Diary of 1861-1862
9th NY Volunteer Calvary
By Orre Snow
Transcribed by: Claudia Poole Patterson;
from the collection of Wally Snow
By Orre Snow
The idea or Sentiment of Secession in the Southern States had its origin and birth during the 50’s and being fed, fumed and nourished by the so called “Southern fire eaters” and leaders and proclaimed by their public speeches and also heralded by their press, it grew rapidly and was fast approaching maturity, until the Hydra headed Monster began to be plainly visible in the Southern horizon. Up to this time our government at Washington had looked upon the matter with comparative indifference. But when the first shot was fired upon Fort Sumpter and ere the echo of the booming cannon as it reverberated along the valleys and hillsides had died away, the North awoke as from a lethargic dream and Lincoln with that far reaching invitation of wisdom of which he was possessed at once took in the situation. He saw at a glance that immediate and vigorous action must be taken. He therefore made his memorable call for 75,000 volunteers to go forth and at once put down and chrush (crush) out that which was sure to undermine the foundation of our grand and glorious Republic.
The North almost to a man (excepting a few Southern Sympathizers, which received the unique Soubriquet of “Copperheads”) responded with alacrity to the call. They at once in all branches of business lay down their implements of labor and enrolled their names among the long list who were ready and willing to march to the front and battle for the right and their country. Many, yes very many went away never to return. They had looked upon that dear old home with its many pleasant memories and associations for the last time. The husband and father in many cases, had bidden his wife and family a last good bye. The young men had given to Mother & Sisters and perhaps sweetheart the last parting kiss.
About Oct. 1, 1861 feeling it a duty which I owed, not only to myself and to my country, but to succeeding generations, I laid down my tools and placing my wife and children in care of friends, with a heavy heart – bade them goodbye and with several others went to the Station at Randolph, NY and boarded a train for Jamestown. There we took a boat for Mayville over Lake Chautauqua. There not being a that time any public conveyance from there to Westfield NY, we engaged a farmer with horses and lumber wagon to carry us over the Chautauqua hills to the latter place when there was a Regiment being organized for service called the 9th NY Volunteer Cavalry. I was examined by a Surgeon appointed for that purpose as to my physical condition and pronounced sound and on the 7th day of October 1861 I enrolled my name in the U.S. Army to “serve three years or during the war unless sooner discharged”. Immediately after being mustered into the service we went into camp, occupying rude barracks provided for us and commenced army life. These barracks were constructed of rough boards with many cracks or openings between and being in the month of October the cold chilly winds from off Lake Erie found their way through these apertures making us shiver as we lay in our bunks, being provided with only scant coverings – already reminding us of the comfortable homes we had just left - to go forth in the struggle to maintain the flag and our country’s rights. But this as we afterwards found was but an introduction to what was in store for us. We were fortunate in having two more in our squad who had served in the Regular Army; they were chosen or appointed as instructors. They gave us many pointers, which were of vast importance to us afterwards.
About the first lessons given us in Military Tactics was in forming in line and marching. It was laughable indeed to see the clumsy old farmers who had been accustomed to following the plow and jogging along as he pleased on the farm attempt his first lessons in Military drill. His big feet and stogy boots were always just where they ought not to be. If the order was given to form in line and “right-dress” he would invariably be out of line and be looking to the left instead of the right. If the order was given to “forward March” he would plunk his No. 10’s upon his file leader’s heels which would many times cause the latter to use language which I will not here repeat. As yet not being provided with arms and the munitions of war, we used sticks for Sabers and guns in drilling. Of course it was all-new to most of us. Never having had the first rudiments even or a faint idea of military drill or Military life. But as day after day came and went and with a daily practice we soon became accustomed to the strict rules and regulations of a “Military Life”. We all had to take our turns doing guard duty around our camp, which was called “Camp Seward”. As time passed we began to see the necessity of forming into companies and so there were not enough enlisted men from East Randolph, NY to form a company (Each company is suppose to contain 100 men, be the same more or less) we were consolidated with about the same number from Sherman, NY. When this was done there of course we had to have officers to command it. After some pluralizing as to captaincy, it was finally decided that East Randolph should have the captaincy and Sherman should have the two Lieutenants. After many promises and pledges made by B. F. Chamberlain of East Randolph, NY, he was made captain of our company and Benj. Coffin of Sherman, NY was elected first Lieutenant of, as we were ever afterwards known Company “E”, NY Vol. Cavalry. After remaining at camp Seward, drilling and doing camp duty until the 9th of Nov. when the order was given for us to move on to Albany NY. Therefore on date mentioned at 2 p.m. we boarded the cars for Buffalo, arriving there at 6 pm. Took supper and left there at 9 o’clock. (Had a violent attack of sick head ache all night.) Passed through Syracuse just at daylight. Stopped at Sr. Johnsville on the Mohawk at 9 am 20, minutes for lunch. I will relate a little incident – which occurred here. We had a man by the name of Zirneau (sp) Taylor who had enlisted in Co. “E” and had served a term in the penitentiary for taking goods which did not belong to him – while the rest of us were not only willing but glad to get something to appease our appetites, he instead was taking and secreting whatever he could get his hands on and not be detected in the act. Teacups and saucers, knives and forks, spoons and many other articles were taken by him and carried to camp and sold to the boys for what he could get for them. So strong was his propensity for stealing that he would do it rather than satisfy hunger. I may have occasion to speak of him later.
We arrived in Albany at 3 pm on the 10th and marched directly into camp at camp “Rothbone.” Here we remained doing guard duty together with our daily drill until November 26. While here I obtained permission from our Superiors to visit the city and also to listen to an address delivered by Senator Sumner of Massachusetts, in Tweedle Hall, upon the existing crisis and situation of our government, in regard to the civil war, which was not just breaking forth in all its fury. He spoke to a crowded house and was attentively listened to, as he vividly portrayed the on coming storm, which was all ready to burst upon the American people. Now and then I shall be under the necessity of relating a few of the incidents, which may have occurred, as this diary would not be complete without them.
Our camp contained two barracks said to be some forty rods in length each, our Regiment occupying one and an Artillery Regiment the other. As our mess room was not large enough to accommodate both at the same time (a regiment is suppose to contain tem companies, 100 men in each company making 1000 members the same more or less). So one day our regiment would go in first, the next day the other, each going in first on alternate days. We so happened the artillery regiment had been into dinner one day first, and as they marched out, we marched in and in passing them, the cried out “Stinking Cod fish for dinner today boys.” That was enough to start the ball rolling; as we entered the room the stench of tainted fish was anything but appetizing. We said not a word but quietly seated ourselves at the table, but no one seemed to be anxious to eat. The codfish soup, I should call it, was in a large tin pan in the center of the table. Presently each one thinking he could improve it by the addition of what ever he could reach, no matter what, commenced pouring into the soup until the pan refused to longer contain it all and commenced running over on the table; then some one more during than the rest – conceived the idea of improving it by a vigorous stirring therefore he jumped upon the table and with one tremendous kick, sent pan and soup flying across the room. At this time junction the boss, who had previously tried in vain to stop us, called in one of our company’s officers – upon his approach we at once ceased our pranks. He at once commenced an investigation of the matter commanding us to desist and promising us it should not occur again. We left the room dinnerless that day. We looked upon the matter like this: This man was hired and paid by “Uncle Sam” to feed us with good wholesome food and if he could feed us and we would put up with it on some cheap or tainted fish, & it was so much in his pocket. But it was no go with us – he never attempted to repeat the dose.
From the time of our enlistment to the present, we had furnished our own clothing – dressed in citizen’s garb; but here we dress Soldier’s uniform and clothing; such as two pairs of undershirts, drawers, stockings, on cup, Cavalry jacket, pants and over coat, - also Cavalry boots. We remained here until Nov. 26th when the order was given to prepare to march. We therefore struck camp at 3:20 pm and bidding camp Rothbone farewell, marched to the dock where the boat “Knickerbocker” was in waiting for us. All on board we started down the Hudson.
The boat being very heavily loaded would frequently run aground and
get stunk in the mud and the engineer or pilot would have to work some
time to extricate it before proceeding, but would eventually, after continued
exertions finally succeed. During the evening as we were slowly making
our way down the river a little incident occurred which I will relate,
although it causes me to blush as my pen records it.
There were several privates, I among the member in the hull of the boat – discussing a subject, which seemed to attract our attention at the time very much – which was this:
The officers of the Regiment had on board what in modern parlance was termed “fast women”, and while we were discussing and bitterly denouncing the act, as being low and degrading in the extreme for officers of the great American Army and the very bad example they were exhibiting before the privates under their command. Our captain Denisns of Jamestown, NY, stood on the opposite side of the hull leaning against the wall, who overheard some of our conversation. H therefore opened his battery directing his aim more particularly upon me and made some cutting remark to something we had said to which I responded. My comrades urging me to “give it to him” But he probably thinking retreat the better part of valor hastily opened the door and disappeared below. I haven’t the least doubt in my mind, had he remained a short time discussing the subject that he would have been tossed over the rail into the cold waters of the Hudson – and perhaps very much to our regret too. It is a serious offence in military tactics to treat your superiors with disrespect. But we under the excitement would not have stopped to count the cost. Our colonel John Beardsley was an old “West Pointer: and had served in the regular army and was therefore extremely strict in his rules and regulations – to much so we undisciplined volunteers thought – resided at West Point and as we passed his home at 1 am, his residence was brilliantly illuminated in honor of the occasion. We arrived at New York just at daylight and ran up to the deck on the Jersey side and remained there during the ay. We were not permitted to go on shore. To amuse the officers who were idly lounging on the deck, some one more generous than others, would buy a few cookies from the baskets of the old ladies who were peddling them and throw one at a time upon deck to see us boys scrumble (sp) for them. It furnished no little amount of sport for the officers and the crowd on the deck. At 5pm we’re transferred from the Knickerbocker to the “John Potter” and crossed over to New York City and remained there a short time, then went on to South Amboy, arriving there at 11pm. We there took a train for Philadelphia, arriving at the latter place at 4 am, Nov. 28. Were marched to the “Cooper Shop” (a building prepared for the purpose) and partook of a scrumptious breakfast, furnished by the citizens of the city. I was told the city furnished each Regiment that passed through there with a good meal of victuals. I do not know when I had enjoyed a meal more than I did this. While there my attention was attracted to the contents of a card, which hung on the wall, which said thus:
“Welcome to the brave Volunteers!” “You come at the Chieftains call, The Union to serve or with it to fall
The city of Philadelphia invites you to her hospitality and gives you Godspeed on your March to the Union Army at the Capital. Be brave, your deeds for liberty will never die. We will paint your names in Gold and enshrine your glory in our hearts. You have the prayers of all honest, loyal hearts for your services in arms, a safe return to your friends, crowned with honor and glory. A true, true soldier will live in the history of that country he is now defending against mercenary work of traitors and rebels. His name will be inscribed on her long roll of Patriots and heroes and pass down to posterity of the free in all future time.”
During all this time we had entertained the erroneous idea that the war was of short duration that we should not get farther then Washington at the farthest before it would be ended. We had no even the faintest idea that it was to be a hotly contested four year struggle and thousands upon thousands of precious lives sacrificed and millions of money expended ere it was decides. We left Philadelphia at 8 am arriving in Baltimore at 6 pm, 96 miles. Had supper and left for Washington at 10 pm. We were put in boxcars with boards for seats. The boys called them “cattle cars”. One thing certain we found them far from being comfortable, as we were packed in like sardines in a box. If we attempted to sleep, the only possible way we could do so was by laying our heads upon our comrade’s shoulder. Being placed in such cramped position what little sleep we did get was far from being invigorating. It was ludicrous indeed, in my wakeful hours to listen to the variety of music we had in the car. Each on was “snoring” a time to suit himself and mostly in a Major key.
The average rate of speed made by the train during the night was five
miles an hour. Arriving in Washington at 6 am, Nov. 30. After breakfast,
I went to he capitol and up the spiral stairway to the dome and placed
my autograph upon it, It not being finished or completed at that time)
– visited halls of congress and senators – in fact, spent the fore noon
in sightseeing. After which, returned and partook in dinner furnished by
“Uncle Sam”, which consisted of a piece of raw corned beef just taken from
the brine and placed upon a chunk of bread, the brine saturating the latter,
making it so salt it was almost impossible to eat it and a small dish of
coffee minus the trimmings. Such was the meal furnished the boys by the
Government at the capital of the U.S. Perhaps it was the best they could
do at the time and under the circumstances. Immediately after partaking
of the above mentioned scrumptious meal we formed in line and marched 1
¼ miles to “Camp Fenton”, located on “Meridian Hill: and went into
camp there. Each company pitched their tents in line, forming strict between
each company. At this time our Regiment was furnished with small “A” tents,
in which about five persons could lie side by side, but could not stand
erect in them. As it came time to retire, we spread down our blankets on
the ground and lay down for the night, making ourselves as comfortable
as we could, with the small amount of material at our comm. and, to do
it with it so happened that where I lay there was a slight depression in
the ground and during the night it commenced raining the rain coming down
in torrents and the wind blew a perfect gale. Sometime during the
night I was suddenly awakened by a stream of water running beneath me;
which had already wet my blanket and clothing through and through, and
so chilled me that I was obliged to get out notwithstanding the fierce
cold wind and pelting rain and run back and forth to keep up circulation
the remainder of the night. While doing this didn’t I think of home
and its comforts? This was my first initiation in camping out. -
A night, which I will never forget. Dec 17 while on dress parade
the regiment was formed into a three-sided square and a 20-minute address
was given it by Hon. R.E. Fenton M.C. from Cattaraugus and Chautauqua Counties
N.Y. On December 21 the regiment was presented with sabers and a
few days later with scales, which very forcibly reminded us that we might
have occasion to use them in the near future. These scales were brass
plates with the scales on the upper side very much like the scales on a
fish and securely fastened to the jacket on
The shoulders to protect them from saber cuts. I visited the 64 NY vol. Infantry which was camped but a short distance from us. There were besides my brother in law, G. W. Watkins, several Randolph boys who had enlisted and gone out in this regiment. On Dec. 28, I was detailed as clerk to make out muster roll for our company’s pay, and on the 30 was again detailed by colonel Beardsley to go to 322 “G” Street in the city of Washington, D.C. to assist in making out our Regiments first payroll. As directed, I reported there for duty and was assigned a place at the desk with a very nice young man who was to instruct me in my duties. As dinnertime came he said he was going to lunch and very generously invited me to go with him, to which I very politely refused, saying, “I would stop into a restaurant and get a lunch.” But after refusing for some little time and he still urging me, I with great reluctance consented. I very well realized that I had been in camp for some months, that my clothing was in a very much soiled condition, dirty and dusty, and furthermore had not been to or set down to a table for a long time. I think of going to the table with the elite of the city of Washington in this condition, it is indeed exceedingly embarrassing. But upon arriving at his room, and after using soap and water very freely, he took a brush boom of his own accord and vigorously brushing some of the dirt and dust from my clothing, we entered the dining room, and to make it still more embarrassing to me, we were escorted to a table at which many ladies were seated. You may well imagine I felt like one very much out of place – “like a cut in a strange garret.” But the ladies soon commenced questioning me, as to where I was from and to what regiment I belonged, etc., which partially broke the ice – in short I got out of it alive and returned to my work. After completing the roll I returned to camp, reaching there at 8 in the evening.
On the next day, Jan 16, ’62 the Regiment received their first payment from Major Halsey, Paymaster. I received at that time $41.83 for a little over three months service. We did not get big pay only $`3.00 per month. I sent $35.00 of the above amount home by express. On Jan. 30 I was detailed for ten days, by order of Colonel John Beardsley commanding, as commissary clerk in the Quartermaster’s department to assist in making out invoices, requisitions, etc. Was discharged as said clerk on Feb. 20 and received of W. R. Knapp Regimental Quartermaster $5.00 for said services. On Feb. 25, was again detailed as clerk in Capt. Chamberlain’s office. Regiment was mustered for pay on Feb. 28, ’62. Completed business at Capt. Office and was discharged as clerk there from March 6th I obtained a pass and went to the Soldier’s Home but a short distance from our camp had access to grounds and buildings. The old Veterans of previous wars who made it their home there appeared to be well cared for. The building being located at an elevation, they had a fine commanding visa of the city of Washington, the Potomac, the Capitol, Washington Monument, Arlington Heights, etc.
I also visited “Fort Totten”, which was located on an eminence but was not permitted to enter it as it was strictly against military rules. I also visited several camps, which were located on meridian Hill. On march 8th a young lady by the name of Katie Dane accompanied by her father came to our camp and highly entertained our regiment by the singing of several Patriotic songs. Her selections were good indeed for the occasion and were rendered in a forceful, pleasing and graceful manner. She was possessed of a wonderful fine voice. I do not recollect of ever hearing the song entitled “The Red White and Blue” sung when it seemed to go right home to the heart – as it did on that occasion. Her eye was riveted upon the flag, which was suspended above her head, gently swaying in the breeze as she sang. The boys were all very much pleased with the entertainment. Immediately after this the bugle blew for special orders and when the orderly sergeant came back we were marched to the Col. headquarters and addressed by him. I will here state – As yet our regiment had not been mounted – We of course knew not why, but such was the case. Supposedly, that they already had enough Cavalry. So the colonel’s speech to us was along those lines, he urging us in strong terms, to enlist in other branches of the service. I will recollect what he said when he commenced which was this – “Boys, you’ve had your pleasures but now comes the stern realities of war”, etc. But the majority of the regiment preferred to serve in what they enlisted – Cavalry. On March 10th the first Battalion of our regiment was sent away to do guard duty, and on the 11th we were ordered to march and at 9 am, commenced our march down through he city of Washington, across the long bridge (one mile in length) over the Potomac River, passed “Fort Albany” and Gen. Lee’s residence, Arlington heights, Arlington Mills, where the rebels secreted themselves and fires upon our cues. The mill was quickly demolished, arriving at “Baileys Cross Roads” just at sunset, where we encamped for the night. Sleeping in vacant houses. (Had sick headache badly). Regimental Adj. Corrigan arranged my bunk for me, I was so sick. We were ordered to be ready to march at 5 the next morning. We were to go to Fairfax Court House but the order was countermanded and we were ordered back to camp Fenton, which we reached at 1 pm, March 12, ’62. Much fatigue, distance 14 miles. We passed the ground where Gen. McClennun reviewed 80,000 troops; saw the tree by which the Gen stood as the troops marched past in review. While in camp Fenton this man Taylor of which I have previously spoken, was appointed company cook of Co. E. In frying the pork of course there would e more or lea grease, or gravy as it is sometimes called, which we wanted on our potatoes, but Taylor declaring, “there was none for us.” We thought it very strange indeed there should be none, so we decided to “shadow” him, as we knew very well what he was, and very soon discovered that he was selling it to soap men in Washington and pocketing the money. He was very soon discharged as cook. On March 14th we had orders to march the next morning at 7 am. Therefore on March 15th, 1962 we bade a final adieu to Camp Fenton, having been there most of the time since Nov. 30. Very many little incidents occurred while there; some ludicrous and some sad. Which time and space will not admit of my recording here. When we found we were to remain there during the winter, we went to work and stocked our “Sibley” tent and banked up with dirt on he outside. But some mornings the ice would be from ½ to one inch think on the inside of our tent. We had a small sheet-iron stove, on which we done the most of our cooking and which also furnished heat.
We marched through a drenching rain to Alexandria, a distance of some 12 miles and upon a rise of ground with a few scattering trees upon it, one mile from the city and drew up in line and dismissed with these remarks from he Colonel, “Boys, here are your quarters, Make yourselves a comfortable as you can”. With clothing and blankets drenched to he skin, boots partly filled with water, tires and hungry, with no covering, save the clouds and sky above us, which were still copiously shedding forth rain, - indeed the outlook for the night was anything but encouraging. I started off, and someone asked me where I was going. I replied “to look for a shelter for the night – you do not suppose I am going to lie down here in the rain:, they said they would go with me. So five or six of us started in quest of lodgings. We had not proceeded but a short distance, when by accident, we met an artilleryman who was in the barracks at Albany while we ere stationed there. Saluting us he says “Hello, where are you going”? We told him we were looking for shelter for the night. Where upon he very obligingly offered to conduct us to a vacant house, which belonged to an officer in he rebel army. Upon arriving there, he procured the key to the house of a near neighbor and unlocked the door. To our delight we found it contained two fireplaces, in which we soon had cheerful fires burning. I being the only non commissioned officer in he squad asked who would volunteer to go back to he regiment and report where we were. Some one very readily consented to go and when we camped for the night the majority of Co E. were there to camp with us. We lay down with our wet clothing all on and rain soaked blankets spread over us, and when we awoke in the morning we found a pool of water on he opposite side of the room, which had drained from our clothing and blankets during the night. I felt very much rested after sleeping on the soft side of the floor what in my wet clothing and blanket. March 16 being Sunday I visited many places of interest among them the house where Colonel Ellsworth was shot, while tearing down a rebel flag, which floated from a flagstaff on top of the three story brick building. At the time it was used as a Hotel. The stairs on which he was standing where here shot, were carried away in small pieces as mementoes and new ones had been erected in her place. I also visited Fort Ellsworth. It is mounted with 21 guns, two 32 ponder rifle cannon. In fact I spent the day in viewing the city and its surroundings. On March 24 we vacated the residence owned by the rebel and went into camp at Camp Ellsworth, near Alexandria and remained there until the morning of March 29, where we marched to the dock and went on board the transport “Baltimore.” We were cautioned by the officers about using fire, as there were from 40 to 100 tons of ammunition on board. Left the dock at 1 pm.
It commenced snowing very hard, so much so that it was impossible for the boat to proceed, as the pilot could not see ahead and were obliged to cast anchor until 5 pm; then raised anchor and run until dark, then cast anchor again for the night. Had the “Am Caroline” on our right and the “Daniel Boon” on our left towing them down the river. Raised anchor at daylight Sunday, March 30, and ran until 6pm and again cast anchor. Raised anchor at 5:30 am on the morning of the 31, also put up sail on the Baltimore. Passed the boat knickerbockers, the same we came from Albany to New York on, at noon. Cast anchor at Fortress Monroe at 5 pm, 31. Saw the war vessel “Little Monitor.” It resembled a smaller raft with a large tub on it, but a small portion of the vessel above the water. Raised anchor and ran up to the dock at noon, Apr 1st, ’62. Weather warm and pleasant. In going down the river we passed Mt. Vernon the home and resting place of Washington. While proceeding down the Potomac the officers ordered dinner for themselves, of course. We could have our hardtack as usual. The odor of that cooking dinner, boiled ham, coming up through the scuttle hole in he deck where I was just whetted my appetite to a razor edge. I wanted some of it badly. The dining room table sat directly under the scuttle hole, so I had a good view of what was being put upon it. Presently the cook brought in a large tray of warm biscuits and sat them on he table and returned to the kitchen – the temptation was too great, hastily drawing my saber from its scabbard and lying down flat, I brought up on deck what the point of my saber would pierce of the biscuit. Reserving a goodly portion for myself, I gave the balance to my comrades. You may be assured they were eaten with great relish, and somehow I never felt like investigating, to know whether the cook ever missed them or not.
On Apr 1st, I went around Fortress Monroe – it is an extremely strong fort – seeming by almost impregnable, also saw the two largest guns our government owns. The “Union” and the “Lincoln.” The ball of the “Lincoln” weighing 433 pounds, and weight of gun 49,050 pounds, weight of “Union” 59,005 pounds. We left he Baltimore on the morning of Apr 2nd and marched about two miles and encamped near Hampton College, a very fine building. Pitched our tents at noon some fifty rods from Ex President Tyler’s summer residence and a short distance from where once was the thriving own of Hampton, which was burned by the rebels during the summer of ’61. The country about Hampton is flat and level, well adapted to agriculture I should judge; while the bays and coves abound with oysters and clams. Apr 3 I visited Hampton Seminary and also the Tyler residence, which at the time was occupied by colored people. Saw Gen. Wool, (and his hair was almost as white as wool) he rode into camp and ordered our colonel to move his regiment far this west on higher ground as it was too low where we were encamped. At 2 pm, Apr 4, we were ordered to be ready to march in 30 minutes. This was lively, business to strike our tents, pack our raps and be ready to move in so short a time. Marched one mile west and pitched our tents again, ready for the night. Our Captain ordered three or four of us to enter a house nearby and take a quantity of fresh beef and a barrel of potatoes from a lady who had plundered it, where a regiment had just moved and left it. Had some of the same for our supper and breakfast. That night our boys “swiped” a quantity of clothing and knapsacks, which the above-mentioned regiment had left on their camping ground. Think the regiment must have had orders to “march” “double quick” and could not take the above supplies with them. Several of us started our one morning on a fraying expedition and by accident; we came across a Sutter of another regiment. Now we boys never considered it any sin whatever, or had any remorse of conscience not in the least to “appropriate” (take) anything we could lay our hands on and not be caught at it from a Sutter. It was the only way we could get even with them. They would always charge us such abominable prices for everything we bought of them that we always felt perfectly justifiable in he act. It made no difference whether it was he Sutter of our regiment, or of some other one, they were all served alike by the soldier. The first battalion joined us again near Hampton on Apr 5. On the latter date, I could hear the roar of cannons in the direction of Yorktown.
A battle is supposed to be going on there. On Apr 11, several of us wandered away from camp some six miles distance in search of – we know not what – but unexpectedly, we came to a vacated rebel house (at the time in charge of colored people) and curiosity at once prompted us to enter it and see what it contained. We found it very nicely furnished – upholstered furniture, piano and an extensive and costly library, also a medical library, the owner there of undoubtedly a physician, etc. Every thing in and around the house denoted wealth. Each one of us selected some small article, as a memento or souvenir and brought away with us. I selected two books, which I have in my possession at the present time. It was near this date, that the “Monitor” had is first battle with the rebel gunboats “Merimac”. She came down out of Elizabeth River, but soon returned. I returned to camp and found to my great surprise, that our regiment had moved some 80 rods towards Hampton, When I reached the camp, I found our tent all put up in good shape, and better still, supper all ready. On Apr 14 had orders to march towards Yorktown. After breakfast – struck our tents and commenced to march, reaching Big Bethel at 2 pm, a distance of nine miles. Here we halted for rest. There had previously been an engagement there between the forces. Heavy entrenchments were thrown up all about here by the rebels. We were ordered to be very quite – no firing of guns, or other unnecessary noise, as we were now in he enemies country – to do nothing to arouse or alarm our enemy. Resumed our march and at 5 pm reached “Harward Mills” a distance of 4 miles and encamped for the night. Six or eight of us found lodgings in a Union man’s house, by the name of Buchanan. During a skirmish here, between the forces his man with his family took refuge in the woods and as it partially ceased, the daughter tying her handkerchief on a stick, came out waving it as a flag of truce. It was not fired upon. An account of this was published in the Northern papers at the time. This man Buchanan told us an extremely pitiful story – how the rebels came and encamped in his wheat and cornfields, entirely destroying everything he had to support his family upon. After listening to this sad tale of woe, we who had so thoroughly enjoyed the generous hospitality of his roof for the night made up a small purse and presented it to him before leaving. At 8 am, Apr 15, we again resumed our march on towards Yorktown, and when within 3 ½ miles of there halted and pitched our tents at noon. We soon had fires and coffee steeping. On the same date some fifty or sixty northern enlisted men were marched into our camp and held as prisoners, because they refused to serve in artillery, when they had enlisted to serve in other branches of the service. Gen. McClellun had been here before Yorktown with at large force for many weeks, fortifying and preparing to dislodge the enemy and capture the town, had his preparations nearly completed on Saturday, and on Monday following was, intending to commence firing upon and bombarding the town. While making these preparations, it was very necessary that they kept well posted, in regard to the movements of the enemy. That they might be the better see over the fortifications into the town they used a balloon; manipulated by one Prof. Sowe. By the means of ropes securely fastened to he ground it was not allowed to ascend only this far, and remain stationary while the officers by the aid of field glasses, could readily discover the movements in Yorktown. The enemy appeared to be very much opposed to this mode of procedure, for they would quite often fire a shell at it in the air, but it would invariably go wide of its mark, and the balloon would be uninjured. Many times I have seen the shell explode in the air, but not near enough to injure the balloon. On the morning of Apr 16 it went up at daylight and remained there until 9:30 am. This balloon was some 25 feet in diameter, I should judge, made of slick and encased in a network of strong cord with basket suspended below. Balloon again in the air Apr 17. Firing heard on our left wing. One morning while Gen. Porter was up in the balloon, the ropes, which held it – gave away, and it began to ascend. He cried out – asking what he should do – was ordered to let off the gas, which he did and it was said he descended two thousand feet in one minute of time with injury.
On the 17 I assisted in currying in one of Gen McClellun’s staff – an engineer, who was engineering a new buttery and was severely wounded in his left arm by a piece of shell, which exploded near him, literally tearing his arm into shreds. His clothing was saturated with blood. A surgeon walked beside the litter, administering cordials to prevent him from fainting. He requested us to make all possible haste to the nearest hospital where they had instruments to amputate his lacerated limb. Another soldier belonging to a Rhode Island regiment was instantly killed by the same shell. I was awakened at midnight by the firing of our men in the direction of Yorktown, but it soon ceased. I visited the 64 regiment on the 18, about three miles away, and found them usually well, but all wishing to be set free. Balloon in sight, nearly all the afternoon on the 19. Firing heard on our left on the 20. Went out where our men were building fortifications about one mile from the rebel breastworks, on the 22. On the 24 went down to York River, about two miles distance – Saw our men planting a battery on the bank 1 ½ miles from Yorktown, and Gloucester. One two hundred pound gun was being put in place. There were five of our gunboats lying in the river two miles below Yorktown, which would occasionally send a shell up there to let them know they were not forgotten by us. Several staff officers were there, viewing our works and by the aid of field glasses, the rebel’s works. I obtained permission to use their glass for a few minutes – could see rebel works very plainly; Saw a war correspondent in an old house, busily engaged in writing the news, no doubt for some paper, periodical or magazine. Apr. 25 been down to York River again today – no firing from our gunboats – battery nearly completed. Went into a rebel barn, which I should judge contained from four to five hundred bushels of rice, winter wheat and a quantity of corn. The slaves (six or seven in number) were hauling off some of these products to live upon. Upon questioning them they said “their” master was pressed into the rebel service, very much against his wishes,” which I found to be the plea with nearly all the Southern people, with who I am contact with. One of the Negroes said he has been up to Yorktown, working upon the rebel fortifications there. The men who manned the guns at the battery said it would require but half a charge of powder to throw a ball into Yorktown or Gloucester, which was on the opposite side of the river from Yorktown; the distance being 1 3.4 miles. One of our sharp shooters secreted himself in a clump of bushes, near the bank of the river and not far from Yorktown, and made a business of picking off the rebel gunners as they appeared upon the fortifications to man their guns. They tried in vain to dislodge or drive him out – by firing shells there. Sunday, Apr 27, had the sick headache and felt very poorly all day. I received my warrant as corporal the 28, but had served as such since my enlistment. Stephen A. Beckwith from New York City visited our camp on t he 28. Capt. Simpson returned to regiment. Weather clear and pleasant – a few guns fired today. Apr. 29, quite sharp firing going on today. Sick all day; Lieut. wanted me to assist in making our company muster roll, but wasn’t well enough to do so. Been sick since the 26, not able to do duty. April 30 our company was mustered for pay, on Company Street – not but a little firing heard today. My 1st four months pay due us today. A soldier who was on picket duty was carried past here wounded in the knee, on his way to Fortress Monroe. Vegetation quite backward and weather cool. May 2, in camp Mac Yorktown, weather warmer and pleasant. Co. “E” gone to shipping point to unload ammunition. May 3, paymaster H. I. Dixion came into camp and paid us. I received $28.00. Considerable firing during the day and night. May 4, On Saturday night, the Rebels evacuated Yorktown, and on Sunday morning a general stampede of our forces took place, in hot pursuit of the fleeing enemy. Gen. McClellan took possession of the town and ran up the stars and stripes over it. Gen. McClellan had his preparations all ready and intending to open fire upon them on Monday Morning. But no enemy was there to fire upon. Our Cavalry went at once ordered forward to overtake them in their flight. Artillery and infantry were also ordered forward and overtaking them at a place called White House but a few miles away when the forces had a skirmish. In their haste on Saturday night to evacuate the town they left guns, ammunition, tents, in fact a large share of their belongings behind, which no doubt they found they could not take with them in their hasty flight. Of course everything of the kind was taken by our forces, and applied to our use. May 5, sharp firing heard in the distance thought to be an engagement near Williamsburg. May 6, Williamsburg in our possession. My 7, no firing heard today and nothing of very great importance has occurred. Weather warm and pleasant. May 8, weather the same, quite heavy firing in the direction of Norfolk. For some time I had been in quite poor health, had been excused from all duty and on the morning of May 9, Captain Chamberlain came to my tent and said he wanted me to go to the surgeon’s quarters with him. I asked him “what he wanted me to go there for?” to which he replied, “never mind, come on.” Well knowing it was contrary to military discipline to disobey an order from our superiors, I accompanied him. On arriving at the surgeon’s quarters we found him in and after the usual military salute, the captain said “Doctor, I want you to examine Corporal Snow and see what’s the matter with him, he’s been sick for some time.” So after quite a through diagnosis of my case he says “Corporal you had better get out of here about as soon as you can, or they will have you under the sod.” I replied “I thought they would have quite a lively corpse if they did.” But he turning around took a blank and filling it out and signing it, handed it to me, (Which was a certificate for disability for a discharge) Saying “Take this to Gen. McClellan and have him sign it – which will e your discharge from the service and go home.” I took the paper (Which I have in my possession at the present time) and placed it in my pocket – but never presented it to Gen. McClellan for his signature. On the same day, May 9, our regiment left our camp and marched into Yorktown. I with several others took up quarters in a large dwelling house (vacant), which we found to be very comfortable. 10th, weather warm and pleasant, saw twenty-five or thirty rebel prisoners. One of them said he formally resided in New York. They wore no uniforms and no two of them were dressed alike. They said they had had uniforms but had worn them out. Seven of them were of their ultimate success; others said they were willing to take the oath of allegiance and return to their homes. Sunday, May 11, preaching in front of the building we occupied. There was no water in Yorktown, save that in wells, which had been nearly pumped dry by our enemy before leaving. What there was muddy and unfit for use. A number of us took our canteens and started out in search of water, and after wandering and looking in vain for some time; we at last came upon a fine spring of pure clear water, about one mile from camp. Filling our canteens three from there from we returned., and after this we made daily visits to this spring for water to drink. In our travel we found a rebel jacket and in the pocket we found bullets and percussion cups, which we pocketed. Wrote a letter home – weather warm and pleasant. May 12 went down to York River and gathered shells. The sick from various regiments were all brought here and some of them were sent away on boats. May 13, twelve prisoners came into camp today and gave themselves up. Not wishing to fight longer for what proved to be the “lost cause.” One rebel captain was taken prisoner and brought in. He was dressed in gray. One of the men who came in and gave themselves up wore a gray shirt. He was asked if his government furnished them such. In reply said – “the government had never furnished him anything.” George W. Watkins came into camp from the 64 – said he expected to leave the next morning – didn’t know his destination. May 14 – went down to the dock before breakfast – found a rebel cup box and belt. May 15 – Weather sour and rainy, no news. May 16, my breakfast this morning consisted of hard tack and tea. At the time of the evacuation of Yorktown our regiment moved on also, with the forces, excepting about thirty of us who were on the sick list and were left at Yorktown. On the last names date at 9 am, the surgeon ordered us to march to the dock, and go on board the “Vanderbilt” which was bound for Washington, DC; and at 9:30 it left the dock and run until dark, there cast anchor for the night. At daylight the next morning (17) it started again, but did not run far before it became so foggy the pilot could not see where to run and after running aground and working for some time to extricate itself, it finally backed up and succeeded in getting off. They then cast anchor until 9:15, when the fog disappeared and they then proceeded. Weather fine and scenery on either side of the Potomac beautiful. Passed Mt. Vernon at 2:15 pm and Alexandria at 2:50 arriving at Washington at 3:30 pm May 17, ’62. Soon after arriving at the dock, Hon. Ruben E. Fenton, member of congress from Cattaraugus and Chautauqua Counties NY, came on board and informed us that the 9th NY Vol. Cavalry was to be mustered out of the service on Monday following; as the Government thought they had more cavalry than they could use (as yet we had not been mounted) and very kindly said, “to save us the trouble of returning to their regiment to be mustered out with them, he would get our orders from the war department for us to be mustered out here.: We remained on board the boat that night and during the evening our orders came for the boat to move on to Baltimore, with us on board, and at 5:30 the next morning the boat left the dock the orders for our discharge not having reached us before our departure. May 19, ’62 was one of those ideal May Sabbaths – weather fine, all nature seemed springing into life, as the “C. Vanderbilt” gracefully glided over the deep blue waters of Chesapeake Bay. It was a most delightful journey on that beautiful spring day; passed in sight of the State House at Annapolis at 6 pm, arriving at Baltimore a 7 pm having made 190 miles since morning. Cast anchor out away from the dock until 6 am May 19, then raised anchor and ran up to the dock. Mr. Fenton, after obtaining the orders from the department found the boat had left for Baltimore, at once dispatched a cousin John Manley of Little Valley, NY by rail (which is only 40miles by rail) with the order to meet us at Baltimore. Soon after making the dock, Mr. Manley came on board with the orders. We left the boat at 10 am, marched through the city to a place near the city hall. After remaining there a short time we learned that the paymaster was not at home and would not be until the next morning. We were then marched to the “Relief Association” headquarters and were to remain there until the next morning. Had dinner; bread, ham, cheese and coffee.
Saw twenty five or thirty men who had belonged to the crew of the rebel gunboat “Merrimac” previous to her being blown up, said they were formally northern men pressed into the rebel service, very much against their wishes. They said the boat had on board 10 tons of powder at the time she was blown up. The explosion set the woods on fire one and a half miles away and threw pieces of the boat three miles distant. An old gentleman in Baltimore gave me a piece of boat as a souvenir – weight 151 pounds. May 20, Weather beautiful, been sightseeing in the city – bought dress pattern for my wife, etc. A “secesh” young lady was arrested by the police, put in prison and fined five dollars for leaving a secession flag from an office. May 22, we were mustered out of the service to day and received our discharge, and were once more free men, to do as we pleased, not under military discipline. Paid in full, I received $42.30. At 9:30 pm, we left Baltimore for Harrisburg, arriving there at 4 am on the 23. and arriving in Elmira a 1:15 pm. Distance from Baltimore 237 miles. We had dinner here and left at 2 pm, arriving at Corning at 4 pm. On arriving at Rothbonville Station, we found a train off the track, which delayed us for some time, reaching Hornellsville at 7:45 pm., and arriving at Salamanca at 2 am 24. As there was no train for Randolph until 10 o’clock, I was obliged to wait until that time arriving at Randolph at about noon.
About the time the order was issued from the war department for the 9th NY Vol. Cavalry to be mustered out of the service our forces met with several notable defeats; among them was Gen Pope’s defeat in the Shenandoah Valley; this with many other unfavorable circumstances caused the war department to change its views in regard to the cavalry branch of the service, and the order which was issued for the 9th discharge. We were mustered out on and before it reached the regiment – it was countermanded and the balance of the regiment was immediately mounted and at once put in active service in the field, for the entire time of enlistment – three years. On arriving at home the friends gathered in to congratulate me on my safe return home and were eager to hear all the news in regard to the other boys who went out with me, - when they were coming home and how it happened that I came in advance of them, etc. Of course I had to explain to them then, that I was on the sick list and was left behind, not with the regiment, therefore the order for our discharge reached me before it did the regiment, which was further away, - but they need give themselves no uneasiness in regard to the matter, as they undoubtedly would arrive home in a very few days; - little thinking that the order would be countermanded when it reached them and that they would not have the pleasure of greeting them until the expiration of their enlistment – three years, but never the less such was the case. When I went out with the boys in ’61 I went with the full expectation if nothing happened to me, of remaining with them until we were all discharged and came home together – and when the news came that the order for their discharge countermanded and they were to remain in the service, I suggested to my family the propriety of re-enlisting and again returning to the regiment. But this suggestion met with so strong opposition from them that I could not conscientiously again leave them – not even for my country’s sake – I therefore did not again enlist. My love for my family proved greater than that of my country. But my anxieties for the welfare of the boys and the ever-glorious old “9th” always remained the same. A short time previous to my discharge I was consulted by some of our commissioned officers in regard to being promoted to company quartermaster Sergeant – I have no doubt had I remained in the service, but that I could have had the position had I desired it, - as they were very anxious that I should accept it. But I never sought for promotion while there. Although I might have accepted promotion had my comrades desired me to.
St. Petersburg, Fla., Feb.1906
It has been a long, long time since I recorded the original of the above, some of it in tent, some in camp and some on the march. Nearly forty-five years have come and gone since then, and as memory takes wings and flies back to the scenes therein enacted it seems almost like a passing dream to me now. Yet there are very many, many trifling little incidents, not above recorded, which are not forgotten but are still bright in memory.
I had the great pleasure a few days since of hearing Bishop C. H. Fowler of New York City deliver his celebrated address on Abraham Lincoln and in speaking in his eloquent manner of the noble qualities of the martyred president he brought out many incidents of the civil war which carried on back to 61-65. It was a great production – a grand treat. Some remarking it was well worth $5.00. I have met while here quite a number who wore the gray. At the reception in honor of Bishop Fowler I met all elderly gentlemen who said he was chaplain in the civil war, - I asked him which side he was on, and he replied, “on this side”, meaning the confederate side. When I told him I was on the other side he grasped my hand and giving it a healthy shake said “that is all past and we are good friends now>”
At the celebration of Washington’s birthday, which is annually held
here in which all the school children take a very active part, - the veterans
of the civil war, both the blue and the gray are cordially invited to head
the column in the parade on that occasion.
NOTE: For information:
Orre Snow, age 35. Enlisted Oct 1, 1861 at East Randolf, NY. Musted in as a Corporal Oct 7, 1861.
Mustered out May 20, 1862 at Washington, DC.
Lloyd C. Lanphere
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