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Company E, 39th Massachusetts Infantry, in the Civil War.—(Iii.)

[diary of J. H. Dusseault—Continued.]

May 7. At an early hour our forces were turned out to strengthen the long line of breastworks. There was not much firing between the two armies till 8 o'clock. From that time heavy skirmishing and the thunder of artillery continued all day. At 5 p. m. our division went to the rear, about a mile, and had supper. It must be understood that our division was the advance of the Army of the Potomac from the Battle of the Wilderness till that of Spottsylvania, and this was the beginning of the movement which led up to the latter conflict. Those who took our places kept up the skirmish while we were marched off towards Spottsylvania. We started at 9 p. m., and began one of those famous left-hand flank movements of General Grant's. We marched all night, and halted at 5 a. m. on May 8. At 6 o'clock we were near Alsop's Farm. Moving forward a mile, we found the enemy's cavalry disputing for the road with our cavalry. Thereupon the regiment (Thirty-ninth Massachusetts), with the rest of the brigade, was ordered to support the cavalry. A bayonet charge was made which drove their cavalry, then a battery, and finally brought us face to face with the enemy's infantry strongly posted behind breastworks. It seems that Longstreet's Corps had started out about the same time we had. He had been wounded and Anderson was in command.

The enemy had the start of us, and they were also superior in numbers, as they had a whole corps, and we only a division. After a hard fight, the Union forces were obliged to fall back over an open field. In this action the Thirty-ninth Massachusetts came off with ninety-three men killed, wounded, and missing. Company E lost William D. Palmer and had five men wounded, viz: Thomas Hyde, John E. Horton, George A. Northey, who was captured by the enemy, William J. Arnold, and John H. Dusseault (originally of this company), who was wounded in the breast, but providentially saved by an army [57] button. His diary says: ‘I was within thirty feet of the enemy's breastworks, and when hit I was sure I was killed, as the force of the blow caused me to spin round and round like a top, and I fell to the ground. Finding I was not seriously hurt, I jumped up and joined in the retreat. We were driven back about a mile, when Griffin's division met us and stopped the retreat. This event happened about 9 o'clock in the morning. General Robinson, commander of our division, lost a leg in this action. When we came back we found Captain W. C. Kinsley, of Company K, in tears. “Look at my company!” he cried, ‘only seven left out o eighty-seven!’ But he was assured that the woods were full of our men, and that his would be in shortly. It proved to be so. We were not called on for the rest of the day, and that night the men obtained some sleep.’

Lieutenant Dusseault has a very distinct remembrance of General Grant as he appeared on the first day of the Wilderness, May 5. It was unfortunate for the Union forces that these two battles accomplished so little. Our side lost two or three men to the enemy's one. From May 4 to January 1, 1865, General Grant lost more than eighty-nine thousand men; General Lee had only ninety thousand altogether.

The Battle of Spottsylvania began at Alsop's Farm May 8 May 9 we turned out at 3 a. m., drew our rations, and went to the right. Meanwhile our guns were playing on Lee's wagon train, which was moving to our left. There was not much fighting this day. Beginning with the day before, we built not less than three lines of breastworks, one during the night, one at early dawn, and one that day. General Sedgwick, a regular army man, and the commander of the Sixth Corps, was shot that night. This sad event occurred just in front of our position. Later that same night—and it was a dark one, too—I was detailed to go back to the Ordinance train for ammunition. I had sixty men from the five different regiments of our brigade to help me. I was ordered to bring twenty-five thousand rounds (twenty-five boxes). We had secured the requisite amount and were returning to the brigade in the thick darkness. As it took two men to carry a box, which was supported on a blanket between them, it was impossible [58] to keep the men together, and as I did not know them, many of them dropped their burdens and ran away. When we got back to our camping place we learned that the brigade had moved on a mile and a half farther. When I came up to my superior officer, I had but seven boxes to deliver to him. Rousing from his sleep, he ordered me to go back immediately and secure the rest, and then turned over and went to sleep again. It had to be done, and about 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning I reported the second time, not with the lost boxes, but with enough others that had been obtained in a way which I will not stop to explain.

May 10. At Laurel Hill. Here we engaged again with the enemy, and occupied a position in front of a line of works, while the firing of musketry and artillery went on over our heads. Thus we remained for seven hours, making no active demonstration. The Union side suffered heavy loss from the artillery. About dusk we made a charge, but were repulsed. That day nine of our regiment were killed and forty-six were wounded. Corporal Samuel O. Felker and Private Robert Powers, of Company E, were killed by the same shell. Lieutenant Mills and George R. Harlow were wounded. Lieutenant Dusseault was also wounded, in the left elbow. We lay in the woods that night and kept pretty quiet.

May 11. Not much fighting, as rain set in at 5 p. m. and continued all through the night.

May 12. Still raining. Heavy firing on our left. Hancock's Corps (the Second) had charged the enemy's works at daylight; these were captured and a whole brigade of troops. But the works had to be abandoned later, as we could not hold them. At noon that day we were ordered back to the place from which we made our charge on May 10. The only difference was that two lines were in front of us now; on May 10 we were in front. Both of these lines broke, however, and we were ordered out, and moved to the left into some breastworks. At this time there were lost out of Company E David Gorham and William Odiorne, both being wounded. Lieutenant Dusseault received a slight wound in the right arm. [59]

May 13. Our division went to the rear about 8 a. m., but in about an hour we moved forward into breastworks again, and lay there all day. The enemy were within firing distance. At 10 p. m. we fell into line and marched all night, to the left. The roads were in very bad condition, owing to the recent rains. We crossed two small streams—the Po and the Ny—and halted at 6 a. m., having made but seven miles.

May 14. We did not do much this day, on account of the deep mud. The enemy shelled us, but we did not return the compliment. By this time it must be understood the men had thrown away or lost their shelter tents, and had left behind almost everything of their outfits, except their rubber blankets. At 9 p. m. we turned in, as often, under the open canopy of heaven.

May 15. We turned out at 7 a. m., keeping quiet all that day, but expecting an attack. The enemy, however, made no demonstration. Had a good night's sleep. We were still at Spottsylvania, for our progress had been in a circular direction. The town, which consisted of a court house and a few other buildings, was two or three miles in front, where the enemy were.

May 16. There was very little firing.

May 17. Very warm weather. We marched to the right and threw up more breastworks.

May 18. Pleasant and warm. I was detailed for picket at 9 a. m. Our brigade moved to the left, and the pickets joined the regiment. There was heavy cannonading, and shells were striking all around us. About 3 p. m. we moved to the right, and at 11 p. m. marched back to the breastworks which we built the night before. Fighting that day was going on mostly upon our right.

May 19. We lay in the breastworks all day; pickets were drawn in at 5 p. m., when the Rebels began to shell us. Our batteries opened on them, and they soon ceased firing. The hard fighting on our right continued. Early's Corps made a charge on our wagon train, which was in our rear, by coming around on our flank; our troops met and repulsed this charge, but there was a heavy loss on both sides. The First Division of [60] our corps was in this fight, the First Massachusetts Artillery being in the thickest of it. We were fortunate enough to get some sleep that night.

May 20. All was quiet.

May 21. We turned out at 4 a. m., moving to the left at 10. The enemy began to shell us, and we moved back. A little past noon we again moved to the left, marching thirteen miles to Guniess Station. Heavy firing ahead of us. The whole army has left Spottsylvania now, and our corps is in the rear. A very hot day.

May 22. After a good sleep, we turned out at 3 a. m., lay under arms till 11 a. m., when we marched twelve to fifteen miles, as far as Bull's Church. A very hot day again. We find ourselves out of rations.

May 23. Turned out at 4 a. m., marched at 5.30, about twelve miles, and halted near North Anna River. This was at 10 o'clock. At 3 in the afternoon we crossed this river. About a half-hour later, when part of our corps was over, Hill's Rebel Corps charged us. The river here has high banks on both sides, in some places thirty to fifty feet high, so that we could not retreat without heavy loss, Our opponents came within six or eight feet of us, then broke and went for some woods. We pursued, but as it grew dark we fell back out of the woods for fear of an ambush. Company E had two men wounded, Corporal George Myers and Private William Moulton. The enemy's loss must have been considerable. We lay close to the river all night and all the next day (May 24). Our skirmishes advanced, but found no enemy except Rebel stragglers, who were coming in all day. We turned in at 9, as a storm threatened.

May 25. As it happened, there was no rain, so we were turned out at 3. An hour later we marched about a mile to the left and threw up breastworks. Smart skirmishing was going on in front of us. That afternoon our artillery shelled the enemy. They made no reply, but their sharp-shooters picked off a number of our men. We lay quiet all that night.

May 26. We turned out at 4 in a rain which continued an hour or more. Heavy skirmishing went on nearly all day. We [61] moved at 9 a. m., under orders not to speak a word above a whisper. This was a hard march. About 1 o'clock we recrossed the North Anna, and at 2.30 p. m. halted to draw three days rations, which we were told must last for six days. An hour later we moved again, and marched almost continuously till 8 o'clock the next morning, when we halted for breakfast. At 11 a. m. the march was resumed. (All this marching was a left flank movement.) At 7 p. m. we arrived at Hanover town. This ended a hard march of twenty-two hours. We had not had our clothes off in twenty-four days. No one thought of washing his face much less of taking a bath. It can be imagined in what a filthy condition we were. This state of things lasted from May 4 to June 16.

May 28. We turned out at 4 and marched at (6, crossing the Pemunky River near Newcastle. We halted three miles from the river, built breastworks, and passed the night. Richmond was about fifteen miles from us.

May 29. The march was resumed at 10 a. m., and two miles were covered. Our regiment passed along the line of works to the extreme left, to guard some crossroads; here breastworks were constructed, and the regiment went on picket. It added to the discomfiture that we were out of rations.

May 30. The regiment came off picket duty and rejoined the brigade, which had been left alone, at 8 a. m., and after a short march we overtook the main column. The enemy had been found near Bethesda Church, and our troops were placed in line of battle. Our regiment was assigned its position, skirmishers were thrown out, and works thrown up. In the afternoon the skirmishers engaged with the enemy, and were able to hold their line. This was to be the condition of things for our regiment until June 5.

May 31. We were in line of battle early, and some skirmishing took place. Lieutenant Dusseault was detailed to go on the line. For the benefit of the uninitiated, it is explained that the officer and his men, five paces apart, are supposed to push as near the enemy as possible, nearer, of course, in the woods than in open ground; every man seizes his opportunity from rocks or trees to move up nearer. [62]

Thus ended the month of May, 1864, but to describe all the experience of those thirty-one days would be impossible. Suffice it to say, some of them were perfectly terrible. The whole army had been on the move since May 3, a state of things which was to continue until June 16.

On the skirmish line that night I became completely exhausted. We were now a mile and a half in advance of our main line. The sergeant with me was of the One Hundred and Fourth New York. I left him in charge, lay down and went to sleep. About midnight, when it was ‘dark as pitch,’ he roused me with the words: ‘They are coming! They are coming!’ It seems the enemy were marching in one long, steady column towards our right. They were so near we could hear their voices, and their tramping shook the earth where we lay. In the morning we found their earthworks empty, and we so reported it at headquarters.

June 1. The day was pleasant, but a hot one. As I have stated, our skirmish line, about a mile and a half from our main force, was in the woods and close up to the enemy. At daybreak when we found their works vacated, I reported to division officer of the picket, Major Pierce, of the Thirteenth Massachusetts, who ordered me to advance my line. But just as I was about to do so we found the enemy were moving back to our left. They passed within three hundred feet of our picket line, which thus found itself in a rather delicate situation. It is safe to say their flankers came as near as two hundred feet, and we did not dare to move during the hour or more which it took them to pass. There must have been five or six thousand of them. Finally they halted and slipped into their old works. Just then the Ninth New York Regiment, deployed as skirmishers, advanced to relieve us. They made so much noise that the enemy fired, and several of the New York boys were killed or wounded. The enemy must — have thought it was our whole line advancing, for they shelled the woods in great shape. We lay close, but when there came a lull, we would fall back, and thus gradually regained the regiment, where we went to building earthworks. About 7 p. m. we moved to the left into an open field, where we threw up a new line of works. This made the eighteenth line of [63] breastworks since we started on this campaign, May 3. This is known as the battle of Cold Harbor. We were more fortunate than the Second and Eighteenth Corps (Hancock's and Baldy Smith's), which had the brunt of the battle. It will be remenbered that the Eighteenth Corps was part of General Butler's army which joined us here, coming up from the South. Both corps were on our left. There was a terrible fight on all that day till 9 p, m. We could hear the roar of it all. The Union loss was about ten thousand men. Later General Grant acknowledged that the attack of Cold Harbor was a mistake.

June 2. At daybreak minie balls began to fly over our heads. Our skirmish line advanced and drove the enemy into the woods. About 6 o'clock that morning they charged Cutler's Division of our corps, which was at our left, and the Thirty-ninth Massachusetts was ordered to their support. The enemy was repulsed. That day, the second day of Cold Harbor, the cannonading was heavy, although most of the time it was raining, but that night all was quiet.

June 3. About 4 in the morning an artillery fight began, which continued nearly all day. For noise and tumult this surpassed anything I had heard up to this time. No one of Company E was injured. The weather cleared at 5 p. m., and there was comparative quiet until the next morning.

June 4. We were on the move, towards the left, till about noon, and took up our position in the works which we built June 3. All was quiet until 8 o'clock at night, when a fight began to the left of us; it lasted about an hour. Rain which began at 5 p. m. kept up all night.

June 5. We turned out at 4 a. m. and moved to the right in the midst of rain. Here we lay behind earthworks all day. Quiet prevailed until 8.30 p. m., when a charge was made upon our left. This attack was repulsed after an hour's fighting. At 9, or later, we moved again to the left, and halted at midnight near Cold Harbor, where we turned in for the night.

Monday, June 6. We turned out at 7 a. m. The day was warm and pleasant. At 6 p. m. orders came to be ready to march, but at 8 o'clock we were notified that we could pitch [64] tents. The teams came up, and the officers got at their valises. This was the first all day's rest since May 3.

June 7. We lay here (near Cold Harbor) all day. About neon orders came for us to pack up, but for some reason we did not march. At 6 p. m. we made camp, and turned in at 9. A quiet, restful day; some of the men drew new clothing.

June 8. Another quiet day, warm; the teams came up again; nothing doing.

June 9. Another day of quiet. Once in a while we hear the boom of a cannon, but it does not trouble us. The enemy are within one-half mile of our front. Doubtless some of their troops, as well as our own, were in motion somewhere, but we did not know of it.

June 10. We lay in our works all day; received a mail from home; turned in at 10 p. m.

June 11. We were called out at 3 in the morning, to march at 6, a distance of eight miles. We halted at 11 a. m. near Bottom's Bridge, on the Chickahominy River. Company B and Company H (mine) were detached for picket, and were stationed two miles from the bridge. I wrote hone and enclosed a Richmond Whig of May 20. (It is to-day in a good state of preservation.)

June 12. We returned from picket at 11 a. m., and our regiment had an inspection by the brigade commander, Colonel Peter Lyle, of the Ninetieth Pennsylvania. This lasted a half-hour, after which we were ordered to fall in and stack arms. At 6 p. m. we were on the march again till 10.30 that night, when we halted for supper. This was a fine day, but pretty hot.

June 13. We resumed our march at 1 a. m., and crossed the Chickahominy near Long Bridge on pontoons just before daylight. There was some slight skirmishing. At 6 a. m. we marched for two hours, covering about two miles only, and formed in line of battle. We were now in White Oak Swamp, between the James River and the Chickahominy, and the skirmishing was lively. While the enemy were shelling us we threw up breastworks. It seems that they had charged on the right of our division in the forenoon, and our Third Brigade had given [65] way, but we managed to hold our line. Our division was alone here, as the balance of our corps was some distance in the rear. General Grant behind us was rushing his whole army across the peninsula to the James, while we in front were making this demonstration. Richmond was before us, but seven to ten miles away. Our action, of course, was a bluff. After dark we moved away very quietly, as we were under orders not to speak above a whisper. We marched all night, and came to a halt just before daybreak.

June 14. At 6 a. m. we were in motion again, and after covering six or eight miles, halted at 10 o'clock near Charles City Court House, not far from the James. During this time the Second Corps was crossing the river. We remained here, out of rations, the rest of the day, and turned in for a cool and comfortable night at 8 p. m. The next day, also, we kept this position, and nothing worthy of record happened, except that we drew four days rations, and by 6 p. m. the Second Corps had finished crossing the river.

June 16. We were turned out at 2 a. m. for a march of about three miles, and halted at the banks of the James. Our brigade crossed on the transport ‘General Howard,’ and by 9 we were landed on the southern side. The Seventh Massachusetts were just about taking transports for home, as their term of service had expired. Our men had a bath in the James River, the first since May 3. At the least calculation, five thousand men were in the water with me. At 4 o'clock that afternoon marching was resumed until 10.30 p. m., when we halted in some woods and had supper. Ten miles must have been covered. (We were now on the right of our army. The left flank was now the front. When we crossed the Chickahominy we were in the advance, but when we came to the James we were in the rear.)

June 17. We turned out at 1 a. m. and marched at 3 a. m., as there was fighting on our front. At 9 o'clock we halted in the rear of some breastworks. Some of our army had come up against the enemy at Petersburg. At 6 p. m. we go forward again. All that night there is lively fighting on our front (the left). Lieutenant Wyman, of my company (H), and several [66] others are wounded. About midnight Captain Willard C. Kinsley is slightly injured in the head by a spent ball. We have no sleep that night. We are within two miles, good shelling distance, of Petersburg. Thus we spent Bunker Hill Day, 1864.

June 18. At 7 a. m. we advanced through woods and dug some pits, but went forward again, and at noon occupied the Norfolk Railroad at a point where there was a deep cut between banks that were twenty-five or thirty feet high. At 7.30 in the evening, when it was dark, we advanced rapidly across a ravine which was just beyond. In that short run two men of Company E were wounded, John E. Fuller and John O. Sullivan: George Farrar was wounded later the same day. Heavy skirmishing went on ail that day, and an artillery duel in the afternoon. The officers had been ordered to brigade headquarters, where they were informed that there was to be a night attack. By this time our forces had taken two of the enemy's lines of works, and now we were expecting to charge on their third. But the order for some reason was changed to a left flank movement, which brought us on the other bank, where breastworks were again thrown up. Later we lay back of them in a position exposed to the enemy, who woke us next morning by firing at us from close range.

June 19. We lay in our works with shells and bullets flying around us all day. Our works were about five hundred yards from the enemy's, and our skirmishers were across the ravine on a side hill. As soon as it was dark we went to work on our entrenchments. (Comment: We made a mistake, in my opinion, that we did not charge the enemy that night, for it seems as if we could have gone into Richmond just as well as not. But Grant was with us, and the countermand must have come from him.)

June 20. I am twenty-four years old to-day. Last night we worked until 2 o'clock, and were turned out again at 4 this morning. The enemy's sharp-shooters are on the lookout for the man careless enough to show himself.

June 21. We are in our works all day; pleasant weather. I was detailed for picket at 9 p. m. As we were expecting a charge from the enemy, there was no sleep for picket or brigade. [67]

June 22. I am on picket all day; still pleasant. Two of my detail were hit: Barden of Company A, in the head, and killed; Corporal Fitts, of Company H, in the foot. I was relieved at 10 p. m., and went back to my regiment. I had just reached it when heavy firing was directed right upon us.

June 23. A fine day, but warm. T. P. Harris, of my company, was hit in the head and killed at 8 a. m. There were rumors of a move to-day to some other part of the line, but we remained here all night.

June 24. Just before daylight we moved to the left, the enemy shelling us all the while. We were sent up to the first line to relieve a part of the Second Corps, and stayed there all day. The time of the Twelfth Massachusetts expires and they leave for home to-day. To-night, as on the previous nights, hall of our men are kept awake, that we may not be taken by surprise. This state of things continued night after night.

June 25. We turned out at daylight. The recruits and reenlisted men of the Twelfth Regiment, one hundred and twenty-five in number, were transferred to our regiment. Company E, as it was reduced in numbers, had eighteen of them. At 8 p. m. there was an alarm, and we fell into line to receive the enemy, but they did not charge us.

June 26. Not much doing. We drew clothing, and turned in at 9 p. m. Pleasant and warm.

June 27. We turned out at 2 a. m., expecting an attack, but none was made. A shower of rain fell at G p. m. We turned in at 9 and had a good sleep. We were still so near the enemy that their pickets and ours could converse without raising their voices very much.

June 28. We turned out at 5 a. m. Quiet all day; hardly any picket firing. Orders came at 2 o'clock to pack up at 5. We threw up a new line of works near our picket line. The evening was cool and comfortable. We turned in at midnight.

June 29. Weather comfortable; all quiet; turned in at 9 o'clock.

June 30. Cool weather. We were mustered for pay at 9 a. m. All quiet, and we turned in at 10 p. m. [68]

July 1. Cool and comfortable. We turned out at 5 a. m. Had a roll-call. The regiment received from the sanitary commission roast turkey, condensed milk, soft bread, lemons, and tobacco. Another quiet day, and we turned in at 9 p. m.

July 2. A very warm day, and a quiet one. There is a rumor that the enemy are leaving our front. We turn in at 9.

July 3. Another very warm day. I was detailed for picket duty at 6 p. m. No firing on our front.

July 4. A little rain about daylight. All quiet, but a picket line is a poor place to pass the ‘glorious Fourth of July.’ Relieved at 6 p. m.; returned to the regiment, and turned in at 11 p. m.

July 5. I wrote home and sent my diary. Turned in at 10 p. m. Quiet all night. July 6. We turned out at 6. A pleasant but very hot day. The boys receive their mail. All quiet.

July 7. Another warm day. All quiet until 6 p. m., when we were relieving the pickets. The Rebels began to shell us, and several of our brigade were wounded. The firing ceased in about a half-hour, and the rest of the night was as usual.

July 8. All quiet to-day until 6 p. m., when an artillery duel commenced and kept up for a half-hour, but the shells went over our heads, doing no damage. Turned in at 9 p. m., as there was no further disturbance.

July 9. Another very warm day. The Rebels have fired on an average two shells every ten minutes, but all go over us. We turn in at 9 p. m.

July 10. We were turned out in lively fashion at 3 o'clock by minie balls zipping close lover our heads. These were the first shots fired by the pickets since we occupied these works. They stopped at daylight. Turned in at 9, and quiet prevailed at night.

July 11. We turned out at 5, and everything was quiet until 5.30 in the afternoon, when the enemy began to shell us again. The first shell struck in our regimental headquarters, and exploded directly under our commanding officer, Colonel P. S. Davis, fatally wounding him. He died at 7 p. m. His mind [69] was clear, and he continued to converse and give directions up to the last. The surgeon of the Thirteenth, who was sitting with him at the time, was injured but slightly. Lieutenant-colonel Charles L. Pierson, afterwards General Pierson, succeeded to the command. Colonel Davis's body was embalmed and sent home, and there was a public funeral in Cambridge, where the Grand Army Post is named in his honor. His remains are interred in Mt. Auburn Cemetery.

July 12. We turned out at 1 in the early morning. I was detailed for picket, and went out at 2 o'clock, with about seventy-five to one hundred men, as was the general number from each brigade. We were relieved at 6 p. m. Our regiment was moved a little to the rear, into a new fort not yet finished. The men worked on this night and day till July 15. This fort covered about three acres, or enough space for a whole brigade. It was called Fort Davis, in memory of our late colonel. I have been in it twice in later years, in 1899 and in 1902. It is situated on Jerusalem Plank Road, a mile or more from Petersburg, and next to Fort ‘Hell’ or Sedgwick. Fort MacMahon (Rebel), which our men called Fort ‘Damnation,’ was opposite. In building our fort, we dug a trench twenty feet wide and ten feet deep, and threw up the rampart on the inside. Thus there was eighteen or twenty feet of banking. The fort was dug square and with a diagonal through it. We had a magazine in the fort, and two wells were dug for supplying the men with water. Besides our brigade, we had with us the Ninth Massachusetts Battery, which suffered so terribly at Gettysburg. It was known as Bigelow's.

July 13. We turned out at 6 a. m. I was detailed for fatigue duty with sixty men from 3 to 6 p. m. This was the length of time the men would work upon the fort, when another squad would take their places. The work went on at night full as rapidly as by day.

July 14. I was detailed for fatigue duty again at midnight (morning), and worked till 3 a. m., when the whole brigade turned out, expecting an attack. But everything remained quiet, and we turned in at 9 p. m. The veterans and recruits of the [70] Thirteenth Massachusetts Volunteers were transferred to our regiment, one hundred and three in number.

July 15. We turned out at 4 a. m. and policed the grounds (i. e., cleaned them up); weather very warm. General Warren, our corps commander, laid out camp, and we pitched our tents accordingly. That day we held a Masonic meeting in one of our pits. Turned in at 9 p. m. and slept all night.

July 16. Out at 4 a. m. Cool weather and a quiet day. At the lodge meeting yesterday it was voted to pay the funeral expenses of the late Colonel Davis. Sunday, July 17. Turned out at 4 a. m. Pleasant, warm, quiet. I was detailed for fatigue from 9 a. m. to noon and from 6 to 9 in the evening. A whiskey ration was given out to-day (given sometimes on fatigue a gill to each man). I had one hundred men that night, and there were eight canteens, or twelve quarts, for me to give out. I dealt out one-half gill, and so had four canteens left. I did this for fear some of the men would get intoxicated. I lay down with the whiskey under my head, and must have fallen asleep, for when I woke the whiskey was gone. It was easy to tell who stole it, for some half-dozen of the men were in a foolish condition. That day we had an inspection by the brigade commander. This was Sunday. Our chaplain was Edward Beecher French, an enlisted soldier, who was raised to chaplain. We did not have much use for him in that campaign, as little was done in the way of trying to hold religious services.

July 18. We turned out at 5 a. m. A few drops of rain fell towards dark, after a day of threatening weather. We have another inspection. Captain Willard Kinsley and I go down to a creek and take a bath. We get back about 9 p. m. (Our position here was seventeen or eighteen miles from the James River, and south of Richmond.)

July 19. We turned out at 5 a. m. I was detailed for fatigue, and relieved at 7 p. m. It rained all day. I had a letter from home, and wrote one in return.

July 20. We turned out at 5 a. m. Rain at intervals, but clearing at night. At 9 p. m. there was some firing on our picket line, probably a quarter of a mile in front of us. The enemy [71] kept up a heavy cannonading nearly all night. I turned in at midnight.

July 21. Turned out at 5. I am on fatigue duty again. About dusk the enemy cannonade us, and keep it up the greater part of the night. They were peppering Fort Sedgwick (‘Hell’).

July 22. Not much doing all day. We turned in and slept well all night.

July 23. We turned out at 5 a. m. Cool, pleasant weather. I am detailed on picket for forty-eight hours, beginning after dark. All quiet until midnight, when the enemy began a heavy cannonading on our right.

July 24. Cool and pleasant, all quiet until 4 p. m., when the enemy opened on us with their artillery. We didn't make much of a reply, as we were ‘sawing wood.’ They shelled our skirmish line some, which was unusual. One shell passed directly over my head and struck behind me, but fortunately did not explode. That night three men of my detail, Maine men, were wounded. The heaviest firing was at 6 p. m., as it rained hard till morning. We had a rough night.

July 25. They shelled us again to-day, but no one was hit. (Our opponents must have had very poor powder, for many of their shells refused to explode.) I was relieved at 8 p. m., and returned to the fort and regiment. The enemy threw a shell into our fort to-day for the first time.

July 26. We turned out at 6. Beautiful weather. The Second Corps moved out of the line to make a demonstration somewhere. (They returned the next day.) The Rebels shelled us from 5 p. m. to 10 p. m. They managed to put three shells into our fort, but no one was injured.

July 27. Turned out at 5 a. m. We are expecting an attack sure. Loads of ammunition have been brought up, and the men are more than ready. Heavy firing is going on at our right. Rumors are plenty. One man killed and two wounded on our picket line, men of our brigade, of the One Hundred and Fourth New York Regiment. [72]

July 28. We turn out at 5 a. m. A dull day, with threatening rain. I was detailed for fatigue. All quiet through the day. At night I was detailed on picket. A quiet night. We were intending to advance our picket line, if possible, but the Rebels got the start by placing their videttes too near us.

July 29. Very warm. The enemy throw shells at daylight over our skirmish line, and again at 6 p. m. We on picket are relieved at 8 p. m. An order is given for the whole corps to turn out at 2.30 the next morning.

July 30. This order is obeyed, and our corps (the Fifth) moved to the right, into a trench just in the rear of the Ninth Corps, about a half-mile from our fort, and remained in line there with the Second Corps on our right. At 4.44 that morning there was a terrible explosion right in front of us. A tunnel four hundred and ninety feet long had been dug to a point under a Rebel fort, since known as ‘the Crater.’ It was blown up with about two hundred and fifty men. This fort was at the right of Fort Sedgwick—our right. This was a signal for all the guns on our side to open, and the cannonading was terrible. This lasted till 8 a. m. Our Ninth Corps rushed up and took the Rebel fort and their works, but about 9 p. m. the enemy re-took them. Besides being driven back, we lost fully four thousand men, and all through mismanagement. We—that is, the Second and Fifth Corps—never received an order to advance. As a piece of engineering the mine, which was under the direction of Lieutenant-colonel Pleasants, was well managed. That day the Northern army lost three men to the enemy's one. Who blundered? It is said that General Grant and General Meade did not take kindly to the plan from the first. Burnside, however, favored it. It seems as if Petersburg might have been taken then, instead of months later. That night the dead and wounded that had been lying between the lines all day, exposed to the glare of the hot sun, were brought in: most of them were in a terrible condition. We went back to the fort, and, except for the grumbling, everything went on as before.

[To be continued.]

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