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´╗┐Title: Reminiscences of the Thirty-Fourth Regiment, Mass. Vol. Infantry
Author: Clark, William H.
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Reminiscences of the Thirty-Fourth Regiment, Mass. Vol. Infantry" ***

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  Thirty-Fourth Regiment,



  J. C. Clark & Co.



The Reader will please bear in mind that this little work does not claim
in any sense to be a _history_ of the Regiment; but simply the
recollections of the writer up to May 15th, 1864, when he received the
wound which disabled him from further military service.






  CHAPTER V. NEWMARKET,         22





It is the afternoon of a summer day, with but little breeze more than
enough to gently sway the folds of a new and handsome National Flag, which
is in full view of the multitude who encompass it. We have taken the
reader, in thought, to the spacious and beautiful Common in Worcester, on
the 15th of August, 1862.

A few words concerning this great gathering; the close attention of all
being drawn to the speaker's stand in its centre. Citizens of all classes
are here, gazing and listening, representing the population of the city
and suburbs. Its inner circles are clothed in the uniform of their
country's service, and stand in military order. To them, as a Regiment,
through their commander, who is conspicuous on the stand by his uncovered
head and noble bearing, the Flag is being presented: a touching farewell
act of the ladies of Worcester.

It is delivered with fitting words, and now not only the soldier, but the
orator speaks. Never, while memory lasts, will the picture be erased from
the mind of one, at least; the central figure, the devoted Wells: so soon,
comparatively, to be the lamented.

The throng breaks, and the Regiment gradually prepares to leave the city
for fields of duty, not to shrink from fields of danger. Hark! as they
slowly recede from sight, and the clangor of martial music is hushed, can
you not almost distinguish, stealing through yonder casement where a
lonely heart is thinking of the absent ones, the plaintive words:

  "Thinking no less of them,
    But loving our country the more;
  We've sent them forth to fight for the flag,
    That our fathers before them bore.

  Brave boys are they,
    Gone at their country's call;
  And yet, and yet, we cannot forget
    That many brave boys must fall."



Weary and monotonous indeed, would be many of the days spent in camp by
the soldier, did not something crop out of an amusing nature, either in
the proper members of the camp or in some of its motley group of

One such safety-valve was found in a stout, unctuous darkey, who seemed to
be the "right hand man" of our regimental sutler. Worthy Oscar! I know not
whether thou dost still walk on this earth of ours, or hast entered the
spirit land which so many of thy brave fellow-Africans reached, who with a
more warlike spirit than thine, died on fields of duty and glory. Peace to
thee, in any event, for none more faithfully performed his duty.

On one occasion, however, the "even tenor of his way" was rudely broken in
upon, to the great amusement of the large number who happened to be in
view of that part of the camp at the time. It seems that a private soldier
of mischievous propensities had been for some time teasing our colored
friend by thrusting a burning twig from the camp fire into his face; yet
during the ordeal he had kept his patience, and only tried to get rid of
his tormentor by entreaties. Suddenly he turns upon him, forbearance
having ceased to be a virtue in the case, and the two fall heavily to the
ground; Oscar having decidedly the advantage of his enemy, which he as
decidedly keeps. The roar of laughter which followed this unexpected
discomfiture was probably more pleasant to the ears of Oscar than to those
of his antagonist.

Another case in which our hero was concerned related to the legitimate
business of the sutler's tent, and was told in Company E to the amusement
of many, by poor Hunter, who afterwards while in the performance of duty
at the Shenandoah, fell through an opening in the bridge in an unguarded
moment and was drowned.

The story was something like this: "Well yer see de feller he comes up
'mongst de crowd, an' says he, I wants a _fried pie_. So I takes de fried
pie an' hands it to him, an' looks for de money; but somehow de feller
gits shook up in de crowd, an' I hav'nt seen _him_; nor de _money_, nor de
_fried pie_ since." This was given with capital powers of imitation, and
never failed to "bring down the house."

There is something which irresistably appeals, in many phases of the
African character, to our American sense of humor. At the same time we
discover running through it a vein of sentiment, which blending with the
other, dignifies the effect.

  "'Way down upon de Swanee Riber,
    Far, far away;
  Dere's where my heart am turning eber,
    Dere's where de old folks stay.

  When I was in de fields a hoeing,
    Near set ob sun;
  So glad to hear de horn a blowing,
    Telling dat de work was done.

  O, den de darkies frolic sweetly,
    Banjo in tune;
  Dinah and Phillis dressed so neatly,
    Dance by de big round moon."



For some weeks the Thirty-Fourth had remained in Washington, D. C.,
furnishing daily heavy details of neatly equipped men for guard duty;
principally to be employed in guarding the Carroll and Old Capitol
Prisons. During this time the general soldierly deportment of the rank and
file, together with the fine appearance of the regiment on dress parade,
attracted much attention and called forth many complimentary expressions
from the residents of Washington.

But "marching orders" do not stop to take counsel of their subjects, and
on a well-remembered evening in July, 1863, they turned our quiet barracks
into a scene of bustle and confusion. A ride of a few hours over the
Baltimore and Ohio Railroad brought us into the immediate vicinity of
Harper's Ferry.

The activity which prevailed throughout our force on the morning of July
14th made it evident to all that a movement across the Potomac was
intended. All needful preparations having been made, a lively cannonade
was opened from the heights above, under cover of which our force embarked
in pontoon boats that were near at hand, and crossing, passed through the
deserted streets up to the higher ground beyond; dislodging a small body
of the enemy which had been holding possession. As the afternoon advanced
a considerable force of cavalry passed through the place, file following
file in a seemingly endless succession, till the eye was wearied with
attempting to take in the living current. Our occupation of Harper's
Ferry, begun under these circumstances, was destined to continue for many
months, with the exception of an occasional brief visit to Martinsburg
towards the close of winter.

Perhaps the most notable incident of our service during these months was a
trip to Harrisonburg, about one hundred miles into Virginian territory,
over that noble production of the road-maker's art, the "Shenandoah Valley
turnpike." This demonstration, which was successfully and safely
accomplished, was doubtless intended as a diversion in favor of the raid
at that time being executed by Gen. Averill, with his much larger force.
Although we were closely followed by a brigade of the enemy, in our rapid
and forced march homewards; yet by the intervention of favorable events,
the friendly shadow of the Maryland heights was reached with no loss from
our hazardous attempt at "bearding the lion in his den," as our adventure
was described by the Richmond _Examiner_.

Our long stay in this town gave many opportunities for examining its
objects of interest, including the Engine House, worthy of note as the
fortress occupied by John Brown while he held possession, during the brief
campaign destined to end so disastrously for those engaged in it. The
ruins of Armory and other buildings made it very evident that an immense
amount of property had been destroyed in the two years in which the spirit
of war had held carnival there.

The climate, through the winter months we spent in this place, seemed to
suggest some New England locality rather than a part of the "sunny South."
Snow storms and bleak, cold winds, find as congenial a home around those
rocky heights as Massachusetts could offer them; at least, such was the
impression made upon the mind of the writer. The sublimity and grandeur of
Nature's works here well repay any effort required to reach an eligible
point of view; but it requires no effort to enable the mind nurtured
"beneath New England's sky" to dwell again, in thought, among its native

  "Once more, O Mountains of the North, unveil
    Your brows, and lay your cloudy mantles by!
  And once more, ere the eyes that seek ye fail,
   Uplift against the blue walls of the sky
  Your mighty shapes, and let the sunshine weave
    Its golden net-work in your belting woods,
    Smile down in rainbows from your falling floods
  And on your kingly brows at morn and eve
    Set crowns of fire! So shall my soul receive
  Haply the secret of your calm and strength,
    Your unforgotten beauty interfuse
    My common life, your glorious shapes and hues
    And sun-dropped splendors at my bidding come,
    Loom vast through dreams, and stretch in billowy length
  From the sea-level of my lowland home!"



The morning of Sunday, October 13, 1863, proved a disastrous one to the
Ninth Maryland Regiment, who were only a few miles distant from our
encampment at Harper's Ferry. As it proved, the enemy in considerable
force, under Gen. Imboden, had made an early and vigorous attack on that
Regiment at Charlestown, and captured them bodily, in number about three
hundred. Every available man of the Thirty-Fourth was promptly called out,
and preceded by a Battery which was stationed near by, we started in
pursuit. Often had the wish been expressed that we might see some actual
fighting, and at last the wish was to be gratified.

A running fight commenced soon after reaching Charlestown, the Battery
which was still in advance, having engaged the enemy just beyond that
place. We pushed on, passing at one time the dead body of a soldier,
killed during the morning's engagement, and a few miles of rapid marching
bring us into close proximity to the foe, as the shells falling within a
short distance from our ranks fully prove. Each Company has been assigned
the best position allowed by the character of the ground, which is
somewhat uneven and obstructed by fences. A lively discharge of musketry
is kept up from both sides for a time, but finally ceases. At about this
period in the fight, a small body of mounted infantry from the enemy's
force charge toward us till but a short space intervenes, and then
wheeling easily, soon disappear in the distance. We afterwards learn that
the Springfield muskets of one of our wing Companies told with effect on
their ranks. The firing has now ceased, and we are ordered to cross the
open ground which separates our position from that of the enemy. This is
safely accomplished, and it is found that they have again retreated.

Our Commanding Officer now considers that the pursuit has been pushed far
enough, and the order is given to return to Harper's Ferry. Marching and
resting alternately, we reach our quarters at a late hour, feeling well
satisfied with this first experience of actual fighting. Two of the Color
Corporals, Clark of Co. K and Gage of Co. E, have laid down their lives;
but they died gloriously, and what matters the form in which death comes,
if it finds us in the path of duty.

  "Come to the bridal chamber, Death;
    Come to the mother, when she feels
  For the first time her first-born's breath:
   Come when the blessed seals
  Which close the pestilence are broke,
  And crowded cities wail its stroke;
  Come in Consumption's ghastly form;
  The earthquake shock, the ocean storm;
  Come when the heart beats high and warm,
    With banquet song, and dance, and wine,
  And thou art terrible: the tear,
  The groan, the knell, the pall, the bier,
  And all we know, or dream, or fear
    Of agony, are thine.
  But to the warrior, when his sword
    Has won the battle for the free,
  Thy voice sounds like a prophet's word,
  And in its hollow tones are heard
    The thanks of millions yet to be."



After a march of some hours, our Regiment had arrived in the vicinity of
Newmarket, Va.; not, however, without an occasional shot being exchanged
between the light artillery which preceded us and that of the enemy. As we
were marched to a position somewhat sheltered by a low ridge, this firing
was kept up with vigor. The peculiar tone and expression assumed by our
commander, Colonel Wells, as he directed our movements will be remembered
by many. "Don't you see how they are firing at me?" was his demand,
evidently more for its effect on his men than from any special concern as
to his own safety.

So passed the afternoon of Saturday, May 14, 1864, and the night, a rainy
and uncomfortable one, settled down upon us; but war is no respecter of
the stillness of night, and the fact of a foe being close at hand is a
great promoter of uneasiness. Suddenly a shot is heard, then a volley, and
we are roused up without ceremony; but the alarm proves nothing serious,
being caused by a small reconnoitreing party from the enemy. We lie down
again, all save the watchful sentinels, and sheltering ourselves from the
rain so far as possible, get what sleep may be had under the
circumstances. A part of the morning is occupied in putting our arms and
ourselves in good fighting condition, though this is a difficult matter in
some cases; the rain having, in spite of our care, reached our muskets to
some extent.

The quiet is broken by an order to a different position, which order is
repeated occasionally during the forenoon, keeping us in motion almost
constantly from one point to another. At last, a satisfactory position
having been reached, we lie down on our arms for a short time, but soon
are ordered to rise and then to load and fire as rapidly as we can. In the
meantime, a Battery has been stationed on our right and its guns begin to
play on the enemy. After firing several volleys a charge is ordered, and
as we advance, the opposing force comes plainly into view. The yells and
cheers accompanying this movement make it almost impossible to hear any
order from our superior officers, but we finally comprehend that a
"right-about" is ordered. This is executed, and we retrace our steps for a
short distance, still keeping on a line with the colors, while the
continuous cheering of the enemy shows that they fully appreciate their
advantage. We now begin to feel seriously the effect of the heavy fire,
both musketry and artillery, which fills the air with deadly missiles. A
prominent field officer is disabled by a severe wound, and as the enemy
press close upon us, necessarily falls into their hands; while others who
are less injured are supported from the field to receive surgical aid.

The Regiment, having reached a good position, is halted, faced about, and
aids in checking the enemy's advance, much to the satisfaction of the
wounded, who are making their way to Mt. Jackson, some four miles distant.
Night falls, and the sounds of battle are hushed; but this Sabbath day, so
disturbed by mortal strife, has proved the last for many who had
cherished hopes of "bright days yet to be."

  "And Ardennes waves above them her green leaves,
    Dewy with Nature's tear drops, as they pass;
  Grieving, if aught inanimate e'er grieves,
    Over the unreturning brave: alas!
    Ere evening to be trodden like the grass;
  Which now beneath them, but above shall grow
    In its next verdure, when this fiery mass
  Of living valor, rolling on the foe,
  And burning with high hope, shall moulder cold and low."



It will be remembered by some, that at an early period of our regimental
history, a fever for enlistment into the regular army prevailed to a
certain extent. The causes which produced this state of things are unknown
to the writer, but it seems probable that highly colored statements as to
the relative advantages of one branch of the service over another had been

Col. Wells, as the event proved, felt no sympathy with this movement, and
had no idea of quietly looking on while his Regiment was depleted in
numbers to fill the voracious maw of Uncle Sam. Accordingly, taking his
opportunity when they were drawn up for dress parade, he expressed his
views in the case in a manner that held the attention of all to the
close. That part of his argument which covered the points of promotion and
travel, as nearly as can be recalled, was something like this. "You have
been promised opportunities for promotion and travel: as for _travel_, you
would have plenty of that, and would have to travel _pretty close to the
line_. With regard to promotion in the regular army, there is a regular
system of promotion, in which non-commissioned officers only stand a
chance of sharing, and they after years of waiting." The address, whether
from its sarcasm or its sense, was effectual in curing the uneasiness that
had prevailed.

At one time, the young and popular Captain of a certain Company saw fit to
celebrate his birthday by furnishing his men with an unusual treat. A
supply of "lager" was secured from a neighboring fort, and placed
conveniently in one of the tents, with the understanding that all were
welcomed to partake. As the evening advanced a spirit of jollity naturally
prevailed, stimulated a little, it may be, by the influence of the
Teutonic beverage, till the stentorian voice of Orderly B-- rang out even
more loudly than usual, summoning the Company to fall in for evening
roll-call, after which quiet was restored, and night settled down
peacefully as usual over our camp.

The Company in which occurred the last incident numbered among its
original members two, who were truly of a kindred spirit, though of
different birth. Once, for some infraction of discipline in which both
were concerned, they were compelled to wear "the wooden shirt," and to
march back and forth before the Captain's quarters: yet they were far from
being disheartened, but with great merriment performed this unusual sentry
duty, assisting each other, in case of any accident, with an almost
brotherly regard. One of this pair of intimate friends is believed to have
died at Andersonville. As to his comrade, many years have passed since the
writer last beheld his strongly marked features, and whether he is still
in the land of the living is a matter of uncertainty. So drops the curtain
over our heroes.

  "All the world's a stage,
  And all the men and women merely players:
  They have their exits and their entrances;
  And one man in his time plays many parts,
  His acts being seven ages."



A few closing words as a tribute to the honored dead. While referring
especially to a few names in this connection, no peculiar honor is claimed
for them above the large number of their comrades in other Companies whose
record is equally honorable; but of those we know best we can, doubtless,
best speak.

Brave Christopher Pennell; with a noble ambition leaving his many friends
to serve in another field, and falling at last before Petersburg.

Captain William B. Bacon: an able and intrepid soldier, than whom few had
brighter prospects of advancement and honor, stricken down at Newmarket
while inspiring his men with his own fearlessness of spirit.

Sergeant Henry B. King: of a gentle and obliging spirit and beloved by all
his comrades, dying on the field of battle, and leaving only the knowledge
of his devotion to duty to cheer his youthful and bereaved companion.

The brothers, Dwight and Henry Chickering: noble and promising youths,
making the woods ring with the sound of their axes, and their whole-souled
laughter, as we prepared to encamp after the day's weary march.

But one more will be particularly mentioned here, in reference to whom
Brigade Surgeon Clarke uses this language, in a letter informing his
friends of his death: "he was a brave, conscientious and faithful
soldier." And what shall I say of thee, my brother, my faithful friend?
Though the snows of seven winters have in their season robed thy grave
with a stainless winding-sheet, yet is thy memory cherished fondly as at
first: still shall the flowers of each succeeding summer strew that grave,
and the lofty pines of thy native state shall furnish thy requiem.

  "How sleep the brave, who sink to rest
  By all their Country's wishes blest:
  By fairy hands their knell is rung;
  By forms unseen their dirge is sung;
  Here Honor comes, a pilgrim gray,
  To deck the turf that wraps their clay;
  And Freedom shall awhile repair
  To dwell, a weeping hermit, there."

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