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´╗┐Title: Some of My War Stories - A Paper Read before the Ohio Commandery of the Loyal legion
Author: Foote, Allen Ripley
Language: English
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  Some of My War Stories

  A Paper
  Read Before
  The Ohio Commandery
  of the
  Loyal Legion

  Allen Ripley Foote
  October 1, 1913

Some of my War Stories


Private: Co. B. 3rd Michigan Infantry; Second Lieutenant: Co. B. 21st
Michigan Infantry.

Read before the Commandery of the State of Ohio, Military Order of the
Loyal Legion of the United States. Stated meeting, Cincinnati, Wednesday
evening, October 1, 1913.

When, in 1861, President Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers to enlist
for a three months' service to uphold the authority and preserve the unity
of the United States, I, a boy of nineteen, sought the first opportunity
that offered, to enlist. I was at the door of the recruiting office long
before it opened.

Dr. D. W. Bliss, who afterward became a famous army surgeon and was one of
the surgeons who attended Presidents Lincoln and Garfield, gave me the
required physical examination. When measuring my height he said--"Raise
your heels, you are a little short."

Before my regiment was mustered in, the call came for 300,000 volunteers
to enlist for a three-years' service, and we were mustered in for three

My regiment was ordered to Washington as soon as it was ready to move.
Clad in grey uniforms and armed with old muzzle-loading Harper's Ferry
muskets, which had been changed from flint locks, we made a valiant
appearance and received ovations from the populace of every city and
village through which we passed. This is especially true of Ohio. At one
station all of the ladies of the town turned out loaded with small
bouquets of flowers, to which were pinned slips on which they had written
patriotic sentiments. These they threw into the car windows. The sentiment
on the one I caught read--"The women of Ohio are for the Union--to a man."

Our first camp was at the Maryland end of the Chain Bridge, which crossed
the Potomac above Washington. We marched from this camp to Centerville,
Va., to engage in the first battle of Bull Run. The first sight we had of
war was on the morning of the second day's march, when we came upon some
camp fires where the Confederates had cooked their breakfast that morning
before leaving for Bull Run.

We arrived at Centerville before noon of the third day and made our camp
there. After dinner we were ordered to advance, in light marching order,
toward Blackburn's Ford. When near the Run we were deployed to the left of
the road in an open field on a hillside sloping down to the Run, which was
concealed by a growth of bushes and trees. Here we were ordered to rest.
While in this position we were startled by seeing a finely-mounted and
uniformed Confederate Officer ride out from these bushes just at the right
of our regiment. I presume every man in the regiment saw him. Some three
or four of the boys, having the instinct of war in them, immediately
raised their guns to shoot him. Seeing this, our Colonel raised his hand
in a forbidding attitude and called out,--"Why, boys, you would not shoot
a man in that way, would you? Don't shoot!!" The Confederate Officer,
after inspecting our position, returned to his command unharmed. In about
fifteen minutes, as soon as he could maneuver his regiment, he ordered it
to fire. We saw the flash and smoke and heard the roar and the hissing of
the bullets. This is the first time we were under fire. I am glad to say
we were under it about 20 feet. Every bullet passed over us. Not a man in
our regiment was hit.

After this volley we were complimented with a few shots from a battery of
six-pound field pieces, which also went wide of their mark--assuming that
they were shooting at us.

Having received these compliments, we were withdrawn from the field and
returned to our camp at Centerville. This was our part in the skirmish of
Blackburn's Ford, three days before the first battle of Bull Run.

On the next day we were ordered to establish a picket line between
Centerville and Bull Run. When marching out from our camp toward the Run,
we could see cars loaded with Confederate soldiers as their train crossed
the road we were on. When they disembarked and formed in line the
glistening of their bright gun barrels gave the impression they were
aiming at us. This excited one of our boys terribly. He jumped out into
the centre of the road, swinging his hat and yelling as loudly as he
possibly could--"Don't shoot this way!! There are folks in the road!!"

These two stories illustrate what we knew at that time about war.

On the night before the battle I was detailed to do guard duty before
General Dick Richardson's headquarters. He was occupying a small house.
About eleven o'clock he came out and asked me if I would be on duty there
at three o'clock in the morning. I answered "Yes." Then he said pointing
in the direction of the Stone Bridge, "About three o'clock in the morning
a cannon will be fired over there. When you hear it, call me at once. A
great battle will be fought here tomorrow." I needed nothing more to keep
me awake that night, nor did the General. He was out two or three times
before the alarm gun was fired.

On the day of the first battle of Bull Run, having been on guard duty all
night, I was left in camp when my regiment was ordered out. I took
advantage of the opportunity to post myself on the Centerville Hill where
I could overlook the field of action. Thus it happened that I was on the
spot where the Congressional picnic party spread its luncheon. A number of
members of Congress, with their ladies, drove out to Centerville from
Washington in their carriages to have a picnic and see the battle.

From that position I saw the beginning of the panic when our troops on the
right gave way and started for the rear in indescribable disorder. I went
to our camp, secured my gun and accoutrements and joined in the stampede.
Several times that night, when stopping for a little rest, I, and all
about me, was aroused and terrified by the cry--"The black horse cavalry
are coming!" The next morning I was safely back across the Potomac on the
old Chain Bridge camping ground, competent to certify that the distance
from Washington to Centerville is--three days going, and one night coming

As soon as our regiment got together we were ordered to go into camp on
the Arlington Flats, south side of the Potomac, opposite Washington. There
it was that Abraham Lincoln gave courage and cheer to the army by driving
slowly around among the troops in an open carriage, stopping a moment here
and there to speak to or take the hand of a private soldier, his face
inspired with the solemn grandeur of an awful duty to prosecute the war
for the preservation of the Union to a successful conclusion, or the
bitter end. I see his face now, colored and featured as can never be done
by brush or chisel. It inspires me now, as it did then, with a resolve
such as every soldier in that army felt as he looked upon Lincoln's face
that day--a resolve unformed in words but possessing my life--always to do
my duty for the cause of human rights and human welfare on every occasion
and in every way, as God gives me light to see it and power to do it.

In the spring of 1862 my regiment was transported from Alexandria, Va., to
Hampton Roads, when the Army of the Potomac changed its base to start its
march "On to Richmond" from Old Point Comfort. We soon appeared before the
Confederate fortifications at Yorktown. Here we were ordered to dig. When
the digging was done the Confederate forces abandoned their fortifications
and marched to Richmond. We followed closely. Their rear guard made a
stand at Williamsburg, stopping our advance. The battle of Williamsburg
was then on. The Confederates had prepared to defend this position by
making slashings, digging rifle pits and erecting forts. Fort Magruder
covered the main road into Williamsburg. The engagement at this point was
brought on by some New Jersey troops. They advanced a battery on this road
to a point directly in front of the Fort and very near the rifle pits.
Here the battery stuck in the mud, hub deep. It could not be moved further
nor brought back. During the day it was captured and recaptured several

At that time my regiment, and the Michigan Second Infantry, were part of
Gen. Phil Kearny's Division. We were on the left of the road, the New
Jersey troops on the right. In the middle of the afternoon, when Gen.
Hancock was prepared to make his famous charge on the Confederate left,
Gen. Kearny, mounted on a white horse and dressed in full uniform, as
conspicuous a figure as can well be imagined, came dashing up to the
Michigan Second regiment and called out--"What regiment is this?" Col.
Poe, a regular army officer, immediately saluted the General and
said--"The Michigan Second Infantry, Col. Poe commanding." General Kearny
said--"I want this regiment." Col. Poe turned to give the required
regulation orders, but Gen. Kearny stopped him saying--"None of that! Come
on boys!" A captain of his staff, seeing what he was about to do, tried to
stop him, saying--"General you should not go into the engagement in this
way. Remember, your life is worth a whole regiment to the army." Turning
to him like a flash, Gen. Kearny said--"If you do not want to go, stay
here." At that he reined his horse into the road and started toward the
Confederate lines, waving his sword and shouting back--"Come on boys!" and
every man followed, on both sides of the road, pell mell, without order,
wading through mud and climbing through slashings up to the rifle pits in
order to get there. How I came to be there I do not know, but I do know
that I went up that road with my right shoulder next to Gen. Kearny's left
stirrup and kept that position until he reached the further edge of the
slashing, when he turned and, pointing to the Confederates in their rifle
pits, shouted to the men coming after him--"There they are!! Give them
hell, boys, give them hell!!"

At this moment, as if by inspiration, a band burst forth with the tune,
"All hail, the conquering hero comes." Above the roar of musketry and
cannonading came the cheers from the charge Hancock was making. The New
Jersey boys again manned their battery and began to play on the rifle pits
and on Fort Magruder. The Fort answered and every Confederate rifle in the
pits was speaking to us. No one who lived through those moments of strife
and sacrifice will ever forget the scenes, the exaltation and the devotion
of life to patriotic duty that was there manifested.

Our men struggled through the slashings as best they could, in groups of
two or more. A New Jersey boy was with me. We stopped behind a clump of
small bushes to watch our chances with the Confederates in the rifle pits
less than two hundred feet in front of us. There was a larger group to our
left that attracted the attention of the Confederates. Shots were being
exchanged as rapidly as heads appeared on either side. Suddenly, out from
the group to our left, came a ringing laugh, as joyous and care-free as
was ever heard at a base ball game. My comrade was possessed with a
desire to know its cause. Shortly that laugh came again. He declared he
would go and find out why they were laughing. I told him if he stirred he
would be shot, but he made the attempt. As soon as he raised himself,
before he had taken a step, he was shot and instantly killed. Attention
having been thus called to the spot, a confederate volley was fired into
that clump of bushes. I saved myself by lying down behind the body of my
dead comrade.

As the sun was dropping below the western horizon the Confederate rifle
pits were captured. Hancock's charge had succeeded. Fort Magruder fired
its farewell shot; the Confederate rear guard was on its way to Richmond.
The battle of Williamsburg was ended.

The next day, one of a group of Confederate prisoners declared there was
one thing about that battle he could not understand. He said he was a
sharp shooter; that he could hit a mark quite a distance away every time,
and offered to prove it by actual demonstration. The thing he could not
understand was--why he could not hit General Kearny the day before. He
said he saw him plainly; knew he was a commanding officer, and that he
deliberately shot at him six times. General Kearny was not touched, but
the Captain who tried to persuade him not to expose himself as he did was
shot through the heart and instantly killed by the side of the General.

An interval of time, a march through mud and water almost waist deep,
brought us to Fair Oaks, within sight of Richmond. Heavy rains had made it
almost impossible to ford the Chickahominy River which divided McClellan's
army. Seeing an advantage in this, General Lee ordered General Longstreet
to attack the part of our army that had succeeded in crossing the river.
General Casey's division received the brunt of this attack. General
Kearny's division was held in reserve to support General Casey. We ate our
dinner and then lay on our arms for some little time, just out of range,
tracing the course of the action by listening to the firing and watching
the increasing number of wounded making their way to the rear. To be thus
held in reserve, expecting every moment to be called into action, is the
supreme trial of a soldier's courage. In those moments my heart became
faint. But, when the bugle call was sounded calling us into action, all
thought of self vanished. As eager as an eagle in pursuit of its prey, we
went forward. Longstreet's division was making a final charge. Casey's men
passed through our ranks as we formed a line between the contending
forces. My Company had the regimental colors, defended by a detailed color
guard of sixteen corporals. I was not of this guard, but was a corporal
then, on the left of my Company next to the color guard. Our line was
hardly formed when we received the Confederate charge. Firing was at short
range. Fourteen out of the sixteen corporals composing the color guard
were shot almost simultaneously; some killed; some wounded, but the colors
did not fall.

I was on my knees in the front rank. The corporal on my left was shot in
the head and fell across my legs. He spoke to me. I turned to look at him,
and said--"I cannot stop work now to help you." As I said this I was shot,
the bullet entering squarely on my breast, cutting off the first shirt
button below the collar. It passed through the bone, which turned its
course to the right, and passed out between the ribs. I was in the act of
loading my gun at its muzzle. I had the powder in. When hit my right arm
fell. I tried three times to put the bullet in and finish loading, hoping
to give the enemy one more shot. Finding I could not do it, I dropped my
gun, unstrapped my cartridge box and crawled to the rear until I came to a
cleared field where a battery was stationed firing over the heads of our
men into the Confederate ranks. As I raised up to walk, a gunner motioned
to me to step aside out of range and then continued firing. I walked
around back of the battery and stopped to see it work and listen to the
music of its roar.

The Confederate charge was stopped. My regiment lost about one hundred and
fifty men in killed and wounded within the few moments the engagement

That night I lay on the ground under a large tree. Noting that every
breath sent bubbles of air through my wound, I called a soldier who was
trying to care for the wounded and told him I could not live long on
half-rations of air. He looked at my wound, tore some square pieces off a
bandage roll, placed them over the wound and punched them into it with his
finger and poured some cold water on the cloth. This caused the blood to
congeal about the cloth and enable me to get the benefit of the air I was

The next morning I was taken back to Savage Station where I was placed on
Dr. Bliss' dressing table (he was then Medical Director of the Division)
to have my wound dressed. As he cut my shirt off I looked up at him and
said, laughingly, "Doctor here is a wound you cannot amputate." As soon as
he had uncovered it, he said, "It would be much better for you, my boy, if
I could."

When my shirt was cut off, I discovered another wound on my left arm about
half way between the shoulder and elbow. The bullet had chipped off a spot
as large as a silver dollar but had not buried itself in the flesh. The
arm was black and very much swollen. My wounds were soon bandaged and I
was laid on the ground beside the railroad track to await transportation
to Fortress Monroe. From there I was sent to Long Island College Hospital
in Brooklyn, N. Y. When convalescent I was ordered to the Invalid Camp at
Alexandria, Va. I did not relish the idea of becoming a "condemned yankee"
as the members of Invalid Corps were then called. In going through
Washington we passed by the Armory Square Hospital, then in charge of Dr.
Bliss. I "fell out" and went into his office. Fortunately I found him at
his desk. When he looked at me he recognized me at once and said, "See
here, young man, this will never do. You will ruin my reputation. I
reported you mortally wounded at Fair Oaks and have had you dead and
buried in the Chickahominy swamp for six months." I said, "I will improve
your reputation by giving you an opportunity to resurrect me." I then told
him I did not want to be a "condemned yankee" and wanted him to find a way
to save me from going to the Invalid Camp. He immediately called the
hospital steward, ordered him to put me in bed and keep me there four
days, I protested, saying I was perfectly able to be about. The Doctor
said to me in an undertone, "You stay in bed four days; by that time I
will have an order assigning you to duty in my office."

I was given charge of making out the papers for the soldiers discharged
from the Hospital. I frequently urged the Doctor to order me to my
regiment, but he refused, saying I could never serve as an enlisted man
since receiving my wound. Being convinced there was no hope of ever being
permitted to join my regiment, I made out my own discharge paper and
placed it in a package I submitted to the Doctor for his signature. After
he had signed all of the papers, I took mine out of the package and showed
it to him. He endorsed it, "Able to serve as an officer, but not as an
enlisted man."

I will stop my story here, only adding that after returning home I
re-enlisted as a private in Company B. 21st Michigan Infantry, then with
the Army of the Cumberland at Chattanooga. I was commissioned as a Second
Lieutenant before I left the State to join that regiment. By chance, that
commission was dated on January 26, 1864, my twenty-second birthday.

Such memories as these are among the most precious products of my life.

The gains of life are various. Some objects we pursue disappear as we
grasp them. We are children, chasing with excited delight beautiful
bubbles floating free in air. We touch them and they vanish. Some objects
are as enduring as the eternal truth of God. We pursue them with the stern
courage of men upborne by the strength of a moral conviction. Though, in
the hour of trial and triumph, a crown of thorns be pressed upon our brow,
the memory of a right act, courageously done, will enrich the soul

The memory of such actions is the richest endowment and the most sacred
acquisition of the loyal volunteer. How little all that can be given him
as a reward for his services must ever be in comparison with that which he
has by right of his own achievement.

Ask him now how he values his memory of that day when, with his regiment,
he first left home for the scenes of war. Can the picture ever fade?
Streets thronged with the populace and decorated with the flag he was to
defend! Can he ever forget the holy inspiration of the silent cheer from
his speechless father, mother, sister or lover as he passed them?

Ask him how he values his memory of a thousand incidents of army life that
are never recorded by a single line on the page of history, but which
revealed comrade to comrade, knotted life to life, and gave opportunity
for the expression of nobility by noble men.

Ask him how he values his memory of the hours of conflict when the
magnetic touch of elbow to elbow, comrade to comrade, gave courage and the
line grew firm as adamant; when the spirit of those who fell entered into
those who remained, as the dying transformed their unwilling groans into
cheers for the living. In the crucible of conflict men become molten.
Their blood mingles. Their souls blend. Their lives are fused into the
life of the Nation. Who that has felt the mystic power, the grand
exaltation, the unutterable joy of that supreme moment when his heart's
blood leaped forth as he fell at his post, would call back one drop of it
for all that can be given him in return?

Ask him now how he values the memory of that day, when, duty done, his
mission accomplished, with tattered battle flags, clothes soiled and torn,
bronzed face and hardened muscles--it may be with scarred and disabled
body--he returned to his home with the survivors of his regiment. Again
the streets are thronged with the populace and decorated with the National
colors. The storm cloud passed, all are wild with joy made solemn by
thoughts of those who could not come, remembered by none more tenderly
than by those by whose side they fell. The glory of flowers, mingled with
the voices of music, enchant the eye, perfume the air, exalt the soul.
Suddenly, from out the mass of eager faces there darts a father, a mother,
a sister or a lover, as some looked-for-one is recognized. The heart can
endure the strain no longer. He is snatched from the ranks and embraced
amidst the cheers of all observers.

Words!! There are no words for such moments! But the entry written by the
recording angel that day will forever read--"Thank God! My boy, my
brother, my lover has done his duty."

The days of trial and victory are passed, but memory causes them to live
forever in the eternal NOW.

Such memories are the true reward of loyal duty courageously performed.
They can be possessed only by those who have earned them. Find such a one,
become acquainted with him, and you will find one who will exact least
from the defended and is most generous to the vanquished.

These memories stir within old soldiers their best manhood, and thrill
them with noblest pride as they look into each other's faces. They only
are capable of appreciating at their true value the comrades of the
campaign, the veterans of the battlefield. They, better than all others,
know how to honor him that was loyal and performed the duties of loyalty
when the Nation had need of his services.

All who seek to perpetuate the history of war for the preservation of the
Union by pen or brush or chisel; all who speak about or ponder over the
events of those days, must ever stand uncovered in the presence of him who
can say of the first battle of Bull Run, of the last grand review, or of
any of the battles between--"I performed the duties of Loyalty--I was

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