Yours Obd Svt
I have transcibed this word for word and it does contain VERY GRAPHIC descriptions.
MADE FOR MATURE READING
His comments are not necessarily our feelings.
We went South from Platsburg by way of Rome and Watertown, and landed in New York City in the night and stayed one day, and marched down Broadway the next night on our way to Washington. I saw more fireworks and heard more martial music than I had ever seen or heard of before in my life. It looked to me as a green country. It looked to me as if the City would be burnt up. Our next stop was in Philadelphia, where the ladies of that old patriotic City set us up a fine dinner: the first we had since leaving Platsburg. Our next halt was at Baltimore. Baltimore was a Rebel town at the time. About 10 days before we passed through, the 6th Massachusetts was mobbed in Baltimore. Quite a number of them were killed and wounded, but there was none of that when we went through, for the reason that General B.P. Butler had been placed in command. He had declared Baltimore under Martial Law, and placed a battery of artillery on a hill just out of the City. He told these Baltimore people that if there was any more mobbing, he would "Pack" Baltimore off the map.
The 16th New York Regiment got to Platsburg, New York and was doing guard duty in Baltimore when we went through. They could have killed every man of us. We were not armed. Our next town was Washington. We got there in the night, mud, mud everywhere. We were marched into a long shed, a good deal like our western cattle sheds, boarded up and down with board roof, with no halts and mud about 6 inch deep for a floor. We had the priviledge of lying down, sitting up or standing up. If I remember right, most of us stood up. Next morning, we were marched into another long shed, with a table about 2 feet wide running through the center, the whole length of the shed, for breakfast. We were forced inwards, and in front of every man was a piece of bread and a piece of salt horse, and a tin cup filled with coffee made in a kettle the salt the salt horse was boiled in. Well, we didnít eat much breakfast, but almost every man became homesick.
From there, we were marched out to what was known as Meridian Hill. There we went into camp, drew our first equipment of war, our tent, blankets, guns, belts, etc. We camped here for about a month and drilled. We were reviewed here by President Lincoln and Scot and George B. McClellan. It was at this time that Scot was retired from active service and George B. McClellan took his place as Commander-In-Chief of the Army of the Potomac. Right after this review, we took to the field, marched out of the District of Columbia, crossed the Potomac on what was known as Chair (Chain)Bridge into Virginia and slept our first night out in the Museum in the old City of Alexander. From there, we went to Camp Windfield Scot, in front of Yorktown, where we expected to fight the battle of the war. The Rebels had Yorktown and at this time, the Rebels had Yorktown and it was well fortified. It looked as if we never could take it, and at this time, the Rebels Marrimac had sunk every good boat we had in the Chesapeake Bay. We had nothing that dare face it. She sunk the Congress and Cumberland just a few rods from the dock at New Port News. Our Company was sent to New Port News to guard some property and I remember seeing about 10 feet of the mast of the Cumberland sticking out of the water. She had a crew of 700 men. These were dark days for the North with Rebs in Pennsylvania and in sight of the Capital, but it is darkest before day. At this time, the Army was busy chopping down the forest and building corduroy roads and placing seige guns, getting ready to take Yorktown.
I think 1862 was one of the wettest years I have ever seen. We couldnít move a wagon, ambulance or piece of artillery .without first building a road. But you who have read the history of the War will remember that the Monitor appeared in the Chesapeake Bay about this time and knocked the Merrimac out of business, or dissabled her, so the Rebs ran her to ground and blew her up.
Now came the turn of the War in favor of the Union, according to my judgement. I have always had a great respect for John Erickson, the inventor of the Monitor. Knocking the Merrimac out, gave us the water side of Yorktown and we took it without firing a gun. I want to say as I have often said before, that this country ought to build a monument to Erickson as high as the moon. We owe it to him for doing more than any other man to save our Nation. The Rebs evacuated Yorktown on Saturday night, and at 5 Oíclock Sunday morning we were after them. They made a stand at Williamburg, where we had our first fight with the Rebs. Our Regiment supported Belgiums battery of twenty pounders. They were brass guns and made more noise than any battery I ever heard. We drove them out of Williamsburg and fell across the Chickahominy River and made a stand at Fair Oaks Station or Seven Pines. We fallowed them up. Our Regiment was in Caseyís Division, which had the advance. We went right to work to build breastworks, for we expected the Rebs would attack us, which they did. I remember my brother and I were detailed to build breastworks. Every time we lifted a shovel full of earth, the hole would fill up with water, the ground was so full of water. When we saw our Regiment fall in line, we threw down our shovels and ran to camp, got out guns and fell in with our Company. We supported the battery, as we did in Williamburg, but the Rebs over-powered us and we had to fall back on our reserves. But that night we had the same ground we had in the morning.
We didnít have our tents and new uniforms that we expected to wear into Richmond. We all thought we were going to take Richmond in a few days for sure, but we didnít take it for a few years. We laid here in the Chickahominy Swamp for about six weeks without tents or shelter of any kind, not even a blanket or coat. We laid down on the wet ground like as many cattle and OH! How it did thunder and lightning and rain. I will always remember one terrible night when my brother and I tramped around all the night thinking we might get under a baggage wagon or an ambulance, anywhere out of the rain, but there was someone ahead of us everywhere we went. Our Regiment was lying on a hillside where there were a few scattering Oak trees. It was not daylight yet and still raining like forty. My brother and a cousin of our, James Gray, laid down at the root of those trees and went sound asleep. I went and looked at them after the sun got up and the rain had stopped, and they were sleeping like two caldron. But this treatment and the Typhoid Fever caused us to lose a great many of our dear boys. We couldnít give them any kind of treatment. We only had one hospital tent with no cots or other fixings to make a sick man comfortable. I remember the sad look on the face of some of the boys, when they would come around and say, "Well, Tom, Charley is dead," or Joe or Jim, as the case might be. Well, this was about the 25th of June, 1862.
The Rebs had come at us again and we started on a seven day fight, fighting all day and retreating all night. A large detail out of our Regiment was put on picket and was taken prisoner. The Army moved away without sending them notice to withdraw. The Rebs followed us up for seven days. We had a hard time saving our supply train, but we fetched them up with a twist when we got to Melvin Hill. It is a round hill about 75 feet high. We placed a line of heavy guns all around its back, and then just high enough up to shoot over the first line. We placed another line of lighter guns higher up so that we could shoot over the first 2. On the very top of the hill, there was a large white house, we had one of our signal corps. He could signal to the gunboats in the James River and tell them where to drop their shaft and shell. It was heavy timber here and they could not see the enemy from the gunboats. This man, on top of the house, could see over the woods and talk to the man on the gunboat, as soon as our ambulance and supply trains got in out of danger from our shot and shell. We cut loose on the Rebs and we just moved them. It didnít take long to get enough and they went back to Richmond and we went on to Harrisonís Landing on the Bank of the James River, undercover of our gunboats. We laid here about six weeks. Lincoln came and reviewed what was left of the Grand Army of the Potomac. We moved from Harrisonís Landing back to Fortress Monroe and left that whole country just where we began.
We went from Fortress Monroe to Suffolk, Virginia, where we did some fortifying and made a few raids. We got to Black Water, and from Suffolk, we went to Newborn, North Carolina. This was the winter of 1862 and 1863. From Newborn, we went on a raid through North Carolina to Kingston, Calsharah and White Hall. Our Colonel was killed at Kingston. Colonel Charles. O. Gray, a fine looking soldier and a fine young man. Major Burhans should have taken command of the Regiment when the Colonel was killed, but he felt so bad. They went to school together, and Major Burhans refused to take command of the Regiment. Our Captain took command of the Regiment and brought it back to Newborn and Major Burhans was dismissed from the service, it is said. When he heard that the Colonel was killed, he cried like a child. We laid at Newborn the rest of the winter. It was said, when we came in from the raid, that every man of the 96th Regiment either had a darkey or a donkey to carry his equipment. Rebel General MacGrooder came to Newborn and tried to scare us out, but he made such a poor fight of it, that it was never mentioned. Major General Foster was in command at Newborn.
From Newborn, we went to Little Washington, North Carolina, where the Rebs had a Massachursetts Regiment. They were about starved out. We drove the Rebs off and sent all the Rebel Citizens through the picket line to their friends.They had just so long to pack up and go. From there we went to Plymouth, North Carolina. Plymouth is just below Raleigh on the Noose River. Here we built Fort Gray and did some other work. Our Regiment was detached from the rest of the Brigade and was stationed at Fort Gray, about two miles up the river from Plymouth. Brigadier General Wessell was in command here with the headquareters in Plymouth. After we got Fort Gray completed, our Regiment was taken out of our old Brigade and strung along the Dismal Swamp Canal. This Canal runs from Roanoke Island to Norfolk. Here is where we were lying when our first 2 years was up and the boys had a chance to enlist for another three years and get a thousand (1000) dollar bounty. They got a town, county, and state bounty and four (400) hundred dollars each, from the government. Our Regiment nearly all re-enlisted. My brother and I didnít re-enlist. So we got no bounty and no furlough home. We had to stay in Dixie and do duty until the Regiment came back. The Rebs were re-enlisting at the same time and when one would come home on furlough and we found it out, we would go out and try and bring him in. We brough in a Yanky Lieutenant one night. We went out and threw a guard around all the buildings and then went to searching for him. We found him in a closed carriage. He had his revolver in his hand, but claimed to be asleep, so we had no fight with him. We brought him into camp and his mother came to see him the next morning. He asked her for some money. She wanted to know how much he wanted; he said, "twenty dollars in gold." She said, "I will not give you gold." The Yanks would have to take their own "blue bellies." She meant greenbacks.
When the Regiment came, the Army was reorganizing at Yorktown. We were put into the 24th Army Corps under Major General B.F. Butler. Our Army was known as the Grand Army of the James. We went up the James and landed at Bar Harbor and City Point. We landed at Bar Harbor and made our first start for Petersburg. It was one of the hottest days, I think, I have ever seen. Our Company was in the rear guard and had to do lots of running after men that had fallen and urged them forward to their Companys. Quite a number were sunstruck. I think it is one of the worst deaths a person can die. The trouble is all in the head and they have such awful spasms. We had to fight for every inch of ground from the James River to Petersburg. I saw dead and wounded at Point of Rocks after the second day of fighting, more than I had seen before or after or during the war. Point of Rocks is on the Appomotcox River and this is where the field hospital was established and all the doctors got together here and the wounded were all brought here for treatment. There was a large house here and about five acres of an orchard and a large garden patch. The wounded were brought in and placed in rows under these trees till the whole five acres were about covered. There were two amputating tables about 150 feet long, each. I donít know just how many surgeons there were. I didnít feel as if I wanted to stay long enough to count them. Between those tables there were wheelbarrows about 30 feet apart. The Rebs (? I think amputated members is what he meant) were thrown into it and when the wheelbarrow was full, it was wheeled off and its contents dumped into a hole and brought back to be filled up again. I saw one of these surgeons stick his knife in his mouth while he tied an artery. It staggered me at the time, but I got used to such scenes.
At this same place, they dug a trench about 400 feet long, 6 feet deep and 6 feet wide, to bury the dead in. They laid them in what they called, hids and paints, till they were 3 deep, then dug another trench. There were three brothers; two belonged to our Regiment and one to the 118th New York. Two of these three brothers and John were killed and Joseph saw them lay in the trench, like so many cattle, without a blanket or anything but the dirt for a covering. It very near broke poor Josephís heart.
Right here I want to mention a little incident that took place about two months later. On one Sunday evening, when the bands got out to serenade the General Headquarters, we were lying quite close to the Rebs. Their bands were out playing their kind of music and we were playing our kind of music, but to wind up, they both played Home Sweet Home. I can never tell you what an impression that old tune made on the men. Especially on Joseph, as both of his brothers were younger than him. He said, "I didnít feel as if I could ever go home and meet my mother and leave these two boys in that trench at Point of Rocks, West Virginia. Anyone that can see anything glorious in it, will have to explain to me."
We crowded on towards Petersburg, fighting for every inch, till we got where we could look into the City, and that is as close as we ever got. Petersburg was well fortified. We used to have to fire 100 rounds of cartridge every day, just to keep up a continuous fire. It was here we dug the tunnel and blew one of their forts, but the scheme did not prove a success. The orders were, for every man to be ready and when the fog lifted, every man was to shoot in that direction, and we had 500 pieces of artillery all cut loose at once. I want to tell you, we made a racket, if we didnít hold the fort. (the 2nd Michigan Vol. Infantry was one of the units that entered the crater. We lost many a good man in the crater and our colors were caught)
About this time, our Regiment was taken from this line long enough to go to the Wilderness to fight, and almost a half of them never came back. One volley, from the Rebs, took down seven of our commissioned officers and I donít know just how many men. This fight was mostly in the woods and the woods took fire and lots of our boys that were wounded and could not walk were burned to death. It was awful. I always though Grant let the Rebs lead him into a trap. We didnít make a thing, never held a foot of ground. We went back to the breastwork in front of Petersburg with about half the men we went out with.
We were taken out of the Petersburg line again, one night about 12 Oíclock, crossed the James on a Pontoon Bridge and made the first attack on Richmond and started to drive in their pickets. At 4 Oíclock in the morning, the Tenth New Hampshire and 118th New York, were on the skirmish line. Them and 100 guns. Our Regiment supported them. It wasnít daylight yet, when the Rebs began to shoot at us and it seemed as if some of their guns must have been loaded for a month. When they would shoot, we could see a streak of fire about 10 rods long. We drove in their pickets and formed a line of battle about 2 miles from our sideline of works. Our Regiment came square in front of Fort Harrison with 16 32 pounds guns. When we took a view of the situation, it looked as if we could make it. Our Brigadier General, after a careful view of works, said, "You can take it, boys. There is nothing there but school boys and pick ups," which proved to be about true. We werenít sent there with orders to take the fort, but to make a showing while Grant made a break at Petersburg, but the Rebs were watching Grant and all their force was over there. We never would have taken the outside line of works around Richmond with the force we had. About the third shot from the Fort, killed our Brigadier General. My brother was carrying the State Flag, and wounded before we went 50 rods. We lost one man more than half, out of the Company in being killed or wounded. The Johnnies made a mistake in letting us get too close before they opened on us with grape and canister. The Fort was on quite an elevation and when they began to use grape and canister, they couldnít depress their guns enough to hit us, so they had to shoot over. When we got into the Fort, we only got 18 prisoners, but we had no time to lose, as their reinforcements were in sight. We turned those 16 32 pounders on them and brought them to a stop. Our Regiment was drilled in heavy artillery and it came in good play here. I have had the honor of firing a 32 pounder myself.
We took Fort Harrison about 1 Oíclock . General Grant was there in the Fort about 5 Oíclock and ordered us to hold it if possible, but to take all the heavy guns out and take them across the James river. Inside of the Fort was a row of barracks, which we tore down and made breastworks. We were sure that the Rebs were going to try and take the Fort back, so we worked the rest of the afternoon and all night building breastworks. We didnít have shovels enough, so the boys used their tin plates or anything to handle dirt. It was claimed by some of the prisoners we took that Reb General Lee said, "The Yanks got to stay in Fort Harrison overnight, there would be no use in us trying to take it back," and they found that Lee was right. About 2 Oíclock the next day, they opened on us with solid, so to try and knock our breastworks down. They seemed to know what they were made of. The shot came like hail for a short time. The lay of the country around the Fort was very much like it is West of my house. The Republican River, now called the James River, is where they had a gunboat that had a raging fire on our line. All that saved us was the high bank of the river. They had to let their shells strike the bank, then they didnít know where they would land.
The Rebs formed in line of battle behind a hogback or hill, very much like it is West of 4th Street. We could see the top of their flagstaff and here the officers giving command, but we couldnít shoot them off this hill. When they began to come over the hill, our officers said, "Let them come let them come closer," but the men wouldnít wait. The 118th New York and 10th New Hampshire wanted to try their seven shooters, so we all cut loose. I was in the front rank and Captain Patterson said to me, "Tom, if you will do the shooting, I will do the loading." I told him, all right. I did the shooting for Patterson and our Captain Harrison had a large Navy revolver, for which he had no holster. He carried it in his hand and with that in one hand and his hat in the other, he began to holler, "Give them hell boys, sock it to them fellows." Sargeant Sherrow had the flag that my brother had been carrying before he was wounded, waving it back and forth and hollering, " Give them hell boys, sock it to them, they canít come over." Then when they got close enough, all the boys began to holler, "Throw down your gun and come in, donít try to go back, come in men, come in." Five flags came in and, I think about 1000 men came in and surrendered.
The Rebs then opened on us with a harder battery and they got such a good run on our line that they dropped their shells right amoung us. Some of the boys broke and wanted to leave the breastworks, but the officers drew their swords and told the boys to go back and stay with it. One of the Sargeants told the boys in our pit to watch the shells. You can see a mortar shell, if you watch for it, and you can hear them whistle. He would point his finger at it and tell the boys where it was going to fall. Some of them would fall short and some go over. When he thought one was coming in our pit, he would say, "That is comming here," and we would all run out. When a large shell, like they were throwing, doesnít burst in the air, they donít do so much harm. When they strike the ground, the generally make a big hail, so that is when they burst and pieces fly up. We had one man who fell on one of these shells, and it blew part of his body 40 feet high and lodged it in a pine tree. This man belonged to the 1st New York Injured, and was laying out and remodeling the Fort.
We had to work 4 hours on and 4 hours off, night and day, making bomb-proof and turning the Fort to face the other way from what it did when we took it. The Rebs sharp shooters kept up a continual fire on us in the daytime. When a man was down in the ditch, throwing up the dirt, he was a good mark for a sharp shooter. Every few minutes, some man would drop his shovel and say, "I am hit," or fall and say nothing. I remember one young man, when the officer ordered him to come out of the ditch and change off with the man on top of the works, he said he wouldnít do it. The officer pulled out his revolver and shot the man and called a stretcher, and had him carried away. This was no place to disobey orders.
After we got the Fort turned and fixed up in good shape, our Regiment moved down the line a short distance to where the Negro Division fighter: were. When we took the Fort, it was in the night, when we moved. We had no tents, we laid down, wherever it happened. I said to my brother, "This must be a swampy place, the water seems to be close to the surface." We didnít have any roll call, so I slept a little late. My brother came and said to me, "Get up Tom, you are lying right on top of a dead Negro." This is what made the ground feel so soft. These Negros were not buried for three days after they were killed and then could not be moved, so a hole was dug and the continual tramping over them had leveled them down, till we could scarcely tell where they were. We built our winter quarters on this ground and Nelce Bush of Company O ct. had one of these darkeys in his tent and when a new recruit came to the Regiment, Nelce took great delight in showing him his darkey by throwing a little dirt off his head. The recruit would go out horrified from here.
We went to Fair Oak ground, where we fought the Rebs in 1862. Here we ran into a trap; our Colonel lost his leg and Captain Harris and the flag. [I have told you of this.] We left camp about 5 in the morning and got back to camp about 10 Oíclock at night, with less than half the men we had in the morning. The commissary had drawn whisky for the men, or the number of men we had in the morning. When the Sargeant found that there were so many men gone, he just told the boys to help themselves. We had the most drunk men I ever saw. I told my brother that night, "If the Rebs would come in on us, they would take the whole line," and Iím sure they would have. I forgot to tell you that, the next morning, after the Rebs tried to take Fort Harrison back, I went on picket to relieve the sharp shooters, who had been on since the day before. We had a lively time. This time Captain Harris was in command on the picket line. We formed a line behind our breastworks and ran out to a given point and threw ourselves down on the ground to lay here for 24 hours. This same hill, or hogback, was between us; the Rebs on one side and us on the other. As we went out, we passed over the killed and wounded of the day before. They didnít get a chance to care for their wounded or to bury their dead for three days, on account of the incessant sharp shooters. Then the flag of truce was hoisted, and we agreed to have no more sharp shooting till an attack should be made by one side or the other.
After about three months of ordinary camp life, we went to Fort Harrison on Choffins Farm in Virginia. The 96th Regiment, N.Y.S.V. marched into Richmond without firing a gun and the Great War was O V E R.
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