The Fighting Parson's Regiment
CHAPTER XIX.A general review. Change in condition of tile regiment. Barrett as provost-marshal. Delicate question. Colonel Coan. Gradual disbandment of the army. Discharge of the 48th. Some personal explanations.
[April, 1865.]LITTLE remains to chronicle in the history of the 48th. On the 20th of April, during the truce between the two armies, a general review was held in Raleigh by General Sherman. The 10th corps presented no such appearance as when it marched in review at Hilton Head. Few of the old officers and soldiers were left, and the experiences of the past year had been such as to preclude the possibility of keeping up that almost perfect condition and discipline for which we were so long noted. Our regiment had changed so much that it bore its share of the censure contained in general orders issued a few nights after the review. But sufficient allowance was not made for the peculiar hardships and exposures of the recent campaign, nor for the addition of so many new recruits, at a time when no opportunity was afforded for their proper training and drill. The work of all the troops was done and well done, and no censure should have mingled with the approval they so richly deserved.
After the surrender of Johnston, our brigade, commanded by Colonel Coan, remained in Raleigh, until sent home to be discharged from the service. Captain Barrett, now commissioned major, but unable to be mustered in, on account of the wound of Major Elfwing, which prevented his advancement, was made provostmarshal. The duties of the position were varied and peculiar, but, exercising that excellent good sense and kindly disposition which always characterized him, he gave general satisfaction. It must have been a little embarrassing when he was called upon to settle the question between the negro and his two wives. Having bee'n separated from the object of his early affections, by change of ownership, the negro had found another to solace and comfort him, with whom he had been living some twenty years, and the sudden appearance of wife number one wth a request that he should resume his former relations involved questions too deep for his understanding. The decision of the provost-marshal, that possession for so long a time established the right to hold, and that number one must continue to regard the separation as final, as she had done for so long a period of years, was satisfactory, at least to the negro and wife number two.
The order announcing that Johnston had surrendered, and that the troops would soon be marching homewards, was published April 27; but it was found no simple matter to disband so large an army, and, while no further hostilities were feared, there were many questions to be decided, arising out of the war, which req uired the presence of troops in the South.
The weeks and months which followed brought to the regiment little change from the regular round of guard and fatigue duty, inspections and parades. Coan, who was a captain of the regiment at its organization in 1861, was riow its colonel. Almost the only one of the original officers who remained with the regiment, he had served constantly and faithfully through the intervening years, and was
[June, 1865.]finally mustered out with it. In every position which he occupied, whether commanding a company, the regiment, or a brigade, he always did his part well, and enjayed the confidence and respect af every one. He had no enemies, because he always exercised the authority entrusted to him with good judgment and a due cansideratian for others. Sharing hard-. ships and dangers equally with others, he was wonderfully spared, having never suffered seriously from sickness or wounds. His services an earth are now ended, but his memory is fondly cherished by all who knew him.
June 10, the remnant af the 117th New York State Volunteers was consolidated with our regiment, which became nearly complete in numbers, both of officers and privates. June 19, the 48th escorted the 115th New York to the depot, on their way home to become citizens again, and on the 23d, performed a similar duty far the 203d Pennsylvania Volunteers, which had been brigaded with it for many months.
On the 26th, the regiment was considerably reduced, by the mustering-out af all thase whose term af service wanld expire before September. From this time onwards the story of the journals before us is a dull and unvaried account af simple and uninteresting details, which cantinues until August 31, when the regiment was mustered aut af the service af the United States. On Sunday, September 3, it started in the cars for City Point, where it took steamer far Baltimore. September 5, it arrived in New York city, and on the fallowing day was conveyed to Hart's Island, where it remained encamped until the 12th. On that day, the pay roll was signed for the last time, the regiment was discharged, and the men were transported to New York city, free and independent citizens once more.
This completes the histary of the struggles and triumphs of "the Saints," so
far as it could be gleaned from the materials at hand. The assistance received
from the several journals sent me I have already acknowledged, but while drawing
as largely as possible from these, I have been compelled to rely to a great
extent upan my own. This was kept with constancy and regularity from day to day,
during my whole term of service, and has been useful not
only in furnishing such facts of our daily experience as it contained, but also
in recalling by its perusal much that was unrecorded which has come back to me
from the sleeping recesses of memory. If out of this great dependence upon a
personal narrative there appears more of the individual than is seemly and
proper, I beg, especially from those who participated in the scenes depicted, a
charitable construction of this natural if not necessary tendency, and that I be
absolved from any intention to give to my own special services undue prominence.