Burt, Dunham G.
Age: 18, credited to Castleton, VTVITALS
Birth: 1845, Castleton, VTADDITIONAL INFORMATION
Alias?: None notedDESCENDANTS
Hillside Cemetery, Castleton, VT
Check the cemetery for location/directions
and other veterans who may be buried there.
Dunham G. Burt
Reminiscences Of The War Of The Rebellion, By D. G. Burt, Private In Co. F. 1st Regt. U. S. Artillery.
Mr. President, Comrades, Ladies and Gentlemen:
Sitting on the deck of the steamship "City of San Francisco," at anchor in Panama Bay ten years ago, in company with a gentleman who had filled a high position in the confederate service during the late war, and a captain in the United States Navy, we spent several hours recalling scenes and incidents which had come under our observation during the four years conflict in which we had all been engaged. When separating for the night the captain turning to me remarked : "it is always pleasant to me, to revive these old recollections." So standing here in this beautiful Hillside Cemetery after decorating with fairest flowers the graves of our comrades who shared with us the privations, hardships and glories of those days " that tried men's souls," it seems to me nothing can be more appropriate than narrating, for the instruction of those younger than us, who participated in that four years' struggle, some of the recollections that crowd before us like a panorama as it were, only painted on our minds and hearts in colors far more bright and enduring than any artist has ever yet been able to put on the canvass.
During a service that extended through a period of four years, I cannot now recall one incident which I would willingly forget. To me they are like "thrice told tales," or the melodies of "Mother Goose," of which we never tire, and which the more we hear, the better we like them. While they may not be interesting to many of you, they recall vividly to mind the old camp on the hill at Brattleboro, the trip to New York by rail, and the steamer " Elm City," the long and tedious voyage to Ship Island, on the good ship "Wallace," the sand flies, fleas, etc., which infested that place, the whirlwind and storm that occurred while we were encamped there, when we expected every moment to be washed away, and last, but not the least, of our experiences there, the review before old "Ben Butler," as he was called, when in heavy marching order we marched up and down in the sand, when it seemed to me that every step I took would be my last. Our camp at Carrolton and in New Orleans, the first attack on Port Hudson, followed by the Teche campaign ending with the siege and fall of Port Hudson, and many others which might be enumerated did not time forbid.
The first incident which I call to mind was the feeling of utter desolation and home sickness that came over me about 11 P. M., on the 9th day of December, 1861, when after enlisting for a period of three years "unless sooner shot," my companion who had accompanied me from Castleton, was told by the recruiting officer, just as he took up the pen to write his name, that he could not be taken. A telegram from his father forbade his enlistment. I realized in a moment that I was in and he was out. I would have given worlds had I then possessed them, to have been in the same fix, but it was no use, entreaties to take him were of no avail, be taken he could not. He left me the next day, a stranger in a strange land and among strangers, but I contented myself as well as I could, and made the best of it. My friend, companion and school-mate, Geo. K. Griswold, afterwards laid down his life on one of the battle fields of Virginia. His grave is unknown, but he sleeps as peacefully there as though he was laid among his own kindred here, and numbers one of that countless host
"Who on fame's eternal camping ground
Their silent tents have spread."
"Where solemn glory shines around
The bivouac of the dead."
I was a tired, hot, thirsty and used up boy when in June, 1862, after a walk of three miles through the streets of New Orleans, I boarded the gunboat "Sciota" then lying at the foot of Jefferson street, and inquired if midshipman Woodward, was aboard. I had hardly asked the question when I heard some one sing out from below, "come down here." I knew the voice and descending the stairs found myself with my old friend; but so pale and emaciated I should hardly have known him had I met him on the street. To each one of us it was next to going- home. Neither had seen any one from our old home in months, and long and steady was the talk that we indulged in. It was like an oasis in the desert, and was the bright spot in those months spent at Camp Parapet, the tediousness of which was broken only by an occasional review, turning out at night in answer to the long roll which was frequently sounded, and every one of which proved to be a false alarm.
* * * * *
It was a bright moonlight Sunday night in April, 1863, when the 19th army corps, 30,000 strong, left Baton Rouge on the first advance to Port Hudson. The memory of that night will never fade. As we filed past the old burying ground we could but think of that Sabbath morning in the August before, when Breckenridge, with his forces " came down like the wolf on the fold," and the stubborn fight which ensued after our boys had recovered from their surprise resulting in the defeat of the attackers, but not until after the Union commander Williams had lost his life. Our march was enlivened by the music of many bands. Such familiar tunes as " John Brown's body," " Tramp, Tramp, Tramp," etc., being accompanied by the voices of thousands of stalwart men, until the pine woods through which we were marching seemed to be alive with melody.
The next Tuesday evening the 3d Brigade, 3d Division, consisting of the 8th New Hampshire, 4th Wisconsin, 133d, and 162d New York Infantry and Battery F 1st U. S. Artillery under command of Col. H. E. Paine, 4th Wisconsin, were ordered to take the advance, and about dusk formed line of battle about three miles from Port Hudson, in anticipation of an attack from the enemy. About ten o'clock the fleet under the command of Rear Admiral Farragut began a bombardment of the place; we were not near enough to see the ships or the fire from the batteries, but could see the shells as they rose from the guns of the fleet, the burning fuse giving them the appearance of a star as they rose and fell. As they appeared in the sky and as the river front was illuminated by the flash of the guns both from the shore batteries and the ships, the scene was one never to be forgotten. About an hour after the bombardment began, we could see that one of the ships was on fire. For an hour the fire seemed to be stationary, and as the flames rose higher and higher, as they crept up the masts and through the rigging, no words can express the sublimity of the appearance of the ill fated boat. Finally she began to float down the stream and we watched and watched as it receded from our view until with one loud explosion that shook even the ground where we were laying, every thing grew black and dark, and the shattered hulk of the frigate " Mississippi" sank to the bottom of the river after which she was named. The next morning we were informed that Farragut with the " Hartford" and " Albatross" had passed the batteries, the object of the expedition had been accomplished, and we were ordered back to Baton Rouge.
It was at the battle of Bisland, La., that I first saw the horrors of war, when my chosen friend Frank Lawrence, standing close to me was struck in the head by a solid shot, and died without a groan. Here it was that a piece of railroad iron fired from an old fashioned 32 pounder struck a young man named Miles in the side, instantly killing him, together with four of the grey horses attached to the caisson of which he was one of the drivers, overturning the caisson and scattering blankets, knapsacks, etc., all over the field. * * * * *
I wish that I could tell of the trip through the Teche country, one of the most fertile and best cultivated sections of Louisiana, the time when we lived, as it were, on the fat of the land. Our assault on Port Hudson the 27th of May, 1863, and that memorable day to us June 14th, when from early morning until after dark we vainly tried to force an entrance into that stronghold, the visits back and forth during the intervening days under flags of truce, when we would exchange coffee, papers, and tobacco, for cornmeal; and other things of interest that occurred up to that 8th day of July, when the place surrendered.
One only must suffice for my time is short. The rebels had mounted on the bank of the river a ten inch columbiad, which as it was on a pivot could be turned to any direction. They probably thought that the Yanks wanted some thing to amuse them, so they brought the " Lady Davis" (as that was what the gun was christened) into play, every night just after sun down they would begin by firing towards us a shell. The gun was located some three miles from where we were, and after the first night or two, we began to expect our regular visitor. As soon as it was safe for one to put his head above the cotton bale breast works we would watch for it. Soon the flash of the gun would be seen, followed by the shell which we could tell by the fuse as it approached us. As it came nearer and nearer we would make ready and at the proper time drop. The explosion of the shell would be followed by a whizzing sound very much as though it were saying to each of us, where are you? where are you? Chug! as the pieces would be buried in the ground.
The tree under which my shelter tent was pitched was struck by a shot one night and if ever I moved rapidly it was when I got outside of that tent. Remembering the old adage that lightning never strikes in the same place twice, I concluded not to move my house, furniture, etc., but kept it there as my base of operations during the rest of the siege.
My friends, twenty years have passed since that memorable April morning when Lee laid down his arms to our great Commander Grant, and nearly as many have gone by since the custom of decorating the graves of our comrades was begun by the "Grand Army of the Republic ."
"The boys in blue are turning gray. Each year their ranks grow thinner," and many who met with us on that first decoration day have passed to the other shore. To some of us who have met here to-day this may be the last time that we shall participate in exercises of the kind. As we leave this place for our homes let us reflect upon the grand results that have followed the labors and hardships of our comrades. We are once more a united and unbroken people knowing no North, no South, no East, no West. Peace is a constant dweller among us, and no sounds of strife or contention are heard in our land. The blue and the gray mingle together in one great company, each vying with the other in their love to our country and its institutions, and to-day they march hand in hand on the same errand of love in which we are now engaged. Let us then teach our children never to forget that the blessings which we now enjoy were procured after years of struggle at the cost of many lives and the spilling of much blood. Let us tell them oft, "of battles fought, of victories won," and never to forget the great men under whom we served and who led us on to victory. Teach them to emulate their example, to love and cherish the old flag, and above all teach them that ours is a goodly country, and our nation is, and always will be inseparable, for we know "What Master laid its keel
What workman wrought its ribs of steel,
Who made each mast and sail and rope,
What anvils rang, what hammers beat
In what a forge and what a heat,
Were shaped the anchors of its hope."
Source: John M. Currier, Memorial Exercises held in Castleton, Vermont, in the year 1885, (Joel Munsell's Sons, Albany, 1885), pp. 25-29