Friday, January 2, 2015

The First Rhode Island Cavalry at Middleburg, June 17-18, 1863; Part 2

The story continues from the previous blog post...


      Colonel Duffié was fully aware of our desperate situation; he ordered the regiment into column of fours and said to me, “Captain Bliss, you will take the head of the column, no obstacle whatever stop you, we are surrounded here; we must cut our way out.”   

     We took the road towards Hopeville Gap, the same road over which a few minutes before Captain Haynes had charged upon us at the head of Companies G and H of the Ninth Virginia Cavalry, and moved on at a walk, the usual marching gait. We had marched less than a mile when I heard shots in the rear, and soon Colonel Duffié came galloping to the head of the column and said, “Cavalry in our rear, boys.  Let us go,” and we went.   

     The horse I brought from Rhode Island, and which had carried me so many miles, had been lost on the 16th of June at Manassas by carelessness and disobedience of orders by my negro servant in letting the animal graze without a picket rope, and I was riding a horse loaned me by Lieutenant Vaughan, and sitting an English instead of a military saddle. The ride was after the style of let the best horse win, and frequently my feet would be thrown out of my light stirrups by crowding horses in the narrow road which caused me to slacken the pace while regaining the stirrups, and so it soon happened that although I started at the head of the procession I found myself rapidly falling back towards the rear.   

     At last I was where I could hear the rebels shouting, “Surrender, its no use, you can’t get away,” and hear their bullets sing as they fired into the column, and could also see our men turning in their saddles and firing back through the dust that covered us all like a heavy fog.  I saw that if I continued in the road I must soon be killed, or taken prisoner, and noticing that on the mountain side of the road there was no fence I reined my horse sharply to the left, but he was determined to follow the column and did not obey the rein.  For a moment I thought I was lost, but, with a desperate effort, I gave him the rein again together with my left spur, and making a slight angle with the road he darted into the woods at a point where there was a tree with limbs so low as to sweep me over the horse’s tail and leave me sitting on the ground with a drawn saber in my right hand, while the horse rapidly disappeared forever from my sight among the thick woods of the mountain side. 

     As I sat there I saw that several of my comrades had followed my lead, and they passed by me into the woods.  Although but a few yards from the road the air was so thick with dust that the whole rebel column thundered by without a man discovering me, and as soon as they had passed I rose and climbed up the mountain a short distance, where I found six men of my regiment in a dense thicket of laurel bushes within a short gun-shot of the road. I sat down among them to rest, and as I always carried with me a pocket inkstand and writing materials, I improved the time by writing to my old college chum, David V. Gerald, the following letter:

June 18, 1863.

     Our regiment has just been cleaned up.  We left Manassas Junction yesterday morning.  We had a skirmish at Thoroughfare Gap, but succeeded in forcing a passage with a loss  of only three horses killed and some wounded.  We reached Middleburg, having had considerable skirmishing along the road.  We found a small party of rebel cavalry in this place, but drove them out and established our pickets, expecting hourly the rest of our brigade to join us, via. Aldie, but it seems General Stuart, with a large force, had already taken Aldie and so we were left out in the cold, or rather shut up in among the mountains, in a regular trap, entirely surrounded by the rebels. 
     Just after sunset last night the rebel cavalry charged upon us with overwhelming numbers. Our men fought stubbornly, and many rebs bit the dust, but it was no use, we were obliged to retreat, which we did in good order, leaving about eighty of our men killed, wounded and prisoners; we fell back about two miles and stopped.  We had no guides and did not know in what direction to go.  At daybreak the enemy attacked us and we retreated.  By this time the men were very much discouraged, knowing our hopeless condition.  We had gone but a short distance when we were attacked, both in front and in rear.  Our plain duty was to charge and cut our way through, but the men would not do it. 
     At this time, while at the head of the column, trying to get the men to charge with me, a bullet struck the blade of my saber and glancing wounded me slightly in the right fore arm, but it is only a scratch, does not interfere, as you see, with writing.  The men went into a field to the left of the road, and ran promiscuously.  At last, by tremendous exertion n the part of the officers, the men were rallied, and we charged the rebels, who ran when they saw we meant fight. We then continued our retreat, but the rebels came down on our rear before we had gone a mile, and routed our men completely.  I was at the head of the column, and had orders to charge and cut my way through all obstructions, and I did not believe anything short of artillery or a barricade would have stopped us, but the attack on the rear was fatal.  Colonel Duffié rode by me saying, “Cavalry in our rear, boys, let us go,” and we did go.  I traveled with the rest about three miles, and the rebels were constantly shooting down men at the rear of the column. I lost my big bay horse several days ago, and found myself gradually dropping to the rear, and saw I must soon be shot or be taken prisoner unless I did something for myself with great swiftness, so I just dashed off sideways into the woods, a tree swept me from the saddle, and I stopped while the horse went on.  Some of the men saw my dodge, and imitated the same, and I have six men and five horses here with me. We have been lying here for an hour listening to the rebels talk.  They are constantly passing by here, but they will have to be smart to catch this crowd.  I intend to pilot this crowd safely out of the woods; but we have got a hard row to hoe among these mountains.

     I hear a rebel damning a prisoner.  I don’t know whether you will ever get this letter; if you don’t get it write, and if you do get it write ; but by all means write. I suppose nearly all our regiment are either killed, wounded or prisoners by this time; another sacrifice to poor generalship.  Still, I think our affairs never looked brighter.  If Lee will only go with his army fifty miles into Pennsylvania we shall clean him up.  This letter is private.  I don’t care if Tom Bishop, or any one else you can trust, sees it, but don’t care to have the main facts public.

June 19, 1863.
I have been successful in joining the remnant of our regiment.  I brought off with me
Edward C. Capwell, Hospital Steward.
William J. Bowley, [M] Troop.
Sergt. Alvin S. Eaton, [M] Troop.
George H. Dix, [M] Troop.
E. Carns, [M] Troop.
James H. Collins, [A] Troop.

     Perhaps it may be advisable to publish these names as safe.  From talk with various officers, who have escaped, I am sure the rebels suffered severely; in fact, I think their loss equal to ours. About forty of those in the fight have got in.

Lt.-Col. Thompson,
Capt. Allen,
Lt. Prentiss,
Lt. Brown,
Lt. Ellis,
Capt. Gould,
Capt. Bliss,
St. Shurtleff,

Of those officers who went out, these are all who have returned up to date, but we have good reason to think that there are more in the mountains who will come in sooner or later.

Publish the names of these officers.
      I was obliged to abandon our horses, and make our way over the mountains on foot, but I saved my arms.  The bullet that wounded me, struck the blade of my saber, and glancing scratched my arm.  The bullet would undoubtedly have struck my body if it had not glanced from my saber. I hope to return the compliment with the same saber before the war is over.  Lieutenant Burgess, Captain Rhodes and Lieutenant Vaughan went to Washington sick, June 17th, and were not in the fight.  Tell father, Charles was not in the fight and is all right somewhere.  When you get this please inform father of my safety immediately.  I am obliged to make this one letter answer for all.  Daniel W. Ide, of East Providence, was not in the fight, having been with the dismounted men since April 13th.

     It is too bad to slaughter a regiment needlessly as we were.  I may be egotistical, but I believe that if I had been in command I would have safely extricated the regiment from its perilous condition on the night of June 17th.  I would have gone to a house, taken a man and told him to take me across Bull Run mountains, and that if he brought me among the rebs I would blow out his brains on the spot. We were halted all night when we ought to have been marching.  But it is no use to lament the past; let us profit by our sad experience and do better next time.  While I can knaw hard bread I shall never say die.
Yours truly,
G. N. Bliss.

     After writing the first part of the foregoing letter I assumed command of the party, and we moved towards the summit of the mountain, feeling sure we would find Union troops on the east side, if we could succeed in crossing.  Having my field-glass with me I went in advance, and at every opportunity viewed the country.  I saw the rebel videttes at cross-roads in the distance, and could, therefore, easily avoid them.   

     As we were going along he mountain side we disturbed a partridge with her brood of young, and they ran in front of us for several yards, and nothing I saw in my whole soldier life, awoke in me so strong a longing for home and the pursuits of peaceful life.   

     After traveling some miles we found we were not on the Bull Run Mountain, but on an outlying hill, and must descend into a valley to reach the ridge we wished to cross.  In the valley we found a delightful brook of clear cold water, and determined to rest and refresh our horses here.  We bathed in the brook, and then seeing an approaching thunder-storm, put up our shelter tents and waited for the shower to pass.  Just as the rain was ceasing, two mounted rebels passed near us, and as we saw them it was reasonable to suppose they saw us, and to conjecture that a larger force was near by, from whom we might soon expect an attack. We determined, therefore, to abandon our horses and climb the mountain, at a point where it was too rough for horses to travel.   It was about dark as we pushed on up the mountain side over rocks and among brush and briars, until, about ten o’clock, we found a clearing on the mountain top with a house in its centre.   After careful reconnoitering we found only two persons were there, and then asked admission.   

     The lady of the house was about sixty years old, and was reluctant to admit us, but we insisted, and as we had some silver with us, and paid it for our supper of corn-bread and milk, she became quite sociable.  She had never seen a Yankee before, but had once possessed a Yankee needle and a Yankee pin. We put one man on picket, and the others had a comfortable night lying before the wood-fire burning in the huge stone fire-place. In the morning after a breakfast of corn-bread and milk, we started down the east side of the mountain, and in a few hours caught sight of a cavalry picket, and passing through the lines soon found Major Turner and a small squad of our men, who had not been with the regiment on its unfortunate raid. 

    A few days later those who had escaped from this disaster were assembled at Alexandria.  Colonel Duffié, with four officers and twenty-seven men, escaped though Hopewell Gap and marched to Centreville, where he made so good a report to General Hooker that he was recommended by him to be promoted and receive a commission as Brigadier-General, dated June 17, 1863.  It is reported that General Duffié said, “My goodness, when I do well, they take no notice of me.  When I go make one bad business, make one fool of myself, they promote me, make me General.”

     In all the fighting of the first day we did not have a man wounded; and if the regiment had cut its way out during the night of the 17th, the affair would have been a brilliant feat of arms, as we had penetrated to the centre of Stuarts’s Cavalry, and caused him to change all his plans and order Munford to fall back from the strong position where he was at Aldie, holding our entire cavalry force at bay.  On the second day, the 18th, we had six killed and twenty wounded; the killed were Lieutenant J. A. Chedell (C), Corporal T. Burton (F), S. Wilcox (D), J.H. Elkins (M), Charles Fairbanks (M), and B. G. Lawrence (M).

     We had in the tow days 210 captured, but forty of them succeeded in escaping, and only 170 were taken as prisoners to Richmond.  The Color-Sergeant. G. A. Robinson (Troop I), when he found he would be captured took the colors from the staff and wrapped them around his body under his clothing, and after being a prisoner for several days escaped, and brought the colors safely back to the regiment, for which he was rewarded by promotion to the rank of Lieutenant. 

     During the confusion of our first retreat through the wheat-field in the morning of June 18th, a rebel rode up toe Lawrence Cronan, who carried the guidon of Company C, and demanded the surrender of the flag.  Cronan refused, and the rebel fired, sending a bullet through Cronan’s right arm, his breast, and wounding his left arm, but Cronan rode off with the flag as though nothing had happened.  Soon after, Cronan became faint through loss of blood, gave his flag to a comrade, and was left behind a prisoner.  Cronan was taken to Middleburg, but was recaptured at noon of the 18th, when our cavalry corps entered the town, was sent to the hospital at Washington, recovered from his wounds, and served until the end of the war.  While Cronan was lying wounded and a prisoner, the rebel who shot him came to his side and said, “Why did you not surrender that flag,” to which Cronan replied, “It was not given me for that purpose.”  The rebel said, “Well, you are tough,” and passed on.

      This movement of the First Rhode Island Cavalry on Middleburg, resulting in disaster to the regiment, was of great service to our arms. It at once resulted in an order from General Stuart for the retreat of his troops from Aldie, where they had held a position so strong that our whole cavalry corps had failed to dislodge them. Our cavalry passed the Aldie Gap and for several days pushed Stuart’s troops severely, and it is thought that General Stuart’s desire to retaliate by a brilliant feat of arms led him to make the raid between Washington and the Army of the Potomac, thereby depriving General Lee of the services of Stuart and his veteran cavalrymen for many days, and for want of the information they might have given, causing, as many Confederate officers believe, the crushing defeat at Gettysburg.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

1st Rhode Island Cavalry at Middleburg

      This summer I came across some exciting cavalry narratives researching the cavalry Battles at Aldie, Middleburg, and Upperville in June, 1863.  The stories from the 1st Rhode Island were particularly compelling.  They were however, peripheral to my intent, which was to focus on the actions of the 3rd US Artillery in the fighting that week, - so I didn't include much about them on my website.

     But it might be enjoyable this time of year, to read the adventures of Captain George Bliss, and others during what proved to be a disastrous campaign of neglect for the First Rhode Island.  The tale is long, so I'll offer it in two parts.

by George N. Bliss

     At the request of many of my comrades I write this paper to correct the errors of other Northern writers upon the events of these two days.

     In the Campaigns of Stuart’s Cavalry, by Major H. B. McClellan, pages 303, 304, and 305, the deeds of the First Rhode Island Cavalry at this time are set forth in words as accurate as they are complimentary, but this gallant Confederate officer cannot afford the space for details as embraced in the work of our Society.

     The following extracts contain some errors of Northern historians:

     History of the Civil War in America, Compte De Paris, Vol. III, page 494 :
It is the movement of Colonel Duffié by way of Thoroughfare Gap, which was accomplished in the midst of the greatest dangers and with wonderful daring, but also with heavy loss, which finally led to the retreat of Munford.  Duffié, with his two hundred and eighty men, had unexpectedly made his appearance in front of Chambliss’ brigade, but he had succeeded in disguising his numerical weakness from the Confederates, who were entirely worn out, and little desirous, undoubtedly, to bring on an action; so that while Chambliss was under the impression that he had a superior force to deal with, Duffié, stealing away in the night, was rapidly marching upon Middleburg.
Chancellorsville and Gettysburg by Doubleday, page 102:
Colonel Duffié’s division started from Centreville for Middleburg, by way of Thoroughfare Gap, but finding the enemy (W.H.F. Lee’s brigade) were already in the Gap, they went around through Hopewell Gap and kept on to Middleburg, which Duffié reached about 9:30 A.M.
     The battle of Bunker Hill was upon the 17th and that of Waterloo on the 18th of June.  It was the fortune of the First Rhode Island Cavalry to be in action upon both anniversaries in the year 1863, and the history of the regiment for these two days is one of disaster, but not of dishonor.

     Early in the morning of June 17, 1863, the following order was received:
     Col. A.N. Duffié First Rhode Island Cavalry:
You will proceed with your regiment from Manassas Junction by the way of Thoroughfare Gap, to Middleburg; there you will camp for the night, and communicate with the headquarters of the Second Cavalry Brigade.  From Middleburg you will proceed to Union; thence to Snickersville; from Snickersville to Percyville; thence to Wheatland, and, passing through Waterford, to Nolan’s Ferry, where you will join your brigade.

     The day was bright with sunshine, and the regiment, numbering two hundred and eighty sabers, took the road without a thought of the future.  At Thoroughfare Gap privates Duxbury, Lee and Teft, of Company H, were in the advance; Duxbury meets a Confederate cavalry picket, and fires his carbine but misses his enemy, at that time on a full gallop in retreat.  A few shots came from the woods, but our skirmishers soon drove the pickets back upon a larger force.  

      “There are six hundred of them, I think,” said Duxbury to Captain Chase; “There are at least twice as many as there are of us.”  In the skirmish three of our horses were killed and several horses were wounded, but none of the troopers were hit. 

     Having passed through the Gap and reached the desired road, Duffié turned to the right and pressed forward towards Middleburg, some fifteen miles away.  In thus obeying orders, Duffié left behind him W. H. F. Lee’s brigade, under command of Col. J.R. Chambliss, estimated as twelve hundred men, while at Aldie Gap, fifteen miles further north in the mountain range, now enclosing the Rhode Island troops on the east, Fitz Lee’s Brigade consisting of the First, Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth Virginia, were that day to hold their position against our entire cavalry corps under command of General Pleasanton.

     General Robertson’s brigade, ten thousand strong, was at Rector’s Cross Roads, eight miles west of Middleburg, in which town General Stuart, commanding these three Confederate brigades of cavalry, was enjoying the hospitality of his friends, protected only by a body guard of three companies.  At 4 P.M. the First Rhode Island struck Stuart’s pickets, and at once charged them, driving Stuart and his staff out of Middleburg on the gallop, escaping capture only by reason of the superior speed of their fresh horses.  At this time Fitz Lee’s brigade had been engaged at Aldie, only five miles away, for two hours with Kilpatrick’s troopers, holding the Gap against charge after charge of our brave cavalry men.

     General Stuart thought the force that had penetrated to the very centre of his troopers must be a large one, and at once sent orders to Roberson’s, Fitz Lee’s, and W.H.F. Lee’s brigades to concentrate upon Middleburg.  Duffié has obeyed orders; he is in Middleburg where he is ordered to remain for the night; he does not know that at Aldie, five miles in his rear, Colonel Munford, commanding Fitz Lee’s Brigade, is holding our whole Cavalry Corps at bay.  A movement of the First Rhode Island on Aldie would have struck the Confederate rear and changed defeat to victory, but this is imagination, not history, and in accordance with our orders Capt. Frank Allen, with two men, was sent to Aldie with a dispatch for Pleasanton, and I know of no better description of his ride then the following official report:

Report of Capt. Frank Allen, First Rhode Island Cavalry.
Alexandria, Va., June 22, 1863.
Sir:  I have the honor to report that about 5 p.m. on the evening of the 17th instant I was sent from Middleburg, where the regiment was then engaged with the enemy, to carry a dispatch to General Kilpatrick at Aldie, accompanied by 2 men.  I first attempted to proceed by the main road, but was halted and fired upon by a body of the enemy, who said they were the Fourth Virginia Cavalry.  I then returned toward Middleburg, and, leaving the road, attempted to make my way across the country.  I found the fields and woods in every direction full of bodies of the enemy.  By exercising the greatest care, I succeeded in making my way through them to Little River.

Here I encountered 5 of the enemy, and forced them to give me passage.  Following the river down, I struck the main road about 1 mile from Aldie, and, by inquiry, learned that our pickets were on that road.

I reached Aldie, and delivered my dispatch to General Kilpatrick at 9 p.m.  General Kilpatrick informed me that his brigade was so worn out that he could not send any re-enforcements to Middleburg, but that he would report the situation of our regiment to General Gregg.  Returning, he said that General Gregg had gone to state the facts to General Pleasonton, and directed me to remain at Aldie until he heard from General Pleasonton.  I remained, but received no further orders.
Respectfully submitted.
Frank Allen,
Captain First Rhode Island Cavalry.

Col. A.N. Duffie.

       Colonel Duffié posted strong pickets at barricades across the roads leading out of Middleburg on the south, west and north, and stationed his reserve on the road leading towards Aldie at the east of the town.  For three hours their regiment held undisputed possession of the place, but at seven o’clock in the evening General Stuart returned with the Fourth and Fifth North Carolina Cavalry, about one thousand strong; the men at the barricades fought bravely but were soon outflanked and driven back upon the reserve. 

     Warned by the attack on the outposts, Colonel Duffié ordered companies G and F, numbering about sixty, to dismount, tie their horses to trees in the grove, which at that time formed a line behind a stone wall that bounded one side of the road.  By this time it was quite dark, and as the enemy charged towards us in column, the first notice they had of the ambuscade was the discharge of sixty carbines, when four rebels were abreast of each gun.  Horses and men fell in confusion, and the rebels retreated in disorder under a hot fire from the revolvers of the men who had just emptied their carbines.  

     The rebel officers could be heard rallying their men for another charge, which was soon made and as soon repulsed.  Again their officers were heard saying, “Now, boys, form once more; we’ll give ‘em hell this time; we will sweep every Yankee from the face of the earth,”  and a third time they charged and were again hurled back shattered and torn. 

     While this fighting was in progress I was with the remaining men of the regiment, mounted and facing the enemy in the woods, a few yards from the left of our line of dismounted men ready to charge on any force that might pass the ambuscade. After the last charge it was evident that the rebels had learned something, and they commenced to form a line out-flanking the road instead of trying another charge in column along the road.  Maj. P.M. Farrington sent Lieut. J.M. Fales to report to Colonel Duffié that the enemy were about to deploy in the fields and attack his right flank and rear, and to ask for orders. 

      Lieutenant Fales found that the regiment had moved, and followed the retiring column two miles before overtaking Duffié, and the Colonel said to him, “Stay with the regiment; it is of no use to go back, you will be captured.” 

     It is claimed that Colonel Duffié sent orders to Major Farrington to fall back from the wall, mount and join the regiment, but that in the darkness and confusion somebody blundered, and the brave men who had thrice repulsed the enemy were left to meet their fate alone.  Major Farrington mounted his men after he had heard the rebel officers give the order “Cease firing, dismount and go into those woods,” and attempted to join the regiment; but at this time a mounted force of rebel cavalry had entered the woods, and Captain Chase, after joining his men to a Confederate column, supposing it to be the First Rhode Island Cavalry, did not discover his mistake until called upon to surrender. Warned by the loud summons for surrender given to Captain Chase, Major Farrington with two officers and twenty-three men moved off a short distance into the woods, where they dismounted and remained concealed twenty-four hours within gun-shot of large forces of the rebels until the advance of our cavalry corps from Aldie gave them the opportunity to rejoin the Union troops.

     Colonel Duffié, with what remained of the regiment, numbering now less than two hundred, retreated at a walk a little over two miles, and went into camp in the woods, where we halted under arms without unsaddling horses until daybreak.  By this time there was no soldier so dull as not to understand the desperate situation of the regiment.

      We had left behind us at Thoroughfare Gap a force of the enemy larger than our own.  At Middleburg we had learned that a large force of the enemy had passed through that day going towards Aldie and we were only two miles distant, at most, from the hostile force five times our own number in strength and by which we had been driven from the town we had been ordered to hold.  With the Bull Run Mountains on the east and the Confederates in our front at every other point in the compass, we were hiding in the woods, knowing that the rising sun would betray us to an overwhelming force of the enemy moving upon us from all directions.  No fires were allowed and no talking was permitted except in so low a tone of voice as to amount to whispering, but the thought was universal and freely expressed that our only hope was to move at once and charge through the enemy’s lines in the night.  Had any native born officer been in command the regiment would, without doubt, have cut its way out that night and could not have met in so doing, greater disaster than was to befall it on the morrow.  Colonel Duffié was a Frenchman, he had received positive orders and thought it his duty to obey them.  In a letter written afterwards he says,

“I could certainly have saved my regiment in the night, but my duty as a soldier and as Colonel obliged me to be faithful to my orders. During those moments of reflection, and knowing that my regiment was being sacrificed, contemplating all this through more than five hours, my heart was bleeding in seeing the lives of those men, whom I had led so many times, sacrificed through the neglect and utter forgetfulness of my superior officers; but in the midst of my grief I found some consolation, beholding the manner in which the Rhode Island boys forth.”

     Just before day I received orders from Colonel Duffié to go on foot outside the woods in the direction of the road to Thoroughfare Gap and see if I could discover any signs of the enemy.  I obeyed the order and remained in the open fields until the increasing light of the opening day gave me an opportunity to see the road for some distance, but saw nothing of the enemy and so reported to Colonel Duffié.   My report was hardly made before shots from the enemy were heard fired upon our pickets facing towards Middleburg. 

     The regiment was at once ordered to mount and we moved out into the road in column of fours, my company was at the head of the regiment facing towards the south on the same road I had shortly before been scouting on foot.  As we were then with our backs towards the enemy that had fired upon our pickets, the order was given “Fours right about”  I had given the first part of the order,  “Fours right about,” and was on the point of finishing it with “March!:   when I discovered a force of rebel cavalry charging upon us not more than seventy-five yards away.  Pointing my saber towards the enemy I at once gave the order to charge, and just at that moment the rebel officer leading the charge leveled his pistol and fired at me with so good an aim that the bullet struck my saber blade, and glancing, drew blood on my right arm, the sensation being as though my arm had been struck smartly with a whip.  At that moment I saw that Colonel Duffié was on the opposite side of the first set of fours, and he said, “Go ahead boys, charge!”  but his tone and manner was that of none having no hope of success.   

     The men wavered, broke, and jumped their horses over a stone wall into a wheat-field on the east side of the road, and, through the waving wheat, the regiment rushed in confusion with the rebels close after them.  We had passed through the wheat-field and by the farmer’s house, who, reckless of danger, and without thought of the flying bullets, stood on his piazza cursing the soldiers as their horses trampled under foot his lusty grain, when I heard an order form Colonel Thompson, “Captain Bliss, halt!   Rally the men.  We have gone far enough.”  This order I obeyed at once, and found it hard at first to get the men to stop their retreat, and face the enemy, but as soon as I had six men in line facing the rebels the rest of the regiment came into line of battle like the snapping of a whip.  The rebels were stopped by this move and opened fire upon us with carbines, and they were so near that when the Confederate officer said to his men, “Let’s give them a saber charge,” every soldier of the First Rhode Island heard it, and when I shouted back in defiance, “That is just what we want,” there were loud demands in our ranks of  “Let us charge.”  

      The order to charge was given at once and we had the pleasure of seeing the same men that had charged us running away through the same wheat field, and of feeling that our disgrace was in some measure removed.  We were halted in the wheat-field, where a line of battle was formed, and we counted off by fours in each rank.  The rebels we had driven retreated in the directions from which our pickets had been fired upon a short time before.  Lieut. James M. Fales, who was captured while we were retreating through this same field, says, in his Prison Life, No. 15, second series, page 9 :  

 “After going about an eighth of a mile from the wheat-field, where I was captured, I saw a force of about five thousand rebel cavalry, and thought that my regiment, on that morning, not more than two hundred strong, would be annihilated, and to this day it seems wonderful to me that so many as one hundred succeeded in cutting their way into the Union lines.”

To Be Continued...

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Searching For Love...

     The main pages of have been re-Vamped!  There is a new structure to the pages with better consistency, and more accurate and detailed information in the ‘Outline’ history;   ie: pages ‘1861, 1862, 1863, 1864, and After.  There is even a splash of color, (red) in the new headings.

     If you Liked the old website, “Thirteenth Massachusetts Volunteers,” ( and I know I did )  -- you’ll LOVE the new site because now it has a SEARCH function.
     A reader made a request for the search function quite a while ago and this is the result of that request.  The Search Function  is peryl based, so when you enter a simple search term, a list of pages containing the searched for item appears, with the number of times that item appears on the page.

When you search, try to keep it simple, for instance, type in the search term ‘Leonard’ for Colonel Leonard, or ‘canal’ instead of C&O canal.

You can even search for Love, if you want.  I did and quite a few hits on the ‘Darnestown’ page showed up. What’s up with that?

     You can try being more specific in your search if you know what your looking for, and you might get some hits, like ‘George Bigelow’ instead of ‘Bigelow’ but try using the single term if you come up empty handed.

     The site map page was originally intentioned to give visitors a good idea of what was on the site, but this feature offers a little more assistance if you can’t find what you want there.

     If you have visited the website in the past your browser may have cached the old pages, the following information is for you:

    You may find yourself moving between older and newer pages when you navigate the site.  The new pages have RED headings, the old pages have BLACK headings.  The new SITE MAP page is improved and easy to notice because of the new menu at the top of the page, - encased in a grey box.

     The Home page however, once updated should not revert back to the old version, because the old file is deleted.

      If you have trouble and are bouncing back and forth between old and new, (like I was), remember to hit REFRESH in your browser when ever you find yourself on an older page.  Or navigate BACK to the home page, where all the links are correct.

      The new pages include, HOME, ABOUT US, WHATS NEW, SEARCH, LINKS, SITE MAP and the outline history, 1861, 1862, 1863 etc. 

      The detail pages are the same for now, but you MUST hit REFRESH in your browser window when you visit a detail page in order for the new navigation menu links to work. (ie: 'Return To History'  & 'Return to Site Map')

     So, there may still be quite a few kinks in the system for a while, so please be patient.  You can contact me if things aren’t working out.  (With the website, not your love life.)  I'm trying to keep aware of any problems but its not always apparent what they are.

Here's the link to the Search Page, which should get you inside the new navigation:

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Regiment Marches North to Gettysburg, with account of the Cavalry fights at Aldie, Middleburg & Upperville

I've spent so much time and energy building the last few sections of my website history the past two years, I feel like I haven't the energy to promote it.

Last month I posted the latest page, "A Hard March North."  This page covers a period of two weeks in June, 1863, when the Army of the Potomac made a series of difficult marches to counter the movements of General Lee's Confederate army.

Highlights of this new section include Commissary of Subsistence, Captain Charles F. Morse's paper, "Why We Wouldn't Meet Mosby."  Printed in the 13th Regiment Circular #18 in 1905,  Morse's hatred of Mosby persists well into the post-war years. This article is on page 1.

Page Two explores in some detail the cavalry battles at Aldie, Middleburg and Upperville, June 17 - 21, 1863.  These engagements have nothing to do with the '13th Mass.' except that my own ancestor, William Henry Forbush, former member of Company K was there, with the 3rd U.S. Artillery, Battery C,  Captain William D. Fuller, commanding.   The page broadly summarizes each battle with an emphasis on the role of Fuller's battery. Highlights include memoirs of Henry C. Meyer, 2nd NY Cavalry, on the staff of General David M. Gregg, and a letter of Daniel Townsend, 1st U.S. Artillery, Randol's Battery, and,  the memoirs of Heros Von Borcke, (with which I have much fun) who was on the staff of Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart.  There are many excerpts from my Great Great Grandfather's 1863 diary.

Also on the page is a brief biography of the famous war correspondent, Alfred R. Waud who brilliantly covered the cavalry battles in the Loudoun Valley that week.  The several battle actions he depicted are examined in detail.  I got swept up and carried away reading the hair-raising adventures and exploits of the cavarly men in these battles that I intend to post a few stories I came across here on the blog.  They were too long to include on the web page but would fit right in here.  Look for that in  a short while.

Page 3 of the new section resumes the narrative of the '13th Mass' as they continue their march north into Maryland.  During this period, General Hooker resigns from command of the Army of the Potomac, and General George Gordon Meade replaces him.  Highlights of this page include Colonel Leonard's short statement regarding the change of commanders, Private Charles Leland's last letters home, (he was killed at Gettysburg) Charles Davis, Jr.'s humorous article "You Have Insulted Ze Gener-al,"  Comrade David Sloss' recollections of nicknames the soldiers gave each other,  Historian John A. Miller's article "Emmitsburg Before the Battle of Gettysburg," and a character sketch of beloved flag-bearer Roland Morris, cut down at Gettysburg.  A transcript of Morris' court-martial just prior to the battle is included on the page, culled from Colonel Leonard's personal papers at the Gilder-Lehrman Institute of New York.  

The page ends on the eve of the Battle of Gettysburg.  I hope you enjoy this new section.


As usual, comments are tolerated. But don't insult ze Gener- al !

Look for more stories soon as I finish typing them.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Reminiscences From the Sands of Time - Part 4, final.

      Corporal George Hill's narrative continues.  The story is taken up when George and his comrades have been re-captured after  roaming the Carolina countryside in search of freedom.  (George Hill pictured- photo courtesy of Carol Robbins & Alan Arnold).

 "Reminiscences From the Sands of Time" by George H. Hill, 13th Mass. Company B.

      The glory of capturing yankee soldiers was too much for them to sacrifice, and we were marched to the ferry and put across by the saddest-faced darkey I ever saw. I think his disappointment was almost as heartfelt as our own.  Taken to a plantation we were locked into a kind of a woodshed and left to our meditation.  I leave to your imagination the feeling of disappointment which tortured us.  It beggars description.  We were well fed and, barring the scornful looks of the "women folks," well treated while here.  We were guarded by the men who captured us, each in turn parading in front of the door, until next day when we were taken out and started off, we knew not where.  We begged not to be returned to Florence, feeling that any other place was preferable to being again confined with the dregs of Andersonville.  The first night, after a journey of about twenty miles, we slept in a jail, in a small village called Albermarle, and such terror did a yankee possess to the women of this quiet place that we were put into a stone cell, entrance to which was so small that we were obliged to crawl through on our hands and knees.  We were fairly treated and decently fed, and next morning again on the road. We now learned our destination was Salisbury, N.C., which place we reached at about four o'clock in the afternoon, and were, after eighteen days of liberty, again inside the prison walls.  We were the first Federal soldiers to enter Salisbury prison.  When we left it, five months later, over twelve thousand had been buried from its confine, and thrice that number had entered through its gateway.
Sitting on the ground with those men - they were good-natured old men and evidently pitied us - we tried to convince them that we could do no further damage to their cause and agreed not to take up arms again (knowing our time had expired some months before"); but all in vain.

     Salisbury prison differed from Andersonville in that it was not remote from a settlement, but on the contrary was directly in the village or town.  It had originally been a hospital, and consisted of an enclosure of about one and a half acres, with a stone paved yard between the buildings, which formed a square and were six in number - one large brick building, two stories, used at this time as quarters for deserters and others under sentence from the rebel army, a wooden structure used as a hospital, and four small brick buildings, which may have been used as storehouses.  Beyond, or back of these, was an open space, and all of this was surrounded by a high board fence.  A platform extended entirely around on the outside of this fence built high enough for the guard to look over and into the yard as they walked to and fro.  We were not allowed to enter either of these buildings, but finding a hole leading underneath the hospital (which set on posts about eighteen inches above the ground) we crawled in and made our home on the dry earth, delighted to find this shelter after our experience at Andersonville.  We received rations twice each day, consisting of half a loaf of white bread - the first we had tasted since our original capture - and a good-sized piece of bacon, and congratulated ourselves that we were, although prisoners again, better off than we would have been had we gone to Florence.

     A few days passed, and then prisoners taken from our army - now in front of Petersburg - began to arrive in squads of fifty to a hundred or more.  Daily the number increased, and although at first the fresh and vigorous condition of the men so recently captured presented a striking contrast to the half-starved associates we had left at Andersonville, the exposure and lack of opportunity for cleanliness soon robbed them of all this, and another crowded den of misery was added to the inhuman record.

     Our retreat under the hospital was quickly filled, and filled so full that we lay at night "spoon fashion," so close together that it was not possible to turn without first getting general consent of the entire line, as all must turn together, and it was no uncommon thing to hear some one cursing over an apparently obstinate fellow who would not move, and at last hear the exclamation, "This man is dead,"  "Well, turn him over," would be the reply, and so accustomed had we become to death that no further note would be made of it until morning, when he would be dragged out and taken to the dead house (one of the small buildings had been devoted to this purpose), and after being stripped of his clothes left until the old wagon drove in for its daily load.  It was cold weather now, rations had been cut down one-half, and but for the extra clothing gotten from the dead we would none of us have lived.  No man was buried with clothes on, or with shoes or stockings, in Salisbury.  The needs of the living were too great to admit of sentiment, and we were only too glad to "walk in dead men's shoes."  We had water to drink, drawn from two wells, one of which we dug ourselves, but none to waste, so a bath, even of hands or face, was a rarity.  One day when we were, as usual, lounging away the time under the house, Klingingsmith, who had gone out by the gate to see what he could hear of news
from some prisoners coming in, came rushing out of breath to the entrance and shouted "Hill, Rice, Trounsell, come out here - come out!"  Thinking the war was ended, or at least Sheridan had captured Salisbury, we scrambled out and there stood Billie Crossett.

     Words cannot describe that meeting; we hugged him, we kissed him, we danced around him, we shook him, we hugged him again, while he, poor baby that he was, cried and laughed with joy at meeting us again.  We gave him all we had to eat and took him into our cave, and that night the "spoons" were closer than ever, for room had to be made for Billie.  We had enough to talk about for the next week, telling him our experiences since we left him, nearly two months before, on the edge of that terrible swamp, and listening to him as he recounted how he waited a day longer than we asked (so as to be certain sure not to endanger us) before he made a move; then of his visit to one of the cabins at ten o'clock at night, his kind reception by an old negro woman, who took the shoes and stockings from off her feet and gave them to him to wear, how she kept him hid for nearly two weeks, bringing others to see and talk with him, nursing his wounded feet and feeding him with the fat of the land, until, becoming impatient to follow us - whom he imagined safely inside the federal lines - he insisted upon moving on; how then one of them walked with him two nights on the way and left him then only because a longer absence would excite suspicion and invite pursuit, how he traveled all alone, with no one to speak to all the long nights, and hid all alone all the longer day, until his nerves gave out, and he felt he must speak to some one or he would be insane; actually trembling at every rustling leaf, and in imagination feeling the grasp of his pursuers at every step, he sees a light ahead, and reaching a house, he staggers to the door and knocks, the door opens and there stands an officer in rebel uniform.  Who cares, in such a state of mind?  Not he, and he tells his story.  The motley suit he wears, furnished by his colored friends, his youthful face, so uncommon in the Federal ranks - so common in the rebel army - discredits his claim to being an escaped union soldier and he is held as a deserter from one of the regiments at Raleigh, is taken there and to a dozen different camps to be identified.  At last, convinced that he is what he claims to be, he is sent, with a lot of newly captured prisoners, to Salisbury, and while standing in line to be counted, thinking all the time how hard it was that he could not have kept on with us to freedom, his hand is grasped by Klingingsmith, and he hears his name spoken in a voice he knows so well.  All this, and more, he tells us, and always ends with tears as he repeats how lonesome he had felt in his travels, and how happy it had made him to be with us again. Once more united, we began to plan another escape.

     We started tunnel after tunnel, one of which was thirty feet long, three feet below the surface, but the difficulty of disposing of the loose earth taken out brought discovery and defeat.  A concerted attempt made one night to break down the fence and overpower the guard resulted in the death of eight, and wounding of twenty of the most daring spirits among us, and the more rigid oversight of the enclosure.  Thereafter, any man moving around after dark was shot at without warning, and the most trivial excuse was sufficient to excuse a wound from the rifle of one of the youthful sentinels who now promenaded the platform, twenty feet apart.

     This ended hope of escape, and we settled down to wait for death, or release by victory of our comrades at the front.  So passed the winter of 1864.  The mortality became fearful.  Twice each day the big truck wagon backed up to the dead house and drove away with its load of naked bodies, six or eight deep, with legs and arms hanging over its sides and end, to be buried in a trench out-side.  No word from home had we received.  Tons of letters, I have since learned, were sent through our lines, but scarcely a dozen to my knowledge ever reached the prison to cheer those poor fellows starving for news of loved ones so far away.

     One bright spot there was.  Regularly there entered, each day, this pen of misery an old gray-haired, tender-hearted man of God, a catholic priest, whose kind sympathy and hopeful words of encouragement saved many a man from despondency and death.  I am not a catholic, but the memory of that holy Father, as he moved in and out among the sick and dying in Salisbury prison, speaking words of hope and comfort, regardless whether to Jew or Gentile, has left an impression on my mind that the lapse of time cannot efface.

     The triumph of the republican party, and the re-election of Lincoln in November, thus demonstrating the determination of the North to submit to no compromise, was the death-blow of the rebel cause, and the continued victories of our armies, both east and west, news of which came to us through incoming prisoners, encouraged us that the end was near and so we held on to hope that our release was not far distant.

     About the middle of January rumors of an exchange of prisoners began to circulate around the yard, and on the twenty-fifth of that month the first squad - of which we formed a part -was marched through the gate and put on cars (which were on the track just outside) and started for Wilmington.  It was proposed to exchange at Fort Fisher, which place had been captured by General Terry.  Our former experience made us suspicious that again this was but a ruse to change our location, and when at Raleigh we were taken from the cars and marched to a grove of trees, and a guard stationed around us, we felt certain that we had been fooled again.  Train after train arrived, and each in turn dumped its load of disappointed prisoners and backed away.  No explanation could we get, but a sort of gloom appeared to settle down upon the rebels guarding us and we knew something was wrong with them, at least.  That night watching our opportunity when the guard was down the line, Klingingsmith and I slipped across and deliberately walked into the town.

     It was about ten o'clock and the streets were nearly deserted.  We had read occasionally a copy of the "Raleigh Standard," which found its way into the prison, and knew that the editor, Mr. Holden, was as near a union man as he dared to show.  We were desperate, and determined to find out, if possible, what was to be done with us.  Hailing a passing negro we inquired where Holden lived, and soon we stood at the door and boldly rang the bell.  The door was opened by a negro girl, and as the light fell upon us she started back, exclaiming:  "For de good Lord's sake, what you yankees doing way up here?"  We asked for Mr. Holden, and she called, "Massa Holden, here be two yankee prisoners done be got away!" and at once a nice-looking, middle-aged man appeared. He asked us in, and when we had explained our motive in coming to him he (without in any way committing himself) informed us that the city of Wilmington had been occupied by federal troops, which necessitated a change of plans as to point of exchange and, on that account, we were stopped at Raleigh to wait for orders; advised us to return to our comrades as the surest way to reach our lines, wished us a safe journey to our homes and friends and then - evidently to dispel suspicion of his loyalty - sent us guarded by a negro, to whom he gave a revolver and instruction to shoot us if we attempted to escape, back to camp.  We entered where we had left, the sentinel evidently preferring to make no report lest his carelessness in allowing us to get out might get him into trouble.  The news we brought (we were careful not to report whom we had talked with) was received with delight by our comrades who, missing us, had concluded we were off again for good.

     Two days later we again boarded the train and about noon stopped in the open country about three miles away from Wilmington.  "We were ordered off the train and, as we looked ahead, we saw the engine was just at a fence which crossed the track, and on one side stood a group of rebel soldiers and on the other side an equal number of "officers in blue," and just beyond on a small knoll we could see a squad of cavalry, one of whom held a staff from which waved an American flag.  We moved slowly along, helping those too weak to walk, and as we passed through the line of rebel officers were counted and checked, and then by the Federals, each one receiving from the latter, as he passed, a grip of the hand and a word of encouragement.  I can only imagine how others felt.  I know how I felt myself.  My legs trembled; I could scarcely stand; every drop of blood seemed centered in my heart, and as I passed those rebel officers I could hear the thump, thump, thump, and I held my breath in abject fright lest something in my action should give offence and they should hold me back again.  Slowly the prisoners moved along, and at last I was inside the union line.  Not daring to look behind, I raised my eyes to the flag and staggered on.  Thinking of no one; caring for no one; only wondering if it was true, walking as if in a dream, almost on air, towards the flag; until at last, standing beneath its folds, the blood began to flow again, and again I felt myself a man.  Turning now, the pent-up feelings of a soldier's life seemed to come to me as of old, and memories of cruelty and wrong struggled for relief. Sheltered by the emblem of my country's power I almost shrieked in triumph, and then, with failing strength, burst into tears.

Just then an officer stepped beside me, grasped my hand and threw his arm around my waist, exclaiming, "My God, George Hill, is this possible?" And looking up I saw Bill Blanchard, a private soldier of my own company in the old 13th  when I was captured, but now a captain of the 27th U.S. Infantry Colored Troops, and serving as officer of the guard.  (Bill Blanchard,  pictured)  Insisting I should go with him, despite my filth and rags, he took me to his tent, furnished me what he called "a lunch," but what seemed to me a feast; sent to the quartermaster's and "drew" a complete outfit - hat, shoes, stockings, and underwear - and took from his own trunk trousers and coat;  went with me to a small stream near by and assisted me in ridding myself of the remnants of clothes I wore, and also of the five months' accumulation of confederate soil I carried on my person, and then, arrayed in garments clean, which seemed to me richer than those we read of as being worn by King Solomon, I went with him to the headquarters of his regiment and was royally entertained.  Amidst all this a feeling of guilt at apparent desertion of my comrades oppressed me and at last I insisted upon following them to Wilmington.  An ambulance was ordered and I rode into the city, found the boys quartered in one of the deserted stores and wondering what had become of "The Captain."  They had all they could eat, but were yet in rags, as no extra clothing was to be found with an advancing army — my own good fortune being an exception — but what of that?  A happier lot of men you never saw. But little remains to be told.  Obtaining a sheet of paper and envelope I wrote to my father, announcing my release, and the arrival of that letter was the first they had heard from me since I was reported "missing in action," ten months before.  It came to them at home like a message from the dead, for they had given up hope that, even if a prisoner, I could have survived the exposure and suffering of which they had heard so much.  The joy at home is best imagined; again my powers of description fail. 

      As soon as transports could be provided we were sent north, to parole camp, at Annapolis, and (my regiment having been mustered out six months previous, expiration of term three years) I was, after a week or two doctoring, furnished transportation and ordered to Boston; was honorably discharged from the service of the United States March 26, 1865, and left for my home in Maine.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Reminiscences From The Sands of Time, Part 3

     When we last left George and his comrades they had just escaped from a train taking them to Florence Prison in Florence, S.C.  They rolled under the train station platform when the guard wasn't looking and waited anxiously for a chance to escape.

"Reminiscences From the Sands of Time" by George H. Hill, 13th Mass. Company B.

[Part 3]

      I have stood in the battle front when shot and shell were flying around me and men were falling dead on all sides; have been in that most trying place to a soldier's courage, "the reserve;" have stood on picket, knowing the liability of being pounced upon and shot or strangled, have advanced with the skirmish line in the face of a blazing line of battle and charged in solid column the breastworks of a hidden foe; but never did I experience the feeling of abject helplessness, of mortal terror, of absolute fright, as when that last car passed the platform and left us, subject to discovery by some small boy or girl as they played hide-and-seek around that depot.  The fright which the presence of five live yankees would have given that little village meant death to all of us, and we knew it; we dared not speak, we hardly dared to breathe, and when a large sized hog (hogs run wild in that southern village) came rooting at our heads, we dared not drive it off, lest its sudden exit would attract attention to our hiding place.

     Slowly the twilight gave way to night, the lounging crowd dispersed, and we gained courage to crawl together and plan "what next."  Gradually we worked our way to the end of the building, and then, first Rice, followed in turn by Klingingsmith, Trounsell, and Crossett, passed out into the bright moonlight, across the road, through a gateway, and then by a path over a hill to a clump of trees just outside the settlement, where it was agreed all would wait for me, whom it had been decided was to act as captain of our little squad.  The anxiety of superintending the timing of each start, and watching the progress across the village, had so worked upon me that when my time to go arrived I trembled in every nerve and muscle, and as I started across the road my heart stopped beating.  It seemed to me that every bush concealed a foe, and every rustling leaf was shouting "halt."  At last I reached the grove, and after a long breath of relief, we all together rushed like frightened sheep across a plain, over a fence, and into a large field of growing corn.  Here hunger got the best of our frightened rush, and finding the corn just in the milk, we threw ourselves upon the ground and ate and ate, until the crowing of the cocks and the reddening of the horizon warned us of the coming of the day, and the necessity of finding a safer hiding place.

     We had now regained our senses and were able intelligently to study our surroundings.  A swampy grove, about half a mile away, seemed to offer security and we hurried on and before sunrise were safely sheltered by its dense tanglewood, and all lay down to much needed sleep.  Secure in our hiding place, we minded not the dampness or rough underbrush on which we lay, but slept refreshingly until almost night again.  We were roused at last by un-quenching thirst, and the realization that no food at all was even worse than Andersonville rations - Digging a hole in the damp ground, we waited until it filled with water from the swampy surface, and, laying on our stomachs, drank our fill, each in turn waiting for a new supply, and ate the tender leaves of growing shrubs around us.  We could hear the bells ringing in the village we had left, and concluded it was curfew bed-time, and shortly thereafter we left our friendly cover, and, searching the heavens, found our "pillar of fire," the north star, whose bright light showed to us the direction we must take to reach the promised land of safety. Before starting out, we had perfected a plan of action which consisted of an Indian file movement across the country, regardless of roads or paths - North, North, was all we knew.

     The details of our tramp for the first week of our journey, which began each day at dark and ended at dawn, is uneventful; we avoided all habitations, living on raw corn and sweet potatoes, and hiding during the day in dense woods or dismal swamps.  Growing somewhat bolder as we became accustomed to our surroundings, we decided to test the loyalty of the negro, and so drew lots to see what one would risk a visit to some cabin and endeavor to find out where we were and what direction to take to reach our lines, and, not less important, get something to eat. The lot fell to Klingingsmith, and after pledging that in case of betrayal he would insist that he was alone (thus giving us a chance to get away) he left us just as the lights were showing through the windows of what we knew were negro cabins, and with anxious hearts we waited his return.  Minutes were hours, for it seemed to us he would never come back, and we had about decided to move off when we heard a low whistle (the signal agreed upon), and he soon appeared, accompanied by four negro slaves, two men and two girls, loaded down with food such as we had not seen since we left our homes, - ham, cold chicken, cold lamb, hominy, bread, cake, and cheese, and a large pitcher of milk.  Great Scott!  How we ate, while these angels with black skins rolled their white eyes and showed their whiter teeth, in ecstacy of joy that they could do something for "Lincoln's" soldiers.

     When we had eaten all we could hold we gathered up the fragments and stored them as best we could among our clothes, hardly daring to believe we would ever get more, shook hands with our faithful servants, and left them waving their hats and aprons in silent encouragement as we disappeared over the hill in the direction pointed out by them as sure to bring us to the "Yankee lines."

     After this we never hesitated to make our wants known to man or woman with a black skin, and never was our confidence betrayed.  If the negro has no other claim upon the people of this country in his struggle for right and justice, if, in his ignorance, he sometimes falls short of your idea of what he should be, remember his loyalty and faithful service in the war of the rebellion, but most of all, his big-hearted goodness to all union prisoners within his reach.  My own experience, in this respect, is precisely that of every soldier who had occasion to ask help of the negro slave, or to put himself into his hands for safety. LET US NOT FORGET IT!

     From the information we got from the negroes we now more systematically traveled, using the turnpike roads, which were generally deserted after dark except by an occasional horseman, upon whose approach the one in the lead would quickly dodge outside the road, which signal was noted by each follower in turn, and so the rider rode peacefully along, little thinking he had passed live yankees on his way.

     One dark night, Billie Crossett and myself were walking together in the rear (leaving a distance between us and our file leader too long for sight) when directly in our front came quietly walking along a large white horse and on his back a man.  Instinctively we threw ourselves out of the road and flat upon our faces, but not before both horse and rider (who proved to be a negro, evidently returning from a visit to a neighboring plantation) had caught a glimpse of us.  The horse rose upon his haunches and snorted with fright, and his rider, in the well-known accent of his race, and evidently in equal terror, in a voice low at first but increasing in violence at every word, urged on his trembling steed with, "Go long - go long- go long dar- go long, you damn fool," and like a streak of lightning away went horse and rider, leaving us nearly as frightened, but unable to repress a laugh as we imagined Sambo relating to his family or friends at home that he had seen a "spook."  It was a lesson to us, however, to be more cautious, and thereafter we kept proper distance while on the road.

     One day, while waiting in a thick woods for night to come, we were seen by two white boys, who started off on the run.  Fortunately, we also saw them, and knew we must move quick and get away from that locality.  We struck off towards lower ground and were soon up to our knees in a wooded swamp through which we struggled two miles or more.  We were none too quick, for, from the howling of dogs, we knew the dreaded blood-hounds were on our track, and afterwards learned that the boys we saw were sons of a well-known slave hunter who kept a kennel of these savage brutes. These hounds cannot scent through swamps, and we were saved from this danger. But, oh, how we suffered!  No shoes, remember, and at each step roots and stumps raking the skin from off our feet.  At last we reached the end of swampy land and came out into solid ground again and lay down completely fagged.

     Poor Billie Crossett, the baby of our party, scarcely nineteen years old, was a complete wreck.  His feet were raw, he could not stand.  We stayed with him one night and two days, hoping he would be able to go on, and then offered to find a safer hiding place and wait again; but heroically he claimed remembrance of the agreement we had made the night of our escape, that "in case either one should become disabled, or a hindrance, the others should leave him and push on to freedom," and insisted we should do so.  We worked him along, as near as we dared, to a large plantation, and left him, with instructions to remain in hiding until the next night, giving us a chance to get a good distance away in case our plan failed, and then to get into communication with our friends, the negroes, whose cabins appeared well separated from the mansion house of the estate.  It was like leaving one's heart behind, but we did it, and walked the saddest night's walk I ever knew.  We shall meet Billie again before I finish.  By the advice of “an old darkey” who knew the country well we had decided to change our course more to the West, thus reaching, if possible, the territory of Western North Carolina, where we knew roving bands of our troops often penetrated; or, better yet, that hot-bed of union sentiment, East Tennessee.  We crossed a railroad which runs between Charlotte and Concord, N.C., camping one day so near the latter place that we plainly heard the rebel bugle call for "reveille" and "retreat," as we lay concealed, and at last found ourselves stopped by a rushing river, whose swift current made it impossible for us to ford or swim. Again our negro proved his worth.  We learned that some two miles below a ferry was run by a black man, and we were assured that he was loyal.  We reached this ferry about midnight, too late to cross, and secreted ourselves in a thick woods on the river bank.

     Next morning-again by lot-one of our number cautiously approached the grist mill which was operated by the man who owned the ferry, and managed to interview the negro, whose advice was that we wait until night again, when he would put us across and find a trusty guide to pilot us on our way.  Delighted at such prospect, I returned to my comrades and found them busy skinning a small pig which they had captured during my absence.  Fresh meat was a rarity, and we were hungry, so building a small fire of dry sticks, which we thought would cause but little smoke (by the way, we were furnished with some matches by the negro girls we first met), we were soon eating broiled or roasted pork in fancied security.

     No festive board, laden with Delmonico's choicest viands, ever gave half the satisfaction that this half-cooked baby pig, eaten without salt or savor, did to those four half-starved mortals in their hiding place near the banks of the Pee Dee river. But it was a costly meat:  the smoke of our little fire was observed from the higher ground on the opposite side of the river by a posse of men who were in search of a slave who had run away after a severe flogging.  Thinking they had discovered his hiding place, they crossed the river, and, closing quietly around him, as they supposed, were surprised to find, instead, four union soldiers, whose first intimation of their approach was the words, "Surrender, or we fire!"  We were captured again, and our dreams of home were shattered.