walking all night reached Conrad's Ferry at half past 6 the next morning, in a heavy rain, the roads full of mud. We crossed the canal at that point on a canal-boat, connected with the shore by a single plank, over which the regiment had to pass, a man at a time. All that dismal day (the 22d) we stood ankle-deep in the mud, supporting nature by a few cold, hard beans obtained from a hospital tent. We managed to keep some fires agoing, thanks to dry rail-fences, and the men cooked their rations and stood it splendidly. We saw on the Virginia bank a dozen poor fellows, the remnant of the massacre [at Ball's Bluff], and with a little skiff, which would carry but one besides the man with the paddle, they were brought away safely after five or six hours labor. I should have said that all the way through Poolesville and along the road we heard rumors of the catastrophe from stragglers of the Fifteenth, who had swum the river and told sad tales of the regiments cut off. At Conrad's Ferry we learned further particulars, and in the only house there I saw several wounded men brought in for shelter from the storm,—one poor fellow who had been struck in the left eye by a rifle-ball, and whose face was swollen beyond recognition. The attendant told me the ball was still in his cheek. This was my first experience of war. There were others wounded, and one lieutenant of the California regiment brought in dead out of the river. . . . . The next day we marched back, but found that the camp had been moved in our absence two miles farther up; and so we “toted” on and got in before dark, and again got into dry shoes and stockings (this time borrowed). We had been in not above an hour when orders came for the regiment to march for Edward's Ferry. Again started on a muddy, rutted road, and, struggling on for four or five hours, reached the general's Headquarters. Up to this point we had been kept up by the hope that we were to cross the river and meet the enemy, but we found we were not expected; some order had miscarried, or had not been sent, and we were ordered to countermarch and return to camp. The distance was about eight miles; but this was the third night that three of our companies had been on their feet, to say nothing of the days. Our Colonel told us not to compel our men to keep the ranks, and if it had been ordered, obedience could not have been enforced. We were footsore, wet, and discouraged. Some halted where they were.
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Ode recited at the Harvard commemoration, July 21 , 1865 .
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