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Vermont Artillery
Third Battery Light Artillery
Diaries/Letters

Civil War Diary
Eugene W. Rolfe, Tunbridge,
3rd Vt. Light Artillery Battery

Thursday Sept. 1. [1864] [1864]

We arrived at Windsor at about 3 o'clock this morning, was just getting out of the cars, when Rich Smith stepped back to swear at a squad of men he was starting for New Haven, Conn. If it had not been for this he would have seen us and we should have lost this chance but out and went around the back side of the depot and so dodged all and after the train left we went up to the head of the street and went to bed, got up at about eight, went over to the U.S. Courthouse, were stripped and went into the surgeon B. F. Frost's room where we were examined and passed without a moment's hesitation. Went up into a guarded room and were mustered into the Service by Gilman Henry, Provost Marshall for this station. Were taken to an upper room and rigged in blue,--our citizen's dress taken from us and handed to Father and Uncle Earl. We were then granted leave to go about the village which we did. Went down and saw Father and Uncle Earl start for home. Telegraphed to Gacer Marston at Northfield to come for the 3rd. Battery, visited the stat's prison and traveled around until night and then bunked in the hall of Windsor House. I drew for clothing a blouse, pair of pantaloons, pair undershirts and also one cap. We had each a knapsack, haversack and canteen. - Saw S. W. Steele today and hear that Henry Searles , (Lib's), is dead and that Lib passed us at Sharon last night in the Express going North.

Sat. Sept. 3. [1864]

Had a good night's rest last night although bed held three beside myself and was the "topside" of a board bunk. Roll call at 6 A.M. and drill from 9 to 11, but I do not fuss, to play drill a great deal. Have an inspection this afternoon,--knapsacks over hauled and so on. Three of the Tunbridge boys came in this afternoon,--they are Calvin [Noyes], Ransom [Whitney] and George York . They were a little blue and homesick but tell a laughable story about the search made by Tunbridge for Carl and I. Some went to Montpelier and some to Stafford. They spread well but failed to find any clue to us until Father came home at night when there was a war of words at once. Father and Uncle Earl were at once transformed into villains and I know not what else. Brown, Chapman and others were nearly if not quite furious and we received many a denunciation whilst we were lying in our bunks and laughing at the escapade. Charles and I have some pictures taken together with our pipes in our mouths and sent Charlotte from Windsor.

Sun. Sept. 4. [1864]

Lonesome today as I look at photographs and write to Herbert. Pickpockets are thick here, some over $3000 have been stolen from the boys in the two days just passed. - Went over to the Post Office and got a book this morning and had a fellow go for 5 cents in my watch pocket but I went for him and he took a trip to the guard house.

Went down to the colored Troops Quarters and found Theodore Carroll or Jack as he is called . The officer in charge of our barrack is Sergeant Hamilton of the 9th. Vt. and he is as good a fellow as one cares to meet. Beef, bread and soup of beans is the diet for today as it was yesterday. Looking around the enclosure in which we are penned, I find that it is what was formerly a large manufacturing place of some ten or more acres, to the south east is Fair Haven with its shipyards and to the west is Long Island Sound. Getting up onto a pile of wood, I have a fine view of the Sound and a port of the city of New Haven. Can see at Fair Haven docks a new torpedo boat that is egg-shaped and called the Strombolie,--this is to be launched in a few days.

Monday Sept. 5. [1864]

Oscar Marston and James came to day, both well with one exception "ie" Oscar has the mumps. The torpedo boat was launched to day, had a chance to see the starting and then the saucy guards drove us away form our look out,--we were from Sub Hall where the substitutes reign. Pickpockets run the guard and are generally far from peaceable or in the least soldierly, but we care but little for we had seen the boat dipped and christened and the crowd had begun to leave the wharves. Before we were sent from the pile of wood that served us as a lookout station. Yet, we hope to soon join our battery where there is more liberty.

Tuesday Sept. 6. [1864]

Very discouraging wort of a day as it is very wet. Henry Moss, Myron Fuller, Wales Moulton, Henry and Walter Adams, Ed Cleck and George Preston, they are feeling well and are not homesick in the least. Milo Cushman came today and brought Carl a letter from his mother in which she says that Dickerman told Uncle William that he had sent two men to Montpelier after Carl and I. We kick up our heels and give Tunbridge some cheers for their sharpness. I wrote to S. A. Searles today and sent her the photograph of her husband as she requested me to, through her brother James Grew. Were drawn up in front of the Officer's Quarters and I stay until nine o'clock to sing the pay roll. We are to be paid off tomorrow and then start for Virginia and I am not sorry that there is a prospect of our getting away from this place, yet there is a wish to look ahead and see what there is for us.

Wed. Sept. 7. [1864]

Laying about camp and waiting to be paid off, but they fail to get to me tonight although I wait until late tonight and then went to bed. Not much of interest here today yet have some fun whilst waiting our turn to grasp as some of the loose "Green backs" supposed to be in the Paymaster's safe.

Thursday Sept. 8. [1864]

I was paid my first installment of Government Bounty this morning and then lounged around here and there all day. Went over and saw Oscar, he is getting better and the mumps swelling is nearly gone. Some of the "Rubes" picked the pocket of one of our boys this morning, so we filled a wallet with paper and sent a fellow with it. His pocket was picked and we proceeded to pick notes out of their eyes in an effective yet astonishing manner. Lt. French told us we should use them as brethren, we sent him off with a flea in his ear.

Friday Sept. 9. [1864]

We were drawn up in front of the Sub Hall this morning and received two days rations of pork and hard tack and 1-30 P.M. we bid farewell to "Conscript Capt" and marched about two miles to a large Transport (New York), Jabez Luce , John Sleeper , Carl Cushman and I went down to the lower deck and found a good place to stop and leaving one to care for our knapsacks, we would by turns roam about the shop and look at our surroundings. It seems as if our breaths were long, as if freedom were just gained after leaving the Prison Yard, called Conscript Camp. There we were all served alike and because some "Bounty Jumpers" were there, there was a "Dead Line" near the walls as bas as that at Andersonville and yet one cannot blame the Commander. Were the many lieutenants as good as their chief, "Conscript Camp" would not be as rough a hole.

Leaving the dock at about 1 P.M., we started for some point some where and now there is fun(?), champagne, cider and other sutler stores to be had and some of the fools are getting ready for "Mal de Mer," and if we should get rough weather it will be pleasant here with probably two thirds of the 1000 men on board sea sick.

10 P.M. Have just passed New York and are fairly at sea with only a faint line at the water's edge to show us where land is.

This is Carl's 19th. birthday and he claims that the Government had got up this excursion to honor this event.

11 P.M. As I leave the upper deck to go to where the others are there is heavy firing from the stomachs of those who were a short time ago so happy with their bottles and for ten feet from the water closets there is a mass of filth that the ship hands cannot stop.

I lay down but do not go to sleep for sometime, but lay and think of what has passed and wonder if the future will prove smooth or rough. We begin to roll and plunge and the hands are called on deck so I fear there is rough weather expected as we are to pass around Cape Hatteras. Some of the boys are beginning to lift on Jonah.

Sat. Sept. 10. [1864]

I had a good nights rest and woke up late feeling well. Find that we are in a gale and the orders are coming thick and fast. Hundreds are vomiting or trying hard to do so and the decks are covered. Jabez Luce is a little sick but it does not last him long only he had rather lay still than not, so we leave him to guard our traps and try to do what many others fail to do "ie" get over the legs and try to walk cracks so as to go over head. I have but little trouble as my head is right side up but Sleeper and Carl step on some feet and get cursed. I get leave to go up into the rigging and I stay nearly all day watching the waves as they roll higher than any house at home and the porpoises as they jump out and in. A shark follows us all day for the pork that the boys throw to him.

Hardly homesick yet nearly so, for this bad weather does not seem to be a good omen and yet I do not believe in omens good or bad.

Luce gets blue and thinks he will not live to see Vermont again.

Sun. Sept. 11. [1864]

Had a good nights rest and wake up to find that we are in the Chesapeake Bay on our way to Fortress Monroe, where we arrived at about noon and fine life enough. Steamers of all kinds are passing up the James, large transports with troops, forage boats are lying at anchor out beyond the "Rip Raps." We see the great "Union and Lincoln Guns out on the beach towards "Hampton Roads," in the distance we can see Norfolk and some of the "Rebel " works.

Luce Sleeper, the rest of the recruits for the 9th. Vt. and those for the 15th. Conn. Get off here and take a boat for New Bern N.C., so we bid them goodbye not knowing when we shall see them again. Carl and I after seeing all that we can lay down and read until night and then turn in early. Some of the boys manage to get hold of some whiskey and there is a drunken fighting set here at night.

Run across two boys going into our battery whose names are Lucius Bernard and George Hammond of Londonderry, Vt.

Monday Sept. 12. [1864]

We started early this morning and went up the James to City Point, arriving there at 4. P.M., here we left the recruits for the 7th. Conn., the 17th . Vt. and the U.S. Sharpshooters and then moving out into the stream we anchored and at about dark we got off of the old transport into a small side wheel steamer called the "Nell Pense" for some purpose to us unknown. Am feeling well and in our new quarters enjoy our pleasure trip as well as we an when we do not know where out next destination is, but beginning to be in some small degree soldiers we accept the situation and do not grumble knowing as Carl says, that there are worse places "South." The Steward rolls out a barrel, and putting a lot of coffee on, soon gets us up a drinkable cup of coffee but the hard tack and salt jerk ration does not please us one half as well as did the food we got at old "Conscript Camp."

Tuesday Sept. 13. [1864]

We left City Point at 4 o'clock this morning, and getting to Fortress Monroe at 3 P.M. we sailed around the Rip Raps several times. We finally set our faces toward Washington and started up the Chesapeake ay feeling well. We find that the Guards have been selling sugar that belongs to us whilst we went with out, not knowing that we were furnished with sweetning for our coffee, but not, having learned that we have rights, we assert them and make the Guards roll out the sugar and then we help ourselves.

Wed. Sept. 14. [1864]

We arrive at the mouth of the Potomac at "Point Lookout" early this morning, can see a large number of Rebel prisoners in the prison at this place. - As we pass up the river we pass large cornfields and many points of interest. Mount Vernon with the rest, and arrive at Alexandria at about noon having seen some of the most magnificent scenery. It was ever my lot to behold and now we can see some of the filth of which we have heard so much, for of dirty holes Alexandria is the dirtiest I have ever seen. - Five miles up and across the river, I can see Washington with it's large white buildings., the Capital rising above all. - Getting off the boat we started for Camp Distribution, about 4 miles from here, just over the hill back of the old Arlington House once the residence of Gen. Robert E. Lee.

We arrived at the Camp at abound 2 P.M. which we found to be a large enclosure with large white-washed barracks running up and down the streets with a Chapel, some large dining halls, a Post Office, Sutler building and officer's houses. - Stood in the driving rain for some time but were finally sent to Barracks 45 of the 9th Corps. We had some good soup, bread and coffee for supper, the best meal I have had since leaving home and to which I did justice as I was very hungry. I wrote to John A. Reynolds and sent him $5. There are bunks large enough for two in two tiers. Supper at 6 P.M., roll call 8-30 and tattoo at 9.

Thursday Sept. 15. [1864]

Should have had a good night's rest if it had not been for the bed bugs, they were not sleepy. Drew an Artillery jacket and some blanket straps. Pork, soft bread and coffee for breakfast.

We drew two days ration and left camp at 10 P.M., went down past the Marshall house where col. Ellsworth was shot and out on to the Mail Steamer Wharf where we stayed from noon until 2-30 having all we could eat and a great time with the Fruit Girls. Then we went onto the mail steamer Massachusetts and at 3 o'clock steamed out on our way to City Point again, got out on to the Chesapeake at dark and have a moonlight ride across the bay. Sit up until nearly midnight looking from the hurricane deck out onto the moon-lit waters of the bay and enjoying the beauty of a scene never to be forgotten. I do not believe there is in the Universe a prettier place than is Chesapeake Bay by moonlight.

Carl robbed some of the Fruit Girls on the wharf of some melons and I paid for them, the boys said I was foolish but I do not think so.

Friday Sept. 16. [1864]

We arrived at Fortress Monroe at 5 A.M., left the mails and went on up to City Point arriving there at 3-30 P.M, marched back from the James about a mile up near the Appomattox and for the first time realized what an out door camp was for we were without tents. The sun beat down upon us as no sun cold in Vermont. We found a large body of men here surrounded by Negro Guards, all excited because the Rebs made a raid near here and took several thousand cattle last night.

We met Sleeper and the other recruits r the 9th. Vt. at Fortress Monroe, they said they passed their Regiment off Cape Hatteras but had to go to New Bern to unroll their "Red Tape," laid there a day or two and are now going to their regiment which is near City Point at this time.

Short rations for me tonight, have only what is left of those drawn at Alexandria yesterday morning. The guards will not let us go to any of the many sutlers about here but will go themselves for 25.

Sat. Sept. 17. [1864]

Dig a hole build a fire and cook some coffee and with a hard tack make breakfast. Were drawn up in line and stayed several hours whilst a list of names were called and again at night and as the persons called would not answer to their names they sent us back without a ration. Slim supper, but then 'tis nothing to what they have "Down South." Name our camp "Starvation" and dedicate it with appropriate ceremonies.

I saw hundreds of dollars change hands tonight at the "sweat boards" or on some rubber blanket where poker was the game.

Amongst other evils the guards have given us a new one "ie" they will not allow us to go down to the side of the river for water so we have to go dry as well as hungry. I do not care what the rest do but I will not stand this another day, had as lieves be shot as starve.

Sun. Sept. 18. [1864]

Had a good nights rest last night but could eat a raw dog this morning. Had no water to cook our coffee with. I stood a while but finally took a lot of canteens and started down across the road. Was ordered to halt but kept on, not looking around. Heard a bullet whistle by, looked around and saw the "Nigger" stretched out with one of the red shirted New York boys over him. Filled my canteens, came back and started down to Provost Headquarters, took something of a damning and give one in return with interest. We were drawn and stayed until dark, some seven or eight hours whilst 175 name were called but finally drew some rations, went back, hunted up wood and cooked our suppers. Opened on hardtack, threw it away and eat the rest without looking at them, they were wormy. And yet I'll never eat a meal that tasted so well for I was desperately hungry.

Contraband and Reb prisoners came in squads to day. The Rebs were pretty surly. Wrote to Herb today giving him a history of travels. Heavy firing towards Richmond. Hard rain and no tents.

Monday Sept. 19. [1864]

Reports say that the Rebs made a raid this way last night-there was some heavy firing along the James last night. Someone stole my cap this morning before I woke but I followed suit and am all right on the cap questions. John B. Langdon of our battery was going by today and we hailed him. He said we should be sent for tomorrow without fail, so we feel better. Another days rations are drawn tonight, a little better than were those drawn yesterday.

Have a smart diarrhea started on me but think it will soon stop.

Wrote to Lib Searles today, filled two sheets.

Our new guars are white in color and in actions. The officers say their orders are strict but that they will not treat us as thieves let the orders be what they may. Hot enough to fry one if he does not keep his rubber blanket up for a shelter.

Tuesday Sept. 20. [1864]

Took turns in guarding our troops last night.

Diarrhea no better. Started from City Point at 1-30 P.M. Marched by Gen. Butler's headquarters and were greeted by the old cry of "French Fish" and up about a half mile beyond Gen. Meade's to our camp on the edge of some pine woods within a few rods of the old "White House," where Gen. Hancock's head quarters are.

Ed Clapps and Dan Brigham came down after us, was tired but got a good supper and found enough that we know to have a good time with.

Rained like fury tonight and we should have got a soaking if it had not been for a friend in need by name of Leonard who took us into the Capt.'s tent and we laid comfortable all night.

Grant's army Line R.R. runs parallel with our camp about a half a mile distant and the Rebs are shelling it like fun to night. It is fun to watch the great shells come over and burst just as long as they fall short of us.

Wed. Sept. 21. [1864]

We had a good nights rest in spite of the rain but are made aware of the fact that we are now in an enemy's country by a sharp and heavy cannonading in front of us. Reveille at 6 A.M., Roll Call five minutes afterwards and then for a rarity we have potatoes, beef and wheat bread, coffee for our breakfast without the trouble of cooking for ourselves. Learn that the troops in the Shenandoah Valley have won a great victory so that our guns were fired as a salute and at the same time done what damage they could.

The divers took their horses out to exercise this afternoon and I got a chance to ride one of Oliver W. Atwood's. Went out by the 18th. Corps Headquarters around by the "Peach Orchard" and back to camp. Enjoying the life here well and feeling more at home.

Roll Call at 6 PM. When we were assigned to the 2nd. Detachment under "-- ----" or Sergeant Thomas.

Thursday Sept. 22 [1864]

A hard rain last night and we slept I the Capt.'s tent. Wrote to Ed W. Hutchins today. Moved our camp about a fourth of a mile to the left and have a good camp with bough bunks. Carl goes on guard and commences to work for our uncle.

Friday Sept. 23. [1864]

Made a tent out of an old tarpaulin and are quite comfortable.

Letters from father and Herb and from James H. Lee today. Father sends powers of attorney to Carl, and I had them filled out and signed by Lieut. Philips and sent them back in a letter to Herbert.

It has rained most of the day and read.

Are having good times or should if it were not for running to the "Sink" too often.

Sat. Sept. 24. [1864]

We were drilled about two hours this forenoon. Had a Virginia thunder shower this afternoon. Drew shelter tents this afternoon.

Sunday Sept. 25. [1864]

On guard today at the stable in let relief from 8 to 10 A.M. from 2 to 4 P.M. and from 2 to A.M. tomorrow morning.

Wrote to Herb today giving him an account of the past week's work. Milo B. Cushman came today. He is tough and sayd he has had a pleasant time. From him we got many items of news from home and it seems as if we were brought nearer Vermont by his coming. Had a jolly time talking over old times with him.. Milo and Carl Cushman, Henry Palmer and I go into a tent together.

Monday Sept. 26. [1864]

This is a pleasant day, warm but not uncomfortable. Being off duty today I went out to the Camp of the 17th. Vt. in the afternoon. Saw William Black (who is in some way, a relative), he was taking care of Lieut. Cummings' horses.

Wrote to James H. Lee who is in the 9th. about 5 miles from here.

Carl got a letter form John Fricher of the 9th. this afternoon ,it was brought by Willie Hunt of our battery, who has been over there to visit the 9th. Fricher says that Uncle Wm. Marston is there and is well. Uncle Orvis Marston and his son, Wm., send love.

Our Landlady gives us an extra dinner today, giving us some ground beefsteak.

Tuesday Sept. 27. [1864]

Drilled at the place two or three hours today. Some good beans for dinner, truly Army fare is not so very bad when we are in camp.

Wed. Sept. 28. [1864]

Drill at the piece in the morning and wanted drill after dinner; lay and read until night when, as it was very pleasant, Carl and I lay in our tent with the flap up and the moon somehow influencing us to we began to sing. After signing one or two we struck into the old song of "Hurrah for Old New England" and were surprised by finding the greater part of the boys around us, the most of whom joined with us in singing this grand old piece. There were several good singers, and never did music sound better than did this old piece sung I the pine woods, all standing around the Com. Street with pine branches and the sky for a roof to our concert room. Getting engaged we sang piece after piece until stopper by the bugler sounding the Assembly. Lieut. Philips ordered the officers to call the roll as soon as possible, saying that we would sing until tire out and never mind the Tattoo. By this time the ladies and officers at Gen. Hancock's Headquarters were out listening and cheering so that after Roll Call, we sang "Vive le America" and then Philips proposed singing again "Hurrah for Old New England" in answer to the waving handkerchiefs of the ladies and the clapping of hands by the men. So we done so with a will, but had hardly sung the second verse before an Orderly rode up with his horse all of a lather and then we saw what he had not noticed before "ie" that there was heavy firing along our lines in front of us, and in a moment our buglers sound "Boot and Saddles." Wishing to see the fun Carl and I looked for a chance to go and soon found enough of the old boys that were suddenly sick and our offer to go was accepted, so off we went soon learning that our destination was "Fort Hell," a place dreaded by all who had ever been there. When within a mile of the fort, we struck into a covered way and soon began to feel (to say the least), uncomfortable, not because we were in great danger, for the minnies could not reach, but they were firing in showers and hearing their screaming, we were disturbed more than we should have been had they come close beside us - indeed for a time I thought seriously of leaving but we finally reached the fort and there is a sight at once grand and terrific. It is a nineteen gun fort and is a complete line of fire with mortar and rifle shells bursting in and around it. Getting our pieces into position we soon at work and in the excitement lose all fear and are soon baptized with fire. Our hand and faces are hurt in many places but the smart is one felt - our pieces get hot and we rest for a few moments. Getting gout to a corner of the small redoubt to our right I lay and watch the blaze of the large guns in the Rebel forts and fire of their picket line and with that some of the folks at home could witness this truly magnificent spectacle. A reinforcement for the Picket Line goes by, dropping on their hands and knees they boys crawl carefully forward to a belt of woods where they get up and swiftly glide along to our line which is but a few hundred feet from this fort and the Rebel line with in a stones throw of our own, whilst the Reb forts are a little above and about the same distance behind their pickets, as is this behind our line. Am called back and go to work at the piece again .along the whole length of our line there is a continuous roar of musketry and of artillery with at times thirty or more great mortar shells in the air at the same instant and in spite of the danger to one's self there is a strange liking of the life one leads here where one lives years in a single night.

Thursday Sept. 29. [1864]

Laying down at a little past midnight we lay until about 2 o'clock when we were called up and were marked from then until morning carrying ammunition from where the cowardly teamsters left it, (nearly a half a mile down the covered way), up into the old magazine-the boxes weighed 100 lbs. Apiece when we commenced work and nearly a ton apiece before we finished.

In the morning we moved our pieces from the left to the right of the fort and put our ammunition into a Bomb Proof after which we lay down and watched the Rebs as they were to work in our front, giving them now and [then] a shot to let them know we were alive. Several who were killed or wounded in the fight last night were brought up through the fort.

At noon the old boys were relieved, they went down and got their pay after which they returned and when the sun was low enough, we went to firing again. Two large mortar shells made some fun for us. One struck into the wall and then as a pompous little colonel was passing by to swear at some of his men the other passed just over his head, scaring him so badly that he left for a Bomb Proof in a hurry.

Friday Sept. 30. [1864]

It is a little lowry but pleasant for all of that.

Carl and I went down to camp today and got our tent, came back and had just got our tent up by the gun carriage when the order came for cannoniers to post. We prepared for actions but did not go to work for a while. Commenced to fire after a while and managed to dismount two of the Reb pieces in the fort on the (Rebel) left of Fort Mahone, called by our boys Fort Damnation and from then out through the rest of the night there was fun enough - from the Appomattox to our extreme left there was a continual roar of musketry from the Rifle Pits and of the guns in the forts along our own and the Rebel lines. Our fort was lighted from one side to the other by the flash of our own guns and by the shells that were bursting over our heads and in and around the fort. We were called to our posts several times before midnight.

Had a good time dodging mortar shells jumping from one embrasure to another but Carl, in dodging to the left at one time ran against a large fellow from the other battery, (the 119th N.Y.), coming in an opposite direction, seeing this I concluded that I might as well sit still as run so I took my eat on a lumber chest and kept still until called to post. "Kinder" like the fun after getting a little used to the shells and getting excited enough to forget that there is a little danger.

In going to camp today, Carl and I went across to where there is Sutler's Bomb Proof rather than go around the covered way. The bullets began to fly some before we got across the open space below the Fort but we got gritty and would not run. Just before we got to the Sutler's a bomb struck his Bomb Proof and scattered it in every direction. The sutler and his clerk run so we made out a requisition and drew some necessaries-did not stop long.

Carl and I were transferred by request into the 3r4d. Detachment, under Sergeant W. b. Perrin as good an officer a s there is in the Battery.

Milo Cushman is with us now in the 6th. of Sergeant Thomas' Detachment. He is feeling well and says he likes the life here at the front better than he did that at camp. (Peeble's Farm taken).


Diary Continued Back to Introduction


Contributed by Eugene L. Rolfe, Las Vegas, Nevada, great-grandson of Eugene William Rolfe.