Vermont Riflemen in the War for the Union
On the 22d of March the regiment embarked on the steamer Emperor, bound for Fortress Monroe. The day was bright and glorious, the magnificent enthusiasm on every hand was contagious, and few who were partakers in that grand pageant will ever forget it. Alas! however, many thousands of that great army never returned from that fatal campaign. The orders required that each steamer, as she left her moorings, should pass up the river for a short distance, turn and pass down by Gen. Porter's flag-ship, saluting as she passed -- a sort of military-naval review.
As the twenty-two steamers conveying this magnificent division thus passed in review, bands playing, colors flying and the men cheering, it was an inspiring spectacle for the young soldiers who were for the first time moving toward the enemy. The enthusiasm was kept up to fever heat until the leading steamers reached Mount Vernon,18
when, as though by order, the cheering ceased, flags were dropped to half-mast, the strains of "The girl I left behind me," and "John Brown's body," gave way to funereal dirges, and all hats were doffed as the fleet passed the tomb of Washington. On the twenty-third the regiment disembarked at Hampton, Va., and went into camp at a point about midway between the place and Newport's News, where they remained several days, awaiting the arrival of the other divisions and the artillery and supplies necessary before the march on Yorktown could commence.
Hampton Roads was a scene of the greatest activity, hundreds of ships and steam transports lay at the docks discharging their cargoes of men and material, or at anchor in the broad waters adjacent awaiting their turn. Both army and navy here experienced a period of the most intense anxiety. Only a few days previous to the arrival the first troops, the rebel iron-clad, Merrimac, had appeared before Newport's News, only a few miles away, and had made such a fearful display of her power for destruction as to excite the gravest apprehension lest she should again appear among the crowded shipping, sinking and destroying, by the simple battering power of her immense weight, these frail steamboats crowded with troops; but she had had a taste of the Monitor's quality, and did not apparently care to repeat the experiment. While thus awaiting the moment for the general advance, Fitz John Porter's division was ordered to make a reconnoissance in the direction of19
Great Bethel, the scene of the disaster of June 10, 1861. The division moved on two roads nearly parallel with each other. A body of sharp shooters led the advance of each column, that on the right being under the command of Lieut.-Col. Ripley, while those on the left were command by Col. Berdan.
This was the first time that the regiment had ever had the opportunity to measure its marching qualities with those of other troops; they had been most carefully and persistently drilled in this particular branch, and as they swept on, taking the full twenty-eight inch step and in regulation time, they soon left the remainder of the column far in rear, at which they were greatly elated, and when Capt. Auchmuty of Gen. Morell's staff rode up with the General's compliments and an inquiry at to "whether the sharp shooters intended to go on alone, or would they prefer to wait for support," their self-glorification was very great.
Later, however, they ceased to regard a march of ten or fifteen miles at their best pace as a joke. Co. F was with the right column, under Col. Ripley, and came for the first time under hostile fire. No serious fighting took place, although shots were frequently exchanged with the rebel cavalry, who fell back slowly before the Union advance. At Great Bethel a slight stand was made by the enemy, who were, however, soon dislodged by the steady and accurate fire of the sharp shooters, with some loss. Pushing on, the regiment advanced some three miles towards Yorktown, where, finding no20
considerable force of the enemy disposed to make a stand, and the object of the reconnoissance having been accomplished, both columns returned to camp near Fortress Monroe. The march had been a long and severe one for new troops, but Co. F came in without a straggler and in perfect order.
The experience of the day had taught them one lesson, however, and certain gray overcoats and Havelock hats of the same rebellious hue were promptly exchanged for others of a color in which they were less apt to be shot by mistake by their own friends. The uniform of the regiment consisted of coats, blouses, pants and caps of green cloth; and leather leggins, buckling as high as the knee, were worn by officers and men alike. The knapsacks of the men were of the style then in use by the army of Prussia; they were of leather tanned with the hair on, and, although rather heavier than the regulation knapsack, fitted the back well, were roomy and were highly appreciated by the men. Each had strapped in its outside a small cooking kit which was found compact and useful. Thus equipped the regiment was distinctive in its uniform as well as in its service, and soon became well known in the army.
On the 3d of April Gen. McClellan arrived at Fortress Monroe, and early on the morning of the fourth the whole army was put in motion toward Yorktown, where heavy works, strongly manned, were known to exist. The sharp shooters led the advance of the column on the road by which the Fifth Corps advanced, being that nearest the York21
river. Slight resistance was made by the enemy's cavalry at various points, but no casualties were experienced by Co. F on that day.
Cockeysville, a small hamlet some sixteen miles from Hampton, was reached, and the tired men of Co. F laid down in bivouac for the first time. Heretofore their camps, cheerless and devoid of home comforts as they sometimes were, had had some element of permanence; this was quite another thing, and what wonder if thoughts of home and home comforts flitted through their minds. Then, too, all supposed that on the morrow would occur a terrible battle (for the siege of Yorktown was not then anticipated); nothing less than immediate and desperate assault was contemplated by the men, and, as some complementary remarks had been made to the regiment, and especial allusion to the effect those five shooting rifles, held in such trusty and skillful hands, would have in a charge, they felt that I the coming battle their place would be a hot and dangerous, as well as an honorable one. At daybreak on the morning of the fifth, in a soaking rain storm, the army resumed its march, the sharp shooters still in the advance, searching suspicious patches of woods, streaming out from the road to farm houses, hurrying over and around little knolls behind which danger might lurk, while now and then came the crack of rifles from a group across a field, telling of the presence of hostile cavalry watching the advance of the invaders. More strenuous resistance was met with than on the day before, but the rebels22
fell back steadily, if slowly. The rain fell continuously and the roads became difficult of passage for troops. The sharp shooters, however, fared better in this respect than troops of the line, for deployed as skirmishers, covering a large front, they could pick their way with comparative ease. At ten o'clock A. M., all resistance by rebel cavalry having ceased, the skirmishers emerged from dense woods and found themselves immediately in front of the heavy earth works before Yorktown. They were at once saluted by the enemy's artillery, and were now for the first time under the fire of shell.
Dashing forward one or two hundred yards, the skirmishers took position along and behind the crest of a slight elevation crowned by hedges and scattered clumps of bushes. The men of Co. F found themselves in a peach orchard surrounding a large farm house with its out-buildings. In and about these buildings, and along a fence running westwardly from the cluster of houses, Co. F formed its line, at a distance of some five hundred yards from a powerful line of breastworks running from the main fort in front of Yorktown to the low ground about the head of Warwick creek.
Once in position, Co. F went at its work as steadily and coolly as veterans. Under the direction of a field officer, who watched the result with his glass, a few shots were fired by picket men at spots in the exterior slope of the works to ascertain the exact range, which was then announced and the order given, "Commence firing."
The rebels, ensconced in fancied security behind23
their strong works, and who up to that time had kept up a constant and heavy fire from their artillery, while their infantry lines the parapets, soon found reason to make themselves less conspicuous and to modify very essentially the tone of their Remarks2,which had been the reverse of complimentary. Gun after gun was silenced and abandoned, until within an hour every embrasure within a range of a thousand yards to the right and left was tenantless and silent. Their infantry, which at first responded with a vigorous fire, found that exposure of a head meant grave danger, if not death.
Occasionally a man would be found, who, carried away by his enthusiasm, would mount the parapet and with taunting cries seem to mock the Union marksmen, but no sooner would he appear than a score of rifles would be brought to bear, and he was fortunate indeed if he escaped with his life. At this point occurred the first casualty among the men of Co. F, Corp. C. W. Peck receiving a severe wound. During the day a small body of horsemen, apparently the staff and escort of a general officer, appeared passing from the village of Yorktown, behind the line of breastworks before spoken of, towards their right. When first observed little more than the heads of the riders were visible above the breastworks; near the western end of their line, however, the ground on which they were riding was higher, thus bringing them into plainer view, and as they reached this point every rifle was brought into use, and it appeared to observers that24
at least half the saddles in that little band were emptied before they could pass over the exposed fifty yards that lay between them and safety. While the sharp shooters had been successful in silencing the fire of the enemy's cannon, and almost entirely so that of their infantry, a few of the rebel marksmen, who occupied small rifle pits in advance of their line of works, kept up an annoying fire, from which the Union artillerists suffered severely.
These little strongholds had been constructed at leisure, were in carefully selected positions, usually behind a cover of natural or artificially planted bushes, and it was almost impossible to dislodge their occupants; every puff of smoke from one of them was, of course, the signal for a heavy fire of Union rifles on that spot; but sharp shooters who are worthy of the name will not continue long to fire at what they cannot see, and so, after one or two shots, the men would devote their attention to some other point, when the Confederate gunner, having remained quite at his ease behind his shelter, would peer out from behind his screen of bushes, select his mark, and renew his fire.
One spot was marked as the hiding place of a particularly obnoxious and skillful rifleman, and to him, Private Ide of Co. E of New Hampshire, who occupied a commanding position near the corner of an out house, devoted himself. Ide was one of the few men who still carried his telescopic target rifle. Several shots were exchanged between these men, and it began to take the form of a personal25
affair and was watched with the keenest interest by those not otherwise engaged, but fortune first smiled on the rebel, and Ide fell dead, shot through the forehead while in the act of raising his rifle to an aim. His fall was seen by the enemy, who raised a shout of exultation. It was short, however, for an officer, taking the loaded rifle from the dead man's hand, and watching his opportunity through the strong telescope, soon saw the triumphant rebel, made bold by his success, raise himself into view; it was a fatal exposure and he fell apparently dead.
At nine o'clock P. M. the sharp shooters were relieved by another regiment and retired to a point about half a mile in the rear, where the tired soldiers lay down after nearly twenty hours of continual marching and fighting. The fine position they had gained and held through the day, wad regained, however, by the rebels by a night sally and was not reoccupied by the Union forces again for several days. On the next day, Gen. Porter, commanding the division, addressed the following highly complimentary letter to Col. Berdan:
Headquarters Porter's Division,
Third Army Corps,
Camp near Yorktown, April 6, 1862.
Col. Berdan, Commanding Sharp Shooters:
Colonel: The Commanding General instructs me to say to you that he is glad to learn, from the admissions of the enemy themselves, that they begin to fear your sharp shooters. Your men have caused a number of the rebels to bite the dust. The Commanding General is glad to find your corps are proving themselves so efficient, and trust that26
this intelligence will encourage your men, given them, if possible, steadier hands and clearer eyes, so that when their trusty rifles are pointed at the foe, there will be one rebel less at every discharge. I am, Colonel, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Fred. T. Locke, A.A.G.
Gen. McClellan, believing the place too strong to be carried by assault, and his plans for turning the position having been disarranged by the detention in front of Washington of Gen. McDowell's corps, to which he had entrusted the movement, the army went into camp and settled down to the siege of Yorktown. The ensuing thirty days were full of excitement and danger, and Co. F had its full share. Several of the companies were detached and ordered to other portions of the army. Co. F, however, remained at regimental headquarters. Heavy details were made every day for service in the rifle pits, the men leaving camp and occupying their positions before daylight, and being relieved by details from other regiments after dark. Details were also frequently made for he purpose of digging advanced rifle pits during the night. These pits were approached by zigzags, and could only be reached during the hours of daylight by crawling on the hands and knees, and then only under circumstances of great danger. They were pushed so far to the front that, when the evacuation took place on the night of the 3d of May, they were hardly more than one hundred yards from the main rebel line of works, and hardly half as far from the rebel rifle pits. Frequent sharp conflicts took place between bodies of rebel and Union soldiers striving27
for the same position on which to dig a new rifle pit, in several of which Co. F took a prominent part and suffered some loss.
So close were the opposing lines at some places that sharp shooting became almost impossible for either side, as the exposure of so much as a hand meant a certain wound.
In this state of affairs the men would improvise loop holes by forcing sharpened stakes through the bank of earth in front of the pits, through which they would thrust the barrels of their breach loaders, over which they would keenly watch for a chance for a shot, and woe to that unfortunate rebel who exposed even a small portion of his figure within the circumscribed range of their vision.
The regimental camp before Yorktown was beautifully situated near the York river and not far from army headquarters. Great rivalry existed between the different companies as to which company street should present the neatest appearance, and the camp was very attractive to visitors and others. The officers mess was open to all comers and was a constant scene of visiting and feasting. For a few days, it is true, the troops, officers and men alike, were on short rations, but as soon as the river was opened and docks constructed, the necessities, and even the luxuries of life were abundant. At this camp the first instalment of the much desired and long promised Sharpe rifles arrived. Only one hundred were received in the first consignment, and they were at once issued to Co. F as an evidence of the high esteem in which28
that company was held by the officers of the regiment, and as a recognition of its particularly good conduct on several occasions - it was a compliment well deserved. On the night of the 3d of May, the rebels kept up a tremendous fire during the whole night. Heavy explosions, not of artillery, were frequent, and it was evident that some move of importance was in progress. At an early hour the usual detail of sharp shooters relieved the infantry pickets in the advanced rifle pits, and soon after daylight it became apparent to them that matters at the front had undergone a change, and cautiously advancing from their liens they found the rebel works evacuated.
Pressing forward over the earth works which had so long barred the way, the sharp shooters were the first troops to occupy the village of Yorktown, where they hauled down the garrison flag which had been left flying by the retreating rebels. All was now joyous excitement; what was considered a great victory had been gained without any considerable loss of life - a consideration very grateful for the soldier to contemplate. Seventy-two heavy guns were abandoned by the rebels, which, though of little use to them, and of less to us, by reason of their antiquated styles, were still trophies, and so, valuable.
Regiment and brigade bands, which, together with drum and bugle corps, had been silent for a month, by general orders (for the rebels had kept up a tremendous fire on every thing they saw, heard or suspected), now filled the air with many29
a stirring and patriotic strain. Salutes were fired, and with the balloon, used for observing the movements of the enemy, floating in the air overhead, once could easily believe himself to be enjoying a festival, and for a moment forget the miseries of war. At Yorktown the rest of the regiment received their Sharpe's rifles and, with the exception of a few men who still clung to their muzzle loaders, the command was armed with rifles of uniform calibre, and which were entirely satisfactory to those who bore them. The Colt's five shooters were turned in without regret; for, although they had done fairly good service, they were not quite worthy of the men in whose hands they were placed.
On the 5th of May was fought the battle of Williamsburgh, on which hard fought field two companies of the regiment, A and C, bore an honorable part - Co. F, however, was with the part of the command retained in front of Yorktown. The guns were plainly heard at the camp, and painful rumors began to be circulated. At about ten o'clock A. M. there came an order to prepare to march at once, with three day's cooked rations; the concluding words of the brief written message, "prepare for hard fighting," were full of significance, but they were received with cheers by the men who were tired of rifle pit work, and desired ardently an opportunity to measure their skill with that of the boasted southern riflemen in the field - a desire that was shortly to be gratified to an extent satisfactory to the most pronounced glutton30
among them. The preparations were soon made, and the regiment formed on the color line, but the day passed and the order to march did not come. The battle of Williamsburgh was over. On the evening of the eighth the regiment was embarked on the steam transport "State of Maine," and under convoy of the gun boats proceeded up the York river to West Point where they disembarked on the afternoon of the ninth, finding the men of Franklin's division, which had preceded them, in position. Franklin's men had had a sharp fight the day before with the rear guard of the Confederate army, but were too late to cut off the retreat of the main body, whose march from the bloody field of Williamsburgh had been made with all the vigor that fear and necessity could inspire. Here the sharp shooters remained in bivouac until the thirteenth, when they were put in motion again towards Richmond. The weather was warm, the roads narrow and dusty, water scarce and the march a wearisome one. Rumors of probable fighting in store for them at a point not far distant were rife, but no enemy was found in their path on that day, and near sundown they went into camp at Cumberland Landing on the Pamunkey.
On the fourteenth the regiment was reviewed by Secretary Seward, who made a short visit to the army at this time. On the fifteenth they marched to White House, a heavy rain storm prevailing through the entire day. The sharp shooters were in support of the cavalry and had in their rear a battery, the guns of which were frequently stalled31
in the deep mud, out of which they had often to be lifted and pulled by sheer force of human muscle. The march was most fatiguing, and although commenced at half-past six A. M., and terminating at four P. M., only about six miles were gained. White House was a place of historic interest, since it was here that Washington wooed and married his wife; a strict guard was kept over it and its surroundings, and it was left as unspoiled as it was found. Above White House the river was no longer navagable, and the York river railroad, which connects Richmond, some twenty miles distant, with the Pamunkey at this point, was to be the future line of supply for the army. On the nineteenth the troops again advanced, camping at Turnstall's Station that night and at Barker's Mill on the night of the twentieth. On the twenty-sixth they passed Cold Harbor, a spot on which they were destined to lost many good and true men two years later, and went into camp near the house of Dr. Gaines, and were now fairly before Richmond, the spires of which could be seen from the high ground near the camp. On the morning of the twenty-seventh, at a very early hour, there came to regimental headquarters an order crouched in words which had become familiar: "This division will march at daylight in the following order: First, the sharp shooters." * * * Three days cooked rations and one hundred rounds of ammunition were also specified. This looked like business, and the camp became at once a scene of busy activity. At the32
appointed hour, in the midst of a heavy rain shower, the column was put in march, but not, as had been anticipated, towards the enemy who blocked the road to the rebel capitol. The line of march was to the northward towards Hanover Court House.
As the head of the column approached the junction of the roads leading respectively to Hanover Court House and Ashland, considerable resistance was met with from bodies of rebel cavalry support by a few pieces of light artillery and a small force of infantry. At the forks of the road a portion of Branch's brigade of North Carolina troops were found in a strong position, prepared to dispute the passage. This force was soon dislodged by the sharp shooters, the twenty-fifth New York, a detachment from a Pennsylvania regiment and Benson's battery, and retreated in the direction of Hanover Court House. Prompt pursuit was made and many prisoners taken, together with two guns. Martindale's brigade was left at the forks of the road before spoken of, to guard against an attack on the rear from the direction of Richmond, while the rest of the division pushed on to destroy, if possible, the bridges at the points where the Richmond & Fredericksburgh and the Virginia Central railroads cross the North and South Anna rivers; the destruction of these bridges being the main object of the expedition, although it was hoped and expected that the movement might result in a junction of the forces under McDowell, then at Fredericksburgh only forty miles distant33
from the point to which Porter's advance reached, with the right of McClellan's army, when the speedy fall of Richmond might be confidently expected.
The sharp shooters accompanied the column which was charged with this duty. The cavalry reached the rivers and succeeded in completing the destruction of the bridges, when ominous reports began to come up from the rear, of heavy forces of the enemy having appeared between this isolated command and the rest of the army twenty miles to the southward. Firing was heard distinctly, scattering and uncertain at first, but soon swelling into a roar that gave assurance of a hotly contested engagement.
The column was instantly faced about, not even taking time to counter-march, and taking the double quick - left in front - made all haste to reach the scene of the conflict. The natural desire to help their hard pressed comrades was supplemented by a conviction that their own safety could only be secured by a speedy destruction of the force between them and their camp, and the four or five miles of road, heavy with mud, for, as usual, the rain was falling fast, were rapidly passed over. As they neared the field of battle the sharp shooters, who had gained what was now the head of the column, were rapidly deployed and with ringing cheers passed through the ranks of the 2d Maine, opened for the purpose, and plunged into the woods where the enemy were posted. The spirit of the rebel attack was already broken by the severe losses34
inflicted by them by Martindale's gallant brigade which, although out-numbered two to one, had clung desperately to their all important position; and when the enemy heard the shouts of this relieving column, and caught sight of their advancing lines, a panic seized them and they fled precipitately from the field. Pursuit was made and many prisoners taken, who, with those captured in the earlier part of the day, swelled the total to over seven hundred. Two guns were also taken, in the capture of which Co. F bore a prominent part. This affair cost the Union forces four hundred men; the loss, however, principally falling on Martindale's brigade, who bore the brunt of the rear attack. The sharp shooters lost only about twenty men, killed and wounded - three of whom, Sergt. Lewis J. Allen, Benjamin Billings and W. F. Dawson were of Co. F; Dawson died on the 1st of June from the effects of his wound.
The regiment, however, met with a great loss on that day by the capture of its surgeon, Guy c. Marshall, who, with other surgeons and attendants, was surprised by a sudden attack on the field hospital by the enemy's cavalry. Dr. Marshall never rejoined the regiment. Being sent to Libby Prison, he was with other surgeons, allowed certain liberties in order that he might be the more useful in his professional capacity. Placed upon his parole he was allowed, under certain restrictions, to pass the prison guards at will, for the purpose of securing medicines, etc., for use among the sick prisoners. The terrible sufferings of his
comrades, caused mainly by what he believed to be intentional neglect, aroused all the sympathy of his tender nature, and as the days passed an no attention was paid to his protests or efforts to get relief, his intense indignation was aroused. Taking advantage of his liberty to pass the guards, he succeeded in getting an audience with Jefferson Davis himself. It is probable that his earnestness led him into expressions of condemnation too strong to be relished by the so called President. Howsoever it was, his liberty was stopped and he was made a close prisoner. He continued his labors, however, with such scanty means as he could obtain until, worn out by his over exertions, and with his great heart broken by the sight of the suffering he was so powerless to relieve, he died, -- as truly the death of a hero as though he had fallen at the head of some gallant charge in the field. He was a true man, and those who knew him best will always have a warm and tender remembrance of him.
On the twenty-ninth, the whole command returned to their camp near Gaines Hill. The experience of Co. F for the next thirty days was similar to that of Yorktown - daily details for picket duty were made, and always where the danger was the greatest; for, as it was the province of the sharp shooter to shoot some body, it was necessary that he should be placed where there was some one to shoot. In a case of this kind, however, one cannot expect to give blows without receiving them in return, hence it came about that36
the sharp shooters were constantly in the most dangerous places on the picket line. At some point in the Union front, perhaps miles away, it would be found that a few rebel sharp shooters had planted themselves in a position from which they gave serious annoyance to the working parties and sometimes inflicted serious loss, and from which they could not readily be dislodged by the imperfect weapons of the infantry. In such cases calls would be made for a detail of sharp shooters, who would be gone sometimes for several days before returning to camp, always, however, being successful in removing the trouble.
On the thirty-first, the guns of Fair Oaks were distinctly heard, and early the next morning the Fifth Corps, to which the regiment was now attached, was massed near the head of new Bridge on the Chickahominy, with the intention of forcing a passage at this place to try to convert the repulse of the rebels at Fair Oaks on the day before into a great disaster. The swollen condition of the river, however, which had proved so nearly fatal to the Union forces on the day of Fair Oaks, became now the safety of the rebels. A strong detachment of the sharp shooters, including some men from Co. F, were thrown across the river at New Bridge to ascertain whether the water conveying the road beyond was fordable for infantry. This detachment crossed the bridge and passed some distance along the road, but finding it impracticable for men, so reported and the attempt was abandoned.37
No incidents of unusual interest occurred to the Vermonters after June 1st until the movements commenced which culminated in what is known in history as the seven days battle, commencing on the 25th of June at a point on the right bank of the Chickahominy at Oak Grove, and ending on the first of July at Malvern Hill on the James river.
For some days rumors of an unfavorable nature had been circulating among the camps before Richmond, of disasters to the Union forces in the valley. It was known that Stonewall Jackson had gone northward with his command, and that he had appeared at several points in northern Virginia under such circumstances and at such times and places as caused serious alarm to the government at Washington for the safety of the capitol. To the Army of the Potomac, however, it seemed incredible that so small a force as Jackson's could be a serious menace to that city, and preparations for a forward movement and a great and decisive battle went steadily on. On the 25th of June, Hooker advanced is lines near Oak Grove, and after severe fighting forced the enemy from their position which he proceeded to fortify, and which he held. On the night of that day, the army was full of joyous anticipation of a great victory to be gained before Jackson could return from his foray to the north. On the morning of the twenty-sixth, however, scouts reported Jackson, reinforced by Whiting's division, at Hanover Court House pressing rapidly forward, with 30,000 men, toward38
our exposed right and rear. At the same time large bodies of the enemy were observed crossing the Chickahominy at Meadow Bridge, above Mechanicsville. It was at once apparent that the Army of the Potomac must abandon its advance on Richmond, for the time at least, and stand on its defense. McCall, with his division of Pennsylvania reserves, occupied a strong position on the left bank of Beaver Dam creek, a small affluent of the Chickahominy, near Mechanicsville, about four miles north of Gaines Hill, and his command constituted the extreme right of the Union army. On this isolated body it was evident that the first rebel attack would fall.
At about three o'clock P. M. the division of the rebel General A. P. Hill appeared in front of McCall's line, and severe fighting at once commenced. About one hour later Branch's division arrived to the support of the rebel general, and vigorous and repeated assaults were made at various points on the Union line; the fighting at Ellison's Mills being of a particularly desperate character. Porter's old division, now commanded by Morell, was ordered up from its camp at Gaines Hill to the assistance of the troops so heavily pressed at Mechanicsville. The sharp shooters, being among the regiments thus detailed, left their tents standing, and in light marching order, and with no rations, moved out at the head of the column. Arriving at the front they took post in the left of the road, in the rear of a rifle pit occupied by a battalion of Pennsylvania troops and on the right of a39
redoubt in which was a battery of guns. It was now nearly dark, the force of the attack was spent, and the sharp shooters had but small share of the fighting. The night was spent in this position, and the rest of the soldiers was unbroken, except by the cries and moans of the rebel wounded, many of whom lay uncared for within a few yards of the Union line. Some of the men of Co. F, moved by pity for the sufferings of their enemies, left their lines to give them assistance; they were fired on, however, by the less merciful rebels and had to abandon the attempt. The men were especially cautioned against allowing their tin cups to rattle against their rifles, as the first sign was sure to be the signal for a rebel volley. Cautiously the men stole away, and as daylight appeared, found themselves alone.
They were the rear guard and thus covered the retreat of the main body to Gaines Hill. As they approached the camp they had left on the preceding afternoon a scene of desolation and destruction met their astonished eyes. Enormous piles of quartermaster and commissary stores were being fired, tents were struck, the regimental baggage gone, and large droves of cattle were being hurried forward towards the lower bridges of the Chickahominy - the retreat to the James had commenced. Halting for a few minutes amidst the ruins of their abandoned camp where, however, they found the faithful quartermaster-sergeant40
with a scanty supply of rations, very grateful to men who had eaten nothing for twenty hours and expected nothing for some time to come. They hastily commenced the preparation of such a modest breakfast as was possible under the circumstances, but before it could be eaten the pursuing rebels were upon them, and the march towards the rear was resumed. A mile further and they found the Fifth corps, which was all there was of the army on the south bank of the Chickahominy, in line of battle prepared to resist the attack of the enemy, which it was apparent to all would be in heavy force. The position was a strong one, and the little force - small in comparison to that which appeared confronting it - were disposed with consumate skill. Dust - for the day was intensely hot and dry - arising in dense clouds high above the tree tops, plainly denoted the line of march, and the positions of the different rebel columns as they arrived on the field and took their places in line of battle.
Deserters, prisoners, and scouts, all agreed that Jackson, who had not bee up in time to take part in the battle of the previous day as had been expected, was now at hand with a large force of fresh troops, and it was apparent that the Fifth Corps was about to become engaged with nearly the whole of the rebel army. Any one of three things could not happen, as might be decided by the Union commander. The force on Gaines Hill might be re-enforced by means of the few, but sufficient, bridges over the Chickahominy and41
accept battle on something like equal terms; or the main army on the right bank of the river might take advantage of the opportunity offered to break through the lines in its front, weakened as they must be by the absence of the immense numbers detached to crush Porter on the left bank; or the Fifth Corps might by a great effort, unassisted, hold Lee's army in check long enough to enable the Union army to commence in an orderly manner its retreat to the James. Whichever course might be decided upon, it was evident that this portion of the army was on the eve of a desperate struggle against overwhelming odds, and each man prepared himself accordingly.
In front of Morell's division, to which the sharp shooters were attached, was a deep ravine heavily wooded on its sides, and through which ran a small stream, its direction being generally northeast, until it emptied into the Chickahominy near Woodbury's bridge. The bottom of the ravine was marshy and somewhat difficult of passage, and near the river widened out and took the name of Boatswain's swamp. On the far side of this ravine the sharp shooters were deployed to observe the approach of the enemy and to receive their first attack. In their front the ground was comparatively open, though somewhat broken, for a considerable distance. At half-past two P. M. the enemy's skirmishers appeared in the rolling open country, and desultory firing at long range commenced. Soon, however, the pressure became more severe, and a regiment on the right of the sharp42
shooters having given way, they, in their turn, were forced slowly back across the marshy ravine and part way up the opposite slope; here, being re-enforced, they turned on and drove the rebels back and reoccupied the ground on which they first formed, soon, however, to be forced back again. So heavily had each of the opposing lines been supported that the affair lost its character as a picket fight, and partook of the nature of line of battle fighting. The troops opposed at this time were those of A. P. Hill, who finally, by sheer weight of numbers, dislodged the sharp shooters and their supports from the woods and permanently held them. They were unable, however, to ascend the slope on the other side, and the main federal line was intact at all points. There was now an interval of some half an hour, during which time the infantry were idle; the artillery firing, however, from the Union batteries on the crest of the hill was incessant, and was as vigorously responded to by the rebels. From the right bank of the Chickahominy a battery of twenty pound Parrots, near Gen. W. F. Smith's headquarters, was skillfully directed against the rebel right near and in front of Dr. Gaines' house. At six o'clock P. M. Slocum's division of Franklin's corps was ordered across to the support of Porter's endangered command.
At seven o'clock the divisions of Hill, Longstreet, Whiting and Jackson were massed for a final attack on the small but undismayed federal force, who yet held every inch of the ground so desperately fought for during five long hours.43
Whiting's division led the rebel assault with Hood's Texan brigade in the front line. The attack struck the center of the line held by Morell's division, and so desperate was the assault and so heavily supported, that Morell's tired men were finally forced by sheer weight of masses to abandon the line which they had so long and so gallantly held. Had the rebels themselves been in a position to promptly pursue their advantage, the situation would have been most perilous to the Union forces. The enemy had now gained the crest of the hill which commanded the ground to the rear as far as the banks of the Chickahominy. This deep and treacherous stream, crossed but by few bridges - and they, with one exception, at a considerable distance from the field of battle - offered an effectual barrier to the passage of the routed army.
But while the federals had suffered severely, the losses of the rebels had been far greater. The disorganization and demoralization among the victors was even greater than among the vanquished; and before they could reform for further advance the beaten federal shad rallied on the low ground nearer the river and formed a new line which, in the gathering darkness, undoubtedly looked to the rebels, made cautious by experience, more formidable than it was in fact. Their cavalry appeared in great force on the brow of the hill, but the expected charge did not come; they had had fighting enough and rested content with what they had gained. The least desirable of the three44
choices offered to the Union commander had been taken, as it appeared, but a precious day had been gained to the army already in its retreat to the James. A fearful price had been paid for it, however, by the devoted band who stood in line of battle at noon, only twelve thousand answered to the roll call at night. One-third of the whole, or six thousand men, had fallen. They had done all that it was possible for men to do, and only yielded to superior numbers. It is now known that less than 25,000 men were left for the defense of Richmond; the rest of the rebel forces, or over 55,000 men, had been hurled against this wing of the Union army hoping to crush it utterly, and the attempt had failed.
Co. F had done its full share in the work of the day, and, although out of ammunition, retained it position with other companies of the regiment on the front line until the general disruption on the right and left compelled their retirement from the field. Tired, hungry and disheartened, they lay down for the night on the low ground a mile or more in the rear for a few hours of repose. At about eleven o'clock P.M. they were aroused and put in motion, crossing the Chickahominy at Woodbury's bridge and going again into bivouac on the high ground near the Trent Hospital some distance in the rear of the ground held by the Vermont brigade on the northern, or right, bank of the river. During the night the entire corps was45
withdrawn and the bridge destroyed. A fresh supply of ammunition was obtained and issued at daylight, and at ten o'clock A. M. the sharp shooters, with full cartridge boxes, but empty haversacks, took up their line of march towards the James. In this action the regiment lost heavily in killed and wounded. B. W. Jordan and Jas. A. Read of Co. F were mortally, and E. H. Himes severely wounded. Passing Savage Station, where the 5th Vermont suffered so severely on the next day, the regiment crossed White Oak swamp before dark on the twenty-eighth, and went into bivouac near the head of the bridge.
Wild rumors of heavy bodies of Confederate troops, crossing the Chickahominy at points lower down prepared to fall upon the exposed flank and rear of the federals were prevalent, and the dreaded form of Stonewall Jackson seemed to start from every bush.
During the night, which was intensely dark, the horses attached to a battery got loose by some means and, dashing through a portion of the ground occupied by other troops, seemed, with their rattling harness, to be a host of rebel cavalry. A bugle at some distance sounded the assembly, drums beat the long roll, and in the confusion of that night alarm it seemed as though a general panic had seized upon all. The sharp shooters, like all others, were thrown into confusion and momentarily lost their sense of discipline and disappeared. When the commanding officer, perhaps the last to awake, come to look for his command46
they were not to be found; with the exception of Calvin Morse, bugle of Co. F, he was alone. The panic among the sharp shooters, however, was only momentary; the first blast of the well known bugle recalled them to a sense of duty, and a rallying point being established, the whole command at once returned to the line reassured and prepared for any emergency.
At daylight the march was resumed and continued as far as Charles City cross roads, or Glendale, the junction of two important roads leading from Richmond southeasterly towards Malvern Hill; the lover, or Newmarket road, being the only one by which a rebel force moving from the city could hope to interpose between the retreating federals and the James.
The sharp shooters were thrown out on this road some two miles with instructions to delay as long as possible the advance of any body of the enemy who might approach by that route. This was the fourth day for Co. F of continuous marching and fighting; they had started with almost empty haversacks, and it had not bee possible to supply them. The country was bare of provisions, except now and then a hog that had so far escaped the foragers. A few of these fell victims to the hunger of the half-starved men; but, with no bread or salt, it hardly served a better purpose than merely to sustain life. To add to their discomforts the only water procurable was that from a well near by which was said to have been poisoned by the flying owner of the plantaion; his absence, with that of47
every living thing upon the place, made it impossible to apply the usual and proper test, that of compelling the suspected parties to, themselves, drink heartily of the water. A guard was therefore placed over the well, and thirsty soldiers were compelled to endure their tortures as best they could. The day passed in comparative quiet; only a few small bodies of rebel cavalry appeared to contest the possession of the road, and they being easily repulsed. Late in the afternoon the sharp shooters were recalled to the junction of the roads, where they rested for a short time to allow the passage of another column. At this point a single box of hard bread was procured from the cook in charge of a wagon conveying the mess kit of the officers of a battery; this was the only issue of rations made to the regiment from the morning of the 25th of June until they arrived at Harrison's landing on the 2d of July, and, inadequate as it was, it was a welcome addition to their meager fare.
At dark the regiment marched southwardly on a country road narrow and difficult, often appearing no more than a path through the dense swamp; the night, intensely dark, was made more so by the gloom of the forest, and all night the weary unfed men toiled along. At midnight the column was halted for some cause, and while thus halted another of those unaccountable panics took place - in fact, in the excited condition of the men, enfeebled by long continued labors without food, a small matter was sufficient to thrown them off their balance; and yet these very men a few hours later, with an48
enemy in front whom they could see and at whom they could deal blows as well as receive them, fought and won the great battle of Malvern Hill. During the night Co. F with one or two other companies were detailed to accompany Gen. Porter and others on a reconnoissance of the country to the left of the road on which the column wad halted. With a small force in advance as skirmishers, they passed over some two miles of difficult country, doubly so in the darkness of the night, striking and drawing the first or the rebel pickets. This being apparently the object of the movement, the skirmishers were withdrawn and the command rejoined the main column. So worn and weary were they that whenever halted even for a moment, many men would fall instantly into a sleep from which it would require the most vigorous efforts to arouse them. Shortly before daylight they were halted and allowed to sleep for an hour or two, when, with tired and aching bodies, they continued their march. At noon they passed over the crest of Malvern Hill and before them lay, quiet and beautiful in the sunlight, the valley of the James; and, at the distance of some three miles, the river itself with Union gun boats at anchor on its bosom.
It was a welcome sight to those who had been for six long days marching by night and fighting by day. It meant, as they fondly believed, food and rest, and they greeted the lovely view with cheers of exultation. But there were further labors and greater dangers in store for them before the longed for rest could be obtained. Passing49
over the level plateau known as Malvern Hill, they descended to the valley and went into bivouac. Here was at least water, and some food was obtained from the negroes who remained about the place.
No sooner were ranks broken and knapsacks unslung than the tired and dirty soldiers flocked to the banks of the beautiful river, and the water was soon filled with the bathers, who enjoyed this unusual luxury with keen relish.
The bivouac of the regiment was in the midst of a field of oats but recently cut and bound, and the men proceeded to arrange for themselves couches which for comfort and luxury they had not seen the like of since they left the feather beds of their New England homes. Their repose, even here, was, however, destined to be of short duration; for hardly had they settled themselves for their rest when the bugles sounded the general, and the head of the column, strangely enough, turned northward. Up the steep hill, back over the very road down which they had just marched, they toiled, but without murmur or discontent, for this movement was towards the rebels, and not away from them. Inspiring rumors began to be heard; where they came from, or how, no one knew, but it was said that McCall and Sumner had fought a great battle on the previous day, that the rebel army was routed, that Lee was a prisoner, that McClellan was in Richmond, and the long and short of it was that the Union army had nothing more to do but to march back, make a triumphal entry into the cap-50
tured stronghold, assist at that often anticipated ceremony which was to consign "Jeff. Davis to a sour apple tree," be mustered out, get their pay and go home. When they arrived on the plateau, however, a scene met their eyes that effectually drove such anticipations from their minds. A mile away, just emerging from the cover of the forest, appeared the forms of a number of men; were they friends or enemies? Glasses were unslung and they were at once discovered to be federals. Momentarily their numbers increased, and soon the whole plain was covered with blue coated troops, but they were without order or organization, many without arms, and their faces bearing not the light of successful battle, but dull with the chagrin of defeat. The story was soon told. Sumner and McCall had fought a battle at Charles City cross roads, but had been forced to abandon the field with heavy loss in men and guns. Instead of a triumphant march to Richmond, the Fifth Corps was again to interpose between the flushed and confident rebels and the retreating federals - but not, as at Gaines Hill, alone. This was late in the afternoon of June 30. That night the sharp shooters spent in bivouac near the ground on which they were to fight the next day. At dawn on the 1st of July the men were aroused, and proceeding to the front were ordered into line as skirmishers, their line covering the extreme left of the Union army directly in front of the main approach to the position. Malvern Hill, so called, is a hill only as it is viewed from the southern or51
western side; to the north and east the ground is only slightly descending from the highest elevation. On the western side, flowing in a southerly directions, is a small stream called Turkey run, the bed of the stream being some one hundred feet lower than the plateau. On the south, toward the James, the descent is more precipitous. The approaches were, as has been stated, from the north where the ground was comparatively level and sufficiently open to admit of rapid and regular maneuvers. The position taken by the Union army was not one of extraordinary strength, except that its flanks were well protected by natural features; its front was but little higher than the ground over which the enemy must pass to the attack, and was unprotected by natural or artificial obstacles. No earth works or other defenses were constructed; although the "lofty hill, crowned by formidable works," has often figured in descriptions of this battle. The simple truth is it was an open field fight, hotly contested and gallantly won.
The Union artillery, some three hundred guns, was posted in advantageous positions, some of the batteries occupying slight elevations from which they could fire over the heads of troops in their front, the most of them, however, being formed on the level ground in the intervals between regiments and brigades. The gun boats were stationed in the river some two miles distant, so as to cover and support the left flank, and it was expected that great assistance would be afforded by the first of their immense guns.52
Porter's corps held the extreme left, with its left flank on Turkey run, Morell's division forming the front line with headquarters at Crew's house. Sykes' division, composed mostly of regulars, was in the second line. McCall's division was held in reserve in rear of the left flank. On the right of Morell's line thus formed, came Couch's division; further to the right the line was refused, and the extreme right flank rested on the James; but with this portion of the line we have little to do. The main attack fell on the Fifth Corps, involving to some extent Couch's troops next on the right. In this order the army awaited the onset. In front of Morell's division stretched away a field about half a mile in length, bounded at its opposite extremity by heavy woods.
Nearly level in its general features, there extended across it at a distance of about one-third of a mile from the federal front, and parallel with it, a deep ravine, its western end debouching into the valley formed by Turkey run. This open field was covered at this time with wheat just ready for the harvest.
Along the north side of this ravine, covered from view by the waving wheat, the sharp shooters were deployed at an early hour and patiently awaited the attack of the enemy. A few scattered trees afforded a scant supply of half grown apples which were eagerly seized upon by the famished men, who boiled them in their tin cups and thus made them fairly palatable; by such poor means assuaging as best they could the pangs of hunger.53
At about twelve o'clock heavy clouds of dust arising in the north announced the approach of the Confederate columns, and soon after scouts and skirmishers began to make their presence known by shots fro the edge of the woods, some two hundred yards distant, directed at every exposed head. A puff of smoke from that direction, however, was certain to be answered by a dozen well aimed rifles from the sharp shooters, and the rebel scouts soon tired of that amusement. In the meantime the artillery firing had become very heavy on both sides, our own depressing their muzzles so as to sweep the woods in front; the effect of this was to bring the line of fire unpleasantly near the heads of the advanced sharp shooters. The gun boats also joined in the canonade, and as their shells often burst short, over and even behind the line of skirmishers, the position soon became one of grave danger from both sides.
At about half-past two the artillery fire from the rebel line slackened perceptibly, and soon appeared, bursting from the edge of the forest, a heavy line of skirmishers who advanced at a run, apparently unaware of any considerable force in their front. Bugler Morse of Co. F who accompanied the commanding officer as chief bugle on that day, was at once ordered t sound commence firing, and the sharp shooters sent across the field and into the lines of the oncoming rebels, such a storm of lead from their reach loading rifles as soon checked their advance and sent them back to the cover of the woods in great confusion and with serious loss.54
The repulse was but momentary, however, for soon another line appeared so heavily re-enforced that it was more like a line of battle than a skirmish line. Still, however, the sharp shooters clung to their ground, firing rapidly and with precision, as the thinned ranks of the Confederates, as they pressed on, attested. They would not, however, be denied, but still came on at the run, firing as they came. At this moment the sharp shooters became aware of a force of rebel skirmishers on their right flank, who commenced firing steadily, and at almost point blank range, from the shelter of a roadway bordered by hedges. The bugle now sounded retreat, and the sharp shooters fell back far enough to escape the effect of the flank fire when they were halted and once more turned their faces to the enemy. The tables were now turned; the rebels had gained the shelter of the ravine, and were firing with great deliberation at our men who were fully exposed in the open field in front of the Crew house. Still the sharp shooters held their ground, and, by the greater accuracy of their fire, combined with the advantage of greater rapidity given by breach loaders ov muzzle loaders, kept the rebels well under cover. Having thus cleared the way, as they supposed, for their artillery, the rebels sought to plant a battery in the open ground on the hither side of the woods which had screened their advance. The noise of chopping had been plainly heard for some time as heir pioneers labored in the woods opening a passage for the guns. Suddenly there burst out of the55
dense foliage four magnificent gray horses, and behind them, whirled along like a child's toy, the gun. Another and another followed, sweeping out into the plain. As the head of the column turned to the right to go into battery, every rifle within range was brought to bear, and horses and men began to fall rapidly. Still they pressed on, and when there were no longer horses to haul the guns, the gunners sought to put their pieces into battery by hand; nothing, however could stand before that terrible storm of lead, and after ten minutes of gallant effort the few survivors, leaving their guns in the open field, took shelter in the friendly woods. Not a gun was placed in position or fired from that quarter during the day. This battery was known as the Richmond Howitzers and was composed of the very flower of the young men of that city; it was their first fight, and to many their last. A member of the battery, in describing it to an officer of the sharp shooters soon after the close of the war, said pithily: "We went in a battery and came out a wreck. We staid ten minutes by the watch and came out with one gun, ten men and two horses, and without firing a shot."
The advanced position held by the sharp shooters being no longer tenable, as they were exposed to the fire, not only of the rebels in front but to that of their friends in the rear as well, they were withdrawn and formed in line of battle in the rear of the fourth Michigan volunteers, where they remained for a short time. The rebel fire from56
the brink of the ravine from which the sharp shooters had been dislodged, as before described, now became exceedingly galling and troublesome to the artillery in our front line, and several horses and men were hit in Weeden's R. I. battery, an officer of which requested that an effort be made to silence the fire. Col. Ripley directed Lieut. J. Smith Brown of Co. A, acting Adjutant, to take twenty volunteers far out to the left and front to a point designated, which it was hoped would command the ravine. The duty was one of danger, but volunteers were quickly at hand, among whom were several from Co. F. The gallant little band soon gained the coveted position, and thereafter the fire of the rebel riflemen from that point was of little moment. Lieut. Brown's command maintained this position during the entire battle, and being squarely on the flank of Magruder's charging columns, and being, from the very smallness of their number, hardly noticeable among the thousands of struggling men on that fatal field, they inflicted great damage and loss in the Confederate hosts. It was not late in the afternoon, no large bodies of the rebel infantry had as yet shown themselves, though the clouds of dust arising beyond the woods told plainly of their presence and motions. A partial attack had been made on the extreme right of Morell's line, involving to some extent the left of Couch's division, but was easily repulsed; the fire of Co. E of the sharp shooters, which had been sent to that point, contributing largely to that result. The artillery fire had been heavy and inces-57
sant for some hours, and shells were bursting in quick succession over every portion of the field. Suddenly there burst out of the ravine a heavy line of battle, followed by another and another, while out of the woods beyond poured masses of men in support. The battle now commenced in earnest.
The Union infantry, heretofore concealed and sheltered behind such little inequalities of ground as the field afforded, sprang to their feed and opened a tremendous fire, additional batteries were brought up, and from every direction shot and shell, canister and grape, were hurled against the advancing enemy, while the gun boats, at anchor in the river two miles away, joined their efforts with those of their brethren of the army. It was a gallant attempt, but nothing human could stand against the storm - great gaps began to be perceptible in the lines, but the fiery energy of Magruder was behind them and they still kept on, until it seemed that nothing short of the bayonet would stop them. Gradually, however, the rush was abated; here and there could be seen signs of wavering and hesitation; this was the signal for redoubled efforts on the part of the Union troops, and the discomfited rebels broke in confusion and fled to the shelter of the woods and ravines.
At the critical moment of this charge the sharp shooters had been thrown into line on the right of the fourth Michigan regiment and bore an honorable part in the repulse; indeed, so closely crowded were the Union lines at this point that many men of the sharp shooters found themselves in the line58
of the Michigan regiment and fought shoulder to shoulder with their western brothers. The battle was, however, by no means over; again and again did Magruder hurl his devoted troops against the Union line, only to meet a like repulse; the rebels fought like men who realized that their efforts of the past week, measurably successful though they had been, would have failed of their full result should they now fail to destroy the Army of the Potomac; while the Union troops held their lines with the tenacity of soldiers who knew that the fate of a nation depended upon the result of that day. At the close of the second assault the sharp shooters found themselves with empty cartridge boxes and were withdrawn from the front. The special ammunition required for their breech loaders not being obtainable, they were not again engaged during the day. In this fight the regiment lost many officers and men, among whom were Col. Ripley, Capt. Austin and Lieut. Jones of Co. E, wounded. In Co. F, Lieut. C. W. Seaton, Jacob S. Bailey and Brigham Buswell were wounded. Buswell's wound resulted in his discharge. Bailey rejoined the company, only to lose an arm at Chancellorsville.
The final rebel attack having been repulsed and their defeat being complete and final, the Union army was withdrawn during the night to Harrison's landing, some eight miles distant, which point had been selected by Gen. McClellan's engineers some days before as the base for future operations against Richmond by the line of59
the James river; operations which, as the event proved, were not to be undertaken until after two years of unsuccessful fighting in other fields, the Army of the Potomac found itself once more on the familiar fields of its earliest experience.
The campaign of the Peninsula was over; that mighty army that had sailed down the beautiful Potomac so full of hope and pride less than four months before; that had through toil and suffering fought its way to within sight of its goal; found itself beaten back at the very moment of its anticipated triumph, and instead of the elation of victory, it was tasting the bitterness of defeat; for, although many of its battles, as that of Hanover Court House, Williamsburgh, Yorktown, Mechanicsville and Malvern Hill, had been tactical victories, it felt that the full measure of success had not been gained, and that its mission had not been accomplished. While the army lay at Harrison' landing the following changes in the rolls of Co. F took place: Sergeant Amos H. Bunker, Azial N. Blanchard, Wm. Cooley, Geo. W. Manchester and Chas. G. Odell were discharged on surgeon's certificate of disability, and Brigham Buswell was discharged on account of disability resulting from the wound received at Malvern Hill. Benajah W. Jordan and James A. Read died of wounds received at Gaines Hill and W. S. Tarbell of disease. E. F. Stevens and L. D. Grover were promoted sergeants, and W. H. Leach and Edward Trask were made corporals. At this camp also Capt. Weston resigned and Lieut. C. W. Seaton was60
appointed captain, Second Lieut. M. V. B. Bronson was promoted first lieutenant and Ezbon W. Hindes second lieutenant. Major Trepp was promoted to lieutenant-colonel, vice Wm. Y. W. Ripley, and Capt. Hastings of Co. H was made major.
The regiment remained at Harrison's landing until the army left the Peninsula. The weather was intensely hot and the army suffered terrible losses by disease, cooped up as they were on the low and unhealthy bottom lands bordering the James. The enemy made one or two demonstrations, and on one occasion the camp of the sharp shooters became the target of the rebel batteries posted on the high lands on the further side of the river, and for a long time the men of Co. F were exposed to a severe fire to which they could not reply, but luckily without serious loss.