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Chapter 4:

December 26, 1862, to June 24, 1863.

  • On the march
  • -- Poolsville -- camp life -- discontent -- drill -- incidents -- Benson's Hill -- alarms -- retrospect.

Friday morning, Dec. 26, about 10.30 o'clock, we turned our backs on Camp Barry with little reluctance, and moving up Maryland Avenue past the Capitol into Pennsylvania Avenue, thence on through Georgetown, we entered the main road leading to the upper Potomac. The weather had been mild for several days, and the roads being dry and hard enabled us to move along easily. The tempting persimmon trees near the roadside, bending with their luscious fruit, now fully ripened by the frost, allured the cannoneers to frequent excursions from the main body. At noon we halted in a grove near a running stream and prepared and ate dinner. Thus far the journey seemed more like a holiday trip than the advance of a military detachment.

At 3 P. M. we halted for the day and put our guns ‘In Battery.’ A stack of unthreshed oats near by, for which certificates of indebtedness were given to the owner, furnished supper for the horses and excellent beds for many of us, while others slept between the folds of the tarpaulins. These latter were large squares of canvas used to cover the guns and caissons. They were frequently employed afterwards for a night's shelter when on the march, as they afforded protection from storms, and could be [51] folded and strapped upon the limbers at short notice.

Passing on through Darnestown, Tenallytown, and Rockville, we bivouacked one more night, and the next day, Sunday, Dec. 28, about 11 o'clock A. M., arrived at Poolsville. This was a little settlement, of strong secession proclivities, on the upper Potoillac, near Edwards Ferry, interesting as the scene of frequent guerrilla raids. In the most recent of these Maj. White and a party of his followers, who belonged in this neighborhood, had surprised and captured a body of fifty or seventy-five Union cavalry one evening while they were at church in the town, the officer in command having neglected to leave any one on guard. One of tile assailing party fell. His grave is still to be seen (1879) in the little cemetery near the church.

Partly through the influence of a Mr. Metzger, the postmaster, who, except one Dr. Brace, was the only Union man in the town, more troops were at once sent, and we found already encamped here the Fourteenth New Hampshire and Thirty-ninth Massachusetts regiments, commanded by Colonels Wilson and Davis, respectively. ‘How are you, Boxford?’ was the greeting from the latter regiment as soon as we were recognized, and it seemed like meeting old friends to fall in with those who had been encamped with us on the soil of Massachusetts.

We were now considered to be in the enemy's country, and great vigilance was thought necessary. On the second morning we were aroused at 4 o'clock, and turning out in the darkness, hastily harnessed, only to find when everything was ready, that it was a hoax to see how quickly we could be on hand in an emergency. Such artifices are frequently resorted to by officers when either they or their commands, or both, are ‘green.’ [52]

At first we pitched our tents on a level tract of land outside and near the town, but it being considered by Dr. Brace too flat to be healthy, we moved soon afterwards to a rise of ground a few rods distant. Here we laid out a plan for a permanent camp. From the quarters occupied by Gen. Stone's troops prior to Ball's Bluff disaster, and from the barn-yards and rail fences of the neighboring farmers, we obtained materials for building a stable; this was erected around three sides of a square and thatched with straw. The walls were constructed by setting up rails a foot apart and weaving among them huge ropes of straw twisted by hand. Thus comfortable quarters were made for the horses. This structure was finished towards the last of January, and occupied the centre of the camp. The tents were arranged as at Boxford, six on either side, removed from the wings of the stable by a street about two rods wide. Within the square stood the harness racks, while in front the Battery was ‘parked.’

The weather being pleasant for some days after our arrival, our drills were resumed with the customary vigor. In one of these a sham fight was had between the Battery and a body of ‘Scott's Nine Hundred’ cavalry that had recently encamped near by. As the contest waxed warm and men became excited, Frank Loham, No. Two man on the second piece, was quite seriously wounded in the face and breast by a premature discharge.

Once in a while the whole or a part of the Battery was taken out for target practice. On one of these occasions a distant pig-pen was the object aimed at, and immediately after a well-directed shot, the occupant, who, it seemed, was at home, issued forth very promptly, attended by her family [53]

Camp of the Tenth Massachutts Battery, Poolsville, Md., winter of 1862—3. from a sketch drawn by John P. Apthrop.

[54] [55] unharmed, but amazingly astonished. On another occasion the colors were set up as a target, and the staff was cut in halves by a ball from a spherical case shot.

The stormy season came at last, with its accompaniment of mud, and drilling was at an end for a time. Through what ‘Sloughs of Despond’ our teams wallowed in their quests for fuel! And what a seemingly bottomless bed of liquid mortar was the principal street of the desolate little town, where luckless pedestrians picked their uncertain way from stone to rail, knowing that a single misstep would be hazardous! But let us leave the mire of the town, and returning to our own well-drained camp, get a closer view of a soldier's life in winter-quarters. Passing the officers' tents, which occupy an elevated spot slightly removed from the rest of the camp, among locust trees, thence, leaving the cook-house, the orderly's tent, the saddler's, which stand first on the left flank, we will enter one of the Sibley tents. In the centre is a circular hearth of stone or brick, on which is erected an oven-like structure a foot high. On this oven rests the conical stove, glowing with cheerful heat, while before it kneels one of the inmates, striving to bake a bannock of corn meal in an old cracked spider picked up somewhere. Around sit the other occupants of the tent, on their ticks of straw (a luxury which we left at Poolsville) now rolled up and covered with the blankets, or upon camp-stools of home manufacture, engaged in mending, playing cards, checkers, or chess; while yet others are writing home, or reading, newspapers not three days old. Suddenly the canvas flap is pushed aside, and the broad face, broad lips, broad body, and broad feet of an aged negro apper. His jet-black face is set off by scanty clusters [56] of snow-white hair. His loosely hung frame totters somewhat on his misshapen legs, whose strength is eked out by a stout cane. His features express that odd mixture, so common to his class, of profound ignorance, fatherly benevolence, and patronizing interest, which old age seems to confer. On one arm he bears with difficulty a large basket.

‘Good morning, uncle Walter! How do you do?’ is the kindly greeting on all sides, showing him to be no stranger; and a half-dozen hands are stretched out to relieve him of his load, and lead him to the best stool in the tent.

‘What have you to sell this morning, uncle?’

‘Wal, I brought you ober a few biscuits, gemlum.’

He removes the clean white napkin, and reveals his really tempting supply, still fresh and warm from the oven. They are evidently the work of a skilful hand.

‘Why, uncle, how is it you always have so much better biscuits than any one else?’

‘Wal, I reckon de ole woman knows how to make 'em good, and I tells her not to cheat de boys, but to gib 'em good measure; dey're hungry and need it.’

After buying a plentiful supply of the biscuits we allow him to go and peddle his wares through the camp, knowing that in every tent he will receive a warm welcome, and finally depart with an empty basket and heavier purse.

As February advanced the weather became still more inclement, confining us quite closely to the tents, and enforcing an amount of leisure that gave opportunity for an abundance of grumbling—that time-honored prerogative of the soldier.

February 22d, we turned out in a driving snowstorm, that would have done New England credit, [57] to fire a national salute of thirty-four guns, in honor of the Father of his Country.

The long continued absence of the paymaster, whom we had not seen since our departure from home, was the theme of frequent speculation and the source of much of the grumbling. Our food, too, was not always of the most appetizing kind, and when, on being supplied with flour, we, in the simplicity of our hearts, traded it at the bakery in the town for bread, judge of our dismay on being informed that we had committed a crime of whose enormity we could be little aware. We might cook the flour ourselves (an easy task without stoves or ovens!), or we might hire it cooked, (another easy task with our pay nearly six months in arrears!), or we might leave it undrawn and allow its value to accumulate in that mysterious investment known as the Company Fund,—a bourne from whence no profits ever returned, certainly not to the members of the Tenth Massachusetts Battery, and whose unwritten history would make entertaining reading,— but to swap it off for bread was a heinous offence indeed; and in the interest of the Fund, whose amount was to be divided at the end of the war, so much per capita coming as a kind of endowment, the swapping should cease.

The scarcity of tobacco, through the absence of its purchasing power, acted on the nerves of some; and the slow progress of the war spread a gloom over others, who were ready to make common cause with the copperheads in their discussions. There was probably more downright grumbling in our camps at Poolsville than during our entire subsequent experience, when greater hardships had begotten a spirit of greater patience, and when we had become more accustomed to the constraints that military service entails. [58]

But this winter of our discontent was by no means devoid of enlivening scenes. Sometimes, when the beef known as ‘salt horse,’ served out to us for dinner, was extremely unsavory, straightway a bier was improvised from a hard-tack box, the remains of the poor horse laid thereon in state, and a worn-out currycomb or a dilapidated bridle placed beside it as appropriate insignia of rank. The whole was then borne off in solemn procession to the mournful music of a jews-harp and two cracked bugles. The cortege in its passage through the camp received numerous accessions from those anxious to do honor to the fallen hero, and the remains, having been carried to the sink, were consigned to their last resting-place and a volley of pistols fired over the grave.

Then there were other scenes enacted under the cover of darkness which the impartial historian must not fail to notice. The inhabitants of this neighborhood had done their part to bring on the war, and now it was simply just that they should help feed the soldiers who must carry it on. So reasoned the men who took the trouble to reason at all, and the following specimen extracts from a private diary show that the premises of many a farmer were laid under contribution for the benefit of the soldiers of the Union:

‘Friday night, Jan. 9, a sheep came into camp.’

‘On the night of Jan. 26, the army was reinforced by a carcass of veal.’

‘Night of Feb. 3. a hen-house contributes five fowls and two rousing turkeys to our happinesss’

On one of these midnight forays, which a reckless sergeant of the guard led in person, he having communicated the general countersign to his entire party, quite a commotion was excited. One of his select body was the Guidon, whose tendency to em- [59] bon-point showed conclusively to those who knew him most intimately, that nothing but an intense love of good living had enlisted his interest; for although an urbane gentleman, an accomplished knight of the quill, and an expert at cribbage and euchre, his comrades always expected him to do the ornamental part when any detail was made for fatigue duty. On this particular occasion it seems a flock of sheep was the object of the expedition. As soon as the raiders came upon them in the darkness, naturally enough they cantered away, and equally natural was it that their adversaries should pursue. This they at once did, and foremost in the van was the Guidon, who led off with an impetuosity rarely equalled and truly surprising; but the sheep were more accustomed to this kind of business than he was and seemed to be gaining on him. This was too much for the equanimity of the gallant color-bearer. In his mind's eye he had already made a savory repast off one of them,—had scented the delicious odors from broiling chops,— had buried his knife deep in a hind-quarter roasted and done to a turn by ‘Black Mary,’—and now to be cheated out of his prey was too much to expect of human nature. He draws his revolver and dashes forward with renewed determination. His blood is fully up, and as he nears the flock he empties at least three barrels among them, which appears to result in no bodily injury to the sheep, but calls down the maledictions of the sergeant on his head for his indiscretion. This in a few moments becomes apparent, for the fire of the pickets is drawn, the Long Roll is sounded, and the infantry turned out to repel an expected attack, the shots by the Guidon having been supposed to be from the enemy. The marauders skulked back to camp by the quickest route, [60] bringing with them three sheep that had been quietly captured by the other members of the party; but no one, outside of a small interested number in the Battery, ever knew the cause of all the tumult in camp that night, and, so far as can be ascertained, it was the final appearance of the Guidon in the role of a raider.

One of the men, an expert in the business, took poultry from the premises of Dr. Brace near by, in open daylight. He was detected, however, and by order of the Captain taken under guard to the house to return the fowls, now ready for the pot, and make a suitable apology for his offence, which he did. He remarked to the Captain in extenuation of his guilt that people ought to know better than to padlock a door hung with leather hinges.

Here, too, three or four swine belonging to Tom Gott, a neighboring farmer, were sacrificed; but these were all paid for by those who indulged in the luxury, their offence being too public to let pass unpunished.

A minstrel troupe comprising nearly a dozen members of the Company was organized, and frequently played in the Captain's mess tent. During the winter and spring several concerts were given in the Town Hall near by to quite large audiences, composed mainly of the officers of the brigade and their friends from in and around the town.

At one time it devolved upon Capt. Sleeper to inspect tile detachment of ‘Scott's Nine Hundred’ cavalry, to which reference has already been made. As might have been expected by any one who knew anything about this body, he reported them to be in a poor state of discipline and generally in an unsoldierly condition. This was mild in the light of the actual facts; but it so enraged the German Captain [61] in command of them, that, stimulated by commissary whiskey, he afterwards rode up to Capt. Sleeper's tent, revolver in hand, bent on his destruction. Fortunately, however, the Captain was away, or the recklessness of the frenzied Teuton might have cost one or the other his life; and although it is said to be sweet and pleasant to die for one's country, it certainly would be no gain to the country or glory to posterity to fall a victim to the rage of a drunken idiot.

Spring at last appeared, bringing clearer skies and the advent of the long expected paymaster. The mud gradually dried up, drills and target practice were resumed, and grumbling and despondency ceased. Rumors of enemies hovering near, suspected plans of the citizens to capture our camp by a sudden night attack, and the large number of prisoners brought in by the cavalry pickets, caused increased watchfulness and excitement. The bread question was still unsettled and seemed as perverse as Banquo's ghost. In some mysterious manner the flour still disappeared daily, and the men continued to have bread fresh from the bakery. At last a compromise was effected, a large oven drawn from the commissary department, and thenceforward our bread was baked in camp.

By the middle of April the Thirty-ninth Massachusetts and Fourteenth New Hampshire regiments were ordered away, and our prospects became a matter of interest. The Twenty-third Maine and Tenth Vermont regiments, which had been distributed along the river at the fords, and the squadron of cavalry, constituted, besides our own company, the entire force remaining; seemingly just weak enough, so we thought, to tempt a surprise from Mosby and his gang the first favorable opportunity. However, [62] lie did not appear to think so, and everything remained quiet until the 18th of April, when we struck our tents, packed up, bade adieu to Camp Davis, as it was called in honor of the Colonel of the Thirty-ninth Massachusetts, and moved out of town nearly a mile to spend an indefinite season. Our new camp (called Heintzelman, in honor of the commander of the defences of Washington under whom we then were) was located on the premises of one Henry Young. An airy awning was built over the picket to shelter the horses; trees, both pine and cedar, were cut and set about our tents; arbors were built in front of some; and, on the whole, we seemed likely to have quite a desirable summer residence.

Having got fully established once more, the usual routine camp duties were resumed. These were the halcyon days of the Battery, when it had reached its highest state of proficiency in drill.

As proof of our expertness an observer might have seen the Battery drawn up on the drill-ground on Benson's farm, adjoining the camp, some morning, unlimbered for action, the cannoneers standing about the guns. At a given command they spring at them. Each man has his own special part to perform, and this lie strictly attends to or confusion would ensue. The handspikes, sponge buckets, and other implements are stripped off with the utmost dispatch; the trail is raised in air, the gun at once tipped and poised on its muzzle, freed from the carriage, and dropped on the ground. The wheels are next removed and laid beside the axle, and the battery lies in pieces on the turf. The cannoneerss then resume their stations. Again, at the command, they spring to the work; the wheels instantly slip to their places; by a strong pull altogether four men raise the gun with handspikes till it is again poised [63]

Camp of the Tenth Massachusetts Battery, Poolsville, Md., summer of 1863. from a sketch drawn by John P. Apthrop.

[64] [65] on the muzzle; meanwhile, the carriage has been pushed up with elevated trail, and the heavy piece falls back promptly with its trunnions in their appointed sockets. A few nimble leaps restore the implements to their respective places, and the Battery is ready for action. When all is completed, if the observer has noted the time, he will find that the carriages have been taken to pieces, put together again, and the motions of loading and firing gone through with, in less than a minute. This manoeuvre was once accomplished by the Fourth Detachment in forty-nine seconds.

In this camp, as in Camp Davis, occasional incidents occurred to enliven the monotony of drill. At one time we were inspected by a lieutenant from the Tenth Vermont Infantry, who evidently knew but little of artillery matters, and being under the influence of too much ‘commissary’ ventured criticisms on no point except our dishes, taking the opportunity to recommend to us a new improvement, sold by a Capt. Dillingham of his regiment, consisting of a dipper furnished with a wire bail. He returned in transports at our appearance, and, having seen double, reported Capt. Sleeper's Battery of twelve guns and three hundred men as in splendid condition. We, on the other hand, took the hint about the dippers, and from that day forward a tin vessel fitted with a wire bail was known among us as a ‘Dillingham.’

The weather becoming quite warm, nearly every man appeared under a straw hat, purchased in the town at the store of Jesse T. Higgins, one of two grocers then located there.

During the first week in May the battle of Chancellorsville was fought and lost. Soon afterwards the Rebel movement northward began, and our days [66] of quiet were broken in upon by frequent rumors of a move. The centre section, commanded by Lieut. Asa Smith, was sent to Edwards Ferry the 9th of May, and its guns put in position to command the crossing of the Potomac and the mouth of Goose Creek opposite. It was supported by a squadron of cavalry under command of Capt. Closson.

During its stay there Capt. Sleeper concluded to try an experiment, which was, to see how long it would require, should any emergency arise demanding it, to hitch in the rest of the Battery and join this section at the Ferry. The ‘Boot and Saddle’ call was sounded, the horses taken from the picket, harnessed, hitched in, the cannoneers mounted, and the two sections driven at rapid speed over the more than two miles that intervened, reaching their destination in just forty-four minutes after the bugle call. Satisfactory as the result was in the testing of this particular question, it nevertheless came near resulting disastrously; for the centre section, unapprised of the experiment, made up of fearless men, and commanded by one of the same kind, when they saw the continuous cloud of dust raised by the approaching column, very naturally surmising it to be a squadron of Rebel cavalry dashing down upon them, manned the guns, and in another instant would have sent their deadly compliments among their own brethren when, providentially they caught a glimpse of the colors, and the disaster was averted.

Another incident in which this detached section played an interesting part has been the subject of much pleasantry inside and outside the Company. It happened that one Sunday afternoon the cannoneers on lookout at the guns reported a party issuing from the woods into an opening some distance [67] across the river. The suspected body was at once carefully scrutinized through field glasses, and declared by some to be Rebel cavalry, while this was doubted by others. At all events, a field officer of tile Tenth Vermont Infantry,1 who was present, gave orders to fire upon the intruders, which was done, and they scattered with dispatch. Shortly after the occurrence, perhaps a day or two, the story was reported in camp that the shells had been directed at a negro funeral; that the mourners were just about to consign the deceased to his final resting-place when thus rudely interrupted. Whether this was or was not true still remains a mooted question, but, true or false, the author has thought it too good a story to be lost to the Company, and therefore has reproduced it in brief.

One incident more and we leave the Ferry. One day, in the absence of Lieut. Smith at the main camp, a cavalry picket came galloping at full speed to Capt. Closson's tent, informing him that a column of Rebel cavalry was approaching. He at once went to Serg. Fred Gould, in command of the guns, and ordered him to fire upon the advancing column. This time sergeant declined to do, not feeling quite so sure that it was a hostile party. Thereat the valiant Captain waxed quite late, and, laying his hand on his sabre, contemplated some deed of violence; but the sergeant's delay had warded off disaster, for just then the advance of the so-called enemy, which was no other than the Second Massachusetts Cavalry, appeared above the banks of the road which wound around up the hill into camp. How much life was wasted during the war on both sides by just such blundering as this might have been, will never be known. [68]

One day a long, lank negro, full six feet six inches in height, whom we had seen a few times before, made his appearance in camp. He was one of those individuals whose legs and arms are of such unconscionable extent, that it is impossible to find pantaloons and sleeves long enough to cover more than two-thirds their length. As he took a seat on a camp-stool, his legs, coming up grasshopper-like to a level with his ebony face, recalled to one's mind, in all except color, the quaint portraiture of Ichabod Crane, the schoolmaster of Sleepy Hollow. He passed by the name of William Walker. He professed to be a spy, employed by Gen. Hooker on very secret service, frequenting the Rebel camps to pick up information, and claimed to have saved our camp from a surprise, early in the spring, by giving timely notice at headquarters. We enter into conversation with him, and derive the usual slight amount of satisfaction from his answers to our inquiries. Every sentence is mysterious and indefinite, and winds up with a round guffaw. He talks with great volubility, telling us he has just come from the enemy's camp, and that we must get out of here, as the ‘Rebs’ are coming with men enough to eat us all up. After this exhibition of wit, he rolls up his eyes with intense delight, and watches the effect of his remark on his auditors. He was a good-natured genius, and was never permitted to leave camp until he had danced and patted ‘Juba,’ which he did in true plantation style, himself furnishing the music with his voice. The picture his ungainly figure presented on these occasions was ludicrous in the extreme. We could learn nothing definite from the man this time, which was the last we ever saw of him. Whether he really was a Union spy, or, on the other hand, a Rebel or an impostor, we never [69] could determine. But whatever his testimony was worth, it tended, with other vague rumors which came to our ears, to show that some important movement was at hand. No papers had come from Washington for some days, and we were left to the mercy of Dame Rumor for all the news we obtained, which was usually scarce worth repeating. At last there came something definite.

On the morning of June 11, before sunrise, three or four cavalrymen, hatless, coatless, and covered with dust, came galloping into camp with their horses in a reeking sweat. It seems that a band of Mosby's cavalry surprised their little camp of forty Men—located at Seneca, some six miles down the river—before they were up, killed four, took seventeen prisoners, and fell to plundering the tents. The remainder of the detachment fought desperately a few moments, but being overpowered, took to flight, having killed one and wounded several of their assailants. They belonged to the Sixth Michigan.

As soon as the story of the terrified fugitives could be learned, ‘Boot and Saddle’ was sounded, everything was hastily packed up, and our little force marched breakfastless to higher ground in rear of the camp, towards Poolsville, and took position in line of battle, our guns being in front, the Tenth Vermont and Twenty-third Maine infantry supporting us, and the cavalry on both flanks. In rear of all was a stone wall, which was to serve as a ‘last ditch’ if worst came to worst. In the excitement of the scene how we strained our eyes up the road and longed for the enemy's line to appear! Ever and anon the dust rose in clouds, but revealed only galloping orderlies, and excited officers riding to and fro with no inconsiderable amount of the pomp [70] and circumstance of war. Col. Jewett, of the Tenth Vermont, was in command of this formidable array. While we were thus boldly awaiting the onset of the Rebels, their band was doubtless trotting leisurely back across the river with their booty, chuckling over the success of their morning's adventure. Could they have seen our martial array, six miles in their rear, their enjoyment would have been sensibly increased. Some of our force, with vision preternaturally acute, saw an enemy in every bush, and one or two averred that a whole troop had passed through the woods a quarter of a mile distant and turned our flank. Others there were thirsting for glory. One lieutenant of infantry saw a stirring among the buses in a ravine in front. At once his purpose was formed. With a look of pale determination and lofty courage, lie unsheathed his sword, and alone charged fiercely down the glen.

Bright gleamed his blade
And terribly flashed his eye.

Tearing apart the shrubbery that held the foe in concealment, lie dragged him to the light, and beheld—an astonished hospital nurse in quest of water.

Thus ended the ever memorable event known in our company as the battle of Benson's Hill, so called, from the name of the man on whose farm it might have occurred; on which occasion we seemed in all but numbers like the King of France, as sung by Mother Goose, who with forty thousand men marched up a hill and then marched down again.

We returned to camp at noon; but our troubles did not end here. Gen. Lee was now fairly launched on his great invasion of the North, and our isolated [71] position seemed one fraught with much danger. Now and then the sound of distant cannonading told of cavalry contests between opposing armies as both were pressing northward, but we could hear nothing definite about what was actually taking place. Four days after the raid at Muddy Branch, or Seneca, the centre section was summoned from the Ferry. We threw up rifle-pits on Benson's Hill (our first experience in this kind of engineering, which paled before our later efforts), and kept everything packed ready to move at a moment's notice. Some of us packed up superfluous clothing and conveniences, and expressed them home by way of Adamstown. Night after night the harnesses were placed on the horses, and at 3 o'clock in the morning we were turned out, sleepy and cross, to hitch them to the pieces in anticipation of an early attack. At daybreak the harnesses were taken off. One night, about one o'clock, an officer rode into camp with the tidings that Rebel pickets were in possession of our rifle-pits.

‘Ah! then and there was hurrying to and fro’ in the darkness, and silent mustering and mutterings of warriors. ‘All communication with Washington is cut off!’ was whispered round. ‘We are to fight desperately if attacked, and fall back on Harper's Ferry.’ A truly agreeable prospect, that historic place being more than thirty miles distant! One section of the Battery was sent out with a reconnoitering party, which returned in a half hour reporting a false alarm. It arose, as we ascertained in the morning, from three or four cavalrymen who had strayed from a detachment of Hooker's army and lain down by the wall to sleep. We treated them to a good breakfast, and from them received our first reliable news of the great invasion. Soon [72] after, men from Edwards Ferry reported the Army of the Potomac as crossing there. An army telegraph was being stretched past our camp, said to connect with Gen. Hooker's headquarters and we now felt safe from attack, but seemed likely to be swept into the current and borne on to the great battle which all felt must soon be fought. The scattered companies of the infantry regiments that had been out at various points on picket were called in, and our brigade received orders to be ready to march. All our tents and superfluous camp equipage were turned over to the quartermaster to be sent to the rear, our personal baggage reduced to the smallest possible limit, then stowed in our knapsacks, now not quite as distended as when we left Massachusetts. These were then strapped upon the pieces and caissons, and having at last received marching orders, at 6 o'clock in the afternoon of June 24, 1863, we bade adieu, most of us forever, to our old camp and the village of Poolsville.

As we turn in retrospect upon our sojourn here, removed from the occurrence by a lapse of so many years, there are thoughts which present themselves perhaps not unworthy of noting down in passing. And first, with regard to our bodily comfort. Those of us who were fortunate enough to keep off the sick-list underwent no privations worthy of mention save absence from our families, which was of course inseparable from the nature of the case; and those who were seriously sick were at once removed to Washington, where good nursing and medical attendance were always to be had. Dr. Child, of the Tenth Vermont, was the brigade surgeon, and, so far as we know, was competent — in his calling. Our living was, in the main, good enough. It was not what we were accustomed to at home, and very [73] properly should not have been. On the other hand, many of the men who grumbled loudest and were the daintiest, in all probability lived no better before their enlistment, and perhaps have not since their discharge, than they lived during their six months stay here. We are making no apology for the animated hard-tack, or stale beef that was too frequently served out to us; but taking a broad and dispassionate survey of the whole field, it is our candid conviction that the Company was not badly served in the matter of rations, on the whole. We did believe, however, and with good reason as we still think, that inasmuch as the Battery did not use all its allowances, a large surplus had or ought to have accumulated in the Company Fund, already mentioned; and this should have been properly accounted for, and ultimately inured in some manner to the benefit of the Company. This being the case, we do not know how much better we might have been served under proper management, and hence a foothold is made for the complaint of unjust administration in the department of subsistence.

The disposition to improve our bill of fare at the expense of neighboring farm-yards seemed to have died out with our departure from Camp Davis. A more extended familiarity with the adjacent territory, and, as a consequence, a better acquaintance with the people, who, although secessionists, appeared more like human beings than we had believed it possible for Rebels to do, had made us somewhat more merciful to their effects. And again, whether we condemn or approve the character of the government rations furnished us, there was certainly a very perceptible increase in the pounds avoirdupois of a large portion of the Company, whose daily routine may be fairly stated as [74] follows: breakfast, sleep, drill; dinner, sleep, drill; supper, sleep;—the result of which was a condition of body and mind positively antagonistic to tiresome raids over fences, fields, and ditches in the darkness, and in the uncertain and sometimes dangerous pursuit of special rations.

Our living was at times obtained quite independently of the government, by means of the boxes from home, that were received with greater or less frequency. These were always inspected at headquarters before they came into our possession, and all contraband articles, in the line of liquors, confiscated. This seemed one of the singular anomalies of the war, that intoxicants were regarded a dangerous indulgence for the private soldier, who, in comparison had no responsibility, but the correct thing for the commissioned officer, upon whom devolved every responsibility. Could this state of affairs have been exactly reversed, or, better still, could all liquors, save for hospital uses, have been proscribed in the army, we believe the war would have been ended longer before it was, and many a hearthstone, now desolate, would be gladdened by the presence of the unfortunate ones who, in various ways, fell innocent victims to this great curse.

To see the eager crowd gather round the recipient of a box and watch the unpacking and unwrapping of every article, and each commend as approvingly as if the contents were his own, would have rejoiced the hearts of the kind friends at home. It was downright enjoyment to them. If they belonged to the same tent's crew with the owner of the treasure they were sure of a closer interview than a simple observation gave them; for the war, with its community of interest, developed sympathy and large-hearted generosity among the rank and file, and [75]

Brevet Lieut. Colonel

[76] [77] they shared liberally, especially with those who had no one at home to remember them in this pleasant manner.

With our departure from Poolsville more than nine months of our term of service had expired. If we had not made our mark in active service the fault was not our own. We obeyed orders, we did not originate them. It was not unusual for troops to be inactive several months after their muster. It will be remembered, too, that there was little activity in the main army after our arrival at Washington. The Army of the Potomac lay inactive nearly five months subsequent to the disastrous battle of Fredericksburg. But there is no doubt whatever about our having been serviceable here, and that the presence of our brigade at the upper fords of the Potomac did prevent frequent incursions of Rebel raiders into this section.

But there are other reasons for claiming that these were valuable months for the Company and the government. First, then, there is of necessity a broad chasm to be spanned between the citizen and the full-fledged soldier. The citizen possesses certain rights in whose exercise he is restricted when he becomes a soldier. As a citizen he has a voice in deciding who shall be his rulers; as a soldier, usually none: as a citizen he is justly bound to obey all laws intended to promote the general welfare, since he had a voice in making them; as a soldier he is held rigidly accountable for the infringement of all military laws, in whose making he had no voice. It matters not if they are the mandates of the veriest tyrant in the army, or if they violate every principle of reason, common-sense, or justice; the laws of the service are inexorable, and its exigencies require an unflinching and exact obedience. The existence [78] of a conscience in the person of the offender is not for a moment to be considered. As a citizen his time is wholly his own; as a soldier there is not a second to which lie can surely lay claim. The citizen calls no man master; the soldier may be compelled to bow before a man infinitely his inferior in every respect,—illustrations of which were very frequent during the war. In view of these and other considerations that night be cited. time was a very desirable and potent agency in bringing about the adaptation of the citizen to the new order of things.

Again, the fact of our proficiency in light artillery tactics has already been alluded to, and we only re. fer to it already as a second advantage derived in these early months. Instances were not wanting, during the Rebellion, of batteries being sent to the front, under a pressing demand for troops, as soon as they received their guns, without this thorough preparation. They had the implements of warfare, it is true, but were the merest apprentices with them, and consequently, when involved in an action, had no confidence in themselves and felt comparatively helpless. There can be but one result under such circumstances,—that of confusion and disaster to this particular organization, and, perhaps, through it to others. Hence, whenever we reflect upon our record at Camp Barry and at Poolsville in this respect, it arouses our pride, and we feel that these were valuable months in the school of the soldier. If the Tenth Massachusetts Battery was a unit during its nearly three years of service,—and it certainly was; if the men were subordinate to their superiors, —and the residents of Poolsville say they left a good impression there in this respect; if the Battery did its full duty whenever its services were called [79] for,—and the official reports do it ample justice on this head; if its members ever stood up manfully to their work, confident in their own strength, fearlessly dealing out death and destruction among the enemy, silencing battery after batter, under adversity defiantly contesting every inch of ground,—and we challenge any company in the service, engaged the same number of times, to show a better record; if the history of this organization in its entirety is one of which its members, its friends, and the Commonwealth may justly be proud,—and this fact has received recognition on many public occasions;—the pages of that history were heightened in their glory and brilliancy by sharp general and individual discipline in the schools of Camp Barry and Poolsville.

Before taking our leave of this camp, it is proper to note that Frederick F. Brown and Moses G. Critchett had added their names to the list of deserters, the former decamping before the Company's arrival at Poolsville, and the latter from Camp Heintzelman. To the credit of our organization it may here be stated that these were the first and only original members to desert their flag and the cause in which they had volunteered.

Morning reports.


Dec. 27. Horse died of glanders.

Dec. 28. One horse died of disease of the liver. Arrived at Poolsville about 11 o'clock A. M.

Dec. 31. Mustered in for pay by Maj. H. M. Tremlett, 39th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteers.



Jan. 3. George H. Innis, Samuel J. Bradlee, E. T. Atwood and Harmon Newton sick in quarters.

Jan. 4. George H. Innis returned to duty. Serg't. Geo. H. Putnam sick.

Jan. 5. William Rawson sick in quarters. Serg't. Alden sick in quarters.

Jan. 6. Wm. Rawson returned to duty. Joseph Brooks and John Norton * * *

Jan. 7. Francis Loham sick in Camp Hospital. Serg'ts Alden and Putnam returned to duty.

Jan. 8. Harmon Newton returned to duty. C. N. Barker sick in quarters.

Jan.9. S. J. Bradlee and Joseph Brooks returned to duty.

Jan. 10. Joseph Cross and W. S. Roundy sick in quarters.

Jan. 11. James Dwight returned to duty.

Jan. 12. W. S. Roundy returned to duty.

Jan. 14. C. E. Woodis sick in quarters.

Jan. 15. Wm. Rawson sick in quarters.

Jan. 18. John M. Ramsdell sick in quarters.

Jan. 19. Wm. Rawson returned to duty. Richard Martin and A. D. Bacon sick in quarters.

Jan. 20. Richard Martin returned to duty. John W. French and James Dwight sick in quarters.

Jan. 21. James Dwight and John M. Ramsdell returned to duty. Received notice of G. M. Dixon's discharge.

Jan. 23. Amasa D. Bacon returned to duty. Wm. Edwards sick in quarters. One bay horse died of glanders.

Jan. 24. Error in a horse made 26 Dec.; 7 horses were condemned, not 6 as there stated.

Jan. 25. Chas. E. Woodis, Jos. Cross and Wm. Edwards returned to duty. J. L. W. Thayer sick in quarters. [81]

Jan. 26. J. L. W. Thayer returned to duty. Joseph Brooks sick in quarters.

Jan. 27. S. A. Hanson returned to duty.

Jan. 28. Jos. Cross and S. A. Hanson returned to quarters.

Jan. 29. Harrison Chase returned to quarters.

Jan. 30. Joseph Cross and John (Harmon?) New ton returned to light duty.

Jan. 31. Harrison Chase returned to duty. John (?) Newton, Jos. Cross, John P. Brown and F. A. Chase sick in quarters.

Feb. 1. John Pedrick sick in quarters. The Battery, books, quarters, stable &c., were fully inspected by Col. P. S. Davis, 39th Massachusetts Regiment.

Feb. 2. James Peach returned to duty. One bay horse, white faced, ridden by Sergt. Townsend, died of lung fever. Harrison Chase and John H. Knowland sick in quarters.

Feb. 3. E. T. Atwood, C. N. Barker, Frank A. Chase, and John H. Knowland reported for duty. Capt. Sleeper went on furlough. Benj. H. Phillips' sentence having expired he is reported for duty.

Feb. 4. Joseph Cross and John Norton reported for duty. Frank A. Chase sick in quarters.

Feb. 5. Frank A. Chase reported for duty. John Norton reported sick in quarters.

Feb. 6. Jos. Cross reported sick in quarters.

Feb. 8. J. P. Brown, Jos. Cross and John Pedrick returned to duty. Received four horses from Quartermaster Colonel Rucker at Washington. Henry B. Winslow, 2nd., discharged from Emory Hospital and returned to duty.

Feb. 9. J. W. French being sick is relieved from extra duty since Jan. 1st and Chas. E. Bruce is detailed in his place as Farrier. [82]

Feb. 10. John P. Brown and Jos. Cross reported sick in quarters.

Feb. 11. John P. Brown and Jos. Cross reported for duty.

Feb. 12. B. T. Atwood reported sick. J. W. French having his discharge dated Feb. 5th, started for Washington and home.

Feb. 13. One bay horse died of congestion of the lungs.

Feb. 14. Joseph Brooks reported for light duty.

Feb. 15. E. T. Atwood sent to General Hospital, Washington.

Feb. 18. Waldo Pierce sick in quarters. Capt. Sleeper returned from furlough.

Feb. 19. Harrison Chase reported for duty. Feb. 21. Waldo Pierce returned to duty.

Feb. 22. Washington's Birthday. We are having the severest snow storm of the season. Fired a salute of 34 guns at 12 o'clock M.

Feb. 26. William H. Martin placed under arrest for disobedience of orders. Frederick F. (?) Brown not having returned we have dropped him from the Report, as a deserter.

Feb. 27. Norman H. Butterfield and C. N. Barker reported sick in quarters. Lieut. Smith went on furlough of 7 days.

Feb. 28. Jos. Brooks reported sick in quarters. Battery mustered (for pay) by Capt. Sleeper.

March 1. N. H. Butterfield returned to duty. Lieut. Adams leave of absence till Wednesday morning.

March 2. Chas. E. Prince and John C. Frost reported sick in quarters.

March 3. Sergt. Chandler Gould reduced to the ranks and Corporal L. R. Allard promoted to Sergt. vice Gould removed. One horse shot per order Capt. [83] Sleeper, disease glanders. J. P. Brown reported sick in quarters

March 4. John Norton reported for light duty. J. L. W. Thayer reported sick in quarters. Lieut. Adams returned.

March 5. Nine horses condemned (5 turned in and 4 shot), 50 nose bags and 1 linen wall tent also condemned per Col. A. B. Nowell (?) (Jewett) commanding brigade.

March 6. Chas. E. Prince reported for duty. John H. Knowland reported sick in quarters.

March 7. Lieut. Asa Smith returned from furlough and reported for duty yesterday afternoon. J. H. Knowland reported for duty.

March 9. S. A. Hanson reported for light duty. Corporal Shattuck reported for quarters. Received from Quartermaster Tompkins 11 horses.

March 10. W. H. Martin pardoned, it satisfactorily appearing that he is insane. Emil Floytrop reported sick in quarters, also W. H. Martin.

March 11. Chas. G. Colbath reported for duty.

March 12. John Norton, Emil Floytrop, Corporal Shattuck reported for duty.

March 13. One bay horse, Baxter's, shot; disease glanders. George W. Parks sick in quarters. J. C. Frost reported for duty.

March 14. One bay horse, Martin's, shot; disease glanders. Hanson, Pierce (?) and Thayer reported to quarters. Corporal Conant (Currant)? started on furlough to Boston.

March 16. Wm. Herring, E. Ashcroft, Win. Endicott and D. R, Stowell reported to quarters.

March 17.. Wm. H. Martin sent to insane hospital, Washingon, D. C. C. E. Pierce reported to duty.

March 18. Hanson reported for stable duty and Mugford and Chase reported to quarters. [84]

March 19. Mugford, Herring, Ashcroft and Stowell reported for duty. Alex. W. Holbrook reported to quarters. One sorrel horse ridden by Merrill, shot; disease glanders.

March 20. Lieut. Adams returned and reported for duty last night. Herring reported for quarters. Holbrook reported for duty.

March 21. Lieut. Armitage started on furlough for Washington and Boston yesterday. J. W. Thayer reported for stable duty. Hanson, White, Newton, reported for quarters.

March 22. Endicott, Herring, Chase, White, Newton, and Prince reported for duty; Ring reported for quarters.

March 23. Corporal Conant (Currant)? returned from furlough. Ham, Thayer and Prince reported for quarters. Hiram P. Ring reported for duty.

March 24. Brooks, Hanson, Barker and Norton sent to General Hospital, Washington, D. C. Han reported for duty. Corporal Stevens to quarters.

March 26. Prince and Corporal Stevens returned to duty. Capt. Sleeper started for Washington on business.

March 27. Received notice of R. B. Wendall's discharge Feb. 24. Prince returned to quarters.

March 30. Prince reported for duty. Lt. Armitage returned and reported for duty.

March 31. Serg't. Harrington started on 10 days furlough to Boston. Capt. Sleeper returned from Washington.

April 1. Prince and Blaney reported to quarters.

April 2. Blaney reported for duty.

April 9. Prince reported for duty.

April 10. Serg't. Harrington reported for duty, having returned from furlough.

April 11. Thayer reported for duty. [85]

April 13. Frank Loham started on furlough for 15 days on account of disability.

April 14. Redfield reported to quarters.

April 15. Orcutt (?) reported to quarters.

April 16. Redfield reported for dismounted duty. Stowell and Pierce (?) reported for quarters.

April 17. Pierce (?) reported for duty.

April 18. One bay horse died and 2 horses (one chestnut and one bay) shot, per order Capt. Sleeper; disease, glanders.

April 19. Orcutt (?) and Stowell reported for dismounted duty; Pierce (?) and Chase reported for quarters.

April 20. C. E. Woodis taken to Camp Hospital yesterday; H. Chase reported for dismounted duty.

April 22. Pierce (?) Colbath and Stowell reported for duty.

April 23. Crawford reported to quarters.

April 24. Crawford reported to duty; Thayer to quarters.

April 25. White reported for duty, also Thayer. April 26. Corp'l Smith reported to quarters.

April 27. Corp'l Smith reported to light duty; Parks started for home on 20 days furlough; John C. Frost sent to hospital.

April 28. C. E. Woodis reported for stable duty. T. G. Redfield started for Washington on furlough.

April 29. Chas. E. Woodis reported to quarters. One black horse died; disease * * *

May 2. Leverett Pierce reported to quarters. Capt. Sleeper started for Washington on business.

May 4. Herring and Chase reported sick. Pierce (?) and Chase sent to Camp Hospital.

May 5. Woodis reported for stable duty. Packard reported to quarters.

May 6. Frost and Herring reported for stable duty. [86]

May 7. Packard reported for duty. Hunt reported for quarters. Received notice of the discharge of Wm. H. Martin, April 22, 1863.

May 9. Colbath reported to quarters.

May 10. Pierce (?) and Colbath reported for stable duty.

May 12. Billings reported for quarters. One horse shot per order Capt. Sleeper; disease glanders. Capt. Sleeper returned from Washington. Redfield returned from furlough. Chase reported for stable duty.

May 13. Billings reported for duty. One horse died; disease lung fever. Lieut. Adams started for Washington on 48 hours furlough.

May 14. Fifteen horses condemned (11 shot, 4 turned in) per order Col. A. B. Jewett commanding brigade.

May 15. Samuel Abbott (Abell)? having been discharged is dropped from the roll. Lieut. Adams returned.

May 17. Leroy E. Hunt returned to duty.

May 19. Received notice of the discharge of Joseph Brooks on the 11th inst. for disability.

May 20. Received notice of the discharge of John Norton on the 11th inst. for disability. Frost and Beal sick in quarters.

May 21. Sergeant Alden started yesterday on 48 hours leave of absence for Washington. Beal reported for duty and Corp'l Shattuck to quarters.

May 22. George H. Nichols reported sick and in hospital.

May 23. Moses G. Critchett absent without leave.

May 24. Serg't Alden returned from Washington yesterday.

May 27. Dropped Critchett from the rolls as a deserter. Received notice of Samuel A. Hanson's discharge. [87]

June 1. Nichols reported for quarters.

June 2. Wilson reported for quarters. Received notice of the discharge of E. T. Atwood for disability May 13, 1863.

June 3. Received of Capt. Tompkins at Washington 23 horses. Wilson reported for duty.

June 7. J. T. Goodwin reported to quarters. June 11. George H. Nichols reported for duty.

June 15. Serg't Allard, privates Corlew and Damrell reported to quarters. Private G. W. Parks returns from extended sick furlough and reported for duty.

June 16. Donnelly reported to quarters.

June 17. Privates Damrell, Frost and Donnelly, and Sergeant Allard reported for duty. Corp'l Shattuck and Private Corlew sent to General Hospital, Washington, D. C.

June 18. Millett reported to quarters.

June 19. Millett reported for duty.

June 20. Privates John Knowland, John Millett, Frank A. Chase, John W. Bailey reported to quarters.

June 21. Privates Knowland, Millett, Chase and Bailey reported for duty. Corp'l William H. Starkweather and Private Asa Richardson reported to quarters.

June 22. Private Waldo Pierce reported to quarters. Corp'l Starkweather reported for duty.

June 23. Private Waldo Pierce reported for duty.

June 24. Started for Maryland Heights with Battery at 5 o'clock P. M. Camp equipage ordered to (be)? abandoned by order of Col. A. B. Jewett, comanding Brigade.

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