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Doc. 101.--the Seventh Regiment.---how it got from New York to Washington.

the Capitol, Washington, Saturday, April 27, 1861.
We are here. Those three words sum up as much as Napier's “Peccavi,” when he took Scinde, and we all feel somewhat as Mr. Caesar Augustus must have felt when he had crossed the Rubicon.

It is almost unnecessary for me to detail to you the events of the day on which we left New York. The indefatigable efforts of that ubiquitous and persevering individual, the reporter, has left me little to do. Nevertheless, the scene at the armory on Friday was one to be commemorated. For the first time since its formation, the Seventh Regiment left its native city on active service. All day long, from an early hour in the morning, young men in uniforms or civilian's dress, might have been seen hurrying up and down Broadway, with anomalous-looking bundles under their arms. Dandies, [149] who were the pride of club windows, were not above brown paper parcels; military tailors were stormed and taken with considerable loss — to the pocket. Delmonico, calm and serene, superintended sandwiches which were destined for the canteen. People in the streets looked with a sort of regretful admiration at the gray uniforms hurrying by. Hardware stores were ransacked of revolvers. A feverish excitement throbbed through the city — the beating of that big Northern pulse, so slow, so sure, and so steady.

At 3 o'clock, P. M., we mustered at the Armory, against which there beat a surge of human beings like waves against a rock. Within, all was commotion. Fitting of belts, wild lamentations over uniforms expected but not arrived. Hearty exchanges of comradeships between members of different companies, who felt that they were about to depart on a mission which might end in death. Here and there flickered Spring bonnets, which inclosed charming faces, as the calyx enfolds the flower; and, let me tell you, that on the faces of many of those dear blossoms there hung drops of mournful dew. At last the regiment was formed in companies, and we marched. Was there ever such an ovation? When Trajan returned conqueror, dragging barbaric kings at his chariot-wheels, Rome vomited its people into the streets, and that glorious column, that will be ever immortal, was raised. But what greeted the Emperor at his outset? The marble walls of Broadway were never before rent with such cheers as greeted us when we passed. The faces of the buildings were so thick with people, that it seemed as if an army of black ants were marching, after their resistless fashion, through the city, and had scaled the houses. Handkerchiefs fluttered in the air like myriads of white butterflies. An avenue of brave, honest faces smiled upon us as we passed, and sent a sunshine into our hearts that lives there still. In a prominent position stood Major Anderson, who saluted us, and was welcomed as such a man should be welcomed. And so on to the ferry.

Swift through New Jersey--against which no sneer be uttered evermore. All along the track shouting crowds, hoarse and valorous, sent to us, as we passed, their hopes and wishes. When we stopped at the different stations, rough hands came in through the windows, apparently unconnected with any one in particular until you shook them, and then the subtle magnetic thrill told that there were bold hearts beating at the end. This continued until night closed, and, indeed, until after midnight.

Within the cars the sight was strange. A thousand young men, the flower of the North, in whose welfare a million of friends and relatives were interested, were rushing along to conjectured hostilities with the same smiling faces that they would wear going to a “German” party in Fifth-avenue. It was more like a festivity than a march. Those fine old songs, the chorusses of which were familiar to all, were sung with sweet voice. We were assured many times, in melodious accents, that “the whiskey bottle was empty on the shelf,” and several individuals of that prominent, but not respectable class known as “bummers,” were invited to “meet us on Canaan's happy shore.” The brave old Harvard song of “Upi dee” was started, and, shameful to say, Mr. Longfellow's “Excelsior” seemed naturally to adapt itself to the tune. I do not think that “the pious monks of St. Bernard” would have been edified, had they heard themselves alluded to in that profane mu.sic.

Our arrival at Philadelphia took place at 4 o'clock. We slept in the cars, awaiting orders from our Colonel, but at daylight hunger — and it may be thirst — becoming imperious, we sallied out, and roamed about that cheerless neighborhood that surrounds the depot. Close by there was a small wooden shanty — let us say an Irish palace — which was presently filled by arid soldiers. The prog in the larder of this sumptuous residence was, I regret to. say, limited. I did not even see the traditional pig about, although heaven knows he would have been appropriate enough. Finding that we were likely to remain for some time in the city — although under the impression that we were to go straight through to Baltimore-we wandered away from the Desert of the Depot and descended on civilized quarters. The superintendent of the Deaf and Dumb Asylum was a man for the emergency. He provided a handsome breakfast for all such members of the Seventh as chose to partake of it, and we commanded beefsteak on our fingers, and ordered tea by sign-manual. Great numbers of our regiment, being luxurious dogs, went down to the Continental and Girard hotels, where they campaigned on marble floors, and bivouacked on velvet couches. They are such delicate fellows, the Seventh Regiment! Further on you will see what those delicate hands have done.

We, of course, were entirely ignorant of our route, or how we were going. The general feeling of the regiment was in favor of pushing our way coute qui coute straight through Baltimore. Rumors came along that the city was in arms. The Massachusetts troops had to fight their way through, killing eighteen and losing two men. This seemed only to stimulate our boys, and the universal word was Baltimore. But as it turned out afterwards, we were under a wise direction, and the policy of our Colonel, to whom we perhaps are altogether indebted for bringing us safe here, was, I presume, to avoid all unnecessary collision, and bring his regiment intact into Washington. The rails were reported to have been torn up for forty miles about Baltimore, and as we were summoned for the defence of the Capital, it follows, according to reason, that if we could get there without loss we would better fulfil our duty. As it happened afterwards, we had [150] to run through more peril than Baltimore could have offered.

There seemed but little enthusiasm in Philadelphia. A city that washes every morning with soap and water is not easily roused into excitement. The Quaker placidity still prevails, and when you add to this the majestic stolidity on the German element, it is not wonderful that the Capital of the Keystone State should not be uproarious. Still let me do Philadelphia justice. I understand that the people were out in large numbers to see us enter, but our delay disappointed them, and they went home. During our stay a lethargic decorum prevailed. The prim beavers of the citizens were glossy and self-possessed. We came and went without a reception or demonstration.

There was one peculiar difference that I noticed existing between the Massachusetts regiments that we met in Philadelphia and our men. The Massachusetts men — to whom all honor be given for the splendid manner in which they afterwards acted in a most trying situation — presented a singular moral contrast to the members of the Seventh. They were earnest, grim, determined. Badly equipped, haggard, unshorn, they yet had a manhood in their look that hardships could not kill. They were evidently thinking all the time of the contest into which they were about to enter. Their gray, eager eyes seemed to be looking for the heights of Virginia. With us, it was somewhat different. Our men were gay and careless, confident of being at any moment capable of performing, and more than performing, their duty. They looked battle in the face with a smile, and were ready to hob-nob with an enemy and kill him afterwards. The one was courage in the rough; the other was courage burnished. The steel was the same in both, but the last was a little more polished.

On April 20, at 4.20, P. M., we left the Phil. adelphia dock, on board the steamer Boston. The regiment was in entire ignorance of its destination. Some said we were going back to New York, at which suggestion there was a howl of indignation. Others presumed that we were going to steam up the Potomac — a course which was not much approved of, inasmuch that we were cooped up in a kind of river steamer that a shot from the fort at Alexandria might sink at any moment. We, however — to make use of a familiar expression--“went it blind,” and the faces did not smile the less because our object was unknown.

It was on board of this steamer that “Joe” came out. You, of course, don't know who “Joe” is. Well, you may rest contented, because he will always remain “Joe” to you. I may, without transgression, however, give you his typograph. I will put him in position, level the lens, and — here he is. Imagine a well-built young fellow of about 21, with mercury instead of blood in his veins, ever on the move, with a sort of quaint, joyous humor seething from him, as if he was always at boiling point. Joe's two specialties, like a winnowing machine that I once saw, are work and chaff. During the evening on board the steamer he distributed himself generally about, with a merry word and a joke for every one. What number of bad puns he made, or what horrible conundrums he made, my exhausted and horrified memory refuses to recall; suffice it to say, that laughter and good-humor followed in his wake, as the white foam smiles astern of some sharp little cutter going before the wind.

The first evening, April 20, on board the Boston, passed delightfully. We were all in first-rate spirits, and the calm, sweet evenings that stole on us as we approached the South, diffused a soft and gentle influence over us. The scene on board the ship was exceedingly picturesque. Fellows fumbling in haversacks for rations, or extracting sandwiches from reluctant canteens; guards pacing up and down with drawn bayonets; knapsacks piled in corners, bristling heaps of muskets, with sharp, shining teeth, crowded into every available nook; picturesque groups of men lolling on deck, pipe or cigar in mouth, indulged in the dolce far niente, as if they were on the blue shores of Capri rather than on their way to battle; unbuttoned jackets, crossed legs, heads leaning on knapsacks, blue uniforms everywhere, with here and there a glint of officers' red lighting up the foreground-all formed a scene that such painters as the English Warren would have revelled in.

I regret to say that all was not rose-colored. The steamer that the Colonel chartered had to get ready at three or four hours notice, he having changed his plans, in consequence of the tearing up of the rails around Baltimore. The result was that she was imperfectly provisioned. As the appetites of the men began to develop, the resources of the vessel began to appeal. In the first place, she was far too small to accommodate a thousand men, and we were obliged to sleep in all sorts of impossible attitudes. There is an ingenious device known to carpenters as “dove-tailing,” and we were so thick that we had positively to dove-tail, only that there was very little of the dove about it; for when perambulating soldiers stepped on the faces and stomachs of the sleepers, as they lay on deck, the greeting that they received had but little flavor of the olive branch.

Notwithstanding that we found very soon that the commissariat was in a bad way, the men were as jolly as sandboys. I never saw a more good-humored set of men in my life. Fellows who would at Delmonico's have sent back a turban de volaille aux truffes because the truffles were tough, here cheerfully took their places in file between decks, tin plates and tin cups in hand, in order to get an insufficient piece of beef and a vision of coffee. But it was all merrily done. The scant fare was seasoned with hilarity; and here I say to those people in New York who have sneered at the [151] Seventh Regiment as being dandies, and guilty of the unpardonable crimes of cleanliness and kid gloves, that they would cease to scoff and remain to bless, had they beheld the square, honest, genial way in which these military Brummells roughed it. Farther on you will see what they did in the way of endurance and activity.

April 21 was Sunday. A glorious, cloudless day. We had steamed all night, and about 10 o'clock were in the vicinity of Chesapeake Bay. At 11 o'clock, A. M., we had service read by our chaplain, and at 1 P. M., we were seven miles from the coast. The day was calm and delicious. In spite of our troubles with regard to food — troubles, be it understood, entirely unavoidable — we drank in with delight the serenity of the scene. A hazy tent of blue hung over our heads. On one side the dim thread of shore hemmed in the sea. Flights of loons and ducks skimmed along the ocean, rising lazily, and spattering the waves with their wings as they flew against the wind, until they rose into air, and, wheeling, swept into calmer feeding grounds. Now and then the calm of the hour was,broken with the heavy tramp of men, and the metallic voice of the corporal of the guard relieving his comrades. At 5 o'clock, P. M., we passed a light-ship and hailed her, our object being to discover whether any United States vessels were in the neighborhood waiting to convoy us up the Potomac River. We had heard that the forts at Alexandria were ready to open upon us if we attempted to pass up, and our steamer was of such a build that, had a shell or shot struck it, we would have been burned or drowned. It therefore behooved us to be cautious. The answers we got from the light-ship and other vessels that we hailed in this spot were unsatisfactory, and although the feelings of the men were unanimous in wishing to force the Potomac, wiser counsels, as it proved, were behind us, and we kept on. About this time a curious phenomenon occurred. Some men in the regiment who have fine voices — and their name is legion — had been singing, with all that delicious effect that music at sea produces, several of the finest psalms in our liturgy. The ocean softens and delicately repeats sound, and those airs, trembling and sliding along the almost unrippled surface of the sea, were so melodious, that if the Southern Cerberi had heard them, they would have slumbered at the gates of their own hell. While we were singing, the moon swung clear into air, and round her white disk was seen three circles, clear and distinct--red, white, and blue! The omen was caught by common instinct, and a thousand cheers went up to that heaven that seemed in its visible signs to manifest its approval of the cause in which we were about to fight. All this time we were entirely ignorant of where we were going. The officers kept all secret, and our conjectures drifted like a drifting boat. On the morning of the 22d we were in sight of Annapolis, off which the Constitution was lying, and there found the Eighth Regiment of Massachusetts volunteers, on board the Maryland. They were aground, owing, it is supposed, to the treachery of the captain, whom they put in irons, and wanted to hang. I regret to say that they did not do it. During the greater portion of that forenoon we were occupied in trying to get the Maryland off the sandbar on which she was grounded. From our decks we could see the men in file trying to rock her, so as to facilitate our tugging. These men were without water and without food, were well conducted and uncomplaining, and behaved, in all respects, like heroes. They were under the command of Col. Butler, and 1 regret that that gentleman did not car e more for the comforts of men whose subsequent pluck proved that nothing was too good for them. During the endeavors to get the Maryland afloat, we had some idle time on our hands, and your humble servant employed some of it in “composing” a Seventh Regiment song, which is now in rehearsal by the vocalists of the corps.1

On the afternoon of the 22d we landed at the Annapolis dock, after having spent hours in trying to relieve the Maryland. For the first time in his life your correspondent was put to work to roll flour-barrels. He was entrusted with the honorable and onerous duty of transporting stores from the steamer to the dock. Later still he descended to the position of mess servant, when, in company with gentlemen well known in Broadway for immaculate kids, he had the honor of attending on his company with buckets of cooked meat and crackers. The only difference between him and Co. and the ordinary waiter being, that the former were civil.

After this I had the pleasing duty of performing three hours of guard duty on the dock with a view to protect the baggage and stores. It was monotonous — being my first guard--but not unpleasant. The moon rose calm and white. A long dock next to the one on which I was stationed stretched away into the bay, resting on its numerous piles, until it looked in the clear moonlight like a centipede. All was still and calm, until at certain periods the guard challenged persons attempting to pass. There was a holy influence in the hour, and somehow the hot fever of anxiety that had been over us for days seemed to pass away under the touch of the magnetic fingers of the night.

We were quartered in the buildings belonging to the Naval School at Annapolis. I had a bunking-place in what is there called a fort, which is a rickety structure, that a lucifer match would set on fire, but furnished with imposing guns. I suppose it was merely built to practice the cadets, because as a defence it is worthless. The same evening boats were sent off from the yard, and towards nightfall the Massachusetts men landed, fagged, hungry, [152] thirsty, but indomitable. At an early hour there was a universal snore through the Naval School of Annapolis.

The two days that we remained at Annapolis were welcome. We had been without a fair night's sleep since we left New York, and even the hard quarters we had there were a luxury compared to the dirty decks of the Boston. Besides, there were natural attractions. The grounds are very prettily laid out, and in the course of my experience I never saw a handsomer or better bred set of young men than the — cadets. They number about----, only twenty having left the school owing to political conviction. The remainder are sound Union fellows, eager to prove their devotion to the flag. After spending a delightful time in the Navy School, resting and amusing ourselves, our repose was disturbed, at 9 P. M., April 23, by rockets being thrown up in the bay. The men were scattered all over the grounds; some in bed, others walking or smoking, all more or less undressed. The rockets being of a suspicious character, it was conjectured that a Southern fleet was outside, and our drummer beat the roll-call to arms. From the stroke of the drum, until the time that every man, fully equipped and in fighting order, was in the ranks, was exactly, by watch, seven minutes. It is needless to say any thing about such celerity — it speaks for itself. The alarm, however, proved to be false, the vessels in the offing proving to be laden with the Seventy-first and other New York regiments; so that, after an unpremeditated trial of our readiness for action, we were permitted to retire to our virtuous coaches, which means, permit me to say, a blanket on the floor, with a military overcoat over you, and a nasal concert all around you, that, in noise and number, outvies Musard's celebrated concerts monstres.

On the morning of the 24th of April we started on what afterwards proved to be one of the hardest marches on record. The Secessionists of Annapolis and the surrounding district had threatened to cut us off in our march, and even went so far as to say that they would attack our quarters. This, of course, was the drunken Southern ebullition. A civilian told me that he met in the streets of Annapolis two cavalry soldiers who came to cut our throats without delay, but as each brave warrior was endeavoring to hold the other up, my friend did not apprehend much danger.

A curious revulsion of feeling took place at Annapolis, and indeed all through Maryland, after our arrival.

The admirable good conduct which characterizes the regiment, the open liberality which it displays in all pecuniary transactions, and the-courteous demeanor which it exhibits to all classes, took the narrow-minded population of this excessively wretched town by surprise. They were prepared for pillage. They thought we were going to sack the place. They found, instead, that we were prepared and willing to pay liberal prices for every thing, and that even patriotic presentations were steadily refused. While we were in the Navy School, of course all sorts of rumors as to our operations were floating about. It surprised me that no one suggested that we were to go off in a balloon; however, all surmises were put to an end by our receiving orders, the evening of the 23d, to assemble in marching order next morning. The dawn saw us up. Knapsacks, with our blankets and overcoats strapped on them, were piled on the green. A brief and insufficient breakfast was taken, our canteens filled with vinegar and water, cartridges distributed to each man, and after mustering and loading, we started on our first march through a hostile country.

Gen. Scott has stated, as I have been informed, that the march that we performed from Annapolis to the Junction is one of the most remarkable on record. I know that I felt it the most fatiguing, and some of our officers have told me that it was the most perilous. We marched the first eight miles under a burning sun, in heavy marching order, in less than three hours; and it is well known that, placing all elementary considerations out of the way, marching on a railroad track is the most harassing. We started at about 8 o'clock, A. M., and for the first time saw the town of Annapolis, which, without any disrespect to that place, I may say, looked very much as if some celestial schoolboy, with a box of toys under his arm, had dropped a few houses and men as he was going home from school, and that the accidental settlement was called Annapolis. Through the town we marched, the people unsympathizing, but afraid. They saw the Seventh for the first time, and for the first time they realized the men that they had threatened.

The tracks had been torn up between Annapolis and the Junction, and here it was that the wonderful qualities of the Massachusetts Eighth Regiment came out. The locomotives had been taken to pieces by the inhabitants, in order to prevent our travel. In steps a Massachusetts volunteer, looks at the piece-meal engine, takes up a flange, and says coolly, “I made this engine, and I can put it together again.” Engineers were wanted when the engine was ready. Nineteen stepped out of the ranks. The rails were torn up. Practical railroad makers out of the regiment laid them again, and all this, mind you, without care or food. These brave boys, I say, were starving while they were doing this good work. What their Colonel was doing, I can't say. As we marched along the track that they had laid, they greeted us with ranks of smiling but hungry faces. One boy told me, with a laugh on his young lips, that he had not eaten any thing for thirty hours. There was not, thank God, a haversack in our regiment that was not emptied into the hands of these ill-treated heroes, nor a flask that was not at their disposal. I am glad to pay them tribute here, and mentally doff my cap. [153]

Our march lay through an arid, sandy, tobacco-growing country. The sun poured on our heads like hot lava. The Sixth and Second companies were sent on for skirmishing duty, under the command of Captains Clarke and Nevers, the latter commanding as senior officer. A car, on which was placed a howitzer, loaded with grape and canister, headed the column, manned by the engineer and artillery corps, commanded by Lieut. Bunting. This was the rallying point of the skirmishing party, on which, in case of difficulty, they could fall back. In the centre of the column came the cars laden with medical stores, and bearing our sick and wounded, while the extreme rear was brought up with a second howitzer, loaded also with grape and canister. The engineer corps, of course, had to do the forwarding work. New York dandies, sir-but they built bridges, laid rails, and headed the regiment through that terrible march. After marching about eight miles, during which time several men caved in from exhaustion, and one young gentleman was sunstruck and sent back to New York, we halted, and instantly, with the Divine instinct which characterizes the hungry soldier, proceeded to forage. The worst of it was there was no foraging to be done. The only house within reach was inhabited by a lethargic person, who, like most Southern men, had no idea of gaining money by labor. We offered him extravagant prices to get us fresh water, and it was with the utmost reluctance we could get him to obtain us a few pailfuls. Over the mantel — piece of his miserable shanty I saw — a curious coincidence — the portrait of Col. Duryea, of our regiment.

After a brief rest of about an hour, we again commenced our march; a march which lasted until the next morning — a march than which in history, nothing but those marches in which defeated troops have fled from the enemy, can equal. Our Colonel, it seems, determined to march by railroad, in preference to the common road, inasmuch as he had obtained such secret information as led him to suppose that we were waited for on the latter route. Events justified his judgment. There were cavalry troops posted in defiles to cut us off. They could not have done it, of course, but they could have harassed us severely. As we went along the railroad we threw out skirmishing parties from the Second and Sixth companies, to keep the road clear. I know not if I can describe that night's march. I have dim recollections of deep cuts through which we passed, gloomy and treacherous-looking, with the moon shining full on our muskets, while the banks were wrapped in shade, and each moment expecting to see the flash and hear the crack of the rifle of the Southern guerilla. The tree frogs and lizards made a mournful music as we passed. The soil on which we travelled was soft and heavy. The sleepers lying at intervals across the track made the march terribly fatiguing. On all sides dark, lonely pine woods stretched away, and high over the hooting of owls or the plaintive petition of the whip-poor — will rose the bass commands of Halt! Forward, march!--and when we came to any ticklish spot, the word would run from the head of the column along the line, “Holes,” “Bridge, pass it along,” &c.

As the night wore on the monotony of the march became oppressive. Owing to our having to explore every inch of the way, we did not make more than a mile or a mile and a half an hour. We ran out of stimulants, and almost out of water. Most of us had not slept for four nights, and as the night advanced our march was almost a stagger. This was not so much fatigue as want of excitement. Our fellows were spoiling for a fight, and when a dropping shot was heard in the distance, it was wonderful to see how the languid legs straightened, and the column braced itself for action. If we had had even the smallest kind of a skirmish the men would have been able to walk to Washington. As it was, we went sleepily on. I myself fell asleep walking in the ranks. Numbers, I find, followed my example; but never before was there shown such indomitable pluck and perseverance as the Seventh showed in that march of twenty miles. The country that we passed through seemed to have been entirely deserted. The inhabitants, who were* going to kill us when they thought we daren't come through, now vamosed their respective ranches, and we saw them not. Houses were empty. The population retired into the interior, burying their money, and carrying their families along with them. They, it seems, were under the impression that we came to ravage and pillage, and they fled as the Gauls must have fled when Attila and his Huns came down on them from the North. As we did at Annapolis, we did in Maryland State. We left an impression that cannot be forgotten. Every thing was paid for. No discourtesy was offered to any inhabitant, and the sobriety of the regiment should be an example to others. I have now to finish without bringing our journey up to here. But let that rest for my next letter. I wish, however, before I conclude, to state that nothing could have been more effective or energetic than the movements of the Engineer Corps, to whom we were indebted for the rebuilding of a bridge in an incredibly short space of time.

The secret of this forced march, as well as our unexpected descent on Annapolis, was the result of Col. Lefferts' judgment, which has since been sustained by events. Finding that the line along the Potomac was closed, and the route to Washington by Baltimore equally impracticable, he came to the conclusion that Annapolis, commanding, as it did, the route to the Capital, must of necessity be made the basis of military operations. It was important to the Government to have a free channel through which to transport troops, and this post presented the readiest means. The fact that since then all the Northern troops have passed through the line that we thus opened, is a [154] sufficient comment on the admirable judgment that decided on the movement. It secured the integrity of the regiment, and saved lives, the loss of which would have plunged New York into mourning. Too much importance cannot be attached to this strategy. To it the Seventh Regiment is indebted for being here at present intact and sound. For the present, adieu.

F. J. O'B.

--N. Y. Times.

1 See song entitled “The Seventh,” at page 17, Poetry and Incidents.

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