Age: 22, credited to Fairfield, ME
Unit(s): 1st VT INF, 19th ME INF, USV
Service: enl 5/2/61, m/i 5/9/61, Pvt, Co. B, 1st VT INF, pr CPL 6/28/61, m/o 8/15/61; also LTC, 7th ME INF, COL 19th ME INF, BGen USV, 7/64, m/o 4/7/66, Governor of ME 1876-1879
See Legend for expansion of abbreviationsVITALS
Birth: 01/25/1839, Fairfield, ME
Burial: Forest Grove Cemetery, Augusta, ME
Gravestone researcher/photographer: Heidi McColgan
Findagrave Memorial #: 5893381
Alias?: None noted
Pension?: Yes, 1/5/1867
College?: Not Found
Veterans Home?: Not Found
(If there are state digraphs above, this soldier spent some time in a state or national soldiers' home in that state after the war)
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Forest Grove Cemetery, Augusta, ME
Check the cemetery for location/directions and other veterans who may be buried there.
THE BOYS OF 1861.
By Brigadier-General Selden Connor.
NOT very long ago I received a communication from an old soldier comrade who informed me that he had been appointed a committee of one by his post of the Grand Army to select an orator for Memorial Day. "I racked my brain," wrote he, "trying to think of somebody and finally I thought of you." As the result of a similar cerebral agitation I arrived at the theme of the simple and brief story I have to present to you this evening. It is the first paper our persistent and energetic committee has succeeded in goading me to attempt and I therefore thought I would commence logically and as children, the best judges of stories, always require their entertainers to do, "at the very beginning." I have no apology to make for writing largely "in the first person." Although my subject is a collective one I consider that I can best treat it by telling the story of that one of the boys of '61 I know best, believing it is typical of a large number of that of his comrades, and that the personal "saga," the plain narrative of individual experience, is of the greatest human interest and the best material for history.
I cast my first vote in September, 1860. Although it was the state election my vote virtually counted for Lincoln and Hamlin. Immediately after that election I was induced by two college friends in Woodstock, Vermont, one the teacher of the high school, and the other, a law student, to go to that beautiful village, known throughout the state as "Woodstock Green," and begin my law studies in the same office with my friend. Vermont duly rejoiced at the election of Lincoln, and then settled down to its usual quiet course. It is true that what with states seceding, senators and representatives withdrawing from Congress, the air filled with direful threats, prophecies of evil and all manner of "inductions dangerous," with much argument as to the "nature of the compact" and the true meaning of the constitution, and misty with innumerable propositions, devices and suggestions for averting the imminent calamity,--- the political situation was interesting, not to say lively. Still it seemed to be only a sharp game of politics differing in degree and intensity, but not in kind, from the same old game that had been played so many years. In fact the game had been for some years of an exceedingly intense and sensational character, and had been accompanied with bloodshed on the prairies of Kansas and on the floor of the Senate. To the student of history it may seem strange that the people of the North did not foresee the catastrophe to which the long, bitter struggle was swiftly tending and make preparation to meet it. But that people were of various minds, and events were as yet but leading up to that near day and occasion that should weld them together as one man and inspire them with one purpose, one glorious enthusiasm, one invincible determination. As I recall those days it seems to me that there was no marked apprehension of an approaching cataclysm in the affairs of the country. To Republicans the culmination of the strenuous political conflict seemed to have been reached in the election of Lincoln and the triumph of their party; that the demonstrations of the beaten party were intended to intimidate the victors sufficiently to procure concessions from them; and that when the President should have been inaugurated all opposition would cease or matters would be accommodated somehow as they had been in the past.
At any rate the war cloud was not dark enough to cast any gloom on the cheerful pages of Blackstone, or to so darken the moon as to prevent sleighing, coasting, and skating with the Vermont girls when opportunity offered itself. Referring to "the records," however, it appears that I was not entirely oblivious of the ferment that was going on in the country, especially in the South. One evening in January when my roommates had left our quarters to quiet and to me, the unwonted solitude had the effect to set me to developing, so to speak, a few verses which I sent to Vanity Fair the American Punch of that day, whose cartoons illustrating the political situation were very powerful and attracted much attention. I quote them here not to establish my fame as a poet, but to show the spirit of the time and the accuracy of my prophetic vision. They were written apropos of the secession of South Carolina and appeared in the issue of Vanity Fair for the first week of February. Having in mind the formula that introduces the moral of the fables in the Latin studies of my school-days, I styled my little fable
"Haec Fabula Docet.
"A slender vine on an old oak hung
And clasped its scaly rind;
From trunk to top its pennons flung,
And laughed to scorn the wind.
"And men, who passed the way along,
Admired, and oft would speak
Of the kindly law that gave the strong
To aid and shield the weak.
"Indeed it was as fair a sight
As any in the land,
To see the puny parasite
Upborne by tree so grand.
"One day the vine in anger said,
'My tendrils I'll untie,---
Alone, aloft I'll rear my head
And leave the oak to die.'
"The winds were out, and strong they grew,
And hurtled through the air;
They whistled and blew the old oak through
And laid its branches bare.
"The tempest ceased ; its rage was o'er;
Gaily the sun did shine;
The sturdy oak stood as before,---
Low lay the lifeless vine."
The prophecy of my muse was based upon the contingency of persistence on the part of the vine rather than a belief that it had let go for good. The contingency became reality; the winds were out in great force; the Union stood the shock and South Carolina was laid low.
Even after the inauguration there could have been little expectation of serious trouble; any, at least, likely to affect me personally,' because I was then making plans for the summer vacation. I proposed to an old college friend in Worcester that he join me in a trip to Moosehead Lake. He waited until the first call for troops and then answered my invitation by an invitation to me to join the Worcester company of militia in which he had enlisted. The firing on Sumter, April 12, and the President's call on the fifteenth, for seventy-five thousand troops, brought on a new order of things. It seemed as if the people had suddenly started up broad-awake from a deep slumber. Their thoroughly aroused indignation and patriotism could find no expression that seemed adequate. "The boys" found some vent for their feelings in perambulating the streets far into the night, singing with more zeal than melody, "Dixie," "We'll hang Jeff Davis on a sour apple tree," and such snatches of the old patriotic songs as any of them could remember. In a letter to a member of my family, dated the sixteenth, I wrote, "It is dull music, this law business, in such stirring times as have fallen upon us. Woodstock, in common with the rest of the North is alive to the realities that now face us. The war news produced a real intoxication. The only question is,' Are you going to the war?' The 'Woodstock Light Infantry,' Captain Washburn, the senior member of the firm in whose office I am reading, the oldest and best company in the state, are making preparations to respond to the requisition. We learn to-night that four regiments are ordered from Massachusetts. While I write, eight P. M., Captain Washburn and his lieutenants are in the back office holding a 'council.' They have just received an order from Governor Fairbanks granting them a full supply of the new rifle-muskets. I try to read law, but I fear that I do not fully apprehend the text as I turn the leaves over, for visions of 'bristling bayonets' and 'ensanguined fields' often blur the print."
As soon as the call was made I was eager to enlist although none of my friends and associates in the town, with the exception of Captain Washburn, belonged to the "Light Infantry" or proposed to join it. I wrote home for permission and as soon as I received a God-speed signed by all my family, I enrolled myself in the company. I do not remember the exact date of my enlistment, but I find in a letter of mine dated April 23, that reference is made to my having enlisted. The motive that impelled me to enlist was that common to the most of the soldiers of the Union Army, the desire to avenge the insult to the flag and to maintain the integrity of the Union. It was, no doubt, sensibly intensified by the less laudable, perhaps, but no less human eagerness to take advantage of the opportunity to vindicate the quality of Yankee manhood and courage against the aspersions that Southerners were accustomed to cast upon it, boastfully arrogating the equality in prowess of one son of chivalry to anywhere from three to ten of the * Northern scum," according to the enthusiasm of the occasion. Like most of my comrades I was not an Abolitionist, but a Lincoln Republican, opposed to the extension of slavery but not advocating a crusade against it. Not that I thought of slavery as other than a blot on our civilization and a hindrance to the progress of our country, an institution injurious alike to slave and master, but love for the Union made its welfare the first consideration, and for that sake I was willing to see slavery let alone in its ancient habitat to await the chances of the future.
The thirst for glory and the novelty of the soldier's life would not have been sufficient of themselves to induce me to enlist. As a boy I had read and reread with breathless interest Headley's glowing stories of "Washington and His Generals" and "Napoleon and His Marshals," and I had the fondness common to most boys, for recitals of all sorts of adventures on land and sea. As a boy I had cheered for the victories of Winfield Scott and "Old Zach" in far-off Mexico, and had gazed in awe and admiration on the one bronzed veteran who visited my native town immediately after the war, as a hero who had no doubt often personally encountered Santa Anna in the red glare of battle. I had never, however, seen more of the pomp and circumstance of war than that attending the holiday parade of a single company of militia, and had never had a temptation or an opportunity to indulge in the delights of drill. The outdoor, gypsy life of the soldier had positive and strong attractions for me. I did not "go for a soldier" out of "pure gaiety of heart," as the French say, --- in a light and careless spirit, --- but soberly and advisedly, as they are advised to do who contemplate entering the matrimonial arena. Impelled primarily by a sense of patriotic duty to enter the ranks, the secondary considerations were such as to make the thought of becoming a soldier full of delightfully thrilling sensations and anticipations. I felt as if I were "lining up" with the men of '76 and the legions that so nobly illustrated American valor at Buena Vista and Palo Alto, and had pleasurable visions of dwelling in the "tented field," and of bivouacs,--- how finely that word sounded once and what a chill it strikes to the marrow now,--- in the forest, by noble rivers, or on lonely hillsides,--- of lodging like Walter Scott's soldier:
"The heath this night shall be my bed,
The bracken curtain to my head,
My lullaby the warder's tread."
I had, too, some curiosity, if not an ardent longing, to ascertain experimentally the sensation of facing death in battle and, perhaps, in the background of my day-dreams there was the outline of a hope that some "glint of glory" might strike my helmet. The whole loyal people were in a state of highly wrought exaltation, and it is hardly conceivable that the boys who came to the front could have maintained an exceptionally philosophic frame of mind. The "Woodstock Light Infantry" was an old company of the militia, and naturally enough its personnel underwent a rapid change as soon as there appeared to be a prospect of active service. The infirm, those who had married a wife, all who had too much stomach for the march or too little for the fight, fell out promptly and their places were speedily filled by men from Woodstock and the surrounding towns. The company was soon filled to its maximum and numbered seventy-three enlisted men and three officers, as good men and true as ever shouldered a musket. The average age of the seventy-six was twenty-six years. Forty-one were twenty-four and under. The youngest was eighteen and the oldest man forty-three. No time was lost in preparing for service. Recruits were measured for their uniforms as fast as they came in, and were put to drill at once. Every day and all day we were exercised; in the street when the weather was fair, in the armory when it was rainy. We had a great variety of drill, set-up, school of the soldier and of the company, bayonet exercise, skirmish drill, goose step, common time and doublequick. We were drilled a part of the time in Scott's Tactics, which had come down from the great Frederick and Napoleon. The Scott drill was very showy, especially the marching by the flank in two ranks with lock step, musket at the "carry," the butt resting in the left hand at the hip. We were drilled chiefly, however, in "Hardee," and we were well and thoroughly drilled. Our first sergeant, Sweet, had been a long time in the company and was an enthusiastic soldier and a fine drill officer. He was a shoemaker and always kept his musket handy, so that when he became cramped at the bench, he might "limber up " by putting himself through the manual. At the close of our three months' service Sergeant Sweet was commissioned a captain in the regular army.
We had also a drill officer while at Woodstock, Cadet Eayre, a Jersey boy, from the Vermont Military Academy at Norwich; as soldierly a young fellow as any West Pointer, and an accomplished drill officer. The next time I met him, after our parting at Woodstock, was when our brigade at Gettysburg, coming on to the field immediately upon our arrival after the long march of the Sixth Corps, formed in rear of the Third Corps. Eayre, who was then adjutant-general of Burling's Brigade of the Third Corps, was swept back with a crowd of broken troops. I recognized him and asked him what was the matter. "All gone to h , and the rebs are close at our heels," was the reply. But the Twelfth Corps, whom we had seen double-quicking as we came on the field, had arrived in time to give moral support, and the Third Corps held its ground. The last time I saw Eayre was on the Sunday before the army set out on the campaign of the Wilderness. I had been calling on my friend, Colonel West of the 17th Maine, and he rode home with me. On the way back we picked up Eayre, who came along with us. We were speculating on the chances of the campaign opening and Eayre said, "I don't care how soon it opens or what becomes of me. I have just been home on leave and things did not go right there." Before the next Sunday he fell, shot through the head, and Colonel West and I both were wounded.
In a home letter of that time I find that "The Company marched to Dr. Clement's church (Orthodox) and were addressed in a real '76 patriotic sermon," and I add, " I saw a great many eyes glisten and some of the congregation sobbed outright." In the same letter I wrote, " The whole village is a military camp. Even the women and the little girls are at work to help us off." I remember how full of zeal the ladies were supplying us with articles useful and otherwise. I think I had three "havelocks." The common impression was that the sunbonnet invented by the great soldier of India was an almost indispensable article in the torrid climate of Virginia. We tried hard to think them useful and comfortable but gave it up after a short trial.
As an instance of the general good-will, John Pynx, a young blacksmith with whom I had a very slight acquaintance, presented me with a formidable " bowie" made by him from a file, in order that I might be properly " heeled" for the close work we were expecting, or expected, to encounter.
By industrious application and hard work under the exceptionally efficient instruction of Sergeant Sweet and Cadet Eayre we had arrived at a fairly good condition of discipline and drill when the long-expected order came to repair to the rendezvous of the regiment at Rutland. The whole village assembled on "The Green" to see us off. Jacob Collamore, the well-known senator from Vermont, a citizen of Woodstock, gave us a send-off in a patriotic speech, and final leaves were taken over and again. Captain Washburn, in a voice somewhat husky and emotional, called for "Three cheers for the homes we leave behind us," and then we mounted the wagons that were to take us over the mountains and across the state, and started to "put down the Rebellion," fearing a little that it might be squelched before we got there, cheering and cheered till we were out of range. Everywhere along the road we were received with hearty acclamations, fervent good wishes and emphatic injunctions to "wipe out the rebels."
One little scene remains as a picture in my memory. Near the top of the Green Mountains a seven by nine schoolhouse stood near the road, and in front of it was a bevy of school children, boys and girls, decked out with red, white and blue, and two little fellows with fife and drum played "Yankee Doodle" for all they were worth, while the rest of the party cheered and waved their handkerchiefs. It struck me that they were genuine descendants of the Ethan Allen stock.
At Rutland we were encamped, with the other companies of the regiment, in " Sibley" tents, on a meadow near the town. The regiment was organized with J. W. Phelps as colonel, and our captain, Peter T. Washburn, as lieutenant-colonel. Butler says in his "Book," --- "Among the regiments that came to me was the 1st Vermont, under the command of Colonel Phelps, formerly of the regular army. He was one of the best soldiers I ever saw, and the finest man in every relation of life that I ever met, except one. He was an Abolitionist of the most profound, energetic and forth-putting type."
Colonel Washburn was one of the ablest lawyers in Vermont. He served only through the three-months' term of the regiment. He was adjutant-general of Vermont for 1864, 1865 and 1866, and subsequently governor of the state. The regiment in line looked somewhat like a patchwork quilt. Each company had its own style of uniform. Some were gray, some blue, and others a combination. There were dress coats, frock coats and jackets. The uniform of our company was neat and becoming, but stiff and old-fashioned, gray throughout; dress coat with white facings, a broad white stripe on the trousers, gray chasseur cap. We had no blouse or undress coat and therefore had to drill and work in full dress. The regiment was armed with new Springfield rifles fitted for the "Maynard primer," which was never used so far as I know. We were regularly equipped with knapsacks, haversacks and canteens.
From our going into camp on the second, until our departure, we were kept busy with drills, reviews, parades and guardmountings. The camp attracted everybody, apparently, from the city and surrounding country; it was thronged with visitors, men, women and children. Their attentions gave the boys a little joke on me. One evening at roll-call they heard one of the spectators say, "Do you mind that tall fellow on the right? He is an Irishman. His name is Connor. I heard the name called plainly."
Thinking it a good thing to do in order to toughen ourselves for the work and hardships before us, some of us took a morning bath in the brook that ran near the camp. As a natural result I took a severe cold. The effects of that imprudent bath lasted for six months.
On the ninth of May the regiment was mustered into the service of the United States by Lieutenant-Colonel Rains of the regular army. The next day we took a train for New York. At Troy the regiment marched past the residence of General Wool and was reviewed by that veteran of the Mexican War, from the steps of his house. At Albany an old friend of my college days, John Flagg, subsequently mayor of the city, found me and so loaded me down with smokables and edibles that for a time I was very popular in my company. On our arrival in New York we marched, company front, down Broadway to the Park Barracks. Every man had a spring of evergreen in his cap to mark him as a "Green Mountain Boy" and felt that it was incumbent on him to bear himself worthily of his illustrious forbears. Just enough regiments had preceded us to excite the patriotic enthusiasm of New York to the highest pitch of enthusiasm in welcoming us. The whole length of our route down Broadway the sidewalks were packed with people shouting, yelling, cheering, "hi-hi-ing," waving flags and handkerchiefs, and making such demonstrations as only a New York crowd is capable of doing.
Bunner, in his poem before the Society of the Army of the Potomac last year, well described the reception,--- of which that to us was a good sample,--- New York gave the passing regiments:
"The cheers of the crowd rise around them,
And run in a rattling roar
Down on each side of the column
And out like a fire before.
It swells by their side to a thunder
That hushes the beat of their feet,
It catches their cadence of marching,
And rolls it ahead down the street;
"Down the whole length of the roadway
Through the throng of the thousands that wait,
Down goes the heralding thunder
As the troops march on in state.
And down where the Battery breezes
Are blowing through Bowling Green,
The men of New York are cheering
The troops that they have not seen."
Such an experience is memorable for a lifetime. The distinguished position I occupied on the right of the company subjected me to some exceptional hardships,---the common lot of greatness. The gutter was slanting and slippery and the crowd sometimes pressed upon us who were on the flank so that we had to fend them off or break files. A heavy and unaccustomed knapsack pulling at my chest, together with the miseries of my cold, made breathing an act of heroic effort. Broadway seemed a very long way as well. Before we were half-way to the barracks I would have swapped the rest of the glory for a seat in any old hack, and given something to boot. We were quartered that night at the Park Barracks. The next day we had leave to go where we pleased until a certain hour when there would be a roll-call. First Sergeant Sweet invited several of the company to go to Castle Garden with him where Colonel Rush Hawkins, a Vermonter and an old acquaintance of his, was drilling his Zouaves. As we entered the gallery the Zouaves drilling on the floor greeted us with cheers for "Vermont." When we went away they guyed us good naturedly on our " steel-pen " coats, which were in such marked contrast to their easy jackets. A few weeks later Hawkins' Zouaves joined us at Newport News. It was the only regiment I remember to have seen marching to the music of a corps of buglers. I consider the old fife and drum the proper instruments for infantry, and I am glad to see that our army is getting back to them after a trial of trumpets.
At five o'clock in the evening of the eleventh, the ist Vermont embarked on the steamer "Alabama" for Fort Monroe. In a letter home written with a pencil on a sheet of paper bearing the flag and shield in red, white and blue, with the legend, "It shall be defended,"---a good specimen of the patriotic stationery of those days,--- and headed " On board the Alabama, May 12, 1861," I wrote as follows:
"Here we are off the coast of Delaware or Virginia, somewhere on our way to Fort Monroe, which we expect to reach at six to-night. We started from New York at five last night; have had beautiful weather, notwithstanding which nearly all have been sick, myself among the rest. I don't feel much like writing, but a messenger will return by this steamer amd there is no regular communication with the Fort, and I thought I would drop you a line to inform you that 'I still live' though somewhat uncomfortably. I was sick when I came on board, and the swells and the motions of the steamer are not invigorating in their tendencies. There was almost a mutiny on board last night. The men were tired, sick, hungry and sleepy, and no adequate arrangements had been made for our comfort. I wrapped myself in my blanket and lay down to try to sleep on the open deck; but Colonel Washburn found me and made me share his own stateroom where I slept soundly the rest of the night"
We did not arrive that night but sometime the following day. The captain could not find the entrance to Chesapeake Bay in the night for the good reason that the lights on Capes Charles and Henry had been extinguished by the rebels. I remember all the miseries of that voyage, and especially how perverted the odors of tobacco smoke and coffee became to my blunted sense of smell. Those exhalations so fragrant to the normal sense were transmuted to the vilest stenches imaginable.
At the fort we found the little garrison of regulars, three hundred and fifty strong, and the 3d and 4th Massachusetts Regiments which had preceded us a few days. We pitched our tents first in the close confines of the water battery, but the space was so narrow and the location so inconvenient, that after a few days we left our tents and occupied the Hygeia Hotel, which had been thoroughly dismantled by its owners so that we had to sleep on the floor, which was no improvement on the sand we had left. Our cook-tents were pitched in the front yard.
Referring to a letter written May 19,1 find that we were real soldiers at that early period of our service, full of growls at the "grub." It seems to have been my good fortune to contribute something to the amelioration of the bill of fare. The letter says, "We have two cooks to a company. I posted ours on baking beans in woods style and the men are eager for more of 'Connor's beans' after one trial." I was considerate enough to add that we expected coarse food, but that it would be wholesome and sufficient in quantity,--- that the full army ration would be satisfactory if we could only get it. The sea air and the unwonted exercise gave us stalwart appetites. Besides drills, parades and guard duty with the regulars, there was much heavy fatigue, dragging "Columbiads " to their place of mounting, carrying water and rations, policing, etc. Dress parades were held on the broad, level parade inside the fort. The beauty of the parade and its surroundings and the effective lighting up of the long line of bayonets by the low sun striking across the ramparts made the spectacle one of the most pleasing in my memory. It was very interesting to me to be on duty as a private with regular soldiers. They were quiet, orderly, thoroughly disciplined men and did their duty promptly and cheerfully. The non-commissioned officers put on no disagreeable airs of authority; at the same time they gave orders as if they expected to be obeyed, and they were.
The twenty-third of May the ist Vermont made the first reconnaissance made by any Union force into rebel territory. It had been rumored that General Magruder was assembling a rebel force at Hampton a few miles from the fort, and Colonel Phelps was ordered by Colonel Dimmick, the commandant of the fort, to take his regiment and investigate. At the first halt, Colonel Phelps, fearing perhaps that our short experience on the drill ground had not fully prepared us for the conditions of active service, called out in his high, thin voice, "If we have to form line you'll have to do it just as if there were no fences or anything in the way." As we marched along the road we were reminded of the stories of Concord and Lexington by seeing men unharness the horses with which they were plowing, mount them and ride away to give warning of our approach. Presently a young man wearing a military cap and mounted on a fiery white steed came down the road galloping furiously, drew up by the colonel's side and addressed him in a very excited manner, asking the meaning of this "invasion." The colonel answered that his intentions were entirely peaceful and that nobody would be hurt unless we were attacked. "I presume," said the herald, "that you will grant us the usage of war and give us time to remove the women and children." "Oh, let them stay," replied the colonel in his benevolent manner, "we want to see them, too." The Virginian thereupon put spurs to his horse and rode back as furiously as he came. In a few minutes a dense cloud of smoke arose toward Hampton and the right company, which was the Swanton, was sent forward at the double-quick. They found that tar had been poured over the planks in the middle of the bridge leading to Hampton, and fired. The fire was extinguished by the time the regiment came up and it marched across without any halting or hesitation. At the farther end of the bridge a small howitzer was lying in the mud where it had apparently been dumped when it was seen that we meant business. As we marched into the town there was evidence of fear of the Yankees in the wagons hastily loaded with household articles. We learned afterwards that the inhabitants generally expected to be "butchered" by the barbarians and that the women and children were terror stricken and hid themselves everywhere. At the business center of the town the regiment was halted, brought to a front and arms were ordered. The darkies were grinning as if they enjoyed the situation, and the white men looked very black and tried to put on an unconcerned air as if they did not see any Yankees. Colonel Phelps, who had once been stationed at the fort, met and talked with several acquaintances, and then, after a few minutes' occupation of the town, faced us about and led us back. We were rather disappointed, not having found any rebels in arms, but we had rendered a service and for a time we had enjoyed the thrill of expectation of a scrimmage.
On our return we encamped, with several other regiments, on the shore of the mainland between the fort and Hampton. The only incident of that encampment was a call to arms caused by some mischievous or cantankerous mule on a " midnight tear." None of the other regiments had ammunition so a loud cry went up from them all of " Turn out, Vermont."
In the meantime General Butler had taken command, and by his order the ist Vermont, 4th Massachusetts and the "Steuben Rifles," a German regiment from New York City, on the twenty-seventh of May embarked on steamers at the fort and were taken to Newport News where we at once set about establishing the entrenched camp named after our commander, Camp Butler. It was a beautiful spot when we landed. Surmounting the scarped bank, covered with trees and shrubs, at the foot of which copious springs welled out all along the bank, making it a favorite watering-place for the men-of-war, we came to a broad level field covered with tall, waving wheat. The house of Mr. West, the owner of the field, was the only building in sight. We pitched our tents in the midst of the wheat and in a few hours there was a poor outlook for a crop. The place has undergone many changes since that day. Now it is the site of a flourishing new city and the terminus of a great coal railroad; and where the skiff of the oysterman used to be tied there is a great ship-building plant where they build battle ships cheaper than anywhere else in the whole country. The field works, traced by an engineer officer, were nearly crescent in form, both flanks resting on the river. On the bank there was a small battery of siege guns to protect the water front. My company flattered itself that its portion of the field work was the best on the line. We cut and "toted " for a long distance hard pine logs nearly a foot through and stood them on end close together in a trench, to form the revetment. The embankment was six feet high with a banquette. The earth was solidly tamped down and the ditch, seven feet deep and fifteen feet wide at the top, was set with sharp pointed stakes for spitting intruders. This was our home during the remaining two months and more of our service. We had the usual round of drills, guard duty, fatigue, inspections and an occasional review, in preparation for which we early mastered the art of stuffing knapsacks with paper. The bathing was fine, and it was as good as an opera to visit the German camp and hear the fine singing which was going on in the street of some company every evening, in which every man of the company took part. Small scouting parties under an officer or non-commissioned officer were allowed to range the country in our front, and these expeditions were very popular because of the chance of adventure, of foraging for tomatoes and other vegetables through the abandoned "truck" gardens, and of getting buttermilk and "pone" at the farmhouses. A party of our company one day made a sad discovery, the body of Dana Whitney, a member of the company, lying in the road riddled with buckshot. He was detailed in the quartermaster's office and that day he and the quartermaster of the German regiment had procured mounts and were riding along the road when they were bushwhacked. Whitney fell and the German escaped by leaving his horse and taking to the bush. In the report of the adjutant-general of Vermont the " casualties " of the regiment are reported as "six deaths ; five disease, one accident." Poor "Dane!" I wonder where he comes in. Was that charge of buckshot a "disease," or an "accident?"
There were thirteen of us in our "Sibley" tent, all "sixfooters." We had a brush shade in front with broad seats under it,--- a true Southern "po'ch." The ration question we settled by sending to New York for groceries, and supplementing the cook's rations by cooking for ourselves in a very successful oven, which we had constructed of brick and clay. Some of the mess were ambitious amateur cooks and regarded nothing in the culinary line as impossible. We were hospitable within our limits and the rest of the company therefore had no occasion to be envious of our enterprise.
A section of Greble's Battery that had been sent with us from the fort was retained for the protection of the angles of our works. The force of regulars at the fort was so small that a sufficient number of men to man these guns could not be spared, and therefore twenty-four men were detailed from the 1st Vermont to learn the artillery drill under Corporal Peoples of the Battery. Peoples was a good-looking young Irishman, who had been some time in the service; a quiet, modest fellow and an efficient and faithful soldier. Later in the war he was commissioned a lieutenant in the regular service. I had a call from him in '64 or '65, when I was in Douglass Hospital, and his plain straps seemed to have transformed him into a " biger man than old Grant."
I thought I was lucky to be put on the detail because, although we had to drill five hours a day, I wanted to learn the drill, and our detail was exempt from all other duty, and there was a good deal of shovel and pickax work going on just then. Perhaps I was lucky on the whole, but I questioned my good luck when a collision of my elbow with the sight of the piece a few days before "Big Bethel" so benumbed my arm that I could not handle a rifle for some time, and was in consequence prevented from marching with my company to that inglorious field. Lieutenant-Colonel Washburn, who was to command the Camp Butler contingent of the attacking force, sent for me the evening before the expedition was to start at an early hour of the morning, to come to his tent and take care of it in his absence. I assisted, as a listener merely, at a consultation Colonel Washburn had that evening with several officers who were to accompany him, among them Major Theodore Winthrop, who was so soon to fall. The next day we heard the guns and pictured to ourselves the horrible slaughter that was going on, and the wild rush of our boys over the rebel works. Towards evening I saw my company marching into its street, and with it was a wagon that seemed heavily laden. I went with slow, hesitating steps to meet them, fearful that some of my closest comrades might be among the dead and wounded who had probably been brought back in the wagon. On a nearer approach it seemed more like a peddler's cart than an ambulance. The load was the miscellaneous stock of some country store, the " spoil of war," everything from a saddle to a hoop skirt. The boys were all there, tired, but in good spirits. All there but one. Reub Parker did not answer at roll-call. At first there was little anxiety on his account. Perhaps he had got separated from the company in some way and would come in later. Days and weeks passed and there was no sign of his existence, and he was given up as probably killed in action. At home his funeral sermon was preached and his family put on mourning. One day two red-legged "Louisiana Tigers" came into camp under a white flag, and brought Reub with them in exchange.
He had been taken a prisoner to Richmond and had the honor to be the first guest of Hotel de Libby. He was looking as well as ever and had many stories to tell us of the curiosity of the people to see the Yankee, and of the uncourteous remarks addressed to him by his visitors.
On the march out there was a lively incident which was probably considered tragical by some of the participants. As the regiment was passing by a fine house in the gray of the morning, the owner, a rebel officer, who happened to be at home, was so angered at the sight of the Yankee invaders that he seized a rifle and fired at the column, the shot doing no other damage than perforating Sergeant Sweet's trousers. The column halted, and Adjutant Stevens and a squad of men burst into the house, and finding the officer who had with more pluck than discretion challenged so unequal a contest, the adjutant, a tall, powerful man, seized him by the collar, and holding him off, gave him a sound kicking. The men in the meantime put a feather bed under the piano and set fire to it and then the march was resumed, lighted up by the burning house.
Big Bethel was a blunder for which Ben Butler was primarily responsible. He tries to shift the responsibility in his book, but the memorandum of his arrangements which he gives is sufficient to convict him. Still, if there had been any soldier, like Greble or Winthrop, in command, the expedition would, no doubt, have been successful.
After Big Bethel there was no special excitement at our post. The usual routine was observed, and regiments came and went. Usually there were four or five regiments in the camp. Rumors of great things to come were as plentiful as in after days of the war. Now, General Butler was to be largely reenforced for an expedition against Yorktown or Richmond. Again, there was to be a combined military and naval movement against Norfolk, our neighbor across the bay. Occasionally there was a " scare" that an expedition was preparing at Norfolk against us, but the "Merrimac's" time had not yet come.
As the expiration of our term of service grew near, there was a project for sending us to the eastern peninsula, Northampton and Accomac Counties, but for some reason it was not carried out.
On the fourth of August the regiment embarked on the steamers "Ben de Ford" and "S. R. Spaulding" for New Haven. Thence it was conveyed by rail to Brattleboro, Vermont, where it arrived late in the evening of the seventh. The muster out was delayed for several reasons,--- among them the important one of the non-arrival of the paymaster,--- and was not made until the fifteenth and sixteenth, so that we served nearly four months from the commencement of drill in the companies. We were paid off in gold by Major Thomas H. Halsey, and then the First Vermont Infantry ceased to exist, and its component members scattered, to return to the field,--- the greater number of them,--- in other organizations. Six hundred of them reenlisted, and two hundred and fifty became commissioned officers. Of the Woodstock Company one attained the rank of brigadier-general of volunteers, another became colonel of the 6th Vermont, seven were captains and ten, lieutenants.
One of the proprietors of the grocery store we frequented when the company was organizing and drilling was Daniel Stearns, an old Mexican soldier, and formerly a resident of Skowhegan. "It makes me laugh," he used to say to us, "to hear you boys talking of getting out after your three-months service. You'll find that when you have begun to follow the drum you will have to keep on just as long as the music holds out." And we found it so.
For myself, I had greatly enjoyed my initiation into the soldier's life. I was glad that I had begun by carrying a musket and had received so good a training as a soldier in the ranks. The spirit of comradery was strong in the company and there never was any strife or bickering among its members. I had a friendly regard for them all, and I made many friends, too, in other companies of the regiment. In the course of the war I met many of my comrades of the 1st Vermont. On the way to Gettysburg we marched past the 16th Vermont, which under Veazey did such gallant service on that field, halted by the roadside, and three or four old messmates in the 1st Vermont, officers of the 16th, came out to see me. There was but one opportunity in the company for promotion, caused by the resignation of a lieutenant, and the advancement of the ranking non-commissioned officer left a vacancy for a corporal which was filled by my appointment. On being mustered out the offer was made me of a captaincy in Colonel Stoughton's Regiment then forming. I declined because I proposed to return to the field with men of my own state. Several weeks before the expiration of my service I was informed that a company had been raised in my native town, Fairfield, and that I had been chosen captain, and I was urged to get my discharge and take the company at once. I preferred, for some reason, to serve out my enlistment. I arrived in Augusta the twenty-first of August, and learned that my company had been assigned to the 7th Maine, and that, by some misunderstanding, both Captain T. W. Hyde, of the Bath Company, and I had been elected major. Governor Washburn arranged the matter by appointing me lieutenant-colonel. The 7th was mustered in the next day and left for Baltimore where I joined it a fortnight afterwards.
The first instalment of the boys of '61, the seventy-five thousand of the President's first call, constituted a limited association which was considered to have an option on putting down the Rebellion in ninety days. The new association was practically unlimited; there was a chance for everybody who wanted to help and was willing to stand by the Union for three years at least. The events of the three months had given a more serious aspect to the situation. Vet with equal readiness the second instalment of volunteers enlisted under the flag, to suffer and to die under it, or to triumph with it.
War Papers Read Before the Commandery of the State of Maine, Military Order of the Loyal Legions of the United States, (The Thurston Print, Portlane, ME, 1898), i:323