Tuesday, June 27, 2017

'Killed with kindness’: A journey with Union nurse Maria Hall

In 1886, Union nurse Maria Hall wrote about her war-time experiences for a newspaper.
 (The Foard Collection of Civil War Nursing)
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Philadelphia may have a less-than-brotherly reputation today, but nurse Maria Hall was impressed with the city’s embrace of Union soldiers during the Civil War.

“But was there ever a city that so warmly welcomed the boys to her gates,” she wrote in The Springfield (Mass.) Republican in 1886, "as did Philadelphia.” In Part 2 of the newspaper series about her experiences early in the war, Hall recalled the scene as she arrived at a wharf in the city aboard a steamer filled with wounded soldiers.

“Women wearing the lovely drab bonnets and gowns, and the lovelier faces of the Friends, came bringing baskets of bread, biscuits and cookies, pails of lemonade, pitchers of milk and bottles of wine,” she wrote, “knowing that the boys had come from a barren land, and so welcoming them to plenty and comfort. Our only fear for our patients now was lest they should be killed with kindness.”

In the account published in The Republican on Dec. 20, 1886, Hall – who married a man from Unionville, Conn., after the war – also recalled her experiences at the massive Union encampment at Harrison’s Landing, Va., in the summer of 1862; feeding famished soldiers; the perils of sailing down the James River under fire from Confederates and much more. (My thanks to Connecticut historian Clifford Alderman for transcribing this installment of Hall’s war-time remembrances. Click here and here for previous installments on my blog.)

Written for The Republican by Mrs. M.M.C, Richards of Unionville, Ct.

Entrance to Fort Monroe in 1864. The fort was also site of a major hospital during the Civil War.
(Library of Congress)
The head-quarters of the hospital transports in service was at Fortress Monroe. Here they were reported to the medical director, and received orders as to the destination of their wounded. The hasty and imperfect diary of this time relates that having taken a load of 350 men to Baltimore, we were once more at Fortress Monroe, and there ordered to receive passengers from the State of Maine which had become disabled by an accident to the machinery. We took on board 320 men, wounded in the seven days’ battles, and having had only the hasty care that could be given on the field; many were in sorrowful plight, tossing with fever or deranged in mind, and some were dying when we first saw them. They were laid wherever a blanket could be spread for a bed, after the steamer’s bunks and state-rooms were filled.

Nurse Almira Fales: "How these ravens do eat," 
she remarked about famished Union soldiers.
(The Foard Collection of Civil War Nursing)
Here as elsewhere, the right man was not always in the right place and the tallest man of the lot was laid across the narrow end of the cabin. He grimly complained of being “too long at both ends,” but as the trip was to be short, he concluded things would average about right. Among the names recorded as patients on these trips are Col. [Ebenezer] Pierce of Big Bethel fame, having lost an arm, Col. Morrison, Col. [Edward Winslow] Hinks of Massachusetts, Robert Way of a New York regiment, seriously wounded in the lungs, and Charles Smith of Boston or vicinity.

Drs. Davenport and Brown of Detroit were among the surgeons, and Mr. Harland from the Young Men’s Christian association of Philadelphia, a most tender and devoted agent in caring for the sufferers. I quote from a letter: “I have not time to tell of the many interesting cases we have cared for. Individuals are merged in the whole when the acquaintance is so short, the services rendered so hurried and divided among so many. Dressing wounds is a new business, but you should have seen me bandage an arm broken by a ball in two places, doing it up in a splint, and that before breakfast. I won’t spoil your appetite as I did my own by telling you in what condition the poor arm was when I first saw the soldier trying to help himself. Assisted Dr. B. two or three hours this morning, washing and dressing the wounds. Many of these boys are the zouaves, wounded in the arms and legs. Their scarlet uniforms must be fatally conspicuous marks for the enemy’s fire.”

Mrs. [Almira] Fales’s heart had been gladdened by new and generous supplies of comforts and delicacies for her “ravens.” She remarks occasionally, “How these ravens do eat,” at the same time finding it the joy of her heart to feed them to the full. Her supplies were all that we had for the comfort of the sufferers on these trips. Having carried two loads of the wounded to Baltimore, we were ordered to Philadelphia with the third.

Philadelphia Hospitality to the Soldiers

Lithograph of citizens greeting Union soldiers in Philadelphia.
(National Archives)
There was little difference in the experiences on these short voyages. It was the same story of suffering bravely endured with a cheerful courage that always excited my wonder. But was there ever a city that so warmly welcomed the boys to her gates, as did Philadelphia. Our steamer had scarcely touched the wharf before we were taken captive by the wonderfully organized hospital agencies of the city. Policemen lifted the feeble ones in their arms, as if they were brothers, taking special care of the little ones. Women wearing the lovely drab bonnets and gowns, and the lovelier faces of the Friends, came bringing baskets of bread, biscuits and cookies, pails of lemonade, pitchers of milk and bottles of wine, knowing that the boys had come from a barren land, and so welcoming them to plenty and comfort.

Our only fear for our patients now was lest they should be killed with kindness. In later years of the war a soldier could not mention Philadelphia without a grateful apostrophe to the kindness of the people, and the “good meal of victuals” we got there. One little boy we saw lifted by a big policeman who said with tears in his eyes, “We’ll take you to a good place.” We had called him a drummer boy, but he resented the idea, and declared that he “carried a musket till — till — it — got so heavy.” He was taken to the Cooper shop, and recovered after a very serious illness.

Running a Rebel Battery

Confederate batteries at Fort Powhaton fire on the Union hospital ship Daniel Webster
 in the James River in this illustration in Harper's Weekly, a war-time newspaper.
On the 8th we left the city of Brotherly Love, and reached Fortress Monroe the next day. We were most bountifully supplied with stores for the sick by the ladies’ aid of the city, and Mrs. Fales anticipated great delight in feeding her next flock of ravens. At Fort Monroe we saw the Burnside fleet anchored; in the evening it started away up the James river, and next morning at 5 o’clock, we were following in its wake. At this time we were informed that the “rebs” were doing mischief firing upon our transports, mail boats, etc., and were soon assured by our own experiences of the correctness of this information.

About 8 or 10 miles below Harrison’s Landing we came alongside the gunboat Sebago. Our captain hailed the officer on deck inquiring if there were danger ahead. His reply was “keep well to the port side.” As we rounded a bend of the river at the eminence known as Fort Powhatan, whiz! went the bullets over our heads. A hurried retreat was made by all from the upper deck close by the pilot-house where we had gathered to enjoy the quiet resting time. The boat was skillfully managed by the captain, and as soon as we were out of range, the gun-boat swung round, and with a few forcible remarks shut up the little battery.

The Webster was pierced from side to side with four solid shot and two shells were found in its side. More than 100 musket balls were found, and two or three shells burst over our heads. We all had our tale of hair-breadth escapes and I still cherish one bullet which did not hit me as I looked out of the captain’s office to see how the fray was going. We reached Harrison’s Landing in safety, but the Webster was disabled for further use as a transport. After waiting orders and being thrown into great excitement by reports that we were to go to Richmond for our released prisoners, the boat is totally taken as head-quarters of the medical purveyor.

A war-time illustration of Harrison's Landing in Harper's Weekly.
          PANORAMA: James River at Harrison's Landing, where nurse Maria Hall served.
                                         (Click at upper right for full-screen experience.)

Amidst Cities of Tents

On Tuesday we made our exit from the Webster, having accepted the invitation of Dr. Barnes and Col. Adams to make their regiment our base of operations (the 27th New York volunteers). We are in Bartlett’s brigade, Slocum’s division — on high ground in the edge of a pine grove. It is strange to think we are living so near the head-quarters of our grand army; within a short ride of Gen. McClellan’s tent, and in the midst of cities of tens, and within two miles of the outmost pickets we are told. The scene on the plain near the river is novel, indeed. Ambulances, horses, army wagons are constantly gathered about the landing, and the quartermaster’s tent; solitary horsemen galloping about in frantic haste, contrabands idling, orderly working and singing, guards pacing to and fro; cannon, freight, horses, mules and muskets mixed promiscuously together, now and then a [illegible] soldier carried by and buried near the hospital.

"It's strange to think we are living so near
the head-quarters of our grand army" and
George McClellan's tent, Maria Hall
wrote about her stay at Harrison's Landing.
Col. Adams and Dr. Barnes furnished us with every luxury at their command, including a carpet of hemlock boughs (or was it pine?) and stretchers for beds. These were swung on forked sticks driven into the ground, and proved luxurious conches, though it must be owned our slumbers were sometimes disturbed by the unaccustomed sounds of the camps, among these being the nightly concerts given by the army mules. Our kitchen was under the sky, the fire easily made as we had no smoky chimney, and our cooking readily done. We became veritable tramps and after ministering each day to the wants of those nearest to us would walk miles hunting up individuals, or to fill wants made known to us day by day.

Carrying Goodies to the Sick and Wounded

Our basket was furnished with a pocket-stove, tea-pot, condensed milk, cups, spoons, forks, knives, etc., so that in about five minutes after entering a tent Mrs. Fales was prepared to furnish a square meal to the sick ones. We were accompanied by an orderly detailed by the colonel and so easily three baskets of supplies could be carried.

One day we visited the hospital tent of a New York regiment. One poor fellow longed for some of the currant-jelly he saw but could not be prevailed on to touch it. After it had been given to others he discovered that it was given and not sold. He had refused because he had no money to buy it and the next day he received a tumbler of it much to his comfort; and his wonder that he could have it without pay was very touching.

Mrs. Fales’s coming into one of these tents had the effect of magic. Her cheery words were as ready and helpful as any part of her equipment. “Come, come.” She would say, “Cheer up. The secretary of war doesn’t want such long-faces here, he sent me down on purpose to make you stretch out your faces this way.” – at the same time giving a pair of thin, sunken cheeks a friendly pinch. By this time the tea was simmered, the boys were smiling, and the real needs of one and another were made known, so that the stores from the baskets could be judiciously applied.

A Visit to the Vermont Brigade

Berkeley Plantation mansion was used as headquarters for a Union hospital at Harrison's Landing.
On a certain Sunday we set out to visit the Vermont brigade not far away. We found Chaplain Mark of the 3d Vermont just about going to hold service in a quaint, old brick church in the Westover place. Of course, we were glad to accompany him, and attend the service. The building was crowded, and all who could not find room within were crowding about the door and windows. The service was heartily enjoyed, and afterward we joined a group of officers and privates about the little organ, singing the Gloria in Excelsis, and other chants of the dear old church we loved. We are called away from the singing and the talk of home which followed, to visit and extemporized hospital outside the church. Here were very sick men lying on benches of a sort of rustic summer house, sheltered from the sun by canvas and boughs.

We had not forgotten our big baskets when we came to church and now they were invaluable. A cup of tea was soon made for one, a bit of jelly tempted another to eat a little food, hot water served to prepare a mustard draught for one who was suffering for want of it. These were men on detailed duty, away from their regiments and without care or comforts. We visited them afterward and carried them such help as we could till they were removed to the general hospital at the landing.

"We had occassional salutes
 from our friends, 'the enemy.'"
 Hall wrote about her stay 
at Harrison's Landing.
(U.S. Military History Institute)

And to that point my own services were soon afterward transferred. Mrs. Fales being called home by some family cares I became assistant to Mrs. John Harris, agent of the ladies aid society of Philadelphia. The old family mansion of the Harrison plantation was located at the Landing, and this building was occupied as head-quarters of the hospital, and offices of various sorts, the cupola and upper rooms being used as a signal station. Here Mrs. Harris had a room, with tents for her stores close by. Here were brought the sick from the army all about, and here indeed was an army of sick men.

A letter dated August 6 gives a glimpse of the work at this point: —

Every day is more or less occupied in preparing delicacies for the sick in the numerous hospital tents. Yesterday afternoon and this morning large numbers were brought in for whom the division were not prepared. Before breakfast I was passing through the hall of the mansion when a sick man called me; he proved to be an old patent office patient and very sick. He could not eat his breakfast and begged me to prepare him something. This I did, and had hardly finished breakfast when I was handed an order for a box to be prepared for an Ohio regiment.

Before this was finished a ward master came for Mrs. Harris; in her absence I went with him, and was requested by a surgeon to provide breakfast for a dozen men who had eaten nothing since the day before at noon. We made up a kettle of chocolate and spread bread and butter for them. While dealing this out other men came to the tent begging for something for their ward; there I found 25 more men with nothing to eat. Before we could feed them all it was dinner time but we went on feeding the hungry and doing the little deeds of kindness as the chances occurred until night came on finding us weary enough. Then Mr. Sloan was chaplain, Mrs. Harris, mother of our little family, Mrs. Lee and Mr. Alvord of the Boston tract society came into the tent as is our custom and held family prayers. We sang “Rise my soul.” And Mr. Alvord prayed , thanking God for the cares and toils and trials of the day and for any spirit of faith in which we had borne them, “for so we may assure ourselves that we are thy children and striving to do thy work.

Occasional Shots From the Enemy

                PANORAMA: Present-day view of Harrison's Landing, site of massive
        Union presence during Civil War.  (Click at upper right for full-screen experience.)

We had occasional salutes from our friends, “the enemy.” As we were one day engaged in the usual routine of bread and butter, we heard heavy firing from the opposite side of the river. But the signal officer soon gave such instructions to our gun-boats that they were glad enough to quit that. Again we were wakened once in the night by the screaming of the “Dutch ovens.” And presently we heard the order to “put out lights — no lights allowed.” So in the darkness a hasty consultation was held, we decided to put on the clean dress, secure all our hair-pins and so be ready for any emergency. Being dressed, we went out of the tent to find a general state of alarm in the camp. The firing, however, soon ceased, and we learned that no great harm had been done.

There seems to be scarce time to tell of a horseback ride on a McClellan saddle in a rainy day through the camps and to see the out-works. But I must not forget the beautiful camp of the Massachusetts regiment I saw one day; How clean the streets, and how nice everything was. No sickness or want here surely! One man sat in the door of his tent busily sewing on buttons. As we came near he looked up and gazing at us said: “Well, it does look scarce to see a woman around.” He looked too, as if he would like to put out his sewing, but we did not step in to take it in.

           Google Earth view of Harrison's Landing and Berkeley Plantation in Virginia.

About the middle of August an order was given to break up the hospital. Some sort of a move was on foot, and we were officially advised to go to New York with a load of the sick, by the Daniel Webster, No. 2. When the final order came to go I was carrying a plate of raw tomatoes to an officer, sick with the fever in one of the buildings. He ate nothing and longed for nothing but a raw tomato cut up in vinegar. I had hired a little negro boy to get me some, and had just time to prepare them and carry them to the sick man. I left him enjoying the tomato and the next summer on going into a hospital ward at Annapolis, I found the same lieutenant wounded and a paroled prisoner. As the news of our going became known, we had applications from some of the contrabands to join the party. One bright boy begged me to “ax de doctor for to let him go. I interceded for him and reported to Charley. “What he say, miss?”

“He thinks you can go.”

Said I. “Well, I guess he better had, or else I’d do like I done down to Williamsport.”

“How was that, Charles?”

“Oh I just borrowed a hoss to go, and I went and don’t forget to take de hoss back, too.” Aunt Rosie, an old family servant, also joined the party, leaving behind her a little flock of grandchildren. We took both these servants North, and heard afterward of their well-doing in new homes.

On a bright Sunday morning we wake to the sight of the beautiful shores of Staten Island. As we heard the church bells pealing over the waters, we fancied we had reached the gates of paradise, and begin to realize the desolation and sorrow from which we had come. At the New Jersey depot our party separated to meet no more, but all again became workers in hospital service till the close of the war.

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Monday, June 26, 2017

'You'll stay by me, won't you?' A Union nurse's life in 1861-62

War-time images of nurse Maria Hall, who served in the Eastern Theater. 
(Left: U.S. Army Military Heritage Institute | Right: The Foard Collection of Civil War Nursing)
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In December 1886, more than 21 years after the Civil War ended, Maria M.C Richards of Unionville, Conn., wrote a two-part series  for The Springfield (Mass.) Republican about her service as a nurse during the first two years of the conflict. Known as Maria Hall before her post-war marriage to a Unionville man, she observed heart-rending scenes in the Eastern Theater in the early days of the war.

Maria Hall (right) at Smoketown hospital,
near the Antietam battlefield. Read more

(Eli Collection, Edward G. Miner Library, 
Rochester, N.Y)
After a young man died at the U.S. Patent Office hospital in Washington -- the first military death Hall witnessed during the war -- a lock of the soldier's hair was cut as a memento for his mother. She also wrote of a soldier named Tyler from Michigan, who was accidentally shot through both knees and died after his leg was amputated. 

"... we could only sit by the poor fellow as his life ebbed away," Hall recalled, "and the day came for this soldier to die for his country without sight of battle or shout of victory."


My thanks to Connecticut historian Clifford T. Alderman, who transcribed the early-war installments and called to my attention Hall's remarkable, two-part series in the Springfield newspaper on her experiences at Antietam in 1862-63.  Supplemented by historical images as well as my own photographs and Google Street View, Hall's words appear here as they were published in the Springfield Republican on Dec. 13, 1886. Part 2 of Hall's remembrances may be found here.
  


Written for The Republican by Mrs. M. M. C. Richards of Unionville, Ct.

In these days of “war papers” it may not be out of order to offer some recollections of hospital life. To many of the boys this part of the service was prolonged and sorrowful; in it many, alas! were mustered out. To many women of the country hospital work in some form offered the only opportunity to do and dare for the Union. How gladly and bravely they used the opportunity I do not need to relate.

To be sure much zeal and linen were wasted in the early days of havelocks and lint-scraping, and many yards of cotton expended in fashioning shirts and drawers so large that no Yankee soldier could possibly fill one, except if he were measured by his courage and endurance. One pair fell into our hands measuring eight feet in length and wide in proportion. These were laid aside at the suggestion of a Boston surgeon for mush poultice bags into which the patient should be slipped and tied up.

But neither zeal nor patriotism were exhausted in those first efforts, and when the real need came in the summer of ’61 there were plenty of loyal women in Washington ready to respond to the call.

A 19th-century view of the U.S. Patent Office building, which was used as a hospital for
 soldiers during the Civil War. (Library of Congress collection)
            National Portrait Gallery in Washington, once home of  the U.S. Patent Office.                                                                              (Google Street View)

The First Volunteer Hospital

The first volunteer hospital was opened to the sick men of the 19th Indiana regiment, in the unfinished wing of the United States patent office, by the action of Caleb Smith, secretary of the interior. This was in its beginning a rude affair, and when we entered with Mrs. Almira Fales into the rough, comfortless wards we were dismayed. But her cheerful order to “Go to work, girls, wash their faces, comb their hair, do what you can,” — and her salutation to the men, “Now boys, I guess you’ll get well; I’ve brought some young ladies to see you” — lent an atmosphere of cheer to the scene, for the moment at least.

"Go to work, girls, wash their faces, comb their hair, do
what you can," Almira Fales told her nursing crew
at the Patent Office hospital in Washington.
(The Foard Collection of Civil War Nursing)
The sick boys in their gray state uniforms lie on rough boards, or on tiles placed against walls, with or without mattresses as it happens. Surgeons and hospital stewards and women work in a confused way without order or direction. But from the disorder and discomfort came gradually a well-ordered hospital which was opened to patients from various regiments, but called always the Indiana hospital. It was here that we watched the dying of our first young soldier boy; taking the loving message for the mother at home, and cutting off for her a lock of the fair hair she had so lately touched. And here too we waited for our first wounded men.

Arrival of the First Wounded.

Shall we ever forget the day when news of a battle was brought in, and orders given to prepare the ward for 24 wounded men? Were not the poor, sick fellows then considered as secondary, and routed out of all the most favorable positions? Were not the nurses rivals then for the “worst cases” for surgical treatment? And as the day wore on, and rumor brought conflicting reports of the number and variety of the cases, who can tell how the excitement grew! At last came the herald announcing the arrival of ambulances, and in the gathering twilight the procession entered the ward; first the surgeon, then the hospital steward   — the ward-master and  — the one wounded man having a flesh wound in his cheek.

Pathetic Scenes

Ah! But that was in the summer of ’61, and we could smile at the want of wounded men then. Later on came pathetic scenes at which we did not smile — one when Tyler of Michigan was brought in, accidently shot through both knees while gathering wood for a camp-fire. The surgeon trying to save both limbs waited too long till blood poisoning occurred, and one sorrowful day the nurse found the usually cheerful fellow crying like a child at the decision of the surgeon just made known to him.

Kalorama mansion in Washington after it was destroyed by fire
in December 1865. Confiscated by a Union regiment, it was used
as a hospital for small-pox patients during the Civil War.
“My leg has got to be amputated tomorrow, I wish it could be done to-day if it has got to come off,” — and then the thought of going home crippled — it was almost better not to go at all. “But you’ll stay by me, won’t you?” And on the promise given in response to this he relied.

The next day stretched upon the rude amputating table, he looked about for the nurse, and taking her hand said he was ready, saying, “Now let me go to sleep,” and so seemed content till the blessed chloroform deadened all thought or care. Though the operation was “successful,” and all the first conditions good, a secondary hemorrhage occurred after the first dressing, and then we could only sit by the poor fellow as his life ebbed away, and the day came for this soldier to die for his country without sight of battle or shout of victory. These first instances are so vivid, and stand forth distinctively, while the years that follow seem filled with shadowy forms going on to death, with here and there individual cases, whose experiences were marked.

 In the winter, small-pox appeared among us, and many of the boys were sent to Kalorama, the place chosen as the government pest-house. The first case I remember to have been was a red-headed man who begged to have his hair brushed to ease the pain in his head. He presently remarked that he guessed that “brush would take the hide off.” The surgeon passing by stopped to examine the pustules that appeared under the manipulations of the nurse, and hastily advised no more brushing. The man was at once removed to an outer hall, and presently the ambulance carried him away.

To the Front

Union wounded at a field hospital at Savage Station, Va., on June 27, 1862.  (Library of Congress)
In the summer of ’62 Washington had been better furnished with hospital accommodations for the army, and the Indiana hospital was closed, and its workers scattered to other points. Now came a chance to go “to the front.” All the world was crying “on to Richmond,” and on to Richmond we essayed to go, following [George] McClellan’s grand Army of the Potomac. Mrs. Almira Fales, known to so many of the army boys, had already made an expedition to the army at Savage Station, and there distributed to the necessities of the soldiers bountiful supplies furnished so generously from the North.

Onboard the hospital ship Daniel Webster,
Maria Hall slept on a bunk with
no mattress and an improvised pillow.
(Photo courtesy Hall descendants)
She had near the end of June returned to Washington to replenish her stores, and now proposed to make a second journey. She remarked that “those boys had been fed on lint and bandages long enough, I’m going to take them some goodies.” The writer was to her own great delight allowed to accompany Mrs. Fales as her assistant, and armed with passes from the secretary of war we went to Fortress Monroe, only to learn that no farther could we go at present.

A letter of June 29, ’62, dated “Hospital ship, Daniel Webster” is before me, and I quote as follows: –

“We found we could not go in the direction we expected; for either the army has been repulsed, or the plan of operations materially changed. All sorts of rumors abound, and nothing seems reliable. We have come aboard this hospital transport, and here we find two surgeons, some young men nurses of the Christian commission, and they expect to go to Yorktown for the wounded. We have decided to go with them, using our stores and ourselves as circumstances dictate. A boat has just come in from White House [Va.] bringing the news that the left wing of our army is in Richmond, the right wing turned, and the center firm — very likely we shall be in Richmond before we can hear from you — (!) We are lying off Fortress Monroe, in sight of the Rip Raps, a prison for mutinous soldiers, and nearby are the black gun-boats with their ‘peace-makers’ grinning from the port-holes; and off there in the distance the scene of action between the Merrimac and the Monitor. We find no luxuries and few conveniences onboard for sick or well. I sleep on a bunk with no mattress, but a pike of hospital shirts for a pillow.”

The next day we were ordered to proceed to the James River, casting anchor about dark alongside the gun-boat Port Royal. A little boat’s crew came to visit us and the crowd on deck are electrified by the news we hear from them.

“McClellan cut to pieces, the left wing 23 miles back, and the whole army on the skedaddle.”

The captain of the Port Royal gives the parting advice to Capt. Woods of the Daniel Webster to hurry up in the morning as soon as it is light, keep all the ladies below, and don’t be surprised to see a shot across your bows any time.

War-time sketch of Harrison's Landing in Harper's Weekly. James River appears in background.
                PANORAMA: Present-day view of Harrison's Landing, site of massive
       Union presence during Civil War.  (Click at upper right for full-screen experience.)

Nursing the Wounded at Harrison’s Landing

The diary of July 1 says: Wake early to find ourselves steaming rapidly up the James River. Reach Harrison’s Landing at 7 o’clock. Find crowds of sick, wounded and worn-out men engaged in the recent battles. It is not long before Mrs. Fales and I are among them feeding and questioning. None of these were very seriously wounded, but all were seriously hungry and demolished the rations with skill of veterans.

We are at the Landing several hours receiving many to be examined and have wounds dressed, and then to be sent to another boat. Our load numbers finally about 300. Mrs. Fales’s supplies all the provisions we have for the sick, and she deals them out lavishly all day long, forgetting even to eat any dinner herself. For my own part I am busy all day helping here and there. Some wounds I wash and bandage. One shattered finger I wash and leave covered till a surgeon comes. He takes out his knife and before I know it the finger is left there for me to pick up and throw away!

Berkeley Plantation mansion at Harrison's Landing, Va., where
Maria Hall served as a nurse in July 1862.
One man was struggling in vain to dress a wound on his shoulder. Offering to help him I found him so much in need of cleaning up generally that I proposed to him that he should wash his face first. “Wash my face,” said he, as if the idea were new to him, “why I haven’t washed my face since the 24th of June!”

 “Well,” said I, “Would you like to try it for a change?”

“I guess so,” he answered; “you see we hadn’t any water to spare for our face down on the Chickahominy; we drank water that we wouldn’t give to a dog at home.”

I brought him a basin of water, soap, towel and a clean shirt and left him to these luxuries. You should have heard him laugh when I came again to find him. “Don’t know me now I’m so clean, do you?”

This story is good to tell to those who are fond of quoting that other story of the young lady who went one morning into a city hospital and proposed to bathe the head of a sick soldier. The soldier declined her offer with thanks, but she insisted saying, “Let me bathe your head, I want so much to be useful.”

“Well,” he sighed, “you can if you want to so bad, but you are the 14th one who has done it this morning.”


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Friday, June 23, 2017

6th N.H. chaplain: 'May the widow's God be with you ...'

"May the widow's God be with you & sustain you under this great affliction,"
Chaplain John Hamilton wrote to the widow of 6th New Hampshire Private Anthony Welch.
Unfinished Railroad Cut at Second Manassas. Private Anthony Welch may have died near here.
(Photo Shelly Liebler)

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After waiting nearly three months for word of her husband’s fate, Betsey Welch received a short letter confirming her worst fears. Private Anthony Welch of the 6th New Hampshire was dead, killed at Second Manassas on Aug. 29, 1862. His body had not been recovered from the battlefield. The 41-year-old father of two young children was one of 16 men from Canaan, N.H., to march off to war in 1861.

6th New Hampshire Chaplain John Hamilton.
More than 80 days had passed from the day the Union army was routed near Washington until 6th New Hampshire Chaplain John Alexander Hamilton wrote the condolence letter to Mrs. Welch, dated Nov. 18, 1862, from a camp six miles from Fredericksburg, Va. Betsey had made an inquiry about Anthony to his commanding officer, Colonel Simon Goodell Griffin, who forwarded her letter to Hamilton to reply. (Read complete letter below; read all Civil War condolence letters on my blog here.)

Sadly for Widow Welch, the chaplain’s two-page letter lacked concrete information.

“I would hereby say that it is generally understood in this Regt. that he was killed in the battle of Bull Run [Manassas],” Hamilton wrote. “Those of his Co. who had opportunities for knowing say that he was shot at that time through the breast & died of the wound. It is presumed that he lived but a short time after being wounded. Probably he was buried with the others of the same Regt. who were found dead on the field three days after the battle.”

Welch, in Company B, likely was wounded when the 6th New Hampshire, 2nd Maryland and 48th Pennsylvania were ordered by General Jesse Reno to drive the enemy from  woods near the infamous Unfinished Railroad Cut. “The regiment made a gallant attempt to obey the order,” Griffin recalled years later, “not suspecting that it was set to perform an impossible task. As it advanced into the woods it was received with a murderous fire; four color-bearers were shot down in succession; its left flank was uncovered, and it was compelled to retreat to save itself from capture.”

Of the 450 soldiers in the regiment who went into battle, 210 became casualties. If Welch lay wounded behind Confederate lines, it was unlikely he received medical aid from the enemy.

6th New Hampshire regimental historian
Lyman Jackman: "It is one thing a soldier
dreads most, thus to be left wounded on
 the battle-field, to linger perhaps
 for days, and then to die."
"As the rebels had all they could do to attend to their own wounded," Lyman Jackman, a lieutenant in the 6th New Hampshire, wrote in the regimental history, "they did not give much attention, if any, to ours; and the sufferings of these must have been terrible through that night and the next day. But how much they suffered we can never know, for most of them died.  ... It is the one thing a soldier dreads most, thus to be left wounded on the battle-field, to linger perhaps for days, and then to die, with the pangs of hunger and thirst added to those of his neglected wounds."

Added Jackman: "... no sadder night did [the 6th New Hampshire] ever pass than that of August 29, 1862."

Welch’s friends would have looked for his body immediately after the fighting had ended, Chaplain Hamilton explained, but the battlefield was occupied by the enemy, making recovery of the remains impossible.

“It is indeed very sad for you to receive such sad intelligence,” wrote the 32-year-old Congregational minister from Keene, N.H. “Many are the hearts that sympathize with you here. But we can only sympathize. May the widow's God be with you & sustain you under this great affliction and so may this present, most grievous sorrow work out for you and yours a far more exceeding & eternal night of glory.”

Welch’s final resting place is unknown.

SOURCES:

-- Anthony Welch widow's pension file, National Archives and Records Service, Washington, D.C., via fold3.com.

-- Griffin, S.G., A History of the Town of Keene, Keene, N.H., Sentinel Printing Company, 1904.

-- Jackman, Lyman, History of the Sixth New Hampshire Regiment in the War for the Union, Concord, N.H., Republican Press Association, 1891.

PAGE 1: National Archives via fold3.com.
PAGE 2: National Archives via fold3.com.

Read more condolence letters on my blog here.
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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Doctor to soldier's widow: 'He wished to convey his last love ...'

Patients at Harewood Hospital in Washington in 1864. Isaac Nelson died at the hospital in 1863.
(Library of Congress)
Harewood Hospital was built on the Corcoran farm. The U.S. Capitol Building looms at right.
(Library of Congress | CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE.)
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In the aftermath of the Union army's disastrous defeat at Fredericksburg, Va., in December 1862, scores of Federal wounded were transported to hospitals in Washington. On Dec. 18, seriously wounded 155th Pennsylvania Private Isaac Nelson was admitted to Ward "E" of  Harewood Hospital, a sprawling facility on the rolling hills of William Corcoran's farm, within sight of the U.S. Capitol Building.

During a suidical frontal assault made by four, untested Pennsylvania regiments on Marye's Heights five days earlier, a bullet crashed into Nelson's right hip, apparently tearing through his abdomen as well. Early in his treatment, the married father of a 10-month-old girl named Mary Elizabeth appeared on his way to recovery -- he was even able to walk short distances. But during a stretch of "stormy days" in January, the 23-year-old soldier contracted a cold, his wounds re-opened and he "sank from exhaustion," according to the surgeon in charge of the ward.

Isaac Nelson's gravestone, Plot No. 4187, in
U.S. Soldiers' and Airmen's National Cemetery
in Washington. (Find A Grave)
In his final days, Nelson seemed to accept his fate, Thomas H. Elliott wrote to the private's wife, Anna Elizabeth, who lived near Pittsburgh. (Complete letter below; more condolence letters on my blog here.)

"He spoke of his approaching death with calmness and wished to convey his last love to his wife and child -- they seemed to occupy much of his thoughts," the surgeon noted about Nelson, who died at 10 p.m. on Jan. 31, 1863.

Nelson could not have chosen a finer physician to care for him. "[Elliott] was remarkable," a post-war account noted, "for the kindly sympathies and tender offices which he carried in the chamber of his patients."

Surgeon Elliott assured Widow Nelson her husband's remains would be carefully buried and his grave "distinctly marked" so his body could be recovered. "His few effects -- properly marked -- are in the office here, subject to your order," the 45-year-old physician wrote. "If you choose you can write to me in reference to them and his papers, back pay, etc."

Nelson's remains were never returned to his native Pennsylvania. His grave may be found today at U.S. Soldiers' and Airmen's Home National Cemetery in Washington.

SOURCES

-- 
Isaac Nelson widow's pension file, National Archives and Records Service, Washington, D.C., via fold3.com.
-- Transactions of the Medical Society of the State of Pennsylvania at the Twenty-Seventh Annual Session, Held at Philadelphia, May 31, and June 1, 1876, Vol XI, Part I, Philadelphia, Collins Printer,  705 Jayne Street, 1876.

Surgeon Thomas Elliott's condolence letter to Isaac Nelson's widow, Anna Elizabeth.
(National Archives via fold3.com)

Read more condolence letters on my blog here.
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Monday, June 19, 2017

Michigan officer: 'Your husband has been thus sacrificed'

17th Michigan Private Elijah Ordiway (left) died of disease. His commanding officer,
Captain Loren L. Comstock. informed his widow about his death.
(State of Michigan, Library and Archives, Seeking Michigan)
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In late-summer 1862, Private Elijah Ordiway dodged Rebel bullets at South Mountain and Antietam, but the 29-year-old soldier couldn't avoid the Civil War's most prolific killer: disease. Before the 17th Michigan left Maryland for Virginia, the married father of three young daughters was struck down by typhoid fever. On Nov. 12, 1862, he succumbed to the disease at a Federal hospital in Weverton, Md., a hamlet about three miles down the Potomac River from the Union garrison at Harpers Ferry, Va.

Twelve days later from a camp near Fredericksburg, Va., Ordiway's commanding officer wrote a note to his widow in Adrian, Mich., informing her of Elijah's death.

"It is to me an unpleasant task to impart bad news to those who have been separated from their loved ones, sacrificed to the demon of this unholy war, on the altar of our common country," began Captain Loren L. Comstock's one-page condolence letter to Maria Ordiway. "It is however my painful duty to inform you that your husband has been thus sacrificed." (Complete letter below.)

        Elijah Ordiway died in a hospital in Weverton, Md., downriver from Harpers Ferry.
                                                                     (Google Maps)

Ordiway's service in the Union army was oh-so-brief. He had been mustered into Company A of the 17th Michigan on Aug 19, 1862. Elijah had been a member of the Adrian Cadets, a military organization in his hometown 70 miles southwest of Detroit.

"I cannot hope to offer consolation in this your trying affliction," continued Comstock's note to Mrs. Ordiway, "but God will be merciful to the widow and orphans who suffer such a mournful bereavement, and the memory of your 'mourned and lost' will be cherished by his former companion in arms, the surviving members of the Adrian Cadets."

After the war, Ordiway's remains were recovered from the village along the Potomac River and re-buried at the national cemetery in Sharpsburg, Md., in plot no. 2485.

One year and one day after Comstock wrote the note to Widow Ordiway, his war came to an end when he was mortally wounded by a sharpshooter in the door of his tent in Knoxville, Tenn. The Mexican War veteran, promoted to lieutenant colonel in the spring of 1863, was 39.

National Archives via fold3.com

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SOURCES


-- Elijah Ordiway widow's pension file, National Archives and Records Service, Washington, D.C., via fold3.com.

-- A Comstock Genealogy; Descendants of William Comstock of New London, Conn., who died after 1662, edited by Cyrus B. Comstock, The Knickerbocker Press, New York, 1907.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

How Widow McCloy aided Confederacy at Drewry's Bluff

View from Drewry's Bluff of James River, where Rebels drove off Union flotilla on May 15, 1862.
(CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE.)
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About 7:30 on the morning of May 15, 1862, Union ironclad gunboats Monitor and Galena, part of a five-vessel flotilla, dropped anchor in the James River within 600 yards of the Confederate fort at Drewry’s Bluff, Va., and opened fire with their massive guns.

Elizabeth McCloy was a widow
 with six children.
(Images above and below
courtesy Robert McCloy)
The Federal force's effort to dislodge Rebels from the fort, about seven miles from Richmond, ended in failure.

Confederate pickets reportedly had spotted the gunboats about daylight and alerted the fort’s defenders. Southern gunners bashed holes in the Galena, killing at least 14 sailors and marines aboard and turning the vessel into “a slaughterhouse,” according to a witness. The Monitor, the famed ironclad, and its crew survived unscathed, gunfire from soldiers on the riverbank pattering upon its decks like rain.  After running out of ammunition, the Yankee gunboats sailed back down the James, ending the fight after about four hours.

"Our brave tars on the James river are not the least downhearted," a Northern newspaper wrote, coating the defeat with more than a scoop of sugar, "but expect to renew the bombardment and drive the rebels from their position."

It never happened.

At the fort on the bluff 90 feet above the James River, casualties included at least seven killed and eight wounded. And well outside the fort, one poor victim suffered a sad, and gruesome, end because of an apparently errant Union naval shell.

Irish-born William McCloy, a
Confederate officer, died of
 disease in 1862. He was

married to Elizabeth McCloy.
“Our informant,” the Petersburg (Va.) Express reported the day after the action, “saw a mule which was dreadfully mangled and killed, more than a quarter-mile from the Fort, by an explosion of a shell. The animal had three legs cut off, and its side was torn out.”

Confederate firepower was also aided by Rebel ingenuity. Steamers, schooners and sloops were sunk as obstructions in the James River beneath the bluff, preventing Union vessels from firing their weaponry at point-blank range and from sailing on to Richmond.

Evidence of  "obstructionism" survives in the form of a receipt (below) from the Confederate government for $250 for the use of  Elizabeth McCloy’s “lighter,” a small boat, as one of the “obstructions at Drury’s Bluff.”  McCloy, the mother of six children, was married to Irish-born William James McCoy, a lieutenant in the 15th Virginia (Henrico Guard), who died of disease on March 4, 1862.

Dated June 19, 1862, Mrs. McCloy's receipt indicates the Confederacy "purchased" the vessel from her after the Southerners had turned back the Union gunboats a month earlier. (Hat tip: descendant Robert McCloy, a reader of my blog.)  Images of the James River obstructions, perhaps including Mrs. McCloy's contribution to the Confederate cause, were photographed by Northern photographers in 1864 and 1865.

An 1865 image of obstructions placed in the James River by Confederates to hinder Union vessels.
(Library of Congress)
Another Confederate obstruction in the James River, near Drewry's Bluff.
(National Archives)
Receipt Elizabeth McCloy received from Confederate government for her "lighter," a small boat.
(CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE.)
Close-up of Mrs. McCloy's receipt for $250 for her James River obstruction.
(Image courtesy of Robert McCloy)
The defeat of the Yankees at Drewry’s Bluff -- "quite an exciting affair," according to the Petersburg newspaper -- was a major boost for the Confederacy. By July 1, 1862, the culmination of the Seven Days Battles, the Army of Northern Virginia under Robert E. Lee had finally shoved the Union army from the gates of the Confederate capital.

A post-war image of Augustus Drewry (seated center),
Confederate commander  at Drewry's Bluff on May 15, 1862.
(Courtesy Ashton H. Wheeler)
“We are pleased to learn the best spirits pervade our men,” the Express noted the day after the Drewry’s Bluff battle, “and that they are determined to make Old Abe’s 'on to Richmond' by water as difficult as have been his efforts to reach our capital on terra firma.”

Of course, Confederate newspapers took delight in pricking the dastardly Yankees -- even picking on them for their reference to Drewry's Bluff as "Fort Darling." The fort was named after local landowner Augustus Harrison Drewry, a captain in the Confederate artillery who was commander there during the attack in May 1862.  On Aug. 2, 1862, the Richmond Dispatch wrote:
“It is well known that the Yankees, in all their allusions to our batteries at Drewry’s Bluff, have applied to them the name 'Fort Darling,' and some indignation has been manifested at their assumption of the right to christen a locality which the South has made formidable. It is not, however, original with them, for that portion of the shore of James River will be found designated on some of the old maps as 'Darling’s Point,' from which they borrowed the idea; but the name should be forever ignored in the Confederate States, because it was fished up by the Yankees from the depths of the almost oblivious past, and because 'Fort Drewry,' the term given it by those who gallanty repulsed the enemy’s best gunboats, is not only proper as a compliment to one of our commanders, but in every respect applicable to the locality.”
Perhaps the dissing from the Dispatch even brought a smile to Widow McCloy.

                           PANORAMA: View of the James River from Drewry's Bluff.
                                       (Click at upper right for full-screen experience.)

SOURCES:

-- Reading Times, May 22, 1862.
-- Richmond Dispatch, May 19, 1862.

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Saturday, June 10, 2017

'It was folly': Maine regiment's disastrous charge at Petersburg

Near the edge of a wood, the monument for the 1st Maine Heavy Artillery at Petersburg, Va.
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"Nine hundred men from Maine were we,
As brave and true,
As hot to do,
As any ever wore the blue.
Nine hundred men from Maine!
Where shall their like be found again?"

 -- The Charge of the Nine Hundred, unknown author, The First Maine Heavy Artillery, 1862-1865, published 1903.


Of all the Civil War battlefield monuments for individual regiments, perhaps none tell as stunning a story as the tall, granite monument for the 1st Maine Heavy Artillery at Petersburg, Va. Two large, bronze tablets -- one listing mortally wounded, the other  those killed outright -- honor the 241 soldiers who didn't survive the futile charge against Confederate works on June 18, 1864. In all, the regiment of nearly 900 soldiers suffered 632 casualties in about 10 to 20 minutes in the attack on Colquitt's Salient -- the greatest number of losses of any regiment in any single day of battle during the war.

All the death and maiming occurred in a little more than an acre.

Here are historical images -- as well as my own photos taken during a recent visit -- paired with words from those who were there that late-spring day in 1864:

The Heavies formed in this plank road before the assault began. The road no longer exists.
(The 1st Maine Heavy Artillery, 1862-1865)

"A GOOD SHELTER FROM BULLETS AND SHELL" 


Horace Shaw:
War-time image of
1st Maine Heavies office
r.
In a post-war account, 1st Maine Heavy Artillery officer Horace Shaw described the prelude to the attack:

"The First Maine had been designated as the center or storming column. They were posted in a portion of the old Prince George Courthouse road, where that road made a sharp turn to the right, running northwest past old New Market Race Course and nearly parallel with the enemy's line of works, and about five hundred yards distant from them. At this point this road, partly a plank road [above], was dug into the ground, the dirt thrown up at the sides (a common method of making roads in Virginia), the embankments being covered with small trees and bushes a portion of the way, thus affording a good shelter from bullets and shell during the period of waiting for orders."


SOURCE: Shaw, Horace H. and House, Charles J., The First Maine Heavy Artillery, 1862-1865Portland, Maine, 1903.

                 PANORAMA: The remains of Colquitt's Salient, the Heavies' objective. 
                                         (Click at upper right for full-screen experience.)

"I SAW THE BLINDING FLASH OF RED FLAME"


Near 30 years after the battle, Joel Brown, a private in Company I of the 1st Maine Heavy Artillery, wrote a searing, and eloquent, account of the charge:

Private Joel Brown:
"What a sight
was before us ..."
"As we scrambled up out of the road, what a sight was before us: about ten or fifteen hundred yards away, across an open field having a little rise and covered with old corn stubble, were the rebel works, bristling with artillery, still as death, awaiting our onslaught. We had become somewhat broken in climbing up out of the road and the sight before us, together with a few stray shots from the sharpshooters along our front, did not tend to steady the line, so our old colonel [Daniel Chaplin], who was I believe, the coolest man that it would be possible to find, gave the command to halt, took his station as on dress parade, ordered his guides on a line, dressed up the regiment, and then put us through the manual of arms as quietly as though we were still in the defences of Washington, and all the while the bullets from the sharpshooters humming about his ears like bees. 

"Then came the word, 'Forward, Double Quick, Charge,' and with a wild cheer which seemed to me more like the bitter cry wrung out in a death agony, we sprang forward. I saw the works plainly before me. I saw the blinding flash of red flame run along the crest of those works and heard the deafening crash as the awful work began; then the air seemed filled with all the sounds it was possible for it to contain, the hiss of the deadly minie, the scream of the shell, the crackle, crash and roar of every conceivable missile, and through it all that red blaze along the crest of that work which we must cross, as we, with bowed heads, breasted that storm."


SOURCE: "The Charge of the Heavy Artillery" by Joel Brown, The Maine Bugle, April 1894.

            PANORAMA: The 1st Maine Heavies charged from right to left across this field.
                                    (Click at upper right for full-screen experience.)

"IT WAS FOLLY"


Lt. Samuel W. Crowell:
Mortally wounded
during charge.
In a post-war account, George Washburn, a private in the 108th New York, described how veteran regiments huddled for cover rather than join the attack with the Maine Heavies against the well-entrenched Confederates at Colquitt's Salient.

"While engaged in the frequent fierce contests about Petersburg, our Brigade, which was lying upon I think the Jerusalem road screening themselves as much as possible from rebel sharpshooters, were ordered to support the 1st Maine Heavy Artillery in a charge. The charge was to be made across or into a large field of corn beyond which was a rising eminence and on the left of the field was a wooded acclivity. 

"So experienced were the old veterans in such matters in espying masked batteries and concealed musketry that the deadly issue was easily noticed by them, and General [Thomas] Smyth remarked that it was folly for the old boys to be sacrificed in such a place, but as orders must be obeyed, 'Fall in and we ll do our duty.' The Maine's being in line started into the field, the corn being three or four feet in height, and with a ringing shout advanced double quick, and when within the range, the rebels desired a terrible fire from masked batteries and infantry swept through the Maine's line.  Our Brigade in support, the 108th being on the left, dropped at once upon the ground face downward, by so doing the furious storm of shot passed over them. It was their only salvation."


SOURCE: Washburn, George H. A Complete Military History and Record of 108th Regt. N.Y. Vols., from 1862 to 1894, Rochester, N.Y., 1894.

Colquitt's Salient, stormed by 1st Maine Heavy Artillery on June 18, 1864.

"EXCEPT AT COLD HARBOR I NEVER SAW SUCH SLAUGHTER"


An unknown Confederate veteran wrote of the attack by "Lincoln's pets" in this post-war account:

Capt. Andrew Jaquith:
Mortally wounded
during charge.
"...Then ... Lincoln's pets, 1,950 strong [sic], the Maine battery charged us and went back with 250. I can realize that this was so, for except at Cold Harbor I never saw such slaughter ..."

"... In one of these charges while the shells were flying, I peeped up to see the approaching Federals. Just in front of me there suddenly appeared something like a black, buzzing bee. It was a shell. I knew what it was and down I ducked behind the breastwork. The shell burst in the breastwork right in front of me and covered me with dirt all to my protruding legs. I was pulled out and my head bandaged where a piece of the shell had struck me. It was my duty to report the casualties. I did not report myself. How is this, asked Major Rion? I told him it was slight and I did not want my wife to be unnecessarily alarmed. 'Wounds, sir. are honorable to a soldier and his command. A wound is any blood letting. Don t let this occur again.' I told him, 'I hoped it would not.' "


SOURCE: Charleston (S.C.) Sunday News, July 25, 1897.

An acre of death: 241 soldiers in the 1st Maine Heavy Artillery were killed/mortally wounded here.

"THE OLD HERO ... CRIED LIKE A CHILD"


Like General George Pickett at Gettysburg, the 1st Maine Heavy Artillery's colonel was shattered by his losses. Here is Private Joel Brown's heart-rending, post-war account:


Colonel Daniel Chaplin:
Mortally wounded at

 Deep Bottom on 
Aug. 17, 1864.
"History says that Gen. [David] Birney massed the Second Corps and made a desperate charge that day. So he did, but it was the First Maine Heavy Artillery that made the charge alone. The rest of the corps never crossed the sunken road. I went up the road towards the left to where the colonel [Daniel Chaplin] was, just as Gen. Birney rode up, and heard him say, 'Col. Chaplin, where are your men?' and I shall never forget his answer: 'There they are, out on that field where your tried veterans dared not go. Here, you can take my sword; I have no use for it now;' and the old hero sat down in the road and cried like a child.

"Just as night began to close in, the adjutant came along and told us to get together and call the roll. We did. Company I got together; we had gone in with seventy-five men; six privates had come out. There was no roll call in that company that night; one of our number wrote the names on a piece of paper and with tears running down his cheeks handed it to the adjutant; that was all. Out of the nine hundred men of the regiment about seven hundred had fallen. Late that night Lieut. Sam Oakes came to us. He had been knocked senseless on the field, but at night revived and crawled off. How we hugged him and cried over him! His coming saved our company from being wiped out, but the bruises he got that day cost him his life within one short year. Our colonel was broken hearted over his loss and threw his life away at Deep Bottom soon after. He seemed not to care to live after his regiment was gone."


SOURCE: "The Charge of the Heavy Artillery" by Joel Brown,  The Maine Bugle, April 1894.

Two plaques on the 1st Maine Heavy Artillery monument at Petersburg show the awful toll.

"GHASTLY EVIDENCE OF THE INHUMANITY OF MAN TO MAN!"


Lt. Gardner Ruggles, 23:
Killed at Petersburg.
A post-war account from Horace Shaw, an officer in Company F of the 1st Maine Heavies:

"In the gray dawn of the morning of the 19th the writer [Horace Shaw], accompanied by comrades [James] Dole and [Ephraim] Drew of Company F, attempted to rescue Lieutenant [Gardner] Ruggles and some other comrades, who were believed to be wounded not far from the enemy's lines. Taking advantage of the dense fog, they approached to where he was supposed to have fallen, within one hundred yards of the enemy's breastworks and not far from where the monument [above] now stands. The fog suddenly lifted, they were discovered by the enemy and fire blazed from their guns. They were obliged to drop into the field gullies where the dead were piled and to make a most perilous run to the cover of the breastworks, when the fog again shut down.

"So terrible was the fire for days at this point that no further attempt was made, either to bring any off or to bury the dead, except in the darkness of the night. It was an appalling sight, to take a desperate chance for life and peer over the breastworks across this field of slaughter, strewn thick with the blue-coated bodies of those sterling sons of Maine, decomposing in the fierce rays of a Southern sun. What ghastly evidence of the inhumanity of man to man!"

Ruggles was found dead; his remains were returned to Maine, where he was buried in a family cemetery.  Dole, Drew and Shaw survived the war.


SOURCE: Shaw, Horace H. and House, Charles J., The First Maine Heavy Artillery, 1862-1865, Portland, Maine, 1903.

1st Maine Heavy Artillery veterans, others at Petersburg monument dedication on Sept. 14, 1894.
(The First Maine Heavy Artillery, 1862-1865)

"THE CHARGE OF YOUR OWN PICKETT ... WAS NO LESS BRILLIANT"


On Sept. 14, 1894, Horace Shaw, author of the Maine Heavies' regimental history, addressed a gathering of veterans at the dedication of the monument to the regiment at Petersburg. Confederate vets also were present.

Horace Shaw:
A post-war image.
I find myself oppressed with conflicting sentiments of sorrow and gladness, of confidence and fear. We come to this spot sacred to us to dedicate this simple stone which tells of the great sacrifice our comrades made here. The only sentiment upon the stone is in our motto of three links binding Maine and Virginia together in union and peace. This is expressive of our sincere desire. We come from distant states to honor and perpetuate the memory of dead who gave their lives and poured their blood out here. We cannot honor them without expressing our admiration for courage and soldierly qualities of those opposed to us here. The unsuccessful assault is always a fatal one. The charge of your own Pickett at Gettysburg was no less brilliant because unsuccessful. We cannot come here to honor our own loyal dead without paying tribute to the courage of [John] Gordon’s men, who made a gallant, though unsuccessful, charge over the same ground on the following 25th of March. This ground is the more sacred to us because the blood of your sons mingled with ours, has made this spot sacred to you."

SOURCE: Petersburg (Va.) Index Appeal, Sept. 15, 1894.

"Comrades will recognize many familiar faces here," reads the caption for this image in the
Heavies'  regimental history. "The empty sleeves and trousers legs tell the story. 27 of
 these lost an arm or leg, nearly every one had been wounded in battle." The photo was
 taken at a gathering at Horace Shaw's house in Maine in 1885.  (CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE.) 



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