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Company E, 39th Massachusetts Infantry, in the Civil War.

[The following account is taken from the diary of John H. Dusseault. The diary will be followed closely in all its details, but for the sake of clearness, bare statements will be amplified in a way, it is hoped, to make this story of our fellow-townsman a more valuable contribution to the history of a period in which he bore an important and honorable part.] Company E, which will go down to history as the Somerville company, was recruited during July and August, 1862, on Prospect Hill. The town, through its agents, the selectmen, encouraged the enlistments, which went on rapidly under the direction of the three officers who received their commissions from the selectmen. These officers were Captain Fred R. Kinsley, First Lieutenant Joseph J. Giles, and Second Lieutenant Willard C. Kinsley. All three had completed their term of service in Captain (later Major) Brastow's company, which enlisted for three months, the first-mentioned having been second lieutenant, and the two others privates in said company. These men were Somerville boys, although the Kinsley brothers were not natives of the town.

As is well known, a camp was pitched on Prospect Hill, and a flagstaff erected, which stood until the hill was dug down, some fifteen years later. The company was filled quickly, and our historian was one of the first to enlist.

There was the usual round of duties, drilling, and keeping guard. The days passed quickly, and the boys fared sumptuously. For, in addition to the usual rations, they received bountiful contributions from the larders of the patriotic matrons of the town.

On August 12 the company was mustered into the United States service, and on that day the non-commissioned officers stepped from the ranks as their names were called: John H. Dusseault, first sergeant; Edward A. Hale, second sergeant; [18] Edwin Mills, third sergeant; Judson W. Oliver, fourth sergeant; Richard J. Hyde, fifth sergeant; and the usual number of corporals, viz., D. P. Bucknam, Elkanah Crosby, William M. Carr, Melvin C. Parkhurst, Charles E. Fitcham, George Van De Sande, William A. Baker, and Leslie Stevens.

The company remained at Prospect Hill until September 2 when they went to Boxford, and there joined the rest of the regiment (the Thirty-ninth Massachusetts), and came on the right of the line,—first place. Colonel Phineas Stearns Davis, of Cambridge, was in command, and September 6 the regiment left for Washington, D. C. Amid the cheers of throngs of people, we departed from Boston in ‘first-class’ cars, but before we reached our destination we were riding in cattle cars. This was due, of course to the congested condition of transportation, as everything at that time was moving towards the seat of war. At Philadelphia the citizens gave the travelers a dinner, as they did to all the regiments which passed through their city. This dinner was at Cooper-Shop Eating House, a place which many Northern soldiers must remember.

We arrived in Washington September 8, and the next day went to Camp Chase at Arlington. About September 16 we marched, according to orders, towards Edward's Ferry, Md. The night of September 18 we reached Poolsville. Our course was along the upper Potomac, and the object of the expedition was to guard the river fords and stop the rebels, notably a body known as White's guerrillas, from making raids into Maryland. From Poolsville we marched five miles to Edward's Ferry, where we camped, without tents, for five weeks. The river was picketed as far as Conrad's Ferry, seven miles up stream. In October we marched back towards Washington, eight miles to Seneca, where we camped about a week, thence to Muddy Branch, where we remained until November 13. On the way back, at Offert's Cross Roads, death entered our ranks for the first time, and we lost Private Sumner P. Rollins, who had enlisted with his half-brother, Illiot Kenneston. While we were at this place, Second Lieutenant Kinsley was promoted to the [19] rank of first lieutenant, company H (from Dorchester). Sergeant-Major T. Cordis Clark, of Roxbury, was assigned to the vacancy in company E.

December 21 found us at Poolsville again, where we went into winter quarters. The night of our arrival was a very cold one, so cold that the water which spilled from our canteens would freeze on our clothing. This was a hard march, and many of the boys fell out by the way. Three hundred or four hundred of us were packed away in a small schoolhouse, ‘thick as sardines.’ The next morning some of the party got over into the town and visited the grocery stores there.

That winter we were quartered in large, circular tents, called Sibley tents, which were pitched each on the top of a low stockade, that made the wall of the tent. We never saw this kind of tent after that winter. The next year each soldier was supplied with a strip of canvas five and one-half feet long, which when set up was called a shelter tent.

Nothing of importance happened while we were at Poolsville. We spent the time drilling and doing picket duty, and finally, April 15, 1863, broke camp and marched for Washington in a heavy rain. The first night we camped in some woods; the next found us three miles from Georgetown, where we were quartered in some college buildings. On April 17 we went into quarters in Washington, at Martindale barracks, corner of Pennsylvania avenue and Twenty-third street. Here our regiment remained on provost guard duty until

July 9. Once in June we were ordered out at night, with one hundred rounds of cartridges, to Chain Bridge, as a rebel raid was expected there. Our company was the advance guard of the regiment. At noon the next day we were marched back to the capital.

July 9. The Thirty-fourth and Thirty-ninth Massachusetts regiments took train at 10 a. m. for Harper's Ferry, sixty miles away. This, it will be remembered, was immediately after the battle of Gettysburg. No change had taken place in our company, except that Lieutenant J. J. Giles was left in Washington on detached duty at the provost-marshal's office. [20]

I remember that we reached our destination one night about dark, and were marched off to Maryland Heights, two miles or more, and over an exceedingly rough road. Here we were brigaded with the Eighth, Forty-sixth, and Fifty-first Massachusetts militiamen, all serving for nine months, and their term of service was nearly ended. We were now a part of the Army of the Potomac.

Sunday, July 12. We left Maryland Heights at 10 a. m. to report to General Mead, who was on his way from Gettysburg, and was now following up the Confederate army, which was still on the Maryland side, but farther up the river. We marched all night, and halted at six in the morning for breakfast. At 3 p. m. we joined the army at Funkstown, near Hagarstown, Md., having made thirty miles in twenty-nine hours. Much of the march had been over a very rough road. To be explicit, ours was the Fourth brigade, Second division, First army corps, and under General John Newton. We were an extra brigade.

July 13. We skirmished all day.

July 14. Though being ordered to move early, we did not get under way until 2 p. m. We passed over the rebels' works, now deserted, and after a distance of seven miles, halted at Williamsport. Here our Somerville company was detailed as guard at General Newton's headquarters.

July 15. We marched at 6 a. m. across Antietam Bridge, passed through Keedersville, and halted at Ruersville for the night. This was a hard day; from twenty-six to twenty-eight miles had been covered, under a boiling sun, and there were many cases of sunstroke.

July 16. At 6 a. m. we set out for Berlin's Station, close to the Potomac, and ten miles away. Here we remained until July 18, when we crossed the river into Virginia. That night, after a march of twelve miles, we were at Waterville. This seemed to be a Quaker settlement. The next day we moved on ten miles to Hamilton.

July 20. Up at 2 a. m. Moved at 5 o'clock; crossed many small streams and forded Goose Creek, which was about one [21] hundred yards wide, and in some places four feet deep. We marched about twenty-five miles, and at 5.30 halted at Middleburg.

July 22. Moved at 7 p. m., and marched all night; halted at 3 a. m. in White Plain. Here we slept four hours, and at 7 a. m. —July 23—pushed on to Warrington, a distance of fifteen miles, and reached there that afternoon. For the first time we encamped in line of battle, as the enemy were not more than three or four miles away. Both armies, it must be remembered, were having a grand race for the Rappahannock river. At Warrington the nine-months' men above referred to left us, as their time was out, and we were put in another brigade, with the Thirteenth Massachusetts, Sixteenth Maine, Ninety-fourth New York, and One Hundred and Seventh Pennsylvania.

July 25. We moved early, and went fourteen miles that morning—four miles of it was out of our way—and six miles more that afternoon and evening. It rained hard all the way, and at 1 o'clock in the morning, July 26, we reached Bealton station. Here we lay down to sleep, with clothes wet through and our shoes in a wretched condition. At 10 a. m. we pushed on for Rappahannock station, only four miles away, through fields, etc., —a very rough route. The march consumed six hours. Here our brigade, with Buford's cavalry, picketed one bank of the river, and the Confederates the other.

We remained in this position until August 1, when we were ordered across the river, where we worked all that night building breastworks. The enemy did not attack us. August 4, while lying in our works, we witnessed part of a cavalry fight in which our side held their ground.

August 5. All quiet. To-day we were paid off to July 1.

August 8. Our brigade re-crossed the river, as a change had been made in the lines, and we remained at Rappahannock station more than a month. There was not much doing all this time, but preparations were going on for a general advance. At 6 a, m. on September 16, we crossed the river on pontoons to a point near Culpeper, C. H., twelve miles, where we could hear cannonading ahead of us every day. [22]

September 24. We marched eight miles, and at 4 p. m. halted at Raccoon Ford, on the Rappadan. Here we relieved the Twelfth army corps. Two miles farther on, September 27, we went into quarters at Camp Nordquest. We were now employed in picketing the Rappadan.

October 2. The whole division marched out one mile, in the rain, and forming three sides of a hollow square, saw a deserter from the Ninetieth Pennsylvania regiment shot. We remained at Camp Nordquest until October 9, when we turned out at 11 p. m., and stood in line till 3 p. m. of the next day. waiting for orders, when we marched. Arriving at Norton's Ford we again set out at 8 p. m., and marched to Pony Plain—twelve miles—arriving there at midnight. On these marches a soldier, with his gun, knapsack, forty rounds of ammunition, haversack, rations, etc., was carrying between forty and sixty pounds.

We now come to the first serious disaster which befell our company. Our pickets had been taken off at 10 p. m., October 10, and marched back to Camp Nordquest for their rations. They were under the command of Captain John Hutchins, of Company C (Medford). They secured their rations, but on their return, as there was some delay and the night was dark, some of them lost their way. The consequence was the enemy captured thirteen men, all from our regiment, and seven of them from Company E. These were Sergeant R. J. Hyde, Privates F. J. Oliver, Henry Howe, Joseph Whitmore, and Washington Lovett, all of whom died in Andersonville prison, and Corporal G. W. Bean and Private J. W. Oliver. The former was in prison seventeen months, until March, 1865, when he was paroled; the latter was more fortunate, being paroled after three or four months of imprisonment. The capture took place near Stevensburg, five or six miles from their regiment.

October 11. We turned out soon after midnight, and were ordered to be ready at a moment's notice. 11 a. m., we marched to Kelley's Ford, on the Rappadan. We forded the river, and took up a position (on the Washington side) in some rifle pits, three or four feet deep. This was to cover the river. The enemy, it will be understood, had flanked our army [23] on the river and were making for our rear. It was a cold, chilly night, about the same as the weather at home at that season. We had nothing for protection but our shelter tents, and as the ground was wet, it was almost impossible to make a fire.

October 13. We marched at 1 a. m., and arrived at 11 a. m. at Warrington Junction. At 3 o'clock in the afternoon we marched again, and reached Bristow station at 10 o'clock that night.

October 14. Marched at 7 a. m., and reached Centerville at noon. At 4 p. m., we set out for Bull Run, which was not far away. We saw the famous battlefield several times in the course of this season. The entire regiment was ordered on picket, and Company E was ordered to follow the Run until they met the pickets of the Sixth corps (Sedgwick's). We went about three miles, crossing Cub Run, but not finding any pickets, the division officer of the picket Major Leavitt (of the Sixteenth Maine) went ahead alone on horseback and left us in a field. Returning in less than an hour, he reported a rebel cavalry camp in our front. We retraced our way hurriedly, and after going about a mile and a half, were halted by our own pickets. We then learned that we had been more than a mile beyond our own lines. On callingthe roll, I, as first sergeant, found twelve were missing, and so reported. Major Leavitt would allow no one to go back, but went himself, and found the men fast asleep in the field where we had been. Like a good shepherd he brought them all in. After that no one ever heard a word uttered against this officer; not many majors in the service would have done as much for their men.

October 15. The pickets were drawn in at 11 a. m., and we marched to Cub Run. Orders came for our regiment to take a position to support the pickets on our front, as heavy firing was going on in close proximity to the picket line. It will be remembered that this came near to being a third Bull Run, but we had the better position and the enemy withdrew.

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