SOPO Editor’s Note: This article was transcribed by Jackie Martin.
MAJ A. J. HOUGH’S EXPERIENCES.
DARING DEEDS OF “CAPT JACK”
Of the 9th New Hampshire, Regiment—Planted the Colors in the Crater at the Battle of the Mine—The Charge of Totopotomoy Creek.
Maj Andrew J. Hough, a well known citizen of North Adams or Capt “Jack,” as he was called in the bloody winter of 1862-3, was a very active soldier under Gen Griffin in the army of the Potomac. He enlisted in May, 1862, as a private in the 9th New Hampshire volunteers and was commissioned a lieutenant of Co D. A recently published history of the distinguished 9th shows that Capt “Jack” was a fearless and noteworthy soldier, and makes public some proud honors which are his. Mr Hough was born in Dover, N. H., August 8, 1837, and was the son of English parents who came from Manchester. At the age of 13 he was apprenticed to learn the art of designer and sketch maker in the Cocheco print works of his native town. He married Miss Mary E. Roberts. Soon after his enlistment he was promoted to be captain of Co I, receiving his commission in November, 1862. He served with distinction in the contests that were terribly waged in the slopes of Fredericksburg, was detailed as aide and provost-marshal on the staff of Gen Frye at Nicholasville, returned to his regiment, was distinguished at the battle for the mine before Petersburg, July 3, 186, was shot down in the crater, left for dead, carried to Libby prison, subsequently exchanged and paroled in December, 1864, and discharged June, 1865, because of his frightful wounds. He returned to Dover to his old place in the mill, moved in 1867 to Providence, R. I., to Lowell in 1872 and in 1882 moved to North Adams, where he is now employed at the business he learned in antebellum days, in the Windsor print works of that city. He is an honored member of Sanford post, has been its commander three times, is a high member of the Masonic fraternity and has held the highest office in Odd Fellowship.
To whom belongs the honor of placing the Union colors at the crater in the battle of the mine on the enemy’s ground, is a question which was long unanswered positively, and regiments from several states have laid claim to it. Now it seems proved beyond a doubt that it was the 9th New Hampshire, under command of Capt “Jack.” The mine was the scheme of Col [Henry] Pleasants [of the 48th Pennsylvania], a Pennsylvania engineer, to dislodge the rebels from a coveted position at Petersburg. It had taken a month in the digging by Pennsylvania coal miners, and was ready to explode July 30  at 3:30 o’ clock in the morning. The fuses went out when first lighted, and the rebel fort stood still, though thousands of Union eyes looked for it ascending heavenward. Two miners volunteered to enter the tunnel and investigate. They relighted the fuses, and two hours after the set time the fort went up. It was then early dawn, and a poor time for the carrying out of the conceived plans. Capt “Jack” was in command of his regiment, then only a handful of men. The awful noise of the explosion had hardly died away until he had given the command “Forward.” The men of the 9th sprang to their feet and over their intrenchments, and were into the crater in an instant, planting their colors the first on the dreadful site of the fort.
It is written of that scene: “No pen can ever do justice to the dreadful scenes of that holocaust—the minie balls were falling like hail, shot and shell were coming thick and fast, and, to add to the horror, the shells from the mortars were dropping in our midst every four or five seconds, literally tearing the men to pieces. Dismembered bodies, legs, arms and heads strewed the ground in every direction, and this horrible butchery explains why the men’s clothes were covered with blood and fragments of human flesh and brains to a degree never seen in any other battle of the war.” “Capt Hough,” says Sergeant Wakefield, “was right in the thick of the fight. I saw him when he was shot down.” Adjutant Brown, writing to Maj Chandler, said, August 7, 1864: “The captain is dead. He died well in battle, brave and cheerful. He was rather rash on the 30th, but was not so when he lost his life. At one time he jumped on the parapet of the fort, waving the colors to stop the negroes from firing at us. He was very much exposed, and upon being remonstrated with, said there was no bullet for him that day. Only a few minutes after he was shot through the neck. I have written his wife.”
Capt “Jack” was shot through the neck, but he was not killed. He lay on the ground at that terrible crater, in the burning sun for 36 hours. He was picked up by the rebels and made a prisoner. He was conveyed to Libby prison and remained in that place of torture for six months. Almost dead from the hardships of the place, he moved one of his keepers to show him a little fraternalism by making a sign of his secret order. He recovered slowly from his wound and in the mean time his wife and relatives were numbering him with the dead. He was exchanged and breveted major for his gallant conduct in the field. At Totopotomoy Creek Capt “Jack” and his men covered themselves with glory. It was desired to drive the rebels from the hill and some brigades had unsuccessfully charged the position. Gen Potter went to Gen Griffin and said, “For God’s sake, Griffin, haven’t you something that can take that position?” “Yes,” replied Griffin. “I’ve got a little regiment out here that can do it.” The 9th were then getting some needed rations and thought they would be allowed to rest. But Gen Griffin sent for Capt Hough and gave him orders to charge the place. The 9th forgot their rations in presence of duty and followed their intrepid captain through the ravine to the hill. They were met with showers of bullets as they clambered to the top and at the captain’s command, “Up, boys, and at ’em,” they rushed upon the rebels and routed them. A few minutes after the victory Gen Potter came walking up the hill and as soon as he reached Hough said: “Thank God, you are not captured. If you had been I would have followed you to Richmond, but that I would have retaken you.” This charge was considered so perilous by Gen Griffin that when he gave Hough his orders he shook hands with him and feelingly said, “Good-by.”
The constant perils and hardships of the soldiers’ life in those days taught him a surprising disregard for danger, and in the turmoil of these engagements Hough and his comrades took occasion to even enjoy a game at cards. A “bomb-proof” was the favorite place for this, and poker was quite generally the favorite game. A “bomb-proof” was a dug-out covered with tree branches. At one of these quiet games when the pot was of considerable size and Hough held the best of hands a rebel shell came trundling into the dug-out and spitting threateningly. The major says it is not known to this day who was the first or last man out of that place or what became of the pot. All got out safely, however, and it was necessary to build another “bomb-proof.” A peculiar incident occurred in June, 1864, which Maj Hough takes some pleasure in relating. It was while Burnside and Warren were maneuvering for position at Cold Harbor. The enemy left their position and were attacking the Union men with great ferocity. Sergeant McGarrett had been detailed a skirmisher and moved forward with the line across an open field. Stopping to breathe, a horseman galloped between the opposing armies and stopped as if in doubt as to his position. The rebels yelled to him to “come on,” but McGarrett was too quick, and took him prisoner. He hurried him back amid the cheers of the company and delivered him over to Capt Hough. The prisoner proved to be a rebel courier and was carrying important dispatches from Gen Hill to Gen Ewell. “Billy” McGarrett was so proud of his capture that he demanded a receipt for him from Capt Hough, and the following strange document was drawn up and is preserved by “Billy” until this day:
Headquarters 9th Regiment, N. H. Vols.
In the Field, June 2, 1864.
This is to certify that Sergeant William A McGarrett of Co A of this regiment captured a rebel this evening. Said rebel was supposed to be a courier for the rebel general, A. P. Hill, and at the time was approaching our skirmish line mistaking it for the rebel’s. Said prisoner was mounted at time of capture.
A. J. Hough
Captain Com’d’g 9th N. H. Vols.1
- “Maj A. J. Hough’s Experiences.” Springfield Republican. May 30, 1897, p. 5 col. 3-4 ↩