January 1st. 1864
Friday. Cold and snowy. Anything but pleasant to turn out in the cold and wet and try to build our fires and cook our coffee with out green wood fires. Many of us are nearly shoeless and hardly have any clothing suitable for the season. But there is but little grumbling as we realize we are a good ways from our base of supplies. Feel I cannot be too grateful to Our Heavenly Father, that he permits me to begin the year such rich measures of health, strength, and cheerfulness. Made sundry resolutions in regard to prayer, bible study, reforms in outward conduct of life with my comrades, and in making the body the servant of the mind. May the words of the Psalmist be ever in my heart, “In thee O Lord do I put my trust, let me never be ashamed, deliver me in thy righteousness.
Cold and raw. Hard times with us as we are all, men, horses, mules, on half rations. Paid a visit to Division Head Quarters where Henry Krill gave me some of the horse’s rations corn on the cob. Glad to get it to splice out our small ration of hard tacks-made it quite palatable with parching and frying in pork fat. Busy with tent mates in building a log hut, body of hut four logs high, with our tent pieces for roof and chimney of Tennessee mud. Found it cozy and comfortable with firewood in plenty.
Busy part of the forenoon baking a corn cake and cutting wood. No rations until night. Had copy of Congregationalist to read. But three copies have got along for 6 months. Reading matter is as scarce as our rations.
Up early, and breakfast before daylight. Fixed up some shelves in our hut. Drew rations of corn on the cob. Had quite a time cooking the same, first parching and then grinding through hand coffee mills, then frying, baking, or boiling as best we could. What a blessed thing it is to be hungry and ready to eat anything and cooked in any style. Had a copy of Independent to read. Its digest of the war news very cheering and leading to hopefulness, that soon “Johnny may go marching home.” Drizzly and rainy most of the day. Rumors that we are to go to Newport News for recuperation.
Busy in forenoon fixing chimney. Drew half rations of coffee and sugar and one-half of hard tacks.
Snowy this a.m. Cold and raw all day. Busy letter writing. Mail in camp today and received most joyfully a letter a letter from Carrie and a Christmas gift of her photograph. Thanks dear sister. Bought some figs, candles and ink at sutlers’. Subscribed with John D.Cobb for N.Y. Tribune.
Drizzly all day. Busy letter writing and wood cutting. The 21st Massachusetts started for home today. Most of the regiment has re-enlisted for another 3 years term.
Two inches of snow on the ground this morning. A dreary outlook for some of the almost shoeless ones. Some have tried to better themselves by making moccasins out of the hides from the beef cattle, a few of which are captured by the forage trains. They are clumsy and laughable affairs, but if they protect the wearer from the snow they are willing to be made fun of.
A stray volume of Cowpers poems has straggled into our tent, and this forenoon have enjoyed its reading. This afternoon cut down big tree and cut up a week’s supply of wood.
Another quiet Sabbath in camp. Clear and cold. Had quiet and restful time in woods. Had a copy of “Monthly Journal” to read. Found a good article on “All true life of warfare.” Feel as I review the past week that I have wasted much time in sort of doing nothing and have neglected opportunities for reading and self-improvement.
A most lovely day. John D. Cobb and I got a “pass” for a two day’s excursion out into the country for sight seeing and foraging. Went out some 6 miles to Byles Mills on the Holstein River. Were situated thus and we inspected a large cave, interesting to us who had never seen anything of the kind. It descended gently at the entrance opening to our view several large rooms glistening with stalagmite. We then strolled along calling at several farm houses for a dinner and though we offered to pay liberally for it were told that had scarce enough for themselves. But at last found a chance and got a good dinner of ham, corn cake, and coffee. The family was the neatest and most homelike I have seen in Eastern Tennessee, consisting of an old man and wife, four sons and a daughter, an adopted lad, whose father was in the army and mother was dead, and two little darkies. Three of the sons are in the Union army. Most of the families here in the valleys of Eastern Tennessee, are ignorant and shiftless, living in tumble down log cabins. Men, women, and young women all smoke corn cob pipes. The old woman with whom we took dinner prided herself as having done a great thing to bring up her daughters not to smoke. We enjoyed the trip in every way.
Busy most of the day letter writing. Bought some corn cakes, a quart of molasses, and would be pie.
More letter writing. Bought some meal. Feel I am getting extravagant, and ought to get along as some of my comrades have to on the rations we receive, especially as we have no drilling or marching these days.
Busy washing and wood cutting this forenoon. Read in New York Tribune, and Goldsmith’s poetical works. A small lot of clothing distributed to the needy ones among us. Nearly all have our uniforms more or less patched. The Reverend Thomas Bayley Fox, of Boston, sent out by Governor John Andrew, to look after the welfare of Massachusetts men, visited today. He complimented us upon the patience and cheerfulness with which we were bearing our hardships.
Busy forenoon reading General Halleck’s report of the war. It is very interesting. Read in Goldsmith’s and wrote letter in the afternoon.
A change once more, and at 9:30AM saw us once more on the march. Fine marching in the early part of the day on the frozen ground. In the afternoon simply horrible, about 3 or 4 inches of pure mud paste, and most gladly at 3:30PM we turned into a camp spot in a fine wood near where the Vaginia and Eastern Tennessee railroad, crosses the Holstein River.
A mail early last evening brought cheer to many of us. Read two letters from Abbie, and one from Nellie to mother giving me the welcome news of her rapid returning health. Busy most of forenoon in washing and getting cleaned up from yesterday’s mud bath. Enjoyed the afternoon with a stroll into the woods and reading in Psalms and Congregationalist.
Last night at roll came orders to be ready to march at 7 AM with 60 rounds of cartridge. Up at 4:30AM, commenced raining and rained all day. Orders to march countermanded with word to be ready at a moment’s notice. Passed the day reading, cooking, and cutting wood. Bought some corn which, with aid of coffee, will make into a coarse meal which was quite palatable.
Grew cold and snowy and disagreeable during the night. Mud and slush in variety. Word came that those unable to march were to report at Knoxville this PM. Great joy at the arrival of supply of shoes. Could find none small enough and so had to make my old ones do further service if possible. Felt cross and fretful over it. Need to cultivate more patience.
A beautiful day, like an April day at home. Wrote letter to Carrie. Reports about camp that we are soon to go North to recruit infuses a hilarious spirit in us all.
Routed at 3 AM with orders to be ready to march at 5. Waited until 1 PM lounging about our bonfires and moved about 3/4ths a mile to the rear. Rumors afloat that the rebels are again threatening Knoxville. The rebels cavalry appeared in force across the river with some artillery. Soon a skirmish was on and a few shells were landed near our camp. Just after dark a detail from each regiment was sent to the depot for some supplies the Quarter Master had been unable to take away. They returned with a good lot of rations and some overcoats.
Got two hours sleep with feet to a big bonfire and a bed of cedar boughs. Soon after 12AM came word to “fall in.” Marched to near the depot where we camp upon 2 pieces of artillery left by the 23rd corps. The 11th N.H. took charge of one and our regiment the other, and with ropes attached after the fashion of an old hand fire engine took them along with us. Road rough, which with the half frozen mud made our task of cannon dragging no easy one for the four miles to a halt for breakfast. Six miles more of mud marching and a halt for dinner. Just as we got ready for coffee, when we were in line of battle. During the afternoon fell back slowly, a part of the 23rd corps and our 1st Division on the skirmish line. Our Brigade formed in line of battle about 3 miles from Knoxville and remained until dark.
Morning brought word that the Rebels had fallen back, and at near noon we camped in a wood, where after receiving half rations were told to make ourselves comfortable.
At daylight came word to be ready to move at 8 AM. Marched through Knoxville, and 5 miles west of the city camped at Erious Station on Eastern Tennessee, and Virginia Railroad. Felt some of the old time military order today, as with all the regiments, army wagons, ambulances, and artillery of the Corps together, we marched through Knoxville to the music of the 1st. Brigade band. It made me think of the day when our regiment 1,000 strong marched through Boston, en route for the “front.”
Fine weather, like May at home. Took bath in brook. A new supply of clothing of all except blouses distributed. A grand time was had changing ragged underclothing, pants, and stockings for new. All day long the banks of the brook was lined with busy washers. Busy all day washing and mending. Have the best camp ground we have had since leaving Newport News.
Went to Knoxville and got shoes repaired. Strolled about the city and vicinity. Visited of the hospitals. All along the roads lay skeletons of dead horses, and mules, who have given hard toil to draw our supplies, and cannon over the mountains. Came across a rebel hospital where lay a dozen or more of Longstreet’s men. Poor fellows, too weak to be moved. Some minus arms or legs. Read in “Watchman and Reflection” papers.
Busy most of the day sewing the buttons on new clothing and mending old ones. Dress parade yesterday, first for two months. Received and read Congregationalist.
Out two miles on picket today on the banks of the Holstein River. A lovely day, and our picket duty is sort of holiday soldiering or as we say “Soft bread, and Sibley tents.” Cleaned equipments. Read a fine article in “Christian Register” on horse life. The main duty on our post (which was at the fort) to see that no citizens passed without proper permits.
Did some washing. Read in “Springfield Republican.”
Busy cooking corn cake and soup. Exchanged some coffee for molasses. Read in evening by light of camp fire in “Atlantic Monthly.” Wrote letter to Abbie.
Read in Congregationalist and American Messenger. Attended service held by the Chaplain of the 11th N.H.
Rainy in morning. Busy cooking and mending and reading in “Atlantic Monthly.” An interesting article on Governor John Winthrop. At 5 PM orders to take “blankets and tents and march immediately.” Took two days rations of flour and marched through Knoxville and across the Holstein River on pontoon and camped in a fine grove of cedars about six miles over a rough, sticky, muddy, and slippery road.
Routed at daylight. At 8 AM came orders to return to camp and so back to old camp ground we were soon in camp order again.
Routed early. Daily drills and dress parade in order now. Our regiment now numbers about 150 men present for duty with proper equipments.
Busy washing and cutting wood. Rations of flour again are in short quantity. Short cake and flour dumplings, our main stay. Though we lick the platter clean, we crave for more. Received some thread and bread soda from dear ones at home. Went out on “pass” some two miles and bought a dinner of a neat German family. Going on some further and bought some corn cake and bread. Found some intelligent people, nearly all living in log cabins. Most of them seem to be sort of shiftless. One family had 6 sons in the army.
Spent most of the day reading “Goldsmith Poems.”
Rainey off and on. Received letter from Abbie. First letter from home for a month. Gladly welcomed. Mending, washing, cutting wood, and reading in “Christian Register” order of the day.
Inspection at 9:30AM. Attended service in charge of Chaplain of 11th N.H. Indulged in a spirit of criticism which was not at all profitable.
Drill in manual of arms today. Busy cutting wood and reading in “Goldsmith Essays.” Had a sharp debate in evening with comrades on political questions. Need to study to be calm and self-possessed, and to be sure of and that my statements are true to fact. Received some flannel shirts from home. Have been on the way since last October. Most gladly received as our “Uncle Sam” shirts are poor things.
One hour a day in manual drill, the sum total of our military duties, with dress parade each day. Finished reading “Goldsmith’s Poems.” Have found it quite profitable reading especially “The Traveler and Deserted Village.”
God is giving us delightful weather. Received letter from Nellie. Also first copy of Tribune subscribed for in December. Rations of soup and candles given us today. First received since leaving Kentucky.
Busy most of the day getting ready for inspection. Inspection by Inspector of the Division. Very thorough of knapsacks and all.
Took bath. Did some washes and rest of the day cutting wood and reading in Cowpers Poems.
Rainy and drizzly. Passed the day in bible study and reading of Christian Register, and Watchman.
At 2 AM were routed out with the word to be ready to march at an early hour. At sunrise came word to be ready to move at 9 AM. Marched at near 10 AM with 5 days rations, in the midst of a heavy rain. Had a rough time, mid ankle deep, everything soaked, marched 3 miles and camped in a fine wood, and soon circled around blazing bonfires. Made merry of our flight and dried ourselves off.
Busy cleaning up from the mud bath of yesterday. Bright, clear, and cold.
Cold and raw. Cutting wood and reading papers all day. Have a fine camp ground.
Sort of an April snow storm this a.m. towards noon, orders to fall in with knapsacks at once for inspection so cramming our traps into knapsacks in double quick time were soon out in nearby field for inspection which proved to be a short one and we were soon back to camp. Many had begun “logging up” with mud chimneys when the order came to be ready to move in half an hour Marched about a mile and camped in a fine wood. Laid out Company streets and pitched tents once more.
Woke shivering with the cold. Busy most of the day cutting wood.
Went to Knoxville soon after breakfast to buy bread. Had to wait until 1 PM for it. Spent part of the time until noon in reading papers of the Christian Commission and the rest lounging about the city. Wasted money in buying beer and candy. Visited the government Cemetery trying to find the grave of Henzy but could not. Found many graves marked “Union Unknown” and Rebel Unknown side by side. Just at dark came orders to have all baggage that could not be put on one team deposited for storage in the city. Surplus rations given out.
Snow in morning, but sun came out bright and warm. The snow bid us good-bye. Retired to the woods towards evening for prayer and meditation. A beautiful sunset seeming to tell of God’s love and goodness.
On picket 3/4 of mile from camp.
Colonel returned to regiment. Has been away for six months. Gave us an address at our dress parade. Very warm today.
Heavy thunder last night. At about midnight came orders to be ready to march at daybreak in light marching order. Routed at 5AM. Ready to move at 6AM. Then orders came to take all we could carry. The rest of the things were to be stored in Knoxville. Marched at 7AM with 60 rounds of cartridges and made about 18 miles and camped at Strawberry Plains. The march seemed to us poorly managed, hardly any stop for rest, and by a needless blunder led 1 1/2 miles out of our way, so when camp was finally reached loud and bitter talk was indulged in. All sorts of “how lings” were used. Feel this does but little good, but yet it is hard to feel when you have been needlessly hurled along on half rations and half clothed anything but pleasant over it. Chafed badly but managed to get on without falling behind. Washed feet and legs after getting to camp and felt better.
Felt better than I expected to this morning. Lounged about all day feeling tired, lazy, but managed to do some mending. Our hearts gladdened with a mail and received two letters. Camp full of rumors that we are to start on another chase after Longstreet.
At noon came orders to prepare for a 15 day’s trip. To pack up and leave all behind but overcoat, wool and rubber blankets, that all else would be stored in Knoxville. Orders positive. Also to take 100 rounds of cartridges. These orders caused wry faces mingled with many jokes and much strong language. Carried our knapsacks to depot, many feeling we may not see them again. Had a busy time mending up and dealing out 5 day’s rations, finishing at 10 PM.
Routed at 5AM. Marched at 7AM. Crossed the Holstein on ferry boats attached to a rope and pulling ourselves over hand over hand. Many amusing scenes as now and then a boatful would come near capsizing. Into camp in a fine wood.
Marched 14 miles and camped beside a fine clear stream near the village of Mossy Creek. Through a fine farming country or valley rather, through New Market. A few Rebel cavalry left the town as we advanced.
Routed at 6AM. Marched at 6:45AM. Scarce time to get our coffee in fact most of us got none, or any breakfast. Marched 13 miles in a cold rain and mud to our hearts content. Anything but fun to get our tents up and build a fire. Camped near Morristown. Quite a town for Eastern Tennessee. Many of the dwellings empty as the male members have been rigidly conscripted into the rebel army or forded to fly if Union in sentiment.
Steady rain all night and until 4 PM today. At daylight came word to “pack up and be ready to move at a moment’s notice”, but were allowed to stay packed all day and busy ourselves with keeping the fires going in front of our tents while we kept from the rain within. Did some mending. It seemed on the whole the most disagreeable day have experienced in soldier life. Amused to hear one of the men say “he would give all the pay he had drawn or ever expected to draw from U.S. all we was worth, all the clothes he had except those upon his back, if by so doing he could get out of the service.
Routed at 4:30AM and marched at daylight. Moved slowly on account of mud. Team getting stuck so that we had to help the poor mules out of their troubles which helped us to forget our own. Moved towards Knoxville. Camped at our old camp ground near Mossy Creek.
At near 8 last evening came orders to “pack up and be ready to strike tents and fall in at a moment’s notice.” Built big fires of fence rails. Tried to get some sleep on some rails with rubber blanket but could not, finally unrolled woolen blanket and turned into tent. Routed at near midnight fell in line and stacked arms. Teams were loaded and sent off. Shivered about the fire for an hour then were told to “make yourselves comfortable for the night”, so re-pitched tents and slept until daylight. In camp all day expecting to march at any time.
Wrote letters. Reports that we are to stay here two or three days. Drew full rations of sugar, and coffee much to our joy. Had sharp debate with comrades on the spirit of revenge and hatred that seemed to abound among the families here in Eastern Tennessee. Got excited and boisterous. Need to study to be self-controlled and calm in debate.
Rain last night. Raw and cold this morning. Out on picket at 2 PM. At about 3PM a squad of about 100 Rebels cavalry came upon us and soon the regiment was in line and met them. The Rebels skedaddled and all was quiet again.
Had a hard night on picket. It was cold and raw, no fires allowed, and could scarce keep warm even with brisk patrolling up and down our line. All was quiet and a beautiful spring Sabbath morning dawned upon us. Like April at home, blackbirds scouting over the fields. Built a big bonfire. Near our post is the home of a Union Captain now on the furlough. We keep his horse saddled nearby for fear the Rebel guerrillas may pounce upon him. Exchanged a copy of the Christian Family Almanac, for some biscuit and molasses with one of his neighbors. Felt drowsy all day. Returned to camp at 5 PM.
Removed camp about 200 yards, and laid out Company streets which seemed to prophecy that we are to remain here for a season. Nearby is an unoccupied seminary building, and soon an attack was made upon it and doors, mopboards, desks and all loose fixtures were being transferred to camp and had not the officers interfered but little of the frame work would have been left.
A fine April like day. My 28th birthday. The past seven years have flown, as it were away so short a space of time do they appear as I mentally review them. Their fruits for good seem small. Feel that I ought to strive to be more energetic, to be more wise in the use of leisure time when “off duty”, to strive to be more cordial, sympathetic and social with my comrades.
Orders to the 9th Corps to resume daily drills, old troops 3 hours and regiments with new recruits 6 hours per day. A beautiful spring day as frogs peep in “Mossy Creek.” Five days full ration of all but hard bread given out. Mail in today brought pathetic letter from Nellie. In it she says that after a “heart to heart” talk with Aunt she decided to bid goodbye to what has been her home since she was 4 years old, and go back to the home nest again. It seems to be a hard trial to her. May God bless her, and strengthen her. How I wish I could fly to her and aid for a little. She talks of seeking work in Boston.
Heavy thunder shower and wind last night. Tent blown down and we getting a good ducking. Busy most of the day writing to Nellie. At 4PM came orders to fall in with arms and equipments, loaded pieces and marched out about 3 miles on a reconnaissance but saw no enemy. Reports that some rebel cavalry had shown themselves in the early afternoon. At 8PM came orders for reveille at 4AM and to march at 5 AM tomorrow.
Through mistake of the drummers were routed at 3 AM. Marched at daylight. Our destination, Morristown. A most lovely morning, cool, clear, and bracing. Felt in fine marching spirit, and it was pleasant winding among hills and valleys in the early morning sunshine. Made 14 miles and halted for dinner. After this a near 5 miles chase at almost double quick time after some rebel cavalry but were too late. Not so pleasant to march back in the darkness floundering through an occasional brook or slough hole. Had cramps severely just after getting to camp.
Reveille at daybreak. Packed up and lounged about until noon waiting for word to move. Retired to the woods, and had a goodly time of bible and prayer. Marched at 1 PM and made 4 miles to Morristown and camped near our old camp spot.
Did some washing 4 weeks old. Did it in a deserted house nearby. Built a fire in fireplace and using freely the house material as we took it for granted it was some “rebs” abiding place. Were somewhat taken aback, to have the owner walk in upon us and prove to be a Union man, and were lucky to get off with only a good scolding. Drew 5 days rations, with 1/2 rations of bread, and 3/4 of coffee and sugar. Two of Company I sent home on recruiting service. It seemed good to see them bound for home if we could not go ourselves. Sent a package by them.
A cold, raw, March day with flurries of snow. Busy reading stray news papers. Were set to work to lay out camp, “A La Military.” Laying out Company streets burning up underbrush, and rubbish. In tent with Joseph R. Smith, fixing it up in fine shape. Knapsacks came us from Knoxville. Rumors afloat that we were to start on the morrow for the North. Doubted by most of us for the reason that we have had them so often the past 3 or 4 weeks that we are sick of them but at dark our doubts were turned to facts by orders to be ready to march at 6 AM. An assurance was made by our Colonel that we were ordered to report at Annapolis, MD. The news spread like a wildfire throughout the Corps and the rejoicing was like a party of schoolboys let out of school on the last day before a vacation. 1/2 rations of flour was given us to splice out our hard tacks. Went to a house and got mine made into biscuit, trading some coffee for the job.
Bright and frosty just right for marching. On the move at 6AM. Before marching a whole string of orders by General John G. Parke, about straggling and bogging at residences for food etc. Feel these orders do not amount to much as they have too often been allowed to be broken without discipline in days past. A rough 20 mile march through cross roads by roads, and wood roads to New Market, and camped. Felt sick towards night and came near having the “shakes” a dose of pepper helped me.
Reveille at 4AM, marches at 6AM. Felt miserable. Could not eat anything, took dose of quinine. Managed to get over to the noon halt. Sergeant Cobb got me a permit to have my knapsack put on the teams, and with this help was able to straggle into camp though much in the rear in the matter of time. Made 19 miles.
Felt some better but no appetite. Up at 4:30AM, marched at 6:30AM made 9 miles to little beyond Knoxville and camped. Drew 1 full day’s ration, the first full rations for near 4 months. Signed pay for the 4 months pay due us and were in pleasing expectations of getting paid when orders came from General Wilcox, that we would not be paid until we arrived at Annapolis, MD. This for the reason that with full pocket books some of the men would make an unwise use of their funds, and get into trouble en route. This tantalizing to most of us, but so it is the world over, the innocent have to suffer for the guilty.
Felt unwell near all day. Misspent much of the day. At night came orders to be ready to march at 7 AM. We have been expecting to go by rail or boat by way of Chattanooga, and were disappointed when told we were to “frog it” by way of the mountains via Somerset, to Nicholsville, Kentucky. All unable to stand the march were to be furnished transportation via Chattanooga, and all extra baggage to be sent ditto. Blankets, overcoats, and shelter tents, all we were to take for the march.
Cold and raw. Marched at 9:30AM. Made 19 miles over a good road camping at dark at Clinton, on the Clinton River.
Up at 5AM, marched at 7AM crossing Clinch by ferry. Snowed most of the day at first melting as it came, but soon the ground was covered with its wintry mantle. Road full of slough holes, and small brooks, at one place had to file across a 20 foot creek on a single round log causing much delay. Made 16 miles and camped in a fine wood.
Reveille at 4:30AM. Marched at 6aM. Five miles brought us to Jacksboro, and to the foot of the Cumberland Mountains. Rested until 1 PM and drawing 5 days full rations in plenty. In fact quantities of bacon were left upon the ground as we resumed our march. Fine views of the mountains were before us, and the road we were to take could be seen winding zigzag up towards the summit. All the teams were sent back to Knoxville. Three mules were allowed to the officers of each regiment on which to carry their baggage. Had a hard climb for nearly a mile making us sweat and puff to hearts content. At the summit of the ridge a fine view of the surrounding country was before us. Wished we could halt for a little while and enjoy it. Marching good for the rest of the day. Trailing arbutus in blossom all about us. Made 16 miles and camped in a fine wood.
Marched at 6AM. Our regiment in rear of the corps making it harder marching on account of “hitches and jerks” in crossing creeks and slough holes. A most lovely day. Had another hard pull climbing a small mountain, after which good marching a large part of the way winding through a valley beside a brook. Its banks were covered with laurel and magnolias in pleasing contrast with the naked forests on the higher ground. Made 16 miles.
Awoke to find a light mantle of snow. Marched at 6AM. Rained towards the night and as we went into camp, which was in a fine wood with plenty of laurel about with which we made comfortable beds. Made 18 miles.
Reveille at 4:30AM. Marched at 6AM. Rations given out at noon, brought from Camp Burnside, Kentucky, to meet us. Did not get into camp until dark and then into a rough place which caused much fretting and severe anathemas on the commanding officer. Made 19 miles.
On the move at 6:30AM. At near noon arrived at Camp Burnside or Point Isabel on the Cumberland River in Kentucky. The scenery about the place wild and romantic. The river forming a sharp bend with almost perpendicular banks of limestone rock on one side and a lead plain on the other on which we had a good noonday rest. Over one of the ledges of a fine cascade of some 20 feet fell, and made a lively addition to the scenery. Here we found government store houses and sutler’s shops. Here we met Weston F. Hutchins, of our Company, who had been on detail duty here and who gave John D. Cobb and I a fine dinner of government rations with butter extra. During our stay some of the more mischievous of the corps, “cleaned out” one of the sutlers shop, and a gay time of feasting was had on pies and cakes etc. A most shameful piece of business. Our afternoon march over a good road to Somerset, Kentucky, and camped having made 16 miles.
Marched 6:30AM. Went through the towns of Cuba, and Waynesburg. Made 18 miles. Finished taking quinine today. Have felt like myself the past two or three days.
Heavy rain last night. On the move at 6:30AM. Mud plenty. Passed through Halls Gap. Drew rations. Made 16 miles.
Marched at 6:30AM. Quite a snow squall in morning. Passed through Lancaster and Stamford. Rained as we went into camp. Were lucky to get beds of straw captured from the neighboring farmers. Seemed good to be in Kentucky, once more and to note evidences of plenty and prosperity in the fine farms and pastures about us. Made 17 miles.
On the move at 6:30AM. Over Hickman Bridge and through Camp Nelson for the 4th time. A great change all about the camp since we marched through it a year ago. Then a rough pasture land, now for two miles or more the road on both sides is lines with extensive government store houses, recruit and wagon camps, hospital buildings, and tents. After 12 miles and near noon saw us at our old camp ground Camp Parke. It seemed good to turn in for the night with no orders ringing in our ears to a reveille at 4:30AM and march at 6:30AM. That you would not be routed of sound sleep with the unwelcome fife and drum.
Day opened with a driving cold rain. Lay in tent until 2 PM drowsing and getting rested. At 4 PM came orders to “pack up and march to the depot.” No pleasing task to strike tents and march the 4 miles in the driving rain and mud. At the depot found the cars which were to be there at 5 PM would not be there until 7 the next morning. Quarters were found for us in an old freight house. In this we found dirt and insect life more plenty than agreeable, but thanks to our knapsacks, our blankets were dry and stretched upon the floor and upon them, we forgot the dirt and bugs in blissful slumber.
On board box freight cars and off at 8AM. Straw liberally strewn upon the car floors added much to our comfort during the two nights of our journey. Stopped some 3 hours in Lexington, Kentucky giving us a chance to get out and stretch our limbs. Then on to Cynthiana and another hitch of several hours. Here whiskey was plentiful and some of it found its way to the canteens of some of the rest of us. Fairly cried to see the effects on some of the comrades. Passed the night uncomfortably as we were crowded 43 to a car.
A most lovely spring day. Arrived in Covington at 3 AM here to our joy a mail was awaiting us and letters from sisters, Abbie and Carrie, with papers and a nice pair of socks for me. It was sweet to hear the church bells of the city across the river from Cincinnati. Wrote letter to folks at home. Feel I did wrong in buying articles of luxury not needed on the Sabbath. Had a fine wash and cleaned up time, seemed good to feel a bit clean once more. Marched over to Cincinnati and at near 4 PM were en route for Baltimore, MD. The 11th NH and part of the 7th RI are on our train of 38 cars drawn by two engines. We swarmed like bees on the roofs of the cars, and it made the blood tingle to our finger tips, to note the enthusiastic waving of flags and handkerchiefs and loud hurrahs in our honor as we slowly rolled out of the city.
Rainy most of the day, tried to ride on top of cars but had to give it up. A short stop at Columbus in the early morning gave me a chance to buy some b read, cheese, and apples. On all day over the L. M. X. and Cincinnati Railroad. A halt at Steubenville where we were to get lunch but found the 1st Division preceding us had “ate the whole.”
A poor night for sleep on the “soft side” of the car floor and amid the jolts and roar of the train and lying like sardines in a box. In Pittsburgh at daylight. Stacked arms in the depot building. At 10 AM were furnished with a bountiful repast in the City Hall by the City Relief Committee. At 1 PM on cars once more via Pennsylvania Railroad. Good comfortable cars with boards for seats and no more than could be seated allowed in a car, and a barrel of hard tacks for each company for rations to Baltimore. Newspapers are in plenty and a copy of the Soldiers and Sailors Almanac was given to each one. Loud were our cheers for the good people of Pittsburgh, PA. On we were rushed through villages of coal miners, passing continually long trains of coal, twisting through valleys with snow capped mountains in the distance. As we neared the mountain district it grew cooler and goodly sized snow banks lay along the track. Towards night it began to rain which soon turned to snow and the stove in the car became a welcome friend to us all.
Woke to find ourselves scooting along the banks of the Susquehanna through thriving villages and early a.m. were in Harrisburg, PA. Here a 3 hours stop, a chance to wash up and a good treat by the city and again on to Baltimore. The day fine, the scenery grand and pleasing in every way. Through thriving villages in pleasing contrasts to poverty stricken Kentucky and Tennessee. All along the route greeting and cheers of the people was seemingly without measures, and cheering to us in every way. In Baltimore, MD at 5 PM. At short march to the Union Relief Association building where we were provided with a bountiful “feed” and camped for the night. It was pleasing to note the difference in the reception to us in our march through the city today, and that of 19 months ago when we were en route for the war. Then but few flags were to be seen now the whole city was waving with them. Then but a few of the citizens took pains to view us, and they with more a scowl than a handclasp, now the sidewalks were lined with waving handkerchiefs, and cheers in plenty. It filled us with pride to see them point to our bullet riddled flag and say, “see that flag” and hear the words, “those are old soldiers.” But sad feelings came also as I thought of those who were with us in our first march through Baltimore in 1862, but not with us now to enjoy the fruits of service and victory.
A bountiful breakfast by the Union Relief Association of the city. Passed the forenoon waiting for transportation. Took a stroll about the city. Evidently a cleanly and stirring place full of commercial activity. At noon saw us on board steamer and steaming down the bay. The scenery passing out the harbor made up of the view of receding the city, the various water craft and oyster boats, and of Fort Henry was very pleasing. Three hours brought us to Annapolis and then a two mile march and camped. The road was horribly muddy from recent rain. Troops in camp are all about us. It was good to feel our journeying and marching were over for a season at least.
Was able to get a change of underclothing so could wash up. Moved camp 1 1/2 miles to a better spot. Word given out that we could have until Monday to clean up, and other wise then regular camp duty and drills would begin.
Rained most of the day. Wrote letter to folks. Received letter from Abbie. Drew full rations. It seemed good to get all one wanted of peas, beans, rice, soup, vinegar, candles, coffee, and good tender meet after our 1/2 and 1/4 and no rations at all in Tenn.
Busy most of the day in writing to folks and reading. Made out plan for daily spending of time while here in the quiet of camp life. Near 100 men reported to regiment who have been about in one way or another, 12 to our company. Had a sharp debate with John L Smith, Need to combine gentleness with earnestness in debate. Feel I did wrong to debate on secular topics on the Sabbath.
Laid out camp “A La Military” with wide and regimental streets. Had a tent given us. Five to a tent, in tent with Corporal Hiram Shufelt, Alfred Ellis, and Sergeant J. Bradford Calder. Was a relief to one’s limbs to get out of our cramping “dog” or shelter tents. Drew four month’s pay.
Cleaned up streets. A grand review of all the troops and camps was had today by General Grant and Staff. A glorious and inspiring sight as they rode along from regiment to regiment, and from camp to camp. A subscription of $50.00, was made in our company., and given to John D. Cobb (now promoted to 1st Lieutenant) for the purchase of sword and belt. Was allowed to send in application for a 7 day’s furlough with good hopes of its being granted. I wrote them that I did not think I could get one but now hope to surprise them. Mother wrote I must come if I could not stay but half an hour.
Took bath and washed pants and made preparations for the hoped for furlough.
Busy reading most of the day. Had straw given us for our tents, first we have had since leaving Massachusetts. Our camp pleasantly located so that now we are seeing the bright side of soldier life.
A rainy day. Busy reading most all day. Furlough returned unsigned. A bitter disappointment caused a spirit of rebellion against the “powers that be” within me. Reports say that by order of General Burnside, no more will be granted in the corps for the present.
Tried to pass to go to the city to church but could not. Then got a pass to the parole camp to attend the services of the church commission, but found that no pass except from the captain in charge of the camp would be accepted, and as his office was in the city had to give this up also. A squad came from the 21st MA Regiment with a pass from their colonel, they were turned away also. It seemed needless red tape. Went to the office of the Sanitary Commission, and borrowed a book “Harvest and the Reapers”, which I found enjoyable and profitable. Went to the woods for prayer and bible study in afternoon. A most lovely day.
Captain Pope, returned to regiment on a visit for a few days, having come on to Baltimore with recruits. Went to Annapolis on pass and brought portfolio and some notions. Visited the state capitol building, from the dome of which was splendid view of the surroundings of the country, of the bay amid villages and farm lands, and cottages stretching away for as far as the eye could reach. Felt on my way home that I had spent some of my money foolishly. Went to Sanitary Commission, and borrowed book “History of England” to read. Went over in the evening to a prayer meeting in Chaplain’s tent of the 51st PA, but was late and found the tent full and did not stay. Three regiments of colored troops camped near us today. Were fine looking men and their appearance did much to disarm the prejudice many have against the Negroes. Drills and dress parade today, first since leaving Tennessee. Orders came for daily drills to begin tomorrow.
Drills AM and PM. Orders came at dress parade to be ready to march at an hour’s notice with an extra pair of shoes and 5 days rations.
Major Wales returned to regiment today. Busy writing letter to Benjamin Boyden when off drill. Attended prayer meeting at 51st PA in evening. Our A tents exchanged for “shelters” much to our disgust.
Battalion drill in afternoon. At night came orders for Reveille at 2:30AM. Cooks busy cooking rations. Sick sent off also.
Up at 2:30. Baked beans for breakfast. Packed up and took a nap. Tents strapped and already to move at sunrise. Lounged about until 9AM before the word came to “fall in.” Our camp ground meanwhile presenting a curious and amusing spectacle, every variety of soldiers rubbish of old clothing, shoes, canteens, knapsacks, and haversacks, and old tents etc. Bread by the cart load was scattered about, and a sham fight was had with loaves of bread for ammunition. This is the soldier’s life, it is one month half starved, and the next month more than we can eat. The poor colored people soon swooped down upon us and at 10AM as the whole corps swung into line our old camp spots were alive with them scooping up the fragments that remained. A beautiful day, and it was an inspiring sight as regiment after regiment, brigade after brigade, and division after division, infantry, and cavalry, artillery, wagons and ambulances fell into line amid waving banners and patriotic rustic. The old 9th Corps made up now to 30,000 men was on the move to join the “Army of the Potomac” for a new campaign “On to Richmond.” Our regiment now in the 1st Brigade of the 1st Division. The new MA 56th an 57th regiments are in the brigade with us. We have seven regiments of colored troops in the corps under command of General Ferrero. Made 13 miles and camped at 5 PM beside a fine brook.
A fine bright morning. Bugle call at 4:30AM. In line at 6AM. But as our regiment was in rear of the line we did not get under way until 7:30AM. Some of our men of the old regiments were unmerciful in their jokes upon the new recruits of the new regiments; so much so, that our Major had to put a stop to it by special order. The camp spots of the new regiments, were almost literally covered with extra clothing, overcoats, old shoes, knapsacks, books, magazines, hair brushes, blankets, and all sorts of nick knacks, with which the new recruits after the experience of one day’s march concluded had better be thrown away than lugged along. All along the road the first part of the day’s march were freely strewn articles as above, so much so that the citizens turned out with teams gathering them up by the cart load. Our march for the first 10 miles was rough and muddy with every little way a little brook or small creek to ford, but on getting into the Baltimore and Washington Pike, found better footing. Being in the rear, our regiment did not get into bivouac until 9:30PM. Just opposite our camping spot we had to cross a creek about 3 feet deep by 12 ft. wide over which a narrow temporary bridge had been built, in the rush to get over many were pushed into the stream. Lost my cap in the stream. It was an exciting scene. The camp fires of the troops all about glowing in the pitchy darkness, the rushing stream, the screeching and hallowing of the unlucky ones who were forced to ford the stream, and the still louder hallowing of the stragglers trying to find their regiments and companies. We were 14 hours going 15 miles. The front of the column was in camp by 4:30PM.
A heavy shower just at sunrise, and got our blankets and traps soaked freely. The rest of the day was fine. Woke to find our bivouac near to the Maryland Agricultural College with a fine building and grounds. Marched toward 6AM. After about 5 miles came to a creek 2 feet deep by 20 feet and a lively scene was presented as we squatted upon the ground and took off shoes and socks and hilariously forded the stream. Nine miles brought us to the outskirts of Washington, DC. Here we were formed in line. Eleven batteries were added to our column. Marched through the city for two miles or more at company front, hard work caused the sweat to flow freely. Passed in review before President Lincoln, and other dignitaries at Killards Hotel, then across the river via Long Bridge and camped 3 miles from Alexandria near Fort Scott. From the range of hills about us fine views of Washington, and the Potomac, were open to us. While passing through Washington, was glad to greet David Sullivan, of our company, now on the Ironclad Corps. Was looking fine, and as cheerful as if he had never lost his right arm at Antietam.
A beautiful day. Orders to be ready to move. Drew five days ration, and cleaned gun. Sleepy and drowsy in afternoon. A large lot of new army wagons, and ambulances distributed to the different brigades. All were examined to see if guns and equipment were all in good condition. The camps all presented lively scenes. Officers and orderlies were galloping about and Quarter Masters with their supply wagons dealing out rations and all sorts of equipments. This all indicates that a move to “the front” was near at hand. As the evening drew on, the plains, valleys, and hillside all about were aglow with camp fires, and the strains of martial music from the brigade bands made a lively and cheering scene.
Reveille at 5AM and by 6 AM all tents were struck, wagons loaded and the van was on the march. Our division, being near the center did not get under way until 9AM. Fine weather and roads, which are fine for marching. Made 13 miles and camped just beyond Fairfax. The whole country presented one scene of desolation. Here and there a house or a barn, left standing, ruined houses in every direction with the early spring flowers starting into life amid the ruins and the air fragrant with apple blossoms. The whole country having evidently been one vast camping ground. Two men from the 57th Regiment died yesterday.
Our regiment detailed as guard for the division supply train, so had our knapsacks carried. We had an easy time of it though late in camp. Made 15 miles passed Centerville heights and a portion of Chantilly and Bull Run Battle grounds. A scene of desolation everywhere of what once must have been a fine farming country. Not a living thing to be seen but the army with its vast trains of supply wagons and ambulances. Fragments of shells, muskets and other debris of battle was seen here and there. Camped at Bristow’s Station on the line of what is now the United States Military Railroad. This is the great medium of transporting supplies for the Army of the Potomac.
Reveille at sunrise. Marched at 6AM. Made 10 miles passing the historic places at Warrenton Junction, and Cattelts Station. Our road is alongside the railroad. Train after train whizzing by us loaded with soldiers, and army supplies going “to the front.” All one sees on every hand is the paraphernalia of war. Have a train of 1500 wagons with our corps. Camped in a fine field beside a large brook. Our camp was laid out “A La Military” and word came that we were to do guard duty along the railroad. We were relieving the 5th Corps. This was a great surprise to us.
Soon after Reveille, came orders to prepare for inspection and muster. Went to work accordingly, when without warning word came, “pack up-move in half an hour.” With scolding, and scurrying those who had their guns and equipment’s in pieces obeyed orders and we were soon on the march as guard to our division train. Made 5 miles and camped at Beaten Station.
A raw cold morning. Near 9AM regiment laid out camp ground. Our company sent out and posted on the railroad some 1 1/2 miles for picket duty. Divided into 5 relief’s, patrolling along the railroad by night and watching the bridges by day. Our duties were not irksome and might be called holiday soldiering and easy to last long.
A fine bright day with April showers. Our corps stationed along the railroad from Manassas Junction to the Rappahannock River. Trains by day and night relieve the monotony of our picket duty. Our company returned to camp in the afternoon and I slept most of the afternoon. Received letter from Ronnie and was pleased to learn that Herbert is doing well.
Thunder shower last night. Busy in forenoon fixing up tent making a bed of cedar boughs. Forget practice by the regiment today. Busy writing to Abbie when orders came to be ready to move with 6 days rations. This meant goodbye to our hopes of good times of guarding the railroad and our soft beds of cedar. Wry faces and some bitter words were in evidence mingled with jokes and merriment over the good times we were to have or had in guarding a railroad. We lounged about waiting for further developments. Neglected to finish letter to Abbie. Word was given out that 5 hours notice would be given before orders for actual moving were given.
Reveille at 4:30AM. Were leisurely packing up when word came ready to march at 5:30AM, and so many had to fall in with breakfast half eaten. The camp ground was strewn with pork, beans, and hard tacks. We marched to the railroad where we found there had been a smash up, and three cars were wrecked. Several of the trains guard hurt and one killed. One had his leg crushed whose time of service had expired. The track strewn with sugar, coffee, and molasses, and broken cars and we were given the duty of cleaning it. Needless to say we supplied ourselves with the extra rations. At 9AM we were on the march again as guard over our division supply train and crossed the Rappahannock on pontoon and kept hitching along to Brandy Station where we halted several hours. At 5 PM were on the move by halts and jerks owing to the wagons getting stuck in the mud and some tipping over, until at a little after midnight were told to camp and make ourselves comfortable for the night.
Slept soundly until sunrise. Marched at 6AM. Halted train in a wood to let the troops and batteries pass. General Burnside, and Staff with our new corps badge displayed for the first time. The design a shield with an anchor and camen upon it. 8 miles brought us to the Rapidan river which we forded. Plenty of time was given us and most of us took off pants, socks, and shoes, the water was near hip deep. A grand hillarious time was had. Camped just over the river. Fine bed of sand to sleep on. Heavy cannonading in the distance late in the afternoon.
Reveille at daylight. Marched at 6. Made 6 miles and parked teams until 4 p.m., then moved 1/2 mile and camped for the night. Our company detailed for the night to guard ammunition trains. All day long the noise of battle off and on has raged about us. It commenced at daylight near a cluster of houses called Greenwood. The rebels were posted in a dense wood. It seemed strange and sort of out of place of duty to be resting about our wagon trains, and overlooking portion of the Wilderness battle field. To see brigades and regiments from in battle line, march to the woods to be mostly met with sheets of smoke and flame. Sometimes to press on and evidently drive the enemy from its position, and then perhaps to be driven back to the cover of the batteries. Our brigade suffered much. Our colonel was sunstruck and taken from the fields. All about us between our position upon the hill top, near the Old Wilderness Tavern, and the field of battle are parked the supply and ammunition trains of the 2nd, 5th, 6th, and 9th Corps. All seemingly in one tumbled discouraged mass, yet without doubt all in complete control of brigade and division commands. Towards night the trains connected with headquarters, signal and engineering corps were moved from the field. All sorts of reports were brought into us by now and then a wounded man or straggler finding his way to our position to be helped by our surgeon. That a terrible slaughter was going on-that the 2nd and 9th corps had been driven from position, that the enemy was being driven back etc., so we really could make nothing of the real results.
Orders at 10 last night to be ready to move. Our train to fall in rear of the 5th corps train. Packed up ready to move. Waited until one and another fell asleep, some rolling up in their blankets and others dropping upon the ground in all sorts of positions. It took all night to get straightened out, an it was not until 6 a.m. that rear of our train was underway. Moved about a mile and rested until 2 p.m. Got good nap, and sad sights on every hand. Temporary hospitals all about us filled with maimed and wounded, trains of ambulances constantly filing by us, the blood trickling from some of them. Along with them were those who were slightly wounded and able to walk. It was with willing hands we mustered to help those we could bringing them food and water, and weting their wounds with cool water. Moved in afternoon, and camped on the old Chancellorsville battle ground. The route mostly through a wood, it was cool and pleasant; and lilies and other varieties of wild flowers in blossoms and looking up at us in their sweet and beautiful innocence as if rebuking us for the cruel deeds we were compelling them to witness. A part of the route was on the plank road amid a horrible dust and a complete jam of infantry, artillery, ambulances, and a wagon trains. Some in the road and some in the fields and woods on either side struggling to get out. Evidences of the battle in the bullet scared trees, and the finding of two human skulls were before us. Were until 11 p.m. going 4 miles, and it seemed as if the bosom of mother earth was a resting place. It was very welcome.
At 7 a.m. on the move, jerking along a rod or two at a time for about a mile when we were permitted to camp for the rest of the day. Most joyously was a mail welcomed. Received letters from Abbie and Nellie. A silk handkerchief from Abbie, who wrote pleasing home news.
Routed at 2:30 with word to be ready to move at a moment’s notice. Lounging about, cooking our breakfast, and taking short naps until 9 a.m. when a move of a few rods was made and then turned into a fine grove where we passed the day in quiet and peace. Troops and artillery filing by us in one endless procession nearly all day. Passed most of the day in reading.
In camp, or rather waiting all day under orders to be ready to move at a moment’s notice. Hot and dusty, also the sound of battle and heavy commanding in our ears, and all sorts of reports flying about as to results. General Stevenson, our Division Commander, was killed; also General Sedgwick. Our major leaves us today, his resignation having been accepted. Added some to my letter to Abbie, commenced May 3rd., but there was too much excitement to write much. Word has come that no letters allowed to be sent out now. Took bath and did some washing. Made some progress in my efforts to make a better use of these hours of waiting and lounging, which seems to be our good or bad fortune these days.
At dark last night our Company was sent out on picket duty. Had hardly got “posted” when at 9 o’clock were ordered back to regiment as the train was on the move. Roads blocked with teams moving or trying to, until midnight when after making about a mile we were told to make ourselves comfortable for the night. Lounged about all day sleeping most of the forenoon. Read in Harpers Magazine. Thunder shower at 4:00, and at 5:00 came orders to go as guard for a supply train going to the front. Got underway at 6:00 and jerked along in the rain, mud, and darkness until 11:30 when a final halt was made and 12:30 saw us stretching out again upon mother earth. A regiment of rebel prisoners passed us during the day. Seeing some negro soldiers guarding one of the trains, they were quite free in use of strong language towards them, to which the negroes answered as sharp. Trains of wounded have passed on and off all day. The booming of cannon has been constant near all day showing that heavy battles are in progress. God grant that speedy victory may come to the right, and the war soon be over.
Were quiet all the forenoon for we were under order to be ready to move at a moment’s notice. The word came just after noon. Jerked along in the rain and mud. Made 6 miles and camped in a fine field 4 miles from Fredericksburg. The field had been newly fenced and planted, the owner doubtless thinking that the tide of moving armies would not come his way again. Our wagon trains soon made havoc of the field, and the fence soon made fuel for cook fires and to dry our wet clothing. Near us was some soldiers’ graves, which were evidently hastily made, for some of the coffins were partially uncovered and one body at least had the appearance of having been food for animals. Reports plenty that Richmond had been captured. Our bivouace in the forenoon was where we could see some of the batteries of both armies on the distant hill top at their deadly work. It was exciting to watch them. To note, first, the wreath of smoke at the gun, then in a few seconds the boom of the report. Then in another second or two, the crash of the bursting shell. Near us a temporary hospital was established and it was soon filled with wounded coming on stretchers, in ambulances, or hobbling along on foot. It was a sad sight and we cannot as a regiment be too thankful that God in his providence has thus far given us duties outside the battle field. For nine days now, the noise of battle has raged about us.
Rained near all night. Slept soundly, thanks to our rubber blankets. Some 9500 Rebel prisoners filed passed us this morning. In all they were good looking men, and well clothed showing that General Lee, has the flower of the southern armies. Showery all day.
Showery all day. Finished letter to Abbie. Fourteen pieces of captured rebel artillery passed us today. Also several regiments of heavy artillery en route for the front. It was amusing to hear them talk of being sent off from their cosey fort quarters with but a few hours notice. That they had not received any soft bread for several days, and wishing to k now if any butter could be had hereabouts. Poor fellows they will learn there is quite a difference between soldiering in the field “with the battle on” and lounging in a fort with no enemy at hand. A skeleton was uncovered by the rain today, apparently that of a Union soldier.
Routed early with orders to be ready to move, but were permitted to remain in quiet all day. Was surprised and shocked to note in the middle of the forenoon that it was the sabbath. Feel that the excitement of the battles going on about us and the confusion, which we who guard the trains in the rear are most constantly in is not a full excuse such forgetfulness. Had a chance to retire to an adjoining wood for a season of prayer and bible study and from it hope I have gained fresh impulse to nobler and more earnest life. It has been a most lovely day. It has rained off and on for 4 days but after a thunder shower the sun set clear, with the trees and shrubs glittering with the rain drops, the birds chirping and the wild flowers plenty along the edge of the wood, and all seemed to tell that nature was faithful as ever to tell the love and goodness of God, and as if utterly unmindful that the “Iron hell of war” was trampling them under its feet. The Quarter Master of the brigade or division, inspected the baggage of the officers today, and many traps which the regulations do not allow them to have in a time of campaign, were taken from the wagons, and dumped everywhere. Candles, tents, and other notions were distributed among the men. Got some letter paper out of the rummage. Sent letter home by Captain Lyon.
Marched at 6 a.m. to within 1 1/2 miles of Fredericksburg, and camped beside a creek just in rear of the old line of rebel entrenchments upon which our troops made the attack in December ‘62. Our road which was once a fine plank road, was today near a foot deep with mud mingled with broken and splintered planks, so that the marching was simply awful. Sun came out bright and warm in the afternoon. Did some washing. Read in Harpers Monthly. The scenery round about Fredericksburg, fine, made up of gentle hills, and [vales] now green with spring grass and foliage. The city is now one vast hospital. But few male inhabitants remain. Many of the houses and buildings show in their battered walls the marks of the (to us) disastrous battle of ‘62. At near 8:00 p.m. came orders for the pleasant job of guard duty on wagon trains and prepare for the tug of war. Felt like writing home to tell of the change but thought best to let them imagine us still on guard duty.
Marched at 6:00 a.m. 10 miles brought us to the front. Our march through a fine farming country which thus far seems to have escaped the tramp of armies and the scurge of war. Fields of newly planted corn, and grain, cattle grazing in the pastures first we have seen thus far in parts of Virginia. Found our troops intrenched in rifle pits and breastworks with the rebels in the same, across the country along the edge of a thick wood. Drew 5 days rations. Had to bring them near a mile from the supply train.
Routed at 3:30 with word to fall in without noise, with haversacks and canteens, and leave knapsacks. Fell in line and were told we were to support the 56th in making a charge upon the rebel works in our front. Thoughts of home and loved ones came thick and fast. Perhaps this is my last battle and of parting words I would like to say. Formed in line in front of our rifle pits, and soon as daylight came the advance began through a thick wood with underbrush plenty, and the rebel pickets were sighted who fired and fell back. Pressing on a storm of bullets mingled with grape and shell greeted us. The 56th in advance, we 20 paces in their rear on to the crest of a hill from which the rebel breastworks and a battery of two forces could be seen also on a hill and between us a low swampy space into which the rebels had felled trees making an abatis. At the sight of this together with the increasing fire from the rebel lines the 56th staggered in their advance, got confused, crowded upon one another and in spite of the efforts of their officers were soon in full retreat growling and crowding upon us and leading us to suppose an order to fall back had been given, fall back also to our rifle pits. No enemy pursued us and a new line was formed. The 57th MA now in the advance, and as far as the ground would permit went forward in good order until the abattis was reached when we were ordered to lie down. Remained thus until near noon, accasionally changing our position to prevent being flanked. The battle raged severely on our right. Over our heads flew the bullets with their “Zip Zip”, the cannister with their “Whir Whir”, and the screaming shell cutting off the tree tops, limbs and branches over our head, scattering them with the splinters at times in a perfect shower about us. Our regiment lost 3 killed, and 18 wounded. Two of the killed were badly mangled with cannister shot. At noon the battle was over and we returned to our trenches. But two of our Company were wounded. Thus again have I cause for gratitude and thanksgiving. Got a little excited and spoke harshly to some of the men, showing me that I have need to cultivate quietness and gentleness with earnestness.
Routed at 1:30 with visions of repeating yesterdays attack upon the rebels, but after lounging until daylight, marched to the rear and then off to the right all the corps on the move and thus our small part of the battle of Spottsylvania ended. Marched about three miles and halted while brigade after brigade of the army of the Potomac filed by us for two hours or more. We having a chance to make coffee and get a bit rested meanwhile. Then a two mile march and our regiment was deployed as skirmishers tramping first through some fine farmland which had just been newly planted, then through a wood into another open field across which some half a mile we could see the rebel line of breastworks. Here we halted and remained until 5 p.m. when we were relieved by the 56th. The rebels kept up a light desultory fire of an occasional shell and musketry with the result of slightly wounding three among us. During the day breastwork and earthworks for batteries were thrown up. As we took our position in line we had the job of entrenching ourselves; at 8:30 spades and axes came and by 10:30 we had breastworks up along our front. It was a lively scene to witness our digging by the moonlight. Saw much of our new Brigade Commander General James H. Ledlie, today. I liked his appearance and manner.
Routed at 2 a.m. and ordered to go into the trenches. Stretched ourselves upon our blankets and slept until daylight. During the forenoon built some transverse breastworks to protect from crossfire. Got a fine nap in afternoon. All quiet along the line.
All quiet during forenoon. Partly wrote letter to Abbie and Ronnie. Rebels sent a few shells to disturb our quiet in afternoon. At near 3:00 p.m., the rebels advanced and our pickets fell back. Sharp firing was kept up for an hour or more. At 4:30, our corps was on the move towards guinea station, on the Fredericksburg and Richmond railroad. The 6th corps occupied our rifle pits as we left them.
Marched all last night. Some of the way rapidly and at others jerking along on account of slough holes and choked conditions of the road with artillery, ambulances, and supply wagons. Arrived at Guinea Station at 7 a.m., when a chance was given us to make on the move, moving slowly with occasional short rests to let the teams get out of the way. At 10:00 o’clock, we made coffee and rested a little. Felt very sleepy and got quite a number of cat naps with knapsacks and pillow. Cannonading in the distance off and on all day. Had a good wash in a sort of swamp hole. Never does a bath seem so refreshing as after a day or two of marching in the hot sun and dust. Thank God for the gift of water.
Marched at 6:00 a.m. A good road must of the way. Very dusty one slough hole kept us hitching along for near 3 hours going meanwhile but two miles, after this a race to catch up. Our regiment acting as provost guard, our duty to look out for and catch all stragglers and send them to their regiments. Think our commanding officer showed lack of feeling towards many of them who were really exhausted and part sick. They were treated roughly and with needless severity. The job of picking up stragglers in times of rapid marching on these hot days is not a pleasant one, it being often hard to tell who are “playing off”, and who really is tired and foot sore. Think some of our surgeons are not particular and willing enough to give permits that the latter class may have their knapsacks and accouterments put upon the teams. Halted and made coffee at 3 p.m. Made some 12 miles and camped 1 mile from the No Anna river at 7:00 p.m. Heavy connonading in the distance near all the afternoon. Our route the past two days has been through a fine farming country with here and there a field of corn or wheat or tobacco, but most fields growing weeds and the farm buildings and house deserted. In some few women and old negroes could be seen, many of them were badly frightened at our (“the Yanks”) coming. At one house the females evidently young ladies amused themselves and us by calling us names and screeching at us. One of the regiments “cleared out” one house, smashing their furniture and carrying off things to no use to them. Generals Grant and Meade, and staffs passed us today. Well tired out as we stretched out for sleep in a rough cornfield with a full moon over our heads.
Slept soundly, woke fully refreshed. Lounged about under orders to be ready to move at once until 1:00 p.m., when were again on the march. It was warm and dusty. One mile brought us to the North Anna River. This we forded water hip deep, the bottom of the river rough and rocky, the current strong. Swung our haversacks heavy with 3 days rations and our cartridge boxes over our heads and shoulders. Some were unlucky enough to get upset and came near getting drowned. After crossing our brigade was formed in battle line. Our regiment deployed as skirmishers, and led the advance through a thick fine wood, ravines and rough places in plenty with here and there an open space, going some of the way at double quick time. We soon met the rebel picket line which fell back at our advance saluting us at the first with a few stray shots, a half a mile or more brought us to an open field beyond which we could see the rebel breastworks, batteries and infantry in battle line. Halted until our brigade came up when a general attack was made upon the rebel line in our front with the result of driving them through the wood and across a ravine some eight feet deep and back to their main line. Continuing the advance we were met with such a shower of shell, grape, and cannister combined with a sudden downpour of rain that our little were broken and orders were given to fall back to breastwork which our reserves had thrown up in our rear. In the scrimmage our regiment line was broken up as we fell back through the woods. Suddenly found myself alone with three of our 35th and the main body of the 56th. Going up to General Leddlie, I asked for the whereabouts of the 35th. He said they were all mixed up with the other regiments and I had better go in with 56th. Joined them and tried to find some of the 35th, but in vain, and soon concluded that the place for me was with my own regiment and started back to the river. Soon came upon Captain Hudson, and Company H who were doing picket duty on the left. He did not know where the rest of the regiment was. We remained in quiet for near an hour when a downpour of rain came on in the midst of which the rebels succeeded in getting on our flank, which caused a “grand skedaddle” on our part towards the river. We stopped to give a wounded man some water. I got separated and found myself alone and mid the rain, mist and wood began to be in doubt as to the line of retreat when I came upon Lt. Creasy, and two other staff officers chatting unconcernedly and so felt all right and kept on coming out to open field when I came upon a line of skirmishers lying upon the ground. Marched towards them supposing them our own men when suddenly a half a dozen or more jumped up took aim and yelled out “drop that gun”-kept towards them yelling out “don’t fire on your men”, only to receive a second yell from them. Then to suddenly realize that death or surrender was my alternative and with a feeling of shame and mortification, threw down my gun which I had hoped to carry home (with scar of rebel bullet received at Jackson, Mississippi) as a memorandum of the war. Was soon taken in charge by a member of the 7th Alabama with a reproof for not dropping my gun at their first call, and the remark that in “another minute you would of been a dead man.” Marched to the rear was relieved of rubber blanket, shelter tent, and cartridge box, and found myself with about 25 more unfortunates. Was humiliated to find myself alone of the 35th at first but not for long, for soon came in the three staff officers, and five comrades of the 35th. Were marched about a mile to Andersons station where we found more of wearers of the blue and by night we numbered about 70. Our guards treated us well. As we stretched out upon mother earth another shower greeted us so that with our previous duckings we were so well soaked that our weary bodies soon forgot it all in “nature’s sweet restorer balmy sleep.”
Slept soundly. Fine morning and with the opening day three more of the 35th were brought in making nine of us. As the day grew, it became warmer and we were taken into a wood where it was cool and comfortable. The rebel soldiers were anxious to buy watches knives, paper, and jewelry paying in Confederate money now worth in exchange value 1/10th of United States money. They were in the main good solid looking men, well clothed, many having on some part of United States Uniform. Those wearing our army belts did so with the “U.S.” upside down. Were free to talk with us. At near 3 p.m. shot from some distant battery began to roll in among us and soon we were in a grand “skidaddle” to the rear for about a mile. At 4 p.m. came the words “fall in forward march,” and a march of five mile brought us to Taylorsville, where we halted to then start a ten mile march to Ashland, where we permitted to camp on a fine grasy plot. Got a good ducking on the way. Missed Uncle Sam’s rubber blankets. During the march in the p.m. passed several regiments of confederates evidently waiting orders and lining the roadsides. While halted for a rest saw a young confederate whose face looked familiar but could not recall his name or where I had seen him before. He recognized me and found him to be Charles Ellis, whose father, a former Massachusetts man had removed to Florida, and at the opening of the war had responsed the cause of the confederacy. He with his brother Frank, were schoolmates of brothers Ronnie, and Herbert. Charles was now in the 2nd Florida and Frank in a regiment of Texas Rangers. Was quite affected to see me, inquiring minutely about his former schoolmates and relations still living in his former northern home, and to be sure and tell his relatives of my seeing him should I live to get home.
A foggy morning ending with a two hour’s rain so we were soaked again. Additions made to our ranks during the night so we now numbered two or three hundred. Have a fine camp spot in an open lot in the center of the town of Ashland near a fine school building. Everything about the town seemed to show that all the adult citizens were in for the war in one capacity or another. Many were free to talk with us expressing much ire at our government for employing negroes for soldiers. Freely admitting that they were employed in building fortifications and as teamsters. Some of us had sharp debates with them on the slavery question. They expressed unbounded confidence in their being victors in the war, so much so that it is a depressing effect upon some of us. At near 1 p.m. were put on board what were once passenger cars and off for Richmond, and at about 4 p.m. became an inmate in the second story of Libby Prison. Here we were searched. All U. S. money taken from us (i.e. all that which we did not succeed hiding). All our personal effects left us, but all our canteens, haversacks, knapsacks, rubber blankets taken. Found we were in a room which had just been whitewashed and cleaned up. Two of the windows looking out upon the James river. Windows large and devoid of glass and heavily grated with a fairly good place for sanitary and washing. Thus far have been well treated by our guards. In passing through the city we were greeted with a few of the citizens making insulting remarks about we “Yanks”, and a few youngsters had a little hooting for us. The guards would allow but little intercourse between us however. Feel I cannot be too thankful that I have been able to keep my writing case, sewing case, letters, an extra shirt, and my wool blanket. I find many a poor coward in the room disrobed of all but what he had on, and some who have been forced to exchange United States rigs for ragged rebel clothing.
In Libby Prison. Can hardly realize it. Have imaged almost every other fortune of war as it might come to me but that of a “prisoner of war.” Feel that He who has cared for me thus far in battlefield, camp, march, and hospital, will care for me and help me to cheerfulness and patience while in prison. Oh may I be truly thankful that health and a cheerful spirit are with me now. A sad wave of feeling comes to me as I think of dear ones at home. Read my name reported “Missing.” It will be many months before I get at liberty. Need to be especially watchful of my health. Must plan for my daily life to keep busy. Felt drowsy and dull most of the day, and did little but square my diary up.
We had a rough time drawing rations. Some have been without food for two days, and were impatient at delay caused by getting the men into squads and dividing the rations. 1/2lb. more or less corn bread, 1/4lb. of pork and [1/2] pt. of rice for the day, were speedily devoured. Feel I can live on these for a while but grow gradually weak I fear. Did some washing and took a bath. Read in Bible and Tract Journal. Thank God for his Holy Word. With it I need waste no time.
Woke early. Clear and cool. Took bath, and felt much refreshed. Heard but one church bell during the day. Felt inclined to sadness at thought of home and its peaceful sabbath. But as I read from God’s word, of its precious promises, and our Saviour’s teachings, felt I had in them much to cheer, and had no right to be despondent. Near a hundred more prisoners came in, also a hundred or more from Belle Isle. Wrote letter home, but I could write but little as all has to be inspected. Have quite a pleasant view from the south windows of our room of a portion of the James River rushing over rocks; and a pleasing landscape of dwellings, gardens, and farms beyond it. At sunset the view is charming and as we take turns in looking at its vision of peace and beauty, it takes away a little of the uncomfortableness of our brick walls and hard floors which are quite a change from the free “out of doors”, and friendly “mother earth” which we have enjoyed the past two years (or near it). Woe be unto us if we touch with our hands the iron gratings in front of the windows with a musket ready to fire.
Had a talk with an officer who passed the winter in Belle Isle, and now transferred to Libby. He freely confirmed the newspaper reports-that scores of poor fellows died of starvation and destitution, and hundreds from diseases incident therefrom-that they were forced to live upon dogs, rats, and other refuse to keep alive-that scores of stores sent by the Sanitary Commission, and boxes of clothing etc., sent by friends from home were in the most part confiscated by the authorities of their agents. He said that the executive management of the prison was slack. Washed shirt. Had sharp debate with comrades upon slavery. Notice I need to watch against self-conceit, and cultivate a spirit humble and candid yet earnest, and ever to content for truth rather than victory. New lots of prisoners came in today, so that now we are crowded and the air of the place is far from sweet and pure.
Were routed at 3:30, and fell in line and received one day’s rations and marched to station of Richmond and Danville railroad where after a two hour’s or more wait, were crowded into box freight cars 60 to a car, and after another wait until 9 a.m. were en route (as we suppose) for Georgia. Four of us Massachusetts men, have mutual belongings, and share them, and also formed a “mess” for mutual help and deference, agreeing to share everything. They are Sergeant Emory Smith (formerly 18th Mass. now of 1st U. S. Cavalry), Benjamin F. Pratt 3rd, Co. H. and James A.Lord of Co. C, 35th. Exchanged our small fund of U. S. for Confederate money. Soon got hungry and bought some bread, loaves little larger than our fists at $1.00 each (Confederate money) par value $10.00 to $1.00 U. S. A ride of 139 miles brought us to Danville, Virginia. The country about Richmond presented a desolate aspect, scarce anything in cultivation. But along the Stanton river, and about Danville, fine crops of corn and wheat were visible. Could see but few male inhabitants in any of the villages or towns we passed. Train moved slowly and we did not get to Danville until daylight.