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Perry's Saints

The Fighting Parson's Regiment

• Title
• Author
• Preface

• Chapter I
• Chapter II
• Chapter III
• Chapter IV
• Chapter V
• Chapter VI
• Chapter VII
• Chapter VIII
• Chapter IX
• Chapter X
• Chapter XI
• Chapter XII
• Chapter XIII
• Chapter XIV
• Chapter XV
• Chapter XVI
• Chapter XVII
• Chapter XVIII
• Chapter XIX
• Chapter XX



At Fort Pulaski. Changes at Dawfuskie. Amusements. The pride and taste of the soldiers in fitting up their quarters. Mosquitoes and other pests. Thanksgiving celebration. Incidents of garrison life. Flag of truce. Confederate ironclad. New Year's Day. Mr. Logan's account of the condition of things in Savannah. Prices of provisions, etc. Resignation and departure of Chaplain Strickland. Inspector-General Townsend's and Colonel Green's opinion of the regiment. Flag of truce. Interesting interview with Adjutant-General Gonion and Lieutenant Styles, of the Confederate army. Formation of negro regiments. Our theatre. Building a steamlaunch. Deserters. Capture of blockade-ruuner. Effect of garrison life on the regiment. Capture of Confederate ironclad Atlanta.

[November 1862]
AFTER our return from Coosawhatchie, for a time, we were left undisturbed .in garrison. The work of repairing the fort and replacing the guns injured in the bombardment continued, with company and battalion drill, whenever the weather permitted. November 4, a few officers made a trip to Dawfuskie, visiting Munger's and Stoddard's; but neglect and decay were manifest everywhere. A few old negroes; abandoned because of inability to bring further profit, with the desolated homes, together exhibited the barbarisms of war and slavery. The cold weather soon relieved our apprehensions from yellow fever; and affairs at the fort moved on in the old sluggish current. Games of ball on the terre-plein, and hunting on the islands near, varied the monotony somewhat, and artillery drill added somewhat to our regular duties. The ducks in the bay were numerous; and, as we had collected quite a fleet of boats, parties were made up, almost daily, to hunt them.

Thanksgiving was approaching, and we determined to make the day memorable. The officers contributed liberally, and committees were appointed to plan for a celebration, which should not only afford pleasure to ourselves, but attract to the fort the" general officers of the department, as well as others. November 18, we indulged in a regatta. The colonel had selected the most promising craft, and fitted it up quite handsomely; others also had apparently been fortunate in their selections, but Captain Strickland, while obliged to take an inferior boat, had in Company H the most skilful sailors of the regiment, who, for love of their captain and the honor of the company, worked with a will to overcome all inequalities. The trial trip of our boat was made very early in the morning of the day on which the race occurred, and resulted in christening it the "Tub," by those who had watched its movements. A few changes and alterations were made, and it was ready to start with the others. The race was very exciting, and the course a long one, and it was for some time doubtful which would win the prize, but when the Tub came into the dock, having distanced the whole fleet, by common consent she received the more reputable name of Maggie.

During the pleasant days of autumn, scarcely a day passed without some form of amusement or recreation. The Sabbath, while we were in garrison, was usually observed in a becoming manner, and was a day of rest from work and play, save in the matter of inspection. Regularly every Sunday morning the colonel, accompanied by hi!! staff, made a thorough examination of the interior of the fort, and such was the character of the men, and the discipline which prevailed, that no effort was spared to make these inspections satisfactory. The companies which occupied the casemates on two sides of the fort availed themselves of all the materials at hand to fit them up in a manner not only to secure the greatest comfort to themselves, but to render them most attractive in appearance. And it was a great pleasure to note from Sabbath to Sabbath the ingenuity and skill displayed in the arrangements for eating and sleeping, as well as for general effects. Bunks were made, either single or double, and tastefully covered with colored netting, to ward off the attacks of mosquitoes and sand flies. Tables, chairs, and lounges of various designs occupied the spaces around the guns, while dogs, cats, 'coons, and other pets shared the quarters and the messes. The season for sand flies, mosquitoes, and fleas, passed by with the warm weather, but each for a time had proven severe trials to us all. First the sand flies swarmed in countless numbers, microscopic in size, all bite and poison, peuetrating everywhere, and, while they lasted, the agony of dress parade, with the men at rest, will be remembered, but cannot be described. The mosquitoes were quite tolerable, but when. under the hot sun of midsummer, the fleas made their appearance, there was little rest night or day. Walking on the shore, it seemed some-. times as if every grain of sand had been quickened into life, like the dragon's teeth of Jason.

Rumors reached us, from time to time, that an effort would be made to recapture the fort, and General Beauregard was reported to have stated, in a speech, that but a few days would elapse before he would replace the present commandant. Others have made similar mistakes, and to few is given the spirit of prophecy.

November 27, Thanksgiving Day, opened bright and beautiful, the atmosphere clear and cool. All preparations had been made, and we awaited the coming of our guests. The chaplain consecrated the day in a short but interesting sermon upon the political aspects of the country. After the discourse, the amusements of the day commenced, with target-shooting and boat-races. When these were concluded, the officers marched to the south dock, to meet the guests. Three boats came, quite loaded with passengers, among them Generals Bra6hon and Terry. Proceeding to the fort to the sound of music and the. firing of salutes which announced the quality of our visitors, the amusements of the day recommenced, with footraces, followed by hurdle, sack, and wheel-barrow races, greased pole, greased pig, and other games. Perhaps the most ludicrous were the attempts of the negroes, with hands tied behind them, to pick out with their teeth the gold piece concealed in a tub of flour. Finally the day closed with dress parade by the non-commissioned officers and privates, in which the most grotesque costumes were used, and the largest liberty permitted. Taking advantage of this, the peculiarities of the officers were brought out with the grossest exaggerations, manner and tone bring imitated so well, and withal in such good-natured frolicsome spirit, that the, subjects of the pleasantries enjoyed it equally with the others. The published orders were admirable hits, ending with the one attributed to Major Beard, which, after announcing the death of a member of the regiment, concluded with, "The God of battles will give him a soldier's rest by order of O. T. Beard, Major Commanding." A long nooning gave ample time for the dinner, which was spread in a temporary building on the terre-plein, and consisted of a variety of fish, fowl, and joints, with the usual accompaniments. The evening and most of the night were given up to dancing. At midnight a supper was served, and many of us retired, but a few, who had passed the bounds of moderation in their libations, served to keep alive the echoes of song and laughter until the morning brought exhaustion, and permitted a little rest. The day was a memorable one, contrasting as it did so severely with the events which placed us there and continued to disturb the country. The following day we parted with our guests, and resumed the old routine.

At this time our company was stationed on Tybee Island, with headquarters in the Martello Tower, and it was a common trip to run over and dine with Swartwout, who was one of the most genial and hospitable officers in the regiment. He had very comfortable apartments on the top of the tower, and his men were pleasantly disposed in neat and cheerful barracks near by. There were horses to ride, and a long, beautiful, and solid beach to ride on, little to do, no special annoyances, plenty of game and an almost independent command, so that those detailed there were inclined to remain.

Martello Tower, Tybee Island

Soon after our arrival at the fort for garrison duty, a bed of fine large and luscious oysters was discover ed near by, having been planted by the former occupants of the fort, by whose labors we profited much, for the supply seemed unlimited. Base-baU became a regular institution, in which the whole garrison joined, from the colonel down. When the officers were not playing, the men occupied the ground, when off duty. And it was well, for we needed all the exercise we could get, on account of the enervating effect of the long

[December, 1862]
confinement in the fort, and we wished to be ready for active service, which we trusted would come in time.

December 24, Colonel Barton returned from Hilton Head with the announcement that Lientenant-Colonel Beard had resigned, and ,his resignation had been accepted, and that several ironclads were expected from the North.

December 27, the steamboat Mattano conveyed.a party up the river on flag of truce. Starting early in the forenoon, we proceeded slowly to a point nearly opposite St. Augustine's Creek, when we were hailed by the officer of a Confederate picket, and, having dropped anchor, awaited the return of the messenger which had been sent to the ram Georgia as soon as we appeared in sight. This was plainly visible, about a mile distant, - a low, sullen mass of iron, apparently immovable. While waiting the return Of the messenger, we had ample opportunity to examine it, but could make out little beyond her general shape. Designed to clear the river and vicinity of our gunboats, she had- thus far proved a failure, and, as confessed by an officer who visited us, had greatly disappointed those who had furnished the means to build her. The officer sent to communicate with us was Lieutenant Johnson, who, in the course of a very pleasant conversation, stated that for seventeen years he was in the United States service. That at the time of our attack on Port Royal he was in command of one of the steamers of Commodore Tatnall's fleet, which was nearly blown out of water by one of our eleven-inch shells. In the afternoon, Captain Sawyer, of General Mercer's staff, came alongside, having started for Pulaski. on flag of truce. His boat was manned by sailors from New York.

January 1, 1863, opened with a clear sky and an invigorating atmosphere. It was observed as a holiday, and Captain Elfwing, who could not forget, even in our unfavorable conditions, the good old custom of open house and spread table, invited his friends to partake of his hospitalities. Lieutenant Wallace, who had resigned, spent the day in taking leave of his companions.

January 3, nine men from the 47th New

[January, 1863]
York State Volunteers, a regiment with which we had been brigaded from the first, and between which and our regiment there had always existed a special friendship, came to the fort in the steamer Mattano, for a match game of of base-ball with our picked nine. They took their defeat in the best humor, and nothing occurred to mar the good-fellowship between the two regiments.

January 8, Mr. Logan, who went up to Savannah December 27, returned to the fort with several ladies. Lieutenant Johnson came with them, and our acquaintance was renewed. Papers were exchanged, and from the Savannah News we gained information which silenced certain unfavorable rumors which had been current in the garrisoil for some days. Mr. Logan gave an interesting account of what he saw within the Confederate lines, and we note a few of his statements. The supply of clothing had become so reduced that the cast-off garments of past generations were drawn upon, so that the grotesqueness of costumes, even among the better classes, was often ludicrous. The prices of nearly everything had advanced to enormous figures. The following will serve as examples. Tea was fourteen dollars a pound, salt fifteen dollars a bushel, flour from thirty to fifty dollars a barrel, men's boots from twenty to forty dollars per pair. He further stated that his brother-in-law paid a hundred dollars for a coat made of Kentucky jean, and fifty dollars for two pairs of hand cards for carding cotton. He himself paid two dollars for a tooth-brush, and four dollars for a daguerreotype. Sugar was sold for seventy-five cents per pound by the hogshead, and other articles in proportion. Merchants had but little in their stores; and great inconvenience, and even suffering, generally prevailed. From these facts we derived great encouragement. If they indicated the condition of things generally in the South, the war could not last long. The report of the capture of Vicksburg, about this time, strengthened this feeling. The news, generally, was encouraging.

February 3, Generals Hunter, Foster, Negley, Potter, and Seymour visited the fort. General Hunter was quite extravagant in his praises of the regiments. February 6, Dr.

[February, 1863]
Strickland left us, and was not expected to return. He was an excellent chaplain. Faithful, earnest, and fearless, he helped materially in keeping the regiment to its high standard of morals and propriety. While not aggressive, he was constant in-his labors, and was heartily respected in them. There was a wholesome and agreeable freedom in his manner, combined with dignity of habit and speech, " which we liked. He had many warm friends, and, if any enemies, they were not known.

February 9, the regiment was inspected by Colonel Green, the assistant inspector-general of the army, who came to the fort accompanied by General E. D. Townsend, Adjutant-General, U. S. A. They both expressed themselves very much pleased at our appearance, and complimented us very highly.

February 16, I was despatched on another flag of truce, with Captain Kenzie, of General Hunter's staff, who was entrusted with speCial business for headquarters. Near Bird Island, the steamboat Ida met us, and Captain Gordon, adjutant-general of General Mercer's staff, with wife and two children, came on board our boat, accompanied by Captain and Lieutenant Styles of the Virginia army. They were all people of education and refinement, and during the several hours that we spent together, there was no suggestion of personal antagonism as an outgrowth of the general attitude which we maintained towards each other. In spite of my earnest protest against the introduction of any irritating subject, the war, its causes, and its different phases, were discussed with freedom, but without the least appearance of bitterness. Mrs. Gordon and family had suffered privations in COI1mon with. others, and Lieutenant Styles spoke of the division of the army to which he was attached as often without shoes, and even sufficient food, but bearing everything without complaint. The coaf he had on, made of ordinary gray cloth, cost one hundred and fifty dollars, and he had ordered a pair of cavalry boots, to cost sixty dollarsthus corroborating the statements of Mr. Logan. The picture which he drew of the soldiers of the Confederate army, - marching over the snow without shoes, with a cake of gingerbread in hand, costing a dollar, and a newspaper in pocket, costing twenty-five cents, - would have been pathetic had it not suggested such a lamentable want of judgment, in preferring the luxury of gingerbread and newspapers to the comfort and protection of suitable covering for the feet. We parted with mutual expressions of personal esteem, knowing that within the hour of our parting, we might be called upon, in the discharge of duty to which we were bound, to take each other's life, while we equally lamented the necessity for such bwtality.

February 20, reports reached us of difficulty . between General Hunter and some of the officers on the staffs of the new generals who had come to the department from North Carolina, who showed too little respect for the negro soldiers, the pets of the commanding general. And this reminds me of neglect in overlooking the fact that, in the formation of the negro regiments, Lieutenant Corwin obtained the position of major, and severaL of our sergeants and corporals obtained commissions. Advanced positions in these regiments were offered to several of our officers, who declined to accept them. February 23, our theatre was opened, with the following entertainment: - Address by Corporal Michaels. Singing by the members. Farce, "Family Jars." Song," The Flea," by Owens, of Company H. Recitation by Hutchinson. Light balancing by Dr. Haven. Tragedy, 1st act of" Richard III." Song by Dickson. Concluding with the tableau, " WashiIlgtoIl,s Grave." The theatre was very pretty, and the performances excellent. The scenepainting was done by Harrison, who was by profession a scenic artist, and was very good. From this time forward, during our stay at the fort, performances were continued regularly, and afforded a great deal of pleasure.

March 3, several officers went to the Ogeechee river to witness the attack on Fort McAllister by the ironclads. About this time alittle engine and boiler were completed, under the direction of Captain Paxson, out of materials found in the fort, and placed in a large boat, which had floated down to the island. They worked satisfactorily, and this little craft was used for a long time in trips about the island and to neighboring points. Our reg-

[March, 1863]
iment might be taken as an example of the material of our army. Every profession, and almost every department of mechanical pursuits, was represented, and, whatever work was required, there was no, lack of such as were familiar with it.

March 15, four men, comprising a Confederate picket, came in to the fort, bringing their officer with them, much against his will. They were well armed, with Maynard rifles and Colt's revolvers. In all, twelve deserters came in within ten days. Day after day we were called upon to entertain visitors, and the fort became a place of resort for the idle and curious in the department. The theatre was a great attraction.

March 30, a small schooner was discovered near the entrance to Munger's River, and the colonel started for her in the Mattano. At first she hoisted the English colors, but was compelled to acknowledge that she was a blockade-runner, bound for Savannah with a load of salt. She was our first prize.

New ironsides and monitors

March 31, we learned, through Mr. Whitney, the designer of the monitor Keokuk, who was visiting his cousin, Captain Lockwood, that there were now eight ironclads at Hilton Head, or near Charleston Harbor, which meant that something was to be done. The men were soon set to work moving mortars to the south dock for shipment. Great activity prevailed; constant communication was kept up with Hilton Head by signal to Braddock's Point; and a steamboat was nearly all the time at the service of Colonel Barton. In addition to our .regiment, a company of the 3d Rhode Island Artillery, under Captain Gould, had for a long time, formed a part of the garrison; and at this time several gunboats were in the river, to help protect the fort against any attack which might be made on Pulaski while our ironclads were operating against the forts in Charleston Harbor.

April 7, an attack was made upon Fort Sumter, which was unsuccessful, owing to the obstructions in the channel, which confined the operations of our fleet. The Keokuk, which took the most advanced position, and received the heaviest fire, was so injured that she sank on the following morning.

[June, 1863]
From this time until June 3 nothing occurred of special interest. We all had leisure for recreation, which was really needed to overcome the effect of confinement in this debilitating climate. Every fair day, after the regular drills, the terre-plein was turned into a playground. Everyone drifted into habits of. idleness, and while an admirable opportunity was afforded, during our stay in the fort, for reading and study, few had the inclination to engage in serious or profitable pursuits; and so many were inclined to occupations of a frivolous and demoralizing character that itis safe to say that the morals of the regiment suffered a severer strain during our stay in Fort Pulaski than during all the remainder Of its service in the army.

June 3, several companies were ordered to be ready with cooked rations, and it soon became known that Bluff ton was to be burned. Why this order was issued, we never knew; but it was carried out most literally. Judging from the force detailed, opposition must have been expected; but the work was accomplished without any hindrance, and the beau-

The interior of Fort Sumter

tiful little village was reduced to a mass of ruins.

June 12, General Hunter was relieved by General Quincy A. Gilmore, the same who was captain of engineers in the first expedition to Port Royal.

June 17, we became aware that something unusual was taking place in Warsaw Sound; and after an early breakfast, several of us took positions favorable for observation, on that portion of the ramparts overlooking that quarter. A number of steamers were visible, and for a few moments there was heavy firing. We thought we distinguished the rebel ironclad Atlanta, formerly the Frugal, and the return of the steamboat Island City from the scene of operations confirmed this impression. From her we received a full. account of the affair. The Atlanta came down Wilmington River, expecting to capture the two ironclads, who were on the lookout for her, but four shots from the Nahant were all that was needed to crush in her sides, and reduce her to submission. At close range, even her four inches of iron plate, backed by fifteen inches of solid oak, were not proof against the heavy guns of the monitor. The other vessels which came down from Savannah to see and perhaps participate somewhat in the fight did not wait for their share, but returned with all speed to report the sad failure.