AFTER assurances that this would be our permanent camp for the winter, the men went to work with renewed energy, devoting all the time spared from picket duty to the construction of winte1· habitations where, during our period of hibernation, we could have better protection than that afforded by our little shelter tents. Ten or fifteen days of hard labor wrought wonders, and we were luxuriating in “palatial huts.” Though not permitted, woodchuck-like, to snugly coddle down until spring, it was nevertheless no small consolation to have comfortable burrows to crawl into when returning, cold and wet, from our severe turns of picket service on the Rapidan.
Notwithstanding the excessive demands upon us for outpost duty, scouting, and the like, we retain pleasant memories of our four-months sojourn in permanent quarters at this halfway house of our term ·of service. Many circumstances conspired to alleviate the hardships and unpleasant features of army life. A year and a half had passed since we donned the blue, and we were now counted as among the veterans, thoroughly injured to the vicissitudes of army experience. With the exception of our short stay at Manassas, we had for seven months been so incessantly on the move that we could never tell where the night would overtake us. Under these circumstances, as the officers and men surveyed their respective “shebangs,”or sat by their cheerful fires within, the determination seemed to universally prevail, “Well, I ‘m bound to make the most possible out of this opportunity; “and they did so.
Our camp presented a marvelous combination of architectural display, some of the officers’ dwellings being quite pretentious and possessed of not a little artistic beauty. There were some very tasty rustic structures of the gothic order. Most of them had some kind of hieroglyphics or legend on or over the door. There was “Britton’s Ranch and Canterbury,”the last name being added on account of the negro frolics, dances, and shows that almost nightly took place there. Sometimes a dozen or more negroes would gather there, and entertain the officers with their antics. One could hear the scraping of fiddles, clatter of bones, and patting of “juba,”with yells and cheers of spectators, all in regular city style. On the door of Captain Wells’ quarters was a Latin inscription, which, interpreted, read, “The charms of pretty women re the tears of the purse.”
The men, not to be outdone, also had their mottoes. “The quiet retreat”was put on one hut, because of the tumultuous proceedings within. Wishing to show their hospitality, the occupants of one house wrote with charcoal, “Our latch-string hangs outside. Kum in and C us.”A fellow read it wrongly, went in, and began to swear. When corrected, he inquired, “Don’t it say on the door, Come in and cuss?”
The buglers’ squad, to which the writer belonged, erected a building 16 x 24 feet, and when completed we followed the fashion, gave a big house warming, and had a big time. To describe all the “cutting options” within Gabriele’s quarters would require a large book. Several of our numbers were good singers, most of whom received new music from “up North,”and soon we had a very good glee club. We had a good floor, also a large table for seating twenty-four, made from lumber borrowed from a secesh barn. Some of the boys also “borrowed “a baking pan and waffle iron, so that we had baked puddings and beans with waffles on our bill of fare.
The boxes from home now began to flow into the regimental city, and the boys reveled in the luxuries of homemade “vittles.”All that seemed lacking to give things a homelike appearance was the “women folks.”A goodly number of Northern ladies did visit their husbands and friends in camp, but most of us could only communicate with our dear ones through the medium of epistolary correspondence.
Those of the men religiously inclined could only enjoy public religious services by visiting regiments more fortunate than ourselves in having what we were most unjustly denied, namely, a chaplain. Such a denial was a rank injustice to our noble regiment, and there is no question but that it wrought moral and spiritual injury to many of the boys. Bearing upon this subject, I have before me a recent letter from a comrade in which he says:-
“Before enlisting I was a Christian boy, brought up under religious influences in our Christian home; and I believe to this day that if we could have had a chaplain to watch over us I never should have become such a moral and physical wreck as I did. I had never used a· profane word, played a game of cards, or drank a swallow of liquor until after being some months in the service. When I returned home in 1865, I was a drunkard, a gambler, and profane as a pirate, which almost broke my poor mother’s heart.
“After five years of shameful life, in 1870, by the goodness of my heavenly Father I was snatched as a brand from the burning, and have for nearly thirty years lived a consistent Christian life. I married the most excellent girl, and raised a large family, but I shudder to think how near I came to the brink of destruction.”
This was by no means an isolated case, though many were not so fortunate as to be reclaimed. Doubtless, some would advise the omission of all such uncomplimentary references. In most cases, this has been done. In this instance, however, the writer considered it a matter of impartial record.
During the winter an epidemic of card-playing prevailed in the regiment to such a serious extent that heroic treatment was resorted to for its suppression. Orders were issued forbidding it in the quarters, and the company officers were directed to see the order carried out, but the cards were shuffled all the same behind barred doors. When detected, the guardhouse penalty was inflicted; and in the more desperate cases the victim must carry a log up and down the streets of the regiment, with a board on his back upon which was painted, “For violation of orders.”The following incident by Sergt. Ezra Marion comes inaptly here:-
GETTING THE BEST OF THE COLONEL
“Andrew Calvin, blacksmith of Co. D was a good Irishman but inclined to do pretty much as he pleased in matters not interfering with his duty. At Mitchell’s station the colonel, to prevent the men from indulging in draw-poker, ordered all lights out at taps. Andy could not desist, and the colonel, catching him at it in his own tent, sentenced him to carry a log two hours on and two off for ten days. Andy declared the log weighed a ton before the two hours were up. For some reason, one of the boys had lugged into camp a 3½-inch pump auger. I suggested that he put the log where we could get it. We bored the inside out, leaving only a shell, and then plugged the ends so nicely that when rubbed over with dirt, no one would suspect the trick. Andy served out his sentence but had it dead easy. On the last day, the colonel noticed that his prisoner swung the log as if it were a feather. He hefted it and looked it over carefully, but failed to discover that it had been doctored. ‘Well,’ he declared, ‘that’s a remarkable light log for one of its size.’ “
THE MIDNIGHT SCOUT TO SPERRYVILLE, JAN. 10, 1864.
The particulars of this affair are gleaned from the notes of Major Smith, and from the letters of others who have written to me.
A friendly citizen brought the information that several rebel officers were visiting a house near the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, fifteen or twenty miles distant, and offered to guide a force to effect their capture. Major Scott with two squadrons left camp at sundown upon a severely cold night, reached their destination about twelve o’clock, and quietly surrounded the house. Captain Culbertson, with a few men, rapped at the door. A considerable commotion was heard within, and after a sharp demand to “open this door quick,”an old man with a candle responded. Notwithstanding his earnest protestation that “there’s nobody here but me ‘n the old woman,”Culbertson seized the candle and began an investigation. Upstairs they found a warm bed and an officer’s clothing. In a bedroom below were found two innocent-appearing young women, who declared, “There ain’t no one in the house but pa and ma and us,”but the suspicious Culbertson lifted the clothing at the foot of the bed, and discovered the feet of a man. ” Get out of there, mister,”was the order, and out jumped a young lieutenant, who was ordered to dress and saddle his horse.
Some of the boys who kept guard over the old man had considerable fun at his expense. He wore old-fashioned ”barn-door”pants, but in his confusion bad got them on the wrong side too, leaving the door down. The boys said, “You lied to us, old man, and we ‘re going to kill you,”and as they punched the exposed body with their cold, frosty revolvers and sabers, he would jump and yell like a loon:
”0 gentlemen, don’t kill me, l’s allus been a Union man.”
In the meantime, Captain Britton and others had gathered in a rebel captain and four privates with their arms and accouterments. Britton discovered an open win dow leading out upon the roof of the house, and behind a chimney found the half-frozen captain, in his nightclothes and stocking feet.
To this adventure, there was an interesting sequel. The officers were sent to the old Capitol prison at Washington, acknowledging, before leaving us, their great appreciation of the kind treatment and courtesy shown to them. They were permitted to write to their friends and were furnished with money. In turn, they promised that if any of their captors ever got into trouble they would reciprocate this kindness, if in their power to do so. Britton cast his bread upon the waters, soon to be returned. Says Lieut. Henry Gale: “Britton, West, Lewis, and others were captured at Todd’s Tavern, and after being in Libby prison a few days, Britton communicated with the Richmond -authorities, proposing to go to Washington and exchange himself for the officer he had captured. Fortunately, the man’s father was one of the officials, and the offer was granted. Britton told me that as he left the prison, West and others had their arms through the grating, crying for joy to see him go. He was taken in a hack to the boat, reached Washington, affected the exchange, and was back to his regiment within four weeks.”
From Major Smith’s notes, I also learned that our picket line extended from Cedar Mountain to some distance beyond Raccoon Ford, a distance, following the river, of about ten miles. Most of the time we were in plain sight of the enemy’s pickets. Some of their pickets were disposed to be very friendly, while others were ugly and treacherous. It was no uncommon thing for the men on either side of the river to hold a friendly conversation, and exchange papers, or trade coffee and hardtack for tobacco. When the river was not frozen over, our boys would put a stone in a stocking, then the coffee, and throw it across, the Johnnies returning the stocking filled with tobacco.
On one occasion, after many firings had been indulged in, we saw a rebel officer come down to the river, under a flag of truce, where he was met by Major Smith, and it was arranged that hereafter all firing should be discontinued.
On February 6 and 7 a forward movement of the Army occurred. The dragoons crossed Robertson River at Moot’s Ford, where the enemy’s cavalry pickets were met and driven in. The principal fighting, however, was a sharp artillery duel, and a brush with a brigade of infantry, in which we lost three killed and eight wounded.
Our infantry had some sharp fighting, sustaining a loss of three hundred men.
After floundering around in the deep mud, we returned to camp, the whole affair, like most of Meade’s later movements, proving a failure.
I have a record of several other scouting expeditions made by the regiment, but as they are similar to those already described, they need no special mention.
Reviews were of common occurrence, only a few of which will be noted. February 13, division review by Merritt at Culpepper; February 15, a grand review of aU the cavalry by General Pleasanton at Stevensburg; February 24, another division review; March 29, review by General Grant.
The organization and equipment of a brass band occurred that winter. Of the part taken by the band we shall have occasion to speak elsewhere, but they repeatedly served a most excellent purpose on the battle line.
At this time an effort was made by a limited element to introduce the regular army etiquette, requiring privates to communicate with officers only through a sergeant. On the evening of April 17, 1864, a meeting was held to consider the matter. A large number of the men quietly gathered outside the tent and overheard the arguments on either side. To the honor of our officers, the scheme was quickly squelched. One man who, during all these years has been dear to the men, voicing the sentiment of the majority, said: “I’m opposed to this whole thing on the ground that these men are in every respect our equals in civil life. When the war is over, I expect to live among them, and will be ashamed to meet them if I should sanction this project.”
THE CHARLOTTESVILLE RAID, FEB. 28 TO MARCH 1, 1864.
The following account was furnished by an officer present:-
“In the month of February 1864, while the regiment lay at Mitchell’s Station, occurred the raid of General Custer to Charlottesville. This raid was intended as a diversion in favor of Kilpatrick’s famous raid on Richmond. The command under General Custer was made up of a body of picked men from the First New York Dragoons, Sixth Pennsylvania Cavalry, First New Jersey Cavalry, and First, Second, Fifth, and Sixth United States Cavalry. From the First New York Dragoons were detailed one hundred and fifty men and four officers, – Captain Hakes, of Co. E; Captain Britton, of Co. H; Lieutenant Morey, of Co. D; and Lieutenant Schlick, of Co. K.
“The command left Pony Mountain on Sunday, February 28, at 2 P. M., and arrived at Madison Courthouse at 6 P. x. On the 29th at 1 A. x. reveille was sounded, and “to horse”at 2 A. M. The march was continued on the road leading to Stannardsville, which was reached about eight o’clock, and a cavalry picket was met and driven in. From prisoners, it was learned that Fitzhugh Lee’s division of cavalry was encamped in the vicinity of Charlottesville. The Rivanna River reached and crossed about 3 P. M. The enemy was met and driven back about two miles beyond the river, and within three miles of Charlottesville. The trains were heard coming into the place with what was afterward learned to be a division of infantry. The enemy opened with a battery of twenty guns, raking the road upon which our men were formed. Captain Ash, of the Fifth United States Cavalry was ordered to the left to reconnoiter the position. He charged into the enemy’s artillery camp, and captured six caissons and two forges, besides burning up the camp equipment.
”As a large force of infantry now appeared, Captain Ash was withdrawn, and after receiving a warm artillery fire, the whole command retired on the Stannardsville road, and after sixteen miles from Charlottesville, bivouacked for the night. At daylight, March 1, the retreat continued to Stannardsville, where a quantity of government stores was destroyed. In the meantime, a brigade of Confederate cavalry under General Stuart had succeeded in getting into our rear and were trying to cut off our retreat. At a point north of Staunardsville the roads forked, the one branch leading to the right to Burton’s ford on the South River, and the other to the left to Bank’s ford. Here the enemy charged upon Custer’s advance. A countercharge was then made, and they were pushed back on Burton’s Ford Road. After crossing the stream, Stuart drew up his force in a strong position to check our progress and evidently intended to give us a warm reception. Custer then made an ostentatious display, as if determined to force a passage. The enemy, mistaking his real intention, remained in line to meet the expected attack; while Custer quietly withdrew his force, and quickly taking the other road to Bank’s ford, succeeded in crossing the river without opposition.
Stuart found himself outwitted, then sent a force to follow up our retreat. The First New York Dragoons formed the rear of the column, Lieutenant Morey commanding the rear squadron, and Lieutenant Schlick the detached rear guard. About dark Lieutenant Schlick was fired upon by the pursuing rebels, and immediately reported that his rearguard was attacked. He was then sent forward to request Captain Hakes to hold the regiment in readiness, while Lieutenant Morey faced his squadron. Withdrawn sabers and terrific yells the squadron charged down the dark road, not knowing what they might meet. The rebels, not knowing what was coming, discharged a volley and fled in confusion. They were pursued -for about half a mile, when the squadron rejoined the regiment, and continued the march to Madison Courthouse, and finally to camp, reaching there about one o’clock in the morning of March 9.
Since the time of starting on the 28th, the regiment had in a little over two days and a half marched one hundred and fifty miles. The whole expedition was regarded as a complete success, having destroyed the bridge over the Rivanna River, burned three large flouring mills filled with grain and flour; captured six caissons, one standard bearing the arms of Virginia, and over fifty prisoners and five hundred horses, and bringing into camp over one hundred contrabands. General Custer received from the major-general commanding the cavalry corps a communication expressing his “entire satisfaction at the result of the expedition, and the gratitude he felt at the prompt manner in which the duties assigned to the command had been performed.”
When within about a mile of our lines Myron Tanner’s horse gave out, and, unnoticed, he fell behind. A citizen reported to our pickets that he was overtaken by some rebel cavalrymen, one of whom dealt him such a powerful blow with his saber as to completely sever his head from his body. Some of his company to whom I have written think, however, he was taken prisoner and died in Libby.
Lieutenant Flint contributes to this incident: –
“During the winter of 1863-64, while in winter quarters at Mitchell’s Station, and doing picket duty on the north bank of the Rapidan, with the Confederates in plain view on the opposite bank, the soldiers of the contending armies became quite neighborly, and used to chat with each other ac1·oss the river. Although no harm came from it, still the practice was considered prejudicial to military discipline; and for permitting it on one occasion, when in charge of the outpost, Lieut. Chas. E. Lewis was ordered under close arrest, and for weeks confined to his quarters, chafing like a caged lion under his enforced idleness. When we entered upon the active campaign in May 1864, and were across the Rapidan, he wrote a note to head quarters asking that, pending investigation, he might at least be allowed to serve in the ranks. Colonel Gibbs, highly appreciating the pluck and patriotism of the gallant young officer, ordered his immediate release from arrest, and restoration to duty with his company.”
The following extract from an old army letter, sent me by one of the dragoons, so well describes the conditions of things as seen by the private soldier, that it is inserted verbatim without any change whatever: –
“After our hard fall campaign, we all thought it would be very gratifying to go into winter quarters and quietly rest up; but we fail to discover just where the rest comes in. First, it’s been no small job to prepare our quarters and clean up camp. Then half the regiment is alternately on picket duty every day, while the half that remains for one day in camp is put through all manner of regulation folderol, or is out on some kind of detail. Beginning at daylight comes reveille and roll call, immediately followed by ‘stable call,’ when we have to dig for the stables, where an hour is spent in feeding and grooming the horses. This is followed by ‘ recall,’ when a rush is made for our respective shebangs, where we prepare and eat breakfast. ‘Water call’ is next sounded, and again all fall in line and are marched to the stables, where we mount our horses and ride them a mile to water. Then there are the camp guard and police duties, with frequent inspections and reviews, besides a thousand and one incidents not mentioned. The fact is, we are getting heartily sick and wearied with the style put on. We won’t be surprised if the colonel adds a ‘sink call ‘ to the list requiring the first company sergeant, at stated intervals, to march all the men out to the sinks. Rest! Yes, we are resting with a vengeance, and·it will be a relief when we break camp and start on another campaign.”
Lieut. J. N. Flint, who was in charge of the picket detail upon the occasion here referred to, furnishes this incident: –
“In the winter of 1863-64, while the Dragoons were doing picket duty on the nort_hbranch of the Rapidan, trumpeter J. R. Bowen, of Co. I, performed a feat almost equal to the exploits of Orpheus of old. Although he didn’t actually compel the listening trees to dance to his music, nevertheless he played his instrument so persuasively that he induced a small squad of Confederates to swim the river, walk into the picket post, and give themselves up. They were shivering with the cold, and their teeth chattering, but a liberal supply of commissary, hot coffee and hardtack soon brought them around all right.”
As a sequel to the above, Lieutenant Flint directed the writer to conduct the prisoners-five in number, I think – to our camp and deliver them to Colonel Gibbs. On our way back the road led us past the headquarters of an infantry brigade, where we were baited and the prisoners taken before the general and questioned regarding the rebel forces across the river. After waiting some time, I discovered that my prisoners had been taken out the back doors of the house, and were being marched off to the rear, and so inquired of a staff officer how long before I could have the prisoners. “You can’t have them at all. Go on about your business,”was the savage reply. I fully explained to him my instructions from the officer in command of the picket, and added, “My business is to follow out best instructions.”I was standing on the porch, and he started for me, exclaiming, “None of your impertinence, sir. Get down from here and move on, or I ’11 have you shut up.”When I asked to see the general, whom I knew was inside, he called to the guard to arrest me. I replied, “If you arrest me, you will hear from it.”Just then the general came out and inquired what I wanted. ‘ I want those prisoners Colonel Gibbs will hold me responsible for them, and if you take them from me, I shall report the facts to him. He then asked, “Do you belong to Gibbs’s regiment?””I do,”I replied. “Wait here, and I’ll see about it,”he said. A few minutes later a guard came with the Johnnies and turned them over to me. When I related the circumstance to Colonel Gibbs, he seemed much pleased with my persistence, but made some uncomplimentary remarks about those “infantry freebooters.”
Comrade H. C. Hollenbeck, of Bald Butte, Mont., sends the following:-
“Comrade Bowen: Agreeable to your request for incidents, I will relate a laughable circumstance that will serve as a pen picture of Colonel Gibbs. I joined the regiment as a recruit at Mitchell’s Station in the winter of 1863-64, being only sixteen years old, and having enlisted as a bugler. You will remember that owing to the formation of a brass band, and on account of sickness, the number of buglers had been so reduced that only three or four were on hand for orderly duty, you being among the number. I had taken just enough lessons on the bugle to understand into which end to blow, when Jackson sent me to the colonel’s quarters as orderly for the day, with the understanding that if a call was to be sounded I was to go for him to do it. Everything moved along n_icely until about ten o’clock when the colonel decided to take the regiment out on some kind of a jamboree, and so of course called: ‘ Orderly bugler.’ I opened the door of his quarters and saluted. He was dressing at the time, and just getting into his drawers. ‘ Go sound “boots and saddles,”‘ he said. I started to explain that I could not do it, but would go for Jackson; but I did not get far when became toward me with one leg in and the other out of his drawers, exclaiming, ‘Yon d-d cuss, don’t tell me what you can’t do. Blow ‘boots and saddles’ as I tell you.” ‘Of course, I rushed out and made some kind of a noise on the bugle, doing the best I could, but the last wail of whatever it might have been had scarcely died away, when around the corner came Colonel Gibbs, with neither hat nor boots; and holding his clothes in place, he asked, ‘Who did that?”I replied, ‘I did.’ ‘ What do you call it?‘ “That’s “boots and saddles.”Putting his hands to his head, he exclaimed, ‘Je-ru-sa-lem! I thought it was theLord”s prayer. Go and tell Jackson to come here.’ When Jackson came he said ‘Sergeant, take this lad out into the woods, where no one can hear him, and teach him to blow a bugle.’ Ever after that he remembered me and seemed to delight in cussing and telling me how he would punish me someday, yet he never did. On the contrary, I remember one bitterly cold night, when on the march, he called to know if I were cold, and had me lie down in his tent; and as the cold increased before morning, he took me into bed. While a peculiar man,·and a strict disciplinarian, yet at heart, he was tender and considerate of his men, and I shall always remember him kindly.”
ANECDOTE OF GENERAL MEADE
The following incident very forcibly illustrates the difference in officers as to their estimates and treatment of private soldiers. Some of them were kind and sym pathetic, others as haughty and domineering toward the rank and file as an old Southern slave-driver toward the negroes of the plantation. In April of 1864 Curtis L. Burdick, bugler of Co. G, was stricken down with a fatal disease at Mitchell’s Station. Probably no man in the regiment was more highly respected for his noble qualities and pure Christian character. During our en tire sojourn at Suffolk, he was a tentmate of the writer. His friends desiring the body sent home, Colonel Gibbs directed that it be taken in an ambulance to Brandy Station for shipment, with all the buglers of the regiment as a mounted escort. On our way, we met a cavalcade of officers, with their orderlies. We were halted, and a brilliantly equipped, shoulder-strapped coxcomb inquired, “What officer have you there?”When informed it was not an officer, but a bugler, he haughtily turned away with a look of disgust, exclaiming, “A bugle! Hell! it strikes me you’re making a d-d big fuss over a bugler.”While yet smarting under this uncalled-for insult, we had scarcely gone a mile before meeting General Meade and staff. We were again h11lted, and similarly questioned by the general himself, but his comments were of a very different character from those of the pompous under strapper. He addressed us in a kind voice and sympathetic manner, commending the respect thus shown to a deceased com1·ade.
BITTERNESS OF SOUTHERN WOMEN
On one of our expeditions, several of us called at a large white house and were met by a thin-faced woman with an unusually large mouth and vitriolic tongue, with which she savagely lashed us. When asked if she could spare us something to eat, her reply was of the most abusive character. “No,”she snapped out, “I hain’t got nothing for a set of low-down, dirty Yankee nigger stealers like yo-uns. It’s lucky for you my husband and sons ain’t here. They’d blow your hearts out.”Thus she went on ad infinitum. Our boys almost without exception treated the women with due respect, but this one was so abusive that one of our company, Marion Town, replied, “Now look here, you miserable old she reb, you just dry up. If the Lord had made your month an inch bigger, he’d a cut your blamed head off.”
While this incident is strictly true, it would be a great injustice to thousands of noble Southern ladies to leave the impression that this woman was a sample of all who sympathized with the Confederacy. Far from it. It is true there were many of her type, who, knowing the immunity accorded their sex, were the most virulent and abusive people the soldiers met. On the other hand, there were very many Southern ladies in full sympathy with the rebellion, but who in their kindness of heart rose above all sectional bitterness, and accorded to our sick and wounded soldiers all the tender and affectionate care of a mother or sister. This fact the writer can confirm by personal knowledge, as the lady referred to in _a previous chapter, as rendering such kindness, and saving him from an untimely death, was counted as a rebel.
A score or more of other Mitchell’s Station incidents are before me, of which only a summary will be given:-
“Do you remember,”writes one, “the pitched battle with snowballs1 March 23, the snow had fallen to about a foot in-depth, and at noon was just right for packing. A couple of boys in different companies got to pelting each other, and in a few minutes, every man from the two streets was into it hot and heavy. From long-range, it came to close quarters and finally they clinched and began washing faces and rolling each other in the snow. The rough usage aroused some to anger, and a fistic set-to was only avoided by the sounding of stable call.”
“I came to the regiment as a recruit in the winter of 1864, while at: Mitchell’s Station; and as I recall the tricks played upon us greenies, I hardly know whether to laugh or swear. One day a fellow stuck his head in the door, and said, ‘ Come out here, tenderfoot, and beat yer blanket.’ When I told him I didn’t know how, he said, ‘We’ll show you.’ As I took the blanket from the bunk and went out, six or eight boys got around the edges and told me to grab hold and pull, too; but before I could realize it, I was pitched on top and flying in the air. The louder I yelled, the higher they tossed me, until I was scared nearly to death. Finally, I was let off with, ‘Bub, that’s the way to beat yer blanket.'”
In every company were found some excellent singers, and on pleasant evenings the air was vocal with sweet music.· Willard W. Stebbins writes: –
“I have often thought that among the various recreations in the camp that served to cheer and drive away the ‘blues’ were those most excellent serenades given in front of the colonel’s quarters by our well-trained regi mental choir, singing those stirring patriotic songs then so timely.”
The following extract is from an old army letter loaned me:-
“Several of us went over last evening to a dance, but that’s not what it was called here. It was a ‘ stag shindig, or a gander pull.’ There were about twenty who took part, and with an old fiddle for music, went in on their nerves. Those acting the part of ladies had white rags tied about their arms or wore aprons. Some enjoyed the frolic, but I didn’t fancy such substitutes, preferring the genuine article or none.
“There have been quite a number of dances at secesh houses in this vicinity that were well attended by Southern beauties, but these are all monopolized by officers of the brigade, who chase after them to a disgusting extent. Everything wearing petticoats is at a premium.”
Another writes: –
“My most pleasant recollections of the winter at Mitchell’s are the quiet meetings a few of us used to hold, as opportunity offered, in one of our tents, where we read selections from the Bible and various religions books, followed by a short prayer service. I remember once of an officer demanding admission, having suspected us of card playing, and it required some explanation to convince him our Bibles were not a blind.”
It is with no little pleasure, in this connection, to record that with religion at a discount, most of the regiment remained true and steadfast in their convictions of duty and returned to civil life unscathed by Army corruptions.
Comrade W. A. Ferris thus writes: –
LIMA, N. Y., June 8, 1800.
You request personal experiences. If the following is appropriate, use it: –
I was mustered in with the regiment and now absent from the command twenty-four hours at a time during our entire sen·ice.
At Suffolk, I was detailed as one of the color guards. When the regiment was transferred to cavalry, the guard was reduced to three, Charles Yoorhies and I being selected to remain. Later Corporal Merrill was added. In the spring campaign of 1864, our regiment opened the battle at Todd’s Tavern, going in dismounted. In that terrible fight, Voorhies was mortally wounded, Merrill wounded and captured, leaving me alone. From then to the close, in all the campaigns and battles of the regiment, I carried the colors, the other guards being frequently changed. In the Valley, I was advanced to sergeant, and receh·ed my warrant as “Color Bearer,”a prized relic I still possess.
As the colors were always a target, I recall many instances where it required special nerve to stand to my post, as at Cedar Creek where Corporal Clough, just at my side, was struck by a 12- pound shot, severing his head, and covering me with blood, a piece of his skull penetrating my hat and striking me in the temple.
As I now recall my many narrow escapes and the strange vicissitudes of war, it seems marvelous that while so many fell at my side, I escaped unharmed. – W. A. FERRIS.