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´╗┐Title: A History of the Army Experience of William A. Canfield
Author: Canfield, William A.
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A History of the Army Experience of William A. Canfield" ***


  _Concord, N. H., March, 1869._

  _This is to certify that the author has served the
  country faithfully; lost his arm at Petersburg; and
  is of good report by all who know him._

  (Signed,)      _J. D. Lyman_,
                         _Secretary of State_.


  Sold only by Himself. Price 25 cents.







READERS: In writing this little book, I do not claim to issue a work of
choice language, nor to present any new facts or startling developements
concerning the general history of the war. My intention is simply to write
a short narrative of my life as a soldier in the Army of the Potomac and
South West, and in the Hospital.

Having lost my left arm from a wound received in front of Petersburg, I
have taken this method of procuring sufficient means to enable me to
engage in some business by which I may gain an honest livelihood for
myself and family.

Craving your kind indulgence, I bring my claim before you, hoping you will
grant it a favorable reception.

Yours respectfully,



I was born on the 10th of June, 1840, in Thornton, a small town in the
northern part of New Hampshire. I was the youngest of six children. Our
parents were poor in this world's goods, but rich in faith and in the
knowledge of God as it is in Christ Jesus. My early instructions were
limited to a common school, and I was deprived of this at the age of
twelve years. Had I improved even these few years, I might have been much
farther advanced than I now find myself. As it is, I have to regret many
misspent opportunities of my childhood.

My parents, as I have said before, were rich in faith, and it was first in
their thoughts to instill into the hearts of their children principles of
wisdom, virtue and love. Especially did our dear mother, both by precept
and example, endeavor to lead us in the right way.

The summer of 1853 I went to Franklin, N. H., to work in a hosiery mill. I
liked my work, had a good boarding place, and in a short time felt quite
at home.

I had been there several weeks, and there had been an unusual interest in
religious matters for some time; many had already sought and found God.
One after another of my associates had found peace in God through the
merits of Christ, yet I remained unmoved.

One evening several of the boarders invited me to go to the prayer
meeting. I went, little dreaming of the great blessing there was in store
for me that night. I felt no conviction of sin at this time, nor did I
until the invitation was given for those to arise who desired the prayers
of God's people. To my surprise the whole party that came with me
manifested a desire to be prayed for. Then for the first time in my life
did I feel an earnest consciousness of God's presence. My friends had left
me--God was with me, and I was afraid. Oh, how my poor heart shrank to
hide itself; how gladly would I have hid myself from the presence of God,
but I could not; the pure light of God's love was shining into my sinful
heart, making every plague-spot clearly visible to my spirit's vision.

We returned home. My sister, being one of Christ's little ones, invited
them to go into the sitting-room for a season of prayer. Thus was I again
left alone, but not long; for very soon I felt a gentle touch on my
shoulder, and heard sister's sweet voice saying: "Come, Will, and pray
with us."

I went, and in earnest prayer entreated God for Christ's sake to pardon my
sins. I did not plead long in vain, for Jesus was very near me, and when I
yielded my will to the Divine, how quickly He received me, and lovingly
sheltered me in His bosom. Thank God, I have found a hiding place there
ever since. When I came out of that room I was clothed and in my right
mind--I was no longer afraid. For was not God my father, Jesus my elder
brother, and Heaven my home?

I could hardly wait until Saturday night, I desired so much to tell my
dear parents of my new-found joy. But the week soon passed away, Saturday
night came, and I was home again.

I think my dear mother perceived the change almost as soon as she saw me.
I would here say that my father had for some time neglected family
worship, and was not enjoying much of spiritual life; but when I told them
of my new-found joy, father fell upon his knees praying fervently for
pardon for his neglect of duty, renewedly consecrating himself to the
Lord. Truly there was great rejoicing in that little cottage that night.
The family altar was again established, and we rejoiced greatly in the
love of God.

The time passed very quickly until the autumn of 1858, when I went to
Manchester to work for my brother in a hosiery mill, and boarded in his

I soon connected myself with the M. E. Church in this place, and found
many warm friends. Among others, I became acquainted with Miss M. F.
Stewart, of New Hampton, N. H., and in due time married her. We had been
married about one year when the war broke out.

My parents always taught us to reverence the stars and stripes; I loved my
country's banner, and when rebel hands were raised to hurl it to the
ground, I felt as if I must go and bear a part in the great struggle. My
ancestors had fought bravely to establish the glorious liberty I had so
long enjoyed. It was hard, very hard, for me to leave those whom I loved
so dearly, but still harder to sit with folded hands here at home, while
others were dying for the aid I could render. Frequently, when about my
work, would my eye fall upon my hands (I have often thought it strange),
and they seemed to reproach me every time I looked at them. At last I
could bear it no longer; I felt sure it was my duty to go, and go I must.

I enlisted under H. D. Davis, at Manchester, N. H., July 12, 1862, in the
Ninth Regiment New Hampshire Volunteers. I went directly to Northfield, to
visit my parents and friends before going into camp. It is almost useless
for me to speak of the parting scene. I took leave of all my friends
except my wife and sister, with her husband. My aged parents were bowed
down with sorrow and grief. They had buried their oldest son and two
daughters; there were only three of us left--and now to lose me (for they
had little hope of ever seeing me again) was almost too much for them to

We went into camp the first of August. Spent the first night in the
barracks. I did not sleep much, I assure you, every thing was so
strange--so much noise and confusion of tongues. But I soon became
accustomed to my surroundings, and found real attractions in camp life.

I had always made it a rule to reprove sin whenever an opportunity
offered; but I soon found out what it meant to cast pearls before swine.

Then I adopted another plan; it was this: first, to watch every
opportunity of doing a good turn for my comrades. I interested myself in
the loved ones they had left at home--in a word, I tried to make them love
me; and I succeeded far beyond what I expected. I do not think there was
one in our company who would have seen any harm come to me if they could
have prevented it. Then, when occasion required, I could reprove sin
without being reproached and made to understand it was none of my

Our time was mostly occupied in drilling, until the 24th of August, when
we were mustered into the United States' service. On the 29th, we struck
tents early in the morning and marched to the depot, where we took the
cars for the seat of war. It was a sad time with us that morning, as one
after another bid farewell to loved ones. Very few of those brave men ever
returned. I had previously taken leave of my friends and told them I
should return to them again.

We started from Concord about seven in the morning; large crowds were
gathered at the stations all along our route to encourage and cheer us.

We arrived in Washington on the first of September; laid in the barracks
near the station that night. The next morning, I got leave to look about
the city, and must confess I was sadly disappointed. I had expected to see
something grand, and perhaps I should if I had traveled far enough. As it
was, about all there were to be seen were cows and goats, with vast
numbers of swine running at large in the streets. I went back to the
barracks not very well pleased with our Capital.

In a very short time we had orders to fall in. We then crossed the long
bridge, and marched about three miles beyond, and camped for the night.
About midnight we received orders to turn out--the rebels were upon us. We
turned out in a hurry; formed a line across the road with bayonets fixed,
for we had as yet received no ammunition. We remained in line about twenty
minutes, and then started off on another road; marched about two miles at
double quick; were then ordered back to camp, without seeing or hearing a
single rebel. The next day, we marched about six miles up the Potomac.
Here we found work chopping down trees, and throwing up fortifications.

On the 4th of September, a part of the army of the Peninsula passed us on
their way to the second Bull Run battle. They were all worn out with
continual marching and fighting, and many looked as if they would fall by
the wayside. I said to myself as they were passing: Why are worn-out men
like these pressed to the front, while we are held back! Well, when the
order comes, we too shall have to go; until then, we must wait and shovel.
All I could do for them was to give them my ration of soft bread.

The 8th of September was my first night on picket duty in an enemy's
country. About nine o'clock it commenced raining very hard. I was relieved
about twelve; laid down near an old stump, and was soon fast asleep. When
I awoke, I found myself in a pond of water which nearly covered me. I
managed to get out of the water and back to camp. The result of this
ducking was the dysentery in its worst form. I was compelled to go
directly to the hospital, and receive such care as they had to give.

On the 10th, our regiment received orders to move. They joined the Second
Brigade, Second Division, Ninth Army Corps. Unable to walk I was carried
in an ambulance, until we came up with the regiment on the evening of the
11th, when I joined my company. My comrades soon made a good fire of rails
and did every thing they could for my comfort. J. W. Lathe got some green
corn and roasted it for me, and on the morning of the 12th, got me aboard
an ambulance again. I afterwards learned that he was reprimanded for
taking such an interest in me, and I shall ever remember his kindness with

On the 13th, we arrived at Frederick City, Md. During the day it was
rumored that an order from Gen. Lee had fallen into Gen. McClellan's
hands, which had so exposed the position of the enemy, that he soon gave
orders for the entire army to move forward.

Our column took the main pike road to Middletown. We arrived on the south
side of the town after dark, and went into a field that had been recently
plowed, where we bivouacked for the night.

On the 14th, at the battle of South Mountain, the enemy occupied the side
and top of the mountain on both sides of the road. I will not attempt to
describe the battle, for I did not participate in it; I was left by order
of the surgeon in the hospital just established in the village. It was a
large two story building, situated on the east side of the town. That
night I was put in the second story. The room was filled with the wounded
and dying.

At about three o'clock in the morning, I was obliged to go down. The moon
was still shining in all its beauty and loveliness over the western
hill-tops. As I turned the corner of the building a sight met my gaze
which baffles description.

There were about thirty dead bodies, mangled in every conceivable shape,
covered with blood, with eyes wide open glaring at me. My very blood run
cold with horror, and it was some minutes before I could pass them. Since
then, I have become accustomed to such scenes, but I can never recall that
sight without a feeling of dread.

On the 15th, the battle at South Mountain was still raging. All was
excitement. I had no thought of self now, but bent all my energies to the
task of caring for the wounded. There were two others with me, and we
tried in every possible way to alleviate their sufferings. We brought them
water, washed their wounds, and spoke words of comfort. We had no
experience in such things, but did the best we could.

The surgeon, who came round about nine o'clock, said we had done well.
After looking at some of the worst cases, he gave us orders, advising us
to do the best we could. For three days and nights I had neither sleep nor
rest, when I was compelled to give up and take my chance with the others.

The ladies here, I shall ever remember with gratitude; they were very kind
to us, bringing us many luxuries we should not otherwise have had.

I was now brought very low by the chronic diarrhea; I could hardly get up,
and still no help appeared in my case. True, the surgeon was very kind,
but I thought it rather hard when he told me "you must let it run. I
cannot help you, I have nothing to do with."

I had heard the ladies telling of one Polly Lincoln, who possessed much
skill. I thought perhaps she might cure me, so I made further inquiries in
regard to her, and learned that she lived most of the time alone in a hut
made of logs, not far from the hospital. She gathered her own herbs, made
her own medicine, and performed wonderful cures,--so they told me.

With the surgeon's permission, I soon found her out and told her my
complaint. "Oh!" said she, "I'll fix you all right in a week or two, only
keep up good courage." And to work she went, at once; made me a nice bed
on the floor, and fixed me a dose of herb tea in a very short time. I felt
very comfortable, I can assure you, that afternoon, as I lay there on the
floor, watching that good old Samaritan in her humble home; my heart was
filled with gratitude, and I felt safe in her hands.

There was only one room in the house, and that very poorly furnished;
still, every thing looked neat and home-like. There were two other
soldiers there at the same time; one from the 17th Michigan, with his leg
off, the other from Massachusetts, with his arm amputated at the
shoulder-joint. She took care of us all, and often assisted at the
hospital. I was with her two weeks, and then reported in person to the
surgeon in charge. He gave me leave to go back another week. At the end of
that time I was fit for duty. But I must not leave this good old mother
without saying a few more words. She was, in deed and in truth, a good
Samaritan to us all; and there are hundreds who can testify to the same
truth; hundreds who will remember her with heart-felt gratitude as long as
they live.

The soldier from Massachusetts died in a few days; the other was able to
go home in four weeks.

Some time after this, I received orders to report at Camp Convalescent,
Alexandria. I stayed there two weeks and then started off with a squad for
the front. We arrived at Aquia Creek, on Saturday, October 13. We were put
into camp there and told to wait until after the battle before proceeding
further. To wait there within sound of that terrible artillery-fire at
Fredericksburg, did not suit me. I longed to be with my comrades and share
their danger.

With these feelings I went to the Provost Marshal and stated my case. He
gave me a pass to report to General Fry, at Falmouth, but instead of
reporting to him, I found my regiment over in the city and took my place
in the ranks. The boys were glad to see me, but said I was a fool for
coming into that slaughter-yard, as they called it. It was my duty, and I
was willing to take my chances with the rest.

We went on picket Sunday night, but were ordered to fall back across the
river about four in the morning, and at day-light we were in our old
quarters, there to do picket duty on the Rappahannock, as the boys said.
This was the most discouraging place that I was in during my stay in the
army. Any soldier who was there could tell some pretty hard stories of
that place. Our troubles there are too well known to every one at all
conversant with the history of the war, to need any comment.

A few days after Burnside got stuck in the mud, we received orders to pack
up; this was good news for us; we felt sure we could get into no worse
place than this mud-hole.

We got aboard the cars at Falmouth; arrived at Aquia Creek about dark,
then took the transportation boat and landed at Newport News. This we
found to be a change for the better; it was a very pleasant place. Here
they gave us tents, and plenty to eat as good as the army could afford.
There were some who were not satisfied; and if you had found them in
private life, you would have heard them growling continually about

Our regiment went into camp about one mile from the landing. Here we had
a good drill-ground; drilled six hours each day. I enjoyed my stay in this
place very much.

Our next move was to take a boat for Baltimore. The boat was an old
rickety craft, and came near sinking, during a slight gale going up the
bay. Arriving at Baltimore, we took the cars bound for the South-West;
this was a very pleasant ride, although we were somewhat crowded.

When we arrived at Pittsburg, we found a good supper awaiting us, and I
think those in charge of the tables can truly say that we did justice to
the hot coffee, ham, &c., that was set before us.

Thanks to those true and noble hearts that were so mindful of their
country's defenders. All along the route from Pittsburg to Cincinnati the
inhabitants threw into our cars baskets, boxes and pails, filled with good
things. This was a pleasant route, the scenery in some places being very
beautiful. I should like to go over it again, only under different
circumstances. I should be very glad to make the acquaintance of the
generous-hearted people of Ohio.

Leaving Cincinnati, we crossed the Ohio river into Covington, Kentucky.
Here we again got aboard of the cars, and arrived at Lexington. We went
into camp about one mile from the city, in a beautiful grove; the
fair-ground was only a short distance from us. I think I never saw a fence
come down more quickly, and, as if by magic, a village sprung up, with its
streets running north and south beneath those beautiful shade-trees. A
crystal stream of pure water ran along in the valley below, which supplied
us with water for every purpose. We stayed here two weeks.

On the 15th of April we packed up, and for nearly two months were marching
about from place to place. The people treated us kindly, but we could
easily discern where their sympathies were strongest. Now and then a slave
would come to us for protection. I remember, one Sabbath morning, a very
smart colored boy came to us, and about noon a constable came after him.
The colonel told him if "he could find him, to take him back to his
mistress;" this word was passed round in double-quick time. The boy was in
the first tent they came to, but as they were coming in he darted out past
them. Then a race commenced worth seeing; round and round the camp they
went; at last, the boy started for the woods, and the constable after him,
with four or five boys in blue following close upon the pursuer. Seeing
the boy was likely to escape, the constable drew a revolver and levelled
it at him, but before he could fire he was knocked down without ceremony,
and I think got the worst of that hunt. This happened near Lancaster,

In a few days we recrossed the Ohio river, went aboard of the cars at
Cincinnati and in due time arrived at Cairo, Illinois, where there were
boats waiting for us; went on board at once; laid at the wharf that night,
and started down the Mississippi river early in the morning on our way to
Vicksburg. Our company had the upper deck, therefore we had a fine
opportunity to view the surrounding country. The rebels fired into us
once, but did no damage. We landed on the west shore, near Vicksburg, on
the 15th of June. We saw Grant's fireworks on that doomed city for two

On the 17th we took the boat and ran up the Yazoo river about twelve
miles, and landed again. We went into camp on the east shore, about two
miles from the landing; made our beds of cane-brake, which was very nice.
Here we found an abundance of blackberries. While we were awaiting the
appearance of Johnston, we saw a great many things of interest; but we
were annoyed greatly by snakes and lizards. Let us make our bed where we
would, they were sure to find us, and claim a part of our blankets for a
resting place. They were harmless, however, and we soon became accustomed
to them. The lizards varied in length from three to eight inches, and were
of various colors, gray, green, red, etc.

The morning of the 4th of July dawned on us with all its beauty and
loveliness, and the birds seemed to be giving praise to God in
commemoration of our National Independence; with it came the surrender of
Vicksburg. In the midst of our joy, and throwing up of hats, we received
orders to fall in, and were soon on our way after Johnston. He fell back
as for as Jackson, and made a stand; we soon came upon him and the battle
commenced. For eight days we had more or less skirmishing, but it was not
such fighting as we had been accustomed to having while with the Army of
the Potomac.

At last we made preparation for a general charge, but when we made it, we
found empty works. The bird had flown, and had set the business part of
the place on fire.

The second day after we entered the city we turned back again; this was a
very hard march; we started at the quickstep, and kept it up all day. Two
men fell dead by the roadside, while many others fell by the way; it was
very warm, and we could get no good water, but were obliged to drink red
mud as we passed through the low grounds and ravines along our route.

As we retraced our steps, I noticed an aged lady sitting where I had seen
her two weeks before, at her cottage door, smoking her pipe of cob with a
stem two feet long, as unconcerned and contented, apparently, as if the
rude hand of war had not laid its devastating touch upon the country about
her. I do not know but what she is there yet; she seemed to enjoy her pipe
very much.

In due time we reached our old camp-ground. After staying in camp about
one week, we again got aboard of the boat and started down the river. We
had not gone far before we run aground, and in backing off, broke the
rudder, and were obliged to lay there all night. In the morning a tug came
up and helped us off; they took on board a part of the Sixth New Hampshire
Volunteers, giving us more room. We were eleven days going up the
Mississippi river. I took up my quarters on the pilot deck, and enjoyed
myself much in looking at the scenery along the route; it was grand.

In due time we arrived at Cairo, Illinois; got aboard of the cattle train,
and were rolled away at railroad speed, till at length we arrived at
Cincinnati, and recrossed the river to Covington. Here we again got aboard
the cars, stopping next at or near Camp Nelson, Kentucky, where we had a
good camp-ground, and plenty of good water. The following day we were
ordered out for dress-parade; there were but twenty-five officers and men,
all told; the remainder had been excused by the surgeon in the morning, or
were sick with the "shakes;" so it will be seen that our regiment was very
badly used up.

We remained here about a week, and then our regiment was distributed along
the Kentucky Central railroad, a company or two at each bridge, with
headquarters at Paris. Companies A and F were stationed at Kimbrae's
bridge, so called, about one mile south of a pretty little village called
Cynthiana. There was a block-house on each side of the bridge, which made
us very good quarters. Our duty, which was to guard the bridge nights, was
very light, and gave us plenty of time to visit our neighbors.

The people here were very kind and generous, with the exception of a man
by the name of Smith, a union man, and because he was such he thought the
boys ought to work for him: cut up his tobacco, pick his apples, etc., and
take their pay in promises; but this soon played out, and I have no doubt
but what he lost ten times as much as it would have taken to fulfill all
his promises.

In October, I was detailed acting Sergeant of the provost guard at
Cynthiana. Here I had a chance to become more acquainted with the
inhabitants, and learn their views in regard to the war. It was a nigger
war to most of them; but for all that, they treated us well with but few

There were four churches in the place; two black and two white, so called.
I attended them all, but I liked best at one of the colored churches, as
they had the smartest preacher.

In December, 1863, the State of New Hampshire sent us about four hundred
substitutes gathered from all parts of the country. About one-half of them

In January, 1864, we were ordered to Camp Nelson; went into camp on the
south-east side, near Daniel Boone's cave. On the 25th, we broke up camp,
and passed through the following places: Camp Dick Robertson, Lancaster,
Stanford, Hall's Gap, Cuba, Somerset, and arrived at Point Burnside on
the 30th, a distance of eighty-four miles February 1st, we were occupied
in fixing up our camp; while we remained here we drilled four hours per
day. On the 23d, we had orders to be in readiness to march. On the morning
of the 27th, struck tents, and took up our line of march; passed through
Somerset and Grundy, and forded Buck Creek, Church Valley.

It rained very hard the second day and snowed and rained the third day, so
there were three inches of snow on the ground that night, and we were wet
and cold and covered with mud; but on the 4th of March, we arrived near an
ancient village called London; a distance of sixty miles. We remained here
till the 6th, when we started on our journey again, passed through London,
and, tired and footsore, arrived on the north side of Cumberland Gap, a
distance of fifty-six miles, on the 10th, just as the sun was setting
behind the western hills; having for supper only the crumbs of our morning

On the 14, we again set out, passed through the Gap, Tazewell, Tennessee,
crossed Clinch river, Leonard's Village, and arrived near Knoxville, on
the 17th, a distance of sixty-five miles. Here we joined the Brigade
again, and on the 21st took the road that led us across the Wildcat
Mountain to Burnside Point; a distance of one hundred miles. We arrived
there on the 27th about noon, drew rations, and continued our march. We
arrived at Camp Nelson on the 31st; a distance of seventy-six miles.

This was a very hard march; I wore out three pair of army shoes, on this
tramp. We did not see an armed rebel on the whole route.

April 2d, marched to Nicholasville, and again took the cars, reaching
Annapolis, Maryland, on the 7th. General Grant reviewed us at this place.
We remained here until the 23d, drilling, &c., when we took up our line of
march, passed through Washington, D. C., crossed the Potomac, and went
into camp on the other side, on the 25th; a distance of forty-six miles.

On the 27th, we again started out and arrived on the plains of Manassas,
on the 28th; a distance of thirty-four miles. Here we remained till the
4th of May, when we again set out and arrived on the line of battle in the
Wilderness, on the 6th.

Our Brigade had been in all day, and at night were scattered all through
the woods. Colonel Walter Harriman, of the Eleventh New Hampshire
Volunteers, was taken prisoner.

The morning of the 7th, being the third day of the battle, was opened with
a terrible roar of musketry all along the line of seven miles. It was
impossible for our Commanding Chief to see but a small portion of the
army, so a great deal depended on the Corps Commanders. I cannot describe
the dreadful carnage of the Wilderness.

The killed and wounded were scattered through that vast forest of
underbrush, which, dry as tinder, and set on fire by the shells of the
enemy, was burning fiercely. The two lines charged back and forward; we
would gain a little ground in one place and lose in another. Just at dark,
we were ordered to the rear, and lay down to rest. But the next morning we
found ourselves on the old Chancelorsville battle-ground. Here we found
human bones strewn all over the ground.

On the 9th, we moved about five miles to the left, and in rear of
Fredericksburg. A battle raged at Spottsylvania. On the 10th, we went on
to the line on the left; hard fighting all along the line. On the 11th, we
were ordered to the rear to another part of the line; it rained hard all
night. About five o'clock on the morning of the 12th, we received orders
to advance.

On we went driving the rebel skirmishers before us. Now you might have
seen the gallant Hancock leading the second corps to victory; they came
upon the enemy unawares, and took two lines of works and seven thousand

We being the right of the Ninth Corps, formed on the left of the second.
We got in advance of the rest of the line while coming through the woods,
and formed on the left of the second just in season to receive the return
charge of the rebels. We opened on them as they came up in solid column in
front and on our left flank, and gave us a volley lengthwise which sent us
staggering back to the woods.

We lost two hundred and twelve men out of five hundred, in less than five
minutes. I received a slight wound in the leg, but I assure you, it did
not hinder me from making good time for the woods. We soon rallied, and
went back to the line with only one hundred men to guard the colors; the
rest were scattered but came up during the day and night. Hard fighting
every day till the 21st. Then Grant made one of his masterly movements
round their right flank. Our Brigade started direct for their extreme
right, struck them about five o'clock, and made preparations for a charge,
but darkness set in, and about ten o'clock we started for the rear;
marched all night, and took our breakfast on the bank of the Pamunkey
river; continued our march, and on the 24th crossed the North Anna river,
under a severe storm of shell bursting over our heads; we then entered the
line. On the 25th, advanced our line about five hundred yards; 26th, hard
fighting, but nothing gained. During the night we fell back across the
river and burned the bridge.

May 27th, we took up our line of march, crossed the Pamunkey river, and
went into camp; a distance of thirty-five miles. On the 30th, we started
out as rear guard for the brigade teams. May 31st, General Griffin ordered
our regiment alone into the woods to try the enemy's strength; we passed
down into the ravine and up a steep bluff under a galling fire, but at
last we reached the top and held our position till the reserves were sent
to support both of our flanks; hard fighting all day.

June 1st, 1864. All quiet till about ten o'clock; then the enemy charged
on our left and were driven back with heavy loss. They also charged on our
right in plain sight. Two lines came up on the double-quick till within
two hundred yards. Then you might have seen a line of dusty forms spring
up as if by magic, and a sheet of fire burst forth which sent them reeling
back to their cover in the woods. They soon rallied again and came on with
double the force that had first assailed us. Just then, one of our light
batteries, of six guns, was placed in position in the woods, and gave them
grape and canister.

On they came regardless of life and fearless as demons; but soon they met
a sheet of fire which seemed to consume them; they retreated to the woods
for the second time, and made no further attack on that part of our line.

On the 2d, we fell back and moved about five miles to the left. At four
o'clock, they came down on us and tried to get in our rear; but all to no
purpose. We fought hard during the following day, but rested that night.
On the 4th, we moved about four miles, and formed on the right of the line
at Coal Harbor. Every one knows about this place. It will be sufficient to
say that we had work to do, and I think all were glad when the order came
to fall back.

Just after dark, on the 11th, we started back and took our breakfast near
Whitehouse landing, and continued our march. Our next rest was near the
James river, where we remained until the 15th, when we took up our line of
march just at dusk, and marched all night and till four o'clock of the
following day. Forming on the line of battle near the Weldon railroad, we
went in on a charge, and fought more or less all night.

On the morning of the 17th, we charged all along the line, drove the enemy
back, took several pieces of artillery, and more or less prisoners.
Advanced about one mile on the 18th, and during the night threw up earth
works in an old oat field near a peach orchard. On the 19th, we dug our
pit eight feet wide and three deep, throwing all the earth in front. Hard
fighting on the left. On the 20th, hard fighting all along the line. I
received a slight wound across my left temple.

June 21st ended my term in the field. I was wounded in the left arm, and
had it amputated just above the elbow. Now for the hospital. I was carried
to City Point on the 23d. Thanks to the Christian and Sanitary
Commissions, which greatly relieved us, not only in furnishing so many
good things, but in sending to us those who always had a kind word for us

On the 30th, I was carried on board the hospital boat, and arrived at
Washington, D. C., on the 1st of July, and was carried to Finley
Hospital. I was well cared for here, and my arm healed rapidly, while many
others sickened and died.

On the 22d of August, I received a furlough for sixty days. I arrived home
on the 24th. I cannot attempt to describe my feelings as I crossed the
threshold, and placed this good right arm around the aged form of my
beloved mother, who tottered to meet me, and throwing her arms around my
neck, kissed me again and again. Not less welcome was the fervent "God
bless you, my son," from father. My wife was absent at this time, at the
bedside of a sick sister, who died in about two weeks after I got home.
Then she returned to me, and entered into the general rejoicing at my safe

Soon after I came home the stump of my arm began to trouble me very much.
Gangrene set in, the stump swelled up and turned black. They carried me to
my sister's, Mrs. Smith Hancock, in Franklin, where I was attended by Dr.
Knights of that town. For about three weeks my life was despaired of; then
I began to gain. Through the kind care of all and the skill of Dr.
Knights,--but more through the providence of God,--I was spared; for
what, I do not know. God knows, and he doeth all things well.

December 2d, I reported at Concord, and went into the Hospital there. On
the 8th, I was sent forward to Washington. Arrived there on the 11th, and
went into Finley Hospital. I was transferred to Manchester, N. H., on the
10th of January, 1865, and remained there till I received my discharge, on
the 29th of May.

My story is told.

Transcriber's Notes:

Passages in italics are indicated by _underscore_.

The following misprints have been corrected:
  "landen" corrected to "landed" (page 21)
  "Nighth" corrected to "Ninth" (page 29)

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A History of the Army Experience of William A. Canfield" ***

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