Saturday, August 22, 2015

5.'it blew pritty much all knight but God preserved me and my little tent. bless his name' -- Cutler Edson, 5th NH

[Previous chapter]

March 29, 1862, was the 5th New Hampshire Volunteers’ third day of hard marching near Manassas, Va. The men had hunted their supper – hogs, cows and fowl. An afternoon snowstorm howled into evening. Cutler Edson, a company bugler, wrote in his diary: “this begins to feele some thing like Soldiering.”

Gen. George B. McClellan
For a regiment that had been in the field for nearly five months without fighting a battle, the tramping around, sleeping tentless in bad weather and living off the land turned out to be valuable training for harder days ahead.

This is the fifth chapter of the story of the 5th New Hampshire’s first 15 months as experienced and recorded by Edson and Sgt. Eldad Rhodes. The men’s paths will cross after the Battle of Antietam, but even now their diary entries and letters march to the same beat.

This chapter takes them from their winter home at Camp California through several marches into the Virginia countryside. It closes as they prepare to depart on Gen. George B. McClellan’s Peninsula campaign.

Although there was impatience in some quarters for McClellan to take his mammoth Army of the Potomac into action, he was smart to take his time. Soon enough the 5th would learn whether McClellan’s deliberate ways worked as well when he shipped his marvelous army out to confront the enemy.  

Cutler Edson’s diary

Wednesday Feb. 19, 1862: played at the Generals.* recd a letter from wife. was very glad to here from home once more. Sent home my old diary & a lot of old letters today. have felt very much proffited by reading the beauty of holiness. it is like food to a hungry man. I feele that my whole trust & confidence is in my Savior.

[*Oliver O. Howard, the brigade commander.]

Thursday 20:  Skirmish drill this fournoon. Brigade review this after noon. recd 2 papers from Wife.

Gen. O.O. Howard
Friday 21: had a good time on Skirmish drill. Visited the graves of some of our Soldiers. 17 graves. 2 of them have good Marble Slabs. one bars this inscription: “he was a good Soldier and always don his duty.” I wish it could be said truithfuly so of every Christian. recd a letter from Sister Abbie. Wrote to my good wife.

Eldad Rhodes’s diary

Friday, Feb. 21, 1862: we drilled to day all day. had a hard drill in the afternoon under Gen Howard. expect a grate time tomorrow.

Cutler Edson’s diary

Saturday 22: this is the birth day of the father of our Country. it has bin a holly day with us. his fairwell address was read By General Howard. the Manchester Batery was here and we had a great time. recd a leter from wife & Bro Folsom.

Sunday 23: attended meeting in the 64th NY. enjoyed it very much. have not had the privaleg of the kind in some time. one woman present and prayed, a sight I have not seen for more than 4 months.

Monday 24: General inspection. the hardest rain and hail storm I ever new. it was so severe that we did not get threw inspection. went back to our tents till it cleared up then went out again and before we had time to form a line the wind blew a perfect gail and in a few moments half of our tents were blown flat to the ground. the gail was so powerful that the men could not keep there places and the line was soon broken up and the men got back to there quarters the best they could. 

we wated till 4 OC then went out by companyes and past inspection but it was with difficulty that we marched to the parade ground and back again. it blew pritty much all knight but God preserved me and my little tent. bless his name.

Eldad Rhodes’s diary

Monday, Feb. 24, 1862: Capt Brown has resigned and is going home. Lt Rice is Capt*; we went out for inspection rain and sleet soon came on and we came to Camp. Soon a heavy wind arose and blew every tent in the Regt down with some 10 exceptions.

[*Col. Edward E. Cross had removed Capt. Edmund Brown for incompetence. Lt. Thomas J. Rice, a 33-year-old Bostonian, was transferred from another company and promoted to captain.]

Tuesday 25:  we were buisy in the forenoon repairing damages; – had a drill in the afternoon under Howard. had a hard drill.

Wednesday 26: we had a drill in the forenoon under Capt Rice in the bayonet exercise. had a brigade drill in the afternoon under Howard.

Cutler Edson’s diary

Wednesday 26: skirmish this fore noon. Battalion Drill after noon. gave calls at the Generals. washed my cloaths. done some sowing and so fourth.

Thursday 27: rained hard most all knight but cleared off this morning and the wind is blowing very hard. no drill today. preparing to go on picket to morrow. Wrote to Bro Folsom and sent a paper home.

Letter, Cutler Edson to Mr. and Mrs. Horace F. Folsom

[From Camp California, Fairfax Co., Virginia, Feb. 27, 1862]

Our religious privaleges here are very limited. We have had no religious meeting here for a long time but we expect our Chaplain back soon, then I am in hopes our meetings will revive again. I think we might have had them all the time if he had left it with some one to go on a head and took the lead. I keep up our family devotions which I think has proved a great blessing to me & my little tents company. . . .

When we was on picket last I thought it was the last time that we should have that duty to perform but our turn comes tomorrow again. We are to start in the morning and before our time there expires, we expect to advance on to Manassus with about 160 Regts, which will average about 800 each. This will make a large armey. I hope the sight of so large a force will be sufficient to subdue the rebels there without the use of Shells & Ball, but if not we shall give them a few portions of the latter which has not failed in a single instance of cureing since this year commenced.

We are quite buisy in camp today getting ready for a start and you must excuse a short epistle this time. I send a picture of our noble General in this to my folks. Please forward it with my love to them all. My health is very good and I feele glad that we are going to advance.

Cutler Edson’s diary

Friday 28: Went on picket this morning   Went as far as Edsels hill in to the woods where we made us some shanteys and built fires and made our selves quite comefortable. it was pritty cold but we ware warm enough. marching got here about noon. cold windy knight but we managed to sleep comefortable.

Eldad Rhodes’s diary

Friday 28: We were inspected early and started on picket on Edsels Hill; we reached our place of destination at noon 9 miles from Fairfax CH. we went to see the carcus of a dead negro who was laying unburied half a mile from our quarters. he was a notorius murderer of our pickets but finally was shot, his just deserts.

Saturday, March 1: we were relieved about 11 oclock and marched back to the head quarters of the Regt.

Cutler Edson’s diary

Saturday March 1: Companyes that did not go on duty yesterday are drilling this fore noon in Manuel exercise. likewise this after noon. it is quite pleasant here by our large camp fire this eve as the stars shine bright above us

Sunday 2: this seams but little like Sunday here in the wilderness. Snows hard this after noon and we have to remodle our house to keep the wet out. recd a letter from home yesterday which was very comforting to me. the men are haveing a great game of Snow balling. better be reading there Bibles.

Eldad Rhodes’s diary

Sunday, March 2, 1862: We were buisied in preparing for inspection. it began to snow in the afternoon –  we had a grate time snow balling with Co G. we rather worsted them. I think the storm turned to rain in the night; -- a stormy night ensued.

Cutler Edson’s diary

Monday 3: Started this morning for the picket line. it is moved a little bit nearer the rebbels than when we was out before. we had a very bad uncomefortable time. it rained most all knight and our bow houses wet threw so that it was about as bad for us it would have bin out doors. we got but little sleep and come out feeling the worst for wair.

Tuesday 4: went back to Edsels hill this after noon where we found the rest of the regt had advanced on the enimy and our orders ware to follow them in ½ an hour. We did so and we camped at Springfield Station in the grove for the knight where we built bough howeses and fires for our comefort. just recd a letter from Bro Jewett stateing the death of Father which took place on Sunday the 23 day of feb. thus our friends are passing away. I know not how soon it may be my turn. Oh Lord prepare me for the Change. had a good cup of tea & feele pritty well. wrote to wife & sent Jewetts letter.

Eldad Rhodes’s diary

Wednesday, March 5, 1862: We were on our post near old Dangerfields farm. we are in the forest near the New Jersey boys pickets.

Welcome A. Crafts, Rhodes's lieutenant
Thursday 6: We were on our post all day. Crafts* and others went out and killed 3 sheep and a wild Hog; we had half a sheep for our portion cooked by our Camp fire. had a fine supper.

[*Lt. Welcome Crafts of Company B]

Friday 7: did not have any thing to eat but a small dipper of beans. Oh a glorious time is this serving ones country in this manner – all is quiet by Camp fire.

Cutler Edson’s diary

Friday 7: Stayed here in the woods all day in the Smoke which was very bad for our eyes. all quite till 10 OC at knight when the drum beat the long role, a sign of trouble, and our Regt was on a line in 5 minutes. we went on double quick aboute a mile and drew up in line of battle expecting every moment to have a fight as our men ware ordered to load and cap there guns very carefuly. We stoped here about 10 minets with out seeing any thing to fight with and then ordered back to our camps. we were gon about 1 hour and glad to crawl in to our beds again.

Saturday 8: Started back to Camp California which we reached about 2 OC having walked about 12 miles. was glad to get home after being out 8 days. a rather tough time on the whole. we have rebuilt the Brige over [missing] that the rebels distroyed and repaired the road to Birks Station. recd a letter from wife.

Sunday 9: a very pleasant morning.  good Baked Beans for Breakfast. they went well after living on hard crackers & raw pork for several days past. Just recd a viset from James Pearson & Marcus Bartlett from Lawrence. very glad to meat old friends here in a strange land.

Eldad Rhodes’s diary

Sunday 9: we had an early inspection; I went over to the brick Hospital and had a pleasant time; – everything passed off finely. – we are aprehensive of marching soon

Monday 10: We were rousted up at 1 OC and ordered to march at 6 OC to the front. we marched all day through rain and mud without any thing to eat at all. we marched about 20 miles and encamped on a large field with Turners Division and cavalry and batteries; – laid on the ground.

Cutler Edson’s diary

Monday 10: at ½ past 1 this morning had orders to pack up every thing that we wanted to carry and be redy for a march at 6 oc. all in readyness at the time, we bid farewell to our home at Camp California probably for ever. we left all our tents and shal have to live with out them. it seams sad to leave our old home and to go we now not where, but it is for that we came here and I for one wish to answer the end for which I came here. the whole division started. we marched towards centervill. rained all the fore noon which made it very muddy and hard marching. we marched about 15 miles and camped on Brimstone hill some 2 or 3 miles from centervill.

Tuesday 11: rose this morning feeling pritty old but after stirring round a while and drinking a good cup of coffee and eating sum nice rost Pig that we captured we began to feele quite like our selves agan. then we heard the news that Center Vill and Fairfax ware evacuated which gave us new joy. the country threw which we past is mostly forest with now and then a scatering house which is evacuated. at 11 oc we had orders to march. we went in the direction of Manassus. halted about 3 OC. camped for the knight I understand in about 5 miles of Mannassus. it has been a beautiful day and I have enjoyed it very well except being a little lame carrying my lode which is heavy.

Wednesday 12: We rose this morning at ½ past 4 and made ready for a start a little past sun rise.  marched to union mills 3 miles from Manassus where we encamped. our march thus far has bin short to day and we performed it with ease. this has bin a very strong hold for the rebels but they evacuated it last Sunday.

Thursday 13: Staid at union mills to day. about 30 contry bunds [contrabands: former slaves fleeing to freedom] came in to day. had dress perade last knight and to knight on the same ground that the rebels occupied last Sunday. they burnt the Bridges here. left conciderable provision. nocked in there molases barrels, tiped over there flower and meet barrels, crakers &c.

Ruins of the Henry House, a landmark in the first Battle of Bull Run. 
Eldad Rhodes’s diary

Thursday 13: Many contribands were brought in to day and some prisoners; – the genral aspect of affairs is pleasing; Mr Wilkins* arrived to night from N.H.

[*Elijah Wilkins, the 5th New Hampshire’s chaplain, had been on leave.]

Friday, March 14, 1862: I went out with Crafts, the Chaplain and others to the Battle ground of the 21st of July*; – saw many sights and wonders in Menassas. got back at night very tired.

[*First Bull Run. The battlefield was a popular destination for curious soldiers who had time to visit.]

Saturday 15: Weather very rainy. we having nothing but our rubber blankets. took as a natural consequence a severe drenshing; – had a thunder shower in the evening; we were wet to the skin.

Sunday 16: we left our encampment for Fairfax in the Morning. reached the Court House at 1 oc some 10 miles from our former camp; road very muddy. we were tired.

Cutler Edson’s diary

Sunday 16: Ordered back to Camp California. all those that could not keep up with the Regt on account of sickness to start first on the R.R. and if we got a chance to ride on the cars to improve it. I being of that number had a chance to ride for the first time since I came to Md. last fall. we walked some 3 or 4 miles where we found the cars and to our great satisfaction we got abord and landed at our old Camp a little before knight. about 60 of us found our tents mostly standing and occupied with another regt,  the 14 NY. but they gave us room which we were thankful for.

Monday 17: got up this morning feeling some better but after stirring round a while the pain in my head was quite severe. Washed out my cloaths and aranged my tent for house keeping agan. thers some 15 or 20 regts camped near here since we went off.

Eldad Rhodes’s diary
Monday 17: we were marched back from Fairfax C House to Manassas after dark last night; – who would suppose that human power of endurance could endure it. Midnight found us at Manassas. Marched up to the Rebels Camp and occupied it.

Tuesday 18: We got a good nights rest in our new Camp, formally occupied by the bloody Rebels. We were much fatigued; - got two letters from Home.

Cutler Edson’s diary

Tuesday 18: 5 months to day since I enlisted. how fast time passes & how many have bin the changes in that short space. have suffered much with my head. it seems to grow harder each day but think it has got to its hight. wrote a few lines to wife.

Wednesday 19: laid abed most of the time till after noon and have suffered but very little pane. this evening feeling very well. recd orders to march back to our Regt to morrow morning which are at Manassus Junction. have bin bakeing hoecakes this eve to cary with me.

Thursday 20: left camp this morning for manassus to join our Regt. Marched to Springfield then took the Cars and rode to with in 1 mile of Union Mills where we got out of the cars and marched about 3 miles where we found the rest of the Regt well quartered in rebel Baracks. I stood the journey very well.

Friday 21: a hard sick day. took an immettick which keep me up till 12 oc. got a very little rest.

Saturday 22:  got up about 10oc this morning feeling a little better but rather feeble for a soldier. think I shal be better in a few days. a good many complaining. think the watter is bad & all camp unhealthy.

Eldad Rhodes’s diary

Saturday 22: we remained in Camp as usual; 25 men from each Co went out in the afternoon to build a Bridge.

Sunday, March 23, 1862: had Co inspection in the Morning, and divine service in the afternoon; – I hope we soon may move from this unhealthy disagreeable place.

Cutler Edson’s diary

Sunday 23: health the best to day for 2 weeks. for this I cannot feele grateful enough. Searman in the field by Bro. Wilkens, the first I have heard for a long time. it was refreshing to my hungry sole. think this is a very fertile country but it is cursed with Slavery. God grant that this sin may soon be blotted out. Wrote to my good wife.

Tuesday 25: recd a letter from home this morning and wrote and sent one back by Mr. Walcut. then we had order to march. packed up and started about 9 oc. passed threw Manassus junction. saw the distruction of the place that happened when the rebels left. they burnt there stors – could not take with them – and most of there houses. from there we went about a mile and camped for the night

Eldad Rhodes’s diary

Tuesday 25: Had orders to march; – started and passed Manassas Junction at 11, encamped for the night 2 miles below the Rail Road; there was about 30000 men encamped near us.
Wednesday 26: Started at 9 OC down the Road. Marched about 12 miles through variable country, now fording streams, now diving through thickets and anon over level fields; – encamped quite tired; – a hard days march.

Ashby graveyard at plantation.
Cutler Edson’s diary

Wednesday 26: Started this morning at 7 oc. & marched towards the Blue ridg. passed some beautiful plantations, one belonging to Mr Snow formerly from Claremont. he went with us some ways. built our Bridges as we went along. Mr Snow was Major when in NH. Marched about 12 miles, waded a river and camped on the rebel Kernels Ashby Plantation in Prince Williams Co. it is a very nice place, good enough for a union man. built our cabins and turned in & had a good nights rest.

Thursday 27: a very pleasant morning. took up our line of march about 9 oc. marched till most knight. drove in the rebels there about 10. Shels towards warington. Made our coffee, eat our hard crackers & raw pork, spred our blankets on the ground and lade our selves down for rest.

Friday 28: ordered to leave our over coats and go in advance to day. Started this morning about ½ past 9 neare Warington junction. quite warm. grass and grain begins to look quite greane. our camp lay about South. about 10 Oc. drove in the Rebel pickets and pursued them till about knight where we had a sharp engagement. drove them over the Rappahanack where they made a stand and fired several cannon balls at us but none took affect, our artilary returning the compliment throwing about 50 Shells which made the rascalls scatter like sheep. after dark returned about 3 miles and camped.

Eldad Rhodes’s diary

Friday 28: Started in the morning. In advanced guard of Howards brigade. have drove the Rebels 8 miles, shelled them occasionally, reached the river, was fired upon by a Rebel Battery, occupied a hill and supported a Battery while they scattered a Regt of Cavalry. 3 miles from the river the Rebels burned everything

Saturday, March 29, 1862: We awoke much refreshed but hunger began to tell on us we marched back to the Junction; –  our troops all the while collecting cattle and killing pigs got back at last very tired and Hungry. a cold rain set in to add to our misery.

Cutler Edson’s diary

Saturday 29: returned to Warington junction taking a large lot of cattle which we forwarded to head quarters. took Hogs Sheep Fowls &c. got in a little past noon in a Snow Storm. Snowing and rain all knight which made it very bad and uncomfortable. this begins to feele some thing like Soldiering.

Eldad Rhodes’s diary

Sunday 30: Weather very rainy and disagreeable. we were in the mud with no further shelter than what our rubber blankets afforded us; – and without much to eat; – a severe storm is this way down here in Dixie; – my thoughts wander to the far North and home and friends seem doubly dear.

Monday 31: quite a change is taking place in our Reg. we are still in the mud here without anything to eat and no progress towards any; – at last hard crackers were delivered to us; – and we dont know how long hunger tells upon us.

Cutler Edson’s diary:

Monday 31: I went out and played for the Sharp Shooters which they are organising out of this division.

Tuesday Apr 1: packed up and started for Alexandria. marched most to Manassas Junction where we camped for the knight with but very little to eat. forded 3 rivers and was wet cold and tired and hungry.   When we got here our co was ordered on picket. our head quartors got a lot of Wheat  Stacks. we collected a lot of rails, built some good fires and dried our selves. Went  out and shot a few pigs. dressed and roasted. they made us a little coffee and began to feele quite chearful after which we camped down amongst the Wheat Stacks. the best beds we had sean since we  left home and after commending our selves to God soon forgot our troubles.

Wednesday 2: Went out and shot a lot more pigs for breakfast and drew hard crackers enough for 2 days. left here about 10. Marched about a mile & ½ and stopped at Manassas junction and camped here. we got our male, 2 letters from home & from Bro Gordon a town report. very thankful.
Fortress Monroe near the end of the Virginia Peninsula
Eldad Rhodes’s diary

Wednesday 2: Awoke after a good nights rest on the ground much refreshed; Oh my country canst thou not feed thy faithful Children who are laboring to rebuild what thieves and vandals have destroyed; hard bread came at last, and we marched up to the Junction, encamped for the night. take train tomorrow.

Thursday 3: We got aboard the cars and went down to Alexandria. after much trouble; – we encamped in the suburbs of the City on the ground; – are to take the bote tomorrow for Fortress Munroe.

Cutler Edson’s diary

Thursday 3: Birds singing smartly. they seam to be praising God with there little voices;  how beautiful the passage let everything that hath breath praise the Lord. took the cars about 2 oc  but did not start till about 5. arrvd at Alexandria about 8. made us a cup of  coffee. spred out blankets on the green grass and slept sweetly.

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