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Title: Drum Taps in Dixie: Memories of a Drummer Boy, 1861-1865

Author: Delavan S. Miller

Release date: December 12, 2012 [eBook #41608]

Language: English

Credits: Produced by The Online Distributed Proofreading Team at (This file was produced from images
generously made available by The Internet Archive.)




Drum Taps in Dixie



The Author—A War-Time Photograph.









Watertown, N. Y.
Hungerford-Holbrook Co.



Copyrighted 1905
By Delavan S. Miller

Published December, 1905





Affectionately dedicated
to my Wife and



[Pg vi]


A chance meeting with a comrade who was instrumental in saving from capture a piece of artillery at the second battle of Bull Run suggested one of the several sketches grouped together in this volume.

Memory awakened furnished material for those that followed, each article recalling faces, forms, scenes and incidents from out of the misty past.

“Awake but one, and lo!
What myriads rise!”

The writer has enjoyed his reminiscing. It has been a labor of love, so to speak, enabling him in a measure to live the old days over again.

The articles have been written at odd times after business hours, and should not be scrutenized too closely from a literary standpoint.

The writing of the memories of a drummer boy has been a source of pleasure and rest to the writer, who sincerely hopes that the reading of them may not weary those who, in their hours of rest, may scan these pages.

Delavan S. Miller.



[Pg vii]

Prelude—The Drum’s Story

Yes, I am a drum, and a very old drum at that. My leather ears are twisted and brown. My shiny sides are scratched and marred. My once beautiful white head is patched and blood-stained. Yet, I am loved and tenderly cared for; have my own cosy corner in the attic and am better provided for than many of the brave men who fought for the Union. So I am content. I have lived my life. Was ever ready for duty. Made lots of noise. Have led men on the march and in battle. Now I am laid aside, growing old like all the boys of ’61.



[Pg 9]

Drum Taps in Dixie.




When the news was flashed across the country that Fort Sumter had been fired upon the writer was a 12-year-old boy residing in West Carthage. The events of those days stand forth in his memory like the hillcrests of a landscape.

The shot electrified the north, and the martial current that went from man to man was imparted to the boys. Favorite sports and pastimes lost their zest. Juvenile military companies paraded the streets every evening and mimic battles were fought every Saturday afternoon.

The flag lowered over Fort Sumter was unfurled everywhere. Flags cost money in those days, too, but they were flung to the breeze from the tops of churches, school houses, business places and the homes of the rich and the poor. I used to go up on the roof of my home nearly every day to count the new banners.

[Pg 10]The rendezvous for the boys of our neighborhood was Jim Corey’s blacksmith shop. Jim was a typical “village blacksmith” with a hearty greeting for every one, old and young. The boys could always count on Jim’s sympathy if they had a stone bruise, got a licking at home or lacked ten cents of the price of a circus ticket.

Corey’s shop was also a favorite meeting place for the men. Here they would assemble after supper and discuss the all-absorbing topic, the war.

One of the most regular in attendance was “Wash” Hopkins, as he was familiarly called. A particular nail keg with a piece of buffalo skin thrown over the end was the seat always reserved for him. He usually allowed the others to do the talking, but when he had anything to say it was right to the point.

Almost everybody was of the opinion that the South was putting up a big game of bluff and that the affair would blow over quickly.

On one occasion those gathered in the blacksmith shop had been discussing the situation and were pretty unanimous that the rebellion would be crushed out in sixty days. “Wash” roused himself and quietly remarked: “Guess you’d better make it ninety, boys.”

At another time a young man was telling those assembled that he had enlisted in a company of sharpshooters; that they were going to pick off the rebel officers and artillerymen as fast as they[Pg 11] showed themselves, which would demoralize the troops and send them flying from the field. “That’s all right,” says “Wash,” “but what do you suppose the other fellows are going to do while you’re shooting at them? Perhaps they may have sharpshooters, too.”

How little I thought in those early days of the war that Corey and I would be soldiering in the same company and regiment a few months later.

I recall the thrilling war meetings that were held in the churches and school houses. There was scarcely a place in the county where there was a store and postoffice that did not have its war meeting each week. It is worthy of mention that the most enthusiastic speakers on such occasions were eager to enlist—others. There comes to my mind the names of several who were always urging others to enlist, but who stayed at home and coined money while others fought, and after the war labored to have refunded to them by the taxpayers the money that they had expended for a substitute.

Carthage sent volunteers promptly in response to Lincoln’s call, and a few days after the fall of Sumter about two dozen young men left to join the old 35th New York infantry.

There was no railroad to Carthage in those days, and they rode away in wagons drawn by four horses. The scene comes before me as I write. The sad partings, the waving banners, the cheers of the multitude who had gathered to see them off to[Pg 12] the war. Those were anxious, exciting days that the present generation know but little about.

Among that party of first volunteers was a favorite cousin of the writer who was scarcely seventeen years old. The one thing above all others that I wished as I saw him ride away was that I was old enough to go, too.

Patriotism ran high in Carthage, and the town sent more than its share of volunteers in the early days of the war before there were any big bounties and when the pay was $11 per month.

One bright morning in the fall of 1861 a motherless lad of less than thirteen saw his father go away with a company of men that had been recruited for the Morgan Flying Artillery, then being organized at Staten Island, in New York harbor. He wanted to go with his father, but the suggestion was not listened to.

After the regiment was sent to Virginia Capt. Smith of the Carthage company returned home after more men. He brought a letter to the little lad from his father and, patting the boy on his head, asked him in a joking way how he would like to be a soldier. This gave the boy an opportunity that he was wanting, and he pleaded with the officer to take him back with him. The mother was dead, the home was broken up; the little fellow argued that he would be better off with his father.

The tender hearted captain sympathized with the boy, but said he did not know what he could do[Pg 13] with such a little fellow. The boy would not be put off, however. He had inherited persistency from his Scottish ancestors, and after much importuning the captain said that he did not know how it could be managed, but he would try to take the boy back with him.

In March, 1862, when two months past thirteen years old, the one of whom I write started for the war with a squad of recruits in charge of Sergt. Wesley Powell. Strange to relate, this same Powell, two years and a half later, had charge of a detachment of soldiers carrying rations to their comrades on the firing line in front of Petersburg, when a shell burst so close to them that several were stunned, although not seriously injured, and among them was the boy who went to the war with the sergeant so long before.



Forty-two years and over have not dimmed the recollections of the day when the start was made for the war. The boy got up bright and early and went all around among his neighboring playmates and bade them good-bye. Didn’t he feel important, though?

The party rode to Watertown in wagons, and after a supper at the old American hotel, boarded a train for New York. It was the first ride on the cars for our young volunteer.

The boy might live to be one thousand years[Pg 14] old, but he could scarcely forget Broadway as it appeared to him that spring day in 1862.

He remembers that the next day when they were on a train passing through New Jersey, a party of boys from a military school boarded the car. They were dressed in natty new uniforms, of which they were evidently very proud. Sergt. Powell wore the regulation artillery uniform of that period, which was quite stunning with the red facings and brass epaulets, and a hat of black felt caught up at the side and ornamented with a black plume. Powell got into conversation with the school boys and finally brought them over to where his party was seated and said: “I want to have you meet a little boy who, although he is not in uniform, is going to be a real soldier.”

If there are any old veterans reading this, they will have most pleasant recollections and ever feel grateful to the good people of Philadelphia for the treatment they received whenever they passed through the city going to or from the war. No boy in blue was ever allowed to pass through the city without being well fed and comfortably cared for, if he remained there over night. Our party passed the night there and took an early train for Washington.

Baltimore had earned an unenviable reputation by its hostility to the northern soldiers and there was always apprehension that a train bearing any soldiers might be stoned or fired upon. Sergt.[Pg 15] Powell was quite a joker and he had worked upon the fears of the party in his charge so much that two or three were badly frightened when the train pulled into the city. The reception was in marked contrast with that in Philadelphia, but the passage through Baltimore was without incident.

From Baltimore to Washington there was abundant evidence that the field of operations was not far distant. The railroad was heavily guarded, and camps of soldiers were frequently seen. The boy who two days before had left a quiet country town had to pinch himself occasionally to see if he were really awake and that it was not all a dream.

Washington swarmed with soldiers. Troops were camped right in the heart of the city. Heavily laden wagons with the wheels in mud and ruts clear up to the hubs were pulled through Pennsylvania avenue by six and eight mule teams. The capitol and the Washington monument were then unfinished.

Our party made a short stay in the city and took boat for Alexandria, an old-time southern town with hordes of negroes, slave pens and other reminders of the ante-bellum days.

It was a three mile walk to the forts occupied by the Second New York Heavy Artillery. The regiment that afternoon was practicing firing the big cannons in Fort Worth. There were some 32 and 64 and two 100-pounders in the fort, and the small[Pg 16] boy who had never heard any ordnance except an old moss-back cannon at a Fourth of July celebration remembers that the cold chills went creeping up his back as the party drew near the fort, for the earth fairly trembled when the big “dogs of war” barked. The father had not been notified that his son was coming to join him, and consequently you may be sure that he was more than surprised when he saw an officer leading by the hand a little lad whom he supposed was so far away.

The father was a man of few words—“what couldn’t be cured must be endured,” so he brushed two or three tear drops away and went back to the command of his gun squad and the boy sat down on a pile of cannon balls, smelled burning powder and heard the roar of the big guns until he was not sure but that he would prefer to be back in York state.

This was in the early days of the war and there was not much system about anything. Probably if it had been a year later and the boy had had to pass a regular examination and muster he would have been sent home. But he, with the rest of the recruits, was merged into the company without any formalities. It did puzzle the captain, though, to know what to do with the youngster, and one day when the regiment was out for inspection the colonel said to Capt. Smith: “Mein [Pg 17]Gott, captain! pe you taking soldiers from the cradles?”


Sergt. Loten Miller
Father of Author.


Smith said: “I know I have got a number of quite young soldiers, colonel, but you will find that Co. H will keep its end up with any organization in the regiment.”

The first night in camp the boy did not sleep well. The artillery practice in the fort after his arrival and the thunder of the 32 and 64-pounders and the smell of the burning powder weakened his boyish enthusiasm somewhat. And then the bed he had to sleep on was something different from what he had been accustomed to. So after the bugles had sounded “lights out” he lay awake a long time, listening to the singing of the whippoorwills and thought of the great change that had come into his life in so short a time, and wondered if the realities of a soldier’s life would meet his expectations.



Suddenly like a clap of thunder from a clear sky came the report of a musket outside the fort. The bugles sounded the alarm, and the drummers in the neighboring camps rattled off the “long roll” with a recklessness characteristic of youth.

“Turn out! Turn out! Turn out!” the bugles sounded. “Fall in! Fall in! Fall in!” yelled the orderly sergeants, and, half dressed, the men were marched into the fort and stationed at the guns.

[Pg 18]The commotion soon subsided and there was not a sound except for the neighing of the horses in the cavalry camps and the whinnering of the mules of the wagon train, and after a couple of hours’ waiting the men were marched back to their company streets. In the morning it was learned that the alarm was occasioned by the attempt of a detachment of Mosby’s men to steal some horses from a cavalry camp.

These midnight excursions of the famous Confederate “Rough Rider” were of frequent occurrence during the first two years of the war.



The young recruit’s first uniform was a bad fit. The coat sleeves and pants were several inches too long, but a camp tailor fixed them and the first day the boy wore the suit he did as every other volunteer before him had done, went and posed for a “tintype” before a background representing various scenes of military life. Some of the specimens of the photographer’s art in those days were enough to make a horse laugh.

The Second New York had been organized as a light artillery regiment and were then known as the “Morgan Flying Artillery,” so called in honor of Gov. Morgan, but only one company got their guns and horses when it was decided that no more light batteries were wanted. So the balance[Pg 19] of the regiment was turned into heavy artillery (heavy infantry.)



The change called for fifers and drummers instead of buglers, and the Jefferson county boy was the first drummer the regiment had, his drum being a present from the officers at Fort Worth.

A full regimental drum corps was soon organized, and right here it may be proper to say that an old army drum corps in the sixties could make music. A boy would not “pass muster” in those days unless he could do the double and single drag with variations, execute the “long roll,” imitate the rattle of musketry, besides various other accomplishments with the sticks. And when a dozen or more of the lads, with their caps set saucily on the sides of their heads, led a regiment in a review with their get-out-of-the-way-Old-Dan-Tuckerish style of music, it made the men in the ranks step off as though they were bound for a Donnybrook fair or some other pleasure excursion.



It is with feelings of real tenderness that I write of my first drum. It was none of the common sort such as furnished by Uncle Sam, but was the best that money could buy, and was a gift from the officers at Fort Worth in the spring of 1862. A requisition for instruments was a long time in being filled, owing to the vast amount of[Pg 20] red tape in use, so the officers at our fort presented me with a drum.

How well I remember the day when I accompanied Capt. Joslin to Washington, and he, taking me into a large music store on Pennsylvania avenue, ordered the clerk to let me have the best drum in the store.

How anxious I was to get back to our camp in Virginia so I could test it, and how my heart went pit-a-pat, as, alone, I marched with my new drum down the line at dress parade the next day. Several months later my precious drum was put out of action by a piece of a rebel shell at Bull Run and was among the trophies gathered up by the confederates in the stampede that followed.

Its loss I regretted exceedingly, for its equal in tone and other good qualities I never tapped the sticks to again. It was a beauty, too; and was my first drum.



It is hardly to be wondered at that the drummer boys of the 60s got to be very proficient in the handling of the sticks, for when in camp they were having practice from early morn until late at night, and many a time they had to get out in the night and beat the “long roll” for ten or fifteen minutes.

They were the early risers of the camps, too, for at daybreak the fifers and drummers of a[Pg 21] regiment would all assemble and sound the reveille, which was several minutes exercise of the most vigorous kind.

The following verses on the reveille were written by a soldier, Michael O’Connor, a sergeant in the 140th New York, and have been pronounced by competent critics as among the “finest lyric lines in the language.”

“The morning is cheery, my boys, arouse!
The dew shines bright on the chestnut boughs,
And the sleepy mist on the river lies,
Though the east is flushed with crimson dyes.
Awake! Awake! Awake!
O’er field and wood and brake,
With glories newly born,
Comes on the blushing morn,
Awake! Awake!”

“You have dreamed of your homes and friends all night.
You have basked in your sweetheart’s smiles so bright;
Come part with them all for a while again—
Be lovers in dreams; when awake be men.
Turn out! Turn out! Turn out!
The east is all aglow,
Turn out! Turn out!”

“From every valley and hill there come
The clamoring voices of fife and drum;
And out in the fresh, cool morning air
The soldiers are swarming everywhere.
Fall in! Fall in! Fall in!
Every man in his place.
Fall in! Fall in! Fall in!
Each with a cheerful face.
Fall in! Fall in!”

[Pg 22]The next duty of the fifers and drummers was to sound the sick call. The boys made up some appropriate verses which I cannot recall except one line:

“Come and get your quinine, quinine, quinine.”

The drummers were active participants in the guard mounting exercises which took place about 9 o’clock in the morning, and usually there was from one to two hours’ practice among the musicians in the forenoon, which was repeated in the afternoon unless there was a battalion drill, in which case they took part in the manœuvres of the troops.

Their next duty was at dress parade, where they took a prominent part in what is the most pleasing and spectacular affair of the day.

At 9 o’clock they assemble again and beat the tattoo for the evening roll call, and fifteen minutes later taps are sounded and the day’s duties are ended.

In a camp there were always some heavy sleepers and it was the business of the drummers in beating the morning reveille to make noise enough to awake them. Many a time have I seen a fellow rush out of his tent attired in nothing but shirt, drawers and cap and take his place in the ranks hardly in time to answer “here” when his name was called.

 [Pg 23]


Ringing with a siren’s song,
Throbbing with a country’s wrong,
Making patriots brave and strong,
Foes must die or yield.
Calling out the new-born day,
Marking each night’s gentle sway,
Ready whate’er comes.
Calls to duty, calls to play,
Calls for rest and calls for fray
Rolling, roaring all the day,
The Music of the Drums.

Fife and drum have been heard in every camp and upon all of the battlefields of the world. And for a marching column there is nothing like martial music of the good old-fashioned kind, such as inspired the continental heroes at Lexington, Yorktown and Bunker Hill, and rallied the boys of ’61, and later led them in all the marches through the South.

Martial music seems to have gone out of fashion in these up-to-date days, and what little there is, is but a poor apology, with the bugle blasts interjected between the rub-a-dub-dubs of the drummers who hardly know their a b c’s about snare drumming.

I have heard but one good drum corps since the war, and that was at the G. A. R. gathering at Buffalo a few years ago. An old time drum corps, who styled themselves the “Continentals” were present. It was composed of veterans over 70[Pg 24] years of age, and, say, they could double discount any other organization present.

Many of the crack brass bands of the country were there, but they were not in it with the old martial band. Their music—mind the expression, “music”—caught on with all the swell people of the city who thronged the camp waiting for an opportunity to hear them, and the veterans went wild as they heard again the reveille and tattoo and the old familiar strains of “Yankee Doodle,” “The Girl I Left Behind Me,” “Rory O’More,” “The Campbells Are Coming,” “Hail to the Chief,” and many other reminders of the old days.



Two boys when coming home from the war were talking over what they were going to do. One whom we will call Joe said he was going to have all of the strawberry shortcake he wanted, and then he was going to have mother make some of the good old-fashioned flap-jacks that he liked so well. “I am going to have her make them the full size of the round griddle, and as she bakes them I’m going to spread them with butter and shaved up maple sugar until the pile is a foot high and then I’ll sit down and have all the pancakes I want for once. What are you going to do, Bill?”

“Me? I’m going to go to every dance, minstrel show, singing school and revival meeting I can hear of in forty miles, and I’m going home with [Pg 25]every pretty girl I get a chance to. And another thing I’m going to do, I’ll sit up nights and burn a light until I get an all fired good ready to go to bed. And I’m goin’ to hire a fifer and drummer to come and play in front of our house every mornin’.”


Drum Corps of The 2nd New York Heavy Artillery.


“Why, Bill, what in thunder you goin’ to do that for? I should think that you’d had enough of fifin’ and drummin’ for awhile.”

“Well,” says Bill, “I’m goin’ to do it, and I’m goin’ to have them play the reveille good and strong for fifteen minutes, and then I’m goin’ to shove up the chamber window and throw my bootjack at ’em, and yell: ‘To h—l with your reveille.’”



The first two years of the war we were brigaded with a certain Massachusetts regiment that was about as fine a body of men as I ever saw together. In fact they looked like a picked lot of soldiers so near of a height were they all.

Their drum corps was a good one, too, but of course the boys of the Second New York thought they were a little better than the Bay State fellows, consequently quite a little rivalry existed between the organizations, and when the regiments were out for a review or brigade drill the stalwart drummers from down East would always try to drown out the lads of the Second Heavy. They[Pg 26] were all full grown men while our drum corps was made up of boys all under eighteen years of age. Their music was always of the “When the Springtime Comes, Gentle Annie,” and “Chunks of Pudding and Pieces of Pie,” style, played in 6-8 time, just suited to the stalwart men in their ranks; while ours was more of the “Rory O’More,” “Garry Owen” and “Get-out-of-the-way-Old-Dan-Tucker” sort, which we played 2-4 time, better adapted to the quick-stepping New Yorkers behind us. We had some dandy uniforms, too, and I know we were a trim-looking lot in our close-fitting jackets with plenty of brass buttons and red trimmings, and “McClellan caps” setting saucily on the side of our heads. Harry Marshall, our drum major, was one of the handsomest young fellows that ever led a drum corps down the line on dress parade; and was as good and pure as handsome. He handled his baton with a skill and grace of manner that would have captivated all the pretty girls of a town if we could have marched through its principal street. And when it came to beating a drum he was what the small boys of today would call a “corker.”

Harry was a dandy and no mistake, and when we led the Second Heavy in a review we knew that we were doing it about right.

One day when we were at Arlington the general commanding the brigade ordered the troops out for brigade drill, review, etc. His family and some[Pg 27] friends were visiting him and he wished to show the men off to his guests. We went through various brigade evolutions, followed by exhibitions in skirmish drill by detachments from the regiments. The officer who commanded the detachment from the Second New York was Captain Barry, a beau ideal of a soldier, who met his death at Petersburg later in the war. (By the way, I never saw Col. James R. Miller out with old “C” company but what I was reminded of Capt. Barry, both in his looks and soldierly bearing.)

Capt. Barry had the skirmish business down fine and he took Harry Marshall with his drum, and walked out in front of the general and put his men through the various movements for half an hour or more and his commands were not heard only by our drum major, who tapped them out on his drum.

It captivated the general and his guests and when the squad returned to their place with the regiment the ladies in the general’s party clapped their hands and waved their handkerchiefs.

The closing event of the day was the marching in review of the different regiments, and again our boys received a recognition from the reviewing party that must have made the Massachusetts men’s eyes green with envy.

Our regiment was the last to pass, and when we came opposite of the general, we wheeled out and played as the men marched by, and then fell in at[Pg 28] the rear of the column, and just as we were marching off the field the general’s young daughter, a miss in her teens—came cantering towards us, and riding up to Harry handed him a beautiful silk flag about three feet long mounted on a dainty light staff such as is used for the headquarters guidons. Harry waved a graceful acknowledgement with his baton and the blushing girl rode back to the reviewing party.



In the fall of 1862, Jimmie, one of the drummer boys of the Second New York, sickened and died. He had been a slender little fellow, and the Bull Run campaign was too much for him. He lingered along for weeks in the hospital and when he realized that he must answer the last roll call he wished the surgeon to send for his comrades of the drum corps. It was his wish that we should stand at parade rest in the aisle between the cots. From under his pillow he took a little Bible and opening it at the 23d Psalm handed it to Harry Marshall, our drum major, and motioned for him to read the beautiful words. Need I say that there were no dry eyes? And I think from that moment life to most of the boys present had a more serious meaning.

The next Sabbath afternoon with muffled drums and slow, measured tread, we escorted his remains to a little knoll ’neath a clump of pines near [Pg 29]Arlington. The chaplain said “Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” A volley was fired over the grave, our drums unmuffled and back to camp we went, beating a lively quickstep.

“Fold him in his country’s stars,
Roll the drums and fire the volley!
What to him are all our wars,
What but death be mocking folly!”



[Pg 30]



The soldiers who enlisted early had some fun that the boys missed who went out after things were in good shape and the officers had learned the tactics so they did not have to stop in giving an order until they consulted a drill-book. It took some little time, however, for the young volunteer of ’61 to understand that if he was “just as good as them fellers with the shoulder straps,” that the first word in military tactics was “obey.”

I heard of a lieutenant drilling a squad of recruits who had been neighbors and schoolmates. He put them through with various exercises, such as “right and left face,” “right about face,” “right dress,” “mark time,” etc., and after a while the boys got tired of doing the same things over and over. Finally one spoke up to the officer as follows: “I say, Tom, let’s quit this darn foolin’ and go over to the sutler’s.”

The Second New York Artillery began its career under difficulties. It was cursed with some[Pg 31] officers in ’61-’62 whose qualifications only fitted them for service with a mule train.

Men with military training and experience were not plentiful when the war began. Any foreigner with the least bit of military knowledge and who had a fierce looking moustache could easily obtain a commission.

Our first commander was a Colonel Burtnett, who was commonly called “three fingered Jack” by the boys. His command was of brief duration. It was understood that he resigned by request. When he was taking his departure somebody proposed “three groans for our late lieutenant colonel” and they were given with a will.



Early in the spring of 1862 Col. Gustav von Wagner came to our regiment. He was a Hungarian refugee and had seen service with Kossuth. He claimed to have been chief of artillery under Grant at Fort Donelson, and the Second New York regretted that Grant did not keep him.

The colonel awoke one morning and the first thing his eyes looked upon was a mule dressed in uniform standing demurely in his tent. It was said that he swore in several languages but he never found out who perpetrated the huge joke on him.

The officers of our fort arranged to have a [Pg 32]little party one evening, the principal in the arrangements being Lieut. Stewart. The colonel had taken a dislike to Stewart in some way and when he learned what was going on he detailed the lieutenant to command the headquarters guard that night. The colonel occupied a fine house that had been used by Gen. McClellan for his headquarters before he left with his army, and Stewart got even with the colonel by firing off a gun after the party was in full blast. This caused a fright among the pickets who commenced firing, which caused a general alarm that resulted in the breaking up of the party and the regiment had to stand by the guns in the forts all night.

The colonel took the regiment on a long march one day in the direction of Fairfax court house. We skirmished through swamps and waded in streams nearly waist deep. The colonel issued orders that there must not be any “shying” at a mud puddle or creek, every man must go straight through them.

One of our captains was quite a fleshy man and as the weather was very hot the march was hard on him. He was greatly beloved by his men, however, and when we came to the first deep creek two of his soldiers carried him across dry. The colonel rode along just in time to witness the act and he ordered the men to carry the officer back and then the captain was told to wade through.

 [Pg 33]


The most unique character of all was Maj. Roach or old “Quicker-nor-that” as he became known. Maj. Roach was a Scotchman and had seen service in the British army and when he was drilling the regiment and wanted them to close up would yell out, “Quicker-nor-that, there.” “Mind your distance; 18 inches,” and soon the boys got to calling him “Maj. Quicker-nor-that.” A witty Irishman by the name of Mike Lanehan composed some verses, the chorus of which ended with:

“Eighteen inches from belly to back,
Quicker nor that, quicker nor that.”

The boys learned the words and used to sing them at night for Roach’s benefit, which made him furious.

One day when Roach was drilling the men in one of the forts he got hurt on a heavy gun carriage. The major’s tent was just outside the fort and a short cut was made for his benefit by running a plank from the top of the parapet across the ditch, and the injured officer was carried across the plank by two of the men.

A soldier by the name of Pitcher saw them carrying the major across the ditch and sang out, “Dump him, boys, dump the old sinner in the ditch.”

Roach recognized the voice and called back, “I know you, Pitcher, and I’ll break your pitcher for[Pg 34] you,” and true to his word he caused the offender to suffer by making a “spread eagle” of him on the wheel of a gun.

Roach’s performances on dress parade and battalion drills made him and us the laughing stock of Phil Kearney’s Jersey brigade and other of McClellan’s troops who were encamped about us.

The major used to prowl around nights and try to find out if any of the sentries were shirking their duties. One night he approached the post of one of our own Co. H. boys whose name was Patrick Devereaux. Pat was a typical son of Erin and withal a good soldier, and as he expressed it did not fear “shoulder straps nor the divil.” He halted old “Quicker-nor-that” and demanded the countersign. This was given and then the major thought he would see if the man knew his duties, and he said, “It’s a pleasant evening, sentry; let me see your gun a minute.” Instantly the point of the bayonet on Pat’s musket was pressed against the officer’s breast, and he was told to “mark time.” Roach thought the man fooling, but Patsy says to him, “Oi’m a bigger man on me post than yersilf, and Oi’l learn ye betther than to be playin’ tricks on a gintleman who is doin’ his duty. Mark time, Oi say, and ye betther step off ‘quicker nor that’ or Oi’l be proddin’ ye wid me bay’net.”

The major swore and threatened, but Pat could[Pg 35] not be intimidated and he kept Roach marking time until the officer of the guard relieved him.

Strange to say the major took the matter as a good joke and Devereaux escaped punishment.



I recall another instance when the major got the worst of it. The boys had been forbidden to play cards in their tents after “taps,” when all lights had to be extinguished in the company streets. The cooking shanties were quite a little back of the camp and just over the crest of a deep ravine; so when the boys wanted a quiet game of “5-cent ante” with sutler tickets—for money was pretty scarce then—they would betake themselves to the cook houses where a light could not be seen from the officers’ quarters.

Roach got on to their game, however, and one night planned to surprise them from the rear. He had been observed by someone who notified the poker players and they prepared a little surprise for him. When the major was walking up the back steps Sergt. —— emptied a kettle of bean soup all over him.

The sergeant paid the penalty by losing his chevrons; but I will add that after Roach had been dismissed from the service, the man whom he reduced to the ranks, became one of the best line officers of the regiment and at the assault of Petersburg won a captain’s bars for bravery.

[Pg 36]Another odd character among the officers was a certain lieutenant whom the boys named “Spider.”

He was over fond of “commissary” and nearly always wore a pair of rubber boots. The men disliked him and never lost a chance to torment him—when it could be done without being detected—by calling out “here comes ‘Spider’ and his rubber boots.”



[Pg 37]



Probably the most popular commander of the Union forces in the civil war was General George B. McClellan. Whatever his faults, he was idolized by his men. Historians may write him up or down according to their bias, but the boys who carried the muskets away back in ’62, who were with him at Yorktown, Williamsburg, Malvern Hill, Fair Oaks and Antietam, believed in him and through all the long years since then have had a warm place in their hearts for the memory of Little Mac.

We saw McClellan’s army start out in the spring of ’62 for their Peninsular campaign and our boys were hopping mad to think we were left behind. The great majority of the men really felt that the war would be ended before we had a chance to take a hand in. I may say that the drummer boys, full of young red blood, were as eager for[Pg 38] the fray as the older men, but most of us had got enough of war before we reached Appomattox.



The greatest ovation that the writer ever saw given any general was on the occasion of McClellan’s return to the army after the second battle of Bull Run.

It will be remembered that on his return from the Peninsular campaign he had been relieved and his troops had been ordered to join Pope’s forces. Gen. Pope was the man who, on assuming command a few weeks before, had announced with a flourish of trumpets that his headquarters would be “in the saddle.” But he was no match for “Stonewall” Jackson, who kept him running towards Washington, and would have annihilated his army at Manassas but for the timely arrival of McClellan’s forces. As it was, the army had to take refuge in the defenses of Washington and there was anxiety for the safety of the capitol.

In the emergency President Lincoln appealed to McClellan to go over into Virginia and resume command and reorganize the shattered hosts, and McClellan, putting aside his personal feelings, consented to do so. The condition of the troops was such that they were not inclined to enthuse very much over any officer. They were ragged, nearly shoeless and thoroughly worn out, but when one afternoon word was passed among them that[Pg 39] “Little Mac” was coming they rushed to the roadside, flung their caps high in the air and cheered themselves hoarse.

McClellan loved his men and their reception pleased him. He rode the entire length of the lines with bared head, smiling and bowing to the right and left. Two days later he led 90,000 of them over into Maryland, and won a grand victory at Antietam, sending Lee’s hosts back to Virginia again, but it was the bloodiest battle of the war up to that time, for each side had a loss of from 12,000 to 15,000 men.

Lincoln visited the army on the battlefield and personally thanked McClellan for the victory, and the soldiers felt that they were to have their old commander with them to the end, but political influences were at work against him in Washington and he had to retire soon after.

It has always been an open question whether McClellan would not have been the great general of the war if he had been given all the troops he wanted and been allowed to act on his own judgment without dictation from Stanton and Halleck. But it was not until later in the war that those in authority at Washington learned that the general with his troops is the one to command them.



In August, 1862, our regiment received orders to march to join Gen. Pope’s forces, then operating[Pg 40] in the vicinity of Culpeper and Gordonsville, and there was great rejoicing among the men, who had begun to fear that the rebellion might collapse without their having a smell of powder.

The shades of evening were coming on when the bugles sounded the “assembly” and we marched away with light hearts and heavy knapsacks, for all green soldiers are bound to overload on their first march.

That night we lay out on the ground alongside of the Orange & Alexandria railroad. When morning dawned we found that there were other troops bound for somewhere, too. Every man made his own coffee and we ate our first meal of “hardtack,” and were not long in finding out that the safest way was to break them in small pieces and sort the worms out.

After that breakfast I went over to a sutler’s tent and filled up my haversack with fried pies, cookies, crackers and other trash that a boy likes.

Late that afternoon we started out on the “pike” in the direction of Fairfax court house and were rushed along at a lively gait until nearly midnight. The men were young and light hearted, and as we marched there was the rollicking laugh, sharp joke, equally as keen a retort, queer and humorous sayings, breaking out from the ranks here and there, and then all would sing, “John Brown’s Body” and “We’ll Hang Jeff Davis to a Sour Apple Tree.”

[Pg 41]We halted that night near a little place called Accotink and bivouacked in a large open field, and I recall how quickly the rail fences were converted into huge camp fires, for the Virginia nights are nearly always chilly.

The march was resumed early the next morning and the day was a hot one.

The most aggravating thing to the soldiers on a march is the unevenness of the marching. First you are rushed along so that the short legged ones are compelled to double-quick to keep up, and then there will be a halt of perhaps fifteen to thirty minutes when you are kept standing in the broiling sun; then start again and stop five minutes later.

It struck me as funny that not one person in ten you met in the country knew anything about distances. If you met a colored man and asked how far it was to Manassas he would reply “’Deed, boss, I don’t know, ’spec ’tis a right smart distance.”

Another would say it was eight miles, and after going a mile or two you would ask again and would be told it was ten miles and a “bit.”



I found on the second day’s march that the sutler’s “goodies” which I had stocked up with had absorbed a little too much of the flavor of my haversack to be palatable, so I returned to Uncle[Pg 42] Sam’s ration of hardtack, salt junk and coffee, which cannot be beaten for a steady diet when campaigning.

We halted for a rest that noon near a beautiful old mansion between Fairfax and Centreville. The boys made themselves pretty free with whatever they wanted around the premises, notwithstanding the protests of the women of the household, one of whom observed that “you’uns think you are right smart now, but if Stonewall Jackson catches you he’ll lick you so you won’t be so peart the next time you come this way.”

We little thought the prediction would come true in a brief twenty-four hours, but such was the case and when hot, tired and choking with thirst and dust, we stopped at the same place the next afternoon, thinking to refresh ourselves with some sparkling water from the “moss covered bucket that hung in the well,” we found that it, and in fact all of the appliances for drawing water had been removed, and, looking back from this distance, I think they served us right.



The night of Aug. 26, 1862, our regiment was preparing to go into camp at Bull Run bridge when an excited horseman rode among us and asked for our colonel. The rider proved to be Capt. Von Puttkamer, who with his own battery, the 11th New York, and part of Battery C, 1st[Pg 43] New York, had preceded us by a few hours. He reported that the Confederates had attacked Manassas Junction, capturing his battery and all the government stores at that point and he implored our colonel to take his regiment and “git him pack his pattery.”

Col. Von Wagner, after informing him that he “Vas prigadeer sheneral in command,” ordered the captain to lead the way and he would make short work of them “Shonnies.”

After marching and counter-marching around in the darkness part of the night we lay down and waited for morn. Daylight revealed the enemy in force. General Jackson had outwitted Pope completely and had a large part of his army between Pope and Washington.

As soon as it was light enough we moved forward and a little later encountered the enemy near Manassas.

Our skirmishers fired on the rebel cavalry, who retreated after two or three volleys, behind some buildings. Several riderless horses were soon galloping around, so we assumed that the shots had been effective.

Soon the enemy commenced to throw shell at us from numerous guns and maintained a heavy fire for some time. We were ordered to lie down and thus escaped with few casualties. My drum that was on the top of a pile of officers’ luggage[Pg 44] in the rear of the line was ruined by a piece of shell.

About 10 o’clock the Confederates attempted to turn our left flank, but our line was changed to intercept the movement, which was unsuccessful. The rebel infantry had been brought up to the front line and were firing at us at a furious rate. It being apparent that we were outnumbered our colonel ordered a retreat, which was conducted in an orderly manner until Gen. Stuart sent his cavalry after us and then a panic ensued.

Just before our march to the front the son of an officer of the regiment came to make his father a visit, and being there when we got orders to take the field, he thought it would be a fine thing to go along and see the sights—a sort of picnic. We, being somewhere near the same age, were in each other’s company a great deal. When the regiment became engaged at Bull Run we were the source of much anxiety to our fathers and, not being of any particular use on the firing line, were sent to the rear, where the baggage wagons and “coffee coolers” were assembled. When the break in the lines occurred and the troops rushed pell mell to the rear there were some lively movements. Everybody went and stood not on the order of their going. Charley Rogers of our company—a former resident of Lorraine—drove a four-horse team which drew a wagon loaded with baggage belonging to the officers of the regiment. Charley[Pg 45] saw us boys and called out to “get aboard,” and be “damn lively about it, too.” It was one of the old style government wagons, canvas-covered with a round hole at the rear end. We crawled up in front and sat with our backs against Charley’s seat and facing the rear. Didn’t we get a shaking up, though? For Rogers sent the horses for all they were worth. Occasionally there would be a jam in the road caused by some wagon breaking down. Near Bull Run Bridge a blockade occurred, and while we sat there expecting that the rebel cavalry would swoop down and demand our surrender we were terrorized by seeing the point of a bayonet looking at us through the hole at the rear of the wagon. Before we recovered ourselves enough to speak somebody behind that gun and bayonet gave it a shove and the glittering piece of cold steel passed between us two boys and embedded itself in the back of Charley’s seat. Then the pale face of a soldier was stuck through the hole and instead of a Johnnie reb it was one of our regiment by the name of Hawkins.

When near Bull Run bridge the road became so blocked that we could not move.

A section of a light battery came along and the drivers thought they could pull out to the roadside and pass. In doing so the wheels of one gun sank in the soft ground and, toppling over on the side, became entangled in the fence.

[Pg 46]Nearly all of the men deserted it and ran for dear life.

One driver stuck to his horses and plied the whip, but the carriage refused to move.

The enemy were coming steadily on and the bullets began to whistle unpleasantly. We had gotten out of our wagon, intending to go ahead on foot.

About this time along came a member of our company by the name of Will McNeil, who was serving as a teamster. He had abandoned his wagon and was riding one of his big mule team and leading the other.

Hawkins hailed him, saying “See here McNeil, hitch your mules on ahead of these artillery horses and let’s save this gun from capture.”

“All right,” says McNeil, and in less time than it takes to tell it Mc’s mules were made the lead team and McNeil and Hawkins stood at their side and plied the whips, and they lifted the gun and saved it from falling into the hands of the enemy, for it would surely have been captured, but for Hawkins and McNeil.

Between Bull Run and Centreville we met Gen. Taylor and his Jersey brigade that had been sent out by rail from Alexandria to try and regain the lost fight, but Jackson had pushed forward A. P. Hill’s and Bristol’s divisions and several batteries, and the Jersey troops were quickly routed, Gen. Taylor himself losing a leg in the encounter.

[Pg 47]The story of the battle, the skeedaddle, etc., is a matter of history. It was a contest of several days and both armies became involved.

Thousands of brave men were killed and wounded and among the officers who gave up their lives on the Union side was the beloved and dashing Gen. Phil Kearney, who made such a record at the battle of Seven Pines.

The story of his conduct that day has been told in verse by the poet, Stedman:

“So that soldierly legend is still on its journey
That story of Kearney who knew not to yield!
’Twas the day when with Jameson, fierce Berry and Birney,
Against twenty thousand he rallied the field.
Where the red volleys poured, where the clamor rose highest,
Where the dead lay in clumps through the dwarf oak and pine,
Where the aim from the thicket was surest and nighest,
No charge like Phil Kearney’s along the whole line.”
“He snuffed like his charger the wind of the powder,
His sword waved us on and we answered the sign;
Loud our cheer as we rushed, but his laugh rang the louder;
There’s the devil’s own fun, boys, along the whole line!
How he strode his brown steed! How we saw his blade brighten
In the one hand still left, and the reins in his teeth!
He laughed like a boy when the holidays heighten,
But a soldier’s glance shot from his visor beneath.
Up came the reserves to the melee infernal,
Asking where to go in—thro’ the clearing or pine?
‘O anywhere! Forward! ’Tis all the same, colonel;
You’ll find lovely fighting along the whole line!’”



[Pg 48]





Henry Hawley was his name, but the boys of Company H always called him “Uncle,” and so he appears on our company record.

Hawley was not cut out for a soldier—in fact he was several sizes too large. His corpulency made him appear rather ludicrous when he tried to line up with the slender youths of the company on dress parade.

Tom Murphy, the orderly sergeant, was always yelling out “right dress there, Hawley.”

One Sunday morning the regiment was being inspected by an Irish major and as he came to Hawley he looked him over and remarked that he didn’t know what the h—l anybody was thinking of to enlist a man of his build, and he should think the best thing to do with him was to send him home. “All right, sir,” says Hawley, “I’ll go today, if you please.”

[Pg 49]The man was a natural wit and an adept in the use of sarcasm, and had a way of talking back to his superiors that usually put the laugh on them. The truth is the boys of ’61 didn’t stand much “putting on airs” by the officers, and if one did make a show of his authority the men made life miserable for him.

Hawley was finally made to earn his $11 a month (that was our munificent pay then) by doing duty as company cook, a position he filled with credit to himself and satisfaction to his boarders. He was not content to serve up “salt hoss” and boiled beef in the easy manner of most army cooks, but was ever fixing us a nice treat of hash or an “Irish stew” with dumplings, and Hawley’s dumplings became famous throughout the Second Heavy.

Evenings we used to gather around the cook house and listen to Hawley’s impersonations of Shakespearean characters, in which he was very clever, and from Shakespeare he would turn to the Bible, with which he was exceedingly familiar.

When we went to the front Hawley left his camp kettles behind and shouldered a musket. On the retreat from Bull Run Hawley became played out and he declared he could go no further. The boys urged him to keep along with them and not get captured, but Hawley said if they wanted him they would have to take him, which they did and got an elephant on their hands too. Hawley’s [Pg 50]account of his experience with the rebels was very funny. They found him lying by the roadside and ordered him to get up and go along with them. He told them he could not march another step, and if they wanted him to go to Libby prison they would have to furnish a conveyance. The rebel officer coaxed, swore and threatened, but all to no purpose. Hawley would not budge an inch. Finally a horse was brought and he was told to mount. Hawley declared he could not and then the officer directed some of the men to assist him, and two guards were ordered to walk by the side of the horse and hold him on. Hawley’s comments about the razor-backed horse and other sarcastic remarks made sport for all except the officer in charge, who threatened more than once to gag his tormentor. The Confederates probably thought the best thing to do was to get Hawley off their hands, so after keeping him in captivity a couple of days they paroled him and sent him inside our lines instead of to Andersonville prison, where so many of his comrades had to go, many never to return.



An incident of the stampede from Manassas illustrates how unconcerned some are amidst danger and excitement. Jimmy West, a little Irishman of our company, was a character and an inveterate smoker and never lost a chance to [Pg 51]indulge himself. After the retreat was well under way, Jimmy bethought himself of his pipe and tobacco, but a match was lacking and none of his nearby comrades had one, so he yelled out to our first sergeant, at the head of the company:

“I say there, orderly, hev’ you a bit of a match about ye?”

“To thunder with your pipe, Jimmy,” responded Sergt. Murphy. “You better be using your short legs pretty lively or you’ll be smoking in Libby prison tomorrow evening,” and sure enough Jimmy was among those captured.

The most ludicrous incident connected with the Bull Run affair occurred near Fairfax Court House when we supposed we were safe from the Confederate cavalry.

Between Centreville and Fairfax we passed the 14th Massachusetts, that had formed a line of battle across the turnpike to arrest the pursuing Confederates.

We breathed somewhat easier after we had put the troops between us and our pursuers.

The day was an intensely hot one, and the hundreds of horses galloping over the turnpike, hauling the heavy wagons, raised clouds of dust that were nearly suffocating, so when we crossed a little stream of water most of the teamsters halted in a large field near by for the purpose of refreshing and resting their exhausted steeds.

The two boys got out of the wagon, stretched[Pg 52] their legs and with many others went over to the creek for a wash up.

Among the bathing party were William McNeil and “Hod” Clair of our company, who had made the retreat from Bull Run, one mounted on a mule with nothing but a halter and the other on the confiscated horse of some officer who had been killed in the battle.

While we were splashing the water and having as much sport as any party of youngsters ever did in an old fashioned “swimmin’ hole” in their school boy days, somebody shouted “The rebs are coming,” and sure enough there was a squadron of Confederate cavalry coming at a gallop down a cross road about a mile away. You may be sure that there was some right-smart hustling.

Some grabbed a blouse, cap or shirt while others buckled on their equipments in undress uniform.

My partner and I saved our clothing, but deferred dressing until we were safely in our wagon with Charley Rogers urging his four horses to their utmost speed.

Hod Clair made a most comical figure on the horse, dressed in nothing but his cap, blouse and cuticle, and the officer’s sword dangling against his naked left leg.



A quarter of a century had elapsed after the disbandment of our regiment before I saw the [Pg 53]comrade who rode with me from Bull Run. I sat writing at my desk one afternoon when I heard some one asking up in the front part of the store if “Del” was in.

The familiarity with which the questioner handled my name excited my curiosity and looking up I beheld two rather seedy looking individuals with hats in hand elbowing their way down through the store.

The one in advance was apparently a stranger. His companion, however, was a resident of the city, a veteran of my regiment, who bore the scars of battle on his body.

He returned home from the war to learn that while he was away fighting the battles of his country one of the stay-at-homes had been making love to his wife. She went west with her paramour, and the veteran laid down under the load and let the battle of life go against him. He was no common bum, however, if he did try at times to drown his misery in strong drink. He kept pretty clear of evil and low-down associations, even if he had dropped below the level of respectable people. The veteran was a man of intelligence and spent much time with good reading, and it was my pleasure for many years to keep him pretty well supplied. Strange to relate, a publication that was his especial favorite was the old “Christian Union,” now known as the “Outlook.” Of course he held me up now and then for the loan of a dime or quarter.[Pg 54] If I hesitated about going into my pocket, he had a way of looking up and reminding me that it was “Just for old acquaintance sake.” Perhaps it would have been better to have refused him, but I had not the heart to say no to one who had blackened his coffee pail over the same campfire with me, had carried part of my traps on many weary marches and had touched elbows with my father on the fighting line. I cannot forget such things and would not if I could.

As the two approached me they halted, saluted, and the old “vet” gave me two or three sly winks, as much as to say, I’ll bet you a “V” you can’t tell who I have here.

I was puzzled, but instinctively felt it was one of the old Co. H. The man had evidently seen better days. He carried his hat in his hand like a well-mannered man, and there were other unmistakable traces of birth and good breeding.

We looked hard at each other. A twinkle came into a pair of black eyes that had once been the handsomest I ever saw in a man’s head. A smile hovered around his mouth, and then out of the misty past came my companion of that memorable ride of long ago. I reached out my hand and said, “It’s George,” and I believe he was more pleased than as if I had handed him a hundred-dollar greenback, which is saying a good deal, for it was plainly evident that his finances were low.

[Pg 55]It was the old story. A young man, the son of an officer of our regiment who had been the leading merchant of—well, a smart town not a hundred miles from Watertown, well educated, with prospects in life that were the best, and now the follower of a circus. Always going somewhere and never getting anywhere was the way he put it. Still, my comrade.

I think he held my hand five minutes, and memories of other days were kindled anew. He had forgotten nothing. It was safely stored away in memory and the meeting had tapped it.

Graphically he portrayed the incidents of our Bull Run ride to the amusement of clerks and customers. All at once he recalled that he was in the presence of ladies, and bowing and smiling he gallantly tiptoed his way to the front part of the store and apologized for forcing an old soldier’s story upon them.

No one could have done it with more ease and grace, for, as I have stated, George’s early associations had been of the best. His family was in the swell set of the town in which they lived, and his father was a gentleman of the old school and noted for his polished manners.

“You see, ladies,” said he, “I haven’t been in your beautiful city since war times until this morning. Struck town with Barnum & Bailey’s greatest aggregation on earth.”

“Perhaps traveling with a circus does not meet[Pg 56] your approval. I like it, though. Something like soldiering. Always under marching orders. Plenty of fresh air and one never sleeps so good as he does on the ground with only a strip of canvas between him and the heavens.

“When the band is playing and them Wild West fellows are galloping around the ring with the scabbards of their sabres clanging against the stirrup-irons, I just close my eyes and imagine I am with the old second corps again and Gen. Hancock is riding down the lines.

“Suppose you have all heard about the general? Handsomest man and greatest fighter that ever straddled a horse.

“The general and the second corps never missed a fight. Yes, we were with them through it all.

“Gettysburg? Sure! Rube, here, got a couple of bullet holes when we were beating back Pickett’s men that afternoon. The general went down that day, too, and I can shut my eyes and see it all and hear the cheers of the Irish brigade boys when they realized that the battle was won.

“Beg pardon, ladies, but I am in something of a reminiscent mood today, being as I met an old comrade. We have been holding a little reunion. Yes, took a little something in honor of the event.

“‘Del’—er Mr. Miller—was with us from start to finish. Wasn’t much of him but his drum and grit. Legs so short the boys had to carry him across all the creeks. He stuck though and[Pg 57] tapped ‘lights out’ down side of Lee’s ‘last ditch’ at Appomattox.”


That evening the two veterans of the old second corps partook of the best that the Woodruff house could give and smoked several of Nill & Jess’ Pinks at the expense of one who was glad to do it, “Just for old acquaintance sake.”



To fully appreciate Gen. Sherman’s definition of war, one needs to be at a field hospital on the outskirts of some great battlefield where the ghastly surroundings of death and suffering are more terrible than on the battlefield itself.

The day after our retreat from Bull Run our regiment was ordered to proceed by train to Fairfax station, where all the wounded were sent for transportation to Washington. We rode on the top of freight cars, every man with a loaded musket ready to shoot any of Mosby’s men who might try to wreck the train. The cars were filled with cots, stretchers, blankets and other supplies for the wounded.

The night was a dark and rainy one, and as we jumped off the cars at the station, which was located in some dense woods, we saw the horrors of war spread out on every side. Acres of ground were covered with bleeding, mangled soldiers, who[Pg 58] but a short time before had stood amid the storm of shot and shell, now just as bravely enduring suffering.

The surgeons and their assistants at the amputating tables with coats off and shirt sleeves rolled up, their hands red with blood, worked swiftly to save life, for it is the “first aid” to the wounded that counts.

The spectacular effect was heightened by piles of blazing pitch pine knots, torches and lanterns suspended from the limbs of trees, which imparted a strange wierdness to the scene.

All night long the interminable trains of ambulances and wagons from the battlefield came bringing their loads of sufferers with the smoke of battle upon them. Many were so exhausted that it was necessary to give them stimulants before they could be lifted from the wagons.

The United States Sanitary and Christian commissions were represented by a large number of workers. Women of culture and refinement, from some of the best families in the land, were cutting off the blood-drenched clothing, bathing and bandaging shattered limbs, giving nourishment to the fainting, speaking comforting words and listening to the messages of the dying; and all this going on within the sound of rattling musketry and booming cannon, for it was the night of the fight at Chantilly, when Gen. Jackson attempted[Pg 59] to flank Pope’s army and reached a point not far from Fairfax court house.

Our regiment stood in line in a wheat field, just outside of the woods, a good part of the night with the rain falling in torrents and heaven’s artillery vieing with that of the forces engaged.

A drummer boy of our company who had lost his drum at Manassas, was carrying a musket that night and stood in the ranks with his father who was a sergeant in the same command. I need hardly say that the events of that night are graven as with an iron pen on his memory.

The authorities at Washington were fearful of risking any more fighting so near the capital and Gen. Pope was ordered to withdraw his army within the defenses of Washington and the wounded were hurried away from Fairfax station in every kind of conveyance, even hacks and carriages being sent out from Washington.

Our regiment remained until the last wounded man had been sent forward and then set fire to the immense quantities of supplies stored there, to prevent their falling into the hands of the enemy.

Our casualties in the second Bull Run affair were comparatively small, we being engaged only in the first encounter at Manassas Junction, which was merely preliminary to the great battle.

Gen. Stuart’s cavalry did, however, manage to take as prisoners about two hundred of the regiment.



[Pg 60]



Washington in the sixties was not the beautiful city that it is today. The nation’s capital was one vast camp of armed men and the city was circled with a cordon of forts and earthworks. Early in the war the Confederate flag could be seen from the dome of the capitol, flying on Munson’s hill, while the exchange of shots by the pickets was heard at the White House more than once.

“‘All quiet along the Potomac,’ they say,
Except now and then a stray picket
Is shot, as he walks on his beat to and fro,
By a rifleman hid in the thicket.”

Pennsylvania avenue, that grand thoroughfare with its wide, long stretch of asphalt, was then supposed to be paved with cobblestones, but they had nearly been crushed out of sight by the heavy government wagons, cannon and artillery caissons, which had cut such deep ruts that the street was almost impassable in muddy weather.

Guards patrolled the sidewalks; troops were[Pg 61] constantly passing through the city on their way to Virginia; officers and their orderlies were riding to and fro, and it was said that a boy could not throw a stone at a dog without hitting a brigadier general.

Probably few of the present generation are aware how much of the great civil war was fought within an easy day’s journey of the city. Two of the most celebrated battles of the war, in which 25,000 men were killed and wounded, were fought but twenty-five miles away, and at Arlington there is a monument that marks the resting place of the remains of over 2,100 unknown dead gathered along the route of the army from the Potomac to the Rappahannock.

There is no greater blessing vouchsafed to man than memory, which enables one to live over again the past, and so I recall with pleasure the many happy days in my early army life, when we were doing duty in the forts around Washington, and before the gold plating of a soldier’s life had been worn off by the stern realities of active service.

The city was then encircled by a chain of forts. But time and the elements have nearly obliterated the defenses of Washington, and pretty little villas with sweet and romantic names such as: Rosslyn, Ivanwold, Buena Vista, Carberry Meadows, etc., have replaced them. The prattle and innocent laughter of happy children is heard on the[Pg 62] heights or Arlington, instead of bugle calls, the music of bands and the booming of cannon.

Looking backward from a distance of forty years one must admit that it was much more comfortable soldiering around Washington than at the front with such fighters as Grant, Sheridan, Hancock, Warren, Wright, Gibbons and others “pushing things.” It was monotonous, however, and the men grew tired of drills, fancy guard mountings, dress parades, brightening of guns and polishing of brass buttons, and were troubled with the thought that the war might be brought suddenly to a close before they would have an opportunity to win any laurels. But everybody had their ambitions gratified before Lee surrendered, for there was fighting enough to go all around in that affair.



My first army home was at Fort Worth near Fairfax Seminary, about three miles from Alexandria.

The site of old Fort Worth was a beautiful spot, about three hundred feet above the Potomac, and from its warlike parapets one could behold an entrancing panorama of country. To the south the Fairfax “pike” and the Orange and Alexandria railroad wended their way through as beautiful a little valley as the sun ever shone upon. Twenty-five years after the war I visited the place. The[Pg 63] owner of the land on which the fort was built, and who served as a colonel in the Confederate army, then had a beautiful home on the site and utilized the old bomb-proof for an outside cellar. Near his barn was a little of the old parapet remaining and our party stood on the earthworks while our old regimental bugler, a man bent with the weight of more than three score years, sounded reveille, tattoo, and lights out. There were no dry eyes in the party when the last bugle notes echoed and re-echoed through the charming Virginia valley leading out toward Fairfax.



It is hardly necessary to say that we did some pretty deep thinking as we met that day on the old camp ground.

Our comrades stood before us again—boys who had been schoolmates, the companions of our youth. We could almost hear their familiar voices, their songs and sayings, and we thought of where we parted with many of them, here and there along the way from Washington to Appomattox. The thoughts brought keen pangs of sorrow to us, yet withal there were many pleasant recollections revived.

Looking off to the south we saw the same fine old southern mansion that was there in war times. We felt remorse for many foraging expeditions in which the fruit, sweet potatoes, ducks and[Pg 64] chickens had been confiscated for the cause of Uncle Sam.

We thought we would go and call on our old neighbors and make the amende honorable.

The fine old southern lady freely forgave us with a graciousness characteristic of the women of the south. An invitation to lunch was extended and accepted. George, a colored boy, was told to go down the “Run” to the mill and tell her son, the colonel (no rank under a colonelcy is recognized in Virginia), to come up to the house and meet some of the old Second New York.

We lunched on the broad veranda and exchanged reminiscences of the days when we were neighbors and enemies, and as the colonel sipped that favorite and refreshing beverage of the south, a mint julep, he told of his wounds at Manassas and how friends had helped him through the lines and back to his old home right under the guns of our fort, where he was secreted until his recovery. His presence there was not unknown to the general commanding the Union forces, who, like a chivalric knight of old, kept the secret for the sake of the mother, and furnished guards to keep intruders away from the house.

The reader must not infer that there was one drop of traitorous blood in the officer’s veins. His name I am not at liberty to divulge, but it is no breach of confidence to say that he was one of the most brilliant generals in the army of the Potomac,[Pg 65] whose loyalty was proven on many a bloody battlefield.

Across the valley to the east from Fort Worth, on the Mount Vernon road, was a large fort called Fort Lyon, where the gallant old 94th New York Infantry spent the winter and spring of ’62. An explosion of ammunition in one of the magazines nearly destroyed the fort in 1863, killing and wounding many of the garrison and causing the earth to tremble for miles.

Fort Lyon was nearly on the left of the defenses south of the Potomac, while Fort Marcy, about four miles west of Georgetown and near the famous Chain bridge, guarded the right flank.

Between the two, running parallel with the Potomac, along Arlington heights, was a perfect chain of forts and earthworks, the names of which many northern New York veterans will recall, such as Forts Ellsworth, Ward, Blenkner, Albany, Runyon, Corcoran, Haggerty, Tillinghast, Whipple, Woodbury, Greig, Cass, Dekalb (afterwards Fort Smith), Strong and many others. The Fifth New York Heavy Artillery assisted in the erection of the last named.

The 35th New York, which was the first organization in this section to respond to President Lincoln’s call for troops, garrisoned Fort Tillinghast for a time and assisted considerably in its completion as well as the cutting away of timber in front of the forts south of Arlington.

[Pg 66]One of the most prominent forts near Arlington was Fort Corcoran, so named in honor of Col. Michael Corcoran, who led that famous Irish regiment, the 69th New York, to the war, and was captured at the first battle of Bull Run.

This fort was the headquarters of the Second New York Artillery for more than a year and the regiment while there assisted largely in the construction of Fort Whipple, which is now known as Fort Myer, and is kept as a military post by the government. All visitors to Arlington via the Georgetown bridge pass by it.

Fort Stevens, originally called Fort Massachusetts, attained prominence during Gen. Early’s raid in 1864 by reason of having been the scene of some stubborn fighting. It is only about five miles from the capitol and but for the timely arrival of the fighting Sixth corps which Grant sent back from Petersburg, it is probable that the Confederate forces would have entered the city. It was on the ramparts of Fort Stevens that President Lincoln exposed himself to the fire of the enemy.

There were some formidable forts east of the capitol across the “East Branch” on Boone’s Ridge in Prince George’s County, Md. The names of Fort Mahan, Baker, Stanton, Carroll, Greble, Wagner and others will be recalled by all the survivors of that regiment, the pride of Jefferson[Pg 67] county, the 10th New York Heavy Artillery, which garrisoned many of them for a long period.



The 10th New York Heavy Artillery has been referred to as the lucky regiment from Jefferson county. It was organized in September, 1862, and performed garrison duty in the defenses east of Washington until the summer of 1864, when it was ordered to the front. It joined the army at Cold Harbor at about the time Grant was preparing to transfer operations to Petersburg and Bermuda Hundred.

The 10th Heavy was sent around by water from White House Landing, while most of the army made a forced march across country.

The regiment participated in the first fighting at Petersburg. Later they were returned to the defenses of Washington where they remained until Gen. Early’s army was driven out of Maryland, when they were ordered to join Gen. Sheridan’s forces in the Shenandoah valley. They were a fine body of men, well officered, well drilled, and under perfect discipline, which probably accounted for their being such favorites with President Lincoln and Secretary Stanton.



When McClellan’s army left for the Peninsula a soldier sold to one of our boys his dog. He was[Pg 68] just a plain every day sort of dog with chopped off tail and clipped ears, but in some respects the most knowing little fellow I ever saw, and he soon became a great favorite with everybody in camp.

He learned the bugle and drum calls and took special delight in dress parades. When the men were forming for that, Billy would run up and down the line barking and cut up all sorts of capers he was so very happy.

He seemed to be fond of brass band music and would lead the musicians up and down the line until the colonel ordered the sergeant major to drive him away. He charged on Billy with drawn sword and the knowing little fellow kept behind the line ever after that.

There was a nice large “swimmin’ hole” in “Four Mile Run,” not far from camp, where we used to go bathing frequently. Billy always went, too, and had great sport with the boys. Nothing pleased him more than to have some one pick him up and throw him headlong into the water.

Old “Lige” Moyer used to come out in front of his cook tent almost every evening and play the fiddle, and, if you will believe it, “Lige” learned Billy to waltz, rewarding him with liberal rations after the performance. Billy always stood guard with his master, keeping him company in his lonely night watches.

The crack of a rifle did not disturb him the least bit, but the booming of the heavy guns were too[Pg 69] much for his nerves, and he would go and hide in his owner’s tent.

When we were ordered out to the front for the Bull Run campaign Billy went along, too. He used to curl up under the same blanket with Joe, his master. The morning that the battle of Manassas opened our regiment was subjected to a severe artillery fire for two hours. Billy became a skulker and went to the rear. In the skedaddle and panic that occurred later in the day, Joe, with many others, was taken prisoner by the Johnnies.

A couple of weeks later our regiment was sent back to the forts. Billy was not with us and no one had seen him since the morning at Bull Run. We concluded that he must have been taken prisoner, too, but a few days later Billy appeared in camp. He was a sorry looking dog, thin as a razor and his hair turned toward his head. The distance to Manassas was about twenty-five miles, but he had probably tramped much farther in finding his way back to camp.

All were glad to see him again, and he seemed pleased enough to see us until he found that Joe was not there. No more the bugle calls aroused him, and even the music of the band had lost its charm. He would just go looking in the different tents and keep up a continual whining.

One day he got tired waiting for Joe to come[Pg 70] back and he left us, and that was the last we ever heard of dog Billy.



“I cannot sing the old songs, I sang long years ago,
For heart and voice would fail me and foolish tears would flow;
For by-gone hours come o’er my heart with each familiar strain;
I cannot sing the old songs, or dream those dreams again.”

How many of our readers remember the old songs and melodies that were so popular in the sixties? People sang them in their homes and the soldiers in the camps and on the march, and they furnished inspiration for many a tired regiment to go into battle.

As I write there comes to my mind snatches of many of the old favorites such as “We’ll Rally Round the Flag, Boys,” “Tramp, Tramp, Tramp, the Boys are Marching.”

A story is told of a regiment who went into battle nearly one thousand strong and came out with less than half the number, but the survivors with their blood-stained banners and smoke-begrimed faces marched to another position in the line singing

“We’ll rally round the flag, boys,
We’ll rally once again, shouting the battle cry of freedom.”

“When Johnnie Comes Marching Home Again” was always a favorite in the ranks, but in the quiet[Pg 71] of camp the songs were a little more sentimental and suggestive of home and the loved ones. Some of the old time favorites were:

“Sweet Alice Ben Bolt,” “Hazel Dell,” “Annie Laurie,” “Kathleen Mavourneen,” “Tenting Tonight,” “The Faded Coat of Blue,” “The Vacant Chair,” “Just Before the Battle, Mother,” “Write Me a Letter from Home,” etc., etc., and an evening camp concert, with perhaps a hundred or more voices in the choruses would wind up with “The Shining Shore,” “Jesus, Lover of My Soul,” and “Nearer, My God, to Thee.”



[Pg 72]



After the Bull Run campaign our regiment was detailed for garrison duty again and sent to some forts near Arlington where we remained for a long time.

Our colonel (with a foreign military experience?) was relieved of his command immediately after Bull Run and there came to us a commander who proceeded to jerk things straight in the regiment. His name was Jeremiah N. G. Whistler and he had been in the regular army since he was a day old, having been born in camp. He was all military, through and through, and a disciplinarian of disciplinarians.

He drilled the regiment six days in the week and then had a Sunday inspection, and succeeded in bringing the command to a high state of perfection. He was a man of fiery temper and when anything touched it off he could let out a string of oaths—of which he had a choice and inexhaustible selection—that would produce a sulphurous atmosphere.

[Pg 73]One Sunday morning when our company was marching by the colonel’s tent to go out for inspection he noticed one of the men swinging his left arm, and the next thing that the Co. H man knew the colonel had him by the coat collar and was shaking him. Then leading him back to his place in the ranks admonished him about repeating the arm swinging again.

But taken all in all he was a good officer and when we went to the front again, excited the admiration of the men by his bravery under fire.

At Petersburg he was wounded and later was breveted for gallant and distinguished service.

He re-entered the regular army after the war and at the time of his death was a colonel.

Judging by the experience we had with three or four colonels, I should pick out a regular army officer every time for a commander. They expect the men to obey orders and do their full duty, and on the other hand a man can depend on getting all that belongs to him and justice on all occasions.



Col. Whistler was fond of good feeding and one day his cook served up his dinner about the time that a staff officer from the brigade headquarters rode up with a message for him. While he was on the outside reading it one of the men happened along back of the tent and noticed the tempting eatables waiting for an eater, and, being hungry,[Pg 74] he slipped in and proceeded to stow food away as only a hungry soldier can. He was so busy about it that he did not notice the officer peering in the front of the tent. The brazen effrontery of the man had rendered the officer speechless. Finally he recovered himself enough to exclaim: “Do you know, you d—d rascal, whose food you’re eating?” The man looked up as he helped himself to another chicken wing, and said: “No, colonel, and I’m jiggered if I’m the leastways particular about such things when I’m hungry and rations are scarce.” The colonel admired the cheek and coolness of the man and told him to eat his fill and if he ever heard of his telling of the affair he would have him courtmartialed.



While we were doing duty at Arlington many of the fair sex of Washington and Georgetown frequently honored us with their presence at our dress parades, and among them was the beautiful and charming daughter of Mrs. E. D. E. N. Southworth, the gifted authoress, who resided in a pretty rose-embowered cottage that nestled among the trees and shrubbery on Georgetown heights, and just across the Potomac from our fort.

Adjt. Lawrence of the Second New York was about as slick a looking officer as ever walked out in front of a regiment on dress parade, and it is[Pg 75] not strange that Miss Southworth fell in love with him, and an intimacy sprang up that resulted in the fair young southern girl changing her name to Mrs. James V. Lawrence.

During the preliminaries the writer was the bearer of many presumably tender missives over to the Georgetown cottage, and as he had to wait for the sweet-scented replies he was entertained by Mrs. Southworth, who probably knew just how fond a young, growing boy is of lemonade, cakes and other sweet things, and the charming lady took it upon herself to make life very pleasant to the youngster during the brief visits at her home. Soon after the marriage of the young couple Lieut. Lawrence was detailed on staff duty and was never returned to our regiment.



How well I remember my first Christmas in camp. Our company was at Fort Haggerty on the road leading from the Acqueduct bridge to Arlington. Capt. Smith’s home had been one of the handsomest in Carthage before the war and under his command the fort had been transformed into one of the slickest ones in the defences of Washington.

Christmas morning in 1862, after the calling of the roll our company formed in line and marched up in front of the captain’s quarters. Several of the boys had provided themselves with[Pg 76] some nice evergreen trees, and when the captain appeared the command was given “present arms” and the movement was executed with the trees. The fifer and drummer of the company then played “Hail to the Chief” and “The Girl I Left Behind Me.”

The captain appeared mightily pleased and made us a nice little speech, and said that he wished that he could send us all home for the holidays but as that was an impossibility he had planned to make us as happy as circumstances would permit, and the quartermaster had been furnished money to get up a dinner in keeping with the occasion. Cheers and a tiger were given for our kind-hearted commander, and then the voice of one who has several times been mentioned by the writer spoke out: “Pardon me axin’ the question, cap’n, but would there be a wee drop for anny so inclined?” The captain smiled and nodded affirmatively.

Our camp was near where there had been a brick yard, and with old bricks that had been dug out of the ground a tasty little house had been built for the captain and a brick oven for the cooks. In this turkeys had been roasted and rice puddings and potatoes baked. There was also oyster stew, oysters and clams on the half shell and mince pies that some soldier’s wife had made for us. None of old Co. H will ever forget that Christmas. After the feast pipes, tobacco and cigars were passed, [Pg 77]and then pails of milk punch went round for those “so inclined.”


A Group of Co. H. Boys.
Pat Devereaux and Author in Foreground.


Ah, dear, brave old Co. H, what would I not give to see you line up once more as you did on that Christmas day in the long ago.

For more than twenty-five years I could, from memory, call the roll of the original company, just as I had heard our old orderly, Tom Murphy, call it so many times. Poor Tom earned his shoulder straps but sleeps in a southern grave.

Of the boys who made merry with us in old Virginia on the Christmas day of long ago, many gave up their lives on the battlefields of the south, Potter, Williamson, Zeigler, Clapsaddle and Lieut. Roff at Cold Harbor; Ed. Roland, Smith, Thurston, Slater, Crowner, Symonds at Petersburg; Billy Cook, Frank Farr, Tom Murphy and several others between there and Appomattox.

No, old Co. H will never again fall in for roll call on this side of the “deadline.” The tents are folded, the implements of war are rusting, I find that the cords and snares on my drum are fraying with age, “All is quiet on the Potomac.”

’Tis but a memory.



A grave problem confronted the government in 1863 for within a few months it would lose the services of most of its tried and seasoned soldiers by reason of expiration of service. A proposition[Pg 78] was made to the three years men that if they would re-enlist they would receive $402.00 bounty and a thirty day furlough. The proposition was accepted by a majority of the old soldiers and the old organizations were retained with their officers.

The most of our company and regiment re-enlisted. They sent us home in squads, and when it came my turn I was laid up with the mumps and could not go with my father.

While I was north on my furlough Gen. Grant assumed command of the army confronting Gen. Lee and preparations were made for active operations.

My father wrote me that our regiment had received orders to be ready to go to the front at an hour’s notice.

My furlough had several days to run but I took the first train for Washington and in twenty-four hours walked into camp.

I found our regiment all ready and awaiting orders. Field tents, rubber blankets and other things were issued to us which indicated that we were to take the field.



[Pg 79]



The next day we assembled at Fort Corcoran. The regiment had been filled up with recruits until there were about 1,800 men on the rolls. Probably 1,500 were present for duty when we left to join the Army of the Potomac.

We were ordered to “fall in” at noon and in a few moments we marched away with colors flying and the band playing a lively quickstep.

It was like leaving home to go away from the forts we had learned to love so well, the huge walls of which had been cemented with the sweat from the brows of most of the men.

The weather was fine when we started but after we had gone about two miles one of those drenching Virginia showers overtook us and we were wet to the skin.

It does not need to rain over fifteen minutes in Virginia to make the mud from six to twelve inches deep, so we had to wade in the red clay mud the other seven miles to Alexandria.

[Pg 80]Much has been said and written about Virginia mud, but to appreciate its sticking qualities one needs to march and lie down and sleep in it.

The boys used to wish that the editors who were writing the “On to Richmond” editorials could be compelled to take a twenty-five mile march in the mud loaded with a thirty or forty pound knapsack, a musket, forty rounds of ammunition, canteen and haversack with five days’ rations.

At Alexandria we boarded an old transport and made ourselves as comfortable as possible, lying out on the open decks in our rain-soaked clothing. I do not know that I ever slept sounder than that night, and when I opened my eyes in the morning found that we were at Belle Plain landing on the Potomac, the base of supplies for Gen. Grant’s army. The river was filled with boats of every conceivable kind waiting to discharge their loads.

During the forenoon we went ashore and were marched up on some high ground overlooking the river. We eyed with as much curiosity as a small boy would his first circus two or three thousand rebel prisoners captured at Spottsylvania.

The next morning, May 17th, 1864, we fell in bright and early, and at the command “fours right” marched in the direction of Fredericksburg.

The day was a fearfully hot one and the dust rising in clouds filled our mouths and nostrils, thoroughly impregnated our clothing, hair and[Pg 81] skin, producing intolerable thirst. At the sight of a house or brook the men would make a break from the ranks and run for dear life to get a chance at the water.



My first forenoon’s struggle with a knapsack convinced me that I had got enough of it. Selecting a shirt, towel, a pair of socks, soap and writing portfolio I rolled them up in a blanket which I slung over my shoulder and went it more comfortably.

Many others imitated my example and the roadside from Belle Plain to Spottsylvania was strewn with blankets, knapsacks, overcoats, etc. We passed through Fredericksburg about sunset and assumed that a halt would be made near the city, but they did not halt us to even boil coffee, so we plodded on in the darkness, nibbled our hard tack and wondered how much that they thought we could stand.

At midnight we had caught up with Grant’s army after a march of thirty-five miles.



[Pg 82]



The next morning we were awakened by the booming of cannon and clash of musketry. As we got up off the ground we could see smoke curling up from the tops of the trees on a hillside a mile or more to the south of us. We were foot-sore and covered with dust from our big march of the previous day, and few of us had any water in our canteens. Before we had time to find any or make coffee we got the command “fall in” and were soon advancing toward the firing line.

On every hand there were evidences of the terrific fighting that had been going on for several days. The fields were strewn with clothing, knapsacks, canteens, muskets, dead horses and broken artillery caissons, and the trees were riddled with bullets, shot and shell. The dead had been buried but with such haste that in many places the bodies were scarcely covered. One time as we came to a halt I was horrified to see a human hand protruding from the earth near my foot.

[Pg 83]We had not gone far before we began to meet the wounded, some able to walk, while others were borne on stretchers and blankets. It surely began to look like real warfare. Our men grew silent and their faces took on a serious expression. We knew that our time had come and that the regiment with its full ranks was to strengthen the thin line in front.

On our march the day before there had been much discussion among the musicians as to what we would do in case of a battle. No instructions had been given us and we had rather come to the conclusion among ourselves that when we got to close quarters we would drop out and keep as much out of range as possible.

Our anxiety about the part we were to take in the conflict increased as we approached the front. Occasionally some of the boys would suggest to Harry Marshall, our drum major, that it was about time for us to fall out. There was “no use of us going up to get shot at when we had nothing to shoot back with.”

Finally when we paused for a few moments Harry approached the colonel and, saluting, asked if there was any use of us needlessly exposing ourselves.

“Needless exposure,” yelled the colonel. “What in —— did you enlist for? Your place is with the regiment and I’ll see that you are instructed as to your duties.” And, turning to our surgeon, he[Pg 84] said: “Major, I want you to take charge of the musicians and in case of a fight see that the young rascals do their duty.”

I have always thought that but for this incident we should have seen less of the front line than we did that summer.

Dr. Payne, our surgeon, was a fine fellow and he had seen much service before being assigned to our regiment. He immediately told us to fall out to one side and proceeded to tear up some red flannel in small strips which he tied around our right arms, explaining that this was a badge the enemy would respect when we were caring for the wounded.

While the doctor was fixing us up our regiment marched by and there is nothing in all my war memories that made a deeper impression on me than that scene.

I see them now as I saw them on that bright May morning—father, friends, comrades, marching with steady step, shoulder to shoulder, on to meet the foe in mortal encounter.

We followed in the rear of the regiment and were halted just under the brow of a hill, where we stood in line nearly two hours. Bullets clipped small branches from the trees and shells went swishing through the air over our heads. A couple burst in front of us and an occasional solid shot would go rolling down the hill.

Probably there is no more trying situation for[Pg 85] troops to be placed in than to be held as a reserve during a battle. The tension on one’s nerves is something awful. If one is going to be shot it is something of a satisfaction to be able to return the compliment.

While the regiment was in line a few of us hunted up a spring and carried water to our friends who could not leave the ranks. One of the few times that I remember seeing tears in my father’s eyes was when I handed him a canteen full of water that morning.

The fighting in our front ceased about ten o’clock and we were moved about two miles to the left. In the afternoon we settled down in some woods and were permitted to take the rest we so much needed, and the next morning we were a jolly lot as we sipped our coffee and nibbled hardtack.

Some of the men grumbled, however, because we did not get a chance to take a hand in the affair of the day before.

The forces of Grant and Lee, numbering some 200,000, had been hammering away at each other for about ten days and the carnage had been great, but the forenoon of the day in mind was as quiet and peaceful as if there was not an armed man within ten miles.

It was but the calm before a storm, and scores of our regiment who were so full of life and hope that bright May morning were weltering in their blood before sundown.

[Pg 86]About two o’clock in the afternoon an orderly with foam-covered horse rode up to our colonel and handed him a message. The men noticed that the color came to the officer’s face and they held their breath for the command that they knew was coming.

Gracey, our little Swiss bugler, who was selected by Gen. Hancock a few weeks later to sound the charge for the Second Corps at Cold Harbor because his bugle could be heard farther than any other, blew a blast on his silver trumpet that brought every man to his feet and in less than five minutes the Second Heavy were standing in line at “attention.”

The colonel rode out in front of the regiment and said “men of the Second New York, the time has come when you will have an opportunity to show your mettle. Keep together; don’t let your lines be broken; keep cool; obey orders and you will be all right.”

The men started a cheer for the colonel, but he motioned silence. Then came the command “Fours right, march!”

We soon came to a nice smooth road which ran through the woods and then we got orders to “double quick.”

Then we heard heavy musketry firing which increased in volume continually and we thought the whole rebel army were taking a hand in.

The boys in the ranks made sundry comments[Pg 87] as we rushed along, such as “Guess we’ll get initiated this afternoon.”

“Wouldn’t you like to be back in the forts now?” “Keep step there, Jimmy.” Jimmy West was a little Irishman who could never keep step.

When we emerged from the woods into a large open field we could see a long line of battle on a hillside probably half a mile away.

Our regiment was quickly formed in column by battalions, our colors unfurled, and as we double quicked across that field 1,500 strong, with perfect alignment as if it were a review, it was thrilling, inspiring and to have been there was to have the scene fixed in one’s memory forever. Other regiments besides our own were hurrying to the front. Batteries of artillery went by with the horses on the gallop and the drivers lashing them just as you have seen them in pictures.

Generals’ aides and orderlies rode like mad to and fro directing the troops to positions, for Gen. Ewell had broken through the Union lines in a desperate effort to turn the right flank of Grant’s army.



War certainly has its fascinations as well as its horrors, and there is an enchantment that thrills in the movements of large bodies of soldiery with their bayonets glistening in the sun, the flags and guidons flying, the trumpets of the cavalry ringing[Pg 88] piercingly and thrillingly, the field batteries rattling and rumbling along the road, with a score or more of bands playing. Nothing can make so striking or enchanting a picture. Artists can portray such a scene on canvas, but they cannot make you feel the thrill you experience when you are an active participant, touching elbows and keeping step with a thousand comrades whose hearts are young and gay.

An officer rode up to our colonel and gave him instructions to report to Gen. Tyler off to the right of the open field. We were assigned a position behind a low stone fence, where we waited for about fifteen minutes. While lying there the order was given to “fix bayonets.” If you have “been there” yourself you know all about it. If not, let me tell you in all sincerity that the clicking of the cold steel will make an impression on one that will send the chills down his spine every time he thinks of it in after years.



From our position behind the wall we could not see the fighting, but the din of the battle came rolling and crashing to us through the woods and the wounded from the front line kept coming to the rear, covered with blood and the smoke of battle.

The sight wasn’t pleasant, and moreover it was an object lesson that was horribly suggestive. The[Pg 89] affair was getting too serious for much joking by the merrymakers in the ranks. The men were silent, but I know that they were doing a heap of thinking.

The orders to go forward did not come any too soon, for the suspense of waiting is ten times more trying to a man’s nerves than to charge the enemy’s lines.

We moved across another open field, where a Jefferson county battery (“C” of the 1st Artillery) was in position and shelling a piece of woods.

Gen. Tyler ordered our colonel to detail two companies to support the battery and our company was one of them. I had to go with the regiment, and my father stay with his company. There was not much time for leave-taking. The father drew his boy to his side, pushed his cap back, pressed his lips to his forehead. Neither spoke. It was not necessary. Each knew the other’s thoughts.

Capt. Smith, whose heart was tender as that of any woman,—“The tenderest are the bravest”—patted the drummer boy of Co. H on his shoulder as they parted and when a few feet had separated them called to him “good-bye,” and waved his sword in what might be the last farewell.

Our regiment took an advanced position to the left of the battery where we were ordered to lie down and the men loaded their rifles. “Begins to look like business, boys,” remarked Dave Russell.[Pg 90] Little puffs of dust were kicked up here and there as the rebel bullets struck the ground in our front.

Soon they came nearer and finally began to go over our heads with a “zz-p-” or a “c-s-ss-s-” which indicated that the Confederates were crowding back the Union lines. “This ain’t a fair show,” observed one of the boys. “Let us lay here and get plugged full of lead and never see a reb or get a chance to shoot one.”

The surgeon ordered us to leave our knapsacks, drums, etc., in the yard of a house near by, and I will mention now that up to this time we have never seen that house again.

About the time we had got ourselves in fighting trim Gracey’s bugle sounded “forward,” and our regiment went across the field on a run and into the pine woods, the artillery behind us throwing shell over our heads. The woods were full of flying missiles and the first the Second New York knew they got a volley of musketry from the flank and rear. Investigation revealed the fact that the troops who had fired the volley were the Seventh New York. The woods were so dense and full of smoke that it was hard to discern a body of troops a short distance away. The enemy could only be located by the flash of their guns.

Our colonel was ordered by Gen. Tyler to hold a slight elevation near a ravine. Our lines were spread out and the men ordered to lie down.

“Steady, men, and don’t shoot too high,” sang[Pg 91] out Col. Whistler. “Better order them rear rank fellows to aim higher or they’ll blow our brains out,” says one of the front rank men.

“Shut up; no talking in the ranks!” commanded Adjutant Corwin. All of this time men were getting hit by the rebel bullets. “Bill Wright’s killed,” someone said, and the news was passed along the line.

“If I was in command of this regiment I’d order a charge on the Johnnies and I’d drive them or git licked in the attempt,” said big Dave Russell.

One of the saddest sights of the day was to see the major of the First Massachusetts as he rode back through our lines with a bullet wound in his forehead and the blood streaming all over him, and he hardly able to hang on to his horse. He died a few moments later.

This regiment had about 350 casualties in the fight. Over one-third of that number were killed outright.

The contortions of one of our drum corps boys who was badly demoralized by the flying bullets, was so ludicrous that I should have laughed if I had been killed for it the next minute. Every time one of those “z-z-ping” minies came near him he would leap in the air and then fall flat on the ground.

Was I frightened? Hold your head down so that I can whisper in your ear and I will admit in strict confidence that I was never so scared in[Pg 92] all my life. But I felt somewhat as one of our boys expressed it when he said: “By the great horn spoons, they’ll never know I’m afraid if I can help it.”

While we were lying there one of the old Pennsylvania Buck Tail regiments of the Fifth Corps passed over us to do some skirmish work. There were several of these regiments and they were famous fighters. The men all wore a buck’s tail on their caps.

Late in the afternoon our regiment took part in a charge and had to go over a rail fence. Our colonel tried to have his horse jump the fence but he would not do it until one of the men took a couple of rails off the top, and then he went over. Down in a ravine he got stopped again with a vine that caught him across the breast. Col. Whistler swore like a trooper and put the spurs to him, but the vine was too strong and men had to trample it to the ground. Col. Whistler elevated himself several degrees in the estimation of his men that day by going into the battle mounted. He had been a martinet when in camp, and was of a peppery disposition. But his conduct at Spottsylvania commanded the respect of all. “I tell you,” said one of the boys, “Jeremiah N. G. Whistler is an old fighting cock.” “He can’t forget his tactics, though,” said another. “Do you mind that when we got up to make that dash through the[Pg 93] ravine we did not get the command ‘forward’ until he had dressed us to the right.”

The fighting continued until well into the night and when the report of the last gun died out the troops laid down on their arms until morning.

The surgeons and their helpers worked all night removing the wounded. We carried them out of the woods in blankets.

In the rear of our division there were three amputating tables with deep trenches dug at the foot. In the morning those trenches were full of amputated limbs, hands and fingers, and the piles above the ground were as high as the tables. The confederate forces withdrew from our front in the night, leaving their dead on the field, which were buried by our men as they laid away their comrades.

The clash of arms in which we had had a part was no small affair. Probably more than 40,000 men on each side had taken part in the battle, but the country was so uneven and densely wooded that a participant saw but little of what was going on outside of his own regiment. In fact in almost every engagement the rank and file knew but little of the operations away from their immediate vicinity.

At our informal dress parade that night an order from Gen. Meade was read, complimenting the heavy artillery regiments for their soldierly conduct the previous day, and saying he would[Pg 94] thereafter rely upon them as upon the tried veterans of the Second and Fifth Corps with whom we had fought our first great battle.

The day after a battle is always a sad one in a regiment. Men search for missing comrades and some are found cold in death who were full of life the day before. No jests are spoken. The terribleness of war has been forcibly impressed on all participants.

The surgeon said that our colonel praised the boys for their assistance in caring for the wounded, but part of us lost our drums, as after we followed the regiment into the woods the lines were shifted about so that we never again saw the house where we had left them. But drums were little used the next few months. Drills, inspections, dress parades, etc., gave place to marching, fighting, digging trenches and throwing up breastworks, for we were with Gen. Grant, who proposed to “fight it out on that line if it took all summer.”



[Pg 95]



Gen. Grant, having decided to change his base of operations, directed Gen. Hancock on the 20th to move his corps to the left as soon after dark as practicable. Gen. Horace Porter, who was one of Grant’s aides, says that he purposely detached the Second Corps from the rest of the army, his object being to tempt Lee to attack them.

Of course we poor mortals in the ranks knew nothing of the plans. The privates, nor even the drummer boys, are seldom consulted in such matters.

Probably if we had been told, in our then used-up condition, that we were setting out on a march that was to last all night and through the next day we should have felt that we could never endure it.

Before starting on the march our regiment was formally assigned to service with General Hancock the “Superb,” and his Second Corps, and it has always been a pride with me that the fortunes of war cast our lot with such a matchless leader.

[Pg 96]If in my reminiscences I seem to be partial to this organization, I hope my comrades who fought bravely under other standards will forgive me. I mean no comparison. I am speaking of my own, and should we not love our own the best?

When we started, orders were passed through the different regiments that there must not be any talking or any unnecessary noise, and the officers took pains to impress upon us that the rebel cavalry might dash among us at any moment.

We marched for a long time down a densely wooded road. The night was a beautiful one with the moon, low in the sky, shining in our faces as we plodded along the road.



I made the discovery that night that one could sleep walking. Don’t you believe it? Ask any old soldier. But one would hardly get into a nice nap before there would be a halt away up at the head of the column and several thousand men would go bumping into each other.

Then everybody would drop right down in the road and try to get a rest there, but before we could get two winks it would be “fall in, fall in, boys,” and away we would go again.



A most ludicrous incident occurred during our march that night. A halt of perhaps five minutes[Pg 97] had permitted nearly all of us to drop off into the arms of morpheus when some general’s pack horse broke away from the rest and came tearing down the lines, his load of camp kettles and other culinary equipage making a great clattering and creating something of a panic. When I awoke I was running through the woods about three or four rods from the road, and everybody else was doing likewise. One of our band boys ran into a tree and smashed his horn. Others lost their caps, blankets, etc., and we were a very demoralized lot of soldiers for a few moments. But order was soon restored and the march was continued the balance of the night without any other event worthy of note.

About daybreak we heard musketry, and our brigade, which was then commanded by Gen. Nelson A. Miles, was rushed forward to support the cavalry, who were having a brisk little skirmish with the enemy at Guinea station. The rebels were routed, however, without the infantry firing a shot.

We halted long enough to make coffee and then resumed the march, passing that day through a part of the state that had not been ravaged by war.



We marched along beautifully shaded roadways, and the air was fragrant with May blossoms. Herds of cattle grazed in luxuriant pastures.

[Pg 98]The homes of the people were comfortable and everything looked peaceful and inviting to the thousands of poor, tired soldiers as they went marching by.

We only made one halt during the day, which was an intensely hot one. Strong men fell down by the roadside from sheer exhaustion, but the rear guards would drive them on when they came along, for to be left behind was certain capture, and there was not ambulance accommodations enough for the wounded.

Late in the afternoon we reached Milford and, crossing the Mattapony river at that point, intrenched ourselves on the south side, remaining there the next day, which gave us a much needed rest and afforded us an opportunity to bathe in the river.

It is said the Mattapony was so named because it is made up from four small streams which are called respectively, the: Mat-Ta-Po-Ny.

I was feeling quite down in the mouth, so to speak, when we halted that night, for when I had been taking a little nap in the shade of a rail fence at our midday halt some miscreant had stolen my haversack containing five days’ rations. But, thanks to my big hearted comrade, I did not suffer for food as long as he had a mouthful.



“Will” Coleman was a comrade worth having.[Pg 99] A little older than I, of splendid physique and health, brave, jolly and unselfish, and one who would stand by you until the last. All through the long marches, hardships and battles incident to the campaigns from Spottsylvania to Appomattox we shared our rations, drank from the same canteen and slept under the same blanket. Words are inadequate to express what such comradeship means. No crucible ever tested metal more thoroughly than army life tested human character.

Some that much had been expected of, when put to the test, shrunk in our estimation. Other modest souls developed into heroes when occasion demanded.

It was a grand experience and I believe with few exceptions all the survivors have been better men therefor.



On May 23 we resumed our march and Gens. Grant and Meade rode with Gen. Hancock at the head of our corps in the forenoon.

We reached the North Anna river in the afternoon and found the enemy in force with plenty of batteries in position on the south side. A spirited artillery duel took place and about six o’clock in the evening Gen. Hancock ordered an assault on the enemy, who had possession of the two bridges. They were driven across the river, but held the south end of one bridge during the night and made[Pg 100] several attempts to burn it, but a heavy thunder shower came up and partly frustrated their efforts.

We all got a thorough drenching, for we had no tents and had to lie on the ground and take it.

In the morning it was found that the enemy had abandoned their advanced works near the river and our division crossed over and prepared to attack them, but their intrenchments were found so strong the design was abandoned.



The supply trains had failed to connect with the army, and we were almost destitute of rations. I heard many offers of fifty cents to one dollar for a hard tack. The only thing my chum and I had to eat in the forenoon was some corn we found scattered on the ground where horses had been fed.

In the afternoon the irrepressible Coleman went on a foraging expedition and brought back a small chicken, a piece of veal and a “hoe cake,” which made us a good meal.

That night the army recrossed the river again and we started out on another of our all-night marches with mud in places half way to our knees.

All of our movements that summer took the form of a half circle. We used to march twenty or thirty miles to change the front of not more than one-fourth of that distance, and the boys very[Pg 101] appropriately called the movements “Slewing to the left.”

The afternoon after leaving the North Anna river we brought up at the Pamunky, which we crossed on pontoon bridges. The enemy was strongly entrenched not far from the river and fired on our skirmishers. Everything indicated hot work. Our regiment was ordered into an advanced position and we built breastworks in plain sight of our adversaries, expecting that they would open on us with their artillery every moment, but for some reason they did not do so.



Early the next day our division, led by Gen. Francis C. Barlow—and a braver soldier never lived—assaulted the rebel lines and to do so had to cross a swampy ravine fully exposed to the fire of the enemy, who were protected by earthworks. The losses of our troops were severe.



The musicians of our regiment were back under the cover of some woods and while the engagement was at its height we saw big George B.—our sergeant major—coming across the field on a run toward us. George explained his mission in a few words, which were about as follows:

“Col. Whistler wants you boys to come up on the fighting line and help the surgeons take care of[Pg 102] our wounded, and you better come p. d. q., too, for the old man was pretty mad when he missed you.”

It is needless to say we got there lively, but while we were carrying some wounded past our brigade commander he remarked that we were endangering their lives more by trying to remove them during an engagement than to leave them on the ground until the fighting was over.

We thought it the safest, however, to obey our colonel, and after that we took good care that he did not have to send an officer to hunt us up.

The casualties of our regiment in this engagement, which was called the battle of Totopotomy, were seven killed and seventy-seven wounded.



It is seldom that one in the ranks has a chance to see much of a battle except what may be happening in his own regiment. Such an opportunity came to my chum and me at Totopotomy the afternoon of May 31st, 1864, when we witnessed the charge in open field of a Confederate division and heard for the first time the real Rebel yell, which was so unlike the cheers of the Union soldiers.

After the assault of our division in the forenoon, matters settled down and there was comparative quiet for a couple of hours. About 2 o’clock we heard some lively cannonading over to the right and Coleman, who was one of those boys that always wanted to see all that was going on, suggested[Pg 103] that we walk over that way. We found a battery of artillery in an advanced position shelling a piece of woods. The captain sat upon a camp stool dressed in a white duck suit and gave directions to his men as though it was target practice. We two boys stood on the earthworks and watched the effect of the exploding shells as they cut off the limbs of the trees or ploughed up the sod in the field in front of the woods. We learned from the artillerymen that the Confederates were massing troops preparatory to making a charge. Soon the rebel yell broke loose and a long line of gray came out of the woods and moved forward in perfect formation. Not a soldier wavered. The scene was thrilling and we were quite unmindful of the fact that our position was a dangerous one. The Confederate troops were supported by a number of pieces of artillery and the gunners had a perfect range on our battery and their shells were soon bursting all about us. Coleman and I quit our sight-seeing from the top of the breastworks and got down behind them, peeping out occasionally to watch the movements of the advancing enemy. When they had got within close range our battery opened on them with case shot and cannister, cutting swaths in the ranks of the advancing forces, but they would close up and come on and it looked as though the battery was lost. The captain had received orders to withdraw, but it was too late for him to get away with his guns so he [Pg 104]concluded to stay and do the best he could. Several of his horses were killed and disabled and one of the caissons was blown up. Just when it looked as though the rebels were going to sweep everything before them we heard a loud, long cheer and a division of the gallant old 5th Corps double-quicked out to meet them and turned the tide the other way, and soon the Johnnies were in full retreat. They left many dead and wounded in our front, Gen. Ramsey being among the killed.

This was one of the most spectacular engagements that I ever witnessed and was about the only one where I had a good opportunity to watch the effects of artillery fire directed against a charging column. Need I say that it was not necessary to keep a diary of such experiences. They were indelibly impressed on my memory as I doubt not they were on that of all other participants.



[Pg 105]



The next move in the great game of war between Grant and Lee was Cold Harbor—a name indelibly impressed upon every survivor of the campaign. It recalls two weeks of hunger, thirst, hardships that language is inadequate to describe; unsuccessful assaults and losses, that tell the story of most desperate fighting. It was Greek against Greek, veteran against veteran.

No one seems to know why the place was so named for, as Pat. Devereaux of our company expressed it, “’twas no harbor at all, and divil a drop of water to make ’wan wid.” Grant considered it an important point, however, and tried to get there ahead of Lee, but as a “comrade in gray” expressed it, “Uncle Robert wasn’t caught napping anywhere.”

Our corps reached there at a little past 6 the morning of June 2, after an all-night march with the heat and dust oppressive beyond description. An attack had been ordered for the morning, but[Pg 106] was postponed because of the exhausted condition of the troops.



If I tell you that I heard many wish that they might receive a wound in the impending fight you may think me “yarning,” but it is true nevertheless, for the men were so utterly worn out that they would have willingly risked a wound for the sake of the rest it would give them.

The troops were placed in position during the day and all instructions issued to the various commanders preparatory for the assault that was to take place at 4.30 the morning of the 3d.



Pardon a little digression while I tell you about a bugler who was a bugler from “way back.” There were hundreds and thousands of buglers in the army, but I never heard one who could touch a note to George Gracey of our regiment. One blast of his trumpet would indicate the location of the 2d New York, among a score of regiments. There was music in every sound he made, and I have seen officers of other commands stop and listen when the little Swiss was trumpeting the calls.

At Cold Harbor he was selected by Gen. Hancock to sound the charge which sent 20,000 of his men into action, because his bugle could be heard clearer and farther than others. It was a proud[Pg 107] moment for our little bugler, but the story is not complete without telling you how the tender-hearted fellow sat down and wept like a child, when, a few moments later, he saw the ghastly procession of mangled and bleeding comrades coming back.

He was afterwards bugler for Gen. Nelson A. Miles at division headquarters and served until the close of the war. For many years he was bugler at the Bath Soldier’s Home.

I last saw him at a reunion of our regiment at Frankfort, N. Y., and, although he was bent over with the weight of three score years and ten, he had not forgotten his cunning with the bugle and when he alighted from an early morning train and let off a few blasts from his old war-scarred trumpet the citizens of that peaceful Mohawk village must have thought that Gabriel had come.



George Gracey has long since been “mustered out,” and he who had trilled that sweet, sad and long farewell at the graves of thousands of his comrades has had “taps” sounded for him.



When the rays of the rising sun lifted the mists from the Chickahominy lowlands on the morning of June 3, 1864, Cold Harbor was scarcely known beyond the sound of a rifle shot. When that same[Pg 108] sun was dropping behind the western horizon in the evening of that day the name was on the tongues of millions all over the land.

Promptly at 4.30 a. m. the attack was made by the 2d, 6th and 18th corps. Gen. Francis B. Barlow (after the war attorney general of New York) led our division and forced the enemy to retreat from a sunken road.

Gen. Nelson A. Miles was our brigade commander at the time.

Beyond the road was a hill from which the enemy’s artillery were enabled to do frightful execution. Barlow again ordered a charge and led his men with a rush, carrying everything before them, capturing several hundred prisoners, a stand of colors and three pieces of artillery. Gen. Gibbons’ second division on the right did some magnificent fighting. Gen. Birney’s third division were in reserve and not actively engaged.

The vigorousness of the contest may be inferred from the fact that the losses of the two divisions were over 2,200 and the assault was over inside of one hour.

The casualties of the other commands engaged brought the losses of that assault up to nearly 6,000 men.

Think of it! Quite one-fourth of the population of Watertown put out of action in less than one hour’s time.

The musicians of our regiment were not with[Pg 109] the assaulting column this day, but the writer had a father with the force and can assure the reader that it was a mighty anxious time until he found him unharmed.



We had plenty of work to do in assisting the surgeons. Acres of ground were covered with bleeding, mangled men with the dust and smoke of battle upon them. It was touching to notice how bravely most of them endured suffering while needing attention and comforts that could not be given them.

I recall how little Will Whitney, one of the “ponies” of our company as the boys were called, lay there on the ground shot clear through the body, patiently waiting his turn, while a big fellow with a wounded hand was dancing around and making a terrible fuss until Whitney, thoroughly disgusted, spoke out. “Shut up, there, old man, you’re not the only one that got scratched in this fight.”

I assisted to the rear another of the lads of Co. H, Henry C. Potter, a former schoolmate at Carthage, and as bright and promising a young man as any who went to the war. His left arm was badly shattered, necessitating an amputation. There was not a murmur; not a regret. He was glad it was not his right one, for with that saved he could be of some help to his father in the store.[Pg 110] He made me promise to stay by him during the operation, and after it was over I assisted him into an ambulance and bade him a last good-bye, for he did not live to see Jefferson county again.



After the fighting of June 3 Gen. Grant instructed the commanding officers to have the troops intrench themselves as best they could.

In many places the lines were only forty or fifty yards apart. The ground all about was low and marshy, which caused chills and fever.

Our regiment occupied a sort of angle so that we were exposed to bullets from the flank as well as front. The sharpshooters got in lots of their deadly work at Cold Harbor, and if a head was shown above the earthworks several “minies” would go whizzing past. Just for fun the boys used to elevate their caps on a bayonet for the “Johnnies” to shoot at.

The men on the picket line dug holes or trenches to protect themselves and could only be relieved at night under the cover of darkness. All day long they would lie there in the broiling sun with little food or water, and between the lines were dead men and horses which polluted the atmosphere. Some of the wounded from the fight of the 3d were on the field up to the 7th, completely covered by the fire of the enemy’s pickets and sharpshooters,[Pg 111] although the men made heroic efforts every night to bring their comrades in.



“Let us bury our dead:
Since we may not of vantage or victory prate;
And our army, so grand in the onslaught of late,
All crippled has shrunk to its trenches instead,
For the carnage was great;
Let us bury our dead.”

“Haste and bury our dead!
No time for revolving of right and of wrong;
We must venture our souls with the rest of the throng;
And our God must be judge, as He sits over head,
Of the weak and the strong,
While we bury our dead.”

Gen. Grant made overtures to Lee the 5th for a truce, but no cessation of hostilities took place until the evening of the 7th, the hours being from 6 to 8.

The dead were buried where they fell and, strange as it may seem, quite a few men were found alive after lying there about four days without any food or water except what they may have had when wounded.

The case of a man I assisted in bringing in our lines who had five wounds on his body was a sad one, but the surgeons thought his life could be saved.

I wish I might find words to portray to the reader something of the impressiveness of the scene at Cold Harbor that night.

[Pg 112]Imagine, if you can, two mighty armies—that for weeks had been grappling with each other in deadly contest, each doing its utmost to slay and destroy the other, laying aside their implements of war as the day draws to a close, and with the sun casting its last red glare over all, as out from the ranks on either side came the men of war on their errand of mercy; the blue and gray intermingling, looking for friends and comrades that had fallen; permitted to carry them back into their own ranks to live or die among those with whom they served.

The picture will never be effaced from my memory, and all who witnessed that or a similar scene, will heartily endorse the saying of the late General Sherman that “War is hell.”



The burial of the dead on the battlefield had to be done so hurriedly many times that more than one poor fellow who perhaps had been stunned and left on the field had a “close call” to being buried alive. A case in mind was that of one at Cold Harbor who had been picked up as dead, and as the men dropped their burden by the open trench the shock resuscitated the man and he faintly asked:

“What’s going on, boys?”

The response was, “We were going to bury you, Shorty.”

[Pg 113]“Not if I know myself,” he replied. “Get me a cup of coffee and I’ll be all right; I won’t be buried by that country clodhopper.”

The “clodhopper” referred to was the sergeant in charge of the squad, who belonged to a company of our regiment that came from the central part of the state, while the man who had been so near the “dark valley” was a member of a New York City company.



At 8 o’clock sharp the white flags were furled, and the buglers from either side sounded the “recall.” The men returned to their commands, the swords were unsheathed, the muskets reloaded, the cannon unmuzzled and hostilities were resumed—such is war.

“Hark! the musketry roars, and the rifles reply:
Oh, the fight will be close and the carnage be dread;
To the ranks let us hie—
We have buried our dead.”



[Pg 114]



General Hancock possessed to a remarkable degree the power of exciting to enthusiasm the men he so often led to victory. And even a drummer boy may be pardoned the pride he feels in the enduring fame of this intrepid commander.

During the ’64 campaign he was compelled to ride in an ambulance on the long marches because of the breaking out afresh of his old Gettysburg wound. But he did not ask a leave of absence, and when there was any fighting he mounted his horse and was at the head of his troops.

The personnel of his corps was probably the most unique of all the army. The most prominent organization and one deserving more than a passing notice was the famous “Irish brigade,” the representatives of that race which distinguished itself on the fields of Fontenoy.

This brigade never lost a flag, although it captured over twenty stands of colors from the enemy.[Pg 115] The Irish brigade was probably the best known of any organization in the army.

It belonged to the first division of Gen. Hancock’s corps.

The brigade was in continuous service and lost over 4,000 men in killed and wounded, more men than it ever mustered at one time, for the regiments composing it were small.

The regiments which properly belonged to the brigade, together with their losses, were:

Sixty-third New York, with a loss of 156 killed; 69th New York, 259 killed; 88th New York, 151 killed; 28th Massachusetts, 250 killed; 116th Pennsylvania, 145 killed.

The old 69th New York lost more men in action than any other infantry regiment from the Empire State.

At the “Bloody Lane,” Antietam, eight color bearers of this regiment were successively shot down, and at Fredericksburg the color bearer was found dead with his flag wrapped around his body. Another instance illustrating the devotion of the brave Irish boys for the flag of their adopted country was at the “Bloody Lane,” where 16 men of the 63d New York were killed or wounded carrying the colors that day.

An incident of the brigade’s assault on Marye’s Heights was the distribution of little sprigs of green to the men as they stood in line waiting the order to forward. It is related that their gallant[Pg 116] commander, Gen. Thomas Francis Meagher, placed one in his cap. The assault failed, but not for lack of bravery and dash, as attested by the long, well-aligned row of dead within a few yards of the rebel breastworks; and by each ashen face was a sprig of Irish green.

There was another Irish brigade under Hancock composed of Pennsylvania troops, and commanded by Gen. Joshua Owen. They distinguished themselves at Gettysburg and were commonly known as “Paddy Owen’s regulars.”

Another brigade of the corps was known as “Corcoran’s legion.”

The second corps was prominent by reason of its long continuous service at the front. It inscribed upon its banners a greater number of engagements than any corps of the army. Likewise its casualty list was the largest.

It also had to its credit the capture of more men, guns and colors from the enemy than the rest of the Army of the Potomac combined.

Many years after the war General Hancock attended a national encampment of the G. A. R., and after the veterans had passed in review a distinguished U. S. Senator remarked to the general that he saw less of his old corps represented than other organizations and asked the reason why, to which Hancock replied, “The men of the 2d Corps, Senator, are mostly in heaven.”

 [Pg 117]


A score or more of years after the war, when General Hancock was in command of the Department of the East, with headquarters at Governor’s Island, the writer happened in New York and the desire came over him to get a look at his old commander once more. He remembered that in the army there is a great disparity in the rank of a general in command and the boys who beat the drums, therefore he had no thought of a personal interview with the general. But when he was walking off the landing he saw a distinguished looking officer approaching, and recognizing him as the leader he had been proud to follow in other days, something of the old time enthusiasm of those days was rekindled, and as they met the ex-drummer boy saluted and made known his former connection with the general’s old command. No other introduction was necessary. The hearty greeting gave proof that Hancock had a warm place in his heart for the least of his “boys,” as he called them.

The general was planning a trip to Sandy Hook for that day to inspect some new ordnance and an invitation was extended to the ex-drummer boy to be one of the party. There were several distinguished officers in the company, but none received more attention from the general than his humble follower of the Sixties.

Later the writer exchanged two or three letters[Pg 118] with the general and in one he referred to his former command as follows: “Your references to the old 2d Corps bring up many pleasant and sad remembrances. It has always been my regret that it was not in my power to reward every man who served with me as he deserved.”



A lady said the other day, “Tell us in your next what the men had to eat out at the front, how they managed to do the cooking, washing of clothes,” etc.

Well now, the cooking did not bother us one bit, for we did not have anything to cook. When at Cold Harbor we had not had a vegetable for weeks, and beef only twice, and the flesh was so tainted with wild onions, on which the cattle had fed as they were driven through the country, that it could hardly be eaten. Coffee, hard tack, sugar, with a small allowance of salt pork two or three times during a month was what we had to live on.

Money would not purchase anything because the sutlers were all sent to the rear when Gen. Grant crossed the Rapidan.

Each man carried a little tin pail in which he boiled coffee, holding it over the fire with a stick. A quartet of boys who were making coffee one morning at Cold Harbor had their breakfast spoiled by a piece of a shell dropping into the fire.

 [Pg 119]


When we started out on the campaign our well filled knapsacks made us the laughing stock of the veterans of the 2d Corps, but gradually we had lightened our loads until we were down to a blanket, half a shelter tent, possibly a towel and a piece of soap, and some little keepsakes, all of which were twisted up in the blanket and slung over the shoulder. When we came to a stream the men would pull off their shirts, rinse them and if no halt was made would put them back on wet, or else hang them on their guns to dry on the march.



After a few weeks our shoes were nearly worn out, and in this connection I must turn aside to tell you how one of my comrades came into possession of a nice pair of boots.

It was the day following a big battle. Our regiment was being moved to the left and in doing so we passed several amputating tables where the surgeons had performed their operations on the wounded the night before. Trenches had been dug at the ends of the tables but were filled to overflowing with hands, arms and legs. The boy espied a nice pair of boots protruding from one pile and, pulling them out, found that some staff officer had amputation performed above the knees. The limbs were drawn from the boots and the boy remarked[Pg 120] that they were about his fit; so he exchanged his old shoes for them. I think I should rather have gone barefooted from there to Appomattox than to have done likewise.



[Pg 121]



On the night of June 12, ’64, the withdrawal of the army from the trenches at Cold Harbor began. The picket lines were not disturbed until the army were several hours under way.

Of course there were all sorts of rumors as to where we were bound for. Many were of the opinion that we were going to White House landing and take transports for Washington, but Grant was not that kind of a general. He had started out to destroy Lee’s army and he was going to keep hammering away until they were licked.

The march from Cold Harbor was a hard one. It is a great wonder how men could bear up under the hardship, considering what they had gone through for several weeks.

No halt was made until morning, and after we had made coffee we were hurried on again. Would-be stragglers were forced along at the point of the bayonet.

Before we left Cold Harbor our colonel had given orders that all of the drummer boys who were without drum should be given a gun, but I[Pg 122] was excused from carrying one on this march because of an injury caused by falling in a trench while removing wounded from between the lines one night. My father tried in vain to get me a chance to ride in an ambulance or wagon; there were not accommodations enough for the badly wounded.

We arrived at Wilcox’s Landing; on the James river the night of the 13th, where a pontoon bridge 2,000 feet long had been laid across the river.

The next morning the army crossed over, and it was a sight to stir the sensibilities of even a weary soldier, to see the thousands marching across the river, all in battle array. The water was dotted with tugs, gunboats and transports loaded with troops, and what made it more impressive to me was the thought that it was a real genuine thing and not a mere show.



It was expected that our haversacks would be replenished after we crossed the river, but Gen. Hancock received a dispatch from Meade, ordering him to march his command without delay to Petersburg. We started between 10 and 11 o’clock and at 6:30 that evening Hancock reported to Gen. Smith, commander of the 18th corps, whose troops had already engaged the enemy and captured some of the outer defenses of the city.

We relieved Smith’s troops in the front line of[Pg 123] works under the cover of darkness, and it was nearly midnight before we were in position and could lie down.



At daylight Gen. Hancock ordered his brigade and division commanders to make reconnoissances in the front and the enemy was forced back all along the lines.

Our regiment advanced through a peach orchard, exposed to a scathing fire of musketry.

Col. Whistler was struck in the face by a bullet, while superintending the deploying of skirmishers, but was not disabled so but that he remained with the regiment, but it did make him fighting mad, and as he walked up and down the line with the blood dropping all over the front of his clothes he indulged in “cuss” words of the most expressive kind.

After the fighting quieted down, Adjt. Brazee persuaded him to go to the rear. He was breveted brigadier general for his conduct that day, and given command of a brigade after his recovery. (Maj. Whistler of the regular army is a son of the officer mentioned.)

Capt. Barry, the favorite officer of the line in our regiment, was killed that morning, and the beloved commander of the Irish brigade, Col. Patrick Kelly, one of the best officers of the 2d corps,[Pg 124] fell with the colors in hands while leading his men in a charge on a rebel fort.

The balance of the army not having arrived Gen. Meade ordered Hancock to hold his position until evening, when a general attack would be made.



Our regiment had been in some pretty hot places that summer, but the position that day was a little nearer the infernal regions than we had ever been before. A low stone wall was our only protection from the enemy, who were well intrenched in some woods about 75 yards distant across an open field.

Behind us the ground sloped down to a little brook which had its waters reddened with the blood of thousands of boys in blue a few hours later.

Several batteries were massed in the rear of us and they kept up a furious cannonading to detract attention from the movements of the troops elsewhere.

The air was full of hissing shells, which passed so close to us that we could feel their hot breath, and one would involuntarily clap his hand to his head expecting his cap to be swept off. Our position was so near the enemy that occasionally a shell would burst over us, wounding some of our men. Lieut. Col. Palmer of our regiment was so wounded, a ball from a spherical cased shell striking him in[Pg 125] the breast and, passing through his body, lodged back of the shoulder blade.

Palmer sat down under a tree and told our surgeon to cut it out. The doctor suggested that he better take something for the operation. But Palmer’s grit was of the right sort and taking off his slouch hat he slapped the ground with it and said: “Go ahead, doc, and cut the damned thing out, and be lively about it, too, for others need your attention.”

Finally the casualties became so numerous that Maj. McKay went to the artillery officer and told him he was killing off our own men and if he did not cut his fuses longer he would order his regiment to take the battery, and when a little later a staff officer rode over and ordered the major under arrest he found out that a captain of a battery was one not to be fooled with when in line of duty.



In the afternoon we heard the welcome news that rations were waiting us in the rear and details were made from the several companies to go after them.

The writer went with Sergt. “West” Powell and the squad from our company. In order to get back to the supply trains it was necessary for us to cross several open spaces fully exposed to the fire of the confederates.

When we came to such a place we would separate, run a few yards and throw ourselves on the[Pg 126] ground, while the bullets would go whizzing over our heads.

On our return each one carried a rubber blanket slung over his shoulder, containing rations for our hungry comrades. While we were creeping along close to an abandoned earthwork a shell struck the bank and exploding, hurled dirt and gravel over and about us.

Something struck me on the side of my head and thinking I was shot I fell on the ground and called to my companions. They gathered around and on examination found I was sound except for a discolored spot and a stinging sensation probably caused by a small stone striking me.

My nerves were thoroughly shattered, however, and it took some minutes for me to muster up courage to get on my feet and face the music again.



The 5th and 9th corps caught up with the army that day and while we were back at the wagon train we saw them marching into position on the left of our corps preparatory to the assault that was delivered later in the day.

Two-fifths of a century has passed since the roar of the conflict that raged before Petersburg was hushed. The commanders of the opposing armies, indeed, most of the great actors, are dead, while a large portion of the rank and file have[Pg 127] answered the last roll-call, but the impressiveness of that scene is still fresh in my memory. As I write it all comes back to me. The long lines of blue with their glistening bayonets; the gleaming sabres of the cavalry; the tattered banners. On a little knoll was Gen. Warren the gallant commander of the 5th Corps sitting sidewise on his horse with field glass in hand surrounded by staff officers and couriers. The artillery was thundering. The rattle and roar of musketry along the lines was constant, and when the sun had dropped behind the horizon at the close of that day thousands of the blue and the gray were stretched out all over the fields.

And the stars in Heaven, that night, looked down on scenes of suffering and horror that it is impossible to describe.

June 17 was a day full of stirring events. The fighting was desperate and alternated between the different divisions and corps. Gen. Burnside’s 9th corps had the honors of the day, capturing several redans, a number of pieces of artillery and several hundred prisoners with their colors.

June 18, Gen. Grant ordered another general assault, which resulted in heavy losses and no success. Ten thousand men were killed and wounded in the three days’ effort to capture Petersburg by direct assault. I find in Fox’s statistics of regimental losses that he credits our regiment with[Pg 128] 54 killed and 218 wounded and missing in the three days’ conflict, and many commands fared worse.

The killed, wounded and missing of our regiment from May 18 to June 23d, were according to Fox, 584.

The troops were now thoroughly exhausted, owing to the incessant movements, both day and night, for about six weeks. There had not been 24 hours in which they had not been in close contact with the enemy. The confederates acting on the defensive had been spared the long circuitous marches as well as the costly experiences of assaulting intrenchments.

Gen. Humphreys, who was chief of staff of the Army of the Potomac in 1864, placed the losses of the army from May 4 to June 19 as 61,400, of which 50,000 were killed and wounded.



We rested three days, if it can be called rest where there is a constant interchange of shots so that one was liable to get a bullet through his head if it was exposed above the breastworks.

At night the artillery indulged in duels and the shots could be seen traveling in the air. The curves of the shells from the mortars reminded us of the Fourth of July rockets and the boys called it their display of fireworks.

What the men suffered that summer in the[Pg 129] trenches before Petersburg none will ever know except those who experienced the hardships.

We had no tents except the little shelter tents and probably one-half of the men were without those, consequently we had to resort to all kinds of contrivances to get shelter. Some dug individual bombproofs which not only furnished protection from the sun but were proof against any stray piece of shell that might drop among us. Our clothing had been worn for weeks, bathing was out of the question and cooking had to be done far in the rear.

Life in camp with plenty of well cooked rations, sufficient tent accommodations, extra clothing, plenty of water for cooking and bathing and life in the trenches in close contact with the enemy is quite another story.



Constant marching, fighting and digging trenches for several weeks is the kind of soldiering that weeds the chaff out of a regiment, and it was noticeable that many officers who had been conspicuous on dress parades and reviews at Washington had failed to toe the mark when put to the test.



On the evening of the 21st our corps was ordered to move to the left and the 9th corps took its place in the trenches. The movement was for[Pg 130] the purpose of extending the lines and getting possession, if possible, of the Weldon and South Side railroads, and, as usual, the 2d corps was selected to lead.

Gen. Birney was temporarily in command of the corps, Gen. Hancock’s wound giving him so much trouble that he had to take a few days’ rest.

The 6th corps had been ordered to support the 2d, but owing to the thick woods in the vicinity of the railroad the corps became separated and the confederates under Gen. A. P. Hill slipped in between the two commands and the first intimation we had of their presence was a furious firing on the flank and rear of our division which caused much confusion. So sudden and unexpected was the attack that part of several regiments and their colors were captured and Gen. Gibbons’ second division lost four cannon.

The next morning the lost ground was regained and in this position we remained some time, erecting Forts Davis and Sedgwick, which were about a half mile apart south of the old Jerusalem plank road.



The Fourth of July, 1864, our bands played “Yankee Doodle” and other national airs, while strains of “Dixie,” “My Maryland,” etc., floated over from the rebel side. In the evening the usual artillery duels furnished fireworks for the occasion.

[Pg 131]The lines were farther apart where we were at this time than over on the right near the Appomattox River, and the pickets used to meet on friendly terms under the cover of darkness. Of course there were strict orders against it, but they were disobeyed nightly and the men met and swapped stories, coffee for tobacco, newspapers, etc., and went back to their lines and were shooting at each other again the next day.



President Lincoln made a visit to the front about this time and was enthusiastically received.

The men knew by his looks, his kind words to the sick and wounded that he was in deep sympathy with them, and I think his presence was of untold benefit to the rank and file of the army.



The only man I ever saw drummed out of camp was down in front of Petersburg. He was a coward, and large placards proclaiming the fact were suspended from his neck, one on his breast and the other on his back, his head was shaved and a fifer and drummer marched him all through the division to the tune of the “Rogue’s March,” and then he was given a dishonorable discharge and sent home.

 [Pg 132]


Among the deserters from our company when we were in the forts, at Washington, was one whom we met more than a year later.

One day, on the march as we were taking a few moments rest by the roadside a regiment of cavalry came along and halted opposite us. All at once one of our boys exclaimed “Well, I’ll be blowed if there isn’t Sam P——,” and sure enough there was our long lost Sam sitting astride of a horse.

“Hello, Sam!” was shouted by several of his old comrades, and one ventured to ask what he had left his first love for?

Sam’s reply was about as follows: “I was willing to serve my country, but I’m cussed if I ever liked that heavy infantry business. It was a dirty, mean trick for them to enlist us for flying artillery and then change to heavy, and I didn’t propose to tread mud with a big knapsack on my back, a musket and 40 rounds of ammunition, so I just transferred myself to the cavalry.”

About this time the bugles sounded “forward” and as Sam rode away with the dusty troopers he called out; “Good-bye old company H,” and that was the last we ever saw of him, but I doubt not he rendered good service in the cause for he was not a bad fellow, even if he did prefer cavalry to heavy artillery.



[Pg 133]



City Point, a little insignificant wharf town on a point of land at the intersection of the Appomattox with the James River, about 25 miles from Richmond and seven or eight miles from Petersburg, leaped into world-wide importance in 24 hours in June ’64.

Gen. Grant made his headquarters there until the surrender of Lee and it was the base of supplies for the army of the James, as well as the army of the Potomac.

Think if you can what it would mean to Sackets Harbor, if an army of 75,000 to 100,000 men should make that town the base of its operations against Watertown, and over on the Pillar Point shore was another army half as large.

Do you know what it means to clothe and feed such an army with the bare necessities, to say nothing of what the horses require to live upon or of the shiploads of ammunition that was used in the nine months’ operations?

All had to be transported there by water, so[Pg 134] you can imagine what a vast number of transports filled the river.

Admiral Porter’s fleet of monitors, gunboats and other warlike craft were anchored off Bermuda Hundred in sight of Grant’s headquarters, which was a modest log house on the bank of the Appomattox.

Gen. Grant was the least pretentious general officer in the army and used to walk and ride around with only one orderly with him, and seldom wore any insignia of his rank.

About a mile from his headquarters, towards the front, were the great field hospitals of the army. Large wall tents were used and they covered a vast acreage of ground.

It is not likely that so many sick and wounded were ever gathered together in this country before, and it is to be hoped that there may never be a repetition of it.

Transports left daily loaded with sick and wounded, for as soon as a patient could stand the trip he was sent north to make room for the daily arrivals from the front.

President Lincoln and many other distinguished men were Gen. Grant’s guests at different times, and Mrs. Grant spent most of the fall and winter with her husband.

The cannonading along Butler’s lines as well as at Petersburg could be plainly heard at City Point.

 [Pg 135]


Gen. Grant wanted a railroad for the transportation of supplies and ammunition to the front and he had one built.

There was no pretense of grading; they just placed ties on top of the ground and laid the rails across them.

After the road reached the front it was run along in the rear of the lines and as they were extended the road followed.

The “Johnnies” got a range on the road for a mile or more and they wasted a lot of ammunition trying to hit the flying trains, which were partially protected by earthworks.

They did not run any parlor cars for the soldiers in those days and one day when the writer was the bearer of some dispatches to City Point he rode in a box car with Gens. Horace Porter, Forsythe and other officers of Grant’s staff, and it occurred to him that we were in greater danger than when at the front. After we got out of the car I heard the engineer talking about the flying run and laughing about the shaking up he gave the officers.



Ben Butler was the most unique character of the civil war on the Union side and was as full of eccentricities then as in public life in later years.

[Pg 136]When Gen. Grant started out on his campaign against Richmond in 1864 he sent Gen. Butler with a force of 40,000 soldiers around by water to operate from the south side.

Butler landed his army on Bermuda Hundred, a peninsula that lies between the James and Appomattox rivers and there the confederates hemmed him in, or as Gen. Grant expressed it, “bottled him up” until Grant’s army arrived at Petersburg. Then his intrenched position became of vast importance in the operations against the confederate capital.

The 10th artillery boys, who were with that portion of the army on Bermuda Hundred, will remember Butler’s “Dutch Gap” canal.

The historic James river, from City Point to Richmond, is one of the crookedest streams in the country, and the rebel batteries had command of a seven-mile bend in the river that Butler thought to get around by cutting across lots, so to speak.

The distance across was not much over a half mile, and Butler conceived the idea of a canal. The banks were high and it required a vast amount of labor to make the excavation.

The position was exposed to the fire of the rebel artillery and they kept up an incessant bombardment of the men at work who had holes in the banks after the manner of swallows and when things got too hot they would crawl into their individual bomb proofs.

[Pg 137]Butler did not get his canal finished in time to be of service to the gunboats before the fall of Richmond but I understand it was completed after the war.



One day when I happened to be at City Point a terrible explosion occurred. It was as though a hundred cannon had belched forth. The shock was almost overpowering. The ground trembled and the first thought was that the confederates had in some way gotten a position where they could shell Grant’s headquarters and the hospitals. Looking up we saw a dense column of smoke rise to a great height and then spread out like a parachute and from it fell death dealing missiles in every direction. Some exploded as far away from the landing as the hospitals. Shell flew in all directions. It literally rained muskets, sticks, pieces of iron, etc. When the smoke cleared away the scene from the bluff overlooking the wharves was sickening. Bodies were lying in every direction, blackened and many without heads, arms or legs.

The cause of the accident was a mystery until after the war when on the trial of Werz at Washington a rebel witness confessed that he had done it, making excuse that he had a package for the captain of an ammunition boat at the wharf. He knew the captain was away from the boat so he[Pg 138] left the package containing an infernal machine for him with the fuse adjusted so that an explosion would soon follow.

Among the other curiosities at the Point was a stockade where the rebel prisoners were corralled until they could be sent north. Another stockade was called a “Bull Pen,” where all the deserters, bounty jumpers, bummers and other freaks were kept until their cases could be disposed of.



One morning before daylight in March, 1864, when President Lincoln was at City Point, Lee made a desperate attempt to break the lines in front of Petersburg.

It is said his plan was to capture Fort Stedman and adjacent works, turn their guns on our demoralized troops, capture the railroad running to City Point and destroy Grant’s communication with his army.

Fort Stedman was held by the 14th New York heavy artillery, a regiment with many members from northern New York, and the lines at this point were very close together.

The confederate troops assigned for the desperate work were commanded by Gen. Gordon. Under the cover of darkness they stealthily advanced on the pickets, captured them and made a rush and captured the fort without hardly firing[Pg 139] a shot and took prisoners part of a 9th corps division. The guns of the fort were turned on neighboring forts and the confederate troops pushed forward as far as the railroad cutting the wires that led to Grant’s headquarters. But their success was of short duration for our troops soon rallied and drove them out of Fort Stedman, and the movement proved a failure and a costly one to the confederates.

The next day President Lincoln and Gen. Grant visited the front lines.



Campaigning with the 2d corps in 1864 was strenuous enough to satisfy the most adventuresome. The frequent detours of the command from the rest of the army and the rapidity with which they had been shifted from left to right and right to left caused the confederates to style them as “Hancock’s Foot Cavalry.”

After the direct assaults on Petersburg failed the corps was sent to extend the lines to the Weldon and South Side railroads. Then Gen. Grant sent them north of the James to act in conjunction with Gen. Sheridan’s cavalry in an attempt to break the rebel lines at Chapin’s Bluff on the James river, near Deep Bottom, and after some stubborn fighting, they were ordered back to Petersburg to support Gen. Burnside’s forces at the mine explosion.

[Pg 140]Then after a few days of comparative quiet Gen. Grant planned another moonlight excursion for the wearers of the trefoil.

On August 13, we marched to City Point and embarked on steamers, the destination of which we had no idea of. Many surmised we were going to Washington to assist in driving Early out of Maryland. Probably it was intended to give such an impression to the enemy, for we sailed down the river towards Fortress Monroe, but after dark the steamers were turned about and under the cover of darkness we were carried up towards Richmond, and a landing was effected the next morning at Deep Bottom.

The other troops at that point were the 10th corps and Gen. Gregg’s cavalry. Several unsuccessful attempts were made to break the rebel lines and the second day our troops had to fall back, and in this retreat our brave old color bearer was killed, and the national colors were barely saved from the hands of the enemy by the daring of a young man whose name I cannot recall. The bravery he displayed that day entitled him to a medal of honor and a commission, but he did not get either, although he did live to carry the flag until Lee’s surrender.



After this affair we were returned to Petersburg and without any rest were hurried off to assist[Pg 141] the 5th corps in a demonstration across the Weldon railroad. Several miles of the track was torn up. The ties were burned and the rails piled on the fires. Rations having failed to connect, we subsisted principally on green corn, which was roasted over huge fires.



In the movements to extend the left of Grant’s lines at Petersburg the cavalry always blazed the way, usually preceding the infantry by a few hours. I recall a touching incident that illustrates the devotion that a cavalryman’s horse has for the man who has been its inseparable companion for months.

We found one day a dead soldier lying on the ground and near him grazing was his faithful horse.

The bloated and discolored features of the dead cavalryman indicated that he had lain there for hours. Probably he had been on picket duty when “picked off” by some sharpshooter, and by his lifeless body his faithful and devoted charger had waited for the boy in blue who to his comrades was simply one of the “missing.”



The night of August 24, our corps rested at Ream’s Station a name of which many veterans have keen recollections. In the morning the[Pg 142] pickets reported that the enemy were in force in the vicinity, and accordingly preparations were made to receive them. About 2 p. m. the enemy made an attempt to break that part of the line held by our division, which was then under command of Gen. Nelson A. Miles, but they were repulsed. Later a larger force, backed by 30 or 40 pieces of artillery made a second attempt and succeeded in forcing a portion of the line held by some troops new to the field. The situation was critical, as the confederates greatly outnumbered our troops and the enemy had worked around under the cover of the woods until the attacking force was on our flanks and rear. The affair would have ended disastrously but for the coolness and bravery of both Gens. Hancock and Miles, who rallied the troops and led them in person.

Gen. Hancock’s horse was shot under him, but with hat in hand he called on the officers and men of his old corps to stand by him and drive the enemy off. Ah, but he was indeed a superb officer, and men never desert such a leader.

Among the killed of our regiment that day was George Curtin, the popular leader of the regimental band. This was a fight in which it was all “front” and no chance for the musicians to get to the rear.

After this affair there was a lull in active operations for a while, the picket firing and artillery[Pg 143] duels along the intrenched front furnishing spice enough to relieve monotony.

In the latter part of October we “slewed” around to the left again, the object being to get possession of the South Side railroad. The second corps encountered a large force of the enemy on the 27th on the Vaughn road near Hatcher’s Run, and a fiercely contested battle took place. Portions of the 5th and 9th corps were also engaged.

Gen. Winslow’s regiment, the 186th New York, joined the 9th corps that day and were near enough to hear some of the fighting and get a smell of powder but I believe did not take a hand in the affair.

In November, Gen. Hancock was called to Washington by the secretary of war to organize a new corps for the army, which it was intended should be made up principally of veterans who had served their time and been discharged. The men of his old command who had served under him so long were greatly attached to him and regretted his departure exceedingly.

In a report to Gen. Grant he mentioned among other things the losses of his corps as 25 brigade commanders, 125 regimental commanders and over 20,000 men. Comment is unnecessary.



The army received large accessions of recruits during the fall of 1864. The big bounties had[Pg 144] induced all sorts of characters to enlist. A large per cent. were professional “bounty jumpers,” who were ready to desert to the enemy at the first opportunity.

The 5th New Hampshire of our division, a regiment that had an enviable record as fighters, had their depleted ranks filled up with conscripts, substitutes and bounty takers who deserted in such numbers to the “Johnnies” that their pickets used to joke our men about sending over the colors of the regiment, and one day a huge placard was hoisted on the rebel intrenchments which read something as follows:

“Headquarters 5th New Hampshire vols. Recruits wanted.”

A member of our company while on picket one night shot one of the attempted deserters and as a reward was granted a 30-day furlough.

If a deserter was caught no mercy was shown him.

The penalty was death by shooting or hanging, usually the latter, as shooting was considered too honorable. Scaffolds were erected in the rear of the works and almost every Friday there were numerous executions along the lines.



I recall a story told at the expense of one of the big bounty men who joined us just before setting out on the last campaign. He had hardly a chance[Pg 145] to learn to handle a gun when he was sent out on the skirmish line and pretty soon the “minies” were coming his way thick and fast. His comrade was a son of Erin, and an old “vet” who went before the bounties. The nerves of the big bounty man were getting pretty badly shattered, which was noticed by Pat, who sang out: “I say, there, me laddy buck! How large does your $1,000 look to ye’s now?”

“About the size of a silver quarter,” was the truthful response.

Another incident illustrates the practical manner with which the officers regarded the lives of their men. A veteran captain noticed some of the new accessions to his company needlessly exposing themselves, as he thought, and this is about what he said to them: “Get down behind the breastworks; you cost twelve hundred dollars a piece, and I’ll be d—d if I am going to have you throw your lives away; you’re too expensive!”



[Pg 146]



How many of our readers who are old enough to remember back so far can tell what kind of a winter we had 40 years ago? Probably not more than one in a hundred, unless it be some of the survivors of the army of the Potomac, or the army of the James, for the winter of 1864-5, was one of unusual severity, and there was much suffering among the troops in the trenches before Petersburg and Richmond.

Possibly it may interest some of the present generation to know how the soldiers, who were only provided with little shelter tents, managed to keep warm through the winter months when it was cold enough down there for ice to form on all of the streams.

Usually four men would go in together and build a little hut out of logs, sticks, pieces of boards or whatever they could pick up, chinking the cracks with Virginia mud, which, when hardened, no amount of rain or wind would loosen. The roof was usually made from their tents unless enough split timber could be got to lap one over the other.

[Pg 147]From old barrel staves, small limbs and the same Virginia mud a chimney would be built at the end of the hut, connecting with a spacious fireplace.

On one side a double bunk made from saplings and covered with grass, leaves or hay, over which was spread a blanket with knapsacks for pillows, formed the beds.

It was a credit to Yankee ingenuity to see the devices the men had for conveniences. Candlesticks were made out of bottles or cans filled with sand. Cracker boxes were converted into handy cupboards or tables and little cellars were scooped out from under the bunks.

In the drummer boys’ quarters, drums were used for writing stands and card playing tables, while often a checkerboard would be sketched on the head of the drum and for men buttons would be used, and with plenty of rations we managed to be quite comfortable except when on picket.



The question of supplies is a vital one to an army, and how to clothe and feed the confederate soldiers was a most serious problem to the southern leaders in the last year of the war.

The “Johnnies” with their threadbare clothing and scant rations suffered everything during the cold winter of ’64-5. Of tea and coffee they had none except in their hospitals. The only thing[Pg 148] they had a superfluity of was tobacco, and this they were ready to swap for coffee or anything to eat.

In front of our corps was a strip of woods where the blue and the gray used to meet on friendly terms, cut wood, swap coffee, tobacco, papers, stories, etc.

The reader of this who is of the generation since the war will hardly believe, I presume, that men of the two armies, who had fought each other so hard for more than three years, could meet between the lines without displaying any animosity toward each other, but such occurrences were not rare.

I recall a story about how a “Johnnie” helped a “Yank” carry his supply of wood into the Union lines. The boys were engaged in cooking and when the rebel sniffed the pleasant aroma of Uncle Sam’s old Government Java and other things that were not being furnished by the C. S. A. commissary department, he said: “I’m dog-goned if it don’t seem right smart comfortable here with you’uns and now that I’m here I guess I’ll stay!”

Considering the great privations that they suffered, and the hopelessness of the struggle it is a great wonder that the desertions from their side were not more frequent than they were.



If any of you ever have a father, son or brother[Pg 149] in far distant parts, don’t forget to send him an occasional box of good things from the old home. He may have an abundance, but even then he will appreciate the loving remembrances; but if he is undergoing the hardships and privations of a soldier’s life it will touch his heart more than any other act of your life.

Two of our mess were remembered with a bounteous box of good things the Christmas we were in the trenches before Petersburg. Talk about your banquets! Your Delmonico spreads; your nine-course dinner! They cannot compare with that Christmas feast of home made mince pies, fruit cake, plum pudding, old fashioned twisted doughnuts, raspberry jam and other good things from home.

And even those who were without mother or sister at home received through the Sanitary or Christian commissions many evidences that their devotion to their country’s cause was lovingly remembered by the patriotic women of the North.

Those were stirring days, and even the little children worked for the soldiers. Their little hands were busy rolling bandages, knitting and helping the various “Aid societies.”

Among my wartime keepsakes is the photograph of a little Pennsylvania girl, 10 years old. It came to me in a “Soldier’s Companion” containing needles, thread, buttons and other articles useful to a soldier. The child had made it and tucked a[Pg 150] dainty little note inside with her picture, requesting the recipient to write to her, which I did from the front of Petersburg and received a very beautiful letter in reply.



I have in my possession a portion of an old copy of the “Macon Confederate,” which was obtained on the picket line one day, in which it is stated that, “board at our hotels is $30 per day, which includes three meals and a room.”

“If a man is single and wishes to reside here he can obtain board at a private house for $150 to $200 per month.”

“A family can rent a small house, with a small yard and garden for, from $1,500 to $2,500, according to location.”

“By close economy, subsistence and clothing for one year can be purchased at the market for a family, say of five, for $5,000, so the whole expense will be about $8,000, during the 12 months.”



Another item tells of the presentation of a beautiful sword to Gen. John McCausland of the confederate army.

“The blade is of the best material, and the scabbard beautifully mounted and richly embossed.

On the blade is inscribed: The citizens of Lynchburg to Gen. John McCausland, June 18, 1864:[Pg 151] Embossed on the scabbard is a chalice, and above the word “Retribution,” symbolizing the destruction of Chambersburg by fire which was putting down the poisoned chalice to Yankee lips for the atrocities committed by them in the valley. Below appears the coat of arms of Virginia, and in another place is seen the coat of arms of the ancient Roman Empire.”



[Pg 152]



Grant’s and Lee’s forces occupied intrenchments more than 30 miles in length reaching from Richmond around to the left of Petersburg. The effective soldiers of Grant’s army were about 125,000, including the Army of the James, while Lee’s forces numbered about one-half, but they were veterans, every man of them, for on the southern side there was no expiration of service.

The confederacy was in sore straights. The strenuous campaign of 1864 had put every man into Lee’s army that it was possible to get without robbing the cradle and the grave. The losses the confederates suffered that year could not be made good while the North sent Grant a fresh man to take the place of every one put out of action.

Sherman had marched his army through Georgia, devastating the country, thence up the Atlantic coast, and was, in March, 1864, in North Carolina, only about 150 miles south of Petersburg. Gen. Thomas had cleaned out Hood’s army, and fighting Phil Sheridan had laid waste to the Shenandoah valley and driven the rebels from out[Pg 153] its borders. And then the policy adopted by the north of the non-interchange of prisoners—a policy which, though effective against the enemy caused thousands of brave men to die slowly by starvation in the prisons of the South—kept out of the Confederate ranks men enough to make two armies like Lee’s. The Union forces were well fed and warmly clothed during the winter of ’64-5, while the men in the southern ranks were in rags and on scant rations. There was no hope for the South unless Lee could extricate his army from the intrenchments at Richmond and Petersburg and join his forces with Gen. Johnston’s army and transfer operations farther south.

Gen. Grant learned of Lee’s intentions and forced the fighting before his plans could be put into execution.

The movement commenced March 29. “Phil” Sheridan and his force of cavalry was sent around Lee’s right with the 5th and 2d corps following.

The 6th and 9th corps of the Army of the Potomac, with some troops from Butler’s army, were to hold the lines at Petersburg.

The writer’s regiment was then, as in the previous year’s campaign, with Grant, attached to Hancock’s 2d corps, but that superb commander was no longer its leader, having been called to Washington to organize a veteran corps and Gen. Andrew A. Humphreys, who had long[Pg 154] been chief of staff of the Army of the Potomac, had taken his place. He was an able commander but could never inspire his troops with the enthusiasm of Hancock, yet it is understood he was rated by military critics as the most skillful officer of the civil war.

The weather had been good for several days, but the day the troops began to move a rain set in and it just poured, and as the country was flat and swampy, with the soil a mixture of clay and sand, the roads soon became nearly knee deep with a stiff batter, making it extremely difficult for the men to march, and in places the roads had to be corduroyed to make it possible for the artillery to proceed. The boys good-naturedly made the best of it, and if a staff officer rode by would inquire if the pontoons and gunboats were coming.



On March 29 our regiment struck tents at camp near Patrick’s Station and marched three or four miles, forming a junction with Sheridan’s cavalry, halted near Hatcher’s Run and threw up breastworks; left them late in the day and marched through a dense woods; halted on the other side and threw up more works; advanced at daybreak the morning of the 30th; heard musketry firing about 9; halted and built breastworks again.

About 1 p. m. the enemy opened on us with [Pg 155]artillery, throwing both solid shot and shell; several wounded.

Was routed out before 5 the next morning and made a forced march to reach the 5th corps; halted at dusk and threw up intrenchments. It was truly marvelous to see how quickly troops would throw up formidable earthworks with nothing to work with except bayonets, tin cups and plates and an occasional frying pan, and men did it willingly, too, for although they were so tired they could hardly march farther they knew there was no safety for an army unless they were behind intrenchments.

Heavy firing that night on both flanks; next morning had a lively skirmish about 4; several wounded.

April 2, continued the advance; crossed the South Side railroad; heavy skirmishing on the advance lines; built intrenchments near the railroad.

Although there was constant skirmishing by the troops on the flanks, there was no serious conflict until the 31st, when Sheridan encountered Fitzhugh Lee’s cavalry and “Fighting Phil” is reported to have said he had “one of the liveliest times of his life.”

The same day the confederates delivered one of their furious sallies against Gen. Warren’s 5th corps out on the White Oak road, hurling back in disorder the divisions of Gens. Ayers and Crawford, but Griffin’s division stood firm and Gen.[Pg 156] Miles’ division of the 2d corps, with which our regiment was serving, went to their support and delivered a counter charge on the right flank, causing the enemy to retire to his intrenchments, which were so strong and stubbornly defended that repeated attempts to dislodge them failed.

In the meantime Lee sent Gen. Pickett, who so gallantly led the charge at Gettysburg, along the White Oak road to Five Forks, where he routed a division of infantry and some of Sheridan’s cavalry.



The next day, April 1, the 5th corps and Sheridan’s cavalry moved on the enemy at Five Forks. Gen. Sheridan was everywhere on his powerful, coal black charger. It is said he even swore a little as he told the brigade commanders that “This battle has got to be fought on the double quick.” When the battle line was forming he is said to have ridden among the men and encouraged them with such remarks as, “We’ve got the twist on ’em, boys; there won’t be a grease spot left when we get through.”

At a critical moment when some of the troops wavered because of the hail-storm of bullets, Sheridan grasped his battle flag from the man who carried it and rode forward, urging his men to close up and stand firm. Such conduct inspired the soldiers to a renewed effort, and they charged the enemy and won a splendid victory.

[Pg 157]Gen. Grant celebrated Sheridan’s victory by opening fire on the city of Petersburg with over 100 cannon, and the troops who held the lines in front of the city assaulted the works and pressed back the Confederates, whose only hope was to get safely away from the city and join Lee’s army in its race for life. This was accomplished during the night of the 2d, and the departure of the Confederate troops was effected so quietly that the Union pickets knew not that the enemy were moving till daylight revealed the fact that they had folded their tents and slid away in the night and were miles distant when the Union forces proudly entered the city that had been the bone of contention between the two great armies from June, 1864, to April, 1865.

It was well understood that Lee’s objective point was Lynchburg or Danville, and it was only by ceaselessly marching and hammering away at their weakening lines that Lee’s plans to unite his forces with Gen. Johnston’s were foiled. Phil Sheridan, aided by Gens. Custer, Crook and Merritt, was just the right man for the job, and his unceasing ardor and energy kept things humming and was what contributed largely to the success of the campaign. The only blot on his escutcheon was his ungenerous treatment of Gen. Warren, after Five Forks, which caused Warren’s removal from his command, and the life of one of the bravest and most accomplished officers of the Army of the[Pg 158] Potomac was embittered and he died a few years after the war of a broken heart.

His old comrades, although admiring Sheridan’s splendid qualities, could never quite forgive his treatment of so gallant an officer and gentleman.

The pursuit of Lee was resumed on the 3d. Gen. Sheridan with his cavalry and the 5th corps moved westerly, keeping near the Appomattox river, where they could keep in touch with Lee’s army. Gen. Meade with the 2d and 6th corps followed Sheridan with the same object in view. Gen. Ord, with the 24th corps, Gen. Birney’s colored troops and the 9th corps were to move parallel with the South Side railroad.

No fighting of importance occurred for two or three days after Five Forks, but we did some right smart marching.

The evening of April 5, we were preparing to go into camp for the night when the sound of artillery put us in motion again, and we raced it until midnight. The morning of the 6th, Gen. Meade concluded that Lee’s troops had been slipping around to his left during the night; so he sent the 6th corps out on the Painesville road and we of the 2d by the Deatonville pike.

Couriers had brought word that the enemy was moving in two columns, one under the command of Gen. James Longstreet, and the other under Gen. John B. Gordon.

[Pg 159]Recently, when the death of the two above-named generals occurred so closely together, it seemed almost a suggestion of fatality that these two great leaders who fought all through the war and were Lee’s two arms in the last desperate effort for the “Lost Cause” should have outlived all of the other great generals of the confederacy and then crossed over the river shoulder to shoulder, as it were, to rejoin Lee, Jackson and other beloved comrades.



After going four or five miles, the morning of the 6th, we came out on a ridge, in a clearing, and in the distance could be seen a long column of rebs, moving in almost an opposite direction.

Our division had the right of line, so we could see them very clearly. The boys began to throw their caps in the air and let off a few yells, when word was passed along the line to keep quiet and we obliqued to one side and got out of sight behind the crest of the ridge.

Gen. Miles ordered up some batteries, and they taking position in our front, unlimbered and opened fire on the “Johnnies,” who were crossing a large open field, and there was a column of about a mile long to be seen.

My blood runs quicker as the memory of that day comes back to me with its thrilling incidents.

I see the artillery galloping into position and I[Pg 160] recall the excitement when the first shots were fired and we watched the shells as they dropped among the confederates.

The artillerymen got the range the first time, and there was some right smart “gittin’ away” to the woods, which were in every direction, and the way those greybacks broke for a shelter was a caution, and our men couldn’t help but give them a cheer.

It was understood that Lee had issued orders to all of the division and corps commanders to do as little fighting as possible. The program seemed to be to get away, but when they were cornered they fought with the desperation of men who are being hunted down.



Our troops got orders to “go for ’em,” and it was a running fight until night, the race extending over fifteen miles of country.

They were anxious to save some wagon trains that had supplies for Lee’s army. All day they fought on the defensive, holding the Union forces off long enough for the trains to get out of the way, and then they would limber up their artillery and go flying to the rear and take up a new position a mile or two away, the infantry holding us off until the batteries were in position, when the troops would take shelter under their guns. When we pressed them too close the artillerymen would[Pg 161] give our men grape and cannister, and then yield to the infantry.

Our artillery failed to do much execution that day because the Johnnies would not stand and take it.

The country was swampy and occasionally a wagon would get stuck in the mud and they would have to abandon it.

At one time, when our division was close upon the enemy, we descended a hill that led to a little stream, and on the other side was an elevation where the Rebs had gotten a battery into position.

Our regiment was in the first line of battle, and when the battery commenced firing we had got so far down the hill that the artillerymen could not depress their guns enough to reach us; but the reserve line that was on higher ground suffered severely.

The creek where we struck it was fringed with a vine that formed a perfect network. The vines were tough and would not break, and there was no way to crawl under or go over; so the men cut through with jack knives.

It happened that the rest of the brigade did not encounter the obstruction and were ready to advance when our regiment was tangled up in the vines. Being in the center the delay was noticed. Finally a staff officer, one of those slick fellows with red sash, riding gauntlets and plenty of gold braid, rode down on the opposite bank and called[Pg 162] out, “What in h—ll is the matter with the 2d New York, and where is the commanding officer?”

Col. Hulser (he was then a major) looked up from under an old slouch hat, the rest of his uniform being no better than the privates, and paid his respects to that dude of an officer in language that was highly tinctured with brimstone. The regiment formed in line on the south bank exposed to a fierce artillery fire, and the boys noticed that the dandy officer from the general’s staff ducked his head low on his horse’s neck quite frequently, while the old major, who was always ill at ease on dress parades and reviews, sat his horse, amid the screeching shells like a bronze figure.

When Hulser had gotten his regiment lined up to suit him he said to the officer, “In ten minutes the 2d New York will capture that rebel battery unless they limber up and get out of our way.” Drawing his sword he gave the command, “Forward, guide center, double-quick,” and away went the men with a rush, for everyone probably felt that they would like to show the officious staff officer that they were no cowards. But when the Johnnies saw that glistening line of bayonets moving down on them they pulled up and ran away.

The enemy had another battery in position about a half a mile away, and they did some rapid firing for the “Lost Cause;” but some of our troops got after them on the flank and they pulled up and ran again. A comrade has told me that he[Pg 163] saw a man killed by a shell that day and the shell did not touch him. It passed close to his head and the concussion killed him instantly.

The troops in our front were Gen. Gordon’s and about 4 o’clock they made a determined stand, as our troops were pressing them so closely they were in danger of losing their train of supplies.

Our regiment was in some second growth pine woods and the rebels behind a rail fence on the other edge of the woods, and through the trees the moving wagons could be seen.

The order came to “charge,” and Gen. Miles’ old first division went for the enemy with a rush and some cavalry on the flank went after that train.

The fighting was general and things became badly mixed up. The teamsters lashed their horses and tried to get away, but many cut the traces and abandoned their loads.

The Confederates tried to hold the opposite side of the train and used the wagons as a shelter, and the combatants banged at each other through the wagons.



A comrade of my regiment who was in the immediate ranks that day, says:

“Where we struck the train a rebel brass cannon was stuck in the mud. Two rebs were on one side of it tugging away at a wheel trying to turn it on our lines. Two of our regiment grabbed the other[Pg 164] wheel and tried to turn it the other way, but it was so firmly imbedded in the mud that neither side could budge it. The blue and the gray glared at each other and finally Pat Devereaux of the 2d heavy, spoke out, “Say Johnnie, lave your hands off that gun, I tell ye!” and the reb retorted as follows: ‘Go soak your head, Pat. I wouldn’t dirty my hands with you, I’ll get my nigger to attend to your case.’ Just then Pat grabbed the rammer to the gun and went for the Johnnie in true Irish style, saying as he brought the rammer down upon his enemy: ‘I can whip the bist man in your measly gang. You’re nothing but a dirty lazy lot of slave drivers. Out of this, I say!’ and the Johnnie went, leaving Pat the victor. And that is how Private Devereaux of the 2d helped take one of the four cannon captured by the 2d corps that day.”

In these days if such an act of heroism were performed, it would be heralded all over the continent, but such occurrences were too common in those exciting times, besides each regimental commander did not have two or three war correspondents at his elbows for the purpose of writing up his achievements.

The operations of our corps that day are summarized by Gen. Humphreys as follows: Captures of the corps, 13 battleflags, 4 cannon, 1,700 prisoners. Killed and wounded of the 1st and 2d divisions (the 3d division not reported), 311.

[Pg 165]Gen. Mott was among the wounded. The enemy’s killed and wounded largely exceeded our own and the loss of the wagon train must have caused much suffering among the Confederates.

In addition to the battleflags, cannon and prisoners, our brigade captured over 200 supply wagons.



Among the prisoners captured that day was a rebel brass band, and they were allowed to retain their instruments. As the column of confederates were marched along the roadside, which was lined on either side by the Union forces, they were headed by the band, playing their national air of Dixie.

The scene was an impressive one. They were prisoners of war, bleeding from wounds, faint and famished, ragged and nearly barefoot and their last hope gone, but as the familiar strains of the music floated back over the line their faces brightened, their steps quickened and they marched as they had marched many a time behind their beloved leader, Gen. Lee.

Our men had too much respect for these brave men to jeer at them. The brave invariably respect the brave, and as the soldiers of the “Lost Cause” passed the veterans of the second corps all were silent and respectful, except for an occasional burst of applause which manifested itself by the clapping of hands.

[Pg 166]It was very evident to the most pessimistic that the confederacy was on its last legs and that night when our boys were carrying rails to build breastworks, Billy Cook, the first sergeant of our company, who had gone all through the war without a scratch, made the remark that the “jig was about up with the Johnnies,” and the next day Bill fell pierced by a rebel bullet in the last fighting of the war.



That night the boys had a great time going through the captured wagons. There was a “heap” of plunder in them. A paymaster’s trunk with upwards of $400,000 Confederate money was found and it was divided up among the men. One man secured Gen. Mahone’s grip with his commission as major general and other papers and dressed himself up in the coat, sash, etc., that had been worn by the distinguished Confederate. One of our boys secured a five-gallon jug of rebel commissary, and he and a comrade stuck a musket barrel through the handle and slinging it over their shoulders marched around among the exhausted soldiers and told them to “fall in for rations.” If anybody ever needed a little whiskey it was that very time and it was amusing to see them take their turns at the jug. No one was allowed to take any away, and in order to draw a ration the jug must be pushed up from the[Pg 167] bottom and the nozzle tipped downward while a “swig” was taken.

The men reveled in broiled ham, beef, bacon, onions, pickles, toasted hardtack, and other luxuries that were found in the wagons.



There was pity mingled with our rejoicing that night for in many of the captured wagons were wounded Confederates. Poor fellows! Many of them lay with wounds several days old, the bandages dried up and dirty, some too weak to raise their heads, hungry and thirsty and needing so much nourishment and attention that we could not give them. It is at such a time that one is brought face to face with war without any of its gold plating.

My sympathies were stirred as they had never been before as a little boy, scarcely 16 years old, was lifted out of a wagon. A handsome boy, notwithstanding his face was bronzed and dirty, and his cheeks sunken. He had beautiful dark, expressive eyes and looked up so appealingly into our faces as my comrade and I bent over him and asked what we could do for him. He, too, was a drummer boy and had been wounded two or three days before. We got our surgeon and had his wound dressed and gave him stimulants and a little food, but he was very weak, “all marched out,” he said, and was afraid that he would not see his[Pg 168] old Carolina home again. We bathed his face and hands with cool water and his lips quivered and tears coursed down his cheeks as he faintly whispered of his widowed mother.

We, too, were “marched out” and had to lie down and have rest but before leaving “Little Gray,” as we called him, two boys knelt by his side and repeated the Lord’s prayer that had been learned at a mother’s knees. In the morning the little confederate from the Palmetto state was dead, and we buried him on the field with his comrades.

’Twas war—real genuine war.



It is understood that Lee’s chief officers held a meeting the night of the 6th and counseled him to surrender, but he had not abandoned all hope and the next morning the rebel army began again the desperate race for life. They crossed the Appomattox river at High Bridge and set fire to the same to prevent pursuit. But the 2d corps were so close after them that our men reached one end of the bridge as the rebels were leaving the other.

Gen. Mahone’s troops contested the passage for a time, but Gen. Miles ordered a battery into position and after a vigorous shelling the rebels let go of their end and our troops crossed over and pushed on after the enemy.

Lee’s army was now on what may be termed a[Pg 169] neck of land formed by the James and Appomattox rivers.

The Army of the James had come up and were pressing them on one side, the Army of the Potomac on the other, while Sheridan and his cavalry had gone around south to try and close the outlet.

As soon as our corps got across the river the pursuit of Lee continued out along the old Appomattox stage road.

About one o’clock in the afternoon, the First and Third Division came up with the enemy near the Appomattox stage road, where they had gone into position to oppose our advance. Poague’s Battery opened upon us, and made things lively for just as we passed an open field the shells began to fly through the woods in our front, and as we approached the edge of the woods the skirmishers opened upon the head of the old First Brigade.

Just at this moment orders came directing us into line on the left of the road, and before we had completed the movement a battery galloped into position in the rear of the Second New York, and Bang—bang—bang—whiz—hum—buzz—boom—boom—boom—crack—whir—crash, whang—while the old Second responded with a cheer and its facetious cry “lay down!”

The 61st New York and 26th Michigan were immediately deployed as skirmishers and advanced into the woods driving the Johnnies before them[Pg 170] over a little ridge of ground. Our line of battle, the 2d New York in the center, the 5th New Hampshire and 81st Pennsylvania on our left and the 183d and 140th Pennsylvania on our right advanced close up to the ridge while the skirmishers were pushed well up against the enemy to develop the position.

It was soon learned that all that was left of Lee’s army was in our front well intrenched and provided with plenty of artillery.

Gen. Meade had sent word for the 6th and 24th corps who were near Farmville, to cross the river and attack Lee from that side with a view of crushing his army. Lee had, however, destroyed the bridges, the Appomattox was too deep to ford, the pontoon trains had not got up, consequently the two corps mentioned were unable to render the Second any assistance, else it is more than likely that Appomattox would not have become famous in history.

While waiting for assistance the Second corps did considerable maneuvering. About 5 o’clock firing was heard in the direction of Farmville which Gen. Humphreys assumed was the 6th corps. He immediately contracted his left line and pushed out on the right intending to flank the enemy if possible.

The execution of the movement left our division face to face with Gen. Mahone’s and Gen. Anderson’s troops who were formed in close column[Pg 171] supported by Poague’s ten gun battery, who were in a position that enabled them to give us (as the boys used to express it), h—ll with grape and cannister trimmings thrown in.

Our regiment came to a halt in a dense growth of small pines and waited for orders. Some of the officers went out in the edge of the woods to look around and as they came back Capt. Mike Foy danced a little jig as he said: “Boys there’s another wagon train for us over behind the rebel lines.” Poor, brave Foy, who had fought his way up from the ranks, little realized that he and scores of others would go down in less than fifteen minutes.

Our brigade had the right of line and were the first to advance across an open rolling field in full view of the enemy. The troops came to a halt in a little ravine and the bugles sounded “Fix bayonets!” Then an advance was made and when about 50 rods from the enemy the bugles sang out “Forward—double quick, charge!”

The cheers of our men were answered by the rebel yell, the real old genuine “Ki, yi, yi, yi!” that all veterans remember so well. Then a tongue of flame leaped from all along their intrenchments, and all other sounds were drowned with the roar of cannon, the crash of musketry and the whizzing and screeching of grape and cannister.

Some of the troops reached the enemy’s works in the face of tremendous odds and fought to the[Pg 172] death. But they were unsupported by other troops as well as artillery, consequently they had to retreat. The 5th New Hampshire had all of their color guards killed after reaching the rebel intrenchments and lost their colors, but they were recovered by the 81st Pennsylvania.

History makes but little mention of the battle of Farmville, as events of greater importance followed so closely, but the participants know that troops never fought more valiantly than did Lee’s soldiers in their last effort when they repulsed the assault of the veterans of the 2d corps.



[Pg 173]



Sergt. Robert Cline of our company, who carried the New York State colors after saving the flag, found that a comrade had been left wounded near the enemy’s intrenchments and he heroically faced about and amidst the whistling bullets went up near the rebel works, found his friend and brought him into the lines across his shoulder. This little incident is only one of thousands illustrating what one comrade would do for another.

The casualties of our regiment in this affair were: Six killed, 67 wounded and 74 missing, and some of the other troops’ losses were greater.

It has always seemed very sad to me to think of the many brave men who gave up their lives with the surrender of Lee in sight. Among the officers killed on our side was the brave Irishman, Gen. Thomas A. Smyth, who had long been one of Gen. Hancock’s gallant officers.

Those who were taken prisoners were recaptured two days later at Appomattox, and a sorry looking lot they were. Every thing of value and[Pg 174] much of their clothing had been taken from them and they had been hustled about pretty severely. Their rations had been appropriated by their hungry captors, and they fasted till they got back into their lines.

Comrade Albert V. Rogers, a member of my company, who was a prisoner the last two days of the struggle, says, that all the Rebs. gave him to eat was some corn he stole from a mule. Rogers was at this time suffering from a gunshot wound in his leg.



This letter was sent through the lines of the 2d corps that evening while we were in contact with the enemy, the troops being but a few hundred yards apart. There was a truce of one hour and inside of that time Lee’s reply came back.

During the night the enemy abandoned the works in front of our corps and at 5 the next morning the bugles of the 2d corps again sounded “Forward,” and Gen. Humphreys, our commander, was instructed that any negotiations pending were not to interfere with the operations of his corps.

Early in the forenoon, Gen. Grant’s second letter was brought to Gen. Humphreys by Gen. Seth Williams, Grant’s adjutant general, and it was sent through the lines of Gen. Fitzhugh Lee’s cavalry, who were on the rear of the confederate columns.

[Pg 175]We continued the pursuit all day, covering a distance of over 20 miles, and about dusk, as we had halted for a rest, a rebel officer brought Lee’s reply to Gen. Humphreys, who sent it by a courier to Gen. Meade, then several miles in the rear.

The next morning Grant’s third letter to Lee was sent through the skirmish line of the 2d corps, and all this time Gen. Humphreys, mindful of his instructions, kept advancing and pushing back the thin line of wearied confederates, which called out a protest from Gen. Lee, who sent an officer twice during the forenoon requesting a halt. Gen. Humphreys sent back word that his orders were such that he could not comply.

Gen. Longstreet’s corps was scarcely 100 yards from our skirmish line and Gen. Humphreys issued orders for an advance upon them. Artillery was being placed in position. The commanders of the contending forces were watching the movements on either side, couriers and staff officers were riding to and fro, and just about the time the ball was about to open Gen. Meade appeared at the front and after issuing orders to suspend operations sent a messenger to Lee granting a truce of an hour, pending the negotiations for the surrender.



The officers who delivered Grant’s last note found the confederate chieftain stretched out on a blanket under an apple tree near Appomattox[Pg 176] court house. The famous tree was removed, bit by bit, and for a long time the writer carried a piece of it as well as a splinter from the floor where young Ellsworth fell in the Marshall house at Alexandria, Va. It is understood that a tablet marks the spot where the tree once stood that shaded the vanquished leader.

The officers mounted their horses and rode to the court house, where, meeting a Mr. McLean, Gen. Lee told him that they desired the use of a room in some house, and Mr. McLean invited the party to his home. Later the party was joined by Gen. Grant and other distinguished generals from both sides.

The two great leaders exchanged reminiscences of their service under Gen. Scott in Mexico, after which the formalities of the surrender were gone through with. When Gen. Lee had signed his name to the terms of surrender it is said that with tears in his eyes he whispered in Gen. Grant’s ear “General, my poor men are starving,” and Grant, like the great modest man and soldier that he was, motioned to his side the general of subsistence of the army of the Potomac and quietly told him to “issue, immediately rations to the army of Northern Virginia.”

Gen. Lee rode back to his troops to tell them what he had done and the next day issued his farewell orders.

The parting of Lee with his soldiers at [Pg 177]Appomattox was most pathetic. Tears were streaming from his eyes as they crowded around him begging for a last word and to touch his hand. When he could control himself enough to speak, he said, between sobs, “Men, we have fought through the war together. I have done the best that I could for you.” It is said there was not a dry eye among those who witnessed the sad leave-taking.



Gen. Grant’s greatness never shone to better advantage than in the generous terms accorded his conquered foes, and his modesty and consideration for the feelings of the confederate soldiers was such that he never paraded himself among them during the preparations for the formal surrender.

When the surrender was announced the Union soldiers, shouted, hurrahed, danced and manifested their joy in all sorts of boyish pranks, but it soon passed off, and as they beheld the ragged, starved, wearied and sad-eyed veterans who had followed Lee into the last ditch their joy was turned to pity and sorrow and the blue divided with the gray their rations and they drank coffee from the same tin cups and water from the same canteens!

When the papers were all signed and paroles given the confederates and the Union forces formed in line and faced each other. The veterans of Lee advanced until there was but a few yards of space between the lines.

[Pg 178]“Halt! right dress! front!” was the command from their officers.

The Union forces presented arms, the vanquished returned the salute like men and soldiers, stacked their guns, unbuckled their battle-scarred equipments, furled their tattered flags and laid them tenderly across their stacks of muskets, wiped the tears that many of them shed on their coat sleeves and went their way to take up life anew, but never to bear arms against our glorious Union.

“Stack Arms!” In faltering accents slow
And sad, it creeps from tongue to tongue,
A broken, murmuring wail of woe,
From manly hearts by anguish wrung,
Like victims of a midnight dream!
We move, we know not how or why!
For life and hope like phantoms seem,
And it would be relief—to die!



[Pg 179]



The armies of Grant and Sherman turned their backs on the South and took up their line of march for Washington, where they had been ordered to report for a general review and muster out. We passed through Richmond and retraced our steps over much of the same ground that had been fought over the previous year, and all along the route were reminders of the terrible struggles between the two great armies.

Earthworks that had swarmed with soldiers were now deserted. Everywhere there were bleaching bones of horses and men; grinning skulls, disabled artillery caissons, rusty sabres, bayonets, gun-barrels, canteens, haversacks, weather-stained clothing and mounds of earth that marked the resting places of many whose army record was closed with the single word “missing.”

We were a jolly lot, however, realizing that our battles, hardships and marches were about over.



One day on our return march, when the troops[Pg 180] had halted for rest, my comrade suggested that we make a reconnaissance and see if we could not find a little something in the eating line to vary the monotony of coffee, hardtack and “salt hoss.” Back from the roadside we espied a comfortable looking house and we made a “bee line” for it.

In the doorway stood a woman who returned our salutation of “good afternoon, madame,” with “Go right away from here, Yanks, you’ve killed my boy, Tom, and I don’t want to ever look on a blue coat again.”

We expressed sympathy and assured her our mission was a peaceful and honorable one, we wanted something to eat and had good money to pay for it. At this point in the conversation a fine looking man came to the door. He was dressed in a faded butternut colored uniform and on the collar of his coat we noticed the insignia of a Confederate colonel. He gave us a military salute and said: “Come right up here on the veranda, men,” and turning to the woman said: “These soldiers are not responsible for our Tom’s death; ’twas the fo’tunes of wah, and my deah wife, you must remember that all ovah the nawth mothers are weeping for their boys that are sleepin’ under Virginia sod. These are some of the 2d corps boys, that divided their rations with the 2d corps C. S. A. at Appomattox. These are some of Gen. Hancock’s men that treated me so chivalrously at Gettysburg.”

[Pg 181]“You see, boys,” he continued, “our Tom was a sergeant in my company when we went into that fight, and was mortally wounded that day in the wheatfield.

“When our line fell back I couldn’t go away and leave my poor boy with his life fast ebbing out, so I jes’ stayed and holding his head on my knee listened to his last message for his mother and then laid him away under the sod, and of cose was yo’ah prisoner. But no southern bo’n man ever performed a more knightly act than did one of yo’ah generals that night when he sent me back to our lines under a flag of truce.

“We are comin’ out of this war poor, and if you’ll excuse the expression, d—d poor, but as long as I’ve got a scrap I’ll share it with a man with a red clover leaf on his cap.”

As the colonel told his story tears coursed their way down his bronzed cheeks, and the two boys, whose emotional natures were not easily stirred had great, big lumps in their throats. For the first time in many months we sat down at a table to eat a meal. If there was scanty fare there was abundance of genuine hospitality of a warmth that is so characteristic of the southern people.

When we took our leave the colonel called black Joe and told him to “tote” our luggage “down the pike,” and on the way we suggested to the darkey that now he was free we presumed he would be leaving the old place and perhaps enlist in some[Pg 182] colored regiment and wear fine clothes with brass buttons and other fixings. “No, suh, boss, spec I allus stay right yere. I lak Massa Lincum soldier mens, and I’se much ’bleeged to ’em, but I lak my ole massa an’ missus a heap bettah. An’ den when Marse Tom went to de wah—Tom an’ I useter run roun’ bare-foot when we’s little—I promis him I allus stay with his mammy an’ as Tom can nevah come back any mo’ I reckon I’se boun’ to stay yere.”

At another house we met a sharp-tongue woman who said:

“Yo’uns could nevah have whipped Bob Lee if he’d had half as many men as yo’uns. We’uns could outfight and outmarch you bluebellied Yanks every time.”

She informed us that she had lost two sons by the war and that her husband was then in a southern hospital laid up with his third wound, and her eyes snapped as she said she wished she could have given a dozen boys to the “cause.” We admired the grit of this Spartan like mother and regretted in our hearts that the war had borne down with such crushing weight on the gentle sex of the South.



One night our brigade went into camp near Spottsylvania court house, and in the vicinity of the “bloody angle” where the hardest fighting of[Pg 183] the war occurred. Here 11 months before the 2d corps made a charge more desperate than that of the “light brigade,” the percentage of killed being more than double that in the battle made famous by Tennyson. Here the rebel infantry were massed in double lines with the artillery supporting them in redans. Hancock’s veterans charged them in open field and were victorious, capturing about 4,000 prisoners, 20 pieces of artillery, thousands of small arms, 30 stands of colors with Gens. Johnson and George H. Stuart among the prisoners.

It was here that the celebrated tree was found that was completely severed by bullets. Gen. Miles, who had been a brigade commander at the “angle” and who was then our division general, caused the stump to be dug up and conveyed to Washington where it was exhibited at the grand review and was afterwards placed in the war department. The tree measured about 20 inches through.

The armies reached Washington about the middle of May, and in most cases the organizations were allowed to pitch tents on their old camping grounds. It was almost like getting back home again. The only sad feature was to think of the many who had been with us there before who had since answered the last roll call.



[Pg 184]



The assembling of the armies at Washington was for the purpose of marching them in review through the nation’s capital before mustering them out of service.

As Grant’s and Sherman’s troops numbered too many for a one day review, the former were given precedence and May 23 was fixed as the day.

We left our camps in Virginia at an early hour and crossed over the long bridge into that part of the city east of the capitol where the troops were massed ready to move when the hour should arrive.

The signal gun was fired at 9 a. m., and the victorious hosts took up their line of march down the avenue, past the reviewing stand at the White House, thence to Georgetown and back to Virginia by the Aqueduct bridge.

The city was thronged with patriotic people from all over the country, many coming a thousand miles or more to see a father, brother, son or lover in the ranks of that mighty army that was so soon to vanish away.

[Pg 185]The 2d corps did not pass the reviewing stand until afternoon and as we swung into Pennsylvania avenue a most grand and inspiring sight met our eyes. Every house top, balcony, window, tree and telegraph pole were black with people, and the street was a seething mass of humanity. Through the center, like a silvery stream coursing its way through a landscape, was a mile of glistening bayonets, waving flags and prancing steeds who had smelled the smoke of many battles. Everybody was thrilled with the sight, and as we marched down the avenue the music of the bands was drowned by the huzzahs of the throngs. Whenever a tattered battleflag appeared ladies rushed forward and strewed flowers before the standard bearers and loaded them and the color guards with wreaths and bouquets. Even the drummer boys came in for a share, and I felt then, as I do now, that it was a grand thing to have earned the right in whatever modest rank, to march with 100,000 veterans with the scars, smoke and dust of scores of battles upon them.

It took nearly all day for the Army of the Potomac to pass the reviewing stand which was filled with many of the prominent people of the country.

An incident of the review was the running away of Gen. Custer’s horse, which became unmanageable in the parade and ran past the reviewing stand with the dashing general in the saddle and his red neck tie streaming out over his shoulders. After[Pg 186] the steed was subdued the general rode back to the reviewing stand and saluted the dignitaries and was heartily cheered. Every soldier who marched in that parade was impressed with the wording of a motto that was stretched across the front of the United States treasury. It read, as near as I remember:

“The only debt we can never pay is the one we owe our brave soldiers and sailors.”



Sherman and his veterans were reviewed the following day and the enthusiasm of the preceding day was repeated. The writer was a spectator and noted a marked difference in the appearance of the two armies. The Army of the Potomac had been “slicked up” a little for the occasion, and their marching was much better. Gen. Sherman expressed contempt for a paper collar on a soldier and the multitudes saw Sherman’s army go through Washington just as they had marched to the sea.

“Sherman’s Bummers” were an amusing feature with their trophies gathered along the march through Georgia and the Carolinas, consisting of mules, donkeys, oxen, cows hitched to plantation carts, and negro contrabands of all sizes and ages arrayed in costumes, quaint and ridiculous.

Immediately after the review the work of disbandment of the armies began and every day[Pg 187] troops were sent north and the sword was laid aside for the plowshare.



I read last night of a Grand Review
In Washington’s chiefest avenue—
Two hundred thousand men in blue,
I think they said was the number—
Till I seemed to hear their tramping feet
The bugle blast and the drum’s quick beat,
The clatter of hoofs in the stoney street,
The cheers of the people who came to greet,
And the thousand details that to repeat
Would only my verse encumber,—
Till I fell in a revery, sad and sweet,
And then to a fitful slumber.

When, lo! in a vision I seemed to stand
In the lonely capitol. On each hand
Far stretched the portico; dim and grand,
Its columns ranged, like a martial band
Of sheeted spectres whom some command
Had called to a last reviewing.
And the streets of the city were white and bare,
No footfall echoed across the square;
But out of the misty midnight air
I heard in the distance a trumpet blare,
And the wandering night winds seemed to bear
The sound of a far tattooing.

Then I held my breath with fear and dread;
For into the square with a brazen tread,
There rode a figure whose stately head
O’erlooked the review that morning,
That never bowed from its firm-set seat
When the living column passed its feet,
Yet now rode steadily up the street
To the phantom bugle’s warning.

Till it reached the capitol square and wheeled
And there in the moonlight stood revealed
[Pg 188]A well known form that in state and field
Had led our patriot sires;
Whose face was turned to the sleeping camp,
Afar through the river’s fog and damp,
That showed no flicker, nor waning lamp,
Nor wasted bivouac fires.

And I saw a phantom army come,
With never a sound of fife or drum,
But keeping time to a throbbing hum
Of wailing and lamentation;
The martyred heroes of Malvern Hill,
Of Gettysburg and Chancellorsville,
The men whose wasted figures fill
The patriot graves of the nation.

And there came the nameless dead—the men
Who perished in fever-swamp and fen,
The slowly-starved of the prison-pen;
And marching beside the others,
Came the dusky martyrs of Pillow’s fight,
With limbs enfranchised and bearing bright;
I thought, perhaps ’twas the pale moonlight—
They looked as white as their brothers!

And so all night marched the Nation’s dead,
With never a banner above them spread,
Nor a badge, nor a motto brandished;
No mark—save the bare uncovered head
Of the silent bronze Reviewer;
With never an arch save the vaulted sky;
With never a flower save those that lie
On the distant graves—for love could buy
No gift that was purer or truer.

So all night long swept the strange array;
So all night long, till the morning gray,
I watched for one who had passed away,
With a reverent awe and wonder,
Till a blue cap waved in the lengthening line,
And I knew that one who was kin of mine
Had come; And I spake—and lo! that sign
Awakened me from my slumber.
—Bret Harte.



[Pg 189]



After the grand review, our regiment was ordered back into the forts again around Arlington.

It was not until October, 1865, that we marched down Pennsylvania avenue for the last time to take the cars for home. Our regiment had gone to the front 18 months before, 1500 strong and notwithstanding the fact that the 9th New York had been consolidated with us we were going home with but 500 men.

At the Baltimore & Ohio railroad depot, in Washington, a pathetic incident occurred. A dozen or more of the regiment who were yet in the hospitals came down to see us off. Among them were three or four one-legged men and as many minus an arm. What must have been the feelings of these men who had to be left behind, maimed and crippled for life?

Our regiment being principally from New York City we were sent there for disbandment and were quartered in some barracks at the battery for a couple of days.

[Pg 190]One afternoon we marched up Broadway as far as the City Hall, where we were reviewed by the governor of the state and the mayor of New York.

The city had sent us a new stand of colors the year before and we were returning them, battle-scarred and tattered. My blood runs quicker as I recall the enthusiastic reception we received that afternoon from the crowds that lined Broadway.

Here and there was a group of veterans who had preceded us home. The old 63d, 69th and 88th New York regiments—Thomas Francis Meagher’s Irish brigade, with whom we had served in Hancock’s corps—and when any of these boys recognized us they went wild. There are two characteristics about an Irishman that I like. He is never lacking in enthusiasm or bravery.

After the review the regiment was ordered to proceed to Hart’s Island, where it was to be paid off and disbanded. We went by boat, and an amusing episode occurred as the regiment was marching aboard.

Big Ed. ——— of the band, who played one of those old-fashioned big brass horns reaching back over his shoulder about three feet, and which could be heard to the foot of the line of a brigade, had been out with the boys seeing the sights, and it is possible may have been a little unsteady of foot. At any rate, he took two or three steps backward when he marched on the boat, and in doing so missed the gang plank and dropped into[Pg 191] the cool waters of the bay. He came up clinging to his horn and called lustily for help. The colonel and a couple of deck hands succeeded in landing him, horn and all.

The last man was finally aboard. The gang plank had been hauled in. The boatmen were casting off the big heavy ropes that held us to the dock, when a voice from shore shouted “Hold there!” The voice was that of a big, burly policeman. Behind him was a woman holding by one hand a boy of about 5 years of age, his curly golden locks floating out from under a little blue soldier cap. On the other side was a sweet-faced little girl.

“What’s wanted?” yelled the captain from the upper deck.

“Is Sergt. Thomas Burke on board?” replied the big policeman.

“Blast my eyes if I know,” retorted the captain “And I’ve no time to find out, either. You can settle your little business with him some other day,” probably thinking the sergeant had been out on a lark.

Burke’s comrades had found him in the meantime and he came to the side of the boat, and as he caught sight of the party, he said with a voice choked with emotion.


“Oh, Tom!” responded Kate.

“Let me off the boat!” shouted Tom.

[Pg 192]“Too late,” replied the captain.

The big wheels of the steamer were churning the water when our colonel, who had been attracted by the loud talking, appeared and asked what was the matter.

Burke, tall, straight and every inch a soldier, but pale and thin from the effects of a wound received in the last fighting, saluted his superior and said:

“’Tis my wife and children, colonel, that I have not seen in almost three years.”

“Tie up your boat again, captain,” said the colonel.

The captain ripped and tore and mentioned between oaths that he wasn’t taking orders from any army officers “not even Gen. Grant himself.”

Col. Hulser was furious and pulling his revolver he commanded the captain to reverse the engines and run out a gang plank.

The captain muttered between his teeth, touched the engineer’s bell and the gang plank again bridged the space between boat and dock. Sergt. Burke walked off, clasped his wife to his breast in a passionate embrace, then took a child on each arm, turned and faced his comrades, who had, sympathetically, been looking on, and they sent shoreward a mighty cheer.

“Bring your wife and little ones aboard!” shouted the colonel.

They came and went with us to Hart’s Island.

[Pg 193]Mrs. Burke explained to the colonel that they had come from Tarrytown, or some other town up the Hudson, because “Little Mac” (named after Gen. George B. McClellan) had begged so hard to come and see his papa with the soldiers he had fought and marched with.

Mrs. Burke, Little Mac, and the sweet little blue-eyed sister saw the last dress parade of the 2d Heavy, and Sergt. Thomas Burke stood in line with his comrades.

It was certainly a grand privilege to go all through a great war and be permitted to come home with one’s own comrades. To be present at the last roll call. To hear the clatter of the bayonets as the battle-scarred muskets are stacked for the last time. To see the furling of the tattered colors that one has followed for four years. To hear the last command of the officers, the last tattoo and the final “taps.”

There never was such another bugler in the whole army of the Potomac as our little Gracey. Small of stature, gentle by nature, but a marvel with his trumpet. I have told in a former chapter how at Cold Harbor, after sounding the charge for Gen. Hancock’s troops, he sat down by a tree and wept like a child when he saw the lines of mangled, bleeding men returning.

Gracey was at our last dress parade at Hart’s Island, New York, and after the parade the guns were stacked for the last time, and then Gracey[Pg 194] sounded “taps” or “lights out” as it was always called in the army. The call is one of the sweetest, yet saddest of all the army calls and on this occasion our old bugler seemed to breathe his very soul into his trumpet, for the tears were trickling down his cheeks while strong, bronzed men who had walked up to the cannon’s mouth on many a famous battlefield were not without emotion as they broke the ranks for the last time and bade farewell to their old comrades.

My father and I got out of the old stage coach at Carthage two days later, and as we alighted he remarked that it was just four years to a day since he had left for the war, and I found that my services figured up over three years and a half.



[Pg 195]





James Tabor and Dennis Garrity were about the last two soldiers that would have been taken for chums. Garrity was a great thick-chested Irishman with brawny arms and a roistering sort of manner who had served through the Crimean war and knew more of tactics in the first year of the Civil war than half of our officers.

Tabor was scarce more than a boy, a slender, palefaced youth, mild of manner and gentle of speech as a girl.

Tabor’s mother had given him a little pocket Bible when she kissed him good-bye, and, unmindful of the jeers of his comrades, he read it every evening and knelt and offered up a silent prayer before wrapping himself in his blanket.

When the first death occurred in our camp we had no chaplain. Tabor was called upon to read the burial service and make a prayer. After that some of the boys tried to tease him by calling him “parson.”

 [Pg 196]


Away up in York state there was an old-fashioned flower garden with roses, hollyhocks, sweet-williams, larkspurs, marigolds, lady-slippers, pansies, violets and other emblems of purity and the simple life. The boy had loved that old garden, so when it came summer he had a little reminder of it with a box of pansies by the side of his tent.

One day a soldier who had been drinking just enough of the sutler’s beer to make him think he was smart came along, and as he passed Tabor’s tent he gave the box a kick, upsetting it. Garrity saw the act, and he took the smart chap by his coat collar and shook him as a terrier would a rat.

A crowd gathered and then Garrity proceeded to read the riot act to those assembled.

“Look a’here, my hearties,” said he, “I’m going to give you young devils some advice, an’ you’ll be doin’ well to mind what I be sayin’. I want you young blackguards to be very careful how you thrate this lad hereafter. No more pokin’ fun at his religion, ’twould be better if all of you had some of the same.

“I’m none too good meself an’ ought to be counting me beads oftener than I do, but I likes fair play, and be that same token I’ll see that James Tabor has it or me name is not Dennis.

“So now, me laddy bucks, if you don’t like what[Pg 197] I’m sayin’ you can put it in your pipes an’ smoke it.”

This little episode was the beginning of a strange and tender attachment between Tabor and Garrity that lasted to the close of the war. They tented together, slept under the same blanket and drank from the same canteen—except when Garrity’s had some of Uncle Sam’s commissary in it, for Dennis, like many an old campaigner, liked a little whisky.

The boys called Tabor “Jim” or “Jimmie,” but it was always James when Garrity spoke of him. When Tabor wanted his comrade it was: “Have you seen Mr. Garrity?”



Among the recruits that came to our regiment in the winter of 1862 was a squad of 25 or 30 Indians from the Onondaga reservation. Among them was a fairly good brass band. The officers had no business to enlist them, and they were all discharged in a few months.

They were with us one pay day, however, and managed to get some firewater. Then they went on the war path and there was “blood on the moon” and they indulged in war dances that were the real thing. One “big Injun” was discovered crawling under the back of the colonel’s tent. He was armed with a sabre bayonet which had been sharpened for[Pg 198] the express purpose of lifting the hair of that officer.

They dared all the white men to fight them, and, finally, a young buck rubbed up against Garrity, who gave him a slap on the side of his head that sent him spinning. This led to a challenge to fight and the affair was arranged to take place in the fort late in the afternoon.



A ring was formed, and the men stripped to the waist and turned their pants pockets inside out to show that they carried no concealed weapons. Garrity whipped the Indian in less than two minutes. Then another red man pulled his shirt over his head and strode up in front of Garrity, who gave him his medicine in short order. Then another wanted to try his hand and was given a chance and was quickly vanquished.

Perhaps you will think me yarning, but it is the truth that our Dennis whipped four strapping Onondagas and was ready for more when his little guardian angel slid into the ring, and, taking Garrity by the arm, led him away as though he had been a child.

It was a wonderful influence this little boy had over his great, strong comrade.

Garrity loved a strenuous life and wanted something doing all the time if it was nothing more[Pg 199] than tossing the colonel’s darkey up in a blanket or tipping over the cart of a pie peddler.

He could play cards behind the breastworks with the shells screeching over his head or joke a comrade on the firing line.

In this connection I am reminded of an incident at the opening of the second Bull Run battle. The regiment was in line of battle nearly two hours in the morning without firing a shot. The artillery on both sides were pounding away at each other, and the strain on the men’s nerves was something intense. A certain lieutenant who had incurred the dislike of his men by his pompousness in camp duties thought that before going into battle he would make peace with the boys, so he walked along in front of the company and said: “Now, my men, we are about to meet the enemy for the first time and it is more than likely that some of us will never see the sun rise again. In my position it has become my duty on various occasions to criticise and reprove, but I hope you will understand that I meant it for your good. I can assure you, that I have a warm place in my heart for every one of you, and if any man in the ranks feels the least ill will towards me I beg of him to put it away out of his heart as we stand here facing our foes.

“I have a further request to make and that is, if I fall in this fight, and it is possible for you to[Pg 200] do so, that you will have my body embalmed and sent home.”

There was not a response for a minute or two and then Garrity spoke up: “The boys don’t mind forgivin’ you, leftenant, but if I may be pardoned the observation, the facilities for embalming the dead on a battlefield are devilish poor.”

That same lieutenant covered the distance between Bull Run bridge and the outposts near Alexandria before taps were sounded that night, and being a large man, he stripped for the race and those who saw him at the finish claimed that a shirt, trousers and a pair of socks were all that were left of his former showy uniform and equipment.

His name? Well, the boys of the regiment who read this will know and it does not matter to the rest whether it was Smith, Jones or Brown.

Gen. Lee surrendered his army to Gen. Grant the 9th day of April, 1865. There was skirmishing right up to the last minute, notwithstanding the fact that negotiations were in progress for 24 hours, but the last hotly contested battle that occurred between the forces was on the afternoon of the 7th, when the second corps of the army of the Potomac came in contact with the bulk of Lee’s army on the old Lynchburg stage road.

They were intrenched on the crest of a long slope of open ground and Gen. Miles’ division was ordered to attack. The old first division of the[Pg 201] second corps had been in the habit of sweeping things when they went for the enemy, but in this last fight they were repulsed by the desperate confederates, who, though they were weary and nearly famished, fought with the desperation of a hunted animal brought to bay.

It was in this encounter that the subject of this sketch received the wound that nearly cost him his life.

Gen. Miles’ troops after reaching the works of the enemy had to retrace their steps and leave their dead and wounded under the guns of the enemy.

When our regiment re-formed again every one was looking around to see who was missing and it was then that Dennis Garrity discovered that Tabor had been left behind.

He would go back and find James, he said, and no entreaties would stop him.

“Dennis Garrity will bring that poor boy in or he’ll lay out there on the field with him,” he said, and Dennis went, with the bullets and shells flying and brought in his “little James” on his back, fully a half a mile, and took him to the field surgeons and had his wound promptly attended to, which probably saved his life.

Dennis was with us in the final review when we marched down Pennsylvania avenue in the grandest and most impressive pageant that ever took place in this country.

Tabor was lying on a cot in a hospital.

[Pg 202]We marched back to our Virginia camp that night, and as the men were unbuckling their equipments Dennis looked up and said: “’Twas a bloody shame that James wasn’t with us to-day.”



Down the picket-guarded lane
Rolled the comfort-laden wain,
Cheered by shouts that shook the plain,
Soldier-like and merry;
Phrases such as camps may teach,
Sabre cuts of Saxon speech,
Such as ‘Bully!’ “Them’s the peach!”
‘Wade in Sanitary!’

The names of women do not figure in the official reports of the war. They were not gazetted for gallant deeds; thousands were unknown beyond the neighborhood where they worked zealously to organize “Soldiers’ Aid Societies,” for no town was too remote from the scene of action not to have its relief committee who were constantly collecting comforts and necessities to be forwarded to the front.

What each family first started out to do for their own fathers, brothers, husbands and lovers soon became general, and many prompted by love and patriotism left home and its comforts and went down into the very edge of the great battles to help rescue the wounded. They endured hardships and proved themselves angels of mercy as only women can.

[Pg 203]Tens of thousands of maimed veterans will remember with tenderness the noble women who ministered to them on the battlefield, on transports and in hospitals.

I am sure that none of Hancock’s old corps will ever cease to remember the motherly Mrs. Husband, Miss Clara Barton, Mrs. Lee, Mrs. Anna Holstein, Miss Cornelia Hancock, a relative of the general; Miss Willetts, or Mrs. Barlow, wife of Gen. Francis C. Barlow of the 1st division.

The story of the army life of the last named woman is full of interest and romance. She was a true friend of the men in the ranks, and her purse was frequently opened to give money to some wounded soldier who was being sent to some northern hospital without a cent in his pocket.

She followed her husband’s troops through the unequaled and appalling scenes of blood and hardship in Grant’s campaign of ’64, using her strength so that she finally sickened and went home to die in a few months. If ever there was a pure noble woman it was Mrs. Barlow.

I heard an incident of a lady going among the wounded at Spottsylvania. Seeing a pale-faced boy whose helplessness had touched her heart, she stopped by his side and said: “Is there anything that can be done for you, my poor boy?”

“No, thank you,” was the reply, “but there’s a fellow at my left that you might help,” pointing to an ashen-faced man dressed in confederate gray.

[Pg 204]“He’s a rebel,” she said, “and there’s thousands of our own boys that need attention.”

“That’s so,” the boy in blue said, “but he is far from home, helpless and among the enemy, and is somebody’s boy and if he is a rebel, he’s an American.”

The reb feigned sleep, but he had heard every word, and when the woman kneeled down by his side and commenced to bathe his face and hands with bay rum the tears began to steal out from under his eyelashes and he finally burst right out crying. This was too much for the tender heart of woman and she cried, too, and rough men about them who had marched up in front of flaming guns the day before wept like children.



The sutler was a prominent person in war times. He sold everything, from a molasses cookie to butter, at 80 or 90 cents a pound.

When the boys did not have the money they would get an order on the sutler from their captain, and the amount was charged up against their pay. The sutler would issue tickets in various amounts from 5 cents up.

The business was very profitable and many made fortunes. The soldiers used to regard the prosperous sutler with envy, but he is never heard of now, and I do not know of one who makes claim[Pg 205] to having assisted in saving the Union in that capacity.

I remember our first pay day in Virginia. Our colonel thought it would be a fine thing to give the men a three days’ holiday, so after dress parade he made a little speech about as follows:

“My poys, I vas browd of you and I vas goin’ to gif you a tree day holiday. There vill pe no drills, no parades, no notting but fun. Haf a good time. Pe good poys and after it vas all ofer we vill go after that Sheneral Shackson and lick him like h—l.”

As the sutlers all sold beer in the early part of the war, there was pretty hilarious times for three days.

Peddlers of all sorts used to infest the camps about pay day and more than one “pieman” got his cart upset during Col. Von Wagner’s “three days’ grace.”

In the summer of 1862 gold and silver went to a premium and got pretty scarce. It was before the “shinplasters” were issued and postage stamps were used largely in lieu of small change. I remember one day I was over among McClellan’s troops, and as I was passing a wagon where ice cream and soft drinks were dispensed, I heard some loud words and pretty soon someone cried out, “Over with the wagon boys,” and over it went. The vendor claimed that someone had been treating a large crowd to everything he had to sell and[Pg 206] then offered in payment stamps that had been once used on letters. Of course the boys took offense at an imputation on their honesty, hence the capsizing of the cart.



A lieutenant of our regiment who was captured at the second Bull Run, was returned to us some months later. We were then doing garrison duty near Arlington. Our company was at a fort named “Haggerty,” which had been built on a little hill on the road leading from the Georgetown bridge to Arlington.

The roadway had been dug through the hill leaving the banks for a long distance on each side, from 10 to 40 feet above the road.

An old dry canal ran parallel with the road from the bridge to Alexandria.

The next day after the lieutenant had been returned to the regiment he obtained leave to go over to Washington for the purpose of supplying himself with a new uniform, and it is more than likely that he celebrated his release from captivity by visiting numerous places where liquid as well as other refreshments were dispensed. He did not return to camp until evening, and the night being dark and the officer not being familiar with the lay of the land he started up the bed of the old canal instead of the road. When opposite the fort he heard the drummers beating the tattoo and he[Pg 207] made a sharp turn to the right and headed in the direction of the sounds.

After going a few rods he walked off the bank and dropped about 30 feet into 15 inches of soft Virginia mud. We heard cries of help interspersed with oaths and other remarks that would have done credit to a pirate captain. A light was procured, a crowd gathered and one of the men asked what was the matter. The voice was recognized and out of the depth came the response: “Its me sergeant and for God’s sake come and help me out of this hole.” Three or four of the men went to his rescue and when the party came up the pathway they were greeted by a large crowd headed by the captain, who inquired of the officer how it happened that he was down there in the road.

The lieutenant presented a ludicrous appearance, bare-headed and in his mud bedraggled uniform as he saluted and explained: “You see Cap’n,” said he “I lost me latitude and longitude when I left the bridge.” The captain laughed. The men shouted and ever after that he was known as “old latitude and longitude.”



In a regiment of 1,000 men it is not to be wondered at that there are some few who are deficient in the qualities that make good soldiers.

Perhaps they had enrolled their names because they had been carried away by the enthusiasm of[Pg 208] a “war meeting” where it was always pictured out as being an act of heroism to volunteer. Then the chances of promotion and the opportunities to see the country were always depicted in their most glowing colors by speakers who in most cases were very careful to not put their own names down. After the recruit has become an atom of a thousand he realizes that he is not of as much consequence as he expected to be, and it is not strange that now and then there was one who had not the “sand” to stand up like a man and be just as good a soldier as he could. In that case he resorted to all sorts of ingenious devices to procure his discharge from the army.

In the summer of 1862 our surgeon—we used to call him “Old Symptoms”—was puzzled by the numerous cases of fever sores that he had to treat; finally he “got onto” their game by the accidental discovery of a man wearing a copper penny bound on his leg for the purpose of producing one. “Weak heart” was frequently feigned by a candidate for discharge and all sorts of deceptions were attempted on the surgeons, who had to be pretty good judges of human nature in order to detect the true from the false.

The case of a man in our regiment, whom we will call Jackson, baffled the cunning and skill of “Old Symptoms” when we were in the forts near Fairfax seminary. Jackson pretended to be out of his head and the officers got so they did not [Pg 209]exact any duties of him, not even to answer roll call. He came and went and did as he had a mind to. Near the fort was a large farm which he pretended he had bought and he used to spend most of his time down there working and ordering about the men, who humored him in his notions. Finally his case was passed upon by a board of surgeons and his discharge ordered. As he was leaving camp for home one of the boys asked him what he was going to do with his farm and he winked as he replied, that he thought the Watkins family could run it without his help.

I recall the case of another young man who became demented. He would not eat or leave his tent unless driven out. His clothes and person became filthy and finally the old surgeon ordered two men to take him to a stream and give him a good scrubbing in almost ice cold water, for it was in a winter month.

The treatment was severe but had the desired effect of arousing his manhood and from that day he was a changed person and soon became a model soldier, noted for clean gun, equipment, etc., and I am pleased to add was finally made a sergeant and served to the end of the war with honor.



When Frederick Funston swam the little Filipino river in the face of a handful of cowardly natives, the act was heralded all over the world[Pg 210] as one of great heroism and he was rewarded by a general’s commission, yet I venture to say that there is hardly a civil war veteran, who saw active service, but that has knowledge of numerous equally as heroic acts that were scarcely known of outside of the man’s own company or regiment.

Scarcely a gathering of veterans but has more than one hero among them whose fame has been forgotten except but for a few of his comrades, and the chances are that the man has had hard work to get the government to recognize his claim to a pittance of a pension to keep him out of the poor house.

I recall an incident of great bravery by an officer of our regiment who went to the war as a bugler in my company. In December, 1864, a part of the 5th and 2d corps, and Gen. Gregg’s division of cavalry were sent to the left again to try and turn Lee’s right flank. The weather was intensely cold for that country, ice forming on all of the streams.

The enemy were encountered at Hatcher’s Run and it was desired to dislodge a confederate battery that was masked in some woods on the opposite side of the stream. A staff officer rode down in front of our regiment and asked Maj. Hulser if he could furnish men to cross the stream and charge the battery. The major called for volunteers and the first man to respond was Capt. Orlando T. Bliss of Co. F, a former Carthage boy,[Pg 211] who with the missiles flying thick and fast stepped out in front of his company and asked all who were willing to go with him to step ten paces to the front, and when every man of the company lined up with their captain the 2nd heavy applauded the act with a hearty cheer.

Additional volunteers were called for and Capt. George Armes (now Major Armes, retired, of Washington, D. C.), and his company responded.

It seemed a hazardous undertaking but the men did not falter as they waded into the icy cold water which was up to the armpits of most of them and in many places there were deep holes, so that not a few had to swim, but once across the stream they made a rush for the battery and the rebel artillerists took to their heels.

The suffering of the soldiers was great that night, as it was bitter cold and the clothing of those who forded the stream would have frozen on them only that the men built fires and stood around them.

Gen. Miles commended the conduct of the men in general orders and the two officers were breveted for their gallantry.

In this connection I cannot refrain from relating a little episode in the army experience of Capt. Bliss in which a certain drummer boy was mixed up.

It was earlier in the war and our regiment was doing duty at Arlington.

[Pg 212]Bliss was a corporal and had charge of our drum corps. One day the acting drum major and a certain lad of my acquaintance thought they would go over to Washington. When they applied to the adjutant for a pass he told them they would have to defer their visit until some other day, as he could not issue any more passes that day, but who ever knew a boy that would put off a pleasure until to-morrow that he could have today. The two boys had friends in the quartermaster’s department who had standing passes to go after supplies, and it occurred to them that they could borrow a couple, which they did, and went to the city, visited the theatre, and had a fine time.

Not having the countersign they had to return before dark, and as they walked up to the sentry box at the end of the bridge on the Georgetown side, who should step out with the sentry but our adjutant.

It is needless to say that the boys were surprised and the officer admitted he was also. He inquired if they had passes and when they were produced he took them and sent the young volunteers over to the fort under arrest.

Shortly after noon the next day the sergeant major took the youngest lad over to the colonel’s tent where he listened to a severe lecturing, after which he was made to do penance by standing on the head of a barrel four hours in the sun. Say,[Pg 213] but the end of a barrel is a pretty small space to stand on for that length of time with the sun up in the nineties! Among the orders read on dress parade that night was one reducing Corp. Bliss to the ranks.

But a more fearless man never shouldered a musket and shortly after we went to the front Bliss had won his stripes again. At Cold Harbor he was made a sergeant, at Petersburg a lieutenant, at Reams Station a captain, at Hatcher’s Run brevet major and if the war had lasted long enough and some rebel bullet had not caught him he would have been wearing a star.



As I passed a man in City Hall park, New York, late one afternoon not many years ago I instinctively felt that I had known him. He was sitting on one of the park seats and the particular thing that arrested my attention was a red clover shaped badge that was fastened on the lapel of his coat. To one who was with Hancock at Gettysburg or followed his lead from the Rapidan to Appomattox, tender memories are evoked when the old 2d corps’ badge is seen.

Whenever I see a man with the talismanic emblem on I just feel like taking off my hat to him. So after I had passed the New York veteran I thought to myself I should like to know [Pg 214]something of his history. I wheeled about, retraced my steps and approaching him saluted and said, “How are you, old 2d corps.”

It does not take long for two veterans to get acquainted and the exchange of a few words revealed the fact that we had been members of the same regiment. In fact it was none other than “Pete” Boyle, a member of our old 2d heavy drum corps.

One of the first things “Pete” said was, “Do you remember that Maryland fair?” I certainly did and will try and tell the readers something about it.

It was just a town fair and not on a very large scale either, but it was held in a beautiful and prosperous settlement a few miles from Washington and the people all turned in and made the most of it and had a glorious time. The drum corps of the 2d New York was engaged as one of the star attractions.

It all came about because our adjutant married a daughter of Mrs. E. D. E. N. Southworth, the famous writer of those old-time fascinating Ledger stories, such as the “Hidden Hand,” “Ishmael,” etc., etc. Her home was in Georgetown and she, having friends out in the country, where the fair was to be held had told marvelous tales of the dandy drum corps of the 2d and as a result we were excused from camp duties and allowed to go to the fair, drink[Pg 215] red lemonade and dance with the pretty country maidens. We thoroughly enjoyed the respite from camp life and made the most of our two days’ stay with the Marylanders.

Did you ever go out into a peach orchard in the early morning and eat the luscious fruit that had dropped off in the night? “No?” Well, then you have never tasted the true flavor of a peach. The house where we were quartered was flanked on three sides by a peach orchard and we got up in the morning, went out and sat under the trees and stowed away peaches enough to stock a fruit stand.

Pete Boyle was the largest boy of the drum corps and he was a born swell. His home was New York. He had been a newsboy in the Bowery district. He was a clog and jig dancer equal to many of the professionals and when it came to sparring and wrestling he was the champion lightweight of the regiment.

After Pete had taken part in one “Virginia reel” which gave him the opportunity to show off some of his fancy steps he could have had anything he wanted from those Maryland farmers, and the girls, why they were just falling over each other to get a chance to dance with him.

As I have stated, Pete was a swell and would never wear government clothes without having them cut over and made to fit, and he would not[Pg 216] hide his shapely No. 5 foot with a government brogan.

The girls were all watching Pete from out of the corners of their eyes, but it was noticed that one in particular was his favorite and that he danced with her quite frequently, which was not looked upon with favor by her Maryland escort who was big enough to eat Pete up.

The morning of the second day while we were out in the peach orchard a darkey approached our party and asking for “Mistah Boyle” handed Pete a note which after looking over, Pete read to us. It was in substance as follows:

“Mr. Peter Boyle:

I thought you might like to know, being as you are a Union soldier, that the young lady you have been paying so much attention to is a secesh sympathizer and has a brother with Mosby the rebel guerilla. A word to the wise is sufficient.


Of course I am not giving the real name that was signed but it will answer for the purpose of this article.

Pete called the darkey, gave him a quarter and said, “You can go and tell Joe Yardsley that I said that if he was half a man he would be with Sue’s brother. Tell him that I think he is a sneak and a coward and if he will come over in the grove about 5 o’clock this afternoon I will slap his face.”

The darkey showed his white teeth, scratched[Pg 217] his head and digging his big toe in the sand said, “I reckon I bettah not tole dat to Joe. Dem Yardsleys got a powerful temper, dey hab, an’ dey boss all de young fellahs’ roun’ yere.”

“All right, Sam,” said Pete, “You tell him just what I told you.”

That afternoon Pete and Sue were inseparable. They made themselves conspicuous everywhere.

The darkey brought Pete another note during the day and it simply said, “I will meet you in the grove. J. Y.”

Of course all of us boys went over with Pete and the Marylander brought three companions.

The two principals stripped to the waist and I confess I was fearful of the result when I saw how much larger Pete’s antagonist was than he.

When they got the word Yardsley made a spring at Pete who dropped his head and butted the big fellow below the wind and slid him over his back. He got up and came furiously at our Pete again. But he knew a lot of Bowery tricks and quick as a flash stepped aside, caught him around the neck, whirled him around and threw him, slapped his face smartly and then let him up. The fellow rushed at Pete again, who now thought it about time to quit fooling, and he landed a good hard blow on the fellow’s nose and mouth which staggered him and made the blood fly.

The spectators on both sides thought that the affair had gone far enough and called for a cessation[Pg 218] of hostilities. Pete offered to shake hands with his antagonist, but he declined and went away muttering threats.

That evening we started for our Virginia camp in a large carry-all accompanied by a bevy of young people on horseback. They rode with us a couple of miles and then bade us good night and good bye, and as we drove away we heard them singing, “Maryland, My Maryland.”

When I sat down to write of my old comrade it was to tell of two deeds of heroism performed by him and not of his adventures at a country fair, but when I unrolled my knapsack of war memories, the incidents narrated came tumbling out with the rest so I have jotted them down.



A drummer boy of our regiment who was carrying a musket was wounded and left between the lines. There were many others of our comrades there, too, but somehow to us drummer boys who had beaten the reveille and tattoo together and tramped at the head of the regiment so many long and wearisome marches, the thought that one of our number was lying out there in the blazing June sun suffering not only pain but the terrible agony of thirst, stirred our sympathies to the uttermost and we longed to go to his relief, but dared not for it was like throwing one’s life away to show himself over the breastworks.

[Pg 219]It was late in the afternoon that Peter Boyle, “our Pete,” suggested a plan by which our comrade was rescued. Pete cut three or four scrub pine trees which abounded there and proposed that he and a couple of others should use them as a screen and go out between the lines.

“Why not wait till dark and go?” someone asked. But then it was feared he could not be found.

The bushes were set over the breastworks one at a time so as not to attract attention and as there were many more growing like them they were probably not noticed. When the evening twilight came on Pete and two others crawled over the breastworks and got behind the trees. Each had a couple of canteens of water for they knew that there would be many to whom a mouthful would be so very acceptable.

The three boys crawled and wriggled themselves toward the rebel lines shielded by the trees. Their movements necessarily had to be very slow so as not to attract the attention of the enemy. The ruse was well planned and executed, but fraught with much danger. They found their comrade and had to lie behind their shelter until darkness concealed their movements, and then the wounded comrade was brought into the lines and his life saved.



Boyle performed a more heroic act at a New York fire in the Bowery a few years ago.

[Pg 220]One afternoon a fire broke out in a block, the two upper stories of which were used as a “sweat shop.” Boyle was playing the drums in the orchestra of an adjoining theatre. He, with others, ran up on to the roof and saw scores of girls who had been working in the burning building, running frantically around the roof. The flames had cut them off from the lower part of the building and they had gone to the roof, but as the block was higher than all of the adjoining ones except the theatre and that was separated by the space of several feet, it seemed that they were lost and many flung themselves in despair to the street.

Boyle took in the situation instantly and calling to his aid two men they wrested an iron fire escape from its fastenings on the theatre and with it bridged the space between the buildings.

Pete then laid a board on top of it and finding that many of the girls dare not cross, he took a rope with him, and went over on the burning building, threw one end back to his helpers and then compelled the girls to walk over the bridge, using the rope as a hand rail. His bravery and nerve saved the lives of very many who but for him would have been lost.

He was the last one to leave the roof of the building and was so badly burned that he had to go to the hospital, and when I met him that day in the park he was just getting around again.

Peter Boyle probably never attended a Sunday[Pg 221] school in his life, but I am glad that my faith is of the kind that helps me to believe that when the Book of Life is opened there will be found a balance to his credit.



While attending a G. A. R. encampment at Washington not many years ago, a party of us thought we would run over to the sleepy old town of Alexandria one afternoon.

Grass was growing in the streets and the town had a deserted appearance, all so very different from war times, when thousands of soldiers were in and about the city. Among other places of interest we visited was the little church where Washington used to worship. Sitting on the steps was a dusty, grizzly, crippled man of 60, munching a dry crust of bread. He was dressed in a threadbare suit of gray, and we knew he was a southerner, but as we passed into the church he gave us a military salute.

When we came out he was still nibbling away, trying to find the soft side of his bread, and one of our party ventured the remark that “dry bread wasn’t much of a meal.”

“That’s so, but when rations are low and the commissary wagons are to the rear, you’ve got to fill up on what you can get. I’ve camped longside of dry bread and water more’n once.”

“Going anywhere?”

[Pg 222]“Well, I reckon I be if my old legs don’t give out. Got a brother over on the Eastern Sho’ of Maryland and I am marching that way.”

“Were you in the war?”

“I reckon I was, boys, but on ’tother side. Ah, but I can shet my eyes and see jist how Gineral Pickett looked when he led us agin your 2d corps, (he had noticed the red clover leaf pinned on our coats) over at Gettysburg on that 3d of July. Say, Yanks, but ’twere bilin’ that afternoon. How one of us got back alive is more’n I can tell.”

The survivor of the “Lost cause” had by this time forgotten all about his rations. He was living again in the past. Like a tired old war horse at the sound of a bugle, he had risen from the steps and the light of battle flamed in his eye as he continued:

“Yes, boys, I was right there with Pickett—not coolin’ coffee back under the wagons, or I wouldn’t hev got two of your bullets in me, nor been jabbed with a bay’net trying to get over the stone wall near that clump of trees. Lord, but I thought I was a goner sure.”

We acknowledged it was a hot place.

“Hot! Well I reckon I got ’bout as near old satan’s headquarters that day as a live man can. When 37 out of a company of 50 are snuffed out and a half a dozen of the others wounded you may reckon we thought you’uns were going to wipe we ’uns out.”

[Pg 223]He now tossed his crust away with a look of contempt and, grasping his hickory stick with a firm grip, followed us to a nearby restaurant, where we invited him to a good square meal, after which we smoked our cigars while the survivor of Pickett’s charge continued his narrative as he sipped a generous glass of apple brandy.

We held our breath waiting for the signal guns that were to let us know when the ball was to open.

The regiments fell in just like clockwork, lots of the boys lookin’ white round the gills, and not a word was spoken above a whisper except as the commands were given. Attention! Forward! and we went down across those fields, with Pickett leading on horseback and every company dressed as though we were marching in a review.

“Boom! Boom! You’ns let ’em all off on us at once. Say, Yanks, the screamin’ of the grape and cannister was awful, and they just cut wide swaths in our ranks, but we didn’t quit—did we—until we were all cut to pieces?”

“We were close to your lines when I got a bullet in my leg and as I stooped over to see where I was hit my shoulder caught another. That made me fighting mad and I tried to go over the stone wall when one of them Irish brigade fellers chucked his bay’net into me and that laid me out so that I was off duty awhile.

“But dog-goned if I didn’t get back just in time to run up against your old second corps again[Pg 224] at Spottsylvania. Kinder seems we couldn’t git away from you’ns. But, comrades, I ain’t got nuthin’ agin you.

“Say, that ‘bloody angle,’ reminded me of Gettysburg. The bullets made basket stuff of the small oaks, and large ones, too.”

“And when we charged up against them log breastworks you fellers would jest reach over and jab us with your bay’nets.”

“My, but your man Grant was no quitter, was he? We thought we were going to drive you fellers back ’cross the Rapidan, as we had done many times before, but Ulysses jist shut his teeth down tighter on his cigar and kept moving by the left flank.

“But our Uncle Robert wasn’t caught napping anywhere, was he? When you tried us at the Pamunky river, Totopotomy, North Anna and Cold Harbor, you found us ready for you every time. Say, old second corps, we got even with you fellers at Cold Harbor for the way you had treated us before. Didn’t we?

“But I’m dog-goned if U. S. G. knew when he was whipped, and, instead of going back and restin’ up as the others useter do, and come out in the spring with new uniforms and guns a-shinin’, why he jist tried another left flanker on us and brought up at Petersburg, where it was nip and tuck for a long time.

“You could get plenty of men and money and[Pg 225] we had got the last of the boys and their grandfathers months before and were busted in everything but grit. We knew the jig was up, but were goin’ to die game, and when you rounded us up at Appomattox the last ounce of corn meal wer’ gone.”

The veteran’s eyes were moist as he expressed thanks for his entertainment and said he must be “marchin’ on.” We suggested that he would probably find his brother in Maryland, settle down and forget his hardships and battles.

“Forgit nuthin; why I’d rather lose my arms than to forgit how Gen. Pickett looked that day as 5,000 men behind him marched to death. When you keep step with a man down to the jaws of death and go back alone, if you forgit him ye are not fit to crawl! But, I ain’t anything agin ye, Yanks; ‘All is quiet on the Potomac’ now and if I git in comfortable quarters over in Maryland should like to have you boys come and camp with me a week and eat some of them luscious Eastern Sho’ oysters, canvas backs and fat terrapin.”

As we shook his hand we pressed a few silver quarters in the palm and when he started away he turned and with a husky voice said:

“Good bye, old second corps; I’m dog-goned if I’ll ever forgit you’ns.”



Not many years since I spent a night with a[Pg 226] comrade in his home in a city of central New York and we sat and smoked and talked, and talked and smoked, until long after midnight. The walls of his den were adorned with guns, sabres, canteens, cartridge boxes and belts and various other war relics. Conspicuously displayed among the other decorations was a battered and blackened coffee pot.

“Yes,” he replied in answer to my inquiry, “it is the same old coffee pot I carried from Washington to Appomattox and is one of my most cherished keepsakes.”

“About the time we went to the front I was in the city one day and knowing that a coffee pot was a very useful utensil to a soldier I invested in the best copper bottom one that I could find. There was not another one in the company and money could not buy one when we were in the field. Six of us regularly made coffee in it, and others used to take turns in borrowing it for various purposes, such as cooking rice, beans, meat, boiling shirts and the making of those famous old ‘Liverpool stews’ when we were fortunate enough to get an onion, two or three potatoes with hardtack, pepper and salt.”

“Many a batch of flap jacks have I stirred up in that old coffee pot, paying the sutler 25 cents a pound for self-rising flour. The ears and handle got melted off after a time, but I punched holes where the ears had been, hooked the bale in and[Pg 227] so it lasted to the end. My wife wanted to scour the black off, but I wouldn’t have it.

“Why, it took the smoke of more than a thousand camp fires to put that finish on it!

“I thought once I had lost it. You remember the day we had that running fight at Sailor’s Creek when we were chasing Lee and waded the stream waist deep? The banks were steep, you know, and fringed with bushes that got tangled with our equipments as we went through them. Well, somehow or other my coffee pot got pulled off my haversack, but I did not know it until we had got some distance away, when one of the boys who used it regularly, exclaimed: ‘By thunder, Will, you’ve lost your coffee pot, and what in Sam Hill will we do for coffee now?’”

“I remembered having it when we crossed the creek, for several of us used it to fill our canteens, so I told my pardner I was going back after it. I found it hanging to a bush and was better pleased than if I had picked up a hundred dollar greenback.”



Just why the 2d New York did not have a chaplain I do not know, and it is too late now to find out. Probably the officers didn’t want one or else there were not enough to go around among the 2,000 or more organizations in the service, for we were not the only regiment without one.

[Pg 228]There were some grand men who served as chaplains and they not only ministered to the soldiers in spiritual matters, but looked after the welfare of the men in many ways. Particularly were they of service to the wounded on the battlefield. I never heard of a cowardly chaplain and instances are not few in number where they were wounded or taken prisoner. There were also several killed in battle.

Speaking of a regiment not having a chaplain, reminds me of an old camp fire story about two New York regiments between which existed great rivalry. An earnest and eloquent chaplain was conducting a series of meetings among the regiments that were without chaplains and he went to the colonel of one of the regiments referred to and asked permission to hold divine services. The colonel told him it would do no good. “The truth is, chaplain, the boys are the devil’s own fighters, but I am afraid you would find it a tough job trying to make saints out of them.”

The chaplain insisted he should like to hold a service and mentioned incidentally that he had preached several times to the ——d New York and there had been a number of converts. “Why only last Sunday I baptized a dozen of them.”

At the mention of his rival the bluff old fighter was interested and immediately gave his consent.

The Sunday following the regiment was drawn up in a hollow square and the colonel told the men[Pg 229] that he had invited chaplain “so-and-so” to preach to them and then added: “If one of you dares to make faces, laugh or even move I’ll order you to the guard house with ball and chain.”

The men were all attention during the preaching and when the chaplain had finished he was surprised to hear the colonel give the following order to the adjutant:

“Officer, detail 24 men for baptism immediately. I’ll be d—d if we are going to be beaten in anything by that dirty, cowardly —d New York.”



The lonely picket on an outpost between two vast contending armies occupies an important position. Great responsibilities rest upon him, hence the penalty of being found asleep on one’s post used to be death.

The situation is conducive to serious meditations. You stand in the shade of a tree which screens you from any reb who may be crawling about for a shot at some careless Yank.

The moon sends a beam through the leaves right into your eye, and you recall that it is the same old moon way down in Virginia that used to shine up in York State. You think how you and some one else who is far away used to lean across the gate, look at the moon and then at each other and sigh.

Then you wonder if some one is thinking of you.[Pg 230] You wish you might get a slight wound so you could go home where all would be talking of your bravery. Perhaps it would touch some one’s heart so she would say “yes.”

Then you would think of your present condition; you wonder why it is that such a fellow as lazy Jim Lee should be “commissioned” instead of you, who never “shirked” a guard. You pronounce the war a failure, and would like to see the leaders on both sides hung. You wonder if your regiment will get into another battle to-day, and say to yourself that you don’t care if you get killed (you do though), and then you think of your poor comrade “Dave,” who was killed at your side yesterday morning in a charge on the enemy in that clump of “pines” over there at the right. You put your hand in your pocket and draw forth the lock of hair you cut from his head when his life’s blood was ebbing away, and which he told you to send to his “dear old mother.” You brush the silent tear away that has commenced to course its way down your dust covered cheek.

Then from out the half-light sounds a solitary bugle, like the first wavering note of the roused bird, chirping good morning to its mate. A second bugle answers its reveille. Another and another sound along the line. The drums take up their morning rattle. Soon the air is filled with their deafening jubilee, for they beat with a perfect recklessness at the “get up” time of the camp. The[Pg 231] hum of voices begin to rise. The roll call is gone through with. Mules whinner and horses neigh. The camps are alive. The birds sing, and—it is day. There comes the “relief guard.”



The following is the copy of an old letter yellow with age, that was sent home during wartime.

“In the trenches near Petersburg, Va.
“Sept. 14, 1864.”

“My Dear Friend:

Having a little leisure time I thought I would send you a few lines.

You are aware that I am attached to the 2d N. Y. Heavy Artillery, or as the infantrymen call it, the “2d Weighty.” 1st brigade, 1st division, 2d Corps, under the command of Gen. Hancock; one of the finest looking soldiers in this or any other army, and what is better the boys all love him, and he is proud of his men. If you have kept track of the movements of the army of the Potomac I need not tell you the part that Hancock and his men have had in them.

We are now in camp about midway between City Point and Ream’s Station, and the corps is recruiting up very rapidly. The recruits and convalescents are pouring in by thousands, and we shall soon have a grand army again, and then look out for the splinters. Johnny Reb must talk differently[Pg 232] or find his last ditch. The impression here seems to gain ground that the rebellion is about played out, and that there will be but few more months of fighting. Within the past few days the City Point railroad has been extended several miles on our left, and where a few days since no signs of a track were visible, large trains are running regularly. It is certainly very astonishing; but that is a way they have of doing business down here.

Ten or twelve days since, our corps was ordered to the left of where we now are. Arrived there after dark, and halted on a flat open space with a fine pine wood on our left. In the morning the woods had almost entirely disappeared, and in our front a splendid line of breastworks had sprung up as if by magic. Those who have never been in the business can have no correct conception of how quickly and how quietly an order is executed at the front. Our new railroad runs but a few rods in front of our camp, and it seems like old times to see the trains moving, and to hear the whistle and bell. This forenoon all the bands and drum corps of the division were ordered to report to division headquarters, which we did. Numbering in all about one hundred and seventy-five, and under the leadership of Mr. Higgins, of the division band, played “Hail to the Chief,” and “Hail, Columbia,” after which the brass bands played the “Grand March from Belsaria,” “Garry[Pg 233] Owen,” “Larry O’Gaff” and “Yankee Doodle,” and if there was any lack of harmony there certainly was not of noise. We were then dismissed, with an invitation to repeat the thing at some future day.

The weather here is delightful, the days warm and pleasant, and the nights cool enough to make blankets necessary. As fast as the new recruits arrive they are set to drilling, and you can see them in all directions going through the different evolutions, and it will take but a short time to have the corps in fine trim for anything that soldiers can do, and so with the whole army. So you may look out for stirring news shortly. Speaking of news, reminds me of the many complaints of the boys.—They cannot get enough to read, and would be very thankful for anything in the way of old books, magazines and papers, in fact anything which contains stories would be very acceptable, and a few books and magazines would afford reading for several hundred, and while away many a tedious hour. If it is not asking too much, won’t some of the friends of the 2d Heavy do something for the boys? They have not been paid off for the last six months, and many of them have not seen any money for a still longer time, and there is no telling when they will be paid, and there are few who have the means to purchase the Washington Chronicle, New York Herald, or Philadelphia[Pg 234] Enquirer, which are brought to camp daily.

President Lincoln visited the front a short time ago and rode along our lines accompanied by Generals Grant and Meade. They were without any staff officers with them and only had three orderlies. The President wore a black tile that had seen much service and had on a long linen duster, and was an awkward looking man on his horse. But the boys love “Uncle Abe” as they call him and when the party passed us one of our boys enthusiasm got the best of him and he sang out “three cheers for honest Abe,” and they were given in true army style. The President lifted his hat and looked mightily pleased.

If Grant was like some of the new brigadiers he would have had about 25 staff officers and orderlies following him, but U. S. G. is not much on style. He keeps right on sawing wood though all the same.

“Old Spectacles” as Gen. Meade is called, is Grant’s right bower, and is virtually the commander of the Army of the Potomac. Like Grant he is a silent man, too, although they do say that he makes the fur fly when things don’t go to suit him.

My chum is the cook to-day and has just called out “get ready for grub.” We are to have an extra dish and you will laugh when I tell you the name. It is called “slumgullion” by the boys, and[Pg 235] is made by pounding up hard tack which with chopped onions fried with salt pork makes an appetizing dish fit for a king. My chum has also set up a can of peaches which he paid the sutler 75 cents for, so I will cut this short.



Statistics are considered dry reading and the writer has not bothered the readers of his sketches with many, but they do tell the story better than pen or tongue.

There were something over 2,000 regiments in the Union Army. Some never participated in a battle; others were constantly at the front. Perhaps they were no better fighters than those who were exempt from battle, but in war blood is what tells, therefore the casualty lists tell plainer than words whether a regiment was where the bullets were flying thick and fast or not.

Col. Fox, the government statistician found that of the 2,000 there were 300 whose losses of killed and died of wounds were over 130, and he has called these the “300 fighting regiments.” A conservative estimate of the wounded is six to one, so the reader can easily figure out what the total casualties of these regiments probably were.

There were about 50 regiments out of the 300 “fighting regiments” that lost in killed or mortally wounded over 200.

The regiment that heads the list, both in the[Pg 236] total and percentage was the 1st Maine Heavy artillery. Their total was 423. Their loss at Spottsylvania was 82 killed and 394 wounded. A month later at Petersburg they made the assault with 900 muskets and their casualty list was 632.

The New York regiment that suffered the greatest loss of killed was the old 69th, of the Irish brigade. Their total was 259.



In proportion to the number of men engaged, the greatest loss to any one regiment during the Civil War was that of the 1st Minnesota at Gettysburg. Gen. Hancock was desirous of holding back a column of confederates until reinforcements could be brought against them and, turning to the colonel of the regiment, he ordered him to capture the enemy’s colors. The command was obeyed literally, and the enemy was forced back, leaving their banners in the hands of the Minnesotians. The regiment took into the fight 262 officers and men. It lost 50 killed and 174 wounded and none missing. Seventeen officers were killed and wounded. Here is a record that has not as yet been equalled in military statistics. Gen. Hancock said it was the most gallant deed of history. He knew the men must be sacrificed when he issued the order, but he needed five minutes time and would have ordered the regiment if he had known every man would have been killed.

[Pg 237]Probably the most remarkable loss on either side during the Civil War was that of the 26th North Carolina at Gettysburg. They took into the fight 820 men. Of this number 588 were killed and wounded the first day. The survivors went into the charge with Pickett the third day, and when the roll was called the next day but 80 men were present. All of the rest had been either killed or wounded.

Another remarkable case was that of Duryea’s Zouaves at Manassas, or Bull Run. Out of 490 men who went into action it lost 79 killed, 170 wounded and 48 missing; total 297. This is the regiment which closed up its ranks and “counted off” anew while exposed to a terrific fire.

The following nine heavy artillery regiments lost over 200 killed and died of wounds.

First Maine, 2d corps, 423; 8th New York, 2d corps, 361; 7th New York, 2d corps, 291; 2d Connecticut, 6th corps, 254, 1st Massachusetts, 2d corps, 241, 2d Pennsylvania, 9th corps 233; 14th New York 9th corps, 226; 2d New York, 2d corps 214; 9th New York, 6th corps, 204.

Naturally the writer is proud of the fact that his old regiment stands high on the honor roll. The record of 214 killed in battle tells the story, plainer than words, that the 2d New York Heavy Artillery were where the bullets were flying thick and fast.

 [Pg 238]


The negro contrabands that flocked to our lines during the closing days of the struggle furnished a great deal of amusement to the soldiers. In their hasty flight for freedom they picked up the very articles that were of little use to them, even to feather beds, boxes, cotton umbrellas, stovepipe hats and of course every musician his banjo. The girls wore huge hoop skirts which were then in vogue, and many had on flounced silk dresses that had evidently been borrowed from “Missus’ wardrobe.” There was nothing these poor black people would not do for “Massa Lincum soldier men,” whom they fairly worshiped. An old “Mammy” made my chum and I an old fashioned “hoecake” at high bridge, baking it in a skillet which she buried in the coals of a campfire, and it was about the most toothsome morsel I ever ate. Goodness gracious! what would I give for the appetite and digestion of those days.



We entered a neat looking church one day, and one of the boys opened an Episcopal prayer book at the altar, and at the “Prayer for All in Authority,” found that the words “the president of the United States” had been cut out, and, folded in the book, was a manuscript copy of prayers for the “Confederate States of America.”

 [Pg 239]


Those who have visited this beautiful Virginia city in recent years have no idea of the appearance of the place after it was evacuated by the Confederates. Lee’s message of April 2, telling Jefferson Davis that “my lines are broken in three places, Richmond must be evacuated this evening,” found Mr. Davis in church. He quietly withdrew, and the fate of the city was soon noised about the streets, which became filled with men, wagons and negroes carrying trunks and bundles of every description.

After the departure of President Davis and others of the Confederate government, Gen. Ewell issued orders for the burning of the large warehouses of the city, and thus a great conflagration was started that threatened to lay in ashes all of the business structures.

The city council met and decided to destroy every drop of liquor in town, and at midnight committees of citizens visited every ward and rolled hundreds of barrels of whisky into the streets, and, knocking the heads out, the gutters were flooded. The shipping at the wharves was fired and pandemonium reigned complete for 24 hours.

The Union forces entered the city the next day and proceeded to restore order.

A few days later the writer accompanied a party of officers to the city, going by way of City Point[Pg 240] and up the James river by boat, past formidable forts and earthworks that had swarmed with Confederate soldiers ten days before, now deserted. The cannon that had hardly cooled off for over nine months were now silent. White tents that had sheltered the enemy stood as lonely sentinels for the “Lost Cause.”

There were many points of interest, such as the famous Howlett house battery, Butler’s Dutch Gap canal, the “Crow’s Nest,” a lookout station, Haxall’s landing where the exchange of prisoners used to take place. The river was full of mines and torpedoes, and the thought that every minute might be our last was anything but pleasant.

The defenses of the City of Richmond appeared to have been impregnable, if the confederates could have kept a sufficient force there to man them. Every elevation about the city had a fort, and there were two lines of abatis and three separate lines of rifle pits and earthworks encircling the city. No attacking army can ever carry by direct assault a city so fortified, if the army within is anywhere equal in numbers to that on the outside and has supplies to subsist upon. It used to be reckoned that the troops that assaulted a fortified position must lose five or more men to one of those defending the works.



The name of which was quite enough to give a Union soldier the cold chills, was filled with [Pg 241]Confederates the day we were there. The blue and the gray had exchanged places. We being human, were much pleased to see the rebels peering out through the grated windows with the Union sentries pacing up and down around the building.

The bridges leading out of the city had mostly been destroyed, also the great warehouses, the postoffice, the treasury, the leading banks, and, in fact, the heart of the city had been burned out and the ruins were smoldering when we were there. The street where the treasury and war department had been was knee deep with official papers and records that had been thrown out.

We wandered through the deserted State house, the capitol of the confederacy, and the writer has a piece of the upholstering taken from the chair that was presented to the speaker of the Confederate congress by English sympathizers.

The home of Jefferson Davis was used as the headquarters of Gen. Weitzel, who commanded the forces that entered the city after its evacuation.

President Lincoln, who was at City Point during Grant’s final operations against Lee, went up to Richmond the next day after the city fell and held a levee in the house that had been occupied by Jeff Davis two days before. Thousands of black people crowded the streets to welcome and bless their emancipator, and it became necessary to use military force to clear the streets so that Lincoln could pass. His personal safety was feared[Pg 242] for when he proposed the visit, but no insult was offered him, and two days later he repeated his visit, accompanied by Mrs. Lincoln, several United States senators and Vice-President Johnson. Eight days later he was assassinated in Washington, and the South lost the best friend they could have had in the pacification and reconstruction days that were to come, for the heart of the great Lincoln was free from all bitterness and resentment towards his erring brothers.



William Slater and Eber Ponto were among the best soldiers of our company. Neither had ever shirked a duty and, having kept step side by side for three years, were the closest of comrades. In fact, I believe either would have walked into the jaws of death for the other.

Ponto lived to see the end of the war and came home wearing a sergeant’s chevrons, while Slater was left sleeping on a hillside at Petersburg.

Ponto was a Frenchman and in after years, at a reunion of the regiment, he told us the circumstances of Bill’s death in about the following words:

“Remember dat charge at Petersburg, boys? ’Twas a beeg fight, I’ll never forget dat night when we wer’ lyin’ behind dat stone wall waitin’ for mornin’ to come.”

“I don’t lak dat waitin’ round’ for a fight. Ze Frenchman he lak de word an’ de blow together.

[Pg 243]“Well, Bill and I were smokin’ our laurel root pipes and I notis Bill wer’ keepin’ mighty quiet lak he doin’ a heap of thinkin’—of course he never say much, tain’t his way. Fin’ly he look up an he say, Ebe, ole’ boy, dere goin’ to be a hot time in ze mornin’ an’ ’twill be my las’ fight.”

“I say ’pshaw, Billee boy, guess you bin soke up too much dat air Chickahominy malaria over at Cole Harbor las’ week’—cause you know boys when you git dat in your bones it mak’ everything look blue even to your finger nails.

“Bill he say, ‘no, I’m all right, but something tell me dat if you’re alive tomorrow night you’ll be smokin’ alone.’

“Then I say to Bill, ‘You just lay low in de mornin’ an’ I’ll tell them you’r sick an’ get you excuse from dis scrap.’ An’ Bill he say, ‘Ebe, you never knew me to ‘flunk’ did you? Well, I’m not goin’ to do it now. Where you an’ old Co. H go I’m goin’, but promis’ me, Ebe, that you’ll keep close to me and if I’m killed I want you to take my watch an’ always carry it,’ an’ I promis’, an’ we shake hands for I lak Bill and he lak me.

“Well ze next mornin’ Col. Whistler he led us up thro’ dat peech orchard; remember dat, boys? Bill and I we touch elbows and say nuthin’. Dem minies go, zip! zip! pretty fas’. I get excited an’ all at once I don’t feel Bill’s elbow touchin’ mine. I look roun’ an’ I see him lyin’ on his face. I turn him over an’ there’s a red spot on his [Pg 244]forehead. I unbutton his shirt an’ feel for his heart; it was stop, an’ mine beat lak a beeg bass drum. I take this watch you see. I close his eyes. I press my lips to his, an’ cover him with my blanket, an’ that was the las’ of poor Bill.”



A man whom we will call Jarvis Jenkins was a member of the same company and regiment as the writer. He served his country well, was wounded in battle and for nearly 25 years has been trying to establish his claim to a pension, but, living in the far west away from all of his old comrades, it has been a hard matter for him to get the testimony to satisfy the department.

One day, some months since there walked into my place of business a gentleman who announced himself a special agent of the pension department, and, after asking my name, age, and if I was the identical person who served as drummer boy in such a company and regiment during the Civil war, the answer being in the affirmative, he then desired to know if I recalled one Jarvis Jenkins, and, if so, could I tell of any particular thing that happened to him. Yes, he received a scalp wound in one of the assaults at Petersburg. This did not seem to be the information wanted, for sometimes it would seem that the affairs of the pension office are administered somewhat after the manner of the “circumlocution office” described by Charles[Pg 245] Dickens in the charming book of “Little Dorrit.” So another tack was taken and the following question propounded: “Did you while at Fort Haggerty, Va., own a revolver?” I admitted that I had once in my life, and only once been the proud possessor of a deadly weapon. Could I tell what became of it?

Answer: “Traded with ‘Lige’ Moyer, our company cook, for a watch, and paid him in boot more than the watch was worth.”

“Now, sir, can it be that you are mistaken and is it not possible that you loaned your revolver to Jarvis Jenkins to hunt rabbits with and that it exploded in his hand, lacerating his fingers badly?”

Answer: “No, sir.”

“Then,” said the government agent, “I must look up another drummer boy of the 2d New York, for it is certain that some one loaned him a revolver which exploded as stated.”

The special agent was a pleasant fellow, and as we smoked a couple of cigars he showed me a great mass of testimony that had been taken in the case and said that he had traveled more than 1,000 miles to interview members of the regiment. “By the way,” he said, “I am going to read you extracts from the testimony of your old lieutenant colonel which I took down in shorthand.”

As near as I remember it ran something like this: “I believe you are Col. Hulser who [Pg 246]commanded the 2d New York in the last months of its service?”

Answer: “The same.”

“What was your previous rank, colonel?”

“Major, captain and lieutenant.”

“Can you give me the dates of your promotions?”


“Were you in command of a certain fort in Virginia in 1862?”

“I was.”

“Do you remember of a man being injured on one of the heavy guns in the fort?”


“Do you remember a soldier by the name of Jarvis Jenkins?”


“Now, colonel, look at this paper and tell me if that is your signature.”

“Well, I should say it was.”

“Now, colonel, will you oblige me by reading the statement you signed many years ago and then tell me how you reconcile that statement with the one you just made to me?”

The colonel was something of a rough diamond but the soul of honor. He was sturdy, honest and blunt. A man who called a spade a spade. He disliked subterfuge or deceit. A fighter from way back, and I can imagine something of the [Pg 247]indignation he felt when he got up out of his chair to make reply.

“Say, young man, I’m no highwayman or perjurer. I was fighting my country’s battles when you was nursing a bottle. The lapse of time, and my infirmities, the result of wounds and hardships, do not permit me to remember the names, the color of hair and eyes of several thousand men who were on the rolls of my regiment nearly 40 years ago, but I will have you to understand, sir, that I am no less a gentleman than a soldier and whatever I have put my name to you can bet your bottom dollar is God’s truth, every word of it, and if you dare to stand up before me and intimate otherwise, damn me if I won’t knock you down in a jiffy and walk all over you.”

The government special laughed as he read the interview and rolling the papers up put them in his grip as he remarked: “Say, I rather liked the old veteran after all.”



One of the most important personages of a company was the cook. Even the officers stood in awe of him. What if he did boil his shirts and greasy trousers in the kettle in which he cooked our food, made soup, tea and coffee.

As a result the flavor was somewhat mixed at times, but no one dared to remonstrate with the “son of a sea cook,” for the one that provoked his[Pg 248] displeasure was sure to suffer in some way. If they punished those whom they disliked they bestowed many favors upon those whom they happened to take a liking to. The writer always stood in well with “Uncle” Hawley, our first cook, who was taken prisoner at Bull Run, and “Lige” Moyer, who succeeded him. Hawley was an elocutionist of no mean ability. “Lige” used to while away his spare moments with a fiddle.



Spread out before me is a copy of the muster-out roll of Co. H, 2d New York heavy artillery, organized at Carthage, N. Y., Oct. 14, 1861, mustered into United States service at Staten Island, Oct. 18, 1861, and disbanded at Hart’s Island, New York harbor, Oct. 10, 1865.

When a regiment was mustered out of service each company was required to hand in a muster-out roll bearing the names of every man who had served in the organization and the particulars of his service were written opposite the name.

The names were grouped under various headings of: “Present at Muster-out,” “Previously Discharged,” “Transferred,” “Deserted,” “Killed in Action,” “Died of Wounds,” “Died of Disease,” etc., etc.

Almost anybody would be interested in looking over an old muster-out roll, but to the man who was a part of the organization, who knew its history[Pg 249] from beginning to end and can read between the lines, so to speak, the story told is doubly interesting and in many respects a sad one. Such a reader is carried back to the war and is enabled to vividly recall its thrilling scenes.

He knows who were the best soldiers, who stood in the front rank, who led in the assaults. Likewise he knows who were the skulkers and cowards, for it was an impossibility for a soldier to hide his weaknesses from his comrades.

In scanning the remarks opposite of the names one is brought face to face with the past as in no other way. For instance: “Lieut. William H. Roff, wounded in a charge at Cold Harbor, June 6, 1864, leg amputated, died.” “Lieut. John Clapsaddle, disabled by wounds at Petersburg and discharged.” Another reminder of the desperate fighting at Cold Harbor is the name of an old schoolmate, “Henry C. Potter,” “wounded June 6,” “died Aug. 2, 1864.” Under the group of “killed in action,” I read “Roscoe Williamson, killed at Cold Harbor, June 6,” and I recall a bright, rosy cheeked young fellow that was a great favorite.

“George H. Ormiston, taken prisoner at Reams Station, Aug. 25, 1864; died en route north April 9, 1865.” And one shudders as he thinks of the thousands that were literally starved to death in Andersonville and other southern prison pens.

“Second Lieut. O. T. Bliss promoted to first[Pg 250] lieutenant and transferred to Co. F,” recalls one of the bravest of the brave who enlisted as a bugler, exchanged his trumpet for a gun at Bull Run, was captured and later passed through all the various grades of rank from corporal to brevet major.

“Sergt. Franklin B. Farr, mortally wounded at Round Fort, Va., April 7, 1865,” only two days before the surrender of Lee, and one thinks how sad to fall in the last battle of the war with victory and home in sight.

“John Satterly, wounded at Cold Harbor, June 3, 1864,” and I see long John with his peculiar hook-shaped nose which caused one of the boys who was waggishly inclined to suggest that he could make big money picking cherries as he could hang to a limb with his nose and gather the fruit in with both hands. Ever after that John was called “Cherry Picker.”

I pause at the name of “Edwin Smith, mortally wounded at Petersburg, June 16, 1864,” and I recall what he said when being carried to the rear. “Hold on, boys, don’t carry me off without my grub.” Our regiment was lying behind a stone wall supporting a battery that was firing over our heads. Rations had been brought up to us that morning and “Ed” was eating when wounded, and the stretcher bearers were carrying him off without his haversack. He never made a murmur[Pg 251] about his wound but did not want to lose his rations. He was a son of a Watertown tailor and was one of the youngest and smallest boys of our company that carried a musket. There were a number under 18 years of age in the company and they were called the “ponies,” but they could outmarch most of the large heavy men. The “ponies” made up in grit and enthusiasm what they lacked in size.

“Patrick Devereaux, veteran” and I hear the rollicking laugh of as gallant an Irish soldier as ever carried a gun, whose ready wit and cheery disposition made him to Co. H what Dickens’ “Mark Tapley” was to “Martin Chuzzlewit.”

It was Patsy who made Major “Quicker nor that” mark time for him, and Pat who, when our regiment, with fixed bayonets was lying behind the stone wall at Spottsylvania waiting for Ewell’s charge, broke the awful stillness of those few minutes, that seemed like hours, by remarking: “Boys, wouldn’t a little ‘commissary’ taste good about now?”

He was the “Mulvany” of our company and a prime favorite with everybody. “Halt who goes there!” was never spoken by a better soldier than Patrick Devereaux of the 2nd Heavy.

The following letter from my old comrade is characteristic of the man:

 [Pg 252]


Troy, N. Y., April 6, 1904.

“Me Little Boy in Blue:”

I see by the papers which somebody has been sendin’ me that our little ‘Sheepskin beater’ of company H has trun down his drum sticks an tuk up a pen an’ is riting’ war stories. I’ve hearn tell that the ‘pen is mightier than the sword’ which was probably true of the ‘toad-stabbers’ carried by the drummer boys durin’ the war. But say, youse lads were great wid the drum sticks, and would make a divil of a racket in the mornin’ whin a fellah wanted to slape.

Many’s the time whin lyin’ so comfortable wid me rubber poncho betwix me an’ the sod, an’ dreamin’ of me darlin’ an’ dear ould Ireland, hev you disturbed me slumbers wid your batin’ of the reveille, and I’ve bin that mad I cud have kicked you an’ your drum into the middle of nex’ week. But whin youse kids led us out on a p’rade to the chune of ‘Rory O’More’ it was like goin’ to a Donnybrook fair so aisy was the marchin’ behind the drum corps of the Second Heavy. If ould Pat does say it you were a foine lot of youngsters, and whin it came to drummin’ youse cud give odds to any drum corps in the 1st division. Say me boy, them were great days, weren’t they? You were but a small kid but I suppose are growin’ grey wid the rest of the ould boys.

[Pg 253]Your riferince to me tilt wid Major Roach, who was forever yellin’ out ‘Quicker nor that,’ brings those days back to me mind, an’ it does not seem 40 years ago. Roach an’ some of the other officers we had on the go-in were a quare gang. But that Colonel Whistler from the regulars was all right. Wasn’t he? Jermiah N. G. was a peach an’ he made a good regiment out of us, an’ the Second Heavy made a brigadier out of him by the way they wint for them Jonnies the 16th of June at Petersburg. Say, me blood runs hot whin I think of the mornin’ in the peach orchard whin Whistler led us in that charge.

Dan, me oldest son, wint to the Spanish war and it makes me laf to hear him tell about the hardships at Tampa and the charge of San Wan. One evenin’ he was entertainin’ some of his friends wid riminescences and one of the young ladies said she thought it an outrage for the government to send them home from the war in common every-day coaches. ‘Palace cars were none too good for the soldier boys.’ I agreed with her, but said I remember thet our regiment who saw four years’ service were sint home in box cars with divil a seat or whisp of straw to lie on. I tell Dan that if he had followed Gen. Hancock’s old battle flag with the ace of clubs on it, from Bull Run to Appomattox, stopping occasionally to take a hand in skirmishes like Antietam, Gettysburg, Cold Harbor, Spottsylvania, Petersburg, Reams Station, Five Forks and[Pg 254] a few other small affairs, he would know more about war.

The boys were all right though. The trouble in the last war, was, that there was not enough of it to go around.

By the way I think you galloped over the Appomattox campaign a little too lively. It was short and none too sweet, but there was a good bit doin’ in them ten days, and it seems to me you could have given a few more particulars without wearying your readers.

The prisint generation who are wadin’ knee deep in clover won’t be hurt by being reminded of what the old vets suffered for them.

I remember onct that our liftenant Tom Waters said that whin I got to talking I did not know whin to stop and I guess you’ll think it’s the same wid me letter rittin’, so here’s to you and yours. Keep a stiff upper lip. Never show the white flag.

Yours for the Union.



“Capt. Charles L. Smith, prostrated by sunstroke near Cold Harbor.” brings to mind the long, weary marches of that summer under broiling sun; the choking clouds of dust; the intense thirst; the scanty rations and consequent weakness which caused countless numbers to fall by the roadside. The name also stirs tender memories [Pg 255]of a kind hearted officer, a gentleman and soldier—“My Captain,” who was ever gentle with and considerate for the welfare of the little lad whom he took with him to a real war.

“Peace be to his ashes!
Soldier, rest! Thy warfare o’er,
Sleep the sleep that knows no breaking;
Dream of battlefields no more,
Days of danger, nights of waking—
We would not forget our dead.”


Capt. C. L. Smith


In closing my memories of the war I am going to give an extract from an old letter written by my captain, who several years since went to join those of his command who had been summoned by the Great Captain of All.

“Nov. 8, 1883.”

“My Dear Boy: Your welcome letter of the 14th ult. at hand, and was most happy to learn over your own signature that you had not in the long years that have intervened forgotten me. Your old captain still lives, daily praying for and remembering the least under his command.

“Oh, that I could see them pass in review as I did many a time in those stirring days. Many years have passed since and probably not one in 50 would I recognize, still I remember them all, living or dead, who went with me to the great war.

“God knows my affection goes out to you all and I am not ashamed to say that my eyes fill with tears as I write.

[Pg 256]“My great regret is that I could not return every man and boy to their homes. But I could not. You remember I said I had no cowards in old Co. H. They were a brave, intelligent lot of men who obeyed orders, endured hardships and faced the guns of the enemy unflinchingly.

“I recall you as but a child going with me to a real war where you were to spend years of your young life with your little drum. But my dear boy, it did good service, real genuine war service.

“I remember you were the first drummer boy the 2d New York had, and I am proud to know that my own little drummer boy marched at the head of the regiment in every campaign down to Appomattox and beat the last tattoo for the regiment at Hart’s Island, New York Harbor, after nearly four years of service.

“God bless you, how could I be other than proud of my little drummer boy?”





Transcriber’s Note:

Seemingly at random, these two lines were printed at the top of page 18 of the original text:

mules of the wagon trains, and after a couple of
nowhere else for him to go.