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This is the archive for April 2012

Monday, April 30, 2012

Note: the 18th Mass. remained at Camp Winfield Scott

A cloudy morning gave way to heavy rain and cold in the early afternoon driving the entire camp into tents to wait out the easterly storm. They'd have a long wait as there was no evidence of letup even after dark. Raindrops beating against canvas wasn't the only sound. After a fairly heavy two hour exchange in the afternoon Union and Secesh cannon continued to serenade one another with occasional complimentary fire long into the night.

Two hundred and fifty men from the Regiment did leave their tents after dark toting shovels and pickaxes for fatigue duty. Under cover of night they were able to work close enough to Rebel fortifications to see their opponents engaged in the same work and some of the more adventuresome of the party were able to creep within 50 rods of the forts. They got an earful, though, as the scream of incoming and outgoing shells, some weighing as much as 200 pounds, passed over their heads.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Note: the siege of Yorktown goes on...and on

Firing from Confederate batteries which had been fairly constant and insistent all through the night, began to die down around mid-morning, quieted, in part, by well placed shots from two heavy Union mortars. The 18th were down a few of their muskets though, as a "big piece of shell struck one of our stacks of muskets and scattered them in all directions.."

Civilian volunteer Oliver C. Gibbs, the former Postmaster for West Wareham, Mass., visited the 18th's camp in afternoon. Gibbs' mission was purely one of mercy and compassion as he sought to attend to the needs and wants of the sick and wounded from the Bay State and, if necessary, arrange for bodies to be sent home to their loved ones. Necessity arose a year later when Gibbs accompanied the body of Capt. Billy Hewins, cut in half by a cannon ball at Chancellorsville, back to waiting family in Dorchester, MA.

The boys in Company B did not forget their loved ones at home after receiving two months pay. Martin Flynn, Dennis Lynch, Patrick Goff, James Griffen, and Patrick Tierney, good Irish lads all, sent proceeds from that pay to Taunton via Adams Express, the amounts ranging from ten to twenty-five dollars. Tierney, for his part, made a special request of his father. "I wish you would give mother $10 of this money for she never forgot to give me a little spending money once in a while."

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Note: the 18th Mass continued at Camp Winfield Scott

The Regiment returned intact to camp in the morning after being relieved from work on the entrenchments. "The enemy have never fired so often upon our men as yesterday and last night. It is thought a miracle that none of our men were killed or wounded."

Criticisms of McClellan from politicians and civilians were beginning to tick off the Army of the Potomac. It was bad enough contending with one very real and visible enemy, but irksome newspaper stories and comments in letters were causing some at Camp Winfield Scott to reach a boiling point, Lieut. George M. Barnard, Jr. being one in particular.

"McClellan is all right, if the infernal schoolmasters and abolitionists will let him alone. There is a perfect fury of indignation and disgust among a great many officers at the miserable attempts to thwart him and sacrifice the army for political purposes. It is openly talked of by some officers of standing that the only way to do is to send back half the army to drive out Congress and have a military dictatorship. In short to do as Napoleon did, and if Mac chose to do so, I dare say he might succeed."

Friday, April 27, 2012

Note: the 18th Mass continued at Camp Winfield Scott

McClellan could have rightfully been called "The Young Organizer." No detail, no matter how small, was overlooked. It was all part of his master plan to minimize the effusion of blood and force Confederate capitulation through the realization they were hemmed in on all sides by an overwhelming force of men and artillery. As a private in Co. I wrote to his parents, "We have cannon enough here now to throw 1000 shot and shell per minute and keep it up for an hour at a time. We have bridged the creeks & brooks and built roads through the woods and ravines so that we can come upon them at 50 different points at once."

In spite of all the preparation the work went on. Some who manned shovels or swung pickaxes believed McClellan was content to simply dig his way to victory and they were, in a sense, grateful for that. Certainly the 18th to a man were in the late morning. Finishing a one mile breastwork that extended from their camp to the York River, they came under constant fire from rebel sharpshooters and later light guns that fired 20 rounds in their direction. "We kept well behind the works and not one of us were hurt, but the shell in bursting would throw its pieces in all directions."

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Note: the siege of Yorktown continued

Every place that people gathered for a time deserved a name and the Union encampments before Yorktown were no different. Per order of Gen. George Brinton McClellan this part of Virginia's "Sacred Soil," now temporary home to a sea of white linen tents, was to be known forever hereafter as Camp Winfield Scott.

For the first time realistic estimates of the opposing Confederate forces emerged. According to Col. James Barnes of the 18th those numbers did "not now exceed forty or fifty thousand men." In comparison, Massachusetts alone, represented by ten regiments and five batteries, equaled a quarter of Secesh's total strength. There was little left to do. The siege guns were in place. The troops were ready. All that was missing was McClellan's order to bring on the ball.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Note: the siege of Yorktown continued

A hard rain fell throughout most of the day, but that didn't stop a large contingent from the Regiment from working on the entrenchments. Each shovel cutting into the earth only increased confidence that rebellion would soon be brought to an end as large siege guns were being positioned behind earthworks to open fire on the rebels. "[The Rebels] are going to catch a terrible threshing here in my mind but I am afraid they will run away."

The prohibition against shouting, firing guns, and band music in camp continued. Henry Warren of Co. D remarked "It seems very odd not to have music. The bands have not been allowed to play since we came here." There was no prohibition against rank smells, however, according to Warren. "The banks of the creeks or inlets in front of our camp are steep and 15 or 20 feet high, at the top, at the brow of the hill are beds of sea shells, or marl as it is called. They are principally oyster shells, and they stink like fury."

Note: to find out what David Meechan of Co. E was doing on this day visit his Facebook page.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Note: our favorite little Regiment continued to shovel their way toward Secesh fortifications at Yorktown, all part of McClellan's master plan to eventually bombard Secesh back to the early settlement days at Jamestown.

On a "damp, cold sort of a day" Major Joseph Hayes ran those remaining in camp through Battalion drill in the afternoon. Following dismissal playing ball, gun cleaning, and letter writing took precedent, pushing the the day in and day out monotony of camp life into the background.

For those working on the entrenchments the idea of having a shell lobbed at them by Secesh batteries was becoming a ho hum affair. All fear of being struck by a shell or shrapnel had gone by the wayside as the tell tale whistles and shrieks gave sufficient warning as to their approach and an idea of where they were going to land. "The men have got so used to it that they only [make] fun of them. The men in trenches keep at work as steady as though at work on a railroad in Mass."

Yet close calls could and did occur. One 10 inch shell burst in the ground about 20 feet from a man in Co. H. Unhurt and unfazed, he dug himself out from beneath a blanket of sand, "singing 'Get Out of the Way Old Dan Tucker'."

Note: Donald returns from his latest trek to New England's rocky soil where he followed leads on information pertaining to the 18th Massachusetts Infantry located in Providence. RI, and Duxbury and Plymouth, MA. Even though this post is being written on the 24th of April he's going to pick up on the saga of the 18th Massachusetts Infantry from April 23, 1862.

On April 23, 1862 the 18th Massachusetts continued to share the workload in digging entrenchments and building roads with their Union comrades before the Secesh fortifications at Yorktown.

Bridge and road building continued to be the norm for the Regiment when they weren't drilling, undergoing inspection or assigned to picket duty. The latter could very hazardous to one's health. Unlike later in the war when both sides agreed to allow opposing pickets to stand their posts in relative peace, officers excluded, at Yorktown they were decidedly fair game.

"There has been but little trouble on the picket posts and reserve, direct in front, but farther to the left of the Peninsula, they have been attacked several times, and thus far the enemy have found a strong reserve and received warm reception, losing many men, beside wounded, with but little loss on our side."

Three hundred and twenty miles to the north, Daniel Nichols of Company F, who was confined to the Cherry and Broad St. Hospital in Philadelphia, tried to convey hope to Phillip and Sarah Minot in Cohasset, MA in the first part of a letter written on the morning of the 23rd. By afternoon, all hope for their 21-year-old son Leonard, who had gone to sea as a fisherman when just 14, had vanished.

U.S.A. Hospital Broad St.
Philadelphia, Apr. 23rd 1862

Dear [Mr. Minot],

I take the liberty to address you in relation to your son Leonard Minot who has been sick in this hospital nearly two months suffering from pleurisy, about a fortnight since he was taken down with a fever arising from his previous disease. I have just left his bedside. He is very low indeed and he wished me to write to you and tell you of his condition. The doctor says that his lungs are much affected and think it impossible that he can last long. I purposed to write to you last evening but waited in order to learn from the doctor just what he thought of him. He may hold out a number of days and he may drop away at any moment, but while he lives, as his comrade in many a march amid danger and hardship, which he has born like a brave soldier, I will see that he does not want for anything that can add to his ease or comfort. With deep regrets I must send you such sorrowful news, I remain,

Very respectfully yours,
Daniel F. Nichols
Co. F 18th Mass.

Apr. 23rd P.M.

P.S. It is with deep sorry that I have to inform you that since writing the above your son has passed away from earth. He is now I trust in a brighter and happier world for I have reason to think that he made the Savior his refuge. His body will be buried at the Woodland Cemetery in this city where you can obtain it at any time you wish. His knapsack, clothing and…four months pay will be delivered to any properly authorized authority. Deeply sympathizing with you in your affliction I execute the painful duty of giving you these details.
D.F. Nichols

Leonard's physical remains continue to repose in Philadelphia to this day. For an invalided father, and a mother who took in laundry, the cost of conveying their son's body the 350 miles to Cohasset was simply prohibitive. Solace and mourning for them and Leonard's two sisters, Ruth, then 15, and Mary, then 12, would have to be conducted from afar.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Donald is out chasing down new clues on the 18th Massachusetts. Check back next week for more tales from the boys of the Bay State.
Chasing the dead

He has already let us know that he has found letters from a POW of Andersonville from the time he was in the prison. The letters were still in the envelopes - meaning not many people have seen them since they were first written. Hopefully he will share some of what he finds when he gets back.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Note: the 18th Mass. continued in camp before Rebel fortifications at Yorktown

On what was reported to be "another fine day," those companies not detailed to work on digging entrenchments drilled for two hours in the morning. Private Thomas Mann of Co. I, one of those who had a shovel in his hand, saw the grim reaper, better known as "California Joe," doing his worst when he brought down three Rebels.

"He was stationed behind the earth-works we were throwing up, with his heavy, telescope rifle resting on top of the loose dirt, watching some rebel pickets or rifle-men that were stationed behind the partially fallen brick walls of a house which had recently burned. One of our 32 pound rifled guns was battering down the remaining walls of this house, which made it too hot for the rebels, so they attempted, one at a time, to make a break for home. Then was the time the old California scout got in his work."

In camp a disobeyed order and a stray round would result in one of the saddest chapters in the history of the Regiment. While preparing for a 4 p.m. inspection Company B Private William H. Wilbur, a 21-year-old laborer from Raynham, contrary to orders had capped his fully loaded musket. Around one in the afternoon, with the sun high in the sky, a relative quiet was broken by the sudden loud report of a gun echoing throughout the 18th's camp. A musket ball sped through the air into the neighboring camp of the 62nd Pennsylvania toward an unsuspecting John B. Orr. Sitting on the ground the 21-year-old Orr, a "fine looking man" who measured over six feet and hailed from Indiana County, never knew what hit him. Those around him did, their faces being splattered with blood, skull fragments and brain matter. The ball which struck Orr continued its course, passing through two tents before innocently lodging in blankets hanging on a tree.

Charge: Disobedience of orders.

Specification: In this that Private William H. Wilbor, Co. B, 18th Regmt. Mass. Vols. did, on or about the 14th day of April 1862 have the cone of his loaded musket capped contrary to and in direct violation of orders and that the musket being thus loaded and capped and held in the hands of the said Wilbor was by him discharged. All this at the camp of the 18th Mass. Vols. Winfield Scott near Yorktown, Va.

Charge 2d: Conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline.
Specification: In this that Private William H. Wilbor of Co. B, 18th Regmt. Mass. Vols. on or about the 14th day of April 1862, at the camp of the said 18th Regmt. Mass. Vols. Winfield Scott near Yorktown, Va. did have the cone of his gun capped contrary to and in direct violation of orders and that the musket so capped and loaded and while in the hands of the said private Wilbor was discharged thereby causing the death of Private John B. Orr of the 62 Pa. Vols. at and near the time and place set forth. All this at camp of the 18th Mass. Vols. Winfield Scott near Yorktown, Va.

Plea: Guilty

Finding and Sentence: The Court having maturely considered the evidence adduced find Private William H. Wilbor of Co. B, 18th Mass. Vols. as follows:

Of the specification of the 1st charge: Guilty
Of the 1st charge: Guilty
Of the specification 2d charge: Guilty
Of the 2d charge: Guilty

And the Court do therefore sentence the said Private William H. Wilbor of Co. B, 18th Regt. Mass. Vols. to be confined at hard labor in charge of the guard on the public works for the remainder of his term of service to the United States, he having been sworn in for three years from 24th Aug. 1861 and to forfeit to the United Staes seven dollars ($7.00) per month of his pay for same period of time.

II. The sentence in the case of Private William H. Wilbor of Co. B, 18th Regt. Mass. Vols. is confirmed and will be executed. The prisoner will be sent under guard to Fort Monroe with a copy of this order promulgating the sentence and with his descriptive list and clothing account and delivered to the General Commanding Department for confinement at the Rip Raps.

The Commanding General hopes this punishment will be a warning to all who are apt to neglect precautions, disobey orders and by carelessness destroy life.

By command of
Brig. Genl. F.J. Porter
Signed F.T. Locke
A.A. General

Friday, April 13, 2012

Note: the 18th Mass. continued in camp near Yorktown

Following Company inspections men were sent off to work building bridges and roads. It was expected that McClellan's careful preparation would come to fruition in a few days time when he'd let loose with his siege guns and give Secesh "the Jessie."

Truman Head, a member of Co. C of the 1st U.S. Sharpshooters and better known as "California Joe," made his acquaintance with members of the 18th Mass. "There is one old fellow here who is death on Rebels...He carrys a stick with him and when he kills a man he cuts a notch on it. Since he has been here he has made 18 notches on it. He is a dead shot and seems to delight in it."

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Note: the Regiment continued in camp near Wormley Creek

On what was noted to be a "very pleasant day" noise above the ordinary, which might draw enemy fire, was strictly prohibited in camp. That meant no shouting, cheering, band music, drums, or discharge of muskets allowed.

Two Secesh, who had killed members of the Seventh Maine and donned their uniforms, were to be hung as spies. They had betrayed themselves by claiming to be members of the non-existent 69th Massachusetts Infantry.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Note: the 18th continued in camp near Wormley Creek

The bulk of the Regiment set to work digging trenches, a labor they'd be engaged in for the next three weeks. It was all part of McClellan's master plan to inch closer to Rebel fortifications, which would ultimately allow siege guns close in targets when the order came to finally lower the boom.

The new Sutler S.S. Mann opened shop. Tobacco sales were brisk as nearly everyone in the Regiment was out of the noxious weed.

News was received in camp from the Western theater that Island No. 10 in the Mississippi had fallen and that Beauregard had been defeated by Maj. Generals Don Carlos Buell and Uyless S. Grant at Shiloh.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Note: the 18th Mass. was encamped on a plateau south of Wormley Creek

Temperatures having dropped, the rain, which had been falling since Monday night, turned to snow in the early morning. Skies finally started to clear in the late morning. 25 men from Company H marched out of camp in the early evening to relieve a like number from Company D who had stood 24 hours of picket duty. However, upon arriving, another regiment was found to have supplied pickets, thus the men from Company H returned to camp arriving at back at 1 a.m.

Wormley Creek - Yorktown, VA

Approximate location of the 18th Mass. camp near Wormley Creek

Monday, April 09, 2012

Note: the 18th moved camp further away from Confederate batteries at Yorktown

The storm that began Monday night continued unabated. As Confederate shells were landing near Union camps, including one that took the lives of one man and two horses belonging to another regiment, orders were given for Porter's First Division to reestablish camps beyond artillery range.

Mail "by the bushel" was finally delivered to members of the 18th, with some receiving "eight or more letters." Timothy Ingraham, Jr., the Lieutenant Colonel's 19-year-old son, who, as a civilian, had been hawking newspapers to the 18th Mass. since their stay at Hall's Hill, cleaned up with the mail delivery. As Post Master for the Regiment he was entitled to collect a penny for each letter and newspaper he delivered.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Note: the 18th Mass. remained camped in "an old corn field" before Rebel fortifications at Yorktown

A severe storm that had begun the night before continued throughout Tuesday. While opposing artillery batteries were quiet riflemen traded shots. One Rebel officer, wearing a yellow sash about his waist and perhaps believing himself invincible, fell dead outside the works mere seconds after positioning himself atop a parapet surrounding a battery.

There was no denying Rebel fortifications, "seven miles in length with deep moats or ditches in front and abatis in front of the moat," were formidable. Making the approach even more difficult for McClellan's army was an intervening tract of swampy land followed by ground that sloped upward. Captain Joseph Collingwood rightfully assessed the situation. "They have got to be pounded by big guns before the infantry can do anything. It would be complete slaughter to attempt to walk over those batteries as they are now."

Supply wagons continued to be stuck in the mud and were therefore unable to deliver rations to hungry troops. The 84 men of Company H had subsisted on one 50 pound box of hard bread for the last week. That stomachs were going begging was attested to by Lt. Erastus Everson, "I know well how it feels to be dreadful hungry." Though he confessed to "growing weak," his patriotism was still strong. "With the love of my country today stronger than ever I am ready to fight the traitors hand to hand as long I can hold a musket and curse them."

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Note: the 18th Mass. remained camped before Rebel fortifications at Yorktown.

The heavens let loose, but neither Yankees nor Rebels were resting as actions between the two picked up. Three Confederate regiments, supposing they were attacking one lone Union regiment, were instead met by an entire brigade and driven back after an exchange of "one or two rounds." Those one or two volleys were effective, though, as 30 Yankees were wounded during the brief encounter.

As the bloodshed increased so too the men's hunger. Supplies were delayed when wagon trains and artillery pieces, "5 miles long," came to a standstill on overcrowded roads. Gangs of soldiers were put to work cutting new roads through the woods in an effort to free the traffic jam.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Note: the Regiment is encamped within cannon range of Yorktown.

On a quiet and pleasant Sunday morning eyes were greeted first thing at the intersection of the Yorktown and Warwick Court-House roads, where Porter's Division had bivouacked for the night, by the wounded of the 3rd Massachusetts Battery and 22nd Massachusetts Infantry, casualties from the previous day's exchange of cannon fire, being loaded onto ambulances, "a sorrowful sight." But there was no time for reflection. The lesson that military life continued regardless was impressed on everyone when the scheduled 10 a.m. inspection went off as planned and just before noon when orders were issued to the First Brigade to shift a mile and a half to the right, where tents rose again in the middle of "an old corn field."

Both artilleries lobbed an occasional shell at the other throughout the afternoon, while Berdan's sharpshooters, secreted among bushes, increased the number of Southern widows by occasionally picking off a careless Secesh in the Yorktown fortifications.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Note: the Regiment continued its march toward Yorktown

While pouring rain softened roads and mired artillery, baggage, and supply wagons in deep mud the infantry took to the woods and fields to advance on Yorktown. By following this alternate route firm ground and swampy morasses intersected like squares on a checkerboard. Few of the Regiment, who were already drenched from the rain, escaped an accidental bath in the water when seemingly firm ground suddenly gave way or feet slipped off a log bridging a swampy area.

In mid-afternoon and during a lull in the rain, the Eighteenth emerged from the woods as a body of skirmishers and were promptly greeted by an artillery shell being hurled in their direction. No harm resulted as the shell landed short and failed to explode. Pushing forward the Regiment halted in fields about a mile from Yorktown's defenses from where they they could hear the shrill strains of Dixie. After nearly eight months of military service it was the first time anyone in the 18th had seen Rebels under arms and it presented a sobering sight for all; play time and pretenses of bravery were now at an end.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Note: the Regiment marched in the direction of Yorktown and pitched camp at Hunter's Creek.

Snoring and pleasant dreams were abruptly interrupted shortly before 4 a.m. when orders were shouted to break camp. Over the next two hours everyone scrambled to strike tents, pack knapsacks, boil coffee, and wolf down breakfast, all of which was accomplished by the time Porter's First Division was in motion at six.

Passing by plantations, the march was relatively unencumbered all the way to Big Bethel where a halt was called alongside abandoned Rebel fortifications. When the march resumed an hour later Companies D, H, and G were sent out in front of the entire division as skirmishers, The march slowed, however, as the Rebels had felled trees to block roads and, whereas eight miles had been covered in the morning, the Division advanced only an additional five in the afternoon, passing through Harwood's Bridge and Cockletown, before calling it a day at Hunter's Creek. Artillery duels could be heard off in the distance with each side complementing the other with screaming shot and shell.

Private William H.H. Allen became the Regiment's first documented casualty of war when he suffered a rupture while assisting sappers in building a bridge over a stream near Big Bethel. While lifting a tree "I felt a breaking away and bearing down of the intestines." Allen, a 22-year-old Sales Clerk from New Bedford, MA would be hospitalized at Eckington Gen. Hospital, Washington a month later and subsequently discharged on June 18, 1862.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Note: the 18th Mass. continued in residence at Camp Ingraham, VA

Thursday morning greeted all with "splendid weather" and a warm wind blowing out of the west. By afternoon the sun, unblocked by any clouds, burned hot, making it "really uncomfortable." Overall the Regiment was in good health, although there was an increase in the numbers afflicted with diarrhea, most probably the result of contaminated water taken from barrels sunk into the ground. That water was described as "limey and muddy," and not something that one would normally drink at home.

Any intended movement forward was to be delayed by at least an additional day. Instead of three, the order now was that the cooks were to have five days worth of rations ready to go. To go where? McClellan remained as tight lipped as ever, although rumor had it the destination was Yorktown.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Note: the 18th Mass. continued in camp at New Market Bridge, VA

Strong winds blew out of the North East while overhead clouds appeared to be bunching for another torrential downpour. None of this stopped the cooks who were busy preparing three days rations for a march expected to occur on April 3rd.

After nine days of simply being referred to as "Camp near New Market Bridge," the site the 18th occupied was officially named Camp Ingraham in honor of the Regiment's Lieutenant Colonel, Timothy Ingraham. General Order No. 15, which made the announcement, also installed 1st Lt. Fisher Ames Baker, a lawyer and 1859 graduate of Dartmouth College, as the permanent Adjutant.

Having a camp named after him wasn't the only honor that would be bestowed on Ingraham, although the second would be a more permanent nature. Provost Marshall for the city of Washington at the time of Lincoln's assassination, District officials deemed it appropriate to designate a street in the Northwest quadrant of the District with his surname when land tracts began filling in between established downtown neighborhoods and the Maryland border in the post-war era.

Lt. Col. Timothy Ingraham

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Note: the 18th Mass. continued to camp at New Market Bridge, VA.

There was little time for the jokers to work their routines as the day was given over to the seriousness of drill and more drill. The morning was taken up by each Company going through its paces and in the afternoon battalions followed suit. And as if that weren't enough the entire Regiment was turned out for dress parade at five p.m.