Woburn Weekly Budget - May 28, 1862
Headquarters 22d Reg. Mass. Vols.
Peake's Turnout, Va.
May 28, 1862
Early Thursday morning our brigade packed up and started again on the road to Richmond. The weather was warm, and by the time we reached the cross roads where is a tavern called Cool Harbor we would all of us been glad to have found it a cool harbor for us. Gen. Franklin's division was encmped here, and after a rest of a few minutes we proceeded about three miles further and encamped near Kidd's Mill, on the border of Chickahomany Swamp. This mill is now owned by a man named Barker. After a night's rest the boys had a chance to look around them, and the consequence was sweet potatoes, green peas, strawberries and other delicacies, were not long in finding their way into camp. Of the former there was a considerable quantity stored in the vicinity, and we had a change of diet from the universal hard tack and salt junk which was very acceptable. The mill pond was found very useful and the tired and dusty heroes of Porter's Reserve enjoyed an excellent bath. Saturday non the 22d fell in to go on picket, and though it was raining hard we started off and relived the 83rd Pennsylvania about a mile from camp. Our headquarters was at the house of Dr. Thos. J. Williams, a sesessionist who is now in Richmond. His estate is an old one, though the dwelling-house and two houses for negro quarters were nearly new, and attached to one of the bedsteads was a business card of the makers, a firm from Leominister, Mass. In the garden wasa good supply of green peas from which we made a very palatable dish, and also picked enough berries to make a green gooseberry sauce. this was rather high living for soldiers, too good to last, but we felt a good deal reconciled to the hard duty of picket, by this unexpected addition to our bill of fare. During Saturday night the rain ceased, and Sunday was a pleasant day. At one of the picket posts about two miles to the right, where part of the picket was posted, they bought hoe cakes, milk, and eggs, so on the whole our picket at Dr. Williams' was not very bad.
At five o'clock Monday morning we received orders, quite unexpectedly, to be ready to march, and we were soon in line and marched about three miles and encamped on Gaine's Mills, said to be one mile from New Bridge, and ten from Richmond. Here we came up with our old friend "Intrepid", whose areial reconnoisances have been of much value to us. The mills from which this place takes its name is a grist and saw mill owned by Dr. Gaines, a rebel. The mills are being run by Federal soldiers, and the grist mill turns out corn meal, for the Quartermaster's department. Many of our boys bought meal, and luxuriated in hoe cakes. About taps, Monday night, orders were received to be ready to leave camp in light marching order by four the next morning. This looked like fighting, but there was no hint to inform us where we were going, and we did not even know how long we should be gone, but light marching order means something all said, so it proved. As some of our readers may not know the meaning of this term I will explain. Heavy marching order is when we carry all our traps, knapsacks, tents, etc., in fact our house, furniture and rations; in light order we only take our equipments and our rations.
Tuesday morning we left camp in a cold northeast storm, and paddled off through the mud on the Richmond road. I have written mnay times about Virginia roads, and the reader will know how bad it was when I say it was in its usual rainy day condition. We kept on for three miles, where a road crossed ours at right angles, and the signboard said "Richmond 7 miles". The boys hailed with joy this sign, as we were not sure we had been within seven miles of the rebel capital, the nearest we have ever been; but we didn't take that road, but kept our course, the signboard saying it was "3 miles to Pole Green Church". We passed this church, which was a neat little edifice, some better than we usually find in this country. It began to be rumored along the line that we were going to take possesion of the Virginia Central Railroad, and as we were gradually approaching the road, it seemed quite probable. At half-past one o'clock we reached the spot where I am writing, about fifteen miles from camp. We halted a few minutes at a house a short distance down the road, and there saw two rebel prisoners which had been captued by the advance of our division. From these were learned the rebels were all along the railroad, and, as the railroad runs at right angle, as with the road we were traveling, they were on our right and left. The 22d were deployed to the left, across the field, and at the same time the 25th New York engaged the rebels at the right. Two guns of Griffin's Battery took up position near the road which branched off towards the railroad, and opened fire on the rebels, who were drawn up about three hundred yards off. Our skirmishers exchanged a few shots with them, but we could not learn with what effect. -- The rebels, as soon as the battery opned up on them, began falling back, and some went off in the cars.
Start of the Battle of Hanover Court House 1:45pm - 22d in the field as Skirmishers?
Meantime, our boys had got over to the railroad, and taken up some rails and cut the telegraph wire, thereby cutting off Stonewall Jackson's communication with Richmond. Having accomplished this, we were recalled and ordered up to the right. When we arrived where the 25th were engaged, they had driven the rebels back, so our regiment filed through the woods to the railroad track, and started in the direction of Hanover Court House, five miles up the road. On the way we took up the track in several places, and went to within a mile of the court house. At that time we heard heavy firing in the direction we had engaged the rebels, and after a short rest came out upon the road, and turned back to our starting place. On the way we learned that there had been heavy fighting, and as we approached, it became very evident. In fact, our troops were still hard at it. We pressed forward as fast as the tired state of the men would permit, but it was all over when we reached the battleground, and our gallant boys had driven back the rebels with heavy loss and taken a great number of prisoners. We met large squads of prisoners on their way to the rear, and as we followed up our regiments, ready to support them if necessary, passed many dead and wounded soldiers lying on the field, or being carried to the hospitals. The 2d Maine, 25th and 44th N.Y., 9th Mass., and 62d Pennsylvania bore the heaviest of the fighting, and the whole division took part in some way. We bivouacked last night on the battlefield, and this morning buried the dead. The field and surrounding woods are strewed with rebel dead -- I could not learn the number, neither our loss, but the rebel loss was much heavier than ours. All the troops engaged did well, and were complimented by their generals. We began the chase and were in at the death, but wer enot closely engaged, though we should have been had we not been sent up the railroad. The fight was a hard one, seven thousand rebels, consisting of a Mississippi and Georgia regiment, and the remainder North Carolina troops. On our river side was Porter's division. At one time the rebels came out on the road and were very near capturing the rear of our train; indeed they did take some stuff, though I believe there were no prisoners. Capt. Thompson had a pack horse which carried his tent and baggag and it was being led in the rear of the division by a member of the company, the horse was captured but the man escaped. At the same time one of our ambulances was so near being captured that the driver left it and took to his heels. The rebels were driven back however, and the ambulance recovered. Several hundred prisoners were taken, and in this connection a gallant exploit of Lieut. Conant, commanding Company I, deserves notice. This morning we went out alone, through the woods where the fight took place, having been told be a negress that there were several rebels at a house in that direction. He found the house, and reconnoitering the situation no one appeared to be stirring, so he determined on a bold stroke. Stepping up to the door, he shouted to an imaginary company, "Down men!" and then rushing in, seized the arms, of the entire party of seven, which were stacked in the centre of the room, calling upon the soldiers to surrender. They did so, and the party proved to be a captain, sergeant, and five men, of the 18th N. Carolina. three were wounded, and the rest were with them to take care of them. Lieut. Conant ordered the well ones to go to camp with him, telling them he would not call his men if they were peacable, but that the woods were full of our boys, and he actually marched them to camp alone and unaided. The rebel captain was much chagrined when he learned the true state of the case. He subsequently went out and brought in four more, making eleven prisoners in all, which all must allow was a good day's work for one man.
This morning the 22d accompanied by a detachment of lancers, made a reconnoisance about four miles on the Richmond road, and there found the rebel rear guard. Not being strong enough to engage them, we returned to this place. All along the road, clothing and camp equipage was strewn, showing that the flight of rebels had been very precipitous. Their camp was just over the railroad, and was made of booths, only two tents being found there and those belonged to officers. In one of those was found a rebel regimental flag, on the white bar of which was wrought "M'Cowan Guards". We are fourteen miles to Richmond, and all anxious to lessen the distance. The rebels here show good pluck, and say they are not pressed into service, but were bound to fight us, though they say we are very different men from what they had fancied. The troops are all in good spirits, and ready to engage the enemy again, whenever it is thought best.
John Lord Parker