“Hunker Doon Boys!”: The 140th Pennsylvania at the Siege of Petersburg

Last time I introduced a 1902 New Orleans newspaper series on the Donaldsonville LA Artillery at the Siege of Petersburg.  John Hennessy is again responsible for sending along a great newspaper series on a unit at the Siege of Petersburg, this time the 140th Pennsylvania, a Second Corps regiment which saw a lot of action, so much so that it was down to 90 men in November 1864.1  I’d like to also thank Jackie Martin for transcribing these articles for me.

This series of articles comes from the Washington (PA) Reporter in 1869.  The Reporter apparently was given the right to reproduce the articles from the Beaver (PA) Radical.   Rather than just list the links, I’m going to go ahead and reprint the entire set of articles in this post for readers to enjoy, along with links to the articles at The Siege of Petersburg Online

September 29, 1869 Washington PA Reporter: 140th Pennsylvania at the Siege of Petersburg, Part 1

From the Beaver Radical.






“Wood up,” originated from the command of the engineer to the fireman, and meant get ready to move on.

“Grab a root” came from a fellow who was so scared at being shelled that he laid down on the ground and took hold of the root of a tree to hold on, lest he would rise an inch or two and get hit.

“Johnny,” a Rebel; “Greyback,” a Louse or Rebel.

“On the Staff.”   If a man deserted and was retaken, while under guard at headquarters soldiers spoke of him as being on the Staff of the General.

“Mrs.”  At first this was applied to officers whom the soldiers did not think of much account, latterly they spread it around until almost all the men spoke of were alluded to as Mrs. Hancock, Mrs. Caldwell, or Mrs. Barlow.

“Reco-nuisance” Reconnoisance.

“Three years or during,” was the manner in which soldiers always spoke of their enlistment.

“Blue Belly”—Yankee.  “Save”—Steal  “Ox Feathers”—Small pine branches.

“Sheet iron pies”—Crackers.  “Uncle Sam’s sweet cakes”—Crackers.

“Calico soup” was made of mixed vegetables.  It was also called “Uneducated soup.”

“Come and get your quinine,” meant for all sick to report at the hospital.

“Company O”—Darkey cooks.

“Chebang” was an arbor built on pine branches.

“The Mud March”—Burnside’s second movement on Fredericksburg.

“Wooden country”—a country minus wood.

“Bone cart”—barrel to carry dirt in, called so, not because bones were put in it, but because bone and muscle were the motive power.  A soldier carrying his wood into camp on his shoulder, said, “I done cart it to camp.”

“Brass dogs”—Brass cannon.  “Brass band” was frequently applied to a battery.

“Limber to the rear,” really was the movement by which the horses and front wheels were detached from a gun, and went back; but the soldiers spoke of non-combatants retiring from danger, as Limbering to the rear.

“Daddy and sons,” was the cartridge containing the buck and ball.

“Lie down” came from that command in battle when protection from shells was desired.  But at the tap of a brass drum or any unusual sound it could be heard in camp.

“I. C.” stood for Invalid Corps. Those letters were also put on condemned articles by the Inspector; hence soldiers generally spoke of Invalid Corps as “Condemned Yankees.”  It may have been on this account that the Government afterwards changed their name to “Veteran Reserve Corps.”

“Red Tape” was a name given to the forms through which a person had to pass at headquarters.  It rose from the Government using red tape in tying up documents.

“Spread Eagle,” was punishing a man by tying his hands and feet apart.

“Mounted Infantry,” was a punishment by putting men up on a rail.

“Skirmishing”—hunting for greybacks.

“Gutted.”—When a house was emptied of its contents this word described its condition.


“Mother.”—This was used much as Mrs. was.  It was first applied to some Granny of an officer, but afterwards was spread around generally.

The campaign had told fearfully upon our men.  Since crossing the Rapidan nearly 300 had gone down in defence of the flag.  Only one hundred and thirty were present—a mere handful compared with what it was at Harrisburg.  Hard times had been experienced since the start.  The service had been constant.  For thirty days they had not had an opportunity to change their clothing or wash.

July 3.  A delegate from the Christian Commission preached.

The regiment moved back a short distance.  Water was very scarce all along the line, and wells had to be dug.  The water was raised from them by a sweeping pole balance, with a bucket on the end.  Rain had not fallen for thirty days.  Troops moving were always enveloped in a cloud of dust.

July 5.  Built a chebang and pitched a tent behind it.  Got all the air going but had to take the dust with it.

A Johnny went back.  He was not looking sorry.  We asked him if they had any 4th of July yesterday.  “Not much.”  Some one asked him how he was captured, “I came down along the line,” and his eye twinkled as much as to say, “more design than chance.”

Some of the boys came into my tent to ask about home, and I inquired:  “Did you dig works often?”  “Yes got tired at it too.  One night at Coal Harber we took it by reliefs.  Hart’s turn came, and he went out.  A half hour afterwards the next went out and found Hart standing up with one foot on the spade, sound asleep.

“Did you skirmish much?” Yes.  Were on the skirmish line nearly al the time.  Lt. Purey was killed while in command of it.  At the time we were not fifty yards from the Reb works on an open field, without protection, but the Rebs did not dare raise their heads above the works.”


October 6, 1869 Washington PA Reporter: 140th Pennsylvania at the Siege of Petersburg, Part 2

From the Beaver Radical.







Wylie’s life was saved by his watch.

Baldwin was cooking coffee one day when a Reb shot at and hit the fire his tin was on, spilling some of it.  He swore a little, and putting the bucket on the end of a stick held it over the fire.  “D___d if he wouldn’t like to see that reb upset it again.”  Just then the reb put a hole through the bottom of it.  “D___d if he wouldn’t have some coffee yet.”  Borrowed a bucket, and although the reb shot at it several times he sat there until it boiled.

July 8.  We were sent to work on Fort Warren.  It was protected from view of the Rebs by boughs stuck in the ground.  A thousand men were busy at it.  It enclosed two acres.  We worked all day.  In the afternoon a shell flew over us.  All hands dropped their tools, and fled for shelter.  It was the first I had heard since wounded.  Was I scared?  Well I found myself hunting a pile of dirt anyhow.  But there were twenty behind it when I got there, and I stayed out.  The shells had a more devilish yell than formerly.  One struck a tree thirty feet from the ground, and looping off the top, left the shaft quivering in the air.

Only two men were hit.

July 9.  While the regiment was at Cold Harbor they made a charge, but were repulsed, leaving some dead and wounded on the field.  One of company D, Samuel B. Evans, lay all morning in the hot sun, calling for water.  His cries were heard, but being in range of the Rebs, no one felt like relieving him.  At length John L. Hathaway seized two canteens, saying no mess-mate of his should suffer that way, jumped the works, and rushed out to the man.  The Rebs themselves respected the act of kindness, and permitted him to reach his comrade.  But no sooner were the canteens deposited than whiz after whiz came the bullets.  He dropped on the ground and rolled back to our lines.

July 10.  At one A. M. we were routed, and started towards the left.  Marching past the Williams house, we went three miles down the Jerusalem plank road.  There we relieved the Sixth Corps pickets who were going to Washington to fight Early.

The locomotives on the Weldon road could be heard whistling.  A colored engineer came in who said the trains were running for the first time since our cavalry tore up the track.

July 11.  We were relieved by the rest of the Brigade.  The boys found a big pot and made a mess of soup.  Rations of cabbage, pork, crackers and beans had just been issued, with which we had a fine mess.

July 12.  We moved back to the outside line of works, where we were kept busy all afternoon, pulling them down.

A Division of cavalry passed down to make a raid.

In the evening we moved three miles down the road, beyond where we had been.  While at supper an order came to go on picket.  It was already dark.  A mounted Orderly went with us to show the way.  We reached the advanced cavalry posts and established the line in a wheat field.  After posting the men I went to the officer commanding the Cavalry and learned the position of his force.

At eleven P. M. an order came to return to camp.  We did, scrambling back in the dark.  We found the troops ready to move.  Marched back to where we tore down the works.  After daylight.

July 13, we started again.  Our course lay through a pleasanter section than usual.  The fields were green instead of dusty which added to the interest, as well as the comfort of our march.  But the day was hot.

We passed several artillerists in the woods making gabions.  They were woven like baskets, and used in forts, after being filled with dirt.

We halted in a miserable place—on a plain, dusty and minus wood, water and shade.  The heat seemed to come down the near way.  Shelter tents were put up on guns, brush was brought up to shelter us, and we rendered our situation endurable.  A little cannonading took place at noon.

July 14th was occupied in fixing tents.  Blake told me what occurred between the Second Brigade Pioneers and their Captain.  He had a squad out building works in a dangerous place and was lying behind a pine log watching operations.  Every now and then he would give directions—“Hunker down boys! Hunker down! with a strong Irish accent.  “Alex, hunker down cut that bus low Alex.  He daubed his whiskers in the pitch on the log.  “Ah! there I’m all over the sentinel hais oil uv Varginny.  Hunker doon boys! Hunker doon.”

At dark we were taken out on fatigue.  The line of works built by slaves, for the defence of Petersburg in 1862, had to be torn down.  We worked hard until midnight, and then returned.

July 15.  At six A. M. we went out again and worked until noon.  At six P. M. we went out and worked until midnight.

July 16.  The Sanitary and Christian Commissions frequently gave the soldiers a treat.  Sometimes pickles, cabbage or lemons were sent.  At one point on our line of pickets, the two sets were often visiting each other.  One day as a Yank was at dinner, having received some extras, a Johnny came over to chat.  “Hey Yank, what ye got for dinner?”  “Beef, soft bread, salt, coffee, sugar, vinegar lemonade and pickles.  What have you had Johnny?”  O!  bacon and corn meal, but I don’t believe you.”

“Well, Johnny, look for yourself.”

“Whew!  won’t invite me!”.


“O do.”

“No I won’t.”

The Reb sat awhile without saying anything, but getting up, returned to his own line muttering, “Yank I will have some o’ them rations, see if I don’t.”  That night he deserted.  The first thing he said on reaching our line was “I told you Yank I’d have some o’ them.”

Deserters from the enemy were coming very fast.

Each Corps had been assigned some special duty.  Ours was in reserve.  That meant to attract attention—assist and back up any point on the line attacked, and do all the digging for the rest of the army.

Day after day we were kept at work.  As soon as the earth works were leveled, we were set to digging covered ways to the front line.  They were roads four feet deep in the ground, running in a zig zig direction.  The dirt was thrown on the side towards the enemy.  They were intended to protect wagons going to the front.  The first we dug were in the rear of the Fifth Corps.  While there I went up to look at the Rebs.  It appeared very peaceable.  One would hardly suppose the two bodies deadly enemies.  Their line was not two hundred yards away.  They were at work on their fortifications.  There was no firing; the pickets of both sides not fifty yards apart, were standing out apparently unconscious of danger.  The ground between the lines was a contrast with that behind.  There the grass was growing untrodden, and the corn untouched.  It was ground on which to encroach was death.  But back of the lines was dust, dust, dust.  Nothing seemed to be growing.

July 18.  While working ten Rebs deserted.  Some firing began along the lines which resulted in the blowing up of a Reb casson.

For several weeks we were kept working.  The time spent in camp was pleasant or otherwise, according to the weather.  After a long dry spell we had rain.  It came at night.  Many of the boys had no tents.  They lived in chebangs, which answered very well in dry weather.  Only about thirty blankets were in the regiment.  The nights got cold and the days kept hot.  Heavy dews fell; it was a first rate time for chills and fever; it was an awful way of living.  We took our turn regularly at fatigue, but our Headquarter Officers began to intimate that the men were forgetting their knowledge of the musket in their zeal for the spade.  Their hints to Army Headquarters soon took effect.


October 13, 1869 Washington PA Reporter: 140th Pennsylvania at the Siege of Petersburg, Part 3

From the Beaver Radical.







July 23  While out in the front we stepped over to see Lt. Laughlin.  He was not at home, but we went into his “gopher” and left our card.  His house was all cellar, with a mud roof level with the ground.  A hole was dug in the ground, and steps to descend into it.  Two offsets were left for beds.  Shelves were dug in the wall.  The door faced away from the enemy; it was a gopher sure enough.  The mode of living was called “ground-hogging,” and was resorted to by the whole army, horses and all.  The army looked like a town with all the houses on one side of the streets, and the back of the house in front—the front door was behind anyhow.  In walking among them a person was apt to be on a roof before he was aware of it.

From Laughlin’s house we went to the right stopping at Fort Hell (soldiers use very appropriate names) to examine it.  Men were busy at the gabions, traverses and magazine.  As we were passing long another part of the line a shell flew past, instantly there was a stir among the soldiers to see what was fired at.  Several followed the first, one or two bursting over a group of soldiers making coffee.  They fanned away the smoke with their caps and continued cooking.

Among the squad at work in our Division was a man who was crazy on religion.  Some thought he was “playing off,” in order to get discharged.  He always went with an open Bible in his hand, and was preaching.  Neither threats nor appeals had any effect on him.  He professed to have a calling from God, and was bound to do his duty in spite of punishment.

“Yes, I am bound to do my duty,” he exclaimed.  “Well” said a comrade, “since you’ve enlisted your duty is to serve Uncle Sam.  So come take a shovel.”  He always dodged the point of duty to the country.  He ought to have been in the asylum.

July 24.  Mr. Milligan preached.

July 26.  At four P. M. we started—no one knew whither.  We moved along the road until within two miles of City Point and stopped for supper.  As we tramped our noses and throats got filled with dust.  Water was in great demand but scarce.  One reason diarrhea prevails in an army to such an extent, is because the men get choked in this way, and drink the first water they come to, be it good or bad.  The first we came to was in a muck hole covered with slime, in which you could see all the colors of the rainbow.  But it was a poor time to be dainty.  We had to take that for coffee, and fill our canteens with it for the night march.

After supper we started again.  It was dark; the road lay through the woods; fires were burning at every angle to show the course of the column.  At every fire was a dismounted cavalier, gathering wood, and instructing the heads of columns.  The cavalry were moving on our right.  Before midnight we crossed the Appomattox on a pontoon, at Point of Rocks.

July 27.  About two P. M. we crossed the James at Jones’s Landing.  A part of the Nineteenth Corps was on duty there.  Our Corps laid down for sleep.  Companies C and D were sent on picket.  The line was established along the edge of a woods and we waited for daylight.  At the first peep firing began, and our Brigade charged at the Reb works, capturing some prisoners and four Parrott guns.  Troops moved in where we were, and a battery unlimbered and prepared for action only twenty feet away; we knew there was no need of us there, but having no orders could not leave.

Hancock, Sheridan and Foster rode by.  Sheridan had an old white straw hat on, the rim of which was turned down in front and up behind; his position was somewhat stooped, with one hand on his thigh, while the other held the reins.  De Trobrian [sic], who commanded the troops behind us asked what we were doing there.  We told him awaiting orders.

Soon the order came, and just as the men collected the Rebs began shelling us.  Words cannot describe how peaceful that scene was before the first shot.  Officers’ cooks, negro hostlers, hospital attaches, and such like, were in profusion, eating their breakfast and feeding their animals; laughing and joking were in order and hard tack was being washed down by amusing anecdote.  But suddenly that first shell came screeching along, setting the hair on end, and such a jumping, crawling, rolling, running and wriggling to get behind trees you never saw.  Coffee was upset, hospital boxes dropped, dishes spilt—anything—everything left, to get behind a tree.  The soldiers stood out unprotected.  The second shell rolled over the plain fifty yards in our front, bouncing up at every thing it struck, but did not burst.  The third came crashing through the tree tops, and spluttering as though all pandemonium was let loose.  It went over our heads.  A negro was going over the plain double quick, leading two horses.  The shell fell between them, and raised a cloud of dust.  That was the last we saw of Mr. Nig.

Our batteries opened and soon silenced the enemy.  We went up to join the Brigade.  Halted in the captured woods.  The fire of our artillery and gunboats was well shown.  The trees in the rear of the works were cut almost into kindling wood and all the shots were about four feet high.

It was wonderful to see what a shell would go through—a gunboat shell especially.  Some trees two feet in diameter were cut off.  We saw a pine tree three feet over, and an oak two feet over, through both of which a shell had gone, and then knocking a hole in the ground, that a cart load would not fill, went on.

After lying around the Reb works until noon we went into the woods.  Part of the regiment went on picket.  A few boys got behind a house on the skirmish line to protect themselves.  Near the house was a plum tree full of fruit.  Every boy who went near it was shot at.  So one crawled out, and cut it down while lying on the ground, felling it towards the house.  In this way they got the plums in spite of the Johnnies, and sat eating them without molestation.


October 20, 1869 Washington PA Reporter: 140th Pennsylvania at the Siege of Petersburg, Part 4

From the Beaver Radical.







On the line of battle to our left was a hut to which we went out of curiosity. Found there an old colored man and wo-w0man [woman]. Their house was in confusion, having been ransacked. Asked him how it happened. He said our soldiers told him he had better go back as there would be a fight there. They went but no fight taking place they returned and found their house in this condition. Some one had added to their mental suffering by telling them the gun boats were coming up on wheels. “Good Lord,” said the old man, no man can lib in de same township wid em.” The fact was, the Rebs, as well as negroes, had a horror of gunboats, and no wonder. One shell hurling up the valley made more noise than a half dozen machine shops.

Lay at Deep Bottom all night.

July 18[28]. At noon we were moved to New Market Cross Roads, only six miles from Richmond.

We marched through a woods with trees two feet in diameter in it, yet the furrows could be seen where it had been last plowed, twenty years before.

A brisk skirmish was inaugurated in our front, but we were not called out, although at one time the boys had their muskets cocked.

That night we went on picket. Symptoms of dysentery began to develop themselves in me, and the swamp we stayed in all night did not better it much.

July 19[29]. Were on picket all day and until midnight, when,

July 20[30]. We were withdrawn and started back across the river. On the other bank of the river the column halted, laid down and slept until daylight.

Halted at the Appomattox to rest. There met Captain Dawson and Lt. McGregor, 82d P. V., who said the mine explosion had taken place that morning, but was a failure. Then we saw that we had been sent to Deep Bottom, merely to make the enemy believe we were concentrating a heavy force against Richmond, and draw his attention away from the real point of attack.

At Butler’s Headquarters near Point of Rocks, was a signal station two hundred feet high.

As we neared the mine we met ambulances, wounded and troops.

Our Brigade was lying on a hill behind the mine. A Whitworth battery was all that had range of us, and it was three miles away. It threw a number of bolts, one of which lit under the table at Brigade Headquarters while they were at supper, yet no one was hurt.

At ten P. M. we got back to our old camp.

July 31. Sunday. Lay in camp all day expecting to move. Felt no better, and all next day kept getting worse. My wound was not quite healed, and there were returning signs of erysipelas.


Aug. 2. Surgeon advised me to go to the hospital, and I did so. It was at the house of Mr. Pritchard, a two story frame, with the chimnies outside, like other Southern mansions.

Had often heard before the war of the magnificent residences of plantation owners, but after we got into the army we found them a hoax. During all our tramps through Virginia we never saw any houses, which would surpass the average of farm houses North. And considering that there are ten houses North to one South, it might truthfully be said that those north are better. The Southerners generally owned large farms, and all made off them was spent as fast as made. The son seldom improved on what his father left him, except in negroes; and the old mansion grew older, dilapidated, and out of date, until it would have been an eyesore, had not the pine trees grown up around it, giving it an air of snugness, at the same time hiding it from view. Time and again have we looked forward on the weary march to see some attractive house, but looked in vain. And had that same spot been North, a neat little cot, with white fence, apple orchard, garden, outhouses, and stacks of grain would have been on it, to cheer the traveler’s eye.

But the Pritchard house what can be said of it? It was a little above the ordinary run of country houses, but being only four miles from the city, we were led to expect something better. It looked comfortable. There was a large flower garden, without any flowers, in front of it. The borders of the beds were of box wood—very pretty. The trees on all sides afforded an excellent shade for the Surgeon’s tents. The principle feature in the surroundings was the slave huts, Could it be possible human beings lived in them? They were frame buildings neither lathed or plastered; there was nothing to hinder the winter wind from whistling through the cracks; there were no windows; a hole in the wall with a slide door (such as is used for dung holes in stables) let in the light, and when it rained or was cold had to be let down. They were huts Northerners would not quarter horses in—little fifteen feet square concerns, and only five for fifty negroes.

But where were the negroes? According to Mrs. Pritchard’s story her husband went into the city, to see his daughter taking his slaves along, and before he could get back our army settled down. That story sounded very well by itself but unfortunately, the occupants of every house in the neighborhood gave the same answer. Three slaves were left at the house, and they were working hard to get money to take them away.

Staying in hospital is decidedly the meanest business ever a man was at. Could offer no objections to the rations, for the Sanitary and Christian Commissions furnished us with canned chicken tomatoes and lemons. But it was the loafing, with nothing to do, we disliked so. Very little was going on and we were not well enough to appreciate that.

To get an insight into how matters stood about the house, we talked with one of the little remaining darkies. He said ‘Mudder an sum ob de res, dun gone off to de Yanks. Don’t know whether Massa is a rebel or a bushwacker. Misses tells us to be yanks while youens is heah.’


Aug. 2[12]. The Second Corps started on a move, and the hospital was cleared out to follow. We were loadened in ambulances and started to City Point hospital, where we were put in ward. The Corps marched up and camped close by. We heard they were to be loaded on boats to go North. I wanted to go along. I got out of bed to stagger away to the regiment.

Aug. 13, The Corps went to the Appomattox and bathed. At noon went to City Point wharf. Thought I would faint, drop or do something similar.

With some delay all the troops got on board. We went down the river a mile, where all the boats were collecting. Sweeney secured me a berth and some bread. Mr. Milligan got me a little brandy, and I laid over and went to sleep. It was just getting dark, and the red lanterns were hoisting in the fleet.

Aug. 14, Sunday. I was awakened by some one.

“What time is it?”

“Four o’clock.”

“Where are we landing?”

“At Deep Bottom.”

Unloaded myself struggled up the bank to where the troops were forming, and sat down. Sleep had refreshed me so that I felt stronger. But as the sun began to rise I began to wilt. About nine o’clock we moved towards the woods. It was only a half mile, but seemed longer than a mile on a mud road measured with a yarn string. At the edge Miles told me to deploy company C as skirmishers, and advance into the woods far enough to let the regiment deploy. Did so, and sent him word. The regiment was deployed. Dragged my tired bones through that woods more than a mile, until I could hardly stand. A detachment of Heavy Artillery was sent on the right for me to take care of, but it was as much as I could do to take care of myself. My feet dragged in the leaves, or caught in the brush. I staggered around trees, dodged under limbs, and rested on stumps. Oh! what a farce for me to be there, pretending to command men, when I hardly knew which end was up. Went as far as possible, and then told Captain Stocktkon [Stockton] I was going back.


October 27, 1869 Washington PA Reporter: 140th Pennsylvania at the Siege of Petersburg, Part 5

From the Beaver Radical.







At the hospital Mr. Milligan was sick.

Some wounded came in, among them Dickey. He was wounded at Gettysburg and had only been back two days. Andy Waterson was hit in the thigh.

Aug. 16. With a field glass we could see the Reb works. Our gunboats were shelling them.

Aug. 16[17?]. For several days my wound had been healed, but was tender. On that day the Doctor opened it and took out a piece of the ball and bone. After that it healed thoroughly.

Stockton came back sick. He said the regiment had been pushed forward within five miles of Richmond, and had to fall back double quick.

A man was killed by chloroform on the Fourth Brigade table.

Aug 18. A boat load of sick was to be sent away. Mr. Milligan, Captain Stockton, Captain Day, 16th P. V. Cav. and I were put on board. At City Point we got on the “State of Maine” for Washington.

Aug. 20. Arrived at Annapolis in the evening and went to the hotel with Captain Zurk 26th Michigan, and some others. Among the squad was an officer who had been wounded in the Wilderness, and while going back had the end of his jaw knocked off. The Surgeons told him they could do nothing for him, and would use their efforts towards helping men that could be saved. Another Surgeon with whom he was acquainted passed the tent and he beckoned to him. The same order was given, and the friend refused to cause him pain by useless efforts to stop the bleeding. He felt himself growing weaker until at last he fainted. How long he lay there he could not tell, but when he woke a clot had formed and the bleeding stopped. He got well in spite of the doctors, and is to-day the possessor of a heavy beard which effectually conceals the deformity.

Aug. 23d. As we were going to dinner we noticed a group looking at something, and stopped to see. It was a silver watch with a ball lodged in the center of it. The whole was wrapped with wire to keep it together. The owner had been carrying it over his heart when hit. He said, “It was presented by a friend, and only cost twenty dollars, but I have been offered three hundred for it.”

Went to the pier in the afternoon to see a boat load of starved prisoners come in. They were direct from Rebeldom. Out of three hundred only fourteen could walk. Saw one car load pushed from the boat to the house, and then left as the sun was too hot. Such horrid looking objects we never saw before. Some had been robbed of hats shoes, coats, and blankets, and were nearly naked. Saw others who had been in hospital for weeks, yet were not able to walk. The poor fellows looked like skeletons with their eyes and cheeks sunk, and heads shaved.

Saw Brown, 1st U. S. Sharpshooters. He said at Antietam that “Corn Exchange” regiment was sent on the skirmish line and got shelled. After that they were called the “Cob Exchange.”

Aug. 30. On a stroll to the outside limits of Annapolis, we saw some fortifications erected when Harry Gilmore was in that neighborhood. The trench was four feet deep, and the dirt seven high. Would like to see some of the twelve foot men who were to occupy it.

Walking through the grounds, a companion with us observed that many of the men had white pants on, and asked the reason of it. We told him they had no pants on at all.

Sept. 2. Requested to be sent to our regiment. Got the order and started.

Sept. 3. Met Mr. Milligan in Washington and we both got passes front.

Sept. 4th. At City Point we watched operations. It took twenty-eight negroes to carry the mail. Another lot were loading hay, and every motion was accompanied by a note of some song.

At midnight we were awakened by a great racket. It sounded like forty thousand thunder storms, playing away all at once. Grant had ordered a shotted salute because of Sherman taking Atlanta.

Sept. 5, Built our bunk and talked to the boys. Sanders had been absent wounded, and just returned. He said at Camp Convalescent the boys “cleaned out” the apple sellers, milkmen and every thing else. “Some fellow would holloa, Rally on the Sutler, and away all would go. If it hadn’t been for the Invalids, we would have “Policed” it mighty quick. McKelvey had to send us out side the lines. We stayed there a day, drinking from a well a dead man was found in that evening.”

Gunn had returned too. He said, “I left home five years ago. I got a furlough and went up to ______on lake Champlain.

Two of my brothers kept a store in the town to which I went.

“Helloa soldier! What regiment do you belong to?

“91st New York.”

That was a regiment raised there. I asked if any one was in town from where his father lived, never telling him who I was. He said the old man was down, and would return in the evening. The other brother came in, but did not know me either. Then Pap came in, asked about the 91st, where I was wounded, and so on. I asked if I could ride up with him, and he said yes. We started in the evening and rode fifteen miles in a buck wagon talking a bout everything, but I never gave him an inkling as to who I was, until near home, when I said, “Gunn, that’s your line fence, isn’t it?” pointing to a big walnut tree. Quick as a flash the old man turned and said, “What do you know about my line fence?” I had represented myself as the son of a widow. I looked up in answer to his question and said, “If you’ll take a good look at me you’ll know me, I think.” Five years had changed me but he did know me after that. When we got to the house mother did not know me either, but pap told her before going to bed.

It was then twelve and the rest had all retired. Next morning when breakfast was ready mother told sister to go up stairs and call a soldier that was there. At her call I came. She asked me what regiment I belonged to. Company—-91st N. Y.” “Do you know Aaron Gunn?” “Oh, yes, he and I have messed together all through the war, and are the best kind of friends.” By and by I told her who I was, and then wrote to my brothers to come up double quick.


That evening we moved to the Jerusalem plank road, and were ordered to build works, as an attack was expected. We worked all night, cutting timber and digging. One fellow who shirked duty, and went to sleep in the woods, was killed by a tree falling on him.

Sept. 6. We worked without cessation all day. Rain at noon made it harder.—Grant and Meade rode along to see how we were getting along.

In the morning a squad felled timber.—They did it by cutting the trees half way through on the east side. When the last row was reached on the west side they were cut clear through, and falling on the rest would push all down. It saved much work.

We worked all night without rest. Toward morning it was hard to keep the men at it. Two nights and one day was too much. The best of them would go away and sleep.


Sep. 7. We moved and camped near Fort Warren. There was something new to greet us there—a railroad. And it was a railroad “that you read about.” It was built on the top of the ground, without grading, except at one point where the rebs fired at the cars. It was constructed with extreme rapidity. Where it crossed the Norfolk road, it was necessary to build a tressle work three hundred yards long and ten feet high. On Monday morning there was not a timber cut for it, but on Tuesday evening the cars were running over. So irregular was the—we were going to say grade, but it had none. But so irregular was the track, that in a train of three cars one would be going up, while the others were going down. And when ten cars were in a train, they wound over the hills like a serpent.

Sep. 9. Took a squad of men to cut timber. We were not quite well on returning to the army, and those two nights on the works in the rain did not help us any. Had no appetite for hardtack, and went to a house to buy bread. “Bread! Said the man, “bread!” where am I to get bread? Your soldiers have destroyed my whole place, and stolen everything to eat. I am living on rations furnished by your government. Looked around his place, and sure enough it was DESTROYED. The land was still left, but not much else. Went into one of his slave huts. Oh! ho! the old villain ought to have been compelled to live in it himself awhile to see how it would go. No doubt he is indulging in a little manual labor now, and cursing the “abolitionists” for freeing his “chattles.”

Unsuccessfull here, we went to another house. There were a number of females there—“the men having gone into the city and unable to get back. We asked one with a child in her arms, if she could sell us some bread. She was living on army rations too. If it had been water we were after, we would never have asked her. No! no! She looked as though she had taken a vow never to wash until the Confederacy was free.

Sep. 10. John Haxton was sitting on bed, having just risen, when a bullet entered and went through nine folds of blanket beside him. The reb that shot it could not have been nearer than two miles.

Sep. 13. Was seized with the dysentery so severely, as to be scarcely able to walk.

Sep. 18. Was taken to hospital.

While there a fellow came in shot in the finger. He told a long story about a reb picket doing it. But all the Surgeons thought he did it himself, because grains of powder were around it, a thing that only happens at short range.

One evening a darkey about ten years old, whom Dr, Hoyt had employed, came up with some water—He was an interesting specimen, full of life and fun, and possessed of no ideas beyond a child half his age. “Tom, how high are you?” said the Doctor. “I specks I’m bout ten feet.” “You ten feet high? “Yes sir.” “Well, how high am I then?” “I specks you’s bout thirty feet.”

“Where’s your mother Tom?”

“Massa sole her down souf.”

“Had you any brothers or sister?”

“Yes, but Massa sold ‘em too.”

“ Where is your father?”

The little heart, light and merry all day, was then too full. Amid his sobs we could barely distinguish Massa—sold—Rich—mond. “Never mind Tom,” said Dr. Hoyt, “I’ll be a father to you until your’e able to do better.” There was more than one eye wet at the darkey’s simple story of oppression and wrong. Doctor said when Tom came to him he was half starved and his clothes merely held on him. “Ah, Slavery! Slavery! Institution appointed of God!

One fellow bought a dozen eggs for sixty cents, and eleven were bad.

Applied for a leave and received it on Sept. 24.

At Baltimore on our way back a corporal was lamenting that he had not enough money to take him back to hospital at Alexandria, and his furlough expired that evening.

Handed him two dollars, never having seen him before or since. Knew if he got into the hands of the Provost Marshal it would go hard with him. Months after that, when we had forgotten all about it, we received a letter from Corporal Brainherd, returning and thanking us for it.

Nov. 5 Found the regiment in winter quarters near the Norfolk railroad. Just as we got into camp there was cry of “pack up.” They were soon in line and moved to the rear of Fort Steadman.


November 3, 1869 Washington PA Reporter: 140th Pennsylvania at the Siege of Petersburg, Part 6

From the Beaver Radical.








The Rebs were suspected of undermining it and our division was brought up to defend the line in case of attack.

The regiment had been laying in a Fort on the Appomatox, where they were subjected to the fire of two batteries. One they dubbed “Chesterfield,” the other “Gooseneck,” and whenever a shell came no matter from what direction, “Look out for Gooseneck, there comes Chesterfield,” were the cries heard on all sides.

Every morning at three o’clock we went on the hillside close to the front line and stood under arms until daylight.

There were some gophers near which we occupied.

Quite a traffic was carried on in rings made from plugs of Reb shells, some selling for three dollars.

Nov. 11 A shell lit in the tub where a soldier was washing his handkerchief, whereupon one of the bystander swore he’d have it made into rings before the Johnnies could shoot another.

One of the 100th P. V. was telling us about two companies of Indians in their corps. They called their Colonel “Little Chief,” and one of the captains, whom they did not like “Big Bull.” One of them captured a sharp-shooter who was bothering them, by covering himself with “Ox feathers” and creeping up under the tree. The Johnny did not see him until he called on him to surrender.

Dr. Hill had a darkey named Wyatt. I asked him one day how he came to run away from his master. “I wus a wukin in de cawn feel, an I heard sumpin jinglin, and I looked roun, and four Yankees was a cumin at me. Dey tole me for to mount one ob de mools. I didn’t ax no questins but got up, while dey led de other three away. I lowed massy lost about sizteen hundred dollahs dat day.

Every night or two we had a brisk interchange of shots between the batteries. The mortar shell winking through the air was a pretty sight.

Nov. 15. We had a Brigade drill, Our regiment could only turn out ninety men.

Hancock went away and Humphreys took his place about that time.

Was appointed on Court Martial. It met at Division Headquarters in a house full of bullets and shell holes. Col. Scott, 61st N. Y. was president.


Captain Patterson 148th P. V. told us of a drafted man in their regiment, who had been wounded twice and recovered. Grant ordered a charge to be made by two hundred men of their regiment to see if Lee was weakening his line any. This drafted man was in the attacking party. They advanced at double quick about three A. M., and captured the Fort, taking some prisoners who were sent back under guard. He was one of the guard, After delivering the prisoners at Headquarters he started back, climbed our works, and approached the Fort, not knowing that his companions had retired, and it was again in possession of the Rebs. As the morning was a little cloudy, and clear day break had not yet come, he did not see the Reb picket until within ten feet of him. Afraid to retreat least he would be shot, he quietly dropped into a pit intending to escape under cover of the next night. He lay there all the day in the hot sun, without food or drink. In the evening before it was quite dark enough to start, a vidette was thrown out ten feet from him, between him and our lines. He lay quiet all night. In the morning the vidette was removed. The second day was like the first. For six days and nights he laid there. On the seventh he thought of surrendering, but put it off until night; when to his joy the vidette was not stationed. He crawled into our lines, and weak as he was brought his gun (a seven shooter) and accoutrements with him. Miles recommended him for a furlough and gold medal.

Lt. Sweeney told us of a Reb Colonel he had under guard, who appeared worried, and at last beckoning him told him he had a gold watch he would like to put in his care. Alex said, “You need have no fear, our men do not rob prisoners as yours do. They are honest.” The Colonel was quite taken aback.

Nov. 18. Our camp was moved back on the ridge, whence Gen. Hartranft afterwards made his famous charge. Lt. Bell and I dug a hole in the bank, built a chimney and put up our tents.

For three days it rained. The men ware all drowned out, and stood around the camp fires hallowing at every person on horseback who passed.

The Artillery regiment next door were about to lose a Surgeon by promotion, and there was considerable “vitality” circulating in consequence. After 72 hours of rain, and every man wet to the skin, what could they do better than laugh at each other and make fun of everything that passed.

Every Orderly that went to or from the Artillery was greeted with “There goes more commissary.” “Have you three seals? “Put him in a canteen,” “Lie down,” and similar expressions.

A squad of Rebs and Contrabands passed who had deserted the night before. They said a Reb Captain was busy, ferrying the discontented across the river, although he charged a hundred dollars in gold or greenbacks.

The 5th N. H., composed mostly of Canadians had a number of deserters to the Rebs. So many of them went over that a Reb called back, “send over the colors and Colonel of the 5th New Hampshire, we’ve got all the men.”

One soldier received a thirty day furlough for shooting one of them attempting to desert. It created a good deal of talk in the Brigade, and many wanted to go on picket near them, as they were in need of furloughs.

They were called nothing but the Fifth Canada. Before being filled with recruits it was one of the best regiments in the service.

One day standing in our tent door we saw a shell explode on the plain. No gun had been fired and we went over to get an explanation. Two men had put it on fire, and it burst striking one in the knee.

The regiment had been in a fight at Ream’s Station. The Corps was drawn up in the form of a horse shoe. The 140th was deployed between the heels to repel a Cavalry charge, but no charge coming they escaped. The rest of the Corps suffered severely. Some batteries were lost because all the horses were killed.

One battery had sixty horses killed inside of five minutes.

Colonel Beaver, 140th P. V., came back from a leave, went into the fight, and lost his leg so quickly, that he went back in the same ambulance in which he came up.[SOPO Editor’s Note: I am unsure who Acheson is talking about here. There was no “Colonel Beaver” in command of the 140th Pennsylvania at any point in its history, though part of the regiment was raised in Beaver, Pennsylvania.]

The mortars used along our lines were small brass ones that a man could lift. They are named COHORN MORTARS, or, by the soldiers “cow horns.” The largest mortar was mounted on a car on the railroad, and called the “Petersburg Express.”

Behind our camp was a large tree which had a platform in the topmost branches. It was a signal station. Bell an I went up. From it we had an excellent view of the city. It was only two miles away, but that was a long distance while the Rebs were there.

On the top of Division Headquarters was another signal station, in which Moore of Company D was on duty.

The Reb lines were quite close, and everything could be seen to advantage. The chief feature was an eight inch columbiad pointing towards us. The black hole in the muzzle looked as dark as futurity.

Cheerfulness on the part of a few, did much toward making men forget their hardships. One man could influence a whole regiment. On our way to Mine Run, after the artillery had begun in front, a fellow on rear guard began singing,

We’re going down to Richmond, fair Richmond,

fair Richmond.

We’re going to take Richmond, take Richmond

on the Jeems.

The army of the Potomac had so often started to take Richmond, that it seemed almost ridiculous to think of it. Officers and privates got interested in his song, and every man within sound of his voice listened so intently, that the danger in front was forgotten.

Being cheerful sometimes preserved life. Chaplain Vogal said he went into a hospital at Fair Oaks, and found one of his men shot through the lungs, who was despondent. “Cheer up my boy, cheer up, or you’ll never get home.” Home was the magic word. He passed that tent a few minutes later, and the soldier was actually whistling. And he said he believed his suggesting home was the only thing that saved him.

Curiosity, it is said, will attract a deer to death. It is no less powerful with man. We have known men to do things, and go to places, who if ordered to do the same would have thought it very hard. We saw a Surgeon take the place of a private and dig down rebel works in front of Petersburg, to find out how hard the duties of a common soldier were. He was abundantly satisfied with one trial, and never came out again. Would it not have been well if some of the Generals had taken this plan to find out what picket duty was? As a consequence some of the useless though tiresome ceremonies might have been dispensed with.

We knew of one boy belonging to Co. I, who had so little fear in his composition and so much curiosity, that at Gettysburg when the whole line was lying down to protect themselves from that furious cannonading, he had his head up to see what was going on. His officers might command him to lie down, or shell bursting rather close would compel him to dodge, but after it was over up his head would go again to watch the progress of the battle, and for every shell of ours which damaged the rebels he would give a cheer. There was one of the 100 P. V. of the same disposition. The rebels could not fire a gun at Petersburg, but what he would hop on top of the works to see what it was about. And the minute he got there a dozen pickets would shoot at him. Men like those had a vast influence in a regiment. They did a great deal towards making men better soldiers.

There are probably hundreds of thousands who desired to be in one battle—just one. That was enough they never wanted in any more. We do not believe that man has been born who delighted in a battle. We know there were many Generals who delighted to stay back in comparatively safe places and let them get slaughtered that they might get promoted. But to take a musket and go right in with the line of battle, with as many chances of being shot as shooting, one dose allays a person’s curiosity.

We did know two boys of the 8th P. R. C. who besides their own infantry battles went once to see our cavalry whip the Rebs. It turned out however, that the Rebs whipped ours, and one of them only escaped by seizing a horse which was careering over the field and getting aboard of him, while the other had to go home via. Libby.

Curiosity sometimes took a geographical turn. There were men who could not keep in ranks, but they had to be wandering all over the country inspecting farms, roads, houses, streams and crops. Whenever an opportunity presented itself they went on a tour, and besides the pleasure of discovering the nature of the country, they took delight in posting themselves in Zoology and Ornithology. The number of specimens which found their way into camp in consequence of the research of these men were wonderful. In fact specimens at first rare became very common, and under a pursuit of knowledge again became rare. We knew one boy who, for the want of other rarity would bring in a pig rather than come empty handed, and took great pleasure in determining by it the certainty of the CYSTICERCUS CELLULOSAC TAENIA MEDISCUNELLATA.

We have already spoken of the Quartermaster who wanted to shoot the Johnny at Mine Run and got hit himself. We might speak of another man who was very anxious to shoot a reb, and in the Wilderness saw the long wished for opportunity approaching. He had secured a good position behind a tree and was just drawing a bead when Barlow ordered the line to fall back. An angrier man we have never seen. He just jumped and cursed, and swore Barlow was a coward, and he’d be d___d if he wouldn’t stay and fight them himself. One or two others partook of his feelings and stopped, but all were ordered back again, and came through reluctantly.


November 10, 1869 Washington PA Reporter: 140th Pennsylvania at the Siege of Petersburg, Part 7

From the Beaver Radical.








We knew of a man exposed to the fire of sharpshooters at Raccoon ford, who was of such a musical turn of mind, that before protecting himself from their balls, he stopped to determine whether the sound of a bullet was from B to E or E flat.

Appetite will lead a man as far as curiosity. There were more men captured while seeking something to eat or drink, than during battles. It would have been a great saving to our army, and the Rebs could have been whipped sooner, if there had not been a persimmon tree in the South. We have seen hundreds straggling to get them, even before they were ripe, It was the same, though not so bad in regard to fruit. At one time it came to such a pass that Gen. Barlow promoted a corporal who shot a man for stopping to get some cherries. For meat, potatoes, or corn men would risk their lives. Two men of the 140th at one time shot a sheep while on the skirmish line. It was between our line and that of the rebels, and within range of the Rebels. Yet they crawled out for it under the fire of the enemy. We saw two boys at Mine Run go to a stable outside our skirmish line for some hay for their horses, who both coming and going were exposed to a storm of bullets. During marches men would go away from the column to get chickens, or even stop in the woods to make coffee, and before they could get back the Reb cavalry would pick them up.

Whiskey could not be easily obtained except by officers at headquarters. Regulations allowed some to each man when on fatigue. He was required to drink it however when served out, and there was not enough given to intoxicate. No man could take his share and give it to a comrade, nor was he allowed to save it from day to day, but had to drink it on the spot or else refuse it. This rule was often dodged and men would occasionally get on a spree. We do not speak particularly of the 140th, for they seldom got a chance to accept or refuse a drink; but we have seen men in it refuse to take their ration of whisky when worn down by fatigue, and in need of it, because they feared their example would lead others to drinking and ultimately ruin them. There was at one time a great deal of public clamor in regard to the whisky ration, and many Generals in deference to the wishes of those at home refused to issue it. But others drew it ostensibly for the men, and kept it at Headquarters to treat their friends. Or it could be drawn and kept at headquarters without the knowledge of the General commanding. There is so much to do about headquarters that a general cannot attend to it all. He has Aids or assistants who take charge of the different departments. The Provost Marshal looks after deserters, prisoners, new troops and those to be discharged. The Inspector attends to the arms and ammunition and sees there are no horses but what regulations allow. The Quartermaster attends to the rations; the Adjutant General signs all requisitions of whatever kind, and does it in the name of the General. Now if an Adjutant General wants any whiskey he sends up an order for it and the General knows nothing of it. We could tell of cases where it was drawn two kegs at a time, for the men of course, but the men never got it. It was drawn by telegraph operators “for battery purposes.” The electric battery needs no whisky, it was the operator who wanted it. Any officer could get whiskey for himself or men if the Colonel would approve his requisition. Our Colonel would never approve unless it were positively needed. Some other Colonels would. If it was granted for officers it had to be paid for. During battles some officers got it. It is hard to tell how much damage came in consequence of it; how many foolish movements—movements destructive to life were made. We knew of a captain who went into a battle drunk and stopping in an exposed position to shake his fist at the Rebels, was shot through the throat and died immediately, We saw a General at Chancellorville under the influence of liquor, and his men suffered in consequence. And before Petersburg we saw the same fall from his horse three times while riding a hundred yards. We saw officers in the Wilderness wild with whiskey, and cursing because sober men refused to follow them to death. We could instance more than one movement of troops, made because the officer in command was drunk, which accomplished no good, yet caused the slaughter of men. So much for whiskey.

We crossed the Weldon railroad at the Yellow house, and moving out to the left of the army, relieved the Ninth Corps. It was usually called “Burnside’s Geography class,” because he had taken it nearly around the Confederacy.

That evening a detail from the 26th and 140th had to be put on picket, because the “Fifth Canada” had deserted. Picket shovels had been distributed to the men only a few days before, and the Johnnies having secured some by this, stood on their works cheering and holding them up.

Nov. 30. After putting up good huts the regiment was moved to the left to defend Fort Welsh. It was well protected by ditch and abattis. The ditch was eight feet deep. The abattis was made out of tree tops laid on the ground, with their butts toward the Fort. Each branch was sharpened, logs were wired along their butts, and telegraph wire wrapped and twined among the branches. Sometimes there were two or three lines of these in front.

For more protection against attacks, stakes were driven, until only a few inches stuck out of the ground, and wire stretched from one to the other. Striking an enemy’s foot when moving at a run to attack, this wire would be apt to trip and break the column.

Dec. 3d. Was discharged.

Left the regiment with regret, for I had been with them over two years. I had tried to be contented with my position and had no aspiration for a higher. I enlisted as a private with no expectation of appointment. When I became a Sergeant I fitted myself for the duties of that post, and never longed for else. But when fever cut down Reed, and bullets Captain and Campbell, I was promoted—not for anything I had done, but because of vacancies above. Alas! how often we read “He was promoted for bravery,” when in truth he was promoted by the unflinching courage, and unswerving devotion to a country of some superior officer. I have known cases (my own is one them) where promotion came by the merits of others. I have also known cases where deserving men were never promoted, because a cowardly officer above them would never get in the road of a bullet.

We were kept about a week at Washington, D. C., “Stripping red tape” before settling up. If there was any one thing soldiers hated above another it was the forms and ceremonies connected with guard mounting, reviews, return from picket and halting on marches. They were all necessary, but occasions would arise when it was advisable to suspend them. Guard mounting is a beautiful thing, but why do it in a snow storm? Straight lines are pretty, but at a short halt after a march, why keep a regiment standing until three stragglers get into position? Two thirds of the profanity in the army was caused by useless maneuvers. Towards the end they “played out,” as the high positions became filled with men who had served in the ranks.

One thing not spoken of yet, which might as well enter here was the countersign. It was used more about forts than elsewhere. In front where no one was allowed to pass the picket, it was of no use. At first when all the “agony” possible was “put on,” it was in vogue. In three months service when the word “Roberts,’ was given, a Swede named Peter misunderstood and thought it was “Robbers.” At midnight when relieved he started to camp. The first guard he encountered was a dutchman.

Who gooms dare? Asked Henry.

Frient mit de conntersine.

Dat ish you, Bete?


Vell, advance mit der gountersine.


Nine, Nine, dat ish nix Bete.

Tish Henry.

Nine, ish nix.

Well, wat is’t den?

THIEVES, said Henry in his dutch style. Finally they settled it and Peter went on.


  1. History of the One-Hundred and Fortieth Pennsylvania Volunteers.” Washington PA Reporter. November 3, 1869, p. ? col. ?: “We had a Brigade drill, Our regiment could only turn out ninety men.”
  2. “History of the One-Hundred and Fortieth Pennsylvania Volunteers.” Washington PA Reporter. September 29, 1869, p. ? col. ?
  3. “History of the One-Hundred and Fortieth Pennsylvania Volunteers.” Washington PA Reporter. October 6, 1869, p. ? col. ?
  4. “History of the One-Hundred and Fortieth Pennsylvania Volunteers.” Washington PA Reporter. October 13, 1869, p. ? col. ?
  5. “History of the One-Hundred and Fortieth Pennsylvania Volunteers.” Washington PA Reporter. October 20, 1869, p. ? col. ?
  6. “History of the One-Hundred and Fortieth Pennsylvania Volunteers.” Washington PA Reporter. October 27, 1869, p. ? col. ?
  7. “History of the One-Hundred and Fortieth Pennsylvania Volunteers.” Washington PA Reporter. November 3, 1869, p. ? col. ?
  8. “History of the One-Hundred and Fortieth Pennsylvania Volunteers.” Washington PA Reporter. November 10, 1869, p. ? col. ?


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