Joseph Dow's History of Hampton: In The Country's Service

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In The Country's Service

Of the above company, all the officers except the musicians, together with privates Blake, Crane, Dearborn, Eaton, Godfrey, Goss, Hobbs, James, Marston, Palmer and Perkins and sixteen recruits, enlisted in Hampton, of whom James Fair was a resident, left Hampton for Portsmouth, May 25, 1861, and served three months at Fort Constitution. Other enlistments occurred there, and two more Hampton men, Samuel W. Dearborn and William L. Dodge enlisted at Concord, when the company was mustered.

This enlistment was but a beginning. As time passed and the obduracy of the Rebellion became apparent, men of all ages and conditions devoted themselves to the service of their country, while women bade them God-speed, and waited in anxiety and sometimes in stricken grief at home; -- serving likewise, as best they could, in "Soldiers' Aid Societies," for preparing camp and hospital supplies, and in carrying alone the burdens and cares thus doubled upon them.

The first war act noted on the town records was the calling of a meeting held November 7, 1861, when the care of soldiers' families was considered, and it was voted: "That the selectmen be directed to furnish aid to dependents on soldiers, from this date." August 25, 1862, the town first voted a bounty for enlistments, the earlier soldiers having enlisted without town bounty. From this date, for two months, town meetings were held frequently, by adjournment. Uri Lamprey was appointed to revise and correct the enrollment. Morris Hobbs, Jacob T. Brown and Uri Lamprey were chosen a war committee. The next March, the town voted to raise money for the benefit of returned, disabled soldiers, agreeably to the law of the state; and the following summer, Charles M. Lamprey was appointed, to procure substitutes, "unmarried aliens preferred." Again, in 1864, Uri Lamprey was chosen, to revise the enrollment, and this time, to fill quotas, and pay soldiers; the selectmen to furnish him an amount not exceeding three thousand dollars, in such sums and at such times as he might require for the purpose; the agent to give bonds in the sum of ten thousand dollars. This office Mr. Lamprey held till March, 1865, when it passed by vote to the chairman of the selectmen.

Statistics of town bounties and of individual payments for substitutes are appended to this chapter.

It were idle to attempt to follow the ficissitudes of the war. Written histories meet us on every hand; and it is still too recent to have passed from the memory of those who participated in its occurrences, or felt its adversity. Rather, let us turn the pages of personal experience, and from pictures imperfectly drawn, take glimpses here and there, of scenes most nearly connected with our own town.

The Third regiment having been assigned to Gen. T. W. Sherman's corps, for a supposed secret expedition, reached Port Royal harbor, South Carolina, on the 4th of November, 1861; and on the 9th, "landed in a large cotton and corn field, where cotton enough to have furnished clothing for the whole brigade was burned for the purpose of clearing camp and drill ground. [Adj. Gen. Head's report.] Here, at Hilton Head, began camp life in the enemy's country; and here, on the 20th of February, 1862, fell Hampton's first victim of the war -- Color Sergeant Jonathan N. Dow. Not at the cannon's mouth, but by wasting fever, he laid down his life for his country. His brother came, and bore the remains to his native town, whose citizens sorrowfully laid them to rest in the cemetery.

Near the last of March, the enemy attached the Fifty-fifth Pennsylvania, on Edisto Island. They were driven back, but the Fifty-fifth abandoned its position, and the Third New Hampshire was ordered to reoccupy it. This was welcome news to the men, so long comparatively inactive at Hilton Head. They embarked, on the 3d of April, and landed on Edisto the same night. Hampton soldiers recall the appearance among them, while there, of a colored refugee, with a broad iron band around his ankle, placed there by a cruel master, so long before, that the flesh had grown over the edges of it. They remember his joy, when their efforts with file and knife had availed to remove the band, lacerating the limb, but making the poor negro a free man.

An experience occurred soon after, in which our men were sufferers. All the sea islands, so close to Charleston, "the hotbed of secession," were dangerous ground. On the 2nd of June, the New Hampshire Third and the New York Forty-seventh crossed under orders, to John's Island, marched seven miles, drenched with rain and short of rations, and, having awaited the assembling of the whole command, began another long march at two o'clock on the morning of the fourth, in dense darkness and a torrent of rain, through an unfamiliar country, known to have been occupied but recently by the enemy. They reached Legareville at noon; and after one day's rest, crossed to James Island, to report to General Stevens. Scarcely refreshed by their day's halt, and with appetite but half appeased, could anything be more welcome than the sight of a drove of cows, coming out of a belt of woods? Our men shot several, took off their hides as best they could, with pocket knives, surrounded the carcasses and cut out generous pieces, to run on sticks and take to the fire to roast.

This episode recalls others, later on in the war; -- as, when a stout Scotchman stole into the enemy's lines in the night and returned to camp at daylight, shouldering a barrel of flour.

On James Island began "the perils of siege and skirmish, of assault and repulse," wherein the Third regiment gained a well-earned reputation for valor, which it held, untarnished, to the last; for in the spring of 1863, operations being recommenced for the taking of Charleston, this regiment was again put to active service.

After the unsuccessful charge on Fort Wagner, on the 18th of July, the Union army sat down before that fort, to take it by regular approaches; and the Third New Hampshire was one of three regiments "to be at all hours in front of the army." Stealthily the rifle-pits crept up their zigzag course, almost to the very guns of the enemy. Every day the ranks were thinned, but not a man flinched. A single instance is given, to show the peril of the situation:

Between Morris Island and the main land flows Vincent creek, down which the enemy's boats might pass, to flank the Union batteries. To prevent this, two of our Hampton men [Samuel W. Dearborn and Washington H. Godfrey] and five others were detailed from headquarters to boom the creek. Only in the darkness of night could this be done. The whole region bristled with fortifications -- Forts Wagner, Gregg, Moultrie, Sumter and Johnson; numberless batteries; and, worse than all, for that detail, the rebel sharp-shooters along both banks.

The only hope of life, while taking the hewn logs down to the entrance, where three booms were to be thrown across, was in hanging to the side of boat or boom, with only the head above water. Then, silently and cautiously, the men felt their way along the timbers, in the darkness, to bolt them together -- showers of hot shot whizzing incessantly around them, meanwhile, making the water seethe like a boiling pot. Again and again, the tide broke the fastenings asunder; but after seven nights of jeopardy like this, having borne charmed lives, not a man was missing, when they reported their task accomplished.

No less perilous was the erection of the masked battery, known as the "Swamp Angel," in which some of our men participated. This also was night work; and its successful achievement helped to the occupation of Wagner and Gregg and the bombardment of Sumter. [Lieut. William L. Dodge was one of the first twenty, of the "forlorn hope," who entered Fort Wagner.]

After the taking of forts Wagner and Gregg, the Third did provost duty on Morris Island, till the reenlistment of many of its members, for three years or the war, who went home on furlough; when the remainder, with recruits, repaired to Hilton Head, were mounted and went to Florida, serving there till the latter part of April, 1864, as mounted infantry. They then went to Virginia, where they were joined on the 29th, by the reenlisted men, being accompanied by the other regiments of their corps, who had served with them in the South, forming the Tenth army corps, of General Butler's Department of the James.

Who could know that, in a fortnight, two Hampton men who shook hands with their comrades that day would be killed in battle; [David W. Perkins and J. Eldredge Palmer] and that three months later, two more with term of service almost expired, would likewise be cut down? [George Perkins and Simon N. Lamprey] In the terrible battle of Drury's Bluff, which followed the return of the veterans, the Third New Hampshire led the van the first day, and Company D was in advance of all. The victory of the 13th, the constant fire of the next two days and the retreat of the 16th, are well remembered. Here, on the night of the 15th, our soldiers threw up earthworks, some using tin dippers, for want of better tools, preparing for a charge on the morrow. The night was thick with fog. No object could be discerned at a distance of ten feet; and yet the men toiled on. It was a fruitless task. Under cover of the fog, the enemy had made a flank movement, a general engagement followed, our army was overpowered and a retreat ordered. Having reached an opening through the woods, they re-formed, and once more, the post of greatest danger was given the gallant Third. "Charge the enemy, advancing on the left!" said General Terry. The charge was made and the enemy driven back, while the main army continued its retreat.

The remaining days' of the three years' men were eventful ones, including part of the siege of Petersburg. Necessary to this, was the cutting off of communication with Richmond, by the Richmond and Petersburg railroad, -- which was accomplished several times, it having been repeatedly restored by the rebels. In one of these expeditions, a detachment came to a halt, on a hot, dusty June day, wanting water. On a shelf outside a little cabin by the wayside, stood a brimming bucket, temptingly, and a gourd, hanging near. "Fill your canteens, boys!" said Lieutenant James. At this instant, a rebel woman emerged from the house and vainly tried to carry off the prize, demanding angrily: "What are you uns down here, fighting we uns for?"

On the 23d of August, 1864, such of the surviving Hampton soldiers of the Third regiment as had not reenlisted, and, a little later, three from other regiments, whose term had expired, were mustered out, and came home to their expectant families, bronzed, battle-stained and full of honors.

Our town had still its soldiers in the Third regiment; -- and one more picture shall be drawn. It is a winter scene, on the eve of the expedition to Fort Fisher, and the soldiers have bivouacked on the banks of the James, waiting for transportation. Rolled up in their blankets, they are sleeping on the ground; the silent snow has fallen, and every soldier is a white mound. It is like graves -- and the stillness of death prevails. But morning breaks; the men spring up, and tossing the snow aside, with just and badinage, prepare the coarse, and not over-appetizing breakfast. It is not alone in battle that one need be brave, to be a soldier.

Next the Third regiment, the navy contained more Hampton men than any other department of the war. These were assigned to different ships. Even brothers were separated. Some served on the gallant steam frigate, Colorado; some, on the swiftly sailing double-ender, Miami, pluckily fighting at close range; some, on the Agawam, the Jamestown, and perhaps other war vessels, whose exploits are known in history. Cooperating, generally, with land forces, they participated in engagements on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, and, notably, on the Mississippi river, mingling bravely in those fearful scenes.

In point of numbers, though not in order of time or length of service, the Heavy Artillery stands third, as regards the Hampton men employed in the war. On the 17th of September, 1864, twelve went in a body from this town to Portsmouth, and enlisted for one year, in Company K of that department, under Captain Houghton, of Manchester. As fast as the companies were organized, they were sent on to Washington, and assigned chiefly to garrison duty. Company K was stationed at Fort Kearney, men being detailed for special service, as occasion required -- not called to the perils and fame of battle, but to the tedium of defense, or the exhaustion of manual labor.

Eleven Hampton men went into the Fifteenth regiment, in October, 1862. After a month's encampment on Long Island, they embarked on a secret expedition. By Christmas, the whole regiment was at New Orleans; and soon joined other regiments in camp near Carrollton, in swampy and unhealthy ground. Successive removes brought the Fifteenth, by the last of January, to Camp Parapet, seven miles west of New Orleans, as a part of Gen. Neal Dow's brigade, in Gen. T. W. Sherman's division. Company I, to which all but one of the Hampton men belonged, was for a time detailed to take charge of some paroled prisoners; but heavier work was in store. Port Hudson must be reduced, and deadly was to be the conflict.

On the 23d of May, 1863, began the cautious advance of General Sherman's division upon that rebel stronghold. Oh! the agony of those waiting days, in the far-off northern homes! Oh! the carnage of the terrible 27th of May, when General Sherman lost a leg and General Dow was severely wounded, and thousands of brave soldiers were strewn dead upon the field! One Hampton name was stricken that day from the roll of Company I, of the Fifteenth New Hampshire [John D. Lamprey] and one from the naval service, [Daniel Godfrey] and sad-hearted comrades wrote home the news and nerved themselves for further conflict. Not till July did Port Hudson surrender.

There is still one more regiment, the Fourteenth, in which a considerable number of men of our town entered the country's service. The rest were scattered singly or in very small numbers among the various commands, sometimes crossing each other's paths, perhaps unknowingly in the same engagements; but all inspired with thought of loyalty and purpose of devotion. The Fourteenth, enlisted in September, 1862, was brigaded with regiments of Massachusetts, Vermont and Maine, and spent the following winter in picketing the Potomac river. The next year, it did provost duty in Washington. Early in 1864, after a short, blessed furlough at home, it went to New Orleans, arriving on the 20th of March, and proceeding at once to Camp Parapet, whence the Fifteenth had gone out the year before, to the blood-bought field of Port Hudson.

In June, the soldiers were removed to the malarious Red river country, hot and dank, where were planted the seeds of consumption, of which two Hampton members of Company D (Perkins and Page) have since died; and of chills and fever, of which others are victims to this day. In July, however, the regiment returned to Virginia and joined Sheridan's army, taking a conspicuous part in the memorable battle of Winchester. In the soldiers' cemetery on the battle field, there rises monument inscribed: "New Hampshire erects this Monument to the memory of her brave sons of the Fourteenth Regiment, who fell in battle September 19th, 1864, upon this field; and are here buried in one common grave." Among the names inscribed thereon is "Private, M. Marston." [Melbern Marston]

Perhaps no regiment had harder fortunes than the Sixteenth New Hampshire, in which four Hampton men were enlisted. Though the term of service was short, the regiment was rapidly depleted by the miasma of its camping-ground, as well as in the desperate struggles on the Mississippi, in which the Eighth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth also participated. So fearful was the havoc of disease, General Emory once telegraphed to General Banks that there were "only a few skeletons of the Sixteenth New Hampshire left." Death or crippled lives resulted for Hampton men as for others.

In different regiments, five other Hampton men, [Jeremiah Batchelder, James Fair, Charles W. Nudd, Edward S. Perkins, David T. Philbrook] and how many substitutes none will ever know, laid down their lives on battlefields.

There is yet another form of sacrifice, for which time brings no soothing thought. Men died in camp, in exposure and privation, indeed, but watched over by sympathizing comrades; and men fell in battle; and men came home, with broken constitutions; and for all these woes there are compensations; but who can recall with calmness the atrocities of rebel prisons? At any distance of time, one stands aghast, in view of them. Yet these did some of Hampton's sons endure, for a time; and one, after months of untold suffering, died of starvation, at Andersonville. [George Dearborn] A stranger, too, accredited to Hampton, somebody's substitute, suffered a like fate. [Onton Saingele]

Thank God! the horrors of war ended at last; and, with the stars and stripes again waving over all the states, the great army vanished, and peace reigned over a nation saved.

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