SOPO Editor’s Note: This article was transcribed by Jackie Martin. This series of articles covers the Civil War “Memories” of Private Thomas Moore of the 96th New York. In an article accompanying this series, I discuss how the clues provided in these articles allowed me to figure out the regiment to which Thomas Moore belonged.
MEMORIES OF A CIVIL WAR VETERAN
The fifth and final installment of the Civil War Memories of Thomas Moore, uncle of the Rev. Herbert Moore, is presented below. Enlisting at the age of 16, he describes his experiences with the northern forces. Last week’s installment dealt with the siege of Richmond, the taking of Fort Harrison and its defense against enemy attack.
Making Bomb Proofs
We had to work four hours on and four hours off, night and day, making bomb proofs, and turning the fort [Fort Harrison] to face the other way from what it did when we took it.1 The Reb sharp shooters kept up a continual fire on us in the day time. When a man was down in the ditch throwing up the dirt, he was safe, but when he changed off and went up on the bank to level off the dirt, he was a good mark for a sharp shooter, and every few minutes some man would drop his shovel and say, “I am hit,” or fall and say nothing. I remember one young man,—when the officer told him to come out of the ditch and change off with the man on top of the works, he said he wouldn’t do it. The officer pulled out his revolver and shot the man, called a stretcher and had him carried away. This was no place to disobey orders.
After we got the fort turned and fixed in good shape, our regiment moved down the line a short distance to where the negro division fighters were when we took the fort. It was in the night when we moved. We had no tents, so we just laid down wherever we happened to be. I said to my brother (Walter), “This must be a swampy place. The water seems to be near the surface.” We didn’t have any roll call so I slept a little late. My brother (Walter) came and said to me, “Get up, Tom, you are lying right on top of a dead negro.” This is what made the ground feel so soft. These negroes were not buried for three days after they were killed, and then they could not be moved, so a hole was dug along the side of each one and he was rolled over into the hole and covered up. The continual tramping over them had leveled them down till we could scarcely tell where they were.
Build Winter Quarters
We built our winter quarters on this ground, and Nelce Bush of Co. O had one of these darkies in his tent and when a new recruit came to the regiment, Nelce took great delight in showing him his darky by throwing a little dirt off his head. The recruit would go out horrified from there. We went to the old Fairoak ground where we found the Rebs in 1862. Here we ran into a trap. Our Colonel lost his leg, and Capt. Harris the flag, I have told you of. We (he*) went to Richmond as prisoners of war with a whole lot of others. We left camp about five in the morning and got back about ten o’ clock at night, with less than half the men we had in the morning.2 The commissary had drawed whiskey for the men, or the number of men we had in the morning. When the sargent found out there were so many men gone, he just told the men to help themselves and we had the most drunk men I ever saw. I told my brother (Walter) that night that if the Rebs would come in on us, they would take the whole line, and I am sure they would. I forgot to tell you that the next morning after the Rebs tried to take Fort Harrison back [October 1, 1864], I went on picket to release the sharp shooter who had been on since the day before. We had a lively time. This same Captain Harris was in command of the picket line. We formed in line behind our breastworks and ran out to a given point and threw ourselves down on the ground to lay here for 24 hours. This same hill or hogback was between us. The Rebs on one side, and us on the other. As we went out, we passed over the killed and wounded of the day before. They didn’t get a chance to care for their wounded or bury their dead for three days on account of the incessant sharp shooting. Then a flag of truce was hoisted and we agreed to have no more sharp shooting till an attack could be made by one side or the other. After about three months—
EDITOR’S NOTE—Thus, in the middle of a sentence, the “Memories of a Civil War Veteran” come abruptly to an end. No explanation for the sudden breaking off of the memories is forthcoming from the veteran’s relatives in Northern New York. It is known that Thomas Moore went west after the Civil War, settling in Macon, Nebraska, for many years where he made a success in the store business, later moving to McCook, Nebraska. He returned to Ellenburg Depot, his old home town, for occasional visits, and it was on one of these visits that his recollections were jotted down by a relative there.
*Probably misquoted and meant to read “he”3
Thomas Moore’s Siege of Petersburg in the Sandy Creek (NY) News:
- Finding Thomas Moore: An Army of the James Soldier’s Account of the Petersburg Campaign
- NP: February 26, 1953 Sandy Creek (NY) News: Thomas Moore (96th NY) at the Siege of Petersburg, Part 2
- SOPO Editor’s Note: Moore is talking about Fort Harrison, which his brigade helped capture on September 29, 1864. ↩
- Moore is discussing the Battle of Fair Oaks and Darbytown Road, fought on October 27, 1864. As he alludes, this was a fight where absolutely no ground was taken despite high casualties. ↩
- “Memories of a Civil War Veteran.” Sandy Creek (NY) News. March 26, 1953, p. 2, col. 4-6 ↩
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