Editor’s Note: This article was provided by John Hennessy and transcribed by Jackie Martin. This is one part of a seven part series. To see a list of the entire series, please scroll to the bottom of this article. Please note that the original full series covering the entire Civil War was even longer. The seven parts to be published here at the Siege of Petersburg Online focus on the Siege of Petersburg.
From the Beaver Radical.
HISTORY OF THE ONE-HUNDRED AND FORTIETH PENNSYLVANIA VOLUNTEERS.
BY DR. A. W. ACHESON.
At the hospital Mr. Milligan was sick.
Some wounded came in, among them Dickey. He was wounded at Gettysburg and had only been back two days. Andy Waterson was hit in the thigh.
Aug. 16. With a field glass we could see the Reb works. Our gunboats were shelling them.
Aug. 16[17?]. For several days my wound had been healed, but was tender. On that day the Doctor opened it and took out a piece of the ball and bone. After that it healed thoroughly.
Stockton came back sick. He said the regiment had been pushed forward within five miles of Richmond, and had to fall back double quick.
A man was killed by chloroform on the Fourth Brigade table.
Aug 18. A boat load of sick was to be sent away. Mr. Milligan, Captain Stockton, Captain Day, 16th P. V. Cav. and I were put on board. At City Point we got on the “State of Maine” for Washington.
Aug. 20. Arrived at Annapolis in the evening and went to the hotel with Captain Zurk 26th Michigan, and some others. Among the squad was an officer who had been wounded in the Wilderness, and while going back had the end of his jaw knocked off. The Surgeons told him they could do nothing for him, and would use their efforts towards helping men that could be saved. Another Surgeon with whom he was acquainted passed the tent and he beckoned to him. The same order was given, and the friend refused to cause him pain by useless efforts to stop the bleeding. He felt himself growing weaker until at last he fainted. How long he lay there he could not tell, but when he woke a clot had formed and the bleeding stopped. He got well in spite of the doctors, and is to-day the possessor of a heavy beard which effectually conceals the deformity.
Aug. 23d. As we were going to dinner we noticed a group looking at something, and stopped to see. It was a silver watch with a ball lodged in the center of it. The whole was wrapped with wire to keep it together. The owner had been carrying it over his heart when hit. He said, “It was presented by a friend, and only cost twenty dollars, but I have been offered three hundred for it.”
Went to the pier in the afternoon to see a boat load of starved prisoners come in. They were direct from Rebeldom. Out of three hundred only fourteen could walk. Saw one car load pushed from the boat to the house, and then left as the sun was too hot. Such horrid looking objects we never saw before. Some had been robbed of hats shoes, coats, and blankets, and were nearly naked. Saw others who had been in hospital for weeks, yet were not able to walk. The poor fellows looked like skeletons with their eyes and cheeks sunk, and heads shaved.
Saw Brown, 1st U. S. Sharpshooters. He said at Antietam that “Corn Exchange” regiment was sent on the skirmish line and got shelled. After that they were called the “Cob Exchange.”
Aug. 30. On a stroll to the outside limits of Annapolis, we saw some fortifications erected when Harry Gilmore was in that neighborhood. The trench was four feet deep, and the dirt seven high. Would like to see some of the twelve foot men who were to occupy it.
Walking through the grounds, a companion with us observed that many of the men had white pants on, and asked the reason of it. We told him they had no pants on at all.
Sept. 2. Requested to be sent to our regiment. Got the order and started.
Sept. 3. Met Mr. Milligan in Washington and we both got passes front.
Sept. 4th. At City Point we watched operations. It took twenty-eight negroes to carry the mail. Another lot were loading hay, and every motion was accompanied by a note of some song.
At midnight we were awakened by a great racket. It sounded like forty thousand thunder storms, playing away all at once. Grant had ordered a shotted salute because of Sherman taking Atlanta.
Sept. 5, Built our bunk and talked to the boys. Sanders had been absent wounded, and just returned. He said at Camp Convalescent the boys “cleaned out” the apple sellers, milkmen and every thing else. “Some fellow would holloa, Rally on the Sutler, and away all would go. If it hadn’t been for the Invalids, we would have “Policed” it mighty quick. McKelvey had to send us out side the lines. We stayed there a day, drinking from a well a dead man was found in that evening.”
Gunn had returned too. He said, “I left home five years ago. I got a furlough and went up to ______on lake Champlain.
Two of my brothers kept a store in the town to which I went.
“Helloa soldier! What regiment do you belong to?
“91st New York.”
That was a regiment raised there. I asked if any one was in town from where his father lived, never telling him who I was. He said the old man was down, and would return in the evening. The other brother came in, but did not know me either. Then Pap came in, asked about the 91st, where I was wounded, and so on. I asked if I could ride up with him, and he said yes. We started in the evening and rode fifteen miles in a buck wagon talking a bout everything, but I never gave him an inkling as to who I was, until near home, when I said, “Gunn, that’s your line fence, isn’t it?” pointing to a big walnut tree. Quick as a flash the old man turned and said, “What do you know about my line fence?” I had represented myself as the son of a widow. I looked up in answer to his question and said, “If you’ll take a good look at me you’ll know me, I think.” Five years had changed me but he did know me after that. When we got to the house mother did not know me either, but pap told her before going to bed.
It was then twelve and the rest had all retired. Next morning when breakfast was ready mother told sister to go up stairs and call a soldier that was there. At her call I came. She asked me what regiment I belonged to. Company—-91st N. Y.” “Do you know Aaron Gunn?” “Oh, yes, he and I have messed together all through the war, and are the best kind of friends.” By and by I told her who I was, and then wrote to my brothers to come up double quick.
BUILDING BREAST WORKS.
That evening we moved to the Jerusalem plank road, and were ordered to build works, as an attack was expected. We worked all night, cutting timber and digging. One fellow who shirked duty, and went to sleep in the woods, was killed by a tree falling on him.
Sept. 6. We worked without cessation all day. Rain at noon made it harder.—Grant and Meade rode along to see how we were getting along.
In the morning a squad felled timber.—They did it by cutting the trees half way through on the east side. When the last row was reached on the west side they were cut clear through, and falling on the rest would push all down. It saved much work.
We worked all night without rest. Toward morning it was hard to keep the men at it. Two nights and one day was too much. The best of them would go away and sleep.
Sep. 7. We moved and camped near Fort Warren. There was something new to greet us there—a railroad. And it was a railroad “that you read about.” It was built on the top of the ground, without grading, except at one point where the rebs fired at the cars. It was constructed with extreme rapidity. Where it crossed the Norfolk road, it was necessary to build a tressle work three hundred yards long and ten feet high. On Monday morning there was not a timber cut for it, but on Tuesday evening the cars were running over. So irregular was the—we were going to say grade, but it had none. But so irregular was the track, that in a train of three cars one would be going up, while the others were going down. And when ten cars were in a train, they wound over the hills like a serpent.
Sep. 9. Took a squad of men to cut timber. We were not quite well on returning to the army, and those two nights on the works in the rain did not help us any. Had no appetite for hardtack, and went to a house to buy bread. “Bread! Said the man, “bread!” where am I to get bread? Your soldiers have destroyed my whole place, and stolen everything to eat. I am living on rations furnished by your government. Looked around his place, and sure enough it was DESTROYED. The land was still left, but not much else. Went into one of his slave huts. Oh! ho! the old villain ought to have been compelled to live in it himself awhile to see how it would go. No doubt he is indulging in a little manual labor now, and cursing the “abolitionists” for freeing his “chattles.”
Unsuccessfull here, we went to another house. There were a number of females there—“the men having gone into the city and unable to get back. We asked one with a child in her arms, if she could sell us some bread. She was living on army rations too. If it had been water we were after, we would never have asked her. No! no! She looked as though she had taken a vow never to wash until the Confederacy was free.
Sep. 10. John Haxton was sitting on bed, having just risen, when a bullet entered and went through nine folds of blanket beside him. The reb that shot it could not have been nearer than two miles.
Sep. 13. Was seized with the dysentery so severely, as to be scarcely able to walk.
Sep. 18. Was taken to hospital.
While there a fellow came in shot in the finger. He told a long story about a reb picket doing it. But all the Surgeons thought he did it himself, because grains of powder were around it, a thing that only happens at short range.
One evening a darkey about ten years old, whom Dr, Hoyt had employed, came up with some water—He was an interesting specimen, full of life and fun, and possessed of no ideas beyond a child half his age. “Tom, how high are you?” said the Doctor. “I specks I’m bout ten feet.” “You ten feet high? “Yes sir.” “Well, how high am I then?” “I specks you’s bout thirty feet.”
“Where’s your mother Tom?”
“Massa sole her down souf.”
“Had you any brothers or sister?”
“Yes, but Massa sold ‘em too.”
“ Where is your father?”
The little heart, light and merry all day, was then too full. Amid his sobs we could barely distinguish Massa—sold—Rich—mond. “Never mind Tom,” said Dr. Hoyt, “I’ll be a father to you until your’e able to do better.” There was more than one eye wet at the darkey’s simple story of oppression and wrong. Doctor said when Tom came to him he was half starved and his clothes merely held on him. “Ah, Slavery! Slavery! Institution appointed of God!
One fellow bought a dozen eggs for sixty cents, and eleven were bad.
Applied for a leave and received it on Sept. 24.
At Baltimore on our way back a corporal was lamenting that he had not enough money to take him back to hospital at Alexandria, and his furlough expired that evening.
Handed him two dollars, never having seen him before or since. Knew if he got into the hands of the Provost Marshal it would go hard with him. Months after that, when we had forgotten all about it, we received a letter from Corporal Brainherd, returning and thanking us for it.
Nov. 5 Found the regiment in winter quarters near the Norfolk railroad. Just as we got into camp there was cry of “pack up.” They were soon in line and moved to the rear of Fort Steadman.
(TO BE CONTINUED.)1
140th Pennsylvania Series from the 1869 Washington PA Reporter:
- NP: September 29, 1869 Washington (PA) Reporter: 140th Pennsylvania at the Siege of Petersburg, Part 1
- NP: October 06, 1869 Washington (PA) Reporter: 140th Pennsylvania at the Siege of Petersburg, Part 2
- NP: October 13, 1869 Washington (PA) Reporter: 140th Pennsylvania at the Siege of Petersburg, Part 3
- NP: October 20, 1869 Washington (PA) Reporter: 140th Pennsylvania at the Siege of Petersburg, Part 4
- NP: October 27, 1869 Washington PA Reporter: 140th Pennsylvania at the Siege of Petersburg, Part 5
- NP: November 03, 1869 Washington (PA) Reporter: 140th Pennsylvania at the Siege of Petersburg, Part 6
- NP: November 10, 1869 Washington (PA) Reporter: 140th Pennsylvania at the Siege of Petersburg, Part 7
- “History of the One-Hundred and Fortieth Pennsylvania Volunteers.” Washington PA Reporter. October 27, 1869, p. ? col. ? ↩