Woburn Weekly Budget - September 25, 1862
September 25, 1862
My last letter dated June 25, and having been silent so long I had no thought of continuing the series. Since reaching Woburn, however, I have been solicited to write out an account of my adventures in Dixie since the above named date and have concluded to do so. The letters will appear from week to week, for the present.
About two o'clock on the morning of the 26th, we were ordered under arms and remained so until daylight. The order then came for us to go on picket, and the regiment started off. After proceeding a short distance the order was countermanded, and they returned to camp. The duty required was guarding the telegraph so that a small detail from each company was sufficent. The detail was made, the men started off, the regiment settled down to the routine of camp life. On Thursday Cos. A, F, D, and I, were detailed for picket near the pontoon-bridge across the Chickahominy, and went out early in the morning. Having been under medical treatment for several days, I did not accompany them. Capt. Simonds and three men who went on picket the day previous also remained in camp.
About noon orders came for the regiment to fall in. The acting orderly sergeant then informed us that the surgeon had reported me for duty, and that with the other men just mentioned, we were ordered to report ourselves to Co. C, Capt. Burt. the regiment was soon inits place in the brigade, and marching up the Hanover road. We made a long halt where the Mechainicsville road crosses the one on which we were travelling, which is about three miles from our camp. About 3 o'clock we moved half a mile further up the road, and took a position in a wood a little way from the road. Firing began to be heard further up the road and also on our left in the direction of Mechanicsville, and we learned that Jackson had reinforced the rebels, and our forces at that place had been attacked. We remained here a short time, and then returned to the woods where we first halted. Here the brigade was formed, the 22d on the right, and marched through the woods to the open field beyond, on the Mechanicsville road. The rebels were pouring shot and shell into this field as if they expected it was full of Yankees, but we crossed it in safety and took our appointed place near the fence which bounded the field, where we could if needed suport any of the regiments that were skirmishing in the wood. While there a conical shell killed a member of Co. K, and took the legs off three members of Co. H. The wounded men were taken off the field, but they died before morning. Col. Gove then moved the regiment further to the right out of range. The firing continued until long after dark, and was the heaviest cannonading I ever heard. There was a continuous roar of artillery drowning the sound of muskets, making the engagement appear more like a bombardment then a battle. About nine o'clock in the evening the firing ceased, and our regiment marched back to the road. Co. C was then sent out again into the field and posted pickets. We stood at our posts without relief until daylight, when we were called in, and the regiment returned to camp.
22d Regt. Mass. Vols. at Gaines Mill
Arrived in camp we were ordered to pack knapsacks which we did, the firing heard from Mechanicsville, sounding each moment nearer, hastening our movements. The wagons, heavily laden, went the night before, and what remined in the quartermaster's department was destroyed. The whole force got safely over the little stream at Gaines Mill, and batteries were placed on the hill above to hold the rebels in check. We moved around the strip of woods on the border of the Gaines estate about a half a mile from the old mansion, halted and took up position. The strip of woods covered a steep hill, terminating at its base in a deep wide ditch. From this ditch on the other side a corresponding hill arose, cultivated with wheat and consequently bare of trees. I can only give with certainty our own position, as having been posted, it was impossible to leave the place to view the rest of the field. the 13th and 25th New York were ordered down to the edge of the ditch, where they felled large trees, and soon had a strong breastwork erected. Our regiment did the same at the top of the hill, each company cutting a large tree several feet in diameter, for a breastwork, the limbs being trimmed and placed so as to be a serious obstacle in climbing the logs from the outside. We were ordered to lie down behing the logs and not fire without orders. the firing all morning had been distant, but now the rebels had evidently got pretty near, for we had hardly finished our breastwork when they appeared on the opposite hill and opened fire on the New Yorkers. It as returned with great spirit, and three times the rebels repulsed with great loss. Once their color bearer was killed and the 13th secured the colors. But each time they were driven back they returned to fight with fresh men and increased number. Our men were impatient to take an active part in the engagement, but no orders were given, until finally the 13th came pouring over our breastwork saying "get up boys and give 'em some!" We did so, though with what effect we could not know, as the smoke was too thick to permit of our taking aim. The rebels, however, followed the Yorkers closely, and our fire msut have given them a momentary check, as they moved off to the left, and some appeared on our right flank, driving Co. A from its defences. I was loading my gun when I saw the rebels jumping over the other end of our log. The regiment flanked on both sides, had fallen back, a part of our company who had remained in their places until this moment, now followed suit. We had gone but a short distance when "Halt, 22d!" was shouted, and an attempt made to rally. Those whose guns were loaded, turned and fired. I capped mine, faced about, and just as I fired a rebel ball went into my left leg, grazing the shin bone, and coming out at the lower part of the calf, tearing the flesh out in its passage, making an ugly hole. I was knocked down by it, but tying my handkerchief around the wound, stopped the flow of blood. The balls were flying like rain, so I crawled over the hill to get out of range. A rebel soon came along (his regiment had passed over me), and pointed a pistol at me. I told him I was wounded and not to shoot. He demanded my gun, and as it was discharged I give it up. Then striking me on the head with his pistol, and saying "Lay down!" he left me.
On regaining consciousness I saw with dismay that the rebels were not only behind, but on both sides of us, and I then gave up hope of reaching my regiment. At that time I noticed that one of our batteries had made a stand on the opposite hill, and begun to pour a destructive fire of grape and cannister into the rebel ranks, which were approaching the spot where I lay. Finding myself in more danger then before, I crawled into a little gully cut in the soft soil by the rain, where I lay in safety. Four regiments, comprising Prior's Brigade, marched by where I lay. Next came a squad of rebels each with a piece of red card, six inches square, on his cap stating that the bearer was a member of the "Ambulance Corps, detailed to look after the wounded". One of these picked me up, and having assured me of my safety, started with several other prisoners, among whom were Dr. Seeley and his assistant P. DeSpelder, of the 16th Michigan for the hospital at young Gaines' house, a mile and a half distant. They took us back over the battle ground, now thickly strewn with the dead and dying who but an hour ago were full of life and hope. I recognized, Capt. Dunning of Co. D, who lay dead, and a rebel was just taking his pistols; Corp. F. W. Thompson, of our company was also dead. These were the only ones I saw as they hurried me along, though the loss in our regiment must have been great. On our way we passed rebel troops in great numbers and one of our guards said Jackson had brought 60,000 with him. We were so often told that no harm would come to us that we began to think that some wrong was feared by the guard, and strange as it may seem when we reached the field near our old camp where our troops were formeerly reviewed by General Prim, a rebel colonel, named Johnson, stopped and questioned us, and then made the following remarkable admission:
"Doctor, our men are much exasperated, and there are some desperate ones among them who are quite reckless when away from their officers, and you had better keep your party together, and get to the hospital as soon as possible where you will get good care. But if any of you should straggle off alone, and our boys see you, I could't answer for you ever seeing Richmond". With this he rode off, our guard again assuring us that no one should molest us while under their charge, and we continued our weary journey to the hospital.
John Lord Parker