The 122d regiment was part of the Army of the Potomac. While it was always in the Sixth Corps (designated by a blue Greek cross), at different times it was attached to the lst, 2nd and 3d divisions of the Corps. On September 7, 1862, it became part of the 3rd Division (blue), 1st Brigade. On April 20, 1864 it was assigned to the 1st Division (red), fourth Brigade, and on June 1, 1864 was transferred to the 2nd Division (white), Third Brigade. The 122d never dishonored the red, white and blue. It participated honorably in all the major engagements of the Army of the Potomac from Antietam to Appomattox and was involved in 62 skirmishes. It also bore a prominent part in the glories of the Valley campaign under Sheridan in '64, and won laurels at Fort Stevens, Winchester, Fisher's Hill and Cedar Creek.
August 25, 1862
Monday last witnessed stirring times in Fayetteville. It was the time chosen for the presentation of a beautiful flag to the 122d Regiment, by the ladies of Fayetteville. Crowds poured in from the country; the village was out en masse, everyone who could be present was here to witness this interesting ceremony. Beard's Hall was thronged at an early hour in the afternoon with the beauty, fashion and grace, characteristic of the fair portion of our population. This was a specialty belonging alone to them. To their patriotic endeavors does the Third Onondaga Regiment owe the success of the scheme which has furnished them with an elegant and costly banner.--Working on, with scarce a look of favorable recognition upon their patriotic endeavors from many who claim par excellence to be the instigators of all good works,--and consider themselves patriots intensified; the ladies achieved, through their own merits alone, a complete success. About 4 o'clock Col. Titus arrived at the Hall to receive the flag on behalf of his regiment. He was received with hearty applause. On taking his seat the meeting was called to order by Mrs. E. J. Erdman, president; on motion Mrs. S. J. Wells, P. H. Agan and Thomas E. Hitchcock were chosen Secretaries. The services opened with appropriate music by the Fayetteville Band, followed by an earnest prayer by Rev. Mr. Erdman. Mrs. Matilda Joslyn E. Gage then came forward, and in the following language made the presentation:
"Mrs. President, it has been said, 'all that man hath will he give for his life'; but at the present time there are hundreds and thousands of men who willingly take their lives into their hands and march boldly forth into battle, for there are things dearer than life, there are things without which life would be valueless, there are things rather than lose which, we would lose life itself.
And what is this for which men so willingly hazard their lives? It is not territory, nor power, nor the subjugation of a people, but it is to uphold liberty, and to maintain the government. It has been sometimes said by semi-traitors, that the poor men fight for the benefit of the rich, but this is not true, for side by side with the poor man in the ranks of the army, stand rich men, whose wealth counts by hundreds of thousands, and who sprang to arms as privates upon the president's first call for aid.
The United States Government is emphatically the poor man's government. The rich can buy immunity and obtain favor under any form of government, but in no other land on the globe but this, do rich and poor stand on a political level. The man who lives in a log hut--the man who this year is a rail-splitter, may next year sit in the Presidential chair. Every poor man who fights in the army fights for himself--he fights to sustain his own rights, and more than that, the fate of unborn millions of poor men will be decided in this war.
In the hands of every soldier lies the destiny of some other being; but for us all, and for the nations of Europe, Asia and Africa. What will be your fate--what will be the fate of us all if the North is defeated, for the war of the North and the South is a war of principles. On the one hand, liberty and the Union, and the poor man's rights forever, and on the other Slavery and the aristocratic disunion of a few, over both the black man and the poor white man.
Let the soldiers, when they are on the battle field, remember what I say now: You are fighting for your own liberty, and let every blow be dealt with a stalwart hand, for should liberty fall, despotism will arise in its stead, and houses, or lands, or money, or even life itself, will not be worth what they now are.
Let Liberty be your watch word and your war cry alike. Unless liberty is attained--the broadest, the deepest, the highest liberty for all,--not for one set alone, one clique alone, but for men and women, black and white, Irish, Germans, Americans and negroes, there can be no permanent peace.
There can be no permanent peace until the cause of the war is destroyed. And what caused the war? Slavery! and nothing else. That is the corner-stone and key-stone of the whole. The cries of down-trodden millions arising to the throne of God. Let each one of you feel the fate of the world to be upon your shoulders, and fight for yourselves, and us, and the future.
This present rebellion is the tenth specific attempt that has been made to defy the authority of the Federal Government. Three of these occurred within twenty years of our Declaration of Independence, and the fourth when Missouri sought admission into the Union. There were threats of disunion; the North was warned to remember Caesar and Rome, and was told seas of blood would be shed. The hollow peace known to statesmen as the Missouri Compromise then smoothed the outward surface. Slavery was the cause of that trouble, and from that hour to this the peace patched up has been a hollow one, for the constant seething of a compressed volcano has run through the nation until the present outbreak. Liberty and slavery are as unlike each other as light and darkness, and as dissimilar as God and Satan.
In our various wars the flag of the Union has ever been successful; God grant it may be so now. Ours is called the Flag of the Free. When this war is over may none but freemen dwell under it. No other flag on earth has so proud a name,--none so glorious an origin, for
"When Freedom from her mountain height
Unfurled her banner to the air,
She tore the azure robe of night
And set the stars of glory there.
She mingled with its gorgeous dies
The milky baldness of the skies,
And striped its pure, celestial light.
With streakings of the morning light.
There from his mansion in the sun
She called her eagle-bearer down,
And gave into his might hand,
The symbol of her chosen land."
The flag of the Union was formed from a combination of the various flags used during the Revolutionary War, the principal flag of the old Continental army being crimson, the New England flag used at Bunker Hill blue, and the flag of the floating batteries, white. But it did not burst in all its significant splendor at once upon the world, it received its present form from successive steps.
The first striped flag raised upon the American continent, was hoisted by the celebrated John Paul Jones on board the man-of-war Alfred, in the Delaware river, in December, 1755. The new Continental army was organized the first of January, 1776, a few days after this, and that day the striped flag was unfurled at Cambridge. But it was not until June, 1777, a year and a half after the first striped flag was raised, and nearly a year after our declaration of independence, that Congress definitely decided upon its form of thirteen alternate red and white stripes, and thirteen white stars upon a blue field. For some time after this, a new stripe was added upon the admission of each new State into the Union, until its rapidly increased bulk and ungraceful form compelled a new act of Congress, the year of which I have forgotten by which the number of stripes was reduced to the original thirteen, and a star ordered to be added upon the admission of each new State into the Union. The thirteen stripes show the original number of United Colonies, and the stars the present number of States. The idea was taken from the constellation Lyra which in the hands of Orpheus signifies harmony, and the stars were at first arranged in a circle to signify the perpetuity of the Union. The whole was designed to represent the West, and the colors of the flag were equally significant; the red denoting daring, the white purity, and the blue truth.
Colonel Titus, say to the One Hundred and Twenty-Second Regiment, to whom this flag in my hand will soon belong, that they will emphatically be our regiment. Say to them we feel we are giving the flag into worthy hands, who will never disgrace it, but who will drive the enemy before them as dust flies before a tornado, and who will aid in bringing justice and liberty triumphant over the land. Tell them we shall watch the flag with pride in their success, their honor will be our honor, their success will be our joy, and when they return in peace, the Union restored, Slavery forever blasted, and liberty triumphant over this continent, we will welcome them as a band of heroes; and this flag preserved here forever will be the trophy of their bravery and their victory.
Say to Company C theirs is the post of danger, and also the post of honor, for where danger is, there lies the opportunity for valiant deed. Say to them, never surrender your flag, but carry it proudly, remembering it signifies bravery, purity, truth,--remembering that it is the emblem of Home, Government, Country, and Liberty.
"Then success to the flag of the nation,
May its folds all around us be spread,
It is blazoned with deeds of the valiant,
And sacred with names of the dead.
The stars are the symbols of Union,
May they ever in unity wave,
The white is the emblem of honor,
The red is the blood of the brave.
Then success to the flag of the nation.
May it sweep o'er the land and the sea,
Oh! whenever its splendor is darting,
Be it darted to naught but the free.
Soldiers! 'keep its bright glories unsullied,
Sustain it on ocean and shore,
Rear it high, a brave beacon of freedom
To the world, until time is no more.' "
Colonel Titus, we have pleasure in entrusting this flag,--the emblem of all we hold dear or holy on earth,--to so gallant an officer as your deeds have shown you to be, and through you to the brave men you will command.
Col. Titus received the banner with visible emotion, and spoke as follows:
Madam: You have entrusted to weak and feeble hands this banner. The fair hands that have given it are even more fit to carry it to the field than I am now. But thanks to the heroism of Onondaga, we have a thousand warm hearts --two thousand strong hands,--a thousand bright bayonets--that shall rally around this banner, to shield it from the blighting touch of traitors--that will bear it bravely to the field--that will stand by it, and see it torn to a thousand shreds ere they will surrender it to rebel hands, and carry it triumphantly from rampart to rampart, until the eagle it bears shall be the beacon light proclaiming to the deluded South the return of her liberties.
Madam, I wish I had your genius to frame words of fitness for this occasion. I shall remember this scene wherever I go. Wherever I go I shall think proudly of this occasion, of this scene; and whenever I go, through rebel domain, I shall nerve my best endeavors for the honor and protection of this flag. I will say to the youth of my command, and the men of riper years, ever stand ready to defend this banner with your lives. Madam, I have not strength to make a suitable and fitting answer to your admirable address. I have no language to interpret the gratitude I feel. I will do my best to maintain this flag; and although shot and shell shall pierce these folds, yet will I return it to you, to be kept as a memento of the gallantry of the brave men of Onondaga, who bore it to the field.
Robert McCarthy then made a few appropriate remarks, "America" was sung by the choir, three cheers were given for the 122d regiment, three for Major Barnum, and three times three for Col. Titus.
When Co. C was organized in July and August, 1862 at Fayetteville, NY, it was the third (of 10) in order of enlistment, and therefore became the first color company. Amasa Chase of Fayetteville was the color sergeant of the 122d until promoted after the battle of Fisher's Hill, and carried this flag through many conflicts. After numerous skirmishes and several battles, it became tattered and stained, and was replaced by new silken colors in early 1864. This latter flag was placed in the State Capitol at Albany after the war.
August 28, 1862
The 122d N. Y. was enlisted entirely in the county of Onondaga, in the fair garden of Central New York, and mustered into service at Syracuse, N. Y., August 28th, 1862. We left Syracuse August 31, 1862, a thousand strong, under command of Col. Silas Titus, A. W. Dwight, Lt. Col.; J. B. Davis, Major; A. J. Smith, Adjutant; Frank Lester, Quartermaster; N. R. Tefft, Surgeon; J. O. Slocum and E. A. Knapp, Assistants, and L. M. Nickerson, Chaplain. While the regiment was being organized in July, 1862, one of the recruits in Marcellus, Henry Sarr, died from over exertion in recruiting for the company of which he was to have been Lieutenant. As he was not mustered into either State or Federal service, he cannot properly be called the first member of the 122d Regiment who gave his life to the country (Theodore L. Poole, Co. K).
James M. Gere the first captain of "H" Co., 122d N.Y.V. had one of the most eventful and romantic careers of any of the officers of that celebrated regiment. In July, 1862, he was engaged in conducting a farm in Camillus and also in manufacture of salt. He was married and had a young wife, and family of two little children, but feeling that the country needed his services and that her demands were even more imperative than even the ties of home and family he began to raise a company among the young men of Camillus for the 122d regiment then being organized in Syracuse. His company was almost entirely composed of farmers' sons residing in his native town and when the captain unloaded his command from the canal boat which brought them to Syracuse and marched them into the Bastable Arcade to be mustered in, they were the admiration of all who saw them - fine stalwart fellows, every one (Andrew W. Wilkin, Co. H).
When leaving the camp on the old Fair Grounds south of Syracuse on August 31, we marched through its dusty streets and took our seats in the long train of cars which were to convey us to New York City en route for the seat of war (Andrew W. Wilkin, Co. H). It was a bright Sabbath morning, and we were gaily singing as the train left the depot "We are coming Father Abraham three hundred thousand more" (Stuart McDonald, Co. F).
September 3, 1862 - Arrive Washington; September 6, 1862 - Assigned to Couch's Division
According to Special Order #3, the 122d Regiment N. Y. Vols. is assigned to Couch's Division at Offut's Cross Roads about two miles above Tenallytown. (S. Williams, Ass't. Adjt. Gen, Headquarters Defenses of Washington, North of Potomac, Washington, Sept. 6, 1862).
Upon our arrival at Washington we went into camp for a few days, when we were ordered to join the Army of the Potomac, and fortunately for us, were assigned to Cochrane's, soon to become Shaler's brigade, composed of the 23d, 61st and 82d Pa. and 65th and 67th N.Y. I don't believe any of us will forget the day when we joined the brigade at Offut's Crossroads. The old regiments were so reduced in numbers by the Peninsula campaign, that we were not surprised as our long line filed past to be greeted with the shout, "Hello, what brigade is that?" We were kindly received in the brigade, and if they did take a little advantage of our greenness and credulity and told us big stories of the Peninsula campaign and the "seven days fight," we soon learned to be "old soldiers" ourselves and held our own with them, and after Gettysburg and the Wilderness we never heard quite so much of the "seven days fight" (Osgood V. Tracy, Co. I).
The first member of the 122d Regiment who gave his life to the country was Albert Randall (age 18) of B Co. who died at this camp (of typhoid fever) near Washington, Sept. 8, 1862. He was from the town of Cicero and my impression is that his remains were brought home and lie in one of the cemeteries of that town (Theodore L. Poole, Co. K).
September 7-14, 1862 - Moving in a Northwesterly Direction North of the Potomac River and Chesapeake & Ohio Canal, Maryland; September17 - March to Harper's Ferry, West Virginia and Countermarch.
The Quartermaster's Department will furnish the necessary transportation to carry into effect the following assignments on September 7. The regiments for Burnside's, Sumner's and Bank's Corp and Couch's Division (containing the 122d) will march without tents and knapsacks and will be provided with three day's provisions in haversacks. All the regiments will have forty rounds of ammunition in their cartridge boxes (S. Williams, Ass't. Adjt. Gen, Headquarters Defenses of Washington, North of Potomac, Washington, Sept. 6, 1862).
After joining Cochrane's Brigade of Couch's Division of the Grand Army of the Potomac, we marched to Edward's Ferry, Balls Bluff, and many other places too numerous to mention, without encountering the enemy. Our first experience of the stern realities of war was at or near the village of Burkittsville, a small place at the foot of the mountain pass called Crampton Gap. Here the rebels had endeavored to hold the command of the pass which would have given them the entry into a fair and fertile valley, teeming with the products of the husbandman's toil which their almost famished legions so much required, but were met by Slocum's division and driven back with great loss on either side. This affair was part of the grand battle of South Mountain (September 14, 1862). In churches and other public buildings the wounded had been gathered and as we passed the skirts of the village we met a large number of ambulances freighted with suffering humanity on the way to the impromptu hospitals which had been penned for their reception. Many suffered in silence, whilst with others the deep groan bore testimony to the agony they endured as the vehicle jolted over the rough mountain road. The contest had lasted nearly all day, and consequently the rebels had an opportunity to send at least a portion of their wounded to the rear but their dead lay thickly strewn along the road where the Federal forces had made the desperate bayonet charge which drove them back to the valley down which McClellan was at the same time forcing their main army to retire. Our command was halted for a time where the carnage had been most fearful and our boys were allowed the privilege of inspecting the field of battle as it appears on the day after the fight. A brief glance satisfied many, while the morbid curiosity of others tempted them to stray from the ranks in search of new horrors. I was content to remain in the ranks and put up with what I could see from that point (Stuart McDonald, Co. F, October 2,1862).
Marching onward a few miles we encamped for a couple of days, and long before daylight of the eventful September 17th were on our way to Harper's Ferry. Having arrived within a short distance of that place we reconnoitered for a time, when orders were given to countermarch and reinforce McClellan. During the greater portion of our return march we could almost step to the music of the cannon which boomed heavily on the further side of the mountain range that separated us from the contending armies. Every nerve was strained and stragglers forced forward at the point of the bayonet. This day we marched over 24 miles, arriving at our destination at about nine o'clock (a.m.), and turned in to catch such rest as we could on the furrows of a plowed field, our only extra clothing being a blanket. All were sufficiently tired to sleep without rocking, but we were not permitted to enjoy ourselves in this respect for any length of time, our rest being broken by the distribution of three day's rations, and the whole command being on the move again at a very early hour. Gen. Cochrane left us before we had hardly time to know him, and was succeeded by that thorough and gallant soldier, Gen. Alexander Shaler, and if at first we thought he was rather strict in his discipline and severe in his drills, after having been in battle under his command we appreciated the value of it all, and knew that wherever he sent us he was near us himself, caring for us and always ready if necessary to lead us (Osgood V. Tracy, Co. I)
How vividly imagination pictures "Old Buckskin" (Gen. Shaler) trotting along the line bearing the stately erect form of "Old Alex." and the cordial "Good morning, Colonel," as he passed the head of the column (Charles H. Enos, Co. D).
Our regiment was sent into the field without tents or blankets at the very outset of its military service when of all times it needed them the most. I can remember no hardship during the war greater than that of those first nights on which, drenched with perspiration from the fatiguing march of the day, we found sleep, if at all, without overcoats, blankets or tents and with no protection from the heavy dews but such as we could get from pine boughs which were our only couch or covering. Even when blankets were again furnished us we were compelled to carry them slung about our necks as we had no knapsacks nor did we have a soldier's proper equipment for months afterward. Much sickness and many deaths were the direct result. Of a piece with this was our experience at Falmouth a few months later when with heavy timber in front of us and the enemy on the other side of the river we found our winter quarters on a muddy plain, our fuel in the forests miles away and our backs were the only means of transporting it. A soldier's life, like a policeman's, "is not a happy one" under any circumstances but it has always seemed to me that the experience of the 122nd N. Y. during its first eight months of service was in some respects particularly exasperating (Robert H. Moses, Co. F).
September 17, 1862 - Reach Antietam Battlefield Near Sharpsburg, Maryland; Join Battle on September 18; September 19 - Move to Sharpsburg; September 20 - Return to Antietam Battlefield, Then Move To Williamsport.
After the defeat of Pope at Manassas, Lee boldly struck out northward in the direction of Leesburgh, necessitating great caution on the part of McClellan, who had been again verbally placed in command of the troops about Washington, embracing those designated as the Army of Virginia. The battlefield of Antietam was reached by our brigade early in the afternoon of the 17th of September after a tramp through Pleasant Valley and up to the top of Maryland Heights in search of the rebel Gen'l. McLaws on one of the hottest days and over the dustiest road we ever marched. On September 18 we relieved that part of the line to the right of a cornfield and immediately in front of Dunker Church. This line we occupied until the morning of the 19th when our division was put in pursuit of the fleeing rebels, the rear guard of which we had a fight with and drove across the river at Williamsport (Gen. Alexander Shaler).
Marching to the front on September 18 we took position as support to a battery which was planted near a corn field that bore evidence of the effects of the fire of the Federal artillery, the rebel dead in some places being laid as it were in "windrows." Having taken our positions, skirmishing was commenced in our front and kept us briskly until near mid-day, when there was a general suspension of hostilities for about six hours during which time the wounded of both sides were cared for and which Mr. Secesh improved by making the best disposition possible tending towards a retreat into "Old Virginia." Skirmishing again commenced, but darkness soon closed in and all again was quiet. A search for the enemy by our skirmishers the following morning showed that under cover of a tacit truce and the darkness of night their forces had been withdrawn from our front, and rumors were soon rife in camp of the haste of their retreat which was represented to be a complete panic. Many were said to have been drowned in the Potomac, but be that as it may, the enemy had "skedaddled" and we were free to advance at our leisure, and we accordingly advanced as far as Sharpsburg and encamped near a field on which the rebels had camped a short time before, and which was found to be strewn with articles left by them in their hasty retreat. Our line of march from the point where we had been posted as a support to the battery until we reached the immediate neighborhood of Sharpsburg was almost literally marked out by the rebel dead and by the bodies of horses and the wrecks of ammunition wagons. On the following day (Sept. 20th) we retraced our steps through the battlefield and had a feast of horrors in the bodies of those who had fallen. Their countenances were blackened and swollen to an unnatural size, but much as the eye might be pained by the sight of such horrors the sense of smell had more reason to complain. Such an almost intolerable stench as filled my nostrils while traversing this part of the battlefield of Sharpsburg it was never before my lot to experience. Pen or pencil would fail to portray with fidelity the scene of the battles of Antietam Creek or Sharpsburg. It is no part of my intention to attempt further description of a scene which may be said to beggar description, and I will confine myself to the movement of our command. Continuing our march we advanced toward Williamsport, at which place we understood there were a number of "secesh" who required clearing out. We soon arrived near the town and formed in line of battle, advancing toward the point where the rebels were said to be posted, skirmishers in advance and our regiment following (Stuart McDonald, Co. F, October 2, 1862).
September 21, 1862 - Skirmish at Williamsport, MD
Although we were under rather annoying artillery fire on the18th of Sept. 1862 at Antietam while the enemy were slowly withdrawing their forces after the conflict of the previous day, yet the real list of staying qualities was not offered until three days later near Williamsport where the enemy had crossed the Potomac into Virginia. (Jeb) Stuart's division of rebels had re-crossed the river and formed line of battle when part of Couch's division felt the presence of Stuart's skirmishers. Quickly forming lines of battle, the 122d then numbering over 900 men, was in the front line on the left of a Brigade and no other troops within sight on the left, nor did we hear any firing in that direction. Our regimental front covered at least three hundred yards or more. The enemy's advance indicated that the left of their line would come in collision with the right of the regiment and at a decided disadvantage being subject to an enfilading fire. Our regiment had been in the field but a few days and were objects of much solicitude to the brigade officers, and for that matter to the other regiments associated with us. Maj. Hamblin of the 65th N. Y. had been assigned to help drill and put us in a fighting condition. We were in a piece of timber near Williamsport, the left of the line, in a slight depression and in front of a gradual rise of ground that prevented us from seeing any object beyond the crest. The right of the regiment rested on a better position for observation and defense. Soon there was sharp firing on the right and all on the left supposed that the right companies had got in a volley on the enemy's flank. Maj. Hamblin then on the left of the line hurried to the right. The boys of "B" company have ever since believed that "A" company had the first chance at the enemy, but if we are wrong and have been, these 28 years mistaken as to facts, of course the joke is against us. Maj. Hamblin remained with the left wing, but seemed anxiously looking for someone in the line to go out in front; yet unwilling to send anyone on the perilous undertaking of finding the enemy as he told the writer afterward, for he found the danger from the rear would be greater than from the front. Saluting him as he passed, I asked him if he wanted someone to go out in front? "Yes, we want to know just where the enemy are posted," he said, then added, "but you are not going alone, are you?" Charles F. Carlisle and Sergt. James Spurlock stepped out of the ranks, saying in low firm tones, "I will go too." With the injunction "Find the enemy and report their position but don't expose yourselves when you can find cover," we moved out to the crest of the rising ground, and behind safe cover watched the stealthy advance of the rebel skirmish line. Soon I saw the rebel line of battle advancing, but not parallel with our formation. Knowing that they would come in collision with the right wing of our regiment first, I turned to go back when a bullet from the rebel line struck a tree beside which stood Lieut. Col. Dwight, who had come out to see for himself. Urging him to get out of danger and warn the right wing that the enemy were very close I remained as long as it was prudent under the circumstances. I just rejoined my company when the right wing of the regiment received their first baptism of fire and in the few rounds sent the enemy back on their reserves. They had enough for once, little dreaming that they had met raw troops in their first fight. The cool steadiness of the men and officers called for the very flattering commendations from the brigade and division commanders, and from that hour the 122d N. Y. Vols. had a proud name in the several brigades and divisions of the army with which they were assigned. To my inquiry which prompted him to come out to the front, the gallant Dwight replied: "I went out expecting one or more of you would be killed or wounded, and I could not let you fall in the hands of the enemy." "Perhaps I was rash," he added, "but I think I must take some risk as well as the men." The gallant Dwight yielded his life at Petersburg, Sergt. Spurlock at Rappahannock Station; Carlisle at the Wilderness was shot through the lungs, and still lives, an invalid for life. The experience of that day was a lesson by which I profited many times during the war, and I give the lesson in brief for some young reader may profit by it. In action do quickly what you are ordered to do. Don't approach the enemy on a straight course. Keep cool, and gain cover often. In line of battle keep your place and you will soon believe that you can defy bullets (Thomas H. Scott, Co. B).
I enlisted when I was young, but of legal age for the government. I realize now that I was too young for my own good--so young and green looking in the November election after the regiment was discharged that I was required to swear in my vote, when my brother two years younger being just of legal age could put in his vote without a question. This was at Mottville, Onondaga Co., N. Y. a very strong copperhead place. I was in every engagement that the regiment was in except the first battle of Fredericksburg and "Burnsides stick in the mud." I was standing by the side of the first man in our regiment, I think, who stopped a rebel ball; that was W. R. Hunn, when we were in line of battle with fixed bayonets near Williamsport, Maryland (Alonzo Fradenburg, Co. A).
I was one of those that assisted Hunn from the field. I shall never forget the stampede of colored cooks who were following in the rear of the line of battle when the ball opened. Pots and kettles went rattling by superbly mounted (i.e., on legs) towards the rear. We used to call that a draw battle, as both parties withdrew with more bustle than precision (Charles H. Enos, Co. D).
I enlisted in "A" Co. of the old 122 Reg't N.Y. Vols. under Joshua B. Davis in Baldwinsville. After the battle of Antietam on going to Williamsport, I stopped the first rebel ball. I was sent to the hospital at Little York, Pa., Sept. 20, 1862. I returned to my Regiment on the 22 day of January 1863 during Burnside's "stick in the mud campaign" and was in every engagement with the regiment until the battle of Cedar Creek (William R. Hunn, Co. A).
This was a proud day for many of our boys, as we took the advance, and maintained our position until ordered to retire to one less exposed, and all was done in, what a correspondent of the N.Y. Herald (an old soldier) has been pleased to call, perfect order, notwithstanding our ears were greeted with the music of shot and shell we were treated to, but which did us no great harm. The whole brigade loss was only one killed, one mortally wounded and some slightly wounded, and a large number very much frightened, as might be expected in a green regiment. Having got comparatively safe out of what might have been a bad box, we awaited reinforcements, but in the meantime the enemy had withdrawn his forces across the Potomac, and Maryland was free from the danger of invasion and all its undesirable accompaniments. The invaders having been driven from the soil of "My Maryland" the forces of McClellan's army, both of the old and new levy, have been permitted to enjoy a season of repose (Stuart McDonald, Co. F, October 2, 1862).
September 22 - October 30, 1862 - Camp at Downsville near Williamsport, MD
Dear Old Monitor: --We are now quietly encamped near Williamsport, and our camp has taken the place of a camp of instruction. We are furnished with what are called "shelter tents" which serve to keep out the wet, and make our condition much more comfortable than when on the march. If all remains quiet I shall improve the chance to write and give you some idea of soldiers' life in camp. Should we be called into active service I will write you as soon as I can find time and the necessary stationery which, by the way, commands good prices in camp (Stuart McDonald, war correspondent, Co. F., October 2, 1862).
Dear Old Monitor:--For three or four days immediately succeeding the date of my last letter to you nothing occurred to break the monotony of camp life, so I began to look over my journal in search of items with which to fill up my third epistle. About that time, however, news reached us of the bold dash of Stuart's rebel cavalry into Pennsylvania, putting the grand Army of the Potomac on the qui vive and exciting hopes of the possibility of bagging the bold leader of the rebel band with his whole command. Several times our brigade was ordered to be in readiness to march at a moment's notice, and on one occasion we had proceeded a short distance on the road to Williamsport before we were halted. We were routed out at the unseasonable hour of two A. M. and started off in light marching order; returning again to quarters with orders to hold ourselves in readiness to march when called upon. This state of things was kept up for about a week and we had almost come to look upon the order as a part of our daily routine, and to consider that we would be permitted to remain in our quiet and pleasant camping ground undisturbed, the rebels in the meantime having effected their escape into Virginia. Camp duties and drills were attended to, and pickets sent out in the usual manner. The company to which I belong was one day called upon to furnish thirty-six men for picket duty. I volunteered to accompany the party and made my arrangements for a twenty-four hours' sojourn from camp. We were posted about three miles from camp on a very pleasant spot and enjoyed ourselves very much until the hour arrived at which we should be relieved. We waited patiently for the relief picket, but none came. We were making all necessary arrangements for staying on our post another night and were anticipating a good time when a messenger arrived with intelligence that our brigade had moved, with orders for us to join them as fast as possible. Our outposts were at once called in and we made quick time to camp, gathered up a few necessary articles and dashed out on the road and followed the brigade. The balance of our regiment who had gone out with us on picket had received due notice of the intended movement and had joined the brigade, so our thirty-six men had the road to themselves. We marched steadily forward in quick time, and not withstanding the long start the brigade had of us we caught up with them near Williamsport, a distance of about four and a half miles from our old camp, and making over seven miles for the picket squad from their picket post. Here we halted for a short time, but we of the picket squad had scarcely time to cool off when we received the order to advance. Forward we went on one of the worst roads that I have passed over in this state (the best are nothing to boast of) and after a very tiresome march reached the village of Clear Spring at about one A. M. Passing through this place we turned into an open field and bivouacked for the balance of the night. You must understand that we were in what is called "light marching order" carrying only arms and accoutrements, one day's rations, overcoat, and blanket; and further that the nights are quite cold, so much so that in our camp we did not hesitate to use all available covering to keep us warm. You can fancy how comfortably (?) we slept in an open fields without tents or fires, the ground wet with dew and thickly strewn with stones of all shapes and sizes, but with no comparative degree of softness that I could discover. My chum having a rubber blanket made my position much more comfortable than that of many others. The roads over which we had marched were so bad, the pace so fast and the sleeping accommodations so poor, that their combined effects were evident and showed themselves conspicuously on the following morning. When I awoke from "peaceful slumber" I could almost fancy that I had got into the grounds of an immense hospital whose inmates were taking the morning air. After hobbling around for a time and preparing as good a breakfast as our supplies would permit, we marched back through Clear Spring and took the road for Hancock which you will remember is the place Stuart crossed at with his cavalry when he startled our generals from their propriety by capturing the town of Chambersburg, Pa., seizing a large amount of stores and horses and effecting his escape in safety within the rebel lines. The church bells ringing for service as we passed through Clear Spring called to the minds of many their own quiet home and the church wherein they worshipped previous to their entry into the army. The church-going bell sounded musical in my ears and doubtless contributed greatly towards my realizing the full beauty of one of nature's inimitable picture, to a sight of which I was treated almost before getting beyond the sound of the bells. At a little distance beyond Clear Spring commences the ascent of what is called "North Mountain." Our brigade toiled wearily up the mountain side, dragging their stiffened limbs slowly along and casting longing eyes towards the point which served to mark the summit, and which after much painful exertion was reached in due time. At our feet lay the lovely valley through which the Potomac finds its winding way, concealing itself behind a clump of woods at one point and flashing forth at another into the gilding rays of the sun. The mountain side was covered with a variety of trees; the leaves glistened in the sun showing every shade of color. Nature appeared to have arrayed herself in her Sunday costume and to have chosen from her wardrobe the most brilliant and becoming colors. Leaving this scene of beauty we pushed on steadily for Hancock and went into camp near that place. Another night was spent in open air. We lay quietly in camp during the following day and for the first time many felt the want of their usual allowance of goods; short allowance was the order of the day. Our Quarter-Master soon came up with his train and all had plenty. It was generally supposed that our camp would be changed from Downsville to Hancock as our tents at the old camp were struck and forwarded to us and a new camp laid out in regular military style. Many of the boys had got their tents pitched when we received orders to get ready for a march. All was hurry, bustle and confusion, but we soon got ready and awaited the order to move. This order was given a short time before dark and we once more turned our faces towards Clear Spring. Night closed in dark and wet. We pushed on for about ten miles and went into camp. My chum had "fallen out," the pace being too fast for him to take in the dark and, consequently, I had to make the best disposition I could of myself for the night. I was very fortunate and got into pretty snug quarters although my bed was on the ground, and I could have a good chance to show my knowledge of astronomy if the stars would only "come out." We next day pitched our tents, and during the balance of our return march have enjoyed the benefit of their shelter to sleep under (Stuart McDonald, Co. F, in camp near Downsville, Md., Oct. 30, 1862).
October 31, 1862- November 16 - A Southerly March to Camp at New Baltimore, VA.
Dear Old Monitor:--I had scarcely finished my last letter to you when we received orders to be in readiness to march at three o'clock on the following morning. The cooks were at once set to work to have cooked rations in readiness, and at two A.M. all the brigade was stirring. Coffee, soup, and meat were distributed for breakfast, and were digested with as good a relish as could be expected. The balance of the cooked rations were distributed, and punctually at the appointed hour we moved from the field, marched all day with out halting for any length of time, and at about eight P. M. camped in an open field, made coffee, took supper and turned in, with the understanding that at three A. M. we would again be on the march. We slept well and were on hand at the proper time - dispatched a cup of coffee in short metre and fell in for the march. This day was a hard one. The road was rough, leading up one hill and down another and all were nearly fagged out when we reached Berlin in the afternoon. We had no halt on the road to cook anything. As our cooked rations only lasted through the first day, you can imagine how faint and hungry we were when allowed to prepare a meal. Berlin is a small town in Maryland on the Potomac, six miles below Harpers Ferry. At this point a pontoon bridge has been built over which a portion of the army has crossed into "Dixie." During the night after our arrival at Berlin, I was taken with violent cramping pains, and through misunderstanding between the Surgeon and Ass't Surgeon was "doped" with a double dose of morphine which left me unfit to travel when reveille was sounded in the morning. The regiment marched into Virginia leaving me behind with a comrade to take care of me. My quarters were first rate and I was not over anxious to leave. Two days' rest brought me around all right, and I was anxious to get to my regiment. In company with my comrade and an old soldier who had been left behind by his regiment, we started off into Dixie. Nothing of any interest occurred until we reached McClellan's headquarters. Having applied at the Provost General for information as to the whereabouts of our regiment we were placed in a camp under guard to be kept under arrest until called for by the Provost of our division. In this camp I saw what some have to endure and came to the conclusion that the further a man is away from his regiment and nearer to headquarters the farther he is distant from redress for his grievances. I found under the guard a mixed assemblage both as to color and nationalities. In one place was a group of rebel prisoners, some in rags and others more ragged, while not far distant was a squad of squalid-looking objects who at one time formed a portion of McClellan's Grand Army of the Potomac. Some of these had been left behind at various hospitals and were now in charge until such time as they could be forwarded to their regiments; others were deserters who had been picked up at different points. Here I found also a number of "Secesh" sympathizers under arrest also a sprinkling of "Contrabands," and a few deserters from the rebel forces. All were confined in one camp and were under the charge of a force of the regular U. S. Infantry. You must know that there is a strong feeling against the volunteers in the regular army; they lose no chance to run on volunteers when in their power. One of the volunteers under arrest requested permission to go down to the creek only a few feet distant to wash and received for an answer a severe blow with the butt of a musket which completely knocked him down. I heard of many acts of cruelty in keeping with the above incident and many complained of being nearly starved, having had only one cracker for the last twenty-four hours. But few of those under arrest had tents, blankets or overcoats, and stood shivering in the storm which was pelting most piteously; nothing to make fires of but brush and green wood cut by themselves. I felt for them, but what could one man do towards relieving such wants for three hundred. I was comfortable and had ample time and opportunity to study out the beauties of being at the General Headquarters under arrest. I remained there for a few hours, quite long enough however to satisfy me, and felt relieved when a call was made for all members of the corps to which I belonged. We marched that night to our General-Headquarters and in due time I reached my regiment where I met with a hearty reception from officers and men.
We have just returned from being inspected by General Geo. B. McClellan who to-day takes his farewell of the Army of the Potomac. He was cheered heartily as he rode along the lines, and the cannon boomed loudly on all sides firing a parting salute. The position and movements of the army are but little known with us in camp. We are obliged to depend upon the newspapers for all war news, so of course I cannot tell you anything concerning army movements that would be new or interesting (Stuart McDonald, Co. F, in camp near New Baltimore, VA, November 10, 1862).
November 17, 1862 - Move Camp to Stafford Courthouse, VA
Dear Old Monitor:--My last letter gave you my experience
in going it alone and showed how beautifully I got "euchered".
I have now to record movements made with the assistance of my partners,
comrades in the Grand Army of the Potomac. I wrote you last from
camp near New Baltimore which said village is not in any way a rival of
its name sake of "plug ugly" notoriety, but is more suggestive of Goldsmith's
deserted village. I could not find the spot "where once the garden
smiled," nor yet discover that any garden flower still grows wild," but
the tumble-down tenements and deserted habitations showed that the glory
of the place had departed from it forever. Our camp was located near
the summit of one of the ridges of hills, or mountains, with which Virginia
so plentifully abounds. The hillside was, at the time of forming
the camp, over-grown with a thick growth of oak which was almost entirely
cleared off before we moved, and used for fire wood. From the summit
of the hill at sunrise, as far as the eye could reach up and down the valley
and mountain side, could be seen the camps of the different corps and divisions
of our army, their white shelter tents on the mountain side gleaming in
the soft light of an autumnal sun and in the valley beneath, apparently
floating on the blue haze peculiar to Indian Summer. At night from
the same point of view the camp fires gave life and light to the
scene. In my last letter I told you of the army giving McClellan
a parting cheer on his retirement from the command. As soon as it
was definitely known that Burnside had taken the reins from the hands of
"Little Mac," the whole army indulged in speculations as to the course
that would be taken by the new Chief when once he felt "at home"
in his new position. The general feeling seemed to be that there
was no danger of the army going into winter quarters, lying inactive, and
wasting its strength without inflicting any damage on the enemy, but that
a forward movement would be made. In this it appears that they are
not doomed to disappointment. Four days ago orders were received
to move, and "onward to Richmond" was the word. All were ready at
the hour appointed for the forward movement. At an early hour in
the morning we could see long, dark-colored, thread-like lines (marking
the line of march of the different brigades) leading down from the hillside
opposite our position, and almost losing themselves in the smoke which
settled down in the valley. As the rising sun dispelled the mist
of the morning, we had a splendid opportunity to see what it is to move
a large army with "all the appurtenances thereunto belonging." We
moved from our camp and making a halt by the road-side awaited our turn
to fall in line. I was deeply interested in the lively scene and
took great pleasure in contemplating its ever-changing aspect. The
road was filled with soldiers on foot and on
horse back, with mule teams and horse teams, carts and wagons, all pushing forward as fast as possible. Now a wagon comes along to which six mules are attached; the "nigh wheeler" has a saddle on his back (in addition to his regular harness) which is filled by a specimen of the "irrepressible negro" in semi-military costume surmounted by a red "fez" with tassel. He governs the movements of his team with one line and flourishes a whip large enough to fell either man or beast. Following this awkward-looking team (peculiar to the South) comes a four horse wagon driven by a graduate of the "Knickerbocker line" who flourishes his whip with as much grace as ever was displayed on Broadway. Then comes a cart with a long-eared mule in the shafts; the cart is loaded with baggage of all kinds in boxes and bundles, on the top of which is perched a junior member of the family of the "gentlemen from Africa." With eyes opened to their fullest extent and mouth widely extended, he looks the very picture of astonishment at the position he occupies. Here comes a "contraband" leading a lame and lazy horse laden with blankets and bundles with cooking utensils hanging around at all possible points, all the property of the officers' mess. There follows a long line of ambulances freighted with the sick, lame and lazy who have the surgeons' permission to occupy places in those means of conveyance. Aides, orderlies, and wagon masters dash wildly to and fro giving additional life to the scene, and apparently adding to the disorder of what after all is an orderly march, the medley mass of baggage extending for miles. Our turn has come, so we shoulder arms and join the throng which is pushing on so rapidly. Each man is furnished with a blanket, shelter tent, and overcoat, in addition to what he wears, and is always supposed to have a change of under clothing; these with gun and cartridge box with forty rounds of ammunition, haversack filled with three days' rations, canteens filled or empty at pleasure make up the burden of the foot soldier. The aforesaid shelter tent is an institution which I believe is peculiar to the American and French armies only. The length of the day's march is regulated by the state of the roads, and the particular need of having the brigade or division at any certain point at any particular hour. We will suppose that we have marched as far as required--a good piece of ground has been selected, and we unload and make ready for passing the night. First a dash is made at the fences for rails, to use as fuel. Then a few start off to find water and preparations are made for a comfortable halt by putting up tents, leveling off the ground and procuring straw, if possible, for bedding; or, if the day is too far spent, making the best disposition of coats and blankets to insure all the ease and comfort possible under the circumstances. Supper is then prepared (in a manner that will be a subject for another letter), and soon all is still and quiet in camp. At times some restless ones will rise to smoke and talk politics, or discuss the war question, but generally the camp is quiet until about the hour for reveille. Our line of march is through Virginia, a desolate country yielding no supplies, and at present officers and men are short of rations. There is a great plenty close at hand and we soon will have all we require. For my part I have managed always to have all I wished for in the way of food, at least in quantity if not in quality, or rather in quantity and quality but not in variety. We now have been encamped at this place for twenty-four hours, but have orders to be in readiness to move at a moment's notice. I suppose we will continue our march towards Richmond. I hope to date some of my letters from that place after its occupation by the Federal forces (Stuart McDonald, Co. F, in camp near Stafford Court House, Va., November 20th, 1862).
By December 10, 1862 at King George's Court House, VA
Dear Old Monitor:--Once again my spirit moves me to indite
an epistle for the
edification of your readers, and again I must crave their indulgence. It is not in my power to furnish any important news as to army movements; my main dependence for making my letters in any way interesting to the readers of the Monitor is in the information I give as to the manner in which the men live who win battles, the glory and honor of which are given to those who command and whose style of living is of a very different character. We, that is our division, are waiting marching orders and do not know at what moment we may be ordered to move. The current report is that our forces are crossing the river Rappahannock at some point below Fredericksburg and that we, forming a portion of the left wing, will follow in regular order; and, furthermore, that possibly there may be a "muss" when we get across in which case somebody may stand a chance to get hurt. Our camp is in what was a fine grove; the troops, however, with beaver-like industry, have felled most of the timber, using a portion for fuel and a large share for the construction of tents or pens on which they place their shelter tents for a roof. The outside walls are banked up, and taken altogether quite a comfortable dwelling can be constructed with little labor and small expense. In such a den your correspondent is situated, the sun having forced him to seek the friendly shelter of the domicile in which he claims a one-third interest. One end of our house being open, I can have a splendid view of the surrounding country. I can scarcely bring myself to realize that we are living in a winter month. Nothing around shows signs of winter; the woods in sight appear to be as green as in midsummer. The sun furnishes heat sufficient to allow of my "keeping open house for the want of a door." Could I but hear the music of the feathered songsters, I might imagine that summer had come again. How I pity you, poor Northerners, about these times. I fancy I see some of my friends wrapping themselves in their furs, casing their hands in their thick, heavy mitts, drawing on their weather proof over shoes, donning their cap with band down over the tips of their ears, binding themselves in the embraces of a heavy "plaid," buttoning their fur-trimmed coat closely about them and dashing out into the driving storm which blinding them with its fierceness searches out the imperfections of their defenses against the cold, and causes them to retreat as soon as possible to the neighborhood of a good roaring fire. You need not run away with the idea that I am endeavoring to "gas" you and your readers, as you know well enough that we have cold weather in these parts at some seasons, but must admit that five or six degrees must make quite a difference in temperature generally. The weather as a general thing so far has been very mild. We have had but two storms since we came into the city that were worthy of the name and they deserved to be classed as A No.1. The first came on us whilst at Stafford Court House, and was a small second edition of the flood. The rain fell in perfect torrents and many an unlucky wight found his household effects floating around perfectly loose. "Ah, then and there was hurrying to and fro" and gathering not of tears, but of loose portable property which was bobbing around with an abandon that was provoking to its owner. Many who fancied they were secure from the storm soon learned the uncertainty of all human calculation, and as they gathered the saturated blankets and bedding together, and sought a more elevated position on which to pitch their tents, used language much more forcible than grammatical to "ventilate" their views. Our second experience was at this place. The storm clouds gathered during the latter part of our march and burst just as we were getting into camp. The nature of the ground was such that we could not get into proper shape with our usual alacrity and the consequence was that all hands were pretty thoroughly soaked before shelter could be prepared. It did not take long to pitch our tents and light fires--the latter almost refused to burn and were but sorry comforters; the wood being principally green made more smoke than heat. Night closed in cold and wet, the rain soon changed to snow, and there was but little to choose between a Northern storm and a snow storm in Virginia. Crawling under the shelter of their tents and wrapping themselves in their damp blankets, the shivering soldiers of our command passed the night in a manner that many of them will never forget. Some shooting pain will in after days serve to remind them of their experience of a snow storm in what they imagined was ever the Sunny South. But our own present personal inconveniences are of small account compared with what we may be called to undergo by the weather interfering with the carrying out of the plans of the Commander-in-Chief. All are anxious to see the war settled in some way, and do not care how soon. The soldiers with whom I have come in contact express an opinion of our ability to put down the rebellion, weather and politicians permitting, and regret that so much valuable time has been lost, time which should have been improved to prevent the necessity of a winter campaign in a region which at times is impassable for artillery and supply trains. You can form some idea of the state of the roads when I tell you that in the endeavors to get up supplies for this one brigade that no less than ten mules were abandoned; some fast in the mud, others where they fell after being extricated from the tenacious sacred soil of Virginia. The weather for a few days past has been pleasant, though at times quite cool, and I do not anticipate any great difficulty or hardship in the march for which we are under orders. If this letter has good luck it will reach you about Christmas, at which time I will in the spirit extend to you and your patrons the right hand of good fellowship with the usual compliments of the season (Stuart McDonald, Co. F, in camp near King George's Court House, Virginia, Dec. 10, 1862).
Fredericksburg Campaign (December 11-15). December 13, 1862 - Battle of Fredericksburg; Afterward to Winter Camp at Falmouth
My last letter to you was mailed at just the proper date, as on the following morning (Dec. 11th) the "long roll" called us out at an early hour and we were ordered to make all ready for an immediate movement. It does not take an old campaigner very long to gather what trap he needs to carry. Soon tents were struck, knapsacks packed, breakfast prepared and dispatched, and everything ready for the order "Forward March!" It seemed to be generally understood that we were bound for the Rappahannock, and when doubts on that head were removed we heard the booming of artillery almost in front of our line of march, giving evidence that we were drawing nigh to where hard knocks and warm work were the order of the day. A few hours marching brought us to the river's bank and we were for some time favored with a specimen of artillery practice that was well worth viewing. From what might be high water mark, a level plain equal to about three times the width of the river extends along the bank and runs back to a range of high steep hills which rises far above any elevated position near the opposite bank. On the crest of these hills our artillery had been planted to cover our advance, and "if necessary our retreat." During our march we had heard the almost continuous music they discoursed; and as we marched on to the plain spoken of, we could at times see the effects of the shower of iron which they showered upon the enemy. The Southern (rebel) bank of the stream rises quite abruptly and then a plain extends for two miles or more with a succession of wave-like sweeps, rising higher and higher until it reaches a range of hills thickly wooded in which the enemy in unknown numbers had taken their position for a determined fight. We lay on the plain, watching the operations until near sun down, when everything being in readiness a move was made towards the bridge. The artillery above us and on the immediate bank of the river seemed to redouble their efforts to cover our advance and soon we could hear the clutter of hoofs and rumble of wheels as the artillery crossed at one bridge, mingled with the heavy tread of the infantry as they crossed at the other. Our brigade had got on the bridge and were pushing forward when an order came to them to return to the northern bank and remain there during the night. We bivouacked in a ploughed field which in the morning was covered with an inch of snow, and at night had about the same depth of mud to soften the soldier's bed.
Dec. 12th - At an early hour this morning we were aroused from "soft" slumber and in a short time were ready for a move. About eight o'clock we marched across the bridge and formed ready for action. Nothing further was done this day except to stand and watch the troops filling up the plain which we had so lately left, and filing past us in a continuous unbroken stream. Artillery, cavalry and infantry poured down on the bridges and filed to the right or left, taking the position assigned them in the time of battle. As any of their commanders were recognized they were hailed by us with cheers which were returned with interest. It was a grand sight to see the immense body of men move past, some regiments bearing their old flags which had braved the battle and the breeze and now hung in shreds testifying to the bravery of its defenders. There was no mistaking the movements of the war worn veterans who marched beneath its folds. It did not require the eye of a military chieftain to distinguish them from their comrades in arms. The new regiments, who with bright new colors displayed which had yet to bear the mark of bullet or ball, marched briskly forward to the scene of strife. Allow me to correct myself. We did do something besides watch the troops filing past us. Our attention was in part taken up by the movements of those who had gone to the front. We could hear the rattle of musketry followed by cheers from our forces as they gained some advantage. At times the deep roar of the artillery shook the ground near us when the enemy were so imprudent as to show themselves as a mark for our experienced gunners, who missed no opportunities of plumping in a portion of shot or shell when and where it might be supposed to be required. The show our forces made in such a compact mass on their (the rebel's) side of the river drew the attention of the rebel artillery, and our brigade were favored with a few compliments from the enemy in the shape of shot and shell which caused us to advance under the shelter of the crest of the hill that sloped up before us. Here we lay for the balance of the day and passed the night on the same ground. I never slept better in my life than I did on my share of the straw which we had managed to procure to add to our comfort.
Dec. 13th - The first part of the day was passed by our brigade on the ground we occupied the day previous. Early in the afternoon we were hurriedly ordered to the left and front where the enemy had been driven back by our forces, but were now regaining the lost ground. We marched about a mile, mostly at a double quick, and went into action the advance holding the rebels at bay and our regiment acting as a support to a battery. About sundown the Rebels, having got a battery in position, opened upon us a perfect shower of the various projectile of modern warfare. Shot, shell, &c. fell thick and fast around us, but thanks to the inferior gunnery on their part most of the shot passed over our heads. A few shells burst quite close to us and some solid shot ploughed up the ground quite too close to make ours an enviable situation. We lost but two men when other regiments in the same line lost over twenty. I can assure you that many of our boys hugged the earth closely, and would have given a small sum to be in almost any other position than the one they occupied. Almost simultaneously with the opening of the Rebel batteries ours responded and the united din of guns and shell made an almost deafening and continuous roar. Our guns were well served, and after firing three-fourths of an hour the enemy slacked up in their fire only giving us a shot at long intervals. Shortly after dark we were relieved, and withdrawing to the rear bivouacked on the plain--were not allowed any fires, could not pitch any tents--so had another opportunity of studying astronomy.
Dec.14th - Ere daylight we marched to the position we had occupied when ordered to the front, acting once more as a support to a battery. The day was passed in comparative quietness, as though by mutual consent there should be a cessation of hostilities on the day set apart as a day of rest. There was but little firing during the day; familiarity begets contempt so we, for the most part, moved around quite freely, not having any fear of the "knock-down" arguments used by the enemy. Fires were lighted and no stranger would for a moment suppose that we, yesterday, faced the jaws of death, and even now were under the guns of the enemy.
Dec. 15th - We were routed up at a very early hour and marched as quietly as possible to a position much the same as the one we occupied on Saturday. Here we lay all day not being called upon to do any fighting. Our batteries at times would open on the enemy and we would get a good dose of shot and shell in return, none, however, doing any damage--all bursting in the air or passing over our heads. Night closed in and put a stop to further hostilities and the brigade slept on their arms until 11 P. M. when with the utmost silence we were marched back to the north bank of the Rappahannock. The severest fighting and earliest loss was to the right of the position occupied by your correspondent. As yet we have no reliable accounts but any number of camp rumors are flying about in which our (the army's) loss is put down at from 8,000 to 25,000 (Stuart McDonald, Co. F, in camp near Falmouth, Fredericksburg, VA, December 18, 1862).
People who read the history of the late civil war are apt to form some very curious as well as incorrect ideas of the everyday life of the soldier in the field during an active campaign. They conclude from the thrilling accounts of great battles and brilliant maneuvers that the soldiers had nothing to do but fight. For the benefit of those who have ever been blessed with enough to eat and a good place to sleep, I will endeavor to portray some of the trials and perplexities of the midnight bivouac. What would the young men of to-day think of an employer that would forcibly drag them from bed at three or four o'clock in the morning and compel them to cook their own breakfast in a given time (or go without it), and then oblige them to carry all their cooking utensils, bedding, clothing, and three days' ration, in addition to a fourteen-pound musket and from forty to sixty rounds of ammunition over twenty or thirty miles of uneven, barren country, through torrid heat or pelting rain and at midnight turn them loose like so many animals to get their supper and find a place to sleep as best they could? And all this for the paltry sum of sixteen dollars in greenbacks per month. I imagine they would promptly say: "None of that on my plate." Yet the veterans had this to do, in addition to exposure to shot and shell. Now let me explain to you what the tired soldier had to do after guns were stacked. The first thing to be found was wood and water. Imagine the delights of stumbling around in the darkness in a strange and hostile country, infested with bushwhackers watching for a chance to shoot any stray Yankees they found away from their camp, searching for fuel, and what was usually more difficult to find, pure water. Should the night prove stormy, another difficulty presented itself, that of kindling a fire. Sometimes it would take an hour or more to get the coffee boiling. But by one or two o'clock in the morning the soldier would be able to sit down to his sumptuous repast of hard tack and coffee. Then came the search for a dry, smooth place to spread his gum blanket. This found, he sank to rest with no covering but a blanket and the broad canopy of heaven. Sometimes he was favored with two and sometimes four hours sleep ere the shrill bugle or the noisy drum roused him from dreams of home to the stern realities of the life of danger before him. These were only a few of the little inconveniences of the veteran's life. They did not include standing two hours of the possible four, on a lonely picket post, where to fall asleep meant death by the bullet of an enemy or the decree of a court-martial. These are details of minor importance to the citizens of to-day, but not to the old soldier (Charles H. Enos, Co. D).
Dear Monitor: Last night a detail was made from our regiment of two hundred men for picket duty near Fredericksburg. Your correspondent was so fortunate as to be among the chosen number. At an early hour this morning we were astir making preparations for a three days sojourn in the immediate neighborhood of Mr. Secesh; so close are we that our outpost can freely interchange the compliments of the season with the enemy's pickets on the opposite side of the Rappahannock. After a brisk march we reached the point at which our "reserve" was to be stationed, posted our pickets and prepared to pass the day as pleasantly as possible. The day is very pleasant. I write this in the open air without any fear of my fingers, toes or nose being ripped by the frost. The sun is partially obscured by a fleecy cloudy veil else I should be forced to find some shady spot in which to write. My comrades are scattered around, each busying himself as best suits his pleasure; or idling the sunny hours away. Some are reading, some sleeping, others drawing comfort from their well-blackened pipes; others are taking advantage of the clear running brook which goes brawling along to make themselves more presentable, whilst around the fires others are gathered preparing their Christmas dinner. There is more uniformity in the meal than in the occupation of those who come under notice. Salt pork, coffee, "hard tack" and boiled rice seems to be the general bill of fare. A word as to the meaning of "hard tack." It is hard bread or biscuit baked in squares about the size of what your bakers call soda biscuit. For the convenience of transportation it is packed in boxes which hold fifty pounds each. From some peculiarity of its manufacture it will keep for an unlimited length of time retaining its sweetness. A lot will occasionally become "animated," but a soldier soon learns not to notice such small things in his food, as at home would become subject to condemnation. "Hard tack" as the soldier calls it is his fast friend, his sheet anchor, his main dependence. He prepares it in a variety of ways unknown to Mrs. Hall, and in a manner that would excite the envy if not the admiration of Mona Soyer. When on the march he improves each halt to renew the friendly terms between him and his favorite, and should his frequent visits to the haversack cause the flight of his friend, the quartermaster when passing the ranks has the euphonious name of the lost one rung in his ears from one end of the line to the other, "Hard Tack!" "Hard Tack!" I have been at the top of the hill which commands a view in which we operated a fortnight ago, and which operations I endeavored to describe in my last. I can clearly distinguish the slope on which we lay so quietly while the enemy favored us with a specimen of their artillery practice in which their missiles came much too near to make our situation one to be envied. From this point of view I can scarcely believe that any set of men could be brought to remain passive with such a shower of shot and shell flying over in such close proximity to their persons. How we managed to escape with so little loss has been a source of wonder to many who were lookers on whilst we occupied our perilous position. I see that the conduct of our (Newton's) division is highly spoken of by the New York "Herald." When we heard the particulars of the fight we could scarce believe the slaughter had been so great. In fact we could not realize that we had taken a part in a great and bloody battle; but so it was, rivers of blood were poured freely; thousands of lives had been sacrificed and many thousands of men maimed for life. For what? And why? And who is to blame? The papers tell us that Burnside takes the blame upon himself, but censures the war department for their culpable, yes, criminal negligence in not furnishing pontoons at the time designated by the Commander-in-Chief. Quibble and equivocate as party leaders may, there certainly has been a radical wrong, a serious defect in the management of our army and whom the wire pullers will sacrifice as the scapegoat for their errors time alone can tell; but, for God's sake let us have no more of this meaningless, useless slaughter. More blood has already been spilt than was required to cement the foundation of the Union; the superstructure must indeed be rotten and dilapidated which requires for its preservation and maintenance any greater sacrifice than has already been made. The enemy's pickets tell us that they are sick of the war. The old campaigners by whose sides we fight have grown weary of winning fruitless victories and sustaining needless defeats, and the new levy are equally heartily disgusted with the conduct of the war. It has been said that "bayonets think." It is certain that those who wield the bayonets in this war are a set of men who both read and think. On them devolves all the hardships of the war and they think it is time that their labors should be used to advantage. They felt that the movement across the Rappahannock was one that would prove fatal to many, and that each hour's delay in pushing forward would require the sacrifice of a hundred lives. But not withstanding all this they cheerfully attempted impossibilities, and failing in carrying out the designs of the commander-in-chief have fallen back, defeated but not disgraced; ready and willing to engage in any enterprise which gives promise of filling their fondest hopes and desires in the speedy suppression of the Rebellion; and an equally speedy close of the war (Stuart McDonald, Co. F, on picket near Fredericksburg, December 25, 1862).
I have thought of an incident that happened while we were in camp at
Falmouth, Va., in the winter of 1862-63 that amused me very much at the
time and which I have never forgotten. We were then doing picket
duty on the Rappahannock. Comrades John Sims, George Parker, Julius
Stone, Henry H. Chappell, William Hewitt, John, Ben and Carlton Saunders
and some others of my company whose names I can't recall, and myself, were
detailed for three days picket on the river. We had done two days
duty on the front and were now to be on reserve one day, occupying some
deserted negro cabins near the bluffs several rods from the river.
The weather was cold and rainy. Each of us had picked out a place
on the dirt floor to spread our blankets and how to pass away the time
was the question. About dark, I think George Parker suggested a debate.
The idea seemed to please the boys, so we climbed up one corner by
means of cleats nailed on the
logs, to the loft overhead, stuck some pieces of candles in bayonets and were soon enjoying ourselves organizing a debating society. Your humble servant was chosen chairman. The subject selected for discussion was, "Which is preferable city or country life?" Comrades Sims and Parker were the leading disputants. The debate "waxed warm," both sides showing considerable talent as debaters. All the boys had done their best and the time had come for me to "sum up" and decide the contest. I had just got started in giving my decision when there was a most unearthly noise and the whole roof seemed to be flying to pieces as if torn by shot, shell or some other terrible missile of war, and it is needless to say that I stopped. Out went the lights and we all made a dive for the hole to get below to our arms. Some fell down, some climbed down and if I remember right, Francis M. Potter went down nearly head first. We found our guns as well as we could in the dark and waited further developments, supposing some battery had opened on us from the opposite side of the river. We soon found that we were the victims of a cruel joke. Some of the boys who did not appreciate our literary exercises had stolen quietly out, loaded themselves with stones, climbed up the bluff and threw them with all their strength against the roof. It being made of long split shingles quite rotten it gave way and the stones came through, making an awful noise. The manner in which we scrambled for the hole and climbed or fell down to the floor below was very amusing. Each of us accused the other of being frightened, but I think honors were about even in that respect. Comrades Sims, Parker, Stone, Hewitt and the three Saunders boys were all killed afterwards on the field of battle, sealing with their life's blood their devotion to their country. How sad it is to think of the comrades that left Syracuse with us that lovely Sabbath morning who never saw the grand old hills of Onondaga county again (George H. Casler, Co. H).
January 20-January 23, 1863 - Burnside's Mud March; Back to Camp at Falmouth
Dear Monitor: My last letter to you was written just a month ago today. Since that time we have taken a part in Burnside's second attempt to cross the Rappahannock which used up about a week's time and an unknown number of men. I will endeavor to give you an account of the doings of our regiment, and what befell them on the way, the various accidents by flood and field which they encountered, and put on record how nobly they advanced to meet the enemy, and how completely they were vanquished by the elements; how orderly they went forth to battle, and how, and in what disorder they returned to camp, defeated, but not by mortal foe; another evidence of the uncertainty of all human calculations, and of the little dependence that should be placed on the smiles of a mid-winter sun. For some time previous to our second attempt to secure a foot-hold on the further side of the Rappahannock, we had been very much unsettled by receiving orders to march at a certain hour, but before the appointed hour arrived the marching orders would be countermanded. At length, however, on Monday, January 19th, we received orders to hold ourselves in readiness to move at 11 A. M. of the following day, and promptly at the hour we formed in good order upon the color line ready for the order to march which might terminate in victory or disgraceful defeat. Having formed in column, an address from Gen. Burnside was read to us by the Colonel who afterwards favored us with a few brief characteristic remarks, expressing a hope that it might be his fortune to lead us where we would have a chance to burn powder, and measure our strength with the enemy. Our Colonel is an old campaigner (Silas Titus by name), baptized in the fires of Williamsburg, Fairoaks, &c., &c., and christened by his comrades as "Daredevil Dick." I have no hesitation in saying that I believe it would afford him the liveliest satisfaction to lead us where we could cross bayonets with a foe worthy of our steel, and could he but infuse into the bosom of each member of his command a portion of his own brave and daring spirit I have no fears for the result of the conflict. With three cheers for Gen. Burnside we moved from our camp, and after a short halt to secure our proper place, took up the line of march and pushed forward until near night without any halt. Just as the shades of night were falling we went into camp in a friendly piece of woods. The ground was good, water and wood plenty and convenient, and soon tents were pitched, fires lighted, the evening repast prepared and dispatched, and most of the regiment had sought the shelter of their tents, there in slumber to forget the hardship of the day's march. It commenced to rain about the time that I turned in to rest, and as I did not sleep sound I could at different times through the night hear the patter of the rain upon the roof of our tent and feel upon my face the spray caused by a heavy gust of wind dashing a sheet of water with more than ordinary vigor against the frail barrier we had reared to serve as a protector against the inclemency of the weather. Ere day light in the morning we were routed up to resume the march. Wet tents were wrung out and packed, our knapsacks filled with clothing almost completely saturated from the night's exposure; a desperate effort was made to dry our damp blankets before they should be packed upon the owner's back, but time would not admit of much preparation, so knapsacks were slung, guns shouldered and we pushed out into the open field where a cold driving northerly storm of rain could have full sweep. After a little delay we marched off through mud from ankle to almost knee deep, and pushed along until near noon, the fast falling rain adding to the load the soldier had to carry; the mud increasing in depth and adding its quota to soldier's burden, and in conjunction with the rain taxing his fast failing energies. Many a good man and true straggled out from the line of march quite exhausted. After a halt of about three hours we again pushed forward surmounting greater difficulties than we had met in the fore part of the day; and finally, having reached a point convenient to the place selected for crossing the river we went into camp. The ground was "almost afloat," still many were content to lie down without making any preparation, except to pitch their tent and avail themselves of its shelter with their damp blankets wrapped around them over their wet clothing, and "turned in" with boots wet and muddy, careless and indifferent as to comfort, and perfectly regardless of health. Others, however, coaxed the wood to burn, and making fires in front of their tents dried their clothing as well as possible, put on dry warm socks and made themselves as comfortable as they could under the circumstances, though certainly that comfort was in the comparative degree. The heavy rain had delayed the pontoon trains, and now all their efforts to advance were unavailing. The artillery was for the present irretrievably fast in the mud, twenty horses failing to drag forward one piece. The "sacred soil" of Virginia had levied on the supply train and held it fast; the rations brought by the men in their haversacks were all eaten; the supply of forage for the horses had failed, the poor animals were nearly starved and quite exhausted, many had dropped down dead; in fact in some points the road was almost completely lined with their dead bodies. The enemy with their accustomed vigilance had discovered the intended movement and with their usual alacrity had made preparations to receive us. The line of rifle pits and breastworks opposite our front testified to the vigor with which they laboured; they were doubled in force. Our main body of troops could not advance to be of service to us if we should make a dash across, so there was no alternative but to retrace our steps; and, consequently, on the fourth day after leaving our old camp we returned once more to where we had spent some pleasant hours. Our line of march for the first two days of the advance had been very circuitous, and we found ourselves at a distance from home that in good weather and favorable roads a few hours marching would overcome. But many a weary step had to be taken through the mud, splash! splash! before we arrived at the longed for spot. Once more at home it did not take long to make ourselves snug again (Stuart McDonald, Co. F, at camp near Falmouth, VA., January 25, 1863).
Chancellorsville Campaign (April 30-May 6, 1863). May 2, 1863 - Battle of Marye's Heights; May 3 - Skirmish of Salem Church; May 4-5 - Bank's Ford
Dear Monitor: I owe you an apology for allowing such a continued break in my correspondence. I had been waiting for something startling to occur to break the monotony of camp life in winter quarters, and postponed writing from day to day, but did not realize that time was slipping away so rapidly. I have now some interesting movements to chronicle but will first go back and take up the thread of my narrative where my last letter left us; viz, at our old quarters after our return from "Burnside's mud march." The Army of the Potomac after getting back to its old camp from the "fiasco," were disappointed, but not disheartened at the outcomes of their latest attempt at active operations. They felt assured that it would certainly be followed by a change of commanders, and it was with a feeling of gratification that they learned that "fighting Joe Hooker" had taken the place of Burnside. Gen'l Hooker commenced at once to put the army in good shape and spirits; liberal rations were dealt out. Soft bread which in times past was a rarity was now issued frequently. The army was reorganized, changes of commanders made to suit the change in its official head, and when weather permitted, drills and inspection were the order of the day; so that when Gen. Hooker commenced the late disastrous movement, he had an army of which he might well be proud, and from which he could expect great things. Gen'l Sedgwick commands our corps. Gen'l Newton commands our division, and our brigade is under command of Colonel Alexander Shaler, my "beau ideal" of a soldier. Our fellows have great confidence in the several officers I have mentioned, and in the recent fight the conduct of Col. Shaler won for him the star of a Brigadier. About ten days ago the 6th corps crossed the Rappahannock below Fredericksburg, and formed a line along the bank of that river, our division occupying position in line nearest the town. For some days previous we had made a great display for force on the other bank, probably with a view of deceiving the enemy as Gen'l Hooker with the balance of the army had moved up the river and crossed and engaged the enemy somewhere in the neighborhood of Chancellorsville; and from reports read to us in ranks, claimed to have gained quite an advantage over that part of the rebel army. Saturday night we began the march on Fredericksburg, our Brigade taking the lead, and Col. Shaler's own regiment acting as skirmishers, while he rode with our regiment. It was "poky" work creeping along in the dark, with a lively spattering of picket firing going on in front; we halted for a few minutes, and Lieut. Col. Hamblin (commanding Col. Shaler's regiment) reported that he had already lost fully one-half of his men. We pushed on however and about daylight were in the town and under the batteries of Marye's Heights which Gen'l Burnside had failed to capture last December. Was it possible that a single Corps was now going to attempt what a well appointed army had failed to accomplish? Even so, and right nobly did they perform the task assigned them. My regiment lay at the edge of the town and the rebs gave us a sample of their artillery practice. Gen'l Newton came riding up and ordered the infantry to make way for artillery which came up on the gallop, and quicker than I can describe the act were in position and threw a shell directly into the enemy's works. The assaulting column moved, and in a short time had gained the enemy's works, notwithstanding the fierce shower of shot and shell which was hurled against them; up the hill they went, followed by their supports and the famous "Marye's Heights" were ours, though at a fearful cost of life and limb. The prevailing impression in the ranks was that we of the 6th Corps were to carry the heights and drive off the force that had been holding that position, and when this was done a junction would be formed with the balance of the army under Gen'l Hooker. We had done our part and had moved to Salem Church, but what had Hooker done? We could see his balloon rising in the air, but could not see that it was drawing any closer to us; finally we found that the enemy had got between us and the town, were also between us and Hooker, and having fought that General to a stand still had turned all their attention to us and were on all sides of us except that towards the river. By dint of heavy fighting we succeeded in getting into position covering Banks' Ford, where a bridge was laid, and we crossed back last Monday night, and moved to a point near our old camp. The loss of the 6th Corps in the late movement is said to be 5,000 men; what the total loss in the army is, I do not know. And now the question arises, who is to take the blame and who will succeed Gen'l Hooker? He appears to have met with a serious reverse, and some say that he was drunk, when he should have had a clear head to direct the movements of his army at a critical time. I am not willing to believe that Gen'l Hooker was intoxicated, but I do think that he found Gen'l Lee more than his match in strategy; and I further think, that the Army of the Potomac is good fighting stock and some day in the future, when the right man is in command, will deal a terrible blow to the now exultant rebel army (Stuart McDonald, Co. F, at camp near Falmouth, VA, May 9th, 1863).
A little over a year ago I had a spirited correspondence with Col. W. Miller Owen of the Washington Artillery in regard to his (Confederate) account of the capture of Marye's Hill on May 2, in his "Narrative" of that organization just published at that time. Col. Owen says that just before the charge was made a flag of truce was sent out from our lines in front of the "stone wall," and that taking an unfair advantage of this flag our line rushed up and jumped over the works. That as soon as the Confederate works were gained our men commenced a wholesale slaughter of the wounded and prisoners; that this was done while our men were intoxicated, and the names of several Confederates are given as having been bayoneted and brained by our men in their drunken frenzy, after the works were captured. Col. Owens then lays great stress on the fact that our heavy siege guns on Falmouth Heights did great execution and good service just before the charge was made. In regard to the flag of truce the Colonel locates it right in front of where we lay, and I certainly did not see any and do not remember as there was any cessation of skirmish firing on that account; so that no unfair advantage could have been taken of the Johnnies. If any private soldier was furnished with whiskey I did not know it or get any, so nobody was intoxicated on our side. Possibly some of our officers had some spiritus frumenti in their canteens but they kept it entirely for themselves. This is a false charge against the gallant Union soldiers engaged in the assault. The only real execution our range guns did was in our own ranks, in a regiment just in front of us, and their fire was at once stopped. Col. Owen sent me the name and address of the Confederate sergeant who claimed to have met our flag, and I wrote him (Mr. William Blake of New Orleans) and he wrote me claiming that he met such a flag. My conclusion is that Mr. Blake may have gone out to some wounded man of ours on the skirmish line who had raised his handkerchief. But no cessation of hostilities occurred and no flag was recognized on either side; and from this small circumstance a large-sized excuse is made up to account for their being whipped. As to the men of the 122d injured in this battle I can only state from recollection. Capt. Church was quite badly wounded, while the regiment lay across the railroad cut before the charge. Then at 11 o'clock, when we rushed up the hill and formed in line of battle on the west side, and four companies went ahead and deployed as skirmishers, one man, Hewitt of Co. H, was mortally wounded as he advanced. After the skirmish line laid down, Co. E lost several men severely wounded, viz. Hodge, Hubbard and Houghkirk who never returned to the regiment. (Austin Hodge and Abner Hubbard were transferred to the Veteran Reserve Corps, and Benjamin Houghkirk was discharged for disability.) Several were slightly wounded but did not leave the regiment. Charley Spear caught a bullet in his cartridge box which made him give an exceedingly high operatic yell, McAllister's hat was badly cut open in front with a bullet, Sammy McFeeters' haversack and tin cup were badly perforated. Wickham had his hat shot off and his mouth filled with dirt. Charley Hickox made several Johnnies keel over, and one Perry from our company, a dentist I think, gallantly charged forward and started the Johnnies on the run to the rear, over the hill (Zeno T. Griffin, April 2, 1888).
On Saturday night, May 2nd, Hooker laid his plans for Sunday's
battle. He sent word to
Sedgwick, who with his corps had gone down the river below Fredericksburg and
crossed it to come up and attack Lee in the rear while Hooker himself attacked in front. Hooker had ordered Sedgwick to cross the Rappahannock three miles below Fredericksburg. He was already across, when, on the night of May 2, he received Hooker's order to "cross the Rappahannock" and follow the Chancellorsville road till he connected with Hooker. He was to destroy any force that came in his way. Hooker had forgotten that Sedgwick was already across and on the south side of the Rappahannock. Hooker had forgotten his first order to Sedgwick. At daybreak, May 3, Sedgwick reached Fredericksburg. Early had been left with his division to protect Fredericksburg. He occupied the heights on the right. Marye's Hill, where such fearful scenes had been enacted in December, was in the center. Sedgwick stormed Marye's Hill and took it. It was defended by a brigade under Barksdale. Cols. Spear and Johns led the Union assaulting columns. Spear was killed and Johns was twice wounded, but the hill was taken. Fredericksburg was captured and Early retreated along the plank road toward Lee and Chancellorsville. The attack on the fortified heights of Fredericksburg was planned by Gen. John Newton, a division commander of the Sixth corps. Gen. Newton was born in Virginia, and was graduated second in his class at West Point in 1842. He entered the engineer corps of the military service. He distinguished himself during the civil war. After its close he was employed on harbor and fortification work. He is known to fame as the engineer who blew up the obstruction known as Hell Gate, in Long Island sound. Gen. Gibbon was left behind, at Fredericksburg, and Sedgwick pushed on after Early down the plank road. Early's force whipped, Lee's destruction was certain. Lee heard of the coming of Early and sent out part of McLaws' and Anderson's men to meet him and make a stand. The two forces joined at Salem Church, half way between Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. Then darkness fell and there was no more fighting Sunday, May 3. At dawn of May 4, the last day of the fighting at Chancellorsville broke. Hooker's head troubled him all the afternoon of May 3 and all May 4 so greatly that it is not fair to hold him responsible for all that happened. At times he scarcely knew what he was about. All day of the 4th, although he had resumed command, his orders were contradictory and vacillating, now telling Sedgwick to hold his ground and now to retreat back across the river. Early in the morning he directed him not to attack the Confederates at Salem Church, but to assume the defensive. All day there was skirmishing between Sedgwick and Early and the brigades that had re-enforced him. At 6 o'clock in the evening the Confederate generals, Anderson and Early made a furious attack on Sedgwick's left, under Gen. Howe. Howe retreated to a strong position in the direction of Banks' ford, and there resisted and beat back the Confederates. During the night of May 4 Sedgwick recrossed the Rappahannock with his whole force. Hooker had ordered him to cross, then countermanded the order, but the latter command was not received till after the crossing was effected. Lee immediately reoccupied Fredericksburg. (Capt. Andrew W. Wilkin, Co. H).
The cause of defeat of the Army of the Potomac at the battle of Chancellorsville, VA in May, 1863 seems to be imperfectly understood even at this time, owing to the evidence given before the committee of Congressional inquiry by Gen. Hooker and his subordinates. Every intelligent soldier engaged in that battle knows that Gen. Hooker commanded the finest and best equipped army ever marshaled on this continent for battle. The army was in superb condition and the government and people reasonably expected a complete victory. That their disappointment was great under the circumstances is to be expected, for with ordinary generalship a great victory was certain. As Gen. Hooker in his testimony before the committee gave as a cause of his defeat, the tardiness of the movement from Fredericksburg and the withdrawal of Gen. Sedgwick's corps (May 6th) let us view the facts which are a matter of history and can be attested to by many hundreds who took part in the battle. And here we make the assertion that Gen. Sedgwick with one seventh part of the army inflicted more damage upon the confederates than did Gen. Hooker with his six corps and the cavalry. Gen. Hooker lost 20,000 stands of arms, 14 pieces of artillery and 5,000 unwounded prisoners. Gen. Sedgwick's 6th corp lost 5,000 killed and wounded, took more prisoners than the other corps, lost no prisoners, and was confronted by as large a force of rebels on the 3d and 4th of May as threatened Gen. Hooker in the inner lines which he held on the afternoon of the 3d of May. The total union loss in killed and wounded was 12,197 of which Sedgwick lost, as we stated above 5,000. Gen. Hooker had at first determined to place under the command of Gen. Sedgwick the lst and 6th and Gibbon's division of the 4th and 2nd corps for a demonstration upon Fredericksburg and its almost impregnable defenses, when he, Hooker, had developed his lines to offer battle. Had he adhered to that disposition of his forces placing under command of Sedgwick about 40,000 men and permitted the attack on Fredericksburg to be made one day earlier as desired by Sedgwick, the army of Gen. Lee could easily have been crushed. Now what did Gen. Hooker do? He withdrew the lst corps from Sedgwick who did need it and, in his cramped position, found that he had no place for it when it reached Chancellorsville. Now what did Sedgwick do, and how did he obey the order? His troops were immediately put in motion and the rebel skirmish line quickly driven back on the main works. A heavy fog enveloped the valley and rendered a night attack extremely hazardous, as the union troops were liable to lose their way and might be mistaken for rebels. No sane commander would have taken the risk, and the morning dawn clearly demonstrated that Gen. Sedgwick was right. As soon as was possible storming columns were placed in position and a fearful struggle ensued. At 10 o'clock the heights were in our possession and the Stars and Stripes waved proudly over the works of Marye's Hill. There was no pause in the forward movement; the corps was pressing onward to Chancellorsville fighting and skirmishing until near Salem Church where the enemy was found strongly posted. Here ensued one of the fiercest contests of the war and Sedgwick's losses were heavy in killed and wounded. In the direction of Chancellorsville all was still, Hooker had in his front not over one half of Lee's army while for three hours the 6th corps was vainly trying to hurl back the other half. Had Hooker with the lst corps covering the salient of his lines moved the left wing of his army against Lee in the direction of Salem Church the victory of the Union army would have been complete, and in song and story, the name of Hooker would pass down the ages as the hero of Chancellorsville. Darkness closed the unequal content, and Lee's hopes were realized. Sedgwick could not proceed to help Hooker and the latter would not fight unless attacked. At daylight on the morning of the 4th the position of Segwick's forces was rather precarious. Fredericksburg in the rear was again in possession of the rebels, a strong force of the enemy in front and on the left, and the entire force in danger of being cut off from Bank's ford, the only line of retreat; and Hooker with his one hundred thousand men huddled behind safe breastworks covering an easy line of retreat. Sedgwick lost no time in opening a way to Bank's ford and forming his lines to cover it, both above and below, thus greatly weakening his lines without withdrawing from any position he held. With due regard for the courage and military skill of the other corps commander's in the Army of the Potomac, we are firm in the belief that Gen. John Sedgwick was the only one among the numbers who could have saved that army from destruction or surrender on the 4th. Lee was playing with Hooker while massing his forces against Sedgwick who exhibited a bold front at every point of attack. The enemy seemed slow to press matters seriously, but were evidently sure of their game. Having received permission from Hooker to cross the river at Banks ford the movement was made and despite the furious onslaught of the enemy everything was safely removed and the last detachments of troops were transferred to the north side of the Rappahannock before daylight on the 5th. Then Hooker sent orders countermanding his consent to retiring, but too late, the bridge was along the shore and the enemy on the other bank. The military critic of the future will do full justice to both Hooker and Sedgwick, the opportunities and achievements, being the test of the soldier. (Stuart McDonald, Co. F, February 26, 1891).
The whole of Marye's Heights, is now a National Cemetery, the dead of the various battles about the city and also the dead from Spotsylvania, the Wilderness and Chancellorsville being interred here. There are 15,275 graves of which 12,787 are marked "unknown." We tried to look over the list of those buried here and get the names of 122d men but the list was long and we had only found the names of Morris Kinne died at Robinson Farm Dec. 28, 1862, and Lemuel Lee died at same place March 23, 1863 when darkness came on and we could read no longer (Andrew W. Wilkin, Co. H, on battlefields revisited, October 20, 1892).
June 6, 1863 - Cross Rappahannock at Burnett Courthouse on Reconnaissance; June 9 - Camp near Fredericksburg; June 13, 1863 - All Union forces Move to North Side of Rappahannock; June 14, 1863: At Stafford Court House; June 15 at Dumfries; June 16 at Fairfax Station; June 28 to Fairfax Court House for a rest of six days; June 24 at Centreville; June 25 at Blackburn's Ford; June 26 at Gainesville; cross Potomac; June 27 at Edwards Ferry and Poolesville, MD - camp on bank of Potomac - headed for Frederick, MD; July 1 at Manchester, MD; July 2 - arrive to join Battle of Gettysburg; July 3 - Battle of Culp's Hill, Gettysburg; then encampment to July 6 on the Gettysburg battlefield; depart July 6 for Emmitsburg, MD.
July 1, 1863 found us comfortably camped near Manchester, Md., enjoying the much needed rest from the long march from the Rappahannock. We little thought as we strolled lazily about camp speculating of what the future would bring forth, of what was in store for us, or that our comrades of the 11th and 1st corps were then being driven in disorder through the streets of the (at that time) unknown town of Gettysburg. About 10 o'clock on the evening of the lst came marching orders, and by 11 o'clock we were on the road. The first intimation we had as to our destination was learned by listening to a conversation between our colonel and General Shaler, commanding our brigade. In answer to the queries of Colonel Titus, General Shaler informed him of the great battle then in progress at a place somewhere in Pennsylvania called Gettysburg, and of the death of General Reynolds commanding the lst corps. While passing through a lane near Taneytown, Md., two of the valiant sheepskin fiddlers got into trouble over an old shoe that by some means had secured a position on the knapsack of one of the parties. A pitch battle was inaugurated, but was speedily terminated by Colonel Titus who took a hand in it, and with the flat of his sword sent the combatants skulking to the rear. All night long we sped along the Baltimore pike with scarcely a halt. With the appearance of the morning sun we had hoped the order would come to halt for breakfast, but instead came the oft repeated order "close up rear." On, on over the hard, stony pike we went, regardless of heat, dust, or blistered feet. No halt for dinner in fact, but few thought of the usual hour for the mid-day meal so great was the anxiety to see something of which we could hear so much. The booming of cannon had been borne to our ears from the northward since morning, faint at first, but gradually growing more distinct as we neared the contest. At 2 p.m. we were on the battlefield, and after counter-marching for some time we at last halted in a clover field and stacked arms on the ground just vacated by the 5th corps that had gone to the support of the 3rd, then hard pressed near Little Round Top (Charles H. Enos, Co. D).
We all remember that terrible march up from the Rappahannock, into and through Maryland. Lee was in Pennsylvania--was evidently heading for its capitol--was ahead of us; he must be stopped--must be beaten--and we must do it. Just at night we heard that the First Corps had struck the enemy at Gettysburg--had joined battle and Gen. Reynolds was killed. Gen. Meade had determined to take a stand where they were at Gettysburg and we were ordered to join them at that place. It was just at night; we were foot sore and weary beyond description, but there was no rest then for us. Just at sundown we started on that fearful all night march prolonged till 2 o'clock of the next afternoon when all of us who were able to be up arrived at the field of battle. We were directly put into the front line and rested on the ground with our arms at our sides in the night. At day-light we were roused--our right was being pushed. "Fall in! Right face! Forward double quick!" and away we went. Through lines of our own cannon--some at our left hand firing from us--some at our right on a little higher ground firing just over our heads--we went up to the right to help Slocum. Ewell was there making dangerous headway; already he had possession of a considerable extent of our works. The first Maryland was then our extreme right and we were placed just behind them. They had exhausted their ammunition and came out--so much of our line was gone. We went in to re-occupy: The enemy was also moving to do the same thing. Ewell's 15,000 men came swarming down the slope of the hill already possessed by them: they were like a threatening storm-cloud fringed all over and sprinkled with fire and smoke, and smiting as they came. Like lightning flashes came the deadly volleys. Of my company which was all that I could attend to, Harrington was down: Mills was hurt: Sidman was dead: McHale was dead: Parker was down. A report ran through the line that Major Davis was wounded. Turning to look we saw him with his bleeding face, and heard his still stentorian voice exhorting the men to continue deeds of bravery and endurance as he went to the rear. That was the last that he served with us. As for us we remained with our thin line stemming that tempest of rebel attack--firing for three hours and a half--smiting and destroying its strength till what remained of the rebel force that could get away, riven and torn, drifted back over the hill: the right of our position was restored and the field was yet in condition to be finally won (James M. Gere, Co. H).
Major Joshua B. Davis was born March 19, 1833, and graduated from Williams College with the class of 1858. After leaving college he entered the ministry and for a time was pastor of a Baptist church in Western New York. Soon after the beginning of the war of the Rebellion he entered the service as chaplain of an organization known as the 'Black Horse Cavalry." In 1862 he raised company "A" of the 122d Regt. N. Y. Vols., and upon the organization of the regiment he was chosen its first major. He served with ability and distinction until the battle of Gettysburg, July 3rd, 1863. In this engagement, where he conducted himself with conspicuous gallantry, during an attack by the rebels on the Union lines at Culp's Hill, Major Davis was shot in the jaw, the bullet passing through his head and very near the jugular vein. The result of this wound was a partial paralysis of the nerves on his left side which seriously affected his system and especially the action of his liver, and ultimately brought upon him the disease which was the immediate cause of his death. In January, 1864, finding himself incapacitated from further service in the field, he accepted his discharge, and returning to Baldwinsville, and for a short time published the "Gazette." Removing to the West about 1865, he founded the Topeka (Kans.) Commonwealth, but ill-health compelled him to make another change and he settled at Wahoo, Neb., where he established "The Independent" and conducted it with ability for several years (obituary of Major Davis published in the "Weekly Recorder" by Andrew W. Wilkin, August 19, 1889).
The morning of the 2nd of July, 1863, presented a strange and thrilling scene, to the bewildered inhabitants of that hitherto quiet little city. Far away towards the north and east, many, of, so many miles away, came the panting and weary soldiers of the gallant old Sixth Corps, with the loved Uncle John Sedgwick at the head. History records the fact that this corps was 32 miles from the battlefield in the evening. However, we the 6th Corps boys know that we marched 42 miles in 18 hours and by two o'clock p.m. the right of the line of battle was strongly reinforced on Wolf and Culp's Hills by Sixth Corps troops. It was here that the 122d received its first baptism of fire in the battle of Gettysburg. It was a beautiful morning on July 3d; the order came to Col. Titus to fall in with the 122nd and "move your command to the right flank," which was done as speedily as possible, and down the edge of a woody slope the regiment went. The portion of the regiment under Col. Dwight was supported by the 23d Pa. and 65th N.Y. I shall never forget Major Davis as he moved up and down the line encouraging the boys in their work, and at the same time asking them how long they could wait for their pay. Of Co. E, James Wickham was killed (Tom Gardner, Co. E).
There has been an impression somewhat prevalent that Culp's Hill was a mere outpost of little consequence in the battle of Gettysburg; in reality it was one of the most important points in the Union lines. As anyone can see, had Johnson succeeded in establishing his strong division along the ridge, almost directly in rear of Cemetery Hill, supported as he was by the other division of Ewell's Corps, comprising at least one-third of the entire Confederate army, Meade would have been forced to retreat; he would have been flanked from his position without the firing of a shot and the road to Baltimore and Washington open to the invader. Retreat at that time meant nothing less than rout, disaster and ruin to the Union Army. At daylight on the morning of the third day's fight we moved from the foot of Round Top to this ravine and among the rocks some fifteen feet back from the front line. By order of Gen. Shaler the 122d dashed across the intervening space and took possession of the breastwork on our front. Here we found the 149th N.Y., now in our Corps posted immediately on our left. Thus these two Onondaga regiments, fighting side by side, aided in dislodging Johnson from this position of our line and from the works of which he had partial possession. While advancing this short distance over this ridge and in defense of the breastworks, the 122d lost in killed and wounded, 44 of its members, a greater proportionate loss than was sustained by either of the contending armies on any one of those days of battle and carnage; and the fact that the enemy had no further attempt to secure this important position attests that he too must have been severely punished. There was fighting that day on Culp's Hill, as well as elsewhere on the line (Major Davis Cossitt, Co. D).
To: Capt. R. H. Moses. Major.--I have the honor to hand you the following report of the movements and operations of the several regiments of the brigade while under the command of Brigadier General Geary, during the action of July 3d: At nine A. M. the 122d N.Y. Volunteers, Col. Silas Titus commanding, was directed to relieve the 111th Pennsylvania Volunteers, then occupying a position in the front line. Finding the breastworks had been hastily vacated by that regiment, they were immediately reoccupied by the 122d and held by them under a severe fire of the enemy, until relieved by the 82d Pennsylvania Volunteers at 11:30 A. M. At 9:20 A. M. the 23d Pennsylvania Volunteers, Lieut. Col. John F. Glenn commanding, was placed in position as support to, and 150 yards in rear of the front line. After about three hours, five companies were, by direction of General Geary, reported to the Lieutenant Colonel commanding a regiment of the Second Division, Twelfth Corps. These companies being deployed in rear of the works, were, under a galling fire of musketry, advanced against them. Owing to the heavy fire immediately opened by the enemy, the design of feeling them with skirmishers was found impracticable. Skirmishers were advanced, however, about 15 paces, but shortly afterwards withdrawn. At 11 A. M. the Sixty-Seventh New York Volunteers, Col. Nelson Cross commanding, marched into the woods and forward to the breastworks from which the enemy were then fleeing. They succeeded in capturing about 20 prisoners. At 11: 15 o'clock the 65th N.Y. Volunteers, Col. Joseph E. Hamblin commanding, occupied position as support to the 23d Pennsylvania Volunteers, of the brigade. At 11:30 A. M., the 82d Pennsylvania Volunteers, Col. I. C. Bassett commanding, advanced to the front line relieving the 122d New York, and occupying the position until relieved by a portion of General Geary's command, at about 3 P. M. At this hour the brigade was reformed under my command. I attach a list of killed, wounded and missing during the engagement: 65th (4 killed; 5 wounded); 67th (1 captured or missing); 122d (10 killed; 32 wounded; 2 captured or missing); 23d (l killed; 13 wounded), 82d (6 wounded) (Alexander Shaler, Brigadier General, Headquarters First Brigade, 3rd Div., 6th Corps)
The battle commenced at 4 o'clock on the morning of the 3d. The division of General Williams and the two brigades of Geary had returned during the night. A portion of the First and 11th corps and Shaler's brigade of the Sixth corps (including the 122d until 11:30 A.M.) were with us. After a struggle of seven hours we were once more in possession of the entire line. The severity of the battle was abundantly attested by the killed and wounded in our immediate front. With the cessation of the battle on this part of the field came an ominous lull. For more than three hours scarce a shot was fired by either side. At 1 o'clock came the artillery battle, in which 150 guns on each side took part. Shot and shell filled the air for more than an hour. With the cessation of the artillery fire came the most magnificent spectacle of the war - the charge of Pickett's division and a portion of Hill's corps across the open field in front of Hancock. As an exhibition of cool, determined bravery, it will stand unexcelled, but it was met with equal bravery and equal skill. The repulse of Pickett closed the most important battle of modern times. (Major General Henry W. Slocum, 12th corps commanding the 149th regiment, 3rd brigade, 2d division, July 21, 1863).
The 12th brigade arrived on this field on the afternoon of July lst, took position in front of Little Round Top and advanced skirmishers in the Emmitsburg road. At evening it picketed this front. Early in the morning of July 2d it took position here on Culp's Hill, built these works, and July 2d and 3d, aided by gallant reinforcements (among them the 122nd), successfully defended them. This was the key to the whole battle line. That it was stubbornly, valiantly held against repeatedly and madly desperate assaults of vastly superior forces is all that need now be said, unless I may add as illustration, that in this front and mostly in front of this brigade nearly 1400 of the enemy's head were found at the close of battle. The staff of the flag of the 149th NYV was twice shot and showed the marks of eighty bullets (Col. Henry A. Barnum, 149th regiment).
My Dear Friend:--Time and space forbid my answering all your inquiries at this time; but I will tell you something of the hospital service, and the care of the badly wounded, for nearly all the Union men with slight wounds, or those not requiring amputation have been sent to northern hospitals. The field hospitals under the command of a medical director are the most extensive and well appointed of the war, and the wounded command the zealous care of the surgeons, and the members of the Sanitary Commission, as also the spiritual attention of the Christian Commission, giving solace and comfort to the dying. The call for surgeons to aid in caring for the twenty thousand or more wounded has been more than filled, and from time forward there will be the best possible service for the unfortunate friend and foe alike. The hospital tents are large and airy and the surroundings kept scrupulously clean. The tents are arranged in long avenues near good water, and yet not close together as the effluvia would be almost intolerable. The lst, 2d, 3d, 5th and 11th corps lost heavily, and the number of double amputations in the long avenue for that class of wounded is so great that we will refer you to the official report. Four large tents are devoted to the legless and one to the armless heroes who in spite of their sad condition are quite cheerful. These have survived the shock of amputation, and are in fair way to recover. They have the best care, good food, and the most skillful wound dressers attend them. Having charge of one of the wards, my time for sleep or writing is rather limited and although I get about with the aid of a cane I want to get back to my regiment and have sent for orders to return, so you may send your next letter to the 122d. If I were intending to become a surgeon the practical lessons given here would be invaluable. Dr. Bennett who has immediate charge is skillful and rarely loses a case where the wounded has an even chance of life. One case of removal of the leg at the hip joint is in fair way of pulling through. You as a surgeon know that even in the great hospitals of the North few such amputations are successful. The great heart of the people is very tender, and aid the government in every way caring for the unfortunates, lavish in the expenditure of money that friend and foe may live. Of course after such a sanguinary battle thousands died before they could be cared for, but with marvelous rapidity the service was put in working systematic order. You ask about the dressing of amputations? Water is taking the place of oil, and is far better, reducing excessive inflammation, and preventing gangrene which, by the way, is easily controlled and more easily prevented. The number of wounded and killed in the battles of the lst to 3d was over 50,000, and the loss in prisoners about 10,000, or in all fully 60,000 men. The rebel loss in total killed was fully 60 per cent as they did heavy charging on batteries at close quarters. Some day the truth will be told as to the losses on both sides, and I expect my estimate to be verified. And twenty-five years from now, when all the rancor of the struggle ended, the survivors of Gettysburg will be friends, and glad to meet each other. Now Doctor, don't regard me less loyal to "the flag and the Union," the fact is we rather like those wounded men of Pickets' Division in our charge, and can't help it. One of them is looking at me inquiringly while I am writing this letter, and I read his thoughts: A letter home! Will I write it for him? Yes. Ever Your Friend (Thomas H. Scott, Co. B, field hospital near Gettysburg, July 20, 1863).
Sergt. Hiram G. Hilts, P. Fanning and W. P. Huntington of "C" Co., Stephen Blake of "B" Co., James W. Wickham of "E" Co., Corp. D. Casey of "G" Co. and John Cain and Dennis McCarthy of "K" Co. are buried at Gettysburg National Cemetery. The monument of the 122d Regiment at Gettysburg is made of New Hampshire granite. The base is set upon an immense rock, situated a few feet in rear of the rifle pits and a short distance to the right of the 149th Regiment's monument. It marks very accurately the position occupied by the regiment and is near the left of the line. Surmounting the cap is the corps badge, the Greek cross, so cut as to present the same appearance from either side. On the front of the cap stone in raised letters are the words "122d N. Y. Inf'y" and on the left and right sides are the words "1st Brigade," "3d Division," and on the front of the base "6th Army Corps." The die has three polished panels and one rock finished. On two of the former are inscriptions as follows: "Assisted in repulsing the attack on the morning of July 3, 1863; loss, killed 10, wounded 34." "Organized Onondaga Co., N. Y. Mustered into service at Syracuse, N. Y., August 28, 1862. Served continuously with the Sixth Corps until the close of the war." In the third panel is sunken the state coat of arms in bronze (Andrew W. Wilkin, Co. H, at the dedication of the 122d Regiment monument at Gettysburg, June 13, 1888).
July 6, 1863 - Depart Gettysburg to Chase Enemy; July 7 cross over Catoctin mountains; July 8 at Middletown, MD
We are still on the "bob" after the rebs and we are now within hearing of our artillery as it pours the iron ball into their retreating columns. We left Gettysburg, or rather the battlefield (for we never saw the village itself) on the night of the 6th and after one of the most tedious marches on record camped about two miles below Emmitsburg on the Frederick road at one o'clock in the morning. Ten o'clock found us again on the road (as we supposed) towards Frederick city, but towards night we turned to the right and took an unfrequented road over the mountains towards this place. We had not more than half ascended the mountain before night came on, and then commenced the longest siege this army ever went through. The Peninsula was nothing to it. The road was very rocky and steep, the night dark as pitch--the darkness made still more dense by the overhanging trees, the water pouring down the side of the mountain and flooding the already slippery road, the rain pouring down all the while in torrents, men jostling one another in the narrow road and often falling from sheer exhaustion, and well it is no use attempting a description of that night's experience. All I know about it is that on reaching the summit of the mountain the artillery took possession of the road and after vainly endeavoring to keep them back we were obliged to take to the clearings to avoid being run over and crushed to death by the frightened horses. It was useless to try further to keep up any kind of organization, as indeed it had been, before we reached the top of the mountain. In the darkness men and officers had lost their companies and regiments were mixed together in inextricable confusion. Nobody could tell where his regiment was. His only anxiety was to find a place where he might lay his wet head till light came. The men fell down on the wet ground wherever they found room. After stumbling over and stepping on half a hundred poor fellows I at last found room to lie down, and down I went pretty suddenly I assure you, nor did I stir again before daylight, though rain continued all night. When morning dawned I found myself lying in a blind-ditch with three inches of water under me. Wet, cold and stiff I looked around in astonishment at the confusion, although the experiences of the night had somewhat prepared me. Scarcely a company had men enough to make a stack of arms and the men were jumbled together from forty different regiments. Had the rebs been anywhere near us and aware of our condition we would have been an easy prey. Fortunately they had enough to do to take care of themselves without looking around to pick up odd jobs. The fences and whatever wood was available was so wet that we could not burn it, and all attempts to get breakfast were abandoned and we prepared to descend the mountain. After considerable delay and a great deal of trouble accompanied by more or less profanity we were once more in some kind of shape, and wet, cold and hungry we began our march. We reached our present camp near the pleasant village of Middletown at 11 o'clock, covered with mud from head to foot. About noon the weather cleared up and we saw the sun for the first time since we left Centerville nearly three weeks ago. The men are getting rested and feel better, as well as their sore feet will allow them. One look at our sore and bleeding feet would satisfy the northern copperheads that the old Army of the Potomac is a noble band of heroes ready to offer anything for their count. Thank God the same army has once achieved a glorious and complete victory, and one that in connection with the recent success of Grant and Roseer is destined to close this dreadful but righteous war against treason. This army has always fought as desperately and has suffered far more serious losses and endured greater privation than any of our other armies, but owing to political meddlers we have been without indifferent success until now. Everything now looks bright and hopeful to us and our army is in the best spirits, ready to push on and take advantage of the great victory we have attained (Stuart McDonald, Co. F, at Middletown, Maryland, July 8, 1863).
July 14, 1863 - Cross Mountains to Funkstown, MD; July 15 - Move
on to Williamsport and Capture Lee's Rear Guard; Cross Potomac, Then Camp
at Warrenton, VA
Until September 15
Sumpter in ruins, Morris Island in our possession, the old flag of the Union waving over Cumming's Point; such glorious news should satisfy the most enthusiastic and ardent lover of the Union. I am aware that the possession of these points is only a step towards the final reduction of Charleston, but it is a step in the right direction. We can afford to wait with patience the development of the plans of Gen. Gilmore, satisfied that his genius will so direct the powerful military force at his disposal that ultimately his efforts will be crowned with success, and the "Star Spangled Banner" firmly and securely planted on all the defenses of the heart of the rebellion. So might it be. "All is quiet along the Rappahannock." The pickets maintain a friendly intercourse, going as far as at times to bathe in the stream together when in puribus naturalibus they seem to forget that they are deadly enemies instead of friends and brothers, and only awake to a consciousness of their true position when they have donned the habiliments which distinguish the Northern soldier from the Southern. The Army of the Potomac has had a good resting spell, and when joined by those who have been detached to keep order in the North and its ranks filled up with conscripts, you may look out for a blow to be struck that will tell fearfully on the already tottering fabric of the rebellion whose chief corner stone (the right to hold property in human flesh and blood) has received hard knocks from pulpit and press, and is destined to be thoroughly displaced by the occupants of the tented field. At present we are under orders to be ready to march at a moment's notice, but I do not think that any aggressive move will be made with the army in its present condition, unless indeed it may be ascertained that Lee has been reducing his strength by sending reinforcements to Johnston and Beauregard or has fallen back on Richmond. In the latter case we could easily and would naturally advance our lines, but I do not think any attack would be made in force. It is not safe to venture on predictions as to the operations of the Army of the Potomac. I have forsworn all such, so far as it is in the power of a hopeful member of that army to refrain from indulging in giving his views of past, present and future. I endeavor to confine myself to the past and the present allowing the future to develop itself without my endeavoring to foreshadow coming events. I cannot whilst speaking of the past avoid thinking of the change in the face of public affairs during the past twelve months. A year ago today--counting by the day of the week--we (our division) were pushing on as rapidly as possible to take part in the fierce struggle which was then raging at South Mountain between the armies of the North and South. At that time it was uncertain how Maryland would turn, and the chances were good for an addition to be made to the number of the seceding states. The repulse of Lee at South Mountain was followed by his more disastrous defeat at Antietam and final withdrawal from the soil of Maryland. Baffled in his attempt to invade the North his army was still in good spirits and not to be despised as an enemy. The country, however, was impatient of delay; the cautious McClellan was relieved of his command, and the army placed under Burnside. The disastrous repulse of Fredericksburg, and the more disastrous "muddy march" in mid-winter, was the consequence of a public clamor for an advance. The country has now learned that war is a science, and in order to be successful must be conducted with some regard to scientific principle. This knowledge has been obtained in that most thorough school, experience. The lessons of this school have taught the "sovereign people" that it is necessary "to labor and to wait," and they no longer clamor for a blind push against unknown obstacles. General Grant is allowed his own time to reduce Vicksburg; Rosecrans bides his time and moves at his own good pleasure; Gilmore is not called upon to furnish a feast of horrors for the morbid appetite of those who feast on the details of the bloody strife; and even the much abused, long suffering, slow to wrath and terrible its anger, Army of the Potomac is allowed to bask in the sun or recline in the shade for several consecutive weeks without hearing the howl of the clamorous pack who were so eager in their cry for an advance, "onward to Richmond!" The time for political intermeddling has gone by and I trust that we are now entering on a new era, when the operations of a practiced soldier and accomplished general will not be rendered useless by the interference of sixpenny bar-room politicians. This war has done away with many prejudices and taught the world that in the language of Sam Patch "some things can be done as well as others." Iron clads have been constructed which laugh at the efforts of all ordnance in use at the opening of the war, and cannons have been manufactured which perform unheard of wonders. In one of my letters I have made favorable mention of the cavalry connected with this army. They have been adding to their claims for distinction by acting in the capacity of "horse marines." Two gunboats having been captured by the rebels at the mouth of the Rappahannock, a body of cavalry was detached to co-operate with the navy in their recapture. The boats furnished for the expedition could not reach their destination from lack of water, so the cavalry having the task all to themselves burned one and sunk the other (Stuart McDonald, Co. F, at camp near Warrenton, VA. Sept. 13th, 1863).
September 15, 1863 - White Sulphur Spring, VA; Camp at Stone House Mountain; October 1-3 - March from Culpepper to Catlett's Station; Remain There Until October 13
We have been encamped at this place a little more than a week and, being under the impression that we would remain for considerable time, have fixed up the most comfortable quarters that we have ever had during our term of soldiering. I am sure the whole command will be loathe to leave the camp on which they have expended so much labor, and where they had hoped to spend the principal part of the time during which unpleasant weather might be expected. There has been some considerable fighting at the front during the past few days and the report is that our army has fallen back to this side of the Rappahannock. I have some fears that Gen. Lee is much stronger than has been supposed, and that we may possibly be obliged to fall back still further, possibly to the neighborhood of Centreville and Bull Run. The economical storm was too much for the colored individuals to hear cheerfully and I do not blame them for assuming a forlorn and woe begone appearance. "Mark Tapley or any other man" who could be jolly when pinched up by such unreasonable weather as has been dealt out to us lately deserves the highest credit and a leather medal as a reward for his cheerful disposition. The Domine (Chaplain) may be a very necessary institution, but to use a slang term , "I can't see it." A short visit to the army would convince you that, with a few honorable exceptions, the black-coated gentry are more intent on securing their share of the loaves and fishes than they are interested in the spiritual welfare of the soldiers. I will not indulge in any harsh or angry strictures on the course of the representatives of the clergy in the army; if their consciences can square their conduct with their duty, I am satisfied. I noticed in a copy of your paper a communication from our mutual friend "R," dated at New York, in which he makes the statement that Uncle Sam would get few men by the draft. I admit that the draft has been, to a certain extent, a failure, but still the men do come, as I know by seeing them pass on the railroad each day in large numbers, so I know that many a mourner must draw comfort from the words of the "poick," who so beautifully expresses himself:
Why should we mourn conscripted friends,
Or shake at draft's alarms?
'Tis but the voice that Abra'm sends
To make them shoulder arms.
We have received several conscripts in our brigade, and like a singed cat, they are better than they look. On our march from Culpepper to this place which was one of the hardest I have known to be made by this portion of the army, only three of the conscripts "fell out." The foregoing, with considerable in addition, was written at Culpepper, and would have been mailed to you from that place, but for circumstances over which I had no control, we are again under marching orders, and I have made up my mind not to tote the unfinished letter any further, so have destroyed the injured sheets and improve a brief season of leisure to make an explanation for the date and reading. We expect to move to the front and take a hand in the game that is in progress (Stuart McDonald, Co. F, Catlett's Station, VA., October 11, 1863).
October 13, 1863 - Warrenton Junction, then to Kettle Run; October 16 - North of Centerville Waiting for Enemy and Ultimately Push Rebels Back; November 7 - Warrenton to Rappahannock Station; November 7 - Battle of Rappahannock Station; Thanksgiving Day Ordered to March, Cross Rapidan; November 28 - 122d Marches to Join 2nd Corps; November 29 - Skirmish of Mine Run; November 30 - Recross Rapidan; December 3 - Back to Brandy Station Encampment and Remain Until January 5, 1864.
Dear Friend:--Your letter of Dec.15 was duly received and read to some of the boys from Euclid and vicinity. The kindly interest manifested by you for their safety and welfare is duly appreciated by all. Since the battle of Gettysburg we have been in only one sharp fight--the battle of Rappahannock Station, where our company had a sad experience from the explosion of a shell in our midst. I will briefly give you the details of the affair, as you have undoubtedly read the general results of the battle as published. When Gen. Sedgwick's corps advanced to the attack of the fortifications (which by the way were upon the wrong side of the river) we were ordered to support the artillery on the right of our line. The artillery fighting soon became interesting and somewhat exciting to our line which lay just behind the artillery. The enemy could distinguish our line from their fortifications, and having a fine range sent the shells close to the backs of the men lying close to the earth. At last one, a percussion shell, struck the knapsack of Peter Bradt of Centerville, exploding at the line of file closers, (the sergeants) wounding Lieut. Gilbert and killing two sergeants, Ruggles and Spurlock, and two privates, Cooney and Kelley, who were accidentally out of the line. Bradt (Brott) was completely paralyzed and may never recover (Letter to Dr. James F. Johnson by Thomas H. Scott, Co. B., Camp of 122d N. Y. V. Dec. 25, 1863).
Peter Brott enlisted in "B" Co. when the regiment was organized in 1862
serving faithfully in the ranks, except while on detail duty, up to Nov.
7, 1863, when at the battle of Rappahannock Station he was disabled from
the concussion of a shell which tore away his knapsack and cartridge box.
Being almost totally paralyzed he was unfitted for active duty, and after
being discharged returned to Centerville, Onondaga Co. where he still resides.
Of all the close calls, and narrow escapes, his was the most remarkable
we ever saw. Develois Stevens, a member of "G" Co., was wounded in
the wrist while on the skirmish line at the battle of Rappahannock Station.
As soon as he recovered from his wound he returned to his Co. and was mustered
out with the regiment. He then went west and now owns a farm of 160
acres in Illinois, is married and has seven children (a sketch of old comrades
provided by Andrew W. Wilkin, Co. H, January 3, 1890). The cause
of the shell exploding was a frying pan carried in the knapsack.
All the Clay boys escaped without a scratch. William J. Anderson
(Co. B) had a narrow escape, being beside one who was literally torn to
pieces. It was a trying time for the boys and I think that I was
the only one in the company who did not pray earnestly and audibly.
Of course I was glad to hear them pray, even in such a place. For
about an hour our cannon roared, then suddenly ceased; our lines
are closing in; the bayonet decides the contest. Gladly the
men spring forward and join in the charge. While the gallant Upton
and the brave men of New York, Wisconsin, Maine and other states pressed
on under a murderous fire a column of our own boys made a dash along the
river bank and got possession of the rebels' pontoon bridge. The
works were carried and the victory complete. "Johnny could not run away."
The movement on "Mine Run" was destitute of any permanent results except
a large number of cases of pneumonia and rheumatism among the men.
The 6th Corps lay in line of battle for 18 hours upon the frozen ground
waiting for orders to charge through Mine Run creek that was too deep in
our front for a horseman to cross, and covered with ice an inch in
thickness. Of course the movement was deemed necessary or it
would not have been made. We are now located at Brandy Station where
the army will probably go into winter quarters. Just now Mosby and
his noted band of guerrillas (Mosby's Rangers) are the chief source of
annoyance. I believe his band could be destroyed or captured
if the right man was chosen for the leader of the undertaking. You
say that the draft is a perpetual menace to many of the able-bodied men
at home. Say to those at Euclid who plan battles and great campaigns
that we deeply sympathize with them in their mental suffering, begging
leave to suggest a remedy: Enlist at once and ask to be assigned
to the 122d; we need recruits and will be glad to receive them in our ranks;
will stand by them in every danger, divide with them the last hardtack,
and if they fall in battle will write beautiful eulogies of their heroism
to friends at home. Can they ask more? There will be many more
great battles in old Virginia and here will be the ending of the struggle.
The war may not end in two years but it should end now, and there would
be peace before the spring campaigns could be put in motion, but for the
blind folly of the rebel government. "Whom the Gods wish to destroy
they first make mad," will perhaps be illustrated in the final collapse
of rebeldom. Neither draft riots nor copperheads can save the rebel
cause. Vainly will they reach after the plumage of the bird of liberty
to bedeck their new love, the filthy buzzard of the South. There
will be peace at last and it will be worth all the blood and suffering
it costs. You ask do the soldiers realize the issues at stake in
this war? I answer yes; they know too just what the condition of
every Union soldier would be if the rebellion is not stamped to death;
and the more the subject is discussed by them the better for the nation
at large, for it begins to dawn on their minds since the great battle of
Gettysburg that the Union cause is in the custody of the common soldier
and that great victories may be won despite poor generalship. With
sincere regard, I remain as ever, and with a Christmas greeting to
all (Letter to Dr. James F. Johnson by Thomas H. Scott, Co. B.,
Camp of 122d N. Y. V. Dec. 25, 1863.)
Dear Monitor: The Army of the Potomac has not made any forward movement since I last had the pleasure of writing to you. I have been expecting orders to move every hour for the last ten days, but so far have been agreeably disappointed. Today it rains in regular Southern style, and if there is any dependence to be placed on the predictions of the weather-wise we are likely to have a raw day of disagreeable weather. All signs of rain fail sometimes, but especially in dry weather, and it is just possible that the present movement of the storm forces may be only a "feint." Be that as it may a grand attack in the shape of a regular soaking rain storm would not seriously interfere with an advance to our old line along the Rapidan. The railroad is repaired and in running order to beyond Brandy Station and our supplies could as well be transported to Culpepper as to be left at the present depot. The work of distributing rations etc. would be but very little heavier on the teams should we advance along the line of railroad than it is under the present arrangement. I do not know what to think of our chances of moving forward or having another battle this fall. The last "brush" at Rappahannock Station took even the rebels by surprise, so I will not be at all astonished to hear that we are to make something more than a demonstration against the rebel line of defense along the Rapidan. Nor should I be overwhelmed with astonishment if we went into winter quarters in some favorable spot not far distant from our present location. The experience of last year has shown the difficulty, in fact the almost impossibility of carrying on active military operations in this section of Virginia during the greater part of the winter season; and if anything further is done by the Army of the Potomac in the way of fighting it will be done soon. The first opening of fair weather may be improved and a sanguinary battle ensue; but I do not expect we will be able to force Lee's army behind the defenses of Richmond, unless indeed it should be ascertained that he carries on the old game of lending troops to Gen. Bragg or some other commander requiring temporary reinforcements. In that case we may move against him, and force him to retire to his strong holds in the neighborhood of Richmond. I am not so confident of the ability of the army to take up winter quarters in Richmond as I was a year ago, although none the less sanguine and confident of the ultimate success of the Union arms. I still look forward to the day when the "old flag," the star spangled banner, shall wave triumphant over the land of the truly free; a land which shall no longer resound with the lash of the brutal slave owner, or the shrieks of his helpless victim. A land redeemed from the curse of the hideous monster, the "sum of all villainies," human slavery, by the blood of its sons, freely poured forth on many a well contested field. A land where the oppressed of all nations may find an asylum. Our corps (the bloody 6th) was reviewed yesterday by Gen. Sedgwick and some foreign officers, said to be Colonel Earle and others of the British Guard or British Fusiliers. The Commanding General had no reason to be ashamed of his troops; they looked exceedingly well and marched splendidly. I did not suppose they would compare very favorably with some crack English corps, but venture to assert that for volunteers they are hard to beat. When the order was received to prepare for review, it was generally supposed that we were to have a sight of those "darling Roosians" who have attracted so much attention, in New York and elsewhere, and some few expressions of disappointment might have been heard on learning that all the display was for the sake of a few representatives of John Bull. The morning opens clear and cold if such weather continues there is no doubt that we will soon make a move if it is only to find a more favorable camping ground. Should we advance and kick up another shindy with the rebels, I shall hope for a safe deliverance from the dangers of the field and will endeavor to keep you posted in our movements (Stuart McDonald, Co. F, at camp near Brandy Station, VA. November 21st, 1863).
Dear Monitor: Once again I am permitted to address you after a brief sojourn in the "wilderness," and braving my share of the hardships attending a winter's campaign in Virginia. I trust that our experience in the late forward movement will cause the press to strike some other measure on the "harp of a thousand strings," besides the much used, well worn and spiritless one of "onward to Richmond." The "Satanic" press (N. Y. Herald) indulges in its accustomed howl, and cannot see why Meade did not keep steadily on his way, overcoming ordinary obstacles and marching round the more formidable. The man who expresses himself in the foregoing manner could not give better proof of his ignorance of even the first principles of a military campaign, and shows plainly that he knows nothing of the country in which the Army of the Potomac lately operated. The flank movements of which he speaks so consequentially and which he assumes were so easy of execution, were attempted by Gen. Meade, notwithstanding the dense growth of wood and the state of the almost "blind" roads, and terminated, as might be expected, in the flanking force finding itself confronted by superior numbers advantageously posted. To assail them in their stronghold might possibly cause them to retreat, but the advantage would be gained at a loss of life the risking of which might well deter any General, with less than a Napoleonic disregard for human life, from ordering an assault on so formidable a position. As it is, the Army of the Potomac has indulged in another of its characteristic grand military quadrilles in which the principal changes are "cross over," "forward and back," "all promenade" and now occupies the camps in which it was located previous to the advance across the Rapidan. We had lain in camp for what to us seemed a long time. Many had made all preparations for passing the winter in great comfort. The members of our brigade, were not, however, of that number. Our position was not a desirable one, and we indulged in hopes of a speedy and desirable change. Thanksgiving day with its many associations drew on apace and kind friends at home had forwarded to many a foretaste of Thanksgiving cheer. Boxes well packed with a variety of dainties were received on the day before the one appointed for a general Thanksgiving, and many were the calculations made with regard to the disposal of a portion of the good things from home. Our experience seems to verify the old saw "the best laid schemes of mice and men, etc." Orders came for a move at an early hour in the morning and so, instead of eating a good Thanksgiving dinner in peace and quietness, we were content to partake of our fare at haphazard along the road, with occasionally the booming of a cannon to remind us more forcibly of what might be in store for us. The morning of the 26th November opened cool but pleasant, and daylight found us all prepared for a forward movement. Columns were formed and moved towards Brandy Station. Here we were forced to await the movements of the 3d corps which had the advance. After considerable delay we were at length fairly on the way, and pushed on vigorously until we became entangled with a portion of the 3d corps wagon train. The roads were so bad that it required all the skill of the drivers to make the animals drag their heavy loads through the tenacious soil of Virginia. Such difficulties at the outset gave poor promise of success in the event of the weather proving unfavorable, and numerous were the forebodings of a disastrous termination of our enterprise. At length, however, we freed ourselves of the train, and pushed across the Rapidan. The crossing was made by our division at a late hour in the night (the 3d corps had crossed early in the afternoon, meeting with but little opposition.) At a short distance from the crest of the hill which commands the crossing, the 3d division of 6th corps (ours) was halted, and the troops were allowed to bivouac for the night. The order was obeyed with alacrity, and but a short time elapsed before numerous evidences were given that many had forgotten the hardships of the day and were indifferent to the troubles of the morrow. The 6th corps was divided up to act as reserves for the other corps engaged, consequently I did not see much of the active operations at the front. During the day following our crossing the river we could hear the rattle of musketry varied occasionally by the deep roar of artillery, giving evidence that the 3d corps had found the enemy. A long roll of musketry would at times be followed by a cheer, and then we knew that our fellows were getting the better of the enemy. Towards night a grand attack was made on our lines with the hope of driving us back, but supported by one division of the 6th corps, the 3d corps was able to repel the assault. The following morning our division was ordered to the support of General Warren of the 2nd corps. We were on the way before 2 a. m. and after a long, tiresome march, were permitted to halt in a ploughed field, with the rain pouring down in torrents. Here we remained during the balance of the day, doing our best to keep out of the mud, and at the same time shelter ourselves from the rain. It was but cold comfort to know that we would not be called on to do any fighting that day. Any change was desirable, and all were highly pleased when towards night we were moved into the shelter of a pine grove, where we could build fires and take some steps towards making ourselves comfortable. I will not weary you with an account of each day's operations. After the storm mentioned above the weather was intensely cold. We had no chance to put up tents, and indeed were very thankful to be allowed the privilege of sleeping in the open air, notwithstanding the nights were so cold that oftentimes a canteen of water would be found in the morning to be a canteen of ice. General Meade had done all that could be expected of him and I think very wisely refused to attempt anything further. Having concluded not to attack the enemy in his chosen position, preparations were made for a retrograde movement. Our last day on the south side of the Rapidan was passed in comparative quiet. The wind blew cold, the smoke from our numerous fires hugged the ground, and when at 9 a. m. the troops moved out onto the road, there was more sorrow depicted in their countenances than felt in their hearts, notwithstanding the flow of tears which coursed down so many cheeks. We marched all night and at an early hour the following morning crossed the Rapidan. After a brief halt the whole army moved off towards their old camps, and at the present time we all occupy much the same position that we did previous to the move. Our loss in killed, wounded and prisoners is not so great as that of the enemy. There is a general cry for winter quarters, and I think nothing more will be done this season towards acting on the offensive. The troops will be permitted to make themselves comfortable, and allowed to recruit until spring. Furloughs will doubtless be granted soon, but as I had my play spell last spring, I must be content to pass the winter in Virginia (Stuart McDonald, Co. F, at camp near Brandy Station, VA December 8th, 1863)
January 5 Depart from Brandy Station for Sandusky, OH where they remain until April 13, 1864.
After the Mine Run fiasco we returned to our old camps near Brandy Station, and it was the generally received opinion that we would remain there in winter quarters, but on the 5th of January, '64, the whole Brigade was startled from its propriety by receiving orders to be in readiness to move by rail, at a moment's notice. This was a new departure, a complete surprise party, and many were the conjectures as to our destination. At midnight orders were received to move at 1:30 A. M., and promptly at the appointed hour the whole Brigade moved off and boarded the cars which were in readiness, and the trains were headed towards Washington which city we reached just before night, and after a tiresome delay were transferred to a train on the B. & O. R'y. At Washington it leaked out that Sandusky, Ohio was our destination and that we were to be engaged in guarding rebels instead of fighting them. It seems that the authorities had become alarmed as to the safe keeping of the 2,500 or more rebel officers then in prison on Johnson's Island, so they called for some of the veteran troops of the Army of the Potomac to assist in guarding these precious rebels and Gen. Alex. Shaler's lst brigade, 3rd. Division and 6th Army Corps was selected for the agreeable duty. Box cars were furnished as the means of transportation; these cars were without seats or stoves. About fifty men were packed in each car, but as the weather was extremely cold this style of riding was productive of a welcome warmth if not otherwise conducive to comfort. The company officers rode with their commands and shared the discomforts of the trip. The first night on the road was spent in a manner never to be forgotten. A considerable quantity of whiskey had been smuggled aboard the cars, and many of the boys had improved the time and opportunity in Washington to imbibe freely, so that between the natural buoyancy of spirits caused by the knowledge of the good times in store for us and the effect of sundry potations strong and deep the spirits of the whole command were elevated to the highest notch and found vent in a variety of humorous commands and lively movements not to be found in Casey's Tactics or Army Regulations. To make confusion worse, the happy cusses seemed musically(?) inclined and favored their comrades with spirited songs with but little regard for harmony. One party shouted at the full capacity of their lungs "A Farewell to my old Virginny shore," whilst another affirmed with equal vigor "This is the way we long have sought and mourned because we found it not;" and so we went our way all in the best of spirits and bubbling over with good humor. The wind was blowing a perfect gale and a fast storm of snow impeded our progress; little did we care for wind or weather; above the howling of the storm and the clatter of the wheels arose the refrain "We are going home, we are going home, we are going home to Sanduskee." At times some loud-voiced comrade to show his appreciation of the situation and to signify his indifference to the surroundings would shout "Blow ye windy morning! Why the D...l don't you blow!" At Martinsburg there was quite a delay and the most of us got off the cars to take the "kinks" out of our legs. As the train was about the move off, three of us found ourselves near the "Head Quarters Car" and Colonel Dwight invited us to take places in it and be his traveling companions until the train should reach Wheeling. This head quarters car was not a magnificent affair in which the commanding officer had been traveling in solitary grandeur; it was simply a box car fitted up with a stove and some temporary seats made from rough boards without backs or cushions; the comfort to be derived from the use of them depended upon circumstances and physical condition; the fattest man had the softest seat. It is the rule in all our courts that a witness is not obliged to give any testimony that would incriminate himself; I will apply that rule here and say nothing as to how we came into possession of a bottle of "S. T. 1860 X Plantation Bitters." I do not know that the article called Plantation Bitters is made or sold now; nor do I recall for which of the many ills that flesh is heir to, it was offered as a sovereign remedy, but I do most distinctly remember that its exhilarating properties were fully equal to any native distilled "Apple Jack," and that its "O be joyful" powers were not surpassed by the article that in the soldiers' vocabulary was familiarly known as "Commissary;" and as a truthful historian I must record the fact that the quiet game of whist with which we had been whiling away the time became a very spirited contest after the instruction of our new and agreeable traveling companion. The delays in transit were frequent and very wearisome ones, but finally on the 13th of Jan., after being on the road for seven days, we arrived at Sandusky. Four regiments of the brigade were at once transferred to the Island, relieving the troops who had been doing guard duty, and there Gen. Shaler established his head quarters and assumed command of the Post, while the 122nd enjoyed being quartered in the town. The advent of so many war worn veterans created quite a ripple in the social circles of Sandusky. There was a general disposition shown by the citizens to make the stay of the soldiers as pleasant as possible. Numerous entertainments were gotten up for their amusement and the homes of the citizens were open to the deserving ones. Rank counted for but little; shoulder straps were not necessarily pre-requisites to social recognition. The bronzed hero from the front found ample scope for displaying his skill in drawing the long bow and many an admiring circle listened with bated breath to blood curdling tales calculated to "make each particular hair to stand on end." The recital of these wondrous tales was not confined to those who had stood in the battle's front; the "Coffee Cooler" who snuffed the battle from afar, very far indeed in the rear was a successful romancer when he had an appreciative and not too critical audience. We did not at any time "paint the town red," yet I doubt if the staid and sober town of Sandusky was ever so gay as during the time that the troops from the Army of the Potomac were quartered there. Time passed rapidly away, and we scarce noted its flight until the Spring days were upon us, and one day in April the Hoffman Battalion from Cleveland marched down the street in magnificent array, and after giving a dress parade that astonished the natives, and excited the admiration--if not the envy--of the old soldiers, they were transferred to the Island and relieved part of our Brigade. As for us, our duties were light: guard mounting and dress parade the only things that demanded our attention regularly, and there was a general disposition to act on the motto "Make hay while the sun shines," and we endeavored to get a full measure of enjoyment out of the favorable opportunity. On the13th of April, after a sojourn at Sandusky of exactly three months, we took train to return to the front; there were many sorrowful hearts in the regiment and also among the citizens; the parting with our friends was sad and trying. The poet(?) of the Brigade struck his tuneful lyre and in a "B flat" minor key, indulged in the following double-barreled wail, as being expressive of our feelings upon that occasion:
How beautiful the ladies who in Sandusky dwell,
How mournful every heart is for we've learned to love them well
The veterans round their fires by night, fond tales of thee shall tell
Oh, scene of such short-lived delight, Sandusky fare thee well.
In due time we reached Brandy Station, Va., and went into camp upon the same ground we had occupied previous to our departure for Ohio. Once more we dwelt upon the tented field, renewed our acquaintance with our long lost friend "hard tack," and once again, with hearts bowed down in sadness, we listened to the plaintive note of that sweet songster, the army mule. (Stuart McDonald, Capt., Co. F)
There is scarcely a person 40 years old who was living in this country at the time, who does not remember the cold New Years of 1864. It was my lot to be posted on picket that night near Brandy Station in Northern Virginia. While thus engaged, I think it was on the night of Jan. 2nd, our squad was very noiselessly relieved of duty and we were told to go into camp and get ready to move by rail. Whither we could be going at the dead hour of night was all conjecture with us. However, it didn't concern us; in fact we were pleased at anything for a change. Camp monotony is quite disheartening to a soldier and a change, even if it brings on a fight, is preferable to too much routine duty. Soon after midnight we found a whole freight train in waiting at the station that was to carry our first brigade, third division, sixth corps, to Washington and from thence, the rank and file at least, knew not where. The object for our moving in the night was that the enemy might not know of our destination. It was anything but comfortable riding in freight cars without fires or moving about the streets of Washington with the thermometer 10 degrees below zero, but such was the fate of war. While here, rumor said our destination was Sandusky, Ohio, to guard several thousand rebel officers that were quartered on Johnson's Island, and also to see to it that the several thousand refugees congregated on the Canada side didn't come over on the ice and release them. As quick as transportation was at hand we were stowed away, in lots forty, into Baltimore & Ohio freight cars, and soon found ourselves rolling over the rails toward Harpers Ferry and the Allegheny mountains. On the morning of January 13th, 1864, over 2,000 head of live freight sighted the blue ice of Sandusky bay. It is safe to say that each of the 2,000 was escorted by at least 10,000 of those belligerent creatures whose chief delight is to carry the war into Egypt when the volunteer is wrapped in midnight dreams. The good and loyal people of Sandusky having been apprised of our coming and prompted by the "Ladies' Soldiers Aid Society" had prepared one of those sumptuous banquets prevalent among the ladies on those times. Our quarters had been arranged, and when we stacked arms to meet the cyclone of choice viands prepared by those dainty hands, we were completely enveloped amidst crinoline and provender. Ten days on the road without an opportunity to laundry our wardrobe saw us almost transformed in appearance to 2,000 contrabands. Yet strange to note, our faces that had been Africanized by pine smoke and Virginia winds sufficed to lend enchantment, for the stay-at-home-white-livered clerk wasn't nowhere with "we-uns" in presence of the ladies. Love at first sight, to and from, was prevalent at every turn. High privates in the front and rear rank, corporals, sergeants, lieutenants and captains became smitten on the spot, and having been inured to adventure boldly inquired the abode of the administering angels--angels, for indeed what could they be less than angels to veterans who had been living, marching and fighting with no cover but the broad heavens for seventeen long months. Particularly fascinating were the neat uniforms and brass buttons of the field and line officers. Notably among the young ladies in the reception was a Miss Jennie Lincoln, secretary of the Soldier's Aid Society; quite tall and slender, with a carriage too graceful and winning for even a young captain to resist. In fact the captain couldn't resist. The captain had led his company on Marye's Heights and against the rocks and rebels at Gettysburg with brave heart and firm tread, yet it took more moral courage to muster up confidence in himself sufficient to brave the rocks and reefs besetting the path of Cupid's conquest. He had fought under the banner of God and our country and revered the name of Lincoln. But here was the ideal Lincoln of his fondest dreams. Miss Jennie had discovered the tender emotions of the brave and refined little captain, and responded to his modest overtures with such grace and pleasant smiles that the captain braved the occasion and politely inquired her abode and begged the privilege to call. He did call, he proposed, and Miss Lincoln agreed that if he survived the shocks of war she would indeed be his forever. The captain while here secured a position as 2nd lieutenant in the regular signal corps, and returned to the seat of war April 11th, 1864, just two days before the regiment returned to the Army of the Potomac to take part in the terrible Wilderness campaign. Others of the boys were betrothed in Sandusky, some were married on the spot, but the captain and Miss Lincoln waited till the smoke of battle had cleared away. Captain Dillingham survived the war and in November 1865 he and Miss Lincoln solemnized their vows and were united in wedlock at Sandusky, Ohio. Soon thereafter, they took Horace Greeley's advice and went west, though not far, stopping at Coldwater, Mich. Twenty-five years had flown by, and the writer finds himself at Coldwater, Mich., for the first time. He has occasion to meet the business men of every town. He discovers a face too familiar to let pass. True, the form is slightly stooped, and the hair and beard is mixed with the frosts of a quarter of a century, but he ventures to speak. He speaks, and the voice of Capt. Lucius A. Dillingham of Co. I, 122nd N. Y. Vols, responds. A greeting, a few words of conversation, and we accept an invitation to call at the house next day, the Sabbath, and enjoy his hospitality. Right promptly did we respond, and were soon ensconced in an easy chair discussing the incidents of army life and more especially the romantic outcome of the winter season at Sandusky. A daughter, only child, age 20--all since the war, cheers the circle with her keen wit, polished by a lavish fund of parental indulgence; and a pleasing conversationalist is she (Francis M. Potter, Co. H, May 30, 1889).
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28 December 1998
21 February 1999