No. 9-MOVING ABOUT
About 9 a.m. the rain cleared away and we moved on to join the rest of the regiment when the march was resumed until 3 p.m., when we came to a halt near a farm house. The name of the district was not known. The camp was two miles from Falmouth and three from Fredericksburg. We then judged we were pretty close to the enemy and that our marching was done for the present.
Wednesday, December 17th, we were called up early, and began a rear movement, falling back to Stafford court house. All sorts of rumors were in circulations. We knew that Burnside had been repulsed at Fredericksburg, and had been obliged to retreat across the river. We supposed we were taking part in the retreat. It afterward transpired that we were originally ordered to Stafford, but had exceeded our orders.
December 25th we were at Belle Plain. The night we got there it snowed heavily. But the snow did not begin to fall until after we had got to sleep under our little shelter tents. Those of us who slept hard and securely awoke in the morning to find the ground under us frozen, and the snow four inches deep on the ground and our tents. Others of us were rudely aroused by our tents and the snow tumbling down upon us, and stood around in the frosty material in our underclothes until our shelters could be raised again.
While here John Crowe, of Norwalk, went down to the river and found a number of petrified oysters. He gave them to Captain Fowler, who believing them to be the real article, put them on the fire to roast. For a long time he sat by the fire and watched the bivalves. The boys of his command, who had been let into the secret, kindly tendered him salt to put on them. When he discovered the sell he gracefully acknowledged it, and shortly after worked the joke off on Dr. Hubbard, the regimental surgeon.
On the march from Belle Plain to Brooks Station, where we were next ordered, the mud was so deep that the men sank into it above their knees, and eighteen mules were required to draw one piece of field artillery, and the progress then was very slow.
The regiment remained at Stafford Court House until January 13th, when it marched to Belle Plain again. We remained in that neighborhood several days. At 5 o’clock on the morning of the 20th we were ordered to march to the relief of General Franklin. We marched until noon in the direction of Brooks’ station, and then returned to a portion of Belle Plain, where we occupied the log huts vacated by the Seventh Wisconsin. They were well built, and with the aid of our shelter tents for roofs made a comfortable residence. The next day Franklin fell back, and the regiment returned to its quarters, but did not get in as we had orders to hold the position.
D. Rusco, of Company H, relates an incident that occurred in this camp, and shows what a soldier undergoes when in duty on the field. He got some [missing] wood to make some coffee. The [missing] water he saw what he believed to be two islands. On examining them more closely he discovered them to be two dead mules. But the sight did not unman him. He took the water all the same.
The regiment was in camp at Stafford Court House until January 13, 1863. Nothing of importance occurred in that time. We rested on a side of the hill in a woods. It was a woods when we settled on it, but we speedily made it bald-headed. We had battalion and company drills frequently. We also had pancakes. The pancakes were made of meal, wheat flour and water. They were baked on a half canteen over a log fire. The half canteen was our broiler and frying pan. It was held over the fire on the end of a split stick. He pancakes were four inches in diameter, a quarter of an inch thick, and weighed two pounds apiece. They were very filling.
January 6th, an order was issued giving us Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday to ourselves, drilling being omitted on those days.
Here is an incident that shows some of the privations endured by the sick and also the dead.
A member of Company D, Bridgeport was taken ill. He was sent to Aqua Creek on the Potomac in an ambulance. At Aqua Creek he was placed on board of a boat to be taken to Washington. But the boat was so crowded that he could not be accommodated. Fortunately, at that juncture, one of the patients died. The corpse was hurried ashore and he took the dead man’s place.
Perhaps it would interest the reader to know the prices we paid for some of the articles we craved, but which the government did not furnish. Our regimental sutler had gone home, and we were now trading with a sutler of another regiment, stationed about a quarter of a mile away from our camp. His prices were as follows: pies, 25 cents each; apples, 5 cents each; potatoes, 1 cent each; onions, 3 cents each; very small cookies, 7 for 25 cents; cheese and butter 60 cents a pound; everything else in proportion.
The weather was beautiful at this time. The air was warm, and the song of birds was heard frequently, in the trees.
On the 13th of January we marched to Belle Plain again.
On the 5th of February we were marched to Brook’s Station, a station on the railway from Aqua Crek on the Potomac to Fredericksburg on the Rappahanock.
At Brook Station we went into winter quarters. We built houses with log walls and canvas roofs. These, with their fireplaces of blazing wood fires, made very comfortable quarters. At Brook Station furloughs were granted of ten days to one man at a time in each company. As no partiality could be showed selection was made by lot, and the drawing of lots was a particularly exciting occasion. It quite frequently happened that luck won new laurels as an uncertain jade by bestowing her favors upon the least worthy.
On Saturday, February 21st, the weather was so cold that our fingers and faces ached with it while we were on drill. At night a heavy snow storm set in, and the next morning, Washington’s birthday, there were ten inches of snow hiding the sacred soil of Virginia. This ought to have delighted us, as a reminder of dear old home, but it didn’t.
Our principal occupation while in winter quarters at Brook’s Station was the building of corduroy roads. The soil of Virginia is a fellow clay. In a rain this becomes pliable, and heavy travel over it creates a mire that is calculated to suck in almost everything. To remedy this evil the roads are corduroyed. A corduroy road gets its name, perhaps, from its similarity to corduroy cloth, being a succession of ribs. It is made of logs six or eight feet long. They are laid on the road side by side, and form a protection against sinking in the mud, although they are not pleasant to ride over.
A peculiar event occurred in this camp—and event very rare in army command. We were on dress parade Friday, February 27th, when an order was read from the colonel placing under arrest every commissioned officer, excepting Captain Dunham, of Company G, and Adjutant Wilcoxson, but provided that were to be respected as officers as before. The orderly sergeants were placed in command of the companies. The offense of these officers was the signing of a petition for the removal of Colonel Noble. The colonel was not in favor with military men. He did not understand the tactics. In fact he had not drilled the regiment since its organization. It was not believed he was capable of doing it.
The incident shows how frail human judgment is. A very few weeks later the colonel showed that for bravery he had no superior in the army, and the regiment became proud of the officer it had sought to remove. In a few days the officers were gradually released, Captain Moore being the last.
Our main destiny was radically changed by an apparently trifling incident. James Ainscow and Sergeant Thorp, of Company K, wanted a pass to go to Falmouth to see friends in another regiment. Their Captain, McCarthy, said he would sign a furlough if they would make it out. They got Corporal Troutt of the same company, being an elegant penman was asked to write the pass, and he complied, holding the paper on the top of his cap while writing. The captain signed it and Sergeant Thorpe took it to the colonel for approval. At the colonel’s tent was Col. Lee, of the Fifty-Fifth Ohio, who was expecting his commission as brigadier-general. He saw the writing and was so much impressed by its elegance that he asked for Troutt to be sent to him, and engaged him as secretary. About this time General Howard heard of Troutt’s writing, and desired him. Col. Lee gave way to General Howard, and Troutt entered upon a distinct line of duty, and remained at it during the rest of his term in the service.
No. 10-CORDUROY AND LIES
We were in camp at Brook’s Station a long time. It was really our first and last winter quarters in Virginia. We had comfortable log huts in a swamp. The location of our regiment’s camp was in a swamp full of trees and low bushes and standing water. In a very few days we had removed the roots of the trees and the bushes, and had a place as bald of vegetation as in the surface of a billiard ball. Our chief duty here, beside guard, was building corduroy roads. The corduroy roads were designed for the easy and more rapid transportation of baggage and provision trains.
The original roads were covered with logs laid across them. They prevented teams and wagons from sinking out of sight, but they were not pleasant to ride over.
We did some drilling in this camp, but it was not a serious amount. Most of the time appeared to be consumed in inventing rumors of moves, and seeing they were properly circulated. One day the whole corps was to be transferred to Texas. The next day only one division was going. The next day General Stahl [Stahel] was to be transferred to the cavalry, which appeared to be a proper branch of the service for his name. The fourth day we were to be transferred to Washington. The fifth day we had orders to attack and carry Fredericksburg. So the time sped peacefully on. We got used to winter quarters.
There was some snow falls while we were there, and some disagreeable days and nights on picket. But when in quarters we kept a good fire on the hearth, and before it we read or played cards or sang home songs. We had beds of small poles covered with pine boughs, and such an affair made a luxurious couch. But there was a drawback to this camp. It was on a swampy piece of land, and malaria and fever grew common. The hospital tents were fully occupied, and there were a number of deaths, mostly in the 107th Ohio regiment of our brigade.
About this time there was a division from the usual routine. March 19th and address to the people of Fairfield county was presented to the regiment for endorsement. It was signed by the field and line officers. The men voted unanimously to send it forward. It was sent. The appeal set forth that as the regiment went into the field with the promise that it should be sustained in its struggle against the rebellion by the county, the news that a peace party had arisen at home gave the lie to the promise; that the success at this time of a party appeared to the prosecution of the war for the union would encourage the enemy, increase the trials and dangers of the country’s requirement, and prolong the war beyond what would otherwise be its limit.
At dress parade in the evening of March 23rd the following order was read to the several regiments in the brigade:
In the regiments in this brigade the following calls will be observed: 5 a.m., reveille; 5:15, roll call; 6:30, breakfast; 7, orderly’s call for rations; 7:30, camp guard mounting; 8, surgeon’s call; 8:30, inspection; 9, drill, to be designated by the regimental commanders; 12, dinner; 12:30, grand guard mounting; 1:30, battalion drill; 3, call; 5:30, supper; 6, dress parade; 8, tattoo; 9, taps.
Every a.m., at 8:30, each regiment by company will, upon company ground, be inspected by its commanding officer, at which all the officers, non-commissioned officers and men (except cooks) shall parade in full uniform. In making the inspection the company officer will note, first, whether the clothing is of regulation color, style, and pattern; second, whether it is proper and clean; third, whether the hair and whiskers are kept short; and fourth, whether the arms and accoutrements are in good condition. At the same time, two inspecting officers, to be designated by the commander of the regiment will inspect each company, and having done so will make actual inspection of the inside of the men’s quarters and grounds, and furnish to the commanding officer of each regiment a written report which company is best and which is worst to military appearance, which has the best and which the worst quarters and grounds. A consolidated report will be published weekly to the regiments at the Sunday evening dress parade.
Wednesday, April 1st, it was reported early in the morning that the rebel army had crossed the Rappahannock river and surrounded a large force of the army of the Potomac, stationed near Fredericksburg. The news created considerable excitement. The different regiments fell into line by companies.
A picket force of 1,100 men were detailed and sent out, part of our company being included in the order. Presently the Fifty-fifth Ohio regiment moved across our parade ground, and were soon followed by the 107th Ohio. These episodes greatly increased the excitement in our regiment. A thousand rumors were afloat, and all of them were greedily devoured. We had been out seven months and had not even seen a confederate under arms. It looked now very much as we were going to see our fill of them in a very short time. The regiment was ordered into line on the parade ground where we stacked arms and waited the result. In a little while we were ordered back to our quarters, and the excitement subsided.
On the evening of Thursday there was a heavy wind. It blew down forest trees and unroofed a number of the soldiers’ houses. Adjutant Wilcoxson arrived in camp from a twenty days’ furlough. Several members were at home or in Washington at this time on furlough. The chaplain today made arrangements with the express company to send home our money at a trifling expense.
April 4. It is expected we will move soon. Captain Moore said this morning that General Hooker had ordered every man to take with him on the coming march two pairs of shoes, as we should march as far as one pair would not answer. Poor Hooker! Did he really believe he would take his command beyond Chancellorsville?
Some of the regiment indulged in target practice April 6th, using snowballs for ammunition. So this is not the most backward April, and that snow fell way down in Virginia.
General Howard, who had been appointed to the command of the corps, visited the troops of his command April 7th to see them at drill. On the night there was a grand review of the regiments of the corps before General Howard. The next day General Howard issued an order instructing quartermasters to get citizens or negroes to drive the regimental baggage teams and put the enlisted teamsters in the ranks. This order was not carried out to any general extent and soon became a dead letter.
On the 10th our corps passed in review before President Lincoln and his wife, vice-president Hamlin, General Sickles and others. The president’s bodyguard was nearly a half mile in length, consisting of officers, orderlies and cavalrymen. Mrs. Lincoln rode in a carriage drawn by four horses.
There was a three days picket detailed just before this grand review. Lieutenant Daniels, of Company C, was in command, and Lieutenant Blinn, of Company D, second in command. Daniels was on duty from 6 p.m. until 6 a.m., and Blinn the balance of the twenty-four hours. Each officer, during his charge, had to visit the line of the picket every hour. Lieutenant Daniels writes:
“It was a terrible three days for us all—not a mouthful of warm food or drink in all the time, as we were near the enemy and were not allowed to have a fire. There was a snow storm during the time. The line of pickets was in a dense pine forest running parallel with, and a few rods from a road. We got back into camp the morning of review day. I was immediately stricken down with bilious colic. Surgeons Hubbard and Gregory stayed with me all day, even while they were anxious to see the review. I have often blessed them for their kindness to me that day. It was only what they did for all the boys—they neglected none. I was not recovered when you started for Chancellorsville and was obliged to stay in the rear.”
Sunday, April 12th, Captain Moore was released from arrest, and returned to duty.
Tuesday, April 14th, was a busy day in camp, the busiest we ever saw. At 8 a.m. there was an officers’ call. An officers’ call consisted of all the commissioned officers of the companies being called to the regimental commander’s tent to receive the instruction he had received from brigade headquarters. The officers on returning to their quarters summoned the orderly sergeant of their respective companies and communicated to them the orders which they had received and which they were to communicate to the men.
The orders from the 8 a.m. call were that commands should be put under light marching orders, to carry only one pair of drawers, one pair of socks, and one shirt. We were directed to pack in boxes our dress coats, woolen blankets and overcoats, which were to be sent to Washington to be stored away for the summer. The men were instructed to put their names, company and regiment on their clothing so that they could be readily returned to them after the summer campaign. Alas, how many of them never called for the goods when the fall came! They were where army clothing could have no use. The officers were ordered to carry eight days’ rations in their knapsacks. The men were ordered to carry five days’ rations in their knapsacks, leaving their haversacks empty, so that in case the baggage trains could not keep up with their three days extra rations they could take them in their haversacks.
There were twenty-two of these orderly and officer calls during the day, so you can see how rapidly they came. All of them pertained to our immediate marching. Some of them were contradictory of others. For instance, we were first ordered to pack up our overcoats in the boxes provided, to be shipped to Washington that evening. We packed them up and nailed the boxes strong. Then we were ordered to take them with us. Thereupon we opened the boxes and took them out, and were shaking them to remove the creases when we got orders to pack them up again. It would not be proper to put in print the remarks made at this juncture.
But we did not move the next morning after that. We fell back into the old routine for a number of days after that.
On the 16th we signed the pay rolls and were paid off. Four months’ pay were due us. The green backs were new, crisp, and bright, and we hugged them to our bosom. Some of us skirmished out to photographic galleries and contraband beer tents in neighboring regiments, and all of us had a pretty good time for a short period. It is nice to be rich.
April 18th, twenty-eight men were taken from the regiment to Washington hospitals. Most of them were not able to rejoin us until several months later.
April 25th. Dr. Gregory and Lieutenant Colonel Walter of the regiment, and Orrin Benedict and Mrs. Judd, of Bethel, visiting the regiment, went to Falmouth today on a visit. At roll call there was an officers’ call to see that all the men had eight days’ rations weighed out to them, which must not be touched until they marched.
April 26th. Received orders tonight to be ready to march early tomorrow. It is said we are going to Fredericksburg.
No. 11-ON THE MARCH
At 3 a.m. of Saturday, April 27th, the reveille was beaten, roll call speedily followed and breakfast was dispatched without any tedious ceremony. Tents were struck, knapsacks were slung, and at 6 o’clock we filed away from our first winter quarters. We had been there two months and the place had unconsciously grown dear to us. We realized how dear when we were moving away from it, undoubtedly forever. We marched until noon with several rests on the way, and then halted for an hour for dinner. In the afternoon we marched until 6:20, when we bivouacked for supper and the night. Our march through the day was westward, parallel with the Rappahannock river. We knew the movement was a general one with the Army of the Potomac, because we saw two lines of troops, one on each side of us marching with us.
When we stopped for dinner many of our regiment threw away surplus clothing to get rid of the burden of carrying it. When we moved on from that place we looked back and saw negroes flocking from out of the woods and gather up the discarded apparel. All along the road we saw articles of clothing which had been thrown away by the tired troops ahead of us. We were very tired at night. It was a long march, and the day was extremely warm. Several of our men fainted from the exhaustion of the march and the heat. Late in the evening, General McLean, commanding our brigade, gave orders that there should be no drum beat at reveille the next morning.
April 28th. At 3 o’clock this morning our colonel went through the regiment and awakening the inmates notified them to be ready for marching at 5 o’clock. We marched today until 1 o’clock, when we halted near a farmhouse occupied by negroes. In the yard attached thereto there were a number of ambulances, ghastly suggestive of the future. At this halt we understood we were to stay here all night, and we put up our tents. At 4 o’clock we were ordered to take them down and prepare to move. We marched a mile farther and then came to a halt to allow the troops ahead of us time to cross the Rappahannock we being within a mile of where we started.
April 29th. At 12 o’clock last night we were ordered to move on again, and started. In a short distance we encountered several companies who had been across the river, but had seen no enemy. We marched on to the river and crossed it in silence on a pontoon bridge—the first bridge of the kind most of us had seen. Across the river we continued on toward Culpepper court house, and at 4:20 a.m. we came to a halt, having struck (so report said) the rebel picket line. A picket guard was detailed, and the rest of us dropped down where we were and went to sleep at once. At 7 a.m. the Twelfth corps, and a lot of cavalry began to pass us, and were until noon getting by. Then we had dinner, and at 1 p.m. started forward. We marched until dusk, our course being down the river towards Fredericksburg. It appeared as if we were going to attack Fredericksburg from the rear, assuming that General Lee’s army was still there.
April 30th. We reached the Rapidan river last evening. In the night Captain Samuel G. Woodruff, of the Twentieth corps, threw a rough bridge across the stream, which was very serviceable to the Eleventh corps. Lieutenant Wilcoxson wrote his wife as follows of this crossing:
“A wild and weird scene it was. Moving down the road to the abrupt bank of the river we came to the abutment where had been the old bridge, and where the rebels had lately begun the construction of the new. Here, dividing our ranks, each man groped for himself a way down the steep bank to the abutment, from which a rude and trembling structure, scarcely four feet wide, and but a trifle raised above the surface of the rushing and foaming river, led from one pier to another and so on to the opposite bank. The night was pitch dark, and, to enable us to avoid a tumble into the boiling flood, fires had been built on the piers, which lighted up the torturous course of the phantom like train as it slowly crawled out of the darkness on one side, across the flimsy bridge in the ruddy glare, and into the darkness beyond.”
We marched, after crossing the river until 3:30 a.m., and then laid down in the rain to rest. The last day of April had been eventful with various storm and scenes.
Tonight we learn that our cavalry had captured a hundred confederates, and also a confederate spy.
The following order from the army’s commander, “Fighting Joe” Hooker, was read to te regiments on their parades, and was very inspiring:
“H’dqrs. Army of the Potomac
Camp near Falmouth, Va.
April 30, 1863
It is with heartfelt satisfaction the commanding general announces to the army that the operations of the last three days have determined that our enemy must either ingloriously fly, or come out from behind his defences and give us battle on our own ground, where certain destruction awaits him. The operations of the 5th, 11th and 12th corps have been a success of splendid achievements.
By command of MAJ. GEN. HOOKER
S. WILLIAMS, asst. adj’t. gen’l.”
If General Lee ever saw that order he must have smiled way round to the back of his neck. But we will not anticipate.
On the march today I saw several wounded men, the first wounded soldiers I ever saw, and I can see them as plainly today as I did twenty-three years ago. Our corps captured today 300 head of cattle, which were destined for Stonewall Jackson’s command.
Rebel bushwackers have been busy along the line of march today, occasionally picking off a straggler, and getting safely away themselves.
We marched all day on a plank road. On the route we came to what had once been a drug and grocery store, but it was in a wreck now. Some bill heads found in the ruin bore the name of “Brandy Station”.
Two venerable negroes standing at the roadside told us there was a big lot of rebels about fifteen miles ahead (meaning at Fredericksburg). Our camp this night was on the farm of a Mr. Hatch, formerly of Farmington, Conn. He had a house with a barn in the yard and other barns in a field across the road. The moment we arrived there a number of Dikeman’s battery, which accompanied us, made a raid on the shingles of one of the barns, and, despite orders to the contrary from their officers, tore off the entire roof. The material they wanted for fires. This accomplished, they emptied the barn of its hay, which they fed to their horses.
May 1st. A part of our regiment with Ohio troops moved into the road near the house. Dikeman’s battery was stationed in a field in front of us. We made a breastwork of rails on the roadside, and were behind it to support the battery. The balance of our regiment remained in the garden at the house. Our breastwork faced the south. Our right flank rested in two lots beyond the house, one on each side of the road. There was a piece of woods beyond that and woods across the road at our back, and woods to the left. The forest was most scrub pine.
At dark there was some artillery firing at our front. We could see the course of the shells by their burning fuse, and could see them explode. We were not disturbed through the night. The next day, May 2nd, a detail was made from our regiment for picket duty, and the picket, of which I was one, were stationed in the woods at the right of our line. During our stay there we could hear artillery moving in front of us, but could not see much. The officer of the picket line, so it was said, that the enemy were forming on that flank, but the commanding officer did not believe him. Whether this was true or not, it was made soon certain that that flank of our corps was taken by surprise, for when the attack came it was quite evident that there was no preparation for it, and no one to direct a resistance. About 3 p.m. we were relieved from picket by details from Companies I and G, and returned to our position at the road breastworks in rear of Dikeman’s battery. We there had a ration of fresh meat weighed out to us, and starting a fire by a brook a little way in the woods at our back, proceeded to cook it and some coffee.
It was while we were thus engaged—probably about 5 o’clock—that we were startled by a discharge of musketry. Immediately after we heard the order to “fall in!”, and ran back to our position and our guns. When we got here the firing was rapidly increasing in volume. The rattle of musketry was pointed frequently with the deep roar of the artillery. The bullets did not reach us owing to being over the brow of a hill from the enemy; but the shells skimming over the hill came close to our heads and caused us to hug the ground several times. The attack came on our right flank from the woods in which we had been on picket a short time before. The regiments in the lots between the brow of the hill and the picket woods were eating their supper when the hail of bullets burst upon them.
Almost at the first fire the regiments on our right and our left fled from the scene, not even taking their guns with them. We could not see the enemy but we knew where they were and we could see some of the terrible effects of their fire. The roar of musketry and cannon and the screams of the shells were deafening. One shell tore off the end of the barn near the house, another made splinters of a fence close by, and a third tore one of the battery horses in twain, while others ploughed into the ground and sent up showers of earth and stones.
It was a particularly trying position for our regiment and for the battery. The latter were in position. But they had no orders, and when the press became to great to be borne, the men cut their horses free from the guns and fled upon them. There we stood, with our guns in our hands, nobody to fire at, no one to tell us to go ahead or fall back. All our officers, excepting Major Brady and
Captain Moore, were in the garden with the balance of the regiment, at the house. Presently Capt. Moore said to the major: “Major, what are you going to do? If you don’t give some order by and bye, I will.”
“I have no right to give orders. Colonel and Lieutenant Colonel are at the house, and they have given me no orders.”
Thus we stood there, the metal hail becoming thicker and thicker. The captain again spoke: “Major, if you don’t give orders immediately, I will.”
Then the major shouted: “Break and run for the woods; every man for himself!”
The instant the major’s order was given we dashed across the road into the woods, and followed its shelter along the line of the road. The retreat was now general. The woods were full of fleeing patriots, each man bent on making the best possible time in widening the distance between us and the enemy. Jackson’s famous corps followed steadily after us in an unbroken line of battle. Passing through the woods we came to a large open space, through which ran an earthwork. Getting behind this the disordered fragments of numerous regiments made a stand until the confederate line of battle, with it’s roar of musketry, got too close, when we broke again to another piece of woods and pursued it until we met the Twelfth corps advancing in line of battle. This and other troops brought a check and enabled us to take a rest.
On this retreat I witnessed a singular incident. Two artillery men came into the breast work, and were continuing on when an officer made them halt. They explained that their battery had gone on ahead of them, and the officer told them to go on. They started in continuance of their retreat when a soldier standing at my side shot one of them in the back, killing him instantly. He was probably crazed by fright, and did not realize what he was doing.
The Twelfth corps took position behind a stone wall at the foot of a sloping ground. Back of them was the artillery. The disorganized troops, as rapidly as they got within this [place?] formed back of the artillery as a [reserve?]. It was now dusk. The firing soon [ended] except that of the artillery, which kept up some little time, throwing shot and shell into the woods where Jackson’s corps were lying.
We lay down with our guns in our arms and soon fell asleep. There was occasional spurts of fire through the night, and there were movements of troops about us, but we did not much mind these. At daylight, Sunday, May 3rd, two or three corps formed on this rise of ground. One of these relieved our corps, and we were sent back two miles or so, where we occupied a breastwork. Scarcely any of the commands of our corps were complete. Singly and by small squads members who had been scattered in the retreat joined us. The breastworks we occupied were thrown up along a road, overlooking a ravine. On this road were passing troops going to or returning from the front, with long strings of wounded passing to the rear. As we fell back from the front the fight was resumed, and continued till noon with great vigor. There was a lively movement of troops to the front. Some of these regiments returned in an hour or so, bringing their wounded with them. Some of these were so badly wounded that they died in the blankets they were being carried in. How many members of the different organizations were left motionless on the ground at the front was a matter of speculation to us. But it was evident that a large number of the men who had passed us a few moments before in the flush of health and youth had gone on forever.
Among the throng going by us to the rear were many prisoners, some of them wounded.
At 10 a.m. Company C was sent into the woods in front of the breastwork on a skirmish. We were gone two hours.
We remained in the breastwork all day of May 4 and 5, expecting every moment to be called to the front, but we were not moved. At 10 p.m. of the 6th we were ordered to fall in. We were cautioned to be very quiet. Even out tin pots and cups were ordered into our haversacks so they would not cause any noise by striking against other objects. While we were in line news came that the pontoon bridges prepared for our escape across the Rappahannock had been broken up by the heavy rain falling the night before, and we would have to wait a few hours. A guard was detailed, and those not on duty lay down and slept.
May 6th. Just before daylight we were awakened by the guard and ordered to fall in. The same orders we received last night to muffle our tinware and to talk in a whisper were repeated when we were called into line. We knew then that the battle had resulted disastrously for our side, and that we were on a retreat. The question was would the rebels capture us before we could get away. Fortunately they had got their bellies full of fight, and were perfectly willing to let us slide. But, unfortunately for our piece of mind, we did not know that then.
We started on our march in a short time, and in a short time we reached the plains skirting that part of the Rappahannock river where we were to cross. Finally we got over the pontoon bridge, got into a road and pursued our way. At 5 p.m. we suddenly emerged in sight of our old camp at Brooks Station, and were assigned to the quarters we had vacated a week before, We felt that we were safe now, and we threw off our knapsacks in a hurry, placed our “shelter” tents on the roofs of the log huts, and fell to getting supper with a hearty will.
One hundred and one wounded, missing and killed was the casualty of the regiment now reported in this fight, which was one-sixth of the whole number. The killed, wounded and captured were principally from that part of the regiment which was in the garden of the Hatch farm house.
One of the captured was Lieutenant John W. Craw, Company A, who writes as follows of his experience in the battle:
“Just before the commencement of the battle of Chancellorsville, the company flag, presented by the ladies of South Norwalk, was in my overcoat, which I left in charge of Private Collins. I thought possibly it might be lost, so I took it and put it under my vest over my breast. In our retreat I looked once or twice to see if it was all right. I found it was. That night I was taken prisoner with Lieutenant Waterbury, of the Seventeenth, Lieutenant Hyatt, of the Fifth Connecticut, besides a large number of officers and men from different regiments while we were trying to find our way to our lines. We soon found, to our dismay, that the rebs were in our rear, where they had halted as soon as we had done under the very heavy cannonade by the union troops, and where the rebs got their final check, as near as we could understand. I thought, for the first time since our capture, of the flag, and thought what I would do with it. When I felt for it it was gone; it had slipped from under my vest unknown to me. We were taken back of the same field and into the garden where we first lay. There I saw the body of Lieutenant-Colonel Walters, the only one I recognized. The last words he spoke on this earth were: Company A, fire by file, which I repeated after him. Just then he raised his hand to his head and fell on his side. Afterward we were taken to the rear, kept in an open field until 8 o’clock the next night, when we were packed in cars and sent to Libby, where we remained about 4 weeks, when we were paroled and sent to Annapolis, Md.”
One of the wounded, D.C. Rusco, of Company H, gives his experience as follows:
“I was wounded on May 2nd, about 8 o’clock p.m. I thought, after I came to my senses, as [missing] struck my head and dropped me, that [missing] up, for I could not get up, and I [saw?] it was sure death to stay [as] the rebels were advancing on us at the time. After a short time I managed to get on my feet. I was very weak, could hardly walk, but a plenty of the poor boys of other regiments that I did not know were breathing their last on that terrible night. I went back to the rear and had my wound dressed, in the white house that was used for a hospital the night of May 2nd. I found a blanket upstairs in the house which had been there sometime, I should judge, for I never saw so many bed bugs on one bed blanket before. I think there were enough to fill my quart cup. I accommodated a poor fellow that was wounded with a part of my blanket and we slept together down in the woods where they had taken us during the night for fear of being shelled by the rebels. On the 3rd we were awaken by the bursting of shells from the rebel batteries, so we got out and down across the Rappahannock river, and there I got a hardtack of some of the boys, and oh, how good it was. After a day or two I was in the hospital at Brook’s station, where I stayed about one month. I then went to the regiment which was about the time it was getting ready for the march to Gettysburg.”
We make the following interesting extract from a letter written home shortly after by Ira Penfield, of this town, who was then a member of Company D, the Bridgeport company; beginning where his company was in the garden under fire:
“As soon as the firing commenced Col. Noble gave us orders to lie down flat to escape the storm of shell and shot. We did so, but he remained mounted on his horse, watching the approach of the enemy. All the other colonels in the brigade had dismounted. It was here our lieutenant colonel was shot dead. He was under an apple tree, resting one hand against the trunk. He was shot in the left eye, and dropped dead.”
Mr. Penfield was captured that evening, and with other prisoners was taken back to the Hatch farm where they remained until the next day (Sunday) noon, when a company of one thousand of them left under guard for a march to Richmond. He adds:
” I had nothing in the line of food but a little coffee and sugar. I made a cup of coffee in the morning, and on this I started on the march. We passed a portion of the field of battle of Saturday night, and saw scores of dead and wounded men lying on the ground. It was a horrible sight. The day was extremely hot and the road was dusty. We were marched rapidly, and were soon covered with dust and perspiration. We reached Spotsylvania court house, fifteen miles, at dusk, and here we were placed for the night.
Monday morning broke upon us beautifully, but there was not a mouthful to eat, except a piece of bread which I begged of one of the guards, and which was divided up among eight of us. We marched until 2 o’clock, when we reached Guinea station, on the road to Richmond, having accomplished a distance of ten miles. At night rations were weighed out to us—consisting of flour and a small piece of raw salt beef. We made our flour into dough, and this we boiled in our tin cups, and ate it with the meat, which latter we burnt in the fire to make it palatable. My pigs at home would have refused the same dish, without doubt, but we ate it down greedily.
Tuesday morning we partook of more boiled dough. Here we remained until Thursday. Tuesday night a heavy storm of rain set in, and we were soon saturated. In the rain and mud we rested that night.
There was a chance to buy bread at this place, three loaves (each the size of a rusk) for a dollar. Those who had money feasted. Those who had it not went without.
Thursday we marched to Hanover Junction on the same railroad. The mud in the road was almost shoe deep, but we had to go through it, and in many places we were obliged to ford streams, as bridges were washed away. At the Junction, after a supper of dough, we lay down and went to sleep.
Friday we marched all day with empty stomachs, and in an almost exhausted condition we halted for the night within twenty-eight miles of Richmond. At that point we got a ration of flour crackers and a quarter of a pound of bacon. I could have eaten double this ration, but I only ate part of it, as the next day they were going to march us clear to Richmond.”
At six o’clock Saturday morning the prisoners were put in motion again, and marched until in the evening, when they reached Richmond, and were lodged in the famous Libby prison. Mr. Penfield wrote that on the road approaching this city they passed squads of men and women, some of whom waved the confederate flag and jeered them.
The prisoners remained in Libby prison until Wednesday, the 12th, when they were taken out and started on a march to City Point, a distance of 27 miles, where they were paroled and took a steamer for the North.
No. 12-SCRAPS FROM CHANCELLORSVILLE
We give herewith Colonel Noble’s remembrance of the fight. The colonel was officer of the day on the day before the fight opened.
On the morning of that day General McLean, in command of our brigade, ordered the left wing of our regiment to the position on the east side of the Hatch house on the Culpepper road, along with and supporting Dikeman’s battery. The right wing, under command of Lieutenant-Colonel Walter, was ordered into the garden of the Hatch house, facing the west. Colonel Noble was ordered to take position between the two wings.
Major Brady had charge of the left wing. When the enemy’s shell began to come thick and fast Col. Noble rode to the garden in the direction of the enemy’s fire, where the right was in position. He was anxious about the fate of the two companies of his regiment who were on picket in front of the enemy. At this the whole right wing of the regiment was lying on the ground to avoid the flying shells. Lt. Col. Walter was lying down, but got up when Col. Noble approached, and saluted him.
The two companies of picket were at that moment dashing in toward the garden with Stonewall Jackson’s advance line close at their heels. The colonel then rode back to look after the condition of the left wing, then lying in the road as has been already described.
Lieut.-Col. Walter again laid down, but presently arose, and looking straight at the enemy, who were then close at hand and pouring a blinding storm of lead and iron upon us, ordered this wing of the regiment to fall back. The order saved the lives of nearly all of his men, but it was too late to save his own. He fell on his face. One of the officers who saw him on the ground cried to him: “Come on colonel; the rebels are upon us!” He did not know the gallant German was dead or even hurt. He was lying on his breast with his face resting on his crossed hands. But he was dead. He had died as he fell, without even for an instant realizing he had been hit. A braver soldier never faced an enemy.
Col. Noble having found the right [meaning the left, ed.] wing gone from its place in the road returned to the garden, meeting the left [meaning the right, ed.] wing in its retreat. At this junction his horse was wounded but the colonel did not realize it. He joined in the retreat until the 119th New York regiment of our corps was reached. This regiment was in line of battle. The remnants of the Seventeenth formed behind it. Just then the colonel of the 119th was shot dead, and the regiment started in full retreat, sweeping the Seventeenth with it. Shortly after Colonel Noble was badly wounded in the left arm. He bled profusely. He rode a short distance, but feeling sick and giddy, dismounted, and sat down on the ground. He was persuaded by the members of the regiment to get back on his horse, and get away from the rapidly advancing enemy. He complied, and they held him on the back of the animal until the rear of the Chancellor’s house was reached, where he could have some care. From this place he and the other wounded were soon dislodged. The colonel got transportation to the United States ford across the Rappahannock, and to a hospital on the other side of the river. From here he was sent to Washington, and thence went home on a leave of absence. He rejoined the regiment on the eve of the third day of the Gettysburg fight.