Sunday, August 7, 2016

Officers of the 13th Mass.

Please, no stealing this image!

For nearly 9 years the following photo has graced the home page of my website,

It is my favorite photograph, of the 9 or so images that were tucked into the side flap of my Great-Great Grandfather's war diary.  William titled the picture 'Officers of the 13th Regt" and carefully marked with x's, - and labeled the identities of Captain Charles H. Hovey, and Lieutenant Charles B. Fox, both at the time the image was taken, officers of his company, Company K.  After all these years, I'd like to try and take a guess at some of the other identities.

Starting at the far left, it took close examination but I discovered there is a soldier standing flush with the dark tree who barely shows up in the image.  I cropped him out and lightened the sample in photoshop so he might be seen more clearly.

He is a big 'hairy' fellow, not that they all aren't, in fact that is one reason that its so hard to identify these guys.  The facial hair gives them an uncanny resemblance to one another.  Anyway, the biggest and hairiest officer I have reference for is First Lieutenant Samuel Neat, of Company A.  I think this is him - unintentionally blending into the tree.  I hope you all can see him.  To be honest, Capt. Whitcomb of Co. F also looks very similar to the man in this image.  But Lt. Neat has bulkier shoulders and I think this man does too.  Another argument in favor of this being Lt. Neat, is that I think the man standing in front of him is Captain James A. Fox, also of Company A.

By the way, click on these images to see them larger...  Here is a more formal portrait of Lieutenant Neat. (above in near b&w)

Here is a picture of Capt. Whitcomb, Co. F.

Moving on to Captain Fox... This is a guess on my part. But here is another blurry image of Capt. Fox at Williamsport, with a positive ID.  See b&w image below.

In this image, Capt. Fox standing next to Quartermaster Craig.  The forage cap seems to be a match, and the pointy beard too perhaps?  The men standing in this image were carefully identified by its previous owner, George Tainter of Company A.  Unfortunately, this small blurry copy is all that I have.  The dealer who sent it to me claimed the original was also v. blurry.

I was going to say, that the next man in line, 3rd from left, (who appears to be 2nd from left because of the tree hiding Lt. Neat) is Captain Fiske of Company G.  That is because the man 4th from left is definitely First-Lieutenant Loring Richardson, of same company.  However, seeing this blurry image of Capt. Fox and Quartermaster George Craig, makes it clear this man standing third from left is indeed Quartermaster Craig.  He is wearing the same get-up with a tie beneath his frock coat.  There goes my theory of First-Lieutenants standing next to their Captains, out the window.  That would have made the job of trying to identify these guys much easier.

By the way, any experts on Uniforms, please jump in to help.  That is not my strong point.

Moving right along, I can give a positive ID to Lt. Loring Richardson, as I just stated. His distinctive side burns and strong jaw are clear cut identifiers.

My Great-Great Grandfather, Private William Henry Forbush has identified the soldier next to Loring Richardson as Captain Charles H. Hovey.  I would not have guessed this from other images I have of Hovey, but I can't argue with gramps, and, Capt. Hovey, was quite an imposing officer who rose to the rank of Lt.-Col. of the 13th Mass.(2nd in command) by the time Grant's Overland Campaign began in 1864.  The identified officer clearly has a martial bearing.

I don't know who the little guy is standing in front of him.  The detail is poor, for his profile seems noseless, or his head is turned further 3/4 to the rear than it appears, or its just blurred.  I'd like to conjecture its one of the 3 Cary brothers, probably Joseph or William,  but I can't really compare the images I have of the Cary' with this man, because he is turned away.

First-Lieutenant Charles B. Fox is easily recognized standing slightly apart from the first group, 7th from the left.  He would be a positive ID even if my ancestor hadn't pointed him out.  Behind Lt. Fox, Major J. P. Gould, his friend.  Both Fox & Gould  were outside of the 'clique' made up by the  other officers in the regiment.  In service, however, both Fox and Gould proved their unpopularity was unmerited.

Major Gould would have been a hard call, but he is positively identified in another image I have from camp, and the likeness between the two images is strong.

Although this edit from a xerox copy of the image is rough, I found the same image on file in the collection of images belonging to the Westborough Historical Society.  Most of the images in their collection had been labeled, probably by the town historian, Dr. Reed, in the 1940's.  This soldier was identified as Major Gould.  I have seen other copies of the same photograph at Carlisle's Army Heritage Center.

(Here is the full image.  By the way, spacing images with this blogger format isn't easy.)

So just to recap, in the banner image we have tentatively, standing left to right, Lt. Samuel Neat, Co. A;  Capt. James Fox, Co. A; Quartermaster George Craig, holding the sheet of paper; Lieutenant Loring S. Richardson, Co. G;  Captain Charles H. Hovey, Co. K; Unknown; Lieutenant Charles B. Fox, Co. K, (facing left);  Major Jacob Parker Gould, beside Lt. Fox; and then...

someone's head is peaking between Major Gould and the next man.  The face is very familiar to me for some reason, but I cannot put a positive ID on this soldier just now.  It could be Captain William Jackson of Co. C. pictured here.

For the longest time I thought it might be Lt. Col. N. W. Batchelder, with his long mustache and pointy beard, --and maybe it is.  The hat matches Batchelder's and the pictured man seems to have the proper facial hair.  The one thing that gives me pause is that Major Gould, and Lt.-Col. Batchelder did not get along, and its difficult to consider them standing this close.  Perhaps their dislike for each other had not yet ripened when this picture was taken.  But I would also think Batchelder would be more front and center considering his rank. 

The pose, with the angle of the face, and the squinty eyes and what seems to be a pointy goatee,  though its hard to see, also reminds me of the only portrait I have of Capt. David Brown of Company I.  (You really have to zoom in on the picture to see this guy. )  I'd like to think Lieutenant, (later Captain) Brown was in this picture.  He's one of those guys I know little about, yet he was with the regiment a long time.

 This guy needs some further work, but I'm hopeful I'll get it right one day.

When I began writing this post, I was certain the next man in line was Corporal Morton Tower.  I can't recall now what made me so certain at one time, but I do have another image with Tower taken during this time in the  history of the unit, but he is not wearing an overcoat, and the corporal stripes are clearly visible.  So I'm going to have to go with unknown for most of the rest of the officers pictured.

Lt. Edwin R. Frost, Co. E,  seems to be next (4th from the right).  Frost is pictured at right.

He is interacting with an officer I  always thought to be Captain Clark of Company H.  Clark is labeled in the xerox image I posted, but he is standing in a shadow and its difficult to see much of him.  I probably assumed this was also Clark in my image because he is holding about the same exact stance.  What appears to be a prominent lower lip on this officer would be characteristic of Capt. Clark's features, but the facial hair doesn't match the other existing image I have of him.  This doesn't rule him out - its just I wish I could get a better copy of that image up in Westboro to compare.

If its not Clark, it might be Captain Fiske of Co. G.  I'll refrain from posting Clark and Fiske, so as not to clutter this page up with any more images, but readers can visit the site map page of my website and find them there.

I don't know who the remaining two soldiers on the right of the picture could be.

So for what its worth, that's how it stands.  Some positive ID's and a lot of speculation.  But I'll keep working at it.  It's come a long way from just Hovey & Fox.

The Regimental History & Gettysburg

It is not often that I find errors in the excellent regimental history of the 13th Massachusetts Volunteers, written by Charles E. Davis, Jr., in 1893, and published in 1894.  The history received high praise and is considered a classic of its genre.

Here's high praise for Davis's work  from Lt-Col. Charles H. Hovey written in a letter to historian Major John M. Gould (formerly of the 10th Maine) on March 12, 1894.

"Before I close will you please allow me to thank you for the Kind and very intelligent review you gave of "Three Years in the War; A Story of the 13th Vol. Infy"

"My friend Davis mailed the clipping and I read it with the feeling that the book was understood and appreciated by one who knew something about war books.

"I have read many news-paper notices of the book, but none are equal to yours:

"I don't Care for more puffs; and praise that seems forced; but I do care very much for a review that indicates an insight and an appreciative knowledge of what the author, (an eighteen year old boy when enlisted, and who writes as a soldier boy, feeling & knowing it all from private's position) has faithfully and carefully prepared for publication.

"It may not be known to you that Mr. Davis was very severely wounded at 2nd Bull Run and that the personal experience, that helped him up to that time had to be supplemented by what the rest of us, who served through, could furnish for publication.

"Some critics think they can discover when he left, and that the last twenty odd months of service were not experienced by Davis, but I think he has worked the Story up wonderfully, and kept up the tone of the first year nearly as well as if he had got to Petersburg with us." - Ch'as H. Hovey, Late Lt. Col. 13th Mass. Vol. Infy

Private Davis joined the regiment at its inception.  He was very badly wounded at the 2nd Battle of Bull Run, on August 30, 1862, and mustered out the following February.

In 1892, after a failed attempt by another to write a history for the regiment, Davis was elected by the surviving veterans to tackle the job. He was a gifted writer and wrote the history from the perspective of a private, drawing on his  personal experiences and those of others.

To write the regimental history he had at his disposal:
 "the diaries of Lieut. William R. Warner, Samuel D. Webster, Lieut. Edward F. Rollins, Lieut. Robert B. Henderson, and Sergeant William R. Coombs.  None of the diaries covered all the time, but those of Messrs. Warner, Webster, and Rollins were the most complete; those of Messrs. Henderson and Coombs included the Mine Run and Wilderness campaigns.  Col. Charles H. Hovey made copies of such parts of all his letters as related to our movements during his presence with the regiment.  The regimental books, papers, and maps were turned over to me by Col. Samuel H. Leonard.  The "War Records" which are in progress of publication by the government have been of great service in settling disputed points."  I have derived information from other comrades, whom I have met from time to time, chief among whom is Sergeant Jeremiah P. Blake."*

Of these references, I have examined all 3 copies of Sam Webster's diary, and have copies of William R. Warner's diary entries for Gettysburg.  Edward Rollins was an editor of Bivouac Magazine, 1885 - 1888; and I have mined all of these volumes for his writings.  I also have an original copy of the history.

The only glaring omission in the completed work, is the coverage given to the 6 months service in Maryland during the regiments early days at Sharpsburg, Sandy Hook, Harper's Ferry, Darnestown, Williamsport, Hancock,  and other places.

In comparing the history to other source materials I have found only  a few minor errors.  But the entries for Gettysburg on July 2nd & 3rd can be downright confusing.

Davis was not present at the battle so he had to rely on his sources.  Drummer Sam Webster, was not in the action so his diary entries are of little use to the narrative.  The Warner account is wonderful, but it jumps around a bit giving impressions of all 3 days actions in a somewhat random manner.  Perhaps Davis got confused.

The narrative for July first, is very strong.  This was the most important day, when they were heavily engaged on Oak Ridge, and lost 2/3 of their men.  The only puzzle I find, is that Davis attributed the prisoners captured on the Mummasburg Road to a 'North Carolina Regiment,' when William R. Warner clearly attributes them to a regiment from Alabama.  This seemingly tiny misapprehension has significant implications, for the Alabama brigade attacked the Union line from a different direction than the North Carolinians. The action on this part of the battlefield is still shrouded in some mystery, and Davis's statement unfortunately adds to the confusion.

My own theory holds that Warner is correct.  A prominent Gettysburg historian familiar with this part of the field told me, that he always presumed that the captured prisoners had to be from Alabama.

The confusion I have with Davis's narrative for July 2nd start 2 1/2 paragraphs into his entry, after he writes,

"later in the evening we returned to Cemetery Hill to support Ricketts' and Weidrick's batteries, which were being charged by the Louisiana Tigers."

Up to here all is correct.  About 9 p.m. the regiment moved from their supporting position on Cemetery Ridge, somewhat south of where the Pennsylvania Monument stands today, to the support of the batteries on East Cemetery Hill, where the Tigers attacked.  But by the time they arrived, the enemy had been repulsed; with the help of re-enforcements sent unsolicited by General Hancock. The  next couple of paragraphs in the regimental history are somewhat muddled.

Davis continues;
 "We were thrown in the front of these guns, with orders to hug the ground as closely as possible while the batteries fired over us." 

Then Davis writes a descriptive paragraph of 6 or 7 sentences describing this dangerous type of duty.

Evidence does exist, that suggests Robinson's division took a position in front of the batteries, facing sniper fire from the town sometime after 9 p.m the night of July 2nd and first light on July 3rd.  Many of the regiments reference as much.  [Perhaps more on this later]. But according to these writings, it is uncertain they performed this duty immediately after their arrival, and I do not have historian Davis's source of reference for this passage.  It was dark and the batteries were for the most part silent when they arrived at night. 

At the battle of Fredericksburg, the regiment did engage in this type of duty, which is very dangerous, and several of the men were wounded and one man killed as a result of the batteries firing over them.  A similar description of the dangers of this type of work is described then.  Charles Davis seems to have repeated the description for his Gettysburg entry to add detail and interest to the narrative.

After describing the dangerous duty of lying in front of the batteries, comes another confusing paragraph.

Davis writes,
"All the afternoon we listened to the sound of battle at our right on Culp's Hill, dreading defeat and another retreat.  It made us sick at heart to think of what might occur in such an event, and glad we were when night came and put a temporary stop to the fighting.  Evidently we had not held our own at this point."

The battle at Culp's Hill took place in the evening, between 7 - 10 p.m. July 2nd, not in the afternoon as Davis writes.  Perhaps if he wrote, 'evening,' instead of 'afternoon,' the passage would make more sense. I would also think, even though it was mid-summer, that it was dark well before the fighting on the hill ended, around 9 or 10 p.m.

A couple questions come to mind with this passage.  Where was the writer of this comment positioned when listening to the battle at Culp's Hill?  [The Warner & Webster diaries don't reference the fighting on Culp's Hill].  The maps of Gettysburg historian, John Bachelder, place them near Little Round Top until about 9 p.m., after which time they moved back towards Cemetery Hill.  Exploring their position between 9 p.m. July 2nd and 4 a.m. July 3rd is the subject of another post. But before concluding here, I'd like to point out one other slight error in the entry for July 3.

The entry for July 3rd has an omission, and a mistake.  Davis makes no mention of the early morning fight on Culp's Hill that lasted from first light until about 10 a.m.  Instead,he gives an absolutely wonderful description of the regiment changing its position early in the morning.  The description is so detailed, it re-enforces the idea that the regiment was in fact in front of the batteries facing the town before first light July 3rd; -- but more on this in another post.

The slight mistake comes later, when Davis' describes the regiments move towards Zieglar's Grove on Cemetery Ridge in the late afternoon during 'Pickett's Charge.'.  Here, Davis inserts a lengthy homage to the 16th Maine, when a shell exploded among their very thin ranks during the double-quick across the ridge. The tribute is moving, and fitting, but the event, according to the history of the 16th Maine, and William Warner's diary, occurred during a similar movement in the late afternoon of July 2nd.  It is even mentioned in Davis's narrative for July 2nd.  He wrote,

"While we were formed in line, marching brigade front, a shell exploded in the midst of an adjoining regiment, knocking over a dozen men."

Why Davis failed to realize the two incidents he described on July 2nd & 3rd were one in the same is unclear.

Although these are criticisms of the work, they are only brought forth here for clarification. Davis's work on the whole is brilliant. Another post on the subject of Gettysburg may follow as suggested above.

*I have no source material from Sgt. Blake.

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.