The fighting was prolonged until late into the evening, and the usual amount of ammunition taken into the battle was exhausted before we left the field. I remember Barlow's saying, "If the enemy make another attack, we will meet them with the cold steel."
Gradually things quieted, and about 12 o'clock we fell back a few rods and lay down on our arms. We were not disturbed till daylight, when we could see that the retreat movement was still in progress.
Finally we took our turn in the march. We had not gone far when one of the men came to me and said that our flag was back where we had rested after the fight, and he asked if he had better go back for it. I said to him, "By all means get the flag!" He did as requested, and that same bunting waved on a good many hard fought fields afterward. I do not know, but presume that this flag was finally replaced by another. It was, even then, much delapidated, and at Antietam it was mercilessly pierced and torn. The road we finally reached, for Harrison's Landing soon entered a narrow place between two bluffs. Two or three columns were using the road and when they came to this sort of gorge it became almost a jam. I remember hearing a few guns fired at this time, and the effect on the men was to cause them to crowd faster to the rear. At the time it came to my mind with painful force, "If the rebels should attack us with a brave, fresh division, they would stampede us." From what I have since read, I think each army considered itself whipped and was glad to get into a place of safety!
At all events, we were not further molested in our march to Harrison's Landing. We reached the place about noon and went into camp. The James River, from ten miles below Richmond down to Bermuda Hundred, is about as tortuous as a river ever runs. At that point it widens out, a distance of from one to two miles; much of that space is, of course, shallow water.
The next day the enemy run down a battery or two, on the south side of the river, and gave us a lively shelling. Our division general, Richardson, wanted to change the location of some of us, and became very impatient at the slow movements of the men. He roared out: "Make haste, men! make haste! every minute is an hour!" and the men hustled at a livelier gait.
Richardson steadily grew in the esteem of his men. The story had got noised about that while we lay in camp just before Fair Oaks, a loafer about his headquarters addressed insulting language to a woman who was employed in doing certain domestic work and who followed up the army. The general heard the vile talk of the fellow from his tent. He hastily made his appearance, and, in words expressed his disapproval of such conduct, and, in acts he kicked the offender a number of times with such power as to raise him at every kick a number of feet into the air, and then sent him to his regiment. That offence was not again committed at those headquarters.
In a few days the army was in position at Harrison's Landing. The James at this point bends in slightly on the North bank and is very wide. A line of breastworks was thrown up surrounding the encampment. I presume the place was made secure against any attack from the enemy. As McClellan was an engineer officer, he was, doubtless, good for entrenchments, if for nothing else.
On the Fourth of July President Lincoln came to us and we were reviewed by him and the commander of the army. Mr. Lincoln was dressed in black clothes and wore a silk hat. That hat on the top of his six feet four made him a very tall man. Recently the newspapers have published a story purporting to have been told by Gen. Lew Wallace, to this effect: He was one day at the White House. It was just after the Army of the Potomac had got to its new base. The president was so obviously sad and cast down that the general ventured to remark upon it. The president took him across the room where no one could hear what he said and there told him that in an hour he was to start for the Army of the Potomac to prevent its commander from surrendering it to Lee. While I think McClellan was a fearful incompetent, I am slow to believe, if the above ever took place, that Mr. Lincoln had good grounds for his belief. In those early years of the war, no doubt, much was reported that, later, would not be listened to. Whatever may have been the moving cause, the president was with us that day, and we cheered his presence to the echo.
During the weeks we were here encamped, we went to the James for occasional bathing, but we did not have facilities for washing our clothes in boiling water. The result was that we were all well stocked with body lice. The men generally were diligent in picking off and destroying the lives of these little animals by pressure between the thumb nails. The slaughter of all in view one day, left enough back in concealment so that the next day's hunt was always rewarded by abundant captures.
The only time I was excused from duty while in the service on account of sickness was while we were in camp here. One day I took a company of sick to the doctor. I staid by till he had passed out the last dose. We had three remedies, one of which would hit any possible case. They were opium pills, castor oil and quinine. The pills cured all bowel troubles; castor oil lubricated and opened up the internal functions, and quinine cured everything else. I remarked to the doctor that I would rather like to experience the sensation of being excused from duty and placed on the sick list for one day. Nothing in particular was doing, so the obliging surgeon said, "All right, you may go to your quarters sick and be excused from duty for one day." I am now glad to say, that was the first and last time I was ever so favored.
In this camp I was subjected to discipline by Col. Barlow. The evening before, on dress parade, I was named to take charge of a police detail from the Sixty-first, which was to report at brigade headquarters the next morning at five o'clock. I had slept but little during the night. Toward morning I fell into a drowse, and was awakened out of it by the reveille. I hurried out of my tent and was getting my detail together, hoping that the colonel would not notice my tardiness. I got to the place of rendezvous the first of any one in the brigade, and had to wait for an hour before a start was made. Our party worked through the forenoon, picking up all litter, looking after sinks, burying dead animals and doing whatever came in view to make our section of the country sanitary and look tidy. This performed we returned to our respective regiments. Having dismissed my detail, I was going to my tent when Sergeant Major Greig sang out, "Sergeant Fuller, the colonel says you may consider yourself under arrest, and you will confine yourself to your tent." I knew of course the reason for this. I stayed within for a couple of days, and then wrote a statement of the case and got a drummer to take it to the colonel. It came right back with an endorsement that if I had any communication to make, it could be done through the regular channel. I then sent the paper to Lieut. Keech and he forwarded it to the colonel. In a few moments I received from him a line that I was relieved from arrest and could resume my duties. These disciplinary matters were needful to keep the men up to their duties, and the organization instructed, and in working order.
One evening Barlow took the regiment and started for the front. We passed our intrenchments, and, it was said, we marched in the direction of Malvern Hill. We advanced a number of miles, discovered no enemy and returned to camp before morning.
About the eighth of August signs appeared that a change was coming. The siege guns were withdrawn and shipped, as were the heavier camp equipage and extra baggage. Aug. 16th about noon we broke camp and moved out, we did not know where to, nor where for. It proved to be a march down the peninsula. The first day out we made but about four miles, and halted near a corn field. The corn was fit for roasting and the men had a feast. I suppose the strict rules of McClellan's army, probably, were violated as there was some foraging done.
August 17th we made twelve miles, and passed Charles City Court House. Inexcusable vandalism was here committed. The books and records of the county seat were scattered about in profusion. Many documents two hundred years old were passed about, and there were those with Washington's signature. We crossed the Chickahomony, I was told, near its junction with the James, on a pontoon bridge, I should think one-eighth of a mile in length. It was the longest stretch of bridge of the kind I ever saw.
The road we took on this march was not the one by which we went up, on our way to the Richmond we did not see until about three years after. The country does not vary much from prairie level. The soil is light, with no stone in it to speak of. In a dry time, with considerable travel it powders up so that in going through it the dust rises in almost solid columns. A good part of the Potomac army, horse, artillery, foot and baggage trains, had preceded us. This made the dust as deep as it could be. Much of the road was through forests. I well remember this march from the dust experience. It exceeded anything I ever heard of. We would march for long distances when a man could not see his file leader—the dust so filled the air as to prevent seeing. Of course, the men had to breath this air. The nostrils would become plugged with the dust so moistened as to make slugs. Every now and then the men would fire them out of their noses almost as forcibly as a boy snaps a marble from his fingers. I remember having serious forbodings that taking in such quantities of road dirt would cause lasting injury. I do not know that my apprehensions of evil from this cause were ever realized. I suppose the dust that got into the lungs worked out in some way.
Aug. 19th we passed through Williamsburg, the site of William's and Mary's College and the capital of the colony in the days when Patrick Henry told the House of Delegates that, "Caesar had his Brutus, Charles the First his Cromwell, and George the third—might profit by their example." At this time the place was very delapidated. As I remember there was but one good looking house. The place had been well fortified against our approach as we were going up in May.
Aug. 20th we reached Yorktown and went into camp on the same piece of ground we had used about three months before. Those three months had wrought great changes in our circumstances as a regiment and an army. "We had met the enemy" and he was NOT ours. After stacking arms I wandered around and in so doing came across a quantity of split peas, which doubtless had been left by our army on the upward march. With others I concluded to try a change of diet and prepare a banquet for mastication that evening. I took enough of the peas to cook my quart cup full, and patiently sat by the camp fire through the evening looking after the cooking. It was quite late when they were boiled tender. I was hungry from the waiting, they touched the spot in the way of relishing, and, in a brief time the bottom of that old quart cup was bare. The prevailing complaint with the men was diarrhoea, and I was one of the prevalents, so to speak. This was not hygenic food for such a case, and, without further words, I was not very well the remainder of the night. The weather had been hot for that latitude. The next morning it was like the furnace of Nebuchadnezzar—several times hotter than it had been. I felt more like being petted by a nurse than to shoulder my traps and tramp. I could hardly stand, but to go was a necessity. We made that day a march of twenty miles, I think. Not being able to step out squarely, but rather drag and shuffle along, I began to chafe badly, which made the marching very painful. I kept up with the boys till towards the close of day and about a mile from where camp was made, when I grew dizzy. I saw all sorts of colors. I staggered out one side and went down like a bundle of old clothes. I lay there in semi-consciousness, until the rear guard came along, when I was accosted with the question, "What are you here for?" I said I couldn't go another step. "Well, but you must. Come, get up, or we'll prick you." I made the effort under this pressure, and did work my way over that mile to where the regiment had stacked arms. This was the first and only time I ever failed to be present with the regiment when it stacked arms and I was with it.
On this occasion whiskey had been issued. The first time since it had been given us when stationed behind the breastworks at Fair Oaks. Some one of my friends had saved for me my ration and it was a big one. I should think there was nearly a tumbler full of it, and it was the rankest, rottenest whiskey I ever saw, smelled or tasted. My legs were raw and bloody from the chafing, and I was sick all over. I divided my whiskey into two equal parts, one half I used on the raw flesh, and it took hold like live coals. This done I nerved myself to drink the balance, and, by an effort, kept it down. I rolled up in my blanket, went to sleep, and so remained till roll call next morning. When I stirred I was somewhat sore and stiff, but was essentially well, and made that day's march as easily as I ever did. During this day's march we had one of the hardest showers I was ever out in. In a short time every rag on the men was drenched. Shortly after the sun came out and before halting the heat of the sun and bodies had dried everyone, and we felt as though we had been washed and ironed—thoroughly laundered. This day's march brought us to Newport News, where shipping was at anchor to transport us somewhere.
We took a steamer which headed for the Potomac. During the time since we left Harrison's Landing Lee had cut across the country and was making it warm for Gen. Pope in the Shenandoah. The army of the Potomac, in place of following in the rear of Lee, made its slow way down the peninsula, and then shipped up the Chesapeak and Potomac, unloading at Aquia Creek, Alexandria, etc.
On the 27th of August, at about two p. m., our steamer stopped at Aquia Creek landing. We went ashore and marched inland some five or six miles and went into camp. Here we heard artillery firing. No doubt from some one of the numerous conflicts Pope was then having.
About ten p. m. orders were given to "fall in." We returned to the Landing, took our steamer, and proceeded up the river to Alexandria. Here we again went ashore, and were marched out to the grounds of Camp California, the same spot we had wintered on. We remained in this camp till about 6. p. m. of the 29th of August, when we marched and went into camp near Arlington. Here we remained till about three p. m. next day, when hurried orders were received to march with nothing but guns and ammunition. Our shelter tents were left standing, and our blankets in them, but the men had hungered and thirsted too much within the last six months to leave haversacks and canteens. It may be that this order to take nothing but our arms and cartridges had got distorted in transmission from headquarters, as it would seem that no general officer would start men out without food and water. At all events, the men knew enough to disobey such an order.
Heavy firing was going on in the direction of Centreville, some twenty miles away. We had not drawn shoes since setting out on the peninsula campaign, and the soles of our shoes were worn almost through. This road to Centreville was full of small round stones and they were hard on our feet. We stepped out on a rapid march and made very few halts till we were within sight of the heights of Centerville. Then the column was halted, and the weary men lay down in the road where they were halted, and went to sleep.
Early in the morning we were aroused and met an endless stream of men hurrying to the rear. These were of Pope's army who the day before had fought the battle of Second Bull Run. It has always been a mystery to me why old Sumner and his second corps were not in the fight. Surely from the time we landed at Aquia Creek on the 27th, there was abundant time to have gone to Pope. In place of doing that we were lounging around for about three precious days. Gen. Porter may have been wrongfully convicted of disobedience to Pope's orders. Gen. Grant came to be of that opinion, but I have never seen anything to make me doubt that the, so to speak, McClellan officers were so disgruntled at the practical retirement of their "beloved chief" that they gave no cordial support to Gen. Pope. I never supposed that Edwin V. Sumner was one of them, and I have always believed that he was ever ready TO FIGHT for the Union, whoever commanded.
We pushed out beyond the old fortified line held by the enemy the winter before, and there the Second corps was deployed in line of battle. This morning there was a steady rain that drenched us. When night came there were no blankets, and it was cold and the ground soaked. The men lay down together as closely as they could pack themselves, but it was an uncomfortable night. Under such hardships men become impatient and reckless, and prefer a fight to the discomfort. We occupied this ground next day. Towards night a very hard rain came down, which gave us another rinsing. We moved back a piece where there were large fresh brush piles. These we fired and, while they lasted we had comfortable warmth. Then we lay down on the wet ground and courted sleep. About 9 p. m. orders were passed along to get up and move. We were all night in making a very few miles.
The next morning we learned that we were near Chantilla, where the night before we had a brush with the enemy in which we sustained a serious loss in the death of Gen. Philip Kearney. He was one of the men that had won the reputation of loving the terrors of battle. He had lost an arm in Mexico, but single handed he would go into a fight, as an eater would go to a banquet. Kearney was a grandson of Judge Watts, who owned land and had a house in the town of Sherburne, and, in his boyhood days, Kearney spent some time here with his grandfather.
We lay in the vicinity of Fairfax Court House through the day. Towards evening we marched to Hall's Hill, not far from Chain Bridge. On the way we got a few shells from the enemy, which hastened our footsteps.
Sept. 3rd, we crossed Chain Bridge and marched about five miles to Tanleytown, where we remained until Sept. 5th. At this place our tents, knapsacks and blankets came to us, and were received with thanks. Campaigning in August and September in Virginia without shelter and blankets was a hardship. Such exposure uses up men as speedily as fighting. While in this camp the men lived "sumptously every day." It was but five miles from Washington, and the pie and cake vendors were out in sufficient numbers to supply all demands.
On the 5th we were marched about nine miles and camped near Rockville, a flourishing village in Maryland. Our company was placed on picket. The next morning I discovered a cow near by, and persuaded her to allow me to borrow my old quart cup full of her milk. As I drank it I vowed, if ever I got home, I would make a specialty of drinking fresh milk as long as I relished it.
Sept. 6th we marched beyond Rockville about six miles and formed in line of battle. Batteries were posted and, so far as we knew, there was to be a fight, but it blew over. Such "scares" are of frequent occurance in a soldier's experience. We remained in this place until the 9th, then marched about six miles and camped. After all was quiet some of my friends went out, and late returned with a supply of potatoes and "garden sass." On the 10th a march of four miles was made. On the 11th five miles, and we camped at a small place called Clarksvill. Here our company was detailed as provost guard. We remained at this place through the day. Someone purchased or TOOK a duck. We had a most delicious meal in the shape of a stew. Potatoes, onions and such like, were boiled with it, until the whole substance was a tender mush. I know that after that meal the feasters were almost too full for utterance.
At this time the little Sixty-first regiment was commanded by Colonel Barlow and Lieut. Col. Miles. For field purposes the regiment was divided into three companies. First, the company commanded by Capt. Angel and Lieut. Keech, in which was my Company C. (Capt. Broady was at this time away on sick leave.) Second company was commanded by Capt. Walter H. Maze and the third by Capt. Geo. D. H. Watts. There were about 35 men to the company. In other words, there were but one hundred and five muskets for all of these officers to direct. I have often remarked on what I deemed to be a very idiotic policy pursued by the authorities of the State of New York at this time, and I have believed that Gov. Morgan was equally to blame with Seymour. What I refer to is this. When troops were to be furnished by the State of New York, these governors would, as I understand it, organize new regiments of raw men, when there were scores of veteran organizations in the field with the rank and file greatly depleted. The Sixty-first was not the only skeleton New York regiment in the field. This regiment always had enough officers to have commanded in battle five hundred men, and, by experience in battle, they had come to know how to handle them. It would have been an immense saving to have filled up and made these weak regiments strong by sending to them from rendezvous camps recruits by the fifties. The new men would have rapidly taken up and learned their duties in the field from contact with the men who had learned what they knew from actual service. Then, the officers in these old regiments had got weeded out. The cowards and weaklings had, generally, been discharged, and their places filled by SOLDIERS who had come from the ranks. I was never informed why this common sense plan was not adopted. I imagine that the powers were not so much for the good of the cause, as to make themselves strong politically throughout the state from the appointment of a great number of officers. In state politics it was as powerful as in national politics to have the appointment of a horde of civil and military officers. If a governor was influenced by such considerations and understood how detrimental to the country such a course was, morally he was a traitor, and ought to suffer the odium of treason committed. Some of the states had the wisdom and the patriotism to adopt the plan of keeping the regiments at the front filled up. It was a crying shame to allow Frances C. Barlow to command a regiment carrying but a little over one hundred muskets. Someone should have seen to it that the Sixty-first should never have been long with less than five hundred men in the ranks.
On the tenth we marched ten miles, passing through Hyattstown. On Saturday, the 13th, we marched through one of the finest towns I had seen in the South—Frederick, Md. We camped on the further side of the town. Sunday we hoped would be a day of rest. In the morning a field of ripe potatoes was discovered close by, and notwithstanding McClellan's savage order against taking anything, in a short time that field had upon it, almost a man to a hill of potatoes. It did not take long to dig that field. Our anticipations of a day of rest, with a vegetable diet, were disappointed. The bugles sounded "Strike tents," and we were soon on our way on the road over South Mountain.
At this time fortune favored "Little Mac." Gen. Lee's plan of campaign fell into his hands, and he was fully informed as to the purposes of the Confederates. Some generals would have made good use of this important knowledge, but it did the Union commander but little good. This general order of Lee directed one of his corps to take Harper's Ferry. I think the common sense of most people would have said, "Now you concentrate your army and fight and destroy Lee's two-thirds, before he can concentrate." If that would have been good strategy, McClellan did not use it.
We had an uphill march out of Frederick. Having gained the crest of the first range of hills, we halted, and our regiment was deployed on a picket line. While lying about waiting for something to turn up, we discovered a farm house to the front, and sent several of the men to see what could be purchased for the table. In a short time they returned with milk and soft bread. Porter E. Whitney of my company was one of them, and he expressed his contempt for their simplicity in not charging more than they did for the amount furnished.
While we were preparing to cook our foraged potatoes and eat the provision from the farm house, we noticed the movement of troops in line of battle moving up the mountain side ahead of us. Batteries went into position and opened fire, then our men would make a rush, and take and hold an advance position. Then the artillery would follow, and shell the enemy from the advanced position. We had a fair view of this battle of South Mountain, which was regarded as a brilliant affair. It was fought I believe, under the immediate direction of General Reno, who was here killed. While we were thus safely viewing this battle, and watching the potatoes boil, Lieut. Keech made a remark that amused me, and has remained fresh in my memory. We were just ready to squat around the camp fire and lay to, when he said, "Well boys, we'll have one more belly full anyway." Just about as he finished that sentence, the order came "fall in and march." I took my cup of boiled potatoes and carried them in it until we halted at the foot of the mountain about 9 o'clock in the evening, when I ate them in the dark, rolled up in my blanket and went sweetly to sleep.
Monday, the 14th, we were up in good season, and started up the mountain. We advanced in line of battle and frequently halted for the skirmishers to advance, but we met with no opposition, and soon were on the top of the ridge. We passed several field hospital stations, where operations had been performed, and where had been left numerous legs and arms that had been amputated. These sights are not refreshing to advancing troops—they make them think too much of what is likely to happen to any one of them. As we were about to go down the other side of the mountain, a battery of our flying artillery went by on a canter, and we followed after them on the "double quick." Having got down to level ground we soon passed through Boonsborough. Our brigade was in advance this day, and we were close on the rear of the enemy and saw the last of him go over the hill ahead of us. At the time we did not know that we were on the banks of the—to be—celebrated Antietam. We followed the Boonsborough road nearly to the river. At this point the shore on our side was lined by a ridge twenty to thirty feet in height. We turned to the right and deployed part way down the rise of ground back from the river. At first our light artillery took position in front of us on the crest of the hill. By the next day these light guns were replaced by twenty pounders. Most of the time we were in this place artillery firing was going on between these guns and those of the enemy bearing on them. But little damage was done to us as the shells of the enemy went over us. About midnight of this Monday we were aroused and directed to march with our arms, and to leave everything else but our canteens, and to be careful to make no noise.
Lieut. Col. Nelson A. Miles commanded the expedition. We went through the fields to the left of the Boonsborough road, then aimed for the river. When we came to the bank which was high and steep, we worked our way down to the level of the road, entered it and crossed the bridge, which was a single arched stone bridge. We then carefully advanced some distance along the road, met nothing, turned back and made our way into camp. At the time the boys were confident the enemy had again gone on.
Tuesday, the 16th, we remained in the same place. There was much firing by the heavy battery in front of us, which was well replied to. A rebel shell went through the body of Col. Miles's horse. After dark we were moved to the right and near by the ford, which we crossed the next morning.
The morning of the 17th opened somewhat hazy. By 8 o'clock the artillery firing was heavy and Hooker was making his attack on the right. From where we stood we saw the effect of the artillery. Buildings were set on fire by our shells, and the air was full from their broken fragments. While we were in this place a rumor started down the line that we had been detailed as body guard to McClellan. This comforting statement did not last long, as, in a little while we were ordered to move. We forded the river, which in places was a foot deep. On the other side we halted, took off our shoes and stockings, wrung the loose water out of them, and put them on again. I cannot, of course, give the direction of our march. Col. Barlow had under his command, besides his own regiment, the Sixty-fourth New York, which had about two hundred men—giving him a force of about three hundred and fifty.
I remember in making our advance through the fields we came to a depression through which the bullets were flying briskly. It was not a wide piece and we passed it with lively steps. Now in front of us the ground rose gradually into quite a hill, and rather to our right the Irish brigade was deployed and was engaged. We moved up a ways and formed in line of battle. Where I came a solitary tree was near by. Quite a way to the front and to our left was a good sized tree heavily leaved. Out of that tree soon came rifle shots and our men were beginning to show wounds. Capt. Angell, who was a very good officer had told his friends that he knew he would be killed in this fight. I was within a few feet of him when he dropped with a bullet through his head. Barlow called out for half a dozen good marksmen to clean out that tree. Among the number to respond to this call was W. H. Brookins of company G. The boys fired rapidly into the tree and in a brief time two Confederate gentlemen dropped to the ground, whether dead or alive I do not know, but we had no more trouble from that source.
In the meantime the fight of the Irish brigade had come to be very hot. They were in our plain sight and we could see them drop and their line thin out. The flags would go down but be caught up, and down again they would go. This we saw repeated in each regiment a number of times. While this was going on, Gen. Meagher called out to Barlow, "Colonel! For God's sake come and help me!" Barlow replied that he was awaiting orders, and would come to him as soon as he could. The musketry fire in front of us had now mostly ceased, in consequence of the destruction of the Irish brigade. Finally, orders to advance came to us, and we went forward with a rush, Barlow in the lead, with his sword in the air. We crossed a fence, and came up a little to the left of the ground just occupied by the Irishmen. Our appearance renewed the fire of the enemy.
As we got a view of the situation it was seen that the rebels were in a sunken road, having sides about four feet in height; this formed for them a natural barricade. Barlow, with the eye of a military genius (which he was) at once solved the problem. Instead of halting his men where Meagher had, he rushed forward half the distance to the rebel line, halted and at once opened fire. We were so near to the enemy, that, when they showed their heads to fire, they were liable to be knocked over. It did not take them long to discover this, and for the most part, they hugged the hither bank of this sunken road. Barlow discovered that by moving his men to the left and a little forward he could rake the position of the Confederates. This he did, and our firing was resumed with vigor. The result was terrible to the enemy. They could do us little harm, and we were shooting them like sheep in a pen. If a bullet missed the mark at the first it was liable to strike the further bank, and angle back, and take them secondarily, so to speak. In a few minutes white rags were hoisted along the rebel line. The officers ordered "cease firing," but the men were slow of hearing, and it was necessary for the officers to get in front of the men and throw up their guns.
Finally the firing ceased, then Barlow ordered the men forward. They advanced on a run, and when they came to the bank of the sunken road, they jumped the rebels to the rear. Those able to move were glad to get out of this pit of destruction. Over three hundred were taken, who were able to march to the rear.
The dead and wounded were a horrible sight to behold. This sunken road, named by some writers "The Bloody Lane," was a good many rods long, and, for most of the way, there were enough dead and badly wounded to touch one another as they lay side by side. As we found them in some cases, they were two and three deep. Perhaps a wounded man at the bottom, and a corpse or two piled over him. We at once took hold and straightened out matters the best we could, and made our foes as comfortable as the means at hand afforded—that is, we laid them so that they were only one deep, and we gave them drink from our canteens. After some time spent in this way, a body of the enemy was discovered deployed to our right. Barlow at once formed the command nearly at right angles to the position we had just held, and advanced us. We passed a fence, and soon opened fire on this new force. In the meantime the enemy had placed a part of a battery in position that began to rake our line with canister. Charges of this deadly stuff went in front and in the rear of our line. Some of those discharges, if they had happened to go a little further to the front or the rear, would have destroyed our two little regiments. Such close calls often happen in battle. We held our ground, and after a while the rebels fled from the field. One of them was considerably in the rear of his comrades and as he was exerting himself to get out of harms way, our men concentrated a fire on him. He was on plowed ground, and we could see the dirt fly up in front, and rear, and on each side of him as he was legging it. He was escaping wonderfully, and I felt as though he was entitled to succeed. I called out to our men and entreated them not to fire at him again, but without avail. The shooting went on, and, just before he was out of range, down he went, killed perhaps, possibly wounded.
About this time Col. Barlow was dangerously wounded from a canister shot, and Miles took charge of our affairs. The firing had again quieted. He directed me to take two men and go forward, part way through the corn field in front, and watch and report any appearance of the enemy. If I am not mistaken, I took Porter E. Whitney and George Jacobs of my company. We went forward half way through the corn field, which was for the most part trampled down. We arranged the broken stalks so as to be partially concealed. After a time to our front and right, and on the brow of a considerable rise of ground, a body of officers appeared on horseback, and with glasses took observations. We discussed the propriety of aiming at these Confederates and giving them a volley. I finally concluded it was best not to take this responsibility, as it might bring on an attack that we were not ready for. In a short time these men disappeared. I sent back one of the men to report what we had seen. Very soon he came back with the word to join the regiment. Longstreet in his book entitled "From Bull Run to Appomatox," speaks of looking the field over about this time and from near this location, so, I judge, it was he and his staff that we had such a plain view of.
Our command under Miles, was, about 5 p. m., drawn back and established just in rear of where we made our first fight. Our Division General, Richardson, was this day mortally wounded. He had the entire confidence of his men, as a brave and skillful soldier, and his taking off was deeply lamented. Barlow was supposed to be mortally wounded, but he recovered, and in a few months came back a brigadier, and was given a brigade in Howard's Eleventh Corps.
Gen. Hancock was assigned to our division. By this time he had won the reputation of being a hard fighter, and this he justly held through the remainder of the war.
In this battle I had a hand in an amusing incident that is worth recording. There was in Company A, a little Irishman about 40 years of age by the name of Barney Rogers. This man had been recruited by our New York party the spring before. He did not write, and, knowing me from the first, had come to me to do his correspondence. When we started to take the place of the Irish brigade, I noticed that Barney appeared to be holding up his pants, but I made no inquiry as to the reason for his so doing. When we took our first position in advance of where the Irishmen had fought, and began firing, Barney had to use both hands, and his predicament was at once revealed. He had held up his pants by a strap around his waist without suspenders. This strap had given out, and that accounted for his holding up performance. When he began loading and firing he had to "let go" and leave the pants to follow the law of gravitation. Soon his ankles were swathed with these low down breeches, and he was effectually teddered. I was here and there, doing my duty as a sergeant. I had not noticed Barney's predicament till he called to me in a tone of urgency and said, "Charley, cut the damned things off!" I took in the situation in an instant, and in less time than I can write it, jerked out my large knife, opened it, grabbed the waistband, made a pass or two, and one leg was free, I said, "You can kick the other leg out." He made a few passes, and from the top of his stockings up his legs were bare. A good breeze was blowing sufficient to take away the smoke from our guns, and sufficient to flap his unconfined shirt tail. I remember calling Ike Plumb's attention to it and our having a good laugh over it. Barney continued his fighting, and was with the men in the grand charge that captured the rebels in the sunken road. He was also in his place in the second attack we made. While the firing was at the hottest I heard a man cry out, and I looked just in time to see Barney throw his gun, and start off on his hands and one leg—the other leg held up. The last I ever saw of him he was pawing off in that fashion. I suspected that in some way he had got a shot in the foot. Years after this occurance, I wrote a series of articles for THE SHERBURNE NEWS, and in one of them gave this account. As soon as the paper was out, my comrade, Porter E. Whitney came into my office. He was in this battle and, I supposed, he knew about this affair. He had read the account, and I said to him, "Of course, you remember it?" To my chagrin, he replied, "That is the first I ever heard of it!" I said to him, "That will leave me in a fine situation, people will ask you if you remember the Barney Rogers incident, and you will say, "No," and the enquirers will conclude that I have been telling a "Jim Tanner yarn." "Well," he replied, "I can't remember what I never before heard of."
Some days after this, Whitney came to me and asked if I knew Barney Rogers's address. I said, "No." He told me it was in the roster lately published by the regimental association. I found it and at once wrote to the address, and briefly inquired if he was the little Barney Rogers that I cut the breeches off from at Antietam. In a few days I got a letter from Barney written by his son, in which was the statement, "I am he." It went on to say that he was hit under the big toe by a bullet that had probably gone into the ground, struck a stone and glanced up, taking him as indicated. He said that he went off the field in the way I have described, until he was out of danger, and then hopped along as best he could. Finally, a soldier from a Connecticut regiment met him, who had an extra pair of pants, which he gave to Barney. He got inside of them as speedily as possible, and then waited for an ambulance, when he was taken to a hospital, and finally discharged.
In this battle our flag was shot through a good many times and the staff had a bullet go through its center just above the hands of Sergt. Hugh Montgomery, who was carrying it.
All through the 18th we remained in position, hugging the ground. The picket lines of the two armies were near together, and were blazing away at one another on every opportunity. Our line of battle was so near to the picket line that anyone showing himself would be fired on. One of my company, Julius C. Kelsey of Smyrna, was killed while on this duty. The Sixty-first lost in killed and wounded about one-third of its number, and so was again reduced to the size of a full company.
Some one discovered on the 19th for "Little Mac," the "Young Napolean" that the enemy had, during the night, fallen back and crossed the Potomac at Shepardstown. If the commander of the Army of the Potomac had been a brave and competent general, he would have disposed of Lee at this time. As I have before stated, McClellan knew while we were at Frederick that Lee was to divide his army, sending a third of it to take Harpers Ferry. He ought to have known when we overtook Lee at Sharpsburg that he had but part of his army there, and he ought, with his entire force, to have made a rushing attack at once. In place of that, he dawdled for two days, giving Lee all the time he wanted to take Harpers Ferry from the old, incompetent Miles, and to unite his army to fight him. There was good brave fighting at Antietam, but it was by piece meal—a division or corps here and a division or corps somewhere else. The best work done that day by Caldwell's brigade, was by the Fifth New Hampshire under its able colonel, Edward Cross, and by the Sixty-first and Sixty-fourth New York under Col. Barlow. In support of this statement all authorities agree. McClellan in his report says, "The brigade of Gen. Caldwell, with determined gallantry, pushed the enemy back opposite the left and center of this (French's) division, but, sheltered in the sunken road, they still held our forces on the right of Caldwell in check. Col. Barlow commanding the Sixty-first and Sixty-fourth New York regiments, advanced the regiments on the left, taking the line in the sunken road in flank, and compelled them to surrender, capturing over three hundred prisoners and three stands of colors. * * * Another column of the enemy, advancing under shelter of a stone wall and cornfield, pressed down on the right of the division; but Col. Barlow again advanced the Sixty-first and Sixty-fourth New York against these troops, and, with the attack of Kimball's brigade on the right, drove them from this position. Our troops on the left of this part of the line having driven the enemy far back, they, with reinforced numbers, made a determined attack directly in front. To meet this Col. Barlow brought his two regiments to their position in line, and drove the enemy through the cornfield into the orchard beyond, under a heavy fire of musketry and a fire of canister from two field pieces in the orchard and a battery farther to the right, throwing shell and case shot." Vol. 19, Series 1, Off. Records, pages 60-61.
Palfrey, in "The Antietam and Fredericksburg," at page 100, says, "Col. Barlow particularly distinguished himself in these operations of Richardson's division. He had under his charge the two right regiments of Caldwell's brigade, the Sixty-first and Sixty-fourth New York. As Caldwell's line was forcing its way forward, he saw a chance and improved it. Changing front forward, he captured some three hundred prisoners in the sunken road to his right, with two colors. He gained this advantage by obtaining an enflading fire on the Confederates in the road, and it seems to have been owing entirely to his own quickness of perception and promptness of action, and not to the orders of any superior officer. He was also favorably mentioned for his action in helping to repel another attempt of the lines to flank Caldwell on his right, and also for contributing largely to the success of the advance, which finally gave the Federals possession of Piper's House."
Walker in history of the Second Corps at page 114 says "As the line presses onward toward Piper's, Barlow, commanding the consolidated Sixty-first and Sixty-fourth New York, sees, and at once seizes a tactical opportunity. Changing front forward at the right moment and on the right spot he takes in flank a body of the enemy in the sunken road, pours a deadly volley down their line and puts them to flight, capturing three hundred prisoners with two flags. A determined struggle follows: the enemy even assume the aggressive against Caldwell's center, but are beaten off by the quick and resolute action of Barlow, who falls desperately wounded."
Longstreet in his Bull Run to Appamatox, at page 266, says, "The best tactical moves at Antietam were made by Generals McLaws, A. P. Hill, Gibbon, and Patrick (Confederate) and Colonels Barlow and Cross (Union)." At page 252 he refers to Barlow as the "aggressive spirit of Richardson's right column."
Gen. Caldwell in his report, says, "The brigade advanced steadily over the crest of the hill behind which the enemy were posted, receiving and returning a heavy fire. We broke the line of the enemy along our entire front, except on the extreme right. Here there was a deep road, forming a natural rifle pit, in which the enemy had posted himself, and from which he fired on our advancing line. After the enemy opposed to my left and center had broken and fled through the cornfield, Col. Barlow by a skillfull change of front, partially enveloped the enemy on his right, and, after a destructive inflading fire, compelled them to surrender. About 300 men and eight commissioned officers, among them an aid to Gen. Stuart, were here taken prisoners by Col. Barlow * * * * * On the right, Col. Barlow, finding no enemy in his immediate front, saw a considerable force moving around his right. Moving by the right-oblique to a hill about three hundred yards distant, he opened a severe fire upon them, when they broke and fled. Thus both attempts to turn our flanks had been foiled by the skill and quickness of Colonels Barlow and Cross, and the determined bravery of the men * * * * I cannot forbear to mention in terms of highest praise the part taken by Col. Barlow of the Sixty-first New York volunteers. Whatever praise is due to the most distinguished bravery, the utmost coolness and quickness of perception, the greatest promptitude and skill in handling troops under fire, is justly due to him. It is but simple justice to say that he proved himself fully equal to every emergency, and I have no doubt that he would discharge the duties of a much higher command with honor to himself and benefit to the country."
Barlow's own report is as follows:
General Hospital, Keedysville, Md., Sept. 22, 1862.
Captain: I have the honor to make the following report of the Sixty-first and Sixty-fourth New York volunteers in the battle of Sept. 17th inst. Both these regiments were under my command on that day, and had been for some time previous. On going into action our brigade was formed on the left of the Irish brigade. We remained about fifteen minutes under the fire of the enemy's sharpshooters which my sharpshooters returned with effect. I lost then Capt. Angell and one or two men killed. By order of the staff officer of Gen. Richardson, we then moved to the right, in front, and formed behind the crest of the hill, and bravely engaged the enemy and fired destructively. With the assistance of the fire of the regiments on our right and left, we broke the enemy on our front, who fled in disorder through a cornfield, suffering severely from the fire of our and the Irish brigade, my regiments being on the right of the brigade. The portion of the enemy's line which was not broken, then remained lying in a deep road, well protected from a fire in their front. Our position giving us peculiar advantages for attacking in flank this part of the enemy's line, my regiments advanced and obtained an enflading fire upon the enemy in the aforesaid road. Seeing the uselessness of further resistance, the enemy in accordance with our demands threw down their arms, came in in large numbers and surrendered. Upwards of three hundred prisoners thus taken by my regiments were sent to the rear with a guard of my regiment, under charge of Lieut. Alvard of Gen. Caldwell's staff. On this occasion my own regiment, the Sixty-first New York, took two of the enemy's battle flags, which have been forwarded to Corps headquarters. A third flag was captured by the Sixty-fourth New York, which was lost by the subsequent shooting of the captor when away from his regiment.
"After these events, my regiments, with the rest of our line, advanced into the cornfield, through which the enemy had fled, beyond the deep road above referred to. No enemy appeared in this field. Our troops were joined together without much order—several regiments in front of others, and none in my neighborhood having very favorable opportunities to use their fire. Seeing quite a body of the enemy moving briskly to the right of our line, at no great distance, to attack us on the flank, my regiment changed front and moved to the crest of a hill on our right flank, occupying the only position where I found we could use our fire to advantage. This was to the right of the Fifty-second New York of Col. Brook's brigade. We engaged several regiments of the enemy with effect, some being posted on the edge of a cornfield behind a stone wall surmounted by a fence; others were posted still farther to the right, on the edge of the cornfield. The enemy at length retreated quite precipitately under the fire of the troops on our side, together with another body of Federal troops, which attacked the enemy in turn on their flank and rear. I am unable to state who these last named troops were. On retiring from this position, the enemy renewed their attack on our old front. My regiments again changed front, and advanced into the cornfield, which we had left, to assist in repelling the flank attack of the enemy just mentioned. Beyond this cornfield was an orchard, in which the enemy had artillery (two pieces to the best of my knowledge.) From these pieces, and from others still farther to our right, they had been pouring a destructive fire of shell, grape and spherical case shot during the above mentioned engagement of our infantry.
"After thus forming our line on the right of the Fifty-seventh New York of Col. Brooke's brigade, I was wounded in the groin by a ball from a spherical case shot, and know nothing of what subsequently occurred. My own regiment, the Sixty-first New York, behaved with the same fortitude and heroism, and showed the same perfect discipline and obedience to orders under trying circumstances for which I have before commended them, and which causes me to think of them with the deepest affection and admiration. The Sixty-fourth behaved steadily and bravely. Of the officers in my own regiment, I commend to special notice for bravery, coolness, and every soldierly quality in action, Capt. Walter H. Maze, Co. A; First Lieut. Willard Keech, Co. G; Second Lieut. Theo. N. Greig, Co. C; Second Lieut. F. W. Grannis, Co. B; Lieut. Col. Nelson A. Miles has been distinguished for his admirable conduct in many battles. The voice of everyone who saw him in this action will commend better than I can his courage, his quickness, his skill in seeing favorable positions and the power of his determined spirit in leading on and inspiring the men. I have the honor to be, Captain, your very obedient servant,
FRANCIS C. BARLOW, Col. 61st. N. Y. Vols. and Comdg., 64th N. Y. Vols. Capt. George H. Caldwell, Capt. and Asst. Adj. Gen., Caldwell's Brigade.
The report of General Miles is as follows:
Headquarters Sixty-first Regt. New York Vols.
Camp near Sharpsburg, Sept. 19, 1862.
"I have the honor to transmit the following report: On the 17th inst., about 9 o'clock the Sixty-first and Sixty-fourth N. Y. Vol., under command of Col. Barlow, were ordered to form on the left of the Irish brigade while they were engaging the enemy. We remained there about twenty minutes, during which time we lost one captain and several men. We were then ordered to move by the right flank in rear of the Irish brigade until we came to their right. Here we came to the front, and moved up and over the hill under a heavy fire of musketry and a cross fire of artillery. We found the enemy lying in a road or ditch just under the brow of the hill. The regiment, however, steadily moved up and over the hill in the most determined manner and spirit, breaking the center of the enemy's line and killing or wounding nearly all that left the ditch to make their escape through the cornfield. Then we improved the advantage we had gained by changing front forward on first company, thereby flanking the rest of their line. The Colonel gave the command, "Cease firing," when I called out to them to surrender. They at once threw down their arms and came in. I think by this movement we captured two hundred and seventy-five or three hundred prisoners. I detailed one company to guard them and turned them over to Lieut. Alvord, with two stand of colors.
The enemy were then out of sight in the front, but were discovered moving around our right. The Colonel then gave the order "Right shoulder, shift arms," and moved to the right oblique to another hill about 300 yards distant, and commenced firing to the right upon the enemy. He fired about twenty rounds here, when the enemy's line broke in perfect disorder, and ran in every direction. About this time a sharp musketry fire commenced on our left, or old front, it being evident they were advancing another line through the cornfield. As we were of no more use in our present position, we went to the assistance of the other regiments of our brigade. We had so much changed the front that we moved by the left flank and filed left, connecting our left on the right of the Seventieth New York, and moved again down through the cornfield. We then pressed forward, driving the enemy before us, until the order was given to halt. I immediately deployed skirmishers forward through the field to an orchard. While moving through the cornfield, the enemy opened fire with grape and canister from two brass guns on our front, and shell from a battery on our right. It was by this fire that Col. Barlow fell, dangerously wounded. He was struck by a small piece of shell in the face, and a grape-shot in the groin. Thus far he had handled the two regiments in the most brave and skillful manner. As we had advanced further than the other regiments on our right and left, I was ordered to let the skirmishers remain and form in the open field on a line with Col. Brooks's regiment, which position we held until relieved by one of that brigade, when I marched them to the left of the line, and formed on a line with the Eighty-first Penn., and was not engaged again during the day.
I cannot speak in too high terms of the coolness and brave spirit with which both officers and men fought on that day. Col. Barlow on this, as on other occasions, displayed qualities for handling troops under fire which are not often met. Capt. Maze, Lieut. W. Keech, Lieut. Grannis and Lieut. T. W. Greig were noticed as behaving in the most excellent manner—also Dr. Tompkins, who followed the regiment upon the field and rendered prompt assistance to the wounded.
Nelson A. Miles, Lieut. Col. comdg. Sixty-first and Sixty-fourth New York Vols."
Gen. Meagher's report of the operations of the Irish brigade does not place his men any nearer the enemy than they were when they were relieved by Barlow with the Sixty-first and Sixty-fourth New York.
In 1897 Capt. Lee Nutting of the Sixty-first N. Y., published an article in the New York "Sun," in which he modestly related the doings of Barlow's command at Antietam. His article called out the following:
To the Editor of the Sun—Sir:
"Without any disparagement of the Sixty-first New York comrades in our own Red Trefoil Division, allow me to suggest to your enthusiastic correspondent "L. N." that "there were others." Nor was the First Minnesota superimminently distinguished except at Gettysburg. It was usually on provost duty. Gen. Walker had his preferences, but others of higher rank did not always agree with him. Sumner, Hancock, Richardson, Caldwell, Humphreys, and Smyth thought the Irish brigade did pretty well. Their showing is quite respectable in Fox's "300 Fighting Regiments." So did the enemy, and the opinion of the London Times correspondent from Fredericksburg is quoted in the history studied in our public schools (in Barnes's), while their charge at Antietam was specially mentioned by McClellan.
"By the way, the flags "captured" there by Barlow had already been marched over, with a lot of dead rebels, by the Eighty-eighth New York, who were too busy fighting to stop to pick them up. Miles was always a glorious fellow. Barlow did not like us, and once, under a mistake, joyfully exclaimed, "That d——d Irish brigade has broken at last!" to be corrected by Col. Smyth of the Sixty-ninth, who told him they had captured the enemy's works and he had come for further orders. (Signed) Irish Brigade.
The above makes quite a spicy newspaper article, but it does not read like history, and it IS NOT history. Where and on what occasion did Francis C. Barlow ever manifest "joy" that the Irish, or any Union brigade "broke" when engaging the enemy! To my mind the statement is the equivalent of charging treason to one of the bravest fighters in the Union armies. And, according to this defender of the reputation of the Irish brigade, Barlow was thus filled with joy over what he believed to be the defeat of the Irish brigade "because he didn't like us." The above yarn is too idiotic to need replying to. No sane person can believe a word of it. Except as every advance of troops may be said to be a "charge" the Irish brigade made no "charge" at Antietam, and McClellan in his report, dated Aug. 4th, 1863, covering the Antietam campaign, does not refer to any "charge" made by the Irish brigade in that battle. In this report (page 59, Series 1, Vol. 19) he says, "Meagher's brigade, advancing steadily, soon became engaged with the enemy posted to the left and in front of Roulett's house. It continued to advance under a heavy fire nearly to the crest of the hill overlooking Piper's house, the enemy being posted in a continuation of the sunken road and cornfield before referred to. Here the brave Irish brigade opened upon the enemy a terrific musketry fire. All of Gen. Sumner's corps was now engaged—Gen. Sedgwick on the right, Gen. French in the center, and Gen. Richardson on the left. The Irish brigade sustained its well earned reputation. After suffering terribly in officers and men, and strewing the ground with their enemies as they drove them back, their ammunition nearly exhausted, and their commander, Gen. Meagher, disabled from the fall of his horse shot under him, this brigade was ordered to give place to Gen. Caldwell's."
Now, I say from personal observation that the Irish brigade was never farther in advance than the position it occupied when it was relieved by the Sixty-first and Sixty-fourth N. Y., that the Irish brigade did not, up to the time it was so relieved, pass over any ground that had been occupied by the enemy and on which they had left any of their battle flags. The battle flags captured by the Sixty-first and Sixty-fourth New York were taken from the sunken road. No one ever heard me say a word in derogation of the bravery of the Irish brigade. It was manifested at Antietam, and on a score of other battlefields. The glorious history of the second corps could not be written with its deeds left out. The Irish brigade stood in its tracks and took its terrible punishment at Antietam as heroically as did anything of Wellington's at Waterloo. Having said all this, the fact remains the brigade was NOT tactically well placed. Had it advanced to where the Sixty-first and Sixty-fourth later went, it would have done much greater execution, and with smaller loss to itself. The action of Barlow at Antietam proved beyond question his exceptional military ability.
On my way home after Gettysburg, I spent one night in the Citizens' hospital in Philadelphia. My cot was next to a Pennsylvanian's, who had lost a leg at Chancellorsville. When he learned I was of Barlow's regiment, he told me that about the finest sight he ever saw on the battlefield was seeing Barlow lead his command into action at Antietam. He was where he had a full view of the display. The regiments were in line of battle, and he, with sabre in hand, was ahead of the line. Such is the plain fact, as all who were there can testify.
On the 19th of September, Gen. McClellan was informed that during the night Lee had pulled out, and placed the Potomac between him and us. The Army of Northern Virginia crossed the river at Shepardstown. Thus ended their proud invasion of Northern States.
We remained in our position for a number of days, burying the dead, picking up the fragments, and getting ourselves together. The after view of a battle field is a horrible sight—wreck, ruin and devastation are on all sides; fences removed, buildings more or less torn and demolished, wagons smashed, arms scattered about, artillery disabled, horses and mules piled up and swollen almost beyond recognition. All this shows the havoc of battle, but the sight that appals is the human dead. Dead, dying, and wounded in various ways. The spectator must callous his heart, or, if fairly human, he will be overwhelmed. There were places on this battlefield where the ground was literally strewn with those "beyond the fighting," swollen, grimy, unnatural, in all sorts of situations and positions. On the fence next to the cornfield, and just beyond the sunken road, were a number of Confederates hanging over the top rail, shot dead while trying to pass it. There they hung, like bundles of old clothes over a line.
"Gen. McClellan reported that he lost on the 16th and 17th 2,010 killed, 9,416 wounded and 1,043 missing—a total of 12,469. * * * * * McClellan reported that 2,700 of the Confederate dead were counted and buried by his officers, and that a portion had been previously buried by their comrades." (The Antietam and Fredericksburg, Palfry, page 127.) Doubtless the killed, wounded and missing of the two armies would aggregate 25,000. The Second corps was the heaviest loser on the Union side, its casualties amounting to 5,138. (Walker 120)
On the 22d of September the army moved, the Second corps headed for Harpers Ferry, a distance of ten or twelve miles. We forded the Potomac just above the destroyed railroad bridge, and came to land opposite the ruins of the United States Armory. We went through the town and formed camp on Bolivar Heights. The time spent at this place was the soft kind of soldering. Supplies were abundant. Drill, guard, picket and police duties were light, and we all had a thoroughly good time. The scenery hereabouts is grand. Maryland, London and Bolivar Heights come together, and from the tops of their heights to the river level is hundreds of feet. The passes worn by the Shenandoah and Potomac are through the solid rock and the gorges are very deep and rugged.
Our picket line was a mile or two out toward Charlestown. While on one of these picketing details, while the first relief was on, Frank Garland suggested that, if possible, we slip through the line, go to the front and see if we couldn't pick up something good to eat. We succeeded in passing the pickets and pointed for a farm house a half mile ahead. For a time no one responded to our knocks and helloes. At last a plump, red cheeked modest girl, of perhaps sixteen, appeared. We enquired for apples and told her if she would fill our haversacks, we would be glad to pay for them. She took them and soon returned with them filled with eatable apples. We paid her the price charged and started back. We admitted to one another that it was not a prudent act and would go hard with us if we should be picked up. On our way back Garland glanced to the left, and said, "There's reb cavalry!" I looked, and there, perhaps an eighth of a mile away, was a squad of horsemen, coming on a canter toward us. We were near a substantial rail fence on the right, and for it we sprang with all our powers. We went over it like circus performers, and put in our best strides for our line. I think it was Garland that first discovered that the "men on horseback" were negro farm hands. They had seen our lively retreat and accurately interpreted the cause, and they were with their mouths open as wide as their jaws would admit, haw-hawing near the point of splitting. On this discovery we slowed down, and sauntered toward our picket line as unconcerned as possible, but the pickets had seen the performance, and at first had been misled as we were. As we came in we proposed to go straight to the reserve where the detail from our regiment was. The officer in charge refused this and sent us under a guard of two men and a corporal to headquarters. We steered the corporal to the shelter tent of Capt. Bull and explained the situation to him. He took it in, and, with a large assumption of military dignity, informed the guard that he would relieve them of any further duty in the matter, and they could go back to the front. Garland and I were glad to divide our apples with Bull and the others who knew of our adventure. It was one of the worst scares I had in the service, and cured me of any attempt at foraging outside the lines.
Gen. Walker says, "The only episode which interrupted the pleasant monotone of rest and equipment, after the fatigues of the Manassas and Antietam campaigns, was a reconnaissance conducted by Gen. Hancock with the first division Oct. 16th down the valley to Charlestown, with the view to discovering whether the enemy were there in force." We met a battery supported by cavalry, which fell back as we advanced. The captain of this battery was B. H. Smith, Jr. and was wounded. We found him in a house at Charlestown with a foot amputated. We spent the night in Charlestown, and while there many of the boys visited the tree where John Brown had his taking off Dec. 2, 1859.
On the 25th of October, I wrote a letter home from which I quote, "The whole regiment cannot turn out over 50 or 60 charter members. I will give you a list of Co. "C," which left Hamilton but little over one year ago full of hope and great expectation. Today we have present Capt. Broady, broken in mind and body by hardship and disease; Serg. Isaac Plumb, well and in good spirits; Serg. C. A. Fuller, ditto; Serg. D. W. Skinner, suffering from old wound, and who will be discharged; Portner E. Whitney, pioneer, good soldier; George Jacobs, private, cooking for the company; Junius Gaskell, sick most of the time; Charles Richards, paroled prisoner, sees no duty; Freeman Allen has a bad leg; Rufus Rundell, in quartermaster's department—always has been; John Boardman, drummer. Where are the other 80? Some 10 or 11 killed, three times that number wounded, 10 dead of disease, 8 or 10 discharged, and the remainder sick in hospitals. Ike and myself are the only ones of that ninety odd, who have been in every engagement with the regiment, and he was not carrying a gun at Fair Oaks. Lieut. Keech is the only line officer who has been in all the regiment's battles. This may seem incredible, but it is nevertheless true—some would miss this battle and some that, and so, but one has missed none."
On the 29th of October, 1862, our army broke camp and moved in the direction of Warrenton, which place we reached on the 11th of November. In making this march the Sixty-first skirmished over the mountains at Snecker's Gap, driving back a body of cavalry that was observing, if not holding this position. From the ridge of the mountain we had a view that in my judgment could not be equaled in Europe.
While the army was at Warrenton the order came removing McClellan and appointing Burnside. For one I was glad of any change—it seemed to be that no one could be more inefficient than McClellan. I remember so expressing myself which was not a popular notion. One old Irishman of Co. A, turned on me in hot anger, and asked, "Why do you say that? What do you know about war, you little damned pie eater!"
In a few days we started out and reached Falmouth, a hamlet nearly opposite Fredericksburg on the Rappahannock river on the 17th of November. There were but a handful of rebels on the other side of the river. There was no attempt to ford it, and we went into camp, while Lee's army soon concentrated about Fredericksburg. Our camp was located in the woods, which we partially cleared, converting the timber into walls for our huts, which we covered with our shelter tent canvass. In a few days we had comfortable quarters. Part of the time the weather was quite cold. Snow was on the ground, and the brook that ran near by was more or less covered with ice. I remember going down to this brook one Sunday morning with Portner E. Whitney. We took off our clothing and had a bath in that ice cold water. We were in this camp for several weeks, and in it had first rate good times. Near to us was a Pennsylvania regiment, (I forget the number) in which a "revival of religion" prevailed. Meetings were held continuously and it was reported that many were converted. I think this regiment suffered severely in the great slaughter of the 13th of December.
Quite early in December indications multiplied that a movement was contemplated. Three days rations were ordered to be kept constantly in the haversacks. Charles Lowell, our hospital steward, told me that the surgeons had received orders to put in good condition the operating instruments, and frequent inspections made sure that enough ammunition was in the boxes.
On Thursday, Dec. 11th, at 4 a. m., reveille beat, after roll call the men were told that they must be ready to break camp on short notice. At 6 a. m. the regiment formed on the color line, ready to move. While we were thus waiting, I was smoking my briarwood pipe, and, at what I supposed was the end of the smoke, I threw out the ashes and put the pipe in my breeches pocket. In a short time I was conscious of a change of temperature in that locality, and hastily brought to view the pocket and pipe. Doubtless some of the fire remained in the bowl, which got out and set fire to that part of my clothing. I had no trouble in extinguishing this ignition, but the pocket was gone and my leg had a raw spot.
At this time the Army of the Potomac was organized in three grand divisions as follows: Right Grand Division, Sumner's, embracing the Second and Ninth corps; Center Grand Division, Hooker's, Third and Fifth corps; Left Grand Division, Sixth and First corps. Gen. D. N. Couch commanded the Second corps; Hancock the First Division, and Caldwell the First brigade of the corps.
While in this camp that we were about to leave I had the honor to be the object to which a brief utterance was directed by Gen. Hancock. I was then a sergeant, and had been ordered to brigade headquarters with a squad of men for guard duty. On the day in question, Gen. Sumner reviewed his Grand Division. After the guard had got to its place, one of Caldwell's staff came to me and said, "When the general comes along you will fall in your guard and present arms." I had some eight or ten men with me, and told those not on duty to be on hand to fall in when so ordered. Presently I heard a horse coming down the road on a sharp gallop, and soon saw that it was Gen. Hancock with a single orderly. Evidently he was not on the lookout for a little guard to salute him, but I fell in the men as briskly as possible. The general noticed what I was doing, and had to wait a moment for the guard to present arms, which it did all right. Hancock returned the compliment, and then said to me, "If you want to salute, sir! you must be a 'damned sight quicker' than this!" If I had dared to, I would have answered, "Don't you worry yourself, Winfield Scotty, I don't want to salute you, and wouldn't now, if I had not been ordered to."
Of course I kept my mouth shut. It would have been bad policy to have expressed my sentiments.
As I have stated, shortly after 6 a. m. our column started. We made a roundabout march of a few miles and finally halted, under cover of high ground, nearly opposite the city of Fredericksburg. All this day a furious cannonade was maintained by our side, and from big guns mounted on the crest back of the river. The effort was to clean the enemy out from the neighborhood of the river bank, so that we could lay our pontoon bridges. This was not successful, and in the attempt to do this work our men were picked off, so that it was found to be impracticable. At length the Seventh Mich. and the 89th N. Y. were rushed into the pontoon boats and rowed and poled over. Once on the other shore they drove away the sharpshooters, and the bridge at our front was then laid. We remained that night on the Falmouth side of the river. The next forenoon the Second corps crossed the river. Our division was marched along the side of the river, to the lower end of the city, and then we stacked arms.
Some of our men inspected the near by houses on their own motion, and from one they brought out a jar of fresh tried lard. I had a chance at it and spread it on my hard tack, as I would butter at home. I have had my share of good butter and love it, but I never tasted bread greasing equal to that new lard.
Towards night we were marched back to the site of the railroad bridge, and billited in the grist mill near said bridge. One of our men procured a duck, I was let into the mess, and in some way we cooked and disposed of it before rolling up in our blankets for a good night's rest. We turned out early the next morning, (the disastrous 13th) and after breakfast, lead by Col. Miles, we went through the city to the last street. Here our little regiment was deployed as a sort of picket line. To the front half or three-quarters of a mile ran the top of a line of hills, parallel to our street. Not so much as the crack of a pistol had broken the silence of the morning. We lounged about, viewed from between the houses the supposed location of the enemy, went into the houses next to where we were posted, and helped ourselves. Not a soldier in gray was to be seen, save here and there a sentry watching from the top of their earth works. One of our boys was inspecting the contents of the house of a doctor, I forget his name. Presently he called to me and inquired if I didn't want some books. I said "Yes." He tossed me from the window a fine volume of Byron's poems, and the two volumes of Dr. Kane's Arctic Explorations. I sat on the curbing looking over this plunder, when, all at once, a number of big guns went off, and very soon thereafter shot and shell came thundering through the houses, across our street, and into the houses behind us. I hurriedly dropped my spoils, and made quick tracks for the other side of the street, where there was, perhaps, better protection. This artillery outburst was due to the appearance of our troops, moving out of the city and towards the strong position of the enemy.
In a few minutes Col. Miles assembled the Sixty-first and marched it back into the next street, where we stood in line ready for the word "Go!" In this position nothing could be seen, but the shots and shells of our adversaries came thick and dangerously near, though none were to my knowledge effective. While we were here I noticed one of our recruits, a German, who was literally unnerved by fear. His countenance was distorted by terror, and he was shaking in every limb. I think it was impossible for him to march. I do not remember ever seeing him after that time. For myself I confess that I never exerted more will power to make my legs move in the right direction than just here. Without pretending to have military judgment, as I viewed the intrenched position of the Confederates, I said to myself, "we will fail to carry those heights."
At length the order came to move, and the head of our column started for the street that led to Marye's Hill. Turning into it we advanced rapidly. My recollection is, that as the road leaves the city, it makes a slight curve, and as we came to that spot the whole view was opened up to us. I know the road was littered with some dead, and cast off blankets and knapsacks. For a ways the road slightly descends, and then you come to a considerable stream of some sort, it may be a waste weir, from the Falmouth dam. This stream was bridged, and a part, if not all, of the flooring of it had been removed. I remember we, partially at least, crossed on the stringers. At this point the enemy concentrated a hot artillery fire. I think the Sixty-first got over without much damage, but the head of the regiment following took in several shells that caused heavy loss. We pressed forward to a point part way up the hill to the front, when the order was given "On the right, by file into line!" This deployed us in line of battle to the left of the road we had been advancing on. The rise of ground was sufficient to protect us from the enemy, while we were thus forming. Hancock rode his horse up and down the line between us and the foe.
While we stood here, one of the ghastly sights of war was almost under my feet. A soldier lay nearly where I ought to have stood. A shell had gone through his body, and in its passage had set fire to his clothing, and there his corpse lay slowly cooking. There was no time to do anything.
At least one line of battle had preceded us, and, I suppose, had been used up. Now the order came for us to advance, which we did, probably in brigade line of battle. I cannot say how many regiments there were in it. I know we advanced till within musket range of the rebel rifle pits, when we were halted and ordered to lie down. We did not fire, but the enemy did from their pits and they picked off some of our men. After a short time we were ordered to stand up. I then noticed that sergeant Israel O. Foote of my company was lying on the ground wounded, and evidently in pain. Our column was right faced and put in motion. We advanced parallel to the rebel line, and under their fire. We soon came to the road. Here there was a house or two, and the building, or buildings, had some soldiers in it, or them. We crossed the road—the Sixty-first under Miles did—and brought up in a yard or garden patch that had a high tight board fence on two sides of it. Here we were directed to lie down. The fence hid the enemy from our sight, but the distance to their nearest line of rifle pits was short. Occasional projectiles from cannon and muskets came our way, so that most of us were willing to hug the ground.
George Joyce of Co. C was with the regiment, just returned from hospital partially recovered from a wound received at Malvern Hill. Joyce was a unique character, small of stature, illiterate, an adroit forager, and, if you didn't know him, you might take him for a mere braggadocio. But such was not the case. He was destitute of fear, or, if he ever experienced the sensation, he overcame it. At Glendale the Colonel ordered the line forward. A soldier said "We will follow the colors." Joyce was a private, and how he happened to have them I do not know, but he did, and he marched forward, brought the staff down with a bang and said, "There's your colors, come up to them!" The line moved up, and Barlow made him orderly sergeant of (I think) Co. F then and there. Joyce was back with a stiff arm, so that he could not carry a gun, but while most of us were hugging the ground, he stood up and worked his jaw. He said, "Lie low boys. I'll let you know if anything happens." And so he was on the watch. Presently a solid shot came his way. It passed so near his foot, that, while it made no visible abrasion, his foot began to swell so that he had to cut his boot off, and he had to hobble back.
It was said at the time that Col. Miles, satisfied that the only thing to do to amount to anything, was to make a rush and take this first picket line, had sent back his conclusion, and requested permission to charge the line with his regiment. About this time an accommodating rebel bullet cut his throat, letting out a liberal quantity of fresh bright blood. This so put him hors de combat that he had to leave the field, somewhat to the longevity account of the Sixty-firsters there present. So we continued in this lowly attitude till after Hooker's men made another vain assault over the ground we had occupied. Then, toward sundown, we were withdrawn, and marched back into the city, and took up our quarters for the night in the same grist mill we occupied the night before.
So far as we could see, nothing was done the next day, Sunday. But little, if any, fighting was had on Monday. After dark Monday evening our regiment, under command, I think of Capt. Kettle, was marched back as far to the front as we had occupied Saturday, but to the right. Here we were placed in rifle pits that would hold half a dozen each. There was a space of eight or ten feet between each pit. Here we were very close to the enemy—we could hear their movements, and they ours. I should think it was as late as 3 o'clock a. m. of Tuesday when we were withdrawn, and silently made our way to the city, and through it, and to the pontoon bridge we crossed the Friday before. We were nearly the last to cross. Shortly afterward the bridge was taken up, and the Rappahannock again flowed between the hostile camps.
In this battle the only original members of Co. C present with the company were Sergt. I. O. Foote, killed; Geo. Jacobs and myself. Isaac Plumb had been commissioned and transferred to another company and Whitney was with the pioneers.
We marched directly to our old camp. We found things as we left them, and we proceeded, as far as we could with what was on hand, to restore the camp to the condition it was in before we broke it on the 12th. Many of the men had disposed of shelter tents and blankets during the worthless movement, so that some of the huts had no covering. The next day Gen. Sumner rode up to our camp and had some talk with the men. He asked why some of the huts were not covered with canvass. We said, "We dumped them when we went into the fight." He replied, "You should have stuck to your tents and blankets!" This was the last time I saw the old man. He left the army in January, 1863, and died in bed about three months later at his home in Syracuse, N. Y. He was a great Corps Commander.
Burnside's next fiasco was called his "stuck in the mud" campaign. In this case he was to cross the river to the right about where Hooker did four months later. In this movement the centre and left broke camp while Sumner's Grand Division remained to take care of the enemy's right at Fredericksburg. A terrible storm ended the movement almost before it was begun, and we remained comfortable in camp.
Shortly after this Burnside resigned, and Gen. Joseph Hooker was appointed Commander of the Army of the Potomac. Hooker had been named "Fighting Joe Hooker." As a rule I think, the men were pleased with the change.
On the 13th of February, 1863, the 61st and the 64th broke camp and moved a few miles to the left, and went into the camp lately occupied by the 27th New Jersey, a regiment of Burnside's old corps, which went with him when he left the Army of the Potomac. The Grand Division formation was abandoned when Hooker took command, and the former corps organization re-adopted. Our new camp was delightfully situated. It fronted about twenty rods back from the edge of the high bluff, which was, perhaps, eighty rods back from the edge of the river. We were below, but in plain view of Fredericksburg. The New Jerseyites had made for themselves better quarters than I had ever occupied, and we "entered into their labors." I never enjoyed soldiering more than during the weeks we were in this place. Much of the time the weather was good, and we drilled, did picket duty, and got in readiness for the next grapple.
On the 21st of February I received notice that I had been commissioned Second Lieutenant of Co. C. It was at the time, next to nothing in the field. It did not have over two privates in the ranks, with a sergeant, a drummer and a pioneer. In place of creating new regiments, when the last call was filled, the men should have been sent to the old regiments in the field.
On the 16th of March I was officer of the day for our camp, and, of course, was up and about at all hours of that day and the next night. During the forepart of this service nothing occurred to make it in any way notable, so far as I was concerned, but about 3 o'clock in the morning of the next day, I heard, a considerable distance to the right, a yelling and cheering, and a general "whoopering up" that I couldn't account for. I hurried to Col. Miles's tent and reported. He directed me to send out a couple of men to find out. In due time they came back and reported that the Irish Brigade were celebrating "St. Patrick's Day in the Morning." The boys with the green flag had a great day of it, in which several barrels of commissary were made dry.
On the 14th of April I wrote home that, probably, the Army would move in a few days. Eight days rations were distributed to the men—five were to be stored in the knapsacks and three in the haversacks. Extra baggage was packed and sent to the rear.