Tuesday, September 8, 2015

10. 'we are growing dainty on hard bread and tainted pork'

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The 5th New Hampshire Volunteers idled at Harrison’s Landing on the James River for nearly a month and a half. It then marched to Newport News and steamed back to Aquia Creek, a Union depot on Potomac River tributary. This journey ended the Peninsula campaign.

Gen. John Pope
The regimental commander, Col. Edward E. Cross, who had been recuperating at home in Lancaster, N.H., from his Fair Oaks wounds, rejoined the 5th just before its voyage. He found his officers and men dispirited, tired and homesick. “A great battle would not have damaged us more,” he wrote to a friend. A staunch Democrat, he blamed not McClellan but the Lincoln administration for the failed campaign.

In fact, McClellan had botched his own grand plan. He had also abandoned it so deliberately that, most likely by design, his army arrived too late to help Gen. John Pope at the second Bull Run battle in late August.

This segment of the story of the early months of the 5th New Hampshire as told through the eyes of two soldiers begins on July 12, 1862, with our protagonists in different places. Cutler Edson, the bugler, is camping with the regiment at Harrison’s Landing. Sgt. Eldad Rhodes is in Union Hospital in Georgetown recovering from his July 1 foot wound at Malvern Hill.

Their moods also diverged. Until a crackdown on peddling, Edson reveled in the commercial opportunities of camp life. Rhodes, meanwhile, became increasingly bored, then bitter about medical care for Union soldiers.

Cutler Edson’s diary

Saturday 12: Bought a few Lemons and a few pounds of Sugar which I made into Lemon aid which sold very readily which I cleared a little something.

Sunday July 13=1862: General inspection but on account of my head not being very clear did not go out.
Gunboats on the James River protected McClellan's army at Harrison's Landing
Monday 14: Sold Maple Sugar & Lemon Aid on which I made tolerable well. my health has bin better. have just recd letters from home, No 35, and Sister Abbie & Bro Folsom by the way of A. Comins* which came in to day. he brot likewise the picturs of my 5 children. how can I expres my gratitude, it cannot be done. it affordes me a great deal of comefort to look upon those once familear faces which have but very little changed since I last beheld and took my farewell leave of them most 9 months ago. hope I shal greet them again before 9 months passes.

[*Like Edson, Albert G. Cummings, a lieutenant in the 5th, lived in Enfield, N.H. He had been wounded at Fair Oaks on June 1 and gone home to recuperate.]

Tuesday 15: this has bin another buisy day with me. sold 9 pales full of Lemon aid and a lot of Stationary. no war news and everything seams quiet in camp.

Wednesday 16: this has bin a grand day for my Lemon Aid business. cleared a handsome profit. we were mustered to day for our pay.

Thursday 17: Wrote a letter to wife, then went to making and seling Lemon Aid. it has bin quite warm and a thunder shower at knight as usual. buisness seams quite brisk. quite a number have bot stuf of the sutler and have gone to pedling.

Friday 18: 9 months to day since I enlisted in the Army. varyous have bin the changes since then but the good Lord has wonderfully sustained me and led me in paths I know not of and I still feele willing to be led by him for I know he doith all things well. Sold about 12 dollars worth of dryed apple for 25 cts per pound and 20 dollars worth of Lemonaid. recd a letter from Bro Jewett.

Saturday 19: Wrote to wife and sent her 50 dollars by express. recd a letter from her, No 36. was glad to learn that she had heard from me since we left before Richmond. have made and sold 20 dollars worth of Leamonaid. I feal very greatful that I can earn something besides the small wages that the government alows me.*

[*A private’s pay was $13 a month.]

Letter from Cutler Edson to his wife

Datelined Harrison’s Landing, Va., July 19, 1862, to “My dear Wife”

God has wonderfully prospered me of late in worldly matters so that I am enabled to send you fifty dollars. Take of this what you want for your own comfort and pay debts with the rest. There will be 18 dollars due Mr Meril sometime in August for interest on our place. it can be paid any time. When you pay Sister Strong take out the 8 dollars and give them Crosses recpt.

My health is quite good. Oscar Collins health is poor but he is so that he is about. Ezra Aldrich health is poor, has been ever since he had measles at Camp California. He lost his spunck then and never has regained it. The rest of our ackuantance about as usual.

No particular war news of late. every thing seams very quiet around here. There is great demand for Lemonaid here and I have permission to make and sell what I please. Yesterday I sold about 12 dollars worth of dries apple. This with my other dutyes keeps me pretty buisy but I am good for it yet.

Have just recd yours of the 15, No. 36. I shall write to Bro Folsom to you soon in regard to a lot in the Cemetary. I don’t want any one to turn in our lot after it is mowed but I must close praying God will abundantly bless you all with health and spiritual blessings. Yours with much live – Cutler Edson

Edson’s diary, Sunday 20: this has bin a day of rest for me. it is what I much neaded. I am glad I ever learned to observe the sabath as a holy day and a day of rest both to the body and sole. my health has greatly improved  for a week past & I am feeling quite well now. bless God for health Spiritual  & Temporal. no religious exercises to day but I have enjoyed my self very well here in my little tent. am glad that I am not wholy dependant upon human aid to guide me to heaven, but that I have the privalege of comeing direct to the fountain from whence flows all neaded blessings. Oh I thank God for the comefort that the religion of Jesus Christ affordes me. It makes me happy and contented here in this distant land away from dear kindred friends and home and all that I hold dear on earth. it also removes from me the fear of death when at times it has almost seamed to stair me in the face.

Monday July 21: in camp at Harrisons Landing. wrote to Bro Jewett yesterday. wrote to wife to day. made & sold 18 pales full of Lemonaid which came to 25 dollars. this has bin a good days work. Bro Strong came back here last knight. his coming was quite unexpected. was glad to see him looking so well. commenced playing all the general calls and the Regt drill 2 hours a day.

Eldad Rhodes’s diary

Monday, July 21, 1862: A year ago to day the battle of Bull Run was fought which proved so desasterous to our cause. my foot much worse. walked too much yesterday.

Tuesday 22: Still worse. my foot badly swolen and very sore.

Edwin Vose "Bull" Sumner,  born in 1797 and the oldest
field commander in the war, was the 5th's corps commander.
Cutler Edson’s diary

Tuesday 22: Grand review of General Sumners Corps, 48 Regts I think. Sold Lemonaid as usual. recd a letter from home, No 37.

Wednesday 23: All peddling in the Regt forbidden except by the sutler. went out and washed my cloaths. wrote to my good wife.

Saturday 26: this has bin pay day in our regt – sent home 45 dollars by the commitioner Sanbern. it has bin a buisy day in camp with the boys collecting and paying debts.

Sunday 27: Inspection as usual. Recd a letter from wife No 38 for which I am very greatful. should like to be at home to quartily meeting to day but shal have to wate a while longer.

Monday 28: wrote to wife for a shirt. moved our quartors a few rods to make room for a new tent for Davis & I alone. this is much pleasanter.

Tuesday 29: a review of Gen Richardson Division by Gen. French. Spent the most of the day in reading religious book. thank God for Salvation.

[This is the end of Rhodes diary, although he will rejoin this account with a couple of letters. It is nearly certain he continued to keep the diary; perhaps the rest of it was lost.]

Eldad Rhodes’s diary (from Union Hospital in Georgetown)

Tuesday 29: Nothing very exciting is going on here. foot better.

Wednesday, July 30, 1862: Went to Washington to get my pay yesterday. could not get it. Pay Master gone.

Friday, Aug. 1: A good many are going to their Regts to day. a good many got discharged.

Saturday Aug. 2, 1862: Still in Hospital. Weather warm. foot better.

Monday 4: Quite a number were sent away to day to their regiments.

Tuesday, Aug. 5, 1862: Nothing further to day happened more than common. The same old round of affairs.

Wednesday 6: Hospital life begins to grow wearisome – no better.

Thursday 7: Patients are doing well generally, my foot about the same.

Friday, Aug. 8, 1862: Went to Washington to day, – with Sergt Ripley. went up to the Capitol grounds.

Saturday 9: Was appointed ward master and took my position. a good deal of trouble it is if I am allowed to judge.

Sunday 10:  Oweing to Stantons* order all the attendents will be sent to their Regiments tomorrow, I among them.

[*Edwin M. Stanton, secretary of war. I could find no specific order to which Rhodes’s diary entry might refer, but an obvious imperative in army hospitals was to get able soldiers back to their regiments as soon as possible.]

Monday, Aug. 11, 1862: We were huddled up to Washington in the morning to the Soldiers Retreat. it is a miserable lousy place.

Tuesday 12: Still in the Hospital Soldiers Rest; – a miserable place this.

Wednesday 13: Got out of the old Hog pen and went up to the City and got my pay.

Thursday, August 14, 1862: Remained in the Hog pen all day. Soldiers arriving and leaving daily.

Friday 15: Went out on the same pass that I did on Wednesday; just altered the date and went up to the City to the Smithsonian Institute.

Saturday 16: went up to the City in the afternoon.

Sunday August 17, 1862: We left the hospital Soldiers rest in the morning for the wharf, took boat to Alexandria and marched up to fort Elsworth* and pitched tents.

[*Named or Elmer Ellsworth, an early martyr of the war who had been killed in the city, Fort Ellsworth stood on Shuters Hill in Alexandria.]

Monday 18: We were in Camp all day milking cows &c. everything quiet.

Wednesday 27: Weather very warm. we left our Camp on the Hill back of Alexandria at 6 and marched down to the wharf and embarked on a miserable old tug boat for Aqua Creek.*

[*Aquia Creek was a Union supply and transportation depot on a Potomac tributary.]
Thursday 28: Awoke and found ourselves aground off Ft Washington.* a long time was spent in getting off. Several large transports passed us loaded with troops. Got to Aqua Creek at 2.

[*Fort Washington, which guarded the federal capital, was on the Potomac River.]

Clouds Mill (photo by James Larkin of the 5th)
Friday, August 29, 1862: We arrived in Alexandria last night from Aqua creak. left the Boat this morning for our camp on the Hill – Our Division I hear is in camp at Clouds Mills.*

[*Although he did not say so, Rhodes must have noted the irony of a possible return to Clouds Mill, Va., which was near Camp California, the 5th’s training ground before the Peninsula campaign.] 

Saturday 30: Weather rainy. remained in camp. our Corps went up to Chain bridge last night; – A fight is expected or is going on at Bull Run.*

[*The 2nd Battle of Bull Run was another Union defeat.]

Sunday 31: We hear news from the big fight at Bull Run. Conflicting rumors. cannot get any authentic information from any where. Still in Camp.

Monday, September 1, 1862: Weather cold and rainy. fighting still going on. went down to Alexandria. saw many wounded soldiers from the late fight. Many left for their Regiments or elsewhere to day.

Tuesday 2: Still in Camp. we were divided into Companies to day. everything looks like our Army falling back.

Wednesday 3: I got a letter from home to day. Baggage wagons still coming in and straglers; – we are growing dainty on hard bread and tainted pork.

Next: Antietam

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