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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Note: the Regiment leaves Gaines Mills after receiving very short notice


Those in the Regiment who were native to Massachusetts were keenly aware their kin at home would be in a celebratory mood to mark the 87th anniversary of the Battle of Bunker Hill. "A great many of the boys were wishing they were there today." One unsubstantiated rumor did cause some celebration in camp, though. Jefferson Davis was reportedly under arrest in Richmond, "Some say for trying to remove his effects and Cabinet and make his Capital in a more southern city."

Camp life was in many ways beginning to resemble those that had existed during the siege of Yorktown as a certain monotony and state of permanence started to set in. Over a week's time men had trenched around their tents and company streets, "turnpiked the streets," and set out shade trees. Too, there was growing conjecture that George Brinton McClellan planned to repeat his Yorktown strategy by besieging the Confederate capitol. Whether that was McClellan's plan or not, the sound of thundering gun boats on the James River served to remind everyone a war was still being waged in spite of the quiet that prevailed in the 18th's camp. That quiet allowed "the drums of the enemy [to] be heard to beat at this camp" in the evening "when the wind is right."

All notions of boredom and quiet were dispelled when at half-past ten at night the Regiment was given an hour and a half to pack up its entire camp and fall into line with the rest of the First Brigade for what would ultimately be a seven mile march that would take them through and a mile beyond Mechanicsville. Rumors, which had a tendency to spread like unattended wildfires, at first suggested an attack on Richmond was in progress. But, when the force veered away from the city and finally halted, Fitz-John Porter's First Division found itself anchoring the extreme right of the Army of the Potomac where there was a decided lack of turnpiked Company streets and potted shade trees.

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