History of the 13th Massachusetts Volunteers

1861     |     1862     |     1863     |     1864     |     After


Summary of Service

In March, 1864 General Grant took command of all the Union armies.  The First Corps, so depleted in numbers, (and for a long time the home of the '13th Mass') was consolidated into the 5th Corps commanded by General G. K. Warren.  The men were unhappy about this, but as a consolation they were allowed to keep their First Corps badges.  When General Grant opened his Overland Campaign the soldiers in the '13th Mass' had just 2 months left to serve of their 3 years enlistment.

The army crossed the Rapidan River for the last time on May 5th. This campaign was different from the others. There was non-stop fighting every day for a month, with only 3 days rest.   In spite of the hard work the soldiers were fond of General Grant. The marches were in general short, rations were issued frequently, there were earthworks to retreat to, they were well supported with other troops, and, they frequently changed position in battle.  The May 8th fight at Laurel Hill was one of the harder days for the regiment in this campaign as they were one of the brigades leading the advance that morning.  The regiment lost twelve men who died from wounds received that day.  It was also on May 8th that the flag staff of the National colors was shattered by a rebel shell.  Remarkably, color-bearer Dennis G. Walker was un-harmed, though the shell caught the upper part of his knapsack and sent it hurling several rods.

The boys were incredibly lucky in many of the other bloody engagements of this campaign.  On Thursday, July 7th, Lt. John B. Noyes of the 28th Mass, 2nd Corps, formerly a private in Co. B, visited with his old comrades of the 13th.  The 28th had taken horrible casualties which Lt. Noyes carefully chronicled in letters home.  He remarked that the 13th had suffered 'scarcely any' in the campaign, losing only about 50 men killed & wounded, compared with three times that amount for every other regiment in their brigade.  He credited this to the intelligence of the men and their experience as veteran soldiers.  Still luck had much to do with it.

They were counting the days to go home, as they watched their old brigade comrades the “9th NY” Militia (83rd NY Vols.) leave for home June 7th, and then the '12th Mass' on June 23rd.

The last three weeks of their service were spent in the trenches on the front lines at Petersburg.  Men continued to get wounded and killed.  Finally on July 14th, the 80 men in the trenches at the front were ordered to the rear to prepare to go home.  There, they were joined by members of the regiment who had been on detached duty.  Some of the recruits of ’62 who had been promised they would return home with the regiment, were made to stay in the service, and with others whose enlistments were not yet up, were turned over to the '39th Mass' to complete a 3 year enlistment.  When one of these men, Warren H. Freeman, finally wrangled an honorable discharge in September, (once he found the proper officer to apply to) he was told, "They had no right to detain you."

The '13th Mass' returned home to Boston on July 21st with 280 men and 17 officers.  They were enthusiastically greeted by comrades & friends.  They re-assembled on Boston Common, August 1st, when they were mustered out of the Federal Service.

On duty guarding the Orange & Alexandria Railroad until April 26,1864.

Winter Camp near Cedar Mountain January 1st - May 3rd

January 7th –– Captain John G. Hovey resigned.

January 8th - First-Lieutenant Oscar F. Morse is promoted Captain.  Second-Lieutenant William Damrell is promoted First-Lieutenant.

Read More About Winter Camp in January

Feb. 26th - One of the substitutes sets fire to the building that houses the picket reserve. The fire helps guide some recently escaped prisoners from Richmond's Libby Prison to the lines of the 13th. One man was so overjoyed to be back within Union lines he broke down.  A special train escorted him to headquarters.

March 4th - First-Lieutenant David Whiston is promoted Captain. Second-Lieutenant Joseph Stuart is promoted First-Lieutenant.  Second-Lieutenant Charles E. Horne is promoted First-Lieutenant.

March 9th - Captain Moses P. Palmer is discharged due to disability, promoted brevet-Major.

March 10th - First-Lieutenant Henry Washburn is promoted Captain. Second-Lieutenant William R. Warner is promoted First-Lieutenant.

March 12th – They play a game of baseball with the 104th N.Y. The 104th N.Y. scored 20 runs; The '13th Mass' scored 62 runs. They praise the 104th NY for scoring 20 runs and point out professional teams will play all day long without scoring one run.

An officer gathers up some Indian Artifacts he finds on the Yeager Farm and sends them to the Sanitary Commission to raise money for the troops at the big Sanitary Commission Faire in Philadelphia. The items bring in a good sum of money.

March 13th - Captain David L. Brown resigns.

March 24th  – The old First Corps is moved into the Fifth Corps under command of Gen'l. G. K. Warren.

March 29th - A celebration in the camp of the 16th Maine in honor of the return of their Col. who escaped from Libby. Also 26 of the substitutes (conscripts of August 1863) go off and join the navy.

April 6th - Second-Lieutenant Edward F. Rollins is promoted First-Lieutenant.

April 8th – General Ulysses S. Grant reviews the troops. His review inspires confidence.

April 15th - Lieutenant-Colonel N. Walter Batchelder resigns.

April 16th - Captain Charles E. Hovey is promoted Lieutenant-Colonel of the regiment.  Thomas R. Welles is promoted Captain. Robert M. Armstrong is promoted First-Lieutenant.

April 22nd - Captain Elliot C. Pierce is promoted Major of the regiment. First-Lieutenant William Damrell is promoted Captain.  Henry Dove is promoted First-Lieutenant.

Grant's Overland Campaign, May 4th -  June 14th

May 4th - Turned out at 1 a.m. and march a little before 3 toward the Rapidan River.   Joined the 2nd Division of the Fifth Corps near Culpeper, continuing the march, crossing the Rapdan River for the last time at Germanna Ford, halting at 3:30 p.m.on the south side of the Plank-road about two and a half miles from Robertson's Tavern, 22 miles total.  Two and 1/2 months left to serve.

Battle of the Wilderness, May 5th -  7th

May 5th -   March resumed at daylight, going about 2 miles then halting in line of battle.  Early in the afternoon after several unimportant changes, they took a position in the first line of battle on the extreme left, in the thick woods and underbursh.   There is heavy skirmishing on their exposed left flank and a charge on their front which is repulsed.  When the Rebels retired the line advanced and changed fronts.  The left flank at the same time was attacked with renewed vigor and fell back.  Isolated from the main line, the skirmishers (Company D) returned to earthworks in their rear.   One officer and eight men wounded.  During the day they crossed the Orange & Fredericksburg Turnpike dodging enemy artillery fire (grape & canister) down the road.  Several in the brigade are killed or wounded.

May 6th - Report shows 169 men on duty. The skirmishers of Co. D, lost in the woods returned to the brigade this morning. Lt. Col. Hovey is commanding the regiment, Col. Leonard commanding the brigade, is exhausted.  They move forward a short distance before noon without seeing the enemy.   In the afternoon they march 3 miles to the left & build earthworks.  Lively skirmishing all the time.  Lt. Joseph Stuart is mortally wounded by a sniper.  They saw during the day, the brigade of the '59th Mass' just out from home.   Several of their former comrades were officers in this regiment, commanded by Colonel J. P. Gould, formerly major, of the '13th Mass.'

May 7th – At 9 P.M. they start for Spotsylvania Court House and marched all night.

Battle of Spotsylvania, May 8th - 12th

May 8th - The '13th Mass' are among the first infantry troops to clash with Anderson's Confederate Corps at Spotsylvania.  After a tiring night march. around 8:30 a.m., they make three separate charges, mile long, on the Alsop and Spindle Farms.  They are outflanked. An artillery shell shatters their National Flagstaff during one of the charges. Later, Corps Commander, Gen. G.K. Warren seizes the shattered flag staff and uses the colors of the '13th Mass' to rally a Maryland Brigade.  Artist Alfred Waud makes a sketch of this for the illustrated papers. Twelve men of the regiment die from wounds received this day, including First-Lieutenant Charles W. Whitcomb, many of them have been with the regiment since the start.  Twelve more men are captured. Gen. John C. Robinson, the Division Commander, loses a leg. He requests hospital steward Chandler Robbins of Co. K, stay with him during his convalescence.

May 9th - Change position from the center to the right, halting 3 times to build earthworks.  They were placed on the skirmish line with the "Bucktails," taking part with the corps in its grand charge.  After dark they advanced again, driving the enemy back, then threw up more earthworks.  The wounding of their Division Commander, General Robinson, caused the divison to be broken up and the brigades distributed among other divisions   First-Sergeant Francis H. Stow is promoted First-Lieutenant.

May 10th – Their brigade suffers greatly during an assault this day, but only commissioned and non-commissioned officers participate.  All the 13th enlisted men are out on detail running ammunition to the front line for a battery of artillery. Casualties are light. Ten men are wounded on the skirmish line, 107 men left on duty.

May 11th - The brigade numbers 776 men.  One man is lost by the explosion of a shell which landed in their midst.   They move into earthworks near Gen. Warren's headquarters during an afternoon thunderstorm.

May 12thAssault on the Salient; they participate in an unsuccessful charge with other troops. At 9 a.m their brigade was massed with other troops in the centre for a charge.  Two men are wounded.   At 1 p.m. they moved to the left in the rain and mud to support Rickett's Division.  The regiment continued on duty all night.  The boys are tired from the constant rain and mud and fighting. Edward W. Cody is promoted First-Lieutenant.

May 13th - During the day, under enemy shelling they strengthen the earthworks at the corner of the woods where they started their charge on May 8th.  Showers all day.  At 11 p.m. they march across country until they reach the Fredericksburg Pike and continue a total distance of 10 miles. The roads are saturated with mud reminding them of the Gen. Burnside's "Mud March."  They arrive in the morning.  The whole corps is formed en masse.

May 14th - Hard rain all day.  Brigade shifts to the north side of the road.  With that exception the day was quiet.

May 15th - Rainy all day.  Remained in same position until 6 p.m., then massed with other troops for an attack which was not made.

May 16th - Sun comes out at noon, bright and hot.  Rain again at dark.  Formed in line of battle at 1 p.m. but the anticipated charge was not made.  At 5 p.m. they go out on the skirmish line.

May 17th - Boys feel rested.  Relieved from the skirmish line at 6 p.m.  Move to the right flank of Burnside's Corps and build breastworks with timber cut in the woods.  Worked all night.

May 18th - Complete earthworks and move to the rear of the brigade where they are held in reserve.  About 5 a.m. the Rebels shell the 9th Corps with some shells falling in the 13th's vicinity.  At 7 a.m. they move to the left flank about 1/2 mile near General Warren's headquarters.  Shelled until the afternoon when they moved back near the earthworks they constructed the night before.  Move into the works at 11 p.m.  Rain at night.  Orders received to be ready to move.

May 19th - Rainy all day.  An officer and 25 men detailed to do skirmish duty.  About 5 o'clock these men are attacked.  The attack is repulsed.

May 20th - Lay quietly in the earthworks all day.  Hot weather.

May 21st- They move with the whole army by the left flank.   The 5th Corps follows the Second and Sixth Corps.  They march 10 miles in open country and halt two miles south of Guiney's Station.  The earthworks are abandoned and the skirmishers left to take care of themselves.  The Rebels move into these abandoned works capturing Lieutenant Damrell, Co. B, and three men.  The rest of the skirmishers catch up with the army later.

Operations on the North Anna River, May 22nd - 26th

May 22nd - At 11 a.m. start marching about 10 miles to Bull's Church.  They are shelled by the enemy at one point during the march.  About 100 Rebel stragglers are captured during the day.

Battle of Jericho Ford, May 23rd

May 23rd - At 5 a.m. they march toward the North Anna River catching up with the rear guard of the enemy about 9 a.m. Firing up ahead so they pause, while the cavalry with a light battery of artillery rides forward to determine what's up. About 3 p.m they counter-march and take a road to Jericho Ford. The 1st division fords the river, the 13th's division (4th) waits for a pontoon bridge to be built before crossing late in the afternoon. Soon after reaching the other side A. P. Hill's Confederate Corps launches a vicious attack, but is soon repulsed.  The 1st Division bears the brunt of the attack.  Five men of the 13th are wounded. A confused Rebel wanders into their lines during the quiet night. When challenged with ‘Halt who comes there?’ he replies, "2nd South Carolina by gawd, and what regiment are you?"  He is stunned to learn he is with ‘the 13th Massachusetts by gawd.’ When asked, "How did you like the fight Johnny?" he replies, ‘Well you ‘uns, fire shell a darned sight werse than we ‘uns do."

May 24th – Tired, the men remained on the skirmish line all day. The enemy was continually crawling up through the woods and firing at them. The 12 men captured May 8th are freed by Gen. Custer's Cavalry.

May 25th - Move 2 miles down river to the 'Lone Star Hamlet' or farm. General Warren takes the house for his headquarters. The corps forms in line of battle connecting with the 6th Corps. A strong line of skirmishers is thrown out, which was under fire the whole time. The 12 men released from captivity by General Custer's cavalry returned to the regiment today. Their base of supplies is now the Pamunkey River.

Operations on the Pamunkey River, May 26th -  28th

May 26th - Lay in the works all day until 9 p.m. when they march back to the North Anna River 2 miles, and re-cross below Jericho Ford, and then halt about midnight near a church and draw rations, including a ration of whiskey, and then bath in the river. After an hour's rest they march the rest of the night.

May 27th - March cautiously all day making 25 miles total in the previous 20 hours. They cross the Fredericksburg Railroad to St. Paul's Church, camping near Mangohick, in the woods at the top of a high hill.

Operations on the Line of the Totopotomy River, May 28th -  31st

May 28th – March at 4 p.m. passing army headquarters at Mangohick Church.  Cross the Pamunkey River, not far from Hanovertown, about noon. Continuing they cross a small stream called Herring Creek that flowed over the road, and moved to the ridge beyond, and formed in line and built earthworks. During the march Gen. Grant rides by and takes a drink from the battered tin cup of a man from Co. D.  They have a favorable impression of Grant due to the steady onward movement of the army. They have short marches, plenty of support in battle, earthworks to retreat to, and their position in battle changed frequently.  They affectionately call Grant the ‘Old Man.’ There is heavy cavalry skirmishing up ahead of them this day. It is the first two days since crossing the Rapidan that they have not fired a shot.

May 29th - Called up at daylight to move but don't start until noon. Advance about two miles. At 6:30 p.m. they marched to the east about 3 miles halting at the junction of the White House and Richmond Roads, where the brigade proceeded to throw up earthworks to cover the cross-roads. They work all night.

May 30th - Their Division is reformed under General Lockwood. "It was a welcome sight to again see our old division flag at the head of our column." About 8 a.m. they returned to the place they left yesterday and laid quiet until 4 p.m. Then they moved forward and formed line in a ploughed field opposite a piece of woods. General Warren arrived and gave an urgent order to advance through the woods. The move connects them to the Pennsylvania Reserves on their right. They build earthworks during the night.

May 31st - Remain in earthworks all day.  Heavy firing heard on the right in the forenoon, and on the left in the afternoon, at Cold Harbor, between Sheridan's cavarly and the enemy. Their brigade is now on the left flank of the army. The country is sandy and it gets in everything.

Battle of Cold Harbor, June 1st - 12th

June 1st - Left earthworks about 8 a.m. advancing the line about a mile with the left of the division across the road leading to Bethesda Church. They are vigoursly shelled by the enemy. Two men wounded, one fatally. At dusk as the earthworks are completed the division moves left connecting wtih the 18th Corps. Begin another line of earthworks which take nearly all night to complete. They are in a very exposed position.

June 2nd - A shower of bullets greets them at daylight. The earthworks provide protection. Skirmishers advance and drive the enemy from their trenches - a hard fight.  About noon they vacated the earthworks which were occupied by artillery.  The regiment moved left forming on the left of Du Shane's Maryland Brigade, to protect a gap in the line. General Lockwood, the division commander was relieved, replaced by General Samuel Crawford this day. Heavy showers in the afternoon and night.

June 3rd - Rainy.  Built a line of earthworks with traverses. Shelling continued during the day. Twenty men from the regiment are detailed for the skirmish line. One man is killed, an officer and five men are wounded, and two are taken prisoner.

June 4th - A hot day until about 4 p.m. when it rains, continuing all night. At noon they left their earthworks and rejoined the brigade now held in reserve. Skirmish fire all along the line at night. A whiskey ration is issued. One man wounded this day.

June 5th - Rained until noon. About 3 a.m. they are turned out to take possession of some earthworks vacated by the second brigade of their division. Laid still all day. Firing on the skirmish line. About 8 p.m. they quietly make a rapid march to Cold Harbor, 5 miles. They bivouac at 1 a.m. near the rear of the 2nd Corps. The skirmish line was left in place 3-4 hours while this move was made.

June 6th - In early June after a week of changing position and heavy skirmishing (engagement at Bethesda Church, June 3rd) they are in reserve on a hill to the rear of Cold Harbor earthworks. The week’s casualties were 6 men wounded and 2 killed. The wagon train arrived with the officers' tents.. Clothing and shoes are issued, which are both needed. The books of the regiment arrived at this time to be updated. The last entries were for May 3rd. The regiment is transferred from the Second Division to the Third Division of the 5th Corps. Only four line officers are on duty for the 10 companies. They remain in camp at this place, 8 miles from Richmond, until June 11th.

June 7th- Their long time companions, the 9th N.Y. Militia, (83rd N.Y. Vols.) go home. They take back only 150 men. The 13th start counting the days ‘till its their turn to leave for home.

Feint on Richmond, June 11th -  July 1st

June 11th - July 1st - Warren’s 5th Corps is involved in a feint on Richmond while the rest of the army crosses the James River and moves toward Petersburg.

June 11th - March at 5 a.m. to Bottom Church, 8 miles, camping on ground occupied by General McClellan in 1862.

June 12th - Remain until 5 p.m. when the whole army is put in motion.  The regiment marches with frequent delays to the Chickahominy River, wait for 2 hours for a pontoon bridge to be completed. 

Engagement at White Oak Swamp, June 13th

June 13th - Cross at 3 a.m behind General Wilson's Cavalry.  The base of supplies is changed to the Chickahominy River.  They continued to march up stream about 3 miles, then halt.  The cavalry became engaged at White Oak Swamp, so the infantry advanced in support.  Battle debris from General McClellan's 1862 campaign is still present on the grounds.  The plan is for a general engagement to be avoided.  The Division skirmishers suffered severely, though the regiment escaped with only one man wounded.  In the afternoon, they changed front to the left in company with the '39th Mass,' and threw up earthworks on the left of the 2nd Brigade.  Then skirmishers were sent out.  They become hotly engaged with the enemy until dark when firing ceased.  About 9 p.m. they are withdrawn and marched to St. Mary's Church, passing the 'Iron Brigade,' resting by the side of the road near the church.  They turn right, march over an hour then come again to the same church.  Now they turn left and procede to Charles City Court-House where they halted at 3 a.m, now caught up with the rest of their Division.

June 14th -  Start at 5:30 marching 6 miles across swamps and fields and again halted a mile from Charles City Court-House, Army Headquarters.  The rest of the army was busy crossing the James River beginning June 12th while all this marching was going on the past several days.

June 15th - Drew rations brought from the James River, the new base of supplies.  Twenty five wagons were furnished to haul their baggage at the beginning of the war, all gradually taken away until they were left with just one.  They are truly surprised today, to find some of the original 25 wagons outfitted to the regiment when they left Boston in ’61, clearly labeled 13th Mass., now engaged in hauling the baggage of some general instead of the rank and file of the their own regiment.

June 16th - March at 3 a.m. to the James River passing through Charles City Court-House.  They cross the river James on the steamer ‘Thomas Powell.’  Then they have a swim at a beautiful beach on the opposite shore, before continuing the 15 mile march to Petersburg about 3 oclock.  It is swampy on the way.  At one pond where they stopped to fill canteens there were more frogs than water. The frogs started to fight back as they saw the little water they had disappear. Some claim they had to beat them back with sticks.  At another spot they spy the biggest snake they ever saw swallowing another almost as big.  They halt about 11 p.m.

Siege of Petersburg, June 16th -  July 14th

June 17th - At 1 a.m. after 2 hours rest, they resumed the march in the darkness, passing through Prince George's Court-House to a point about 3 miles from Petersburg, and bivouacked.  At 8 a.m. they marched to the rear of the outer line of the Petersburg intrenchments, were they remained until dusk, in support of the 9th Corps.  They passed by their friends, now officers in the '59th Mass' and discovered they had someting other than water in their canteens.  One of the boys had the idea this day to collect up the rifles littering the battle-ground at night.  A detail went out, gathered in the fire arms, after which the boys in the '13th Mass' loaded the discarded ramrods into the muzzles of their guns and fired a volley at the enemy's works.  The whizzing noise this made amused them greatly.  The racket it created started a firing all along the line of both armies.

June 18th - They advanced to the very front this day.  At daybreak they advanced and found the Rebels had abandoned their line of the previous night.  The regiment's brigade was first in line, and passed over the dead bodies of both armies that laid in their path as they moved forward.  They drove the enemy skirmishers about a mile when they came in sight of Rebel earthworks.  They halted and threw up works for their own protection.  Another advance was soon made.  General Warren has been leading them personally since Gen. Robinson was wounded May 8th.  During this advance the brigade had to make a dash across an open field to a railroad cut.  The enemy infantry and artillery were firing at them from a hill directly beyond the field.  The 13th Regt. was the second regiment to make the run. They dashed forward and scrambled over the cut without losing a man.  Those in the rear tumbled over the men in front before they could get up, all the way to the bottom of the cut.  The next regiment to run let out a yell before starting and suffered a volley from the enemy that killed or wounded 12 men.  The lines were reformed in the cut and the '13th Mass' deployed as skirmishers using the scattering woods and a ravine as protection when they deployed.  They then faced front, advanced up the side of the hill where the enemy was intrenched, and halted, and worked all night throwing up breastworks.   The enemy were doing the same thing on the top of the hill.  When building these works, dead bodies of the enemy were buried in the earth serving the double purpose of burial and increasing the size of the breastworks. A gully made by heavy rains was found extending from the bank of the river to the upper line of earthworks.  This was deepened and extended so as to form a sunken way that could be safely traversed.  The hill was afterwards known as "Fort Crater."  A charge on the works in front of them was expected to be made at 7:30 p.m. but it was abandoned.  The '13th' lost 6 men wounded this day.

June 19th - At daylight they find themselves within a 150 yards of a Rebel fort, high above on the crest of the hill in front, with guns staring them in the face.  The Rebels were unable to depress their artillery sufficiently to trouble the skirmish line so near them, but the infantry made it lively.  Any portion of a body exposed above the earthworks was sure to draw a shower of bullets.  A cap placed at the end of a ramrod was frequently raised over the works to draw the enemy fire and waste their ammunition.  Ramrods from the guns of the fallen were again collected and fired over into the enemy works.  Catching on to the trick the enemy returned the compliment, until both sides tired of the novelty.  The sunken way described was used to bring ammunition and supplies to this position in the front.  The '13th' lost 5 men wounded this day.

June 20th - The regiment returned to the brigade taking positions in the earthworks.  Firing all day.  Two men wounded.  One of the wounded men was Color-Sergeant 'Davy' Sloss, who made more fuss about losing his haversack than he did about being shot.  At night the regiment is detached from the brigade and sent to the left to fill a gap in the line.  Rations of potatoes and cabbage issued.

June 21st - The earthworks between combatants were separated by a distance of only 400 yards, and exposed to the full heat of the sun.  This day was very warm and stifling. Any appearance above the works resulted in enemy fire, so great caution was used in moving about.  Another trench path was dug to the rear, like the one at the crater, to allow safe passage for supplies.  It connected to an ice house so plenty of ice was available. A little later, the two hills in front occupied by the opposing armies were strongly intrenched and called Forts Hell and Damnation.  They are in a very dangerous spot.  One man wounded this day.  Rations of fresh beef.

June 22nd - The regiment remained in the earthworks today detached from the rest of their brigade.   The works were on the top of a hill; while the rebs were on the top of the next hill beyond.   Being farther advanced than the troops on their right, no skirmishers were sent out.  Instead men were detailed to keep watch and to occasionally fire.  At night some rifle pits in front were occupied.  With 3 weeks left to serve, Sgt. Mann, Co. H, was killed early in the morning about 4 a.m.   He had been with the regiment from the start and was counting the days ‘till they would go home. He left behind a wife and child. Thomas Casey one of the substitutes of Aug. '63, who actually performed his duty, was also killed this day while making coffee. Both men were taken to the rear and buried.  One of the boys who assisted with the burials was wounded on the way back to the trenches.

June 23rd - Remained in the earthworks this day.   Everyone is being a bit more careful.  About this time the pickets mutually agreed to stop firing at each other.

June 24th - Relieved from the earthworks about 7 a.m. and moved to the left about a mile and joined the rest of their division.  By noon were established in position in the first line, under a brisk fire on the left of the Jerusalem Road, at a point where the heavy fighting was done on June 22.  They threw up earthworks.  They were now on the ground where Fort Warren, later called Fort Davis, was built.

June 25th - Their friends in the '12th Mass' leave for home today. The two regiments had been together for more than two years.

June 28th - Moved forward 1/2 a mile with the '39th Mass' and built earthworks under the cover of night.  The works are at right angles to the ones in the rear.

June 30th - The works they started on the 28th are completed.  The regiment is complimented for their efficiency in building earthworks, in orders received from General Crawford.  Time is moving slow.   It seemed July 16th would never come.

July 1st - For the first time in the service they receive rations from a private source outside of the government, - the Sanitary Commission, and they are plentiful; canned turkey, chicken, mutton and tomatoes, condensed milk, loaves of bread, lemons, and other things.

July 4th – The bands celebrated by playing all the National airs. The 'Johnnies' in turn played 'Dixie' and 'Bonnie Blue Flag' and all their favorite airs. The day is hot.

July 11th - The enemy artillery opens up and makes things lively for a while. Col. Davis of the 39th Mass. is struck and killed by a piece of shell while sitting in his tent visiting with '13th Mass' surgeon, Dr. Lloyd Hixon.  At night the regiment was moved back to assist in building Fort Warren, later called Fort Davis in honor of the colonel of the 39th Mass.

July 13th - Still at work on the Fort which is laid out to be 400 feet square.  It was hard work that continued day and night, the men being relieved every two hours for rest.  It took eight men to get one shovelful of dirt from the bottom of the ditch to the top of the works, the men standing on little niches cut in the side and passing the earth from one to the next. The walls are 10 feet thick and 8 feet high.

July 14th – Happy Day!  Time is up, Finally!  Eighty men leave the trenches in the front lines and move to the rear. The officers had been busy all night updating the regimental books. All day the men are joined by old comrades who have been away on detached duty.  At 6:00 p.m. they start stepping lightly to City Point 5 miles away, singing the old songs with a joy they hadn’t felt in months. They reach the river at 1 a.m.

The Journey Home, July 15th -  July 21st

July 15th - They board the steamer ‘City of Bath’ at 4 p.m. and take it up the Potomac River. At sunset they anchor at Jamestown, Va.

July 16th - Three years ago this day they were mustered into the service at Fort Independence in Boston. They continue to sail to the mouth of the Potomac River. Their ship anchors at 8 p.m. They stay over night at the ‘Soldier’s Rest’ on Pennsylvania Avenue.

July 17th - They take a tour of Washington, D.C., and visit the Senate Chamber. One of their wounded comrades dies, William F. Brigham, Co. F, who had been with the regiment 3 years. The train for Baltimore leaves at 8 p.m. and arrives at 2 a.m. In Baltimore. They eat at a soldiers' rest and sleep on the sidewalk.

July 19th - They leave Baltimore at 10 p.m. and take a very slow train to Philadelphia, arriving 8 hours later at 6 a.m.

July 20th - They march to the ‘Cooper Shop’ in Philadelphia for breakfast.  They had stopped at this place three years earlier on the way to the front.  They notice many changes. At 8 a.m. they take a train for New York which arrives at 3 o’clock. They march up Broadway to the Park barracks and are fed by the proprietors of the Astor House. They have a ‘Bully’ time until 8 p.m. when 265 men and 17 officers catch a train for Boston via the Boston & Albany Railroad.

July 21st - Large crowds of friends from the various towns greeted them in Worcester as the train pulled in at 6 a.m., after which they proceeded on to Boston. Clarence Bell wrote “The day when the sun shed its brightest rays; when the faces lengthened sideways; was when we caught sight of the familiar dome of the State House, and we knew that we were within the boundaries of the good old town of Boston. How we stretched our necks as we caught the first glimpse of civilization. How we shouted for joy or, silent, absorbed the view, almost delirious with realization!  At last at the depot, we rushed forth to feel the warm grasp of hands; to see kindly beaming eyes, and hear the pleasant voices of kindred and friends.”

The train arrived about 8 a.m.  A large crowd with a band greeted them, many old comrades were there. The band played “Corporal of the Guard Post 8’ one of their favorite songs from the Fort Independence days of ‘61.  They were escorted to Boylston Hall to clean up, when in walked their old brigade commander Gen. George Lucas Hartsuff.  He shook hands with all the men and they gave him three cheers.  He had heard they were in town and came by to see them quite unexpectedly.

They went to the U.S. hotel for breakfast. After eating a parade was formed, and with a large military escort, and band, they marched to Faneuil Hall for a reception. Flags and bunting decorated the streets along the way. A large banner ‘WELCOME HOME THIRTEENTH’ hung on the front gallery. Ladies crowded the hall. Chaplain Noah Gaylord gave a prayer followed by speeches from Mayor Lincoln of Boston, and representatives of the governor.  Colonel Leonard spoke, thanking everyone for the reception and then relating events in the history of the regiment.  Gen. Hartsuff gave a brief speech and Chaplain Gaylord gave the final remarks. They were furloughed until Aug. 1st, when they re-assembled on Boston Common and were mustered out of the service.

Copyright 2008 by Brad Forbush. All rights reserved.

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