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Perry's Saints

The Fighting Parson's Regiment

• Title
• Author
• Preface

• Chapter I
• Chapter II
• Chapter III
• Chapter IV
• Chapter V
• Chapter VI
• Chapter VII
• Chapter VIII
• Chapter IX
• Chapter X
• Chapter XI
• Chapter XII
• Chapter XIII
• Chapter XIV
• Chapter XV
• Chapter XVI
• Chapter XVII
• Chapter XVIII
• Chapter XIX
• Chapter XX



Camp life at Dawfuskie. Scheelings and his "leetle tog." High living. Effects of malaria. Discussing the situation. Emancipation order of General Hunter. Lincoln the emancipator. John C. Calhoun and nullification. Ordered to Pulaski. James Island expedition. A sad failure. Shouting service of the negroes.

[May 1862]
FOR the next few weeks our duties were less severe than they had been. The men, by various expedients, had softened down the severer features of camp life. The tents were enclosed in frameworks of poles, which were covered and decorated with evergreens and southern moss, and the officers vied with each other in rendering their quarters attractive. The most pretentious of all were perhaps those of Captain Elfwing, commonly known as Volks Garden, from the fact that, having many friends in the 46th New York, a German regiment, he brought back from his frequent visits to them liberal supplies of their favorite beverage. Several companies of the regiment were stationed at Cooper's Landing and at other exposed points on the island, and on moonlight nights we sometimes made up parties to accompany the officer of the day in his grand rounds. Often these were made occasions for pleasant entertainments at the little outposts. At Cooper's Landing especially we always found hearty welcome, perhaps because we were often the bearers of letters, which, received at headquarters, were sent in this way to those on detached service. Sometimes the colonel visited not only these stations, but other points less carefully guarded, but from which an attack might be possible. At times the officers united ill a general mess, but for the most part were divided up into small parties of such as were most congenial, which allowed to a greater extent the indulgence of individual tastes.

The bugler, Anthony Scheelings, must not be overlooked, for at this time especially he was one of the most useful members of our organization. With his little pack of dogs, he was roaming the woods {tom early morning till evening parade, and seldom returned without an abundance of appetizing game, which he distributed among the messes with impartial lib- erality. Occasionally a huge rattlesnake Contested with him the right of way, but with gun and dogs he was more than a match for beast or reptile. On one occasion however, Scheelings returned from his accustomed ramble with downcast countenance, and 'upon being questioned as to the cause of his depression, could only answer, "mine leetle tog, mine leetle tog." Some time afterwards, when his grief had lost some of its poignancy, he was able to explain that, while hunting in the marsh, the little cur which was his special favorite, in jumping across a narrow creek, had suddenly disappeared from sight. A huge alligator was discovered soon after, making its way to deeper water, whose movements were hastened by the contents of Scheelings' gun, but the" leetle tog" never returned. The woods abounded with birds and animals, and the numerous creeks and bayous furnished a continuous supply of delicious oysters, and the great sea-turtles, which deposited their eggs along the shores of the river and sound, were often caught too far from their favorite element to effect a retreat. Drill, .- guard and picket duty were kept up with reg- ularity and constancy, but we look back upon the interval between the fall of Pulaski and our assignment as its garrison as one of comparative rest and comfort. The effects of our exposure on the river batteries noW began to be manifest in the pale faces and shrunken forms that crept about the camp, showing that the slow but deadly -malarial poison was fastening upon its victims. Loss of appetite, broken sleep, and a general feeling of lassitude, which found but slight alleviation in quinine, were the precursors of more violent attacks, from which many escaped at the time, but whose after life of miserable weakness and suffering has told how deeply were sown the poisonous seeds of lingering disease.

Our mails came with frequency and regularity, and the papers were fairly devoured in the eagerness to learn of operations in the other departments of the army, but the confusion of statements, often half falsehoods and half conjecture, with the reports of deserters, and negroes who found their way through the rebel lines, and the claims of the Southern papers which they brought, altogether, made a jumble and jargon, in which the truth was buried too deeply for any hope of resurrection. The affairs of our own department were equally involved in obscurity and doubt as far as we were concerned, except those matters in which we took part. This uncertainty, however, did not prevent an active interest in and frequent discussion of movements, and that fiction took the place of fact detracted nothing from the hotness of the argument. We fed on what was furnished us, and often built our hopes and theories, fought battles and gained great victories, on the brilliant but groundless conjectures of unreliable correspondents.

From the journal of Sergeant Thompson I learn that on May 12 the emancipation order of General Hunter was read to the troops. While this was somewhat premature, and was annulled by orders from Washington, it foreshadowed the purpose of President Lincoln, who, with a majority of the people of the North, soon came to regard it as a military necessity, and as such the proclamation of January 1, 1863, was issued, by which slavery in this country was forever abolished. Comparatively few slaves were immediately affected, but as our armies penetrated the rebellious states at different points, and the negroes were not only received and protected, but were organized into regiments for service against their late masters, the wisdom of the measure was fully demonstrated. For this act the name of Lincoln, handed down from age to age, will ever be held sacred in the memory of man, as one of the greatest benefactors of the race.

By the middle of May it became manifest that new movements were contemplated in the department. The other regiments on Dawfuskie were gradually withdrawn, and we became interested to learn what disposition was to be made of us. On the 19th the rumor reached us that we were to garrison Fort pulaski, while most of the troops were to be concentrated in an attack upon Charleston. The 6th Connecticutt and the 28th Massachusetts, which had been encamped near us, were ordered away, and we were left almost alone. On the 21st a party visited Hilton Head, where assurances were received that we should form a part of the attacking force, but results showed the falsity of this assurance.

On our return from the Head we stopped at the house on Braddock's Point formerly occupied by John C. Calhoun, and, among the letters scattered about, found many dating back to 1832, which showed the general prevalence of the nullification doctrines at that time, throughout the state. Had the loyalty and energy of President Jackson descended to Buchanan, these years of suffering and loss would all have been avoided. But out of the evil has come such good that few will dare to say that the results are not worth all the sacrifice.

May 23 all doubt in regard to our destination . was removed by despatches from Generals Terry .and Benham, directing us to proceed at once to Fort Pulaski to do garrison duty. We were I very indignant, and felt ourselves grievously wronged, in being placed in what we regarded as ignominious retirement, after having labored so hard, and prepared ourselves so thoroughly for the field; and the officers united in a respectful but spirited protest to be forwarded to the commanding general, but the colonel, knowing better than we, disapproved, and there was no alternative.

On the 25th, the steamer Mattano took seven companies to the fort, leaving E, B, and C on the island, under the command of Captain Coan. At the wharf we were met by General Terry, who directed us to pitch our tents in the most convenient places outside the fort, still occupied by the 7th Connecticut, which was under marching orders. Several days elapsed before the final orders came for the transfer of this regiment to Edisto Island, during which nearly our whole command was constantly engaged in fatigue duty. Company K was detailed to occupy the hulk of an old vessel that had been anchored. in the channel, just opposite the fort, and it was not until June 2 that the remaining companies were moved into the fort and entered upon garrison duty. On the same day our troopS, under General Benham, landed on J ames Island, on their way to Charleston. The Stono River had been cleared of obstructions by the navy, and it was supposed that the enemy could not intervose an effectual barrier to our

[June, 1862]
advance. The Confederates were gradually driven back, but finally made a stand at a place called Secessionville, which possessed many natural advantages for defence. On the 15th, preparations having been completed, General Stephens charged the earth-works with his division; but the position was too strong, and he was obliged to retire, with heavy loss. A second attempt was about to be made, with a better disposition. of the troops, when General Benham ordered the withdrawal of General Wright's division, and General Stephens was obliged to fonow. The losses were very heavy, owing to the nature of the ground. The Confederates were able to concentrate the fire - of artillery and infantry upon a narrow neck of land between two marshes, over which our troops must pass to make any substantial progress. They soon received re-enforcements, and this attempt on Charleston was abandoned.

From the first it seemed to be determined at Washington that no important movements were expected in our department. The number of troops was always too small for any large undertaking, and in maintaining a depot of supplies and a place for repairs for the navy, and shutting up the entrances to the coast in our vicinity, and thus limiting the operations of the blockade-runners, we seemed to meet all requirements.

While the attempt at James Island was being

The Planter

made, I was on the steamer Cosmopolitan, the headquarters of General Benham, and the reports that were continually brought in were heart-rending. Our troops were cruelly slaughtered, and many fell who had been our companions on Dawfuskie and elsewhere. My business, which was with the commanding general, delayed me several days, and while on the boat, one evening, I was much interested by the performances of the negroes on the lower deck. A great many of them had fled from the neighboring plantations and found refuge on the boat, so that the lower hold was crowded with them. At first, my attention was caught by the sound of the soft, plaintive music of a few female voices. The melody was wild and peculiar, differing from anything I had ever heard before, but presently the character of the music changed to the rude and boisterous, in which a multitude of voices were joined. Being interested, I descended to where I could view the proceedings, and was thus able to witness that singular religious exercise called shouting - which bears a striking resemblance to the ordinary worship of the Shakers. At first the dancing was confined to a few, and some leading voice sang the melody, and the others joined in the chorus, but by and by even the old and decrepit men and women seemed seized by the spirit of music and motion, and one by one were drawn into the moving circle, swelling the volume of sound until the vessel fairly shook with the fierceness of the hallelujah. It was a tumultuous, but hearty expression of thanksgiving that the bonds of slavery had been sundered.