1845 - 1939
I first heard of the existence of these "memoirs" in late 1996 when two or three of his descendants in Louisiana informed me of the possibility of obtaining a copy. After several months of looking, I found that many of his papers and effects had been placed in The Historic New Orleans Collection manuscript section. ( it is MSS UCC 771.) The manuscript was originally written in a large ledger, 54 pages of 8 1/2 by 14 size; 54 pages of handwriting that can best be decribed as difficult to read. David W. Pipes chose to use a writing style for this document that was fairly direct and "to the point". I have seen other letters written by him in which he provides more detail and personal insight, but for the war time experiences he remains often technical and detailed. In contrast, his description of his boyhood and the family home "Beech Grove" are wonderful and makes you wish he would have spent several more pages telling us of his life there. What I would give to have a similar narrative from some of my other ancestors.
David uses a writing style that is devoid of most punctuation. He used a dash to indicate the separation of sentences and used a plus sign for the word ‘and’ or to connect ideas. He also used an abbreviated symbol for the word ‘the’ that looks like a letter ‘t’ with a loop from the letter ‘h’ attached. There was not one instance of the use of quotation marks, although he quotes conversation quite often. I have taken the liberty of adding punctuation throughout the document, including quotation marks. I do not feel that I have changed the content or his intent in any way, and it makes the document much easier to read. I have not altered the structure or the wording, although I now have two other copies of translations done by others, and there are perhaps a dozen words that were impossible to read and I either noted them with foot notes or used the consensus opinion of the word.
Special note should be made of two sources used by me while ‘translating’ the memoirs. The first is a book titled "In Camp and Battle with the Washington Artillery of New Orleans" which is described as a compilation of the author’s diary and authentic documents. The author is William Miller Owen who was an Officer in the Battery and published his narrative in 1885. I do not know if David Pipes and William Owen collaborated or if they were close friends or not, but the war time dates and facts in David’s memoirs are often verified by the details and facts in William Owen’s book. I also used a copy of a translation completed by Peggy Pipes Peabody, supplied to me by Glenny Pipes Warzeski. Peggy and Glenny are descendants of David Washington Pipes and we owe them a debt of gratitude for their help. Peggy had David’s handwriting down pat. Her copy, which I received when almost done with my own translation, was invaluable in interpreting many words and phrases that I just could not decipher.
I have tried to note and verify all of the many names, places and dates contained in the memoirs and there are footnotes where I had difficulty. It is important to note, as David points out, he was not present for the narrative described near Appomattox in 1865. He states on page 15 that he was in Alabama, on his way back to Virginia when Lee surrendered. The narrative at that point is attributed to "soldier friends".
I have not received permission from HNOC to publish these pages on my Web Site, but will supply them to family members thru E-Mail or copies as they are requested. These memoirs, until further clarification, are considered by me to be the property of The Historic New Orleans Collection. November 15, 1997
Robert J. Pipes
2453 N. Sherman Boulevard
On the 20th of February, 1845 I first saw the light in the plantation home at Beech Grove, a name given to the place on account of the beautiful grove of beech trees which are found in abundance around the old home. This plantation is situated in the 7th ward Parish of East Feliciana, State of Louisiana and Clinton is the Parish Site, distant some seven miles south.
My childhood was spent in this old home and I attended school in the neighborhood at different places, starting to school at 5 years of age, going to a Miss Love. The school house was situated where Manassa Church now stands and had a good attendance. I feel now the object in starting me to school so early was to employ my mind and give me associates who would help to kill time and keep me out of mischief.
Before I proceed I want to say that Beech Grove was a delightfully beautiful place, the front yard contained about 1-1/2 acres of land and it held the flower gardens, cut up into squares, crescents, diamonds and round and squares, set with box hedges area filled with roses of all hues and kinds, and it was highly fertilized and thoroughly cultivated. The garden was kept free of grass and in the spring when the flowers come into bloom, the hundred varieties of roses gave an exquisite perfume to the air and makes a picture difficult to describe. I remember in going out into the garden one day my father plucked a beautiful flower and compared it to a beautiful young lady. The picture was so realistic, it sunk into my memory so deep seventy years has not obliterated it. He said:
"See fair one this new blown flower;
its perfume lavish in the air,
it’s nature’s liberal hands bestow;
those vivid tints that bloom so fair;
but ere the sun has sunk,
to rest its glory in the west;
you will see this lovely flower decay,
and all its beauty sink to rest."
As a child I remember the houses occupied by the house help. They sit by the right side of the big residence, some two hundred yards distant. Six four room houses all weather boarded and sealed, with large chimneys and front gallery to each house, to the back of the house set the gardens, which furnish for them their vegetable supply. I remember Uncle Joe and his wife Sallie; William, his wife Margaret; Dennis, his wife Caroline and Dade and his wife Louisean. Aunt Sallie was the cook, when I was a tad, Dade the carriage driver, Bob as ostler and Dennis as gardener - Margaret was head seamstress with Josephine and Eliza as helpers. Louisean was house maid, assisted by twins Rachel and Leah - They were so much alike my mother could not tell them apart. They were always dressed neatly and alike, same sizes but Leah had a tiny mole on her lower lip which marked her with us young folks. There was a great difference in their dispositions - Rachel was always in good humor, it mattered not how mother scolded her, she always said she did not mind old Miss, for that was just her way. Leah would pout and be surly but they were both efficient.
On the left of the front gate, the field help had their houses, they were neat frame 4 room buildings with brick chimneys, front gallerys and gardens in rear. In the center was a large two room house with hall between, and fire places in each room; a nursery that was presided over by old Aunt Miley who had an assistant. When the women went to the fields to work they carried their children to the nursery where they had proper care and attention. The quarters at night were under control of Ben Parker and Sam Brown and they were responsible for good behavior. I cannot recall a time when any disturbances occurred on the place, for the labor was kindly treated, well fed and well cared for. If sick they had best medical attention and never subjected to exposure and unkind treatment, the result was a very kindly feeling between the slaves and their owners. True, there were exceptions, for in that day there were cruel and brutal men as now, but I never came in touch with them.
As I grew up I took great interest in the flower garden, the vegetable garden which consisted of four acres, the peach orchard of ten acres, the fields, the sheep and cattle. I loved the outdoor life much more than I did the school room and books. Mother was the propelling power and I continued my studies until all schools were abolished by Civil War and school houses converted to hospitals.
In the year 1861 volunteers were called for and father’s manager Alf Horton volunteered for service in the Confederate Army as all men between 18 and 45 were called to the colors; it was impossible to obtain the services of a manager and I was pressed into service at 16 to take charge as manager of that large planting interest making over four hundred bales of cotton before the Civil War with ample supply of corn and meat to supply the place. It was a big job for an untrained boy, but Ben Parker and Sam Brown, the colored foremen, were good farmers and loyal and the work went smoothly and without friction. As cotton was not needed by the government and every interest made subservient to the Government, the cotton acreage was reduced to a minimum and the land was planted in corn and hay and development of hogs, sheep and cattle encouraged. The place made a fine crop the year I took charge .
In fall of 1862 I joined the army, my birthday rolled around and to avoid conscription I joined the Washington Artillery in Virginia. It may not be amiss to say that Colonel Ogden wanted me to be an aide on his staff with rank of Lieutenant, report occasionally and stay at home and raise provisions for the Army, but I heard my country call and I answered.
During my school days I attended one in Clinton taught by a Mr. Mosley. He was a good teacher but no disciplinarian, the boys played all kinds of pranks on themselves as well as the teacher, the result was a suspension of operation, then a Mr. Dembiski (1) , a Polander, took charge of the school and had a rough set of scholars to handle, there was about 100 in attendance, some of whom were nearly grown. They began the same tactics with the little Pole that they had practiced with Mr. Mosely, but it did not work, he expelled several of the larger boys and used the rod on others. I remember Jim Marston who was larger than Dembiski, violated some rule which called for a whipping. Jim was called up and he wanted to know what the professor wanted to do and he said "I intend to whip you"; Jim said "you can’t do it", this was at the noon hour. The result was that Jim had to take his big Latin dictionary and other books and go home. When he reached home, his father met him and wanted to know why he had brought his books home and Jim said he had been expelled. Mr. Marston wanted to know the reason, Jim gave the reason, and his father told him unless he returned to school after dinner he would be punished more than Mr. Dembiski intended, so Jim came back after dinner and when he entered the room Mr. Dembiski wanted to know if he was willing to accept his punishment and Jim said "yes", and he was told to take a seat in the corner of the room until after school was closed. So Jim sat in the corner until time for school to be dismissed and Mr. Dembiski called him up and said it was not his purpose to punish him in the presence of the school but he had acted so badly in going home and violating rules that he would be punished in presence of the school. So Jim took his punishment, about 30 licks with a switch. We boys listened as the licks were applied and they sounded as if falling on a mattress. Certainly nobody was hurt. The school was then dismissed and as we boys went into the yard Jim said he had on 12 shirts, he had four britches and a good lot of these shirts were to shield him from harm.
During my school boy days in Clinton my spare time was spent in the home of my sister Mrs. O. E. Hardesty,(9) who has the sweetest voice I ever heard. After school hours I would go to her house, tune up my old violin and she would sing while I would play different airs. My purpose was to hear her sing and later her daughter, my niece, accompanied me on the piano and taught me many pieces. I thought our music was fine, may be it was because I loved music.
When I was at school in Clinton and everybody was predicting war, I organized a Company of boys, some 85, and they were drilled by Nat Barfield, a graduate of the Kentucky Military Institute, he was a splendid young man and excellent drill master and lost his life in the war. We gave an exhibition drill; a beautiful silk flag was given by my mother to the company and presented to the company by Miss Eliza Haynes and accepted by myself as Captain of the Company. The Posey Rifles of Woodville, Mississippi also came to Clinton, joined in a parade and enjoyed a barbecue which was held at Lyons Grove, new home of Judge J.H. Stone. It was a red letter day with the boys and the old folks enjoying the occasion. All of these young boys as they became of age volunteered and served in the Confederate Army. Thirty five joined at one time the Hunter Rifles of the 4th Louisiana Regiment. And at the present writing there is not one member living to my knowledge, war and time made its ravages in public ranks.
From the parochial schools I went to Oakland College which was located near Rodney Mississippi area, a short while after my arrival war was declared and the school rooms were closed and I returned to the old home to assist in farm management.
A great deal of abolition propaganda had been written by Mrs. Stowe and others in regard to cruel unhuman treatment of the slaves, I never owned a slave, but my father owned and had on his farms several hundred, these I supervised for two years after I came from college and I say without any reservation, the colored people under my supervision were well fed, well clothed and kindly treated. When sick they had best of medical attention. They were free from care and responsibility, the kindest of feelings existed between them, myself and the family. It was very seldom punishment was inflicted and this as a rule met with the approval of the families who lived and worked on the place; There are rules for rising in the morning, a signal given by the Ben Parker or Sam Brown. This signal was given at good daylight when men were expected to get up, dress and leave for the field for work. If plowmen, they went to stables cleaned the mules and went to the field. The women also arose, cooked breakfast for their families, and straightened up the houses and carried breakfast to their husbands and sons. At twelve o’clock work ceased, the hands all returned to the house, had dinner, fed and cleaned off mules and returned to work at 2 o’clock, and later in the year at 2:30 P.M. Work ceased in the evening in time for all hands to complete watering, feeding and cleaning mules and get to their homes by dark. Their were no restrictions of any kind imposed beyond good behavior until 10 p.m. when everybody was expected to retire for the night and these rules were well observed and when violated, punishment inflicted without a reasonable excuse. This was a health precaution and as evidence of benefits would say we never had a insane, weak minded child, nor one case of consumption, nor was their a single mulatto on the farm ( nor a double one). These facts should go a long way to disprove the assertions of abolition writers but their propaganda has done its work, let it, "rest in peace" (2) .
It may be interesting to know how the place maintained this force; true, the labor was free, but cotton, the only money crop was cheap, as compared with prices of today, and it was necessary to grow almost everything the farm needed in the way of supply every winter. Under the care of a cold man named Patroin, couple of hundred hogs were slaughtered. They were corn fed and weighed from 175 to 300 lbs. This meat was packed in troughs and salted, the hams and shoulders smoked and the lard saved and put in large stone pans and sausage made in large quantity and put in jars after having been smoked and lard poured over them, by this means this sausage would be made fresh until late in the year, by which time it would be consumed. There were 500 head of sheep kept on the place, they were sheared twice a year, the wool spun and woven on the place and heavy woolen goods made for men and women. Four hand looms did the weaving of goods for winter and summer wear used by the hands. We had six hundred head of cattle which supplied milk and butter and beef for the household and white family. Sixty milch cows made the milk and butter and when beef was slaughtered the hides were tanned by a neighbor Mr. Confer and shoes made for the labor, two pairs each year for each person. William Massey was head shoe maker and his brother and nephew were his assistants. Their shoes were made of best leather that could be obtained, tanned with red oak bark and they wore well.
In those days, we could not buy plantation requirements as at present, every thing was made on the place. The plows, harrows, bridal bits, single trees, double trees, wagons, wagon tongues, plow lines, bolsters, bridles, buck boards; all of the wood was gotten out in the spring and while green. The carpenter Tarlton fashioned these for service as needed. Jim was the blacksmith and as a boy I would go to the shop and help hammer the red hot iron until my face would be red like a gobblers snout. As a striker, we had to wear long leather aprons, for the sparks would fly when the iron was hammered and when one spark hit cloth a hole was made. Calvin was regular striker, he was always glad to give me his sledge hammer and would praise the efficiency of my work. I gained some information in seeing how hot iron could be fashioned and my experience in the wood shop was helpful as it gave me practical experience with saws, planes, foot adze, broad and chopping axes and spirit levels.
Then the shoe maker taught me how to sew leather with hog bristles used in lieu of needles. The soles in the shoes were not sewed but pegged on. The pegs were made from the sumac saplings four inches in diameter; a piece about 5 to 7 feet long was sawed off, the length of a peg, then these pieces were split after being sharpened on either side and cut size of peg, they were then dried in the sun for several days and when ready for use, they held the leather firmly together, never falling out. It is surprising the quantity of pegs which could be made in a short time by William, who was not only an expert, but a fiddler, and this reminds me that here I got my first lesson on the violin, to the horror of my father, who always made me leave the house when my discordant music began.
William loved the violin and so did I, but that music would not pass current today; however, it gave me an idea as to how the notes were made and I kept hammering away until I am efficient in turning a tune or following an instrumental or vocal piece I could master. My mother was anxious for me to become a musician, but father said he never new a fiddler worth killing and he threw every obstacle in my way. When I was going to school in Clinton my mother without consulting father and without his knowledge had a Mr. Chas. Schultz teach me, or give me violin lessons. He would play over the pieces several times and I would repeat them, it was not long before I knew every piece in the book by name and as it was written, but I never caught on to the notes . When mother would come to town Mr. Schultz would have me play for her and she thought I was a prodigy. I don’t think Mr. Schultz ever knew how little I knew of his notes, however it was helpful and enabled me to catch and master most pieces. Now, since it is all over I feel my father was right and I want to commend his good judgment, for one loving music as I did, would spend too much time and get too deeply engrossed in this passtime, although seventy years have passed, I can still remember the dance music made by Uncle John and Mike Richards who were for years the music makers for all festive occasions, in violin and flute. Afterwards they were superseded by Adolph and Bernard Moses who used flutes and harp. They made lively music which was in perfect harmony with the entertainments. The young people enjoyed their parties as much or more than at present, for it was the days of the old school when every body was ever on good behavior.
My experience as manager father’s farm for a couple of years before joining the Army of Northern Virginia, my apprenticeship as blacksmith, carpenter, shoe maker and fiddler forged me a long way in advance of the young men in my day, prepared me to take up a few years later the terrific struggle for independence.
Before I reached my 18th year I left my old home, my beloved mother, my devoted father and went by train to Virginia. In that day there were no through trains, no dining cars, and soldiers moving to and fro made travel a hard job, for at night it was cold and the car always crowded. The little I could find to eat in transit was not enough to satisfy my hunger and when I reached my destination in Caroline County, Virginia, and joined the famous organization, which had won its laurels in the Mexican War, The Battalion of Washington Artillery of New Orleans, I was fairly well used up. I remember it was about 4 p.m. when I reached camp, the battery was in winter quarters, tents were spread in order, and some of the boys had dug in, that is had dug a hole in the ground about 12 x 14 built a chimney and covered the shack with boards they made and had placed poles on them to hold boards on roof. The dirt had been excavated to the depth of four feet, a plank was thrown around the center and leading to the fireplace on either side, planks for seats had been placed. This made a cozy and comfortable rest room and dining room. Pine knots were used for lights and the boys played all kinds of games with cards for money, so called, and amusement.
We were all in this rest room my messmates seven in all; among the numbers my nephew J. H. Stone, with whom I had grown up. He was a fine soldier, cultured and refined citizen and gentleman of the old school. After the war he studied Law and graduated and took a very prominent position in civic affairs of our state as judge and jurist.
As the sun was hiding in the west and just as rays of day were fading, supper was announced and a regular jubilee followed. Supper, Supper, Supper. You might have thought something good was coming down the steps into the dugout. Morris the colored cook came; in one hand he had a 5 gallon camp kettle with an iron ladle, in the other hand he had seven large iron spoons and under his arm he had seven tin plates. I was good and hungry, being the honored guest, I was helped first; Pile of hot mush on a tin plate. A plate of mush was then handed to the fellow by my side by the name of Johnny Lescene from Mobil Alabama. he cooled his mush by spreading it on side of his plate and ate it while I was waiting for all to be helped. Then I said to Johnny "Have you any butter to put on this mush?" he said "No. No sugar. No, no gravy, no. No milk, no" and I said I did not care for the mush and he said "Give it to me." and I did, before you could say scat that mush was out of sight. But let me tell you right now I was not staying in that camp many days when I would have been perfectly satisfied if I could have obtained enough mush to appease my appetite.
As a new man I was presented with a new uniform, kind of a blue gray and a misfit, the jacket had wooden buttons and the material was shoddy. I did not get shoes as I had on a good pair, one pair was all I could wear. I had always dressed neatly and my clothing had been tailor made. Now I was rigged up with a jacket - barely long enough to reach my pants and the pants were long and loose, coming well over my shoes, but I had the satisfaction of feeling and knowing that I was as well dressed as my companions, and no complaint was made.
I neglected to say that when I left home, being young and inexperienced, my parents felt I should have a valet, and one of the young colored men on the place, Henry Dunn volunteered to go to the war with me. He was about 10 years my senior and no one could have rendered more efficient service than he did, always Jonnie on the spot, ready to go when the artillery wheels began to turn. He was a good cook, always in good humor and never got drunk, although he would always draw my and my nephews whiskey when issued, but this did not occur often.
I remember in camp during the months, drilling, answering roll calls, playing cards, for fun playing chess and once going over to a children’s supper which the young ladies of the country gave to a select few. The distance was 7 miles over muddy roads, the walking was bad, the charge was one dollar confederate money, cheap enough. We danced until well past midnight, left for camp; the night was dark, the roads muddy but now was so drunk they could not walk steady. For several days we were pretty well used up and I decided then and there; no more 14 miles of night walking for chicken suppers - farewell to midnight revelers.
Time hung heavily on our hands and a good many of the boys gambled for money ( so called) that is, in Confederate money, which had but little value, but they would play day and night for this trash and the result was several of these died soon after the war by injury to their system inflicted in this way, for they had no comfort, no fires and only a blanket thrown around them for protection from the wintry weathers. I promised my mother when I went to Oakland College that I would never gamble, use profane language or drink intoxicating liquors or in other words, get drunk and I have kept this promise. Am not a teetotalist for there are times and conditions stimulants used as a medicine are helpful; but this does not occur often.
Spring opened and while we had enjoyed our winter quarters in a way, we all knew we were not out for pleasure. The order finally came on the 15th of April of 1863; from General W.N Pendleton, Chief of Artillery, Army of Northern Virginia, giving orders for us to prepare to move, requiring the surplus wagons, horses and baggage be dispensed with; stating that General Jackson takes no treasures himself and allows none in his Corps. That was a joke as far as we were concerned, as none of us had a sachel.
We were ordered to Fredricksburg, Virginia on the 30th of April, as it was reported the enemy was on the move. On the 1st of May the enemy had crossed the Rappahanock on our left flank at Chansellorsville and General Lee had gone with bulk of his army to meet him, leaving Barksdale’s Mississippi Brigade and Early’s division of nine thousand men at Fredricksburg. We hear heavy firing in direction of Chansellorsville. Captain Richardson with 3 guns of the Second Company, Lt. Battles with one gun from the 4th Company, Battalion Washington Artillery, was ordered to report to general Early at Hamilton’s Crossing. On the 2nd of May orders were received from General Pendleton to move the 1st, 3rd, and 4th Company of Washington Artillery to the front and their guns are placed in position in earthworks opposite Falmouth. Large bodies of Federal troops can be seen on our right and some on the south side of the Rappahanock. At noon the Federals moved through Falmouth in front of our guns, going to reinforce General Hooker at Chancellorsville, leaving a Corps on our right. All quiet at Fredricksburg but heavy firing in direction of Chancellorsville. In the evening the Federals on the right began pushing on our skirmish line and advancing towards Hamilton Crossing where Early’s division was posted. We were ordered by General Pendleton to change our position to the telegraph Road, for lack of proper support, he ordered Colonel Walton to retire to a safer place; after marching about a mile we met General Barksdale’s brigade moving in direction of Fredricksburg. It was now dusk. General Barksdale asked what Artillery this was and Colonel Walton of Washington Artillery told him. He then said: "Colonel Walton are you going to desert me?" The Colonel replied: "General I am under orders and not a deserter." Then the general said: "will you obey an order from me?" "Yes," was his reply. "Then reverse your column and come back with me to Fredricksburg. We must hold this point to the last." We immediately countermarched and retraced our steps. It was now dark and to deceive the enemy, camp fires were lighted along Lee’s Hill to make it appear there was a heavy force bivouacking there with heavy reinforcements.
We estimated 20,000 or more in front of us; a deserter said it was Sedgwick’s Corps. We were playing a bluff game to keep this Corps off of Lee’s Army.
At 2 a.m. on May 3rd, Capt. Miller was ordered to take two guns of his Company, the 3rd, Washington Artillery, to a position on Marye’s Heights on Plank Road. Colonel Walton protested against this order and told General Barksdale it was not right to send them to a position without suitable support and to such an exposed position. The General insisted and the guns were sent. At 8 a.m. Captain Squires of the 1st Company was ordered to take two three inch rifles to Marye’s Hill. When the second guns came in position the enemy opened fire from a battery, their first shell killed Sergeant West. At 9:30 a flag of truce was sent to within 100 yards of our position, requesting permission to recover their dead, Colonel Griffin refused their request. This was a ruse to find the weakness of our force, for our men would peep over their fortifications and they saw our lines had small force. They were satisfied and retired to their lines. About 10 o’clock, emboldened by the discovery of our weakness made under a flag of truce, the enemy suddenly appeared to spring out of the ground, in line of battle just behind the ridge near the town, at the same time 30 or 40 guns opened fire upon our position from Stafford Heights. It was a beautiful sight but a terrible one for us, their column charged with a rush. The 18th Mississippi, the guns of the 1st and 3rd company and the 21st Mississippi opened fire and checked the advancing column but their efforts were unrewarding against such great odds. We were ordered to fall back after losing some of our men and horses killed and wounded. Our loss was forty four cannoneers, officers and drivers captured, or to be more explicit; we lost 3 officers - 3 non commissioned officers killed - 3 non commissioned officers wounded - 7 privates killed and wounded - 3 commissioned officers captured - 3 non commissioned officers captured - 21 privates captured - 6 drivers captured - total 45. The 1st company lost 2 3 inch rifles - 2nd company lost 1 12lb Napolean - 3rd company 1 12lb Howitzer - 4th company lost 1 12lb Howitzer and 1 12lb Napolean.
The officers and men who were killed wounded and captured while bravely fighting, their guns and from no lack of courage on their part, but their exposed position and lack of proper support rendered them helpless. (3)
This was my first engagement and while I escaped being killed, wounded or captured, I gained some wholesome experience and information.
Our boys were sent as prisoners to Fort Delaware. Captain Squires of the 1st company, Lt. Galbraith and Edward Owen and J.M. Galbraith were captured. Sargeant W.T. Hardin - Privates Bob Alsobrook, H.B. Berthlot, Jno. Bozant, Wm Fellows, J.R. Harby, M. E. Harris, Jos Mccormick, A. Micau, J. Meyers, N.B. Phelps, E. Peychaud, C. Peychand, P. Siebrecht, T.J. Turner, Sumpter Turner, Van Vinson, Jos Eshman, Jno Hoch, Jos Kennedy, P. Rierson, E.W. Smith, Corporal Everett was wounded and captured, all of the 1st company.
The Second Company had Lt. DeRousey wounded and Privates Kirk and Vancoin. Captured Langard Handy, Nobb & Dirk.
The use of the flag of truce by the Federals on the 3rd of May, caused much indignation at HQ. It was unusual and unfair and brought forth the following order:
Headquarters, 1st Army Corps
Near Fredricksburg, May 23, 1863
General Order Number 16
Flags of truce will not be received unless they are sent by the Commanding General of the enemy’s Army. Parties sending flags of truce to make arrangements for surrender will be allowed five minutes to stack arms and surrender as prisoners of war. Bearers of other flags will be arrested and held as prisoners of war, or as spies, as the circumstances warrant.
By Command of Lieut. General Longstreet,
To Colonel J.B. Walton, Chief of Artillery, First Army Corps
On the 4th day of June, 1863, the Battalion Washington Artillery, after having had a long rest at Stannard’s Farm, resumed active operations, with ten guns, under command of Major Eshelman. Colonel Alexander, with his battalion of artillery, twenty five guns, joined the column of march, moving towards Spotsylvania Court House. These two battalions, thirty five guns, form the reserve artillery of Longstreet’s corp d’armce and are under the immediate command of Colonel J.B. Walton, Chief of Artillery.
On the 5th of June the march carried us by the old Wilderness tavern, where we learned that General Longstreet slept last night. Fording the Rappahanock at Racoon Ford, our march on the 6th brought the battalions to Culpepper Court House, where they went into camp. Yesterday General Jeb Stewart had a review of his Cavalry Corps, 10,000 strong. On the 8th AP Hill’s Corps joined us.
On the 9th, Artillery guns were heard in the distance. The Federal Cavalry had crossed the Rappahanock at Beverly Ford and at daylight attacked Stewart’s Cavalry. Our troops were surprised and lost some by capture, but rallied and drove the enemy back. The 2nd South Carolina with the 4th Virginia Cavalry were engaged. General Butler lost a leg. The engagement lasted all day and extended from Brandy Station to Beverly Ford. The gallant John Pelham of the artillery was killed and his death greatly deplored. At dark all was quiet again and our troops had returned to camp.
On the 15th our marching orders came and we hitched up and took the road towards the valley of Virginia and camped near Woodville. On the 16th we passed through Sperryville and Little Washington. On the 17th we crossed the Blue Ridge mountains at Chester Gap and enjoyed the beautiful scenery from the crest. This was the highest point I had ever reached and the eye had a wonderful view from all directions. We marched through Front Royal and camped on the banks of the beautiful Shenandoah River. The water was clear and cool and we enjoyed swimming and recouping in the deep water.
News from General Ewell was received today, he had captured Winchester Virginia with 4700 prisoners, 30 cannon and large quantity of Army supplies badly needed by our forces. Harry Hay’s Louisiana Brigade led the charge on the principle fort and won fame for his men in the engagement.
On the 18th we forded the Shenandoah River ( belly deep) at Morgan’s Ferry and camped at Milwood, a lovely place, We have marched through Clark County. The fine plantations and houses show evidence of wealth, refinement and culture. On the 18th, Colonel Walton was ordered to send Alexander’s Battery to Ashby’s Gap. "if this order is not repealed by 3 p.m. - allow your horses to graze and see that they are permitted to graze at night. The Washington Artillery will probably be required tomorrow at Snicker’s Gap."
J. Longstreet, Lt General.
On the 19th, remained in camp, expecting orders at any moment. 350 prisoners passes by under guard.
On the 24th we were again on the march and passed through Winchester, Virginia. Encamped at Bunker Hill after a march of 22 miles.
On the 25th we passed through Martinsburg and in the evening forded the Potomac River at Williamsport, Maryland. Camped one mile from the town in a driving rain. As we passed through the different towns, the boys would sing Upidee and "We will hang Mr. Lincoln on a sour apple tree," but they were joking, he was not their enemy.
On the 26th we marched through heavy rain to Hagerstown, Maryland and on to Greencastle, Pennsylvania. Strict orders were given prohibiting our soldiers from molesting property of any kind and this order was obeyed , except under extraordinary occasions. We moved on to Chambersburg, saw fine homes and full barns. On the 28th we remained in camp until the 30th, when we moved towards Gettysburg and camped at Greenwood. It was raining all day.
When we were passing through Chambersburg, my valet Henry was some distance behind me and I heard him give a hearty laugh. He was talking to a woman on front porch of a house and when he overtook me, I wanted to know what made him laugh so heartily and he said that lady was persuading him to leave me and go back to his home, she had offered him $100.00 in cash, his ticket, and a new suit of clothes. He told he was going to stay with his boss and if he was killed he was going to take his body home, but Henry was not for sale.
On the 1st of July Colonel Walton was ordered to move the Washington Artillery out this morning, following General Hood’s command and camp near him on opposite side of the mountain. "General McLaws’ command will move first and when General Johnson’s division, now passing, will be out of his way, General Hood will follow General McLaws’ troops. The movement of these troops will delay your movements for several hours." Order signed by G.M. Sorrel A.A.G.
The movement of these troops kept us in camp all day until 5:30 p.m. when Colonel Walton was ordered to be ready to move out and go as far as possible without distressing men and animals. We could hear report guns all day and knew that General Hill and Ewell’s troops were engaged. Expected our time would come next day. Our troops drove the Federal forces for two miles out of Gettysburg. General Rhodes’ troops occupied Gettysburg. Our losses today were light; enemies heavy. General Heth wounded. At 5:30 we were ready to move but no order came until 2:30 a.m. of the 2nd July. Began our march and by 8 a.m. reported to General Longstreet on the field and ready for action. We were then ordered to Seminary Hill to be held in reserve near General Lee’s Headquarters. The ground in our front was plain and open, but beyond were hills covered with rifle pits, bristling with cannon. The Federals had possession of the open ground in front of their works and their foremost guns were not exceeding 1/4 of a mile from woods we occupied. A Federal Battery in a peach orchard was firing at one of our Batteries not far away. General Barksdale of Mississippi, said to General Longstreet "I wish you would let me go in General, we could take that battery in five minutes." "Wait a little", said Longstreet, "we are all going in."
Soon after this General Longstreet ordered a forward movement, our infantry sprang to their feet and went in with a will. On swept the line, breaking out with the Rebel Yell when they approached the force. The guns in the peach orchard were captured except some pieces which decamped. Hundreds of prisoners were taken and everything was progressing satisfactorily and we expected soon to drive the enemy beyond the heights. At a critical moment, General Barksdale, who was in front and to our right, was killed, General Hood severely wounded. Their men, at a moment of apparent victory, hesitated, halted, and then fell back, losing the advantage gained; Had our troops gained the heights, the battle would have been fought on different lines.
At 7:30 p.m. General Longstreet sent for our Battery and after going over very rough roads, finally reach our destination and bivouac for the night, supposedly the firing had ceased and all operations were over for the day. During the night, Colonel Alexander, Chief of Artillery, had ordered our Battery to take a position on the Emmitsburg Road, on the left of the peach orchard, on ground taken yesterday and on a line with the other Batteries of the 1st Corps which were there in position. We went into position around 4 a.m. on the 3rd of July, on ground occupied by the enemy when Longstreet’s troops charged; The dead were still unburied, a nearby barn was full of wounded and their groans were pitiful and heart rendering during the still hours of the night. Later it was burned by shell fire from the enemy guns and most of these men perished and when the sun made its appearance in the east we could see Seminary Hill in our front, with several lines of breastworks thrown up during the night and a stone fence at the foot of the hill. We remained in this position under an arsenal of infantry and artillery fire until 1:30 p.m. when the battle was to open with a signal from the 1st company of our Battery, when these signal guns were fired, began the most furious cannonading the world had ever heard. One hundred and thirty seven Confederate guns were belching fire upon the enemy lines and replied to by 217 guns of the enemy. Our batteries continued their fire for nearly two hours, when the enemies’ guns slackened their fire, until they hardly returned shot for shot. I am told the report from these guns could be heard for eighty miles.
Soon not a shot could be heard. It was the calm before the storm. Pickett’s Division, which was supporting us heroes of many battles had been lying down during the cannonading. They now arose and formed in line and moved forward, there was a full half mile of open plain to cross in full sight of the enemy and in range of artillery who opened fire again, when our infantry advanced. Steadily our men advanced. When the enemy rose in their breastworks and from behind stone fences and poured a storm of lead into them, men fell by scores, still they advanced without faltering; Heth’s Division commanded by Pettigrew emerged from the woods in echelon going to the support of Pickett. They went in steadily at first but were soon shaken by storm of shot and shell fire that met them. Soon a small column of the enemy emerged from the woods and began a flank movement. General Heth’s men saw this, stopped, wavered and retired in a panic. General Longstreet, who had seen the threatened flank movement of the enemy, sent a messenger to General Pettigrew, but it was too late, the route had begun. Picketts men were well in and flushed with victory, needed support and they were fighting against overwhelming odds. The enemy being largely reinforced, turned upon our troops with renewed energy and courage. Pickett’s men continued the charge without support, moving steadily forward, planting their battle flags on eleven cannon amid shouts of victory, dearly won and short lived. This charge of Pickett’s men will go down in history with the British at Balaklava.
Wilcox’s Division had been engaged on the 2nd and was to support Pickett’s right. His men moved splendidly forward, but not observing an oblique movement which carried his troops to the left, Wilcox charged on, to find his division confronted by an overwhelming force from the enemy and was compelled to retire with heavy loss to our lines and was joined by the remnants of attacking divisions. Had the enemy left his protected lines they would have received a warm reception, as it was they were satisfied to give us an occasional shot to let us know of their presence.
Our loss in the Washington Artillery was three privates killed - 3 officers and 20 privates wounded, 39 horses killed. On my piece we lost, killed and disabled, nine of the 12 horses; our piece was disabled and our caisson blown up.
We fell back to a public road which ran parallel to the battle field and received more horses and several pieces of artillery, but we were shy of ammunition. General Lee had at Williamsport a supply of ammunition on the Virginia side of the Potomac. General Imboden with his regiment of Cavalry and the Washington Artillery and the Donaldsonville Artillery were ordered to Williamsport to protect Lee’s ammunition. At 9 p.m. we received marching orders, it was dark and pouring down rain, the road was almost impossible. The Battery horses moved slowly along, dragging the guns through mud axle deep and frequently during the night we were called upon to assist the horses pull through mud holes. All through the night the rains came down and at sun rise we reached Williamsport. The boys were dead on their feet, for we had had but little sleep the night of the 3rd through the night of the 4th and our rations had been on a parity with our sleep. I was at the head of the column when we reached Williamsport, threw myself down on a porch and was soon asleep, wet and muddy, there I slept until the rear guard came by and this woke me up, guess I got half hours sleep and it made me over. We went into camp and before unharnessing the horses we were ordered into position and was attacked by General Kilpatrick’s brigade of Cavalry, said to number four thousand men.
The Confederate forces, under General Imboden numbered only three thousand, many of whom were wounded. The battle lasted until 3:30 p.m. when the Federal Cavalry withdrew, leaving us masters of the battlefield. Our loss in this engagement was seventeen men wounded and two horses killed.
Mike Keegan, A great big hearted Irishman had a pair of horses killed under him at Gettysburg and another pair at Williamsport, he was a driver, the horses he was riding in both battles and its mate was killed and Mike was untouched.
When our Battery advanced into Pennsylvania, we forded the Potomac. Williamsport is on the Potomac, heavy rains had increased the water level and we were forced to cross the river on Pontoon bridges, the flooring for the pontoons was made from weather boarding ripped from the residences. The bridge was not long enough to span the stream and it was necessary to wade into the stream some 50 feet to reach the abutment of the bridge. Captain Buck Miller was in charge of transfer across the bridge. Eleven of the boys had taken off their shoes ( so called) and rolled up their pants to the last twist and mounted a caisson, for some reason the horses went too far to the left and the drivers were trying to pull on the bridge from the side instead of the end. I said to Captain Miller, who was on his horse in water belly deep. "Captain I think if you will have the drivers approach the bridge from the end the horses can pull on without any difficulty." His reply, "you think?, damm you, what right have you to think?, get off that caisson every one of you and ‘by hard to front’", which means get hold of that caisson and by main strength and awkwardness put it on the bridge. We all leaped into the water like spring frogs and obeyed orders. By the time we got into camp on the Virginia side and fed men and beast, it was dark and pouring down rain, for rain usually follows a heavy cannonading.
I was placed on guard, two hours on and four off. At 8 o’clock I went on duty, the caisson was loaded and I was told to fire if I heard any noise in front. Our horse was tied by halter to each wheel of the piece and a goodly supply of hay was placed near the wheel for them to eat. I sat down on the hay and rested my back against the wheel. It was such a delightful and restful place I was sound asleep before I knew it. When the two hours were up an officer of the day came around and woke me up and said "you, sir, were asleep on your post, "Yes", said I "sleep on my post." "Go to your tent." The wind was blowing heavily and before I got to my tent it had blown down and everything in it was as wet as I was, but I got a slicker or poncheau, slipt it over my head, sat down on the root of a tree and slept for four hours and slept as soundly as if I had been lying on felt mattresses and covered with eider down. The penalty for sleeping on your post in the presence of the enemy is death, but I did not die, and if I was ever reprimanded, I never heard of it. We mortals can stand only so much fatigue, and when the limit is reached, fear of death has no terror - you are going to sleep.
General Lee had at Gettysburg 68,000 men of all arms and 200 field pieces. General Meade had 10,500 Cavalry, 85,000 Infantry and 353 field pieces. The Confederate loss was 20,451 and the federal loss 23,003.
On the 16th we camped at Bunker Hill and reached Millwood on the 20th. On the 5th of August we reached Orange Court House. We marched through naturally, a lovely country draped now in desolation and mourning. General Longstreet’s Corps was ordered to join the Tennessee Army and our Battery of Washington Artillery was to accompany theirs, was sent as far as Petersburg, Virginia, reaching there in early September and camped at the Model farm, about a mile from the city proper. This Model farm was built before the war for experimental agriculture. It was a large barn with stables for horses with two rows of cottages on each side of an open space of couple of acres. The company officers occupied the cottages, the cannoneers the barn. The guns are parked in open space in center of group and this place answered admirably for winter quarters.
As this was the longest time I had ever been away from home and as there was no prospect of fighting until spring of the year, I made application for a 30 day furlough which was readily granted. This was in January. The Railroads were in dangerous condition, no sleepers, no dinners, no through cars south; you would go few hundred miles and change cars. Every train was packed to the limit. Even the isles were crowded. I had a time getting home and caught the army itch in transit, which was anything but a joke, I was routed through Savannah, Georgia and Mobile, Alabama, from there I had to go overland 250 miles through Jones County and Honey Island which was infested with deserters from our army. Knowing that tobacco was very scarce and high priced, I brought with me as many pounds as I could manage, but when I reached Mobile, Alabama, the jig was up and I sold out and bought a cheap conistoga and outfit, old saddle, old bridle and this old horse, started for Clinton Louisiana in company with some forelorned men. We marched and rode all day and camped in the woods at night. Fortunately we had fair weather. I got through the enemies’ line in safety, I presume the only reason we were not molested, we stuck to the road and had nothing with us of use or value. The old horse carried our bread, salt meat and frying pan and we managed to buy a few eggs and corn for the horses lunch; at night he was hobbled and turned loose to graze. We were pretty well worn before reaching our destination and separated for our respective homes.
Every body at home was delighted to see me again and I found the house was filled with officers’ wives. General Ogden had a Cavalry regiment operating in East Louisiana and his wife and the wives of several of the officers had made our house their Headquarters. During my stay my Mother had a hospital where some 10 or 15 sick or wounded soldiers were convalescing. So we had plenty of company and plenty of help and of wholesome country food to build them up, but some four or five were so far gone they passed away and were buried in a plot set aside for that purpose.
It required so much time to get home, my stay with my family was very limited; as I had to leave before my furlough expired on my journey back to Virginia. Having to go overland to Mobile, it was necessary to find company. This occasioned no delay as a good many furloughs had been granted during the lull on the firing lines. A neighbor, Sam Lipscombe, myself and three other enlisted men were in the party *, my Mother gave me a 4 wheel cart to carry rations, luggage for all of us and some old weapons for our protection and couple of the boys rode old mules. When all preparations had been made we began our trip. The Mobile horse hitched to the cart, we would tramp during the day and camp in the woods at night.
(** one was U.B. Chapman and Mr McHolmes, my recruits for the 4th company, for these recruits I was entitled to a furlough of 30 days each and received this 60 day furlough February 24, 1864. Came home and was on my way back to Virginia, at Demopolis, Alabama when Lee surrendered. Was ordered to Meridian Mississippi and from there to join Scotts Cavalry, but the war was over and descriptions of the surrender was made as described by my soldier friends.)
One evening just before dark at a house occupied by a lady, we requested the privilege of sleeping on her gallery, but she said no - that she was afraid to have us there as that section was full of deserters and they might think we were soldiers sent for their capture and she knew we would have a fight on our hands and she would have ashes to protect her from the weather in lieu of her house. While we were trying to over persuade her, one of the boys had thrown the bridle rains of his old mule over a bee queen sitting by side of the fence and the mule got to nosing around and came in contact with the sting of a bee. He hauled down the bee queen and an army of bees made their appearance and the men and horses and mules made their disappearance. In the melieu our cart was overturned and we had a time gathering up the fragments. The old lady told us to go down the road and we would come to a creek about 1/2 mile away and we could camp in the woods. She wished us good luck, which we all felt we would need and we found the creek as stated. There by the side of the creek , couple hundred yards above the road we prepared and ate supper, mounted a guard, which we kept on duty during the several watches of the night and next morning after a bountiful supply of bacon and cornbread, we journied on. We had no sugar, no coffee, no flour, bread, no tea, true we had a substitute for coffee made out of burned corn or charcoal potatoes or parched peas or parched cow peas, all of which were poor substitutes and bearly drinkable without sugar, but our people had been so long accustomed to the use of coffee, they tried in every way to find a substitute without avail.
When I left home, my mother gave me what we called Confederate money; It had but little value and the fact it might be of benefit to me, I put this money in a belt around my body and my longing for a horse crept out. I have always loved horses from childhood, so when I reached Mobile I found a friend who was returning to Clinton overland and I got struckon a highly bred mare with foal by a big horse, I sold my horse and cart and bought her for three thousand dollars and turned her over to my friend to ride home. The next day I left for Virginia and he for Clinton. He did not go more than half way home until he found one morning two animals instead of one. He arranged with a farmer to care for the pair and he continued his journey afoot. He related his misfortune to my mother. Old uncle Jack Barber, a very reliable colored man was sent to bring the mare and colt home. After they had remained for a month with the farmer and in due course of time Uncle Jack showed up bringing Comet and Daniel Boon home in good shape. It may not be amiss to say this animal, comet was invaluable - she was about 15 1/2 hands high, beautiful sorrel, with an eye like an eagle, perfectly formed, kind, gentle, sensible, worked wherever hitched, free, fast and was well gaited under saddle. But Daniel Boon was no good. He was lazy, gawky , ill shaped and meanly disposed, he was like a ranch horse without their spirit and finally died with big head. Mother wrote me about the mishap to the mare while in transit and I was greatly relieved when later I learned of her safe arrival at home. I gave old Uncle jack a vote of thanks and a reward for his services, which he highly appreciated, not so much for the money as for confidence reposed in him. Our mails were irregular and long delayed and this kept me on the anxious fuss for quite a while wondering where my three thousand dollars would go "It is better to be born lucky than rich"
My furlough had expired a few days before reaching camp but nothing was said about it for the Officers knew the delays, discomforts as well as the danger in Railroad travel.
Our Battery remained at the Model farm during the winter, drilling and playing ball. We were occupying the barn which was cold and bleak, we had no fire, little bedding, no mattresses, the floor felt as cold as ice and as hard as a rock, we did not have enough to eat but every body was well. Finally the Model farm caught fire and was entirely destroyed. They gave my mess a fly as no tent could be had. A fly is used to put over a tent for greater protection against a heavy rain. It is better than nothing, but you will get sprinkled in a downpour. Before the barn burned, I could see from the back of the barn, a farm house where there was a dozen or more stacks of hay, I concluded to step over and buy enough to make a bed. When I reached the lot where the hay was stacked I met the owner, a Mr. Green, and I told him of my mission. His reply was he had no hay to sell or to give away, and walked on past me to where he had some colored men cutting a ditch. What he said and his manner riled me; the wind from the north was icy cold and blowing to beat the band, for protection I stepped behind a hay stack. Soon a fine lot of turkeys came walking by and a young hen came so near me that I picked her up, took her head off and stuck her under the side of the hay stack. I felt that Mr. Green was not giving me a fair deal and I was working for satisfaction. I had a homespun overcoat made by my mother and I did not feel that it was large enough to hold me and the turkey, so I returned to camp and told Jno Lescene, one of the sword boys of my mess, what had happened and commissioned him to take the overcoat and get the turkey. The overcoat was so big it trailed on his heels, the ground was wet and muddy and when he got back with the turkey, the tail of the coat was a sight to behold. We were to feast the next day and one of the boys paid 300.00 for a gallon of oysters, so he said, and we had one square meal of turkey and oysters. After we moved to our fly we had boxes to sit on and a box for our dining table, did not need napkins, knives, forks, cups or saucers.
One morning just before our breakfast was served, Mr. James Venable an estimable citizen of Petersburg, who was over age for military duty walked down to our mess. When Henry brought our breakfast 3 pieces of bacon, for there was at that time three in our mess, and a hoecake of corn bread. We invited Mr. Venable to join in our meal and he said with thanks, he had breakfast, so we invited him to come under the fly and sit with us while we ate. He consented and was given a soap box to sit on, then Henry set the bacon and hoecake down on the table. I recalled Mr. Venable wanted to know where he was to come in if he had accepted our invitation and we told him our bread and meat would have been divided into four parts instead of three. He was surprised at the short rations and said either one of us could eat all of the bread and all of the meat and I said "They would call for more if any more could be had by calling." When he told us good bye he said "now boys, I have a mill which grinds every Saturday and if you will send to the mill you will not suffer for lack of bread as long as you camp in Petersburg." We appreciated his generosity and I know his name was affectionately remembered by the men as long as they lived. It pays to make friends as we journey through life whether they be soldiers or civilians.
We remained in winter quarters until 5th of February. General Pickett was now commanding the Petersburg defenses and orders our battery to the City Point Road. We were short of serviceable horses and the teams in the city were drafted into our service. Buggy Horses, Express Horses, omnibus Horses, in fact any animal recruitable for the service.
It was reported that General B. F. Butler with thirty transports filled with troops, accompanied by 5 mortars was coming up the James River and had reached Bermuda Hundred. After a good deal of trouble with our new horses, left with 13 cannon: 1st company 4; 2 company 3; 3rd company 3; 4th company 3 and we were placed in line of defense on City Point Road. Reaching our destination at 5 p.m., we heard firing across the Appomattox River, the enemy had advanced from Bermuda Hundred to Walthall Junction on the Richmond Mill road, where they were attacked and driven back. Enemy reported in large forces and we have for support [the] 31st North Carolina Reg. and city militia who have seen no military service; they carried their lunch baskets and did not realize the horrors of war brought to their doors.
On the 7th of May all quiet along our lines. At 10:45 Col Eshleman was ordered across the Appomattox and took a battery from our Battalion with him. We had on our line, 9 pieces of the Washington Artillery and 5 guns of Reid’s Battalion, at 2 p.m. Capt. Andrew Hiro was ordered to report to Capt. Sturdevant for the purpose of attacking the gun boats on the Appomattox River - at 2:30 heavy firing in direction of Fort Clifton.
May 10th severe engagement is fought at Walthall’s Junction which resulted in defeat of General Butler’s forces.
May 11th our Battery ordered across the Appomattox and took position on Richmond Turnpike - later we shifted our position towards Richmond and bivouac on road side near Walthall Junction. We have been in line of battle, skirmishers on our flank towards the enemy at Bermuda Hundred. The enemy is near and strict silence is imposed, Drums and Bugles go out of commission.
May 12 - Battery ordered in line 3:30 a.m. - The enemy not a mile distant, the reveille in enemy camp distinctly heard - we are crossing his active front - our columns halted 10 miles from Richmond at Half Way House. 11:30 a.m. our movements discovered - enemy attacks our rear guard of South Carolina Cavalry - Skirmish continues for an hour - our Battery was ordered to occupy fortifications at Drewry’s Bluff except for our section of the 1st Company which was left at Half Way House - The enemy is now advancing and has possession of the road over which we passed, between us and Petersburg. 2nd, 4th and 1st company open fire on cavalry and continues fusillade until dark. One brigade of the enemy is engaged and repulsed. General Course’s Brigade assisted by guns of the 1st company - enemy reported moving around our right - towards Chesterfield Court House.
May 13th - heavy skirmishing all along the line, at 4 p.m. General Ransom on the right of our outer line is flanked by the enemy - at 6:15 p.m. our guns are withdrawn to the inner line of breast works. May 14th at 2 a.m. our entire force retires to the inner line of breast works immediately around Drewry’s Bluff, leaving our outer line, which was occupied by the enemy. We have our backs to the wall, when Greek will meet Greek - General Beauregard with Colquitt’s Brigade and Macon’s Battery arrive from Petersburg via Chesterfield Court House. Our Battery occupied the breast works which had been constructed several years before, the heavy timbers had been felled and sprouts had grown up making a dense thicket some 12 or 15 feet high.
When Butler’s forces made their attack on the 16th of May the moving column passed over a hill to the left of our guns and came down a slope covered with grass - in the center was a battle flag and when our sixteen pieces open on this advancing column, the flag went down several times, was caught up, moved and went forward. From the top of this hill the dead and wounded dotted the field from our fire - when the column reached the thicket they deployed skirmishers and advanced through the thicket to within 33 steps of our guns and behind stumps they picked our men off whenever exposed. For some unaccountable reason we at that time had no infantry support and the enemies picket line had a picnic shooting our men through this open space of 33 steps where the earth had been excavated to build our breast works. I was acting as No. 1 in this engagement and Folwkes was No. 3 - After firing number of shots, we exchanged places and Folwkes (5) was shot through the body - then Condon (6) and I changed places, he was No. 5 at the trail and when he relieved me and resumed his place, he was also killed. Our Sergeant Jno Valentine was shot through the arm and the blood ran in a stream through his shirt. He said to me, "they got me, I am shot through the heart", and I said "oh no John, if you were shot through the heart you would not be talking to me"; after a number of our men had been wounded, some infantry filed in and I said to one of them to be careful and pointed out positions held by enemy skirmishers. They were deployed about 20 feet apart and when they fired their rifles the smoke located them. One of our infantry said he would shoot the men to the left of our guns and I told him the one on the right did the execution and I warned him to beware, as he took aim at men on the left he got a ball through the fleshy part of his neck. He said "well, he got me" and rose to leave with his rifle and cartridges - I told him as he would have no further need for these, to leave both his gun and ammunition with me, this he did and I used the rifle instead of the cannon until our men charged and routed Butler’s army and caused their retreat to Bermuda Hundred - I do not know who killed the man behind the stump on our right - but I do know I got his Spencer rifle which I gave to Alf Horton after the war - also got his canteen half full of whiskey and a brand new poncho which was badly needed.
When Condon was shot through the body, Lazarre (7) and I carried him on a litter up a hill in our rear and over to a sheltered position. We were under fire all the way and as the minnie balls whistled by we never thought of the heavy weight we were carrying, when we got out of this danger line we had to have help - we made him as comfortable as possible in the improvised hospital and returned to our guns - Condon died soon after we left. The enemy’s charge over the hill under a heavy artillery fire was a beautiful but deadly sight - on my piece we lost two killed and three wounded, our piece was struck in a number of places and Swiltzer had rim shot from his hat - the fresh blood smell made me very sick - but I stayed with my gun until the end - We lost in this engagement 30 men killed and large numbers wounded.
On the morning of the 17th, we marched towards Petersburg following route of beaten enemy. Saw quite a number of dead men and horses of the enemies Battery ( Belger’s ) had been captured the day before - we camped for the night 8 miles from Petersburg Va. It is reported we captured 1600 prisoners yesterday.
On the 18th volunteers were called for manning of two pieces to assist our picket line in holding their position, for the first and last time volunteered. We had to go several miles to get into position, our picket and Federal picket line was in an old field on our front and our artillery was in a skirt of wood about a half mile from the lines which were not more than 100 yards apart - it was the object of the Confederates to advance and capture the Federal line after we had demoralized them by shell fire - about 11 a.m. we opened up and kept up a consistent fire for 1/2 hour then our men advanced and captured the line. Up to that time the enemy did not use any artillery, our guns were Napoleons which are not long enough - We were enjoying the sport there. Entirely beyond the range of our guns a battery of 3 inch rifles opened on us and we were under terrific fire, limbs were cut from the trees, several of our men and horses were wounded and we were ordered to limber and return to camp - before we left some infantry filed in as support to our line.
On the 21st we were ordered to report to General Bushrod Johnson and his lines in front of the enemy. Only the 1st company reported for duty, the 2nd, 3rd, 4th companies on account of condition of horses were ordered to the rear for horses to recuperate. Here I was detailed and carried the horses some thirty miles to the rear of our lines where there was plenty of grass, oats and hay and the boys who had the horses in charge fared well. It was first time in my life I ever attempted to cut oats with a cradle, did not take long to acquire the art. We remained away and on the 12th of June the horses were returned to camp much improved and on June 27th, 1864 the Battery was ordered to Richmond Va. by the Secretary of War to report to General Ransom whose headquarters was on the Chickahominy near Richmond and we were ordered to a position at Bottoms Bridge.
General Grants army is confronting Lee’s army at Cold Harbor. We are to protect the lower fords supported by General Fitzhugh Lee’s Cavalry. An assault was made on Lee’s lines today and repulsed slight loss to Lee’s army, heavy loss to the Federals. The 1st Company joined in today having been returned from duty at Howletts. Grants army reported crossing James River at Harrison’s Landing. An attack on Petersburg is apprehended, Heath’s Division - Ransom’s Brigade, Read’s Battery ordered to Petersburg - Colonel Eshelman applied directly to President Davis to let our Battery go also - June 16th, heavy firing heard in direction of Petersburg - reports have it our outer works have been captured - Longstreet’s Corp ordered to Petersburg - June 18th, we received orders to proceed to Petersburg. We marched at once and upon reaching the city was placed in position in the earthworks supported by Wilcox and Mahone’s divisions. Here we were destined to remain nearly a year in the heat and dust of summer and wet snow and ice in winter. Being almost daily under fire of mortar batteries and long range rifles where a number of our men were killed and wounded.
When the fall came we built bomb proof where we could go under heavy fire when being shelled. These bomb proof places were made by digging a hole in the earth about 12 feet square and 7 feet deep, on the top was layered pine logs 10 to 12 inches in diameter, going east and west north and south, built up six or seven logs high and covered with earth 4 or 5 feet deep and they were bomb proof in that day. We tried to dig in for sleeping places in the rear of the line, but the mortar shell fire at night forced us to seek shelter where there was more protection. I came very nearly losing my life one morning when digging in. The enemy began shelling our line and a shell burst over our battery, a fragment about the size of my fist came straight to me. I heard the shell, looked up and saw the fragment coming and ducked in time to prevent it striking me. McManus who was near sighted and just behind me engaged in some work, did not see the fragment and it hit him under his right arm, tearing out two of his ribs. I started to the breastworks turned and saw McManus (4) leaning on his spade, his face paled. I saw he was injured and called for help when several of the boys joined me and carried him to the bomb proof, poor fellow his suffering was soon over.
One afternoon it was reported the enemy was pressing in our front and it was necessary to get the range as the woods were to be shelled next morning. The only way we could get the range was by cutting the fuse long or short and as it burned into the shell would explode the shell when it touched the powder - but some one had to go out in front to know where shells exploded and this determined length fuse should be cut. I was detailed to make this report. The picket lines were in our front about half mile distant and I had to walk over ditches, through briers and woods and branch, besides climb several fences. It was a dark night but clouds did not cross the sky. I knew the direction necessary to go and used a star as my compass, every thing was quiet on the picket line when I started out - our officers thought they had given me ample time to reach our picket line, but the rough walking delayed my movements, they fired before I had reached my destination, the shell burst behind me, second shell burst between me and the picket line and then every rifle on the front opened up. The third shell passes beyond our line and each shell fell in the woods back of both picket lines. when the picket lines began firing I still had some distance to go and was glad to get into our pits to escape the bullets which were singing their familiar song so well known to old soldiers.
June 22nd, General Mahone attacked the enemies 2nd Corps on the plank road, capturing 10 stands of color four pieces of artillery and 2000 prisoners. Our loss in infantry 350 - June 24th at 7 a.m., some of our guns on the opposite side of the Appomattox opened fire on the enemies works at 8 a.m. Hagood’s brigade and Hoke’s division advanced on the enemies line, not being properly supported, were forced back with loss of 300 men - On 25 June enemy shelled the City of Petersburg during the day and at 10 p.m. shelled the city and continued all night, at intervals, to bombard the city, many buildings were struck and more or less damage done, several women reported killed - One of our boys, John Lescene (8) was sick in Petersburg at the home of Mr. Pinckney Williamson which he had left and given us the privilege of its use - Lescene was very sick and a detail was made to stay with him. A shell hit this house and the guard went down stairs to see if shell had set the house a fire, while he was gone, Lescene drank as much water as he wanted, contrary to instruction and died that night. I went in on duty next morning and found him dead. As I left the house shells again began falling In the City and one exploded down the street and another in a house near bye. I heard a lady scream and went in, she was very much frightened and I assured her shells never burst in the same place twice, this proved true but while I was trying to reassure her, another shell burst in the yard not twenty feet away. as I could render no further service returned to camp and arranged for burial of our friend who had passed away - This was the boy who put on my overcoat and got the turkey from the Green farm - As the siege progressed nearly every family constructed a bomb proof retreat, which was a cellar 8 ft deep and 10 ft sq. - over it logs were placed three or four deep and on top of these a lot of earth was thrown. Steps were cut on opposite side of the enemy. When shelling of the city began the families sought shelter in these protected spots and remained until firing was over - Another way of seeking protection was by placing bales of cotton in tiers on back porches where they went in feigned security - The shell fire knocked the gas works to pieces and set fire to number of houses and while the fire department were endeavoring to extinguish the flames they were selected as targets by the enemy - by their perseverance and courage they save the city from destruction.
Our boys were always kindly treated and hold the good people of Petersburg in fondest remembrance - A great many of the citizens abandoned their homes and sought safety in other sections of the state - our ordnance department was so short of supplies, the boys were paid for leaden bullets and shell fragments by the pound in cash or received short leaves of absence. We expected an attack on the 4th of July and were prepared at every point. We planted our colors on the breastworks in defiance at daylight. Soon thereafter their regimental colors were thrown to the breeze with cheers and answered with a vim, a few shots were exchanged but little damage done - Up to the 8th everything was so quiet on our front General Lee ordered our batteries to open fire to feel the enemy and to know how it felt by a vigorous reply.
Weather very hot and dry - To provide the troops with water, wells have been dug along the lines and good drinking water obtained - it is secured by supporting long briars on posts so they will swing up and down. To the upper end are fastened grape vines or slender poles, to these are attached a bucket or canteens and pulled down until water is reached - These wells and water was a great boon to the soldiers - A little anxiety was created today in the trenches by the death of Pat Mooney one of our men from an illness diagnosed as a case of cholera, the boys don’t mind being shot, but they don’t like the idea of shuffling off with a case of cholera.
July 19th, rain today which was more than welcomed. For some time past it was reported the enemy was mining our line, but no one seemed to know where, occasionally one of the boys would declare in the stillness of the night they heard the pickax going and we did not know how soon we would be dangling in the air, the lines in our front was a greater distance than on our left and here we felt would be the danger spot -
July 30th at 5 a.m. while we were sleeping soundly a terrific explosion occurred on our left. A tunnel had been dug from the enemies line to ours from a ravine back of their line 35 feet under the earth, when our line was reached, the tunneling paralleled our line to the right and left for a distance of some 30 feet each way and in this tunnel nine hundred pounds of powder had been placed and discharged, excavating a place large enough to place an ordinary house. When the powder was set off it threw our men along it in the air and brought great confusion. Our soldiers had anticipated the work the enemy was doing and countersunk holes to thwart them but failed to go deep enough - When the explosions occurred, we could see nothing but a great cloud of smoke that hung like a pall over the place where the mine was sprung to the left of our position. The batteries along the line opened up and an assaulting column advanced with Negro troops in front and occupied our line in the confusion thousands advanced and filled in the crater formed by the explosion - Our infantry sent an enfilading fire and Haskell’s Mortar Battery poured shells upon the mass formations, the mortality was frightful and so destructive the Federal troops became panic stricken and refused to advance, General Mahone’s and Wright’s Brigades re established our lines, capturing quite a number of prisoners among whom was General Bartlett, who has lost a leg and his wooden leg had been shattered, he passed by our guns in company with about 100 Negroes, most of whom had been wounded, and was riding a little mule, that did not seem to understand what it all meant and required much persuasion to stay with his load - The General cut quite a figure walsing ( sic? waltzing?) around on the donkey.
When the Federal troops fell back from our lines, they were under an enfilading infantry fire, enfilading artillery fire and mortar Battery fire - Then next a flag of truce was sent over and an agreement reached to bury the dead - As there would be no fighting during the truce I got permission to go to the crater and review the slaughter - Our earthworks run to the crater and I could have obtained protection behind them, but I felt the truce would protect me and I took a short cut across an open field instead of zig-zag course made by earthworks. Just before I reached my destination I heard a crack of a rifle some distance behind the enemy’s line and just then the familiar whiz of minnie ball and I knew the blue belly was after my goat, I made for the fortifications in time to escape a second shot - Our lines were not far apart and on one acre of land there was said to be 5000 dead men - It was a terrible sight to see so much blood and so many mutilated bodies - Several trenches paralleling each other were dug and the men were piled on each other and covered with earth - We lost several men in the artillery duel. - There was not a night but what our line was bombed with mortar batteries. It was a beautiful sight on a dark night to watch the shells from a 15 inch mortar battery with their lighted fuses crossing each other in their flight through the air. As the shells whistled through the air they made a noise the boys interpreted to mean which way, which way, - If an exploding of the shell was in front the fragments which formed were dangerous, if over head they were not feared and if they exploded back of our lines no danger was attached. As time passed we paid very little attention to this nightly crusades.
Aug 24 - General A.P. Hill’s Corps attacked the enemy at Ream’s Station and captured 2500 prisoners and 9 cannon from 2nd Corps - We are kept busy in the trenches changing positions of guns, repairing bomb proofs and arranging abatis in our front - On 12th of October half of our artillery drivers were armed with muskets and placed in battery Gregg to our left under command of Lt. McElroy of the Washington Artillery. All supernumeraries are armed and placed on the line. There is no source from which we can get recruits, while the Federal Army is being supplied with raw material from every nationality - At a cost so reported of 2500.00 bounty - The enemy has seized the Weldon RR and hold it - this interferes materially with our procuring supplies of food from the south for men and animals.
October 27th Heavy firing and fighting on our right all day, at dark a regiment of Federals entered our lines near the gates, they were soon driven back and line restored. They were supposed to be our relief picket guard and entered without hesitation - Our lines are very weak, not strong enough to resist an all out attack if made in force - last night we shelled the enemy on our outer front. It is said the attack made on the 27th was for the purpose of capturing the Southern RR. and the Appomattox River, when defeated by A.P. Hill’s Corps, they said it was only a reconnaissance.
On the 6th of November our battery was relieved by Lt Colonel Mosely’s Battalion - We were ordered to the extreme right flank of Army, hereafter will be used as fighting artillery, attached to A.P. Hill’s Corps. We were relieved and more in breathing the pure air of woods and fields and standing upright with the fear of having a bullet go through your head. We are camped in a pine thicket near Richie’s house on the Boyton Plank road and boys are building log stables for the horses and log huts for themselves and trying to make themselves as comfortable as possible - We turned in two of our caissons for lack of horses - A disease has appeared among our horses called Farcy and every day it takes a toll of one or two. Every precaution is used to prevent its spread.
General Longstreet has returned and reported for duty but is still suffering from wound in his right arm which is paralyzed - Our men were shy of clothes and provisions and only a meager supply could be obtained, just enough grub to hold soul and body together, our blankets were worn to a frazzle - on the 7th of December enemy started out again on our right, our battery followed with General A.P. Hill’s Corps we marched to Dinwiddie Court House and toward Stoney Creek camped at 3 p.m. On the 9th December we crossed the Notaway River and camped seven miles from Bellfield - Enemy reported destroying Weldon RR - We hear firing and presume the County Reserves are engaged - Although our march was fatiguing everything reported properly. - During the night it rained turned cold and by morning it was freezing - The gun harness horses and men’s blankets were covered with ice and frozen stiff. Ice was an inch thick - We had no tents or covering except blankets. It was very severe on men and animals - We built bon fires to dry out - December 10th we marched at 6:30 a.m.. towards Weldon RR-
Enemies infantry falling back towards Petersburg - At 12 a.m. squadron of enemies cavalry come in sight and we opened one of our guns on them - Lines of battle formed by our infantry, skirmish followed, enemy retire. Our troops follow by Lebanon road - We are ordered to near ruins of Walker’s house destroyed by fire on yesterday by Federals - It is pitiful to see the desolation made by the shifting column of Federals on the march to and fro through the country.
December 13th, General A.P. Hill’s Corps and our battery returned to winter quarters and get all the comfort possible out of our little log cabins - It is reported the citizens of Richmond would give the army a real Christmas dinner, we had visions of hams, turkeys, chickens and all kinds of good things for distribution, we were hungry and no doubt our wish was father to the thought. Suffice to say Christmas came true to form but that dinner failed to materialize.
January 29th, the men have built a chapel and have prayer meetings every night, the whole army seems to have a spiritual awakening, a peace commission has started to Washington but no one is hopeful of results.
Feb 5th, Enemy reported again moving to our right - Battalion ordered to Burgess Mill. We were placed in position by General Gordon and shelled the woods occupied by enemy cavalry who retired.
Feb 6th marched back to camp. Feb 7th ordered back to Burgess Mills and at 2 a.m. reported to General Gordon who ordered our battery to the Brown house and took position which would enable us to deliver an enfilading fire in case of an attack by the enemy. We had as our support the Louisiana Brigade, which had been reduced from 3000 by Richmond in the 7 days fight to 250 men. Harry Hay’s regiment alone numbered 1400 men at Manassas. This diminution of numbers showed plainly what they had passed through and how they had suffered - Now this 250, remnant of a once gallant organization was all that was left to depend upon to support our guns - disease and shot and shell was depleting factors.
Feb 8th, we were ordered back to camp and then ordered to change our winter camp to Hatchers Run near Burgess Mill, Here again cabins and stables were constructed out of pine poles for men and horses, this is the 3rd winter quarters constructed this winter by our command. You would be surprised at the rapidity of this construction by expert workmen - we have regular streets, uniform width and well cleared of stumps and rubbish.
Our pay has not been raised, It is still eleven dollars a month, for this amount we can buy 1 meal at hotel; shoes cost 160.00 per pair, we have no shoes, boots 300.00; we have no boots, a patch on your pants cost $20.00 my pants are beyond patching - pocket knife, cheap one cost $125.00; suit of clothes 2700.00; hair cut and shave $10.00; gallon whiskey $400.00; 6 yds linen 2 3/4 yds wide 1200.00; 1 oz sulphate quinine $1700; $60.00 in gold, $6000.00 in Confederate money - I pair pants 900.00 and everything else in proportion.
We have been getting ration supply and now receive 1 lb bacon and 3/4 lb corn meal per day. Sometimes little coffee and sugar but not often. If the meat and meal was always fresh we could get by, but occasionally meal is a bit old and meat no good - but it was only thing we had to grease a skillet and its use was a case of "haf’ter"
March 12th, enemy reported on the move, our horses harnessed all day. March 22nd, we are now really suffering for food, the distribution is irregular and unreliable. March 28, hard at work building a redoubt with infantrymen. Lt Battles will occupy the redoubt when complete with two guns from 1st Company. Lt. McElroy of the 3rd Company occupies Fort Gregg with 64 artillery drivers armed with muskets, The enemy is again on the move endeavoring to envelope our right. 10 p.m., firing in front of Petersburg very heavy - enemy attempting to force through our lines prevent troops from reinforcing Pickett. Our lines very weak, men stand two yards apart. Pickett has 8000 men. Rumor says Grant has 200,000 men. General Lee has, it is said only 35000,.
April 1st, bad news from Pickett, He has been overwhelmed at five forks by the 5th Corps of the Federal Army and General Sheridan’s Cavalry. April 2, heavy firing all night in front of Petersburg the sky was all aglow with shell fire and bursting mortar shells
Several Infantry charges have been repulsed. Our Batteries are holding their position and doing wonderful execution - but have practically no support. Conditions along the line is getting desperate. Infantry soldiers begin to quit to works where they have been posted three yards apart and run across the field, shot and shell pour like hail on our lines, more of our Infantry quit the line and we realize our defense has been broken and our army cut In twain, at day break we can see heavy column of the enemy advancing across the field towards the Appomattox river.
Lt Battles is ordered to withdraw his guns to Battery Gregg but before the horses can be brought up, the enemy charge across the works and capture him and all of his men. Lt McElroy In Battery Gregg with his infantry artilleries open fire and the enemy and his force is withdrawn, then leading a charge, McElroy recaptured Battles guns and the teams having been brought up, they are moved down the Boyton Plank road and open fire from a position In rear of General Harris’ Mississippi Brigade which numbered about 500 men and had been placed there to delay the Federal advances.
Lt McElroy seeing his fire has little or no effect, retires to Battery Gregg at the same time some guns were placed in a detached work like Gregg to the right and rear. Harris’ Brigade is withdrawn from Its advanced position. Detachments of the 12th and 16th Regiments numbering about 200 men were ordered to Gregg as further support and the 9th and 48 Mississippi Regiments under Harris of Mississippi, in the detached work to the right and rear of Gregg, Every preparation was now made to resume the assault.
Lt McElroy was Instructed to put his ammunition on a platform, so as to make it accessible, as the caissons had been left outside of the works and the enemy having planted a battery in a field about eight hundred yards distant had an enfilading fire which covered Gregg and our position to right and rear, Their shots would prevent all approach to our caissons. The enemy now advanced in three lines of battle and after desperate fighting were repulsed. The four guns we had in rear works were withdrawn, observing this movement the enemy again attacked both works. The assault was in brigade columns completely enveloping Gregg and approaching rear works in front, Gregg repulsed assault after assault, 7th Mississippi and N. Carolina troops who had won honor on so many hard fought battle fields of the past, were fighting the lost battle with terrible enthusiasm as if fighting this was the last act of the drama for them. McElroy and his men of the Washington Artillery fighting their guns to the last preserved the reputation they had made in the past. Gregg raged like the crater of a volcano emitting Its flashes of deadly fire enveloped in flame, wreathing our flag and honor in the smoke of death, It was a terrific struggle and slaughter. Louisiana represented by these noble artillerists, Mississippi and North Carolina by their shattered Regiments, stood side by side holding the last regular fortified line in front of Petersburg. The capture of the works was but a question of time. The enemy with the great number, surrounded Gregg, there was a weak spot on the side of Gregg where a ditch was incomplete made to connect Gregg with works to rear and right - as fighting was in progress in front, six regiments of Federals advanced In the rear through this ditch and planted their standard on the parapet, the Mississippi troops In rear works seeing Gregg lost, retired, fighting their way to the rear - at 12 o’clock that night the last man and last gun of the brave army which had defended Petersburg for a year began the march which ended at Appomattox Courthouse.
General A.P.Hill our Corps Commander was killed this morning, with a courier he was on a tour of inspection to our extreme right and ran upon two Federal soldiers of Gibbons Corps and was killed. A great commander, kind, gentle, considerate and the bravest of the brave
April 3rd, while we were all more dead than alive from starvation and exhaustion. It was a relief to be out of the trenches, It is reported Richmond has been evacuated last night and President Davis and his Cabinet are on their way to N Carolina. Our magazines have been blown up and all bridges burned behind us. Our hope now was to reach the mountains and hold Grants army at bay in the passes - extra caissons ammunition and hay said to be awaiting us at Amelia Court house.
April 4th, The third Corps artillery reached Amelia Court house this p.m. having marched with scarcely a stop for 44 hours, the men have not had a regular meal for three days, and our rations are shorter than our marching is hard. General Sheridan’s Federal troops have been camping on our trail destroying some wagons and annoying us no little. Here it was we expected to dig in and offer General Grants army battle but it was discovered the supplies which we expected to find here, had been sent to Richmond Virginia, the train being required to bring away the archives. The archives can do no good now; it Is food we need. This result of their mismanagement leaves the army stranded without food for man or beast. The men are rapidly becoming discouraged and demoralized and are straggling off to find If possible something to soften the pangs of hunger.
April 5th, the columns moved this a.m. enroute some understand for Danville Va. where a juncture is contemplated of General Lee’s Army with General Johnston’s Army. Our cumbersome wagon trains are dispatched by different roads, they were attacked by enemy Cavalry and many ordinance wagons destroyed, We marched all day and nearly all night - when the column halts to rest, the men fall on the ground and Immediately fall asleep, when the order is given to advance, it is with greatest difficulty men can be aroused being utterly worn out from hunger and exhaustion.
April 6th, Marched all day, enemy in close pursuit, our General Custis Lee and many of his Cavalry men captured by Federals today, when we reached Riceville the enemy’s Cavalry appeared In our front - our guns were brought Into position and with aid of infantry support, a few rounds caused them to retreat to a respectful distance. Reported today that General Rosser, CSA. had captured 800 Federal Cavalry sent to destroy "high bridges" in our front over Appomattox River at Farmvllle. We continued our march through the night over roads axle deep in mud, It was a trying night, reached Farmvllle at 7 AM and went into park to rest, here provisions were for the first time distributed casks of bacon were knocked open on road side and the worn and weary soldiers helped themselves as they passed bye, we had rested only a short time when orders came to move on, and the quarter masters had orders to burn our army wagons, which would hinder our progress, the enemy was following closely, having crossed a RR bridge that our Cavalry failed to destroy, in their hasty retreat. A rear guard action occurred and the enemy was repulsed. The outlook was gloomy, in the afternoon while our battery was moving through an old field parallel to wagon road, bullets began whistling around our ears; just then a brigade of our Cavalry appeared on our flank, crying, they are coming, they are coming - Immediately our twelve guns were wheeled Into line and ready for action, as the Federal Cavalry came charging to the crest of high ground, with fuses cut for short range and double shorted canister, our guns cut loose and a federal stampede followed. The mortality was heavy on Federal side in the mean time a brigade of infantry about 200 strong came to our support.
General Gregg in command of the federal Cavalry was captured, told he expected an easy time in destroying our moving train and did not make preparation to run into the jaws of a whole post of artillery. It was fortunate we occupied this position at that time for had the Federal cavalry gotten possession of the road, they stood a good chance of capturing General Lee and his staff.
As we moved along in the afternoon we were compelled to leave stuck in the mud the rear chest of our caisson. We stopped for a while rest and got a bite to eat, then the mount was resumed and continued all night except by occasional stops caused by pieces or wagons being bogged down - whenever a stop occurred down and asleep went the men, as we pushed on through the night our way is lighted by burning wagons and the roar of cannon the rattle of musketry is heard before behind and on our flank. The constant marching without rest and virtually without food is rapidly thinning our ranks. Men whose love and loyalty to our flag has never wavered, fall out of ranks and are captured. For with many the power of physical endurance has reached its limit, they can go no further.
April 8th just before daylight our battery reached Newstore, Buckingham County - through which we passed and halted at 9 a.m. on the road to Lynchburg - and went into bivouac on Rocky Run mill from Appomattox Court house. After we had gone into bivouac, we heard in the evening artillery fire which appeared to be drawing nearer, it was not long until long trains of wagons came tearing down the road from the front, the drivers shouting and whipping up their teams - an Infantry force had formed and thrown across the road prepared for defense. General Walkers’ column of artillery about 60 pieces had marched in front of the army all day and about 4 p.m. halted in a grove just before reaching Appomattox station on the Lynchburg Rail Road. Everything had been so quiet, that they concluded to have a much needed rest, the men and officers taking advantage of this opportunity to wash up and refresh themselves. It was not thought necessary to post pickets as the enemy was supposed to be advancing only in the rear while enjoying supposed security. All of a sudden a bugle call rang out and a squadron of Federal cavalry was seen preparing for a charge, Men rushed to their guns, horses were hitched up and as the enemy advanced they were met by a raking fire of canister which drove them back; again and again the enemy reinforced charged.
They were Sheridan’s Cavalry. Our artillery that could be gotten off, fell back to Appomattox Court house where in the town they met infantry coming to their support and they drove the Cavalry back with heavy loss, our Battery was engaged in this fighting and evaded capture with difficulty.
April 9, The battery was moved into the road this morning to resume the march and as we fell into line, General Lee passed, going towards the rear accompanied by Cols. Marshal and Taylor his staff officers, and our battery advanced and took position on a hill and were under immediate direction of Col. Alexander, Chief of Artillery, who ordered the Battery to turn Into a field and park our guns. There was brisk firing in our front. General Gordon and Fitzhugh Lee were attacking Sheridan’s Cavalry, and was outnumbered four to one, This firing continued for some time and Sheridan’s Cavalry was thrown back for over a mile, large number of prisoners were captured with two pieces of artillery. Yesterday, fearing capture, Captain Richardson of the 2nd Company, destroyed his gun carriages and secreted his guns in the woods. Our men and horses, were dead on their feet, only two rations had been issued during past week and horses fared as bad as the men - only a remnant of our battery was left on the firing line.
When the two captured pieces were brought to the rear, Lt WJ Behan made application for them and his request was granted and manned by members of the Battery. Had it only been Sheridan’s Cavalry In our front the surrender would not have occurred at Appomattox, but the Cavalry was supported by Grants Infantry and our troops were driven back and the advancing column of the enemy, ten times as strong as our own, advanced from all directions. It was then a flag of truce was raised. by agreement between Generals Gordon and Sheridan. It was then a Federal Cavalry officer was observed coming down the road towards our forces, in his hands he carried a white handkerchief which he constantly waved up and down. He Inquired for General Lee and was directed to General Longstreet upon the hill. Upon approaching the General he dismounted and said, "General Longstreet, in the name of General Sheridan and myself I demand the surrender of this army, I am General Custer." General Longstreet replied: "I am not in command of this army - General Lee is, he has gone back to meet General Grant in regard to surrender." "Well", said General Custer, "no matter about Lee, we demand the surrender be made to us. If you do not do so, we will renew hostilities and any blood shed you will be responsible", "Well", said General Longstreet, "if that is done I will do my part in meeting you." Then turning to his staff he said - "Order General Johnson to move his division to the front, to the right of Gordon. Col Latrob, order General Pickett forward to Gordons left, do it at once." Custer was surprised, not knowing so many troops were at hand with General Longstreet and his ardor cooled off and he said "General Longstreet, probably we had better hear from Lee and Grant, don’t move your troops, I will confer with General Sheridan." He mounted his steed and withdrew and when out of hearing Longstreet said quietly that young man never played the game of bluff, for the troops ordered to take their places to the right and left of General Gordons troops, were only make believe soldiers.
Shortly after this occurrence General Lee with his two staff officers rode through our lines towards Appomattox Court House, halted and dismounted, a short distance from where the remnant of our battery were parked. In a few moments a Federal staff officer approached bearing flag of truce and said to General Lee, General Grant was ready to see him at the front, accompanied by Col Marshall. Only General Lee rode into the village of Appomattox Court House where terms of surrender were arranged. When General Lee and General Grant met, General Lee said to General Grant - "General I deem it due to candor and frankness to say - I am not willing even to discuss any terms of surrender inconsistent with the honor of my army, which I will maintain to the last." General Grant replied - "I have no idea General, of proposing dishonorable terms and I would be glad If you will state what you consider honorable terms." General Lee stated the terms, which were acceptable to General Grant and the terms were reduced to writing. When signed, General Lee had Colonel Marshall write this brief note of acceptance,
Headquarters, Army Northern Va., April 9, 1865
I have read your letter of this date containing the terms of surrender of the Army of Northern Va. as proposed by you. As they are same as expressed by you in your letter of the 8th they are accepted. I will proceed to carry the stipulations into effect.
Very Respectfully - RE Lee
After the conference - General Lee rode back to his headquarters near the Court House - As soon as he was seen riding towards his Army, lines of men rushed down the road side and crowded around to shake his hand, all tried to show their love and esteem in which he was held. Overcome by emotions, General Lee said - "Men we have fought through the war together, I nave done my best for you - My heart is too full to say more." Our men shared this feeling. We had done the best we could for our country - were not ashamed of what we did, nor had we any apologies to make. The war was over, the pages of history will be written a record of valor, sacrifice and devotion unsurpassed in the annals of history. Va. was the battleground of the Confederacy. Other great battles were fought in other sections but we all realized that Lee’s Army was the back bone of the Confederacy and when it was broken we realized our cause was hopeless.
When General Lee surrendered his army was paroled and each soldier wended their way to their respective homes, some walking, some riding and some catching any passing train southward bound. The journey was a hard one and suffering to a great measure was prevented by the noble old men and devoted women sharing their mite, with the hungry soldier wending their way homeward. When we reached home there was great rejoicing among our families, and the year 1865 was given up practically to rest and recreation. I found on my return quite a number of the old colored families, a few had left the place and moved away and some of the young men had joined the Federal army, these returned to the plantation and joined their families. I was anxious to complete my education and would have done so, but for lack of funds, my father had lost so much of his property by the emancipation of his slaves, expropriation of his horses and mules, and the depreciation of his Stocks and bonds he felt he should economize in every possible way and the thought of a college education took Its departure.
Father had managed to carry through the four years of the war a few bales of cotton which had been stored under beds in the Negro cabins and he sold this cotton at a big price, using the money to equip his farm and start life anew, Knowing more about the farm than any other calling my father gave me the use of an abandoned farm he owned about five miles from the home place - he made it conditional however, that I should pay the taxes and should not expect him to finance me, both of which conditions I accepted. This place had been abandoned for five years, not a furrow turned on it, the fences were practically gone and the houses were dilapidated, leaked badly when It rained. I moved to the place in the fall, had no difficulty in financing the place for cotton was still high and I had the confidence of a few merchants of means. I employed 14 hands for wages, made that year, 1866, - ninety bales of cotton and a good crop of corn and fodder, very little hay was used at that date, I paid all expenses and netted when crop was sold, three thousand four hundred dollars - Having confidence In myself and being ambition to forge ahead and get to be Independent - I felt by increasing my force to fifty hands I could handle them as successfully. I had no trouble with the labor but they felt their freedom and had trouble among themselves, I remember Wash and his wife Rose had frequent squabbles or family mix ups. In one of their misunderstandings, Wash struck Rose across her shoulders with a plow line and Rose reported him to Capt Degray the Provo Marshall in Clinton, Wash was arrested and put In jail for a week - he returned to the place and got along nicely for awhile, when their domestic troubles were renewed. They passed hot words and Rose was so incensed at the tongue lashing she had received that she started again to make her complaints to the Provo Marshall. Just as Rose left I happened along and Wash wanted to know if there was a law against drinking; I told him I did not think there was, about a quarter of a mile down the road towards Clinton there was a large pond and there he overtook Rose, he seized her around the waist and took her bodily Into the deep water and submerged time and time again until she was nearly drowned and quite subdued. The water seemed to reconcile their differences.
There was another matter which gave our farmers trouble and that was in making settlement with their labor at end of the year for their wages or interest in the crops made, The farmers had to make out an itemized statement. This had to be given to the head of the family who invariably took it to the Provo Marshal and if he felt there was an overcharge on any item, the farmer had to refund. This was not only annoying, but demoralizing to this labor - as there was quite a bit of complaint on the part of my neighbors. I thought It wise to dodge this issue. I went to Clinton before I made a final settlement and requested Capt DeGray the Provo marshal and requested him to go to the plantation with me see my books, go over same and see the hands all paid off. His answer was he could not spare the time. Then I wanted to know if he did not take one hour off everyday for dinner, and he said "Yes" and I told him he could dine with me, see hands paid off as I only had few families and I would make it worth while and bring him back to his office in one hour - he consented to go and I was one of the few whose hands made no complaint to the Marshal and where refund was not made.
I remember In this statement I had a head of his family, Henry Sadler and I paid him in dollar bills and small change three hundred and sixty dollars. Henry received his money in a large old Mexican Sombrora hat. He sure had a pile of money. Knowing I would not employ him to make another crop on account of his being so slow and Indifferent to his work, I sled, "Uncle Henry that is more money than you ever had in your life, and he said "Yes Sir boss that so" and I said "I want to tell you it is more than you ever will have as long as you live," to this proposition he dissented, but twenty years after, I met him In Clinton In a run down condition and he said
"Boss, do you remember what you said when you paid me off when Capt. DeGray was present?" and I said I did as if it was yesterday. You would never have that money again and the old fellow said "you sure told the truth."
Going back now to the Crop of 1867 I rented enough land and supplied same to make as I thought 500 bales of cotton, up to the 12th of August everything went along fine, my labor worked well and my crop was satisfactory and beautiful, the prospects were so good I felt I would like to have the opinion of Mr. Langston East, who I considered at that time a splendid man excellent farmer and man of sound judgment. He came over and rode over my entire acreage and said the crop was excellent, I remember I had our cut of 90 acres planted in Gulf seed, a new variety. I asked him what he thought the 90 acres would make and he said he would not give $5,00 to Insure one bale to the acre, and I fully concurred in this opinion, but something happened, it never had happened before, it never has happened since.
When Mr. East made this estimate it was about 20th of August, on the 29 of August the army worm came in our cotton fields by the millions and by the 5th of September nothing was left of the cotton except the stalks and a few grown bolls, instead of four hundred bales I gathered ninety one, lost my profits of previous year and lost besides six thousand three hundred dollars. The farmers were all broke, the merchants and banks who had financed the crops were In like condition. A New Orleans firm had financed me, I shipped and they sold the crop applying proceeds to credit of my account. By the 12th of December my account was closed and it was impossible to borrow money from any source.
I as well as the labor had a hard time that fall and winter. We just had to scrimmage around and do the best we could. In the early spring of 1868 I was successful in arranging for supplies for another crop from a merchant who did not do a credit business the previous year and he agreed to advance me ten thousand dollars and I felt that I was in luck. I had arranged with my New Orleans merchant who I owed sixty three hundred dollars to give my plain note without security. The crop of 1868 was fine and price of cotton satisfactory, the result was I paid the local merchant his ten thousand dollars in full and quite a bit to my merchant In the City - but the road was rocky and cash scarce. It took several years to make good my losses, but in few years my obligations were all paid and I was operating to a great extent on my own money. I only made three crops on the old abandoned place when I arranged with my father to take over the home place, living there and cultivating same.
(1) I am not sure of the correct Spelling of the man's name. It may have been Duembiski or some variation.
(2) I believe he was trying to say "let it rest in peace" The words may have been Latin and look like "requit in pocae". One translator said "requit in peace" another said "Requit in Pacem".
(3) This sentence appears to have a word or two left out, but that is exactly the way it is written.
(4) McManus is listed as KIA in Petersburg in the Washington Artillery Book
(5) John Fowlkes is listed as KIA but location is not given
(6) Edmund Conden is listed as KIA at Drewry’s Bluff
(7) Both T. Lazarre and a D. Lazarre were members of the 4th Company. T. Lazarre is listed as KIA.
(8) John F. Lescene is listed as a member who died during service.
(9) Mrs O.E. Hardesty was Ophelia E. Collins. Opehlia was David’s half sister by his mother (Amanda Dunn Collins Pipes) and her first husband Ransome (sic?) Collins. Ophelia married first a John Wilmer Stone and their son John H. Stone is also mentioned in this narrative as David’s Nephew. Ophelia married second, a Frank Hardesty.