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2nd Vermont Infantry

Francis Finnegan



MARCH 26th

Our regiment left camp near Cloud's Mills on Sunday morning, and with the rest of Smith's division, marched to Alexandria, where we embarked onboard the steamer "Vanderbilt." It took several hours to get all the baggage on. We started a little before sunset and steamed down the river a short distance and cast anchor for the night. It was damp and chilly on the deck so nearly all were glad to obtain shelter between decks. We started next morning at day break and steamed down by the rebel batteries, now dumb and deserted.

When I went on deck we had got down where the river is wide and the water clear. The Virginia shore is rough and covered with Oak and scrub Pine, with now and then a splendid mansion with its domestic huts and rich plantation surrounding it. The Maryland shore is better cleared and more thickly inhabited. About noon we got to Chesapeake bay, where we could tell but little about the shore. All the way down, we met small sailing craft bound for Alexandria or the capital, mostly laden with government stores; we also met several steamers, each tugging 3, 4, 5,, and some 6 schooners; these will probably be used for transports. About sunset we got to Fortress Monroe, and got a glimpse of its frowning guns and massive walls, surmounted by a grassy parapet and watchful sentinels. We disembarked and bivouacked on the sandy beach, and slept quietly under the shadow of the celebrated structure. I was detailed to assist in unloading the baggage, so I did not get to sleep as soon as the rest. When the revelle drum called on us to fall in for roll call, we found that we had slept close to where the celebrated Union and Lincoln guns are mounted. They are mounted on the beach, close to the water's edge; the former is protected by a sand bag structure in front, while the latter stands unprotected. The gun attracts much attention as it is the largest calibre of any in the United States. I believe it is a smooth bore about 20 feet long and admits a 15 inch ball. The Union gun is about the same size on the outside, with almost a ten inch rifled bore, consequently it weighs about a ton and a half more than the Lincoln gun and throws a conical ball or shell nearly 3-feet long; its entire weighr is 52,005 pounds, and the sentinel who was guarding it said it took 75 pounds of powder to load it, and with a slight elevation it will range five miles. Some of the boys who rambled around, saw the " Monitor," lying out, watching the "Merrimac." I did not get a sight of the " cheese box".


Sinced I commenced the above, we have changed our camping place. On Thursday morning we started with two days rations in our haversacks, and marched up along the bank of the James River. When we had gone some twelve miles, we found the enemy's pickets, who fled on our approach, setting fire to a bridge on their retreat. The line of battle was formed in quick time. Our regiment was divided and thrown forward to skirmish in the woods. Col. Whiting and our Major went with the right wing. Our company is in the left wing, and under the charge of Lieut. Col. Stannard. I never saw Gen. Brooks so cool and gentle; he rode in front of us and gave directions to the skirmishers. The bulk of the troops stayed in the field, where formed into line while the skirmishers went out some two miles where they were told to stop, and after waiting we returned to where the troops were left, and rested for the night.

On Friday morning we retraced our steps about half way back to where we started from the day previous where we found a new camp laid out; our baggage had been brought up, and a few of the sick that were left had coffee ready. You may be sure the boys were well pleased with that part of the programme. We had expected a row with the rebels the day before, but were nicely disappointed. I think men never felt in better condition to fight than did our two little brigades that day. The weather is warm and pleasant through the day, although the salt water breeze is cold. At night we keep a good fire at our feet, so that we can keep comfortable. Yesterday and the day before, it rained pretty constantly, so that is was not so comfortable camping out on level ground as it might be. We cut deep drains around our little establishments, that keep us from floating off. When it rains, those who have no small tents, make houses with bent poles and rubber blankets, so all can get along well, if they only think so. We have seen soft bread only two or three times since we left Camp Griffin, but the men can live on hard bread when they get plenty of coffee to wash it down. Summer is close upon us; already the peach trees are in blossom, and the little schrubs are leaving out fast; the large bursting buds indicate that the large trees will soon be clothed in summer plume. This is a fine part of the country, but has been badly used for the last year. Between where we are encamped and Hampton Bridge I do not think six houses have escaped from "The torch of vandals." Where we go, fences share the fate to which the rebels consigned the richer property; in short the country is stripped clean. The water is rather poor here, but there is plenty of it.

I saw C.A. Reed the day before yesterday; he looked well as usual; also Hiram Earle and Vaness Lilley. Wm. Crowell has been a little unwell, and looks poorly, but not very sick at present. Philo Crowell is smart as ever. I saw R. B. Clevland, he is all straight now that the spring sunshine has cured his rheumatism and other ills.


P.S. Henry Daniels, from Eden, who enlisted as a recruit in our company last September, died at Alexandria of fever. I believe he had been sick six or seven weeks.

Submitted by Deanna French.

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