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Chapter 2: our journey south.

Upon our arrival in Philadelphia we heard a signal gun and learned that it was to inform the people connected with the cooper's shop that we were coming. We marched to that place and found a nice breakfast served by the first ladies of the city. This was the only home-like meal we had received since leaving Massachusetts, and our hearts went out to the loyal people, and our thanks were expressed in three rousing cheers for them. But we hastened on, and soon took the cars for Washington. At Baltimore we left the cars and marched across the city. We passed through Pitt Street, where the sixth Massachusetts, a few months before, had marked the route with their blood. Every throat was opened as we sang “John Brown,” but our knees were a little weak, for we expected a stone would strike us at any moment. We found the roof of the depot on the Washington side of the city filled with bullet holes, the result of the riot of April 19.

From Baltimore to Washington we passed soldiers doing guard duty on the railroad, and for the first time saw men being punished at the guard-house. We saw one man with his head through a barrel, another carrying a heavy log of wood. At night we arrived in Washington and were landed at the Soldiers' Rest. A Pennsylvania regiment was ahead of us, so we were obliged to wait until they had been to supper. [8] We marched into the barracks before the tables were reset. The waiters removed the tin dishes, then jumped on to the tables and with dirty brooms began to sweep as they walked along. This was too much for Massachusetts. On the tables not cleared were remnants of the meal left by the Pennsylvanians. Soon the air was filled with bread, pork and tin dippers. The waiters were unable to stand the attack and retreated in good order. After quiet was restored our men cleared the tables and the rations were brought in, consisting of mouldy soft bread, boiled salt pork and very poor coffee. Colonel Hincks being informed of our treatment found the officer in charge and gave him religious instructions. We received nothing better that night, but the next morning when the 19th marched in to breakfast our colonel's “draft had been honored” and we had a square meal.

The Pennsylvania regiment occupying the barracks, we had to sleep on the ground. The night was warm, and being very tired we were soon fast asleep. About four o'clock we were awakened by something grunting around us, and found that we were in the midst of a drove of hogs. We had never seen hogs running at large at home, and believing some one's swine had escaped from the pen, we concluded to do a neighborly act and catch them. The race began, but with poor success for us, as they could run a mile in 2.40 or less.

After our sport we found an old pump, where we made our morning toilet. We boys did not mind this new mode of living much; we sang, said “it was all in the three years,” and was nothing after you got used to it. Not so with the older men. I remember one instance: returning from the pump I saw one of the men leaning against the [9] barracks, the tears streaming down his cheeks. I said, “What is the matter, Peter?” He replied, “I didn't think I was coming out here to be rooted over by d-d hogs.” “Oh,” I said, “if we get nothing worse than this I won't complain.” “Well,” said he, “if we do I won't stay.” He was discharged soon after.

After breakfast we slung knapsacks and marched down Pennsylvania Avenue to our camp ground on Meridian Hill. We had brought our tents from Massachusetts and all our camp equipage, including bed sacks, but we could find nothing to fill them with, so we spread them on the ground empty. The ground was filled with gravel stones and was not as “soft as downy pillows are,” but so hard that I believe the imprints of those stones are on me yet. At Meridian Hill we began active drilling. The duties of the field officers were divided, Colonel Hincks taking charge of the battalion drills, Lieutenant-Colonel Devereaux the manual, while Major How had the instruction of the guard. We were encamped on the side of the hill, and marching in battalion drill was very hard, yet “from early morn till dewy eve” we were executing company or battalion movements.

Since our arrival in Washington all had a fear of being poisoned; we hesitated to buy camp pies of any but old negro aunties, and a guard was constantly posted with loaded musket over the spring which supplied us with water. One night a nervous comrade was on duty, and thinking that, in the darkness, he saw some one approaching to poison the spring, discharged his piece. Immediately the camp was alarmed. Without waiting to fall in line the cry went up

“Row! Row!” and without muskets all rushed for the [10] spring. The officers cried “Halt! Halt! Fall in!” but you might as well have undertaken to stop a Dakota blizzard, and not till the men had been to the spring and investigated was order restored. The next day a square was formed and a short but impressive address was delivered by Colonel Hincks which had the desired effect.

On Sundays at this camp we were marched out by companies, seated in the shade and the Articles of War were read to us by our officers. As I remember them whatever you did you were to be shot, “or such other punishment as may be inflicted by courts-martial.”

At Meridian Hill we had our first Sunday morning inspection; the order was for all men to be in line. This included cooks, teamsters, clerks and all other detailed men. To the regular members of the company it was a grand sight to see these extra duty men in line. Fowler, the wagoner, had not seen his musket since it was given him at Lynnfield and knew nothing of the manual, neither did Uncle Burrill, who was regimental mail carrier. Lieutenant-Colonel Devereaux came down the line and the men threw up their guns for inspection. Fowler had watched the men on his right, and when his turn came threw his gun up in fair shape. The colonel took it, looked at the musket, then at Fowler. “What do you mean by bringing such a musket for inspection?” “It ought to be all right,” said Fowler, “it is bran new and I have never used it since it was given to me.” With a reprimand the colonel, passing on, soon came to Uncle Burrill, who was not quite as sharp as Fowler, and had not watched the men on his right. When the colonel stood before him uncle remained quiet and modestly blushed.

The colonel surveyed him from head to foot. “Why don't [11] you bring up your musket?” Uncle took it in his right hand and pushed it towards him. “Don't you know any better than that?” asked the lieutenant-colonel. “No,” said Uncle B.; “I wish that I hadn't come out here, I was sure that I should get into trouble if I did.” With a smile the lieutenant-colonel passed on, and after that, extra duty men were excused from Sunday morning inspections.

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