Christmas day was cold and windy. The only noteworthy event in camp was the arrival of a mail. Besides fatigue parties a detail for grand guard of two hundred and fifty men went out under Captain Pope. Our rifles had sounded their fearful Christmas chimes by throwing shells into the city for three hours after one o’clock that morning. About 3 A. M. a fire broke out in Charleston which illumined the whole sky and destroyed twelve buildings before it was subdued, the falling walls injuring many firemen. Chatfield joined Gregg in the bombardment directed upon the fire. The enemy opened rapidly for a time and then gradually ceased, but our guns continued to fire with more or less vigor all day. On their part the Confederates prepared a Christmas surprise for the gunboat ” Marblehead ” lying in the Stono near Legareville. At 6 A. M. some pieces on John’s Island, brought there at night, opened on the gunboat, but were soon driven away with loss of men and guns.
Posts Tagged BBR
Late in the afternoon of December 17 the Fifty-fourth with all the troops was formed to see a deserter shot. The unfortunate man was Joseph Lane, a drafted soldier of the Third New Hampshire. On November 28 he started from Morris Island toward James. At last, despairing of crossing the water ways, he turned back to our lines, representing himself as a Rebel deserter. Taken to the post guard-house, he was recognized by some of his own company, whereupon he was tried and sentenced to death. General Stevenson commanded the division, by reason of General Terry’s illness. After forming, the column moved slowly up the beach followed by a wagon, in which, seated upon his coffin, rode Lane. When the troops halted, the wagon passed along the line to the lower beach. There the coffin was unloaded, the deserter knelt upon it, and at a signal, in full view of all the troops, the blindfolded man received the musket-shots of the firing party, falling forward on his face a quivering corpse.
To carry out the provisions of the Act for the relief of the Fifty-fourth and Fifty-fifth Massachusetts Infantry, Maj. James Sturgis, accompanied by Mr. E. W. Kinsley, a public-spirited citizen, arrived at our camp December 12. They had previously visited the Fifty-fifth Massachusetts, when Colonel Hartwell informed Major Sturgis that neither regiment would receive the relief. Upon meeting Colonel Hallowell the same information was given. At Major Sturgis’s request the officers and first sergeants were then assembled, when the matter was freely discussed. Both gentlemen explained fully the purpose of the Governor and the legislation securing it. Some of the officers and non-commissioned officers replied by a recital of the reasons for refusal hereinbefore set forth. Finally the noncommissioned officers on behalf of the men positively refused the State aid. At their conclusion cheers were given for Governor Andrew, to whom they were grateful for the proffered help. The result of his unsuccessful mission was reported in writing by Major Sturgis to the Governor under date of December 13. In his report he says, —” I deem it proper to say here, that among the many regiments that I saw at Hilton Head, St. Helena Island, Beaufort, Folly, and Morris Island, white and colored, there are none, to my inexperienced eye, that equalled the Fifty-fourth and Fifty-fifth, unless it was the Fortieth Massachusetts, while none surpassed them in any respect.”
Theodore Tilton, in a communication to the Boston “Journal,” dated New York, Dec. 12, 1863, quotes from a letter received by him “from a Massachusetts soldier in the Fifty-fourth “: —“A strange misapprehension exists as to the matter of pay, and it pains us deeply. We came forward at the call of Governor Andrew, in which call he distinctly told us that we were to be subsisted, clothed, paid, and treated in all respects the same as other Massachusetts soldiers. Again, on the presentation of flags to the regiment at Camp Meigs, the Governor reiterated this promise, on the strength of which we marched through Boston, holding our heads high as men and as soldiers. Nor did we grumble because we were not paid the portion of United States bounty paid to other volunteer regiments in advance. Now that we have gained some reputation, we claim the right to be heard.
“Three times have we been mustered in for pay. Twice have we swallowed the insult offered us by the. United States paymaster, contenting ourselves with a simple refusal to acknowledge ourselves different from other Massachusetts soldiers. Once, in the face of insult and intimidation such as no body of men and soldiers were ever subjected to before, we quietly refused and continued to do our duty. For four months we have been steadily working night and day under fire. And such work! Up to our knees in mud half the time, causing the tearing and wearing out of more than the volunteer’s yearly allowance of clothing, denied time to repair and wash (what we might by that means have saved), denied time to drill and perfect ourselves in soldierly qualities, denied the privilege of burying our dead decently. All this we’ve borne patiently, waiting for justice.
“Imagine our surprise and disappointment on the receipt by the last mail of the Governor’s address to the General Court, to find him making a proposition to them to pay this regiment the difference between what the United States Government offers us and what they are legally bound to pay us, which, in effect, advertises us to the world as holding out for money and not from principle, — that we sink our manhood in consideration of a few more dollars. How has this come about? What false friend has been misrepresenting us to the Governor, to make him think that our necessities outweigh our self-respect? I am sure no representation of ours ever impelled him to that action.”
To the letter Theodore Tilton added some forcible sentences. Among other things he wrote, —“They are not willing that the Federal Government should throw mud upon them, even though Massachusetts stands ready to wipe it off. And perhaps it is not unsoldierly in a soldier, white or black, to object to being insulted by a government which he heroically serves. The regiment whose bayonets pricked the name of Colonel Shaw into the roll of immortal honor can afford to be cheated out of their money, but not out of their manhood.”
December came in, cold and rainy, for the winter weather had set in. The day, however, was a happy and memorable one, for news was received of General Grant’s great victory at Missionary Ridge, and every fort fired a salute, causing spiteful replies from the enemy. A high wind prevailed on the 6th, and those who were upon the bluff or beach witnessed a terrible disaster to the fleet. At 2 P.M. the monitor “Weehawken,” off the island, foundered, carrying to their death, imprisoned below, four officers and twenty-seven men.
Calls for fatigue were now lighter and better borne, for seventy-three conscripts arrived for the Fifty-fourth on November 28, and twenty-two recruits on December 4. Battalion and brigade drills were resumed. We were furnishing heavier details for grand guard, composed usually of several officers and two hundred and fifty men. They went out every third or fourth day during our further stay on the island. For the diversion of the officers the “Christy Minstrels” gave their first performance December 5 in Dr. Bridgham’s hospital tent, enlarged by a wall tent on one side. Songs were sung and jokes cracked in genuine minstrel style.
News was received the last of November that the matter of pay had come up in a new form. Governor Andrew in his message recommended the provisions of an Act which passed the Massachusetts Legislature November 16 in words as follows: ” An Act to make up the Deficiencies in the Monthly Pay of the Fifty-fourth and Fifty-fifth Regiments,” etc., and Section I. of this Act read as follows: — ” There shall be paid out of the Treasury of the Commonwealth to the non-commissioned officers, musicians, and privates of the Fifty-fourth and Fifty-fifth regiments of Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, to those who have been honorably discharged from the service, and to the legal representatives of those who have died in the service, such sums of money as, added to the amounts paid them by the United States, shall render their monthly pay and allowances from the time of their being mustered into the service of the United States equal to that of the other non-commissioned officers, musicians, and privates in the volunteer or regular military service of the United States.”
Upon the receipt of a copy of the Governor’s address and the Act, Colonel Hallowell, on November 23, wrote to Governor Andrew, that notwithstanding the generous action of the State authorities, the men of the Fifty-fourth had enlisted as other soldiers from Massachusetts, and that they would serve without pay until mustered out, rather than accept from the United States less than the amount paid other soldiers. Enlisted men were not less prompt to write to their friends expressing their disapprobation. Theodore Tilton, in a communication to the Boston “Journal,” dated New York, Dec. 12, 1863, quotes from a letter received by him “from a Massachusetts soldier in the Fifty-fourth ” [see the post for 12/11] –
Our brigade number was changed from “Fourth” to “Third” on November 23. Its colored regiments were still required to perform an undue proportion of fatigue work, and but few details for grand guards came for them. After this discrimination had long been borne, General Gillmore in an order said,—” Colored troops will not be required to perform any labor which is not shared by the white troops, but will receive in all respects the same treatment, and be allowed the same opportunities for drill and instruction.”
Thanksgiving Day, November 26, by general orders, was observed by the suspension of all unnecessary labor. At 1.30 p. M. the Fifty-fourth formed with side-arms only, and marched to the beach in front of the Third Brigade headquarters. There, with all the other troops on the island they joined in religious services. It was a glorious day, well fitted for the thorough enjoyment of the feast and sports which followed. In response to a call of the “Black” Committee the friends of the regiment had contributed for Thanksgiving dinner many luxuries. From this source, the company funds, and the efforts of the officers and company cooks, a most abundant and unusual feast was provided. In the afternoon there was much amusement and sport indulged in by the men. A greased pole some twenty feet high was erected, and at the top was suspended a pair of trousers the pockets of which contained $13. After four hours of ludicrously unsuccessful trials on the part of a number of men, Butler of Company K secured the ” full pay ” and the trousers. Wheelbarrow and sack races closed the games.
Colonel Hallowell on his return used every means to have the many detached and detailed men returned to the colors, as heavy working parties of from one hundred to two hundred men were still called for to labor on the new works. Our first instalment of furloughed men having returned, the second left for Hilton Head on November 12. Lieutenant Howard relieved Lieutenant Littlefield as acting adjutant. Sergeant Swails of Company F was made acting sergeant-major and Sergeant Vogelsang of Company H quartermaster-sergeant.
Our new and old works being in readiness at Cumming’s Point, what General Gillmore calls the ” second bombardment of Sumter ” was begun October 26. Its purpose was to prevent guns being mounted there, and to cut down the southeast face, that the casemates of the channel face be taken in reverse. General Seymour had returned and assumed command of the island on the 18th. Under his direction our batteries opened from seven heavy rifles (including a three-hundred-pounder) in Wagner, and four in Gregg and from two mortars. Some fire was directed against Fort Johnson also, the enemy replying briskly. The next day the cannonade was renewed with one gun in Gregg turned upon the city. Our range against Sumter being less than was the case during Wagner’s siege, rendered the force of our shot much greater. Sharpshooters in Sumter armed with the long-range Whitworth rifles were trying to disable our gunners in Gregg, without success.
After four days’ bombardment, a breach was disclosed in the southeast face of Sumter, extending half its length, on which our land and sea fire was concentrated. For about a week longer our bombardment was kept up with great vigor, during which time the enemy suffered many casualties, and Sumter was pounded into a mound of debris covering the lower casemates, in which the garrison found safe refuge…
In honor of some of the officers who had fallen during the operations, Gregg was renamed Fort Putnam ; Wagner, Fort Strong; the Bluff Battery, Fort Shaw ; the new work near Gregg, Battery Chatfield; a work on Lighthouse Inlet, Battery Purviance; and another opposite the last, on Folly Island, Fort Green. By the same order General Gillmore announced that medals of honor, his personal gift, would be furnished to three per cent of the enlisted men who had borne part in the engagements and siege. This medal, however, was not received for some months. In the case of the Fifty-fourth it was awarded to the four men specially mentioned in Colonel Hallowell’s report of the assault of July 18, previously printed herein. There arrived for the regiment a present from Mrs. Colonel Shaw of one thousand small copies of the Gospels, neatly bound in morocco of various colors, which were distributed.
Henry N. Hooper, formerly captain, Thirty-second Massachusetts Infantry, commissioned major of the Fifty-fourth, arrived October 16, and relieved Captain Emilio of the command. It was his fortune to lead the regiment for a longer period and in more actions than any other officer, owing to the assignment of Colonel Hallowell to higher command. On all occasions he proved an able and courageous soldier. Colonel Hallowell, promoted during his absence, returned the day after Major Hooper’s arrival, and was waited upon by the officers, who expressed their pleasure at his recovery and return. A stanch friend of the Fifty-fourth was a visitor in camp about this time, in the person of Albert G. Browne, Esq., the special agent of the Treasury Department, whose headquarters were at Beaufort. His son, Col. Albert G. Browne, Jr., was the military secretary of Governor Andrew, and also one of the regiment’s early and tried friends.
There had been several promotions in consequence of the action of July 18. Lieutenant Smith was made captain of Company G, but was still North; Lieutenant Walton, captain of Company B, vice Willard, resigned. Second Lieutenants T. L. Appleton, Tucker, Howard, Pratt, and Littlefield were made first lieutenants. These officers were all present except Lieutenant Pratt, who never re-joined. Captain Bridge and Lieutenant Emerson had returned from sick leave. Lieutenants E. G. Tomlinson and Charles G. Chipman, appointed to the regiment, had joined. A number of the wounded had returned from hospital, and the first lot of furloughed men came back, and with them Capt. J. W. M. Appleton. By these accessions the Fifty-fourth had more officers and men present toward the last of October than at any time after it left St. Helena Island.
To replace the State color lost on July 18, Governor Andrew caused a new one to be forwarded to the Fifty-fourth. Its receipt on October 2 was attended with great enthusiasm, the rousing cheers of the men being heard for a mile around.