On this day Lieut. Plumb started for home on a ten days leave of absence. He returned and was in his place before the movement came. It was over a year since I had seen home and I had an application in for a like leave, but the situation prevented its issue until after the next great defeat. The 29th of April we broke camp and were ready to join our brigade at a moment's notice. We did not start till early the next day. During these hours I had a bilious attack, and was sick enough to die, but the tents were all down, and there was no chance to baby me. I groaned and grunted till about the time the regiment started, and then I had to move or be left behind. I well remember how I staggered in my attempt to march, but I kept at it, and before night was pretty well. I had a number of such experiences, so that, I conclude, if the screws were more frequently put to people in civil life, there would be many cases of like cures.
We advanced but a few miles and camped. The next day we spent some time in making corduroy road, and advanced but a few miles. April 30th we advanced to the vicinity of the river (Rappahannock) and stacked arms in a piece of woods. If I remember correctly it was here and then that our corps badges were issued. Ours was the trefoil, and our division's red. The colors for all corps were: first division, red; second division, white; third division, blue. Couch was in command of the second Corps. Hancock was still our division general, and Caldwell our brigade general. In this place I saw Hancock and Caldwell ride by. Hancock was mad about something, and he was shaking his fist under Caldwell's nose, and God-daming him at the top of his capacity. Hancock was a brave and capable general, but he was demonstratively passionate, and vilely abusive with his tongue. Junius Gaskell of my Company was for months his private orderly, and he saw the polish and the rough of him. Gaskell has told me that he would get mad at his own brother, who was assistant adjutant general of the division, and blaspheme at him and call him the conventional name a man uses, when he wants to say a mean thing of the other fellow based on the alleged status of his mother.
Towards sundown we were put in motion, making our way to the river's edge, and crossed it on a well-laid pontoon. We ate our supper on the other side of the river, and then advanced a few miles into the country, and halted for the night along side an open piece of woods, not far from the Chancellorsville house. We went into this piece of woods to spread our blankets to bivouac for the night. Our cavalry had been on this ground before, and they had responded affirmatively to the calls of nature, so that we soon discovered we were treading on mounds not as large, but as soft, as the one into which Peter Stuyvesant fell, according to the narrative of Irving. I remember, after spreading my own blanket, that my hand dropped down outside of it, and went slap into one of those mounds. I further remember that I was not the only Sixty-firster that imprecated in strong Saxon. But there we were, and there we lay till sunrise. We learned that the day before a lively skirmish had been fought here, in which one of our Colonels was killed.
Friday, May 1st, about 11 a. m., the artillery became engaged. Before long the Sixty-first N. Y., and the Hundred and Forty-eight Pennsylvania were ordered forward, and we went to the front and right of what I suppose became our line. We worked our way through a piece of scrub pine that was almost impervious, having passed this obstruction, we were in open ground, and we advanced, I think, in skirmish line formation. It was not long before we met Mr. Johnny Reb., and in such force that we fell back at a lively pace, and worked our way through the scrub I have spoken of. We emerged into a large open field where there were a good many troops. By this time the shells of the enemy were making it interesting for us. Hancock was present, and rushed matters in his energetic way to get his men deployed where he wanted them. In due time we were placed in the woods not far from the clearing. We had not more than got into position when these woods were shelled. We were ordered to lie down, and the order was well observed. It seemed to me that I was never under such a raking fire, the noise was fearful, and the amputated tree limbs came down on us like snow flakes in a Winter's squall. So far as I know, no one was seriously hurt in this terrifying bombardment. After it ceased we moved to another position in the woods, stacked arms, and there spent the night, or till towards morning of the Second, (Saturday.)
Before it was fairly light, we were put in motion and a good deal of time was spent to satisfactorily locate us. As I understand it, we were placed in sight of, and to the left of the Chancellorsville House. We at once stacked arms. A line for rifle pits was run out, and one set of men began to intrench, while another set, with axes, were in front slashing down the timber—falling it to the front, and tangling it, so that it was impossible to rapidly work through it. Before night we had seemingly an impregnable line. It could not have been carried by infantry from the front. Artillery might have battered down our defences, or infantry might have turned it, but we hoped that the Confederates would see fit to attack our line with infantry from the front. Gen. Howard, with the Eleventh Corps, was on the right of our line. He had been duly notified during the day that there was a movement of Rebel troops towards his end of the line. No doubt he was a brave man and believed he could repel any attack that might be made on him, but where the great issues of a battle are at stake, a commander has no business to take needless chances, and, when he can, he should put his men under cover as effectually as may be, so that he can accomplish his purpose with as little loss of limb and life as possible. If, as soon as the Eleventh Corps was located they had gone to work cutting the timber to the front and intrenching, as Hancock's men did, Jackson would have met a bloody repulse, and Chancellorsville would have been our victory. Instead of that, his guns were stacked, his men were lounging about, and absolutely without protection. (Doubleday's Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, page 26 and following.) Jackson struck him with a column of 26,000 men about 6 p. m., and stampeded his force as if they had been ewe lambs. After reading many different accounts of this battle, I am fully persuaded that Howard inexcusably, if not criminally, blundered on this occasion. In regular course of time the "stampedees," if I may use the word, came across the country and struck our line. They were entirely in favor of continuing on, but we protested against it, and told them they would run right into the rebel lines. Some were still bound to go, when the argument of the bayonet converted them to our idea, and they camped down in our rear. Sunday, the 3d, found us in the same place, standing guns in hand behind our breastworks. The fighting to our right was heavy and continuous. About 11 a. m. it was evident the Rebels had forced our position. We saw our men streaming back, in a brief time the enemy had posted artillery that raked our line. It was no longer tenable, and we were ordered to fall back on the double quick. As we did so, we were under heavy artillery fire. We passed near the Chancellor House, which was at the time, I believe, on fire. We halted about one-fourth of a mile to the rear, and there formed line of battle in the edge of the woods. While we were waiting, a number of high class women were located close to us. I was told at the time they were the occupants of the Chancellor House, then burning to the ground. I remember writing home and telling my people that these women were interesting to look at, and that their features expressed fear and hate. In a little time they were marched off, and the Sixty-first with a part, if not all of the brigade, were advanced, I should think, at right angles with the position held by us for two days. We soon entered a piece of woods and advanced in line of battle through it. As we came near to the clearing beyond, we saw the rifle pits of the enemy, and we met at our part of the line quite a brisk fire, but on the right it was exceedingly severe. One company of the 148th Pa. lost more than half its men. Then our line fell back to the place from which we had advanced, and we at once began another set of entrenchments. In a few hours time we had again defences that we would have been delighted to see assaulted by our friends, the enemy.
In order to keep us from going to seed the Rebels would occasionally send over a shell, or solid shot, and they had the true range very well. I remember while such a practice was under way, and we were on our bellies back from the breastworks some three rods, so that we might not be hurt by the top log if it should be hit by a ball or shell, a large solid shot came hurtling over, just above the top of our works, and plunged into the ground close to the feet of a sandy-haired Irishman by the name of Flarity. I think I was looking that way at the moment. Flarity felt the sweep of the wind as the shot went over him; he raised up sufficiently to see where it had gone into the ground, and said, "Whist, ye divil! was yee's intinded for me?" Those who saw the effect of the shot and heard Flarity had a loud smile.
We were not attacked on Monday, though during the day Lieut-Col. Broady called the officers around him and informed them in his Swedish brogue, that it was anticipated that the enemy would charge our position, which we were to hold as long as there was a man left of us, and that if we should give way and fall back we would be fired into by our men, who held a second and third line. This was delightful information, and made us feel very jolly—"over the left?" but I am satisfied there was not a man in the crowd that would have gone back if the chance had been offered. The attack did not come, and during the night we began the backward march again, which had come to be almost a matter of course. Hooker had twice as many men as Lee, and the movement seemed to open encouragingly. While Doubleday and Walker and Alden do not in so many words say that Hooker was drunk, I think that is the clear inference. If he was, shooting would be too good for him, he ought to have been burned at the stake.
Saturday morning, the second day of May, Col. Miles was put in command of the picket line to our front. His own regiment was not in this advance line, but was in the first main line behind the works that I have mentioned. Our Colonel here made a great reputation for himself. I quote from Swinton, "Amid much that is dastardly at Chancellorsville, the conduct of this young, but gallant and skillful officer, shines forth with a brilliant lustre." Walker says of him, "So delighted was Hancock at the splendid behavior of his skirmish line that, after one repulse of the enemy, he exclaimed, 'Capt. Parker, ride down and tell Col. Miles he's worth his weight in gold!'" While Couch, turning to the Major-Generals who commanded his two divisions, said, in his quiet but emphatic way, "I tell you what it is, gentlemen, I shall not be surprised to find myself, some day serving under that young man." Shortly after he was dangerously wounded through the body. Walker says (page 240) "Hancock strengthens the skirmish line held by Miles, and instructs that officer not to yield one foot, except on actual necessity; and well is that trust discharged. The troops under Miles's command consist of the 61st, 64th and 66th New York, with detachments from the 53d Pa, 2d Delaware, and 140th, 145th and 148th Pa. and 27th Conn." The historian of the Second Corps is in error when he writes that the 61st was placed on the skirmish line. As I have before stated, it remained behind the works it built, until the position was enfladed by the enemy's artillery, and then it, with the rest of that line, fell back.
He is again in error when he says, (page 244) speaking of the disaster of the 3d, "Hancock's division was no longer intact. Caldwell, with the 61st, 52d and 57th N. Y., and four companies of the 148th Pa., had, at a sudden call, marched to the United States Ford road, with a view to the anticipated breaking through of the enemy from the right and rear." Unless the movement above described is the one made through the wood, in which the 148th Pa. suffered so severely.
During Monday night and Tuesday morning we started back, and after daylight Tuesday, the 5th of May, we "got back on our side of the Rappahannock." Before night we were again on our campground of the December before.
May 11th I received a fifteen days leave of absence, for which I had applied before the late movement. Those granted prior to the move had been but for ten days. Probably the extra five days was in the nature of a premium for the delay caused by the campaign, and the service in it. I made the most of this time, and was so feasted at home that I started back several pounds heavier than when I left. I did not desire to be away long. At the end of the leave I was anxious to be again with the boys. At this time I was tenting with Nutting and Collins. Nutting came down with typhoid fever. He was sent to hospital, and returned in the Fall.
While in this camp, June 1st, 1863, the First Brigade of the First Division, fell in and passed in review by quite a body of officers, including Hancock, Howard and Barlow. Gen. Howard made appropriate remarks to the remnants of the 5th N. H., 81st Pa., 64th and 61st N. Y., which he commanded in the battle of Fair Oaks that day, the year before. But a small fraction of the men he commanded that day at 7 a. m. were present to hear his words. He said we were in this great strife to win, and we would fight it to a finish, and we applauded his sentiments by lusty cheers. After this we returned to our quarters. Barlow appeared and gave us a chance to grasp his hand. I am sure this great soldier always had a special affection for the men of the 61st N. Y. He had their entire confidence. Unquestionably they obeyed his orders, first, perhaps, because they didn't dare do otherwise, and, second, because they trusted his judgment and ability to perform what he set out to do.
Now everything indicated a move at short notice. Sunday, the 14th of June, the Confederates shot off their big guns on the heights of Fredericksburg. I think our people crossed the river on a reconnaissance. At 8 p. m. the Second Corps moved, marched four miles and halted for the night. Monday, the 15th, we passed Stafford Court House. Tuesday, the 16th, the march took us beyond Dumfries' Court House. This day was excessively hot, and it was stated that quite a number of the Second Corps died of sunstroke. Lieut. Elmore was stricken down by it. He lay on the ground almost motionless—was quite out of his head and talked crazy. He was put into an ambulance, and sent to hospital.
Wednesday, the 17th, at the close of the day, we halted at Pope's Run on the Orange & Alexandria R. R. Thursday, the 18th, no move was made, except to change camp. In the afternoon of Friday (the 19th) we moved and halted in the evening at Centreville, the place we had been in about nine months before. Saturday about noon we left Centreville for Thoroughfare Gap. We passed over the two Bull Run battlefields, which were fought about a year apart. On the field of 1861 the dead had been buried with the least expenditure of labor. I should say the bodies had been laid close together, and a thin coat of earth thrown over them. As the bodies decayed, the crust fell in exposing in part the skeletons. Some of our men extracted teeth from the grinning skulls as they lay thus exposed to view. On the field of 1862 from one mound a hand stuck out. The flesh instead of rotting off had dried down, and there it was like a piece of dirty marble. Such sights are not refreshing to men going forward in search of a new battlefield. Thoroughfare Gap was reached during the night. We remained in this place until noon of Thursday, the 25th, when we moved, the enemy following us up quite sharply with artillery.
After dark we camped at Gum Spring. It had rained all day. I was placed in charge of the picket line that night, and visited the posts wet to the skin. In the morning a young and innocent calf was sporting in the field we occupied. Some of our wickedest men ended the life of that calf skinned it, and gave me a chunk. I expected to have an unusually good meal out of it. No time was found to cook this meat until we halted at Edward's Ferry on the Potomac, where we expected to spend the night. Collins and I proposed to have a great meal out of our piece of veal. Our man "Robert" fried it in the stew pan, which was the half of a canteen, and brought it on smoking hot. The experiment of trying to eat it disclosed the fact that it was "deeken veal" and very "stringy," I think the Spanish war soldiers would have called it. We discarded it and went back to "salt hoss."
That night we crossed the Potomac on a pontoon, and were again in "My Maryland." The performances this night were such as to justify vocal daming on the part of a very good Christian. The men were tired, but they were marched and countermarched, and halted and started, and placed and unplaced, until it was fair to conclude that someone was drunk. At last the person directing the column got his bearings and we proceeded. We were plodding along a road in which there was on the right hand side a ditch about two feet deep. Having been up and awake all of the night before, I was fearfully sleepy and hardly able to drag myself along. All at once I went into this ditch, and struck full length. In its bottom there was about two inches of mud, thick enough to encase me. By the time I had pawed out, I could not, if laid out, have been distinguished from a mud sill; but I was too near gone to speak bad words, and so went on in silence, weighing five pounds more than before my descent. Before long we halted and bivouaced for the night. The next morning, the 27th, our regiment started about 10 o'clock, and was thrown out as an advance guard to our baggage train. Along the line of this march there were numerous wild black cherry trees. They were loaded with ripe fruit, and we ate our fill. I think we covered 25 miles this day, and went into camp near Frederick City. We were over this same ground less than a year before, and everything looked as it then did.
Sunday, the 28th, we moved up, and camped just before crossing the Monocacy. We spent the day very comfortably, and went to bed by rolling up in our blankets, when an order came to "fall in." This we did of course, but wished it had been otherwise. We marched about two miles, and were posted to guard a ford of the Monocacy. We had with us a section of artillery.
Monday, the 29th, we made a march of over thirty-two miles. We halted for the night some miles beyond Uniontown, at about 10 p. m. I know I was so completely tired out, that, as soon as arms were stacked, I stretched out without unrolling my blankets, and I knew nothing till the next morning, when I was awakened by the sun shining into my eyes. I was so stiff that it took some time to get on to my legs, but, after moving about for a while, I was all right.
Tuesday, the 30th, we remained in camp, many straggled in the march of the day before, and during this day most of them came up. Wednesday, July 1st, we started out, none of us knowing for where. We heard no sound of battle that day. No doubt the lay of the land shut off the thunder of the guns. A rumor soon became current that a fight was in progress, and that Gen. Reynolds had been killed. We marched through a little village, perhaps it was Taneytown. Our signalers were up in the steeple of a church on the street we were passing through, and their flags were we-wawing at a great rate. Before long the ambulance containing the corpse of Reynolds passed us. We halted for the night. After sundown our brigade, and probably the division, were in line of battle. As soon as arms were stacked, we went to a rail fence, took down the rails, brought them to our line, and, before going to bed—i. e., spreading our blankets on the ground—we had staked up those rails and banked earth against them so that they would have served quite a purpose as breastworks. By this time lines of camp fires were burning as far as we could see, indicating that the army was massed here, or the ruse was worked to make the enemy think so.
Thursday, the 2d, we were quietly ordered to turn out. Breakfast was eaten, the guns and ammunition were inspected, and by six or seven o'clock we were in motion. On the march I remember we went through a small piece of open timber, where our doctors were posted, and as we went by we shook hands with them, and exchanged little pleasantries. I remember saying to them, "We'll see you again later." I tried to say this with a jaunty air, but down in my shoes I did not feel a bit jaunty. I think we all felt that this should be a death grapple, and, if Lee went further north, it ought to be over the played out ranks of this army. We continued our march and halted in a large open field to the left of the village of Gettysburg. Our brigade was massed, and commanded by Col. Edward E. Cross of the 5th N. H.
We remained in this place during the long hours of the day. There was no noise, save occasionally slight picket firing, but it was not the silence of assured quiet. It was the painful waiting before the descent of the certain cyclone.
Our regiments were so small that, except in the case of the 148th Pennsylvania, each regiment made a single line. I think the 148th was divided into two battalions. The 61st had about 90 muskets. While waiting for something to "turn up" Col. Cross came up, and after a little said, "Boys, you know what's before you. Give 'em hell!" and some of us said "We will, Colonel!" After a time "the ball opened" on our left. A determined attack was made on Sickel's position. He could not hold it, and re-enforcements were sent to him. I do not remember seeing the 5th N. H. move away but Col. Broady says it was detached before the brigade started. I think it was between 5 and 6 o'clock when our orders came, and we were ready. It was preferable to advance into action, rather than to wait in expectation of the order to move. The direction we were to take was to the front and left. There was no time to countermarch so as to bring the men right in front, so we simply left faced and started. The 61st, since the withdrawal of the 5th N. H. was the right regiment. We advanced in this manner, the brigade in a chunk, until we struck a cross road. In this road we deployed by filing right and advancing until the regiments were deployed, then we left faced. This undoubled us, and we stood in line of battle, officers and sergeants in front of the rear rank in front. In front of us across the road was a wheatfield, which was bounded by a fence. We were ordered forward; we scaled the fence and advanced into this wheatfield in line of battle, as I have stated. Finally we were halted, markers were thrown out, and we lined up. The 61st N. Y. was the right of our brigade line. I am not sure what regiment was to our right. It is my recollection that no regiment was in close contact with us. As soon as the alignment was perfected, the officers and file closers passed through the ranks and got in rear of the men. Up to this time not a confederate had been seen in our front.
At the further edge of this wheatfield there were the remnants of a stone wall and scattering trees and brush, which made a natural line for the opposing force to form behind. As soon as I got into my place I kept my eyes to the front, and in a few seconds I saw first one or two men come toward us on a run, and throw themselves down behind this partial stone wall. But a brief time passed when a solid line of men in gray appeared and placed themselves as had the first comers. At once, and without any ordering, the firing opened by both sides. It was slightly descending from where we stood to the position of the enemy. I think their location was the best, independent of the protection afforded by the old wall. It was a case of give and take. As a rule our men behaved splendidly; with a single exception I saw no flinching or dodging. I saw a certain second lieutenant doubling himself together so as to bring his head below the line of the heads of the men in front of him. Capt. Keech saw his posture and came up to him and said, "Stand up! What are you crouching for?" The fellow replied, "I'm not crouching." Keech replied, "Yes, you are!" and he hit him across his humped-up back a sharp rap that made him grunt, and said, "Stand up like a man!" In battle the tendency is almost universal for the men to work out of a good line into clumps. The men of natural daring will rather crowd to the front, and those cast in more timid or retiring molds will almost automatically edge back and slip in behind. Hence the necessity of not alone commissioned officers in the rear to keep the men out in two ranks, but sergeants as well. I think I have stated that there were less than one hundred men present with the regiment. For the less than ninety muskets in the ranks we had a number of commissioned officers. More than was needed. We had officers enough in our regiment in this great battle to have commanded three hundred men, and it is a standing proof of the gross ignorance, or the villainy of the New York government that such was the case. In the early part of the day I remarked to a number of the men near by that when some one of them was knocked out I was going to take his musket and get into the firing line. We were in this wheatfield and the grain stood almost breast high. The Rebs had their slight protection, but we were in the open, without a thing better than a wheat straw to catch a Minnie bullet that weighed an ounce. Of course, our men began to tumble. They lay where they fell, or, if able, started for the rear. Near to me I saw a man named Daily go down, shot through the neck. I made a movement to get his gun, but at that moment I was struck in the shoulder. It did not hurt and the blow simply caused me to step back. I found that I could not work my arm, but supposed that hurt was a flesh wound that had temporarily paralyzed it, and that it was not serious enough to justify my leaving the fighting line. So, I remained and did what I could in directing the firing. Sometime after this, I felt a blow on the left leg, and it gave way, so that I knew the bone was broken. This stroke did not hurt, and I did not fall, but turned around and made a number of hops to the rear, when my foot caught in the tangled grain and I went down full length. While lying here entirely helpless, and hearing those vicious bullets singing over my head, I suffered from fear. I had, as most men do, got over the dread of battle after I was once fairly in it, and was enjoying the excitement, but when I was "done for" as a fighter, and could only lie in that zone of danger, waiting for other bullets to plow into my body, I confess it was with the greatest dread. While so lying and dreading, in some way, I knew that two men were going to the rear. I yelled out to them, "Drag me back." They heeded the order, or entreaty, and one man grabbed one arm, and the other man the other arm, and they started back with me between them, not on any funeral gait, but almost on a run. My right arm was sound, but the left one was broken at the shoulder joint, and on that side it was pulling on the cords and meat. I wobbled much as a cut of wood drawn by two cords would have. These men pulled me back in this fashion for a number of rods, and until I thought they had pulled me over a rise of ground like a cradle knoll, when I shouted, "Drop me" and they dropped, and went on without note or comment. I had a tourniquet in my haversack, and with my one servicable arm, I worked away till I got it out, and did the best I could to get it around my leg, for anything I knew I was bleeding to death, and, if possible, I wanted to check the flow of blood. I think my effort did not amount to much. After a time the firing tapered down to occasional shots. Of course, I did not know who was on top. Certainly no body of our men had fallen back near my bivouac. In a short time I heard a line of battle advancing from the rear. As the men came in sight I sang out, "Don't step on me, boys!" Those in range of me stepped over and on they went, to take their medicine. I understand they rushed forward and fought the enemy in advance of the line we occupied. It was not many minutes after these troops passed me that the rattle of musketry was again heard from that wheat field. It was kept up for a good while, and then it died down. No body of our men went back past me.
After a while I was aware that a skirmish line was coming from the front, and soon discovered that the skirmishers were not clothed in blue. The officer in command was mounted and rode by within a few feet of me. I should judge that this line went as far as the road I have spoken of. Shots were exchanged at about that distance to the rear of me. This fighting was not severe and a short time after these gentlemen in gray moved back in the same manner they had advanced, greatly to my relief. I did not fancy remaining their guest for any length of time.
As the Rebs went back, a nice looking young fellow, small of stature, with bright black eyes, whose face was smutted up with powder and smoke, came along where I lay. My sword was on the ground beside me. He picked it up, and said, "Give me that scabbard!" I said "Johnny, you will have to excuse me, as my arm is broken and I can't unbuckle my belt." He made no comment, but went off with my sword. Then matters quieted down, and there was no sound to be heard in that vicinity, except the groanings of the wounded. As long as I lay perfectly quiet, I was not in much pain, but if I attempted to stir the pain was severe. I had heard that wounded men always suffered from thirst, but I was not specially thirsty, and I wondered at it. I did not have any desire to groan, and take on, as many about me were doing. So I wondered if I were really badly hurt, and if I could groan, if I wanted to. I determined to try it, and drew in a good breath, and let out a full grown-man groan. I was satisfied with the result and then kept quiet. This action on my part will read like the performance of a simpleton, and I would not record it, but for the fact that it was the freak and experience of one man, helpless on the battlefield. These personal experiences are, of course, less often written about than are the general movements of troops in battle accounts.
After a time I was satisfied our people were establishing a picket line some ways to my rear. I succeeded in securing the attention of a sergeant. He told me the number of his regiment, which was a new Pennsylvania regiment. I told him I wanted to get back out of this debatable belt of land between the skirmish lines. He said he would go and see his officer. In a little while he came back with a Lieutenant. He was a good hearted man, and commiserated my condition, and inquired what he could do for me. I told him my present anxiety was to get to the rear of our skirmish line—that where I then lay was likely to be fought over again, and any little thing would, at least, set the pickets firing at one another. I told him I thought if he and the sergeant would make a chair of their hands, as children often do, they could carry me between them. With difficulty they got me up, and their hands under me, and started, but the broken leg hung down, and caught in the trampled wheat, and I told them I couldn't go it. Then the Lieutenant said he could carry me on his back. I noticed that he had braced up with commissary, and his legs were not wholly reliable, but I thought he could manage me as a pack. So he squatted, and the sergeant helped get me on his back with my arm around his neck. Then he attempted to raise me up, but my weight and the tanglefoot were too much, and we all went down in a heap together, I under. As soon as I could express myself in words, I told the men, if they would straighten me out and cover me up with my blanket, I would excuse them with thanks for their kind intentions. This they did, and left me with no one in sight. It now grew dark rapidly and soon there was as little light as at any time that night. I was wide awake, and my thoughts went on excursions the wide world around.
I think it must have been about midnight—for hours I had heard no sound but the groanings of the men lying on the field about me. All at once I heard a voice. It came from the mouth of Phil Comfort, a private of Co. A. Phil had always been one of the incorrigibles. He would get drunk, and brawl, and fight on the slightest provocation, but he also had the credit of doing much for the wounded of the regiment. I do not know what Phil's business was, out there between the picket lines at midnight of that day. I suspect he may have been there for the purpose of accommodating any corpse that was desirous of being relieved of any valuables he was possessed of, fearing they might be buried in an unmarked grave with his dead body. I never asked Phil about the orders, or from whom they came, that sent him into hailing distance of my place of repose, but I made haste to call Phil up to me. He responded to my call, and in a moment was staring down on me in the starlight. He said, "Why, Lieutenant that's you, aint it!" I admitted the allegation, and said I wanted to get out of here. He replied that he would go for a man and stretcher, and return as soon as possible, and off he went. Before long he was back with man and stretcher, and after much working they got me loaded and started for a point at which the ambulances were assembling. I was set down in the dooryard of a house built of hewed logs, whitewashed. In 1866 I visited the battlefield and this house was standing. I think it has since been removed and a frame house put up on its site.
After an hour's waiting, I was loaded into an ambulance without taking me from my stretcher. This was fortunate for me, as I kept it until it was swapped for a new one two weeks later. The stretcher kept me from the ground, and was an important factor in my recovery. A man was placed beside me shot through the body. He was in an agony of pain, and it was impossible for him to restrain his groans. When the ambulance started, it went anywhere but in a good road, and as it bumped over logs and boulders, my broken leg would thresh about like the mauler of a flail. I found it necessary to keep it in place by putting the other one over it. At last we stopped and were unloaded. It was still dark, but in due time light broke in the East, and a little later I could roll my head and take in some of the surroundings. Most of the wounded of the regiment had been gathered at this place, and we made by far the largest part of it. Many of the men were so hurt that they could move about, and they all came and made me an early morning call. After a time two of our regimental doctors appeared. They cut open my trousers leg, found where the bullet went in, and, I think, put a strip of adhesive plaster over the wound, and they did the same with the shoulder. It was clear to my mind that the leg, at least, must come off. I expressed my opinion and said, I thought it would be better to do it at once, than to wait till inflammation set in. At my earnest request they promised me that they would see to it that I should be among the first operated on.
While in this place my life long friend and companion, Lieut. Isaac Plumb, came to me. We had been side by side since the organization of the regiment, and, until now, neither of us had been badly hurt. He told me that he saw me as I went down, and sang out "Uncle Fuller, that's good for sixty days." He said I made up quite a face, as if it hurt. Shortly afterward he said he had a remarkable experience. He was struck and knocked down, and he supposed a bullet had gone through him, and he was done for. He said he clapped his hands over the place of the supposed wound and held on tight, with the thought that conscious existence might be a little prolonged. He expected to feel life ebbing, but he retained consciousness, and, after a while, lifted his hands, expecting to see an eruption of blood, but he did not. He began to move his body with no bad results, and, finally, got onto his feet, resumed his place and left the field with his men. He did not discover what had happened till he prepared to bunk down for the night, when he unbuckled his sword belt he discovered a strange formation in his vest pocket. In it he had a bunch of small keys on a ring. A Minnie bullet had struck his belt plate square and had glanced so as to go under the plate into his vest pocket, where it met the bunch of keys. There was enough force and resistance to bed the bullet into the ring and the key heads, and there the keys stood out held in place by the embedded bullet. He was able to send this relic of that great battle home, and his mother has it now among her choicest mementos.
After a time the division operating table was set up in the edge of a piece of timber not very far away. I was on the watch, expecting every minute to be taken out, but I waited and waited and no one came for me. I became quite impatient at this delay. I saw one after another brought on, carried up, and taken away, and I was not called for. This aroused my stock of impatience, of which, I naturally always had quite enough. At last I asked my friend Porter E. Whitney and another man to take me down to the table. I made up my mind, if the mountain did not go to Mahomet, the next best thing was for the prophet to go to the mountain. The men set me down as nearly under the noses of the doctors as could be, and, if something hadn't happened, I presume in a few minutes that heretofore good left leg would have made one of the fast growing pile; but about that interesting moment for me, the enemy began to drop shells that exploded in and about the locality. It was not a fit place to pursue surgical operations. The doctors knew it, so they hastily gathered up their knives and saws, and moved to a place where those projectiles did not drop. The two friends who had taken me there, picked up my stretcher and started for a like place. We had to move several times before the greatest artillery duel of the War began. When that opened we were out of range of it, but we could not hide from the tremble of the ground—the surface of the earth at that place shook and quivered from the terrible concussion of the artillery. The roar was enough to deafen one, and inspire the dread that no one would be left alive and unhurt. Generally however, the noise is a considerable part of such a bombardment. Probably comparatively slight damage was done by it, until our artillery opened on the advancing lines of Pickett's men.
During the day friends occasionally poured water on my wounds, which, doubtless, kept the swelling down.
Pickett was defeated. Grant, Sherman, Sheridan or Thomas, if in command at the time, would have plunged the fresh Sixth Corps on to the rear of Lee's routed men, and effectively crushed him. Meade was new to the place and preferred a respectable certainty to possible disaster. Things quieted down, and that night,
"Mr. Lee who had come to see What he could do about going through, The North, turned South."
The boys who were toting me came to a stone house with a wide piazza clear around it. I was laid on the floor of it, which made a hard bed. I ached in every bone, but there was nothing to do but "grin and bear it." After a while Frank Garland of Co. G was brought and laid on the floor near me. He could raise upon his elbow, but his breathing was painful to hear. A bullet had gone through his lungs and every time they filled a portion of the air went through the wound with a ghastly sound. I said to him, "Are you badly wounded, Frank?" He replied, "Oh, yes!"
I had eaten nothing since the morning of the day before, and was faint. Some of our drummer boys found a bin of ground oats, and they made a gruel that tasted good, and I made quite a meal of it. That evening about 10 o'clock, an ambulance came for me, and I was taken to the ground selected for the 2d Corps hospital. It was another rough ride across lots. Once there I was taken out of my stretcher, the one Phil Comfort took me off the field on, and taken at once to the operating table. A napkin was formed into a tunnel shape, a liberal supply of chloroform poured into it and the thing placed over my nose and mouth. I was told to take in long breaths. To me it seemed a long time before the effect came, probably it was a short time, but at last my head seemed to grow big and spin around. At this stage I remember a doctor had his fingers in the wound in the shoulder and said to the others "Here is a fine chance for a resection." I did not know what that meant, but learned afterwards. When I came to myself, I looked down far enough to see a quantity of bandage wound about a stump of a leg eight inches long. My shoulder was bound up, but otherwise not operated on. Failure to resect may have been due to the great amount of work pressing upon the surgeons. They were worked as many hours continuously as they could stand, and still many a man had to be neglected. I was taken off the table and put back on my stretcher, which was set down in a wall tent, this tent was as full as it well could be of amputated cases. For the most part the men bore their suffering without a groan. Among the number was a young Confederate officer, that had lost an arm. He probably felt that he was a good way from home, and he "took on," bemoaning his fate as a cripple and a sufferer. He wore out the patience of every other man in the tent. At last I yelled out to him to shut up, or I would get up and kick him out doors. My bark was effective, we heard no more from him. All of us were amputates, or seriously wounded. During the night a doctor came, and gave every man a dose of morphine, which produced a happy state of mind and body. As I was taken from the table one of my doctors said, "Fuller, you may drink all of the whiskey you can get, and want."
The day of the 4th we had a drenching rain. Some men out lying in low places and who could not move were, it was said, drowned. On the whole, I presume the rain was a benefit to the wounded.
It took a number of days for the large hospital tents to be put up. All of the sound part of the army that could be spared followed up the enemy. Of course, it took a large number of soldiers detailed for the purpose, to partially care for the thousands of wounded from each army. The surgeons were continuously engaged upon new cases that had received no attention. Those of us that had been treated knew this, and we found no fault at what otherwise would have been terrible neglect. I think it was six days after my amputation before a doctor could be found to look at my stump. The night before I had been made very nervous by crawley feelings on that side of me, just where I could not tell. It is, I think, the rule with amputations, that the patient cannot from the feeling put his hand on the place of amputation. It takes a good while for the nerves to realize where "the end" is. They were made to carry the news to the brain from the extremities, and, until the new arrangement has become somewhat acquainted with the change, these lines of communication are doing duty for parts of the body not there. My bad feelings were not at the end of the stump, but down in the foot and ankle, where there were constant beats, and pulls and cramps. I think this is the foundation for the many fairy stories to the effect that an amputated leg or arm buried gave the owner of it great pain, as if something pressed on it, or it was cramped in its box, and when it was opened up there was found a stone between the fingers, or the cover jammed upon the foot, and that when the cause of discomfort was removed then the stump of the arm or leg was easy. As in the various phases of faith cure, the imagination has a powerful effect. So it has in these cases. It is never that there is a real feeling connected between the severed part and the body, but the belief in it creates a supposed reality.
It was the good fortune of our tent that a civilian surgeon from Ohio visiting the field came along and offered his services to any of us that wanted him to do for us. I told him how I had felt through the night, and I would be glad to have him dress my stump. He took the bandages off and found that there were a large number of full grown maggots in the wound. This discovery for the moment was horrifying to me. I concluded if all the other things did not take me off the skippers would, but the good doctor assured me that the wigglers didn't amount to much in that place, and he would soon fix them. He diluted some turpentine, took a quantity of it in his mouth and squirted it into the wound, and over the stump. It did the business for the intruders, and I had no more trouble of that sort.
The morning of the 4th of July Capt. Keech came to me and said he was to have a short leave of absence on account of the wound he received in the neck, which came near effectually cutting it. He wanted to know what word he should convey to my people. I said tell them I am doing as well as one can under the circumstance. He replied, "Don't you want them to come down here?" I said, "No!" "They can do no good here, and will be in the way." When he got to New York he wired to Sherburne: "Garland mortally wounded. Fuller dangerously wounded. Plumb all right." That night my father started for Unadilla Forks to see Dr. King, his brother-in-law. The doctor was one of the best surgeons in Otsego Co. My father told him he wanted him to go to Gettysburg and look after me. They were in Utica the next morning ready for the first train East. From a newsboy they got a Herald, which gave a long list of New York casualties. Finally they struck "Lieut. C. A. Fuller, Co. C. 61st N. Y., leg and arm amputated." The doctor said, "If that is true there is not much chance for Charley, but we will go on and bring him home alive or dead." And so they went on.
All this is very tame and personal, and, in many ways, I know can be of but small interest. There is this to be said of it: It shows what was going on in thousands of families the land over—North and South—and it is the kind of matter that does not get into books on war subjects. The reality of war is largely obscured by descriptions that tell of movements and maneuvers of armies, of the attack and repulse, of the victory and defeat, and then pass on to new operations. All of this leaves out of sight the fellows stretched out with holes through them, or with legs and arms off.
At Baltimore my father had to turn back on account of acute illness. From New York my father and Uncle were accompanied by my cousin Edward Snyder. He was a grand man. He had tried several times to enter the service, but was rejected. For years he had been in the employ of the American Express Co. and knew how to push his way through a crowd. The jam was so great to get to the battlefield, and the transportation so inadequate, they might have been delayed several days, but for the steering qualifications of Snyder. He elbowed and managed in such a way that he and the doctor got onto an open flat bottomed car headed for Gettysburg the same day. On their arrival it was no small job to find me, but a half day's search and inquiry brought them to my tent, a large hospital tent holding some sixteen men, everyone of whom had, I believed, sustained an amputation. They had found the Chaplain of the 64th New York, a thoroughly good man, qualified for the office, as many chaplains were not. This Chaplain had been of great service since the battle; his work in behalf of the men was tireless. Earlier in the day he had talked with me, trying to brace me up and make me hopeful. I remember saying to him, "If I were where I could have the best of care, I might pull through, but that is impossible." I knew that my chances were few and scant. About noon he came to me and said, "Fuller, can you stand some good news?" I said, "Yes, if ever I could I can now." He said, "Some one has come to see you?" I asked, "Is it Dr. King?" He said, "Yes." I looked to the other side of the tent, and there in the doorway stood my uncle, and just behind him Edward Snyder. The doctor was short and thick and Snyder was tall and thin, so I had a view of both of their faces at once. It was a sight so photographed in my memory that it is as fresh to-day as when it was taken. The doctor remained at the field hospital for about ten days. During that time he took charge of about a dozen amputated cases, and while he was rather squatty for an Angel, the men regarded him as one of mercy. By the end of ten days from his coming the doctor told me that I was making no progress and ought to be moved where I could get better air. He got permission for my removal into the village. Two men carried me on a stretcher. When the doctor left the boys he had been caring for, there were few dry eyes on their faces. I was taken to the house of Mr. Carson, cashier of one of the banks. On the approach of Lee's army, Mr. Carson had taken the cash and valuables to Philadelphia. At this time every house in town was at the service of any wounded, or their friends. When I was deposited at his house, Mr. Carson was in Philadelphia to get and return the bank's property, but Mrs. Carson was there, and, if I had been a near relative, she could not have done more to make my stay tolerable. As an instance of the romance in war the following occurred. Mrs. Carson's brother was an officer in a Maine battery. He was in the first day's engagement and was quite badly wounded. He managed to get to his sister's house, I believe he was not disturbed by the Rebels, and left for his home the day before I came.
After a few days in the village, consent was obtained for me to start for home. We were on the way for about a week, and everywhere on the route the greatest kindness was shown save in one instance. That was at the Albany station, and with the New York Central's employees. It was necessary to put my stretcher with me on it into the baggage car. I was set down by the side of the car, asking that it be done. By the treatment I got from the men in charge, one would take them to be a gang of copperheads. Seeing that they were going to refuse me admission to the car, I began to call them off in no gentle manner. My billingsgate caused a crowd to gather. I informed the trainmen and the people assembled that if I could have a squad of my regiment there for a very few minutes, I would go in that car, or that train would be a wreck. I soon had the sympathy of the lookers on, and some of them suggested that I would go into that car, or it might not be necessary for me to have any of the 61st there to make things interesting. The disobliging servants of the road did not care to have more of a demonstration, and the door was shoved open, and, in no gracious manner, I was put on board, and started for Utica. I think those New York Central loafers would have left me there to have fly-blowed had they not feared the temper of the crowd. It was a painful surprise to me to meet such indifference, if not hostility, in Central New York, when I had just experienced such helpful kindness in Baltimore, Philadelphia, and even in New York, a place that usually cares for nothing and no one, except commercially. From Utica I was taken in an ambulance to Unadilla Forks, N. Y.
At the end of a week my shoulder was operated on, and three inches of the humerus taken out from the shoulder joint down. The operation was performed by Dr. King, and was an excellent one. A week after that operation, an incision was made into the stump and the bullet that broke the leg was taken out. That it was in the stump was, of course, a surprise, and when the surgeons of my regiment were informed what had been done, they claimed to be much surprised, and said that they traced out the bullet that they amputated for, and that the bullet extracted by Dr. King must have been a second one. I have always had the impression that I was hit in the leg lower down, and before the one came that broke the leg, but of that I am not certain.
With two such wounds as I had, and one poisoned for six weeks with a Minnie bullet, it was a slow process to recover, but I made steady progress with, of course, occasional pull backs.
I think it was in September, 1863, and after I reached my home, that George Jacobs, a sergeant in my company of New Berlin, called on me. George was one of the best soldiers in the regiment. In a fight no one could be better. He was home on a ten days furlough. Of course, the best in the land was free to him, and he was feasted by parents and friends. As he was about ready to start back, he was taken violently sick with a stomach trouble and died in a few hours.
In December, 1863, I was ordered to report at a hospital at Annapolis, Md. I started alone with one crutch, and my arm in a sling. At Albany I stopped over night with my cousin Stewart Campbell, and well remember that evening reading in the Atlantic Monthly that wonderful story, "A Man Without a Country," by Edward Everett Hale. It made a deep impression on my mind and it confirmed the sentiment I had cherished that it was well worth hardship, wounds, loss of limbs, or life even, to have a hand in preserving in its integrity such a country as ours. I reached Annapolis all right. In about a week I was ordered to Washington, and mustered out. This ended my connection with one of the best regiments in the service in the War of the Rebellion. I do not say this, I think, unadvisedly, nor from a mistaken sense of the quality of the rank and file of the regiment, but rather from the character of the commanding officers of the regiment while under Barlow and Miles. Each of them officers whose equal it was hard to find. They were men of dauntless courage and rare military judgment, who LED their men into battle, and under them if a soldier wanted to slink, as a rule, he deemed it safer to face the enemy than to let either one of them suspect he was slinking.
I have now told my story as a soldier, and the purpose of this pamphlet is ended. In conclusion I want to register my admiration for the war power of a country. It is a splendid employment to be in the Army, or Navy of one's country! The office of the War Power is to maintain order and right at home, and defend the flag from foreign aggression. It is not the first and main business of the soldier to kill anyone; he is put in motion only after peacable means for righteousness have failed. Then he comes forward and says to the obstructor and the enemy of right: "Desist, surrender, give way!" and it is only after refusal and a show of hostile force that the soldier shoots his gun, and when he shoots he prefers to wound, disable and capture, rather than to kill.
Of course, we all ought to encourage the avoidance of war, and the promotion of peace, but the wise ruler, while so doing, will have an adequate army to make it certain that he cannot be overborne by evil-minded persons, and the enemies of his government. Mankind must be dealt with as it is, and not on a fanciful, theoretical basis.
Really the Army is the strong arm of the executive part of the governmental machinery. The sheriff and constable may be resisted and fail; the posse comitatus they call to their aid may prove inadequate, and then there is nothing to look to but the Army.
If I had a son 18 years of age, I would not feel bad to see him enrolled for a three years enlistment in the United States Army, or Navy. I would expect he would be discharged at the end of the term improved by the discipline. The wearer of the uniform ought to be honored by the people and accorded as broad a place in society as if he were a member of what is termed "one of the learned professions." The treatment accorded our soldiers and sailors by some rich, ill-bred snobs in this country is to their lasting disgrace, and it is to be hoped that such stupid idiots may live to see the day when they will bitterly repent their fool actions.
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Text in italics is enclosed by underscores (italics).
The use of quotation marks in the original does not conform to modern standards, and many quotations were left unclosed. Quotation marks were left as they appear in the original book.
The following misprints have been corrected: "Isreal" corrected to "Israel" (page 5) "Hamiltom" corrected to "Hamilton" (page 6) "Calfornia" corrected to "California" (page 11) "isssued" corrected to "issued" (page 12) "million's" corrected to "millions" (page 22) "Heintzleman" corrected to "Heintzelman" (page 23) "company" corrected to "Company" (page 25) "sitution" corrected to "situation" (page 25) "amunition" corrected to "ammunition" (page 30) "appetiate" corrected to "appetite" (page 35) "asociation" corrected to "association" (page 40) "supprise" corrected to "surprise" (page 41) "Sweedish" corrected to "Swedish" (page 41) "sergents" corrected to "sergeants" (page 41) "journed" corrected to "journeyed" (page 44) "in in" corrected to "in" (page 44) "eneny" corrected to "enemy" (page 48) "seige" corrected to "siege" (page 48) "moistend" corrected to "moistened" (page 49) "lamost" corrected to "almost" (page 51) "barrow" corrected to "borrow" (page 53) "company" corrected to "Company" (page 54) "amutated" corrected to "amputated" (page 56) "agian" corrected to "again" (page 60) "company" corrected to "Company" (page 61) "waa" corrected to "was" (page 62) "Anteitam" corrected to "Antietam" (page 62) "opportuity" corrected to "opportunity" (page 63) "siezes" corrected to "seizes" (page 64) "acinto action" corrected to "action" (page 66) "bridage" corrected to "brigade" (page 66) "dispargement" corrected to "disparagement" (page 70) "Gettysbusg" corrected to "Gettysburg" (page 70) "Symth" corrected to "Smyth" (page 70) "heorically" corrected to "heroically" (page 71) "Boliver" corrected to "Bolivar" (page 73) "couln't" corrected to "couldn't" (page 73) "interruped" corrected to "interrupted" (page 74) "reconnoissance" corrected to "reconnaissance" (page 74) "Junuis" corrected to "Junius" (page 75) "calvary" corrected to "cavalry" (page 75) "poonton" corrected to "pontoon" (page 77) "striken" corrected to "stricken" (page 90) "chunck" corrected to "chunk" (page 93) "swaped" corrected to "swapped" (page 98) "resistence" corrected to "resistance" (page 99) "quiet" corrected to "quite" (page 100) "Anapolis" corrected to "Annapolis" (page 107)