Sergeant Nathan W. Haynes - Diary of April 1862

 

April 2, 1862

Has continued rain all day but...
The following dates are illegible due to fading.


April 3, 1862

This being a day appointed by the Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as a day of public fasting and prayer company drill among the Mass. regiments was dispensed with for this forenoon and ball playing taking its place in which both officers and men indulged. Commissioned officers on one side of the road, noncommissioned officers and privates on the other. Just after dinner the order came to be ready to march at daybreak tomorrow, the afternoon was devoted to cooking rations and arranging matters for the march. One of our best marksmen was discharged from the service on account of disability.


April 4, 1862

Turned out at four o'clock, distributed some clothing among the most needy of the men. Took our three days rations in our haversacks, struck our ponchos, packed our knapsacks and was on line at a quarter before seven o'clock. As we stood in line our comrade George W Wyman took leave of each and every one of us. Gave him three cheers as he turned his steps towards his home in the old Bay state. Took up the line of march at half past seven o'clock a.m., got along finely, was a beautiful day for marching and the roads were in good condition. At noon halted on the battlefield of Big Bethel, stopped at this place an hour to rest and give the men a chance to masticate a few hard biscuits and salt junk. The rebel earthworks still remained; the barracks and stables were very soon in flames and were left burning when we fell in to continue our march. Passed through their works which to us inexperienced minds seemed very extensive and strong. Our march was over a very level portion of the country, had only one slight eminence to climb during the march of today. About three o'clock p.m. passed a piece of the fifth Mass. battery with the carriage broken and the gun dismounted, did not learn the cause till a later hour which was that it was broken while shelling out a rebel earthwork which they had taken possession of before we came up, took only two prisoners. About five o'clock our column past this line of works more to the left and marched a half mile beyond and encamped in an open field. The men were too tired to look about them much and were only too glad to pitch their tents and lie down.


April 5, 1862

Took up the line of march at an early hour, found the traveling more difficult today, the road more cut up and muddy and in some places blockaded by the rebels in their retreat, causing frequent halts which were more tiresome then continued marching. At half past nine o'clock we were favored with a heavy thunder shower lasting about an hour, rendering the road still worse. About noon the distant booming of artillery was heard ahead of us and the troops were hurried forward regardless of mud and water to come up. I with them found the rebels in force about two miles from Yorktown. Took off our knapsacks and marched out to reconnoiter, got out onto a rise of ground and found ourselves face-to-face with a rebel breast work, which soon sent us their complements in the shape of a few shells. Retreated out of range and waited for one of our batteries to come up, a part of which took the position we had just left and opened fire, the remainder going down the road to our right, and the Mass. 22nd soon followed, taking a position in the woods in front of the rebel battery and between our own where we remained undercover listening to the whizzing of the shells through the air until four o'clock p.m. when company B and ten of the sharpshooters were ordered out in front which caused a shower of grape to be scattered among us in a way that was anything but agreeable, also causing company B to retreat at double-quick with seven wounded but none seriously. One man belonging to company A was struck in the abdomen by a spent piece of shell and it is feared mortally wounded, the batteries engaged had two killed and three wounded. After receiving the complements of the rebel battery moved our position in the woods more to the left and prepared to pass the night on our arms. A squad of men from each company were allowed to go for the blankets, knapsacks, etc. while the rest remained. It was a difficult task to find the way out and back through the mud, water and brambles but was at last accomplished. A watch was set to give the alarm in case anything should occur in the rest rolled themselves in their blankets to pass the night.


April 6, 1862

Was roused just at daybreak, rolled up our blanket and awaited orders. The rebels fired a couple of guns to let us know that we were not to suppose that they had evacuated during the night. This being Sunday we have made no demonstration more than to reply occasionally with the heavy guns and keep out a strong picket force. About seven o'clock am were ordered back further in the woods and were allowed a fire to cook coffee if any were so fortunate as to have any, which was not the case with many of our company. About eleven o'clock were ordered back near the ground where we left our knapsacks yesterday. The men were preparing to pass the night here when the order came to be ready to go on picket at dark. The prospect of passing another night in the woods was not very cheering, many of the men starting off without so much as a biscuit in their haversacks, arrived at the post about eight o'clock pm, took our position ---------- a rail fence enclosing a peach orchard from 600 to 800 yards from the rebel line of breast works and 1200 yards from a Fort 6 guns---------. We were attacked during the night by three companies but did not move from our position. Remained lying flat on the ground the rest of the night. One of our men shot a man as he was coming over to our side but did not kill him, he was taken into camp, his wounds dressed, and he gave a great deal of valuable information if true. It was a long night to us and we longed for the coming of Monday, [b]April 7 but did not improve our condition as we had nothing to eat and if a man attempted to rise from the ground he was sure to be shot at by the rebels. They kept up a continuous firing all day at our men from some rifle pits. To make our situation still more unpleasant it commenced to rain about eleven o'clock am and continued throughout the day soaking our garments thoroughly, it was a long, long day to us. Were relieved just after dark having had nothing to eat for the last twenty four hours and remaining in our position for so long a time were rather stiff in the joints. Got back to our camp ground to find some hot coffee awaiting us in the mud ankle-deep for us to lie down to get our sleep but most of us chose to sit by the fire in the rain all night rather than lie down in the mud.


April 8, 1862

Continues to rain. The men are nearly worn out with exposure and fatigue, some of them having had no sleep for three nights. There has been but very few shells fired from either side today. Our troops have been busy getting heavy guns in position; have no idea when an attack will be made.


April 9, 1862

Continues raining and is quite cold, the exposure of the last few days has had such an effect on the men that thirty of them attended the surgeons call this morning. There is scarcely one in the company that is free from some ill caused by lying on the damp ground. But very little firing from the heavy guns, we occasionally have a shell burst near us but no danger is apprehended from them. The pickets seem to be busy to judge from the report of the muskets in that direction. We have passed the day in as miserable condition as can be imagined. As many as could conveniently get around the fire were pleasant and dry one side while the other would get wet through, but there was an end to the long day. Turned in early but did not better our condition much as our blankets were soaked through. Were turned out again at eleven o'clock pm, ordered to equip ourselves for marching and quickly and fall in to the ranks. Were informed by the Lieut. Col. that the enemy were slowly approaching. Our fires were immediately extinguished; we were left to move about in the midnight gloom. It seemed to me ominous for a large body of men to be moving about so silently, orders given in such subdued tones. We were drawn up as usual in mass by division awaiting orders till we were chilled through when we were ordered to about-face and return to quarters. It afterwards appeared that the Mass. 18th Regiment had been out to relieve the picket but failing to find them came in and reported them as taken which was the cause of our being so unceremoniously turned out in the night. It is my opinion that Col. Barnes was the object of many smothered curses about that time.


April 10, 1862

When we turned out this morning it was still raining but not so fast. Had orders to pack up and leave for another campground which was cheerfully and quickly obeyed. Started about noon, marched about two miles out towards York River and camped on some decently dry ground. Just after halting the sun came out bright and warm, dried the ground and our blankets beautifully before sunset. What is to happen next remains to be learned.


April 11, 1862

Once more we have been favored with a clear sunrise. It seems to have a more beneficial effect than all the surgeons in the Army towards strengthening the constitutions of the men. Ten of the sharpshooters were detailed to go on picket duty again today. The pioneers of the Regiment have been busily employed in building bridges across a creek so that Porter's division can get over to the banks of the York River, for what purpose we are not supposed to know. Two of the sharpshooters were taken away to a hospital this afternoon, William H. Allen and Israel A. Berry. There has been but little firing today, dense volumes of smoke has been seen rising in the direction of Yorktown this afternoon but could not determine what was burning as the enemy’s positions could not be seen from campground. Late in the evening a bright light was seen in the same direction, no firing.


April 12, 1862

Has been a beautiful day, the guns of the contending armies have been comparatively quiet; no picket firing has been heard. Vigorous efforts are being made to get our heavy guns in position; the pioneers continued laboring on the bridges. One of our sharpshooters returned to us today having been left at hospital in Hampton.


April 13, 1862

Has been very pleasant and quiet, nothing been except the necessary picket and fatigue duty. Heavy firing has been heard in the direction of Fortress Monroe, it is supposed that the Virginia (Merrimac) has attempted to come out again, up to a late hour no correct report has been heard.


April 14, 1862

Was turned out at an early hour to go on picket duty. After some difficulty in finding the way got on to the posts about eight o'clock am. There was but ten of this company placed upon the outposts, the rest were held in reserve a short distance back in the woods. The day passed off without any unusual occurrence, did not hear of any pickets being shot on either side although some shots were exchanged. At dark rolled ourselves in our blankets ready to fall into line at any time of night at a moment’s notice. About twelve o'clock at night a squad of infantry and three of the shooters went out to reconnoiter but returned without any satisfactory information.


April 15, 1862

Has been very quiet considering the close proximity of the two armies but very few shots have been exchanged during the day. The work on the bridges is going on slowly but surely.


April 16, 1862

Has been hot and sultry, but very little air stirring. The batteries have been busily at work on both sides today, have not learned the extent of damage done. Towards night a piece of shell came near our campground and buried itself in the earth to the depth of ten inches, but was soon exposed to view by the eager crowd. Was an ugly looking piece and would have been likely to have done a human being some damage if he had been hit by it. Soon after the bursting of the shell the Regiment was turned out and formed, closed in mass by companies where we remained awaiting orders till near eleven o'clock, then were ordered to quarters. Did not learn the cause of the alarm.


April 17, 1862

Has been as quiet as usual but the cannonading has been going on spirited on our right in some other division. Many of the Regiment are on fatigue duty employed on the bridges. Were turned out again in the night but as there appears to be no just cause for alarm were allowed to return to our quarters.


April 18, 1862

It still continues pleasant and quite warm. The troops are reposing as quietly under the guns of the enemy as if they were forty miles away. The fatigue parties are kept busily at work building breast works and entrenchments. In the course of the day learned the cause of the alarm last night. It was said the rebels attempted to capture a piece of artillery that was guarded by our pickets. They were repulsed with a severe loss but succeeded in removing the piece a short distance and abandoned it where it still remains. Presume it will be recovered and brought back to its position under cover of darkness.


 

April 19, 1862


It has been very quiet in the Regiment this forenoon. About one o'clock pm a large detail for fatigue duty was made, taking nearly all the available men of the Regiment. [b]Marched about a mile to procure shovels for the party but there not being tools enough for all the sharpshooters two other companies returned to their quarters and dismissed and continued to hold themselves in readiness to turn out and relieve those that had the tools. Commenced to rain soon after we got to our quarters, were not called out. Our captain is quite sick, has been unwell for several days but thought it was nothing serious till lately. Has turned out with the company till yesterday but now he is unable to do duty. The command devolves on Lieut. Stiles.


April 20, 1862

Was woke up this morning by the orderly Sgt. who was getting up a detail for some duty but did not learn what it was. It was raining when they left and continued to rain at intervals all day. Isaac B. Cawdry, a member of this company, died this morning about nine o'clock. Had been in the hospital but four days. As it is impossible to send his body home he is to be buried in the vicinity. Did not get the coffin made till nearly dark then the remainder of the company that were in camp followed him to his dark resting place. Sad indeed it was too lay him away in an enemy's country so far from his friends and relations, but such may be the fate of many more of us ere this war is brought to a close. The fatigue party returned while the funeral procession was away, they were affected by the loss of their late comrade, regretting that they were not present to take a last look at him as he was a favorite of all. The party that was supposed to have been detailed for guard duty was employed in building a earthwork to mount siege guns. Have heard the report of only five heavy guns during the day, four of those were fired from our gunboats and one from the rebel fort, no damage done on either side.

 


April 21, 1862

Continues to rain, no drilling done in camp. Just at dark a fatigue party was detailed to work during the night on the entrenchments. Went on to the work but it rained so hard it was concluded best not to keep the men out in it so they returned to quarters wet through, cleared away soon after. The captain was taken to the hospital this afternoon.


April 22, 1862

Has been warm with frequent showers, the last being a rainstorm about six o'clock pm. The camp was alarmed by seventeen shots in quick succession from the rebel batteries. It afterwards appeared that they were all directed to our reserve picket guard, no one was harmed. The captain is quite feeble, is at the General Hospital, has very comfortable quarters. Hope he will improve rapidly.


April 23, 1862

Has been a beautiful day, a refreshing breeze has been blowing through our camp from the river all day. Fatigue duty and company drill is becoming a standing order in the 22nd Regiment, a part or the whole of the sharpshooters are detailed for fatigue duty every day. This morning eighteen of the men went out but returned at noon. In the evening eighteen more were called for, but after sitting on the bank of the creek about three hours waiting for orders they were sent to their quarters. The captain is no better today. After we had all got turned in an order came from headquarters for every man to fill his canteen with water, shall expect the rest tomorrow morning.


April 24, 1862

The Regiment was turned out at half past four o'clock this morning to get their breakfast and be on line at five thirty with equipment and a canteen full of water. As the surgeons and ambulances were in attendance it gave us the impression that something serious was to happen, but as we were prepared we marched off in good spirits, but it proved to be nothing more than a reconnoitering party and only six companies and ten of the sharpshooters were used, the rest were held in reserve. They returned about noon having acomplished their object. The column formed and marched back to camp, had nothing more to do for the day. Late in the evening an order came for the Regiment to prepare for picket duty tomorrow and be ready to start at an early hour.


April 25, 1862

Turned out at half past three o'clock. Each man made his coffee and was on line at half past four o'clock am, the column moved forward soon after. By crossing the newly formed bridge in the vicinity it was but a short distance to the post. The outposts were stationed and the sharpshooters formed a part of the reserve except six that were detailed and stationed in an old house on the banks of the York River where they passed the day very comfortably as it was a very cold and bleak place and it rained most of the day. At dark they were relieved by company B, taking an advanced position. Then rolled themselves in their blankets and prepared to pass the night in the house thinking themselves more fortunate than their comrades back in the woods with but a few bows for shelter. But very few shots were fired at the pickets during the day.


April 26, 1862

All quiet during the night on our parts. Was relieved at an early hour and returned to camp in season to escape a wet jacket. Rained steadily all day, cold and disagreeable, the men kept in their ponchos as much as possible to protect them from the severity of the storm. A report was circulated in camp to the effect that the 1st and 11th Mass. regiments during last night charged upon and Earth work of the enemies, drove them out, leveled the work, spiked the gun and returned taking several prisoners, having three killed and sixteen wounded. Went to the hospital to see the captain, found him no better.


April 27, 1862

Has seemed but very little like Sabbath, everyone appeared to be busy about some little affair of his own till afternoon, then the orders came for duty. First was a detail of one half the Regiment for fatigue duty tonight, then inspection. After supper the other half of the Regiment was ordered to be ready to go out at five o'clock am to relieve those that had worked during the night. Saw the Capt. this afternoon; he thinks he is a little better, hope he is. The rebels have been profuse with their shells today but did not hear as anyone was hurt by them.


April 28, 1862

Was called up at an early hour to get our breakfast and be ready at the appointed time. Got on line in good season and was marched to the entrenchments with the Regiment but instead of going in and shoveling the rights of this company were respected for the first time. As many as were needed were put in rifle pits to watch the enemy (which to us seems to be the proper place for a company of this description) while the rest of us remained undercover during the day. Quite a number of shells burst near us but no one was seriously hurt but two were hit. We were relieved a little before sunset, got to camp and found that the payrolls were being signed so it seems that we are likely to be paid soon.


April 29, 1862

Has been very quiet all the forenoon aside from the company drill. Immediately after dinner the rebels opened fire with shells on our fatigue party that were at work in front of our encampment throwing up a breast work but did not succeed in driving them out, did not hear as anyone was wounded. They continued firing at intervals all the afternoon, most of their shells burst in dangerous proximity to our camp, many of the fragments falling within our lines. The firing was not returned by our forces, towards night it ceased entirely. It is rumored about camp that New Orleans is in possession of the federal troops, hope it is true, have not seen the Capt. today. Just as we were about to turn in an order came to detail a fatigue party from the Regiment, twenty five of the sharpshooters were called for with a Lieut., Sgt., and Cpl.


April 30, 1862

Has been a disagreeable and wet day, the fatigue party marched off at five o'clock am. Fire was opened from a battery of heavy guns from our side today which we think must have astonished the rebels as nearly every shot dropped inside their works. The firing continued nearly two hours, the enemy replying occasionally but doing no damage. The Regiment was ordered to muster for payment at ten o'clock am. But on account of the rain it was deferred till nearly night and then mustered by companies. During the night firing commenced on both sides and continued till an early hour on the morning of May 1, 1862 when it became so foggy that objects could not be seen at any distance in the firing ceased for a while, but resumed again during the day. Have not heard as any damage has been done, has been raining most of the day making it decidedly unpleasant for the fatigue parties, as their duty is shoveling and it is impossible to keep clean and dry weather. Have heard no news of importance today. Our captain thinks he is very little better. One of our men got his discharge today and intends to leave for home tomorrow. The Capt.'s servant boy goes with him, we all regret to part with him but his constitution will not admit of his remaining in the service longer. I don't think there is a man in the company but has told him that he wished he was going to.