previous next

Chapter 17:

An immediate pursuit commenced,—the Federal infantry and artillery hastening along the pike, from Strasburg up the Shenandoah, through Edenburg, onward, the livelong night, reaching Woodstock at early morning. What a solid mass of troops was here, drawn into the field on the east side of the pike,— artillery in close order, and regiments likewise.

The men were somewhat tired, we judge, as riders would be seen to throw themselves down, drop to sleep, and anon jump to their feet when some lead or swing horses would vigorously shake their chains.

It would seem that the Sixth must have had the lead on the night of the 25th, for just before we again drew out into column, we saw infantry arrive, men of which we recognized as belonging to the Thirty-fifth Massachusetts, which was in the Nineteenth Corps.

When we resumed the march, it was at a trot, and this continued through the forenoon, on through Lacey's Spring and Sparta. If less rapid in the afternoon, all day on the 26th, a steady pursuit, so also was it on the 27th, reaching, we believe, at the close of that day, Newmarket, where we rested till the following dawn. We went into camp somewhat before nightfall on the 28th of September, being then something like a hundred miles up the Shenandoah.

During the three delightful autumn days that remained in September, we continued in Harrisonburg. Hospital tents were pitched, meanwhile, and those of the wounded and sick whom it had been practicable to bring forward from Strasburg were cared for therein. The cavalry was sent to Staunton, to the southeast, near a pass in the Blue Ridge, destroying provisions and munitions, then to Waynesboro. [182]

On the 1st of October, the first division of the Sixth Corps made a ten mile expedition to Mount Crawford. Southwest of Harrisonburg our company bivouacked on the banks of the Shenandoah in that hamlet. What a dreamy life one must lead, up here, in the time of peace. Our boys answered their last evening roll-call the next night at Harrisonburg.

The long supply train from Martinsburg, with its cavalry and infantry escort, had arrived at this place during our absence, had unladen, and was ready on the 3d of October to retrace its long, toilsome, guerilla-infested route to Winchester and beyond. We were to pack our simple effects, shake hands with our comrades, who were thenceforth to be attached to Company M, Fifth United States Artillery, or other batteries of this corps,—those brave men who had elected to continue in the field,—and join the three mile procession down the valley. Many a message and token we received to be transmitted to the loved ones at home, from their heroes whom we left here,—many an exchange of good wishes. If we were too old to cry, we yet looked passing grave.

'T was a curious cavalcade that wound down the valley road that October afternoon: cavalry, army wagons, infantry, Confederate prisoners, refugees, contrabands, destined to receive accessions along the route. The motion of the immense train was like the lazy crawl of a huge serpent just before he enters the comatose state, and is still able to devour and bolt another kid; it could halt easily, with slight reaction, to absorb a contraband's cart loaded with a hen-coop, kettles, and bedquilts, and shiny little elves packed among the truck, or a carriage bearing the wife and children of a refugee, or a knot of Dunkers or Mennonites, who were en route for Maryland or Pennsylvania.

The necessary work of destruction of barns and stacks, the country wide, had now commenced, and of an evening, if we happened to camp upon a rise which commanded an extensive view of the surrounding country, one could mark a line of blazing heaps on either hand and before him. Clean work was done. ‘If a crow should fly up the valley he must carry his rations with him.’ The camp at night, we fancy, must have resembled that of an emigrant train on the plains, in ante-Pacific Railroad times,—the wagons forming the barriers; the horses and drivers, the prisoners, contrabands, and refugees within the square; the guard properly [183] posted without and around. We believe it was on the third day of the march, and between Mount Jackson and Edenburg, that there were signs of irregular troopers following our trail; they seem to have come up on the west side of a low range of hills some distance to the left of our road as we were moving north. The train had halted, and Gen. Dudley, who had ridden to the ridge, shouted to send up a company of infantry. These soldiers had only to exhibit themselves, to cause a stampede of the bushwhackers. The latter or any of that ilk did not afterwards appear.

Late on the evening of the 6th of October, we drew into Winchester and learned upon the following morning that we were to spend the day in the town. We sallied forth on a round of inspection of the place. Entering an old time Virginia warehouse to which some show of trade seemed to have survived, we found a portly gentleman, a citizen unmistakably, communicating some intelligence to the clerk, which importantly concerned his employer. ‘Tell Mr.——immediately’ said he, and departed. A moment later, a couple of buxom lasses entered. One of them said to the other, a healthy looking blonde: ‘So this is your store,’ to which the blonde assented. Then the old clerk, leaning over the counter, addressing her in a low tone, but audibly to us, informed her that ‘Alf was brought in a prisoner.’ ‘He is n't!’ said she. ‘Yes, they have him at the court-house; go tell your ma.’


The clerk could not change a greenback, having only Virginia bills. So we passed along the street to a sutler's shop, which like many another was located in some warerooms which had been without a tenant, and then we hurried off to the court-house. There, on the green, before the institution, were the Confederate prisoners who had arrived with us on the previous evening. Conspicuous among them was Alf, a lad of sixteen or seventeen. He was being caressed by the blonde and by an elderly lady, evidently his sister and mother. Happy Alf! he seemed not to regret his captivity. He looked remarkably cheerful the next morning, fresh, wholesome, and contented, when we resumed the march to Martinsburg. We were all day upon the route, never having, all things considered, made a more tedious jaunt. [184]

After soft-tack and coffee, on the morning of the 8th, being yet in Martinsburg, we learned that there was no available means of transporting the company to Baltimore. Our coaches would be freight cars, when there should be any empty. So we lingered here till near night, when through our captain's efforts, the post-quartermaster promised us some cars, provided we would unload them. This we proceeded to do with alacrity; then the quartermaster said, if we were so anxious to depart that we were willing to perform this labor, he would find us some cars without imposing the task. This was queer, but cars were pointed out to us, and by lamplight we were steaming over the Baltimore and Ohio.

The old baggage car rang the night long with army songs. No one was disposed to sleep, no one, we believe, had slept when the frosty morning found us on a side track perhaps fifty miles from Baltimore. We remember of accepting an invitation to drink a cup of coffee, and eat some boiled cabbage and brown bread, hospitably offered by a section hand in a cot near the track whereon the train halted. It was Sunday morning, and the good man was breakfasting at his leisure. We made sundry halts of greater or less length during the day, so that it was evening when we entered the station at Baltimore. We passed the night at the Soldiers' Rest, where were many wounded soldiers who were perhaps at such a stage of convalescence as permitted of their going home a short time to recuperate. We departed betimes on the morrow for Philadelphia, crossing the Susquehanna at Havre de Grace in the same huge railroad ferry-boat that brought us over from Port Deposit in 1861.

At Wilmington, certain signs of lively festivity attracted our attention from the car windows, and some of the boys who were engaged in the affair told our captain, who inquired from his seat as to the nature of the demonstrations, that it was a McClellan jubilee.


There was a delay of several hours in Philadelphia, during which the boys wandered at will in the town, the captain giving the passes to Sergeant——, that we might be able to get conveyance at the appointed time in case our commander should be longer detained. But when we were in waiting a moment [185] before the departure of the train, our captain was with us, but the sergeant was wanting; when he appeared, just as the train was about to move, the captain observed that there would have been some tall swearing had not the ‘non-commish’ put in his appearance at that critical moment.

All ‘boys in blue’ who came from east of the Hudson, remember the ‘New England Rooms’ in New York City; and opposite the Astor House, Col. Frank Howe's rooms in three stories of a house, we believe, were devoted to the reception and entertainment of soldiers of the Eastern States who were passing through the metropolis. A comfortable resting place we found it for a day and two nights, previous to our departure by the inside line for Boston via Stonington.

On our arrival at the Hub, those who lived in its vicinity repaired to their homes, and the other comrades whose abodes were at a distance remained in town, all having received orders to be at the old armory of the Boston Light Artillery in Cooper Street, at one o'clock, P. M.


We were received on the common by Battery A, M. V. M., and escorted to the armory in Cooper Street, a reception by the city there being accorded us. Mayor Lincoln presided, welcomed the company to the hospitality of the city, which was tendered upon this occasion, spoke appreciatively of the service of the battery, and thanked officers and men. Capt. McCartney fittingly responded, feelingly alluding to the departed comrades and to our veterans who were yet at the front. At the close of the exercises, we separated for our homes, to meet but once more as a company, —on the 19th of October, when we were mustered out.


This command left the old Bay State with five officers and one hundred and fifty-two men, whose average age at that time was twenty-five years. Of our original number, we lost during more than three years, thirty-three and one third per cent, by death in action, or from the effects of disease brought on by hardships or exposure, or on account of wounds received in battle, or of disabilities contracted in the line of duty. During its term of service, our company carried on its rolls eleven commissioned officers, forty-five non-commissioned officers, and two hundred and sixtythree [186] privates. During the hardships, privations, and dangers incident to the long service shared by the battery, we know of no man ever shirking the duty assigned him. We are sure that the conscience of each comrade is clear, in realizing that he was faithful, in the hour of peril, to the most beneficent government on earth.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Alf (3)
William H. McCartney (1)
Abraham Lincoln (1)
Frank Howe (1)
Havre Grace (1)
Early (1)
Dudley (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
1861 AD (1)
October 19th (1)
October 6th (1)
October 3rd (1)
October 1st (1)
October (1)
September 28th (1)
September (1)
27th (1)
26th (1)
25th (1)
8th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: