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Chapter 27: the Gettysburg Campaign.

On June 14, 1863, Hooker put his army on the march toward Gettysburg. Hancock's Second Corps was the rear guard all the way to Edward's Ferry. The Nineteenth Massachusetts regiment bivouacked on the night of June 14, under orders to start the following morning in very light marching order, and did so in company with two pieces of Battery ‘A,’ First Rhode Island Artillery, to form the extreme rear guard of the Army, Companies F and K being detailed under command of Major Rice to march half a mile in rear of the column. They marched, on the first day, until nearly sunset, over dusty roads and frequently through burning woods. Passing Stafford Court House, they camped on Aquia Creek where the men bathed in the coffee colored water, thence on the 17th, passing Dumfries and halting for the night at Wolf Run Shoals, on the Occoquan river; on the 18th to Fairfax Station; on the 19th to Centreville; on the 20th to Haymarket, and on the 21st to Thoroughfare Gap, where the regiment remained for three days, in position to repel any advance through the gap.

Frequent halts had been made during the first part of the march to allow the pioneers time to obstruct the road by felling trees across it and destroying bridges. This was done to retard the enemy's pursuit and make it difficult for him to move forward his artillery. A short distance from the road, on the left, a line of flankers filed along through the brush and woods, over hills and through valleys, while in the distance a cavalryman was occasionally seen in a similar duty, both watching to prevent surprise.

The first day was extremely hot and it was particularly trying on account of the fact that the men had just left winter quarters. The ambulances were rapidly filled and stragglers [214] were with difficulty kept from lagging too far behind and exposing themselves to certain capture.

At Wolf Run Shoals the regiment bivouacked in line of battle, facing the shoals, and again the men enjoyed a bath in the river. Some rail fences were found about the camp at this point and fires were soon lighting up the darkness. On some of the burning rails were rows of coffee cups, the owners of which were sitting around toasting hard tack and roasting salt pork on the ends of ramrods, bayonets or sticks, some using their plates in which to fry it, holding them over the fire by means of a stick. This was split at one end and into it the rim of a plate was inserted and fastened by winding a string around the stick to give it a good grip on the plate. Sometimes an accident would happen, caused by the sap drying out of the stick, or the string burning off. This would be followed by an angry exclamation and a soldier with a very red face, with his cap pushed back on his head, might be seen making frantic prods with a stick at an overturned plate in his endeavor to get it out of the fire, and save some of his pork which was rapidly being cremated. Many times when a dozen or more coffee cups were resting on a rail over a nice fire, by accident (?) someone would kick over the rail, overturning the cups into it, to the dismay of the hungry owners.

At Centreville, Va., one of the bivouacks on this march, trouble with some other Union troops was narrowly averted, although the men of the Nineteenth were not much concerned in it. An enlisted man had gone to a sutler's team to buy something and was either badly treated or thought he was swindled. At all events, he complained to his comrades, and they, being veterans, and not particularly friendly to the sutlers, joined him in a raid on the tent. In a minute there would have been a crowd about the tent and in another minute there would have been no tent to crowd about, but, anticipating trouble, the sutler sent for help to the general commanding the brigade. That general, instead of sending a request to the corps commander not to allow the men to leave their arms, ordered out a battery and some infantry to protect the threatened point. The men of the Nineteenth were called to Attention and the roll was looked over. [215] Either the Nineteenth's members had not been engaged in the affair, or if they were, they returned in good season, as the Assembly was sounded from division headquarters. The crowd, however, advanced in spite of the cannon but fortunately these were not fired and before the men arrived at the tent they were induced by their officers to give up their plan and return to their camp. The corps to which these men belonged left during the night and there was no further trouble.

While on duty at the Gap, Col. Devereux was kept in the position of General Officer of the Day, and as Col. Charles Morgan, Hancock's chief of staff, was an old schoolmate, the two were much together. While on a scouting trip to the top of the Blue Ridge, the two officers, through glasses, witnessed the fight at Aldie Gap, where Stewart was put to flight by Pleasanton.

While the corps were halted at Thoroughfare Gap, it was necessary to have a picket line all around it, different regiments being selected each day. The corps was continually harassed, particularly at night, by Mosby's guerillas. Because some man on picket would get startled and imagine he saw the enemy, he would fire his gun and the whole corps would be under arms in a moment, thus depriving all the men of their sleep. On one day Gen. Hancock asked his chief of staff the number of the regiment which was to be on picket duty that night. The ‘Nineteenth Massachusetts,’ was the reply. ‘Thank God,’ said Hancock, ‘we'll have a good rest tonight. There's no fool business about that regiment.’

Stuart's cavalry came through the Gap on the 24th and outflanked Hancock, and on the 25th he started back toward Haymarket, but when Stuart interposed his cavalry the corps kept to the left to avoid an encounter which would use up time and be of no benefit. When near Haymarket, Stuart opened on the brigade with his artillery from a hill at the right, wounding a few men and causing a halt until a battery was placed in position which, opening fire on his line, soon caused him to draw off and the march was continued without molestation and in a drizzling rain which steadily increased until it fell in torrents. The regiment encamped for the night at Gum Springs. Here the brigade of four New York regiments commanded by Gen. [216] Alexander Hays joined the corps. Gen. Hays assumed command of the Third Brigade.

The last part of this day's march of 26 miles was extremely hard. The mud was ankle deep and the men were completely drenched and exhausted. The Springs were reached at nine o'clock and because everything was so wet it was found to be almost impossible to make fires. The men, therefore, were obliged to content themselves with an unusually light supper and lay down upon the wet ground, under wet blankets. There was little sleep for them that night,—it was too wet and chilly. During the night the rain ceased and the morning of the 26th was fair. The march was then resumed toward Maryland, and at two o'clock in the afternoon the regiment reached Edward's Ferry, in sight of Ball's Bluff where the regiment had received its baptism of blood.

Something was not ready and the men rested wearily on the bank until after nightfall, while Adams, Thompson, Donath and Ferris, Rice, Palmer and ‘Charlie’ Rowe lent voice and wit in speech and song to while away the leaden hours. No one who was there will forget ‘The Kentucky Lawyer’ as they heard it that night from the lips of Rowe, with the various editions of his own teeming brain.

In the darkness, the regiment crossed the Potomac on pontoon bridges and went into camp. To the surprise of everyone, the command found itself on the very piece of ground on which its tents had been pitched at Camp Benton when it first went into the service in 1861. What memories it brought to all, and above all the recollection of many a face present when they first were there, but now gone—a sacrifice to the cause. The old camping ground was now a fine wheat field, nearly all traces of its former occupancy having been removed.

As the regiment passed the house of Mr. Williams who had lived near the old camp and on whose ground it was, he was seen leaning over the fence. Many called him by name and he expressed his astonishment at meeting the Nineteenth Massachusetts again, and shook hands with as many as the time and the constant march would permit. [217]

At night the tired men of the regiment were gratified to learn that the following General Order had been issued:

General order no. 105.

Headquarters Second Division, Second Corps, Edward's Ferry, June 26, 1863.
The Fifteenth and Nineteenth Massachusetts Volunteers, for marching today in the best and most compact order, and with the least straggling from their ranks, are excused from all picket duty and outside details for four days.

By command of

Such orders as these, showing in a practical way the appreciation of the superior officers, did much toward making the hardships of active campaigning endurable for the men, and were bright spots in the dark days when there seemed to be nothing to be done but march, fight and stay hungry.

On the 27th the regiment moved to near Barnesville and on the following day to Monocacy Junction, near Frederick City, being the last of the army to reach this point, all the other corps having already assembled there. Here it was learned that Gen. Hooker had been superseded in command by Gen. Meade and on the next day the army was again on the march, each corps on a different route and all in search of Lee.

Before daylight on the morning of June 29th, Reveille was sounded and when the sun arose breakfast had been prepared and eaten and his rays shone on the regiments in line, ready for a march.

The men threw their muskets over their shoulders like men starting out to hunt, regardless of the manual of arms; others were at the right or left shoulder shift, while occasionally a man would carry his musket with the hammer resting on his shoulder. Another who had been slow at preparing came stumbling along, trying to fasten his roundabout with his musket under his arm and the barrel punching his file leader in the back. So the day's work began. [218]

The line moved down the hill in spasmodic hitches until the proper place in the column was found and then the men swung along at an easy, regular pace which soon took the soreness out of their limbs. In a short time the whole corps was in line, moving over the road in a seemingly endless tramp, the Nineteenth, with its 220 members, leading the corps column.

Soon after starting, a creek was forded, a circumstance which ruffled tempers a little, coming as it did so early in the day for all knew by experience that the feet would suffer afterward from the sand which always sifted into the shoes while fording a stream which was kept stirred up. The sun was now well up and the air was intensely hot, causing the prespiration to run out and, running down the face, drip from the nose and chin. The salty liquid got into the eyes, causing them to burn and smart and it ran from under the cap, through the dust and down the sides of the face which was soon covered with muddy streaks, the result of repeated wipings upon the sleeves of the blouse. People living along the road came out to view the Union Army, which most of them were glad to see, and which they warmly welcomed with food and water. These were eagerly accepted by the men.

Noon came and still there was no end to the regular tramp of many feet. The noon day meal was forgotten by the eager watchers, who were anxious to see all. Never was a parade, however fancifully or brilliantly arrayed, viewed with greater interest than this dust covered column of veterans in blue as they marched past these Union homes.

‘Let us stop a while in the cool shade of this tree, and review our comrades,’ says Russell Foster, in his letters.

The sun is intensely hot, and the clothing becomes wet with prespiration. Occasionally a brook is crossed. A few of the men make a dash for it, unbuckling their dippers as they scramble down the bank; some take time to fill their canteens and rest a moment, trusting to their ability to catch up at the next halting place; others dash their cups into the brook, fill them at one scoop—and also rile the water, making the others use profanity—and run to their places in the line, with the water slopping over their clothes as they drink and run, giving what, [219] if any, may be left to a comrade who drinks as he moves along, getting about as much down the neck of his shirt as in his mouth; some wet their handkerchiefs and put them under their caps to cool their heads.

Most of the regiments are dressed in the regulation fatigue uniform, but once in a while a regiment passes which shows a faded remnant of the picturesque Zouave uniform. Here comes a man slightly round shouldered. He moves along with his gaze fixed on the ground; his cap is turned around with the visor covering one ear and half of one eye, over which straggles a lock of tangled hair. His blouse which is hitched up in a roll behind above the belt, is open in front, as is also his woolen shirt, exposing his sunburnt chest; his cartridge box is around on his hip, the belt loose, while his haversack and canteen are dangling in front of him; the bottoms of his trousers are under his heels because he wears no suspenders, and a generous quid of tobacco puffs out one cheek. His walk indicates that he is an old salt.

Look at that short fellow, somewhat stout, with a big knapsack,—the only one in the company. He is evidently one of the greedy ones and dislikes to see things going to waste, for he still carries his woolen and rubber blankets, shelter tent and overcoat. What else there may be inside the knapsack, we won't attempt to guess; no doubt there is enough. To his knapsack he has attached a frying pan and an extra coffee pot, while straps secure a plate to the back, black and grimy from much use. He is well clothed and his gun and equipments show evidences of good care; his beard is full and scraggy and from it great beads of sweat are dropping. He is evidently one of Kaizer William's old campaigners. His comrades call him The Galvanized Dutchman.

Now comes one of a decidedly different type. He is tall and slim; carries his head up, has no need of a regulation leather choker; his eyes roll around, taking in everything as he passes along—if he shall go over this road five years hence, he will remember every house and hill—his cap is pushed back upon his forehead with the visor turned up, giving him a reckless, don't-care sort of look; he carries a rubber blanket over his [220] shoulder, but no other article of cover or any extra clothing; his blouse is held together by one button at the throat and one at the roundabout which is drawn closely with the cartridge box where it belongs; a big red cotton handkerchief hangs in front, fastened together by two corners at the back of his neck and this he uses to wipe off the sweat,—and, incidentally, to rub the dust in. His face is free from beard and he moves along with a light and cheerful all-day tread. He will not fall out, however hard the march. He will get there.

Here comes a young man looking to be not more than eighteen years of age. He is dressed in the uniform of a private. He carries a sword, and on his shoulders are the straps of a lieutenant. Some of the men have utilized their muskets for clothes lines on which to dry their handkerchiefs. Others are tramping along with a pair of stockings hung across the barrell to dry, having been wet while crossing the stream.

Afternoon wanes, and still the endless stream flows on. Do they never rest? Since sunrise there has been a continuous line passing without a moment's hesitation.

Men were getting weary and longed for rest, but still they were kept on the move. ‘Will they never stop?’ ‘Are they goina to march us all day,’ and other questions were growled out.

Finally, as the regiment emerged from a wood, an orchard was seen in the distance in which a brigade was resting. As they filed into the enclosure, the regiment nearest the road filed out and the Nineteenth took its place. The command ‘Halt’ was given and the men dropped on the ground at once and stretched out for a rest. The regiment following the Nineteenth took the place of another which filed out, following the first, and so it went on, one regiment taking the place of another as each got a rest.

When the last regiment of the brigade preceding that of which the Nineteenth was a part, filed out of the field the men rose slowly and reluctantly to their feet at the command and moved on.

The duration of the rest had been the length of time taken for a brigade to file out of the field,—perhaps ten or fifteen minutes. In this way rests were taken without stopping the [221] movement of troops over the road. The men became fretful and scolded good-naturedly as they kicked up the dust along the sultry road. ‘What do they think we are made of?’ growled one. Another cried ‘Where is old Hancock agoina to, anyway? Does he think we can march all day without eating or resting? If he does he's mistaken.’

The effect of the heat and the forced marching was evident as one saw hundreds who had fallen out.

As the regiment approached the town of Liberty, Gen. Gibbon asked if the Glee Club would sing as the column marched through the town. ‘Billy’ McGinnis was orderly sergeant of the right flank company. Turning to him, Col. Devereux said ‘Drop out of the line and get your glee club up to the front.’ He did so and they were then told to strike up a tune.

They at once sang, as if spontaneously:

‘March along, we are marching along,’ etc.

The effect was magical. The division fell into step and the chorus could be heard ringing along the entire line.

As the head of the column reached the top of the hill overlooking the town of Liberty it was met by a number of citizens. The fields on the northerly side of the hills were filled with troops,—the brigades which had preceded the Third on the road. As it was four o'clock in the afternoon, it was believed that this meant a bivouac for the night, but regiment after regiment filed out ahead and it was seen that the rest was to be only a little longer than the previous one. It lasted while a division was marching out of the field. Soon the Nineteenth's turn came and once more the men shook the kinks out of their aching legs and took up the march over the dusty road, through the little village of Liberty. Some of the inhabitants came out and gave the passing soldiers food and water.

The sun sank below the horizon, evening breezes took the place of his hot breath, bushes by the wayside grew shadowy and finally faded into dark, irregular masses, taking on fantastic and wierd forms as the night settled over the land. The stars came out one by one in a moonless sky, but still there was the incessant tramp, tramp, tramp as the line moved forward without [222] a halt. The Second Corps, as the result of this forced march was nicknamed ‘Hancock's Night-Walkers.’ In silence and with aching bones, they struggled along until nine o'clock that evening when they halted in the streets of Uniontown, 32 miles from Monocacy Junction from whence they had started in the morning. The men dropped where they halted and instantly were asleep. None of the companies had full ranks and stragglers from all of them came gradually in during the night.

The regimental return made out at Uniontown reads as follows:

Col. Devereux, promoted from Lieutenant Colonel, vice Hinks, promoted, to date Nov. 29, 1862.

Lieut. Col. Ansel D. Wass, appointed and commissioned by Gov. Andrew May 23, 1863.

First Lieut. William A. Hill, appointed adjutant, vice Palmer, promoted, to date April 15, 1863.

Co. A., First Lieut. Warner A. Tilton, promoted from Second Lieutenant, vice Reynolds, promoted, to date Feb. 27, but refused muster on account of sickness.

Second Lieut. Sherman S. Robinson, promoted from Sergeant Co. A., vice Donath, promoted, to late April 4.

Co. C., Capt. William L. Palmer, promoted from Adjutant, vice Devereux, discharged, to date April 15.

First Lieut. Herman Donath, promoted from Second Lieutenant, vice Dodge, promoted, to date April 4.

Co. D., Second Lieut. William E. Barrows, promoted from Hospital Steward, vice Stone, promoted, to date March 25, 1863. On detached service, Third Brigade, A. A. D. C.

Co. E., Capt. John P. Reynolds, Jr., absent sick on Surgeon's Certificate for wounds, promoted from First Lieutenant, vice Chadwick, discharged, to date Feb. 26.

Co. F., First Lieut. William H. Stone, promoted from Second Lieutenant, vice Bishop, dismissed, to date March 25.

Second Lieut. John J. Ferris, transferred from Co. D.

Co. G., Second Lieut. John B. Thompson, promoted from Sergeant, Co. F, vice Moore, discharged, to date March 27. [223]

Co. H. Capt. J. G. C. Dodge, promoted from First Lieutenant, vice Weymouth, discharged, to date April 4, 1863.

Second Lieut. Charles S. Palmer, promoted from First Sergeant, Co. I, vice Wellock, dismissed, to date March 18.

Co. I., Second Lieut. William F. Rice, promoted from Sergeant Co. E., vice Tilton, promoted, to date Feb. 26.

Co. K., Capt. Andrew Mahoney, transferred from Co. E.

First Lieut. L. S. Hume absent in general hospital sick since June 13.

Second Lieut. Charles L. Merrill, promoted from Sergeant, Co. C., vice Abbott, discharged, to date April 18.

Capt. H. G. O. Weymouth, discharged April 4, 1863, S. O. 156, W. D., A. G. O. on account of loss of his leg.

The corps was encamped around the town and soon Gen. Hancock issued orders that the Nineteenth regiment should take possession of the place, maintain a provost guard, preserve order, and see that all the outlets were guarded.

The Colonel was waited on by a committee of ladies who insisted on cooking something for the men, and, after a little argument, this was agreed to upon condition that the officers should pay something for their trouble.

The night passed quietly and peacably. Orders were received by the corps, however, to start at four o'clock in the morning, July 1st, without rations, on a march of 36 miles along the Tarrytown road. During the morning was heard the low murmur of distant cannonading, and, as the line advanced, the sound grew until it deepened into the thunders of Gettysburg's first day.

The regiment frequently met scattered portions of the Eleventh Corps returning,—‘winded’—from the field, and, as usual, in such an event, there was much badinage between the men as they passed.

‘What's all that noise about?’

‘I wonder if anyone is getting hurt up there?’

‘What's the matter? Frightened?’

‘Is it only a mile?’ [224]

These and many other expressions were used to jolly the comrades as they went by,—tired, sore and hungry. As the regiment had moved out of Uniontown in the morning, Co. C, was left to capture, if possible, some of the enemy, who were said to be in hiding. The search was unsuccessful and the company rejoined the regiment at Tarrytown.

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