No. 18 -OFF FOR CHARLESTON
The prisoners returned to the regiment on Folly Island, S.C. October 20.
The camp on Folly Island continued for months. It was a monotonous season, with only one brief raid to break the sameness. The camp lay between two ridges of sand. One of these separated us from the ocean beach.
Our chief enjoyment during this long camp was called “fatigue duty”. “Fatiguing” would be more to the point. The duty consisted of picking up straws, sticks and canceling postage stamps that had fallen in the company streets. After the fatigue party had passed over the ground the company street was as free of foreign dirt as the dress coat of a bridegroom.
The general routine of daily duty was as follows:
At 7 a.m. the drummers sounded the reveille which called us out for roll call. During the ten minutes this was sounding we were expected to get up, dress and be out in line to answer the call of the roll. The man who was not in line when the drums ceased beating was punished. The punishment consisted of standing on a barrel, carrying a knapsack full of sand, or spending several hours in the guard house.
After roll call fatigue duty until breakfast; after breakfast the doctor’s call to the sick to appear at his tent to be treated. Quinine was impartially administered to all, except to those shamming illness (to get rid of duty), to whom generous doses of castor oil were given.
Next is guard call and mounting. Those who are not detailed for guard engage in fatigue duty. From 9 to 10 o’clock is drill. From 10 to 12 o’clock there is more fatigue.
Dinner from 12 to 1. From 2 till 4 drill. Right after drill preparing for dress parade, which took place at 4:30. No other duty follows this. At 8 o’clock roll call, 8:30 bedtime, 9 o’clock taps, when all the lights must be put out.
During the time we had to ourselves we did our washing or shone up our guns and brasses for inspection, which came every Sunday morning. This inspection was very thorough. The inspecting officers wore white gloves, and the end of the little finger he thrust into the muzzle of the gun. If any dirt appeared on the glove the owner of the gun was condemned.
Monday, Nov. 23rd, we were marched bright and early to the foot of the island where was the general landing. Thence we were ferried across the water to Horseshoe Island, and on the beach of that we were marched a distance of three miles, where we pitched tents. The rebels occupied the adjoining island called Oole, which a bridge connected. Our picket was stationed at one end of the bridge and theirs at the other.
Here we were put to work building entrenchment’s in anticipation of an advance by the enemy.
We worked at night in the rifle pit. There was considerable fall of rain during our stay, and this necessitated weighing out rations of whiskey to drive off malaria. I remember one ration in particular which was given us when we left off work, shortly after midnight. After the drink, (a gill to each man) the men were supposed to go to bed, but some were so exhilarated by the spirit that they concluded to sit up the rest of the night. They got real hilarious, and one of them, in the exuberance of his nature cut down a tree, which fell across his tent breaking it down, smashing a camp kettle, and scattering his rations to all directions. After that he went to bed.
We remained on Horseshoe Island ten days, and then returned to our camp on Folly Island. December 6th, Lieutenant Colonel Wilcoxson, Lieutenant North, and a sergeant from each company started for Connecticut on a recruiting service, and the regiment was put under the command of Captain Kellogg, of Company H. Most of the regiment has been sent off on fatigue and picket duty this week. December 12th and 13th a frightful storm of wind and rain swept over the island. In low places the sea broke over the sand ridge and washed away the cookhouse of Company K.
December 20th, I was one of a detail for seven days work of firth and bridge building on Kiawa Island. Christmas came during this detail, and we were given a holiday.
December 30th, Mr. Hayes, once our quartermaster, but resigned, visited the regiment. The peculiarity about Mr. Hayes, when in the service, was that he kept an umbrella.
No. 19—UNDER FIRE AGAIN
The first day of January, 1864, found the Seventeenth still on Folly Island. There was no drill nor other duty excepting guard, and the day was given up to idleness and other enjoyment, the chief feature being the examination of the boxes sent us by the soldiers’ aid societies in Bridgeport and Danbury.
A barrel of genuine Connecticut apple juice in camp was a striking feature. Such a token of good will from the North was received by a George A. Partric, of Company F. It came from his Norwalk friends, and he describes its hearty reception as follows:
“I was on camp guard duty when the barrel arrived. When I came off duty I saw the barrel being rolled by Sergeant St. John and several others toward my tent. I told them to take it to the company’s eating house. They did so, and we immediately tapped it. The cider had been made about three weeks, and was found to be in prime condition. The boys wouldn’t partake of it until I would consent to take compensation for it. We finally agreed on five cents a quart for the juice until a certain number of gallons were gone, and then the balance should be free. The precious liquid then began to flow from the barrel and down the throats of the men in blue, and, as it was the pure juice, the men were loud in its praise. As the news spread some of the 25th Ohio boys heard of it, and they came on to test the virtue of Connecticut apple juice. They were made heartily welcome, and were as loud as the others in praise of the stuff. As we had the night to ourselves, we made a night of it—we and the cider. The cider had had no opportunity to work until now, and it put in its best licks. Perhaps no cider was ever more industrious than was this. As the night advanced the cider in the barrel lowered, and the spirits of the boys rose. There were songs, dances on the table, toasts and applause. In the morning the interior of the cook house presented a very discouraging spectacle.
The table was broken down, and so were the benches, and the place looked as if an earth quake had passed through it.
But it had been a good time, and those participated in it, who are alive now, enjoy recalling its many features.”
January 5—Three deserters from Beauregard’s army arrive at Gilmore’s headquarters last night. They report that there is much fighting among the Charleston army, on account of expiration of service of some of the regiments, which are not permitted to go home.
The weather for the past three days was very bad. It was wet and cold, and the men on picket duty suffered from the cold.
Sunday the 10th, seventy-five members of the regiment were detailed for fatigue duty on Kiawah Island, where their work consisted of driving spikes in the beach to prevent an advance of enemy cavalry. Between this work and the rebel lines was a large plantation. From this several negroes drove a mule team to us, drawing a load of fresh fish, which found a ready sale. One of the negroes told me he had escaped from his master in Charleston. He said he had been sold several times, but not outside the state. But his children had been.
The Twenty-fifth Ohio, in our brigade, re-enlisted about this time, for a period of three years. They had already served thirty months. Friday morning, the 15th, the Seventeenth escorted them to the end of the island, where the Twenty-fifth took steamer for Hilton Head, thence to New York on their way home for thirty days’ visit.
There was a good state of feeling between the Seventeenth and the Ohio regiments of the brigade. They used to laugh at us at first, because of our greenness, but they changed their opinion and conduct after the first winter in Virginia.
February 4th—Gen. Ames returned from command of the division to command of the brigade. This brought Col. Noble back to his regiment, and Capt. Kellogg, commanding regiment, back to his company.
The next day Colonel took command of the brigade at inspection, and Capt. Allen the regiment. Gen. Gordon was placed under arrest, on the charge of sending a box of provisions and clothing to his brother and sister in Charleston. It was further reported that he owns property in that city.
Saturday night the orderly sergeants were called to learn the number of well men in their respective commands. The next day, Sunday, February 7th, we were busy getting ready to move. In the evening we fell into line, and marched down the beach to the steamboat landing, where we crossed by boat to Kiawa Island. Marched all night with brief rests. At daylight, Monday, halted on a plantation, where we remained through the day. The owner of the place was in the rebel army.
The house was three stories high, of architectural merit. It had a large, handsome yard, and from it to the beach, a mile away, was a broad, straight, amply shaded avenue. The place was a welcome sight to us, who had seen nothing like it since we left the north. Monday evening we started again, going down the beach to the end of the island. Here we waded across a stream to Seabrook Island, which we reached at midnight. On this island we stopped an island, during which time we wrung out our stockings and pantaloon legs. Then we marched to the end of Seabrook and across another stream to John’s Island.
It was now daylight of Tuesday, February 9th. The Seventy-fifth Ohio advanced as skirmishers. A heavy fog rested upon the earth, obscuring objects at a short distance or distorting them into foreign shapes.
As we approached a cluster of buildings on a plantation, the skirmishers came across a rebel picket. A brief engagement took place between the two, which resulted in wounding two of our men, and in killing a Confederate captain and private, and the capture of five prisoners by the Ohio boys. The picket fell back and our forces pressed forward.
Our skirmishers pursued the enemy through a piece of woods, two or three miles, to their rifle pits. Here it was ascertained that the force of the enemy was much stronger than ours, and we fell back to the plantation where we put up rifle pits, and occupied them through the night.
Next day, Wednesday, we increased the lengths of the rifle pits, and expecting an attack from the enemy. That night our regiment did picket duty.
Thursday there was an artillery duel, in which several of our men were killed. At night Colonel Noble gave orders to tear down one of the buildings for fuel. At midnight we quietly stole away from the plantation, on a back movement, setting fire to the buildings on the plantation as we left, which was a somewhat inexcusable performance. At the same time a signal light was displayed, notifying the gunboats which were near the island to shell the woods between us and the enemy’s rifle pits. This was done, and under cover of this fire we got safely away.
No. 20 – IN FLORIDA
February 23rd the regiment left Folly Island for Florida, and arrived in Jacksonville at noon the next day. General Gilmore in command in Florida had been whipped by the enemy, and our brigade was sent on to reinforce him.
We remained in Jacksonville, or rather, on its outskirts, until April 16th.
March 5th we got word that Captain Allen of Company F had been promoted to be major of the regiment.
April 12th the Seventh Connecticut, in camp near us, left Florida. Our regiment escorted them to the boat, and the two regiments heartily cheered each other.
April 16th our brigade was broken up, and we were scattered. Our regiment went to St. Augustine, where it relieved the Tenth Connecticut.
April 25th five companies started into the state, toward the St. John’s River. On the way nine men came up to us, two of them mounted. They said they had been in the confederate army, but had deserted. Two of them were in the battles of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. They deserted in the last fight and found their way back to Florida. The nine had a field of corn planted for sustenance, but hearing of the approach of the rebel commander, Dickson, they had left their field and came to us. They knew Dickson would hang them.
The regiment remained here during the rest of its term of service. The duty was light, and the boys enjoyed themselves thoroughly—as soldiers. It was barrack duty all the time, and somewhat monotonous, but it was much better than the suffering of the field; although we did have two serious engagements with the enemy which will now be detailed.
The first of these was
In June 1864 Gen. Gordon, after he took command, centered all the troops in Florida in the vicinity of St. Augustine and Jacksonville, placing Colonel Noble in command of the district east of the St. John’s river.
General Gordon ordered Colonel Noble with the Seventeenth, and a command of 1,200 men to concentrate at Jacksonville, and on transports supplied by the navy, proceed up to McGirts’s Creek, make a landing by night and thenext day reach the rear of Camp Milton, an extensive fortification of the enemy. The enemy had notice of our approach by a scout and fled. Camp Milton was between Jacksonville and Baldwin.
Next morning General Gordon commenced his return to Jacksonville with the troops under Colonel Noble, and about the same number that had come from Jacksonville under Colonel Shaw. On the way back there was a sharp attack by the rebs, when several were killed, but none from the Seventeenth.
Upon our arrival at Jacksonville it was found that General Birney was placed in command of Florida, and General Gordon relieved. Soon after General Birney’s arrival he sent Col. Noble an order to take all his force under him, together with his regiment—except a company to garrison the fort—and all the native scouts he could mount, and proceed with them at once to Picolata, on the St. John’s river, whence with other troops coming from Jacksonville, under Gen. Birney, proceeded down the St. John’s to Magnolia, thence up the Black river by boat and march to Milton, where the night was passed. Next morning the march was made for Baldwin, which was reached on third day, the rebels disappearing upon our approach. Here the regiment remained a week or two, when a portion of them were ordered to Magnolia, and the balance under Lieut. Col. Wilcoxson, after remaining at Baldwin several weeks, were ordered on an expedition by the Sands Lake and Bellamy road, destroying on their route the Cedar Keys R.R. and made Magnolia after four days’ march. The expedition came back to Magnolia with several wagons loaded with cotton drawn by mule teams, about 100 contrabands, large quantities of burnt cotton, and some cotton gins. At Magnolia the regiment remained some time in garrison at this port with other regiments. At Baldwin Gen. Birney was relieved and Gen. Hatch was put in command.
RAID TO DUNN’S LAKE
Soon after the above raid Col. Noble was ordered to take the Seventy-fifth Ohio, that was mounted, down on the east side of the St. John’s to break up several recruiting stations of the rebels. Colonel proceeded from Magnolia up the St. John’s with the steamer Hatte Brock to Dunn’s Lake, and through said lake to near Braddock’s farm, and proceeded thence to the head of Dexter lake in aid of the mounted expedition. After this raid, Colonel went back to Magnolia and stayed a while. The part at Magnolia was then broken up, the gunboat on the river removed, and the only part left on the St. John’s was the detachment of the Seventeenth at Picolata.
The first week in May Companies B, F, G, H and K did scout duty. May 9th Companies G and F returned to camp, leaving the other companies behind to guard captured property.
May 19, twenty-four members of Company B, stationed at Welaka, were captured by a mounted squad of Dickinson’s command. Company B’s men were completely surprised, and the capture was made without a shot being fired.
May 21, in the afternoon, orders came to march. We drew ten days’ rations, eighty crackers. At 4 p.m. we left Augustine, marched twenty-one miles to a picket post, which we reached at 1 o’clock in the night.
At 7 a.m. the 22nd we started again, and marched in all 31 miles that day. It was a hard march, a large number of the men falling out. We remained here during the 23rd. On the morning of the 24th we started back and marched to the “Twenty-one mile house”, where we camped the first night out. It was another severe march. At 4 o’clock p.m. of May 25th we got back into St. Augustine.
On the 28th Companies H and K arrived in St. Augustine from the scout that proved so fatal to Company B.
About the first of June there were many reports afloat which sent us here or there; but all united in taking us out of St. Augustine.
It appears that when we were out on our second raid one of the generals took a dislike to us. He reported that we were no fit for city duty, as we were without discipline. A negro regiment was ordered to relieve us. When the citizens heard of it they signed a paper petitioning that we might remain. This was sent to General Foster, commanding the department, and he ordered the colored regiment elsewhere.
July 19th the 17th and 75th left for Picolata on the St. John’s, above Jacksonville. Reached there in the morning of July 20th.
July 22. Four companies of the regiment are encamped about a mile and a half from here, companies A, E, F and H. They are to go to Baldwin and Lake City. July 27 a gunboat came for us, and early in the morning of the 28th took us to Palatka, twenty-five miles above Picolata. We approached Palatka with considerable caution as it was not known how large a force of the enemy might be there. When in gunshot of the place the boat fired a shell over the town. In a moment a man was seen to come out of a house, mount a horse and gallop away. No one else appeared. Two small boats were lowered and manned, and started for the dock dragging a rope net after them. They were fishing for torpedoes. None were found. The gunboat followed after them, to the dock. Here we unloaded, and occupied a brick building near the dock. A family occupied a house close to us, and these were the only white people in the place.
July 31st a boat arrived bringing Companies B and D, and fifty men of the Fourth Massachusetts cavalry.
We stayed in Palatka until August 4th, and it was a pretty lively visit. We had several scouting parties out, and all of them were driven back by the enemy. In one party Lieut. Ruggles and Company K, was captured.
August 4th we left the place. The man on the lookout of the vessel saw about fifty mounted confederates approach the town as we moved away.
Companies A, E, F and H were stationed at Magnolia, and Companies C, D, and K were quartered at Picolata.
August 22nd the wife of Lieutenant Ward, quartermaster of the regiment, died in St. Augustine. She joined her husband just two months before. Officers of our regiment and of the Seventy-fifth Ohio acted as pall bearers. She was ill but a week. Her death produced a marked effect upon the regiment. The funeral was very largely attended by both citizens and soldiers. She was buried in the cemetery by the side of Confederate General Hendel.
August 27th, Companies F and H arrived in St. Augustine.
August 29th the couralescent at St. Augustine were sent to join their respective companies at the outer stations. I was one of the squad. We marched slowly under the direction of Major Allen. Captain Ayres and Lieutenant Harvey accompanied us. It was night when we reached Picolata.
At the close of August the regiment was quartered as follows: Companies A, B,C, I and K at Picolata. Companies D, E, F, G and H at St. Augustine.
There was considerable complaint in Picolata at this time, of the quality and quantity of the rations. Surgeon Stocking and Major Allen both actively interested themselves in remedying this evil.
On September 8th, the major and several others went down to the river and shot an alligator. He was ten feet and three inches in length. Of this five feet were tail and two feet were head. On the evening of this day Captain Ayres and Lieutenant Harvey, with a detail of men, departed in boats. The next morning they returned, bringing with them a guerrilla whose name was William Phillips.
Three men of Company I got a pass September 12th, and went after oranges. From the orange grove they took a boat to go across the river. When nearly across they were seen by the camp guard, and several cannon shots were fired after them. Lieut, Harvey with a squad of men went in pursuit of them, believing they were the enemy. When they were brought to camp Major Allen had them tied up by their thumbs.
The rations had not improved so far. For breakfast we had hardtack and coffee. Even on the march in Virginia we fared better than this.
The following order was issued to Company C at this time. It will prove interesting reading to the Danbury and Bethel readers of THE NEWS.
Headquarters Co. C, 17th C.V.I.
Special Orders, Sept. 15, ’64
No. 1. Hereafter this company will be divided for its regulations as follows:
Sergt. James Kyle to be commissary, and in charge of company cookhouse. He will see that the same is in a fit condition for inspection at a moment’s notice.
Sergt. Lewis A. Ward to be in charge of all ordnance and ordnance stores, and camp and garrison equipage. He will report any neglect of the same to the commanding officer. He will also report any delinquency in the cleaning of the arms, etc.
Sergt. George Scott to be chief of police. He will see that the company street is swept from the commanding officer’s tent to the lower end each morning at police call sounded by the detachment drummers.
The following non-commissioned officers will be in charge of the following tents: 1st Corporal Jarvis F. Beers, of tents 1 and2; 2nd Corporal W. Humphreys, tents 3 and 4; 3rd Corporal John McCorkell, tent 5; Corporal George Barber, tents 6 and 7; 5th Corporal Charles Brotherton, tent 8; 6th Corporal Lewis P. Osborn, tent 9.
By order of HENRY QUIEN,
Capt. Commanding, Co. C
A queer incident took place on September 16. A sutler had a big box of small boxes of sardines. The night after his arrival the big box was broken open and fifty small boxes were taken therefrom. When this was known Major Allen was in a rage. The theft was entirely in antagonism to military discipline, and while the Major was one of the easiest and best natured of men in all the ordinary calls upon his nature, he was a strict disciplinarian. He determined he would find out who had purloined these sardines. A number of men were detailed on extra duty, and were told they would be kept there until the thief was known. At the same time an active search of their quarters was made; but not a sardine could be found.
That night, when the picket was relieved, a private of Company A, (the Major’s own town, Norwalk), just off duty, was seen taking a box of sardines from beneath the floor of his tent. The act was reported to headquarters. Another search was instituted, and this resulted in finding the missing boxes. They were hidden in the sand near Company A’s cook house.
The balance of 1864 was spent in Picolata. Inspections formed the chief feature of the occasion, and we had enough of them. There were inspections by General Hatch, by Colonel Noble, by Major Allen, by Capt. Ayers, and by the company commanders. General Hatch came up once to see us at Picolata, and laid out fatigue work to last us all winter. Occasionally the monotony of camp and picket were relieved by the advent of deserters from the Confederate army and by the coming in of citizens who brought all their worldly stores with them. Then, too, there was an occasional raid in this direction or that; but they never amounted to much.
On December 24th we had a calamity. Colonel Noble, and a braver officer never lived, started for Augustine. He went off in a buggy. There was with him an officer who had been discharged from the service. The two were captured by Colonel Dickinson’s men. The officers discharge papers secured his release, but the colonel was held. The released officer reported the capture in St. Augustine and the news quickly came to Picolata. Major Allen immediately began a search for the recovery of the colonel, but his efforts were in vain. Our gallant commander was gobbled up for good.
January 8th, 1865. We have started on a new year, and our last in the service. Whether we shall see any more active duty in the field is a mere matter of speculation, for in war, like love and poker, the next move is very uncertain. We have less than eight months to serve, and the prospect of getting home is very bright, but within twenty-four hours something may happen to knock the biggest kind of hole in that prospect for some of us. We are all still at Picolata, although it has been said we are to be immediately relieved by Company F, now at St. Augustine, and returned to that place. We hear that no boat has arrived in St. Augustine from the north in four weeks, they being used for other purposes in the department, probably for some warlike expedition. The commissary department is in a low state. There is neither sugar nor salt, and of other rations there is not a ten days’ supply. Teams here run from St. Augustine to Jacksonville (a distance of forty miles) for forage for the horses. But now that supply is gone. All the food the animals have is what they can pick up.
In the early part of February, several of our officers and privates, and a number of officers and privates from St. Augustine accepted an invitation to attend a ball at a house on the road between Picolata and St. Augustine. Colonel Dickinson, of the confederate forces, was let into the secret, and he made a swoop down upon the terspichorean party and captured all of them. So without a ball or bullet the would-be dancers were scooped into the can of sardines.
Feb. 8, a detail of ten of us and an officer went across the river to gather rations from what cattle we could find. We shot four head and returned safely to camp with them.
February 26th. We have never fared so badly in the service in the matter of rations as we are doing now.
March 16th. Thomas McCorkell, of Company C, arrived at Picolata today with orders to evacuate this place. This was glorious news to the boys, who had become tired of the short rations and constant excitement (from attack) of the Piccolata camp.
On the 17th we took the steamer Wyoming down the St. Johns River to Jacksonville, and thence sailed to St. Augustine, where we arrived March the 18th and took possession of the barracks.
No. 22 -IN ST. AUGUSTINE, AND HOME.
The heat began to increase along about the middle of April, and all of us had spring fever to greater or less degree. We were given only one drill a day in Augustine. This took place in the afternoon. At out first drill after the return from the long sojourn on the St. Johns River there were but two officers present to take care of the whole regiment. Captain Kellogg, who was in command, sent a sergeant after the company officers, who brought them out.
April 16th the regimental band appeared in a new uniform.
On the 20th, Major Allen gave all the regiment a twenty-four hour vacation, in which we could do as we pleased, without offending the law.
April 24th, a schooner came into St. Augustine with its flag at half mast. It was out first news that President Lincoln was dead.
May 8th. Captain Ayres was married to-day, and was serenaded in the evening.
May 13th. Orders were read on dress parade announcing the surrender of the confederate armies in the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida.
June 6th. A steamer came in to-day, bringing a United States regular army band, and a general order saying that the 1862 troops were to go home. Our regiment was ordered to pack knapsacks. We did so and then marched to the steamboat landing, where we stayed all night.
The next morning we took the steamer and sailed to Jacksonville. We thought we were going home, but we were put into camp here, and the next day, June 8th, were detailed to work repairing the railroad. This was a hard blow to the boys who were expecting to go straight home. We remained here until July 4th, when we took a boat for Hilton Head. There we remained until the 20th, when we sailed for home. On reaching New York, we took another boat for New Haven, where we were mustered out of the service.