Journal of the Kosciusko Guards  • Company E • 12th Regiment

 Written by William S. Hemphill • Transcribed by Marjorie Priser

 Chapter 8

Capt. Williams Returns

March 24th Capt. Williams and all the boys who were captured with him except McGuire came into camp this morning bringing us the partic-ulars of the battle at Winchester, and also the first intimation as to the object of our movements. McGuire was left at home suffering from the effects of his inhuman treatment while a prisoner. At 2 o'clock p.m. a messenger came in with orders to hasten back to the support of Gen. Shields. At 4 p.m. we were on the road and marched to the Shenandoah river that night. We found the bridge broken and being unable to cross were compelled to halt and repair damages. This owing to the high water, was a difficult task and was not completed till in the afternoon. Just as we were about to cross and resume our march for Winchester we received orders to return to Aldie C.H.

March 26th We again started for Aldie, and made an easy march to Goose Creek bridge which we reached just in time to catch a man who was starting a fire to destroy it, while a force estimated at about 2,000 men was in position on the opposite side to prevent our rebuilding it. We came upon the scene a little too soon for them and a dash by our cavalry backed up by a few well directed shells put them to flight. We encamped here for the night.

March 27th We learned this morning that our trains had not been able to reach us oweing to a movement by the rebels to capture them. They would have succeeded too, probably, but Gen. Geary very unexpectedly put in an appearance and received them with due courtesy, whereupon the rebels withdrew their claim to our rations and withdrew themselves to a safe distance. The train reached us in the evening and rations were issued for four days consisting of 2 lbs of flour and 6 crackers to each man.

March 28th Moved out of camp at 8 o'clock a.m. and marched through Aldie to a point about four miles west of Fairfax C.H. where we encamped for the night.

March 29th We marched by what was called "the dirt road" across the Manassas plains to Centreville, sending the trains under a strong escort by way of Fairfax. The road we took was well named for it would be almost impossible to find a dirtier road, even in the south. About noon we halted for a short time at Centreville and had a chance to inspect the far-famed rebel fortifications, quaker guns, and all. The town and the surrounding country presents a picture of desolution such as it would be almost impossible to describe and utterly impossible for any one to imagine.

The evidences of the encampment of a very large force here during the winter are unmistakable. Hundreds of graves bear testimony to the ravages of disease. While hundreds of dead horses and the profusion of camp offal serve to add to the gloomy dismantled appearance of everything. The fortifications, while they might have proved formidable, were not nearly so strong as they were represented to be and could have been stormed with much less loss than was generally supposed. In fact many of the heavy guns were still in position and were nothing more than painted logs or quaker guns.

After a brief pause at this point we proceeded to Bull Run and went into camp on that famous battle field. Here the desolation is complete. All is deserted. No one can form even a faint idea of the sights that present themselves all over the battlefield, even after almost a year has elapsed since the contending hosts met on it. Broken wagons, carcasses of hundreds of dead horses, shot and shell, broken muskets, remnants of accoutrements and clothing strew the ground in every direction, earth works are thrown up at every available point, while long trenches containing the mangled remains of that day's butchery bear ghastly testimony to the horrors of war. Here an arm, there a leg, yonder a skull is exposed to view, while in some instances the remains of some poor fellow, who had crawled into a clump of bushes to suffer, God only knows what, and die unaided and alone, overlooked by the scavengers for the dead and wounded, were found and for the first time covered from sight under mother earth. "Missing in action" is the only record that is made of them and who they were will never be known.

Turning from this scene we see evidences of the hasty manner in which the enemy retired from this position. Tents, wagons, harness and other property cut to pieces and abandoned for lack of transportation. It looked as if a terrible tornado had swept across the country destroying everything that was useful or beautiful in its course.

March 30th After snowing and raining all night it was so wet and muddy this morning that we were compelled to remain in camp all day. The mud was about five inches deep on the average, everything was soaked with rain and the nearest point to obtain wood was over a mile away. Our trains could not get to us owing to the bad roads. We were out of provisions. Taking the place and the weather and the other disadvantages together and it was a gloomy looking camp. Yet the boys made the best of it and kept the fire a going but it was easy to see that it was forced. It rained nearly all night.

March 31st This morning the clouds broke away and the sun shone out beautifully. Had it not been for the mud, the day would have been pleasant for a march. As it was, the order to move forward was hailed with delight even if we did have to be satisfied with a handfull of parched corn for breakfast. Passing Manassas we moved to the southwest along the railroad and at about 4 o'clock p.m. we crossed Broad Run and went into camp in a beautiful spot. Here our train was found and obtaining a supply of provisions we cooked and eat a hearty meal, the first in thirty-six hours.

April 1st Our march today was along the railroad and although not troubled with mud, we found counting the ties rather tiresome work. Proceeding to Catlett Station we filed to the left, crossed a creek and marched through the woods and fields about two miles and went into camp tired and hungry.

April 2nd We lay in camp till about 1 p.m. During the forenoon some of the boys went out foraging with a good share of success. At 1 o'clock we were ordered to Warrenton Junction, and moved forward through the woods, fields and brush to that point. The mud was nearly knee deep in some places and scarcely a rod of good road was found during this march.
We found Blenker's division encamped at the Junction and were marched off to one side where it was anything but pleasant or comfortable. The Colonel ordered the commissary not to issue any fresh meat to Company E, because the men who were out foraging had not turned over to the commissary what they had brought in. This left a majority of the company without meat, as the foragers had appropriated their captures to their own use. As a further punishment the company was ordered out on picket duty in the evening. It was strongly hinted that there was a little petty spite work in this arrangement and that the forage trouble was only used as a cloak. It was a fact that foragers were out from the two Fort Wayne companies and that while not quite so successful as our boys, they were not asked to turn over what they had procurred to the commissary or divide it in any way; probably because they had sent a ham or two to headquarters. This has been a long tedious and very hard march and many of the men are beginning to show the effects of their fatigue and exposure. Quite a number of them are barefooted and have performed most of the march in that condition and are now suffering from bad colds, some not being able to speak above a whisper.

April 3rd Foraging parties sent out toward the Rappanannock.

April 4th Nothing worthy of note till in the evening when we were ordered on dress parade with particular instructions to brush up and put on our best clothes, black our boots, and make the best appearance possible, as the General and his staff would be present. It so happened that requisition had been made on the quartermaster's department some six weeks prior to this date for shoes and pants, which the men badly needed at that time, but no attention had been paid to the requisition, and it is not surprising that after the long march through mud, snow, and rain over the most miserable roads and frequently through the woods and brush, that pants and shoes that were worn out then would present a rather dilapidated appearance now.

However the orders were obeyed to the letter; the clothes were brushed, and the shoes were blackened, while the arms and accoutrements were bright and clean as they could be made. The companies marched out to the parade and took their places in the line, and regulars could not have excelled them in the execution of the various movements they were put through, especially in the manual of arms. But as to the dress; there was the rub. Nearly one half of the men in E and K were in tatters from the waist down. Their pantaloons were hanging on them; some with one, some with both knees worn out, others worn off and hanging in tatters nearly to the knees and some, so badly worn that they would not cover the nakedness of the men.
In Company E twenty of the men were barefooted and in Company K about the same number; and yet it was a cold, bleak day. The regimental officers frowned and looked worried, while General Abercrombie and his staff accompanied by Gen. Lander and some of his staff officers looked bewildered and surprised. When the parade was dismissed the two companies were ordered to remain on the ground a few minutes.

The Generals and their officers rode up to the Colonel and after a few words the Colonel called our company officers forward and demanded an explanation, why they should permit their companies to appear in dress-parade in such a wretched condition. The answer was that they had strictly obeyed the orders received from regimental head quarters; that every man, not sick or on duty, had appeared on the parade; that they had worn the best clothes they had, and every man who had a pair of shoes to wear had blacked them up and worn them; and further that these same men had been on picket duty for five months without relief and had made requisition for these articles of clothing before they were relieved from that duty and had performed all that long march and their full share of fatigue and picket duty while on the march, in the condition they were now in.

Gen. Landers pronounced it a shame, and Gen. Abercrombie gave strict orders that none of these men be detailed for any duty whatever until they were properly clothed and shod, and stated that he would see that the supply should be forthcoming immediately, intimating at the same time that the blame rested at regimental head quarters. After complimenting the men for their soldierly bearing and proficiency in drill the companies were dismissed to their quarters.

April 5th Very wet, disagreeable day and dull as ___.

April 6th Rather heavy detail from Company E, considering the orders of the 4th. Six men for camp-guard, a sergeant and 12 men to guard supplies and 5 men to forage. Inspection at 10½ a.m. and immediately after inspection were ordered to strike tents and moved to a new and better camping ground. "Letters from home!" was the welcome announcement in the afternoon and we received our first mail since the 20th of March.

April 7th Company E was ordered on police duty in the morning and worked till noon when a storm of wind and rain came up and instead of being permitted to return to the quarters the company was ordered out on picket duty. On arrival at the post assigned us, it was discovered that a company from the 16th Indiana Infantry had preceded us. As they were commanded by a Captain and our company by a Lieutenant the boys argued that the Captain outranked the Lieutenant and consequently should hold the post, while we returned to camp. It was not a bad arrangement for us, either, for it snowed and rained all night; bad enough to be in camp without standing guard.

April 8th The snow and rain continued almost without intermission, a cold bleak wind prevailed while the mud added to the discomfort. About 2 o'clock p.m. the company was again ordered out on picket duty. This was the most dismal weather we have experienced. The mud about 5 inches deep, every thing wet, cold and dreary looking, and added to this the fact that about twenty of the men were barefooted and fully one half the company had but an indifferent excuse for pantaloons and the effect on their health and temper can be imagined, but it cannot very easily be described. The weather was so rough that one of the 16th Indiana men died from the cold and exposure and the only wonder is that one half of the 12th was not in the hospital. They certainly were unfit for duty as fully two hundred of them were almost destitute of shoes and but thinly clad otherwise. Yet there was but little grumbling while on the march, even when exposed to the storm for thirty-six hours without nothing to eat but a handful of corn stolen from the feed-boxes of the wagons.

April 9th Still raining and snowing. The company was relieved from picket duty and returned to camp about 3 o'clock p.m. wet, cold and hungry only to find the commissary tent almost bare of provisions. The men soon forgot this in the general jubilee that was caused by the dispatches announcing the capture of Island No. 10. While they were cheering and rejoicing over this event a couple of boxes of pantaloons and other much needed articles of clothing were received from the Quartermaster, proving to them that the General had not forgotten or neglected his promise. For a while they just made the camp ring with their cheers; in fact they cheered everything and every body, and made the camp appear cheerful all around.

April 10th Clear and pleasant over head, but the mud and slush is about six inches deep in camp, rendering it very unpleasant. Being entirely out of provisions we had no breakfast or dinner. There was considerable excitement caused by the dispatches announcing the battle at Pittsburg Landing, and rumors of the capture of the Zouves J'Afrique. Two men belonging to the 16th Indiana were found today some three or four miles from camp tied up to trees dead. They had been out foraging and venturing too far, had been captured by guerillas, tied to the trees and subjected to horrible indignities after which their inhuman captures had cut off their privates and stuck them in their mouths, leaving them, if not already dead, to die in this position. Threats of vengance were heard on all sides, and the Indiana troops at this point would not have been safe men for the enemy to encounter just at this time.

April 11th The enemy shows some signs of activity in our front. The 29th Pennsylvania was forced to fall back today to our position. A reconnaissance was made by our cavalry during the night.

April 12th Indications point to some stirring events in this department at an early day. Capt. Williams returned from Washington and took command of the company, having been duly exchanged. This is very satisfactory to the men, who are tired of serving under an officer, who gives but little heed to their wants, or his own duties, but devotes his time and money to the task of punishing all the bad whiskey he can get. Everything quiet in camp during the next two days. The only thing of interest being a kind of general settlement between the Captain and the 1st Lieutenant who had indulged in many disparaging remarks concerning the Captain and tried in various ways to injure his standing with the regiment and with the company. The Captain used very plain but forcible language in telling the Lieutenant what he thought of him as an officer and as a man, and his opinion as expressed was not at all flattering. It was a richly deserved rebuke and was taken by the Lieutenant like a whipped cur, and did not add to his standing with the regiment.

April 15th Lieut. Gallagher was detailed to command Company G while Lieut. Baldwin of that company acted as Adjutant of the regiment. Company E was ordered on picket duty at 2 p.m. During the night the rebel cavalry kept the boys on the look-out for several hours. They had to fire on them several times when they approached the post too boldly. Toward morning the enemy withdrew and quiet prevailed. The company was relieved and returned to camp at 4 o'clock p.m. on the 16th.

April 17th In the afternoon orders were received to prepare three days rations and be ready to march at moon rise. At 11 o'clock p.m. the company was mustered and with companies A, B, D and F, marched to the headquarters of the 12th Massachusetts infantry, where we were joined by seven companies of that regiment, five companies of the 9th New York, two squadrons of cavalry, and Matthews and two sections of Best's Batteries.

On the 18th at 1 o'clock a.m. we started for the Rappahannock river over 14 miles distant where the rebels were erecting some strong works at a point known as Rappahannock Station. We had a hard road to travel, or properly speaking, a bad road; as it was rather indistinct and very muddy. The artillery and caisons frequently mired down hub deep and the infantry would be called upon for assistance in extricating them; sometimes being compelled to pry them up and almost carry them out. This was no small task when ten guns and as many ciasons had to be taken over the same obstruction, this at one place being a creek in which the water was about two feet deep.

But as we proposed to get to the river in time to sound the reveille for the rebels, the march went bravely on and all obstacles were surmounted as we came to them. When within about two miles of the river the column was halted while the cavalry which had moved in advance and on the flanks moved forward cautiously to reconitor. They succeeded in surprising and capturing the rebel pickets without any alarm being given. Having made their report, the artillery was ordered forward and placed in position on a hill on the north side of the river which commanded the works.

The four guns of Best's battery were sent to a point about half a mile to the left, with the 12th Massachusetts infantry to support it. Four guns of Matthews' battery were placed behind the brow of the hill in the center and the remaining two guns about three hundred yards to the right. The 12th Indiana supported this battery, while the 9th New York took position at the foot of the hill in the rear as a reserve and the Cavalry was sent to either flank. All things being in readiness, the guns were moved forward by hand, and just as the sun began to peep over the eastern hills the profound stillness was broken by the sound of martial music in the rebel camp, which was instantly interrupted by the sharp crack of one of our Parrott guns followed by the scream of a shell which went hissing fairly into the midst of the assembling enemy. This was followed by the other guns in both batteries in quick succession.

The surprise was complete, as the rebels had not the slightest idea that there was an enemy within twelve miles of them until the first shell dropped in their midst. They hesitated for a moment but when the second shell struck and two or three men fell, they with one accord broke for the woods, going over the works to the rear like a flock of frightened sheep. This afforded great fun for our men, who commenced to cheer and hurrah with all their might. Some of them were so delighted at what they had witnessed that they laid down on the ground and rolled over as they yelled and laughed. It was a most ludicrous scene but the men who seemed to enjoy it so much soon furnished the balance of us all that was almost as laughable.

We had been watching the effect of the shells and certainly enjoyed the enemy's surprise, but we had also noticed that they had not all run away; as officers could be seen hastening from point to point, gesticulating wildly, while the men were springing to their guns in a manner that showed discipline and bravery too. Just when some of our boys were rolling on the ground and laughing the loudest we noticed a puff of smoke from the works and some one called out "Look out! There she comes!" and a heavy shell came screaming over our heads cutting off a small tree, that stood about a rod to our rear, some six or seven feet from the ground.

The way that shell cut short the laugh, and the way it made those same boys hug the ground was just as mirth provoking as the gymnastic feats we had just witnessed among the enemy, and it was made doubly so when "Big Jack" Mankin called out in his stentorian tones "Grab a root!" as he flattened himself out on the ground till he seemed to almost sink into it. The firing now became quite brisk on both sides, but the rebel gunners did not seem to understand their business very well as they could not get the range, their shots passing over us entirely, while most of their shells exploded before they reached our position. The 9th New York got the benefit of those that passed over us as they nearly all struck in their vicinity, and complelled them to shift their position to the left.

Our gunners had the exact range from the start, almost every shell striking and exploding in the rebel works. A squad of about twenty men was seen to leave the works, probably to hunt up and bring back those who had so hastily abandoned them but they never completed their errand, as they had not gone more than ten or twelve paces when a shell lit and exploded fairly in their midst and more than half of the squad was seen to fall, while the others were scattered. Some two of their guns were dismounted and then one of our shells struck their magazine.

A terrific explosion followed which must have been awful in its effects. What we could see was a vast column of white smoke rising with a puff to a great height and rolling like clouds struggling to be uppermost while pieces of timber, bodies of men, and smaller objects some of which looked like legs and arms could plainly be seen as they were whirled aloft through and about the smoke and then fell beneath its curtain. This completely silenced that battery, but a brisk fire was opened on us from another, a little to the right, and with much better aim, for they made our position rather unpleasant for a while. In the meantime the section to the right and the battery to the left had both unmarked batteries of the enemy that were hidden from our view, and the artillery duel had been kept up with spirit on both sides.

The fight was getting decidedly interesting, the nervousness of the men having worn off, or passed away, when we were very unexpectedly ordered to fall back, just when we were expecting an order to advance and storm the works. Of course this would have been worse than reckless, it would have been madness on our part, but we, (the men) did not know it, though Capt. Webster, our commanding officer did; for the enemy outnumbered us ten to one and our handful of men would have been almost annihilated ere we could have reached the works. There was nothing to do but obey orders and sadly and sulkily we started on our return to camp.
Before we started however, we discovered that the rebels were receiving heavy reinforcements. We were not permitted to halt to cook anything, but pushed straight through to camp when we arrived about as weary a lot of men as could be found, having marched 28 miles, pulling and lifting the artillery through the mud every half mile or so, and being under fire about 3 hours, and only being absent from camp 19 hours. On returning to camp we learned that our movement had been entirely successful; more so in fact than if we had captured the works. It was a ruse to draw the attention of the enemy and cause them to reinforce that point while the actual movement was made by Gen. McDowell against Fredericksburg.

The arrival of the reinforcements at Rappahannock showed that the object of our mission was accomplished and that we had thusly helped to fight the battle of Fredericksburg, by weakening the enemy's force four or five thousand men and probably twice the latter number. Besides this we had damaged them very materially by blowing up the magazine, dismounting two or three guns and killing and wounding several men.

Among the incidents of the expedition worthy of note was a remark made by one of the 12th Massachusetts men, which, intended as a slur, was really a compliment to the 12th Indiana. After the artillery duel had been kept up for a considerable length of time and was getting to be quite interesting to those who were looking on, a group of men composed of 9th New Yorkers and 12th Massachusetts men were standing a short distance from our position discussing the situation, when one of the Massachusetts men, watching the effects of a shell that had just been sent into the rebel works, remarked, "Humph! Such a waste of ammunition is all nonsense. Why, just start those d___d Hoosiers out, (pointing to our boys) and they will steal the rebel works with all they contain inside of twenty minutes". It is only necessary to add that the rebel works at Rappahannock were evacuated on the 19th.

April 19th This morning after signing the pay-rolls we were informed that we would be mustered out of service on the 11th of May. In the evening we were asked to decide by vote where we would prefer to be mustered out. A portion of the regiment wanted to return to Indianapolis, but a large majority voted for Washington City, and it was so ordered.

April 20th We were paid off, the paymaster spending just eleven minutes in paying our company. By late letters from home we are informed of the death of private James F. McGuire, of Company E, who died at Warsaw from the effects of his inhuman treatment while a prisoner at Richmond Va. Poor "Jim", he was a brave man, a good soldier and generous goodhearted comrade. Like the rest of us, he had his faults, but he injured no one but himself in their indulgence. His good qualities were many and won for him the confidence and esteem of every officer and man. His memory will be cherished and perpetuated by the erection of a suitable monument, the company having contributed $125 for that purpose, while they have pledged themselves to avenge his death if opportunity is afforded them.

During the next three days nothing of special interest transpired. The weather was wet and disagreeable and the men satisfied to remain quietly in camp, or interchange visits with acquaintances in other regiments from whom they would so soon be separated.

April 24th Company relieved from picket duty at 3 o'clock p.m. The weather was very disagreeable and on the 25th we run short of rations. We have some men on the sick list from Company E, viz.: E. Sutherly, hernia; V. M. Chaplin, pneumonia; J. A. Sanderson, ague; E. Middleton, mumps; E. G. Harvey, W. H. Walton and M. H. Parks, diarrhoea. On the 26th Ephraim Foundling was added to the list and Chaplin was sent to the hospital. On the 27th Lewis Davis, Geo. Dentzer and D. Hubler were added to the list and on the 28th D. W. Hamlin and Sergt. Davis. Many men are complaining but keep up because of the nearness of the date of discharge. From this time till the 2nd of May sickenss was on the increase and it was found that we would be compelled to leave a large number of the men in hospital when the regiment would receive its discharge. On the 1st of May there was probably not less than two hundred men in the regiment who were unfit for duty, many of them being in the hospital, but a much larger number being sick in their quarters.

May 2nd Company E was ordered for the last time on picket duty.

May 3rd Relieved at the usual time and returned to camp and in the evening Col. Link informed the regiment that he would ask them for the last time to clean up and make the good appearance they were capable of doing, at dress parade on the 4th as Gen. Hartsuff who had just been assigned to the command of the Brigade would be present and he wanted him to see what the Hoosiers could do.

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