Journal of the Kosciusko Guards Company
E 12th Regiment
Written by William S. Hemphill Transcribed
by Marjorie Priser
* * *
January 1st This was a beautiful day and the men seemed to
enjoy themselves. One of the first duties was to march down to
the river and salute the Stars and Stripes, which waved saucily
on the Virginia shore. Some of the boys concluded that it was
high time some movement should be made, so last night they crossed
the river and hoisted the flag, as a challenge to the rebel force
encamped about four miles from us. No orders have been received
yet to go into winter quarters, but the boys say they "don't
care a Continental", they have the winter quarters; the only
question is "will they be allowed to enjoy them?" They
don't care to be relieved now, unless it is for an advance movement,
of which there is some talk. We have asked that a reserve force
be stationed somewhere within supporting distance.
The men are on duty three to five days at a time, and in a state
of suspense all the time, owing to a strong force of the enemy
hovering around nearly all the time. It would be quite easy to
cross the river either above or below this post, and gain our
rear, where our capture would be seen, although it is certain
some one would get hurt before the capture would be accomplished.
The men have great confidence in their ability to defend themselves
against double or even four times their own number, and they could,
if the attack comes from the front, but from the rear it would
The Captain writes that when the rebels were taking him to the
rear after he and the boys were captured, he seen men fall, shot
through the head, when they were more than three-fourths of a
mile from our lines. The men are all anxious to have the Captain
back, so that they can have a commander that they can respect
and rely upon. A whiskey cask is neither to be relied upon or
Jan. 2nd About 100 rebel soldiers visited Mr. Greenwood's
house last night, but they failed to find him at home. Mr. Greenwood
is an uncompromising Union man, and is a daring scout. It is to
his timely warnings of approaching danger that we owe our ability
to checkmate the enemy, every movement he makes against us. As
he knows every ravine and by-road in Berkeley county, he has been
able to give them the slip every time they have tried to capture
Jan. 4th Some snow fell last night, and the boys are having
great fun hunting rabbits, which are hopping around in every direction.
Jan. 5th This morning our flag, on the Virginia side of
the river was gone. The "rebs" could not stand it any
longer, so a squad of them sneaked around and took it away during
Jan. 6th Private Henry Clayton is a character, and occasionally
becomes the innocent cause of a great deal of merriment and as
he never can see what there is to laugh at his blunders, are all
the more ridiculous. His latest blunder was as follows: on arranging
the detail for picket duty, it was found that a non-commissioned
officer was wanting. Clayton was therefore placed on the detail
as acting Corporal, in charge of the picket post at Bull Hollow,
one of the most important posts on the line, as it commanded a
road and ravine on the opposite side of the river, from which
the picket guarding the dam could be picked off at will.
The details had all started for their respective posts, with the
exception of Corporal Clayton's. Being asked what they were waiting
for, they replied "the Corporal". On looking around
for that important officer, Clayton was discovered searching through
the quarters of Company K, and was hailed by the Major with "Clayton,
what the h___ll are you nosing around there for?" "Why
I can't find the other man." "What man are you looking
for?" "This Bull Hollow. There is no such a man in our
Company, and I thought he belonged to Company K. I have heard
his name, but I don't know him and can't find him." The Major
began to curse, while the whole camp was in a roar of laughter.
Clayton looked indignant and exclaimed "I don't see what
you fools find to laugh at." The reply came from all sides
"Bull Hollow!" Then it began to dawn upon Henry that
he had heard the name frequently, and knew where to find "him."
He certainly heard the name often enough while we remained in
Heavy firing toward Hancock. Continued on the 7th. On the 8th
we received news from Hancock to the effect that there had been
quite a sharp skirmish at that point. Deserters are coming into
camp at the rate of two or three per day.
Jan. 8th A man named Wright of Berkeley County, Va. who
has frequently acted as guide to scouting parties sent out from
our camp, and who has, on several occasions, brought in reports
of Rebel movements has come to grief. Greenwood has hinted several
times that Wright was hardly trustworthy. He had not been able
to find evidence against him, but the Rebels were apprised of
everything passing in our camp, and some things that had only
been discussed with Mr. Wright as a blind. Last night Mr. Wright
was caught smuggling articles contraband of war across the river,
and some of the deserters who were at headquarters knew him, and
knew him to be employed in the Confederate Service as a guide
and scout, and that he reported every week to the commanding officer
at Martinsburg. Mr. Wright will not report again for a few days.
Jan. 9th Everything quiet. Received and distributed some
Jan. 10th Company C reported for duty and was assigned
to the upper posts, relieving E and K from all above the lock.
Jan. 12th Beautiful weather, but turned cold toward evening.
Jan. 13th Cold and windy, with snow toward noon.
Jan. 14th Company went on duty for five days. Every body
suspected now. Greenwood has been arrested for some infidelity
to the Government.
Jan. 15th All quiet on the Potomac. Our company commander,
Lieut. G. was drunk today. Yes Drunk is the word. Not merely
"on a high," but DRUNK. He staggered into the tent in
the evening and threw himself down on the camp cot, one of the
most disgusting looking objects that has ever disgraced the uniform,
to say nothing of shoulder straps. He tried to talk but his tongue
was too thick and he soon sunk into a stupor. About midnight Lieut.
Millice and the writer were awakened by a dense smoke and found
that Lieut. G. had rolled off the cot and in so doing had brought
the heavy cotton comforter, in which he was wrapped, in contact
with the fire, and it was just bursting into flames. Seizing the
drunken brute, we dragged him out into the snow and after some
trouble succeeded in tearing the burning bedding from about him,
and saved him from a horrible death. But even then he was too
drunk to know what had happened. His bedding being destroyed he
wanted to sleep with us, but his request was declined with
thanks by telling him we would prefer sleeping with a four
Jan. 29th During the past two weeks there has been nothing
of interest to enter in the Journal. We hear every day that we
are to cross over into "Dixie" and pay a visit to the
"Rebs" at Manassas; but this seems to be only a camp
rumor. We still have the monotonous round of duty; while the weather
is cold and wet and the mud is so deep that we are confined to
camp when off duty.
The time is passed playing Chess, Checkers, Morrice, Euchre and
such games and reading the papers, which, by good luck we manage
to get. When tired of that kind of amusement we have a fiddle
and a banjo and some of the boys rattle the bones, while others
can sing and that helps to pass the time away. When all else fails,
we "Kick our little Darkie" or get up fancy work with
our Jack-Knives, and wish for a regiment of "Rebs" to
shoot at for a change.
On the 21st the Potomac got on a high again, and we were compelled
to bring the pickets from their posts in boats, the waters having
entirely surrounded them. Sometimes the boys get up a "fire"
in Hoosiertown, and to hear the alarm a stranger would think the
whole camp in danger of destruction; but it generally proves to
be a luckless old barrel, or a heap of straw and the damage is
The only bright spots in this monotonous life is when the messenger
returns from headquarters with the mail. It is interesting to
witness the rush when this occurs. As the orderly steps to the
front of his tent and calls out "mail for Company E"
every man drops whatever he happens to be doing and "breaks"
for the orderly. What a flash of delight spreads over each face
as the welcome "news from home" is received; and what
a look of despondency, of utter loneliness is seen as letter after
letter is handed out, until the last one is gone, and some one
turns sadly away, sighing "nothing for me!"
A rumor has just been circulated in camp that Capt. Williams and
five men have escaped from the Rebel prison, at Richmond by jumping
from a window. Of course the rumor was unfounded, but it caused
quite an excitement for a day or two.
We received a letter from the Captain, dated at Richmond, Va.
Jan. 15th stating that he and the boys are to be paroled, and
as soon as an exchange can be effected they will be with us. This
spoils the rumored escape but causes a great deal more satisfaction,
as it is reliable.
Dr. Hazzard, who has been with us nearly two months, started for
home on the 3rd of February. He will be greatly missed in these
two companies, as he has been just like a father to the boys,
and to his watchful care we owe our excellent health. We have
not had a man sick in the company during the past two weeks. This
is remarkable, when it is remembered that the men have been on
duty three months, without relief, and that the winter has been
very open, wet and disagreeable most of the time.
The men are beginning to look forward, anxiously, to the date
of discharge. It is generally believed that the war is about ended.
Well, the sooner the better; provided the idea of secession is
abandoned forever. War is a greater curse to a country than any
one can conceive of, until they have witnessed some of its effects
upon those who are engaged in it. It makes little less than demons
of men. A thirst for blood is created in the hearts of those who
have always been peace loving citizens. The roll of the drum sends
a thrill to the heart of the soldier. The boom of a distant cannon
sets every nerve to vibrating. The roll of musketry causes the
eye to glitter and flash with excitement, and the countenance
to glow with hatred and all the dark passions of the human heart.
It is a true index to the heart, and cannot be hidden, no matter
how strong the will. Men may be civilized, but they are savage
at heart and it only requires the scenes and opportunities of
War to cause the old savage nature to assert itself.
During the first two weeks in February, the men have had an opportunity
to rest themselves after coming off picket duty, but playing at
building canal. The recent high waters caused several bad breaks
in the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal and it is deemed necessary by
the powers that rule that the men who have been almost constantly
on duty, exposed to the stress of winter for four months, should,
in addition to guarding this important point, spend the time,
which should be devoted to rest, in repairing the damages. "Put
the Hoosiers at it, for they will work," appears to be the
While the country is finding fault with the Army of the Potomac
for its inactivity, it seems to have lost sight of the fact that
it is the Generals that are to be blamed. Possibly it is "masterly
inactivity" but while Grand Military Balls, Parties, Entertainments,
etc. graced by the presence of Generals and are reported each
week, it would be difficult to convince the men of the Maryland
1st, Indiana 12th, Massachusetts 13th and Pennsylvania 28th, who
have been exposed to wind and storms of winter, and the sneaking
attacks of a treacherous foe on the advanced picket line, that
there was anything masterly about it. The attacks upon our pickets
by the enemy are nothing less than cowardly murders, the white
flag being used as a decoy or cover to hide their intentions,
the men who recognize or respect that flag being shot down in
Feb. 23rd 1862 During the past week the war news had a
cheering effect on the boys. The capture of Fort Donelson, and
other important movements in Tennessee; the successes of our army
in Missouri; the dash made by Lander at Bloomery Gap, followed
by the news from Washington of the release of the Captain and
the boys that were with him, all had a tendency to drive away
the blues and put the camp in good humor. We have had a great
deal of trouble with some of the men who would get drunk, and
as every effort to stop the supply had failed, the 22nd was celebrated
by Lieut. Milice taking six men and proceeding to Downsville,
where it was procurred and rolling the barrels out into the streets
knocked out the bungs and let the vile stuff run into the gutters.
Feb. 24th At about 5 a.m. we were aroused by the Major
with "Get up! Marching orders, boys!" Soon every one
was busy and with but little delay everything was packed and the
command moved to the canal, where it embarked on a coal boat and
started for Williamsport. The morning was quite pleasant but by
the time all was on board it became very cold, and the wind was
so strong that the boat was driven ashore every few rods. We proceeded
about two miles and were then compelled to tie up for the night.
During the night Sam Yohn interviewed the Colonel, but being somewhat
summarily dismissed concluded to "Let it stand at that."
Feb. 25th At day break we again got started and after a
very cold, disagreeable passage, landed at Williamsport at 3 o'clock
p.m. and the company was assigned quarters in the basement of
an old warehouse which had been used as a stable. It was a miserable
place, and as damp and uncomfortable as it well could be. The
weather was very cold and there was no place to build fires only
outside where the wind would blow the fire away as fast as it
could be started up. We were compelled to remain in this miserable
hole until the 28th, when the writer went up to headquarters and
invited the Colonel and Adjutant down to see how nicely
we were fixed up. They called and in a very short time after they
left us we were ordered to a more comfortable place. Some of the
boys said we would "get marching orders now, sure."
And sure enough, we had scarcely got "fixed up" in our
new quarters when we were ordered to "prepare two day's rations
and be ready to move at 8 o'clock in the morning."
March 1st Cold and windy. The 13th Massachusetts commenced
crossing the Potomac this morning and as the water was high and
current strong, it was rather slow work with our small flatboat.
Our regiment waited patiently til 7 o'clock in the evening, at
which time we crossed over into "Dixie" with colors
flying and the band playing "Hail Columbia" and other
national airs. As soon as all were across we hailed the sacred
soil with three rousing cheers and at once took up our line of
march for Martinsburg. General Williams Com'dg Brigade.
March 2nd Arrived at Martinsburg about 2 o'clock this morning.
A small squad of rebels challenged our advance, as they entered
the town and exchanged shots with them, doing no damage except
shooting a good horse. They then retired, leaving us in undisputed
possession of the place. We received a very hearty welcome from
many of the citizens, who gave unmistakable signs of joy when
the Stars and Stripes were thrown to the breeze from the dome
of the Court House and joined heartily in the "three cheers
and a Tiger" with which the nation's emblem was greeted.
The court house and other public buildings were occupied by the
troops, a Provost Guard was placed on duty under Lieut. Col. Humphrey,
of the 12th, who was appointed Provost Marshal. Several arrests
were made during the day, among them being a number of rebel soldiers,
who had straggled from their commands. Several prominent "Reb"
citizens were escorted to the guard house, where some of them
took the oath of allegiance and were released, while others contemplated
their change of base in gloomy silence.
The boys are generally enjoying themselves well, many of them
partaking of the hospitalities of the "Union" citizens.
I accepted a kind invitation from an old Scotchman to dine with
him and had a very pleasant time and a good dinner. He informed
me that he was compelled to pay $1 for a gallon of salt, 50 cents
per pound of coffee, 50 cents per yard for prints and other things
There has been a great deal of railroad machinery and rolling
stock destroyed here to keep it from falling into our hands. Many
of the necessary articles of food and comfort are unobtainable.
The loyal citizens have been overawed and oppressed, while the
rebel element has carried things with a high hand, but even they
have been compelled to submit to arbitrary seizures made by the
soldiers, and have been unable to procure what they needed until
the demands of the latter were satisfied.
In the evening a rumor was circulated that Jackson was approaching
the city to drive us out. The general response to this was "Bully
for the drive."
March 3rd Took breakfast with a Mrs. Lloyd, the wife of
a rebel officer. She was in full sympathy with the Cause in which
her husband is enlisted, but thinks the coming of our army will
prove a blessing to all of the citizens of Martinsburg. She expressed
her surprise and satisfaction at the gentlemenly conduct of the
union soldiers, stating that they had been threatened with various
indignities, both to person and property, when the "Yanks"
would get possession; but so far she had met none but gentlemen
wearing the blue, and she actually felt more safe on the streets
than she did when the town was occupied by their own troops.
This forenoon Ed. Webster, a typo of Company E discovered the
American Gazette office, one of the loyal papers that had been
suppressed, and in a very short time the American & Union
greeted the soldiery and citizens. It was a two column paper printed
on long-bill cap, not very large, but large enough to give the
sentiments of the soldiers toward the citizens, and make some
We remained at Martinsburg, waiting for reinforcements till the
5th when at 11 o'clock a.m. Genl Hamilton's command, consisting
of 12th Indiana, 26th New York, 13th Massachusetts, 5th Connecticut,
46th Pennsylvania infantry & 1st Maryland Cavalry, started
for Winchester. The sand was about six inches deep and rather
thin, making it very slavish marching. All were in good spirits,
however, and moved out with a will, arriving at the village of
Bunker Hill about 5 o'clock p.m. Here a small body of rebels fired
upon our advance from a house a short distance from the mill.
The cavalry dashed forward, surrounded the house, forced the door
and captured eight prisoners. The command bivouacked here for
the night, being about four miles from Gen. Banks' main column
which crossed at Harpers Ferry. We were very comfortably quartered
in the flouring mill and the boys had a general good time.
March 6th Received order this morning to get ready to march
but after making the necessary preparations the word was passed
"not today boys", whereupon the men made themselves
comfortable. It is understood that the enemy are in strong force
at Winchester, under Gen. Johnston and are prepared to give us
a battle whenever we are ready to attack.
March 7th Genl Banks visited us today and the boys gave
him a hearty greeting. The boys have all been digging laurel root,
out of which they are manufacturing pipes, chains, etc. For the
first time we hear the cry "Grab a root". This might
well be called the Whittling Brigade, as every man who can scare
up a jackknife is at work. During the day a detachment of our
Cavalry, while scouting on the Winchester road, came in contact
with a small force of rebels and had quite a lively skirmish with
them, in which five of the enemy were killed and five of our men
were severely wounded. For a while it was thought we were on the
eve of a battle, but the rebels fell back and everything became
quiet again. We are informed that the rebels are very confident
of being able to hold Winchester and we are just as confident
that we will take it, while some think we will take it without
March 8th Remained in camp drilling and enjoying ourselves
March 9th A detachment of the 27th Indiana had a skirmish
with the Rebs today. We had the pleasure of welcoming Lem Hazzard
back from the prison pens of Richmond. Having been exchanged,
he reported for duty. The other men were paroled and went home
but are expected to be with us in a short time.
March 10th We were aroused very early this morning with
"Marching Orders!" but the order was countercommanded
just as the command "fall in" was given; and we were
instructed to hold ourselves "in readiness to march at five
March 11th At an early hour we were ordered to "fall
in" with three days rations and "40 rounds each".
About 11 o'clock a.m. the word we had all looked for came "Forward
to Winchester!" and away we went cheerful and gay, not knowing
how many would be permitted to see that famous city or see the
setting of the sun. The first six miles were passed over briskly
and quietly, the boys tramping along, chatting gaily, until we
reached the brow of a hill, when a short halt was made to allow
the columns to close up.
From this point we had a grand view of the moving army. In front
of us was one regiment only, but to the rear the road was open
and straight for a long distance, and this was filled with regiment
after regiment moving in close columns. The order was given "Foreward!"
but before the regiment in advance had taken marching distance
a cannon in front belched forth its thunder and a shell fell to
their right. This was followed by another and another in quick
The 12th was ordered to "halt and load" while a section
of artillery dashed by and took position in a field to the right
of the road, a few shells were sent over to greet the "rebs"
who now fell back, leaving their prisoners in the hands of our
Cavalry. Moving forward about half a mile the rebels again opened
fire on our advance, and for a little while there was a lively
artillery duel. Our position was where we could not see what was
in front and the men became very impatient. At about 4:30 p.m.
the order came "Forward!" then "Head of Column
to the right!" and marching into the field to the right,
the order was "Halt! Unsling Knapsacks!" and "Strip
off everything but canteens and cartridge boxes. Leave a guard
over your property and prepare for a fight!"
Quickly the orders were obeyed, but we had hardly taken our places
in the ranks until the order came "Send the 12th Indiana
to the front!" This order was greeted with a yell and away
we went in "double quick" cheering and cheered by the
advance regiment as we passed them, and expecting to have the
privilege of charging the rebel battery in front. But we were
doomed to be disappointed, for we were halted, moved off to the
right and held in readiness to advance, while our battery shelled
the rebel position.
Under cover of this fire Company A was ordered forward as skirmishers.
Their advance was very anxiously watched as they approached the
woods some four hundred yards in front. Soon they commenced firing
and companies B and F were ordered to their support. The rebels
now fell back a short distance and as it was about dark, the only
way we could distinguish their position was by the flash of their
guns. The firing for a time was quite brisk. The three companies
advancing and the rebels retreating till they gained the shelter
of their breastworks. The advance was then called in, bringing
with them several prisoners and the regiment bivouacked for the
March 12th At 4 o'clock a.m. we were aroused, made a cup
of coffee, eat our Hardtack and bacon, and awaited orders. At
daylight, leaving everything that would encumber us in our movements
under a guard, the 12th was ordered to the right flank and moved
off through the woods and fields at a quick step. We soon came
in sight of the entrenchments and approached them rapidly but
cautiously expecting every moment to see the flash of their guns
and hear the roar of their artillery and musketry.
A nearer approach revealed to us, the startling fact that they
had been abandoned. This was all the greater surprise to us, as
we could distinctly see the men behind the works when we first
came in sight of them. Knowing that they had still stronger works
nearer the city we conjectured that they had from policy abandoned
the outer works and concentrated their forces where they could
make a better defense. Moving forward cautiously at about 11 o'clock
we came upon the main defenses of the city and found them like
the others abandoned.
With a yell the 12th dashed forward and had the pleasure of being
the first regiment to carry the Stars and Stripes into Winchester,
and what was better still, without losing a man. We were just
in time to see the rebel rear-guard march out at one side of the
city as we marched in at the other, and by some quick marching
succeeded in capturing a few prisoners. When forming on the main
street we welcomed the other regiments as they entered with "Yankee
Doodle" and other airs. Why the rebels abandoned this position
without a fight is a mystery. They had the position, the arms
and the men to enable them to give us a very hard fight. The city
could only have been taken with terrible loss of life.
The 12th went into camp on the side of a hill overlooking the
city. Our company was quartered in the Female Seminary, which
is said to have been occupied by General Washington as his headquarters
when his army was in this vicinity during the War for Independence.
Be this as it may, it is a pleasant location and affords us a
fine view of the city and its surroundings.
Winchester is certainly a place worth fighting for, saying nothing
of its strategic advantages. It contains probably about 7000 inhabitants;
the buildings are fine and substantial looking, and it is considered
one of the wealthiest towns in the state. It contains several
fine institutions of learning, among which are the Academy we
are now occupying and the Medical College, which appears to have
been evacuated in a hurry, as the body of a negro boy, partially
dissected, was found on the table in the dissecting room.
Business was almost entirely suspended when we entered the city;
prices being somewhat high. Coffee was quoted at $1.50 and sugar
at 40 to 50 cents per pound; wood $12.00 per cord, and every thing
else in proportion. There was no money in circulation, excepting
the Confederate Shinplasters, which were worth, as near as we
could calculate, about one dollar per cord, solid measure. It
was interesting to witness the emotions of the citizens when we
entered. Some were wild with delight and conducted themselves
as one might suppose a convict would upon being suddenly returned
to liberty after a long and unjust imprisonment. Some wept as
though bereft of their last friend and all hope for the future;
some appeared perfectly indifferent, while others frowned and
looked gloomy, as if they were thinking "d___n you".
We were enabled to almost read the hearts of the people in this
way, and upon summing up, concluded that "Secession"
has ruled with a high hand.
We remained in camp at Winchester having but little to do until
the 20th. We were frequently called to arms as skirmishing was
of almost daily occurence, but it always proved to be unimportant
and we were only ordered back to our quarters. It became very
monotonous too, as the order was strickly enforced cutting off
all communication with the outside world. We were kept in ignorance
of everything transpiring outside of our own brigade. On the 20th
we received marching orders but in what direction we were to move
none could tell.
March 21st In the midst of one of the worst snow storms
we have experienced since we entered the service, orders were
received to "fall in" and we were soon plodding along
the road to Berryville. The little streams that covered the road
from time to time were very much swollen. One, a small creek,
had assumed the proportions of a river, the water being about
three feet deep and the current strong. The boys however plunged
in and waded through, warming themselves afterwards by a double
quick up the hill.
March 22nd We marched to the Shenandoah river where we
were halted and for hours listened to the thunder of battle at
Winchester expecting every minute to be ordered back to support
Shields. We subsequently learned that we were held at that point
to prevent a rebel force which was in the vicinity of Snickers
Gap from crossing the river and attacking Shields' rear. We remained
here all night, but there was but few felt inclined to sleep.
March 23rd A messenger arrived at headquarters and in few
minutes the command was formed and we started across the mountain
on a forced march. Proceeding to Aldie C.H. [court house] we were
halted and went into camp to await further orders. We could not
understand why we were so hurriedly marched away from, instead
of towards the battlefield, but later developments showed that
it was a neat piece of strategy to entrap the rebel force that
was approaching the Gap from the south on the east side of the
mountain and which we were sent to intercept at Berryville.
As this force had been delayed by the storm and was still moving
toward the gap to gain the position assigned them in Shields'
rear, our command had made the forced march to Aldie so as to
gain their rear when they approached the Gap, while Gen. Geary's
division would intercept and prevent their crossing the mountain.
The plan failed by a mere chance as Geary's advance met them an
hour or two too soon and the rebels fell back before they had
got into the trap set for them. Had Geary reached his position
before they came up, there can be no doubt but the entire command
would have been captured.