Reminiscences of Army Experiences
By L. O. Frary, as a member of Co. B, 31 Mass. Vols.
Enlisted in Capt . E. A. Edwards’ Company, (B) Oct. 4, 1861, for a pleasure trip at U.S. expense, and we had it. Well, I can’t say that I always enjoyed soldier life. Some things were agreeable, but more were not.
Our Company was among the first to go into Camp at Pittsfield. Our officers were Capt. E. A. Edwards; 1st Lieut. H. F. Morse; 2d Lieut. John R. Parsons; 1st Sergt. F. A. Rust. Our experience in Pittsfield you have, and the removal to Lowell is as familiar to you, and all of our experiences on the old overland ship that we took for Ship Island. It will not be necessary for me to go into detail about our sojourn on Ship Island, although I came very near losing my life going after wood to the upper end of the Island and coming back in the water and dragging a raft of wood, before the taking of the Fort Jackson and Fort St. Philip.
Proceeding on to New Orleans, our stay in that City was altogether rather pleasant. Capt. Edwards resigned and came home shortly after we reached the City. Two of B Co., Rufus A. Street and Marcus E. Lyon, died at New Orleans in ’62. After doing garrison duty at Fort Jackson awhile, we were relieved by a Negro regiment or part of one. After going to Baton Rouge and then to Port Hudson, we came back and went down the river about three miles to Magnolia Grove. Some three or four days after, B Co. was detailed to go about four 0r five miles farther down and near old Duplanchie’s Plantation. After a few weeks stay at Highland stockade, we were moved back to Algiers and not long after went on the 63 campaign, going by rail to Brashier [sic: Brashear] City. After getting into marching order, we started on the line of the Oppolusus [sic] railroad. About 10 miles on, we reached Fort Bisland, and where Co. B had the first man killed in action, and the first man in the regiment killed in action, Uncle Billy, as we called him. William Hickey was shot and instantly killed while advancing on the skirmish line in front of Fort Bisland. At about seven o’clock in the morning, the old man on being asked why he looked so sad? “Oh,” said he, “I couldn’t sleep at all and something said to me I shall be the first man shot,” and truly he was.
We followed the rebs on to Oppolusus where I was taken sick and had to go back to the hospital, and after being sick in New Orleans about a month, rejoined my regiment at Port Hudson.
On the 14th of June, Corp. William Knox and Private George Griswold of B Co. were among the killed. Griswold being struck in the shoulder by a solid shot while lying on the ground and one-half of his body completely demolished. A number of others in B Co. were wounded — one Babcock being shot through the mouth, severing his tongue, and he had to starve to death.
Corp. D. W. Wood and E. B. Noble were also among the wounded.
Going on to the campaign of 64, starting out with the 6th Mass. Cavalry going as far as Donaldsonville, then camping over night in a cold rain storm. The next day, I think we went beyond Placquemine [sic: Plaquemine], just how correct I am I can’t tell, as I am going this blind, or rather wholly from memory, so Dear Major, you will have to correct all errors. At all events, allow me to say we had a long and tiresome march, not mentioning small matters, although they may not have been so trifling, for we had the Johnys [sic] in our advance nearly all the way through to Pleasant Hill and thence to Sabine Cross Roads. What took place there is needless for me to say. I will say, however, that I got out of about as tight a place as I was ever in, going into that fight on foot, just escaping with my life.
Henry Spear and Sam Gould of B Co. were wounded. Spear got a scalp wound and was whirling around like a hen with her neck broken and Sam Gould was shot through the heel cord, so that I had to almost carry him, and the bullets were flying like hailstones on all sides of us. But I got Gould out, only to find my horse gone, so I had to hoof it for the next two or three days while on the retreat. But after I got mounted again, I found that I could keep along better now. On the retreat, I think it was about two miles below Governor Moore’s Plantation that we crossed a narrow, muddy run and going about forty or fifty rods into the thicket, we came to a halt. And while halting there, I was talking with Sergt. Bennett of B Co. And I said to him, “Nel, what makes you so sad?” He was sitting on the ground against a forked tree and he said, “Lew, I shall be the next man shot.” “But,” I said, “why, so it may be me. Well,” said I, “I will go out a ways and see what the Johnys [sic] are up to, so taking my carbine I went stealthily along about ten or fifteen rods and got my eye on the rebs, a regimental and a battle flag. And I drew [a] bead on the Johnys [sic] that had the flag. Whether I got my Johny [sic] or not, I can’t say, but it drew the rebs’ fire and when I got back, Nell Bennett had been shot, the ball going through the brain. And the Major of the 2nd Illinois Cavalry had his horse shot under him, so I had the painful duty to perform, carrying him [Bennett] some two miles on horseback. So, he is among the unknown. A few hours later, we found that Sergt. Tallmadge of our company was also among the killed. These are all sad recollections.
Major, you will take such out of this as you deem proper. As this will be very tiresome for you to decipher, I think I will stop.
Yours in F C & L
Lewis O. Frary