Tuesday, August 11, 2015

2. Making camp in Maryland, and a first march

Lithograph of Camp Casey shows the tents of the 4th Rhode Island Volunteers and the 5th New Hampshire Volunteers.
[Previous chapter is here]

On Nov. 1, 1861, the 41-year-old  bugler Cutler Edson awoke covered with frost. His regiment, the 5th New Hampshire, had reached its first camp near Bladensburg, Md., but had yet to pitch tents. The men had slept on their blankets after a meager meal.

This second chapter of the regiment’s story told through the diaries and letters of Cutler Edson and Eldad Rhodes covers the first three weeks of November 1861. Rhodes’s voice is still absent; he did not join the 5th until January 1862.

Brig. Gen. Oliver Otis Howard
Because of the Baltimore mob’s attack on Massachusetts soldiers six months earlier, the men knew about the divided loyalties of the people of Maryland. The 5th’s first long march and mission, described in Edson’s diary, concerned keeping the peace at an election in Marlboro, Md.

The camp where Edson and the 5th found themselves on the morning of Nov. 1 was named after the regiment’s division commander, Gen. Silas B. Casey. Edson called it “Camp Cacy” in his diary. Casey’s age and appearance disappointed him. The 54-year-old general had been in the army since graduating from West Point in 1826.

Along with the 4th Rhode Island Volunteers and two Pennsylvania regiments, the 5th was part of Casey’s first brigade, commanded by Brig. Gen. O.O. Howard, a Mainer. Edson appreciated Howard’s devout Christianity and went to the general’s tent for services whenever he could.

Howard reported to his superiors about the brigade’s early November excursion, which included ideological reconnaissance as well as the policing of the Marlboro election. “Throughout Calvert County I found very warm receptions from Union men and others,” Howard wrote. Only in Prince Frederick, Md., did his men face violent resistance, including a confrontation with Augustus R. Sollers, a former congressman.

Col. Thomas Welsh of the 45th Pa.
“He used the most violent and treasonable language, drew a large knife and cut to the right and left,” Howard wrote. “He was secured and brought in by Colonel Welch [Thomas Welsh of the 45th Pennsylvania] to Lower Marlborough where he was taken so ill with gout that I could not bring him but left him on his parole to report at Washington as soon as he is able to move.”

Howard described the mission as a 27-mile march over bad roads, difficult for new men. Because oats were in short supply, it was also hard on the horses. The general wrote that Col. Edward E. Cross of the 5th New Hampshire “did his duty well in marching and disciplining his command.”

Despite the threats from Southern sympathizers, the election in Marlboro ran smoothly except for the antics of several drunken men. The soldiers arrested them, but they were later released.

Here is how Cutler Edson experienced his regiment’s time at Camp Casey.

Cutler Edson’s diary (continued)

Friday Morning, Nov. 1:  arose this morning covered with a heavy dew and frost but he that never slumbers nor sleeps watched over us for good. we have bin very buisy to-day pitching our tents and getting redy for house keeping. we went about ½ a mile and gathered cedar boughs that we covered the bottom of our tent. then we went to a corn field where we got a few husks for husking which made us a very comfortable bead.

Saturday, Nov. 2: this is a very rainy day and the mud is so deep that it is hard getting around. in consequence we have not bin called on duty. at knight we had orders to take 2 days rations and make preperations for a march.

Sunday, Nov. 3: We started a march under sealed orders. where or how far we are going I know not but after commending myself to God I started. we started about 11 oc and marched 12 or 15 miles at what was called Oak grove where we camped for the knight, but being very tired and Rheumatism trubled me so that I got but little sleep.

Monday, Nov. 4, 1861: I am 42 years old to-day. We arose by day light this morning & traveled about 23 miles which made us very lame and tired. I thought at noon I must give out but after resting a while we went on and marched till after dark when we came to a grove where the Mass. Troops camped some time ago and left ther bow houses where we had a good knights rest.

Nov. 5, Tuesday: We remaned on the ground and rested us till Thursday morning 7th when we took up our march for Camp Cacy where we arrived Friday night pretty well jaged out but we accomplished our object and had great prais from the Colonel. the object of our going to Marlboro which was about 40 miles was to protect the Union men in there Election but they got along with out calling on us.* There was about 38,000 troops stationed along the line of the Potomac but the rebels did not dare venture over.

[Cross was indeed pleased with his men, writing to Gov. Nathaniel Berry of New Hampshire that they had done “nobly” on their first expedition.]

Saturday, Nov. 9:  we are not called on duty to-day and were having a good rest which is very acceptable. Friday night Nov. 8 we had Prayers in our tent for the first time which was a great blessing. thank God for religion which sustanes and comforts us under all circumstances.

Sunday 10: This has bin rather a solemn day in the Reg’t. 1 of our number died this morning and was buried to-knight. it was a young man about 18 years old, George Fifield. he used to be with the Shakers. Saw Bro Stubs on the parade ground to-day but had no chance to speak with him. I yet feele happy in God.*

[*The Enfield Shaker Village was founded near Mascoma Lake in Western New Hampshire during the 1780s. George Fifield, a private in Company C, was originally from Dorcester, N.H. Children came to the Shakers, who were celibate, by adoption, proselytization or indenture. “Bro Stubs” is possibly Rev. Robert S. Stubbs, a Methodist minister from New Hampshire who was a member of the U.S. Christian Commission. Stubbs had preceded the 5th’s Chaplain Wilkins as pastor of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Manchester, N.H. In early 1861 he was a pastor in Claremont, N.H.]  
Monday 11: commenced to-day to practice 4 hours a day.* went out and gathered grass for our bed.

[*Bugle practice.]

Tuesday, Nov. 12: this has been a very fine day. truly this is a beautiful country with a mild climit, but Oh! the curse of Slavery. if it was not for that it would be a good place to make a home. I attended a prayer meeting in the Chaplins tent to-knight. had a very good time.

Wednesday 13: this day seamed like a June day in N.H. & this Eve is very mild. J.P. Hale* was on the ground today.

[*John Parker Hale was an antislavery U.S. senator from New Hampshire.]

Nov. 15: the funeral of Mr. Heath* took place this after noon. it was a Solemn time. It is solemn to bury our friends at home but much more so in the Army. Oh! how I wish all this Reg’t war Christians. The to die would be gane.

[Pvt. Samuel A. Heath, 18, of Gorham, N.H., had died of disease the previous day.]

Nov. 16: this has bin a cold blustering day and it has dried up the mud of yesterday so that it is quite comfortable getting around. I have rec’d a letter from my dear wife to-day which has bin very comeforting to me. Oh! how good it is to have sympathising friends. I expect some day to go home to see them. my trust is yet in God.

Sunday, Nov. 17: this has been a good day for my sole. Had preaching in front of the Generals quarters by Bro Stubs from Acts 10-26 I also am a man. he preached good and to the point after which General Howard made a speech which was rec’d by the Christian Men in our Reg’t with gratitude. he is a Christian man and I believe his talk will do us much good. I hope his admonitions will be headid in the eve prayer meeting in the chaplins tent. it was crowded full and many standing with-out that could not get in. when our good General came along and invited us to his quarters and have a meeting there was about 20 of us when where we was provided seats in a larg room in the old Seresps house. the General took the lead of the meeting by reading the Scriptures singing and prayer. he was very faithful to the soldiers in encouraging them to meat there God and the necissity of attending to it now. Mr Young* our drummer arose and declaired his determinations to be a follower of Christ. I hope he will go on till he finds peace in believing and joy in the Holy Ghost. We spent about 1 hour to-gether after which the General pronounced benediction & we retired.

[*This was E. Woodbury Young, the 21-year-old Company E. drummer from Lisbon, N.H.]

Monday 18: it is one month since I enlisted but it seams a good deal longer than that probably owing to the many changes that have taken place since that period.

Gen. Silas Casey, who had fought in the Seminole and Mexican wars.
Tuesday 19: the weather has bin quite warm today. General Casey was on the ground to-day and reviewed our and the 4 R.I. Regts. he is an old man small of stature and very plain looking. went to prayer meeting to-knight and felt my self more at home in Christ than I have since I left home. I believe the Lord is doing a good work in the Regt.

Friday 22: went out to play for my co. for the first time. hope I shal make it go better next time.
Saturday 23: Saturday is a day for cleaning up and washing to prepare for Sunday. went out this after noon for a general review. Recd a letter from my good wife. thankful to here from home sweet home.

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