Luther M. Fairbank

War Recollections, by Luther M. Fairbank, Co. D, 31st Mass. Vols.

While on the last Red River Campaign,the day before we entered Natchitoches, (March 31, 1864,) Capt. Allen was ordered across the bayou with his Co., to follow up on that side, and the bayou being very crooked, we cut across lots, to save distance, and as we neared the bayou, some of us on the left, looking back, saw a Co. of cavalry approaching on the opposite bank, and put spurs to our horses to reach the bayou ahead of them., when Capt. Allen ordered us back, as he said they were our own men, and he marched us leisurely up to the bayou bank and halted.

The Co. on the opposite side, reaching there about the same time, they also halted, and there we sat looking at each other, not far apart, as you know the bayou was narrow. Capt. Allen said, “They don’t recognize us. Corporal, unfurl your guidon.” Then the reb officer asked what Co. it was. Capt. Allen answered “Capt. Allen’s,” at the same time, asking what Co. that was. The answer came, “Co. ___ of Gen. Green’s command. To what command do you belong?” “Oh!” said Capt. Allen, “It’s all right, so do I.” When the reb officer asked “What Regiment?” Sergeant Canterbury yelled out “6th Mass. [Cavalry]”. In an instant they gave us a volley, put spurs to their horses’, and cleared, we firing what scattering shots we could, as Capt. Allen had not even let us unsling our carbines, and not a man or 1 horse was hit on our side, and none on theirs, as far as we knew.


While under Col. Dudley, our Co. acted as Body Guard. One day, one of the Co., named Hill, had done some foraging, with good success, having 2 turkeys and several chickens strapped to his saddle, when Dudley called for an orderly, and you know orders were very strict against foraging. Hill rode up at a gallop, the turkey and chickens flapping at every jump, and saluted the Col. He looked at Hill a minute or two, and then said, “By G—! are you an orderly or a baggage-train? If a baggage-train, your place is in the rear!”


I suppose you remember searching for sutler’s stores on board the steamship Mississippi, when we went out, and Gen. Butler wouldn’t let an officer search his own Co. We were all ordered on deck, in heavy marching order, and searched, also our quarters, taking us by surprise, as it were. But such things would get out some way, and if Gen. Butler could have looked between the outer and inner lining of that ship that day, he would have found enough to supply his Commissary for some time, as string was in great demand, letting stuff down, and hitching the string to a bolt, out of sight, and drawn up as needed.


While at Fort Jackson, Co. D had a negro [sic] in the cook-house, who was somewhat lame, and one day one of the boys was laughing at him, when Mr. Nigger said he could beat him running. That was enough to start a breeze, and the boys chipped in and raised 50 cents for a prize, and by blowing the member of Co. D, finally got him to run. They ran around the parapet of the fort. Col. [Oliver P.] Gooding happened to come out as they passed in sight of his quarters, and saw them.  He immediately sent his orderly over, with orders to our Orderly Sergeant to put that man in the Guardhouse. He would have none of his men racing with a damned nigger! So we rather had the laugh on the comrade, as he got beaten in the race, and landed in the Guardhouse, besides.

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