The big guns' firing began early. The detail from Company B was relieved and all evidences of honey and potatoes were soon out of sight. General Dow sent out to know who had stolen the honey, but no one knew anything about it. Philip Allen died during the night. The wounded were carted off on their way to some hospital. Sergeant Kniffin was badly wounded in the head, and it is doubtful if he lives.
About 8 A. M. an agreement was made to stop fighting until 2 P. M., so the dead can be picked up and buried.
Orderly Burdick's body was found and some others who had been reported missing. The Rebs say Captain Gifford is a prisoner in Port Hudson. We were glad to know he is alive and well, for we will get him when we get the place. Lieutenant-Colonel Smith came up from the city and took command. He called the regiment together in the woods and made a little speech, some of which was good and some of which seemed uncalled for. He said he had been told that some of the men hid behind trees and stumps, and, turning to the officers said, "If you catch any of them doing that again, shoot them down." Then he added, "I have also been told that some of the officers hid themselves in that same way," and, turning to the men, said, "If you catch them doing that again, shoot them down." That evened up matters, so we gave him a good hearty "hurrah." Then he said, "Heretofore guards have been posted to keep you from running off, but that won't happen while I command. You can go where you want to, but God help you if you are not here when I want you."
The .I28th was stationed in the edge of the woods facing the rebel works, to support the Indiana Battery, which had been scattered along in the bushes. There being no smoke I was able to get a better understanding of the lay of land than yesterday. The grove that stood about the Slaughter house is directly in our front, where the ground begins to slope towards the rebel breastwork, and that accounts for the shells hitting the ground where we were yesterday, and then going high over our sleeping quarters. The breastwork looks like a big pile of dirt. In shape it is most like the letter U, with the curved end towards us and running up hill each way from us, so that the ground inside is plainly in sight for some distance. There is great activity there as well as on our side, and I suppose both are taking advantage of the lull in firing to get in the best position when it begins again.
By asking questions, and by keeping my eyes open I have learned that for miles in front of the fortifications the Rebels were scattered before we came. They had rifle pits, which are nothing- but ditches, deep enough so that the ditch and the dirt thrown from it will hide a man when standing up. They also had mud forts, which are like the rifle pits, only wider, and had big guns in them, intending to whip us before we got near the main works. Our advance had some sharp fighting to drive them out of these and into the main fortification, where they were before I saw the place. That accounts for the wounded men that were sent back before we left Springfield Landing.
The Rebs shelled our quarters at night and we were ordered back to our old sleeping ground. Bill Snyder and I had such a good place behind a big tree that we staid there and slept sound all night, although a big chunk of bark was knocked off the tree in the night, and our gunners kept up a steady fire all night long. This shows that my reputation as a sound sleeper has not suffered. About our guns dismounted the rebel gun that has been our greatest pest, and have twice since that knocked it down just as they had it almost in position. We have nothing to do but lay here and swap yarns with the battery men. From all I can learn, some one has made a big blunder, and a great many lives and a great deal of expense to Uncle Sam is directly chargeable to it. It appears a general assault all along the line was planned to come off early on the morning of the 27th. General Weitzel on the right began the charge on time, and the Rebels massed all their forces against him. When they had nicely disposed of him, the left under General Augur went in and they, too, were cut up and driven back. The center, under General Sherman, about the middle of the afternoon went in and took their medicine. This plan of attack allowed the Rebs to shift from one point to another, and whip us by detail. What would have happened if we had all charged at the same time none of us know for sure, but we all think Port Hudson would now be ours. Reports say the I28th lost two officers and twenty men killed, and the whole army about 300 killed and 1500 wounded. It doesn't seem possible that so much lead and iron could have been fired at us and so few men killed and wounded. The mules and horses killed were left where they fell. The stench is awful, and seems to be getting worse all the time. Great birds, as big as hen turkeys, are tearing them to pieces; turkey buzzards, they call them, and in fact they look just like turkeys at a little distance. They are not afraid of us, but keep coming and going, quarreling among themselves over the choice bits. General Dwight now commands
Sunday, p. m. This morning a foraging party, made up of a squad from each company, went outside, on Port Hudson Plains, a beautiful country, to try for some fresh meat. I managed to get on the detail from Company B. We had the quartermaster's wagon to bring in what we might find. We soon got separated, and each detail going its own way, that from Company B were lucky enough to come upon and shoot down a two-year-old heifer. We dressed the animal and strung the hindquarters on a pole and started back, leaving a man to watch the rest until the wagon came around. We lugged the beef home and it was soon being cooked, some of it in the kettles and some on the ends of ramrods stuck in the fire. After we were full we began to feel generous, and invited in our friends until only the bones were left. We sent some in to General Dow, and asked Colonel Smith and the other officers to have some. Nobody refused, not even General Dow, who is so dead set against foraging. About the wagon came in and the whole regiment had a feast. I never tasted anything so good as that chunk of beef roasted in the fire. This does not reflect on your cooking, mother. You never let me get so hungry as Uncle Sam has. No doubt you would make it taste even better than it did. I did not know I was so hungry until I began to eat. It tasted so good I was actually sorry when I could eat no more. There are lots of things I have not written about, and now that my crop is full, and there is nothing else to do, I will try and catch up. In the first place, I must say that this region is headquarters for snakes. I don't suppose there is a spot on earth where there are so many snakes to the acre as right here. We have cleared them off from our near neighborhood, but go in any direction on ground that is not occupied and there they are. The most common is the moccasin; two kinds, one with a white mouth, called cottonmouth moccasins and said to be poisonous. The other looks just like our water snakes at home. Black snakes and king snakes come next, the latter the nearest to handsome of any snake I ever saw. They are of a pepper-and-salt color, and grow large, those I have seen being between five and six feet long and large in proportion. They are said to be deadly enemies to all other snakes and that they kill and eat any of the other kinds.
Several rattlesnakes have been killed, but I have only seen one. That was lying across a path we had made through the weeds, and I came near stepping on it. Just as one foot was coming down I saw him, and managed someway to jump clear over him from the one foot that was on the ground. I have tried to make such a jump since, but cannot go half so high or so far as I did then. I hunted up a club and hit him across the back, when I first found out that some rascal had killed him, cut off his tail and then placed him across the path to scare some other fellow. I left him there to scare someone else. Then all over and everywhere are a sort of lizard that they call chameleons. They change color, taking on the shade of anything they are on. They are as spry as squirrels, and seem to enjoy running over us when we lie down and then darting up a tree, or off through the bushes. There are some mosquitoes, but they are not nearly so plenty or so bloodthirsty as in other places we have been. The meanest thing is a small black bug, just like what we call at home snapping bugs. Their delight is to crawl in someone's ear when asleep. We sleep with cotton in our ears every night. They make a man raving crazy. The doctors pour oil in first, and then syringe them out. Nearly every night there is a bug case. The woods are full of squirrels. I have seen black squirrels, gray squirrels and a fox squirrel, all in sight at one time. The blacks and grays are very common. The one fox squirrel I saw was about as big as a half-grown cat. The blacks are between our red squirrels and grays for size. Blackberries, the high bush kind, are ripe here now and are plenty, but we have to go farther and farther to get them, on account of there being so many pickers. There are plenty of magnolia trees right here in the woods about us. They are in bloom now, though the blossoms are so high up we can get none. After a shower the scent is so strong as to be sickening. The trees are like our large forest trees. The leaves are long but not very wide, are a sort of brown on the under side, but the deepest dark green on top. We have some hard thunderstorms. The loudest thunder crashes and the sharpest lightning flashes I ever saw. Lying in the woods as we do, it is strange none of the trees are struck or that nobody is killed. We are soaked to ,the skin on an average once every day. Sometimes several times in one day and night. We have only the clothes on our backs, so we make no changes. If the sun shines we sometimes wring out and hang on a bush for awhile. But it is so warm we don't mind it. Some have blankets. Everyone is supposed to have one, but many got lost, mine among the number. I don't much care, for now I don't have to lug it about. Wet or dry we take no cold. We are tough as grain-fed horses and in fact we sometimes have to endure what a horse could not. God is good to us, otherwise we could not live and thrive as we do.
Night. A new style of a fighting machine has just gone from here, on its way to the right wing. There were two light carriages, upon each of which were mounted twentyfour rifle barrels, all made to be loaded and fired by one operation of a lever. Good-bye Johnnies when they get at you. It is too dark to write more.
Monday. The artillery keeps up an irregular firing, and now and then the Rebs reply. Major Bostwick and the negro troops are busy every night digging rifle pits, and to-day there is what looks like a fort, which must have been built in the night, and from which there is firing to-day. We hear to-day General Sherman has died of his wounds.
One or two of Company B are on the sick list. I wish they would hurry up and do something, for the more there is going on, the better we all feel.
Tuesday. Another day of doing nothing. A man got up this morning and found a big king snake had crawled up close to his back for warmth, and was fast asleep yet when the man got up. Once this would have made a commotion in camp, but little was thought of it, and Mr. Snake was scared off into the bushes to look up and breakfast on some other snake.
Wednesday. The artillery kept firing all night, and the mortar fleet, which is said to be right opposite us, also sent shell after shell over into the works. The Rebs got real careless too, and fired right at our sleeping quarters. They seem to have a better range on us than ever before. I got behind my tree and went to sleep again. One of Company G was hit and badly hurt, and it is said a man farther down the line had both legs shot off.
Thursday. Last night we had another serenade. No one was hurt so far as I can find out. The regiment was routed out again and moved back to the other side of the woods, on account of the shot and shell which have a way of coming right at us lately. I stuck to my big tree, for although it has been hit two or three times, nothing can ever go through it. The day has passed like the others lately, with nothing to do but loaf about. Two deserters came out of the woods across the field in our front. They say there is but little in Port Hudson to eat, and a great many there to eat it, and that they will eat themselves out soon, even if not another gun is fired.
Friday. The mail went out to-day and I sent a letter, also my diary up to this time. The Rebs have done all the shooting to-day. Why our side don't answer I don't know. I expect something is going on, maybe getting up a surprise party. I hope it may surprise the enemy worse than the other did. Deserters came out again this morning. They sneak out during the night and hide in the bushes until daylight and then come in. They are first fed and then sent to the landing, and I suppose to some prison down the river. They all tell the same story, that Port Hudson must soon surrender on account of fodder giving out. The Rebs have been shooting a new kind of shot at us to-day. I got hold of one that held together and will describe it. There are six iron plates about a half inch thick, with a small hole in the middle and a row of larger holes about halfway from the center to the outside. In these larger holes are cast iron balls, held in place between the plates by the larger holes, and the whole thing held together by a rod through the center holes. The plates are round and fit the bore of the gun. They make a different and much louder noise going through the air than anything else that has come our way. But like the others, they do little more than trim the trees about us. Colonel Smith thinks the cook fires show through the trees, and give them our range, so he has ordered them back out of sight.
Saturday. Nothing more than usual has happened to-day, but it is plain to see that preparations are being made for a move of some sort. Artillery, infantry and cavalry are constantly on the move. Officers are riding helter-skelter in every direction, and everything and everybody seems to be busy but ourselves. So long as the battery is not attacked we have only to look on. If that should happen, my diary might read different, if it read at all. We lie here doing nothing but eat, sleep and guess what is going on. Whatever it is, is kept mighty secret, for we have ways of finding out most everything but what the next move will be. Some firing to-day, but not as much as for the past few days.
Sunday. Lieutenant Pierce has gone off sick. This leaves Sergeant Hummiston in command of Company B. He is a good fellow and no doubt will give a good account of himself. The day has been a busy one. Just as if the final preparations for some great move were being made. We all expect it to-morrow. Now while I have a chance I must tell how a snake scared me to-day. Some of the boys told of great big blackberries about a mile out, and we went for them. They were even bigger than we were told, and we ate all we could, and put some in our haversacks for the rest. An old rail fence ran into the bushes, which were thick for a rod or more on each side. We walked the fence, holding onto the bushes, and picking as we went. I happened to be the farthest in, and seeing some that looked even better than any we had yet found, I kept crawling along on the rickety old fence until I was out of sight fom the rest. Just as I was going to quit, I saw such a big bunch that I could not resist getting them. The bush was high above me and I could only reach a leaf by which I gently pulled it down until I got a better hold, and almost had the berries within reach when a great big black head and neck raised up and looked right at me. If my eyes did not magnify, the head was as big as my fist, and such part of the neck as I saw was as big as my wrist. I had only my bare hands to fight with, and was at a terrible disadvantage on the top of that shaky old fence, with no place to jump off for a long ways. I was scared nearly out of my senses. I let the bush go back in the same careful manner in which I had pulled it down, and then made my way out as fast as I could go, which by the way seemed awfully slow to me. What the snake did, or what became of him, I don't know. I saw the last of him as the bush came between us. I made the mistake of telling how big the snake was. The boys were ready to believe I had seen one, for they said my looks showed I had seen something, but when I told its size they rolled on the ground and laughed. The idea of such a thing as I described lying on the top of a blackberry bush was too much for them. I don't know what he lay on nor do I care. All I know is that he was there. What held him up was of no consequence to me. He was the biggest snake I ever saw by all odds, and I don't yet think I stretched the story at all. But the boys added to it every time they told it. It is going about with all the variations they can think of. It is the first real good one they have had on me, so let them go it. If the expected battle comes off to-morrow it is time to go to bed, so here goes.
Monday. No more signs of a battle than there have been for a week back. I may as well finish up my snake story, for there is nothing else in the air. The wind-up was the most exciting part of it. I dreamed about it as soon as I was asleep. Many of us have bush houses to sleep in. Bill Snyder and I were partners in one. We had set up poles against our big tree, and covered them with weeds and bushes, leaving a hole on one side to crawl in. I crawled in first and was soon asleep. Just as Bill was crawling in, the snake, which I had seen coming for me for hours, it seemed to me, made a jump and landed on me. I jumped, and at the same time gave a yell that aroused the whole regiment, and the boys say was heard on the picket lines. I went clear over Snyder, who grabbed. and got hold of me just as I was diving into the bushes outside. The first I knew I was being shaken so my teeth rattled. It was some time before we got settled down again. The snake let me alone after that. The boys say the snake did come, and it was to pay me for lying so about him. The Rebs made a move last night farther to the left, and came outside their works in quite a body. After a short but rather sharp skirmish they went back and staid there. The mail has come and I had six letters and three papers. Good news from home, or at least no bad news. Am glad enough to hear from them and to know they are well. One letter was from John, and from its tone he is well and feeling fine. The 15oth is still in
Tuesday. All quiet yet. Now and then a shell comes out of the rebel works, I suppose to let us know they are still there. We are waiting for the signal to go at them. Things have settled down, as if the troops were all in position. I went down along the left wing to-day, but could see nothing but soldiers. There are enough here to take Port Hudson, if numbers can do it, and why it isn't done none of us can imagine.
Wednesday. There has been considerable firing along the lines both to the right and left of us. From all I can find out, we, on the center, are the nearest to the rebel works of any, and our batteries are able to keep them inside. Both to the right and left there seems to be a strip of disputed ground, occupied by both sides, who are entrenched in rifle pits, which each side keeps pushing forward, and it is the fighting over these that we hear most every night. Last night they fired on our position for awhile, and at one time they came so fast my bedfellow left me and went back with the regiment. But my old tree had not failed me yet, and I was not going back on it, so I staid and slept like a baby through what, by the looks of the trees and limbs, was quite a sharp cannonading.
Thursday. About three this morning one of the hardest showers we have had broke right over us, and we were nearly drowned. So much water ran down the tree that I thought I was going to be washed away. So I crawled out and found that by standing up I did not catch half as much water as when lying down. But a little more or less made no difference, for I was soaked as wet as water could make me. The lightning was something awful and the thunder beat even the bombardment on the day of the fight. The lightning lit up the woods in great shape, and between flashes it was blackness itself. As soon as it was over and daylight came, we stripped and wrung the water out of our clothes, after which we had some hot coffee, which made it all right again. The batteries kept up their five-minute firing just as if the sun shone, and about the usual number of replies were made by the Johnnies. A detail from Company B and another from Company H had a wrangle over a spring where the Rebs had been getting water in the night. One of Company H was badly wounded. Deserters come out every morning, and all tell the same story, that Port Hudson is ours just as soon as we are a mind to go and take it.
Friday. A detail from our regiment was called out during the night, and this morning the mystery about the cotton is solved. They met other details near the cotton bales, and they rolled them out to within about twenty rods of the breastworks, and piled them up in fort shape. Then with picks and shovels they piled the dirt against them, others filling bags with dirt and piling them up where directed, and as directed. A "bomb proof" they call it. It is large enough to hold two or three regiments. These were marched in and it is up to them to hold the fort until night comes again, when guns are to be planted there. The Rebels did not know a thing of it until this morning, and then they banged away at it for a while, until our guns from above and below took their attention. The men kept there are safe enough from the Rebs, but the sun will roast them. There isn't a particle of shade, and the sun is a hot one in the middle of the day. It is reported that another cotton fort was built up on the right, in the same way.
One of our men got hit on the arm by another fellow's pick, otherwise no one was hurt. Deserters who came out this morning say there is great activity in Port Hudson these days, though food for man and beast is very scarce. It has been an unlucky day for Company B. One man shot his finger off and another cut off his big toe cutting wood for the cooks. The toeless man went to the hospital, but his toe has been going around from one to another and turning up in the most unexpected places. Just before night we were called together, and an order from General Banks' headquarters read to us. In effect it said that the I28th New York Volunteers had so 'far performed their duties in such a manner as to give great satisfaction to the commanding general. That in the immediate future their duties would be still more hard and dangerous. That any member of it whose conduct in the past and in the future entitled him to promotion should receive it. It then went on to say that any violation of orders would call down speedy vengeance on our heads. That looks as if something was going to be done, and the I28th would have a hand in it.
Saturday. The cotton fort, as we call it, was finished during
the night. We were left alone, for a wonder. When the
big guns were being mounted the Rebs made quite a time
about it, firing every gun they could bring to bear on it. Also at the right, as well as farther to our left, there was heavy firing. It seems as if we are pretty well fixed for it in case another try is made. Much better than before. Besides, they have lost a great many men by desertion since then. Have just learned that two men and a horse were killed on our front, and that on our right there was a real stubborn fight over the gun planting.
P. M. About a terrific fire from our new and old batteries began and lasted for an hour. So far as I could see not a rebel gun was fired in reply. The I28th was then given a taste of the dangerous duty spoken of in the order last night. They were marched out in front of the enemy and went through several evolutions like a battalion drill, the object being to draw the enemy's fire so our gunners could get their range. But it didn't work, for not a gun was fired at them, and they came back with the fife and drum playing a quickstep.
Later. A white flag is waving over the cotton fort. What it can mean none of us know.
Later still. It is said General Banks by way of the white flag has notified the Rebs to get all their women and children and non-combatants out of the way, as he intends advancing on their works to-morrow.
Sunday. The noisiest kind of a sermon is being preached here to-day. It has been a busy day. We served rations at this morning and have orders to be ready for a change in position at any minute. That has kept us picked up and waiting, but up to this time, 9 A. M., have had no other orders. The I28th and the Twenty-sixth Connecticut went off in the direction of Springfield Landing. The firing seems to be all along the line. The Rebs must have more guns than we thought, for they are talking back at a great rate.
n a. m. Walter Orr has just come in with a thumb shot off. He says they went but a little way towards the landing before they came to a road leading to the left, and they went into action as skirmishers about a mile from here, through bushes and over rough ground. The rebel skirmish line lay hid in the bushes until our line was almost on them, and then rose up and fired right in their faces. Walt is the only one hurt on our side, so far as he knows.
Monday. As I heard no more about a move, and as the regiment did not show up, I set out to look them up. I got the best direction I could from Orr and went and went, and kept going, inquiring all the time for the I28th New York. No one seemed to know. The troops were all strangers. I could not even find our brigade. Darkness came and I was completely lost. The firing had about stopped, and men lay everywhere, some dead and the rest sleeping. I don't know what time it was when I gave up the search, but all at once I found myself completely tired out. I was following a path, and not daring to lay down in it, I crawled under a bush near it and in a minute was sleeping as sound as the rest. When I awoke this morning the sun was shining. I lay still trying to get my wits to working again, and the first I remember was a great buzzing of flies behind me. I mistrusted a dead soldier was close by and upon getting up found two, a captain and a lieutenant, that had been laid there to keep them from being run over in the night. There was only a little picket shooting going on, everything else was resting up after the hard work of the day before. About 10 A. M. I found the 1 28th way down towards the river, and within musket shot of the rebel works. Walt Orr's thumb was the only loss to Company B, but several were wounded in the other companies. As this was to be our permanent quarters I hurried back to get the commissary stores ready to move.
Tuesday. In our new quarters on the field, I had just got back yesterday, and had a drink of coffee, when the adjutant rode up with orders to pack up, as the wagons would soon be there. I was so near played out that I gave the order and then went to sleep. Everything was loaded and ready for a start before I woke up, and we reached here in time for supper. When I get rested and slept out I will tell what sort of a place we are in, and how we got here.
Wednesday. We were nearly drowned again last night. One of the showers, such as only this place can get up, came down on us just as we dozing off. Every hollow became a puddle before the fellows sleeping in it could get out. The best thing about these downpours is, we don't have to dread them. We are soaking wet before we know it. Then they only last a short time, and the weather being hot we are not chilled. We stand around and growl for awhile and then settle down and are soon asleep again.
I have been to the river and had a swim, also washed out my clothes. We are near neighbors with the enemy now. Directly opposite us is their water battery, so called because it is near the river. Just beyond us, to the right, the ground is about covered with rifle pits belonging to both sides, and near enough together to talk across. Both sides are resting up I guess, for there is next to no firing to-day. A strip of road just beyond us, and where we had to go over when we came here, is open to the enemy's fire and they made us scratch yesterday. They are bad marksmen, for so far they have hit no one. The men crossing this open space are the only ones they have tried to shoot.
Night. An order—they call everything an order here—has just been read, calling for 1,000 volunteers to go into Port Hudson, or die in the attempt. A"Forlorn Hope," it is called. I believe it must be a joke. If the whole 1gth Army Corps together can't get in, how can a thousand men expect to do it? The order congratulates the troops on their good behavior, and the steady advance they have made on the enemy's works. We are at all points upon the enemy's threshold. "One more advance and they are ours." Then it calls upon the bold men of the corps to organize a storming party of a thousand men, to vindicate the Flag of our
Later. Although we have until morning to decide, Company B has made up its mind not to try for the medals. We don't believe one thousand men can hope to do what all the thousands of the 19th Army Corps have twice failed to do. I wish General Banks and his army of advisers could have been at our conference, for we spoke our minds no matter who it hit. From the best evidence possible to get, viz., the deserters that daily come out, General Banks has at least ten men to the enemy's one. We could swarm over the breastworks on some dark night and bring every man in Port Hudson back with us. We wouldn't send them word to get ready, and have their guns pointed at us before we started, neither would we allow the cannon to bellow the news of our coming for an hour or two beforehand. This was done on May 27, and of the last attempt word was sent in by a flag of truce the day before. Companies G and E are of the same mind as Company B, so if any go from the I28th it must be from the other companies.