Pvt. William J. Crossley, Co. C, 2nd Rhode Island Infantry, On the Battle and Captivity

31 12 2013

Extracts from my Diary, and from my Experiences while Boarding with Jefferson Davis, in Three of His Notorious Hotels, in Richmond, Va., Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Salisbury, N. C, from July, 1861, to June, 1862.

By WILLIAM J. CROSSLEY.

[Late Sergeant Company C, Second Rhode Island Infantry Volunteers.]

July 17th, we arrived at Fairfax, where some of the smart ones made themselves conspicuous in a few of the houses evacuated by the Confederates, by smashing portraits, pianos, mirrors and other furniture, without cause or provocation.

Thursday, 18th, bought a hoecake and went a mile to milk a cow, with and from which I had a rare supper. The boys are shooting pigs and hens to kill. At 7 p. m. we marched away three or four miles to a place we named “Brush Camp,” where four men came to us from the fight we had heard two of three miles beyond, at a place called Centreville. They were gunless and hatless, and two of them were wounded. On the 19th, with rails and brush, we made a shelter from the fierce sun. Fresh meat was issued to-day; I made a soup, first in the campaign; rather but not awful salt, — for a fresh-made soup. Dress parade tonight. Sent a letter Home. Have to begin Home now with a capital “H” since we have seen rebel-made blood.

Sunday, July 21st. This is the day we celebrate the occasion of this melodrama. Left camp about 2 a. m., arrived at Bull Run about 9 a. m. Here the Confederacy received us with open arms and refreshments galore. We had barely time to exchange the compliments of the season with them, when one of the Johnnies with much previousness passed me a pepperment drop in the shape of a bullet that seemed to be stuffed with cayenne. Out of courtesy, of course, I returned a similar favor, with but little satisfaction however, for he was so completely hidden down in the grainfield that his colors and the smoke from his guns were all we had for a target. Well, the cayenne was getting warmer, and the blood was getting out of my eyes into my trousers’ leg, so I was taken to the rear, and down to where Surgeons Wheaton and Harris were dressing wounds, and had mine dressed; and, as the rebs began just then dropping shot and shell so near to us as to be taking limbs from the trees over our heads the doctors ordered that the wounded be moved away. I was put in a blanket and taken to another part of the woods and left. Soon after, an old friend of mine, Tom Clark, a member of the band, came along, and, after a chat, gave me some whiskey, from the effects of which, with fatigue, loss of blood and sleep, I was soon dozing, notwithstanding the roar of fierce and murderous battle going on just over the hill. When I awoke a tentmate of mine was standing over and telling me we were beaten and on the run. I wanted to tell him what Pat told the Queen of Ireland, Mrs. Keller, but after looking into his ghostly, though dirty face, I said nothing, but with his help and a small tree tried to get up. That was a failure, so I gave him my watch, said good-bye to him, and he left. Up to date it was also good-bye to the watch. Well, after this little episode, I turned over, and, on my hands and one knee, crawled down to the road, four or five hundred yards away, and tried to get taken in, or on an ambulance, but they were all full (though not the kind of full you are thinking about). Then I crawled up to a rail fence close by a log cabin, and soon the rebs came along, took account of stock, i. e., our name, regiment and company, and placed a guard over us. Being naturally of a slender disposition (I weighed one hundred and eleven pounds just before leaving Washington) and from the fracas of the last twelve hours, was, perhaps, looking a little more peaked than usual, so when one of the rebel officers asked me how old I was, and I told him twenty-one, maybe he was not so much to blame for smiling and swearing, “He reckoned I had got my lesson nearly perfect.” I didn’t know then what he meant, but it seems they had heard we were enlisting boys, and I suppose he thought, in my case at least, the facts were before him.

Monday, July 22d. Well, here I am, a prisoner of war, a lamb surrounded by wolves, just because I obeyed orders, went into a fight, and, by Queensbury rules, was punctured below the belt. So much for trying to be good. And just here I would like to add a few lines pertaining to that (to us, then) strange expression, “Prisoner of war.” From the day of my enlistment to the morning of this notorious battle I had never heard the word mentioned, nor had I even thought of it. I had been told before leaving Providence that I would be shot, starved or drilled to death, that with a fourteen-pound musket, forty rounds of cartridge, a knapsack of indispensables, a canteen of, — of fluid, a haversack of hard-tack, a blanket and half a tent I would be marched to death under the fierce rays of a broiling sun, with a mule’s burden of earth — in the shape of dust — in my hair, eyes, and ears, up my nose and down the back of my neck, or, wading through miles of mud so thick that I must go barefoot or leave my shoes. That I would return home — if at all — with but one leg, one arm, one eye, or one nose, and with but very little of the previous large head; but with all this gabble about war and its alluring entertainments not a solitary word about “Prisoner of war.” So you see, it was not merely a surprise to us, a little something just out of the ordinary, but it was a shock, and not an every day feeble and sickly shock either, but a vigorous paralyzing and spine-chilling shock, that we couldn’t shake off for days or weeks after we were captured. But to continue.

It rained all of last night; I got thoroughly soaked. This morning the rebs made our able ones go out on the battlefield and get rubber blankets, put them over rails and make a shelter for us in the yard of the cabin. The cabin is full of wounded and dying, and I don’t know how many are in the yard. When the surgeon was dressing my wound to-day, we found the bullet inside the drawers where they were tied around my ankle. Oh, but wasn’t I lucky; there was but one puncture and that one below wind and vitals. That’s where the infantry lap over the navy, you see, Mr. Shell-back.

July 23d. Colonel Slocum died at one o’clock this morning. Penno, of the First, had his leg cut off. The major had both of his taken off.

We had some porridge made from meal the men brought in from the woods.

July 24th. Colonel Slocum was buried this morning at the lower end of the garden. Major Ballou’s and Penno’s legs in same place. The Major is getting better; so am I. As the men were going past me here with the Colonel’s body, I was allowed to cut a button from his blouse (I have it yet), at the same time they found another bullet wound in one of his ankles.

July 26th. Had ham and bread for dinner right from the field, and gruel for supper. T. O. H. Carpenter, another of my friends, and of my company, died to-day, up at the church.

July 27th. No bread to-day, only gruel. McCann, of Newport, died.

July 28th. Major Ballou died this p. m.

Gruel for supper, with a fierce tempest.

July 29th. The major was buried beside the colonel at dark.

July 31st. Have had an elegant headache the past two days; to-day it’s singing. Started for Manassas Junction about noon, in ammunition wagons, and with those infernal drivers hunting around for rocks and stumps to drive over; it did seem as if the proprietors of the bullet holes and stumps in the wagons were getting “on to Richmond” with a vengeance. At the Junction we were put into freight cars and started at dark for Richmond.

August 1st. When we arrived at Gordonville this morning, the most of us hoped to be delivered from another such night, for the way that engineer twitched and thumped those cars all night long would have made Jeff Davis & Co. smile, if they could have heard the cursing and groans of the tortured and dying in those cars. This afternoon some are scraping the maggots from their rotten limbs and wounds, for the heat has been sweltering all day, and the stench almost unbearable, as you know, there is no ventilation in the ends of a box freight car; but the most of us lived through it, and finally arrived at Richmond, one hundred and fifty miles from Manassas, at the speed of nearly seven miles an hour. Did you ever hear of Uncle Sam treating a train load of gasping and dying strangers quite so beastly and leisurely as that? As we were being unloaded from the cars to wagons a nice looking old gentleman with a white necktie, standing nearby, said to me, “How old are you, my little man?” I told him twenty-one, but from his insinuating that I must be a near relative of Ananias, I did not pretend to be over seventeen after that while in the Confederacy. From the cars we were taken to a tobacco factory, near the lower end of the city, and on the left bank of the James River, afterwards known as the famous “Libby.” We were dumped on the first floor, among the tobacco presses for the night, and next morning taken upstairs, and, “bless my stars,” put on cots, and given bread and coffee for breakfast. What was the coffee made of do you ask? I don’t know, and, as you didn’t have it to drink it need not concern you; and we had soup for dinner, and it’s none of your affairs what that was made of either. And now we are allowed to send letters home, but have to be very careful as to quality and quantity, for Mr. Reb has the first perusal and will throw them in the waste basket if a sentence or even a word is not to his liking. I tell you if we needed a capital “H” for home, when at Brush Camp, the entire word should be written in capitals here, for there we were surrounded by friends, not an enemy in sight, while here we are surrounded by thousands of enemies and bayonets and not a solitary friend within miles.

While writing this paper I have tried to think of some parallel or similar case to that of ours, that I might give you an idea in a more condensed and comprehensive form what that life was, but I can think of none. Possibly some of you may think that board and lodgings at “Viall’s Inn” for a few months might be comparable. I don’t think so; but as we are cramped for time I will not argue the matter with you, but drop it after a single comparison. If you were to be sent to General Viall’s you would be told before leaving the Court House how long you were to stay. There is where much of the agony, the wear and tear came to us, that everlasting longing, yearning and suspense.

When settled down to our daily routine, I find on the cot beside mine a little Belgian Dutchman, about thirty-five years old, with a head round as a pumpkin, eyes that would snap like stars in January, and a moustache that puts his nose and mouth nearly out of sight. He was seldom murmuring, but flush with sarcasm. His name was Anthony Welder, and he belonged to the Thirty-Eighth New York. He was wounded the same as I, just above the knee, so he could not walk, but he did not lack for friends and fellow countrymen to call on him and help use up many weary hours with their national and lively game of “Sixty-Six.” I wish you could have seen them play it. I was a real nice boy at that time and didn’t know even the name of a card, but seeing them getting so much fun out of it I asked Anthony one day to show me how to play, but with a very decided No, he said, “I tell you; I show you how to play, and you play awhile for fun, then you play for a little money, you win, then you play for a pile, and you win, then you play for a big pile, and you lose him all, then you say, ‘Tarn that Tutchman, I wish the tevil had him before he show me how to play cards.’ ” But there wasn’t much peace for Dutchie until I knew how to play Sixty-Six.” And just here is another illustration of the havoc my evaporated memory has made with some of the tidbits of those days, that I would occasionally like to recall ; for to-day I know no more about that game of “Sixty-Six” than the Chaplain of the Dexter Asylum.

August 4th. A First regiment man died, and on the 6th Esek Smith, also three other Rhode Island men died. And her[e] I should say I make no mention of the dozens and scores belonging to other states and regiments that are carried out daily. One day as a body was being taken out past us I said to Welder, “There goes another poor fellow that’s had to give up the ghost,” and Welder says, “Well, that is the last thing what he could do.”

August 7th. Had services this p. m. by an Episcopal clergyman.

August 10th. Grub very scarce. Cobb of the Second died, and H. L. Jacques, of Company E, from Wakefield, bled to death this evening.

August 13th. Johnnie is whitewashing the walls. It makes the dirty red bricks look a little more cheerful.

August 21st. To-day we are a month away from Bull Run, and a month nearer home.

Hat-tip to reader Bill Kleppel

William J. Crossley at Ancestry.com

While presented in diary format, it is apparent that the above was subsequently edited by the author.





JCCW Rebel Barbarities – Governor William Sprague

3 05 2012

Report of the Conduct of the War, Volume 3, pp. 474 – 476

WASHINGTON, April 11, 1862.

Governor WILLIAM SPRAGUE sworn and examined.

By Mr. Odell:

Question. What is your present position?

Answer. I am governor of the State of Rhode Island.

Question. You have recently visited the battle field of Bull Run?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. For the purpose of recovering the bodies of some of your soldiers who fell there last July?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. Will you state, in your own way, what you saw and learned there, in reference to the treatment of our wounded and dead by the rebels after the battle of Bull Run?

Answer. As to the officers?

Question. Generally, in regard to all. We have been instructed by the Senate to investigate the statements made public, concerning the cruel and barbarous treatment of our wounded and dead.

Answer. In that part of the field where I was our wounded were taken to two different places; one was a storehouse at the point where the engagement first took place; the other was about three-quarters of a mile in the rear of the battle field. Colonel Slocum and Major Ballou were taken to a position at the rear. When the retreat commenced we had in this hospital, as it was termed, several wounded rebel officers; and there were also several of our men there, who were promised, if they would stay with them, that they should be released. They did remain. When I went out there a few days since I took three men with me to designate the places where these officers had been buried. On reaching the place we commenced digging for the bodies of Colonel Slocum and Major Ballou at the spot which was pointed out to us by those soldiers. While we were digging there some negro women came up and asked who we were looking for; and, at the same time, said that “Colonel Slogan” had been dug up by the rebels, some men of a Georgia regiment, his head cut off, and his body taken to a ravine some thirty or forty yards below, and there burned. We stopped digging and went to the place thus designated, where we found coals, ashes, and bones mingled together. A little distance from there we found a shirt and a blanket with large quantities of hair upon it. Everything there indicated the burning of a body there. We then returned and dug down at the spot indicated as the grave of Major Ballou, but found no body there. But at the spot designated as the place where Colonel Slocum was burned we found a box, which, upon having raised and opened, was found to contain the body of Colonel Slocum. The soldiers who had buried the bodies of Colonel Slocum and Major Ballou were satisfied that the grave that had been opened and the body taken out, beheaded, and burned, was that of Major Ballou, because it was not in the spot where Colonel Slocum was buried, but rather to the right of it. They at once said that the rebels had made a mistake, and taken the body of Major Ballou for that of Colonel Slocum. The shirt we found near the place where the body was burned I recognized as one belonging to Major Ballou, as I had been very intimate with him. We gathered up the ashes containing the portions of his remains that were left and put them in a coffin, together with his shirt, and the blanket and the hair found upon it, and some hair also that was brought to us by a civilian who had expostulated with the rebels against this barbarity.

Question. What was the name of that civilian?

Answer. I do not know.

Question. He was a resident there?

Answer. Yes, sir; he resided near Sudley church. After we had done this we went to that portion of the field where the battle had first commenced, and began to dig there for the remains of Captain Tower. We had brought a soldier with us to designate the place where he was buried, who had been wounded at the battle, and had seen from the window of the house in which he was placed the spot where Captain Tower was buried. On opening the ditch, or trench, where he was buried, we found it filled with bodies of soldiers, all buried with their faces downwards. After taking up some four or five of them, we discovered the remains of Captain Tower, mingled with those of the men, and took them and placed them in a coffin and brought them home.

By Mr. Gooch:

Question. The position of these bodies was such that you were satisfied that they were buried intentionally with their faces downwards?

Answer. Undoubtedly; beyond all controversy.

By Mr. Chandler:

Question. Did you consider that that was done as a mark of indignity?

Answer. Yes, sir; as an indignity.

Question. What could have been their object in doing these things, especially what they did with what they considered the body of Colonel Slocum?

Answer. Sheer brutality; nothing else. They did it on account of his courage and chivalry in forcing his regiment fearlessly and bravely upon them, and destroying about one-half of that Georgia regiment, which was made up of their best citizens.

Question. Were these barbarities perpetrated by that regiment?

Answer. By that same regiment, as I was told. We saw where their own dead were buried with marble head and foot stones, and the names upon them, while ours were buried, as I have stated, in trenches. I have published an order to my second regiment, to which these officers were attached, that I shall not be satisfied with what they shall do, unless they give an account of at least one rebel killed for each one of their own number.





JCCW Rebel Barbarities – Reverend Frederic Denison

26 04 2012

Report of the Conduct of the War, Volume 3, pp. 460 – 461

WASHINGTON, April 2, 1862.

Reverend FREDERIC DENISON sworn and examined.

By the chairman:

Question. Have you heard the testimony of Dr. Greeley just given to the committee?

Answer. I have.

Question. Will you state whether you were with him during the examination he has referred to, and whether you concur in what he has stated?

Answer. So far as he has stated any matters of which I was a witness, I concur entirely. I accompanied Governor Sprague as a member of his staff; we left here on Wednesday, the 19th of March, and returned here on Sunday morning following. It was on the 21st of March that we went on the battle-field.

Question. If there is anything in addition to what he has stated that you deem of importance you will please state it.

Answer. I would state, in addition to what he has stated in regard to the grave of Major Ballou, that I accompanied the governor up through some pine woods to a house where resided an old gentleman of the name of Newman, a man I should judge to be sixty years of age. The colored girl had told us her story, the lad had told us the same story, and we wanted to learn what we could from others. This old gentleman seemed to be a man highly esteemed by all who knew him, and we went to him and asked him what he knew about the matter. He stated that the Georgia regiment, as he had understood, had suffered severely from the Rhode Island soldiers in the battle of Bull Run, and that through revenge they had exhumed this body, beheaded it and burned it. He said he was not present when it was done, and had not seen it, but that every one who had talked about it had said it was so. But he said that three or four days after it was done he went down there, and saw the fire and the bones, and the coffin, and that the coffin had been afterwards used to bury a colored pauper in. I asked him to go to the spot and show it to me, and he did so; went with me directly to the spot and pointed it out to me, and also showed me where the coffin lay when he saw it last, before it was used for the purpose of burying the negro pauper in.

Question. Did you understand what they did with the head after they cut it off the body?

Answer. This Mr. Newman, or else the colored woman, I cannot recollect which, said it was understood that the head was carried off south. They were not witnesses of the fact. I guess they heard it was so. I looked particularly among the ashes, but saw nothing that to my eye looked like any portion of the skull. In regard to the place where Captain Tower was buried, which was up on the battle-field, I counted eight bodies, as they were laid bare. They were buried in a pit, or a kind of a square hole, into which they had been thrown, with the earth thrown in perhaps two feet deep over them. On top we found an unexploded shell, which I brought with me. What it meant I cannot say — whether a matter of accident or a mark of indignity. It hardly seemed to me that it could be a mere accident.

Question. Did you observe whether they had been buried with their faces down?

Answer. Yes, sir; all of them.

Question. Did you make examination of other graves?

Answer. We opened no graves except those containing the bodies of the dead for whom we were seeking. There was another pit, not far from the one from which we took Captain Tower. We did not open it, not knowing positively that it contained any of our dead, though we suspected it contained the body of Lieutenant Prescott. Mr. Newman spoke a great deal of this matter of exhuming, beheading, and burning the body of Major Ballou. He called it Colonel Slocum, as that was what he had all along understood. He was very emphatic in his declarations that it could not have been done by Virginians. He seemed to think it a very barbaric thing, and wished to exculpate Virginians.

Question. Do you think of anything further that you desire to state?

Answer. In the pit from which we took the body of Captain Tower I counted eight bodies. There may have been more there. We began at one end, and uncovered until we came to the body of Captain Tower, and then opened it no further. There was one body lying right across the feet of the others, and to all appearance must have been trodden down very compactly, as there seemed to be hardly room for a body there. There seemed to have been no attempt to bury the bodies in any orderly, decent, or respectful manner. In regard to the mistaking of the body of Major Ballou for that of Colonel Slocum by the Georgians, it resulted from this, I have no doubt: Colonel Slocum was buried in an oblong box—a square box; Major Ballou was buried in a coffin, or a box which was coffin-shaped; and it is supposed (of course we know nothing about that) that they exhumed both coffins, and supposing the superior officer was in the coffin, and not in the box, which was the one they meant to take, they took the body of Major Ballou. Rumor accordingly stated that they had taken the body of Colonel Slocum. But his body we found. It was the body of Major Ballou that they took.





JCCW Rebel Barbarities – Dr. James B. Greeley

25 04 2012

Report of the Conduct of the War, Volume 3, pp. 458 – 460

WASHINGTON, April 2, 1862.

Dr. JAMES B. GREELEY sworn and examined.

By the chairman:

Question. This committee have been directed by the Senate to collect evidence with regard to the barbarous practices of the rebels in disturbing the graves of our dead at Bull Bun, &c; will you please state to the committee, in your own way, what you know about that matter?

Answer. I, with others, accompanied Governor Sprague, of Rhode Island, to the battle-field of Bull Run, to endeavor to recover the bodies of Colonel Slocum, Major Ballou, Captain Tower, and others.

Question. About what time was that?

Answer. I think it was the 20th of March; either the 19th or 20th. We took with us, as a guide, a Mr. Richardson, I forget his first name, who assisted at the burial of Colonel Slocum and Major Ballou, to identify the spot where they were buried. We arrived at the place of burial on the 21st, I think. The hospital in which Colonel Slocum died had been burned, and we passed it. As we were passing I saw a negro girl at a spring; I questioned her about the way to the battle-field, and she directed us. We made some mistake, which we very soon discovered, when we turned back. Some of our party had been left behind, and when we returned we met Major Anthony, who commanded the escort. He informed us that they had commenced digging at a grave, and, while digging, this colored girl came down where they were and asked them what they were digging for. Said she, “if you are digging for the body of Colonel Sloke—,” she hesitated about the name, saying two or three times, “Colonel Sloke, Sloke.” One of the party said “Colonel Slocum.” “Yes, sir,” said she, “that is the name; you won’t find him ; the Georgia regiment men dug him up some weeks ago, and first cut off his head and then burned his body in the little hollow there,” pointing it out to us. She told us that his shirts were down in a place that she pointed out, and that his coffin had been left in the stream, and afterwards used to bury a colored pauper in. We went to the place she had pointed out to us, and found where there had been a fire, evidently for the purpose of burning the body, as she stated. In raking over the ashes we found a femur, or thigh bone, partly burned, some of the vertebras, or back bone, and portions of the pelvis bones. We also found, in a stream near by, two shirts, both of them still buttoned together at the neck, partially torn open in the centre, and with the wrists unbuttoned.

Question. How did they get the shirts off without unbuttoning at the neck?

Answer. The head had been cut off. We called the attention of every person present to that fact. We supposed that this body thus burned was that of Colonel Slocum. But when we found these shirts, Governor Sprague said Colonel Slocum never wore such a shirt as that. One of the shirts was a silk shirt, and the other was a striped shirt of some kind, I think. We had proceeded with the full conviction that the body thus burned had been that of Colonel Slocum; and when Governor Sprague said those shirts were not those of Major Ballou, we could not believe it possible, and went back to the graves to examine them. Before we had arrived there, Mr. Richardson had described to us the relative position of the graves of Colonel Slocum and Major Ballou. While we were down examining the ashes, men were engaged in digging out one of the graves—the upper grave; and when we returned there they had dug down nearly a foot, and had discovered nothing. Mr. Richardson was positive the coffins had not been buried more than two feet beneath the surface. It was very hard digging, and having discovered nothing after digging clown a foot, I suggested taking a sabre and running it down, by which we could very easily discover if there was a coffin there. I took a sabre myself and thrust it in the ground at least two feet, but could discover nothing. We then thrust it in the place where Mr. Richardson said the other officer was buried, and we struck a coffin not more than two feet below the surface. The coffin was taken out, and the top taken off, when Colonel Slocum’s friends recognized him at once, by his uniform, and also by his countenance, his moustache, &c. Major Ballou’s body was not found in the grave. We then went to a house on the battle-field which had been used as a hospital, in the yard of which Captain Tower had been buried. We exhumed there at least seven bodies, which had been buried in their garments, apparently just as they fell. They were buried with their faces downward. Among them we found the body of Captain Tower. His orderly was positive that when Captain Tower died he had on a very fine pair of boots; they were not on his body when we found him.

Question. Did you make any further search to ascertain whether there had been any further mutilation of the bodies or barbarities practised upon the dead?

Answer. No, sir. We made inquiries of the inhabitants there, and they all corroborated the girl’s story. There was a lad there, about fourteen years of age, I should judge, and he was questioned very closely about it. Colonel Sayles was with us, and was very skeptical about the burning of this body. He questioned the boy very closely, but the boy stood the examination very well. . The boy said that it was the 21st Georgia regiment who came there, and he saw the body burned. He said they put the fire out afterwards, because it made such a horrible stench. He said that he knew, several days before, that they were going to do it. After they did it, it was talked of a great deal in the neighborhood, and they all condemned it.

By Mr. Wright :

Question. What could have been the object of digging up this body, after it had been buried several months, and then burning it?

Answer. I could think of no object.

By the chairman:

Question. You spoke of seven or eight bodies being buried with their faces downward. What did you consider the significance of that?
 
Answer. I did not know. My impression was that it was intended as a mark of indignity; it seemed so to me. Every one we exhumed was found buried with the face downward, no matter in what position they lay. Sometimes they would lie crosswise of each other, four or five packed in together, sometimes with their legs sticking out of the ground, and all with their faces downward.

Question. Did you make any inquiries of the inhabitants to ascertain any further than you have already stated?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. State it, if you please.

Answer. They spoke of this burning of Major Ballou’s body particularly, and several of them said they knew of the fact, supposing, however, that it was Colonel Slocum’s body. One man told me that the Georgia regiment was very bitter against Colonel Slocum, because his regiment had been instrumental in cutting them up very badly. I examined the remains in the ashes very carefully. We brought them all home, and I examined them through my own hands. I examined especially for teeth, for I knew if the head had been there, the teeth would have been the last to have been destroyed. I found the femur, or thigh-bone, which must have been that of a man over thirty years of age. The angle at the neck of it indicated a man at least thirty years of age. The body was proved to be that of a man by the pelvis-bone that was found; but we found no portion of the skull.

Question. You have stated that you found that the shirts were buttoned at the neck?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. The wristbands, however, were not buttoned?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. What inference did you draw from that?

Answer. The shirts could not have been taken off from the body without the head had been taken off, unless they had been unbuttoned.

Question. You understood that the head had been taken off?

Answer. Yes, sir.

By Mr. Chandler:

Question. Did you hear anything said about the skulls of our dead being used for drinking-cups, &c.?

Answer. The negro girl and the young boy I have referred to said that the Georgia regiment carried the skull of what they considered Colonel Slocum home with them.

Question. You are satisfied that it was Major Ballou’s body they had thus treated?

Answer. Yes, sir; and another reason was that we knew Major Ballou had lost a limb.





Leonard Belding, Co. K, 2nd Rhode Island Infantry, On the Battle

4 10 2011

Letter From The Battle-Field

The following is a copy of an interesting letter from a Worcester county boy, who was in the fight at Bull Run.

Washington, D. C., Camp Clark,

 July 2[?], 1861.

Dear Father and Mother: – I take this, the earliest opportunity to let you know that I am in the land of the living, and enjoying good health. Probably you have heard of the “Grand Ball” which we had a Bull Run, and of our laying out about two thousand of the rebels. I will tell you some of the particulars of the battle. Last Sunday morning, the 21st of July, we were ordered to march, and at three o’clock A. M. were on the road, and marched twelve miles without anything to eat. Our regiment, the second Rhode Island, was the advance guard, and was thrown into the field against eighty thousand rebels, whom we fought for forty five minutes without any other of the regiments coming to our relief, during which time, our regiment drove back upward of ten thousand of the rebels three times, killing about six hundred of them, and they killed some one or two hundred of us. Every man of our regiment fought like bull-dogs, the bullets flying about our heads in a perfect hail-storm. Three of my most intimate friends were shot down by my side, one of them having his head shot from his body, and another had his leg taken entirely off, the blood flying in my face. I felt so badly that I almost fainted, but I rallied immediately, and clenching my teeth, went in, and every shot that I fired I made it tell, as I can assure you that I saw five of the rebels fall dead, and I thought the death of my friends avenged. I had several bullet holes in my clothes, and thought some of the time that I should never see home again. I went down with other of our men into the woods where the rebels had been, the blood in many places being over the soles of our shoes, and the dead rebels lying three deep in some places. While I was in the swamp I came across a wounded Alabamian, who begged me not to kill him, and asked me to give him some water. He said we had cut his regiment all to pieces, and that he was pressed onto the southern army, and that many others were, also. We were probably led on to the field by a traitor, who is now in jail, and who ought to be shot, as he certainly will be if he falls into the hands of the New York Fire Zouaves. If we had had ten thousand more men, we should have whipped them high and dry. All we wish for now is, that we may have another sight at them, and we will whip them just as sure as I am a “greasy mechanic.” You will probably have heard all the particulars of the battle, and the cause of our retreat, before you receive this, so I will bring my letter to a close by bidding you all good-bye for the present, and by saying that all of us are as firm and determined as ever, and only awaiting another brush with the enemy, when we will rub him out completely. Give my love to all the boys and tell them the Rhode Island troops did their duty nobly.

From your affectionate son,
Leonard C. Belding,
Co. K, 2d R. I. Vol.

Worcester Daily Spy 8/2/1861

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“Tockwotton”, 2nd Rhode Island Infantry, On the Battle’s Toll

4 10 2011

Letters From The Second Rhode Island Regiment:

Camp Clark,  July 23, 1861.

To the Editors of the Evening Press: – Dear Sir: Among the vast crowd of facts and thoughts I hardly know that will be of the greatest relief to your readers. The Regiment is now mostly together again, and getting quietly settled in their quarters. Rations, blankets, &c., have been served out, and every possible thing will be done at once to make the men comfortable. New and spacious quarters are provided, where the wounded will at once be placed and carefully attended to .

The roll of the companies has just been called and the result is as follows: 28 killed, 56 wounded, and 30 missing. Total 115. This is even more favorable than I feared when I wrote last evening, and we trust that the missing ones will all return to us and that nearly if not all the wounded ones will recover.

Among the lost I include Col. Slocum, Major Ballou, and Captains Tower, and Smith. Of Col. Slocum I have spoken already. The whole camp mourns for him. His absence fills all with gloom, and has made the whole day seem to us like a funeral ceremony. ‘Tis not the loss of a skillful officer alone, that many of us mourn, but a warm-hearted and faithful personal friend whose place we see no means of filling. Major Ballou, also, showed himself among the bravest of the brave. He was constantly in the thickest of the fight, cheering the men by his voice and by his example, to yet greater valor. Even after he fell, he continued to shout to the men to press onward. He was as we know, a gentleman of most amiable character and high culture, and has now crowned his distinguished life, by a heroic fall, He was yet alive when the army retreated, but no hope was entertained by Dr. Wheaton that he would survive. Captain Tower, fell early in the battle, while boldly leading his men to the charge. He merely requested to be turned over, and died without a struggle. Captain Smith, after having led his company bravely through the strife, and performed all the duties of a gallant officer, was instantly killed by a ball from the masked battery which fired upon us on our retreat. To see him and others, thus literally mowed down in their defenceless condition, and to witness the crashing together of guns, wagons, carriages, horses and property of all sorts, into masses of hopeless confusion and ruin, was to me the most terrible part of the whole affair

The standard bearer of the regiment, John M. Durfee, who escaped unhurt, is deserving of special mention and praise. Though the balls were showering upon him like hailstones, and though the colors which the ladies presented to us was completely riddled by them, he not only bore it proudly aloft in the face of the foe, but waved it fearlessly far in advance and called constantly for the men to follow and defend it. An officer of another regiment shouted to me in his admiration – “That fellow alone is worth a thousand men!” Doubtless the steadiness of the men and the entire success of this part of the conflict are very much to be attributed to his bearing. It is no small part of the credit of the well disciplined and bravely led company of Capt. Viall that they furnished to us such a standard bearer.

But time and space would fail me to go into particulars. You may rest assured that the reputation of the State has been well sustained and that the high praise which is bestowed upon the 2d regiment has been richly earned. Had the decided advantage gained by them been followed up by others with half their promptness and valor, our defeat would have turned out a glorious victory. I am surprised to notice with what intelligence the men now discuss the incidents and the management of the combat. Also, with the vigor they are now recommending the work of preparation for renewed conflict. Do not imagine that there is the least discouragement here. We have only sowed the dragon’s teeth, and armed hosts are springing up like magic. The returned regiments with often all but trifling losses will soon be reorganized. A vastly larger army is already gathering about us, and when, with more experience, able general officers and in better discipline, it shall again take the offensive, woe to them upon whom shall fall its pent up vengeance.

I will only add that our men are rapidly regaining their strength and cheerfulness. The wounded (including Freeman) are doing well, and let our friends and all who mourn remember that their loved ones have fallen nobly and in the cause of freedom. In this and in the grace of God may they find consolation.

Yours, &c.,
Tockwotton

Providence Evening Press 7/26/1861

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Lt. John P. Shaw, Co. F, 2nd RI Infantry

3 10 2011

The Lieutenant Shaw who authored this account of his experience in the Battle of Bull Run is most likely John P. Shaw, who would die a captain in the regiment during the Overland Campaign in 1864. Here’s a photo of Shaw courtesy of the Library of Congress:

The LOC info on this image:

Title: Camp Brightwood, D.C.–Contrabands in 2nd R.I. Camp
Date Created/Published: [between 1861 and 1865]
Medium: 1 photographic print on carte de visite mount: albumen; 10×6 cm.
Summary: Capt. B.S. Brown (left); Lt. John P. Shaw, Co. F 2nd Regt. Rhode Island Volunteer Infantry (center); and Lt. Fry (right) with African American men and boy.

Notice the distinctive early war Rhode Island blouses and Shaw’s name stenciled on the folding camp stool at right. The regiment encamped in Camp Brightwood in the fall and winter of 1861-62.

Several sources, including the Official Army Register (which is probably the culprit), list Shaw as killed at the Wilderness on May 5, 1861. However, Augustus Woodbury’s history of the regiment has this memorial biography:

Captain John P. Shaw, son of General James Shaw, was born in Providence, January 3rd, 1834. He was instructed in the common schools of Providence, and became by occupation a jeweller. He was married, September 13th, 1854, to Amanda O., daughter of William P. Brightman. At the outset of the rebellion he joined the First Rhode Island, as sergeant-major, and, on the formation of the Second, was appointed second lieutenant of Company F. He was successively promoted to first lieutenant, July 22nd, 1861, and captain, July 24th, 1862, of Company K. He was particularly efficient as a drill and recruiting officer, and, while as lieutenant, during the absence of his captain, he received, in special orders, the congratulations and commendation of Colonel Wheaton, for the “entire success with which he had performed the duties of a higher grade.” In battle he was known as a brave and gallant officer, and was selected more than once to perform services of a peculiarly difficult kind. He fell in the bloody battle before Spottsylvania Court House, May 12th, 1864. The generous words of Colonel Edwards, in his farewell order to the Second, on the departure of the Regiment from Cold Harbor, have already been given. In a private letter to General Shaw the colonel rendered an additional testimony of his regard: “Captain Shaw died fighting so bravely, was so conspicuous among the bravest, that I could not help noticing him particularly. I and all that knew him are fellow mourners.”

And Elisha Hunt Rhodes describes Shaw’s death in his diary entry Line of Battle Near Spottsylvania Court House, May 13th 1864:

In front of our line there was an open plain for perhaps two hundred yards and then there were thick woods. The Rebels formed in the woods and then sent forward a small party with a white flag. As we saw the flag we ceased firing, and the officers jumped upon the parapet, but as the party approached they were followed by a line of battle who rushed upon us with yells. Our men quickly recovered from the surprise and gave them a volley which sent them flying to the woods. From the woods a steady fire was kept up until after midnight. The guns which I mentioned above were still standing idle in the angle and neither party could get them. A Brigade of New Jersey troops were brought up and attempted to enter the angle but were driven back. General Sickles’ old Brigade (the Excelsior) were then brought up, but the men could not stand the terrible fire and instead of advancing in line only formed a semicircle about the guns. Capt. John P. Shaw of Co. “K” 2nd R. I. Volunteers was standing upon a stump and waving his sword to encourage these men when he suddenly fell backwards. I shouted to Major Jencks that Shaw was down. I ran to him and found him lying with his head upon an ammunition box. I raised him up, and the blood spurted from the wound in his breast, and he was dead. As I had lost my pistol I took his and placed it in my holster and will, if I live, send it home to the Captain’s father.








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