Following the American Civil War Sesquicentennial with day by day writings of the time, currently 1863.

Newport News, Va., Dec. 1, 1863. On receipt of my furlough, which came promptly to hand at the appointed time, I, in company with eight others from the three companies, left Hill’s Point for Massachusetts. I had 20 days at home, a part of which I used up on the lounge, with chills and fever, and listening to the expressions of sympathy from callers. Ordinarily, when a person is sick, it is pleasant to he surrounded by sympathizing friends, but a person with chills and fever does not want sympathy; that only makes him mad. What he wants is whiskey and quinine, and the more whiskey the better. I was asked if the disease ever terminated fatally. I replied that the most provoking thing about it was, there was not the slightest danger of dying from it. After recovering from the chills and fever, I enjoyed the balance of my visit, very much, and reported back in New York the next morning after the expiration of my furlough.

Arriving in New York, I went directly to the New England rooms on Broadway. These rooms are a kind of free hotel for New England soldiers en route through New York, but will accommodate any others when they are not full. The rooms are well fitted up and there is a spacious loft or hall which is used for sleeping with 100 or more single cots, on each of which is a good mattress, pillow, a pair of woolen blankets and white spread. In this room a man is in attendance day and night to attend to the wants of patrons, preserve order and look after things generally. The dining hall will seat about 200 persons, and the tables are well supplied with plain, substantial, wholesome food. Another room is used for a sick room or hospital, and is filled up with a few cots and lounges, and the tables are well supplied with books and newspapers. This room is presided over by a kind-hearted, sympathetic lady, who was formerly a hospital matron in McClellan’s peninsular campaign. Besides, there is the office and baggage room, where one’s knapsack or other baggage is put away and checked. The owner takes his check and gives no further thought or care of his baggage until wanted. In addition to these, are all other necessary conveniences. These rooms were fitted up and are supported by the patriotic generosity of New Englanders, residents in New York, and many are the thanks and blessings they receive from their beneficiaries. Here I found Spencer and Lewis, who were furloughed with me, and who had just arrived. The clerk told us we must report to a certain quartermaster up town for instructions. We reported; he examined our papers, endorsed on the backs “reported back all right and on time,” and told us we must report at the transportation office down near the battery park. We reported, and were informed there was no transportation waiting, but we must report every morning in order to avail ourselves of the first boat that left.

Reclining On Our Military.

There were 100 or more soldiers waiting transportation to Newbern, besides hundreds of others for all parts of the army. The officer in charge of the office would no more than get his coat off amd sleeves rolled up, ready for business in the morning, when we would appear to him. He would get rid of us by a wave of his hand and “No boat for Newbern.” This continued for several mornings, until he became tired of seeing us and hung a card on the door with “No boat for Newbern.”

One morning the card was off and all hands made a grand charge inside. He gave us the cheering information that Gen. Foster had moved his old brigade from Newbern to Fortress Monroe, and he would give transportation by way of Baltimore to as many of us as belonged to that brigade. No one seemed to know just what to do, and no reply was made to the statement. After waiting a few moments, he inquired what we were going to do. As no one spoke, I ventured the remark that I had received no official information of the removal of the brigade or of my regiment and until further orders, I thought I had better stick to the order in my furlough and report in North Carolina. That seemed to clear away the cloud that hung over the boys, and we were soon on the street again.

The next morning, however, the clouds thickened again. The officer said he had reliable information that the 23d, 25th and 27th Massachusetts and 9th New Jersey regiments, together with the 3d New York cavalry, were at Fortress Monroe; he was going to give orders for rations and transportation by way of Baltimore to all those belonging to those regiments, and we could come in the afternoon and get them. I inquired if he was authorized to order us to report at Fortress Monroe. That gave him a sort of blind staggers. He said he was not really, but it would be all right enough, especially if we were anxious to join our regiments.

I replied, “We are anxious to join our regiments, but as everything in military has to run in its regular groove, and as one order holds good until another is given, it would hardly look military to be acting en our own judgment and hearsay stories, and going off across lots, reporting somewhere else than where our orders say.”

“You seem to be right on your military. Do you always pay as strict observance to orders?

“That is the way we have been educated, sir.”

That question settled, we were soon on the pave again.

An Encounter With A Policeman.

During our long wait for transportation we had a fine chance of doing the city, an opportunity of which we availed ourselves in the most thorough manner. We visited all places of interest and everywhere that there was anything to be seen or heard. One day Spencer and I, after a long ramble over the city, wandered into City Hall park, and feeling rather tired sat down on the City Hall steps to rest and watch the passing throng. We had not sat there many minutes when a policeman came along, and pointing to us with his cane, said: “You can’t sit there,” and passed along. We regarded that as a sort of camp rumor and kept our sitting. He presently returned, and coming up to us in a very imperious manner, said: “How many times do you fellows want to be told that you can’t sit there?” I looked at him, and with all the innocence and simplicity I could assume, I said: “You see, sir, that we do sit here.” That shot struck below the water line, and he then said: “What I mean is, you are not allowed to sit there.” “Ah! in that case we will remove hence, as yon will observe by our raiment that we are preservers, rather than breakers, of law.”

A visit to Barnum’s.

The outside of Barnum’s .Museum is always covered with immense show bills and people have become so accustomed to them that they attract but little attention, unless it is some new and curious thing he has got on exhibition. Noticing a picture of an enormous sea lion and reading glowing descriptions of him in the newspapers, I remarked to Spencer “We had better take that in.” Now Barnum’s is a good place to go, as it is a highly moral show, and inexpensive—twenty-five cents giving one the whole range from basement to attic. Taking those things into consideration he thought we had better go, so one evening we went up.

Exchanging our quarters at the office for tickets we were admitted to the great show. After strolling around awhile and looking at some of the minor curiosities, we went down into the basement where is located the aquarium. We soon found the sea lion, He laid on a large platform with his head towards the grating and about three feet from it. At the rear end of the platform was a large tank of water where he could bathe. He was a harmless looking lion enough and resembled a mule as much as a lion. He looked like pictures I have seen of the walrus, and laid there, a huge jelly-looking mass apparently dead, but on close inspection respiration was observable. We tried to start him up, but he seemed to prefer quiet, and no motion with our arms and caps had the slightest effect on him. I had an uncontrollable desire to see him go into the tank, and looked in vain all around the place for something to stir him up with. Presently a gentleman came along and stopped to look at him. He had an umbrella and I asked him to stir the creature up and see him go into the water. But he thought he had better not, saying it was probably against the rules for visitors to disturb him. I said that was probably the case, but we had paid our money to come into the show and wanted to see all the tricks, and if he would let me take the umbrella I would stir him up and take the responsibility. But he declined, and moved on.

A bright thought now struck me; I would fill his eye with tobacco juice and see what effect that would have. I chewed up a large piece of tobacco; filling my mouth with the juice and getting a beautiful range on his left eye, let drive, covering it completely, and to my utter astonishment that creature never so much as winked. I was dumbfounded at the result of my experiment, as this was the first creature I had ever seen which had eyes that a little tobacco juice in them would not make things lively for a few minutes. I can account for my failure in no other way than that, being a marine animal, there is probably some kind of film or covering over the eye that protects it from foreign substances while in the water. Spencer laughed at my discomfiture, and said perhaps we could find something else I would have better luck experimenting with.

Strolling around up stairs we came to the mummy cabinet. Now I like mummies and am always interested in them; they have a habit of minding their own business the steadiest of any class of people I ever met with, besides they are always civil to callers and are free from the disputes, quarrels, gossipping, slanders and other vices with which our generation is afflicted. They are a very ancient people, and in their time were doubtless an intelligent and highly respectable class of citizens, but they don’t amount to much now; they are too far behind the times and I don’t think it would be of much use for them to try to catch up. In this cabinet was quite a large collection and they looked black and dirty as though they neglected their baths and toilets; they all looked so much alike it was difficult to distinguish their sex. I think if they could be taken out and washed and dressed up in fashionable clothing they would make quite a respectable appearance.

I looked around to find some biographies of these people but could not. I called the attention of an attendant and inquired of him if there was any. He replied there was none that he knew of. I then asked: “Is Mr. Barnum about the place? I should like to see him.” He stated that Mr. Barnum was away and inquired my business with him. I said I wanted to suggest to Mr. Barnum that if he would hang a biography on every one of these mummies it would be the most taking thing he ever had, not excepting the What-is-it. This attendant somehow didn’t seem to get interested in Barnum’s interests, and dodged off out of the way. I pointed out the largest one to Spencer and said: “That gentleman was once a soldier and did provost duty in the city of Thebes 3000 years ago.” He made no reply but kept looking at it and presently I heard him muttering to himself: “Can that be possible? Brave old fossil!”

We got up into the exhibition room, near the close of the play; they were playing the ghost. I should think it might be a good enough play, but the acting was not all that a connoisseur would accept, but then it was good enough for soldiers and the price. I thought the ghost illusion was very cleverly performed, but Spencer said it was tame compared with the Gum swamp trick.

Off for Newbern.

After waiting thirteen days a boat arrived and we were now off. The boat leaves in the afternoon and all hands go down to the transportation office to get our orders and say good bye to the genial officer in command. I noticed that my draft for rations was on the Park barracks. Now I had a dim recollection and a sort of instinctive horror of those barracks, and it occurred to me that I had seen down on the Battery park, near the water, a small building where was kept first class rations, which were dealt out to officers, and other attaches of the army as department and sutler’s clerks and such like nobility. I suggested to Spencer that we go down there; we could fix up some kind of a story and perhaps succeed in getting our rations.

Now Spencer is a conscientious young man and objects to anything that does not dovetail in the exact line of right and honor. He objected to going, saying we should have to tell some extravagant stories and then get nothing, and perhaps get ourselves into some trouble. I said we would make only a plain statement of facts; that we are living in perilous times and that the end would justify the means.

We went down there and the only regalia the supervisor of the place had on that denoted any rank in the army was a pair of blue pants; just what rank he held we were unable to determine by those pants. We showed him our orders. He looked at them and said: “What are you here for? Go up to the Park barracks where your orders say.”

“Yes, I know; but we have just come from there; they are all full up there and are running short of rations; they sent us down here.”

“Don’t believe a word of it; they have no business to be short of rations up there and have no business to send you here anyway, and I don’t believe they did.”

“You, sir, have a perfect right to believe just what you please, but here is an order for rations; the boat leaves in about an hour and if we don’t have the rations we shall not go in her, and if we don’t go it will he somebody’s fault.”

Thinking perhaps that tracing out faults might prove unpleasant, he pointed us to a tub of boiled corned beef and a basket of soft bread, telling us to take as little as would do us. To allay any fears he might have on that score, we said we did not care to burden ourselves with any superfluous freight. We not only took the meat and bread he told us to, but helped ourselves liberally to some boiled ham and raw onions that stood near by against his most emphatic protest. So, with some lying on our part and considerable swearing on his part, we succeeded in supplying ourselves with first-class rations.

When we came out, Spencer said: “I was shocked to hear you lie so.”

“But I have not been lying.”

“Well, then, I should like to know what you would call it?”

“What I said might possibly be twisted and contorted into something that would give it the appearance of lying, but I have only made a few positive statements, and as I said before the end justifies the means.”

That statement seemed to satisfy him, and a little while after we were aboard the steamer Albany, bound for Newbern. Standing on the quarter-deck as we steamed down the harbor and through the narrows,

We watched the big city with curious eye,

‘Till the last towering dome had gone out in the sky.

We arrived at Newbern after a four days’ passage and reported to the provost marshal, Capt. Denny of our regiment, who welcomed us back and gave us the liberty of the city. He informed us the regiment was at Fortress Monroe, and if we had only known it while in New York, we could have saved ourselves the trouble of coming here and having to go back. We were somewhat surprised at this intelligence, and disappointed at not knowing it while there, and saving ourselves all this unnecessary trouble and delay. But, however, we must put up with it, and take the next boat back which leaves for Fortress Monroe.

After a four days’ visit here we went aboard the little steamer Vidette, bound for Fortress Monroe. We had aboard about 200 soldiers and about 100 Confederate prisoners. We left in the afternoon and the next morning were at Hatteras inlet. The sea was pretty rough, and in crossing the swash we fouled with a schooner, carrying away her bowsprit and losing one of our anchors. The old captain, who by the way was a jolly old fellow, said he never had so good luck before in getting through the inlet; he had only lost an anchor and taken off a schooner’s bowsprit. As we went past the battery, he yelled out to them to fish up his anchor against he got back.

The following morning we were at Fortress Monroe and here learned that our regiment was at Newport News, at the mouth of the James river. We re-shipped on another boat, and an hour after were receiving the ovations and congratulations of our comrades, after an absence of nearly two months.

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