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Chapter 20:

April 10—May 31.

  • The Cruel War over—‘limber to the rear’
  • -- on short rations -- how the negroes felt -- Burkesville Junction—‘on to Richmond’ -- Richmond as we saw it -- to Fredericksburg and Bailey's Cross roads -- Washington -- homeward bound -- palace cars -- Boston -- cool reception -- Galloupe's Island -- mustered out at last -- on to Brookline and Marblehead -- exit Tenth Massachusetts Battery.

By degrees—by very slow degrees, we began to realize the great fact of peace. No more rattling shots of the pickets fell upon the ear; no booming of cannon in the distance; and the discharges of artillery at headquarters, fired to signalize the triumph, had lost their sting even for our foes, for the report was followed by no screeching shell. They were firing blank cartridges—a discharge obsolete with the Tenth since February 22, 1863.

But now our advance was ended, and our footsteps must needs be retraced. Let an extract from Lieut. Col. Hazard's Report tell the story of the next few days in brief:

April 9:. . . Batteries halted in the road until 4 P. M., when the announcement was made that the army of Northern Virginia had surrendered. The Batteries then went into camp.

April 10th: Command remained in camp all day.

April 11th: Batteries moved together, under my command, back [428] on the same road. They advanced to New Store, and camped for the night.

April 12th: Command moved at 6 A. M. by a plantation, and from thence by the Plank Road to Farmville. Parked on the hills near Farmville.

April 13th: Started at 6 A. M., camped near Rice's Station on the Danville Railroad.

April 14th: Started at 6 A. M., and marched to Burkesville. Arrived at 2 P. M. Went into camp.

Our loss in horses on this move the Report puts at thirty-four. No other battery used up more than ten. I can assign no reason for the difference.

During this return march we were put on three-quarters rations, in order that the paroled army might be fed. The toil of the march, now made trebly difficult by the return of all varieties of army transportation over the same roads, was relieved by occasional sallies with the people white and black, the latter turning out in force from every house to see us pass. They danced, sang, and even prayed their satisfaction in the most fervent manner, when prompted by some of the more lightheaded. It was a truly touching sight to see them give way to their extreme delight in their own quaint melodies, all more or less of a sacred nature (although that quality did not always appear in the rendering), or, dropping upon their knees, pour out with the utmost volubility their simple petition of thankfulness and glorification to the Almighty for delivering them from bondage—a deliverance which, we are assured, was appreciated by few, and fully understood by fewer. Many of them had Rebel money to dispose of for whatever sum they could get for it.

When we were about seventeen miles from Farmville our rations gave out, and no more could be had till we arrived at that place. On account of a [429] drizzling rain making worse roads for our tired and hungry horses, two days were consumed in reaching that point, there to learn that the rations had been sent seventeen miles further. We remedied this unpromising state of affairs by ‘borrowing’ two or three boxes of hard-tack from the rear of some wagons bound for the Twenty-fourth Corps. These carried us through, but our poor horses were compelled to stagger on without forage, many, as the Report indicates, falling in their tracks, their places being filled, if at all, by picked — up animals almost equally exhausted. A deep stream, skirted with mud, at last compelled us to ‘expend’ and bury much of our ammunition in order to cross. By nightfall we had made not over eight miles, but we met a train, sent back from Burkesville Junction, with rations and forage at this time, which comforted man and beast in great measure.

We reached the Junction next day, and went into camp on high ground, remaining two weeks awaiting the surrender of Johnston's army. Meanwhile the paroled Rebel soldiers streamed along the railroad at our feet, bound homeward. While here, our keen satisfaction at the closing of the war was turned into the deepest anguish by tidings of President Lincoln's assassination. I need not describe how the bravest men shed tears at the thought that this great soul, who had piloted the nation through its terrible travail for liberty and union so wisely, should now, just as he was about to enter into the enjoyment of the fruits of his labors, be laid low in so foul a manner; nor how, before full details were received, every man was fired with a disposition to continue the war till all vestiges of Rebellion were wiped from existence.

Death invaded our ranks here for the last time, [430] taking Elbridge D. Thresher, a young man much respected in the company. He died in the Brigade Hospital, April 26th.

Here, too, occurred (we believe) our last inspection, the whole artillery brigade being inspected; and we only mention the matter to state that the Battery received the credit of appearing the best of any in the corps. At last came orders to march to Washington, taking Richmond on the way. So, having loaded our ammunition chests upon the cars, May 2d we started in light marching order.

Richmond, sombre and blackened by the fire which had left in ruins much of the business part of the city, received us gloomily. Castle Thunder, marked by a conspicuous signboard nailed up by our troops, frowned upon us, a spectre of bygone days. From the bars of Libby Prison incarcerated Rebels looked out upon our column, ruminating, no doubt, upon the mutability of human affairs; while our boys, who had boarded there awhile, pointed out the windows through which they had looked for weeks with feelings akin to despair.

A corps of Union troops lined the streets as we passed, and few citizens were to be seen. The negroes, however, and a few whites, brought out pitchers of water for our comfort.

Leaving Richmond, we resumed the journey to Alexandria. Passing almost in sight of some of the bloody fields we had fought over the year before, leaving Bowling Green on our right, where we had hoped to stop and renew our acquaintance with those ladies who had so confidently predicted our discomfiture, we at last reached historic Fredericksburg. It looked seedy and crumbling, and with sufficient cause. Its streets were yet strewn with the shells thrown in 1862. Few signs of life were visible. [431] It seemed, in truth, a deserted village. It was our last stopping-place before reaching Alexandria. Strict orders had been, very properly, issued against foraging, and pigs and roosters uttered their own peculiar music from the door-yards as we passed, unvexed by the Union blue, for they were now at peace with us, and we, perforce, with them.

Saturday afternoon, May 13th, we drew in sight of the dome of the Capitol, and felt as if we were almost home again. We pitched our camp near Bailey's Cross Roads, and remained about two weeks, living on the odds and ends of government rations, and speculating on the prospects of discharge. The grand review of Sherman's army and our own called us into the city in holiday attire, not because of the review,—we had had a surfeit of such,—but to see President Johnson, and the masses of people who had congregated there to witness the parade.

Washington seemed changed but little during our two years and five months absence from it. The dome of the Capitol which we had left unfinished had received its last block of cast-iron, and been surmounted by the Goddess of Liberty. But we missed none of the filth of former days. Vaunted Pennsylvania Avenue was as rough and dirty as ever. It may here very properly be added that the end of the war closed this era of the city's uncleanliness, and to-day it is probably, what it should be, the neatest and most comely city in the Union.

In a few days orders were received to turn in the Battery at the Arsenal in Washington, which we did, taking our farewell of the 3-inch Parrotts, to which we had become much attached, and which we should have been only too glad to take along to old Massachusetts with us, had such a plan been practicable. [432] The horses, poor service-worn brutes, were turned in with the rest of the government property, and some one curious in such matters discovered that, out of the one hundred and ten animals brought from Massachusetts in 1862, but a single horse remained. All the rest had fallen by bullet or disease. It also appears from the morning reports that the Battery had used up about 400 horses in all.

Henceforward preparations went actively on for departure, and everybody seemed happy. We celebrated the last night in camp by a grand illumination, furnished forth by the residue of candles left in the quartermaster's stores, for which we had no further use, decking each tent with a number. Orders were received Friday night, June 2d, to march in the morning, which we were ready to obey at an early hour. Having reached the city, we were shown a train of palace—pardon the slip—of box cars, passably clean but devoid of seats. These luxurious accommodations were shared with other batteries of our brigade, also homeward bound. About noon the train started, animate within and without with the army blue.

Our journey was one continued series of friendly greetings from people along the route, universally evincing feelings of the most cordial and heartfelt good — will to the returning soldiery. Even ‘Secesh’ Baltimore extended a hospitable hand to us; all of which was in marked contrast to the pitiful ‘Lord help you! you'll be shot’ kind of greetings they gave us on the way out.

At Baltimore we exchanged the luxuries of our cars, to which we had become somewhat attached (by means of splinters), for a train especially fitted up for the transportation of a victorious loyal soldiery, [433] by the management of the Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Baltimore Railroad, a corporation which, probably having received more money from the general government than any other railroad in the country during the war, could well afford this mark of liberality. It is true, the cars had every semblance of box-cars, but did they not have elegant plank seats in them, and weren't the aforesaid plank seats thoughtfully left unplaned, so that the occupants should not slide off, and mayhap fall out of the car?

An all-night ride brought us to Philadelphia at 5 o'clock in the morning, before people were generally astir, but the booming of cannon announced our arrival, and we were soon marching on, under convoy, to the same Union Volunteer Refreshment Saloon that had used us so generously before, and after purifying by water we were treated to a substantial breakfast. We loitered about until past noon, when, having been shown to a decent passenger train, we entered and were whirled away across the plains of New Jersey. We reached South Amboy about 4 o'clock, and embarked on the steamer Transport for New York, being greeted with many patriotic demonstrations as we skirted the shores of New York Bay. Changing steamers at the latter city, we spent a delightful moonlight night on the Sound, and arrived at New London, Connecticut, early Monday morning. We suffered a long and tedious wait here also, but at last the train moved on. Worcester was reached and passed soon after noon, and the familiar stations along the old Boston and Worcester road brought us to realize more vividly that home itself was not far away, and our spirits rose correspondingly. We answered by a waving of the handkerchief or the cap, the kindly [434] tokens of welcome home extended along the route. One man in his earnestness dropped his jacket from the car-window. Another was wildly swinging both cap and kerchief at what proved to be a scarecrow. At last the haze and distant spires and chimneys of dear old Boston came into view. Yes, there was no mistaking it. Oft, when surrounded by less peaceful scenes, had we visited it in our dreams; oft had we dwelt upon its attractions, and the enjoyment we had compassed within its limits, and wondered whether we were destined to see it again. But the reality was upon us, and the men broke forth into singing until the cars rang again. Bunker Hill Monument appeared in view, and the chorus poured forth a louder greeting. In this wild tumult of excitement, each breast swelling with rejoicing at the pleasures of the immediate future, the train ran into the depot, and we surged out upon the platform.

It was not far from 4 o'clock. We had expected to be accorded something of a reception, but not a familiar face was in sight, nor was there any sign of official recognition, either by the state or the city. This condition of affairs threw a wet blanket over our enthusiasm and lofty expectations of a warn welcome. We had entirely ignored the fact that the reception of war veterans had become a commonplace, every-day occurrence, and that returned soldiers were no longer the town or village heroes; that to accord to all returning organizations the token of official recognition they deserved, would, in this piping time of peace, with such arrivals a daily event, have taken a great deal of some one's time and attention. This may seem a weak defence of the case. We hope there is a stronger. But be that as it may, we had received such cordial attentions at every stopping-place, from ante-rebellious [435] Richmond forward, that it seemed somewhat singular, at least, not to be as warmly received by those on whose regard our claims were strongest; and when it further became known that our immediate destination was Galloupe's Island, the recent rendezvous of so many of that class of men known as bounty-jumpers, the country's shame, and that there we would be guarded as vigilantly as if we, too, were of that ilk, our indignation was insuppressible. It could not reasonably be expected that men who had been absent from their families nearly three years, were ready to be thus insulated when within sight of the smoke of their own chimneys; so when the column started, Capt. Adams kept his face steadfastly to the front, knowing that his ranks were being decimated at every street-corner. He knew his men better than the government did, and took no anxious thought for the consequences. Out of one hundred and eighty men who returned to the state, but seventy-five answered to roll-call on reaching the island. Had the men been dismissed to their homes, with orders to reassemble in twenty-four or forty-eight hours, or a week, to be paid off and mustered out, not a man would have been missing. We mention this matter as illustrating one of the many ways how not to do it, so often met with in military matters.

Having got fairly settled on the island, it was found that the muster rolls, made out with so much care at the Cross Roads under orders from the War Department, were pronounced worthless by the officials at this end of the route, thereby necessitating the making out of a new set. These were completed in four days and sent up for the inspection of the paymaster, Friday, June 9th, to be returned Monday morning by him in person; but they were [436] not received until Tuesday night, and then only through a vigorous stirring up of somebody by Capt. Adams. The signatures of the men were added the same night. Early Wednesday morning, June 14th, the paymaster appeared, our accounts with the government were settled, our discharges received, and all obligations to the United States were cancelled. We were citizens once more.

And now began those marks of appreciation from friends of the Company, which went far to remove the unkind feelings engendered by our cool reception. The town of Brookline, which had contributed nearly a score of men to the Battery, was waiting to give the entire organization a warm greeting. It had been appointed for Tuesday the 13th, but for obvious reasons was deferred. On arriving at the wharf in Boston we were met by a deputation from that honored town, which escorted us to the Worcester Depot. There we took the cars for Brookline, where we were tendered a grand ovation. The town was ablaze with the national colors. The schools were closed, business was generally suspended, and everybody was abroad. We were marched through the principal streets of this beautiful suburb, escorted by all the local organizations and the school children, after which we were shown to tables, under a mammoth tent, richly freighted with the best of rations. Brookline will always occupy a warm corner in the hearts of the Tenth Battery.

Marblehead contributed more than thirty men to the organization, and extended the Company a similar invitation to its hospitalities. The invitation was accepted, and the time set, Tuesday, June 20th. Our reception here was a repetition of the one at Brookline, evincing throughout in every possible [437] way the most cordial good — will and gratitude to the men who had fought the battles of freedom. Dinner was served in a tent on the common, and after the customary speech-making was over, followed by a social good time, the young ladies in attendance captured our flag, and falling into line, escorted us to the station. Amid a general hand-shaking the train moved away, reaching Boston in due time, when the men separated, and the Tenth Massachusetts Battery lived only in history. That which I have undertaken to say of this Company is now completed, and its closing chapters have been written with sincere regret; for the task of tracing its history from the enlistment of its members to the close of the war has been one of unalloyed pleasure. During its progress my imagination has been peopled with the spirits and scenes of the conflict, and I have fought over again the old fights and lived over the old camp life so vividly, at times, as to regret the absence of the reality. That the Company was worthy of a better historian is beyond dispute, but that it could have had one more diligent in his researches for the truths of history or more conscientious in their expression, I am not willing to admit. It would have been possible to introduce into these pages some of the jealousies and feuds common, as we have reason to believe, to all military bodies, but no interest germane to the object sought in issuing the work could have been sub-served by them, while their perpetuation would be undesirable in many respects.

The good deeds of the Battery have not been unduly magnified. The time has passed when either [438] party to the war can successfully claim the achievement of prodigies that never occurred. The systematic sifting and weighing processes and tests to which all claims are subjected by the earnest seekers after the truth lay bare all such attempts at deception. The relative strength of the contestants at different periods of the war is the only question yet unsettled, and even that is rapidly approaching adjustment.

Nor have I intended to underrate the calibre of our antagonists in writing up the Company, for, obviously, there must be at least two parties to a well contested field, and I firmly believe that no braver men were ever banded in an unrighteous cause than constituted the Rebel Army of Northern Virginia—unquestionably the flower of the Southern forces. They fought with a valor that would have insured success had the God of Battles been on their side. To defeat such an army was glory enough; to be defeated by them, no disgrace. But they were not invincible man for man. The men who entered the Army of the Potomac in 1861, 1862, and 1863 were every inch their peers. Whenever the circumstances indicated otherwise, the fault was not in the men but their leaders. Had the Union army been as well officered as the Confederate, the Rebellion would have gone down in Virginia in 1862. But my present purpose is not with this phase of the late conflict. I only wish to emphasize the good character and excellent fighting material of the Company as a whole, and cite as weighty evidence bearing on this position the incontrovertible statement that the men never turned their backs upon the foe, unless by order, whenever there was an available shot in the limber. Nor was the Battery ever driven from the field. Further, no man was ever accused of [439] leaving his post in time of danger. Skulking to the rear when duty called at the front was never charged against any member of the Battery,—a boast whose merit will be regarded as sufficient warrant for its making by those who know how general skulking was. At Reams Station our men were the last to leave the field, this being the cause of so many of then falling into the hands of the enemy.

If, with the assistance so kindly rendered me, I have succeeded in spreading upon the page of history an impartial record of the service of the Tenth Massachusetts Battery, of which it has always been my proudest boast that I was a member, I shall consider myself amply repaid for the many hours devoted to its preparation. The decision of this question I cheerfully leave to the judgment of my late comrades in arms, for whose gratification the labor was undertaken.

Morning reports.


April 10. Two horses died of exhaustion.

April 11. Five horses died of exhaustion.

April 12. Abandoned 202 rounds of ammunition. Five horses died of exhaustion.

April 13. Four horses died of exhaustion.

April 14. Four horses died of exhaustion. Lieut. George M. Townsend returned from 20 days leave of absence.

April 15. Two horses died of exhaustion. Received 29 horses from Q. M. Dep't. Turned in 24 horses to Q. M. Dep't.

April 17. Received 30 rounds of ammunition from Capt. Meade. [440]

April 18. Two men, A. A. Blandin and T. Herlehy reported back for duty from the train.

April 20. Private E. D. Thresher reported to quarters.

April 21. Private E. D. Thresher reported to quarters.

April 22. Private E. D. Thresher reported to quarters.

April 23. Private E. D. Thresher reported to quarters.

April 24. Private E. D. Thresher and Thomas Smith reported to quarters. Received 300 rounds of ammunition, 70 of * * * 70 H. C., and 160 H. P. from Capt. Meade Q. M. (Ordnance)? Dept. Corporal Estee and seven privates returned to duty from Art'y Brigade Headquarters.

April 25. Private T. Smith reported to quarters. Private E. D. Thresher sent to Brigade Hospital. Private S. H. Johnson returned to duty from Ammunition Train.

April 26. Two horses died, Black Tongue. Private E. D. Thresher died in Art'y Brigade Hospital of Fever.

April 27. One horse died of Black Tongue. Private Thomas Smith reported to quarters. Private E. D. Thresher buried with military honors.

April 28. One horse died of Black Tongue. Private Thos. Smith reported to quarters.

April 30. Mustered (for pay)? by Capt. Roder, Battery K, 4th U. S. Light Art'y. Received 40 horses from Capt. Meade. Burned (?) * * *

May 2. Corporal Estee and Privates Wilson and Burroughs detailed to go to Alexandria with ammunition chests.

May 3. One horse died of exhaustion.

May 5. Serg't A. B. Parker and Privates Nesbitt, [441] Putnam, Fales, Handlin and Gowell transferred to hospital.

May 6. Passed through the city of Richmond.

May 8. One horse died—worn out.

May 9. One horse died—worn out.

May 10. Two horses died of exhaustion.

May 11. One horse died of exhaustion.

May 12. One horse died of exhaustion.

May 14. One horse died of exhaustion.

May 16. Private Waldo Pierce transferred to Invalid Corps. Serg't A. B. Parker and Privates Nesbitt, Gowell, Fales, Putnam, Handlin returned from hospital. Corporal Estee and Privates Wilson and Burroughs went to Alexandria and (got)? our ammunition chests.

May 18. One horse died—worn out,

May 19. Two spare caissons turned in to the Ordnance Department, Washington, D. C., with all equipments and ordnance belonging to it (them)? Corporal J. D. Billings and Private J. M. Ramsdell reported to quarters. Two horses died of exhaustion.

May 20. One horse died of farcy.

May 23. Grand Review of the Army of the Potomac.

May 26. Private T. W. Strand's horse taken up on Report Book.

May 27. One horse died—worn out.

May 29. Privates J. P. Brown and T. Elworth returned to duty from the train.

May 31. Turned over the Battery to the Ordnance Department, Washington, D. C. Horses, (84) to Quarter M. Department. Privates Northey, J. L. Schwartz and W. Moran returned to duty from Art'y Brigade Hospital, Second Corps. Received notice of the death of Private C. W. Green in * * *

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