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

Post image for Diary of David L. Day.

Diary of David L. Day.

February 5, 2014

David L Day–My diary of rambles with the 25th Mass

Camp West.

Feb. 5. Yesterday afternoon Camp Hancock became a thing of the past. Under command of Major Mulcay, we marched on to the parade ground of the 139th New York during their dress parade, and before it was dismissed, the major marched us up and introduced us to Col. Hoberts. The colonel received us cordially, and complimented us for our soldierly bearing and the good appearance of our arms, equipments and uniforms. We then listened to the reading of an order, assigning us temporarily for duty to this command. A gleam of light now dawned on us. Col. Roberts again addressed us, saying we were here only during the absence of our own regiment, and would hold the same rank and perform the same duties we had done in our own regiment. He added: “Although among strangers, with not a single officer of your own, I know by your appearance .and from what I have heard of you, that you will as willingly observe your orders and perform your duties as cheerfully as you have done heretofore.” Then addressing his own regiment, he said: “Receive these men cordially, sharing with them your quarters and blankets, and in all ways treating them as you would like to he treated under similar circumstances.” We made the welkin ring with cheers for Col. Roberts and his command, which were responded to by the 139th. After this another order was read, stating that the long expected march would commence tomorrow morning, the 6th. Col. Roberts, after addressing a few remarks to his own regiment, turned to us and said: “To you of the 25th Massachusetts, I have nothing to say. You know your duty and I am satisfied you will perform it.”

We were then divided off into parties which would equalize the companies of the regiment; the balance, about 25, were sent to Fort Magruder, which is only a short distance away. A dozen others and myself were assigned to company I, Capt. Phillips. The boys were warmly welcomed, and all set about introducing themselves to each other and getting acquainted. This camp is constructed of small log houses, with board floors and glass windows. The houses are furnished with stoves, chairs, stools, table and sleeping bunks. The officers’ quarters are built of logs with the bark left on, and are large and roomy. Some of them are two stories, others are neat little cottages built in Gothic style, and all present a neat, attractive and artistic appearance. These houses are all supplied and furnished with home comforts, some of them containing cabinet organs. The officers have with them their wives, sisters and other female relatives, who fancy the romance and rough experience of a soldiers’ camp. This is a Brooklyn regiment; it has been out but little more than a year and has been stationed here all this time, so the men have had the opportunity to fix up their camp to suit them. Their first and only service was with Gen. Dix, when he went up the country towards Richmond in the fall of 1862. Since then they have done picket duty around here, and some scouting up in the woods beyond the town.

They seem to have a mortal horror of bushwhackers, and say the woods above here are full of them, with some guerilla bands, it would seem from what these fellows say that the principle business of these guerilla bands is to look out for prisoners escaping from Richmond, and in connection with bushwhackers, to harass small parties of troops who are sent out to look after them. The scouting parties which go out seem to think that the proper way to deal with bushwhackers is to capture them, but scarcely a party goes out without bringing back one or more of their own number either dead or wounded. It is only two days ago I saw a funeral from the camp of the New York First Mounted Rifles of a man who had been killed up there. I tell the Brooklyn boys that the best use a bushwhacker can be put to is to make a target of him, and be sure to hit the bull’s eye when you draw a bead on him; never make a prisoner of one. The Brooklynites are asking our boys a thousand questions, and he latter are telling them blood and thunder stories till the former have come to think we are the veritable heroes of Waterloo.

Our friends here seem to be anxious and troubled about the morrow, wondering what kind of a scrape they are going to get into and whether they will come out all right, and are probing to the bottom the dark side of the matter. I try to cheer them up by telling them that from what experience I have had in this business I am not anticipating much of a storm. It has been too long underway and has been too well advertised; we may have a skirmish, nothing more. If the force around here is all that is going, we shall have to look out and not get into much of a skirmish.

The mystery which has for so many days hung over us is at last cleared up, and Gen. Butler, after finding we were not to be driven nor frightened, has in his order assigning us temporarily for duty, acknowledged he was exceeding his authority in threatening us with permanent assignment and taking our warrants from us. If it had been some other general who didn’t know any better I should think he was relenting of his shabby treatment of us, but Gen. Butler knew better, and that makes his treatment of us all the more reprehensible. I presume we shall have to get ourselves and knapsacks back to the News the same way we got here, although there are boats running round twice and three times a week.

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