The Diary of Peter W. Funk
Corporal, Company F, 150th New York Infantry
Entries for 1862
When this war broke out I was taken with the notion to enlist, and, being naturally self-willed, I did enlist on the 28th of August 1862. From that time on, the citizen was lost in the soldier, and I became a tool in the hands of Uncle Sam’s officials. After taking the oath of allegiance I was sent to Poughkeepsie, which was then the rendezvous for the 150th Regiment, which was then being formed, having for its Colonel, John H. Ketcham of Dover, for Lieutenant Colonel, Charles B. Bartlett, a captain in the regular army and a graduate of West Point, for Major we had A. B. Smith of Poughkeepsie, by the boys called “Able Bodied Smith.” They were three fine men, and in every way worthy of so high a position, if we except the Lieut. Col who was addicted to drinking too much commissary whiskey.
On reaching Poughkeepsie I was assigned to Co. F. in command of Capt. John L. Green of Rhinebeck. S. Van Rensselaer Cruger was Lieutenant and Polhemus Bowman of Milan, formally pedlar of Bowman’s salve and balsam was Second Lieutenant. There were four Sergeants and eight corporals appointed, and oh horrors! I was among the latter. Just imagine my feelings if you can, being a soldier about a week and having a Corporalship conferred upon me with the priviledge of wearing two stripes or shevrons on each arm, and one on each leg. I tell you I felt as gay as they make ‘em - bigger than Tom Thumb. We had very good fare while we lay in camp, having little to do, and the change in our living being so different from what we were accustomed to as civilians made me enjoy it exceedingly. But all good times will have an end - so did ours, for in the morning of the 11th of October - Oh, memorable day! Many a mother’s heart was covering with sorrow at the parting of her loving sons who have found a soldiers grave at the hands of the rebels - we were ordered to be ready to leave at night. In the morning the ladies of Poughkeepsie presented us with a set of colors (a flag) which was thankfully received, and an appropriate speech was made by our Colonel, in behalf of the Regiment. About four o’clock in the afternoon the line was formed, and we started for the river where the steamer Oregon was laying to carry us to New Jersey. Main street was one mass of people. Then commenced the first trials of the Regiment. Mothers, wives, fathers, and brothers, running from one end of the line to the other, calling the name of some loved one in the ranks, who not thinking themselves able to bear the parting would try and keep out of the way. The scene as we neared the boat was heart-breaking to an eye witness. What was my thoughts, kind reader; Forgive me for speaking my mind. There were no kind parents there - no tender relatives - no, not one face that I could recognize as that of a known friend to shake me by the hand and wish me a hurried good bye. And I felt glad there was not, as I could not have stood it. But still my heart was at home, looking down on that family group. Such were my thoughts and the next moment I was hurried on the boat, the hawser was cast off, and away we went. A short time and Poughkeepsie with all its auderments was out of sight for many forever. Before morning we were anchored off between New York and New Jersey. At daybreak we landed at Jersey City, and after getting breakfast we were put on the cars, and away went the iron horse, and the state of New York was soon far behind.
Our first stopping place was in Philadelphia where we arrived in the night. We got supper at the Cooper Institute, which during the war was turned into a soldiers relief rooms, after which we got on another train and sped on our way, and the next day about noon we brought up at Havre de Grace in Maryland. Here we crossed the Susquehanna river, the cars being run on a boat for that purpose. From here again the iron horse took us whirling along through the woods and valleys, and the next night we were in Baltimore, at which we were to get our arms. We lay all night on the floor of the depot. This city is one of the largest in the Union and it is to be regretted that so much of it is held by the rebel sympathizers, who but for the 40,000 troops laying in and about the city would not have hesitated to raise the rebel standard. It is a very pretty city and has a monument erected to the memory of Washington 175 feet high from the top of which a splendid view of the whole city can be had for miles around. It has one of the finest harbors in America and is surrounded on the water side by forts McHenry, Fort Federal Hill and Fort Marshall whose sides are bristling with cannon ready to belch forth a storm of iron and lead upon the city and bay, should the rebels be imprudent enough to advance at that point. The next day, the 15th of October, we fell in line and had our guns issued to us. They were Austrian rifles, and of but little use, being second hand, and many of them out of order, but good enough for drill purposes, after which we commenced our march through the city, and about 1 o’clock p. m. halted about a mile west of the city. Here we got our dinner and then had a half shelter tent given to each man with instructions to make ourselves comfortable for the night. This we did as well as we could by putting two pieces of tent together making one tent 6 feet long by 4 feet high, and open at both ends. This you will say was a hard bed, but let me assure you that after being on the cars two days and nights we slept as comfortable as I ever did at home til about 1 o’clock in the morning, when the rain came down in torrents, and in a short time we were wet to the skin and shivering with cold. It stopped raining before daylight, and the sun came out bright and warm as a July morning, which was a welcome sight to us water-soaked Yanks. During the day we drew wall tents and had our camp laid out in order and before night we were as comfortable as a pig in a new pen. Our place of residence was called Camp Millington.
In a few days Camp Millington was the scene of regular drills, regular meals, etc. The 19th we were called into line and ten rounds of cartridges were given to each man. We were then drilled in street firing and were kept on foot till night, when we were dismissed with the order to sleep with our equipment on and our guns by our side ready to fall in at a minute’s notice as an uprising was expected in the city and that probably before morning some of us would be cold and stark in death. But not one face paled with fear, but the compressed lips and nervous movements told plainly that many were anxious to meet the rebel foe and deal out to them their just desserts.
But no such opportunity occurred. The night passed off quietly, and in the morning we learned that it was only a ruse of the officers to try us. The Colonel was much pleased with our behavior. Such is a soldier’s life - liable to be called up at any moment to do and die for his country, but a good soldier never murmurs. On the 21st, Company F was sent to the Newton University Hospital in the eastern part of the city to do guard duty. There were about 250 sick and wounded soldiers in it at this time, who had left their homes to fight for their country and who were soon to be sent back to their homes again, cripples for life at the hands of those who were striving to dethrone the best government that ever existed. And how many others are there who will never see home to clasp in their arms their loving ones, who imagined he was leaving them for only a short time. Such scenes and thoughts will make a soldier sell his life as dearly as possible, and use his last strength in hurling death and defiance at his foes.
Our duty at the hospital was easy and very pleasant and time passed rapidly. November 6th we had a light fall of snow. In the afternoon I went to see a lunatic who was brought to the guard house, and two men were detailed to take care of him. I was shocked when I beheld this wreck of a man. He was about 20 years old, light complexion, light blue eyes, light hair and a Roman nose. with all the appearance of a gentle man. But to see him now in his present condition - the rolling of those large eyes, and the piteous walls as you approached would me It your heart with pity. Then, in an Instant, as his Imagination moved on he would break in the most terrific yells. It was enough to freeze the blood in your veins. Often he would throw himself in the fire, so it kept two men to watch him or else let him destroy himself. Think what a sight for his parents - reason lost forever in Uncle Sam’s service! Everything around the hospital passed off quietly and but for deaths occurring so often, reminding us of the fate likely to be ours, we should not have known we were soldiers.
On the 15th one man died and his remains were sent home. Our fare, which for two weeks had been miserable, was inspected by our Colonel. It consisted of bread, beef and coffee for breakfast; dry bread and coffee for dinner; and the same for supper, and it was dealt out to us as if each meal was to be the last. Our Colonel said it was unfit for men to eat, much less for men in the service of the country which had plenty of all kinds. Accordingly we drew our own rations and had a man detailed to cook for us. much to the chagrin of the hospital commissary. And from that time everything passed off quietly until the 16th when the peace with which we had been surrounded so long was suddenly broken by the appearance of one of the men coming in drunk. Our orderly sergeant was going to put him in the guard house when the private drew his bayonet, threatening to run the Sergeant through if he laid his hands on him; which so exasperated that worthy gentleman that. unable to restrain himself, he rushed down stairs, seized a revolver, and threatened to blow the private’s brains out. And it would have ended thus but for the arrival of the private’s friends who gave the Sergeant orders to put up his revolver or they would tread him under their feet, which cooled him down somewhat, when one of the Lieutenants came and ordered all parties to their respective quarters, thus bringing the trouble to a close.
The next day, the 17th, our unruly Sergeant was sent to camp and our First Sergeant, Samuel J. Paulding came down in his place, being much loved by the whole company, and a man in every respect worthy of the position he was holding. The 24th we had several boxes sent to the company, and among the number was one for me sent by my parents, filled with delicacies of all kinds which was soon despatched with a will. In the afternoon I went to take a view of Fort Federal Hill, the plan of which was laid by Gen. Benjamin F. Butler, and the work done mostly by the Ellsworth Zouaves. It was armed with six mortars and other heavy ordinance and with a regiment of Yanks who we re ready to let their pieces belch forth in thundering tones upon the city and bay. And I may safety add that but for these forts and the stout hearts within them, few Union families would have lived in the city in piece .
This fort is about 100 feet higher than the bay upon whose banks it stands, the city being partly on three sides of it and laying much lower than the fort. The banks on the water side is so steep that no mortal man could climb it. while the other sides are protected by a ditch 15 feet wide and 12 feet deep, and two 20-pound Parrot guns are placed in each angle of the fort so as to rake the ditch should any man be foolhardy enough to attempt to scale the works. Altogether it is a work to be loved by its defenders and feared by its foes. At night there arrived about 150 sick and wounded men, Yanks and rebs. They had been sent from Washington, the hospital there being full. The 29th we got orders to report to camp. We were relieved by the 151st N. Y. Vols. Our regiment had been moved to or near Patterson Park and called Camp Belger. In the afternoon we got there and found carpenters at work building barracks for the regiment. The 28th we received 15 turkeys sent to us by John C. Cruger, father of our First Lieutenant, which were sent for a Christmas dinner but came too late; but they were eaten with a zest that went far to prove that “better late than never” holds good in case of the turkeys.
The 150th New York at Camp Belger in Baltimore, Maryland (1862)
Diary of a Civil War Soldier: Cpl. Peter Funk, 150th New York Volunteers
(on the website of The Bivouac)
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