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1863. so much regret, he may be pardoned if he bids an especial farewell
to his long tried associates of the Ninth Corps. His prayers are that God may be with you, and grant you continual success until the rebellion is crushed. By command of Major-General Burnside,
The following remarkable letter from President Lincoln needs no explanation, though it seems strange that General Hooker should have taken pride in it, as it is said he did :
WASHINGTON, D.C., Jan. 26, 1863. MAJOR-GENERAL HOOKER:
GENERAL: I have placed you at the head of the Army of the Potomac. Of course I have done this upon what appears to me to be sufficient reasons, and yet I think it best for you to know that there are some things in regard to which I am not quite satisfied with you. I believe you to be a brave and skilful soldier, which, of course, I like. I also believe you do not mix politics with your profession, in which you are right. You have confidence in yourself, which is a valuable, if not an indispensable quality. You are ambitious, which, within reasonable bounds, does good rather than harm; but I think that, during General Burnside's command of the army, you have taken counsel of your ambition, and thwarted him as much as you could, in which you did a great wrong to the country and to a meritorious and honorable brother officer. I have heard, in such a way as to believe it, of your recently saying that both the army and the government needeıl a dictator. Of course it was not for this, but in spite of it, that I have given you the command. Only those generals who gain successes can set up dictators. What I now ask of you is military success, and I will risk the dictatorship. The government will support you to the utmost of its ability, which is neither more nor less than it has done and will do for all commanders. I much fear that the spirit which you have aided to infuse into the army, of criticising their commander and withholding confidence from him, will now turn upon you. I shall assist you as far as I can to put it down. Neither you nor Napoleon, if he were alive again, could get any good out
army while such a spirit prevails in it. And now beware of rashness. Beware of rashness, but with energy and a sleepless vigilance go forward and give us victories.
Yours very truly,
A good deal of confidence was restored by the appointment of General Hooker or “ Fighting Joe,” as the boys called him.
Once more we were in receipt of papers, and as they
covered the time we were absent from camp we learned that the right and left wings of our army were in motion.
The papers announced on the 22d the following : “ HIGHLY IMPORTANT IF TRUE !– Rumors of a terrible battle on the Rappahannock ! — Rebels outflanked by Sumner! - General Hooker mortally wounded ! - General Burnside again crossed the Rappahannock and a terrible battle is being fought.” Yes, a terrible battle with “mud” had been fought, but as to the rest, Dame Rumor lied, as she frequently does. However, newspapers always brought us something to talk about. Very little the rank and file knew about movements of the army except what was learned through the newspapers. There were occasions, to be sure, when men of average intelligence could guess very near the truth when opportunities were offered for observation, but generally we knew little about what another corps in our army might be doing until we saw it recorded in the papers. Once in a while a correspondent would visit us, when we were sure to be written up, and as the accounts were generally favorable we were pleased when they appeared. As the larder of a private soldier was not extensive, we left their entertainment to the officers. Our impression is, the officers did their hospitable work well.
During the winter we had the same variety of weather as prevails in New England, - snowing and freezing followed by rain and thawing. When the ground was not frozen it was mud more than ankle-deep, making the roads almost impassable. On the 22d of February we had a severe snow-storm, the snow being three feet deep in some places. The horses suffered more than the men.
It was while encamped at Fletcher's Chapel that we received the first order respecting corps badges, a description of which wil be seen by the following circular:
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
March 21, 1863. For the purpose of ready recognition of corps and divisions of the army, and to prevent injustice by reports of straggling and misconduct through mistake as to their organizations, the chief quartermaster will furnish, without delay, the following badges to be worn by the officers and enlisted men of all regiments of 1863. the various corps mentioned. They will be securely fastened upon
the centre of the top of the cap. The inspecting officers will at all inspections see that these badges are worn as designated.
First Corps — a sphere: red for the First Division; white for the Second; blue for the Third.
Second Corps a trefoil: red for the First Division; white for the Second; blue for the Third.
Third Corps - a lozenge: red for the First Division; white for the Second; blue for the Third.
Fifth Corps — a Maltese cross: red for the First Division; white for the Second; blue for the Third. Sixth Corps
- a cross: red for the First Division; white for the Second; blue for the Third. (Light Division, green.)
Eleventh Corps - a crescent; red for the First Division; white for the Second; blue for the Third.
Twelfth Corps — a star : red for the First Division; white for the Second; blue for the Third. The sizes and colors will be according to pattern. By command of Major-General Hooker,
Acting Adjutant-General. The division was reviewed by General Hooker to-day. Thursday, He was good enough to pay the Thirteenth a compliApril 2. ment, requesting the colonel to repeat it to us. It
served to strengthen the good-will we already held for him, and made us long for an opportunity to show him that we could act as well as we appeared.
From this time to the last of April we continued in camp at Fletcher's Chapel, attending to the usual routine of duties incident to camp life, such as guard-mounting, drilling, inspection, outpost duty, cutting and drawing wood, and fetching water. As a good deal of the wood had been cut away near us, we were obliged, before winter was over, to go nearly half a mile down the stream for a supply, lugging it on our shoulders to camp. The camp was situated on a point of land east of the residence of a Mr. Bowie, between two small streams running north and uniting a few hundred yards beyond. We had reviews by General Robinson and occasionally by other officers. On such occasions we shined and brushed up, that we might make as good an impression as possible. For amusement,
1863. advertisements were inserted in some of the Northern
papers, asking for correspondence with some young lady of matrimonial inclinations; to which the first mail brought about a peck of answers that were distributed among the boys. The same thing was done the previous winter while we were encamped at Williamsport. At that time answers came by the bushel. It was astonishing how many young women were so inclined. We got a good deal of fun out of this, which offset the disappointment that was experienced in “poker."
Ovens were built for baking bread, so that we lived on “softbread;" the size of each loaf being such that one was a day's ration of bread to each man. A single oven furnished the bread for a brigade, and was built as follows: Having first levelled and smoothed a place about eight or ten feet square, two half cylinders of sheet iron, four feet in diameter at the base line, were placed on the spot prepared, one end of the cylinder having a chimney attached. These semicylinders were short, so that you could lengthen or shorten your oven by attaching or detaching extra cylinders, the size of the oven depending on the number of men to be provided for. Having got the ovens in place, they were then covered with a foot or two of earth. By this means the men were provided with fresh bread each day. The bread was good while it was new, and made an agreeable change. A great improvement was noticed at this time in all our rations. In addition to this, we had condensed milk and other luxuries from the sutler, and occasionally boxes from home. Fresh meat was provided, and if you could make a deal with the butcher, you might secure a beef's liver or a heart; but as these were his perquisites, only the wealthy — men successful at poker - lived on liver, as the demand far exceeded the supply. The last week in February the chaplain arrived from Boston, bringing news and letters. As he came into camp the boys crowded round him shouting, “What came ye out for to see?” It amused the chaplain that we should recollect his old text. His joyous nature always brought a lot of sunlight into camp when he returned from one of his trips away.
Whether or not it was due to General Hooker, we are unable to say, though he was credited with it, an improvement in the quantity
1863. and quality of our rations was noticeable upon his taking
command. The harsh criticisms that were excited under Burnside by the tormenting pangs of an empty stomach were now undergoing the mellowing influence of abundance, which added very much to Hooker's popularity, always strong in the Army of the Potomac, with whom he was very much of a hero. The Army of the Potomac, while under Burnside, had become so demoralized by short rations and the severity of the “ Mud march " campaign, that desertions were of daily occurrence, as we noticed by the list of names that were read at dress parade. To offset this complaint a liberal number of furloughs were granted and with better rations confidence was soon restored.
Up to this time the officers had been allowed to retain wall tents, but the following order deprived them of that luxury and forced them into shelter tents. Opportunity had been afforded them from time to time, by non-arrival of the regimental wagons, to test their gracefulness in diving into a shelter.
HEADQUARTERS THIRTEENTH Mass. Vols.,
April 1, 1863. Company commanders, in accordance with previous orders, will turn into the A. B. Q. M., on or before 11 A.M., April 2d, all wall tents, flies and poles, and all other surplus camp and garrison equipage.
One shelter tent will be furnished to each commissioned officer.
Transportation (for line officers) will be furnished for five-mess kits only. Rations, cooking utensils, and all other appurtenances of each mess must be properly packed in one case not larger than a hard-bread box.
Trunks will not be carried, neither blankets nor shelter tents, on wagons.
Company books and blanks will be well packed in strong boxes and distinctly marked — the boxes to be of the size of company clothing books, and not over five inches deep in the clear.
The pack mules will carry one shelter tent, two wool and one rubber blanket for each officer, also (if possible) the officer's rations needed on the march.
Transportation to Washington will be furnished for all surplus private baggage, under charge of an officer detailed from the brigade.
The government still retained confidence in the private soldier's determination not to carry more than he wanted.