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Chapter 3:

October 17 to December 26, 1862.

  • Washington
  • -- camp Barry -- organization -- drill -- incidents.

‘Everything is a hundred years behind the age here,’ was the general exclamation the next morning, as daylight gave us our first view of the surroundings. The Capitol loomed up grandly with its massive proportions, a few hundred yards distant, but was so surrounded by wretched Southern hovels and dirty beer-shops, instead of the costly dwellings and clean streets which would have distinguished the locality in a Northern city, that it seemed like a precious jewel cast into a basket of rubbish. The noble structures reared by the government, which in a city otherwise beautiful would be its highest adornment, now seemed by contrast like the ornaments of a belle dangling from the unsightly rags of a beggar.

After getting fairly waked up, we made it our first business to look after the interests of the poor horses that had been boxed up in the cars for two days and nights without a mouthful to eat or drink during that time. They were sorry-looking creatures indeed, gaunt with hunger, bruised and bitten in their quarrels, and evidently pretty well used up. A few (lays of feeding and fresh air, however, brought them back to good condition again.

About nightfall we were ordered to our future quarters at Camp Barry, named for Gen. Barry, an artillery officer.1 The camp was situated a mile or [39] so from the Capitol at the toll-gate of the Bladensburg pike. The Eleventh Massachusetts Battery, already here, greeted us with a cup of coffee all around, and furnished shelter for many of us, while the rest passed the night on the ground. Many of the Battery men will recall an incident which happened the next morning while a few were still sleeping on the ground; but we will refer the general reader, for particulars concerning the warm bath innocently administered to the ear of our late comrade George L. Clark, to any one of the original members, who made the camp resound with laughter for days after, whenever the matter was mentioned.

On the 17th of October we established our camp on an eminence of the field in which we had passed the night, having been provided with ‘A’ tents (so called from their shape), which accommodated four men each. Having got fairly established in camp, the work of organization, begun in Boxford, was carried on to completion. The non-commissioned officers, already alluded to as appointed at Camp Stanton, have been given in the roster. Six other corporals, called chiefs of caissons, were appointed on our arrival at Camp Barry. They were as follows:

Lewis R. Allard,

James S. Bailey, Jr.,

William B. Lemon,

William H. Starkweather,

Tobias Beck,

George A. Pease.

The duties of the first sergeant were mainly executive, consisting in taking charge of all general or special roll-calls, in exercising an oversight of stable duties, and in calling for details of men under the direction of the Officer of the Day or Commander [40] of the Battery. The duties of the quartermaster sergeant consisted chiefly in supplying rations for the Company and subsistence for the horses, upon requisitions signed by the commander of the Battery. To each chief of piece was committed a body of men called a Detachment, in which were a first and second corporal, the former, known as gunner, sighting the gun in action and issuing the immediate orders to the gun's crew. The second corporal had charge of the caisson and its ammunition. These detachments were a distribution of the Company into six divisions as nearly equal as possible, and to each was assigned a gun and caisson.

Two detachments with their pieces and caissons constituted a Section, which was commanded by a lieutenant. The men composing the detachments were classified as Cannoneers, Drivers and Spare Men. To each driver was committed a pair of horses that it was his duty to care for and drive. There were three drivers to a piece and three to a caisson. A gun's crew included a sergeant, two corporals, and seven cannoneers. The duties of the corporals have already been stated. The duties of the cannoneers, who were designated by numbers, were as follows: number One sponged the gun and rammed home the charge; number Two inserted the charge; number Three thumbed vent, changed the direction of the piece by the trail handspike at the beck of the gunner, and pricked the cartridge; number Four inserted the friction primer with the lanyard attached into the vent, and at the command fired the gun; number Five assisted the gunner at the trail in limbering and unlimbering, and carried ammunition to number Two; number Seven furnished ammunition to number Five, and number Six [41] had charge of the limber, cutting fuses, fitting them to shells and delivering the ammunition, one round at a time, to number Seven.

The spare men were to take the place of any who might become disabled in battle or by disease, and also had the care of spare horses.

Besides the six guns and caissons there were a portable Forge and Battery Wagon, which constituted a part of the regular outfit of the Battery. Each was drawn by six horses. The forge was in charge of a blacksmith called an Artificer,2 who had one assistant. Their duties Assistant Artificer consisted in doing all the shoeing and any other repairs that came within their province.

Alvan B. Fisher

The battery wagon was in charge of a mechanic also styled an artificer. It was filled with carpenter's tools and extra equipments of various kinds likely to be needed in the ordinary wear and tear of service.

In addition to the foregoing, three Army Wagons, each drawn by four horses, were supplied to carry the forage, rations and camp equipage. Later in our experience, when horse-flesh became scarcer, each of these was drawn by six mules, and Messrs. [42] Slack, Johnson, and Abbott learned a new tongue, which, although mastered with some difficulty, eventually became, with the aid of a little of the ‘black snake,’ a powerful agent in toning down or spurring on the recalcitrant mule.

An Ambulance, drawn by two horses, designed to carry the sick and wounded, completed the materiel of the Battery. Two Buglers, Joshua T. Reed and John E. Mugford, had been appointed to sound the calls for the various camp duties and for movements in drill, and William H. Fitzpatrick was selected as Guidon, or standard bearer.

All other preliminaries having been properly arranged, the horses were distributed to the drivers, and taken to the Washington Arsenal to be fitted with harnesses and to draw back guns and caissons. The former having been accomplished, with no trifling amount of opposition on the part of some of the animals, they were hitched to an old worn-out battery of small brass guns furnished us for drill. It may be added that two or three of the horses, acting as if conscripted, obstinately refused duty, and only yielded the contest with their lives, giving way in a few days to the rigors of a discipline to which they would not submit.

The following Monday regular drills began. At first the movements were slow and executed at a walk; but as they became familiar, we manoeuvred with a promptness and precision that would have reflected credit on older batteries. These drills, with one or two exceptions, always took place either on Capitol Hill or near the Toll-house at Camp Barry.

As time wore on, other batteries came and joined us, until a large brigade of artillery was assembled here. Among them was the Twelfth New York Battery, of which Lieut. Adams afterwards had temporary [43] command. The mild, clear autumn days, which we had improved by four or five hours drill a day, were beginning to give place to the alternate frosts and drenching rains of a Southern winter, when we exchanged our ‘A’ tents for the Sibley pattern, now provided with conical stoves to set in the centre. This caused us to think we were to spend the winter here; but in a very few days there came rumors that we were to go to Texas. These were renewed at short intervals, until Texas became the veriest bugbear, for we were bitterly opposed to going into any section of the Gulf Department. On the 17th of December we received orders to exchange the unserviceable guns we had drilled with for a new battery complete in all its equipments.

The new guns, known as the Rodman,3 were of steel, had a three-inch rifled bore, and carried an elongated shell of about ten pounds weight. With this outfit for active service came fresh batches of rumors. The Ninth and Eleventh Massachusetts batteries had left Camp Barry for parts unknown, and we should probably go next. This prospect of a change was not wholly displeasing to us, for, although we were not anxious to go to Texas, we were desirous of leaving the brigade, as it was under the charge of a man who had the faculty of accomplishing the smallest amount of service with the greatest amount of inconvenience to the men under his control. In his discipline he was a most rigid martinet and exacted unflinching obedience to disgusting requirements. The neighborhood of his headquarters was disgraced daily by the presence of victims undergoing his varied and villanous tortures; in short, his love of display, his absurd regulations, an undue parade of his ‘brief authority,’ and his outrageously [44] severe punishments of trivial offences, caused the name of Maj. Munroe to be execrated by all soldiers who were ever so unfortunate as to come under the dominion of this small-souled officer.

We have not forgotten in this connection that the constraints of military service were yet new to us, and that in consequence we bore the exactions it permitted with less patience than afterwards. Nevertheless, looking back through our entire term of service, it is our calm, deliberate conviction, sustained by the judgments of history, that the war was greatly prolonged, the loss of life much increased, and the service in many other ways suffered material detriment, by the appointment of officers morally and intellectually unfit for their positions, to whom love and justice, the very foundation principles of all lasting control over men, seemed entirely unknown.

But whatever drawbacks the discipline of Camp Barry interposed to our happiness as individuals, it must be admitted (not, however, as in any way due to the management of the Post Commander) that we became good soldiers here. The frequent and vigorous drills of our efficient Captain made us, on the authority of a no less competent judge than Gen. Barry himself, accomplished as artillerists, and of this education we were reasonably proud.

Leaves of absence were frequently granted to go up into the city, and even as far as Alexandria, when approved by Gen. Casey.

In the earlier part of our sojourn here it was decided to build a stable large enough to accommodate eight hundred horses, and details of men for this purpose from the various batteries then in the brigade were ordered to report to David R. Stowell, our artificer, who was to have charge of its construction. [45] A violent rain-storm and wind threw down the stables when only partly finished; but they were afterwards carried on to successful completion. As we were told there would be an extra allowance of forty cents per day made for our labor, we looked upon the enterprise as something desirable, especially as it exempted us from all camp duties; but as the wages expected never came to hand, the question of interest to the detail from the Battery afterwards was, why not?

With the arrival of Thanksgiving there came to many of the men boxes freighted with good things from home. Capt. Sleeper generously added to the occasion a contribution of six turkeys, which, with others already purchased, enabled us, so far as eatables affected the subject, to pass the day in a manner at least approximating its accustomed dignity and importance.

December 13th the bloody battle of Fredericksburg was fought, and we recall at this moment the sadness that pervaded our camp on the two succeeding days, when we saw over across on Capitol Hill the long line of ambulances passing slowly along, depositing their suffering loads of human freight, from that disastrous field, in the Lincoln hospitals just erected here as if in anticipation of this very event.

At Camp Barry the practice of baking our beans in the ground in a hole dug and thoroughly heated for the purpose was initiated, and this innovation on the previous custom of stewing them became so popular that it was ever after adopted whenever our stay in a camp was long enough to permit it.

Our situation was now becoming daily more vexatious from continued innovations on former customs and the principles of common sense, when the [46] long expected and now much desired order to move was received. It arrived Christmas day, which this year came on Thursday. The evening was spent in packing up and making all necessary preparations for departure on the morrow.4

At this place we took our first lesson in sundering tender ties that had grown up between ourselves and the little conveniences we had devised and arranged to make camp life more cosy and comfortable. The amount of baggage we could take was necessarily limited, and such a selection should be made as would result only in the ‘survival of the fittest.’ any little knick-knacks sent from home must be left behind, or in some inconceivable way taken along; and this experience was repeated over and over again in our subsequent history, more especially when about to leave winter-quarters. No one not a soldier can appreciate the emotions of the soldiers when the time came for them to part with the little seven-by-nine huts they had made their homes for a few weeks,—structures rude enough at best, but to which they were none the less attached,—fitted up with bunks, closets, shelves, fireplaces, and other such conveniences; intimately associated, too, with social pastimes and dreams, and news of home and dear ones. These they must leave to go, whither? to return—in all probability never; for in the uncertainties attending the duration of human life in active service, that very day might be their last on earth. Can it be wondered at, then, that like the Indians, as stated by Story, they should turn and take a last sad look at the roofless houses they were leaving behind?


Morning reports.


Oct. 18. Received from Quartermaster Dana, 14 horses, 3 baggage wagons and 1 ambulance—making in all 125 horses.

Oct. 19. One horse died from influenza and cold, contracted while being transported.

Nov. 4. Senior 2nd Lieut. Asa Smith arrived in camp and reported for duty.

Nov. 5. One horse died from cold, &c.

Nov. 7. James J. Woodard left camp without leave.

Nov. 8. One horse died from inflammation and influenza.

Nov. 11. One horse died from stoppage and one horse strayed and never found.

Nov. 15. Private Jonathan E. Childs died at Emory Hospital of typhoid fever. Six horses condemned and returned to quartermaster Dana.

Nov. 16. George M. Dixon was carried to Ebenezer Hospital.

Nov. 21. Samuel Abell still remains at Boston, sick. Received from Quartermaster Dana 12 horses.

Nov. 23. Alonzo N. Merrill sick in quarters and George K. Putnam finger jammed badly.

Nov. 24. George K. Putnam sick in quarters.

Nov. 25. George K. Putnam, A. A. Blandin and Franklin Ward sick in quarters. One horse died of * *

Nov. 26. George K. Putnam, Charles E. Prince and A. N. Merrill sick.

Nov. 27. James Dwight, Charles E. Woodiss, J. L. W. Thayer, S. A. Hanson sick in quarters. George M. Dixon sent to Emory Hospital.

Nov. 28. Franklin Ward and George K. Putnam [48] sick in quarters. A. B. Fisher assigned to extra duty since Sept. 9, 1862 (?) by Major Munroe, by request of Captain * *

Nov. 29. Prince sick in quarters. Nov. 30. Prince returned to duty.

Dec. 1. Sergt. Woodfin sent to Post Hospital. Corp'l Starkweather sick in quarters. J. J. Woodard deserted Nov. 7, 1862.

Dec. 2. Three wagoners, Chas. E. Bruce, Alvin Abbott and F. A. Chase detailed on extra duty.

Dec. 3. Corp'l Starkweather returned to duty.

Dec. 4. One horse died of inflammation of the bowels.

Dec. 6. Ward, Putnam and Woodfin returned to duty.

Dec. 7. John W. French, Alvin B. Fisher, Chas. E. Bruce, Alvin Abbott, F. A. Chase and Charles Slack detailed on extra duty as per Special Order No. 17, Headquarters Camp Barry, from Oct. 17, 1862. H. B. Winslow and Franklin Ward sick in quarters.

Dec. 8. H. B. Winslow returned to duty.

Dec. 10. M. G. Critchett, John Pedrick and R. B. Wendall sick in quarters.

Dec. 11. M. G. Critchett returned to duty.

Dec. 12. Chas. N. Packard and Joseph Cross sick in quarters. One horse shot, disease glanders, by order of Capt. * *

Dec. 13. Chas. N. Packard returned to duty. The Battery, books, quarters, stables &c., &c., were fully inspected by Col. Webb.

Dec. 14. Chas. E. Bruce relieved from extra duty and pay the 12th and Roswell Bemis takes his place and pay as ambulance driver and extra duty man from Dec. * * Joseph Cross and John Pedrick returned to duty.

Dec. 15. R. B. Wendall returned to duty. [49]

Dec. 19. Franklin Ward sent to Emory Hospital. R. B. Wendall and George W. Park sick in quarters.

Dec. 20. Geo. W. Park returned to duty. One horse died of gravel in foot which caused fever. No. 1 on inspection report.

Dec. 21. R. B. Wendall sent to Post Hospital.

Dec. 23. James Peach sick in quarters.

Dec. 25. H. B. Winslow, 2nd., sick in quarters.

Dec. 26. Received 12 horses from Quartermaster Dana. Six horses condemned and turned over to Quartermaster Dana. Started for Poolsville, Md., about 10.30 o'clock. H. B. Winslow and R. B. Wendall left in hospital at Camp Barry.

1 Died July 18, 1879.

2 Amasa D. Bacon held this position throughout our term of service.

3 In honor of Maj. Gen. Thos. J. Rodman, their inventor.

4 The preparation for departure was temporarily enlivened by Capt. Sleeper's tent taking fire and burning down.

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