Richard F. Underwood — Part 1, 1861-1862

Diary of R. F. Underwood

First Month, December, 1861

11 — I was out in the woods chopping with Charles Nowlton [sic: Knowlton] and was just thinking of going home for the night, when Lieut. Geo. S. Darling came out where we were to work, seeking for recruits, and as I had been wanting to enlist, this was just the opportunity, so I took his pencil and paper upon an oak stump and made myself a soldier for three years in Co. F, 31st Regiment.

12 — Left home in the morning early for the depot. It came hard to leave home I can tell you. I left Belchertown at 2 o’clock to go to Camp Seward at Pittsfield. I got there about four in the afternoon tired out with my long ride. It was my first riding on a rail. The 31st were encamped in the agricultural buildings on the top of a cold, bleak hill. I was homesick enough on my first night in Camp. I had to sleep on a board and only one blanket for three of us. I caught a cold that night that never went off till I was far down in Dixie.

13 — Began my first drilling. The homesickness began to wear off some as I got used to camp life. I drilled some and went on guard twice, before the 23rd, when I was taken sick with the measles and was taken to the hospital the next day.

25 — Christmas. My brother Charles came to see me, bringing some pies and cookies that were quite a luxury to what I had been having. My brother went home the 26th. I did not get over the measles very fast and was sick quite a while. On guard twice this month.

January, 1862

1 — Received my first pay, one month’s $13.00. I got a discharge from the hospital on the 15th.

16 — I, with considerable difficulty, got a furlough for six days. When I got home, I was not very well, and so stayed twelve days.

28 — Went back to camp. We had the coldest weather in Camp Seward that I ever knew.

29th and 30th — Drilled some. We had to shovel the snow in piles and draw it off in boxes every day or two, all winter, from our parade ground. The soldiers had a great deal to say about State Aid and Rations about this time.

February, 1862

1 — I did not feel very well, and so got excused from drill.

3 — I drilled today with the rest of the company, and while we were going double quick, one fellow sliped [sic] on the ice and fell, and five or six of us fell over him in a very unmilitary manner.

4th — Drilled again today. Came in very tired at night.

5th — Stormed, in forenoon; cleared away the snow, and drilled in the afternoon. In the evening a brace fell on the stovepipe and knocked down two stoves with it. We had a very smoky time getting them up again.

6th — Drilled in the forenoon and was taken with a pain in the side. Went to Dr. Cady and got excused for two days. At night after we were safely in bed (or bunk), there arose such a din and hubel [sic] from the smashing of bottles as to give one the idea of a temperance reform. This was out at Co. A’s bunks. They had to all get up for another roll call and had to drill the next day in the storm (State Aid caused this trouble.)

7th — Not much better.

8th — About the same as yesterday. The bunks were searched for old bottles; over two bushels were found and destroyed.

9th — We had knapsacks inspection in the forenoon. Went to church in the afternoon; came back very tired.

A Week’s Board at Camp Seward

A Week’s Board at Camp Seward
DAY BREAKFAST DINNER SUPPER
Sunday Coffee, bread, hash soup tea, pudding & molasses
Monday Coffee, bread, potatoes & mackeral bread, soup, beef tea, pudding, bread, slices of beef
Tuesday Coffee, bread, hash bread, beef, potatoes tea, bread, beef
Wednesday Coffee, potatoes, tripe bread, soup, potatoes tea, bread, pudding & molasses
Thursday Coffee, bread, hash bread, beef and potatoes tea, bread, pork & beans
Friday Coffee, bread, hash bread, salt codfish tea, bread, ginger-bread & butter
Saturday Coffee, bread, fish hash bread, pork, beans tea, pork, beans

10th — Drilled in forenoon; did my first washing in afternoon.

11th — Drill and dress parade in evening. Got out canteens and haversacks and a day’s rations.

12th — Started for Lowell. Got up at three o’clock to breakfast. Started for the depot before daylight. While we were going to Springfield the grain got separated twice. At Springfield,
we had refreshments, crackers and cheese, furnished by the people. There I saw Irenus and Albert and Mary. It was very hard to part with my folks for so long a time. We got to Lowell just at dark.

13 — Drilled some and had a dress parade in the afternoon.

Lowell Residence of General B. F. Butler (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

Lowell Residence of General B. F. Butler (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

14th — The regiment went to Gen. Butler’s residence in the afternoon. The General was not at home.

15th — We slicked up things in the forenoon and had a dress parade in the evening.

16th — Sunday. Inspection of arms and knapsacks.

17th — Another inspection.

18th — Paid off till the first of January, nothing due me. Preparing to leave.

20th — We came to the Hub of the Universe today and went on board the steamship Mississippi. We marched direct from the depot to the wharf through slush ankle deep. It was the coldest that night on deck that I ever knew it to be.

21st — Started for Ship Island. The rolling of the ship makes me dizzy and uncomfortable.

22nd — I am all right this morning. Heaved up my breakfast. Out of sight of land. Sea pretty smooth.

23rd — Ship rocked rather hard last night and made some seasick. All our cooking done in wooden barrels with steam. We have one large gun on board, that weighs 8580 lbs.

24th — We lay between Fortress Monroe and the Rip Raps. Arrived early this morning; the wind blew very hard in the afternoon and was very cold. I feel better today that I have
before since we started.

25th — Started on our way again, in the morning. Saw some rebels on the Virginia shore on horseback. I am on guard.

27th — We had a fearful night last night; we had a gale off Cape Hatteras; the ship rolled so that the yards dipped in the water; the sailors said it was the hardest storm they ever knew for so short a time. We came very near to breakers in the night and had a very narrow escape from ship-wreck. Co. H had a time of it bailing water, and a barrel of sugar, and a barrel of rice and some beans and cakes of ice from the ice room went tumbling down among them. I was pretty sea sick and so dizzy that I could not stand alone. Among it all it was amusing to hear the men; some were praying, others heaving up Jonah and a few were stealing sugar and others were bailing water that came down the hatches. We have a prospect of a better night tonight.

28th — We struck on a sand-bar on Fryingpan Shoals. We struck in daylight and a calm sea and without any just reason, and then cast anchor and it rested on the sand, and as the ship rolled, it knocked a hole through the side and let the water into the fore end; but the ship was built with four partitions, so that one part might be full and still the ship not sink. The fore part filled with water and we threw all the stores from that place overboard. We signaled a United States gunboat in the afternoon that happened to come in sight. They came up and tryed [sic] to pull us off, but could not; so the Maine troops got on board of the other ship and we stayed on the Mississippi, not hardly expecting to keep afloat till morning, but the tide coming in set us afloat in the night. We struck about nine in the morning about fifteen miles from shore. On guard only once this month.

March, 1862

1st — Still on board of the Mississippi. The Maine troops came back this morning. The fore part of the ship is full of water, and three feet deep on the lower deck. We had a fearful time; worse than the storm. We have to keep bailing all the time, a company at a time. It did no good however, as we could not get the water any lower and it would not get any higher inside than out. It is as pleasant a day as I ever saw. The sea is as calm as a lake. We are anchored about four miles from the shore of North Carolina. We have to keep bailing. The porpoises are playing all around us; they are the first I have ever seen. The ship that came to help us off the bar, went off this morning and came back in the afternoon with an English schooner that she had caught running the blockade. We started on our way a little before sundown.

2nd — Sunday. We had divine services on the quarterdeck this forenoon. We have to keep bailing. A ship has just been spoken. She is bound for Port Royal. She says it is twenty-five miles there. The weather is warm and pleasant as June in Mass.

Formerly enslaved people of Hilton Head, SC (Image from Library of Congress)

Formerly enslaved people of Hilton Head, SC (Image from Library of Congress)

3rd — We landed this morning at Seabrook landing, Hilton Head, S. C. The place is a large cotton plantation. There are plenty of palmetto trees, here. The peach trees are in blossom. There are a number of orange trees on the plantation. The negroes are selling hoe cakes at a penny apiece. They are very poor people. I went out in the afternoon and got some small sweet potatoes from a field that had not been dug very well. We had to sleep on the ground in the open air the first night.

4th — I was on guard.

5th — Our Company had to clear up a place for a parade ground. When we were at dress parade a little nig behind the colors said “The secesh flag haint got any birdy on it.” The little nigs look funny following the music up and down the line with their teeth and eyes shining in their coal black faces.

6th — We did not drill today. The wind blew dirt so that we could not very easy. Some of us swap our hard bread for meal and so make hasty pudding and sweeten it with sugar that we took without leave on the ship, so we have a little something to eat.

7th — While we were drilling today, we had to march a mile or so out in the woods and while we were stopping to rest, a pig came along not far off, and the captain told us we might
chase him a few minutes. So we all laid down our guns so that we could run faster, and one of the boys took my revolver and while we were running, he fired six shots at him, three of which hit him, and made him surrender. Then six or seven of the boys skined [sic] him and took the meat back to camp. The pig would weigh over a hundred pounds.

8th — We had an inspection that lasted nearly all day. We also had a dinner of the pig that we got yesterday.

9th — I had to go on the ship and work all day, and four hours last night. Pretty good for Sunday. Had to help load the Matanzas from the cargo of the Mississippi; among the rest five cannons and most of our cartridges and other heavy freight.

10th — The Matanzas started for Ship Island taking the Maine troops with it. We struck our tents this forenoon and got ready to embark on the Mississippi, but about three o’clock, when only part of us were on board, they started out, for fear that the tide going out would leave them on the bottom. But they had not got far when the ship ran on an oyster bed and the tide going out left her there. The rest of us who were left behind, got on board of a schooner lying at the wharf.

11th — My birthday, today; 20 years old. Stayed on the schooner all night without our blankets, so thick that we could not lay straight and it rained quite hard before morning. About three o’clock, two steamers tried to pull off the Mississippi, but could not do it; so one of them went to get more help. So we came on board of her. They have got the leak stopped and the hull all pumped out dry.

12th — We all had to get on board of a sailing vessel so to lighten the ship, then four steamers tried to pull her off again, but could not do it. She got off that night by the tide rising.

15th — I have been too sick to write for a day or two. I came to the hospital yesterday. The Captain of the Mississippi has been arrested.

16th — Left the hospital today.

17th — Saw some flying fish. They would rise out of the water, side of the ship, in small flocks of a dozen or two at a time. They look very pretty flying. They are six or eight inches long, and flew five or six rods.

18th — Had a search. The officers searched all our knapsacks for tobacco and other things that had been stolen. I had some candles in mine that I took out of a box that was floating in the water in the ship. They took the candles and a revolver that I had.

19th — The Captain brought back my revolver today.

20th — We arrived at Ship Island at nine o’clock in the morning. We are anchored a short distance from the wharf, being unable to get up to it. The Island is a long, low white sandy one. On this end, there are a great many tents and a few portable houses, a lighthouse, and some old wrecks of schooners; on the other end there are few acres of timber.

Ship Island, Mississippi (Image from Harper's Weekly)

Ship Island, Mississippi (Image from Harper’s Weekly)

23rd — Sunday. I am on guard. We are still on the ship. They are unloading some of the cargo. We are anchored a mile from the wharf.

25th — Came on shore today. We had to march two miles in the sand, which is very soft and hard to travel in. We pitched our tents in the afternoon and only had four of them, so we were very crowded, and hardly had room to lie down. The water is very good. All we have to do to get it, is to dig a hole and put in a barrel. On the ship, we had to drink condensed steam, the poorest water I ever drank. One of the Michigan regiments were very good to us, and brought us coffee that we could not make that night ourselves, because we had no wood.

27th — We had to drill today. We have a nice level place to drill on, in the center of the Island. I saw some large fish today close to the shore pitching out of the water and rolling about. They were Porpoises. Four days ago, we were shivering with our overcoats on, now it is as warm as summer.

28th — Had to drill six or seven hours.

29th — Had to drill in forenoon. In afternoon got ready for inspection.

30th — Sunday. Had an inspection in the forenoon; went to meeting in afternoon.

31st — Had to drill again. On guard only twice this month.

April, 1862

1st — Nothing but drill. My health is very good now.

2nd — More drilling.

3rd — Had our first cartridges today, blank ones to practice with.

4th & 5th — Drilled

6th — Sunday. On guard. Had to sleep out doors.

7th — Went down to the wharf with the prisoners after some potatoes in the forenoon after coming off guard. Drilled in the afternoon.

8th — Drilled seven or eight hours. We drill from 7 till 11 and from 4 till sundown.

9th — Drilled in the forenoon and in the afternoon we had a grand review of the whole division, nearly seventeen thousand.

10th & 11th & 12th — Drilled.

13th — Sunday. We had a fearful thunderstorm last night. It rained very hard, and a number of tents blew over, and the lightning struck the guard tent, ran down the center pole and killed three prisoners, all of Co. K. Two or three guns were struck and spoiled. The whole regiment went to the funeral, today. Two of them were Catholic and the Catholic chaplain sprinkled holy water and sand on the coffins three times. It was a very solemn occasion.

14th — Drilled.

15th — Came on board of the Mississippi again tonight with the 26th Mass. regiment, so we do not have any room to spare. The yard of the Mississippi knocked down both smokestacks of the steamer that brought us here.

16th — I slept on the upper deck last night. We are crowded together like sheep. We started, at half past nine in the evening, for the mouth of the Mississippi; having in tow the North America, loaded with troops. The rest of the fleet goes with us.

17th — We got over the bar at four o’clock and anchored. I am on guard, faint, weary, and sick.

18th — I feel some better today. The banks of the river along here are only a few rods wide for a number of miles, and the water of the Gulf came close up to the river. There are a number of houses, a lighthouse, and telegraph on this strip of land. We passed Pilot Town and came to anchor opposite a small house that looked as though it was set in the water (at ten o’clock). General Butler and a few others went over to the house. There are a few cattle there!

19th — I caught a cold last night sleeping on deck. The weather is very pleasant. We are still anchored in the same place.

20th — Sunday. It is a cold, wet miserable day to us who are crowded together so close. We are still anchored fifteen or twenty miles below Fort Jackson, which our gunboats are still bombarding. We can see the smoke of the guns from here.

21st — A gunboat came down today after our big Sawyer gun to help take the forts with. All we have to eat now is a cup of coffee in the morning, and at night, and a piece of rotten magotty [sic] bacon and perhaps a rotten potatoe [sic] or two, and what sea bread we want.

22nd — We started up the river at one o’clock and went a few miles nearer the forts and came to anchor again. The commander of one gunboat in passing down by, said that the chain across the river was cut last night. Tonight after dark, we went up the river three or four miles and anchored close to the western shore. We can hear the cannon and mortars and see the shells all night.

23rd — The rebels sent five rafts down the river to burn our ships. I saw one last night. It was very beautiful. They are easily destroyed, so they do no damage. The shore along here is covered with small trees. They are all green as in summer and look very refreshing. We can hear the birds singing in the trees. I saw a red bird this morning.

Fall of the Forts

“The Splendid Naval Triumph on the Mississippi, April 24th, 1862”, color lithograph, published by Currier & Ives, 1862 (public domain).

24th — Our gunboats began to pour in a terrible fire on the rebels at four o’clock this morning and continued it till daylight. We could see fifteen or twenty shells in the air at a time. A gunboat came along side this morning and reported Fort Jackson on fire. We were ordered to have two days rations cooked and wait for further orders by Gen. Butler. At ten o’clock, we started down the river by the General’s orders. In going over the bar, the ship hit the bottom and then we started out on the Gulf.

25th — We were going all night and came to anchor in Bay Ronde near Fort St. Phillip in the afternoon.

26th — Still anchored in the bay. Two steamers came in the forenoon. One of them, the Lewis, the steamer that we knocked the smokestacks off from the other day. In the afternoon, the Harriet Lane came alongside and took off the 26th Regiment and landed them in small boats above the fort. I went on board of the Harriet Lane.

27th — Sunday. The Matanzas and Great Republic came here this morning. The Officers have two or three guns and bayonets taken from the rebels, very poor things. Pelicans are plenty here.

28th — I do not see any prospect of having a fight. We all got on board of the Lewis a little before sunset, calculating to land in the night. We went as close to the shore as we could get and stopped.

29th — We stayed all night on the Lewis, so crowded that I was very lucky in getting a place to lay straight in. We came back early in the morning to the Mississippi and started for the
mouth of the river, the forts being in our possession. At 5 o’clock, we were in the river and going by Pilot Town. Now we are in the river, we can get fresh water again. We kept on up the river and came to anchor at dark.

30th — We started up the river before daylight and reached the forts at sunrise. Came to anchor between them. Stayed an hour or so and started again. The scenery is so beautiful along the river that I will not try to describe it. There are so many beautiful sugar plantations and such splendid residences that I could not describe them if I would. On guard only twice this month.

 May, 1862

1st — The negroes seem overjoyed as we pass the plantations. They leave their work and swing their hats and hoods and shout “Hurrah for the Yankees.” We started up the river about 2 o’clock. We went by some noble sugar plantations. A sugar house on each, and the negro quarters arranged so neat that there could be no fault found with them. I got two letters last night, the first I have had since we left home. At noon we anchored in the middle of the river at New Orleans. We went up to the wharf at four o’clock and landed. We were the first regiment to land. All our guns were loaded. When we landed, there were several thousand of the inhabitants crowding on to us and telling us that the yellow jack [yellow fever] would have us, and some cheering for Jeff Davis and Beauregard, and groaning for Lincoln. It was nearly dark when we were all on shore and we had a twilight march to the Custom House, a large unfinished building and very dirty. The whole crowd went with us, blocking up the streets and insulting us all they could, and all we would bear. The Post Office is in the Custom House, so we had plenty of late rebel papers and some secesh letters to read.

2nd — I was on guard with the rest of the company. Only two reliefs, so we had to stay on half the time. I nearly blistered my feet on the pavement, walking my beat. Had to sleep on stone floors, without my blankets, with a cartridge box for a pillow.

3rd — After coming off guard, I washed my clothes and helped clean up new quarters.

Gen. Butler's HQ in New Orleans (Image Library of Congress)

Gen. Butler’s HQ in New Orleans
(Image Library of Congress)

4th — Went down to the St. Charles Hotel on guard. This is where the General stays. In the morning before coming here, I had to go to the ship with a few others to get some sugar and coffee. Tonight, I have my blankets, but have to sleep on a stone floor. While I was on my beat tonight, a man came along and wanted to have me turn my back, and then he handed me a little parcel and when I opened it, there were four soda crackers in it. Provisions here are very scarse [sic], and I suppose he thought it was quite a present.

5th — We were not relieved till afternoon. Wrote a letter.

6th — We had to drill today, and in the afternoon, we fired off our guns, the first time we have fired balls in them. In the evening had to go on guard down at the Evans House, a hotel that we use as a hospital.

7th — On guard at the Hospital.

8th — The same as yesterday.

9th — Went to St. James Hotel on guard.

10th — Came back again to the Evans House.

11th — On guard.

12th — On guard. One soldier buried today. Four have died since we came here. When they die they are laid on a board in the open air. Some lay twenty four hours in the sun and rain. Then, the man who has charge of it comes with a very rough coffin and puts the corpse in and carries it to the wagon, the pauper hearse, and is carried to an unknown grave and forgotten, and not a soldier discharges his farewell shot over the graves where our comrades lie buried. I am happy to say that they have improved on this since then.

13th — On guard. Being on guard here is not so hard as it might be. We set in a chair by the door and hold our guns and take as much comfort as we can by watching the people in the street. Having to get up in the night is the worst of it.

14th — Still on guard. Cannot sleep nights, the mosquitoes are so thick.

15th — The sick are all over to the St. James, so we have the house to ourselves. There is hardly a vehicle here like those we have at the North. There are a few buggies and carriages like ours. Most of the vehicles are a kind of dray with two wheels and sticks running out behind for skids when they back up to the side walk. Most of their teams are mules. They have some very nice ones here.

24th — Was relieved from guard at the Evans House, having been there eighteen days. We went to Annunciation Square where the rest of the regiment are. Our Company is staying in tents. I went on picket at night, two hours and a half.

25th — Sunday. Did nothing but write a letter.

26th — Drilled in the forenoon. After dinner went to carry some of the boys their dinner. Saw some fig trees with small figs on them. There are some beautiful flower gardens here.

27th — Drilled same.

28th — Went on guard up to the levee. One of the boys got drunk and asleep on his post, and was put in the guardhouse.

29th — Went on guard here at the square.

30th — Came off guard at nine o’clock, and then we had to go to the river to fire off our guns. Had to stay nearly an hour in the hot sun. Some of our balls go across the river.

31st — I had nothing to do today, but rest. On guard twenty three days this month.

June, 1862

1st — Sunday, nothing to do.

2nd — Went up to levee this morning on guard. Had to stay on till eight at night. I had to drill some every day until the 7th, when I was on guard again.

8th — Sunday. Came off guard this morning. There was considerable talk about going home at this time. They said so much about it that we began to believe it.

10th — Went down by the St. Charles with the regiment. It is rather warm, if we have anything to do.

14th — We had the long roll last night, for the first time, just after we had got to sleep. We marched down to the St. Charles, where the General is staying, a mile and a half from the square. We got up and went down there in thirty-eight minutes from the time the signal was given. Not bad for new beginners.

15th — I was on guard.

16th — I had to go with eleven other guards to arrest a lot of folks who had made an assault on a police man. We took a dozen of them to the police station and did not get round for our breakfast till ten o’clock. It was a very nasty place. The hen manure was an inch thick all over the yard.

17th — We had to get up at four o’clock and march down to Canal St. and back, a mile and a half or more from here. We have to do our drilling in the night, as it is so warm that we cannot stay in the sun during the daytime.

20th — Two men were drumed [sic] out of camp at dress parade. One of them was Old Sullivan, put and kept in irons for stabbing Capt. Lee at Pittsfield. The way the druming [sic] out was done was this. Four guards were in first file and two in next, one each side of the prisoners, and two more guards behind them at charge bayonets. The others were at a shoulder and then there were three. The procession marched down the line and back and over the lines, playing the Rogues March. There was a great crowd of people on three sides of the square to witness the scene.

22nd — Sunday. I am on guard today. We have dress parade most every night now. We do not have to drill much. Another man drumed [sic] out of camp.

23rd — Came off guard this morning. Do not feel very well. We were paid off today. I got $47.65.

24th — Two of our men had to wear wooden overcoats at dress parade. That is a beef barrel with a square hole cut through the head of it, so it will rest on the shoulders. It looks funny enough.

27th — Went on guard, but had to get some one to take my place because I am not able to stand my time out. Some of the prisoners have to wear the barrel six hours a day.

28th — Went to the doctor’s this morning. Have a hard cough and feel very faint. Am excused from duty. On guard five times. Excused from duty three days.

July, 1862

1st — Still under the doctor’s care. Have a bad diarrhea. Feel very weak.

3rd — Returned to duty this morning, though I do not feel much better. Another man drummed out of camp last night, which makes four in all.

4th — Independence. A very quiet day. A salute fired at one o’clock by the battery, and our regiment had ten rounds of blank cartridges to fire at five o’clock. Went back again to the doctor’s again, this morning, and was excused from duty.

7th — Returned to duty this morning. Feel much better. Tonight we had some cartridges given us, enough to make forty rounds, and we were ordered to sleep on our arms, but nothing happened. Did not have the long roll that we expected.

10th — On guard here at the square.

13th — On guard at Post Quartermaster’s, No. 96 Magazine St.

14th — On steady duty at the General’s, at the junction of Camp and Prytania Sts., a sort of picket guard round the General’s at the corners of the streets; ten on a relief, and three reliefs each night. We have to go down there at six o’clock and come back at five in the morning. Do not have to stand on post quite three hours each night. It is over a mile from here.

22nd — Still on guard at the General’s. I went to a fire this morning, only two squares from here. The engines soon put the fire out.

24th — Marched down with the rest of the regiment most down to Canal St. and back by the General’s this afternoon.

31st — Still on guard at the General’s. Excused from duty six days. On guard twenty days.

August, 1862

5th — Had a pass today and went over the river to Algiers. Got some mellons [sic]. Had a nice time. Came back very tired.

8th — Had to pack our knapsacks ready to march, but we did not have to go anywhere.

15th — Do not have much to write, because there is nothing going on. I am still on guard at the General’s. On the 13th, when we were going down to the General’s on guard, the sergeant stopped us at a house where the children had insulted us every time we had been by, and gave the woman to understand that she and the children would not see the light of day for three months to come if it was not stopped. They have kept quiet since then.

19th — We had orders at noon to get ready to move at three o’clock. Just before we started to go, I was detailed to go with some ammunition to the railroad depot, so I did not have to carry my knapsack. After we got to the depot, I had to guard the commissary stores on the cars to the Lake, three or four miles from the city, and at Lake Port we got on board the steamer Grey Cloud and started for Fort Pike at dark.

20th — Reached Fort Pike early this morning and landed at daylight. Companies I & G are with us. The fort is thirty miles from the city. I like the place very much. Today there is such a cool sea-breeze here.

21st — I feel most dead this morning. The mosquitoes bit so I fixed my bar, and as soon as I had got laid down, the mosquitoes came by the millions, and some of the small ones worked through, and then the large ones would put their bills through, and those already in would pull them through. It was like sleeping in a bee hive. I could not sleep, so I spread my blanket over my face, but that made me so warm that I could not sleep. In the morning, I found towards a peck of mosquitoes in my bar. We put up seven tents today for our company. The other companies stay inside the fort. There is the largest fig tree here in the whole southern states. It is nearly a foot and a half through at the ground.

22nd — I did not sleep much last night. This morning the tent was full of mosquitoes. Got some sleep today. Went to sleep in the shade, and the sun came round and burned my face so that it smarts very bad. There is a delightful sea-breeze here. It is a pleasant place in the daytime.

23rd — I took my blankets and went to sleep by the fire at the wharf last night. Got some sleep and a great many bites. I went on guard this morning.

24th — I came off guard this morning. In the afternoon, it rained so we had to stick to the tents, but we have to keep a smoke to keep off the mosquitoes.

27th — On guard again today.

30th — On guard.

31st — Sunday. Came off guard this morning. It was an awful night, last night, for mosquitoes. They bit through pants and all. On guard 23 days.

September, 1862

2nd — Rainy day. At night we had a sword presentation. Amos Ramsdell, in the name of the company, presented Lieut. M. M. Pulver with a sword and made a short speech, which was responded to by the Lieut. as well as could be expected, he being taken by surprise. After the ceremony, we gave the Lieut. three cheers and went to our quarters. Then, we thought we might as well have another presentation. We got A. Ramsdell to take Pulver’s sergeant’s sword and present it to Hyden [sic: Jesse G. Hayden], who was promoted to a Sergeant, so we had some fun over it.

3rd — I went with the rest of our company to Pearlington, Miss., on Pearl river. We took the machinery and lumber from a steam mill at that place. We fired a charge of grape at a man who was paddling up the river in a small boat, but did not hit him. We took some things from a store belonging to a Mr. Brown, and a small steamer, the William Hancock; we came back to the fort before dark.

4th — Co. I went up toward Pearlington to guard the lower mill till we could get the lumber. I was put on guard this morning, but I got some one to take my place at four o’clock, so I could go with the company to Bayou Bonfouca. We started just at dark, and got there before midnight, and surrounded the house of the man we went to see. He furnished the rebels at Camp Moore with beef.

5th — In the morning, we proceeded to business. We first fixed the steamer Brown so that we could keep the cattle on, and then we drove them down to the steamer. There were over a hundred and fifty in the pen near the house. We had to stand in a circle around them, while the negroes lassoed them and dragged them on to the boat. We could not drive them on. We got about eighty-five on board and then we let the rest go, as it was about four o’clock. And then, took on our prisoner and a hogshead of sugar and started back, but we had to turn round and the bayou is no wider than the J. M. Brown is long. The pilot backed down to the widest place and ran one end into the bank and let the steamer swing round, and as she came round the fore end reached the other shore. The steamer only draws two feet of water. We got back to the fort just at dark; just twenty-four hours from the time we left.

6th — Co. G went to relieve Co. I, but they did not want to be relieved, so Co. G. came back again.

7th — Sunday. Just at night we got on board the steamer, and went up the bayou again after a load of wood. We saw two alligators that were shot when we were coming down the other day; they were lying on their backs dead; as soon as we got there I went on guard and stayed seven hours.

8th — We got loaded and back to the fort early this morning.

9th — Went up to Brown’s mill and loaded lumber all day. Twenty from Co. F and as many from Co. G. We got back to the fort at dark, very tired. The soldiers that were left here unloaded it in the night.

10th — Went to Pearl River again and loaded lumber.

11th — On guard.

12th — I unloaded lumber in the night.

14th — Sunday. Went up to Brown’s mill again and finished up that job. The family put their goods on board and came with us. When we were coming down the river, we saw an alligator and some of us fired at him, and one ball struck under his eye and forced it out, and the ball glanced along his nose and stunned him, so that the officers stopped the boat and got him on board and brought him to the fort. He is lively enough now. We have him tied to a rope.

18th — On guard.

22nd — I do not feel very well today. I am on guard.

24th — Went up West Pearl [River] to a saw mill and got some lumber. On our way back, we picked up a couple of men in a small boat on their way to the city from the Confederacy.

25th — Went up Bayou Liberty to Bonfouca after a load of wood. Went on guard as soon as I got there. Got a lot of persimmons.

26th — On guard. Rained all the time.

29th — Went up Bayou Liberty again with our Company and Co. G. Had a nice time. Got a load of wood and about fifty cattle and two prisoners, besides liberating four or five slaves. I was on guard most of the time. I got some persimons [sic] and oranges. We had to back down all the way, the Bayou is so narrow that we could not turn around. When we got into the lake, it was as smooth as glass, and we had one of the most beautiful sunsets that I ever saw.

30th — On guard. The mosquitoes bit very bad last night. On guard five days besides what I was on in our excursions.

October, 1862

1st — Came off guard this morning. It is a very hot day.

3rd — Got on board the steamer at four o’clock in the morning, and went to Bayou Liberty, again. We got a load of wood, about forty cattle, a lot of sails, and schooner rigging, and we soldiers filled our haversacks with oranges and dug a lot of sweet potatoes, and when we were coming back to the fort we took on forty-two slaves. We got back at eleven o’clock at night.

4th — On guard today.

7th — On guard at the old hospital. General Butler was here, this morning, on the yacht Gipsey. The steamer Ceres
blew up this forenoon and burned and killed ten men.

11th — On guard, very cold. I have to wear an overcoat. We were paid off today, fifty two dollars. I sent home forty.

13th — On guard again.

15th — Went to Bonfouca and got a load of brick.

16th — We got up at three o’clock and went on board the Brown, and went to Bonfouca again, to raise some schooners that were sunk there to keep them from falling into our hands. The schooners were a mile above the place where the Brown had to stop. Co. G went up where the schooners were and we stayed by the Brown, and the contrabands loaded on a load of brick. We bought potatoes of the slaves at twenty-five cents a sack. I bought two sacks.

17th — I was on guard last night. This afternoon I and five others were sent on board the Concordia, the first schooner that came down. We came down the bayou, the crew poling the boat down; we got out about a half mile into the lake at dark, and anchored. We stayed there all night and were very hungry. We came away from the steamer without our dinner, and had nothing but a few sweet potatoes to eat.

18th — The steamer which had broken her rudder in going up, had got it fixed and came into the lake about noon, and proceeded to hitch on the schooners, six in number. We that came down on the first schooner were glad to see the steamer, as we were very hungry by this time. We got to the fort a little before sundown, bringing a large number of slaves with us, over a hundred, I think.

21st — On guard; whole company at a time.

24th — On guard.

27th — On guard.

29th — A part of the 4th Mass. Battery came here today, and the Sutler lost nine barrels of beer at night.

30th — On guard. The Sutler in trying to save his beer, lost three barrels in rolling it to the steamer. On guard nine days.

November, 1862

2nd — On guard.

5th — On guard.

8th — On guard.

11th — On guard, & Co. I & Co. G and the Battery went off on the Brown to Pearl River and did not get back, so we had to stay on guard the 12th.

12th — The battery and the other Companies came back at night. Had to stay on guard.

Charles M. Wheldon

Charles M. Wheldon

14th — I and twenty others went with Col. Whelden on the William Hancock over the Salt Bayou after a horse. Going up the Bayou the officers shot a duck and marsh hen, and one of our boys shot an alligator and a negro shot an owl. After we got as far as the steamer would go, we had to go about three miles and cross the bayou. When we got the horse to the bayou, he would not swim across, so we left him. We got back to the fort at nine o’clock.

15th — On guard.

18th — On guard.

21st — On guard.

23rd — I had to go on guard, again, as Co. I were off on the boat and we had to take their place on guard.

25th — Went to the Lighthouse on guard with six others, to stay five days. We had a very good time. While we were gone, on the 26th, Co. F and Co. G went up to Bonfouca and were attacked by guerillas [sic] and one man in Co. G was wounded. The rebels were driven off.

24th — We went up West Pearl [River] after some water, in a sailboat, and after we got back, we went over to Mr. O’Rourke’s and got a hog and dressed him in the evening, so we had fresh meat while we stayed at the lighthouse.

30th — We got back to the fort today; just before we left the lighthouse, we caught a ‘coon and left him there. On guard fourteen days.

December, 1862

2nd — We had an inspection by Gen. Dudley. He found considerable fault with us.

3rd — On guard.

6th — On guard.

8th — Went to old Goosmers’ after a load of wood. Brought back ten darkies with us. Got back at nine o’clock.

9th — We had to get up and go on guard at three o’clock in the morning, so that the other companies could go off on the Brown to Bay St. Louis.

10th — The boat came back today with a lot of folks on board, who wanted to get to the city.

12th — On guard again.

13th — Went to Bonfouca for a load of brick. Got back the same night.

14th — Had an inspection.

15th — On guard.

18th — On guard.

20th — We had a farewell address from Lieut. Col. Whelden at dress parade time. He was very much affected at parting. He resigned on account of Butler’s recall.

Elliot Bridgman. Image courtesy of the Belchertown Historical Association.

Elliot Bridgman. Image courtesy of the Belchertown Historical Association.

21st — On guard. Captain Bridgman is now the commander of the post.

23rd — Co. F. went up Bayou Liberty to Bonfouca, and just as we were going to stop and after we had landed our pickets, we were fired into by a party of guerrillas, about forty in number. They killed one negro and wounded another in the arm, and a batteryman in the neck. We returned their fire as well as we could, they being out of sight, and they ran for their horses that were in an open field, and left. Then, the boat was loaded up with wood and brick, and we got ready to come back. About a dozen of us were on the upper deck, lying down behind the matresses [sic] from the cabin, and the rest of the infantry were below, behind the wood piles, and the battery men were at their posts at the guns; we had four on board, one 24 lb. iron gun and two twelve pounder brass howitzers and one six pounder brass gun. When we had got down about a quarter of a mile, the rebels fired into us again; one of the balls came through the mattress ahead of me, and then slightly wounded Capt. Geo. S. Darling in the knee. We returned their fire giving them grape, shell, and canister, but with what effect we are unable to say, though we heard afterwards that they had five or six killed.

29th — Our Company is on guard today, but there was more than wanted, so I did not have to go on guard.

25th — Christmas. Went on the Hancock after a load of sand, a mile or two beyond the Lighthouse. It took all day to get it. The Hancock is a slow coach.

27th — Went on guard.

30th — On guard.

31st — Went to a negro dance in the evening and a meeting. On guard nine days. On guard one hundred and eight days since the first of May. Quite a pretty story is told of the New London bringing in a prize on the fifteenth of April. The New London or Black Devil chased out another of our gunboats and fought her with blank cartridges, and a rebel gunboat in sight thought one of their boats was in trouble and came to the rescue, when both of our boats turned their guns on her and she fell an easy prize. Quite an [sic] Yankee trick. Prices of a few articles in New Orleans when we came there: Flour $25.00 a barrel, Meal $3.50 a cwt., Potatoes $15.00 a bbl., Brooms $20.00 a dozen, Tea $7.00 a lb., Coffee $1.00 a lb., Beef $.50 a lb., Pork $.30 a lb. Eggs $1.00 a dozen, chickens $1.00 each.

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