Friday, April 18, 2014

An immigrant's first taste of camp life in South Carolina (2)

Part one of Henry S. Hamilton's story is here.

The 3rd New Hampshire band. Henry Hamilton is the third cornet player from the right in front row. The picture is one
of many shot by Concord photographer Henry P. Moore at Port Royal, S.C. A chapter  in Our War tells Moore's story. 
 In the late spring of 1861, when Henry S. Hamilton arrived in Concord, N.H., war was all the talk. Southern secessionists had fired on Fort Sumter in April, and the young men of Concord were rushing to arms.

Closeup of Hamilton from
the photo above.
Hamilton was an immigrant from England and a veteran of the U.S. Army’s 10th Infantry Regiment. After duty in Minnesota and Utah, he came to Concord at the invitation of Joe Stark, an army buddy and a descendant of John Stark, New Hampshire’s Revolutionary War hero.

Stark had no desire to serve further in the military or to run the family farm. In 1860, a prospector named Elias Pierce had found gold in Idaho, then part of Washington Territory. With his new wife, Stark joined the rush for the gold fields on Nez Perce tribal land.

Had Stark not left, he might have faced the scorn of his fellow citizens. Hamilton described the atmosphere in New Hampshire’s war-obsessed capital in his memoir, Reminiscences of a Veteran: “As the stay-at-homes remarked, it required less courage to go than it did to remain at home.”

Hamilton had no home to stay in. A former bugler, he had joined a Concord band shortly after arriving to town. When he heard that the band-master, Gustavus W. Ingalls, was recruiting a 24-musician band for the 3rd New Hampshire Volunteers, he signed up. Like most of the 24, he played the back-firing cornet.

In August 1861, the regiment camped for training on a flat patch of the intervale just east of the Merrimack River in Concord. They did not have time to learn much, but camp life was eventful. A private from Laconia cut his throat with a razor for want of liquor, and another from Manchester nearly drowned bathing in the river. The men were issued gray uniforms and muskets with a promise of receiving Enfield rifles, which, as Hamilton noted, cost $23.50 each plus a shipping charge.

Col. Enoch Q. Fellows
Their colonel was Enoch Q. Fellows, a 36-year-old from Sandwich, N.H. He had gone to West Point (Class of 1848) but not graduated. Before the war he had served as doorkeeper of the state Senate and inspector at the Boston Customs House.

On Sept. 1, the regiment turned out for the first time in uniform and full gear. The sun was so hot that several men fainted and a few suffered sunstroke. Two days later, the regiment marched across the bridge and to the Concord train station to the music of its own band and the Concord Serenade Band.
Hamilton wrote of the regiment’s departure with bittersweet feelings:

“It was inspiring to witness the thousands of people, from all parts of the state, who had congregated in the streets and at the station – parents, wives, sisters, and sweethearts – crowding for a last kiss, a shake of the hand, and, with tears dimming many eyes, a last fond look at loved ones, whom they might never, (and in many cases did not) see again.

“I was much depressed at seeing such expressions of affection, for I knew that in that vast throng, not a pang and scarcely a thought was for me. Still, I was comforted by the assurance that across the ocean, in a little ivy-covered cottage by the sea, a fond mother daily prayed for the safety of her wandering boy.”

Just before the train pulled out, the Concord band played “Auld Lang Syne,” and well-wishers gave the regiment one more cheer. Hamilton was impressed with the flags waving in every city along the way until the 3rd reached Maryland. There “the American flag was conspicuous by its absence, and it was evident that disloyalty was rampant among most of the inhabitants.”

The regiment took a steamer to Port Royal, S.C., arriving on Nov. 7 after a voyage of 3½ weeks. Hamilton liked the look of the place. “It was only an island, but fertile and picturesque,” he wrote, “with its beautiful groves of Southern pine, magnificent live oaks, festooned with light green trailing moss, which is one of the pleasing features of a Southern forest, palmetto trees, more noted than beautiful, the stately magnolia, with its gorgeous and fragrant blossoms, groves of oleanders, orange and lemon trees, sea island cotton, sweet potatoes, corn, beans, peanuts, melons, and every kind of vegetable.” Amid all this lushness alligators, wood-ticks, fleas and mosquitoes also throve.

With a contraband cleaning boots to their right, three honchos of the 3rd New Hampshire band pose before the band-master's tent. The three are Gustavas W. Ingalls, the band-master, Samuel F. Brown, treasurer, and D. Arthur Brown, deputy band-master. The photo is by Henry P. Moore of Concord.
The men were marched to a 200-acre cotton field where the bolls were ready for picking. They destroyed the crop and pitched their tents. After making camp many men went out and foraged peanuts. The next morning they harvested oysters for breakfast from a nearby creek.

Hamilton and a few others took an excursion to investigate local plantations. The first three they visited had been looted, but they persisted. Six miles from camp, they found an abandoned plantation house still furnished. They took oranges from the trees in the yard. They dressed a sheep and lugged half of it back to camp. Hamilton carried off a few books and pictures.

This plantation house on Edisto Island served as Col. Enoch Q. Fellows's headquarters. (Henry P. Moore photo)
A short time later he went on a six-day reconnaissance mission headed by Lt. Col. John H. Jackson, a 46-year-old Mexican War veteran from Portsmouth, N.H. Hamilton acted as the party’s bugler.

The men went to several islands and to Bluffton, S.C., but encountered few enemy soldiers. They did bring back the usual haul of booty – a silk umbrella, a baby carriage filled with bedding and choice walking sticks. Henry Hill, the chaplain from Manchester, rode back to camp with a bag of curled hair. Hamilton, who took an ornament from the pulpit of a church, presumed Hill would use the hair to stuff a pillow.

In camp the men dug wells and hauled in palm fronts and branches for shade, but they could not ward off the diseases of a warm climate. Ingalls’s band played at many a funeral.

A back-firing cornet hanging from the tent pole, three members of Gus
Ingalls's band pose for Concord photographer Henry P. Moore.  
On some spring evenings the band played at the wharf on Edisto Island, where former slaves, now considered contrabands of war, were still working the plantations. The black workers gathered round, and on a signal from Col. Fellows, the band struck up “Dixie,” their favorite dance tune. It made “the contrabands fairly wild," Hamilton wrote. "For half an hour they would give vent to their feelings by the liveliest plantation breakdowns, contortions, and grimaces, to the delight of both officers and men.”

Hamilton knew the men in the ranks whispered about the musicians. “Sneering remarks are sometimes heard respecting regimental bands – how lazy and what a useless appendage they are – but let a regiment be deprived of music, if only for a short time, and their services are appreciated.”

Neither the infantrymen nor the horn-players knew that the ennui of camp life, looting raids and pleasant evenings of music were about to end for the 3rd New Hampshire. In mid-June of 1862, orders came for a major reconnaissance of James Island, near Charleston. The regiment’s war was about to begin.

Next: The battle of James Island and the end of Henry S. Hamilton’s war.

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