JUNCTION WITH THE ARMY OF THE POTOMAC.
During the night of the 29th of June, Gen. FERRY's
and Gen. KIMBALL's brigades embarked on steamboats
at Alexandria, and during the next day departed down the river. The men
enjoyed the trip vastly, and noted with the greatest interest the historic
points along the Potomac, Mt. Vernon and scenes of Colonial and
Revolutionary memory, and also the many points of recent interest.
We passed Fortress Monroe in the night, and dropped
anchor in Hampton Roads, from which point, as the sun came up, we were in
full view of the fort, the Rip-raps, Newport News; the masts of the
Cumberland still remaining as left, when Sunk by the rebel iron clad, and
other scenes of the early struggles of the rebellion.
About eleven o'clock, July 1st, we started up the James
River somewhat less jubilant than when we left Alexandria, having become,
by this time, perfectly well aware of what MCCLELLAN's
change of base meant, and the causes therefore. The fate of his army was
now in great doubt, the most appalling disasters being feared.
We arrived at Harrison's Landing about 2 o'clock, on
the 2d of, July, where our transports were moored, and the troops
debarked. The rain was falling in torrents, and the whole country appeared
to be flooded. As soon as the brigades could be formed, they were marched
rapidly to the right and up the river, passing through vast masses of
drenched, forlorn and apparently demoralized troops, the remnants of MCCLELLAN's
army, after the seven days battles. We were in the midst of the grand army
of the Potomac, the general appearance of which, gave only the faintest
idea of a live "anaconda." Oar forces being fresh, were moved in the
direction of Malvern Hill, and formed in line of battle near Turkey Bend,
where we remained under, arms all night, in a ceaseless torrent of rain.
The next morning, a heavy connonade commenced down the
river, and Kimball's brigade was moved back about two miles, and formed
with front from the river. This whole country, with the exception of the
Harrison farm, was covered with dense pine forest with an occasional
opening or clearing. KIMBALL was ordered to move
directly to the front, and clear out any rebels he might find in his way.
This was with a view of getting sufficient territory for a camp for the
grand army, and no very serious fighting was expected. The gun boats in
the river had been shelling the woods all the morning, which was still
kept up to our right.
We had advanced but a little way, when we came upon
rebel skirmishers, and sharp shooters, but they gave way readily for the
distance of a mile; none of our men were struck; though the spiteful
minies whizzed through the air continually. As we passed over a large
field, covered with a ripe oat crop, a battery opened upon us, firing
rapidly for a few minutes, the shell in some cases taking effect in the
line, occasioning some loss in the Fourth Ohio and Seventh Virginia. Gens.
KRARNY and FRANKLIN, and other
officers, came up and soon had a battery planted, a few rounds from which
silenced the rebels, and we were left to take up our position and
establish our picket line without further opposition.
On the morning of the 4th, the glorious Fourth of
July, we were aroused by a scattering fire along the picket line, and a
road passing through and at right angles with the line, was completely
enfiladed' by artillery and sharp shooters. This fact was discovered by JOHN
BORN, a German and private of Co. C, who took old
Timothy and the adjutant's horse, and riding one and leading the other,
started up the road to water them. No sooner had he got fairly in the
road, then a storm of balls whistled around him. The horses took the
alarm, wheeled around, and came flying back, with JOHN
lying down on his horse flat, and as he came up to our quarters, sung out
" Meshter Colonel! Mesliter Colonel! it ish no goot going down
dare!" and really from his and the horses visible terror, we would
certainly sympathize with his view of the situation.
The rebels soon opened out upon us, with a brisk fire
all along our line, and Gen. KIMBALL concluded to
dislodge them. Immediately in front of the Eighth, was a
thick pine wood, almost impenetrable; but as soon as the order was given,
we advanced, keeping up as good a line as was possible. The rebels fell
back stealthily delivering their fire from cover, and receiving: but
little injury, while our men being more exposed suffered somewhat.
This skirmishing was kept up for several hours, when it became apparent
that the enemy had left, and leaving a strong picket line, our troops were
withdrawn. Seven men in the Eighth had been wounded, two mortally; so
ended our Fourth of July.
On the 5th, we felled the timber in our front; building
temporary breastworks, with abattis. We remained in this position until
the 9th; two full companies being constantly on fatigue duty, night and
day, occupied in the entrenching and fortifying of camp. This afforded the
men but little rest, and as our camp and garrison equipage had not come
up, and our rations and means of cooking none the best, and with hot, damp
weather, a good deal of sickness broke out.
On the 9th, we fell back within the newly fortified
lines, put up our tents, and looked forward to a little rest. Up to this
time, having been constantly in the; front at work, there had been no
opportunity to visit the troops behind us, but on the next day, we rode
over the camp with Dr. SEXTON, and for the first
time could form some kind of an idea what an army was. Very much of
the timber had been cleared away, from a space some three or four miles
each way, which seemed completely packed with troops, wagon trains, parks
of artillery, mules, horses and beef cattle; squad, company, regimental
and division drills were to be witnessed in every part of the camp.
General officers with numerous staff and orderlies, gorgeously dressed,
with their horses gaily caparisoned, were dashing about in every direction
; bands of music playing, sutler's stores with immense stocks of goods,
the river, for miles a complete forest of masts, contrasted strangely with
the forlorn, worn and weary mass of troops, we had witnessed a few days
before, as this same army emerged from the seven days. battle.
We were in the midst of most interesting scenes of our
early colonial history. Here was the HARRISON
Mansion, in which lived once a signer of the Declaration of Independence,
and in which President HARRISON was born; below us
was the celebrated Westover Estate, once the home of the famous Col. BYRDS—three
generations—the mansion built of brick, brought from England as early as
1680. Here were the ruins of old Jamestown, and there the rock on which
Capt JOHN SMITH's head lay,
when he was saved by the beautiful Pocahontas, from the wrath of King
Powhattan, her father.
Our constant duties having prevented our muster for
payment on the 1st of the month, the muster was had on the 10th, and
muster rolls made out. On the 12th the regiment was inspected by Maj. DAVIS
of MCCLELLAN's staff. On the
16th KIMBALL's brigade was made part of Gen. SUMMER's
corps, soon after known as the Second corps, and with which we remained
during the balance of our term of service, sharing in all the dangers, and
contributing our full part to the glorious achievements of that gallant
and most successful of all the Army Corps.
Our camp was changed to a more central position, and
regular drills, from this time, were had daily until the departure of the
army from the Peninsula.
On the 22d Summer's corps was reviewed by the General
in Chief, MCCLELLAN, on the
plain in rear of the Harrison mansion. Our brigade furnished the only '
raw troops" present who had never taken part in a 'MCCLELLAN'
review, but the General had the grace to remember us as a part of his army
of Western Virginia, and gratified us with terms of commendation.
From this time until the 16th of August, when
Harrison's Landing was evacuated, our duties were the usual routine of a
military camp, guard duty, drills and inspection, with nothing to relieve
the monotony during the whole time, except a reconnaissance on the 5th of
August to near Malvern Hills, the object of which was to capture a body of
rebel troops, which was said to have been frustrated by the misconduct of
Gen. PATTERSON. Previous to this, on the night of
the 30th of July, the whole army was attacked by a terrific cannonade from
rebel batteries planted on the opposite bank of the James River, which,
for a time, was decidedly portentous. But very little damage was done,
however, and very soon after MCCLELLAN's
batteries replied the enemy drew off.
A few of their shot fell in or hear the contraband
camp, which sent the frightened Africans dressed, half dressed and naked,
through the camps in every direction, to the great merriment of the
About this time a Richmond paper was circulated about
camp in which the characteristics of this location and its fitness for a
"Yankee camp" were complacently -discussed. It was said that we would find
no water except the drainage of the marl beds, and that there was no place
known to geography, and but one to theology hotter than Harrison's
We soon appreciated this comment. The water was
execrable and the weather intensely hot. We were surrounded by swamps and
marshes, and the exhalations from these, owing to the recent heavy rains,
were most poisonous, and soon sickness appeared among the troops to a
fearful extent. The Eighth, however, from some cause, suffered but little.
Swarms of flies infested the camp, as the unearthly groans and brays of
the mules and horses continually bore witness. Still there was less
discontent than inaction usually inspires in the soldier. Fresh and very
fine potatoes, onions and tomatoes, from the Bermudas, and other
vegetables, with, the best quality of rations: ice for the hospitals,
clothing and new arms, in many instances, were issued, and every care
taken to put the army in good spirits and perfect condition.