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With the veteran armies

Charles King, Brigadier-General, United States Volunteers
It was a fine, enthusiastic army that General McClellan finally marched forward on Manassas in the early spring of 1862. So far as dress and ‘style’ were concerned it far surpassed that with which, two years later, General Grant crossed the Rapidan southward, and, unlike all preceding commanders in that field, took no backward step until he had crushed his foe.

But in point of discipline, efficiency, and experience—the essentials of modern military craft—it is doubtful if the world contained, man for man, anything to equal the two armies confronting each other in May, 1864, the matchless soldiery of Grant and Lee. Three years had they marched and maneuvered, fenced and fought—three tremendous years—and now it seemed as though every man realized that this would be the final struggle, that the question of the supremacy of the Union or of the South was to be settled forever.

Beautiful and bright had been the colors that fluttered over each proud battalion as it took the road for Manassas—gay and vivid the uniforms of the ‘foreign legions’ and the Zouaves, spick and span the blue battalions, all with gleaming belts and brasses, many with white gloves, and some even with white gaiters. In spite of the clerical cut of his uniform, the average officer had a soldierly look about him, enhanced by a trimly buttoned coat well set off by the crimson sash. Those were the days of the dandy, encouraged by the example of many a general like McClellan, Porter, ‘PhilKearny, and Hooker, who believed in fine accouterments and glittering [227]

Hooker—handsome in person and equipment General Joseph Hooker, whose photograph appears above, was one of many able generals, such as McClellan, Porter, ‘PhilKearny, and others, who believed in fine accouterments and glittering trappings. These leaders used the costliest of housings and horse equipments, and expected their staff officers to follow suit. The latter were nothing loth; much money was spent at the outset of the war in giving the army as trig and smart an appearance as a European host. But there were no military roads in the United States, and the pageantry of a European army is not adapted to the swamps and morasses, the mountain heights, and rocky roads over which the war was fought. By the end of the second year the red sash which set off the trimly buttoned coat had turned to purple or disappeared entirely, and in many instances the coat was gone as well. The costly shoulder-straps of gold embroidery had given place to metal substitutes, and the ‘hundred-dollar housings’ of the grand review in the fall of 1861 were left in the swamps or lost in battle.

[228] trappings, used the finest of housings and horse equipments, and expected their staff officers to follow suit. Those were the days when each regiment still had its band, some of them strong in numbers and splendid in effect, when each band still had its spectacular drum-major, and some few of them even a prettily dressed vivandiere. By common consent, the glittering epaulet had been abandoned, but the plumed felt hat, the yellow sash and gantlets still decked the martial persons of the corps, division, and brigade commanders, and the regimental officers in many an instance made the most of the regulations as to uniform.

Much of the picturesque remained with the army when McClellan floated it around to the Peninsula and lost priceless weeks at Yorktown. But the few vivandieres seemed to wilt after Williamsburg. Many a bandsman balked at having to care for the wounded under fire. Quite a few chaplains decided that their calling was with the hospitals at the rear rather than with the fighters at the front. Then the humid heat of a Chickahominy June had taken the starch out of the last collar, and utterly killed the buttoned — up coat. Officers and men by thousands shed the stiff and cumbersome garment, marched arid fought in their flannel shirt-sleeves until they could get the uncouth but unbothersome ‘blouse.’ Regiments that long had paraded in leggings or gaiters kicked themselves loose and left the relics strung out from Mechanicsville to Malvern. When next they came trudging out toward Manassas, to join John Pope and his hard-hammered army, many men had learned the trick of rolling the trousers snug at the ankle, and hauling the gray woolen sock, legging-wise, round them. There was a fashion that endured to the last, and spread westward and southward to the ends of the lines.

But with the second summer of the war the hooked standing collar and buttoned — up coat were almost gone. Men had learned wisdom, and wore the blue blouse and gray-flannel shirt—open at the throat in warm weather, snug-fastened in [229]

One foreign uniform retained throughout the war—a ‘rush hawkins' Zouave’ at General Gillmore's headquarters, 1863 The vivid sunlight in this photograph makes the grass and roof look almost like snow, but the place is Folly Island before Charleston in July, 1863. In the foreground to the left stands one of Rush Hawkins' Zouaves, from the Ninth New York Infantry. He adheres to his foreign uniform, although most of the white gaiters and other fancy trappings of the Union army had disappeared early in 1862. But his regiment did good service. It fought at South Mountain, at Antietam, and Fredericksburg, with much scouting and several forced marches before it was mustered out May 20, 1863. The three-years men, after they were assigned to the Third New York Infantry, which was ordered to Folly Island in July, 1863, retained their uniforms when in entire companies. The scene is the headquarters of General Quincy Adams Gillmore, who was promoted to lieutenant-colonel April 11, 1862, for gallant and meritorious service in the capture of Fort Pulaski, Ga., and to colonel, March 30, 1863, for gallant and meritorious service in the battle of Somerset, Ky. He became major-general of volunteers in July, 1863. Note the black shadows cast by the soldier and the tree.

[230] cold—and so lived and marched in comfort. Almost everything that was conspicuous or glittering had disappeared front the dress of horse or man. The army that came back front Fair Oaks and Gaines' Mill plodded on through the heart of Maryland in quest of Lee, bronzed, bearded in many cases, but destitute of ornament of any kind. The red sash had turned to purple or faded away entirely; the costly shoulder-straps of gold embroidery, so speedily ruined by dust and rain, had given place to creations of metal, warranted to keep their shape, nor rust or fade—no matter what the weather.

Officers who proudly bestrode ‘hundred-dollar housings’ at the grand review in the fall of 1861, had left them in the swamps or lost them in battle, and were now using the cavalry blanket instead of the shabrack, and the raw hogshide, rough stitched to wooden saddle-tree, instead of the stuffed seat of the Jenifer—and speedily learning that what they lost in style they gained in comfort. So, too, had the polished brass or steel stirrup given way to the black-hooded, broad-stepped, wooden frame wherein the foot kept warm and dry whatever the weather.

Only generals were wearing, with the second and third years, the heavily frogged and braided overcoats of dark blue. Capes, ponchos, and cavalry surtouts were the choice of the line-officer, and the men of the ranks had no choice. By the time they had finished the second summer of the war, had later crossed the icy Rappahannock and vainly stormed the heights at Fredericksburg, and later still had followed ‘Fighting Joe’ to Chancellorsville—and back—the pomps and vanities of soldier life had become things of the remote past; they had settled down to the stern realities of campaigning. It was a seasoned, a veteran army that marched to Gettysburg and for the first time fairly drove the Southern lines from the field. Long before this the treasured colors were stained, faded, rent, and torn. Some had been riven to shreds in the storm of shot and shell along the Chickahominy, in front of the [231]

Union soldiers at work to preserve their health

The soldier in the field had to learn to take care of his health between battles as well as to save his skin while the bullets were flying. In these two photographs, separated by only a few moments, Union men appear at the work of sanitation. Huts are being erected and ditches dug for drainage near the headquarters of General George W. Getty, Sixth Army Corps. In the upper photograph the man with the wheelbarrow is just starting away from the tent with a load. In the lower, he has reached the unfinished hut. The men standing upright in the upper picture have bent to their work and the sentry has paced a little farther along on his beat.

Union soldiers at work to preserve their health

Union soldiers at work to preserve their health

[232] unfinished railway at Second Bull Run, in the cornfields of the Antietam, on the frozen slopes of Marye's Hill, or among the murky woods of Chancellorsville. Now, in many a regiment, by the spring of 1864, half the original names had gone from the muster-rolls, the fearful cost of such battling as had been theirs—theirs, the home-loving lads who came flocking in the flush of youth and the fervor of patriotism to offer their brave lives at the earliest call, in 1861.

It was a veteran army of campaigners with which Meade, Hancock, and Reynolds, those three gallant Pennsylvanians, overthrew at Gettysburg the hard-fighting army of the South —Reynolds laying down his life in the fierce grapple of the first day—veterans, yet more than half of them beardless boys. Few people to-day who see the bent forms and snowy heads of our few remaining ‘comrades’ of the Civil War, begin to know, and fewer still can realize, the real facts as to the ages of our volunteers. It is something worthy of being recorded here and remembered for all time, that the ‘old boys,’ as they love to speak of themselves, were young boys, very young, when first they raised their ungloved right hands to swear allegiance to the flag, and obedience to the officers appointed over them.

It is something to be inscribed on the tablets of memory —the fact that over one million of the soldiers who fought for the preservation of the Union were but eighteen years of age or less at date of enlistment—that over two millions were not over twenty-one. It is a matter of record that of a total of 1,012,273 enlistments statistically examined it was found that only 46,626 were twenty-five years of age—only 16,070 were forty-four. It is something for mothers to know today that three hundred boys of thirteen years or less (twenty-five were but ten or under) were actually accepted and enlisted, generally as drummers or fifers, but, all the same, regularly enrolled and sworn in by the recruiting officers of the United States. Many a time those little fellows were [233]

Military music of the beginning

Many of the Union regiments started the war with complete and magnificent bands, but when active campaigning began they proved too great a luxury. Every man was needed then to fight. It was the bandsman's duty during an engagement to attend to the wounded on the field, a painful and dangerous task which discouraged many a musician. The topmost photograph shows one of the bands that remained in permanent headquarters, in Camp near Arlington, Virginia. In the next appears the field music of the 164th New York. In the next photograph the post musicians of Fortress Monroe stand imposingly beneath their bearskins. The bottom picture shows a band at winter headquarters—Camp Stoneman, near Washington.

Military music of the beginning

Military music of the beginning

Military music of the beginning

[234] under heavy fire. Many a time they were cheered for deeds of bravery and devotion.

But with the coming of the spring of 1864 such a thing as a boyish face was hard to find among them. Young faces there were by hundreds, but the boyish look was gone. The days of battle and peril, the scenes of bloodshed and carnage, the sounds of agony or warning—all had left indelible impress. Eyes that have looked three years upon death in every horrible shape, upon gaping wounds and battle-torn bodies, lose gradually and never regain the laughing light of youth. The correspondents of the press filled many a column with description of the boy-faced generals—men like Barlow, Merritt, and curly-haired Custer; but a closer study of the young faces thus pictured would have told a very different story—a story of hours of anxious thought and planning, of long nights of care and vigil, of thrilling days of headlong battle wherein a single error in word or action might instantly bring on disaster.

In both East and West, by this time, there were regiments commanded by lads barely twenty years of age, brave boys who, having been leaders among their schoolfellows, on enlistment had been elected or appointed lieutenants at seventeen, and who within two years had shown in many a battle such self-control, such self-confidence, such capacity for command that they rose by leaps and bounds to the head of their regiments. Of such were the boy colonels of the Western armies—Lawton of Indiana, MacArthur of Wisconsin. There were but few young colonels in the camps of the Army of the Potomac, as the buds began to burst and the sap to bubble in the groves along the swirling Rappahannock——the last springtide in which those scarred and ravaged shores were ever to hear the old familiar thunder of shotted cannon, or the rallying cries of the battling Blue and Gray.

Three winters had the men of McClellan, of Hooker, and of Meade dwelt in their guarded lines south of the Potomac, three winters in which the lightest hearted of their number [235]

Field music.

The fife and drum corps became the chief dependence of the regimental commanders for music as the fighting wore on. They remained with the army to the end, and sounded all the ‘calls.’ They served under the surgeon. A cheerful bit of music is an inspiring thing to a tired column of soldiers on a long day's march or before a dangerous foe. General Sheridan recognized the value of this stimulus to the men, and General Horace Porter records that as late as March 30, 1865, he encountered one of Sheridan's bands under heavy fire at Five Forks, playing ‘Nellie Bly’ as cheerfully as if it were furnishing music for a country picnic. The top photograph shows one of the cavalry bands at Auburn, in the fall of 1863. The frayed trousers of the band below show hard service.

Evening music at Pleasonton's headquarters, Auburn, 1863

The music that stayed with the soldiers—Talty's fifers and drummers


A band that had seen service, near Fairfax, 1863

[236] must have matured ten years. What sights had they seen, what miles had they marched, what furious battles had they fought, yet to what end? In spite of all their struggles and all their sacrifices, here they lay along the same familiar slopes and fields, with the same turbid stream still barring the southward way. Once had the grand Army of the Potomac, led by McClellan, turned the opposing line, tried the water route, marched up the Peninsula, and after a few weeks of fighting, drifted back again. Twice had the gallant Army of Northern Virginia, led by Robert E. Lee, turned the opposing lines, tramped up to the Cumberland valley, and after the stirring days of Antietam and Gettysburg, fallen back, fearfully crippled, yet defiant. Now, nearly two to one in point of numbers, and with a silent, simple-mannered Westerner in command of a great array made up mainly of Eastern men, the Army of the Potomac was to begin its final essay. In size it was about what it had been when it set forth in the spring of 1862. In discipline, in experience, in knowledge of the wargame, it was immeasurably greater.

The winter had been long and dull. The novelty had long since worn off; the camps and cantonments had been made as snug and comfortable as so many homes; rations were abundant and fairly good; the sutler shops were full of tempting provender; the paymaster's visits had been regular; currency, in greenbacks, ‘shinplasters,’ and postal notes was plentiful. Drills, except for recruits, were well-nigh done away with. Reviews and parades were few and far between. Guard and sentry, patrol and picket, were about the only duties ordered, so time hung heavily on the hands of all. Writing home was one relaxation; cards, checkers, or dice supplied another, but in almost every regiment after nightfall and before tattoo, men gathered together and talked of those they had lost, of those that remained in high command, and sang or crooned their soldier songs. Across the Rapidan—where all day long silent, statuesque, yet undeniably shabby, sat in saddle those gray [237]

Drummer-boys of the war days identified by comrades half a century later The rub-a-dub-dub of the drums and the tootle-te-toot of the fifes inspired the Union armies long after there remained in the service but a few of the bands which marched to the front in 1861. All the calls from ‘reveille’ to ‘taps,’ ‘assembly,’ breakfast call, sick call, were rendered by the brave little boys who were as ready to go under fire as the stoutest hearted veteran. Many a time a boy would drop his drum or fife to grab up the gun of a wounded soldier and go in on the firing-line. Fifty years afterward, members of this group were recognized by one of their companions during the war. The one standing immediately below the right-hand star in the flag, beating the long roll on his drum, is Newton Peters. He enlisted at fifteen, in the fall of 1861, and served throughout the four years, not being mustered out until June 29, 1865. The boy standing in the front line at his left is Samuel Scott, aged sixteen when he entered the army as a drummer in August of 1862. He, too, was faithful to the end, receiving his discharge on June 1, 1865. The leader, standing forward with staff in his right hand, is Patrick Yard, who served from November 14, 1861, to July 1, 1865, having been principal musician or drum-major from July 1, 1862. These are only a few of the forty thousand boy musicians who succeeded in securing enlistment in the Union armies, and followed the flag.

[238] vedettes—the widely dispersed army of Lee had been undergoing a great religious revival, until they entered upon their final and fateful campaign with fervent hope and prayer and self-devotion.

Along the north bank, the spirit of the Union host, as compared with the lightsome heart of 1861, had become tinged with sadness. It was manifest in their songs. The joyous, spirited, or frolicsome lays of the earlier months of the war had been well nigh forgotten. Men no longer chorused ‘Cheer Boys Cheer,’ or ‘Gay and Happy,’ for the songs of 1864 were pitched in mournful, minor chord. The soldiers sang of home and mother and of comrades gone before—‘Just Before the Battle,’ ‘We Shall Meet, but We Shall Miss Him’ were in constant demand. Only rarely did the camps resound with ‘The Battle Cry of Freedom’ and ‘The Red, White, and Blue.’ They had seen so much of the sadness, they had thus far known so little of the joy of soldier life. In the West it had been different. There they had humbled the foe at Forts Henry and Donelson. They had fought him to a draw, winning finally the field, if not the fight, at Shiloh and Stone's River. Brilliantly led by Grant, they had triumphed at Jackson and Champion's Hill, and then besieged and captured Vicksburg, setting free the Mississippi. They had suffered fearful defeat at Chickamauga where, aided by Longstreet and his fighting divisions from Virginia, their old antagonist, Bragg, had been able to overwhelm the Union lines.

Yet within three months the Army of the Cumberland, led by George H. Thomas, and under the eyes of Grant, had taken the bit in their teeth, refused to wait longer for Sherman's columns to their left, or Hooker's divisions sweeping from Lookout to their rear, and in one tumultuous rush had carried the heights of Missionary Ridge, sweeping Bragg and his veterans back across the scene of their September triumph, winning glorious victory in sight of those who had declared they could not fight at all. They of the West had more than [239]

An interlude of warfare—serenading the Colonel The colonel of the regiment is sitting upon a chair fronting the house, holding his baby on his lap. His family has joined him at his headquarters, which he is fortunate to have established in a comfortable farmhouse near Union Mills, Virginia, early in 1862. A veteran, examining this photograph, found it to represent a rare event in soldier life—the serenading of an officer by the regimental band. These organizations, which entered the service with the regiments of 1861 and 1862, did not retain their organization very long. Their duty during action was to care for the wounded on the field and carry them to the rear, but it was soon found that those with sufficient courage for this service were needed on the firing-line with muskets in their hands, and they either became soldiers in the ranks or were mustered out of service. Thereafter the regiments depended for music upon their own fife and drum corps and buglers, or upon brigade bands.

[240] held their own, and now as the spring released them from their winter quarters along the Tennessee, they were eager to be marched onward to Atlanta, even to Mobile. They had with them still many of the leaders whom they had known from their formative period—notably Sherman, Thomas, McPherson, Stanley, and by them they enthusiastically swore.

They had lost Halleck, Pope, Grant, and Sheridan, as they proudly said, ‘sent to the East to teach them Western ways of winning battles,’ but Halleck and Pope had hardly succeeded, and Grant and Sheridan were yet to try. They had as yet lost no generals of high degree in battle, though they mourned Lytle, Sill, Terrill, W. H. L. Wallace, and ‘Bob’ McCook, who had been beloved and honored. They were destined to see no more of two great leaders who had done much to make them the indomitable soldiers they became—Buell and Rosecrans. They had parted with Crittenden, McCook, and McClernand, corps commanders much in favor with the rank and file, though not so fortunate with those higher in authority. They were soon to be rejoined by Blair and Logan, generals in whom they gloried, and all the camps about Chattanooga were full of fight.

But here along the open fields in desolated Virginia there was far different retrospect; there was far less to cheer. With all its thorough organization, armament, equipment; with all its months of preparation, its acknowledged superiority in drill and its vaunted superiority in discipline, the Army of the Potomac had been humbled time and again, and it was not the fault of the rank and file — the sturdy soldiery that made up those famous corps d'armee. At First Bull Run they had been pitted from the very start against forces supposed to be beyond the Blue Ridge, and overthrown at the eleventh hour by arriving brigades that a militia general was to have held fast on the Shenandoah. At Ball's Bluff they had been slowly surrounded by concentrating battalions, no precaution having been taken for their extrication or [241]

Pastimes of officers and men.

Occasionally in permanent camps, officers were able to receive visits from members of their families or friends. This photograph shows an earnest game of chess between Colonel (afterward Major-General) Martin T. McMahon, assistant adjutant-general of the Sixth Corps, Army of the Potomac, and a brother officer, in the spring of 1864 just preceding the Wilderness campaign. Colonel Mc-Mahon, who sits near the tent-pole, is evidently studying his move with care. The young officer clasping the tent-pole is one of the colonel's military aides. Chess was also fashionable in the Confederate army, and it is recorded that General Lee frequently played chess with his aide, Colonel Charles Marshall, on a three-pronged pine stick surmounted by a pine slab upon which the squares had been roughly cut and the black ones inked in. Napoleon Bonaparte is said to have been another earnest student of chess.

A game of chess at Colonel McMahon's camp

When the army relaxed

With the first break of spring the soldiers would seize the opportunity to decorate their winter huts with green branches, as this photograph shows. Care has been cast aside for the moment, and with their arms stacked on the parade ground the men are lounging comfortably in the soft spring air, while the more enterprising indulge in a game of cards. From the intentness of their comrades who are looking over their shoulders, it may be imagined that there is a little money at stake, as was frequently the case.

[242] support. In front of Washington, long months they had been held inert by much less than half their number. At Yorktown, one hundred thousand strong, they had been halted by a lone division and held a fatal month. At Williamsburg they had been stopped by a much smaller force. At Fair Oaks their left had been crushed while the right and center were ‘refused.’

At Gaines' Mill their right had been ruined while the center and left, under McClellan's own eye, had been held passive in front of a skeleton line. At Second Bull Run they had been hurled against an army secure behind embankments, while another, supposed to be miles away, circled their left flank and crushed it. At Antietam, bloodiest day of the story thus far, they had been sent in, a corps at a time, to try conclusions with an army in position, to the end that, when Lee slipped away with his battered divisions, even with superior numbers Mc-Clellan dare not follow. Twice within six months had Stuart, with a handful of light horsemen, ridden entirely around them, and with abundant cavalry had failed to stop him. In November they had mournfully parted with their idol of the year before, never to look again on ‘Little Mac,’ realizing that something must have been wrong, though it was not theirs to ask or to reason why. Obedient to Burnside's orders, they had stormed the heights of Fredericksburg in the face of Lee's veterans, laying down their lives in what they knew was hopeless battle.

Confident in their numbers, in their valor, in their comrades, and hopeful of their new and buoyant commander, they had crossed above Fredericksburg, while Sedgwick menaced from the north, and then, worst fate of all, had found themselves tricked and turned, their right wing sent whirling before ‘StonewallJackson, whom Hooker and Howard had thought to be in full retreat for the mountains, their far superior force huddled in helpless confusion and then sent back, sore-hearted, to the camps from which they had come. They [243]

The birth of base-ball: an army of boys.

Some of the men who went home on furlough in 1862 returned to their regiments with tales of a marvelous new game which was spreading through the Northern States. In Camp at White Oak Church near Falmouth, Va., Kearny's Jersey brigade and Bartlett's brigade played this ‘baseball,’ as it was known. Bartlett's boys won this historic ball-game.

It is hard to remember when one reads of the bloody battles, the manly sacrifices, the stern, exhausting work of the Union armies, that over one million of the soldiers who fought for the Union were not over twenty-one. It was an army of boys, and in Camp they acted as such. They boxed and wrestled and played tricks on each other like boys in school.

The thirteenth New York artillery playing football during the siege of Petersburg

Boxing at the Camp of the thirteenth New York at City Point, 1864

A diversion at General O. B. Wilcox's headquarters, in front of Petersburg, August, 1864

[244] had taken full measure of recompense for this humiliation in the three tremendous days at Gettysburg, had triumphed at last over the skilled and valiant foemen who for two long years had beaten them at every point, but even now they could not make it decisive, for, just as after Antietam, they had to look on while Lee and his legions were permitted to saunter easily back to the old lines along the Rapidan. They had served in succession five different masters. They had seen the stars of McDowell, McClellan, Pope, Burnside, and Hooker, one after another, effaced. They had seen such corps commanders as Sumner, Heintzelman, Keyes, Fitz John Porter, Sigel, Franklin, and Stoneman relieved and sent elsewhere. They had lost, killed in battle, such valiant generals as Philip Kearny, Stevens, Reno, Richardson, Mansfield, Whipple, Bayard, Berry, Weed, Zook, Vincent, and the great right arm of their latest and last CommanderJohn F. Reynolds, head of the First Corps, since he would not be head of the army.

They had inflicted nothing like such loss upon the Army of Northern Virginia, for ‘StonewallJackson had fallen, seriously wounded, before the rifles of his own men, bewildered in the thickets and darkness of Chancellorsville. They had been hard hit time and again—misled, misdirected, mishandled —yet through it all and in spite of all had maintained their high courage and dauntless spirit. Tried again and again in adversity and disaster, saddened, sobered, but resolute and indomitable, they asked only the chance to try it again under a leader who would stay, and that chance they were now to have—that test which was destined to be the most deadly and desperate of all; for though Meade was commander of the Army of the Potomac, Grant had come, supreme in command of all, and Grant had brought with him that black-eyed little division commander from the Army of the Cumberland whose men had broken loose and swept the field at Missionary Ridge. The cavalry corps of the Army of the Potomac was to take the field under, and soon to learn to swear by, Philip Sheridan. [245]

When war had lost its Glamour—provost-marshal's office in Alexandria, 1863 The novelty had departed from ‘the pomp and pageantry of war’ by the fall of 1863. The Army of the Potomac had lost its thousands on the Peninsula, at Cedar Mountain, at Second Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg. The soldiers were sated with war; they had forgotten a host of things taught to them as essential in McClellan's training camps that first winter around Washington. The paraphernalia of war had become familiar, and they yearned for the now unfamiliar paraphernalia of peace. This photograph shows the provost-marshal's office in Alexandria, Virginia, in the fall of 1863. The provost-marshal's men had long since learned to perform their duties with all the languid dignity of a city policeman. Attached to the flag-pole is a sign which heralds the fact that Dick Parker's Music Hall is open every night. Two years before the soldiers might have disdained to seek such entertainment in the face of impending battles. Now war was commonplace, and the ‘gentle arts of peace’ seemed strange and new.


And they had need of all their discipline and determination, for over against them, along the southern shores of the Rapidan, Lee's widely dispersed army was girding up its loins for the last supreme struggle, sustained and strengthened as never before. There had always been a devout and prayerful spirit among their chieftains, notably in Lee, Jackson, and ‘JebStuart.

And so as the soft springtide flooded with sunshine the Virginia woods and fields, and all the trees were blossoming, and the river banks were green, the note of preparation was sounding in the camps of Meade, from Culpeper over to Kelly's Ford, and one still May morning, long before the dawn —their only reveille the plaintive call of the whippoorwill— the Army of the Potomac stole from its blankets, soaked the smouldering fires, silently formed ranks and filed away southeastward, heading for the old familiar crossings of the Rapidan. Three strong corps were there, with Hancock, Warren, and Sedgwick as their commanders, while away toward the Potomac stood Burnside, leading still another.

It was the beginning of the end, for the strong and disciplined array that marched onward into the tangled Wilderness nearly doubled the number of Lee's tried and trusted soldiery. It was the last stand of the Confederacy along that historic line, but was a stand never to be forgotten. Away to the southwest were the cheerless camps of the Southern corps, led by grim, one-legged old Ewell (he had lost the other in front of the Western brigade at the opening fight of Second Bull Run), by courtly A. P. Hill, by Grant's old comrade in the army, now Lee's ‘best bower,’ Longstreet. It was an easy march for the Army of the Potomac—Sheridan's troopers picking the way. It was far longer and harder for those ragged fellows, the Army of Northern Virginia, but the Northerners reeled and fell by hundreds under the terrific blows of Longstreet, when, with the second day, he came crashing in through the tangled shrubbery. It cost the North [247]

Shifting groups before the sutler's tent—1864: first Wisconsin light artillery at Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in August, 1864.

In the early days, when there were delays in paying the troops, the sutlers discounted their pay-checks at ruinous rates. Sometimes when the paymaster arrived the sutler would be on hand and absorb all the money due to some of the soldiers. Before the end of the war the term ‘sutler’ came to have no very honorable meaning, and an overturned wagon filled with his stores found plenty of volunteers to send it on its way, somewhat lighter as to load. Sometimes, however, a popular and honest vendor of the store supplies contributed by his industry and daring to smooth the corners of a hard campaign and break the monotony of Camp fare.

Shifting groups before the sutler's tent—1864

Shifting groups before the sutler's tent—1864

Shifting groups before the sutler's tent—1864


This and the facing page show the first light artillery sent to the Union armies from what were then far-Western States. This battery was commanded by Captain Jacob T. Foster, and consisted of six 20-pounder Parrott guns. On April 3, 1862, they accompanied an expedition under General Morgan to Cumberland Gap, hauling their heavy guns by hand over the steep passes of the mountains. After the retreat from Cumberland Gap they joined the forces of General Cox at Red House Landing, Virginia, and December 21, 1862, they proceeded down the Mississippi to take part in Sherman's movement against Vicksburg. On the first of January, 1863, Sherman withdrew the army and moved to Arkansas Post. During Grant's campaign in Mississippi the battery fired over twelve thousand rounds. Their guns were condemned at Vicksburg, being so badly worn as to be unserviceable. They were then furnished with 30-pounder Parrotts, and ordered with the Thirteenth Army Corps to the Department of the Gulf. In December the Wisconsin men were ordered to New Orleans, and assigned to a position in the defenses of that city. There they were equipped as horse artillery and armed with three-inch rifled guns. By this time they were seasoned artillerists; the report of a commission appointed to inspect the quarters of all troops in New Orleans closes thus: “A more self-sustaining, self-reliant body of men cannot be found in the United States army.” On April 22, 1864, they went to the aid of Banks' columns on their retreat from the Red River expedition, and in August took part in an expedition to Clinton, Louisiana. The battery lost during service five enlisted men killed and mortally wounded, and one officer and twenty-two enlisted men by disease.


Company I, first Ohio light artillery, at Chattanooga, November, 1863 zzz missing image This company was organized at Cincinnati, Ohio, and mustered in December 3, 1861. This photograph shows it in charge of some hundred-pounder Parrott guns on Signal Hill at Chattanooga where it was encamped in November, 1863. The guns had just been placed and the battery was not yet finished. Company I served at Gainesville, Groveton, and Second Bull Run in August, 1862, fought at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, and took part in the Chattanooga-Ringgold campaign, and remained on garrison duty at Chattanooga till April 23, 1864. Thereafter it took part in Sherman's Atlanta campaign, fought at Kenesaw Mountain and Jonesboro and in many lesser engagements, and was mustered out June 13, 1865. The battery lost during service one officer and thirteen enlisted men killed and mortally wounded, and fifteen enlisted men by disease. Ohio furnished to the Federal armies thirteen regiments, five battalions, and ten companies of cavalry, two regiments of heavy artillery, forty-two batteries of light artillery, ten companies of sharpshooters, and 227 regiments, one battalion, and five companies of infantry—a grand total of 459,534 in 1860.

[250] the lives of two great leaders—Hays and Wadsworth, and hosts of gallant officers and men, did that battle of the Wilderness. Fearful was the toll taken by Lee in his initial grapple of the last campaign, for no less than eighteen thousand men, killed, wounded, and missing, were lost to Grant. It would have cost very much more but for one potent fact that, in the hour of success, triumph, and victory, even as Lee's greatest corps commander had been stricken just the year before and almost within bugle-call of the very spot, Lee's next greatest corps commander, Longstreet, was here shot down and borne desperately wounded from the field.

And when another morning dawned, and through the misty light the wearied eyes of the Southern pickets descried long columns in the Union blue marching, apparently, away from the scene of their fearful struggle, away to the barrier river, the woods rang with frantic cheers of exultation. Small wonder they thought that Grant, too, had given it up and gone. They had yet to know him. They had barely time to spring to arms and dart away, full tilt by the right flank, on the eastward race for Spotsylvania, there once again to clinch in furious battle—to kill and maim almost as many of Grant's indomitable host as three days at Gettysburg had cost them, and still, with an added eighteen thousand shot out of his ranks, that grim, silent, stubborn leader forced his onward way. On to the North Anna, and another sharp encounter; on to Cold Harbor and the dread assault upon entrenched and sheltered lines, where in two hours fighting the Southern army, suffering heavily in spite of its screen, none the less took ten times its loss out of the assailing lines, and still had to fall back, amazed at the persistence of the foe. Sixty-one thousand effectives in round numbers, could Lee muster at the first gun of the campaign. Fifty-five thousand effectives in round numbers at the last gun had they shot from the ranks of Grant—nearly their own weight in foes. But even Cold Harbor could not turn that inflexible Westerner from his purpose. With nearly half [251]

Fourteenth Iowa veterans at Libby prison, Richmond, in 1861, on their way to freedom In the battle of Shiloh the Fourteenth Iowa Infantry formed part of that self-constituted forlorn hope which made the victory of April 7, 1862, possible. It held the center at the ‘Hornet's Nest,’ fighting the live-long day against fearful odds. Just as the sun was setting, Colonel William T. Shaw, seeing that he was surrounded and further resistance useless, surrendered the regiment. These officers and men were held as prisoners of war until October 12, 1862, when, moving by Richmond, Virginia, and Annapolis, Maryland, they went to Benton Barracks, Missouri, being released on parole, and were declared exchanged on the 19th of November. This photograph was taken while they were held at Richmond, opposite the cook-houses of Libby Prison. The third man from the left in the front row, standing with his hand grasping the lapel of his coat, is George Marion Smith, a descendant of General Marion of Revolutionary fame. It is through the courtesy of his son, N. H. Smith, that this photograph appears here. The Fourteenth Iowa Infantry was organized at Davenport and mustered in November 6, 1861. At Shiloh the men were already veterans of Forts Henry and Donelson. Those who were not captured fought in the battle of Corinth, and after the prisoners were exchanged they took part in the Red River expedition and several minor engagements. They were mustered out November 16, 1864, when the veterans and recruits were consolidated in two companies and assigned to duty in Springfield, Illinois, till August, 1865. These two companies were mustered out on August 8th. The regiment lost during service five officers and fifty-nine enlisted men killed and mortally wounded, and one officer and 138 enlisted men by disease. Iowa sent nine regiments of cavalry, four batteries of light artillery and fifty-one regiments of infantry to the Union armies, a grand total of 76,242 soldiers.

[252] his army strewn from the Rapidan to the lines of Richmond, Grant flung his pontoons across the James, and marched to Petersburg.

And there at last he had to pause, refit, reorganize, for Sedgwick and Hancock were lost to him—Sedgwick killed at the head of the Sixth Corps, still mourning for their beloved ‘Uncle John’; Hancock disabled by wounds. New men, but good, were now leading the Second and Sixth corps— Humphreys, and Wright of the Engineers, while Warren still was heading the Fifth. And now came the details of Sherman's victorious march from Chattanooga to Atlanta, and later of the start to the sea. Here the waiting soldiers shouted loud acclaim of Thomas' great victory at Nashville, of the pursuit and ruin of the army under Hood. Here they had to lounge in Camp and read with envy of Sheridan and the Sixth Corps playing havoc with Early in the Shenandoah, and now with occasional heavy fighting on the flanks, here they heard of Sherman at Savannah, and a little later of his marching northward to meet them.

And then it seemed as though the very earth were crumbling at Petersburg, the Government at Richmond. With Thomas, free now to march eastward up the Tennessee and through the Virginia mountains at the west; with Sherman coming steadily from the south, with Grant forever hammering from the east, and with formidable reserves always menacing at the north, what could be the future of that heroic, hardpounded army of Lee! Long since the last call had been made upon their devoted people. The aged and the immature were side by side in the thinned and starving ranks. Food and supplies were well nigh exhausted. The sturdy, hardmarch-ing, hard-fighting Southern infantry had learned to live on parched corn; their comrades, the gaunt cavalry, on next to nothing. With the end of March, Sheridan came again, riding buoyantly down from the Shenandoah, singing trooper songs along the James River Canal, rounding the Richmond [253]

Soldier life underground

There were places on the advanced line around Petersburg where it was almost certain death to look over the side of the trench. There pickets had to be changed at night. The constant hail of shot and shell made life underground, such as the soldiers in these photographs are leading, not only welcome but necessary. There are two distinct kinds of physical courage. The story is told of a burly camp-bully who threatened to thrash a wiry little veteran half his size for some trivial or fancied slight. ‘No,’ said the veteran, ‘I won't fight you now, but come out on picket where you can be alone after dark with me to-night.’ They crept out silently to relieve the picket in the outer trench that night, but a dislodged stone attracted the Confederates' attention and the shots whistled about their ears. ‘Oh!’ whined the camp-bully, as he crouched in the bottom of the trench, ‘they're trying to kill me!’ ‘Of course they are,’ replied the little veteran quietly: ‘They've been trying to kill me for the last six nights.’ But there was no fight left in the camp-bully when he was required to face bullets.

Bomb-proofs on the lines in front of Petersburg, 1864

Bomb-proofs near Atlanta, Georgia

[254] fortifications, and rejoining Grant at Petersburg. Within a week he bored a way into the dim, dripping forests about Dinwiddie, found and overwhelmed Pickett at Five Forks, and, with thirty thousands men, turned Lee's right and cut the South Side Railroad.

That meant the fall of Petersburg—the fall of Richmond. There was barely time to fire the last volleys over the third of Lee's great corps commanders, A. P. Hill; to send hurried warning to Jefferson Davis at Richmond; to summon Longstreet, and then began the seven days struggle to escape the toils by which the army was enmeshed. There had been no Sheridan in command of the cavalry when the Southern army fell back from the Antietam in 1862, or from Gettysburg in 1863, but now, on their moving flanks, ever leaping ahead and dogging their advance, ever cutting in and out among the weary and straggling columns, lopping off a train here, a brigade there, but never for a moment, day or night, ceasing to worry and wear and tear, Sheridan and his troopers rode vengefully, and there was no ‘JebStuart to lead the Southern horse—Stuart had gone down before his great foeman in sight of the spires of Richmond, long months before—and at last, with their wagon-loads of waiting rations cut off and captured before the eyes of their advance, with every hour bringing tidings of new losses and disasters at the rear, worn out with hunger, fatigue, and loss of sleep, their clothing in shreds, their horses barely able to stagger, the men who never vet had failed ‘Marse Robert,’ as they loved to call him, found their further way blocked at Appomattox; the road to Lynchburg held by long lines of Union cavalry, screening the swift coming of longer lines of infantry in blue. And then their great-hearted leader bowed his head in submission to the inevitable.

‘Not a drum was heard, not a funeral note’ when the British buried Sir John Moore at Corunna. Not a shot was heard, not a single cheer, not a symptom of triumph or [255]

When time seemed long, but home was near.

The war is over and the great machine of the Union armies which has been whirring at breakneck speed for full four years is now moving more and more slowly. But it cannot be stopped all at once, and the men who form its component parts are going through motions now become mechanical. The scene is Fort Whipple, Va., part of the vast system of defenses erected for the protection of Washington. The time is June, 1865. With the sash across his breast stands the Officer of the Day, whose duty it is during his tour of twenty-four hours to inspect all portions of the camp and to see that proper order is preserved. Just at the moment when this picture was taken, the adjutant of the regiment was giving some information to the Officer of the Day from his general order book. It is safe to assume that the thoughts of the three other officers, as well as those of the sentry pacing to and fro, are all tinged with alluring pictures of home and the comforts that have been so long denied to them. The sturdy bugler below will need no urging to sound taps for the last time. He is a soldier of the 26th Michigan. It was his regiment that issued the paroles to Lee's soldiers at Appomattox. In a few weeks he may rest his eyes on the long undulations of the inland prairies. In his western home he will often find echoing in his memory the mournful dying notes of the bugle as it sounded ‘taps’ and will recall the words soldiers have fitted to the music: ‘Go to sleep. Go to sleep. The day is done.’ One of the marvels of our war to the belligerent nations of Europe was that, having raised and trained such gigantic armies, we should disperse them so quietly when the fighting was over. There is an apocryphal story of a mad scheme to combine the armies of the North and South and proceed to intervene in Mexico.

When time seemed long, but home was near—on duty at Fort Whipple in June, 1865

A bugler of the 26th Michigan

[256] rejoicing when the Army of the Potomac leaned at last upon their rifles, and from under the peaked visors of their worn forage-caps watched the sad surrender of the men of Lee. Four long years they had fought and toiled and suffered; four long years they had everywhere encountered those grim gray lines, and always at fearful cost; four long years had they been cut off from home and loved ones, to face at any moment death, desperate wounds, the prison stockade, hardship, and privation, all that the great Union might be maintained—that even these, their skilled and valiant opponents, might prosper in future peace and unity under the rescued and resistless flag. All the peril, privation, and suffering were ended now. All the joys of home-coming were soon and surely to be theirs. Glad, glorious thanksgiving welled in every heart and would have burst forth in shout and song and maddening cheers, but for the sight of the sorrow in those thinned and tattered ranks, the unutterable grief in the gaunt, haggard faces of these, their brethren, as they stacked in silence the battle-dinted arms and bent to kiss, as many did, the sacred remnants of the battle-flags that had waved in triumph time and again, only to be borne down at the last, when further struggle was hopeless, useless, impossible. It was but the remnant, too, of his once indomitable array that was left to Lee for the final rally at Appomattox. The South had fought until between the cradle and the grave there were no more left to muster—fought as never a people fought before, and suffered as few in the Northland ever yet knew or dreamed.

without a sound of exultation, without a single cheer, we have said, yet there was a sound—the murmur of pity and sympathy along the serried lines in blue, as there slowly passed before their eyes the wearied column of disarmed, dejected soldiery, weak from wounds, from hardship, from hunger. There was a cheer—a sudden spontaneous outburst from the nearest division, when, almost the last of all, the little remnant of the old Stonewall brigade stacked the arms they had borne [257]

Military chaplains in the field.

nearly every regiment that went into the Civil War from the Northern cities had a chaplain as a member of its staff. Many of these peaceful warriors kept on through the campaigns. They worked in the field-hospitals, often under fire on the field itself where the wounded lay. More than one was carried away by patriotic ardor and, grasping the musket and cartridge-box of a wounded soldier, was seen to sally out on the firing-line, and bear himself as courageously as any veteran—after the battle returning to the duty of ministering to the wounded. And in several instances, chaplains asked for a command after a few months in the field. The church shown below was built by the Fiftieth New York Engineers at Petersburg.

The 69th New York at mass in the field

Chaplains of the ninth army corps—October, 1864

Spire and bayonets


Federal veterans in West and East, 1863—two entire regiments in line

these two photographs are unusual as showing each an entire regiment in line on parade. Here stands the type of soldier developed West and East by the far-flung Union armies. The Fifty-seventh Illinois were already veterans of Forts Donelson and Henry and the bloody field of Shiloh when this photograph was taken, and had seen hard service at the siege of Corinth. Their camp is near the Corinth battlefield, May, 1863. the forty-fourth New York, known as the ‘people's Ellsworth regiment,’ was a graduate of Bull Run, the Peninsula, Antietam, Second Bull Run, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg. It took part in even

The Fifty-seventh Illinois.

the forty-fourth New York

[259] more pitched battles than the Illinois regiment and its loss was proportionately larger. Both were known as ‘fighting regiments.’ The Fifty-seventh Illinois lost during service three officers and sixty-five enlisted men killed and mortally wounded, and four officers and 118 enlisted men by disease. The Forty-fourth New York lost four officers and 178 enlisted men killed and mortally wounded, and two officers and 145 enlisted men by disease. The long lines of soldiers shown in these photographs have already looked death in the face, and will do so again; the Westerners at Atlanta and Kenesaw, the New Yorkers in the Wilderness and before Petersburg.

[260] on every field from First Bull Run, but the cheer was for the gallant fellows who had fought so bravely and so well. It was the tribute of innate chivalry to a conquered foe, and many an officer, listening a moment in mute appreciation, suddenly swung his cap on high and joined the cheer, or, too much moved to speak, unsheathed the sword that so long had flashed in defiance of the Southern cause, and in silence lowered the battle-worn blade in salute to Southern valor.

For that was the lesson learned by these men who had borne the brunt of so many a desperate battle; for this army was the finished product of four long years of the sternest discipline, the hardest fighting, the heaviest losses known to modern warfare. The beardless boys of the farm, school, and shop had been trained by the hand of masters in the art to the highest duties of the soldier of the Nation; and now, their stern task ended, their victory won, it was theirs to be the first to take this foeman by the hand, comfort him with food and drink, and words of soldier cheer and sympathy, and then, turning back from the trampled fields of Virginia, to march yet once again through the echoing avenues of Washington, to drape their colors and to droop their war-worn crests in mourning for their martyred, yet immortal President, to place their battle-flags under the dome of the Capitol of their States, and then, unobtrusively to melt away and become absorbed in the throng of their fellow citizens, conscious of duty faithfully performed, and intent now only on reverent observance of the last lesson of him who had been through all their patient, prayerful, heaven-inspired leader. ‘To bind up the Nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan—to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves, and with all nations.’

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