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Vermont Artillery
Third Battery Light Artillery
Diaries/Letters

Civil War Diary
Eugene W. Rolfe, Tunbridge,
3rd Vt. Light Artillery Battery

Tuesday Nov. 1st. [1864] [1864]

A very cold night, a pleasant day. Not feeling very well. I find that the Ague is not calculated to produce good feelings-confound it.

Rice and mackerel is the fare of today. I use the rice and give away the fish.

Wednesday Nov. 2nd. [1864]

Went down to the Surgeon of Artillery Reserve this morning, he gave a deuce of a dose of quinine and a lot of pills. He sent Carl to the Field Hospital, some fun with Carl. The surgeon offered to send me with Carl but I told him "Not any" as ling as can prevent it for I have not a very good opinion of hospital life. It rains like the devil this after noon and I have a devil of a shake-considerable devil about in fact.

Thursday Nov. 3rd. [1864]

Hardy took me down to the Arty' Reserve Headquarters to see the Surgeon again this morning and he ordered me to be taken directly to the General Hospital and it was done and I go into Ward 3, Section C, a large wall tent about 30 feet deep with narrow iron bedsteads in two rows. Soup toast and soft bread for dinner, tea, toast and soft bread for supper and dinner. The bed is soft and yet I had rather be back in my old bunk with the boys. Still I am too tired to make much fun. The Surgeon says I am pretty sick and that the chances are against me. He is a fool. I shall go back to the boys Sunday or Monday. I've no idea of staying here, am a little tired out and have sort of a don't care a-ativeness now but will get rested and will be out in a day.

Some queer chickens in here, one has both legs taken off and says as soon as he gets his new ones he is going into the cavalry. One poor fellow is about gone, the surgeon says he cannot live but a few hours more. I write a few words for him to his mother,--she lives in Beverly, Mass.

Friday Nov. 4th. [1864]

It still pours but it never rains in this country and as rainy days are, so is this disagreeable in the extreme. Doctor Harday is down at night and brings me letters from Herbert and Charlotte and Charlotte Marston. Herbert says that Louise has the diphtheria and that the doctor says she can live but a short time. "Petite Lou." Perhaps even now she is under the cold Vermont sod. Why is it that one must lose those they love best whilst those they dislike live? Do not sleep but lay and imagine myself just stepping into the house at home and meeting Louise and then by some means saving her life. Those waking dreams may be absurd but a dream like that keeps one from bad feelings and to hope for the best.

Louise said when I left home that she should not live to see me again, perhaps her words are true, and perhaps she in her youth has thoughts and feelings above and beyond older minds "ken"-what we then laughed at may be brought back to us in sorrow.

Toast, tea and Farina today.

Sat. Nov. 5th. [1864]

It is quite pleasant today, the clouds are gone and the sun is shining brightly. If it were not for the bareness of the land here this would be a pretty place. The situation is pretty and as you look out up on the two rivers, (the James and the Appomattox), there is a pretty view but looking inland there is nothing to be seen except barren field, pine as green as are those of Vermont and have some of our Northern Maples and Oaks mixed with the yellow pines and one's imagination would not have to be so very powerful to think the place pretty.

A little nervous and anxious to hear from home today for it seems as if there was a letter on its way to tell whether Louise is better or worse,--I fear the latter.

Toast soft bread, tomato stew, tea, tough beef, pudding and farina.

A large number of "Fresh Fish" came in this afternoon.

Sunday Nov. 6th. [1864]

It is a very pleasant day but the news are not so very pleasant. Dr. Hardy and two of the boys were down today. The doctor brought me a letter from Father and I read of Louise's death but I will not write of this here. I wrote to Charlotte today but could not speak of Louise. Carl is not gaining and expects to be sent to Washington soon where he expects to get well at once but if one cannot get well with Miss Jay and Miss Hancock as nurses there can be but little help for them anywhere.

The boys do not speak very well of the new guns, (12 pdrs.), for the brass is not so easy to keep clean and the Inspectors will find fault if they find anything in the muzzles that will soil the linen handkerchief, and then they are not so easy to work as are the Rodman gun but then they are of short range and we may have a chance to get into a field scrimmage and not have to go from one from to another as we have.

Monday Nov. 7th. [1864]

A rainy day but not as disagreeable as are most rainy days. Miss Hancock is not so busy and so she sits and reads to us a part of the day; it seems like home to have a woman around to pet you and it is all the better for having been so long without and Miss Hancock is as good as some sweet chocolate today. The doctors order milk punch for me today, do not see any and do not care if the nurses drink it all. Receive a letter saying that Dubbie is very, very sick and wants I should come there. Miss Hancock goes to Headquarters for me but no is the answer. They say I could not live to reach Washington. The surgeon comes to see me, tell him how necessary it is that I should go but no.

Tuesday Nov. 8th. [1864]

Quite pleasant today. Have special diet ordered for me with milk punch to drink. Some of the boys are down to see me today, but do not stop long. Miss Hancock looks very sober when she looks at me but says she cannot help me The Head Surgeon comes in and after a few pinches of snuff refuses to give a furlough but says if I'll keep my mind quiet that I may go in a few weeks-asked him how in the H--- one was to keep their mind quiet when it was on a 1-40 whirl without any chances to apply a brake. Confound the Surgeon, I know it would not hurt me to ride from here to Auburn.

Wed. Nov. 9th. [1864]

It is another pleasant day and I am feeling rather more like the ay than I was a few hours ago. Got milk punch enough but do not see a great deal of the special diet ordered, although the Surgeon made a light row with the nurses. Dr. Hardy was down to see me today. He brought a letter from father with thirty three postage stamps, two 50 cent scrips and a $1.00 greenback in it, also a letter with a time table f the Black Valley R.R. in it from some unknown person-Herb.

Thursday Nov. 10th. [1864]

Pleasant weather-special diet-in an hour-the surgeon says I am not as stout as I was-believe him. Lonesome as -----.

Friday Nov. 11th. [1864]

It continues to be pleasant and it ought. Milo Cushman was down to see me today, he brought me three letters, Lib Searles, Albert and Lorraine and from father and mother. Answered mother's and sent by Milo to be mailed at the battery. Am not feeling as well today and therefore my thoughts are less pleasant. There area a good many visitors here today. The Surgeon thinks he will have me change my quarters but I do not care to leave here for I do not believe that a new place can have so good a nurse as Miss Hancock or Miss Jay. There is a good deal of talk about the candidates for the presidency and most of the boys here prefer Lincoln to the Hero of so many retreats, George B. McClellan.

Sat. Nov. 12. [1864]

Started early this morning, (minus our breakfast), and went on board the hospital steamer, "State of Maine," and started for Washington. A little soup and a slice of bread for dinner. Coffee, a slice of bread and a little apple sauce for supper.

At 4:30 P.M. we arrived at Fortress Monroe and stopped there to coal, starting from there at 11:30 P.M. Some of the boys got to strolling and came near to getting into the Guard House but are saved by one of the stewards. A party of girls came down to the steamer amongst them were two as fair as any Northern girl and with forms that may be equaled but never surpassed. Out on the Chesapeake at midnight the scene is splendid,--wish that I could get up on the upper deck and lay through the night. Have enough excitement today as I do not know whether I am sick or well.

Sun. Nov. 13th. [1864]

Cloudy and not as warm as was yesterday. We got Coffee, a slice of bread and a small piece of dried beef for breakfast. Soup and bread for dinner, coffee and bread for supper, what a variety! Reached Washington at 10:30 P.M. and lie at the wharf all day waiting for some "Red Tape" mystery to be got through with. Spend about all the cash I have for disease breeders "ie" pies. Suppose I must died sometime and want one more good meal so in spite of the surgeons and stewards we go for something to eat. Peddlers are as thick as are the lice in a "busmers" blanket and they all manage to do a good business. Although the boys have not very fleshy pocketbooks, my capitol consists of one 256 scrip and about 30 postage stamps, do not have much in my pocketbook at night but have some thing in my belly. See several boys from the "Old Brigade."

We get no breakfast this morning, to keep from starving I get two fried turnovers, twelve apples and a piece of mince pie and conclude that with good grit, I can manage to live until noon. We get into Ambulance and ride to Lincoln Hospital on East Capitol Hill where we are assigned bed, mine being Bed 22, Ward 5. The bed stead is of iron and just large enough for one person, on it is a husk mattress, good linen sheets, a double woolen blanket with a fancy spread on too. After dinner we take a bath and change our clothes than we go to work and get acquainted with those near us. My nearest neighbors are Jacob Knapp, (a Penn. Dutchman) and Michael Nagle, a well informed Irishman. Find one Vermonter in the lower ward with myself, his name is Ed. E. Austin of Bethel, Vt.

At 5 P.M. we go down and get our suppers, tea, bread, and molasses.

Tuesday Nov. 15th. [1864]

The old grannies here are very strict. He have to have our bed made up in just such a manner it takes all day. Am told that smoking is forbidden, for a reply I say that I am sorry and keep on smoking. Have to sit in a line until the surgeon passes us in his examination every morning. Coffee, bread and soup for breakfast. Bread and boiled pork for dinner. Tea, bread and applesauce for supper. The hospital is in charge of the Sisters of Charity, some of whom are very pretty. Form an acquaintance today that I am inclined to like, that of one Milton N. Branch of Waterville, Maine, a member of Co. 2d. Maine Cavalry. I like him very much and am with him more than with any of the others. Am not very much in favor of this place-do not like the swill that they try to make us think is so very, very whole some and I think that it makes a bit of difference if you are doing any kind of service about here as to the kind of food you get.

Web. Nov. 16th. [1864]

Have considerable fever and a hard sore throat that seems to extend to my lungs as they pain me very much, for this of some other reason do not get any sleep. For breakfast we get coffee, bread and a this soup. For dinner pork, bean soup and a small piece of beet. For supper tea, bread and molasses. Wrote to Milo today and then strolled about the place, ran across several Vt. boys in Ward 7. The surgeon gave me a gargle for my throat. Tim Nagle and I play odds on the Ward Master and have several good smokes. A good many visitors here today amongst whom were several very pretty Washington girls that look as though they would enjoy a time. The day is pleasant, at least the weather is.

Thursday Nov. 17th. [1864]

Did not rest at all last night. The surgeon gives me a mixture of Chlorate of Potash (Ayrac). What the is I do not know but 'tis a bit cutting. Breakfast coffee, Indian Pudding, and molasses. Dinner, soup, bread , potatoes and boiled pork. Supper, tea, bread and applesauce. Not quite as lonesome for Carl came in today. His rheumatism was worse so they sent him on. He looks and acts as if he were "hard up." Have quite a chat with him. The boys at the camp are building themselves some log houses for winter as they expect to stay at City Point until spring. Milo and Swan are well and so is Hardy, Carpenter and the rest of the chums. It seems like seeing someone from home to hear from the boys.

Friday Nov. 18th. [1864]

My throat is worse this morning and I feel pretty well knocked up for want of rest nights. If this is a good place for convalescents I cannot see it for a meaner place I never saw, it is a perfect swill tub, the food we get here if indeed it can consistently be termed food-is well calculated for a good rugged farmer but just the kind of stuff it is not I fancy, a convalescent needs and it is not for lack of supplies that we are kept as we are, for at the further end of the dining room are two sets of tables for the fat Ward Masters and Hospital Stewards that is as well furnished with good eatables as is any civilian table. The other one is for the guards and is a sort of a medium between our slop and the delicacies of the Ward Masters. Breakfast, coffee, bread and stew. Dinner, bread and bean soup. Supper tea, bread and applesauce.

Sat. Nov. 19th. [1864]

No sleep last night and I am somewhat dull and heavy eyed today.

My throat worse and am quite feverish today and so stay indoors.

Had a row with the Sergeant, or Wardmaster today and give him a bit of -ll. He undertook to tell Nagle, Branch and I where we would stay and after telling him the truth of the matter the cursed block-head went on worse than ever and finally wanted to know which was boss, he or I. Commenced with a few explosives and told him that he could boss himself and the Ward but that I should do as I d-d pleased with myself. Had quite a time and retreated in disorder with his head down when I told him that he would have to account for a certain lost bottle of milk punch. Breakfast, coffee, Indian Pudding. Diner, bread, pork and stew. Supper, tea, bread and molasses.

Sunday Nov. 20th. [1864]

Breakfast, coffee, bread, poor rice and molasses. Dinner, cold meat and potatoes, bread and a poor soup. Supper, tea, bread and stewed apples. The surgeon gave me a dose of morphine last evening, large enough, (he said) to kill six men but not a wink of sleep did I get. Am very much disposed to be homesick here, 'tis not the place for any sick or wounded soldier and even for a "Bummer," it is not well suited for the living is not good and for dullness it is ahead of any place I have ever seen.

Our surgeons and other officers are good men enough but do not seem to realize the difference between a sick and a well soldier and that what cures one may kill another and again we are but strangers to them. There is none of the fraternity of feeling that really does exist amongst soldiers of all kinds at the "Front."


Note: This and what follows written after losing the use of my right arm by the premature discharge of a cannon whilst engaged in firing a salute at Springfield, Vermont, July 4, 1876. Eugene W. Rolfe.


Monday Nov. 21st. [1864]

Breakfast, coffee, warm bread and soup. Dinner, bean soup, bread and boiled pork. Supper, tea, bread and West India molasses.

Have a hard diarrhea started with this molasses diet and do not feel very spunky today. My throat is no better and I get to be a bit homesick. This is driven away by a letter from Auburn.

Tuesday Nov. 22d. [1864]

Breakfast, bread and cold meat with coffee. Dinner-bread and fish hash with water. Supper, tea, bread with stewed apple.

Wed. Nov. 23rd. [1864]

Breakfast, bread, mush and molasses. Dinner, small piece of bread and some soup. Supper, buttered toast and tea. Did not go down to breakfast, when the surgeon came he ordered a special diet for me and so I had something eatable but not a great quantity. Diarrhea worse today but throat is much better. Am far from being in love with this hospital and do not believe if I once get out of it, I shall ever get into another if care of my health will keep me from it.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and also my 19th. birthday; great preparations are being made for Thanksgiving but none for the proper celebration of the anniversary of my advent into this unappreciative world.

Would like to be at home at dinner time tomorrow, believe I would eat a bit.

Thursday Nov. 24th. [1864]

Breakfast, slice of bread with butter and coffee. Dinner, slice of bread and a cup of milk. Thanksgiving dinner, small piece of turkey's breast, small slice of bread, cup of custard, tea. The Convalescents had turkey, chicken, roast beef, mince and apple pies and cranberry sauce with their bread. My 19th. birthday-but not much notice of that fact is taken here. Have enjoyed the day as well as I could and had I been will doubtless would have been quite happy. At home they will remember the son and the brother, wishing many times that he was or could be with them. I wish I cold step into the old sitting room and spend the evening with them.

Wish I were with the Battery with the boys, would have a good time there. Can see Milo, Carpenter, Swan and the rest as they gather about the first and can well imagine the jolly time they will have before "Taps."

Wrote to mother.

Friday Nov. 25th. [1864]

Breakfast, bread and butter, tea. Dinner, bread and milk, egg pudding, tea. Supper, bread and butter, tea.

Am no better and if I dared would be a bit discouraged. Not daring to be "blue," am a bit cross and have a row with Sister Amelia, but do not feel very bad about that as I say my little verse and have the satisfaction of hitting Wardmaster, nurses and all the slinks.

Carl came over to see me this afternoon and we had a good chat, wished we could be at Uncle Allen's tonight, would have some fun if we had a funeral with it. Carl is pretty hard up with the rheumatism but is expecting to be transferred to some Vermont Hospital soon.

Sunday Nov. 26th. [1864]

Breakfast, a slice of bread and a piece of toast, tea. Dinner, cup of soup, slice of bread, some rice and cornstarch. Supper, two slices of bread and butter, tea. The rice and cornstarch had for dinner were not well cooked and were but tasted of.

All Vermont boys were examined today and all that were thought to be able to bear the fatigue of the journey were reported for transfer to some Vermont Hospital. I was examined wit the rest and now I wish I knew whether I had drawn a prize or but a blank, for a blank it would be if I were left here. We are having some very pleasant days but the nights are quite cold.

Am feeling a bit better but am pretty weak and do not enjoy having my legs fail me as they do when I attempt to go many rods without resting.

Sunday Nov. 27th. [1864]

Breakfast, slice of bread, Ditto, bread and butter, tea. Dinner, bread rice and stewed slop, tea. Supper, dry toast, tea??? Thinner slices of bread cannot be cut, nor thinner tea imagined.

Monday Nov. 28th. [1864]

Breakfast, slice of bread and butter, tea. Dinner, rice, bread, tea. Supper, bread, dry toast, tea. Am not as well today as I was the day I cam here, and I wish I were back to the old "Hospital in the field" at City Point or with the boys at the battery.

Tuesday Nov. 29th. [1864]

For breakfast and for supper I had the same as I did yesterday. For dinner, I had bread, a potato and a small piece of beef, tea.

Wed. Nov. 30th. [1864]

Bread, small quantity of rice, something called pudding and a cup of tea I could not worry down. For breakfast and for supper I had the same as Monday. We have a new surgeon for our ward today. He is from the 1st. Vermont Cavalry and appears to be a nice fellow.

Carl came up and bid me goodbye tonight and with a lot of others started for Burlington, Vt., at 6 P.M. I was "marked for transfer but he block head of a clerk did not get my name on-Damn him!


Diary Continued Back to Introduction


Contributed by Eugene L. Rolfe, Las Vegas, Nevada, great-grandson of Eugene William Rolfe.