Winter Encampment at Mitchell's Station, 1864

“PART 2:  The Journal of Mary Ellen Pierce”

February, 1864.

Wellington, home of dr. Reuben A. Long, 2nd Division Headquarters

First Brigade Headquarters at the home of Dr. Reuben A. Long, Mitchell's Station.  The white disk on the brigade flag identifies this as the First Brigade, 2nd Division.   The home was in the Robertson family for generations.  Dr. Long was a member of that clan.  Another image of the building states that the home was called Wellington, and that it was raised in 1958. Though it is not entirely clear in this image, the right wing is framed by two chimneys connected with a brick arch way giving it an easily identifiable and distinguished facade.  The soldier standing on the left looks like he could be Captain Elliot C. Pierce.  This is probably the home where Mary Ellen Pierce had a 'big time' the evening of February 20, with Mrs. Leonard and the Brigade Officers.  The regiments of the First Brigade were encamped on a ridge to the west of the house, which stood closer to the tracks of the Orange & Alexandria Railroad. 

This image came to me from well known Culpeper Historian Clark "Bud" Hall.  It came to him from the late Brian Pohanka.  I have not been able to track down the source of the image nor find a better copy though presumably it is in some collections at West Point.  I found a different image of this home, (same poor quality) photocopied from a book, among the papers of the late Lon Lacy, historian at Cedar Mountain Battlefield.  Although the image I found clearly identified this home as Wellington, the residence of Dr. Long, the book it came from was not identified.  So the search for the sources continues.

Table of Contents


President Lincoln portrait

The year 1864 was a presidential election year.  President Lincoln was anxious for some positive morale boosting event to happen in the eastern theatre of the war to encourage the people of the North. Things had settled into a stalemate after the July victories of Vicksburg and Gettysburg.  The South was still full of fight, contrary to what people may say today about Gettysburg being a turning point in the war.  It was not, and the Confederacy still had hope the elections of 1864 in the North would bring in a new administration, willing to negotiate a peace settlement with them. 

In this light, General Benjamin Butler’s proposed Cavalry raid on Richmond to release Union prisoners from Belle Isle and Libby Prisons seemed just the thing to gamble on.  Intelligence reported the Confederate Capital was lightly defended.  Unfortunately General Benjamin Butler, though a loyal political general, wasn’t so great at strategy.  Nonetheless President Lincoln gave Butler’s plan his blessing, and ordered the Army of the Potomac to co-operate with him.  This led to the operations along the Rapidan River at Morton’s and Raccoon Fords on February 6th.

  Oddly enough, the month would end with another bold attempt to raid Richmond for the same purposes. The second effort is led by young and daring cavalry General Hugh Judson Kilpatrick, who also gained the President’s favor with a new plan.  And so cavalry raids to Richmond book end the month of February 1864 in terms of election year efforts to generate some positive military news.  Of course, the much deeper and more significant move by the Lincoln Administration in February, was the  appointment of  Ulysses S. Grant to the rank of Lieutenant-General.

But whatever movements the rest of the Army of the Potomac made during the month, the soldiers of the 13th MA were exempt.

General John C. RobinsonMrs Sarah Maria Robinson

General John C. Robinson, and his wife, Sarah Maria (Pease) Robinson.

Their brigade, the First Brigade of General John C. Robinson’s 2nd Division of the 1st Corps, were on out-post duty at Mitchell’s Station, 6 miles south of Culpeper on the Orange & Alexandria Railroad.  And there they would stay. They were the troops closest to the Rebel Army whose pickets were just a few miles south.  Their duty was to assist Union Cavalry  picketing the Rapidan River, and to Guard the Signal Station at Bald Pate, (also called Garnett’s Peak).  The station was located at the Southern most knoll of Cedar Mountain.  The duty was heavy, and kept the soldiers busily occupied, as all the letters home reveal.  Other occasional activities broke up the monotony of camp life.

The brigade’s encampment was large, like a small town, says 13th MA correspondent CLARENCE.  James Ross from the 2nd brigade visited the camp and wrote,    “Their houses are arranged in regular streets all are well built some of the streets have corduroy sidewalks. The privates are better housed there than were our officers. They have a sutler who keeps a regular grocery.  he sells fish, sausage, sugar, tea  spice butter cheese ale &c &c at reasonable prices     then they have a bakery where hot pies and warm biscuits are manufactured.   They seem to be quite at home there and the look of their camp almost made me homesick…”

Not so bad for an army camp closest to the enemy.

Then there were  the Chapel dedications in the 39th MA and 16th ME regiments.  The building of these structures was advocated by the Christian Commission, which provided the canvas roofing for every regiment that chose to accept their offer to build one.   Special events and meetings were held in the Chapels when time or occasion permitted.  The 39th MA  used theirs for Masonic meetings, and a school.  The 16th Maine was used for the celebrations when their Colonel, Charles W. Tilden returned to the regiment from captivity.

The rest of the Army of the Potomac was camped around Culpeper, and stretched to Kelly’s Ford to the east.   The map on the previous page, (January, 1864)  depicts the area from Cedar Mountain & Mitchell's Station up to Culpeper, if you need a review.

The 13th MA had been in this area before, two years prior during General John Pope’s Summer Campaign of 1862.  The 1862 battlefield of Cedar Mountain was just a couple miles away from their  encampment.  Tours of the battlefield were frequent.

Probably the most interesting aspect of the 1864 Winter Encampment is there were women present;  nearly a thousand in the camps of the Army of the Potomac.  These welcome visitors were treated to country rides, concerts, army reviews, tours of the Signal Stations and the battlefield of Cedar Mountain and other special entertainments.  They were allowed to remain in the camps through early March.

The structure of this page is based upon one of these female visitors, Mary Ellen Baker Pierce, wife of Captain Elliot C. Pierce, 13th MA.  Their story kicks off this page.

Mary Ellen kept a journal of her visit, and so a daily record of her activities provides the spine on which to build this page’s narrative.

There are the usual reliable 13th MA sources on this page, but the entries of their source material all seem to follow the same pattern, with a short entry in early February, and then a big jump until we next hear from them around the 22nd or 23rd of the month.  The exception would be two more letter excerpts from Sergeant George Henry Hill, –– though short they are insightful. Mary Ellen’s journal fills in the gaps.

Edwin Forbes sketch of one of the Bucktails, April 30 1863

It was challenging to try and discover all the officers she mentioned in her journal, yet that is what I did for several months, rounding out this page with their varied experiences during the war.  I was especially impressed with several discoveries.  Major Tom Chamberlin wrote a very good history of 150th Penna. Vols., one of the “Bucktail” Regiments.  Dr. Gordon Winslow was an amazing personage of advanced age and incredible stamina, who did wonders for the war effort.  The military career of Captain Harry C. Egbert was another welcome find.  These are just a few that stand out to me.  Many others are on the page, including a picture of  “WIGGINS” the Signal Officer at Garnet’s Peak.

The content is broad, eclectic, and a bit hard to take in, all in one sitting. And it can be arranged somewhat randomly, based on the activities Mary Ellen recorded in her journal.  The following outline is presented to clarify the contents of each section of this page.  To all my readers, I hope you enjoy it.

What's On This Page

                                                                “Prologue:  Elliot & Mary Ellen ”
        This section tells the story of the courtship of Elliot C. Pierce and Mary Ellen Baker.

                                                                “Early February:  Picket Duty”
        Contains, a letter of Warren H. Freeman with pictures of the 13th MA Battle Flags; Stories from Sergeant. Austin C. Stearns and Charles Davis, 13th MA;  Mary Ellen’s Journal February 3d –– 6th, a stroll around Culpeper; then, a Boston Transcript article about the number of Rebel Deserters coming into Union lines;  a Boston Transcript article about former 13th MA Chaplain Noah M. Gaylord, now in charge of Campbell Hospital in Washington, D.C.; a commentary by Major Chamberlin on the obsession for the new game of Poker that swept through the army;  and finally, comments from the 39th MA & 13th MA regarding orders to march, February 6th; which were  countermanded.

                                                “The First Corps At Raccoon Ford, February 6th 1864”
        Summary marching orders for the Army of the Potomac; Narrative summary of the march from the 150th PA, Maj. Chamberlin; Letter of James Ross, 9th NY, at Garnett’s Peak with pictures of the site of the Lookout Station & descriptive visit to the 1st Brigade camp.

                                    “Ladies In Camp; Battlefield Tours; Riding Excursions & Reviews”
        Sam Webster, 13th MA gets a tour of Cedar Mountain, (with special video link); Mary Ellen’s Journal, February 8th–- 11th.  She rides to Garnett’s Peak, & meets Lt. Wiggins; Major Abner Small, 16th Maine, visits Robert, a 100 year old former slave of George Washington;  Mary Ellen’s Journal entry February 12th;  She rides along with Division commander General John C. Robinson and Staff to various campsites and attends reviews with appropriate commentary by Major Chamberlin, 150th PA.

Panoramic View of the Blue Ridge

Panoramic View of the Blue Ridge Mountains looking to the west,  as seen just below Garnett's Peak. Thoroughfare Mountain is the darker ridge on the right, which was also used as a signal station by both sides during the war.  It is near Madison Court-House.

                                            “Re-Enlistment Redux & George Henry Hill Letter”
        A brief explanation of the Army’s efforts to get veteran soldiers whose term is about to expire to re-enlist for another 3 years;  Reports from the 9th NY and 107th PA regarding this effort;  Charles Davis says the men of the 13th were reluctant to re-enlist, followed by a list of those who did;  Austin Stearns tells the tale of scoundrel Walter S. C. Heath;  George Henry Hill explains his decision not to re-enlist;  a Harper’s Weekly editorial is harshly critical of Democrats who oppose the “Administration.”  (This ties into comments George Henry made to his father.)

                                        “Letter of James Ross, 9th NY;  Train Ride to Culpeper”
        Private James Ross’s outpost duty at Garnett's Peak ends and his finely detailed journey to Culpeper to re-join the rest of his unit makes for entertaining reading.

1700's woman with soldier

                                     “Mary Ellen’s Visitors”
        Mary Ellen’s Journal entries from February 15 –– February 20th. Sprinkled in-between are photos of all the officers in and out of the 13th MA she mentions.  Brief biographies are included here of Colonel Edmund Dana, Major Thomas Hall, & Major Thomas Chamberlin, all from the 1st Brigade, 3rd Division of the First Corps.  Then a spread of photos of 13th MA personnel in her orbit are pictured, followed by a brief profile of Captain Charles H. Porter, 39th MA.  Mary Ellen describes activities February 20th, as a pretty big time.  She toured Cedar Mountain, and at night attended the 39th MA Chapel Dedication.  A substantial excerpt from the history of the 39th MA detailing the workmanship of the Chapel and its use as a school follows; then a photo essay, of Cedar Mountain Battlefield, then & now, concludes this section.

                                 “Escape from Libby Prison”
        Ironically, the prisoners confined at Libby did a much better job of springing themselves, than the two botched Cavalry Raids to Richmond which were planned.  Several newspaper accounts detail the prison break, including a snarky Southern reaction to the breakout from the Richmond Enquirer.  (I've peppered the Southern editorial with a snarky Jack Davis illustration.)  The 13th Regiment’s own Captain, Morton Tower, was one of the successful escapees, and his memoirs are reprised on this page.  (The full memoir was posted on the “Aftermath; Gettysburg” page of this website 6 years ago.)  I highly recommend either version for an exciting retelling of the escape.

                                                                                “Picket Duty”
            George Henry explains to his father the perilous position and arduous picket duty for which the brigade is responsible.  Austin Stearns tells of some of the antics and tricks the men played on each other to relieve the monotony of army life.  (––Poor Nat Seaver.)  And, the 39th MA history confirms one of Stearns’ stories,  in which the unruly Al Sanborn of Company K,  picked a fight with some soldiers in the 39th MA.  A second welcome letter of Warren Freeman is dated February 22 & 23.  He gives the news from the regiment and thanks his family for the recent box they sent to him.  Like George Henry Hill, he looks forward to going home in a few short months.  Neither man would get that chance due to circumstances beyond their control.  A few short entries from Sam Webster, repeated by Charles Davis, follow, in which one of the substitutes sets fire to the picket guard house.  The fire illuminates the way for an officer of the 80th IL to find his way to the Union lines, after escaping from Libby Prison.  The section closes with another letter from James Ross.  There was a 1st Corps review near Culpeper, which none of my sources in the First Brigade give any mention, (except one sentence in the 16th Maine).  None of them attended, but  James Ross once again gives a beautiful description of the emotions of the event.  He then makes some pointed observations about the black population of Culpeper, with the final observation, that any Northern man, who sees the institution of slavery in operation, comes to detest it, regardless of his prior political feelings.   He writes, “The idea of keeping them in servitude because of their color is pure nonsense…”

                                                 “Mary Ellen’s Guests & The Sanitary Commission”
        Mary Ellen's journal entries for  February 21 & 22, give way to biographies of Dr. Cyrus N. Chamberlain, one of the surgeons recently in charge of the huge Camp Letterman Field Hospital at Gettysburg, which closed November 10, 1863. Dr. Chamberlain also ran an embalming business while at Gettysburg.  I wonder if he had any interesting stories for the dinner table?    A biography of Dr. Gordon Winslow follows.  A former Chaplain in the 5th NY Zouaves,  and aide to General G. K. Warren, he later worked  as a Sanitary Commission Agent at Gettysburg, assisting with vital  hospital work.   His accomplishments are broad and significant. He was 60 years old in 1864.

1700's woman, soldier, and horse

Mary Ellen’s journal entries continue, February 23rd –– 29th.  She attends a cavalry review, and sees  several 13th MA officers, coming and going during the week.  Biographies of Major Edward Carey Baird and career military officer, Lieutenant Harry C. Egbert follow.  Egbert's military record is particularly fascinating, at least to me. 

The work of the Sanitary Commission, or members of that organization kept popping up in Mary Ellen’s journal, and also in the various narratives on this page, so I added a short description of their work.  It actually deserves a much more extensive treatment.  A very important article follows, written by Sanitary Commission Agent, Mr. William A. Hovey, one of Mary Ellen’s visitors.  He explains in an August 1863 letter to the Boston Transcript, the organization of the Ambulance System in the Army, and how it works.  Its a great learning aid and ends this section.

                   “The Close of the Month”
        As it would happen, several un-related subjects close out the narrative of the First Brigade for the month of February 1864.  The 16th Maine dedicates their chapel;  Cedar Mountain catches fire;  Confederate Deserters continue to cross the river into Union lines;  General Grant is appointed Lt. General of the Armies, and Kilpatrick’s Raid to Richmond begins.  Much of this is mentioned in 13th MA correspondent CLARENCE’s February 29th letter to the Boston Transcript.

Again, this is a lot to get through ––but there are lots of pictures and other diversions to make it worthwhile!


I would like to acknowledge the "The American Civil War Research Database"  at http://civilwardata.com, which I finally joined.  The database subscription for $25/ year proved invaluable in helping to identify several of the officers in Mary Ellen's Journal.

Also, the Massachusetts Historical Society, and the Thayer Family Papers, and Thayer Family Photographs Collection.

PICTURE CREDITS:  All Images are from the LIBRARY OF CONGRESS DIGITAL COLLECTIONS with the following exceptions:   Photo of Colonel Leonard & his wife Lucy, courtesy of private collector Jeff Kowalis.  Portraits of Elliot C. Pierce, Captain William L. Clark, Lt. Charles F. Hulse, Lt. Norman H. Camp, Surgeon Henry Hedge Mitchell, Chaplain Noah M. Gaylord, Harewood Hospital, Captain Charles McClure,  Dr. A. W. Whitney, Lt. John C. Wiggin, Colonel William A. Leech & his wife Hannah; Captain Bill Cary, Captain Oscar F. Morse, Lt-Col. N. Walter Batchelder, David H. Bradlee, Lieutenants Loring W. Muzzey & George E. Muzzey,  Major Thomas Chamberlin, Captain O. C. Livermore, Captain Jacob A. Howe, Captain Charles H. Porter, Surgeon Charles Alexander, Colonel Samuel Perkins Spear, Captain Morton Tower, Dr. Cyrus N. Chamberlain, Dr. Gordon Winslow & his son Captain Cleveland Winslow, Mr. William A. Hovey and Colonel Leonard are from, U.S. Army Heritage Education Center, Carlilsle, PA, MASS MOLLUS Collection; Portraits of Mary Ellen Baker Pierce, William Henry Baker, & Hannah Francis Pierce are from the MA Historical Society, Thayer Family Photographs Collection, used with permission;   Portrait of Major Thomas Hall, from 121st  Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, by the Survivors Association, Philadelphia, PA, 1893.  Photograph of Sergeant George Henry Hill is from descendant Carol Robbins;  1st Portrait of Colonel S. H. Leonard in prologue is from Digital Commonwealth at: https://www.digitalcommonwealth.org; Portraits of Colonel P. Stearns Davis, & Lt.-Col. Charles L. Pierson are from “The Thirty-ninth Regiment Massachusetts Volunteers, 1862-1865;” by Alfred S. Roe, 1914.  Portrait of Chaplain Edward Beecher French was found at Findagrave Memorial, posted by Peter Preble;  Lieutenants Charles Ricketts, Harry C. Egbert & Major Edward Carey Baird are from "The American Civil War Research Database"  at http://civilwardata.com;   Pictures of the Flags of the Thirteenth Massachusetts, are from The Massachusetts State House Museum Collection, Boston, Massachusetts;  Pictures of the Rixey Mansion in Culpeper were sent to me from John Christiansen, Executive Director of the Culpeper Museum of History, Culpeper, Virginia; Other photos of Culpeper were downloaded from digital articles posted by the Culpeper Star Exponent;  Edwin Forbes B&W illustrations, “Mired” and "Cavalry Review" are from his book, “Thirty Years After, An Artist’s Memoir of the Civil War” Louisiana State University Press, 1993;   Images from Harper’s Weekly including “Officers Gambling” (cropped), "Hound Dogs Chasing Prisoners," "Cavalry Rescuing Escaped Prisoners,"  "Pickets around a Campfilre" & "Negroes Helping Union Soldiers,"  are from sonofthesouth.net ;  Winslow Homer illustrations, "Furlough" and "Bivouack Fire on the Potomac" are from "Echo Of A Distant Drum, Winslow Homer and the Civil War" by Julian Grossman, Harry Abrams Publisher, New York;  David Levine Illustration of Keg is from "Rip Van Winkle & The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" 1966, MacMillan Co., N.Y.;  Wallace Tripp illustration of General Grant is from, "Marguerite, Go Wash Your Feet."  Frank Beard illustration of soldier waking another is from "What A Boy Saw In The War" by Jesse Bowman Young, 1894, Hunt & Eaton, NY; GIlbert Gaul  painting, “Soldiers Marching on a Rutted Lane”  found at Mutual Art; www.mutualart.com;   Illustrations of the lady on horseback are from "The Young Lady’s Equestrian Manual" Anonymous, Project Gutenberg accessed January 10, 2024.  Escape from Libby:   Colonel Thomas E. Rose, from, 'Photographic History of the Civil War in 10 Vols.', Francis Trevelyan Miller & Robert S. Lainier,  NY, Review of Reviews Company, 1911;  Portrait of  Major A. G. Hamilton & Walton Tabor's illustration of Tunneling at Libby, are from Civil War Times Illustrated, October 1970 issue. All contemporary images of locations in Culpeper County are by the author and webmaster, Bradley M. Forbush unless otherwise noted.  Fire on the Mountain excepted.   ALL IMAGES HAVE BEEN EDITED IN PHOTOSHOP.

Return to Table of Contents

Prologue; A Brief Look at the Military Career and Courtship of Elliot C. Pierce

The  Colonel and the Sergeant-Major

Elliot C. Pierce

Elliot C. Pierce is an important person in the story of the 13th MA Volunteers.

Our best glimpse of him comes at the beginning, and then at the end of the regiment’s three years of service.   Some of Elliot’s early war letters home are preserved in the Thayer Family Papers collection, at the Massachusetts Historical Society.  Later, his diary of 1864, also preserved, carries his record to the end of service in July that year.  He was the 3rd Ranking officer in the regiment throughout the Overland Campaign.

He is noted for his rapid advancement within the ranks of the 13th Regiment, and for being the particular friend of Colonel Samuel H. Leonard.

Prior to and during the war, Leonard and his brother Fred, were partners in Leonard's Worcester Express, a  business their father started out of Worcester, Massachusetts.  Papers from the Pierce family at the Massachusetts Historical Society suggest they were also in the Express business, out of Weymouth.    Elliot enters the 13th MA with the rank of Sergeant-Major in July, 1861. He was a late addition to the unit, most of the men organized in April.  This particular letter excerpt, dated September 22, 1861, shows the familiar terms he had with the colonel.

“Thursday morning we were routed out of bed at 2, and ordered to make hot coffee, and be in readiness to March in light order.  That is without any baggage but blanket + overcoat, at the earliest moment, in ten min't” hot fires were snapping in ten mins more hot coffee was ready, and we drank and waited  Watching the signals for the one which was to start us.  I gave it up and turned in with Arms and boots on, by 3 and slept untill six

“I told the Col next morning I wished he would not wake me next time unless he saw the white in the enemys eyes, he smiles and says, we can’t get along without the Sergt-Major.”

Pierce’s early war letters depict a genial, creative, upper-class young man, of fine humor, trying to find his way in a new environment –– the volunteer army.  Like all educated young men in the military he was eager for advancement.  But, like others in the 13th Regiment, he sounds particular about where he wanted to serve.

He wrote his sister Hannah Francis, on  Sept 18, 1861,  just after a few weeks at the front:

“I think I could take a Captains Com [commission]  in the 19th, [MA] but they looked so hard  I was disgusted and thot it better to stay where I am at present.”

Colonel Samuel H. Leonard

Colonel Leonard [pictured] must have promised Elliot an officer’s commission as soon as an opening occurred.  Elliot enlisted late in the 13th, with the rank of Sergeant-Major.  In January 1862, Elliot jumped the line of 10 second-lieutenants and was appointed first-lieutenant of Company H.  I don’t know that Pierce had any particular military experience that qualified him for the leap.  The writings of Second-Lieutenant Charles B. Fox, an honest officer and fair judge of character, who was eager for promotion himself, noted in a letter to his father the preference granted Pierce in the line of promotion.

Lt. Fox wrote of Col. Leonard:

“He is charged by some with favoritism, but until I know what influence is brought to bear on appointments at home, I am not prepared to endorse that.”

 “There being no difference in date of commissions at the start the seniority of officers, instead of being established by lot, was taken by the Company letter ––“A” being first “B” second, and so on.   This gave the seniority to the 4th Battalion Officers, and the first chances to them. [1st Battalion = Companies A through D] Then two sergeants, good men, but no better than others, were jumped over the whole line of 2d Lieutenants and made 1st Lieutenants.” [Charles B. Fox, Letter to Father,  28 June, 1862. Fox Family Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.]

When Captain William L. Clark of Company H resigned his commission, July 25,1862,  it was 1st Lieutenant Pierce who filled the vacancy,  ––just six months following his first promotion.  And, once again he passed over others with seniority of rank.  His first promotion into Company H, met with objection by the townspeople of Natick, where the company was organized.  They wanted one of their own volunteers to be promoted.  But by the time Pierce replaced Captain Clark at the head of the company he had the support of the men in Company H with whom he had gained popularity.   And, the officials from the town of Natick, also supported his appointment to captain (which they stated non-nonchalantly in a letter to the colonel).

Pierce’s personal communications suggest he strived to do his job well and seemed to grow into his ever increasing responsibilities as an officer.

On August 3, 1862 he wrote from Waterloo, VA to his sister, Hannah Francis Pierce, (whom they called "Fanny.")  (Hannah Pierce pictured):

Hannah Francis Pierce

“Some people may suppose its fun to be in command of a Company It might be if the 98 men  composing the company were all the best of men and intent only on doing their duty, or were all agreed upon what is duty but where there are 98 minds all of whom Must succumb to the one ruling mind who is supposed to have the Army Rules & Regulations at his tongues ends.

“At Reveille the Commander Must be present at Roll Call and see to it that the Men are all present, up & dressed, the  Sergeant makes out the report which the Captain or commander verifies and signs.

“At 1 Company Drill, two hours... the Capt must be, familiar as household roods with the Minutia of the Manuel of Arms, and Company Movements and is expected to Ding it into the heads of Shoe makers, Students, farmers, fishermen, doughhearts dunces, loafers and gentlemen, as the case may be, of course the Mixture is strange in a Volunteer Corps, and every phase of character May be seen.

“Tis a fine opportunity for the study of human nature.  It comes rather hard for Men who have been their own Masters for so Many years to salute a little fellow like your younger brother and ask him for a pass to go twenty feet(?) from Camp.  Think of my telling a hoosier 6 feet 3, that if he does not hold his gun straight or look (illegible)  right when I say “right dress”  I 'll put him on knapsack drill for two hours for such is discipline...

“...If the heat is too intense we lie quiet during midday, and the afternoon  Battl.  Drill takes place just after dress  parade at Sunset.  Roll Call again at Tattoo 9 P.M.  and Taps at 9.30....

“...During the day theres 50 things to do, such as making requisitions for food daily, Weekly reports  then Quarterly reports of sick, well, invalid and discharged, & deserted soldiers Arms & Equipments U.S. property of all kind.  Each Captains personally responsible for, and must keep a list of the same also Report Books Order Book and a Descriptive Book with the description of every Man in the Co.  

“Bless Me.  Who’d be a Captain.”

Throughout his early war correspondence with Hannah, Elliot mentions writing and receiving  letters to and from his fiance, Mary Ellen Baker.  Mary is also close to Elliot’s sister Hannah Francis. In a letter dated September 22, 1861, written to her brother, 'Fanny' writes:

“Last Tuesday after noon, I commenced the long talked of cone frame for the boquet of Autumn leaves.  Mary came to assist, instruct and delight me with her sweet presence.

“Mary and I worked awhile by ourselves, talking much of you and wishing you could peep in at us &c.  We knew you would like to.  “Did you bring any of Elliots letters” said I,  “yes” said Mary,  “I will read them to you, if you will get yours and we’ll take them in ‘corse”.    Cone frames were forgotten then and we were soon with the 13th going through with you the various scenes,  you so graphically describe.”

A Family Tragedy

Mary Ellen had a brother, William Henry Baker, one year older, whom she called “Buddy,” (born March 23, 1842).  Both Mary Ellen and William kept diaries.  We learn from William Henry’s diary of 1861 he was keenly caught up in the military excitement generated by the war.

April 20, 1861;  “Meeting at Town House this evening to form a military company …got 51 names.”

May 8, 1861; “The Weymouth company left here this morning for Fort Warren…all around here came to see them off…”

June 2, 1861;  “Sailed down to Fort Warren to see the soldiers.  They all seem to be having a good time & got home about 6 o’clock.”

June 12, 1861;  “Commenced this evening to learn military tactics, of Willie Clap.”

July 28, 1861;  “Drill Club in the evening WH Clapp drill master.”

William Henry Baker

In the Summer of 1862, twenty year old William signed up as a recruit in the 13th MA Vols.,  Company H, then led by his sister’s fiancé, Captain Elliot C. Pierce.  He deferred his college education to do so.

At a special meeting of Harvard Faculty, dated July 15, 1862, William’s name turns up on a list of 5 students, out of about 55, admitted on probation to the next freshman class at Harvard.  The 5 students listed were those,  “Who did not join the class.”  William decided to post-pone his Harvard education to do his part in the Union War effort.   How much influence Elliot had on William’s decision is unknown.  But aggressive recruiting efforts and patriotic speeches were widespread in the community during the Summer of 1862.  William enlisted, joined the regiment in the field on August 18, 1862, with about 75 other Summer Recruits, and disappeared 12 days later, August 30, 1862 at the 2nd Battle of Bull Run.

That battle was the bloody initiation of the 13th Regiment to the real horror of war, after vigorous service of more than a year.  The regiment lost 38 killed and about 189 wounded in twenty minutes.

Captain Elliot C. Pierce was wounded in the left hip.  His friend, former captain, William L. Clarke, traveled to Washington D.C. to check on Elliot in the hospital.  Clark wrote to Mary Ellen, from Brown’s Hotel on September 4th:

“I arrived here this morning at 8 o’clock.  Elliot is quite comfortable, being without fever since last evening –– and having good quarters and attendance.  His wound is in an uncomfortable place on the left side where every motion of his body hurts him.  On my entrance to his room this morning I found him sitting upon the edge of the bed.  He is in excellent spirits and I shall use my best efforts to obtain a pass from the Provost Marshall to enable him to get home.  I learn with much regret that among the missing is the name of your brother, he is not wounded or killed, as all of both are accounted for.  He will probably come in either as a straggler or paroled prisoner.  Every hour brings them to light.”

Tragically that never happened.  William Henry Baker was later added to the list of those killed in the battle. He served just twelve days in the field with the regiment.  His body was recovered and interred at Weymouth with other family members.  The circumstances of his death remain a mystery. One record suggests he at least made it to a hospital before he died.

“The recruits (unarmed) kept up with the regiment until reaching the brow of the hill, [Chinn Ridge] when the fire from the “rebs” became so hot that every man was obliged to lie down for safety.  We remained in this position but a few moments, when the order was given to advance.  As the men arose and closed the ranks the shot and shell came thicker and faster.  The wounded were rapidly going to the rear; some assisted by comrades, others alone or in groups. 

“The incessant volleys of lead and iron were rapidly mowing the ranks, when our men began to fall back overpowered by the force of the concentrated enemy before them.  The unarmed recruits were powerless, and being without specific orders, acted upon their own judgment or discretion.  Several of them bravely seized the abandoned muskets of wounded and disabled comrades, and pluckily took their vacated places in the ranks, while some who were not sufficiently thoughtful to secure a means of defence in this manner, valiantly assisted the wounded from the field.”  [From the article, "How We Joined the Army, The Story of a Raw Recruit" by Charles H. Bingham, 13th Regiment Association Circular #9, December 1896.]

Mary Ellen Baker Pierce

Mary Ellen didn't record her reaction to the sad news of her brother's death in her 1862 diary.   Entries are fairly complete through April 21. They drop off completely except for a few entries in late April and early May.  After a long blank period she wrote on August 6,  “Bud enlisted.”  The next entry Aug. 13 says, “Bud left Boston to day.”  There are no further entries until October 29, in which she wrote:

“To night I promised Rev Mr. Gaylord, that I would be Elliots wife and love him through life, & I mean to make him a faithful one”

Rev. Noah Gaylord was the Chaplain of the 13th Mass.  From here, the regular diary entries resume, but there is no mention of Buddy or his death.

Elliot remained with Mary in Weymouth,  recuperating from his wounds,  until November 11th, when he left to rejoin the regiment, then at Rappahannock Station, Virginia.  She wrote:

“My darling husband left me to day.  Oh how lonely I am now that I know he is gone.  but I’ll soon go to him.”

Return to Service with the Ambulance Corps; 1863

Elliot returned to the 13th Mass., in time for the Battle of Fredericksburg.  The regiment acted as skirmishers for the Left Grand Division at night on the 12th of December, and remained in front of the enemy lines through the 13th, until the armies engaged.  Consequently, when the lines advanced into bloody combat, the regiment fell back to replenish their depleted ammunition.  Their casualties were very light at this bloody debacle of a battle.  Still, Elliot wrote home to his mother, of all the sad inquiries he has to answer Dead or Captured?   He can only think of the killed comrades and is very sad.

Amidst the sadness Elliot somehow retained his good humor.  During General Burnside’s infamous Mud March, Elliot wrote Mary an amusing letter.  Laughing at the absurdity of the situation was probably the best way to deal with it.

 Bivouac.  Near the
Rappahannock west of
Falmouth Va. Jan 22/63

My dear Mary

            We Moved Tuesday Morn'g and at night a severe storm of wind + rain came upon us,  we still Marched till Yester-eve. And here, what that is left of the Army of Potomac, are stuck fast, + stuck deep in the Mud

Such a sight as the Army now presents never was seen before I fancy – We are stuck in the Mud – bivouacked in the Mud – sleep, in Mud – eat, in Mud   drink, in Mud.  If we do Move, we shall Move in Mud.  I am sitting in Mud as I write – do not wonder therefore if I sign Myself


On January 31st a plumb offering came his way.  Captain Pierce was ordered by First Corps Medical Director John Theodore Heard, formerly Assistant Surgeon of the 13th MA, to report to the Ambulance Corps.  For the rest of 1863, Elliot Pierce was Chief of the First Army Corps Ambulance Train.

Captain William L. Clark, Company H

His friend Clark wrote:

“I understand Captain Charles Hovey  has also a good thing being detailed as ‘brigade inspector’ but it don’t to me appear to shine anywhere beside your ‘posish.’  I shall anxiously await the arrival of the order “no. 147” with particulars but from what you say it must be a “sweet” thing and “comfortable to bear.”  Of course the Department permit you a selection of horses for your “movement.”  It would be ungrateful to oblige a good horseman to bestride anything that comes along.”  [Letter, William Clark to Elliot, 16 April 1863, Thayer Family Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.]

Elliot’s diary excerpts reveal the kind of work he did.

[Sunday] May 12. [1863]
        Moved pursuant to orders at day break   Arrived at Banks Ford 10.30  crossed on Pontoon Boat under flag of Truce  repaired to wooden [?] Hospital and report to Dr James  removed by [May 13]  Stretchers and Ambulance loaned by Genl W.  135 Men Mostly 6th Corps men  a few 3d Corps   Dr. John N. Pickett NY  very efficient.  Lt Woods comd'g 6th Corps A. C. [Ambulance Corps] arrived about 12.30  Sent 15 stretchers and 30 men over the river   I sent 100 men  50 stretchers over.

[Tuesday] May 14.
          35 Ambl 6th Corps 100 1st, 37  6th Corps  5-3?  -2-5th-1-12th  loaded that night and reto [return] early on Tuesday.

Wednesday 15.
        Moved with 100 Ambulances to U.S. Ford at day light  reached F. [Falmouth?] at noon   delayed two hour by Pontoon bridge,  crossed at 2 P.M. were paroled and went forward to Chanle [Chancellorsville] arrived [May 16] at Hospitals just dark  report to Dr Swickley  went into park  loaded at day light 300 wounded recrossed the river by noon.

The pages are then blank until some sporadic entries in late May through June 11.  Captain Pierce was just as active at Gettysburg.  His diary relates the hard marches north and then briefly notes collecting the wounded.

July 1.  Wednesday. Moved at 7 A. M.  Arrived at Gettysburg about 10.  Engaged the Rebel forces upon the north of the town.  Gen R. [Reynolds] killed  Lose our position and the town by 4 P. M.  Carried 130 wounded to the rear.

July 2.  2nd Corps arrived and relieved 1st  Skirmishing in the Morning
1st, 2nd, 3d, 5th, 6th, 11th & 12 Corps on the g’d [ground]  Severe fighting on both flanks fr. [from]  4 til dark  All night recovering wounded

July 3  Friday
Terrible fighting on the Centre and right   heavy artillery firing   Enemy chgd [charged] 3 times and repulsed with great Slaughter.

July 4.  Saturday  Took possession of the town  [Gettysburg] early in the morning  5000 prisoners taken.  Removed wounded from town.  Enemy’s sharp shooters fire upon us in town.  All quiet

July 5. Sunday   Enemy evacuated.  took possession of the battlefield   many dead still unburied   removed wounded from the late battlefield  Corps under marching orders.  Worked all night removing wounded

July 6. Monday  Brot the remainder of Wounded into town.  Corps moved at 6 A.M.  Ambulance Corps fol. at 10.  arrived at near Emetsburg at 5 P. M.  10 miles.

The rest of the entries follow the marches of the 1st Corps without any particularly divergent details.  The Ambulance Corps followed the army’s movements til the end of 1863.  They advanced to the Rapidan river in September, went north to Centreville in the Bristoe campaign, South of the Rapidan during the Mine Run Campaign, and into winter quarters at Culpeper Christmas Eve.  (Note, there is an article explaining the organization of the Ambulance Corps and how it worked near the bottom of this page in the “Sanitary Commission” section.)

Elliot is with his wife Mary in Boston on January 7th for a 10 day leave.  They will travel to Culpeper by train together on January 18th, 1864.  Colonel Leonard was present to see them off from Boston.  They rode the cars from Washington, D.C. to Culpeper on a special train provided for 1st Corps Commander General John Newton and his wife.   For 6 weeks, Elliot and Mary Ellen would be together in Culpeper.  This page contains all the diary entries Mary Ellen recorded for the month of February.

Promotion to Major

  Captain Pierce would leave the Ambulance Corps, and return to the 13th MA in April to assume the rank of Major in time for the upcoming Overland Campaign.  We will hear more from him as that campaign unfolds. 

Major Pierce was on duty as Division Field Officer, the day the regiment left the front lines at Petersburg, to prepare for the journey home.  Their 3 year term of enlistment was up.  He wrote in his diary:

“I was relieved from this duty about noon of the [July] 14th and rejoined the regiment, afternoon that day.  So I was at the extreme front being in command of Division Picket lines (when) the 13th left the earthworks. – E.L.P.”  This made him the last man of the original 13th MA to leave the front.

Elliot luckily finished out his term of service with an admirable rank, free from further wounds, and returned to civilian life.  He was very active in post-war regimental activities.  And, from what can be determined, both Elliot and Mary Ellen lived happily ever ––after reaching a nice old age together. They died two years apart.

Return to Table of Contents

Early February; Picket Duty

Sergeant Warren Freeman wrote a letter home on the 1st of February making it an appropriate starter to this page of the history.

Letter of Warren H. Freeman Picket Duty

Most of February in the regiment was consumed doing extensive Picket Duty.  Warren's letter reflects the common themes shared by all the other soldiers in their brigade; namely picket duty and the large number of Rebel Deserters that cross into Union lines.  Then he touches upon the regimental flags on display at the Boston State House.

At the end of this letter, Warren mentions his Company A comrade, Herbert A. Reed, who has returned to the regiment and is awaiting court-martial for desertion.  Herbert Reed is frequently mentioned in the letters of Albert Liscom, on this website, when Liscom was recuperating in hospitals around Washington D.C., from debilitating health during the Autumn and Winter months of 1862-1863.  Herbert Reed's trial took place in April, and I have the paper-work for it.  It  be will posted  accordingly on this web site page for April, 1864.  In short, Reed was let off the hook, because the Judges declared the charges & evidence against him were presented in such a poor manner, there was no other decision to be made.

From “Letters from Two Brothers Serving in the War for the Union,”  Printed for Private Circulation, Cambridge, 1871.

Mitchell’s Station, Va.February 1, 1864.    

Dear Father and Mother, –– I think I have received three letters from you since I wrote last, for which you have many thanks.

Warren H. Freeman

I was out on picket recently when a great strapping rebel deserter came in  and gave himself up.  He said he was very hungry, and one of the boys gave him a large piece of bread, for which he tendered a fifty dollar rebel bank note.  Our boy would not receive it, but said if he had a fifty cent note he would take it as a matter of curiosity.  He was rather talkative, and represented their cause in a most hopeful manner.  A considerable number of deserters have come to our lines since we have been encamped here.

You say you were much interested in viewing the returned regimental colors as they are now arranged at the State House.  I suppose we have one set there.  Those that we have here now are tattered and torn.  The national flag was struck in the staff and shattered by a bullet, but we have it splintered up.  The ball struck between the color bearer’s hands as he held it.  The other (state) flag was all stained with the blood of a man that was struck by a shell and thrown against it.  You speak of some flags that are quite whole and clean, and emblazoned all over in large gilt letters, giving the names of the battles they have been engaged in.  I suppose they must belong to the pet regiments, those that have been encamped about Newbern and some other favored localities.  I never saw such flags in all my tramps –– nor heard of them before.

Herbert Reed is enjoying good health; he seems as happy as a clam; he is singing away merrily and bothers me some while I am writing, as I pause often to listen to him;  he is to be tried next week for desertion; he is under arrest, but allowed to be with the company. But I must close.


Flags of the 13th Regiment

In his letter, Warren mentions the first set of Regimental Colors on display at the Massachusetts State  House.  They were sent home when replacements arrived.  The State Flag pictured below was sent there after the battle of Fredericksburg, but the National Color pictured was not returned until the end of service in August, 1864.

13th MA National ColorsFirst State Colors, 13th MA

Massachusetts State House Flag Collection; State House Boston, Massachusetts.  Pictured are Presentational National.  [1987.410] Presented by Hogg, Brown & Taylor Co. of Boston, purveyors of drygoods, 30 July 1861.  Returned to Sergeant-at-Arms 1 August 1864.  Made by Thomas Savory of Boston. First State Color.  [1987.407] Issued 30 July 1861 (Boston Daily Journal, Herald) Received by Adjutant-General 9 March  1863.  On unusual pole, lower half square in cross-section with corners also beveled (making it eight faced:  four broad faces and four narrow faces); upper half of pole round.  Originally mounted with tall ox-tongue blade (now missing) held to staff by socket.  Notes by Steven W. Hill, Flag Historian, April 10, 1995.


Map of the Infantry Picket Line & Cavalry Picket Line, 1864

This map shows the part of the picket line the First Brigade was responsible for covering, the rest patrolled by cavalry.  Much of the ground the infantry picketed is disrupted by a quarry today, and inaccessible.  Fortunately the sight of the encampment is un-disturbed.  The Signal Station is not marked on this map but was at the hill delineated to the left of Yeager's and the road "Patrolled every half hour."

Charles Davis, Jr., the regimental historian of the 13th MA, doesn't write much concerning the month of February.  Like Warren Freeman and Sam Webster, letters and journal entries give a brief mention of picket duty, and the February 6 Skirmishes, then jump to later in the month before anything else interesting is noted.  Mary Ellen Pierce's diary entries fill out most of this page.

The following is from, “Three Years in the Army,” by Charles E. Davis, Jr; Estes & Lauriat, Boston, 1894.

Our brigade, consisting of the Thirteenth Massachusetts, the One Hundred and Fourth New York, the Sixteenth Maine, the One Hundred and Seventh Pennsylvania, and the Thirty-ninth Massachusetts, was now encamped for the winter at Mitchell’s Station, on the Orange & Alexandria Railroad; the remainder of the division being stationed near Culpeper and Pony Mountain.  We remained in this camp doing outpost duty for the Army of the Potomac until April 26.

There was a deal of anxiety and hard work about this picket duty, and on several occasions regiments were sent down from corps head-quarters to relieve us of some of the strain.   Our picket lines were so close to the enemy that the sound of rebel drums could be plainly heard.  The most continual watchfulness was required to prevent surprises.  Each day one regiment of the brigade was kept “under arms” in readiness to repel a sudden attack.  This service was performed in turn, as was also that of picket duty.  The line was daily invaded by deserters from the enemy, often coming in groups of a dozen, with tales of hardships and destitutions which their army was contending with;  informing us, also, that more were preparing to come, and that it took a considerable force to prevent these desertions.

From our previous experience we were led to take about as much stock in these yarns as we did in the stories of contrabands.

The following is from “Three Years in Company K,” by Sergeant Austin C. Stearns (deceased); Edited By Arthur A. Kent,  Associated University Press; 1976.

The incident related below about the 90th PA officer on picket duty in stormy weather, happened in April, but I included it here because it fits in so well with the rest of the narratives on this page.  The 90th PA didn't arrive to support the First Brigade on picket duty until April 4th.

We used to go out about two miles to the picket post and stay three days at a time. We were divided into three reliefs, one on the posts, one held under arms at the reserve post, and the other could sleep at the reserve, but all were supposed to wear their equipments.  Our turn came once in about six days, or three days out and six days in camp.  Brigade guard mounting was strictly adheared to, which in cold or stormy weather made it extremely disagreeable to us.

Picket duty in a snow storm 

I remember of being out at one time when it stormed all the time;  it rained so hard there was no guard mount but each detachment forming as they arrived, we were of the first and had the right, and on reaching to post were on the first relief. It continued to rain the twenty four hours were were on post. Coming to the reserve we were supposed to rest keeping our equipments on;  it was just at night and the orders were to keep a half dozen men awake to give an alarm if there was one.  A sergeant of the 90th Pa was to have charge the first part of the night calling me anytime after twelve.  I rolled myself in my blanket and lay down by the fire but a few feet away.  The night wore on, the fires burned low; when the sergeant awoke and starting up quick, [he] was completely turned around, and when he started to call me, went the wrong way.

I happened to wake up, but being snug and warm dreaded to get up, so lay and heard it all.  He awoke a man and asked him who he was, but he belonged to another regiment.  Then he woke up another sleeper, but he was not the one wanted.

He came back to where he started from to begin anew.  He went to man after man until I thought he had woke up enough to form a relief for the whole army.  He had been cussed and called all manner of names that a soldier could think of, and their brains were quite fertile in that direction.

Illustration by Frank Beard

He was now mad clear through and gave a yell at the top of his voice, “Wanted to know where that d––d 13th Reg't was.”

I started up and asked “Whats wanted?”  He felt ashamed to think he could not find me when I was so near, calmed down, and said it was time for me to call my men, and then told me what a time he had.  I laughed, but didn’t say I had heard it all.  He lay down by the fire, and I not careing to wake the men, stirred up the fire and smoked the remainder of the night.  In the morning it was snowing hard and as the ground was well trodden over and by moving a few rods away it was higher and dryer, we ( a few) thought to move and build new huts. 

We did so and had just got our houses done and were congratulating ourselves when the Brigade Officer of the day rode up and saw how well we were obeying the orders about wearing our equipments.  [He] said “What regiment do you belong to?”  We told him. He wanted to know  “Who was in command of that squad?”   I told him I was.  He wanted to know if I didn’t know what the orders were in regard to our equipments.   I told him I did.  He wanted to now then “why we had them off.”  I told him we had taken them off while we were building our huts.  He took my name and rank and said he should report me at Brigade Headquarters, [then] rode away.  That was the last I heard of  it.

Diary of Mary Ellen Pierce; Around Culpeper

The contents of Mary Ellen's Diary is the foundation for the material on this page.  It leads to seeing new places, and meeting new people, affiliated with the Army of the Potomac.

Main street, Rixey Mansion, Culpeper, VA

A View of the Rixey Mansion on Main Street, where Mary Ellen stayed during her visit to Culpeper.  View looks to the South.  The house no longer stands.

The Journal of Mary Ellen Baker Pierce [7 January - 4 April] is found in the On-Line Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society.  It is part of the Thayer Family Papers Collection.

Graphic illustration of women strolling

Wednesday –– 3d
        Pleasant Windy ––Mrs Leonard & I took a walk about the town.

Dr Mitchell and Captain Hulse spent the evening with us.

Thursday 4th
        Pleasant  Mrs. Leonard, Captain  Hulse & Elliot & I visited the Battery camps about a mile & half away.  Colonel came.

Friday 5th
        Mrs Leonard left for Camp to day with the Colonel [Leonard]   Elliot  & I attended an entertainment of the Brooklyn 14th in evening.  Orders came in the night for the Corps to be ready to more at daylight, probably a reconnaissance.

Note:  The 14th Brooklyn were doing Provost Guard Duty in Culpeper during the Winter Encampment.  Source: History of  the 9th NYSM.

Saturday 6th Feb.
        Troops left  tonite for the front at 7 o’clock. Elliot with them.  What a lonely day.  cannonading could be distinctly heard at intervals through the day. [Skirmish at Morton's Ford.  The First Corps troops moved from Culpeper to Raccoon Ford in support of the ordered demonstration.]

Lt. Moss, Captain Carey, Lt Welles, Capt Hulse & Lt Camp called.#1  [Captain William Cary, 13th MA; Lieutenant Thomas Welles; 13th MA.]

          #1.  I was not able to positively identify Lieutenant Moss.  I have never been able to find an identified image of Lt. Thomas Welles, 13th MA, although he was a popular officer in the regiment and frequently mentioned.  I did manage to find an image of his brother Captain Henry Welles, who served in another regiment in a different theatre of the war.

Old Culpeper Court House & Baptist Church

Culpeper Court House 1862

Mary Ellen & Lucy may have strolled by the Court House.  This building was torn down and a new court-house was erected between 1870-1874, which still stands in a different location.  This view is looking [nominally) east on West Davis Street (runs in an east-west direction) toward its intersection with Main––with the steeple of the Baptist Church in the background. The original Court-house stood at the corner of Davis and Main, in the NE Corner.  General A.P. Hill's boyhood home is the brick building behind the wagon. The new Court-house is on the other side of A.P. Hill's home, further down the hill which would be behind the viewer.  None of this is recognizable today, even though the Baptist Church and Hill home still stand.  The church facade was changed, and a new steeple tower erected on the east side of the building.  Today that steeple is gone, sheared off at the roof line.

Mary Ellen's Callers

Captiani Charles F. Hulse, 121st PALt. Norman Henry Camp, 5th NY, Signal OfficerAssistant Surgeon Henry H. Mitchell, 39th MA

Capt Charles F. Hulse  121 PA;  Lieutenant Norman Henry Camp, Signal Officer; Dr. Henry H.  Mitchell, Assistant-Surgeon, 39th MA.

Captain Charles F. Hulse, was an officer in the Ambulance Corps with Mary Ellen’s Husband Elliot.  He would be Mary Ellen's almost constant companion during her stay in Culpeper.  Hulse enlisted in the 121st Pennsylvania Infantry, one of the “Bucktail” regiments.  His biography from the history of that regiment says:  Charles F. Hulse was born May 24, 1843, and after a brief experience of mercantile life, joined the company reorganized by Captain Chapman Biddle at the outbreak of the Rebellion.  When Colonel Biddle organized the 121st Penna. Vols., Mr. Hulse became lieutenant of Company “B,” and was distinguished for his good conduct, both in action and in the service generally.  He was soon assigned to staff duty, and served with great credit, winning the respect and affection of the successive brigade and division commanders and the field and regimental officers with whom he was brought in contact.  Returning to civil live, he engaged again in business, and married the daughter of Mr. Frederic Collins, a well-known citizen of Philadelphia.  Captain Hulse died August 28, 1876.

Norman Henry Camp enlisted at New York City into the 5th N.Y. Infantry on April 25, 1861, at age 22.  He was discharged for promotion at the end of October that year and commissioned, October 29 into Company K, 4th N.J. Infantry.  He was commissioned into the Signal Corp as 1st Lieutenant, March 3, 1863.  He resigned June 5, 1865 with the rank of Brevet Major.  His dispatches were reported from the Lookout stations at Cedar Mountain and Pony Mountain.

Surgeon Henry Hedge Mitchell.  There is not much information on Surgeon Henry Hedge Mitchell, who was from East Bridgewater, MA.  His record states he enlisted April 17, 1861, at age 22, as an Assistant Surgeon and mustered into service with the Field & Staff of the 5th Massachusetts Infantry.  The History of the 39th MA says he joined that regiment, August 25, 1862 at age 23. He resigned November 3rd, 1863, as 1st Lieutenant, for promotion to Major, and Surgeon in the 36th U.S. Colored Troops.  He resigned from the Volunteer Military Service in June, 1864.

Early photos of Culpeper Courthouse, VA

Virginia Hotel, Culpeper 

Main Street Culpeper, circa 1901.  Pictured on the left is the famous Virginia Hotel.  The building still stands,  sans porches. The street is much wider today.  The Shackelford home across the street on the right no longer stands.  It is the home where John Pelham died.  The Rixey Mansion, where Mary Ellen was staying would be  just down the street on the left.

East Street Culpeper, 1901

East Street, Culpeper, 1901.  To this day there are many fine homes on this street in Culpeper.  It runs parallel to Main Street a couple blocks east of it.  Mary Ellen and Mrs. Leonard probably strolled around here.


Boston Evening Transcript, February 5, 1864

Tidbits of  (no) News from the Front.


From the Potomac ArmyWashington, 4th

Greatly exaggerated reports have been published as to the number of rebel deserters received by the Army of the Potomac.  They averaged last month from five to twelve per day, but the arrivals have been more frequent thus far in the present month, not, however, at any time exceeding the latter estimate.

A letter received tonight says:  “Last Monday was the time appointed for the rebel conscripts of Virginia to assemble at the various rendezvous.  Refugees say that a large portion declined doing so, and many will probably reach our lines.

A large lot of sutler’s goods were sold at Brandy Station yesterday by Captain Clinton of Gen. Patrick’s staff.  Notwithstanding an apparent combination of sutlers to get them at nominal rates they netted the average Washington rates.  The liquors composing part of the seizures were turned over to the medical department, and the proceeds of the sale (about $1500) placed in Gen. Patricks’s hands to be placed to the relief of our sick and wounded.

Gen. Birney’s ball on Tuesday night afforded much pleasure to a large company.

Within the last twenty-four hours we have passed through every grade of the seasons, from summer heat, with thunder and lightning, to cold, producing ice an inch thick.  A cold south wind is blowing this morning, but the weather is clear and bracing.

“There is nothing new from the front.”

Reverend Noah M. Gaylord

Rev. Noah M. Gaylord, former Chaplain of the 13th MA resigned his post and took charge of the Campbell Hospital in Washington, D. C, in March of 1863.  While in the 13th Chaplain Gaylord raised money for the regiment and also built a library for them while in Winter Camp, at Williamsport the first year of the war.   He is mentioned in this article as doing the same for the hospital under his charge.

Campbell Hospital, Washington D.C.

Lithograph of the Campbell Hospital Complex, Washington, D. C.


Rev. Noah Gaylord

The Campbell Hospital at Washington, under the care of Rev. N. M. Gaylord, has now a library of two or three thousand books, the collective result of many private contributions.  These are almost wholly books in the English language, but as large numbers of German and French wounded soldiers are received at the hospital, an effort is to be made to supply the library with some works in those languages.

Mr. A. Williams of this city has taken a great interest in the matter, and will be happy to receive at his store, No. 100 Washington street, any old numbers of German and French books, which may be contributed in Boston for the purpose.  Every possessor of such works can hardly appreciate the dreary hours of pain and sickness he would alleviate, if he would give them to the library of the hospital.

Campbell Hospital

Another view of Campbell Hospital.  It was also known as Harewood Hospital. The building and pathway depicted is represented inside the first rectangle of buildings on the right center of the lithograph above.

Poker Among the Officers

While researching one of Mary Ellen's visitors, Major Thomas Chamberin, I discovered he authored the history of his unit, the 150th Pennsylvania Volunteers, one of the famous "bucktail" regiments.  Its one of the few Pennsylvania regimental histories I've come across, and its a very good one too.  This passage from the book ties into the General Orders and commentary offered up by Charles Davis, Jr. in his history of the 13th Massachusetts, and adds a little weight to the story behind the directive.

From the History of the “One Hundred And Fiftieth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers,”  by Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Chamberlin, Printed by J. B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia, 1895. (p. 175).

“Poker” ––more or less indulged in at all times––suddenly became an absorbing occupation, the private soldier yielding to its fascinations as readily as his superiors, and risking his scanty allowance as heedlessly as the latter their liberal stipend.  Winslow Homer illustration of poker playersAt the various head-quarters––brigade, division, corps, and army––the game had immense vogue, and not infrequently members of the staffs lost or won, in a single night, the pay of several months. 

The epidemic struck the camp of the 150th, along with the rest, ––in one case with an unfortunate result.  Lieutenant Rose, of Company I, in disregard of a well-established regulation, sought play and companionship among some of the enlisted men of his command.  This might have passed with a reprimand, had it come to the knowledge of head-quarters in a quiet way; but in an altercation which arose one night over the cards, long after “taps” had sounded, blows were exchanged, accompanied by loud and violent language from the lieutenant, whose voice could easily be distinguished by the entire regiment, and in the interest of discipline the commander was compelled to prefer charges against the offender.  A court-martial followed, whose sentence of dismissal from the service was duly confirmed, February 23, 1864.

The following is from, “Three Years in the Army,” by Charles E. Davis, Jr; continued:

General Orders,
                No. 6

Headquarters Second Division,         
First Army Corps, Feb. 5, 1864.  

Gambling within the limits of this division is prohibited.  The attention of brigade and regimental commanders is called to the suppression of this evil.

By command of                                                      
Commanding Division.

S.M. MORGAN,                       
Lieutenant and A. A. A. G.

It will be seen by this communication that even the brigade and regimental commanders had their sorrows.  There were a good many orders issued in the army that were prompted more by a splenetic condition of the mind than the good of the service.  Considering our kind regard for General Robinson, it may seem a sacrilege to say so, yet, when this order was read to the rank and file, we immediately concluded that the “old man” had been “roasted” the night before by some of his “brigade and regimental commanders.”

The language of this order was too plain to be misunderstood, except by a person whose mind was as opaque as a billiard-ball.  According to our thinking, it had no reference to the rank and file, but solely to the officers mentioned in the order; therefore they received our charitable commiseration.

        We had a case of small-pox break out in camp during this month, [Last part of February, see  Warren Freeman letter;  –B.F.] but the prompt measures taken by the doctor prevented its spreading.

On the 6th we received orders to be in readiness to march at daylight, but they were subsequently countermanded.  Rumors were always circulating about camp as to what we were going  to do, but the old reliable, “All quiet on the Potomac,” was kept standing in the newspapers, though “on to Richmond” occasionally made its appearance to relieve the monotony.

The following is from, “The Thirty-ninth Regiment Massachusetts Volunteers, 1862-1865;” by Alfred S. Roe, 1914.

The 5th of the month, [February] late at night, came the summary orders to be ready to move early in the morning, reveille to be at 3 a.m.  The drawing of rations, etc., kept us busy until one o’clock in the next morning, hence not much sleep, but no end of grumbling.

Reveille sounded according to programme on the 6th;  the men turned out, cooked their breakfasts, packed their tents and were ready to start before daylight.

At seven o’clock the orders came to replace the tents and to resume regular camp life.  This break in the usual calm was explained as an incident in the movement of the Second Corps to Morton’s Ford, on the Rapidan, as a supplementary act to the proposed attempt of General B. F. Butler from the south against Richmond.  As Butler’s plan proved abortive, activity on the part of the Second Corps subsided at once and things were soon as they had been.

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The 1st Corps at Raccoon Ford, February 6th 1864


Major-General Ben Butler

General Benjamin Butler captured the ear of President Lincoln, regarding a plan he had, to send a cavalry expedition to the city of Richmond, VA which was known to be lightly defended, and with this force capture Libby Prison and perhaps Belle Isle Prison too, and release the Union prisoners held there.  Part of Butler's plan involved a military move on the part of the Army of the Potomac,  then under temporary command of General John Sedgwick.  General Meade was at home in Philadelphia recovering from illness.

General Butler believed General Lee had sent many more men south to support the failed attempt in late January, to take back from the Yankees, the North Carolina coastal town of New Berne.  General Lee had not sent as many troops as Butler thought, and his Army's strength was still strong, but Butler's strategy was for the Army of the Potomac to strike Lee's "weakened defenses" along the Rapidan, to keep Lee occupied and to prevent him from sending more supports to Richmond, while General Butler's raid occurred.

Butler's plan had the approval of President Lincoln, who was eager to see some kind of positive morale boost in the war effort during this new presidential election year.  Subsequently, with Lincoln's blessing, both Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, and General-in-Chief Henry Halleck, telegrammed General Sedgwick, urging his command to support General Butler's plan.  Sedgwick tried to correct General Butler and the Washington authorities as to the true conditions of the strength of General Lee's army, and remind them that winter conditions proved to make any kind of advance for the Army of the Potomac difficult.  Sedgwick's objections fell on deaf ears, and he was ordered to co-operate with General Butler.

Accordingly, the First and Second Corps were ordered to move to the line of the Rapidan river, February 6th to make a demonstration General Lee's defensive line.  This ended up with the Second Corps getting into a fairly substantial scrape when they aggressively crossed four brigades to the south side of the river at Morton's Ford.

The estate called Struan, or, Robinson's on Civil War Maps

The Estate called Struan, or, Robinson's House, as it is depicted on Civil War Era maps.  The House faces Morton's Ford and was used as 2nd Corps Headquarters during the February 6th maneuvers at the ford.

The troops guarding the Signal Stations and acting as advance guard at Mitchell's Station, were exempted from the orders to march.  Therefore, the 13th MA and the other regiments in their brigade did not leave camp.  But they reported hearing artillery fire coming from the direction of Raccoon Ford.

The majority of the First Corps marched to Raccoon Ford on February 6th and only lightly engaged with enemy pickets.  Down river 2 miles at Morton's Ford, the 2nd Corps aggressively crossed four brigades to the south side  and briskly engaged the Confederates there; who were initially hard pressed to rush re-enforcements to that lightly defended section of their line.  A bold Confederate Artillery officer was able to stem the advance of the Union troops until help  arrived.  With more Confederate support continually arriving, by the afternoon the Union troops that had crossed, were pinned down, unable to advance, and in a bad spot.  Since there really was no reason for the engagement, other than to show some support to General Bulter's plan, the four Union brigades were ordered to re-cross the river under cover of darkness, and rejoin the rest of their Corps on the north side.  This affair is known as the Skirmish at Morton's Ford.

The result was, “We lost 200 in killed and wounded at Morton’s Ford last evening,”  reported General Sedgwick to General Halleck.  Most of those losses were in one regiment, the 14th Connecticut.

General Butler's raid failed, and never reached Richmond.  A Union deserter tipped off the Rebels, and they stopped the cavalry advance en route to the city.

Because the First Corps did so little in the affair, and because the First Brigade of the 2nd Division, did not participate, there is little description of their part in the play.  If General Newton wrote a report its not published in the Official Records.

Instead I have two brief summaries of the action;  one from the Ninth New York, of Henry Baxter's Brigade, and one from the 150th Pennsylvania, First Brigade, 3rd Division, First Corps.  The two accounts are posted below.

I have added a special page to the website that examines the campaign in more depth from the perspective of the 14th Connecticut.  It was initially a section of this page, but proved too long so I moved it.  You can link to the special page in the Navigation Menu on the top left of this page.

Marching Orders for the Move;  Issued February 5th;

To facilitate General Butler's requested demonstration on the Rapidan Front, Army Headquarters issued the following orders to march.  It is evident in the orders the movement is only intended to be a light diversion, not a serious attack.

 Circular.]                                                   Headquarters Army of the Potomac,     
February 5, 1864.

The following movements will be made to-morrow, the 6th inst:

    1.     Brigadier-General Gregg will direct Merritt’s division of cavalry to move, with at least one battery of artillery, to Barnett’s Ford on the Rapidan, and make demonstrations to cross and attack the enemy there and on the upper Rapidan.  General Gregg will also direct General Kilpatrick to move with his division and at least one battery of artillery to the Rapidan, at Culpeper Ford, cross that river, and make demonstrations upon the enemy’s right.  The artillery of this division will not cross the Rapidan, but will be left on this side with a strong guard.  The cavalry picket-lines and patrols will be left as usual.  Strong camp and train guards will be left.  The demonstration will  be continued through Sunday, the 7th, and Monday morning.  The cavalry will return to its former position by Monday evening, unless otherwise ordered.

    2.    The First Corps, Major-General Newton commanding, will move to the vicinity of Raccoon Ford, with at least three batteries of artillery, and make demonstrations to cross the river at that point or in that vicinity, through Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, returning to its present camp Monday evening, unless otherwise ordered.

The brigade at Mitchell’s Station will remain as now posted.

3.  The Second Corps, Major-General Warren commanding, will move to the vicinity of Morton’s Ford, with at least three batteries of artillery, and make demonstrations to cross the river at that point or in that vicinity, through Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, returning to its present camp Monday evening, unless otherwise ordered.

4.  The troops will take with them three days’ rations, such ambulances as may be absolutely required for the troops, and such light wagons as may be necessary for headquarters.

5.  The artillery left in camp and the ammunition and ambulance trains, medical and hospital wagons, will be held ready to move at a moment’s notice.

6.  The picket-lines will be left as usual, and strong guards will be left to take care of the camp and trains.

7.  The Third and Sixth Corps will be ready to move at a moment’s notice, provided in the same manner as the First and Second Corps, with the same preparations as these cops in respect to artillery, ammunition trains, &c.

8.  The commanders of the First and Second Corps and the cavalry divisions will keep the commanding general constantly and promptly  advised of their progress, of the dispositions of the enemy, and of everything of importance that takes place.

9.  The movements ordered will be commenced to-morrow at 7 a.m., or as soon thereafter as practicable.

By command of Major-General Sedgwick:

S. WILLIAMS,            
Assistant Adjutant-General.

Headquarters Cavalry Corps,
February 5, 1864––12.30 p. m.

Brigadier-General Kilpatrick,
                    Commanding Third Cavalry Division:

General:  I inclose you a circular of the movements of the troops to-morrow. The general commanding directs that you carry out the orders laid down in the circular for your division, being careful to leave a strong guard with the battery this side of the river and make frequent reports of your progress and of the movements and dispositions of the enemy.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,               
C. ROSS SMITH,      
Lieutenant-Colonel and Chief of Staff.

Picture of Raccoon Ford

Picture of Raccoon Ford

Pictured is the site of Raccoon Ford on the Rapidan River.  The photo is taken on the South side looking north. The ground on the south side rises considerably which strengthened Confederate defenses.  The little Village of Raccoon Ford used to be located nearby, but very little is left of it.  ––For some reason the troops of the First Corps burned the little community during this demonstration.

Soldiers of the First Corps, rightly so, paid little attention to the movement to Raccoon Ford on February 6th, other than to mention the discomfort caused by the bad weather.  Here are two brief accounts, (sans burning).

The following is from, “History of the One Hundred and Fiftieth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, Second Regiment, Bucktail Brigade.” by Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Chamberlin; Philadelphia, 1895.


On the 6th of February the First Corps, under orders from General Sedgwick, who in General Meade’s absence was in command of the army, advanced to Raccoon Ford to feel the enemy and ascertain whether he was still in force in that neighborhood.  Under cover of artillery, a body of infantry crossed the Rapidan and moved across the fields towards the higher ground, with a strong line of skirmishers well to the front, who soon encountered the rebel pickets and drove them back some distance.  In a few minutes hurrying lines of rebel infantry came in view, and as soon as within range engaged the Union troops.  The latter, in accordance with their instructions, fought in retreat, and, under the protection of well-posted batteries, safely re-passed the river.  The whole movement was beautifully executed, and the action, which lasted less than half an hour, was in plain sight and offered a most interesting spectacle.

Edwin Forbes Illustration of soldier mired in mud

The corps bivouacked in the woods for the night, with a heavy cordon of pickets near the stream.  Rain fell in torrents, and in the chill air, with insufficient shelter, both officers and men suffered great discomfort, laying the foundation of many severe colds and other more serious ailments.  The next day continued wet and, the ground having become excessively miry, no further demonstration was made.

About four o’clock in the afternoon the troops started on the return march, leaving the pickets in position until after nightfall, when the disagreeable duty fell to Major Chamberlin––who had relieved Colonel Dushane in the morning––of gathering in about four hundred men, scattered along a line of perhaps three miles, and leading them in Egyptian darkness, over roads in which the mud seemed almost fathomless, back to their quarters at Culpeper.  Soon after quitting the front the column encountered and was sharply challenged by a large cavalry outpost, mounted and in line of battle, with carbines in hand, who, not having been informed of the fact that the infantry pickets were still out, mistook the latter for the enemy and were upon the point of firing.  Many shoes were left sticking in the mud on this memorable march, and haversacks and canteens whose straps proved unequal to the strain were irretrievably lost.

The following is from, “History of the Ninth Regiment N.Y.S.M.––N.G.S.N.Y. (Eighty-third N.Y. Volunteers.) 1845-1888”, by George A. Hussey, Edited by William Todd, 1889. (p. 312-313).

During the afternoon of the 29th [January] the regiment left its winter quarters and marched to Culpeper, where the men found shelter for the night in abandoned dwelling-houses.  The next morning the march was resumed by way of the Sperryville Pike, and about three miles from town the rest of the brigade was found and another winter camp established. For the fourth time that season, the men of the Ninth went to work to build huts. The weather was cold and stormy, but the men worked cheerfully, and in two or three days were again comfortably quartered.

By the 1st of February rainy weather set in; snow fell occasionally, and the mud and slush rendered outdoor work very disagreeable.

At one o’clock in the morning of the 6th the men were turned out and at half-past six were marching towards the Rapidan, in which direction artillery firing was heard.  William Trego illustraton of infantry assisting a batteryUpon arriving at Raccoon Ford, twelve miles from camp, the enemy were observed upon the opposite side of the river;  they threw a number of shells, but the aim being too high no damage was inflicted.  During the day a heavy artillery fire was maintained by the Confederates, and the Union troops were kept moving about in order to lessen the danger from bursting shells.

At five o’clock in the afternoon, the enemy having ceased firing, the troops were ordered back, leaving only the customary picket guard at the river.

The roads were in a horrible condition, and it was difficult for the artillery to move, even with extra horses, and the men were frequently obliged to assist in moving the pieces.  The route led through Culpeper, and back to camp, where the men arrived late at night, being muddy, tired and hungry.  Major Williamson was in command of the regiment at this time.

Letter of James Ross, 9th N. Y. Militia, February 6, 1864

James didn't go with the rest of his regiment to Raccoon Ford, he was on guard duty at the Garnett's Peak Lookout Station.   But he mentions the rest of his regiment being on the move, on the same day he wrote this letter and he expresses his rare good fortune in not having had to go with them.

Picture of the Lookout Station, Garnett's Peak

Although the rest of the regiment returned to Culpeper, January 29th, a smaller contingent remained at the Signal Station.  James Ross was one of that number.

Bald Pate

View of Bald Pate, the southern most peak of the Cedar Mountain Ridge, where the Union Signal Station was established.  The lookout was amidst what is to-day a clump of trees on the top of this knoll.  James Ross says a fort 20 foot square fort was built around the station.  The supporting troops camped in the fields below the knoll.

Site of the Lookout Station

Bald Pate Summit

This image shows obstructed  view from the summit of Bald Pate.  The Signal Station would have been in the woods on the left.  As you can see in this photo, the growth of trees at the peak obstructs the view in all directions.  But the path in the picture opens up the view somewhat in this southwesterly direction.

From: “Willing to Run the Risks; Letters from the Civil War, Private James Ross, 9th N.Y.S.M., Co. G, August 1863 –– May 1864.”

Letter of James Ross, February 6, 1864

 Cedar Mountain, Va
            Feb. 6th 1864

Dear Mother:

    I hope that you have not suffered from anxiety on my account. It is getting to be two weeks since I have heard from home and I know there are letters for me either with the regiment or somewhere else when or whether I shall get them I do not know   I wrote a letter to you several days since but could only send it the day before yesterday.  I guess that I will have a chance to send this one tomorrow.  I have been here now nine days and recd. but one mail in that time    it consisted of four letters and half a dozen papers.  There was two Tribunes and two Sentinels from you and two Harpers from father but no letters from him. The trouble about getting the mail is the worst one that we have to contend with here. Edwin Forbes painting of a Union Picket

I am having pretty good quarters in a barn now we can not have fire in it as we had in our huts but we are kept out of the weather and the season is so mild that we can cook out of doors quite comfortably.  Our log house is built   it is on top of a high steep hill next to the signal house it is twenty feet square and pierced for musket firing. Forty men have been detailed to live up at the house and the remainder of the detachment live here at the bottom of the hill some of the men reside in the barns others in the hencoops some in a spring house which they have floored over and I heard one man this morning laying out a plan for making a residence for himself out of the doghouse.

The duty here is very light I have only done eight hours duty since being here but have been excused part of the time on account of having a sore leg. I had just been enjoying the felicity of having a couple of biles on my left leg. They are going off now but I can not wear a boot yet.  I have been going about hopping on one leg for a while back doing nothing but cooking, eating and crying for rations.

My mate is Peelor he and I were detailed together and will have to mate together till we get back to the regiment. When a detail is to be made for any purpose in a company there is always a regular rule followed in making it.  first if there are black marks against a man he is shooed[?] on for punishment.  When the black list is exhausted the men go out in regular rotation generally in alphabetical order thus all the P’s go  then the Q’s  next the R’s and so forth our roll runs Packard,#1 Peelor, Rivers,#2  Ross, Rogers   four men were required for this detail, and Packard was the first man so he and the three following him were drawn   had one more been required Rogers would have been taken and I should have had my regular mate   one reason for my tenting with Rogers was that as his name followed mine on the roll we were always drawn together on guard and picket which is a very great convenience.

After coming in off the march all stragglers have to stand guard some for a longer some for a shorter time according to the nature of the offense   often a man can not help straggling but I have been so well on the march generally that I have never had to do penance for straggling yet.   frequently after a march the men who kept in the ranks will not have to mount guard for a long time on a account of the no. of stragglers    but luck has never favored me much otherwise for if there has been a hard march or a rough detail I have been pretty sure to have been upon it. I should not wonder this time we had not got what soldiers call a “soft thing” we certainly have escaped the march that the regiment made to Culpepper.#3

Then too we have good quarters while they have been shoving around in the mud.  beside all this the report comes in today that they are on the march again in fact it is certain that they are.   One or two divisions of cavalry have moved on the enemy and the report comes in that all the troops about Culpepper have moved off and the bulk of our army lay there.   The design of this movement is (so the cavalry tell us) to flank the rebel force lying before us across the Rapidan    it is certain too that the Rebs were skeddadling out of their camps this afternoon for the officers in the signal station so reported them.   A brisk skirmish occurred within musketry hearing this afternoon. [Morton's Ford]  I believe that it was in sight from the top of the hill but we couldn’t not see it. I guess that it occurred between a force of our cavalry and the rebel pickets at one of the fords on the river it ended in a victory for us.

As all is quiet now had it terminated otherwise we would have been out of there before now. We are lying here now packed up ready for any emergency but unless the enemy drive us we wont move.   If the army has gone upon a campaign we will be allowed to remain here most likely till their return and if a battle should occur you will thank God that I was out of it and I cant say that I will be sorry myself for if the rebs are beaten and I can be honorably out of a fight I will be just as glad but I hope that I shall never feel a desire to shirk a fight dishonorably.

Peelor and I took a stroll down to the 1st Brigade this afternoon they have not moved an such a camp as they have got. They went into quarters long before us and have not been disturbed. Their houses are arranged in regular streets all are well built some of the streets have corduroy sidewalks. The privates are better housed there than were our officers. They have a sutler who keeps a regular grocery.  he sells fish, sausage, sugar, tea  spice butter cheese ale &c &c at reasonable prices     then they have a bakery where hot pies and warm biscuits are manufactured.   They seem to be quite at home there and the look of their camp almost made me homesick but Peelor and I treated ourselves to a pie each and a glass of beer then trudged back again.

Arthur Lumley sketch of an elaborate Sutlers Store

I hope you are well at home but do not know when I can hear from you I trust that you will get my letters but am not certain even of that.

The boys had a report in camp that we had had a battle out here and that all not been killed had been captured. I hope that you have heard no such nonsense at home though it is a wonder that the enemy have left our small force so quiet here. We are quite without support and the enemy could approach to within a quarter of a mile of us at night without being discovered. There are one hundred cavalry always here and the same no. of infantry. We used to go to bed at first almost expecting an alarm before daylight but none has come thus far.

I can not write longer now. I am quite well with the exception of my leg.   The weather has been pleasant but it is raining tonight.  If the regiment is on the march I am sorry.   All the men are in good spirits throughout the whole army they are full of confidence in our cause and will fight well if they have to fight    Though I hardly think a battle will occur in fact it is only a rumor with us that a movement of the army is in progress at all.

I hope that you will be able to make this letter out. I write it with a man at my elbow reading the ledger in a loud voice and I cant help hearing the story while I am trying to write. Give my love to all.  Kiss Jessie for me, I hope she is well and I hope also that I will have the luck to get letters from home before long.

Your affectionate son
                   James Ross

#1.  Daniel Packard, Enlisted as a Private on 14 July 1863 at the age of 22 in Company G, 83rd Infantry Regiment New York. Wounded on 06 May 1864 at Wilderness, VA. Transferred Company G, 83rd Infantry Regiment New York on 07 June 1864.Transfered in Company B, 97th Infantry Regiment New York on 07 June 1864. American Civil War Soldiers. Web. <www.ancestry.com>
#2.    John Rivers, Enlisted as a Private on 07 July 1863 at the age of 28 in Company G, 83rd Infantry Regiment New York .Wounded on 06 May 1864 at Wilderness, VA. Died of wounds on 23 May 1864 in Washington, DC. American Civil War Soldiers. Web. <www.ancestry.com>
#3.   Garrett Rock, Enlisted as a Private. Enlisted in Company H, 83rd Infantry Regiment New York. Transferred out of Company H, 83rd Infantry Regiment New York on 7 Jun 1864. Transferred into Company G, 97th Infantry Regiment New York on 7 Jun 1864. Mustered Out Company G, 97th Infantry Regiment New York on 18 Jul 1865 at Ball's Cross Roads, VA. American Civil War Soldiers. Web. <www.ancestry.com>

A Camp Ground for New York Troops

Bald Pate, Site of the New York Camp

Pictured is the field just below the site of the signal station which was atop the sloping hill on the left.   A Spring, possibly alluded to in James' letter, was located in the tree line on the right.  Perhaps a Springhouse stood around it in 1864.  Three brothers of the Garnett Family owned all this land around the southern most peak of Cedar Mountain.  New York Troops are known to have camped upon the rise of ground pictured here.

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Ladies in Camp; Battlefield Tours, Riding Excursions, & Reviews

The Yeager home that Sam frequented still stands situated at the base of the Cedar mountain ridge along the east side.   The August 9, 1862 Battle of Cedar Mountain was fought on the ground north and west of the northern most peak.  Touring the battleground was a popular activity for soldiers and visitors alike in the winter of 1863 & 64.   Sam visits the battlefield on February 8th.  Mary Ellen Pierce visited on February 11th, in company with a large party of others.  Some of the visitors actually participated in the fight.  Sam however, had a questionable guide.  ––You too can have a tour from a questionable guide by following the private link provided.

From the Diary of Samuel D. Webster, Company D:
        Excerpts of this diary (HM 48531) are used with permission from The Huntington Library, San Marino, CA.

Saturday, February 6th, 1864.
        Firing toward Raccoon Ford.  Supposed it a reconnaissance.  ( Skirmish at Morton’s Ford )

Sunday, February 7th, 1864
        Visited Mr. Yeager’s last night.  Fire down the river.

Monday, February 8th 1864
        Visited the battlefield. [Battle of Cedar Mountain, August 9, 1862]

Very much amused by an old darkey’s description of the fight.

Picture of Cedar Run at Cedar Mountain Battlefield

Cedar Run, View West, from Old Orange Road.  That's the Wheat Field in the far distant middle ground bordered by woods. Union Troops advanced over this ground to the attack, right to left. (Photo by Bud Hall, circa 1989.  Tour guide, courtesy of James E. Taylor.)  –– For a private tour of Cedar Mountain Battlefield with another "questionable" guide, click this link to a private video presentation.

The Journal of Mary Ellen Baker Pierce [ 7 January - 4 April ] continued.

After the affair of February 6th, along the Rapidan River, the Army of the Potomac waited a day, and then returned to their camps at night.

Sunday 7th
        Orders came for all stores in town to be packed, wagons harnessed &c ready to move at a moments notice.  General Newton afraid of a flank movement   needless alarm ––troops all returned in evening,  Elliot reached here about 8 o’clock –– Captain McClure,  Lieutenant Morse, Captain Hulse called.

Mary Ellen's Callers, February 7th;

Captain Charles McClure, Commissary Dept.Captain Oscar  F. Morse, 13th MA

Capt. Hulse stopped by again, he would be a frequent companion.  Captain Charles McClure Captain  is Commissary of Subsistence.  Mary Ellen wrote he was Chief Quartermaster of the 1st Corps. He enlisted April 28, 1862 as Captain and commissioned into the U.S. Volunteer Commissary Department.  When the 1st Corps was dissolved he became Commissary of the 4th Division, 5th Army Corps. At the time, an effort was on-going among First Corps officers and men to raise a monument to the memory of its former commander, General John Reynolds who was killed at Gettysburg, July 1, 1863.  Captain McClure was Treasurer in that effort.   Lieutenant Morse may be Oscar F. Morse, of the 13th MA, originally in Company H.  The regimental roster says Morse had just received a captain's commission in January.

Mary Ellen, continued:

Monday 8th
        Obtained a riding dress took my first ride on horseback Lieutenant Muzzy’s horse, visited the 12th Regiment.

Tuesday 9th
        Took another ride of 3 miles.  Colonel Leech & wife arrived to-day and occupy Mrs. Leonard’s room to-night.   [Colonel William Leech, 90th PA, and his wife Hannah are pictured further below on this page.]

Illustration of woman in riding dressIllustration of woman riding a horse

Wednesday 10th
        Started at 9 o’clock on horseback in company with Elliot  & Captain Hulse for Colonel Leonard’s camp.  reached about 10 ½. [about a 6 mile ride ––B.F.]  –– took another ride over to the different Regiments with Dr. Whitney & several other Officers –– Elliot & Captain Hulse  returned to Culpepper,   slept in the blankets with Mrs. Leonard.

Thursday 11th
        Elliot returned to camp this morning.  A large party of us ascended Cedar Mt. called on Lt Wiggin.  rode Dr Whitney’s horse  after I returned

Surgeon Allston W. Whitney, 13th MANorman Henry Camp, Signal OfficerLieutenant John Calvin Wiggin, Signal Corps

An alternate image of Dr. A. W. Whitney, 13th MA; Lieutenant Norman Henry Camp & Lieutenant John Calvin Wiggin, Signal Officers at "Bald Pate," or, Garnett's Peak.

View of Cedar Mountain from the Southeast, looking Northwest

The ridge on the left of this photo extends further south (out of site) then rises to another small peak, (called both Garnett's Peak or Bald Pate) where the Lookout Station was located.  Back in 1864, a road went up over the saddle of the mountain and intersected  a trail along the spine of the mountain, which Mary Ellen's party  probably followed south to the peak.

Cedar Mountain from the East side looking West

Path to Garnett's Peak

Path up the ridge of Cedar Mountain to Bald Pate

When Mary Ellen's riding party visited the Signal Station they probably ascended to the ridge of Cedar Mountain via a road that used to cross the saddle of the mountain, and followed it south to the Lookout. The trail is still there, although the mountain is in the hands of various property owners.  This image shows the path today, which descends into the woods, from the site of the Signal Station and continues north.

View South from the Lookout at the Southern peak of Cedar Mountain.

Panoramic View from below Bald Pate

Panoramic view to the south from below the lookout station on Bald Pate.  The view from Bald Pate is obstructed by trees today.  (See photo above).  This is the same perspective, but from a plain below the peak, quite a bit lower, but with the same horizon in the distance.  This is what Mary Ellen and others would see from atop the lookout.  The village of Rapidan is located at the right third of the picture, Clark's Mountain rises near the center, and Twin Mountains on the left, (barely visible as a darker hue below the mountain ridge).  Union Cavalry and First Brigade Infantry pickets covered this ground all the way towards Twin Mountains, and beyond in the winter of 1864.  The old road network is gone, as are two of the three Garnett houses that once occupied this area.  They were owned by three brothers of the same family.  Today this is a large working farm.   Click here to view larger.

Which Muzzey Was He?

On February 8th, Mary Ellen said she visited the camp of the 12th MA Vols., (a sister regiment to the 13th MA), and said that she went riding on a horse borrowed  from "Lieutenant Muzzy."

One brother Muzzey loaned a mare;
One brother Muzzey wasn't there.
Which brother Muzzey was he?

1st Lieutenant Loring Muzzey, 12th MA, QuartermasterLieutenant George Muzzey, 12th MA

  There were two Lieutenant Muzzey's in the 12th MA at this time, both affiliated with the Quartermaster Department. First Lieutenant Loring Muzzey, (pictured left) who was age 32 in February 1864, enlisted in the 12th MA, May 1861, as Quarter-master Sergeant;  part of the Field & Staff.  He'd been 1st-Lieutenant since May, 1862, still in the Quarter-master Department, soon to be promoted Captain & Commissary of Subsistence on March 21, 1864.  His younger brother George Muzzey, (pictured right) also enlisted in the 12th MA Infantry, as a Quarter-master Sergeant, but it was later, in June, 1862, when he enrolled in the military as a Summer recruit.  His record states he went from Quartermaster Field & Staff, to Company F, when he received a 2nd Lieutenant's commission in November, 1862.  He was promoted 1st-Lieutenant, February 1863, and transfered back again to Field & Staff in May, 1864, when he is listed as Quartermaster.  So which Muzzey was he?  I'd go with Loring.  He was still QM when Mary Ellen visited, and George had yet to be transfered.

A Visit to Mose & Robert

The Following is from “The Road to Richmond” by Major Abner R. Small, his personal memoir.  Small was in the 16th Maine and authored that regiment's history.

frank beard illustration

Through late January and early February I was at home on leave.  When I returned, Colonel Leonard commanded the brigade.  Colonel Farnham was again in command of the regiment, and we had a new chaplain, the Reverend Uriah Balkam of Lewiston.

Farnham and the chaplain and I rode out to the home of a Mrs. Fessenden to see the renowned Mose and Robert, who were reputed to have been servants of George Washington.  Robert was “a hundred and six years old,” he said,  “but not so old as to forget Massa George.”  His appearance would have warranted a belief that he was five hundred.  Blind bald, and toothless, and shriveled as a mummy, he sat facing the winter sun like one outstaring time. 

“Robert, can you sing?” asked the chaplain.

“O, yes, massa!”

“Perhaps you would sing us a hymn.”

Sing!  There wasn't the most distant approach to anything like tune, time, or harmony in the noises that Robert made.  We  rode away, and left him solemnly croaking the tenth verse of some darkey song.  [The history dates this ride, February 12th.]

A.R. Waud Sketch Titled, The Hitching Post

This beautiful yet unfinished composition depicts various women saddling up for a ride.  It suits Mary Ellen Baker's Journal entries below.  Colored horse groomers are standing by as well as officers to assist the ladies.

A.R. Waud Sketch, Titled Hitching Post

The Journal of Mary Ellen Baker Pierce, January 7 –– April 4, continued.

Friday 12th  Inst.
        General Robinson with a large party visited Camp to-day  I rode round with them inspecting, returned to Culpeper in afternoon, Captain Hulse called in evening.

From the 39th MA; Alfred S. Roe:

The History of the 39th MA corroborates Mary Ellen's Diary regarding the officers visit to different camps on Feb. 12th.

women horseback riding

39th MA:  Sunrise, gilding the snowy tops of the blue Ridge Mountains, awakens the sensibilities of some of the men as the 10th day of the month begins and, later in the day, the paymaster makes all happy with compensation for services rendered up to December 1st.

General Robinson and staff, accompanied by ladies, also by some of the corps staff-officers, rode into camp on the 12th, evidently thinking it one of the show places of the cantonment.

Over the fact that the men left in camp, the Regiment being on picket, are all merged in two companies and these go on dress parade prompts one commentator to remark that he supposes if only one man were left in camp, he would have to appear at the regular time on parade.

The following is from, “History of the One Hundred and Fiftieth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, Second Regiment, Bucktail Brigade” by Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Chamberlin; (pages 175-176.)

This interesting passage struck a cord with me when I came across it while working on the Winter Encampment page for February.  The 150th PA was in the 1st Brigade, 3rd Division, First Army Corps.  Their campsite was just northeast of the village of Culpeper.

During the month of February many ladies visited their friends in the army, and were handsomely entertained at the various head-quarters.  Excursions on horseback and in ambulances to Pony Mountain and other points of interest were of almost daily occurrence, and review followed review, chiefly ––it was thought ––for the benefit of these welcome visitors.

On the 16th the 3rd Div. of the First Corps was reviewed, on the 21st the Bucktaiil Brigade paraded in its best regimentals, and on the 23d, General Newton exhibited his whole command to a body of distinguished guests.  On several afternoons groups of officers and ladies, mounted or in ambulances, came from corps head-quarters to witness the dress parades of the 150th, whose white glove, natty uniforms, and perfect handling of the musket had extended its reputation quite beyond the limits of the division.

Even General Newton complimented the regiment by his presence on two of these occasions.

Vermont Regiment at Dress Parade, cropped

Sixth Vermont Infantry, drilling in full accouterments, near Washington, 1861.   Photographic History of the Civil War, Volume 8, (p. 65), edited by Francis Trevelyan Miller, New York, 1911.

Some of the Officers Present on the February 12th Ride

Mary Ellen named the following five officers as some of those being present on the ride.

Colonel Thomas McCoy, 107th PAMajor-General John Cleveland RobinsonLieutenant-Colonel N. Walter Batchelder, 13th MA

Pictured left to right, Colonel Thomas L. McCoy, 107th PA Regt;  Brigadier-General John C. Robinson, 2nd Division Commander, & Lieutenant-Colonel N. Walter Batchelder 13th Massachusetts.

Colonel Phineas Stearns Davis, 39th MALieutenant-Colonel Pierson, 39th MA

Colonel  P. Stearns Davis, &  Lieutenant-Colonel Charles L. Pierson, both of the 39th MA are included with the other officers listed in Mary Ellen's Journal entry February 12th.  It is not clear whether she met them at the camp of the 39th, or whether they were along for the ride.

Saturday, 13thCropped painting of a Victorian woman reading
        Attended a Cavalry Parade  horseback, rode David   Enjoyed it much

Captain Hulse & Lt Babcock called in eve  also Col Leech & wife Lt Ricketts. (  I wasn't able to positively identify Lieutenant Babcock, but he may be Benjamin F. Babcock of the 143rd PA, which was in the same brigade [1st Brigade, 3rd Division] as Captain Hulse and many of her other callers.)

Sunday 14th
        Feb.  Very Windy.  Stopped at home all day reading.

Mary Ellen's Callers

Colonel Leech and WifeCharles Ricketts, 90th PA

Lieutenant-Colonel William A. Leech, 90th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, and his wife Hannah.  First-Lieutenant Charles Ricketts, of the same regiment.

William Leech began service in April, 1861, as Major of the 17th Penna. Infantry.  These Pennsylvania soldiers seem to jump around quite a bit.  On February 19, 1862 he was commissioned Lt.-Col. of the 90th Penna. Infantry, Col. Peter Lyle commanding.  His record states he was captured at the fight for the Weldon Railroad August 19, 1864.  This was a bloody affair for the 39th MA as well.     Leech survived the war and mustered out a Brevet Brigadier-General on March 13, 1865.  I was fortunate to also find this image of him with his wife, Hannah.

Charles Ricketts.  Another member of the 90th Penna. Infantry, who visited Mary Ellen in company with Colonel Leech is Charles Ricketts.  His record states he enlisted March 10, 1862, as Sergeant-Major of the Field & Staff.  Ricketts was promoted 2nd-Lieutenant September 6, 1862, just before the battle of Antietam, and then to 1st-Lieutenant a year later, November 23, 1863.  He mustered out November 26, 1864.

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Re-enlistment Redux & George H. Hill Letter

The Government was anxious about the army.  It was  known that the 3 year term of enlistment for many veteran soldiers would soon be up.  It was a presidential election year, and things hadn't gone so well in the war effort for several months since July, 1863, following the Northern victories at Gettysburg, PA and Vicksburg, MS.  Hence the Administration's support for General Ben Butler's  proposed raid on Richmond in early February, and General Hugh Judson Kilpatrick's Raid which launched at the end of the month. More to the point, knowing political victories required military victories, the Administration needed an effective army to prosecute the war effort.  So, it aggressively increased incentives for veterans to re-enlist.  Below are comments on this topic from the journal of Colonel Charles Wainwright, Chief of First Corps artillery, and, the histories of the Ninth New York and 13th Massachusetts Regiments.  A letter of Sergeant George Henry Hill follows the commentary.  George Henry had made his decision whether or not to sign up for another 3 years.

From, “A Diary of Battle, The Personal Journals of Colonel Charles S. Wainwright, 1861-1865”;  Edited by Allan Nevins; 1962.

Historian Allan Nevins made the following observation in his editorial notes for the Wainwright Journal entries of early January 1864:

Winslow Homer illlustration solider at theater on furlough

“A serious re-enlistment problem was troubling the army.  Great numbers of men who had volunteered for three years were approaching the end of their terms.  They had to be offered strong inducements to re-enlist, both in bounties and other favors.  [General] Meade had reported to the War Department on December 12, 1863, that the time of seventy-seven regiments would expire before the end of August 1864;  but that his officers believed more than half of them would remain if given a thirty-day furlough as well as the Congressional bounty of $402.  The grant of furloughs on a wholesale scale gravely reduced the field strength of the army.”

Charles Wainwright recorded in his journal, January 7th, “We are now required to make a daily report of men re-enlisting, by states;  also of officers going and returning on leave; and a field return on the 4th, 14th, and 24th of the month, in addition to the regular trimonthly.  General Meade is evidently anxious on account of so many men having left on furlough.  Letters from home say that the streets are full of uniforms…”

The following is from, “History of the Ninth Regiment N.Y.S.M.––N.G.S.N.Y. (Eighty-third N.Y. Volunteers.) 1845-1888”, by George A. Hussey, Edited by William Todd, 1889.

This matter of the reenlistment of men in the field had occupied the attention of the Government during the previous year.  Realizing the fact that the services of veteran troops would be of more value in the prosecution of the war than new organizations, measures were adopted to secure their retention in the army.  By the provisions of  “General Orders, No. 191,” and subsequent amendments issued during 1863, the three years' men who had served two years and who would reenlist in the same company and regiment, were to receive thirty days’ furlough and a bounty of four hundred and two dollars.  The new term was to begin with date of reenlistment and the men were to be designated as “Veteran Volunteers.”  These liberal offers of the General Government supplemented in most cases with State and Municipal bounty, induced many who had already rendered efficient service to reenlist for the new term, and thus the Government was assured of an effective army with which to prosecute the Spring Campaign of 1864.Illustration of bags of money

Where regiments had been greatly depleted, consolidation into five or even a less number of companies was ordered, the Colonel, Major and Assistant Surgeon to be mustered out.  The evil effect that would result from the execution of this harsh order was so apparent, however, that, in the Army of the Potomac, at least, it was suspended, and endeavors made to fill up the ranks of these “fighting” regiments.

The following is from a summary of service aggregated for the 107th PA Volunteers, from the website, PA ROOTS.  [www.pa-roots.com'pacw/inantry/107th/107thorg.html ]

A summary history of the 107th PA, (who did not write a regimental history), offers another interesting snippet on this topic.  This regiment is in the First Brigade with the 13th MA.   This short bit is noteworthy, for its mention of the many civilian visitors who stopped by the outpost camp at Mitchell's Station, and for the good fortune that resulted from the regiment's late furlough date.

Winslow Homer sketch of men on furlough

Near Kelly's Ford the brigade encamped, and remained until the 24th, [December] when it marched away, leaving comfortable quarters, to Mitchell's Station, on the Orange and Alexandria Railroad. It was here on the extreme outpost of the army, facing the rebel camps, where large details for picket and guard were required, and where it was regarded with special interest at headquarters on account of its exposed position.

Permanent winter-quarters were established near by, and during the winter many deserters came in from the enemy, and the post was frequently visited by parties of civilians eager to catch a glimpse of a rebel encampment.

In February, 1864, nearly the entire regiment re-enlisted; but for more than a month afterwards it was kept upon its arduous duty. Finally, on the 1st of April, the order for a veteran furlough was received, and it returned to Pennsylvania, where for a month the men enjoyed the pleasures of home, which many had not visited for two years.

Because of their late furlough, the 107th PA would miss the intense fighting in the Wilderness & Spotsylvania.  Their return trip to the front, brought them into line on May 16th, 1864.

From “Three Years in the Army” by Charles E. Davis, Jr.

Charles Davis, as usual, has some pithy comments to add regarding the Governments efforts to entice reenlistments.

David Levine illustration from Rip Van WInkle

During this time we were asked to reenlist.  The commanding officer of each regiment was instructed to make an effort to this end.  We were drawn up in line, and had explained to us that the country needed men; that it was a critical period;  that old soldiers were worth so much more than new ones, etc;  to all of which we listened with respectful attention.  It was very sweet to hear all this, but the Thirteenth was not easily moved by this kind of talk.

The boys knew too well what sacrifices they had made, and longed to get home again, and, if possible, resume the places they had left.  Four times we were addressed as to our duty about re-enlisting.

On two or three of these occasions there was an unusual amount of grog floating about.  Who the mysterious benefactor was, we are unable to recall, but it was evident to us that some one was interested in putting a halo of attractiveness on the service that didn’t seem to fit.  On one of these occasions, eleven men yielded to the influence of oratory or rum, though some of them afterwards said it was the rum and were given thirty days’ furlough.  Seven of this number succeeded in obtaining commissions in other regiments so that only four returned.

13th MA Men who Re-enlisted

The following hand written orders and list following, are found in the Gilder Lehrman Collection of Colonel Samuel H. Leonard's Papers, GLC 3393 #12.

Head Quarters, Army of the Potomac
Dec. 17, 1863.

The Commanding General directs that you send to these Head Quarters, in the course of tomorrow if possible, a statement, showing the number that will re-enlist in your command under the Provisions of General Orders of this year from the War Dept., Nos. 191, 305, & 376 upon condition that the men so re-enlisting at once be allowed a furlough of at least thirty days provided for in the last mentioned orders, the statement will be arranged by Regiments, and show the numbers of men that will reenlist in each Regiment, as well as the number that will not reenlist or who do not come within the Provisions of the orders applicable to the subject.  No man can reenlist at this time who has more than a year to serve.   by Command of

S. Williams, A. A. G.                     Maj. Genl. Meade.

Head Quarters, 13th Regt. Mass. Vols. Decr. 18, 1863.

We the undersigned Non Comd Officers and Privates in the 13th Regt. Mass. Vols, and having less than one year to serve, in consideration of the Bounties Offered, and liberty to leave on Furlough for a period of not less than thirty days, at once do pledge ourselves to re-enlist for Three Years, or during the War.

Soldiers Who Re-enlisted

Company Record

Corpl. A. Jenkins


(transf. 39 MA, Co. H; then to 32 MA)

C. F. Drew


(transf. 39 MA, Co. I; then to 32 MA & m/o)

Llewellyn Jones


(transf. as Corpl. to 39 MA, Co. H; Disch. as supernumerary July 1, '64)

W. F. Blanchard


(2d Lt. US CT, Aug. 31 '64)

Jos. A. Keeting


(m/o as Corpl. Aug. 1, '64; Carried Natl. Colors)

Daniel A. Lovering


(Killed, June 3, '64, Cold Harbor)

G. W. Stoddard


(m/o Aug. 1, '64)

F. E. Rogers


(m/o for promotion, Jan. 4, '64)

John T. B. Green


(re-enlisted, Wounded June 20, '64)

George H. Murray


(re-enlisted, transf. 39 MA; Wounded June 18, '64)

George Brown


(transf. 39 MA) (transf. from 39 MA to 32 MA)

George H. Moore


(m/o Aug. 1, '64)

Walter S. C. Heath


(reported deserter, March '64)

George Spencer


(m/o as Corpl. Aug. 1, '64)

George W. Hall


(transf. 39 MA, then to 32 MA; m/o June 30, '65)

James L. Norris


(m/o Aug. 1, '64)

David L. Jones


(transf. as Sergt. to 39 MA; Disch. as Supernumerary; later in Co. G, 4th Cavalry)

Sergt. C. H. Cotting


(promoted 2d Lt. 59 MA, Dec. 16, '63)

J. A. Kraitzer


(transf. 39 MA)

Henry A. Hebard


(transf. as Corpl. to 39 MA July 14, 1864.) (lived in Alameda, CA after the war.)

Jas. W. Kennay


(m/o Sergt. April 9, '64)

From “Three Years in Company K” by Sergeant Austin C. Stearns, Associated University Press, 1976.

Old Heath; A Downright Cunning Rascal

Orders were received that as many of the boys as would reenlist could have a thirty days furlough to go home, or if the regiment would, they could have the same, but few accepted this offer.  Dan Warren (with the exception of old Heath) were the only ones from K.

Heath, and this is his story, when he was ordered by Capt Hovey at Haymarket to get out of the ranks, [he] fell out and with some others like himself, followed along until they were tired, when they stopped in a piece of woods, built a fire, made coffee and went to sleep.  They never woke up till the next morning, and then while cooking their breakfast a squad of rebel cavalry rode up and ordered them to surrender.

They were kept in the rear until after the battle of 2d Bull Run was won to the rebs, and then were sent to Cumberland Md., where they were paroled and sent to the parole camp at Columbus Ohio.  puck cartoon of jail with three inmatesHere Heath deserted and came to Worcester, where he said he had a wife and two children living.

Arriving at Worcester Mass. he was arrested for larceny and sent to the House of Correction for eight months.  The day before his time was out, the Provost Marshall arrested him as a deserter and sent him to us.  We were very busy moving from place to place and there were many deserters among the subs, and this being a complicated one, [he] was not tried until winter.  The court could not find him guilty, as he was ordered out of the ranks by the Capt., and then there was no record that he was ever mustered in.

He was captured by the enemy, and his confinement in jail he claimed was beyond his control.  The court took the same view and discharged him with full pay for all the time he had been in the service, some eighteen months.  His pay amounting to over two hundred dollars, he reenlisted and received three hundred more.  Not being satisfied, he went down to the 16th Maine with a fifty dollar counterfeit bill, and told them there wasn’t a man in all our regt’t that had money enough to change it for him.  A Sergeant changed it, and old Heath left on his furlough.

We never heard from him again.  The next day the Sergeant came up to camp to find Heath;  he had tried to pass the bill and found it worthless.  If there was ever a downright cunning rascal, that man was Walter S. C. Heath.

Letter of Sergeant George Henry Hill, 13th MA, Company B

George implies a strong political disagreement with his father in this letter.  His comments further suggest his father's  political sentiments aligned with democrats critical of  President Lincoln's management of the war.  The February 20th editorial published in Harper's Weekly that follows this letter, discusses these opinions and openly rebukes them.

Its always great to have a smattering of George Henry's letters.  He is strong willed and articulate. He joined the 13th MA as an original member of Company B, and worked his way up from private to Corporal, then Sergeant.  At one time after the war he was President, of the Ex-Prisoner of War Association.  I am grateful to his descendants for sharing these letter excerpts with me.

Camp near Mitchels Station
        Sunday Feb 14th/64

Dear Father,

George Henry Hill, 13th MA

I am afraid you and I will have some stormy arguments when I get home over the conduct of the war but I warn you that there is not one drop of Copperhead blood in me and so I shall resist the least possible turn that way.  I have risked my life too many times in the defense of the government to come home and do aught else than to give it my honest and hearty support without any if’s or but’s.

I anticipate some very hard fighting next spring and I hope that before another winter we shall see the clouds break away and the clear sky of peace and prosperity hovering over us once again.  I may not live to see it, if not let us try and be reconciled for who am I that I should be spared while so many thousand northern men are sacrificed?

There is quite a mania in the Regiment now on the subject of reenlistment, I have some time ago deliberated on the subject and made up my mind to come home first, and I am not such a shuttlecock as to change with every wind.

I am your affect Son
Geo H.

Harper's Weekly, February 20, 1864

The following editorial has some harsh words for the leading democrats critical of President Lincoln's war policies.  Perhaps George Henry's father leaned this way.  Many did, including First Corps Chief of Artillery, Charles Wainwright.  The most virulent critics were called Copperheads, which George Henry alludes to in is letter.  They proposed peace talks with the Confederate Government.  The fact alone, that this editorial was written to address these critics shows that their opinions were shared by a lot of people.  Keep in mind, Lincoln was not a popular president during his time in office.  That changed the day after he was assassinated.  Then, overnight, nearly everyone loved him.

Saturday, February 20, 1864.
Constitutional Opposition.

THERE are several members of Congress who please themselves by asserting that they constitute a healthy constitutional opposition to the Government, and who insist that it is wrong to call them unpatriotic, merely because they do not approve the method and policy of the Administration in conducting the war.  They protest that the Administration is not the Government, and that they may censure all its acts without being justly liable to be called traitors.

The reply to this specious strain is very simple.  The Government of the United States is defending its existence against an able and desperate rebellion.  The Constitution confers upon that Government every power whatever which is necessary to its maintenance.  It may, in the last extremity, wage war, and whatever is lawful in war is lawful for that Government.

That extremity is now reached, and we are at war;  consequently no measure of legitimate warfare can be censured as unconstitutional.  It can not, for instance, be urged that, as the Constitution declares that no man shall lose life or property without due course of law, therefore no rebel shall be shot and no rebel’s stores seized.  The only point of debate is the practical wisdom of certain measures for prosecuting the war.  Is it good policy? that is the question not, is it constitutional?  For what rights have traitors under the Constitution?  The life of every one of them is constitutionally forfeited.

Now to oppose the war, under whatever pretext, is to favor the rebellion, and compass the overthrow of the Government.  Is, then, encouragement to the rebellion a legitimate constitutional opposition?  We do not speak of the honesty of men who take this course, we are considering the excuse by which they justify it. Their course leads of necessity, if they can persuade the country that the war is wrong, to a counter-revolution and the success of rebellion.  Do they suppose that to be a sound and healthy opposition to the conduct of the war?

Of course we know that they claim to be as good war men as any body.  They are, first, in favor of the war;  and, second, they are opposed to prosecuting it.  Try the quality of their war feeling by their record.  Suppose the Government to-day intrusted to the hands of this party in Congress.  Would they continue the war or attempt to negotiate?  Look at the leaders, who supply its argument and philosophy, and direct its action.  They are such men as Vallandigham, William B. Reed, Horatio Seymour, George W. Woodward, and Fernando Wood.  Other than the party which votes in accordance with the views of these leaders, there is no serious opposition to the Government.  And what these leaders believe is known to the whole country.

They are of opinion that the difficulty should be settled by negotiation and compromise.  That is to say, they do not oppose the method and policy of the Government in waging the war, but they are opposed to the war itself.  Wood says that there is no such thing as a War Democrat.  Their opposition, therefore, is neither Constitutional nor legitimate.

For they propose  to treat with citizens who refuse by force to obey the laws, and their demand is simply that the absolute authority of the Government shall be overthrown.  This is practically the ground of the whole opposition in Congress. They voted at the very outset for Woods’s proposition to send Commissioners to Richmond, by not voting to lay it upon the table.  Failing to carry the destruction of the Government by a direct vote, they struggle in every way to thwart and perplex its movements.  They are aiming to retard the prosecution of the war, and so they play into the hands of the rebels, who hope by prolonging  it to weary the loyal States and create a reaction.

That these men are in a  hopeless and futile minority in Congress,  as they are in the country, does not lessen the shame of their conduct nor the scorn in which history will hold them.  They will not be recorded as a legitimate opposition who saved civil liberty. They will be known as political parricides to whom power not malice, was wanting.

NOTES: Clement Laird Vallandigham (1820-1871) Ohio.  He was a relentless opponent of Lincoln and was active in the Knights of the Golden Circle, (a secret order in the North of Southern sympathizers).
William Bradford Reed (1806-1876) Pro-Confederate Democrat Journalist ostracized for his support for the Southern cause.  One time correspondent for the Times of London.
Horatio Seymour (1810-1886) Supported compromise before the war.  1863 Governor of New York during the New York Draft Riots.  He challenged the constitutionality of conscription, the suspension of the writ of Habeas Corpus, and emancipation.  The editors of Harpers Weekly claimed his anti-conscription speeches incited the deadly New York Draft Riots of July 1863,  that raged for a week in the city.   But, he also labored diligently to fulfill the state's quotas under the calls for troops in 1863 & 1864.
George W. Woodward (1809-1875) Pennsylvania. Chief Justice Pennsylvania Supreme Court, 1863-1867.  Unsuccessful candidate for PA Governor in 1863. Notable Confederate Sympathizer.
Fernando Wood (1812-1881) Mayor NYC in 1861.  House of Representatives, 1863 - 1865.  Sympathetic to the Confederacy and anti-abolitionist Democrat.

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Letter of James Ross, "9th NY; " Train ride to Culpeper

The correspondence of James' parents and sister are included in the anthology of his war letters.  The following letter from James' father to his mother shows their deep concern for the welfare of their eldest son. (They had 14 children).  William Ross, the father, re-located to Hartford, Connecticut with son Willie, to find work.  He was a cooper by trade.  His wife Ann, James' mother remained in Plattsburgh, NY with the rest of the family.

From: “Willing to Run the Risks; Letters from the Civil War, Private James Ross, 9th N.Y.S.M., Co. G, August 1863 –– May 1864.”

Letter Of William Ross To His Wife Ann

 Hartford Sunday Feby 14/64  

My Dear Ann
            … I want you to feel easy about Jimmie for Willie had a letter from him last night, and he was quite well. They were getting ready to go to Mitchels Station.

He has been so situated that he could not write, and he is as anxious for news from home as we are for news from him for he has not heard a word from Plattsburgh or Hartford for two weeks, but he said there was a messenger going to Culpepper after the Mail and he expected a lot of letters …

As regards the pay. [for Johnny’s school fees] Jimmie expects to be paid soon, for the Paymaster has been round, and he’ll send money to pay it.  But if he does not you can do as you say and pay it next month …

Affectionate Husband
                                                            William Ross

Culpeper Railroad Depot

Railroad Depot at Culeper, 1862

Relieved from Outpost duty, Saturday morning, February 13th, James and his comrades walked to Mitchell's Station, hoping to catch the daily train up to Culpeper.  After a long wait, with no train showing up, they continued walking the tracks north. They encountered the train 2 miles up the road at Winston.  It was headed south back to Mitchell's, but it un-coupled some cars to be unloaded at the nearby Cavalry Camp.  When the cars were empty, James and friends jumped in and waited for the train to come back for its return trip to Culpeper,   Pictured is the depot, looking south, where they would have got off and marched up through the town.  The building on the left is the Wager Hotel, which was raised in the 1970's.  The Culpeper Museum of History and Visitors Center occupies this spot today.

James Ross Letter, February 15, 1864

James was relieved from outpost duty February 13th and caught the train at night, that ran from Mitchell's Station to Culpeper, then walked to the camp ground of his regiment outside town.  The history of the Ninth New York says their camp was located about 3 miles west of Culpeper on the Sperryville Turnpike.

 Culpepper, Va
                                Feb. 15th 1864

Dear Annie,
                I have had another time of moving had I lain still I would have written to you before now.  I recd. last week one letter from mother with two from you and Saturday night I recd. another from you with a large bundle of papers. I have answered mothers letter and meant to have written one to you at the same time but circumstances prevented me then and I have had no chance till now.

You will see by the date of this letter that we are no longer on the mountain   last Saturday morning we were relieved and ordered to return to camp.  They told us that if we hurried we could catch the train at Mitchells Station and get a ride in to Culpepper so off to the station we started and almost on the run anxious to get a ride on the cars.  We got to the station at two oclock and waited till nearly dark when we concluded that the cars were not coming up that night and started off to make the journey afoot. The distance was nine miles and it was not pleasant to have to tramp it after dark Saturday night but there seemed to be no remedy.

There was a station two miles farther down the road where the cars stop at a cavalry camp and just as we arrived there we spied the old engine tearing along up the road  it stopped and unhitched three cars and then ran on to Mitchells Station with the rest of the train  We concluded that when the engine returned it would take all the cars into Culpepper so as soon as the three which were left behind had been unloaded we poured into them without ceremony, unslung our knapsacks lit some candles sat down and began to enjoy ourselves   after waiting awhile the engine returned and off we started.

Contemporary snapshot of Davis St. Culpeper, Night

it takes soldiers to enjoy a ride for they get plenty of walking.  As soon as we were under way the boys began to sing    one gave us “Gentle Annie” another sang “Nellie Gray” another tried something comic.  Then we had “Sweet home” and all joined in “Glory hallelujah” at last the train stopped    the conductor did not cry out “Culpepper” neither any one ask us for our fare    but we knew what the place was so out we got   it had been a month since we had seen a village or anything approaching to one before and the sight of the town was joyful to us. The churches stood up in the moonlight still and quiet and the brick blocks of stores were lit up and the streets were full of people just as they are on Saturday night in Plattsburgh

for a month back we had lain out in post under the very noses of the rebels away from all civilized life and to see streets and stores and people once more was very pleasant     all that looked queer was the numbers of soldiers about for the place is full of them.  I fancy that we would have looked queer ourselves if you were to see us at home trudging along on the sidewalk with our guns and knapsacks but no one asked us any questions there.  We had still two miles to walk before reaching the regiment but there was a good road and bright moonlight.

The men straggled along in twos or and threes and soon I found myself along  alone.  I did not know the exact location of our camp and feared that I might get out of my way and have to walk a mile or so more than was necessary     by and by I here  the sound of drums   they were sounding tattoo and soon I got to the top of a hill from which I could see the camp fires.

Just then a man rode along on horseback and I asked him what troops those were. Why said he pointing to the left  “that is the 24th Michigan regiment”  on hearing this my heart sank for that was a regiment I had never heard of before and I fancied that ours must lie far from it. But continued he on the other side of the road are the New York troops that the 99th lies off yonder and that is the 9th whose lights you see.

On hearing this off I started the lights were some distance from the road with a low place between.    I made off at random for I could not find the path and in a few minutes found myself half way to my knees in a bog then I floundered about awhile in the mud and presently got out of it into a nice thicket of bramble bushes. They scratched my arms and tore my clothes but still I did not complain but tore along through them till all at once some one cries out “halloo there that is not the way to the spring.”     it was one of the brigade guard who thought that I was a soldier going after water.  I told him that I wanted the 9th Regt. Well said he “take this path it is only a few steps off”   

I was afraid that I would find the boys living on the ground in their shelter tents but found them in very good huts.  I went along asking for company G.  They told me that it was on the left of the regiment as I drew near the place I beheld a figure standing at the corner of a shanty. “Halloo” said I “what company is this” on hearing my voice the man turned and lo it was my friend Rogers. he welcomed me back and taking me by the arm conducted me to a spacious hut

Bill heard my voice and came rushing out with open arms and Kingsley hailed me with a joyful voice. I entered the house   one found me a seat another unbuckled my knapsack and a third took down the frying pan and began to cook my supper     then I gave them the history of our doings out at the mountain and they told of their late march. They had drawn their money the day before and there was fifty one dollars waiting for me in an envelope   I owed seven and was in want of a number of things that I have had to buy since so my money had gone down very considerably but I guess that I will send home tomorrow by express thirty dollars and I may send home a few dollars more by and by.    I shall still have a good supply left.   I hate to be out and sometimes some money is very useful here.

Out of what I send this time I want you to pay or rather I want Mother to pay herself back for those boots and also Deets[?] money    also to pay Johnnys school bill it is nine dollars    I should have written to Mr Nichols some time since for I owe him a little but I wanted to wait till I was paid after paying these bills there will be left twelve dollars I think out of this.

I want Mother’s picture and Jessies when she can get it taken and the rest is partly for you and partly for her.   I can not send you any thing from here so I want you to get a present for yourself and mother to do the same remember and do this. There is not enough to buy a dress for either of you I suppose but get a book or some pictures or something of that kind or if you can think of some other way that you think the money should be used do as you please with it.

Next pay day I want to send home twenty dollars if I can to be put in the bank for myself for I shall want a little cash ahead when I get out of the army     unless I can get fifty dollars or so ahead I will not be satisfied but this pay I want to use in paying my debts and in making a small present to mother and you, nor it is a present either for what between boxes and papers and stamps and money you have sent me more that I have sent paid for.   

I shall express the money tomorrow.  The chaplain takes it to Brandy Station and sends it from there. You will get it from Haile* and will have to pay the charges.  I could send it by mail but will feel easier to send it by express.

Illustration of soldier in full marching gear

You will find my picture in this letter. What do you think of my looks?  I had it taken today the day was wet and snowy and so the picture is dim I am sorry that it is not a better one but the face is good.  I will tell you how I came to have it taken.  I had to go back to the mountain yesterday and came through Culpepper today.  Peelor was with me.  I had my gun and haversack and he had his knapsack. We chanced to see the sign of a daegerrean artist and the thought occurred to me that I would step in and be taken in marching order.  I have marched a great many miles in just such trim.  You can not see all my load as the knapsack and cartridge box is carried  behind  that roll behind my shoulders is my blankets. The haversack is on my side and the canteen on top just as we carry them.   The cartridge box, cap box, and bayonet sheath are on the belt you can see the bottom of the cap box just under one of my hands but the bayonet is out of sight.   My gloves are on just as I had worn them all day.   On the march you will see soldiers stretching for miles each one in just such trim.  I always carry an axe beside the traps in the picture but I though that that would not look well.   I was shaved and had my hair cut and face washed before the picture was taken but still we fellows from the front looked rough enough beside the trim slick provost guards in the town

if we stay here in camp then here  there is no picket here and we will have to brush up, black our boots, keep our hair cut and sport in our dress coats &c.   I hope that we will stay here a good while  the duty is light and it does seem familiar to hear the drums bugles and bands of the neighboring troops.  Out on the mountain we were lonesome and solitary there was no other troops the rebels were our nearest neighbors and we did not favor the company.

I hope that you will have patience to read this tiresome letter.  I will be able to write regularly now I hope or at least as soon as I get stamps for I am out now but father has promised to send me some and I look for them every day.  This letter is partly for mother partly for you. I had a letter from Emma this afternoon.

Winlsow Homer humerous hardtack illustration

I forgot to state that Willie wanted my picture. If you care to keep both of mine I will have another taken for him but if you only want one sent the other to him.   I guess that the hard tack that you ate was no harder than ours always are   they are just like little boards but very good for hungry soldiers.  I lived on tack and raw pork two or three days last week nothing else in the world.    I find that that is the best food here when a man has the diarhoea. I had soft bread at the time but liked the tack better.   I believe now that I am getting over the diarhoea and that it wont trouble me again.  I have lost some flesh but am well and have not been sick really.   Some men are so for months and are much worse than I was     many will pass only clear blood for days together and be on duty all the time    I have been sick as little as any man in the company less so than most of them and for that I am thankful.

I will write to Johnny when I can and I owe plenty of letters to other people that I must pay when I can.  I hope that you will get the money safely give my love to all.   Kiss Jessie for me.  If mother can have her picture taken I want it badly.   I can think of nothing more now, Good Bye for the present.

Your brother
                            James Ross

*Hiram H. Haile, Express Agent in Plattsburgh.  1860 United States Federal Census.

Return To Table of Contents

Mary Ellen's Visitors

This section takes a deeper look at the identities of some of the  officers Mary Ellen encountered during her visit to Culpeper.  A few biographies or service records are included.

The Journal of Mary Ellen Baker Pierce [January 7 -  April 4] continued.

Monday 15
        Colonel Leonard & Wife came up from Brigade.  Elliot & I dined with captain Hulse –– Colonel Dana. Majors Hall, Baird & Chamberlain were present

Colonel Edmund Dana, 143rd PACharles F. Hulse

On February 15th, Mary Ellen and Elliot dined with Colonel Leonard and his wife.  Colonel Edmund L. Dana, 143rd PA, pictured, left, & the ever present Captain Charles F. Hulse, 121st PA., were also there. 

Colonel Edmund L. Dana.
        I've collected some biographical information on Colonel Dana.

Born January 29, 1817, from Wilkes-Barre, PA, after attending 3 years at Wilkes-Barre Academy he entered the Sophomore class at Yale College, and graduated, Bachelor of Arts, 1838.  Subsequently he earned a Masters degree.  After working one year as a Civil Engineer he studied law, completing his studies, and admitted to the bar in Luzerne County, 1841.  In the Mexican war Dana was captain of an artillery group, the Wyoming Artillerists, and offered his company’s services when the government called for troops.  The Artillery Company was accepted and mustered into National service as Company I, First Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers.  This company of 124 men joined the army under General Winfield Scott, and participated in many battles and sieges from Vera Cruz to Mexico City.  After the war Dana returned to Wilkes-Barre and resumed law practice, but remained active in local militia, obtaining the rank of Major-General, 9th Division PA Militia.

In 1862, Governor Andrew Curtin appointed him commander of Camp Luzerne, a camp of organization and instruction.  From here most of the men of the 143rd PA Volunteers were recruited.  Dana enlisted November 18, 1862 [age 45]  as Colonel of the 143rd PA Infantry.

On November 7th the regiment was ordered to Washington, where it spent time as part of the city defenses.  It was ordered to join the 2nd Brigade, 3rd Division, 1st Corps, Army of the Potomac, January 17, 1863.

The regiment camped for the remainder of the winter at Belle Plain Landing.  It was a sister regiment to the 150th PA, organized the same time. From this time they followed the fortunes of the First Arny Corps.  See the biography of Major Tom Chamberlin for a little more detail on their service at Chancellorsville.

Colonel Dana took command of his brigade at Gettysburg during the fight of July 1st. The regiment maintained a line from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.,  and lost 21 killed, 141 wounded and 91 missing, out of 515 men brought onto the field.  During the engagement Colonel Dana, on foot, moved along the line through fire, wherever his presence was required.

He was age 47 in January 1864, when Mary Ellen met him.

At the battle of the Wilderness, May 6, 1864,  Col. Dana suffered a gunshot wound and was taken prisoner by the enemy.  He was taken first to Macon, GA, then Charleston, S.C., before being exchanged August 3, 1864.  He then rejoined his regiment in front of Petersburg. Early in 1865, due to reduced numbers via hard service, the 149th PA was assigned special duty in Baltimore and later at Hart’s Island, where it remained until the close of the war. 

SOURCES:  American Civil War Research Database, Edmund L. Dana;
Civil War in the East, 143rd Pennsylvania Infantry;
FindaGrave, Edmund Lovell Dana;
Samuel Penniman Bates History of Pennsylvania Volunteers 1861-1865, Volume IV, p. 488;&
Biographical Sketch of the late Hon. Edmund Lovell Dana, by Sheldon Reynolds, Osterhout Free Library, 1889.

Majors Baird, Hall, and Chamberlin;

Edward Carey Baird, Adjutant-General's DepartmentMajor Thomas M. Hall, 121st PAMajor Thomas Chamberlain, 150th PA

These 3 officers are also specifically named as being present with Mary Ellen and Elliot the evening of February  15th.  Pictured are Major Edward Carey Baird, Adjutant-General's Department, U.S.V.;  Major Thomas M. Hall, 121st PA;  Major Thomas Chamberlin, 150th PA. All of the officers pictured are in 1st Brigade, Brigadier-General Kenly's  3rd Division 1st Army Corps.  Major Baird's record is posted later on this page.

Major Thomas Hall, 121st PA.
        Major Thomas M. Hall was a sickly man with a patriotic military fervor.  He graduated from Princeton, then studied law with his Uncle Honorable William M. Meredeth.  He was admitted to the bar in 1856.  He was a member of Chapman Biddle’s Artillery Company, and when that officer organized the 121st PA Infantry to serve 3 years in the war, Thomas Hall, though he had fragile health,  signed on as Adjutant.  He was so popular with the men they appointed him Major of the Regiment, and later Lieutenant-Colonel, though he was not in the regular line of promotion.  This was quite an honor for him in the Volunteer Army.  Soon after his appointment to Major, December 31, 1863, and Lieutenant-Colonel, February 11, 1864, his health failed him entirely.  He had to resign from the service and return home.  He died later that year on November 6th.  He was present at the dinner Mary Ellen attended with Colonel Leonard and others on February 15th, just a few days after his promotion to Lieutenant-Colonel.

Major Thomas Chamberlin, 150th PA.
        Major Chamberlin's military record, like most military data, is quite sparse as given, but the 150th PA published a pretty good history of their unit, coincidentally written by Major Chamberlin!   Reading through it I was able to highlight a few moments from his military career, which also reflects on the service of the other Pennsylvania regiments in their brigade,  (the 1st Brigade) in Brigadier-General John R. Kenly's 3rd Division, First Corps.

Thomas Chamberlin was a 23 year old lawyer who mustered into the 5th PA Reserve Infantry, as Captain,  June 6, 1861.  He saw action in General McClellen’s Peninsula Campaign and was wounded a year later on June 30, 1862, at the Battle of Fraser’s Farm.  He was taken captive and spent a short time at Libby Prison in Richmond.  He was recovering from his wounds in a hospital at Baltimore, when Secretary of State Slifer named him for the position of major, in the 150th PA Infantry which was then organizing.   Unaware of the appointment, and upon learning that the Army of the Potomac was on the march in Maryland, chasing General Lee, Captain Chamberlin asked for and obtained a discharge from the hospital, and hurried to Washington to rejoin his old command in the 5th PA.  He caught up with the regiment, in bivouac near Frederick, Maryland.  He participated in the battles of South Mountain and Antietam with the 5th.  After Lee’s Army recrossed the Potomac River into Virginia, he resigned from the 5th PA and was mustered into the 150th with rank of Major, on the 23rd of September.

Tad Lincoln

The companies of the 150th PA spent several months in winter at various posts in camps around Washington, D.C.  The men of two companies posted at the Soldiers Home were befriended by President and Mrs. Lincoln, who were frequent visitors.  Major Chamberlin, who was supervising the companies, made the acquaintance of their son Tad who spent much of his time in the camp.

Tad Lincoln in his military uniform, pictured right.

In the middle of February, 1863, the regiment joined the Army of the Potomac in Winter Camp at Belle Plain Landing.  They were attached to the 2nd Brigade, 3rd Division, 1st Army Corps.

At this time in the war, after the failures of General Burnside’s campaigns of Fredericksburg and the Mud March, morale in the army and in parts of the North was low.  And political critics of the Lincoln Administration were encouraging that sentiment.  In response, Major Chamberlin was one of the officers of the 150th PA to draw up resolutions approved by the rank and file, that expressed loyalty to the government and outrage at voices in the North trying to hinder the administration in a determined prosecution of the war, and to create dissatisfaction at home and in the field.  These resolutions were published in the Philadelphia Press and the New York Tribune, among other papers.

From this point forward the regiment’s service followed a very similar path to that of the 13th MA.  They were at Pollock’s Mill Crossing on the Rappahannock, April 30, 1863, the day John S. Fay of the 13th MA was struck by a shell that killed two other officers.  They marched with the rest of the Corps to Chancellorsville and dug in on the right of the Union Battle lines May 2nd.  Major Chamberlin was again wounded in battle at Gettysburg, July 1st 1863.

“Among those who were singled out by the enemy’s bullets was Major Chamberlin, who fell, dangerously wounded, some distance in front of the new line, and was brought back by volunteers from several companies  at great risk to their own lives and limbs.  ..The major was carried to the McPherson House.”  He was wounded in the shoulder and the chest.

Major Chamberlin returned to the regiment August 26th, and resumed his duties, in keeping up the appearance and skill of the regiment.  Like other units in the First Corps, decimated at Gettysburg, their strength was less than 240 soldiers, many of that number being newly conscripted men.  But it was too soon for him to return to duty.  A month later, his old wound was inflamed, which completely disabled his right shoulder and arm, and compelled him under medical authority to report to Georgetown Hospital for treatment.

He returned to duty once again on October 22nd and resumed command of the regiment, then at Thoroughfare Gap at the close of the Bristoe Campaign.  The regiment did not participate in the Mine Run Campaign, but remained behind guarding the Orange & Alexandria Railroad near Warrenton Junction.  They rejoined the First Corps in camp near Paoli Mills December 5th, and marched with it to Culpeper Christmas Eve, but the 3rd Division camped north of the village.

“On the 17th of March, Major Chamberlin who had been commissioned Lieutenant-Colonel on the 6th, to succeed Colonel Huidekoper, and who had been practically in command of the regiment the greater part of the time since the closing days of August, 1863, left the army and returned to civil life.”  His return to service had exacerbated his Gettysburg wounds, and his choice was further hospital treatment, or a complete withdrawl from the field.  He reluctantly chose the latter, and was honorably discharged on Surgeon's Certificate of Disability.  He lived to age 78.

The Journal of Mary Ellen Baker Pierce [ January 7 - April 4 ] continued.

Tuesday 16th
        Very Cold  did not go out received letters from Fannie B & Julia

Wednesday 17th
        Cold.  Captain Hulse called.

Train Engine at Culpeper Depot, Timothy O'Sullivan Photo

Thursday 18th
        Wrote to Annie & Julia.  Dr Winslow & lady arrived and occupy a room in the house

Friday 19th
        Called on Mrs Winslow very pleasant old lady.

Elliot & I called on Captain Fitch, post commissary near the depot.  took the train for Mitchel’s Station at ½ after 4.  rode in the engine.

Spent the Evening in company with Captains Howe, Livermore, Porter, Carey,  Lieutenant Bradlee,  Dr. Whitney & Colonel Leonard  & wife &c.

Pictured is the Culpeper Depot, (closeup) in August 1862; photo by Timothy O'Sullivan. 

The Gang's All Here

Pictured here, all the soldiers Mary Ellen mentions in that last entry.

Captain Jacob A. Howe, 13th MAAdjutant David Bradlee, 13th MACaptain Oliver Cromwell Livermore, 13 MA

Some 13th MA Men, pictured left to right, Captain Jacob A. Howe, who saved the 13th Mass.' colors at Gettysburg; Adjutant David H. Bradlee, the colonel's clerk; Captain Oliver Cromwell  Livermore,  serving on General Robinson's staff.

Lucy E. Putnam Leonard and her husband

Colonel Leonard and his wife Lucy, in camp at  Williamsport, Maryland, about February 1862.

Captain Elliot Pierce closeupMary Ellen Pierce closeup

Elliot and Mary Ellen Pierce, our hosts.

Surgeon Dr. Allston Waldo Whitney, 13th MACaptain William Cary, 13th MACaptain Charles H. Porter, 39th MA

Pictured left to right, Dr. Allston Waldo Whitney, Brigade Surgeon, Captain William Cary, the Colonels friend, both 13th MA Officers, & Captain Charles H. Porter, Company D, 39th MA Vols., with them.

Charles H. Porter, 39th MA
        Captain Porter  seems to be the only non-member of the 13th MA mentioned among this group gathering on February 19th. There is no Captain Porter in the 13th.  Although Mary Ellen refers to him as Captain, First-Lieutenant Charles H. Porter of the 39th MA seems a likely candidate for the identity of this officer.  His record would seem to support that.  Born April 3, 1843;  he was age 19 upon enlistment.  Mustered into service with the 39th MA, August 24, 1862 as 2nd Lieutenant.  Promoted 1st Lieutenant January 29, 1863.  Declined promotion to captain September, 1864.  Mustered out with the regiment June 2nd 1865.  Porter was very active in post-war military activities.  He promoted the service and memory of the 39th Regiment.  As a member of the Loyal Legion, he presented papers to the Massachusetts Military Historical Society on the various military campaigns for which he was present.  These papers were used to help write the regiment’s history in 1914.  He was extremely prominent in post-war civil life, serving as Selectman & Mayor of Quincy, and also served on several State boards.  He remained prominently active in veteran military organizations like the G. A. R., and the Massachusetts Militia.  He was for 7 years Trustee of the Chelsea Soldiers Home, and took a leading role in organizing re-unions in the 39th Regiment Association.  The soldiers often invited General G. K. Warren and General John Robinson to their annual re-unions, and at times these notable commanders attended.  Their friendship and loyalty to General Warren was a bright spot in that soldier's sad post-war ordeal, when he was unsuccessfully challenging  his removal from command of the 5th Corps by General Sheridan, just after the Battle of Five Forks near war’s end.

A Pretty Big Time

On Saturday, Mary Ellen in company with her husband Elliot & Mrs. Leonard, rode over to the Cedar Mountain Battlefield.  When they returned to Brigade Headquarters there were several exciting entertainments awaiting them through the afternoon and evening.

Timothy O'Sullivan Photo of Cedar Mt Battlefield, August 1862

Cedar Mountain Battlefield, August, 1862, taken just a few days after the battle.  Timothy O'Sullivan Photo titled, "Center of the Battlefield."  Reverend Phillip Slaughter's home is on the ridge, left center nestled in the trees that stand out on the slope of Cedar Mountain.

Mary Ellen's Journal, continued:

Saturday 20th
        Inst. Colonel & Mrs. Leonard Elliot & I, visited the Cedar Mt. battlefield rode about 10 miles  I rode Capt Howe's horse.

Attended the dedication of the 39th Chapel in evening.  Had an oyster supper after we returned and nigger dance, band came and serenaded about 1 o’clock  pretty big time.  lovely day [Sources say the day was warm.––B.F.]

Winslow Homer illustration "A Bivouac Fire on the Ptomomac"

Winslow Homer illustration titled, "Bivouac Fire on the Potomac" appeared in Harper's Weekly, December 21, 1861.


The Christian Commission was organized in New York in late 1861 to care for sick and wounded men but principally to “promote moral behavior and religions devotion.”   Agents distributed Bibles, tracts, newspapers, and hymnals among the soldiers.  In the Winter of 1864, the Christian Commission, like its secular counterpart, The Sanitary Commission, established a headquarters at Brandy Station, Virginia, a stop near Culpeper along the Orange & Alexandria railroad with a large supply depot for the Army of the Potomac, and myriads of Winter camps in the surrounding hills and valleys.  During the winter it advocated and supported the building of camp chapels.  “If the men will construct the walls and floors, promise Commission agents, they will provide canvas roofs.”    This pleased the camp chaplains.

In the First Brigade at Mitchell’s Station, both the 39th MA and the 16th Maine, proudly constructed chapels and gave prominent mention of them in their respective regimental histories.  The 13th MA did not construct a chapel.  Perhaps, since their chaplain had retired from the regiment in February, 1863, the most likely advocate for a chapel was missing in the 13th.  They did seem to take advantage of the chapels in the other two regiments, for they attended the occasional camp celebrations that took place there.

SOURCE:   “Seasons of War” by Daniel E. Sutherland, 1995,  The Free Press, N.Y.  Quotes from p. 323-324.

The following is from, “The Thirty-ninth Regiment Massachusetts Volunteers, 1862-1865;” by Alfred S. Roe, 1914.

The 20th of February marked the dedication of the new chapel, whose building had taken the time and strength of the soldiers, some of them, for a number of days.  Nicely decorated and appointed, the men were not a little proud of their place of worship.  Chaplain French had charge of the exercises; the band of the Sixteenth Maine was present and most obligingly discoursed appropriate music.  Among the people who crowded the interior were Colonel Leonard of the Thirteenth Massachusetts with his wife, Surgeon Alexander of the Sixteenth Maine and wife, with others.  Compliments were dealt out to the men who had labored so zealously for the success of the project and Colonel Davis’ remarks in this direction were especially happy.

The next day was Sunday, and regular service was held in the new chapel.  Apparently the 22d, Washington’s birthday, received no special attention.

Surgeon Charles Alexander, 16th MaineChaplain Edward Beecher French 39th MA

Surgeon Charles Alexander 16th Maine, Chaplain Edward Beecher French, 39th Massachusetts

By Channing Whittaker, Company B

Our most ideal winter’s camp before the Wilderness Campaign was that at Mitchell’s Station. A more perfect parade and drill ground could not have been desired.  It had abundant length and breadth. It was the smooth level top of an extensive plateau.  The log cabins of the officers were in a straight row where the slope to the rear began.  The log cabins of the men stretched down the slope toward a veritable Eldorado of firewood and drinking water. These log cabins were very comfortable.  Each accommodated eight men.  The entrance from the company street was at the middle of its length.  The fireplace and chimney were directly opposite the entrance.  The living room was between the two.  There were four bunks, two at each end with one above the other.  Each bunk was long enough for a tall man to stretch out at full length with his head upon his knapsack and wide enough for two men to sleep comfortably, side by side.  The cabins of the field officers had, of course, the right of the line.  The chapel was more to the front and a little to the left of the cabins of the field officers.  The pioneers who constructed Col. Davis’ cabin and the chapel were master workmen.  No keel of ship in New England shipyard had timbers hewn and dowelled into a substantial whole with more absolute perfection.  I never shall forget the perfect delight of an afternoon when, convalescing from a severe attack of measles, I was detailed to report at the Colonel’s quarters.  Here I was received by Lieut. Colonel Peirson with a smile upon his face.  He showed me that the cabin was not yet dry enough for occupancy, showed me the wood which I was to burn to dry it out, showed me the charming fireplace in which I was to burn it.  If I remember well its top was arched.  Perhaps the arch had blocks, with a central one of keystone shape. He gave me a comfortable seat and an entertaining book to read, by an army chaplain, “The Whip, Hoe and Sword,” by George H. Hepworth.  The friendly behavior of the Lieut. Colonel, the restful charm of the roomy clean interior finished in natural wood showing its grain, the blazing fire in the big fireplace with its perfect chimney, and the extreme comfort of it all, after the discomforts of the measles, filled me with agreeable sensations and with gratitude to the Lieutenant Colonel.


And the chapel !    It may have been thirty by fifty feet inside.  Its hewn oaken logs were perhaps twelve inches square, its roof was a fly that the Christian Commission had furnished.  Its fireplace was huge, magnificent. The prayer meetings were held in it, the Freemasons used it as a lodgeroom, the Sons of Temperance had meetings there, and the regimental school for those who could neither read nor write nor cipher was held in it.  I well remember the morning when Comrade John F. Locke, of Company E, and myself were detailed to report at the chapel and appointed to be the teachers of the school by Lieut. Colonel Peirson.

Lieutenant-Colonel Pierson, 39th MA

I remember hearing the roll-call of the students of my own and of a neighboring company and the ugly mutterings, the dissatisfaction, the almost mutinous emphatic expressions of discontent of some of those whose names had been called, because they had been detailed to attend a school.  I fully expected trouble. A considerable number of men were in anything but a teachable spirit. We met in the chapel, the Lieut. Colonel, the teachers and thirty students, some of them bristling with unwillingness.  But the Lieut. Colonel, who was always a gentleman, drew us all into a comfortable semi-circle about the hearth where the cheerful fire blazed  He told us of the personal benefits and advantages which it was hoped that the work in the school would bring to each student, and his manner and speech almost immediately disarmed the embryo antagonism of the others in the group.  When he finally asked if there were any present who desired to be relieved from attendance at the school, not a man wished to withdraw, all were glad of the opportunity.  The antagonism had melted away like a mud-puddle in the light of a July sun.  And the antagonism never returned.

I have taught many hundreds of students since but none who were more interested, more attentive, more constant.  Each of the men learned to write his name.  Seven wrote letters home before we broke camp, to the great delight of themselves and their families.  Twenty-three made especially commendable progress in reading and arithmetic.  Our text and copy books had been the generous gifts of Colonel Davis and his brother Robert.  The Lieut. Colonel had offered a gold pen and case as a prize to the man who should gain the greatest proficiency in writing.  All of the written exercises were carefully preserved from the beginning and, when the time came to award the prize, it was almost impossible to say whether it had been won by Johnny Gibbs of Company A, a brick layer, who was well along in years or by Daniel Lines, a carriage painter.

For year after year the good right hand of Johnny Gibbs had clasped the small handle of a trowel.  Its active exercise in that cramped position with the acrid lime sometimes in contact with it had caused its bones and cords and muscles to grow out of shape.  He could no longer open it much more than enough to enter and remove  a trowel handle.  He could not hold a pen in usual position.  There were sharp crooks made at the joints of his right thumb and forefinger when he brought them together and there were similar crooks in his capital O’s when he wrote his best.  But his handwriting, though characteristic, was absolutely clear.  It was perfectly easy to read.  He had mastered his hand for the purposes of a writer.  Despite the crooks he wrote a handsome hand.

The hand of Daniel Lines had gained a wonderful cunning in the business of a carriage painter.  He could do what he would with a camels-hair brush, when making scrolls and stripes and decorations.  He brought to his copy book the artistic power of a hand over which he had a complete control.  From the beginning his double-reversed curves were lines of beauty.  At the end his writing had almost the perfection of the copyplate.    There was no possible doubt that Daniel Lines’ writing was more beautiful than that of any other pupil in the school, but which had gained the greatest proficiency in writing in the school, he or Johnny Gibbs?

Picture of a gold pen from the Victorian Era

The teachers were puzzled.  They called in the Lieut. Colonel as referee.  He too was in doubt and suggested that Gibbs and Lines should draw lots.  The lot fell to Gibbs.  On Sunday, the 21st of August, 1864, Johnny Gibbs and his teacher, John F. Locke, were taken prisoners in a battle on the Weldon Railroad.  They were both very sick, together, in that fearful prison in Salisbury, North Carolina.  There were no tender-hearted, white-capped, trained nurses there, to keep in extreme cleanliness the clothing of the very sick.  But the gratitude, the compassion, the sympathy of the old man for his youthful teacher became too strong.  Like many another soldier who has volunteered to dare almost certain death in a forlorn hope, weak Johnny Gibbs washed the soiled clothing of John Locke.  Within a day, Johnny Gibbs was dead.

More Pictures of Cedar Mountain Battlefield

View from the Shelf of Cedar Mountain to the battlefield

Pictured is the view from the Shelf of Cedar Mountain towards the 1862 battlefield.  General Ewell's artillery under Joseph Latimer held an artillery position at this elevated point.  The foreground house is the site of the Brandt farm.  The brown patch in the background delineates the edge of the woods (a cleared field today) held by the Confederates of Garnett's Brigade during the battle.  The trees directly to the right of this patch of ground is where the wheat field stood.  The green patch to the right of those woods is the portion of the Wheat field where the 10th Maine was pinned down.  The farm in the background didn't exist during the battle.  Geary's attack passed through here, (moving right to left).  Prince's Brigade attacked up through the fields in the middle-ground.  The distant, barely discernible  houses at the far left background mark the Crittenden Farm Lane.  Just to their right is the corner of woods where General Charles Winder was mortally wounded.

Cedar Mountain, Crittenden Barn

Photo of the Crittenden Barn circa 1989

This image was taken when the Crittenden Barn was still standing.  The House stood near the silo on the left.  The house burned down in an accidental fire Christmas Eve 1973.  This is the ground which General Henry Prince's Brigade charged over to confront General Early's Confederates aligned on the ridge in the middle ground. It was a partial cornfield then, as in this picture.  Photo by Clark "Bud" Hall, circa 1989.

Cedar Mountain Battlefield, The Wheatfield

Timothy O'Sullivan 1862 view of the Wheatfield

Another 1862 view of the Cedar Mountain Battlefield taken a few days after the fight by photographer Timothy O'Sullivan.  This view is looking west toward the wheatfield, which General Samuel Crawford's Brigade, 5th Connecticut, 28th New York, 46th Pennsylvania, charged across to engage Confederates lurking in the woods opposite in hand to hand combat.  The charge met with incredible success turning 3 Confederate Brigades, before sputtering out.   Without re-enforcements the 3 regiments were compelled to leave the field, when most were captured as Rebel re-enforcements advanced to cut them off.   Eventually the 10th Maine, which had been held in reserve, was advanced into the middle of the wheatfield pictured in the distant background, where they were pinned down by thousands of Confederate re-enforcements from several of A. P. Hill's Brigades, which had just arrived on the battlefield.  The foreground is where General John W. Geary's Ohio Brigade advanced.

Same View To-day

cedar mountain battlefield today

This is generally the same view today, as the period photo above.  Note the dip in the land near the soldiers head on the right of the image, and compare with the view here.  This ground is private property.

Position of Hartsuff's Brigade

Cedar Mountain Battlefield, Hartsuff's position

Elliot and Mary Ellen may have chosen to ride another mile north of the core battlefield to view the position the regiment occupied during the night of the battle.  It was in these fields in front of the Nalle House, (still standing)  that Brigade artillery dueled with the Confederates during the evening exchange.  The ridge in the middle ground is where Matthew's Battery was posted.  Cedar Mountain looms in the distance about 2 miles away.  The dark line left to right is the driveway to the historic Nalle House.  Modern Highway 15 cuts through the left of the photo. The patch of white on the left (a greenhouse) is very close to the position occupied by Willie Pegram's artillery at night.

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Escape From Libby Prison

Two days after Gen. Butler's failed raid on Richmond, ostensibly to free Union prisoners, there was a breakout at Richmond's Libby Prison!   On February 9th, one hundred and nine officers escaped Libby Prison through a tunnel about 64 feet in length.  Forty-eight of the escapees were re-captured.  But that left 69 officers who made it to the Union lines and freedom. Among those who successfully got away after the escape was Captain Morton Tower, of the 13th MA.  Tower was captured at Gettysburg July first, 1863.   ––After the war he  prepared a paper based on his experiences as a Union Prisoner of War, confined at Libby, for the Oregon Veteran Association, which was later published in the 13th Mass. Circulars, #8, December, 1895. 

What follows, are some period newspaper accounts of the affair, and then, a reprise of Captain Tower's memoir.

Boston Evening Transcript, February 18, 1864

The key to the portion of the map pictured is included in Morton Tower's Memoir further down the page.



Particulars by one of the Escaped Colonels.


The Washington Star of Thursday evening contains a long account of the escape of the Union prisoners who have just reached Washington from Richmond.  After excavating the tunnel, which has been already described, their operations were as follows:

About half-past eight o’clock on the evening of the 9th, the prisoners started out, Colonel Rose of New York leading the van.  Before starting, the prisoners had divided themselves into squads of two, three and four, and each squad was to take a different route, and after they were out were to push for the Union lines as fast as possible.  It was the understanding that the working party was to have an hour’s start of the other prisoners, and, consequently, the rope ladder in the cellar was drawn out.  Before the expiration of the hour, however, the other prisoners became impatient, and were let down through the chimney successfully into the cellar.

Map of Libby Prison Tunnel


Col. W. P. Kendrick, of West Tennessee, Capt. D. J. Jones, of the 1st Kentucky cavalry, and Lieut. R. Y. Bradford, of the 2d West Tennessee were detailed as a rear guard, or rather to go out at last, and from a window Col. Kendrick and his companions could see the fugitives walk out of a gate at the other end of the enclosure of the carriage house, and fearlessly move off.  The aperture was so narrow that but one man could get through at a time, and each squad carried with them provisions in a haversack, at mid-night a false alarm was created, and the prisoners made considerable noise in getting to their respective quarters.  Providentially, however, the guard suspected nothing wrong, and in a few moments the exodus was again commenced.  Col. Kendrick and his companions looked with some trepidation upon the movements of the fugitives as some of them exercised but little discretion  moved boldly out of the enclosure into the glare of the gaslight.  Many of them were, however, in citizens’ dress, and as all the rebel guards wore the United States uniform, but little suspicion could be excited, even if the fugitives had been accosted by a guard.


Between one and two o’clock the lamps were extinguished in the streets, and then the exit was most safely accomplished.  There were many officers who desired to leave, who were so weak and feeble that they were dragged through the tunnel by main force and carried to places of safety, until such time as they would be able to move on their journey.  At 2 ½ o’clock, Capt. Jones, Col. Kendrick and Lieut. Bradford passed out in the order in which they are named, and as Col. Kendrick emerged from the hole he heard the guard within a few feet of him sing out, “Post No. 7, half-past two in the morning and all’s well.”  Col. K. says he could hardly resist the temptation of saying, “not so well as you think, except for the Yanks.”  Lieut. Bradford was entrusted with the provisions for this squad, and in getting through he was obliged to leave his haversack behind him, as he could  not get through with it upon him.

Once out they proceeded up the street, keeping in the shade of the buildings, and passed eastwardly through the city.


Colonel Kendrick had, before leaving the prison, mapped out his course, and concluded that the best route to take was the one toward Norfolk or Fortress Monroe, as there were fewer rebel pickets in that direction.  They therefore kept the York River Railroad to the left and moved toward the Chickahominy river.  They passed through Bear Swamp, and crossed the road leading to Bottom Bridge.  Sometimes they waded through mud and water almost up to their necks, and kept the Bottom Bridge road to their left, although at times they could see and hear the cars traveling over the York river road.

While passing through the swamp near the Chickahominy, Col. Kendrick sprained his ankle and fell.  Fortunate too, was that fall for him and his party, for while he was lying there one of them chanced to look up, and saw in a direct line with them a swamp bridge, and in the dim outline they could perceive that parties with muskets were passing over the bridge.  They, therefore moved some distance to the south and after passing through more of the swamp, reached the Chickahominy about four miles below Bottom Bridge.   Here now was a difficulty.  The river was only twenty feet wide, but it was very deep, and the refugees were worn out and fatigued.  Chancing, however, to look up, Lieut. Bradford saw that two trees had fallen on either side of the river and that their branches were interlocked.  By crawling up one tree and down the other, the fugitives reached the east bank of the Chickahominy, and Col. Kendrick could not help remarking that he believed Providence was on their side, else they would not have met that natural bridge.

They subsequently learned from a friendly negro, that had they crossed the bridge they had seen, they would assuredly have been recaptured, for Capt. Turner, the keeper of Libby Prison, had been out and posted guards there, and in fact had alarmed the whole country, and got the people up as a vigilance committee to capture the escaped prisoners.

After crossing over this natural bridge they laid down on the ground and slept until sunrise on the morning of the 11th, when they continued on their way, keeping eastwardly as near as they could.  Up to this time  they had had nothing to eat, and were almost famished. About noon of the 11th they met several negroes, who gave them information as to the whereabouts of the rebel pickets, and furnished them with food.


When about fifteen miles from Williamsburg the party came upon the main road, and found the tracks of a large body of cavalry.  Colonel Samuel Perkins Spear, 11th PA CavalryA piece of paper found by Captain Jones satisfied him that they were Union cavalry;  but his companions were suspicious, and avoided the road, and moved forward, and at the “Burnt Ordinary” about ten miles from Williamsburg awaited the return of the cavalry that moved up the road, and from behind a fence corner where they were secreted, the fugitives saw the flag of the Union supported by a squadron of cavalry, which proved to be a detachment of Colonel Spear’s Eleventh Pennsylvania regiment, sent out for the purpose of picking up escaped prisoners.  Colonel Kendrick says his feelings at seeing the old flag are indescribable.

The party rode into Williamsburg with the cavalry, where they were quartered for the night, and where they found eleven others who had escaped safely.  Colonel Spear and his command furnished the officers with clothing and other necessaries. (Colonel Samuel Perkins Spear, 11th PA Cavalry, pictured).

At all points along the route the fugitives describe their reception by the negroes as most enthusiastic, and there was no lack of white people who sympathized with them and helped them on their way.


From these officers we learn that there is a wide-spread Union feeling in Richmond.  Jeff. Davis is held in detestation, but all who do not heartily endorse the rebel government are spotted and watched.  There are at this time eighteen persons confined in Castle Thunder on charge of attempts to assassinate the rebel President.  Those prisoners also confirm the reports that an attempt was made to burn Jeff’s mansion, and that one morning his servants found a coffin upon his porch.

In their escape the officers were aided by citizens of Richmond — not foreigners of the poorer classes only, but by natives and persons of wealth.  They know their friends there, but very properly withhold any mention of their names.  Of those who got out of Libby there were a number of sick ones, who were cared for by Union people, and will eventually reach the Union lines through their aid.


Belle Isle Prison, Richmond, VA

The officers also report the fact that some time ago, through the aid of citizens, they obtained communication with the soldiers on Belle Isle, and there was to be a concerted movement to escape. The soldiers had been furnished with arms, which they had secreted.  The officers at Libby were to secure the guards there, and act in concert with the Belle Isle men; but just as the affair was ready to be carried into execution the project was exposed.  Suspicion at once rested upon a certain Union Lieutenant colonel, who was in favor with the rebel authorities, had the freedom of the city, and moved about at will in the hospitals and elsewhere. He had been suspected for some time, and one day was accused of exposing the affair.

The indignation of the officers whose plans had thus been thwarted through the perfidy of as they believed, one of their number, cannot be described.  Some cried out, ‘hang him! hang him!’ one ran to his blanket, and tearing it in strips said he had a rope ready;  and others were in favor of pitching the fellow out the window and letting his brains bespatter the pavement below.  Wiser counsels, however, prevailed and it was concluded that it was better to let the traitor live and report him to his government, if opportunity ever offered. The lieutenant-colonel, we understand, will be reported to the War Office.  His excuse is that he informed a federal officer in hospital of the attempted escape, and that a rebel surgeon overheard the conversation.”

Boston Evening Transcript February 18, 1864. (continued.)

The Escaped Union OfficersBaltimore. 17th.  The following is published by the escaped prisoners from Richmond:

“Card.   We the undersigned, officers of the United States army, and recently prisoners of war, desire to express our deep gratitude to Major General Butler, Brig. Gen. Wistar, Colonel West of the Pennsylvania artillery, and the gallant officers and men of the 11th Pennsylvania cavalry and 1st New York mounted rifles, for their effective assistance in completing our escape from the rebel Libby prison at Richmond, and from the lines of pickets and bloodhounds of the rebels, and also for many acts of kindness so gracefully tendered us in our present time of need.  We desire also, in common with every loyal heart in the Union, to tender to Major General Butler our high appreciation of his prompt and extensive efforts to aid our comrades who are yet in the rebel lines attempting to elude their vigilance and make good their escape from that prison of refined cruelty and slow death.”

Signed by eight officers.

Washington, 17th.  Twenty-seven of the escaped Union officers arrived here tonight.

A special despatch to the Boston Daily Advertiser says;

I have seen and talked with Captain Morton Tower of Abington of the 13th Massachusetts, who is the only Massachusetts man yet arrived.  He knows that Higginson and Davis, of the 1st cavalry, certainly got away from Richmond.

Thirty officers were occupied fifty-one nights in digging a tunnel, seventeen inches square, through which one hundred and nine got out.  It is believed that one half are safe.

Boston Transcript, February 25, 1864.

Richmond Papers write a snarky response to the incident.

BOSTON TRANSCRIPT,   February 25, 1864.

(From the Richmond Enquirer, Feb 12th )

The Great Escapade From the Libby.

The escape of the Yankee officers from the Libby continued to be the liveliest topic of yesterday, and conjectures were rife as to the means of the escape other than those described in  the published accounts.  The sentinels, as usual, were enriched with laurels that their native modesty, if nothing else, would cause them to decline. After all, however, this grand delivery does not exceed in glory or secrecy the escape of John Morgan from the Ohio Penitentiary, and yet neither the connivance nor carelessness of sentinels or others have received any credit from Morgan or his historians, Yankee or Southern.  It is most probably, in fact, that this distinguished General is, more than anybody else, responsible for the success with which Streight and his chums made their exit from the Libby. The experience and example of the one was an admirable lesson for the other.

It appears that the tunnel under Twentieth street was dug entirely with an old hinge, and the loosened earth––a brittle, marly sand––removed with an old sugar scoop stolen from the hospital quarters.  As the tunnel  progressed, the miner took with him, besides his tools, an old-fashioned knapsack, made upon a wooden frame, to which a cord was attached.  When he filed this with earth, it was drawn out by an accomplice who remained in the cellar, the contents deposited safely out of the way, and it was then shoved back to the digger with a pole.

The basement itself, in which this work was carried on, was kept constantly locked, never used, and the windows being tightly nailed, it was as dark as pitch.  The principal in the tunneling operation was Capt. J. N. Johnson, of the Sixth Kentucky Cavalry, who is among the escaped.  His accomplices were different, as occasion or private arrangement demanded.

Jack Davis humerous illustration of a RebelOn several occasions it had been observed that this Johnson was absent  from roll-call, and now and then two or three others, a circumstance not very gratifying to the clerk who had the roll to call, who, of course, would have it to go over again. A short time after he would appear and make his presence known, and would give as an excuse that it was only a little fun – “just deviling the clerk.”  On one occasion when this thing had occurred once too often, he was called up for punishment when he plead very eloquently with a broad and amused grin, that he was “only joking, and was rolled up in his blanket when his name was called.”  He was excused this time with a warning   He took good care to keep better hours in quarters, while the work continued below to its completion.

Immediately after the escape was discovered and the first to go in pursuit, Mr John Ligon, Assistant Clerk, with Orderly Hatcher, Warden R. R. Turner, and two policemen, went off in the direction of the Peninsula, and up to yesterday evening had signalized their promptness and energy by the recapture of eight fugitives, who they picked up on the roads.  Fourteen others were brought in during Wednesday night and yesterday, by pickets on the Chickahominy.  Several were captured at Bottom’s Bridge, some in Hanover, but the larger number only a few miles from the city.  Intelligence was obtained that a number of them were trying to get through in the direction of Fredericksburg.  Another batch, recaptured in that direction, is looked for today.  We give below the list of those who had up to six o’clock last evening been returned to their old quarters at the Libby. The energy and solicitude of Major Turner are subjects of deserved commendation.

One of the captures of Wednesday was made by “an American citizen of African descent.”  The dusky captor was engaged in a matutinal “dig” in his potato patch, when he observed the fugitive officer streaking it across the field.  Seeing that he wore suspiciously blue garments, the darkey hailed him and asked him where he was “gwine.”

  Something to the effect of “nowhere” being the reply, the darkey, with courage and patriotism worthy of immortality, brought his hoe to a “charge,” and responded, “Yes, you is, dough––you done broke out o’ one o’ dem prisons––come along––you got to go wid me.”  He marched him to the house, handed him over to his master, and returned to his potato parch covered with glory.

Story Of The Escape Of Union Prisoners From Libby Prison, Richmond, VA., In February, 1864.
By Major Morton Tower (Reprise)

Six years ago I posted the memoirs of Captain Morton Tower on this website.  Tower was captured at Gettysburg and held at Libby for 7 months until his successful escape.  I originally wished to post his memoirs here, following the chronology of the Regiment,  but much of his narrative  has to do with the march to Gettysburg, his capture and the march from Gettysburg to Richmond as a prisoner of war.   Six years is a long time to wait until I got around to publishing this page so I posted his memoir with the Gettysburg material.  Here is a partial reprise of the narrative that deals solely with the escape and his journey behind enemy lines to freedom.

Morton Tower, 13th MA

Libby Prison stood close by the Lynchburg canal, and in full view of the James river. It was a capacious warehouse, built of brick and roofed with tin; the building had a front of about one hundred and forty feet, with a depth of one hundred and five. There were nine rooms, each one hundred and two feet long by forty-five wide, the height of the ceiling from the floor was about seven feet, except the upper story, which was better ventilated, owing to the pitch of the roof; while at each end of these rooms were five windows.

We were now fairly embarked upon Libby life, little thinking what a long weary time it would be before we were once more free.   [Morton Tower pictured.]

The room I was in was occupied by officers from the Army of the Potomac; there were over two hundred of us. Our only water supply was a faucet in one corner, with a sort of trough for the water to run into, which we utilized as a bath-tub when we could get a chance, though that was not often, among so many.  Our rations were of the scantiest kind, with the exception of a short time when they allowed us to receive boxes from home. Mornings, the first thing was roll-call, which meant standing in line in files of fours until counted. After this came what was called breakfast, which consisted of a piece of unbolted corn-bread three inches square, and a very small piece of meat, mostly rancid bacon;  this was all the bread and meat for the day.  About five o'clock in the afternoon half a dozen negroes, each with a couple of buckets, would appear; these buckets were filled with a sort of broth that the meat had been boiled in, with a little rice added, and of this they gave us about a pint. Such were the rations we received every day. Every morning came a darkey with a frying-pan filled with steaming tar;  this was to fumigate the rooms. Once a week came scrubbing-day, which was most dreaded of all days; the same darkies would appear with buckets and brooms and thoroughly drench the floor with water; this, as we had to sleep on the bare floors, would make it decidedly uncomfortable for a day or two.

Illustration of the interior of Libby Prison

Life in Libby, at best, was very monotonous, but as we became used to it, we passed the time playing cards, chess, and other games.  Schools of all kinds were in vogue. We had mock trials, civil and military, in which, generally, the culprit would be an officer who understood very little English, and the jury would be selected from the same kind;  frequently during the trials, the anxiety of the prisoners and the jury to understand what was going on would be very interesting to the outsiders, though it did not appear so to them. We had lectures, and published a weekly paper called the “Libby Chronicle.”  The editor, I thought then, and still think, could have been successfully sued for libel, as the items were generally quite personal.  At night, after lights were out, came what was called the “Catechism,” when such questions as these were asked and answered ; “Who hid behind the big gun?”   “Who surrendered for humanity's sake?”  “Who washed his clothes in the soup buckets?”  “Who burnt the hash ?”  “Who took a bath ?” etc. And these were replied to with the names of the several offenders, much to the amusement of those acquainted with the circumstances referred to. These highly refined entertainments usually closed with a bombardment of all the utensils one could find at hand, which resulted in a general search for personal property the next morning.

At one time we gave theatrical and musical entertainments, and they were remarkably good, as among so many, more than average talent was to be found. Sundays, as we had several chaplains amongst us, we had Divine service. We also had temperance lectures by the famous Neal Dow. They did not make much impression on the audience, for of all the 1,500 or 2,000 men who attended, I knew of no one who used intoxicating liquors; perhaps from the fact that none were to be had.

About a month, during the fall of '63, we were allowed to receive boxes from home, and clothing which was sent for the prisoners at Belle Isle by the Sanitary Commission, and here I want to say what any true, loyal man who saw the workings of that commission will echo with his whole soul, “God bless the Sanitary Commission!”  Words cannot tell the good work they did.

Libby Prison

While we received boxes from home we fared very well. We gave and received dinners, and for a time, if prisoners can be, were jolly.  Christmas came about this time, and we had a grand ball in one of the lower rooms, when we were allowed to burn candles until mid-night; we sang and danced until then. Soon after lying down someone started  “Home, Sweet Home,” and I do not think there was a man that didn't join in singing the grand old tune, and grand and sad it must have sounded when one takes into consideration our surroundings.

Winter was cold and cheerless without fires and with scanty clothing. Life was dreary indeed; we had long given up hopes of exchange, but all willingly submitted to the decision made by our government, that no arrangement for a just and equitable exchange of prisoners could be made.

From the time one becomes a prisoner, the whole tenor of his thoughts will be the means and method of escape. Very few chances were offered, owing to the almost impregnable position of the prison. Few escapes were made, and most of these by seizing sudden opportunities. Occasionally visitors, mostly citizens of Richmond, were allowed, by the consent of the authorities, to enter the prison, and when leaving would pass out without being challenged by the sentinels.

One day several visited the prison. Captain Porter, Major Bates, and Lieutenant King, having obtained citizens' clothing from home, donned the same and followed this group of visitors past the guard. Captain Porter succeeded in reaching our lines, but the other two were recaptured.

At another time workmen were replacing wooden bars in the upper story with iron ones, and Lieutenant Cupp disguised himself as one of the number by soiling his hands and face, putting his old shirt over his clothes, and taking a piece of iron bar in his hands. When the workmen left at dinner-time, he quietly followed them out of the prison. As he passed across the street he was stopped by a citizen, to whom he apparently explained the alterations being made at the prison. He then coolly walked up the street and probably as coolly walked into our lines.

At another time Major Halstead and Lieutenant Wilson were in the hospital, presumably sick. The major, who had been a tailor prior to his military life, offered to make a uniform for one of the surgeons, but the surgeon, however, did not wear it, for one afternoon the major, in a surgeon's uniform, and Lieutenant Wilson, who by some means had obtained a Confederate private's uniform, not only walked out of the door, but all the way down the peninsula to the Federal lines.

Diagram of Libby Prison

Diagram of Libby Prison

Cropped Diagram of Libby Prison & the Escape Tunnel.  (Click Here to view the full diagram larger).  The numbers pictured correspond to the following key.

1.  Col. Streight's Room 8. Gettysburg Room (upper)
2.  Milroy's Room 9. Gettysburg Room (lower)
3.  Commandant's  Office 10. Hospital Room
4. Chickamauga room (upper) 11. East or "Rat Hell" cellar
5. Chickamauga room (lower) 12. South Side Canal Street, ten feet lower than Cary St.
6. Dining Room 13. North Side Carey Street, ground sloping toward canal.
, 7. Carpenter's Shop (middle cellar) 14. Open Lot (not visible in cropped image)

Libby prison had been considered by Confederate authorities as one of the most difficult of all the prisons from which to effect an escape, the building being completely isolated.  On the north and south sides were vacant lots, on the east and west,  streets.  Libby itself is a brick building divided into three tenements of which the middle portion of the ground floor was the only one accessible to the prisoners, the north and south rooms being occupied, one as the Confederate officers' quarters, the other for a hospital for the Union sick;  the basement under this hospital was used as a place for rubbish, also as a place of temporary receptacle for the dead previous to burial. The prison was guarded night and day by twenty sentinels, five on each side of the building.  During December of 1863 and January of 1864, combined attempts at escape were commenced.

Colonel Thomas E. Rose Major A. C. Hamilton, Kentucky

Colonel Thomas E. Rose, 77th Pennsylvania, left, and Major A. G. Hamilton, right, 12th Kentucky Cavalry accidentally met in remote areas of Libby Prison while separately planning their escape.  The two formed a secret partnership and together explored various means of escape from Libby Prison. Other prisoners were let in on the secret by necessity.  It was only through the unflagging efforts of these two men that the third successful tunnel out of Libby was completed. One hundred nine men escaped the night of February 9, 1864.  Estimates vary but a recent study claims about 49 succeeded in making it to Union lines.  Two men drowned and about 58 were re-captured.  Colonel Rose was re-captured.  Major Hamilton made it to Union lines. 

The first of these was to tunnel to the sewer which passed under the street between the prison and the canal. The first attempt was made by Major Hamilton and another officer,* who tried to pass through a drain to the sewer; this was found to be impracticable. They had meantime obtained access to the middle tenement by raising a board from the floor. Next, tunneling was tried, but was stopped by the tunnel coming in contact with a large rock. Another tunnel was abandoned on account of striking a flow of water. Traces of the tunnels were obliterated and all endeavors in this direction ceased. Had they been able to reach the sewer, which was built of brick and led to the outskirts of the city, undoubtedly the prison could have been emptied of prisoners in a few hours.

Discouraging as these failures were to the men engaged, they were not disheartened.  The next attempt made was commenced in a brick fireplace on the south side of the middle room, the object being to reach the basement under the hospital. This was done by digging out the bricks from the fireplace, the only implements used being a common case-knife. These bricks had to be replaced after the night's work was finished, every trace of which must be obliterated.

Walton Tabor illustration of two men working on the tunnel

After obtaining entrance to the basement under the hospital, a ladder was formed of old pieces of rope, blankets and sticks, which were hidden away during the day. The first work in the cellar was to remove the bricks from the foundation, thus making an opening of about two feet by eighteen inches in size. Then it became necessary to cut through one of the piles that formed the foundation of the building. This was a tedious labor, as the work had to be done with ordinary pocket-knives. Then commenced the process of tunneling through the dirt, which was accomplished by filling common spittoon-boxes, with which the prison was furnished, and placing the contents under the rubbish in the cellar, throwing it into sinks where it was washed away by the water, and in every other conceivable place where it would not attract attention. After the tunnel had been dug a few feet, one would lie on his back, draw the spittoon to his chest by means of a string, loosen the dirt behind his head with an old chisel, fill the box with his hands and pull the string, when the spittoon full of dirt would be drawn out by a comrade and replaced with an empty one. All the excavating of the tunnel was accomplished in this manner. As we had no means of propping the tunnel, the sensation of being buried alive was fearful, and men could work only for brief periods.

In a building which occupied part of the yard our boxes from home were stored, since the authorities had stopped delivering them to us. Could we but reach that yard, we supposed the sentries would think we were their own men stealing them. This they probably did, as not one of us was challenged during the night of our escape. The entrance from the street to the yard was a brick arch-way closed by ordinary wooden picket gates, through these we passed into the street in plain sight of at least seven sentinels.

Gate which prisoners exited onto Canal Street

On the night of February 9, as soon as it was sufficiently dark the exodus from the prison commenced from the lower middle room, through the hole in the fireplace to the cellar below the hospital. The room was crowded with prisoners, which somewhat interfered with the exit of those escaping. About 11 o'clock an alarm was raised that the guard was coming. This caused the room to be cleared. With a rush every man sought his resting-place, and immediately all was quiet. Soon after Colonel Davis, of the Fourth Maine, came to me, saying, “Now is our chance.” We, with Major Hamilton, Colonel Rose, and others of the projectors, went down to the room and, finding no one there, passed at once through the tunnel just as the clocks in Richmond were striking twelve. It seemed strange that no alarm was given, as the noise made by the men rushing and crowding up the stairs was very much out of the ordinary. Colonel Davis had been seriously wounded in his left arm, which was now nearly helpless, and I had to help him crawl through the tunnel by pulling him along as best I could. We passed under the archway, waiting for what we thought a favorable moment to evade the sentinels' observation. Colonel Davis turned into and went down the street first. After a few anxious moments I followed and came up with Davis leaning against a building. We then passed along to the suburbs of the city, when we came to a railroad, near which a sentry was standing near a small fire. We succeeded in eluding his vigilance and walked as rapidly as possible away from Richmond, crossing over unoccupied fortifications.

Near daybreak we reached a small thicket of woods, where we stopped to rest. We had scarcely lain down when we heard "reveille" sounding all around us. We knew we had to move, and we did so suddenly. We came out in full view of their camps, and tried to find some hiding-place. We were not successful in this, for we were on a small hill, within not more than a thousand yards from where cavalry was located. We lay down on the ground expecting, of course, to be recaptured before the day was done. Time passed on, and still we were safe. After the longest and most anxious day I ever spent, night came again and once more we breathed freely. We again started on, evading in the best way we could their camps and sentries.

Early in the morning we reached the banks of the Chickahominy river, where there was a grove of large trees with no underbrush, in plain sight of a sentry, had he been looking our way. He was leaning over a small fire around which several men were sleeping. It was as dangerous for us to retreat as it was to advance, so we did the latter. We struck the river where parts of an old pontoon boat and other drift had lodged, over which we passed in safety.

For an hour or more we traveled on, hiding in the brush the remainder of the day. As soon as night fell we again took up our line of march. During our wanderings we avoided all highways and open fields. Most of the way lay through swamps filled with tangled underbrush, and with water sometimes waist deep. The weather was very cold, the Potomac river being partly frozen over during the time we were out. We shaped our course by the north star.

At one time during the night, as we were walking along a path, we heard the tinkling of a cow-bell. Davis thought it would be a good scheme to have some fresh milk, we therefore hid in the brush beside the path, waiting for the cow to come along, the cow, how-ever, proved to be no cow at all, but a Confederate soldier leading his horse, which had a cow-bell suspended from its neck. We hunted no more lacteal fluid that night, as we had come to the conclusion that it was not healthy, although at different times we heard more bells, which we always carefully avoided.

illustration of bloodhounds chasing prisoners

Early that morning we found, as we thought, a secure place for the day, near an old log. We had not hidden there long before we heard the baying of a hound, and as the sound drew nearer and nearer we knew the enemy were on our track. It was no use to run, and we prepared ourselves the best we could.  The colonel selected a stout club and I opened a common pocket-knife which I had, and then waited. Soon a hound came up, jumped on a log, and commenced to bay, not offering to touch us unless we moved. The colonel struck the dog over the head with his cudgel and I with my knife, and soon he was a good enough dog for us.

We traveled for an hour or two hunting for another place to hide, where we stayed until dark, when we once more commenced our tramp. We journeyed all night through the swamp until daylight, when we suddenly came into the Williamsburg turnpike, which we had all along been trying to avoid.

We struck the road in plain sight of a Confederate picket, who called upon us to halt, which we did not see fit to do, but turned and ran for the swamp; three shots were fired at us as we disappeared. We managed to hide under some old logs, in water nearly up to our necks. For nearly an hour we could hear them hunting for us and calling to each other. After waiting until all was quiet we took up our march. We traveled for a couple of hours and hid for the day in a thicket. As soon as it began to grow dark we heard some one passing near us, and as they came in sight we discovered them to be two escaped Union officers. We joined forces and traveled together during the night. Early in the morning we came in sight of a house, which we concluded to visit. We found only three or four women there, and to them we said that we were Confederate cavalry, and that the Yankees had captured our horses and chased us through the swamp. We asked where our troops were. Pointing to a hill, they informed us  “there were right smart of 'em” over there. They gave us some corn bread and biscuit, when we immediately left, making a wide detour of the place indicated as being occupied by the Confederates, and soon again went into hiding.

Escaped Prisoners Reach Union Cavalry

At nightfall we once more started, and had traveled for about three or four hours when we saw a large fire ahead of us. We proceeded toward this, coming soon into a large field in which were three haystacks. We could plainly see the fire, which was near a road.  We dared not approach nearer, and as the haystacks offered a tempting bed we burrowed into the centre of one, lay down and enjoyed our first real rest since leaving Richmond. Next morning, feeling much refreshed, we concluded to travel for a few hours and find a safe hiding-place, as we thought the haystacks, from their position, too conspicuous. We passed around the place where we had seen the fire on the previous night, when we came to a wood where we had a plain view of the Williamsburg turnpike. We had been lying down for an hour or two when we saw coming from the direction of Willamsburg a troop of cavalry. As they approached near enough for us to distinguish their uniforms and equipments, we felt sure they were Union. We waved our hats to them, when they broke into a gallop and came cheering to where we stood.  We found them to be a company of the Twelfth Pennsylvania Cavalry, commanded by Captain Ackerly, coming out from the camp at Williamsburg to relieve a company that had been sent out to help escaping prisoners, they having heard of the escape from officers already arrived. The fires we had seen in the night had been built by these troops, thinking they might be seen by the fugitives. We stayed at this place all day. Captain Ackerly furnished us with horses, and with the company we rode to Williamsburg, a distance of about eight miles, where we found several officers who had succeeded in escaping. We were received with open arms by every one, were furnished with a tent, plenty of blankets and eatables, which we had been almost without since leaving Richmond seven days before, and from which place we took with us two small boxes of sardines, a piece of bologna sausage about four inches long that we had saved from boxes received from home, and two small pieces of Confederate cornbread. These were all the rations used by us during our wanderings, excepting the bread we received from the only house we visited.

We slept well that night and were up when the sunrise gun was fired and reveille sounded. We saw the flag raised, and never did a flag look as handsome to us as "Old Glory” did that morning. One who has not passed through the hardships experienced by us the last eight months could hardly imagine the joy we felt in knowing that we were once more really free.

One hundred and nine officers escaped through the tunnel, fifty-three of whom succeeded in reaching our lines.

From Williamsburg we were sent to Yorktown in ambulances, from which place some thirty of us were sent by steamer to Fortress Monroe, where we were received by Gen. B. F. Butler, who placed everything in Hygeia Hotel at our disposal. Next morning General Butler detailed an escort for us, with which we proceeded, passing through Baltimore, and upon arriving at Washington marched to the White House where we were received by President Lincoln. The news of our escape had preceded us, and all along the route from Fortress Monroe to Washington we were constantly receiving ovations from the crowds of people that thronged our way.

photo of Walt Whitman

The officers on board the boat that conveyed us from Yorktown to Fortress Monroe did not apparently know who we were. As we left the former place we occupied the cabin, and of course were jubilant and very noisy. Soon the captain of the boat came into the cabin and said, “This noise must be stopped.”  He then left, but soon reappeared and asked, “Are you the men that escaped from Libby?”  We replied, “Yes.” He then said, “Make all the damned noise you please.”

Aboard the same boat was the celebrated Miss Dix, of sanitary and soldiers' hospital fame. She was greatly interested in us and our adventures, and invited us all to visit her in her home at Washington. At the Capitol there was the usual amount of “red tape.”

We had received orders to be paid off, and had been allowed thirty days' leave of absence. For two days I vainly tried to get my pay, visiting the Treasury Department each morning. On the third morning I again presented myself there, and was met by the usual answer “that I would have to wait.”  I remarked “that it was mighty hard that a man who had just spent eight months in Libby Prison, and with a thirty days' leave of absence in his pocket, could not get the wherewithal to go home.”  As I said this a kindly looking gentleman, who stood beside me, asked my name, rank, and regiment, saying, “Wait a moment.”  He left, but soon returned, handing me a check for my pay. He then handed me his card, and on it I found inscribed the name of Walt Whitman, known as the poet and soldier's friend.

Thus ended my experience as a Union prisoner of war.

*The other officer is Colonel Rose, who was a modest gentleman, and kept his prominent role in the building of the Libby tunnel quiet for many years after the war. As such, Lt. Tower did not know his identity at the time this memoir was written.

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Picket Duty

All the sources from the First Brigade speak of the enormous amount of picket duty the soldiers did while camped at Mitchell's Station and Cedar Mountain.  But very little else is said in any detail.  Once again Sergeant Austin Stearns provides a funny story.  Another letter excerpt from George Henry Hill, precedes it.

Harpers Weekly illustration of a bivouac fire

Letter of Sergeant George Henry Hill,  February 23, 1864;

George looks forward to getting some rest when the regiment musters out of service in July.

  Camp  of 13––Regt Mass
        Mitchels Station VA
                Tuesday Feb 23d/64

Dear Father

We are having very changeable weather here, first cold enough to freeze one and again like today warm as June.  I am out on picket two days out of six and we are kept continually on the alert to prevent a surprise.

We hold a different position now to any we have been placed in before since I came out, being the extreme outpost of the Army consequently “great vigilance” is in command as we say here.

Our brigade is the only infantry organization out here, we are here with the Cavalry and the nearest infantry is at Culpepper distant 8 miles.  We remain in our comfortable quarters undisturbed and hope that we shall not be ousted from them until May.  Then we expect warm work and plenty of it until July when those of us who are left will take a rest.

With love to all I am as ever your affect Son
                                        Geo H.

On Picket Duty with Nate Seaver & Al Sanborn

Sergeant Austin Stearns, gives us some more character antics from the ranks of the 13th Massachusetts Volunteers.

From “Three Years in Company K,”  by Sergeant Austin Stearns, (deceased); edited by Arthur Kent; Associated University Press, 1976.

Charles Reed sketch of an Angry Soldier

At another time while out, [on picket] I had divided my men into three reliefs, taking their names and dismissing until wanted.  Al Sanborn, full of the devil, went and told Nat Seaver that I had taken his name (Nats) from the 2d and put it on the 3d ––that he had looked on my book and saw it.  He knew it would make Nat fighting mad, and Al wanted some fun.  Nat was a very exciterable man and had no reason.  I was sitting by the fire when he came and wanted to know “Why I had changed his name from the 2d to the 3d relief.”

I did not readily take in what he meant, but looking up, saw Sanborn near, who gave me a wink and I understood.  I asked Nat what he meant, if he wanted the 3d relief.   He was so mad he didn’t know what he meant and cursed and tore round and said I might shoot him before he would go on that relief.  He accused me of favoritism and called me all manner of names, the boys laughing and shouting to hear him go on.

After we had enough of it, I told him to dry up or he would not go on any relief, for I would send him to headquarters.  He muttered some and then went to another fire and sat down, where he stayed until I ordered the 2d relief to fall in, calling their names.  Nat, hearing his name called, came forward feeling very cheap and excusing himself by saying it was one of Sanborn's old tricks.  Poor Nat, he would the next day be just as ready and as willing to believe him.

...Al Sanborn who went out a Corporal and was reduced to the ranks, then made a Corporal again, & then a Sergeant, got some liquor, and made things quite lively for a time.  Not being satisfied with the sport he was having in his regiment, he thought to have some with the 39th Mass.

graphic of a devil

He went over there in the day time, and was successful in picking up a row;  they got the best of him and not being satisfied, he went over again in the evening, and was committing a nuisance near one of their tents.  They heard him and ran out, calling on him to stop;  the Col. was out side his quarters, and hearing the noise, and seeing a man running towards him, called to him to stop also.  Al,  not having the least idea which way he was running or who was calling him, told him to go to h—l.

The Col. not relishing the idea of going there at present, and wishing to know who and what he was, questioned the men of his command.  The next morning a complaint was entered, [and] Al was arrested, Court-marshalled, and reduced to the ranks for his days sport.

This story confirmed in the history of 39 MA.

The following is from, “The Thirty-ninth Regiment Massachusetts Volunteers, 1862-1865;”  by Alfred S. Roe, 1914.

[February 12th]
        Injudicious use of the ardent was the probably reason for the advent of a Thirteenth Massachusetts’ party evidently bent on mischief.  Whatever they came for, the colonel cut short the career of a sergeant and a private by placing them under arrest and so returning them to their Regiment.   How strange it is, that men will tolerate an evil that makes such fools of them!

The evening of this day was brilliantly illuminated by great forest fires on both sides of the Rapidan.

Road Trace towards Rapidan Station

This is a portion of the old road that led from the east side of Cedar Mountain to the village of Rapidan Station.  The road is on private property today, but was heavily patrolled and picketed by Union Cavalry in the Winter of 1864.  Pickets of the 13th Massachusetts regiment and others in their brigade covered a portion of ground near here, but the  location of their picket posts is not exactly known.

The following is from “Letters from Two Brothers Serving in the War for the Union,”  Printed for Private Circulation, Cambridge, 1871.

Letter of Warren Freeman, February 22 & 23

Camp of the Thirteenth Regiment Mass. Vols.,
                            Mitchell’s Station, Va.
, February 22, 1864.

Dear Father and Mother, –– I thank you for your kind letter, No. 124, received last night;  I also received a good letter from Uncle Washington in the same mail.  I have no important news to write to-day.

We had a small squad of veteran recruits come to us a few weeks since –– and one of them has been taken down with the small-pox; he is in a shanty about 100 rods from camp.

February 23. –– I have received my box; the boots are a good fit, I like them very much, –– and everything in the box was in good order and very nice, except the apples were a little frost-bitten, but that will not hurt them much.  This is probably the last time I shall trouble you in this way, as I have quite a good stock of things on hand now, and our time will be out in a little more than four months.

Our re-enlisted men (about twenty in number) have gone home on their furlough.

Please say to Miss Lizzie S. Morse that she imagined about right, for I certainly did turn to the end of her sprightly letter the first thing after opening it, to see the signature, but not to see who was so “audacious”  as to write to me, as she intimates –– but to see who was so kind  as to remember a poor “soger boy” out here in the wilderness.  Please thank her for me for this very entertaining epistle.

We have got a library in the regiment;  we all subscribed  a small sum; the doctor took charge of it and sent to Philadelphia for the books.  There are between 300 and 400, so we have plenty of reading matter. [Dr. Lloyd Hixon.]

When we move I shall take my coffee-pot along;  the axe must be left behind, as it is in vain to attempt to get anything carried in the baggage train.

I inclosed twenty dollars in my last letter, which I hope you have received. 


The Substitutes Light a Fire &
An Escaped Prisoner From Libby Gains The 13th MA Picket Line

The following is from the Diary of Samuel D. Webster, Company D:
        Excerpts of this diary (HM 48531) are used with permission from The Huntington Library, San Marino, CA.

Touched up war time image of Sam Webster

Tuesday, February 23rd, 1864
Visit Yeager’s.  Mountain on fire.  At night the sight was grand, the fire being in a great circle.  A stray shell would occasionally explode, as the fire reached it. (It was probably the 3 Yeager daughters that kept Sam's attention and inspired his frequent visits to their home.  His little brother was certainly smitten with one of them, buying her a ribbon as a gift in January.)

February 24th.
        Had Ferrotype taken and sent to Lyford to be photographed.

Omitted mention of Febry 27th.*
        on the night of that day some of the men, out of spite because others would sleep in the piquet house –– a deserted house out beyond the R. R. –– set fire to it.  It  blazed up very brightly and could be seen by the rebels, who were all out on the hills, where they are encamped south of the Rapidan, wondering what the Yanks were up to ; and by the light, and hearing them talk, a Lieutenant, who had got so far, having escaped from Libby Prison, with Col. Streight, found our lines, and got safely into camp with four negroes.

*Charles E. Davis, Jr. dates this incident to the 26th of February.

Sunday, February 28th, 1864
        The 6th Corps are said to be on the way to Barnetts Ford.

Pictured right, is a heavily touched up photo of Sam.

From “Three Years in the Army” by Charles E. Davis, Jr.

illustration of a moonlit night someone running in the night

On the 26th a substitute, in order to make things lively, set fire to the building occupied by the picket reserve, endangering the lives of the men who were lying in it asleep.  The time was fast approaching when the boys, becoming exasperated, were thinking of taking the law into their own hands. This fire had one good effect, as it served as a beacon to several officers and soldiers who had escaped from Richmond, and were seeking our lines.  They were accompanied by four negroes.

On the 29th a lieutenant of the Eightieth Illinois, being among the last who came through the tunnel under “Libby prison,” approached our lines and was challenged, when he answered, “Friends without the countersign.”  Upon being admitted, he was so overjoyed he knew not what do do or say.

Shortly after leaving Richmond, he was laid up by a bad knee, stopping at the cabin of a negro who concealed him and cared for him until he was able to travel, and then accompanied him to our lines.  They traveled only nights, and were helped along by negroes. The last two days he was near the rebel lines, but kept out of sight.  On this night, before the moon was up, they crossed the Rapidan between the rebel pickets, and entered our lines.  He was sent by a special engine to army headquarters.

First Corps Reviews

On February 22nd and 23rd there were two reviews of the First Corps in the fields somewhere about a mile outside of Culpeper as James Ross records in this letter.  I had not originally intended to post another Ross letter on this page, (although they are all worth reading), because he was away from the Signal Station and back with the rest of his unit in the camps outside Culpeper.  But James is the only source within the 2nd Division, I have found for these reviews.  It is not even mentioned in the history of the Ninth New York, James' regiment.

Mary Ellen Pierce attended the reviews, and mentions them in her journal ––but gives no detail. The 1st Brigade, and soldiers on picket duty, and those guarding the Signal Station on Bald Pate, were exempt from the exercise and they don't mention the reviews in their letters.  Major Abner Small, 16th Maine, mentions the First Corps review on the 23rd, but says his regiment was on picket duty that day.   Sam Webster was visiting the Yeager's.  The event worth noting by the  First Brigade, according to source material, was a fire that started and burned on Cedar Mountain.

Photo of the Grand Review of the Army, 1865

I think this image of the Grand Review in Washington, D.C., May 1865, best illustrates James' description of the men marching with gleaming bayonets.

Division Review; Letter of James Ross, 9th NY

Slavery was unknown in the North for many years, and James reports with wonder, his observations of the black population in Culpeper.  But after poking fun at what he observes, he flat out condemns the practice of keeping people in servitude because of the color of their skin.

The image below of the three African American women was taken August, 1862 by photographer Timothy O'Sullivan. Click here to view larger.

James letter is written in the language of his day.

From: “Willing to Run the Risks; Letters from the Civil War, Private James Ross, 9th N.Y.S.M., Co. G, August 1863 –– May 1864.”

Culpepper, Va
                    Feb. 23rd, 1864

Dear Annie:
            I recd. a letter from you yesterday afternoon accompanied by one from Deet. I am sorry Jessie is not well but hope she will be better by the time you get this. The papers you speak of and the Gospel of Peace were recd. safely as you know before this. I daresay this  makes the third letter that I have written you since my return to the regiment. I have also written one to mother   I hope that you have recd. my money letter all right before this time. I am pretty well at present. the weather is beautiful   you at the north have no idea of such weather as we have in Virginia during fine days in winter the birds sing in the morning as they do in spring time at home   not a morsel of snow or ice is anywhere to be seen    the air is warm and pleasant so that it is quite comfortable to be without a coat   we are sitting in our shanty this afternoon without fire    the door is wide open and we are quite warm enough.

This fine weather is the time in the army for reviews. The 1st & 2nd divisions of our corps had a review near Culpepper yesterday and the whole corps was reviewed about one mile beyond the town this morning.

I wish that you could have seen the sight it was very fine indeed, ten thousand men dressed in their best with flags flying, drums beating and bayonets flashing.  Our regiment looked extremely well every man had his gun bright as a dollar  clothes brushed clean, and boots blacked. They marched like veterans.

Photo of a girl on balcony

When we passed through Culpepper some of the women opened the windows to gaze at us and some came out on the balconies while others just peeped through the closed blinds. these last were the secesh of the place but I admire their conduct more than that of the others, for all the women were violent rebels when our troops entered the town and I daresay that there is not one of them but has relatives in the rebel army, but many of them smitten with the fascinations of our officers now have become quite loyal and are very agreeable to the Yankee mercenaries   those that have reformed in this way can buy tea, sugar, and &c from our commissary and have many favors shown them that the others have to do without. Some are to be married to yankee officers but I think that I like the way the others stick to their principles a great deal better.   As I noticed some of them peeping out at us I thought how they must have felt to see us marching along so proudly, well clothed and fed, while their husbands brothers and fathers are starving and shivering in the camps across the Rapidan most of them not as far off as Keesville is from Plattsburgh but separated from them as completely as if thousands of miles lay between them.

 There are no men in Culpepper but soldiers you will hardly find a boy as old as Johnny in the town    the war has taken them all, but the place swarms with niggers of all colors the little children came out in crowds to see us    you can form no idea of how a nigger baby looks till you have seen one. They have little heads round as an apple and eyes like glass marbles. Their skin looks like polished mahogany and the little wooly pate and the black limbs look queer enough   they are as full of antics as young monkeys and almost as quick in their motions. They are as sharp with their tongues as they are quick and they talk with a queer southern accent that it would make you laugh to hear.

Niggers here carry everything on their heads    little fellows like Truman and Leslie will bring a pail or small tub to the spring   fill it with a cup then turn round and say to some one “Please put dis on my head sah” and when it is put on will trot off as lively as if they had no load at all.  Out at the station the niggers ran the concern I mean on the plantation there. There was one white woman who was supposed to own the property but there was also a venerable negro woman weighing three or four hundred who I guess owned the white woman.  she certainly acted as if she did    I never learned the name of this august personage but she had a brow like a thunder cloud and a tread like an elephant   the other negroes male and female fled from her presence and Mrs. Ryan (the white woman) was as meek as a child before. There was plenty of young nigs on the place and she would sit down in the kitchen and make “you Chawles” and “you John” and you betsey  fly around like wild fire.  When a soldier wanted a favor he would approach this old lady in humble guise and make known his want and sometimes by paying three or four times the value of what he sought he could get it and at other times he could not.

Black women in Culpeper, 1862

Some of the negro women are real good looking I saw one shopping in the town today very well dressed, who was not as black as nine tenths of the French girls in Plattsburgh in the same family the parents and children will be of all colors in a group of half a dozen young niggers you will hardly ever find two of the same shade. The more I see of the niggers the more I hate slavery. They are as bright and quick as we are naturally. There are very few of them but have white blood in their veins. The idea of keeping them in servitude because of their color is pure nonsense and I think that other soldiers think as I do for a man of proslavery at home generally changes fast after coming with the army. But I daresay you will tire of all this talk about niggers. I have not much to write at any time now and have to fill my letters up as I best can.

  It looks as if we would have rain soon   the roads were very dusty today and the men sweat in their coats. We marched six miles or more but it was without knapsacks or overcoats so it did not tire us much.

I am going to try and write to Johnny this afternoon and I have a letter to mail for Deet  I have not heard from father for nearly two weeks.  I think that he has written me and the letter has been lost.

Kiss Jessie for me and the little boys. I send love to mother and my best wishes to all friends.

Your brother
                    Jas. Ross

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Mary Ellen's Guests, & The Sanitary Commission

Dr. Allston W. Whitney, 13th MACaptain William CaryCaptain Jacob A. Howe

Dr. Allston Waldo Whitney, Captain William Cary, & Captain Jacob A. Howe, 13th Mass.

Mary Ellen Baker Pierce Journal continued;

Sunday 21st
        Very pleasant ––Dr Whitney Captains Pierce, Carey, Howe, Lt Wells* & myself visit Dr Wiggin at his house at foot of Cedar Mt.  rode Colonel Leonard’s horse  Returned to Culpeper in train at 4 o’clock.  Elliot & I called on Dr Chamberlain & wife in eve. Captain Hulse & Mr. Hovey called.

*I've never been able to find a picture of the popular 13th MA  officer Lt. Tom Welles. Here is a summary of Dr. Chamberlain's military career. ––B.F.

Dr. Cyrus Chamberlain, 10th MA

Dr. Cyrus N. Chamberlain
        Dr. Cyrus N. Chamberlain, was original Surgeon of  the 10 MA Infantry.  He was 32 years old upon enlistment in June, 1861.  He resigned, May, 1863, to take a position as Major, in the U.S. Volunteer Medical Staff.  At Gettysburg, Dr. Chamberlain was head of the 6th Corps field-hospital on the John Trostle Farm, with about 200 patients.  He ran an embalming service on site, when not acting as physician.

I will quote liberally from the work of late author Gregory A. Coco about the Gettysburg Field Hospitals.

“Within just two weeks or so after the battle of Gettysburg, it became obvious to the Medical Department that something had to be done to consolidate the thousands of wounded left behind by the the two armies.” #1  A General Hospital was established about a mile east of town.  Surgeon Chamberlain directed the draining of the camp ground area and pitching the tents at the new hospital location.

“After a while, the general hospital, became the very model of a clean, efficient, and well-run facility, one of the first of its kind actually on a battlefield anywhere.  It was commanded by Dr. Cyrus Chamberlain, a U.S. volunteer medical officer, formerly a member of the 10th MA Infantry.  At its peak, the hospital had more than four hundred hospital tents, set up in six double rows, about ten feet apart.  Each tent held up to ten patients, and was heated (in the fall) with a Sibley stove.  Every medical officer had charge of from forty to seventy patients, which totaled 1,600 on August 30, but dropped to about three hundred in late October, and ran as low as one hundred on November 10.” #2

A Christian commission delegate declared, “that there were in residence 30 surgeons, a superintendent or medical director, seven division, and 26 ward surgeons, all quartered south of the main hospital grounds “in a  lovely grove.”   Dr. Henry Janes, he interjected, was the superintendent, with Dr. Cyrus Chamberlain, the assistant-superintendent.”   “...The U.S. Christian Commission employed about 50 agents at Gettysburg from July 4 until the  end of November.” #3

A nurse, Sophronia E. Bucklin,  wrote in 1869 about her experiences at Camp Letterman where she had spent many weeks in 1863:   “The hospital tents were set in rows—five hundred of them.  .. Walks were thrown up between these rows…Many more of the rebels did than of our own men… Of twenty-two rebels who were brought into my ward at one time, thirteen died, after receiving the same care that was given to our men.”  She recalled that over two-thirds of the 1,200 graves in the camp cemetery were Confederates. #4

Dr Chamberlain's Embalming Service at Gettysburg

The sign on the tent reads, Dr. Chamberlain & Lyford's Office.  This was their embalming business at Gettysburg.

Another good description of the tent hospital comes from Frank Stoke, a Pennsylvania militia guard at the camp.  He wrote home on  October 26, 1863:

“This hospital is composed of large tents which cover eighty acres of ground; it is laid off in streets or avenues which give it the appearance of a city.  When we first came here there were five thousand sick and wounded …as high as seventeen die per day…Those who die …are buried in the field south of the hospital;  there is a large grave-yard there already. The dead …are nearly all Confederates … the amputated limbs are put into barrels and buried and left in the ground until they are decomposed, then lifted and sent to the Medial College at Washington.  A great number of bodies are embalmed here and sent to their friends.  Close to the grave-yard is a large tent called the dead-house, another where they embalm.” #5 

The large Field Hospital at Gettysburg closed November 20, 1863, the day following President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address at the Dedication of the National Cemetery.

Dr. Chamberlain resigned from the service,  October 7, 1865.  He lived until 1899, age 70.

When Elliot and Mary Ellen visited him, he had fairly recently returned to duty from his post at Gettysburg.  I wonder if he had any interesting stories to tell.

Sources & Notes:

#1. “A Vast Sea of Misery” (p. 167) by Gregory A. Coco; Thomas Publications, 1988, Gettysburg.
#2. ibid. p. 168.
#3.  “A Strange and Blighted Land”  (p. 232) by Gregory A. Coco; Thomas Publications, 1995, Gettysburg.
#4.  Vast Sea of Misery;  (p 171).
#5. ibid.

Mary Ellen Baker Pierce Journal continued;

Captain Hulse & Mr Hovey called.  (William A. Hovey, an agent with the Sanitary Commission, is pictured below with his article about the Ambulance Corps, printed in the Boston Transcript, September 3rd, 1863.)

Monday 22d
        Cloudy & Chilly –– Mrs Winslow and myself attended a review of 1st & 2nd Division Ambulance   very fine.  Mrs. Hovey & Captain Hulse dined with us,  Dr. & Mrs Alexander & Mrs Winslow called. (Surgeon Charles Alexander, 16th Maine is pictured much higher up on this page with Chaplain French of the 39th MA.)

Replica Ambulance

Pictured is a replica of a four-wheel ambulance taken at a re-enactment near Moorpark California, 2011.

It is not apparent that Dr. Gordon Winslow had any interactions with Mary Ellen or Elliot at this time, although his wife certainly did.  Since she is mentioned, it is worth noting who Dr. Winslow was.  He was a towering figure of tireless dedicated service to the the Union cause during the Civil War.  The following notes were mostly gathered from a memorial to Dr. Winslow posted at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York, where the remains of his son and family reside.

Dr. Gordon Winslow
        Gordon Winslow was born 1804 at Williston, Vermont.  He was a student at Phillips Academy from 1823 to 1826.  He Graduated from Yale 1830, and continued to earn a Masters degree in 1833.   After graduating he turned Episcopal Minister of a church in Troy, NY and later Annapolis Maryland, where he befriended many, at the Naval Academy there.  Health reasons caused him to relocate to Staten Island where he was  rector of St Paul’s Church.  He received a doctorate of medicine from NY University prior to the war.  One can see he was a highly educated versatile man.

Dr. Gordon Winslow

At age 58, Abram Duryée asked Winslow to enlist as Chaplain of the 5th NY Zouaves. and on May 19, 1861 he mustered into the Field & Staff of that regiment.

“Winslow had an iron constitution, was energetic, able to endure any hardship, and had a strong love of his country.  After the battle of Big Bethel, Virginia,  June 1861, he remained behind to tend the wounded.  He was praised by the officer in command.    “…the toilsome task which they accomplished, of dragging the crude vehicles filled with their helpless comrades, over a weary road of nine miles in their exhausted condition, with the prospect of attack every minute, bespeaks a goodness of heart and a bravery never excelled.” #1

He was present at First Bull Run where he narrowly escaped injury when balls passed through his hair and beard and his horse was wounded under him.   And,  “…when he …found himself among Confederates after the Battle of Antietam, ..he pretended to be one of their officers tending the wounded and escaped under the cover of darkness.” #2

His son Cleveland Winslow was a captain in the 5th NY.  “A severe disciplinarian with an almost fanatical insistence on military formality, the dapper captain was far from popular with the rank and file. ‘He has one large bump of self esteem which occupies the whole of his brain,’ Private Alfred Davenport lamented.” #3   At the Battle of Second Bull Run, August 30, 1862 the regiment was slaughtered.

Within ten minutes the 5th New York lost 297 men, including 124 killed, the greatest number of fatalities of any regiment during the Civil War.  Their total loss in the battle was 332 men of  approximately 525 engaged.  Captain Winslow survived but,  “his horse was struck seven times and sank beneath him.”   “...The survivors would never recover the esprit de corps that had died with their comrades at Second Bull Run.  New recruits would arrive to fill the vacant ranks, but, as First Sergeant George Mitchell put it, “The regiment will never again be the regiment it has been.” #4

The elder Winslow wrote his brother after Fredericksburg:  “As for myself I am ready for anything that turns up in the way of helping on the cause for which we are in the field.  I am chaplain of the Fifth, but act more or less for the whole division.  Then, as volunteer aid to General Warren, [G.K.Warren] I am under orders, and attend with him in the surveys and mapping of the country, establishing lines of pickets, locating hospitals, and looking after the sick and wounded in the Division, Brigades and Regiments.  After the battle I selected the site for the general hospital at Fredericksburg, and saw the wounded transported across the river and properly provided for.” #5

Dr. Winslow mustered out of the 5th New York, May 14, 1863, and became a Representative for the U.S. Sanitary Commission.   Subsequently he became an inspector for the Army of the Potomac.  After Gettysburg, he was praised for taking “the best measures of improving hospitals for the wounded, or means of comfort and solace, which at such times of trial cannot be too highly valued.” #6 Colonel Cleveland Winslow, 5th New York Veterans

Later in the war he joined his son Cleveland in the field with the 5th Veterans.  Not too long after Mary Ellen's encounter with the Winslows, both Dr. Gordon and his son Cleveland would die. 

On June 2, 1864,  Dr. Gordon found his wounded son, whose arm was in a sling, at the rear of the battlefield at Bethesda Church, Virginia , and wrote in his diary, “Cleve was wounded.”  The next day, he wrote,”Went over to find Cleve;  found him in a cellar of a house, which was being shelled on our right.  …Rode all day to the several hospitals …brought Cleve to the 6th corps hospital and stayed with him overnight.”  He wrote about his son’s injury as a “wound in the left shoulder, minie ball, making exit from the back…The wound was much inflamed by his return to the field, after being dressed.  He passed the night comfortably …I slept on the ground under the same fly.” #7

Gordon Winslow accidentally went overboard into the Potomac River and drowned, while accompanying his wounded son on a hospital transport boat, to Alexandra.  He threw a bucket overboard to get water for his horse; the drag from the bucket in the water apparently pulled him into the river.  His body was never recovered.  Cleveland died later the same day, June 7, 1864,  at the Mansion House Hospital in Alexandria, Virginia.

A. Hendricks of the New York Herald said of Gordon Winslow, “A more popular and useful chaplain has not been in the service … A mind finely cultivated, manners dignified and refined, a rare fund of anecdote at command, and an underlying vein of delicate richness, served to make him a most genial as well as an agreeable and instructive companion...” #8


The American Civil War Research Database
Gregory A. Coco; "A Vast Sea of Misery" Thomas Publications, Gettysburg, 1988. &, "A Strange and Blighted Land" Thomas Publications, Gettysburg, 1995.
Gilder Lehrman Collection # GLC02465.09;  Duryee, Abram (1815-1890) Letter: 29 April 1861.
Gordon Winslow; (1804-1864) Civil War Biographies; Green-Wood; Under direction of historian Jeff Richman;  accessed, April 4, 2024. [https://www.green-wood.com/2015/civil-war-biographies-winslow/]
Brian C. Pohanka; “Destruction of the 5th New York Zouaves”; American Battlefield Trust; accessed April 4, 2024; [www.battlefields.org/learn/articles/destruction-5th-new-york-zouaves]

Notes (Cited Quotes from):

#1.  Green-Wood Biography
#2.  Green-Wood Biography
#3. Brian C. Pohanka
#4.  Brian C. Pohanka
#5.  Green-Wood Biography
#6.  Green-Wood Biography
#7. Green-Wood Biography
#8. Green-Wood Biography.

Mary Ellen's Journal, continued.

illustration of woman ridingillustration of woman riding

The Journal of Mary Ellen Pierce, continued.

Tuesday 23d inst
        Pleasant very.  Attended Review of Corps, rode Roanoke Colonel Leonard & Staff came up.  Spent eve at Captain Hulse.  called on Mrs Malbon (Capt. Joseph H.  Malbon, 16th Maine, was Capt. Hulse's room mate. I was unable to locate his picture.)

Wednesday 24 inst.
        Windy.  Attended Cavalry Review, with Captain Hulse & Mr. Hovey     called at H’d Qrters 2nd Brigade, met Major Baird Dr Baird, in evening.   called on Miss Egbert & Mrs Chamberlain;  Mr Hovey came down to bid us good by.   [ The 2nd Brigade is Henry Baxter's. Mr. Hovey is William A. Hovey of the Sanitary Commission. Pictured below.]

Edwin Forbes engraving of a Military Review

Edwin Forbes Engraving of a Cavalry Review

Thursday 25th
Pleasant, Walked Up to the train in Morning, Lt Egbert & Lt Campbell called  [ Lt. Harry C. Egbert, pictured below. I haven't identified Lieutenant Campbell. ]

Saturday 27th  inst.Colonel Leonard  & Dr Whitney Lt Bradlee & Captain Howe came up   6th Corps passed through to the Front. Lt Malborn & Wife called.
[ The 6th Corps passed to Madison Court-House.  This was a preliminary move for General George Armstrong Custer to send a diversionary raid into Albermarle County (Charlottesville) in support of General Hugh Judson Kilpatrick's Raid to Richmond, which set off on February 28th.  Custer's raid ended March 1st. ––Civil War, Day by Day; Feb. 28, 1864 entry.]

Sunday 28th
        3d Corps passed through town–– Review of the transportation of the 1st Corps  on the hill back of Gen. Robinsons house.  Elliots train conspicuous among them.  I sat on the Upper balcony and had a fine view of the whole.  Capt. McClure & Miss Egbert called.  I did not see them.
[ Captain Charles McClure, Commissary of Subsistence, 1st Corp, & the sister of Lt. Harry Egbert. ]

Monday 29th
        Pleasant.  called at Captain Hulse  met Captain Daw & Mr Daw of Philadelphia.  called on Mrs. Malbon.
[ I could not identify Captain Daw. ]

Colonel Samuel Haven LeonardAdjutant David Bradlee, 13th MassJacob A. Howe, 13th Mass, Company A

Colonel Samuel Haven Leonard,  Lieutenant David H. Bradlee, & Captain Jacob A. Howe, pictured.  This is an earlier image of Howe before his officer's promotion.  He was a sergeant in this image.  Mary Ellen mentions them on the 27th, coming up from Brigade, to Culpeper.

Major Edward Carey BairdLieutenant Harry C. Egbert

Major Edward Carey Baird, and,  Lieutenant Harry C. Egbert, Regular Army.

Edward Carey Baird
        Baird was a 25 year old bookseller when he enlisted at Pottsville, PA as Sergeant in Company H, 6th Penna. Infantry on April 22, 1861.  In August he was commissioned into the 48th PA infantry as 2nd Lieutenant.  His record states he transferred out of the 48th September 19th, 1861, into the “U.S. Volunteers Adjutant General Department.”  Upon transferring he was promoted to Captain, also on September 19th, and appointed Assistant-Adjutant General.  He was promoted Major September 18th, 1863.  He seems to have remained a staff officer throughout his service.  He died at Pottsville November 14, 1874, age 38.

Harry Clay Egbert.
        Born at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on January 3, 1839, he joined the 12th United States infantry on September 23, 1861.  (where he served with his brother-in-law William A. Dove) and served with distinction in actions at Gaines Mills, Malvern Hill, Cedar Mountain, Gettysburg, etc.  He was taken prisoner at Cedar Mountain and at Gettysburg, and was seriously wounded at Bethesda Church.

He remained in the Army following the Civil War and when the Spanish-American War broke out, he was Lieutenant-Colonel of the 6th United States Infantry, which he commanded in the Santiago Campaign until he was shot through the body at El Canay, Cuba, on July 1, 1898.

He was promoted to Colonel, 22nd U.S. Infantry, and before his wound was completely healed, he sailed for the Philippines.  He arrived at Manila with his command on March 4, 1899, and while leading a charge against insurgents received a wound from which he died on March 26, 1899.

He is buried in Section 1 of Arlington National Cemetery, adjacent to his brother-in-law and sister, William A. Dove and Julia Dove.

A few things left out of this biography –– Lt. Egbert was one of the “Regulars” in Henry Prince’s Brigade at the Battle of Cedar Mountain.  The Regulars were dispatched into the corn field towards the enemy batteries at the beginning of maneuvres.  They remained lying at the edge of the corn and kept up a constant pressure on Confederate Gunners around the Crittenden House.  In his report, written from Libby Prison, General Prince praised the Regulars for their work that day.

In a letter dated August 16, written from Libby Prison to General C.C. Augur, his division commander, General Henry Prince wrote of the Regulars:

“Their part I have occasion to know excited the admiration of the enemy, who inquired if there are not regulars, as they had never seen such skirmishing. They were out during the whole battle, and penetrated event to the enemy’s position, and annoyed him so as to turn the attention of his guns away from more distant firing who shot and shell, and caused him to waste canister upon the ground of the skirmishers.”

Lieutenant Egbert’s name is on a list of Cedar Mountain Prisoners who were paroled from Libby Prison on September 25, 1862.  So I am certain if anyone was giving out tours at Cedar Mountain Battlefield, Lt. Egbert would have been well qualified to do so.

He is later honorably mentioned for his service as a Staff Officer to General Abner Doubleday in that officer’s report on his part  in the Battle of Gettysburg.  Doubleday may have inherited Egbert as a Staff Officer when General John Reynolds was killed.  Egbert is still a First Corps Staff Officer, for General Newton in February 1864.

Captain Thomas McArthur Anderson, 12th US Regulars

Another interesting fact.  “As a young 1st Lieutenant with the 12th Infantry during  the Civil War  Egbert reported to the senior Captain in the Battalion, Captain Thomas McArthur Anderson.”  (Anderson was in charge of the Battalion at Cedar Mountain.)  Thirty-seven years later when Egbert brought the 22nd Regiment to the Philippines, Anderson, as a Major General of Volunteers was again Egbert’s immediate superior….”

Anderson wrote the following about Egbert:

“When we received our marching orders I had to select a battalion adjutant.  Fortunately I had another choice.  At that time Harry C. Egbert seemed to me not much older than a boy.  He had a youthful look and manner, yet there was something about him which inspired confidence.  When I told him he would have to act as adjutant he protested that he knew nothing of the duties of the position.  I told him I knew he did not, but that in the life-and-death business we were in we had to do the best we could.  He looked very serious and answered, “I will do my best.”  From that time on he did his duty faithfully, bravely and earnestly, until, thirty-seven years after, he fell mortally wounded in battle in the Philippines.  It seemed a strange coincidence that I should have been the first officer to whom he reported, and the last.”   (Anderson pictured right.)

Egbert had a long and enviable service record in the United States Army.

                Arlington National Cemetery
                “1st Battalion 22nd Infantry, REGULARS BY GOD.” [Authored by Michael Belis.]

The Sanitary Commission

Mr. William A. Hovey is mentioned in Mary Ellen's journal entries of January 20th, February 21, 22, and 24.  He wrote the following article below in August 1863, to explain in detail,  to the general public, how the Ambulance Corps was organized and how it operated, so they could understand the system in place used to help sick and wounded soldiers.  Mr. Hovey was an agent of the U.S. Sanitary Commission.

This organization, and some of its various works, has already been mentioned and sprinkled about this page in the various narratives give.  Morton Tower wrote in his memoir, that the Sanitary Commission sent boxes clothing to the Union prisoners confined at Belle Isle & Libby Prisons, for which they were extremely grateful. He added,“God bless the Sanitary Commission!  Words cannot tell the good work they did.”  Dr. Gordon Winslow did work for the Sanitary Commission who were very active in the aftermath of the battle of Gettysburg.

To give just a brief summary of their praiseworthy work, I quote this passage written by historian Allan Nevins, in Diary of Battle, the Journal of Charles Wainwright.   [Quote on p. 322.]

“The United States Sanitary Commission, …had done an indispensable work for the care of the wounded and sick of the Northern armies.  It was able to assert this spring [1864] that it had collected some $2,000,000 in cash subscriptions, and $9,000,000 or $10,000,000 in goods, and that by its own efforts, and the improved standards it helped to impose on the surgeon generals department, it had greatly reduced the mortality in the armies East and West.  It cared for the wounded, recruited nurses and expert physicians and surgeons, saw to it that the camps observed proper sanitary rules, bettered the diet of the soldier, kept a directory of the inmates of army hospitals, and maintained a home in Washington and transient lodges elsewhere for invalided members of the armed services.  In short, it performed a multiplicity of tasks that the government was too busy, clumsy, or negligent to execute.    But conservative men like Wainwright long looked upon it as a “Fifth wheel to the coach.”  

The Ambulance Corps, by William A. Hovey, Sanitary Commission Agent, 1st Corps

Boston Evening Transcript September 3, 1863



William A. Howe, Relief Agent

Mr Editor:   In some of the Boston papers which reach us here in the army, I observe much discussion concerning the Ambulance Corps, and the question is asked, “Have we an ambulance system?”  Having seen the practical working of the existing “system” at Gettysburg and upon the march to this point, I propose, for the information of your readers, to give you its organization in detail.

Each regiment of infantry in this army is allowed three two-horse ambulances, each of which has a driver and two attendants or stretcher-bearers. These men, together with a mounted sergeant in command, are detailed from the regiment to which their ambulances are assigned.  If one of the men is sick, he is sent to the hospital, and a new man detailed in his place.  Thus the complement of the corps is constantly kept up.

The ambulances belonging to the different regiments of a brigade are brought together and placed in charge of second lieutenant, who is detailed from one of the regiments comprising the brigade to which his ambulances belong.  Those belonging to the several brigades of a division are in charge of a first lieutenant.  He receipts for all ambulances, wagons, horses, mules and other property under his charge, and is responsible for it to the Government.

The three divisions of ambulances belonging to an army corps are in charge of a captain, who is a member of the corps commander’s staff, and is responsible to him and the Medical Director for the efficiency of the corps.

Each ambulance has two stretchers, and two water casks, which are kept filed with fresh water.  It may sometimes occur that this duty is not properly performed, but such would be the case under any system.  Each ambulance has constantly on hand a proper supply of concentrated beef, crackers, tin cups, spoons, and the necessary articles. These are locked up, and the keys kept by the brigade surgeons.

On the march, each division of ambulances moves in the rear of the command to which it is attached, and picks up such men as fall sick by the wayside.

We have an ambulance system.

It is not perfect, either in its conception or execution, but it is being daily improved in both. It is the only organization in the army whose strength is constantly kept up to the number of men assigned it. The system of detail upon which it is founded alone makes this possible.

If Dr. Bowditch has any doubt of the efficiency of the ambulance department of the first Corps, let him visit it and see for himself.  I think I can guarantee that the officers in charge will do all in their power to facilitate his enquiries. He may share my tent and table until his inspection is complete.

Agent San. Com. 1st Army Corps.

photo of ambulances in line

Washington, D.C.; Ambulance Train at Harewood Hospital, July 1863.

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The Close of the Month


Camp Tilden, the camp of the 16th Maine was adjacent to, (next door) to the camp of the 13th Massachusetts, but the latter regiment, if they named their camp, didn't bother to mention what it was.  The 16th Maine, like the 39th Mass., erected a chapel in their camp and duly dedicated it.  I've already mentioned above, that the Christian Commission encouraged the erection of regimental chapels during the winter of  1864, and promised to provide the canvas roofing for the edifice.  Both these units organized in 1862, a year behind the 13th MA.  Perhaps the few original soldiers left in the 13th MA, felt a chapel unnecessary as they no longer had a chaplain to champion the idea, or perhaps the nearby chapels of the 39th MA & 16th Maine were suitable enough for any special occasions that might arise in the brigade, which proved to be the case in fact.

The Following is from “The Sixteenth Maine Regiment in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1865” by Major Abner R. Small.

Feb 27.  Chapel dedicated by the chaplains of the brigade.  The interior was tastefully decorated with evergreens, which were festooned, hung in crosses, anchors, and circles, upon the walls.  Familiar texts of Scripture met the eye from over and around the pulpit.  "All the shepherds of the brigade took part in the formal dedication. Propriety was gained for them and comfort for us, when we went to church." ––Part in quotes from “The Road to Richmond" the memoirs of Major Abner Small.

Camp Tilden

Sketch of Camp Tilden, 16th Maine's winter quarters

Illustration of Camp Tilden, the 1864 Winter Camp of the 16th Maine, from their regimental history.  Twin Mountains are indicated on the right of the picture, with the tallest hill being Clark's Mountain south of the Rapidan River.  The hill on the far right may be Mount Sharon near the town of Orange.  The key to the sketch indicated several buildings, and I have highlighted the chapel.

Christian Mirror, March 15, 1864

The sermon on "the will" offered in the following article resonated with me, considering the hindsight of what was about to occur in the Army of the Potomac during the coming Spring Campaign.  I dare say the Chaplain, was more prescient than he knew.  I am referring to the leadership of General U. S. Grant and his determination to battle through to the end no matter what.

Camp Correspondence.
16th Maine, Mitchell’s Station,
Va., Feb. 1864.

On Saturday evening, the 27th inst., we formally dedicated our chapel, though it had been used a couple of weeks, as a place of prayer.

The services were much the same as on similar occasions at home.   The band supplied the place of the organ, and a quartette having one female voice gave us sweet and appropriate singing.

The walls of our chapel, being laid up of old timber, are not beautiful to look at inside or out.  To overcome this unseemliness in part, the Chaplain had the walls inside entirely covered with cedar, which, together with some other ornaments of wreaths, arms, banners and the cross, in the light of two good kerosene lamps, presented a very agreeable if not beautiful appearance.  But owing to a number of causes the place was not filled as I expected, and the ardor of the services was dampened.

A portion of the army was advancing that day toward the enemy; we were ordered to be in readiness, and might be at any moment called out.  It is curious to observe how the mind oscillates to the touch of these things, and is excluded from the circles of worshippers at the needed time, or jostled out of that repose indispensable to worship.  A little confusion, a little hurry, a sense of insufficient time, is always enough to break the chain of divine and electric influences on which the impressiveness of a religious service depends.Stained Glass about Devotion

Without a text and with as little formality as possible, I discoursed on this occasion on our capacity of devotion, and the importance of cultivating it.  It had the effect upon my own mind at least to make me feel more deeply than ever how wonderfully our inner nature is adapted to devotion, and devotion to that.  Our reason points to God.  The fool hath said in his heart there is no God.   He could not so say intellectually.

Conscience is without an object or an end when it bows not to God.  It ceases to administer among the relations of man to man, and fails utterly as a promoter of morality when it refuses to know God.  This has been illustrated in the field.  The men here who knew no God at home, do not respect the rights of person and property.  They are thieves and deserters. There is no morality where there is no God.

Imagination has scope and a ministry in devotion.  Its province is especially to dwell in an ideal world. Passing beyond the bounds of that which is merely seen and realized, it forms images or ideals of beauty and perfection.  How then does the spirit of devotion mount on these very pinions of fancy, and soar after a realization, an actual experience of its ideals of its spiritual beauty, of holy living and enjoyment.

These streams of reason, conscience and imagination of course pour their waters into the great deep of our emotional nature, which in turn overflows, and sends a living tide through our whole being.

The will, too little appreciated in things secular or divine, has every occasion to exert itself religiously.  The key which unlocks the mystery of Gen. McDowell’s military character is found in slenderness of will.  He has not force of volition to bring up his fine powers and rule them into action at the imminent moment.   Stonewall Jackson, probably without half the accomplishments of the other, has made his ineffaceable mark in history.  Will did it.  There is no place like the army for need of will.  Surely no one can become, or continue a Christian here, who has it not.  Will is the great central shaft around which all other attributes and qualities gather, and great character culminates in great will.  Whoever has a friend in the army and a place for prayer at home, should pray without ceasing, for the grace of God to energize that friends’s will and direct it aright.

Thus did we consecrate a new watchfire, that by its illumination and warmth we may better perceive and feel the most sacred relations we sustain to God and one another.  Thus have we built this house to be a lookout station where we may watch our spiritual enemies, detect insidious evil, and catch some gleams from the unfading light of a brighter world:  –-We dedicated the place in memoriam of the homes and altars we had left, ––and confessed that we were bound by all the ties that bind to Christ, to country, to home and the church. We dedicated these rude walls to prayer and all the uses of Devotion.  We sent back our response to the prayers of those who pray at home ––for our country, for them and for ourselves.  We sent up the incense of our praise to mingle with theirs, to Him who hath wrought all our deliverances for us, and in whom we confide to bring us out of darkness and strife and blood into the light of a peaceful and glorious day. And may it please God to accept our dedication, to give us individually the spirit of prayer, of thanksgiving, and heroic service.


A wild brush-fire raged across Cedar Mountain on February 23rd.

Image of mountain on fire

Boston Evening Transcript;  A Letter From CLARENCE (13th M.V.I)

With the image of Camp Tilden above, which was adjacent to the camps of the 13th MA, and the 39th MA, and the 104th NY and the 107th PA, one could really envision the site as a small town the way our 13th MA Correspondent CLARENCE refers to it.  Our faithful if yet sporadic reporter has lots of interesting news for readers back home in Boston.  I believe CLARENCE to be Clarence Bell, of Company D.  He was a recruit of 1862 and served as a Staff Officer at Head-quarters.  Clarence was also active post-war and wrote several humorous articles for the 13th MA Regiment Association, several of which are posted on this website.

Boston Evening Transcript March 5, 1864

Mitchell’s Station, Feb. 29th.

The Thirteenth Regiment.  We have remained at this place for about two months, and consequently begin to feel quite at home.  This small town is situated at the base of Cedar Mountain, on the line of the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, near the battle-field of August 9th, 1862, where this regiment was, for the first time, engaged in any serious encounter with the rebels.  The mountain is covered with small pine trees, and thick rank weeks, which, being dead at this season of the year, very easily catch fire, and burn like tinder.  The line of pickets runs very near this mountain, and by some mishaps the fires were allowed to spread till they could not be extinguished.

As a very high wind was blowing at the time, the flames were carried swiftly up the mountain, so that by dark, the whole surface was a perfect sea of fire.  At the battle above mentioned, numerous shells were thrown upon the mountain, which did not explode and during a year and a half these missiles had lain on the ground, exposed to all weathers, yet, as soon as the fire reached them, they were discharged with a terrible noise.  The fire having consumed all upon Cedar mountain, it descended into the plains, sweeping off all the dry stubble there, and threatening destruction to a few scattered houses.

After considerable labor, by means of buckets of water thrown upon the buildings, they were saved, but a large barn and corn-house were burnt to the ground.

Deserters are constantly coming into our lines, and every day we have to chronicle the arrival of few or many.  Twelve came in yesterday, and reported that the rebel cavalry had all re-enlisted, disbanded and left for home, their horses being turned out to to graze.

Six contrabands and a lieutenant of Streight’s cavalry have come in.  The officer escaped from Libby prison, with the other Union officers. This makes the second of these that has come within the lines of this army.  He was dressed in citizen’s clothes, and was accompanied by one of the blackest darkies that could be imagined.

Slaves helping Union Soldiers

Picture from Harper's of Slaves Helping Union Soldiers.

Soon after leaving Richmond, he was taken sick with rheumatism, brought on by laying on his side in a large puddle, while hidden from his pursuers.   He sought protection in a negro cabin, and was cared for during nine days.   When restored, the contraband procured two large horse pistols, and accompanied him to the Union lines.  He became very much attached to this negro, and he truly had reason to be so.  The five darkies came from Richmond, bringing with them papers of the 24th inst.  The only items of importance were, that Sherman’s army laid waste the whole country, destroying  agricultural implements and burning unoccupied houses.  The Commander was said to have declared that he would make the Mississippians feel his power.  A notice of the “Confederate Reading Room” was also published, and reference made to Yankee pictorials, with Harper and the Atlantic for February, via the blockade.

Contrabands state that a steady stream of conscripts is pouring into Lee’s army, and it is almost impossible to obtain a pass on the trains.

Re-enlistments are rather small in this regiment, as yet, but if they could be allowed, over fifty men would join the cavalry.  No men can re-enlist, except in their own organization, consequently Uncle Sam will lose the services of these old veterans, unless present orders are changed.

Illustration of captured Confederates by Gilbert Gaul

Several days ago, eleven deserters –– a sergeant and ten privates –– came into our lines.  They were all foreigners, nine Irishmen and two Germans, belonging to the 48th Mississippi.  They brought with them nine new Enfield rifles.  It appears that about twenty of the regiment had formed a conspiracy to desert, and only waited the opportunity when the sergeant should be on guard; so on the 11th inst., at 1 A.M., eight of them came down to the picket line, with their guns loaded, but by some mistake chanced to strike the wrong post, and were discovered.  They immediately dashed through, but were not fired at, and reached our lines in safety.

The sergeant waited patiently till the hour appointed;  but his friends not appearing, he determined to try it alone, with two men, who were on post with him.  Some of the sentinels not being of the right sort, he relieved them, telling them that they might go up to the guard house and warm themselves.  This privilege they gladly availed of, consequently the sergeant had things his own way. 

He loaded his own rifle, then taking his canteen he poured water into all the remaining muskets.  Not being satisfied with this he crammed mud into each, and started, with a clear track, for our camps, where he arrived in safety, and was overjoyed to find his friends safe.

The health of the Thirteenth has improved greatly, only five per cent, being sick. 


Boston Evening Transcript, February 25, 1864.




Gen. Grant Made a Lieut. General.


Washington, Feb. 26.  Congress today created the new rank of Lieutenant General, and the President signed the bill tonight, and appointed Gen. Grant to the position.  Mr. Washburne, member of the House, will depart forthwith for Chattanooga to deliver the new commission to General Grant.  The new bill does not disturb General Scott’s brevet rank of Lieut. General, nor legislate General Halleck out of his present position

Wallace Tripp illustration of General Grant

“I know only two tunes  One of them is Yankee Doodle, and the other isn't.”  Illustration by Wallace Tripp.

February Fades Into March

Alfred Roe of the 39th Mass eloquently closes out the month of February, 1864.

The following is from, “The Thirty-ninth Regiment Massachusetts Volunteers, 1862-1865;” by Alfred S. Roe, 1914.


Incessant picket duty has marked the month of February with a great variety of weather and the men are not sorry to see the 29th day, Leap Year’s allotment, for they know that they are just so much nearer the end of the war and their consequent return to their homes.

A spring feeling begins to be felt on both sides of the river and indications of activity are discovered among the Confederates, and at least twice recently orders have been given for the preparation of rations for the haversacks, as though some sort of a move were contemplated.  On this final day of the month, the Regiment is mustered for two month’s pay, while drill, inspection and parade have their accustomed places. Doubtless very few are aware of the hardening effect upon the bodies of the men this regular and constant round of discipline is having;  the same will appear in the exactions of the coming months.

While February is expiring thus quietly with our Regiment, in the First Corps Kilpatrick is making his famous raid towards Richmond, having started on the night of the 28th, crossing the Rapidan at Ely’s Ford and, with Colonel Dahlgren’s forlorn hope, is entering upon a project which will make history rapidly.  To cover his attempt, a diversion of Confederate attention is made by the Sixth Corps and a cavalry force under Custer.  Passing through the camps of the Third Corps, Sedgwick and his men move out towards Madison Court house, while Custer and his mounted force push on to Charlottesville, where, on this final February day, hostile forces are contending within sight and sound of Monticello, the home and the tomb of Jefferson.

Edwin Forbes Sketch of Kilpatrick's Raid to Richmond

Artist Edwin Forbes sketched this drawing and titled it “Kilpatrick's Raid to Richmond.” Perhaps Forbes sketched the team as they started out for enemy territory.  Kilpatrick's expedition included 2,375 men and Captain Ransom's battery of  U.S. Artillery (six pieces) and detachments from the First and Second Cavalry Divisions, under Majors Hall and Taylor, in all 3,582 strong. ––That from his report.  The expedition got underway, February 28th, in a snowstorm.  It would end in great controversy.  A soldier traveling in Captain Dunbar Ransom's Battery, was my 20 year old Great Great Grandfather, Private William Henry Forbush.  I know he wrote letters to his mother, and that they survive.  I was able to purchase two of his early war letters from separate third parties in recent  years.  Unfortunately, I have no letters or any other information from him regarding his part in this raid or any of his later service.

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Page Updated April 22, 2024.

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