Journal of the Kosciusko Guards Company
E 12th Regiment
Written by William S. Hemphill Transcribed
by Marjorie Priser
* * *
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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