STORY OF A REGIMENT
A RECORD OF THE MILITARY SERVICE
FIFTY-SEVENTH NEW YORK STATE
WAR OF THE REBELLIN
1861 - 1865.
GILBERT FREDERICK, D. D.
LATE CAPTAIN 57TH N. Y. V. I.
WINTER AT FALMOUTH.
DECEMBER 20TH, 1862, TO APRIL 15TH, 1863.
By Order of the Secretary of War, By order of
AETER the battle excitement had fully past, we began to look forward again. An important addition had just come to our medical staff in the person of W. W. Potter, who had been assistant surgeon of the Forty-Ninth N. U. I. and now assumed the duties of full surgeon of the Fifty-Seventh. About this time also Captain J. C. Paine was transferred to the Signal Corps where he remained during the rest of the war, doing such efficient service that twice he received honorable mention from his superior officers and was brevetted Lieutenant-Colonel in the United States Signal Corps.
The Fifty-Seventh New York and the Fifty-Third Pennsylvania were assigned to provost duty at Falmouth under command of Colonel Zook. We were quartered in empty houses or barns. Companies B and C, for example, occupied the hay loft of a barn in which bunks were improvised and covered with straw. An old stove was secured and set up and the boys began light housekeeping. On Christmas day one of them made apple dumplings, using crushed crackers for flour, poik grease for lard and dried apples for stuffing. They were pronounced both elegant and excellent. The ingress to these palacial quarters was by the same route that Jack took to get to the top of the bean stalk. There was considerable picket duty to do along the river, the usual drills and parades and plenty of fatigue work.
A baker kept a store near our quarters selling what we called “india-rubber pies” made of flour, water and dried apples. These he sold for twenty-five and thirty-five cents each. It happened that an army sutler had smuggled some liquor into camp and some of the boys having stolen it, carried it to the baker’s shop for concealment and there with the baker they got happy and careless. The baker became so goodnatured that he invited us to help ourselves to anything we wanted. We did not want much, but did succeed in carrying off a barrel of flour, nearly as much of sugar and more of dried apples; Not to be too hard on this benevolent lover of his country’s protectors, we left the barrels and some other things we could not use. Boxes of good things began coming ‘to camp from home friends, most of their contents, from delay on the way, was too stale to eat, while that of others was in good condition. One box sent by Washington friends contained a ten pound turkey stuffed with oysters and packed in sweets. Everybody on the floor got a taste from this box.
While the Fifty-Seventh was yet at Falmouth, some officers were seen to go regularly into a certain store, so it was surmised there was something in the store worth going for, although what they carried out was not visible to the naked eye. Some of the men became over curious to know and determined to investigate. The most singular part of this story is thaj two different parties, one from each of the two regiments, entered the store on the same night, one by the front door and the other by the back door, without meeting or disturbing each other. The Fifty-Third boys carried away a stove, and the FiftySeventh a bag of potatoes. In the morning the burglary was discovered and the quarters of the two regiments searched. The stove was found but no potatoes were in sight. The saddest of all is that the Fifty-Third boys got credit for both thefts, had to give up the stove and do extra duty, but had not even a taste of the potatoes.
This provost duty ceased about the last of January, when we moved to a position some two miles distant from the town and put up log huts for winter quarters. One of these huts is described as eight logs high, covered with canvas, having a fire-place and chimney at one end. A bedstead was made as follows: Four crotched sticks were driven into the ground for posts, on these lengthwise were laid two stringers, and crossing them were smaller sticks which formed the spring part of the bed; on top of these, several inches thickness of pine boughs was laid which took the place of feathers, and the whole was covered with the army blanket. No Dives ever slept sounder or more comfortably on his bed of down than these soldiers slept here. About this time General Burnside reviewed the army, but there was a great contrast between this review and the last one of McClellan, as the latter was accompanied with incessant cheering, while in this not one cheer was raised.
The Mud-campaign began on the 2Oth of January but the Second Corps did not leave its camp. This wa Burnside’s attempt to cross the Rappahannock at the upper fords and attack Lee on his left flank. It failed on account of the condition of the roads but it would have failed worse had a battle been fought because of the lack of sympathy with the movement, as it was undertaken against the judgment of most of the generals. The army received pay at this time balancing accounts with the government up to November 1st.
There was now much talk of consolidation and great fears were entertained that by it all hope of promotion would vanish and all encouragement to special deeds of valor end. Many men, good and true, had worked long and had waited patiently for. advancement. It would be a poor incentive to service if it were the policy of the powers that be to consolidate rather than promote. The regiment that did the hardest fighting of course lost the most men, hence the chances for promotion were greater for those who remained but, if these regiments were to be consolidated because they were small, in other words because they fought well, this particular incentive to risk ones life would be gone. Stonewall Jackson said, “I can whip any army that is followed by a flock of cattle,” meaning that hungry soldiers will fight desperately for food. Judging from the way the rebels foraged and stripped our dead after a battle Stonewall Jackson was right, but how much better an incentive to personal valor is promotion than the filling of the stomach.
General Orders No. 8, issued January 23rd, 1863, by General Burnside, dismissed General Hooker from the service on account of insubordination, subject to the approval of the President, but the President did not approve. By the same order. General Franklin was relieved of his command in the Army of the Potomac. Two days after the following came from the War Department:
WAR DEPARTMENT, ADJT. GENERAL’S OFFICE,
GENERAL ORDER Washington, D. C., Jan. 25th, 1863.
GENERAL ORDER NO. 20
I. The President of the United States has directed:
1st. That Major-General A. E. Burnside, at his own request, he relieved from the command of the Army of the Potomac.
2d. That Major-General E. V. Sumner, at his own request, be relieved from duty in the Army of the Potomac.
3d. That Major-General W. B. Franklin be relieved from duty in the Army of the Potomac.
4th. That Major-General J. Hooker be assigned to the command of the Army of the Potomac.
II. The officers relieved above will report in person to the Adjutant-General of the Army.
E. D. TOWNSEND,
It was every where known that General Hooker was insubordinate; not so much that he would not obey orders as that he talked openly against his superior officers. It was also believed that General Franklin was luke-warm in his attack at Fredericksburg, and this feeling caused his removal. General Sumner was not well, in fact he was dead tw& months later; but what determined his request for release from the Army of the Potomac was less his health than the inability of its commanders and the disharmony of its generals. His retirement was greatly regretted by the Second Corps with which he had been from the beginning. They admired him as a general and loved him as a man. General Edwin V. Sumner was born in Boston January, 1796. He was therefore in his sixty-eighth year, an old man indeed to carry such responsibilities as he was bearing. He had done honorable service in the Mexican war, and was yet one of our ablest generals. When relieved from the Army of the Potomac he was placed in command of the Department of Missouri, but on his way thither was taken sick and died at Syracuse, New York, March 21st, 1863.
General Walker says of General Sumner that “borne down by increasing infirmities, retired forever from active operations in the field where he had borne himself with a courage, simplicity and magnanimity rarely seen in men, no one of his soldiers had ever imagined that the brave old man would die in his bed; but so it was, and within the brief space of three months, this life of stirring endeavor, of heroic devotion to duty, of daring enterprise and unshrinking exposure to danger, was to end peacefully at his home in Syracuse from mere exhaustion of the vital energy. In bidding farewell to his troops he had so long commanded, General Sumner said: . ‘I have only to recall to you the memory of the past, in which you have fought so many battles, with credit and honor always, in which you have captured so many colors without losing a single gun or standard; to urge that, keeping this recollection in your hearts, you prove yourselves worthy of it. It is only in so doing that you can retain for yourselves a reputation well won, and which, I feel, will be preserved under the gallant and able commander, MajorGeneral Couch, to whom I confide you.” It is said that among the last words General Sumner uttered were these:
“The Second Corps never lost a color or a gun.”
General Darius N. Couch, now in command of the Second Corps, was a small, delicate man, yet mentally able and energetic. He had won distinction on the Peninsula and now came to us from the First Division of the Sixth Corps. Of him it is said by the same authority that “Our great war brought out a wonderful wealth of manly valor, but in all the American armies, on either side, rode no man across the bloody spaces of the battle-field more calm and resolute. Danger never depressed or dulled his faculties. On the contrary it gave just that degree of stimulous which brought them into their keenest activities, and those only truly knew the man who heard his voice and looked into his eyes in the crisis of some terrible fight.” General Couch is to be our commander now until General Hancock succeeds him in June, 1863. He has already been at the head of the corps since October last, though only temporarily assigned to it. He has led us since Antietarn, but now assumes the permanent command.
The retirement of Burnside was not regretted. The men had no confidence in his ability to lead them to victory. They had much more confidence in General Hooker, for they had fought by his side and knew him to be able and brave. Whether he could command so large an army or not, remained to be seen. One thing we found he was a thorough disciplinarian, everything had to b€ done just right, and always promptly. It was he tha introduced the corps badges which proved so usefu during the rest of the war. The Second Corps trefoi was about the prettiest of them all, and the red was th€ prettiest of the trefoils. We became quite vain of thi5 badge before we were through with it. Colonel Zook is now a full brigadier, promoted because of good conduct oii many battle-fields, and we have great pride in him also.
On the endorsement of a furlough for one of the officers, dated February 25th 1863, Lieutenant-Colone Chapman says “There are 225 men present for duty and two absent on furlough.” The pickets along the river had become quite familiar by this time and used to keep up conversation and joke about matters very freely. It was a long while before the “rebs”, got over twitting us about our “Little Napoleon,” referring to General McClellan, and about our “Stuck-in-the-mud” campaign. Little boats were made, with sails and rudders, and in these were put newspapers, tobacco, coffee and other exchangeable articles, and passed back and forth. On April 6th, President Lincoln came down to visit the army and have a conference with General Hooker.
The last regimental changes recorded were those before the destructive battle of Fredericksburg. We are now on the eve of another battle, that of Chancellorsville. A. B. Chapman has been commissioned Colonel to rank from April 24th, 1863. Major J. W. Britt took rank as Lieutenant- Colonel from the same date, and Captain J. H. Bell succeeded to the Majorship on the death of Throop January 12th. Captain W. A. Kirk’s commission as Major is dated August 10th, but gives him the rank from April 24th. Geo. C. Case becomes Adjutant April 14th, and Stephen R. Snyder Quartermaster the same date; J. C. Bronson becomes Captain January 12th, G. Frederick takes Second-Lieutenants rank from February 23rd and Martin Brower from March 12th.
Many of the wounded of Fredericksburg are sufficiently recovered to be again in their places and are ready for another battle and other wounds. It seems strange but it is true that some men could not get near a battle without getting shot, while others would be in the thickest of every fight and not be scratched. The boys used often to say, on the eve of an . engagement, “I’m going to get a comfortable wound through the calf of my leg, just enough to give me a vacation for a month or two.” Poor fellows! many of them got a long vacation from the warfare of life, while others, after intensest sufferings, lived to be life-long cripples. It was a common expression also, “The bullet that is to hit me is not made yet,” and it was not uncommon for persons to have premonitions of death, as in the case of Colonel Chapman.
In the Second Corps, things had been considerably rearranged. Under Couch as commander of the Second Corps, Hancock, now Major General, leads the First Division, with Caidwell, Meagher, Zook and Brooke in charge of the four brigades in the order named. The Third Brigade has lost the Twenty-Seventh Connecticut and the Second Delaware,. and has in their place the One Hundred and Fortieth Pennsylvania, Colonel Richard P. Roberts. Battery B, First New York and C. Fourth United States is our artillery. Brigadier General John Gibbon, commands the Second Division of the Corps, and Major-General W. H. French, the Third Division. The strength of the regiment present for duty could not have been greater than two hundred and fifty, so heavy had been the losses from the various causes always at work for the destruction of an army.
The following order for muster will recall a constantly recurring duty of soldier life.
HEADQUARTERS FIFTY-SEVENTH N. Y. VOLS.
GENERAL ORDER NO. 4.
April 9th, 1863
The muster ordered for to-morrow will commence at 10 o’clock a. m. Company commanders will prepare two muster rolls, one for the Inspecting and Mustering officer and one to retain. Every man present in the division must appear at the muster, except the guard and prisoners and sick in hospital. All hospital attendants will appear, except those necessary to attend the sick during the muster. The Officer of the Day will prepare a list of men on guard and prisoners, and the surgeons a list of sick in hospital and hospital attendants not present at muster These lists will contain full name and company of the men, and present whereabouts, and will be handed to the Inspector. Besides a muster roll a list of names of all men of the company present with the army who’ are not present at inspection, stating in what service he is and where he can be found. In the case of detached men, the date of order must be clearly stated. Company commanders are enjoined to a strict compliance with these requirements.
LIEUT. LOL. CHAPMAN.
(Signed) Geo. C. CASE,
Lieutenant and Act-Adjutant.
By Order of the Secretary of War,
By order of
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