Category Archives: Men of the 14th

Tears of Joy and Sadness

The formal surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia took place on Wednesday, April 12th, 1865, exactly four years after the first shots were fired at Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. Brig. Gen. Joshua Chamberlain was placed in charge of planning and conducting the ceremonies, and his only goal was to mark the occasion with an air of dignity, solemnity, and respect for the 28,000 Confederate soldiers who laid down their arms.

Chamberlain described part of the ceremony in his memoir The Passing of Armies: (Maj. Gen. John) Gordon at the head of the column, riding with heavy spirit and downcast face, catches the sound of shifting arms, looks up, and, taking the meaning, wheels superbly, making with himself and his horse one uplifted figure, with profound salutation as he drops the point of his sword to the boot toe; then facing to his own command, gives word for his successive brigades to pass us with the same position of the manual,—honor answering honor. On our part not a sound of trumpet more, nor roll of drum; not a cheer, nor word nor whisper of vain-glorying, nor motion of man standing again at the order, but an awed stillness rather, and breath-holding, as if it were the passing of the dead!

The original members of the Fourteenth Connecticut Volunteer Infantry had enlisted during the summer of 1862 for a term of “three years or the duration.” By any measure they had done their duty. Joy turned instantly to deepest gloom when word was received on the 15th of the assassination of President Lincoln. A funeral service for their Commander in Chief was conducted at brigade headquarters on May 19th, even as the Lincoln’s state funeral was being held in the East Room of the White House.

Only one objective remained—return home to Connecticut, but it would happen on army time. They set up their tents near Appomattox the way they always had, in neat rows that formed streets, and camped out for three weeks. Finally, on May 2nd, they packed up their gear and began their last march. On May 6th, the Fourteenth held the lead position in the long Second Corps column as they marched through the ruins of Richmond. Then they passed in review before Gen. Henry Halleck, who watched from the steps for the former Confederate capitol building.

May 10th was a memorable day for the men of the Fourteenth Connecticut. In reverent silence they passed by the battlefield at Spotsylvania. They entered Fredericksburg from the south, passing over Marye’s Heights and down onto that dreadful plain of death where the regiment had been shattered nearly two and a half years earlier. Pontoons still bridged the Rappahannock and that evening they camped at Falmouth, very near the ground they had occupied during the long, cold winter of 1862-1863.

They reached Alexandria on May 15th, then marched in a grand review around the Capitol and down Pennsylvania Avenue. General Hancock was in attendance and one can only imagine the hearty cheers that arose from his old corps.

Finally, on May 31st, the men of the Fourteenth Connecticut Volunteer Infantry received their formal discharge papers. They boarded a train and headed north through Baltimore and Philadelphia. At New York they transferred to a steamship bound for Hartford, where they arrived early on June 8th. It seemed the entire city had turned out to welcome them home, and after being suitably feted and fed, the men said their farewells and drifted away in twos and threes toward Union Station to begin the final leg of their long journey home.

PERSONAL NOTE: After almost three years and 161 blog posts, this is my last article about the Fourteenth Connecticut. It has been a privilege to honor these men and keep their record of service alive. I will keep this blog active so you can always reference it.

But do not despair. I’m starting a new Civil War video blog next Friday, May 1st, titled “Civil War Sites: On Earth and in Cyberspace.” Same schedule, same great author, new and interesting content about some of the neat things I’ve come across while researching my novels. I do hope you’ll join me. Follow me on Twitter to receive messages when a new blog is posted or you can always access my new blog (starting May 1st) through my website:  www.kbacon.com.

The End of It All

On Sunday, the 9th (of April, 1865), late in the morning we were ordered from the road into the field, and further information was given that we were to have twenty minutes for coffee. This order was looked upon with suspicion. Such an order had not been issued for weeks, at least, and it was grimly asserted that the soldiers knew enough to get their breakfast without orders, and that the officers knew this, therefore the order had some sinister meaning. (Sgt. Charles G. Blatchley, Company I, Fourteenth Connecticut Volunteer Infantry)

Typically, the foot soldiers viewed any alteration in their routine with suspicion, but this coffee break in a field a few miles east of Appomattox Court House was the first indication that something was very, very different. Wild rumors flew through the ranks that someone had seen the Rebels stacking their weapons. Some even dared to avow that Lee himself had surrendered. This speculation went on for hours until late in the afternoon when a nearby battery of artillery opened fire, not with live shot and shell, but with blank cartridges. A direct order from General Grant silenced the guns. There would be no jubilant displays of triumph over their defeated foes.

Blatchley continued his description of this momentous occasion: The most extraordinary scene I think I ever witnessed was that which greeted the appearance of General Meade passing through the line to congratulate his troops on the victory. Men were completely beside themselves. They flung their caps into the air, threw their knapsacks under his horse’s feet (Hail the conquering hero?), danced and laughed and shouted and rolled on the ground and cried at the same time. Men who declared when they went into that field that morning that they were so footsore that another step was impossible went out of that field that afternoon to the tune of Yankee Doodle, with steps as light as boys just out of school.

Sgt. John Hirst of Company D (Ben Hirst’s brother) had this view of the final few days of the war: We did not lose many men in our division during the whole time after we got the Rebels started, but we have a great number played out with sore feet and a great many others are barefooted. All of us are in good spirits over the result. I tell you after we once got inside their works, we pushed them harder than men were ever drove before. They had to leave their hospital and commissary tents standing and the first day we captured a great number of prisoners. The second day they got the start of us and it was night before we came up to them, but we kept taking prisoners all along the road and cutting off their wagon trains. When General Lee’s lines were broken, he had sixty thousand men and when he surrendered he had but eleven thousand. The woods were swarming with Rebels who had been fleeing on their own hook and the day after the surrender over ten thousand came in and were paroled.

Last Fight, Last Blood

On April 7th, 1865, the men of the Fourteenth Connecticut Volunteer Infantry fought their last battle. Sgt. Charles Blatchley (Company I) described it this way in the regimental history written by Charles Page:

Our last engagement with the enemy was at the crossing of the Appomattox River at High Bridge. We came upon them at daylight, setting fire to the bridge; men forgot all rules and discipline in the enthusiasm of the moment. General Barlow, who commanded our division, rode at the head of the column with his staff over the bridge into the ranks of the enemy, firing his pistol at them as they were trying to apply a match to the tar on the bridge. After him went the 108th New York and then the Fourteenth Connecticut. This was the only time I saw this movement executed (rushing pell-mell across to engage the enemy). As you can see in this photo taken just after the war, High Bridge was well-named.

High_Bridge_Farmville_Virginia

Across the bridge we formed quickly in the meadow and on we went for miles over the hills, through the town of Farmville, where we chased the retreating foe and charged on the hen-coops of the village at the same time. We did not lose a single man in this charge, so far as I know, though we had some very narrow escapes. As we came on to the top of one of the hills, a shell buried itself in the ground at my feet and exploded, literally covering me and the men next to me with gravel stones, but without hurting any of us.

Just at nightfall of that day the last man in our brigade to give his life for his country was killed, that was our commanding General (Thomas) Smyth, as noble a fellow as ever held a sword. Our congratulations over that day’s work were changed suddenly to gloom and many a soldier cried that night at the loss of a man who had shared our perils and hardships so constantly and so bravely.

 

A Sergeant’s Take on the Siege

Sergeant Charles G. Blatchley of the Fourteenth Connecticut Volunteer Infantry (Co. I) was one of the principal commentators on the final months of the war in Charles D. Page’s History of the Fourteenth Regiment, Connecticut Vol. Infantry. Blatchley gives the following matter-of-fact description of the siege at Petersburg. I’ve underlined a couple of phrases that are explained below.

The record of these nine months before Petersburg would make a very monotonous story. There are in them intensely stirring incidents: night attacks on both sides: the thrilling experience of creeping noiselessly up with bated breath toward their lines one moment, and the next enveloped in the blinding flash of suffocating smoke of battle. I only had this once, once was enough. Or lying behind our own works with the ready rifles loaded and capped as they were, even when we slept on them: peering through the darkness into the black space in front of us, to find it suddenly swarming full of the gray and the butternut in the mad attempt to break our lines. Or perhaps back in the bomb-proofs, which we had learned to build, after from eighteen to twenty-four hours duty in the front line, just lying down for a little rest, before our eyes were fairly closed to be called out by the quick sharp rattle of musketry or the heavy detonations of the mortars or the shrieking yell of the rifle cannon shots as they came tearing through the trees. One minute in those days was ample time to transform a sleeping soldier on the reserve into a soldier alert, armed and accoutered, all ready for business. We always slept with our clothes on and unless on the rear reserve with our accoutrements on and the right hand on the barrel of the rifle.

“…even when we slept on them.” It was a common thing for Civil War soldiers to “sleep on their arms” when faced with imminent threat, so they could be ready in an instant for combat.

“…shrieking yell of the rifle cannon shots…” The Confederate artillery had several Whitworth rifled cannons in their arsenal. These British imports had a range of over a mile and were very accurate. They fired a hexagonal shell which made a distinctive howling sound as it parted the air, and might be what Blatchley was referring to.

An Orphan’s War – Part 3

Having focused on Andersonville Prison in three January posts (01/16,15, 01/23/15, 01/30/15), it is now time to relate the last part of the singular of Private William H. E. Mott. It might be helpful to review the first two parts for better understanding of the context before reading this last part. Mott arrived at Andersonville about mid-June 1864.In early September, after the fall of Atlanta, Mott was among the many thousands who were sent from Andersonville to other prisons such as Savannah or Millen, Georgia, because the Confederate authorities believed Sherman would try to liberate Andersonville Prison.

Private John A. Cain was aboard one of the first prison trains to arrive at Andersonville from Richmond. He survived the war and served as a strong witness for the prosecution of Captain Henri Wirz, commandant of Andersonville Prison. His testimony is therefore, in my judgment, credible. I include the following information included in the Epilogue of Diary of a Dead Man, because it specifically mentions Mott. What we don’t know is the motives behind Mott’s “defection.”

Note: The material below is from background material included in The Diary of a Dead Man, 1862-1864, the unedited diary and letters of Private Ira Pettit, compiled by J. P. Ray. Mott was instrumental in preserving Pettit’s diary for Pettit’s parents.

It becomes quite evident from subsequent events that Private Cain was one of those thousands who was shuttled back and forth from Andersonville to Savannah, to Millen, and back again to Andersonville during the last four months of 1864. From St. John’s College Hospital on June 3,1865, Private Cain corresponded with the Secretary of War. His letter to the Honorable E. M. Stanton read, in part:

“Deeming it my duty to myself and my country, I here send you a partial list of Union prisoners who left the Stockade prison at Camp Lawton near Millen, Ga. on, or about the 10th of November last; and is supposed to have taken the ‘Oath of Allegiance’ to the late ‘Confederate Government.’ Should this be of any service to you in bringing them to justice I shall consider myself amply compensated for my trouble.

I am, sir, your most humble and obedient servant,
Jno. A. Cain, Co. E, 2 Mass Cav.,
Ward 8, St. Johns College Hospital, Annapolis, Maryland.

List of Prisoners of War, who left the stockade at the Solicitation of rebel authorities at Millen, Ga., on or about the 10th, November 1864 for disloyal purposes. …Wm. E. Mott, F., 14 Conn;…”

Private Cain’s list contained the names of one hundred and thirty-four persons, and in nearly all cases he listed the company, regiment, and state or Federal unit in which the individual had served. Aside from William E. Mott, Company F, Fourteenth Regiment, Connecticut, Private Cain listed two other men from the Fourteenth Regiment’s Company F, Connecticut, and four members from Companies A, B, L, and M, Second Massachusetts Cavalry, who allegedly embraced allegiance to the Confederate government on that day.

The information provided by Private John A. Cain in reference to Private Mott was duly noted in the appropriate categories of the War Department’s military files, and note was also made that Mott reached the Union lines on March 20, 1865, at New Bern, North Carolina.

According to Mrs. John Gregory of New York City, Private Mott had come ‘home’ in April, 1865, on furlough after having spent eight months as a prisoner, and having been transferred from one prison to another. Mr. Mott would later assert to the Federal government that he had spent over ten months in Andersonville, which was an exaggeration, after which he had escaped and joined Sherman on his march through the South. While in New York, Mott gave Mrs. Gregory Private Pettit’s diary and she sent by mail to Pettit’s parents in upstate New York.

There could have been several reasons why Wm. H. E. Mott would have sworn allegiance to the Confederacy. The most likely reason, in my opinion, was a matter of personal survival, and whatever else Mott was, he was certainly a survivor. By removing himself from the deadly prison stockades, he instantly enjoyed better water and food, and healthier living conditions. Opportunities for escape, and the probability of success, were also much higher outside the prison walls. When Mott did finally escape, he headed north toward the Union lines. It is also worthy of note that although the war department had John Cain’s list, no steps were taken to prosecute Mott, and he received the standard veteran’s pension of $72 per month.

The 40 Left at Andersonville

TWO HUNDRED NINETY soldiers from Connecticut died within the stockade walls of Andersonville Prison, also known as Camp Sumter. Of these, forty were members of the Fourteenth Connecticut Volunteer Infantry. They had been captured anytime from Chancellorsville in May 1863 until the siege at Petersburg. Some had already survived long months of imprisonment at Belle Isle in Richmond, while for others, Andersonville would be their only and final prison experience. Below is a list of the names of those forty men that I culled from Dorence Atwater’s A List Union Soldiers Buried at Andersonville. Each entry is arranged as follows:

Last name, First name or initials, Rank, Company, Death Date (1864), Cause of Death, Grave number. Lowercase “a” denotes acute and lowercase “c” denotes chronic, and it makes this writer wonder how this was determined. A few of the less familiar causes of death were scorbutus (scurvy), cerebritus (inflammation of the brain or lead poisoning), and anasarca (edema or dropsy).

  1. Anderson, A, Pvt, Co K, June 23, diarrhea c., 2380
  2. Besannon, Peter, Pvt, Co B, June 2, diarrhea, 1493
  3. Brennon, M, Pvt, Co B, July 3, dysentery c., 2833
  4. Brunkissell, H, Pvt, Co D, Aug 30, dysentery, 7306
  5. Burnham F, Cpl, Co I, Oct 11, dysentery c., 10682
  6. Bushnell, Wm. Pvt, Co D, Aug 19, cerebritis, 6184
  7. Cain, Thomas, Pvt, Co G, Sept 4, diarrhea, 7780
  8. Crawford, James, Pvt, Co A, April 28, diarrhea c., 775
  9. Easterly, Thomas, Pvt, Co G, July 31, diarrhea c., 4437
  10. Filby, A, Pvt, Co C, Sept 18, diarrhea c., 9089
  11. Fluit, C W, Pvt, Co G, March 27, diarrhea, 186
  12. Gordon, John. Pvt, Co G, July 7, diarrhea, 3028
  13. Hancock, W, Pvt, Co G, Nov 22, dysentery, 12117
  14. Hilenthal, Jas, Pvt, Co C, May 25, diarrhea, 1350
  15. Holcomb, D, Pvt, Co D, July 18, diarrhea, 3559
  16. Hughes, Ed, Pvt, Co D, June 22, diarrhea, 2330
  17. Kelley, F, Pvt, Co I, Aug 25, rheumatism, 6748
  18. Kingsbury, C, Pvt, Co K, June 3, pneumonia, 1590
  19. Leonard, W, Pvt, Co H, Aug 19, diarrhea a., 6124
  20. McCaulley, Jas, Pvt, Co D, March 20, diarrhea, 119
  21. Miller, A, Pvt, Co D, July 19, scorbutus, 3644
  22. Miller, Charles, Pvt, Co I, June 21, diarrhea a., 2295
  23. Milor, W, Sgt, Co F, Sept 20, diarrhea, 9321
  24. McCreieth, A, Pvt, Co H, Oct 10, scorbutus, 10595
  25. Orr, A, Pvt, Co H, Sept 14, scorbutus, 8276
  26. Pendalton, W, Pvt, Co C, July 6, scorbutus, 2960,
  27. Pompey, C, Pvt, Co B, July 24, diarrhea, 3868
  28. Ringwood, R, Pvt, Co J, Aug 25, diarrhea, 6798
  29. Scott W, Pvt, Co D, July 7, scorbutus, 3010
  30. Seward, G H. Pvt, Co A, June 24, dysentery c., 2406
  31. Shults, C T, Pvt, Co I, Aug 12, dysentery, 5385
  32. Smith, J, Pvt, Co I, July 18, diarrhea c., 3522
  33. Steele, Sam, Pvt, Co C, Aug 6, diarrhea c., 4892
  34. Stephens, B 11, Pvt, Aug 28, diarrhea, 7070
  35. Taylor, J, Pvt, Co I, Oct 1, scorbutus, 10142
  36. Taylor, Moses, Pvt, Co E, April 14, bronchitis, 541
  37. Thompson, Wm T, Pvt, Co I, Aug 1, diarrhea, 4443
  38. Thompson, F, Pvt, Co A, Aug 12, diarrhea c., 5427
  39. Valter, H, Pvt, Co A, July 10, anasarca, 3107
  40. Wikert, Henry, Pvt, Co C, Aug 13, dysentery, 5543

P1010037Here is a photo of the Connecticut memorial at Andersonville National Cemetery. It depicts a young Connecticut soldier looking straight ahead holding his hat in his left hand. The dedication on the bronze plaque reads:

IN MEMORY OF THE MEN OF CONNECTICUT WHO SUFFERED IN SOUTHERN MILITARY PRISONS 1861-1865

Andersonville – A Brief History

The tragic legacy of the treatment of prisoners of war on both sides of the Civil War is a dark stain on our national conscience and must not be forgotten. Therefore, I am planing a series of four posts during the coming weeks about the infamous prison stockade known as Camp Sumter, or Andersonville Prison. The subjects covered in the four posts will be: 1) a brief history of the prison, 2) Dorence Atwater, a true Connecticut hero, 3) the roll of members of the 14th Connecticut who died there, and 4) the final installment of the three-part story of William H. Mott of Company F.

A Brief History of Andersonville Prison

The first shipment of prisoners arrived at the tiny hamlet of Andersonville, GA on February 27, 1864. A new stockade named Camp Sumter had been built by slave labor in an effort to reduce overcrowding at other prisons such as Belle Isle in Richmond. Only enlisted men were to be kept in the stockade which was a rectangular enclosure of timber walls fifteen feet high. A small stream ran through the center of the prison for fresh water. Guard towers were built atop the walls and artillery pieces were strategically placed outside the stockade with fields of fire that could reach any place inside the prison.

Shortly after the prison opened, prisoner exchanges, a practice that had been ongoing since the start of the war, was abruptly ended by Gen. Grant. This caused the populations at prison camps throughout the south to skyrocket. By summer Andersonville Prison, which had been built to hold about 10,000 men, held about 35,000 prisoners. As might well be imagined, the small stream became polluted by both human and animal waste. The small valley through which the stream flowed became a morass of filth and came to known as “the swamp.”

A few men had died nearly every day since the prison opened, but during the summer months of 1864, men died by the hundreds of dysentery, chronic diarrhea, scurvy, typhoid fever, pneumonia, and massive edemas. Bodies were carried by the wagon load outside the camp for burial at an ever-growing cemetery.

To make matters worse a group of prisoners known as the Raiders, committed every sort of heinous crime upon other prisoners, particularly those who were “fresh fish.” Beatings and thefts of food, clothing and possessions were commonplace. Even murders occurred. Late in June an opposing group of prisoners asked and received permission from the commandant of the camp, Captain Henry Wirz, to raise a police force to subdue the Raiders and bring their leaders to justice.

As many as 150 Raiders were placed under arrest. The prisoners established a court and tried the worst of the criminals. Six were sentenced to death by hanging, and the sentence was carried out on July 11, 1864. Many of the other Raiders were beaten severely when they were forced to run a gauntlet between lines of enraged prisoners.

July was very hot and dry. All of the prisoners suffered grievously. The stream almost dried up completely. Fresh water was nonexistent. Some of the men dug wells and sold the water for whatever they could extract from their fellow prisoners. Earnest prayers wProvidence Springere sent heavenward for water. Early in August a severe storm lashed the stockade. The stream swelled to a flood and carried away a  portion of both the east and west walls. The fallen timbers were quickly seized by the prisoners and cut up for firewood. But the storm’s greatest benefit was that the deluge uncovered a fresh water spring just inside the dead line at the western side of the stockade. The spring became known as “Providence Spring.” (photo Dec. 2012)

When Gen. Sherman took Atlanta on September 2nd, Confederate authorities thought Andersonville would be his next target. Most of the prisoners in the stockade were loaded aboard railroad cars and sent to other prison camps such as Camp Lawton in Millen, GA, Savannah, Charleston or Florence, SC. When Sherman began his march to Savannah, about 5,000 men were sent from Millen and Savannah south to Blackshear, GA. Some of these prisoners were sent west to Thomasville, Ga, and then north back to Andersonville, arriving there on Christmas Eve, 1864.

With the end of the war certain, the prison began to shut down in March, 1865. Federal POWs were sent by trains and steamboats to holding camps where they were to be paroled and exchanged. April 28, 1865, is recorded as the date on which the last prisoner was buried at Andersonville. In its fourteen months of existence, approximately 45,000 soldiers had been imprisoned there. According to the list of graves compiled by Clara Barton, 12,912 perished there.