Reminiscences of Jeremiah Collins,
Musician, Company G, 150th New York Infantry
These reminiscences were written by Collins in 1903 for the “Committee on Revision” that was
overseeing the preparation of a regimental history of the 150th New York. (This history, entitled
The Dutchess County Regiment, was finally published in 1907.) These reminiscences are
made available through the courtesy of Vincent A. Powell, a great-grandson of Collins.
Though I never kept a Diary, I will have to do the best I can from memory. In my own way, I enlisted on the 19th day of September 1862 in Camp Dutchess in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., from Dover, N.Y., the home of Hon. John H. Ketcham, in Company G as drummer, ranked Musician.
I wanted one month of being 16 years of age so I was signed 15 years old, being the youngest one in the regiment. Previous to my enlistment, I being a news boy on the railroad, I would have gone in Co. E from Dover at the time, only they had there two drummers already enlisted and I was too young for a private. The other drummer was Ogden E. Bodey of my Co. G, E. A. Weeks, Captain. On the 11th of October 1862 we were mustered in the United States Service. After that we broke camp and left Poughkeepsie by steamer down the Hudson to Jersey City and there took trains for Baltimore, Maryland, and went in camp at a place called Camp Millington. This was our first camp after leaving Camp Dutchess; it was there I had a little trouble by not obeying orders. I was detailed to beat certain calls by Hub Roberts the Drum Major, and the order came through one of the drummers to me and I thought I had no right to obey the order when I did not get it from the Drum Major in person. I was put in the Guard House and after 48 hours I was brought before his Hon. John K. Ketcham, and examined and reprimanded and then remanded back to the Guard House. On the next day or thereabouts, I was brought before the Col. again and after he laid down the law on military orders and the Consequence of disobeying orders to me, I was excused from further punishment. I found out at once that the Col. was my best friend.
At this time there was a detail of carpenters made from each Co. to build winter quarters barracks at Camp Belger; and in a short time after we changed Camp and went to Camp Belger where we remained during the winter. I had an occasion to call on the Col. under orders at Headquarters. He was at breakfast. He saw me before I could withdraw and hailed me and asked if I had breakfast. I said yes sir, I had. “Do you think you could eat a little more?” I said yes, I thought I could, thinking he would let the servant give it to me on a little side table. But no, he ordered me to sit down at the same table with himself and I did not know what to do and I did not hesitate to obey orders after what I went through at Camp Millington, only obey orders, and I sat down at once and enjoyed a good breakfast.
As the winter wore away the regiment was assigned to guard duty in various parts of the city until Lee’s invasion of Pennyslvania, the following summer, in June 1863. We hurriedly broke camp and began the life of real soldiers under force march to Harpers Ferry. When we went into camp at night after our first day’s march on the side of a hill alongside of the main road and too tired to pitch our shelter tents, but laid down and went to sleep. I was awakened by pouring rain which beat on my face. In the morning on our next day’s march most of the boys abandoned our wet blankets, they being too heavy to carry under our forced marching orders under the command of General Lockwood, called Lockwood’s Maryland Brigade. We were on our way to join the Army of the Potomac.
On the afternoon of the third day after leaving Baltimore, our brigade was composed besides our own regiment of two Maryland Regiments. We were within a few miles from Frederick City. We came across part of the Army of the Potomac. We were surprised when we heard that this was the third day. Short rations as we sank to sleep, but with the coming of dawn the city of a night had folded its walls and the roads were thronged again. Night came and as before the city of lights was spread before us. Another morning came and still the roads were thronged with this Army of the Potomac. Before noon our Brigade of 2400 men had marched down the hill crossed the river and became merged in a great mass. Then followed days of extreme fatigue were made worse by short rations as we tried to keep the marching pace with those of the veterans.
On the 2nd of July we were called at daybreak at 4 a.m. We started at a furious marching pace covering eight miles in two hours.
The rolling echoes of distant cannonading were plainly heard as we were closing near Gettysburg. We passed the 7th Regiment N.Y. State Militia who was acting as provost guard. [Note: Collins is mistaken about the identification of this regiment. The 7th N.Y.S.M. did not participate in the Gettysburg campaign. The unit that Collins encountered was probably the 10th New York Battalion, which was serving as Provost Guard for the Third Division of the Second Corps.] When at last we arrived on the field we were held in reserve until nearly night. The frequent booming of cannon west of us told its own story, and an occasional shell howling towards us and burying itself in the ground and some burst in mid-air. While some of the train wagons were hurrying along the main road with ammunition, and some with hard tack a shell struck one of the wagons loaded with hardtack and then we had a scramble for hard tacks that were scattered all around the wagon. I, having a hole in my drumhead, was able to get quite a number in the drum before the provost guard could stop the raid on the hard tack. Without being seen they acted as life saver, as I had only three hard tacks left in my haversack and some of the comrades had but one. But in the afternoon there arose away off in the southwest a great rattle and roar of rifles mingled with the increasing booming of cannon. This was the struggle near the peach orchard wheat field and round tops and a peculiar sound. They said the johnnies were charging. Oh, that’s the Rebels’ yell and the sound of musketry broke out and thicker and louder the roar of artillery increased. Just at night when the enemy’s yell was no longer answered by our boys’ cheers it showed that our boys were being driven back. Suddenly our brigade got orders to fall in and in a fast march. Finally there came a halt and a rapid forming of line of battle. In the field before us just skirting the woods was a long line of gray firing continuously. At this point I was with the band musicians and the Drum Major, having become separated from our Regt. we were unable to find our regiment, and fearing we might get in a trap, we went in to camp close by hill under some advice of some of the officers to the drum major. On the next morning, the third day, the drum major tried to locate the regiment again and there was another change of troops from Culp’s hill and our regiment, among some others, were taken towards devil’s den to support the troops along that point of the line under a fierce charge, but was repulsed. When General Lee found that all his efforts of the morning to force any part of our line had failed he concluded to make one final desperate charge on the very center of the Army. Then from out of the woods west of Cemetery Ridge were massed the forces for the charge in the line of battle. They marched through open fields and up rising ground for nearly a mile before they could fire and begin to fight, and during the whole distance they were exposed to the fire of one hundred pieces of artillery and of rifles too, as soon as they were within range. When his front line broke into our front line, before they were repulsed and taken prisoners, the rear line broke and got away the best they could and some threw themselves down to save themselves from being shot down and were taken prisoner The battle was ended with that great charge though we did not know it then but on the following morning the news suddenly spread that the enemy had retreated during the night. Everyone was glad. Our brigade was lying near Culp’s Hill. For the most part the dead were lying on their backs with wide-open expressionless eyes. When we started after Lee’s retreated army it was late in the evening and we went only a few miles when we halted and went into camp. His Honor John Henry Ketcham, Col., called on account that he missed me. I said that I was with the Drum Major and the band and we separated when the regiment started up to Culp’s Hill on a double quick march on the evening of the 2nd day’s battle and that we could not help it on account of the regiment changing positions in the night. From that time out I always made it a point to show myself to the Colonel when the regiment was engaged in battle in case he should want me.
The bugle sounded reveille at 2 a.m. the next morning to get ready to follow Lee’s retreating Army and we were on the road in one hour. After we covered thirty miles before noon, reaching the vicinity of Frederick City. After leaving, we passed westward over the south mountain range, entering the Cumberland Valley, in due course of time. We came up with the Reb. Force where they were trying to cross the Potomac in the vicinity of Williamsport. The skirmish lines on both sides kept up continually banging at each other.
In one action, our whole regiment acted as a skirmish line, in leaving the main road and advancing close to the enemy and laying on our stomachs under a hill. On this occasion Major Smith came along and asked me in a low tone if I had seen his colored servant Phil. I had not at that time. He asked me if I would try and find him. I thought I saw him at a distance and I went to call him, when the Major made me lay quiet and asked me if I wanted to let the enemy know our position by calling Phil in a loud tone; but when it became quiet in front of us and an advance was made, the johnnies were gone. They left a few scarecrows on sticks. The retreating Rebs were nearly keeping up their strong skirmish line and a continual firing covering up their retreat. There was nothing for us to do but follow. The general course of the river brought us in time to the vicinity of Harper’s Ferry and Maryland Heights, and we went in to camp for a few days in a little side valley. Up to this time we belonged to Lockwood’s Brigade.
When we started again we belonged to the 2nd Brig., 1st Division, 12th Army Corps. We crossed the Potomac River on pontoon bridges. When we reached Kelly’s Ford, Rappahannock River, it was about the 1st of August or thereabouts.
At this time, the draft was going on in New York City and they had a riot going on there and took some of our regiments and sent them to New York to suppress the riots there, while we were left to take of the front. Some of the boys were taken sick with malaria, and despite all the precautions the Medical Staff could suggest or the colonel could have carried out, the sick list was very large. In connection with our stay at Kelly’s Ford, we had to be very careful on account of Mosby’s Guerillas on all sides and in our rear. They would be hidden in some places and jump out on small reconnoitering parties and would be laying for our wagon trains. Many little skirmishes of this kind happened within a short distance of camp, as well as in our front. Across the river the enemy was pretty strong, with a strong picket line that was keeping a sharp look out all the time.
There were Camp rumors of something to be done and soon it became known that we had marching orders. Pontoon bridges were laid across the river and we started on our line of march. We moved only a few miles south and again went into camp, this time on the north bank of the Rapidan at Raccoon Ford.
After remaining in this camp for a few days we could plainly see the enemy on a large hill across the river. When we got orders to fall in and as we were marching away, the Army Corps with the badge of the Half Moon [i.e. the 11th Corps] took our place at the Rapidan River. We marched northward, I think to Brandy Station Railroad, where we had several days’ rations issued to us and we found out that we were going West. The 11th and 12th Army Corps of the Army of the Potomac and we got on the railroad cars of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. Our course took us past Harper’s Ferry again. While we were speeding along we found out that we were consolidated into one army corps, called the 20th Army Corps, and allowed to keep our own badge which was the star, and that General Grant was in Washington taking command of the Army of the Potomac. We were speeding along through Ohio and Indiana to Indianapolis, thence southward through Kentucky and Tennessee, until we finally disembarked in the edge of Alabama. Our two Army Corps from the Army of the Potomac were once more on our feet and able to take offensive and defensive positions at a moment’s notice. Our division, the first, which was now detached from the corps, pushed on to the vicinity and marched northward into Middle Tennessee and posted along the railroad between Nashville and Chattanooga to guard it from guerrillas. The remainder of the Corps pushed on to the vicinity of Chattanooga and there participated in the victories about there.
The railroad which we were guarding was a single track road. We were guarding a bridge, and we had a large stockade, two companies – Lieutenant Underwood in Command of Co. G. We had a little experience here at times on account of false reports about the enemy and the guerrillas and against roving bands of cavalry that were making raids at different points of the road.
Though we were not bothered, only in the way of false alarms at night and getting ready for the enemy, we had to get in the stockade. I had to get in the stockade many times for protection from our comrades on account of (jokes) put up by my comrades. Comrade James Reed Delaney kept a diary of everything, and was great on putting up jobs in the way of fun and got me to execute them. He just acted as a barber in shaving the comrades. I might come over some of them but I cannot remember their names for I kept no account. Our winter here was a pleasant interval of war experience and during the time we were reinforced by the recovery and return of some comrades who had been taken to hospitals on account of sickness and wounds.
When the soft warm days of spring came, it was made known that we had marching orders. We were to join our Corps at the front while newer troops were to take our place in guarding the bridge and railroad. We marched out of our winter camps and faced southward from the north east steadily until we reached a small country village and station on the railroad. This was out last camp in the valley of middle Tennessee. We were fresh and strong now, stepping the miles off easily, as jib and laughter and song passed along the line.
There came an orderly, who saluting the Colonel, said General Ruger directs that you go into camp on the right of the 3d Wisconsin, where we went into camp a little group wrangling, shouting and laughing as they were preparing supper, and when supper is ended, then a little smoke of the pipe. No one in the Astor House could be prouder than us. At the earliest dawn of morning we were up to get ready, and pierced notes of a bugle and the drums beating reveille to get ready for the road up the mountain marching. At last the mountain top was reached and it proved to be as level as it appeared from the distance. We continued along the top until we came near a little stream where we went into camp. Just at dark we were more fatigued than we had been at any time since we left our winter camp.
On the next morning we got orders to lead the brigade. We had not marched many miles before we knew what the Colonel was thinking of, for he was leading off at a reaching gait. The rests were short and few and as he saw that all were keeping well, he increased the speed. We covered 20 miles, then we suddenly came to the southern end of the mountain. We found ourselves in a narrow side of the valley, walled in by lofty mountains and fed by great springs which poured in volumes from the base of the cliffs, and now the rain began to descend – a steady downpour. When we halted for dinner about noon, we had covered nearly thirty miles in our fast march. I ran for a canteen of water and got it from a nice cool spring, and on my way to make some coffee I met the Colonel, John H. Ketcham, where he was eating some lunch in his hand, when he asked me if I had fresh water. I said, “yes sir, here is some nice cool spring water,” which he tried and liked it very much. He had some honey at the time and he made me take some of it. He made me hold my tin cup up and he poured about half of it in my tin cup. The regiment which had led us the day before came along grumbling and struggling a half hour later, and half the dinner hour was gone before they had all come up. They never again tried to push us on the march. In the afternoon we crossed the mountain soaked to the skin when we went into camp close to the Tennessee River. On our next day’s march, as we were approaching Lookout Mountain, we had become in reality a part of the Western Army, having joined our corps. The 20th [Corps] was placed under command of General Joe Hooker, generally called Fighting Joe Hooker. They was the only part of our Army Corps engaged in the battle of Lookout Mountain, the second division, who won a great victory.
After leaving the vicinity of Lookout Mountain our march continued eastward and southward. The following days and nights of the usual campaign experience of an Army in which physical endurance is put to the utmost test of its staying quality. On our way we passed the Battlefield of Chickamauga. The battle was fought sometime before and resulted in defeat of our Army. Before night we came to the Chickamauga River, which, when we went into camp close by, some of the boys called the river of death.
On our next day’s march as we approached Resaca, we could hear the sound of musketry. We recognized that the two Armies were again confronting each other and at this time we were likely to be in it, in which we were not disappointed. Late in the afternoon, we were hurried at double-quick towards the firing. When our division arrived at the scene, it was formed in line by Brigades in such a manner that our Brigade was held in reserve on a high ridge of ground. There was an attempt by the enemy to capture a Battery at the left of our line, to turn our flank, and for sometime the fate of the battle hung at this point. The conflict was on an open plain in view before us. The Third Brigade of our Division came out of the woods. The enemy was surprised but they showed a great fight, although they did not expect any attack from this point in the line. Now the conflict became a test of nerve and endurance. It was a stand up and take it fight, for neither side had any cover. Our line moved forward still firing rapidly and steadily. The enemy held to their position. It looked as if it would come to a hand to hand fight, but no, we saw the enemy’s fire slacken, and then ease, and the johnnies running back in retreat. It was getting dark about this time. The Brigade Bugle sounded cease firing and the firing ceased. The battery was saved and the day won. I had a chance to study the action of the Colonel, John H. Ketcham. What a fearless, brave, cool going commander; the way he encouraged with no fear of himself, that it had a great effect on the men and officers of our regiment. It mattered not how thick the bullets or shells or grape and canister flew, he seemed to have no fear and was always on the look-out for his men. To our right we saw a body of troops advance over the open space to assault the enemy works. It was the 70th Indiana Regiment under the command of Colonel Benjamin Harrison. His Regiment suffered a severe loss. They were compelled to abandon the attempt. The battle was raging furiously now, and it was after Colonel Harrison’s repulse that our Brigade became engaged on the extreme left. We were formed in line on a rise of ground in an open field and by the good advice of our Colonel and his order, the boys commenced to make a defense by gathering and piling up rails from a fence near at hand. Soon the johnnies were approaching with a good steady front. Upon coming within range they opened fire and continued to fire as they advanced. In a few moments their firing ceased. They were retreating in a disorderly manner. Over the field were hundreds of their dead and wounded, who could not retreat. The fire of our line had been very effective on them. They seemed to be rallying their men again for a second attack, and in a short time they appeared again on a charge and got almost up to our line before they were repulsed. The dead and wounded in our front were thicker than ever. Just at this time the regiment at our right made a counter-charge and captured a stand of the enemy’s colors. It was in the engagement that I picked up a large army colt revolver such as is used by the Cavalry, with some cartridges and a belt – just what I wanted – for my drum would not interfere with my carrying it, for I would have the belt strapped around my waist. The task of removing the wounded to the rear commenced. There were no stretchers at hand, so the band with the Drum Major, Hub Roberts, and some of the drummers, used their blankets and shelter tents. I started, and got a canteen of fresh spring water in a nearby spring in a low ravine right in front of our line, and as I put it to the lips of the wounded, it was a great relief to them. In leaving this battlefield we passed along much of the ground which had been occupied by the enemy, and as we pushed on after the enemy the campaign was understood by everyone in the ranks to have Atlanta as its objective point. It happened as we followed the retreating army that we found letters which had been dropped or lost by the enemy, but of no value. In a little over a week after our last fight at Resaca, we were approaching the vicinity of Dallas and crossed Vine Creek. This fight near New Hope Church was a surprise to us, for it opened with suddenness, without skirmishing, and a pouring rain which soon set in. The rain ceased the next day but the battle continued. The enemy’s night attack with their yell was followed by the roar of musketry, and the strong cheers from our line when the johnnies charge was repulsed, and they broke line and commenced retreating in a quick fashion, for all firing from the enemy ceased. The johnnies had finally been routed from about Dallas.
And as we started on our march after the retreating enemy, the country being pretty rich, we were able to do a little foraging. Along the line of march sweet potatoes were plentiful. In our next battle we were hurried to the right and by good judgment of our Commander, John H. Ketcham the boys were throwing up rails and parts of trees and dirt, and before half done the Enemy came along on a charge with a pouring fire of musketry and cannonading – very heavily massed to break this line. The Colonel was along the line encouraging the men to hold the line. Even Joe Hooker came along the line and said “hold the line and MacPherson would be in Atlanta tonight.” John H. Ketcham was encouraging the boys to hold out and the bullets were flying all around him. He called me to his side and said, “Jerry, do you think you could get down that hollow for a canteen of water?” I thought I could. He then let me go after it, but it seemed to be raining bullets in this hollow where there was a spring. I finally got the canteen of water and hurried back to the Colonel, who on partaking of some said “good.” It seemed as though the whole rebel army massed in front of us. Three times they were repulsed, and it wasn’t long before their front line broke and they were retreating, leaving dead and wounded all over the field. We heard that General MacPherson was killed away on our left. This battle was another great victory for our army, and the wounded were all cared for in due time. This engagement made Sherman’s campaign a complete success, for there was nothing to stop us now from going to Atlanta. We heard that Hood was in command of the rebels now in our front. They did not go far before they showed fight again, but it did not last long. Our Brigade hurried right along to protect our flank of our army corps and got in line just in time to surprise the enemy and in an hour or so they retreated in a great hurry. Our division of the 20th Army Corps did not have any more fight until we got to the Chatahoochee River. This was about three miles from Atlanta. In a short time we crossed the river and started for Atlanta. We closed in on Atlanta, driving the enemy before us until we got within close quarters of their first line of works, that being about a half mile from them. The enemy was so well fortified in front of Atlanta as to make it impossible to take it by storm, so we had to fall back to the Chatahoochee River to form a line to meet the enemy, in case they should attack us while Sherman took part of the Army around Atlanta to attack from the south side .While lying along the Chatahoochee River, our picket line made many trades with the enemy. The rebel picket agreed with our picket to exchange tobacco for coffee. By both parties swimming half way, the officers never interfered with the men, and there was no shooting at any point until the exchanging was through, and then they would make it pretty lively by the picket line of both sides in shooting and trying to pick off men.
Orders came and we had to make another advance on Atlanta. While heavy musketry was plainly heard in front of us, we were closing on Atlanta. We all thought that we were in for it for good, but no, the rebel Army, under a new commander, General Hood, was burning Atlanta as he was about to evacuate. It was a very well known fact that the rebel army was in full retreat, caused by the general flank movement by General Sherman. Our Corps occupied the city of Atlanta and there was great cheering as we went into camp. The Rebel General, Hood, continued with his army northward. Of course, part of our Army followed him while we remained at Atlanta in camp. I was detailed by our commander, Brevet Brigadier General John H. Ketcham, to attend to the mail of our regiment and to receive it and to sort the mail in company piles, there being ten companies, and then have First Sergeant call – beat on the drum – and deliver it and collect the mail in time for the out-going mail for home, when we had any out-going communications to send it. By being assigned to attend to the mail, it attached me to headquarters. Just what I wanted. For I had a chance to go out on the forage when I did not have any mail to attend to, with the detail foragers of the regiment under the command of Lieutenant Moffett.
Wagons of our division had been sent into the country eastward in search of forage. Rumor reached camp that a force of the enemy’s Cavalry was in the vicinity and that our wagons were in danger of being captured by the enemy. We had orders to go to their relief and we left Atlanta the next morning and after going all day we went into camp the next morning. We got on their trail as they were putting back to Atlanta. We did not meet any of the enemy, and when we got back to Atlanta, we found our wagon train all safe and in camp. The presidential election was approaching. By a special arrangement the guys were permitted to vote by enclosing their ballots in an envelope, which was sealed and sent home to be opened. I could not vote for I was only 18 years of age on the 20th of October 1864.
One November morning in 1864, we broke camp and marched towards the southeast, we did not know where. At a few miles from the city we halted for a rest, and turning to take a look back saw black smoke rise, ascending to the sky from Atlanta, as we started once more leaving the city of Atlanta behind us.
Our first day’s march brought us to a mountain. Our whole regiment went on picket for the night. The next day the regiment was destroying railroad, as we had to march during the night to catch up just in time to get breakfast and then began the third day’s march. Sherman’s army consisted of four Army Corps, each Corps taking a road by itself and keeping within touch with each other; the cavalry forming an advance guard pushing in front and in all directions under General Kilpatrick; the detail foragers from our regiment and from all regiments under the command of a commissioned officer of their regiment were out to get anything in the way of food and forage that could be got, to be issued as rations, as the army had to depend on the country for a certain amount of rations. It was these small bands of foragers known as Sherman’s Bummers. This was a nickname. I, having no mail to attend to on account of no open communications, acted as a forager and occasionally went out with our men of our regiment. There was all manner of provisions from sweet potatoes to beef on the hoof, and ham and eggs and horses. Sometimes when we returned to the regiment, whatever was brought in was turned over to the quartermaster and was issued by him in a regular way. I had Major Smith’s horse “Tennessee,” Lemon Color, very lightly built but very fast. This horse would face any kind of firing and even artillery, and you could drive him in a river and he would go for you, which he did and saved my life from the rebels. The Major did not like to ride him. He had two other good horses of heavy build, and one of them a big black mare which he always liked to ride.
One day, while out on a forage, we got away ahead of the army. I had Major Smith’s colored man servant with me by the name of Phil. We strayed from our own foragers from our regiment, but fell in with some others who were mounted on horses. The colored man, Phil, was mounted on a mule. We kept with the men we fell in with until we had a chance to get to our own command, but while with them we got in a fight with the rebels on a bridge over a large river. They were about to destroy it at the time when the foragers charged with open fire right over the bridge, and they retreated in double quick order, but they seemed to rally again and were advancing on us when General Kilpatrick with his cavalry came forward, just in time to capture a number of prisoners. He heard the sound of firing, and hastening his command with all speed, he rushed to the scene when he found the bridge already in possession of the bummers, who with a thick-set of skirmish line were holding the enemy at bay. Upon his approach he was recognized at once, and a cheer went up from the foragers. The General charged his men upon the enemy and made short work of the fight.
We were not long before we got to our own command about one mile in the rear of the bridge, just before going into camp. I was well supplied and loaded down – both the darkey and I – with some fresh eggs and hams. The detail of our own regiment foragers came in camp about one hour later, well loaded down, having two buggies packed with supplies; also some mules packed with all they could carry of smoked meat and bags of meal and corn. On another occasion, while being out with our own detail, there was a race to try to get the advance on the road of other details, but it was all uncalled for, for there seemed to be plenty of supplies in the way of smoked meat and meal and corn. They would try to bury supplies of all kinds, also hide them in the woods. As we were now entirely beyond the army, we turned off the main road to a large plantation and here gathered quantities of pork and smoked meat and corn and meal, and loaded up a farm wagon with all we could get on. We stayed here and went into camp. I was armed with a colt army pistol used by the cavalry. Pickets were at once posted about the place. Not only did we stay there that night, but the next night, and the third day we set out to look for the regiment. We had several wagon loads of food and supplies. In getting back to the regiment, it was no easy task to find the regiment. It was night when we reached it, but the supplies were much appreciated. We arrived at a place called Milledgeville. They called it the capital of the state. For some reason, we remained near this place the following day. It was the only day’s rest since we left Atlanta. It was cold for November weather in Georgia. The country was poor – after leaving – here in the way of forage. It became a hungry country, although I was very lucky in getting forage at that, considering how poor the country was. While we were entering Sandersville, our advance brigade being in the lead that day, the enemy’s cavalry opened fire on the advance guard on our front, and our regiment being in the firing line as we entered, a slight shower of bullets passed over our heads. There were three or four wounded but there were none of our men killed that I saw, although the firing was lively for a time. The johnnies left in a quick retreat. We had a halt here for dinner. I was very lucky in getting some smoked pork and two chickens in a plantation nearby the main road, about half a mile from Sandersville, while out on the forage, although it came pretty near costing my life. As I was making for the main road I was fired at from a nearby woods. I turned in my saddle and exchanged fire from my army revolver at them, as the mounted foragers of the second Massachusetts came up in time to open fire on them. They disappeared like a flash after a volley of rifles from the foragers. There being only 25 men of the second Massachusetts Regiment, they did not follow them up. I got back to my regiment and I just had time after feeding and watering my horse and making a can of coffee, and frying hard tack with some pork. I no more then got through eating than the order of resume the march [was issued]. The country was full of swamps and streams. Bridges were destroyed and roadways were obstructed by having trees felled across them. It took time in removing these obstructions of all kinds, and dragging wagons and guns out of the mud with ropes was a lot of labor. If the rebel General Hood had remained in our front with his army instead of going back to Chattanooga and trying to draw all of Sherman’s army after him, we would have it still harder.
As the campaign continued, the foraging and destroying railroads and skirmish fights also continued. As we approached the coast, food grew scarcer, and swamps grew deeper as we neared them. As we were closing in on Savannah in December, our brigade was engaged with the enemy where they had reached [and] erected earthworks, and resisted our advance with somewhat of a force. When our line was formed for the attack our regiment was on the flank. The resistance was not so great. The enemy’s works were soon in our possession, with some prisoners. Our regiment was obliged to wade through a rice swamp where the mud and water was leg deep. We took up our position in front of the city, and marching through Georgia was now at an end. Our camp was on the bank of the river a few miles above the city of Savannah. It looked as if we would be stuck here for the winter. In this river, somewhat above our camp on the other side of it, was an island plantation. It was entirely abandoned. This island consisted of rice. We procured a large quantity of it and most of the rice was in the hull. This had to be thrashed from the straw. Each white kernel is enclosed in a yellow husk. It looks more like barley. The kernel can only be lessened by being pounded in a mortar, or a stump of a log with a large hole in the center of it.
In a few days Fort McAllister on the Ogeechee River was captured, and this opened mail communication, though it did not do any good in getting rations to us in a hurry, for everything we had from the foraging and what rations carried in our wagon train was gone, and we had to get what rice we could scrape together by pounding and thrashing it from the straw. This happened while we were on this island near the South Carolina shore. Here our men were confronted by the enemy on the other side of the river, who kept up a strong fire from the South Carolina shore. Several men were killed and wounded. Our Brevt. General, John H. Ketcham, was cautioning the men along the line, and he went along in a fearless, cool manner as a strong fire kept up from the enemy. It was here where General John H. Ketcham was wounded, and when they were taking him across the river to the Georgia side of the river in a boat, I was in a small skiff nearby him. He looked up and nodded at me as he was put in the boat. On this river there was a fog most all the time, that you could not see ten feet in front of you, and a very fast current in this river. There was only part of our regiment on this island. The General remembers seeing me and nodding at me.
The enemy was seen leaving the city and crossing the bridges in large numbers on a retreat into the South Carolina side, and northward on the pontoon bridges from the South Carolina side from Savannah. So sudden was their evacuation they left behind in their flight valuable stores and a large number of artillery. On the next afternoon there was a paper published – Savannah Republican. It announced the evacuation of the city by the confederates the night before and the occupation by Sherman’s Army. With the change of the editor this was a surprise. In their hurry they did not destroy their material and machinery. The enemy thought that their retreat would be cut off by Sherman’s flanking movement and our gun boats. I believe it was the 22nd of December when our army entered into Savannah. We remained here for some time to about the middle of January, 1865, when we started on our March again. We crossed the river on the same pontoon bridges that the johnnies crossed, in their haste to escape into South Carolina on their retreat. Two days march brought us to a river. They said this was a part of the Savannah River, and here we waited for about a week, for the enemy confronted us and made a stand to show fight, and it became necessary to wait until the body of our army was across the river, to enable us to invade the country with a good defensive front. South Carolina looked poor from a standpoint, but the same means for provisioning the army were used here that proved successful in Georgia. The foraging here was carried out by a more thorough going over, and ransacking in order to supply the army. We had the confederates’ General Joe Johnston with his army in front of us to show us fight. He commanded the army who confronted our army in the Atlanta campaign, and resisted our advance on Atlanta until released by Hood, who superseded him. As we were on the march there were frequent skirmish fights, and what made it bad were so many swamps and flooded low lands. The condition of the country made the moving of pontoon bridges a great task.
Our corps passed west of Columbia about the time it was burned. Our troops found the city on fire in several places when they entered Columbia. It looked as if the Confederates set it on fire themselves.
Our detail of foragers under the command of Lieutenant Benny Muffet was very successful despite the poor condition of the country. And Wade Hampton’s men seemed pretty strong between the lines of our army corps and in front of the army, that we had many fights with them. Having Major Smith’s Tennessee horse, Lemon Color, I used to accompany them on most occasions of foraging, and was very successful in bringing into camp a good load. I was taken sick with the yellow Jaundice and Surgeon Campbell wanted me to ride in the ambulance. He gave me a little white powder on the top of a knife, and I felt so good that I thought I would not go in the ambulance. I got some wild cherry bark and whiskey and put it in a canteen and took this medicine under the advice of the doctor. I was all right in three days. We arrived at Cherow. We were not the first to arrive, for the confederates had concealed several tons of powder in a pit, covering it over, but it somehow managed to become ignited from camp fires and it resulted in a great explosion, and killed and wounded quite a number of our men. The army as a whole felt that the close of the war was near, but they feared if Lee slipped away from Richmond and joined hands with Johnson that it would make it hard for us. For three or four days, on this account, our army corps had to keep within signal distance of each army corps to join lines of battle on a very short notice. As our detail of foragers was between the lines on this day, we did not expect any opposition of any account. But to our surprise we had not gone two miles before we knew we had to fight. Wade Hampton’s men were pretty strong. Major Smith’s servant was along this day with the foragers, and as we were going along the road, we noticed a large hut and a small farm about a quarter of a mile from the road. It was suggested that some one go and see if there was anything there. I offered to go, and Major Smith’s servant came along, while our men were on the road. This hut was a little shanty. When I dismounted and stood in the door with my army revolver in my hand, I saw twenty men sitting around as if holding a council. I asked them what they were doing there. They claimed to be deserters of Johnson’s army. I held the bead on them as I looked to see if any of our own men were near, when I heard firing of musketry where our detail foragers were. I knew it was all up with us. The darkey stood right near me. I whispered to the darkey and we both mounted and were off. They must have thought that there was a force of men right behind me or they would not have kept still, though I kept a bold front in the front of the door. As we were going to our own men, we saw some more rebels between us and our men, in a fight. I thought it was all up with us so we took to the woods and got away, but did not get to our detail for about one hour afterwards. We fell in with another detail of foragers of the Army Corps which was on our right of our line of march of the 20th Army Corps, and reported what happened, and inquired the best way to get to our Army Corps. He thought [the distance was] about two miles or a little more. As we kept together on the forage I was successful in getting some eggs in a basket with cotton in it at a plantation, and some smoked ham, and the darkey had all he could conveniently carry. Also, if we could get to our command now we would be all right, but there was no such luck. I met some men who got separated from their detail that belonged to the 13th New Jersey Regiment that were willing to start for our command. I agreed to try it and started, and just as we started to go we saw a company of cavalry coming towards us on the same road. They looked to be our men and they turned off the road as if taking a crossroad, but instead they turned in the woods and got opposite to me before I saw them again. I recognized them right away, as some of them were dressed in uniform, as the same johnnies we met earlier in the day. I got back to the officer in command of the other detail of our men, to get ready. “The rebs are on us.” I had no more words out of my mouth when the officer in command of our men said in a loud tone, “Why, they are our men.” He no more than said that when the officer of the Rebel force, who rode a gray horse, said “Charge on them. We’1l show them whether we are Yanks or not,” and fired. They had so many of them that there was no chance for us but to make the best of it. Those that did not get shot down tried to get away. I was ready and dropped everything I had, and put the spur to my horse, and about ten others started to get away with them after us, until we came to a large stream where trees were growing very deep. Those ahead of me were trying to urge their horses into the stream, as the rebels were closing in on us. I gave the spur to my horse and he plunged right in and the others followed me and we got safely to the other side, where we met a large number of our men, and we returned and attacked them, but they retreated and got away in fast order. They left the dead and wounded, who had to be cared for, and Major Smith’s darkey, who had got in the woods and hid, was all right. This was in the evening, and there wasn’t enough of our comrades belonging to our brigade to attempt to try and get to our command, on account of the strength of the enemy between the lines. On the following day when we got to our command, I found out that some of our detail forgers of our own regiment were taken prisoners and missing. I also was reported missing, and Major Smith’s darkey, but when we got back to camp they seemed greatly surprised to see us returning, and Major Smith came forward at once to see if his horse was injured in any way, and inquired for all particulars, which we explained to him.
When we reached the vicinity of Averysborough, at which place there was a battle, our regiment was engaged, and we lost several men. The enemy were found strongly entrenched on a land between swamps, and it seemed impossible to dislodge them by a direct attack. But part of the second division of our corps turned on their right flank, while our cavalry moved around their left, and at daylight our line moved forward to attack their entrenchments, where we found they had retreated in the darkness, moving their forces eastward. As we afterwards found out, this conflict at Averysborough was not a large affair in comparison with other conflicts which had preceded it. It was, however, the first engagement that the infantry of Sherman’s Army had with the enemy after leaving Savannah. It was fought by our corps, the twentieth, and the loss was said to be between 500 and 600 men. After the battle, we took up our march eastward in the direction of Goldsborough. Our detail foragers got some distance ahead of the army in front, and we had quite a skirmish with the johnnies, a little too far in front for our force. In getting back to the road, we met General Kilpatrick, who made some inquiries as to how far ahead we were. He was at the head of his cavalry with horses from all detail foragers of regiments, but he did not take mine. He asked me some questions and I answered him, and he said “All right.” As we got to our command they were putting up breastworks of logs in a defensive position in a forest. We were well towards the extreme left of our lines. We were not attacking in this position, but the regiment did some active skirmishing along our front, for the enemy repeatedly attacked the skirmish line hard enough to find out that we were there and ready to offer resistance. This was our last encounter with the forces of the Confederacy, as we soon went after to Goldsborough, and a few days after to a rally. There were rumors that Lee’s Army was marching south to join Johnston and with a large force to overwhelm Sherman. Again it was rumored that negotiations were pending between Lee and Grant, looking to the surrender of the former of all the confederate forces in Virginia. It seemed too good to be true, but at last it was definitely stated that the terms had been agreed upon and only await approval by the Authorities at Washington.
But just as our rejoicing was at its height, there was news come flying through the camps, another rumor. Yet it was soon substantiated and was all too true of the assassination of President Lincoln, and if the news of the assassination was not a sufficient damper to our jubilant spirits, there came another report that the terms of Johnston’s surrender were not accepted at Washington, and that hostilities would at once be resumed, and we had orders to march at once, and again we took our place in the marching column which was moving in the direction of which the enemy was supposed to be. Another halt was ordered and now the news came. Johnston had really surrendered this time, accepting the same terms accorded to Lee by Grant. At last the war was over, but we could not rejoice as we did at first. We then received orders to fall in and proceeded on our march to the north. When darkness came on we went into camp. When reveille sounded in the morning all were eager to push on, with each day’s march nearer home. Our corps, the twentieth, together with the Fourteenth Corps, formed what was known as the left wing of Sherman’s Army. It happened at one time on this homeward march that the two corps were obliged to take the same road. We pushed steadily forward until we reached Richmond, crossed the river and passed the famous Libby prison. We passed the house where General Lee was staying. From Richmond our march took us over some of the old battlefields of Virginia; first of those was the Wilderness and Spotsylvania Court House, and Chancellorsville, and at last we reached the long bridge leading to Washington. Now came the Grand Review before the president, Andrew Johnson, and so at last we passed the city and went on to camp, awaiting our turn to be mustered out of the service. Our Capt., E. A. Weekes of Co. G, was a United States mustering officer, who mustered out of the service near Washington. We then proceeded homeward, bound to Poughkeepsie on the steamer Mary Powell, and down her gangplank and up Main Street marched the body of the 150th Regiment. It was all that remained of the Dutchess Regiment. Ours was one of the few regiments that was permitted to return and be mustered out in its own state, and that fact drew out to welcome us ever greater crowds than had bidden farewell when we started for the seat of war. When parading, the streets were fairly canopied with banners and flags, signifying their joy for the living and sorrow for the dead.
Co. G, 150th N.Y.V. Inf.
342 East 35th St.
New York City
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