Mott's battery was now brought into position on the open plateau and opened a fierce cannonade, to which the rebels replied with spirit, dismounting one of our guns and killing several of the gunners at the very start. Mott was reinforced by Kennedy's and Wheeler's batteries, and the hostile guns were soon silenced. Our batteries then advanced within five hundred yards of the fort, and the gray-coated rebels who were seen to fill the woods, were soon dispersed. Two companies of troops, from the Third Vermont, were now ordered forward. Down from the woods they came, rushed into the water to their waists, and gallantly made for the rebel rifle pits. The first line of the works was gained and then the second. The fort was empty, but a ditch to their left was filled with men. They poured a volley among them and the gray coats fled. Thus the fort was actually in their possession, and was held for some minutes by the noble fellows, but when they looked for support, none came. The three brigades stood upon the opposite bank, ready to plunge through the stream, and waiting with intense anxiety for the order, "forward;" but no order came, and the brave Green Mountain boys who had so nobly performed their part of the work, were forced to fall back under a galling fire from the rebels, who rushed back to their pits as soon the Vermonters had left them, pouring volley after volley into the retreating forces, who, their ammunition spent, could not reply to the rebel fire. Before they were able to reach the shelter of the woods, sad havoc was made in their ranks. Skirmishing was kept up for some hours, by other regiments, but with no result except the loss of men.

The following list of killed and wounded was obtained the next day after the battle:

2d Vermont—1 killed.

3d Vermont—24 killed, 7 mortally wounded, 56 wounded, 1 missing. 4th Vermont—3 killed, 30 wounded. 5th Vermont—2 killed, 6 wounded. 6th Vermont—11 killed, 77 wounded.

Total loss to the brigade, 218.

Thus ended the fight known as the "Battle of Lee's Mills," a battle in which two hundred men gallantly captured an important work of the enemy, and thousands of their companions burning with desire to share in their glory stood by and saw them abandon it! Why the other brigades were not ordered forward has never been explained satisfactorily. That General Smith would gladly have sent them forward we earnestly believe; but we now know that General McClellan desired that a general engagement should not be brought on at that time.

The wounded men exhibited the same bravery, while their wounds were being cared for, that characterized their brilliant charge. Men badly mutilated, with bullets in their heads, or breasts, or limbs, refused to receive attention from the surgeon who dressed their wounds, until their more unfortunate companions were cared for. "Don't mind me, doctor, there are others hurt worse than I am," said many a brave fellow, as he lay upon the ground bleeding from his wounds.

The following incident connected with this noble charge will be remembered by all who were at that time members of Smith's division, and by hundreds who saw accounts of it in the newspapers of the day:

Private William Scott, of Company K, Third Vermont, was, in the autumn of 1861, found asleep at his post on the picket line. It was a grave fault; but the weary soldier, inexperienced in the service, and unaccustomed to such night vigils, in an evil hour yielded to the demands of tired nature, little thinking that the lives of hundreds of his comrades were periled by his unfaithfulness. He was tried by a court-martial and sentenced to be shot. The sentence was approved, and at the appointed time he was brought forth to execution. General Smith, desiring to impress upon the minds of his men the terrible consequences of such an offense, formed his troops in line. The culprit was brought out before them, and led to the place of execution. The guard, with loaded muskets, stood ready to execute the dreadful sentence, which was read before all the troops. All waited in breathless expectation for the order to fire; but instead another paper was read. It was a pardon from the President! Then the wildest shouts of joy ran along the line. Shout after shout arose from the division, and hundreds blessed the name of President Lincoln.

There were many circumstances to render this a case of peculiar interest. It was the first sentence of the kind; it was at the beginning of the war, when a soldier's life was regarded of value, and when all eyes were riveted upon the army, and every incident was of interest. It was also the first instance of the kind in which the executive clemency had been exercised. So near had the hour of execution arrived when the President signed the pardon, that, fearing it might not be received in season, he took his carriage and drove to camp, to assure himself that the man's life should be spared.

"I will show President Lincoln that I am not afraid to die for my country," said the grateful soldier; and well did he fulfill his promise. Among the bravest of those two hundred heroes who crossed the swamp at Lee's Mills, was William Scott, of Company K, Third Vermont. But he was brought back a corpse. He had shown the President that he was not afraid to die for his country. He was one of the foremost in the charge, and one of the first to fall. His comrades made his grave under the shadow of the tall pines, and as they folded his blanket around him, and lowered him to his resting place, tears stood upon those brown cheeks; but the tears of sorrow were mingled with tears of joy, when they thought of his glorious death, and his narrow escape from an ignominious fate, and again, in their hearts, they blessed the man who was always the soldier's friend.

We resumed our place the next day after the battle, on the front line, and commenced digging.

Fierce night sorties were again made by the enemy and bravely resisted by our boys, who continued the work regardless of these annoyances. Only one fight occurred on our part of the line after the 16th, in which we lost any number of men. On the 28th the First brigade had a skirmish in which we lost one killed and half a dozen wounded. Among the latter was Lieutenant, afterward Colonel Milliken, of the Forty-third New York. A reconnoissance on the left about the same time, resulted in finding the rebels in considerable force, and a loss of two good soldiers to the Seventy-seventh New York. In the meantime earthworks of great strength were being thrown up on the right of the line before Yorktown, and everything was being put in a complete state of preparation for the grand bombardment. Enormous siege guns of one hundred and even two hundred pound calibre, and immense mortars were brought up and mounted in the earthworks, and it was thought that with the powerful means we were using the fall of Yorktown was only a question of time.

Our losses by the rebels before Yorktown were not great, but the ravages by disease were fearful. Many thousands of noble fellows who would gladly have braved the dangers of the battle-field, were carried to the rear with fevers engendered by the deadly malaria of the swamps, from which few ever recovered sufficiently to rejoin the ranks; and thousands of others were laid in humble graves along the marshy borders of the Warwick or about the hospitals at Young's Mills. For a month the men were almost continually under arms; often called in the middle of the night to resist the attempts of the enemy to force our line under cover of the thick darkness, standing in line of battle day after day and digging at earthworks night after night.

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