Part two of an account of the 127th New York Volunteers on the Peninsula in 1862 . . .
On June 14th Colonel Porter of the 40th Massachusetts reported that he had captured Diascund Bridge without serious opposition, and General Halleck the same day informed General Dix that General Lee's army was in motion up the Shenandoah Valley, and directed him to concentrate all of his available force and threaten Richmond, to seize and destroy the railroad bridges over the North and South Anna Rivers, and to do the enemy all the damage he could. General Dix was unable to promptly comply with this order, as the transports necessary to transfer the portion of his force from Norfolk were being used at Acquia Creek by the War Department; still the probability is that the delay made little difference, as General Lee had on the 12th ordered General Hill to move troops forward, and protect the bridges over the two Annas, and also to protect the approaches to Richmond.
On the 15th the weather was again oppressively warm. The pickets brought in about a dozen prisoners, suspected of bush-whacking, and a wounded Union cavalry man, who had been fired upon from ambush, while picking berries, passed through camp on his way to the rear. The 16th was another very warm day, and as the regiment was camped in an open field with no other shelter than a rail fence the heat was very oppressive. Rations, which consisted of hard tack, pork and coffee, were getting scarce, and the visit of the paymaster afforded no relief, as nothing could be purchased in the neighborhood.
On the 18th General Dix ordered General Gordon to make his troops as comfortable as possible, and on the 19th we were glad to get our knapsacks and shelter tents which had been left behind at the Williamsburg camp. The regiment had been since the nth in bivouac under such shelter as could be improvised by the use of fence rails and rubber blankets, and the officers had not only fared the same as the men in this respect, but some had been glad to share the men's rations. The Field and Staff occupied a four foot high shelter made of fence rails and rubber blankets, and the dignified Lieutenant Colonel and the gruff Major could, at times, be seen crawling in and out on their hands and knees. The whole situation tended to laxity in dignity, and the customary lectures to delinquent officers, which were usually followed by the "good morning'" style of dismissal, were for the time omitted. The writer recalls seeing General Schimmelfennig and Staff crawl out at reveille from among the bivouac of the rank and file when the troops first reached Newport News on their way to South Carolina, but he never again had the pleasure of seeing any of the Field officers of the 127th regiment roughing it as the enlisted men had to do, though they enjoyed that privilege when the regiment marched up the Charleston and Savannah Railroad from Pocotaligo to Charleston. The shelter tents were received and pitched not any too soon, as on the night following their arrival it rained very hard, and we were glad to have even this partial protection.
The Confederate Field returns on the 20th showed 10,176 troops "for duty" in the defenses of Richmond, and on the 21st the Confederate Secretary of War notified General Hill that the Federals were concentrating 20,000 troops at Yorktown for an advance on Richmond, but General Hill expressed the opinion that the Federals were going to attack the bridges over the Annas. On the 23d our regiment was ordered to pack our woolen blankets into the knapsacks that they might be sent back to Fort Magruder to be stored. General confusion now prevailed in camp; cooks were preparing rations, and those men who had received boxes from home were distributing their contents among their best friends, that the good things of this life, which they had just received, might be put where they would do the most good.
At 11 p.m. the regiment fell in and marched about eleven miles, reaching Barnesville(Barhamsville?) about three o'clock the next morning (24th), where we bivouacked near the camp of the 144th N. Y. We did not break camp until the 25th, and the men made themselves as comfortable as possible by the use of small pine poles and shelter tents. Colonel Spear with eight hundred Pennsylvania and two hundred and fifty Illinois and Massachusetts Cavalry started out to attempt the destruction of the Virginia Central Railroad bridge over the South Anna River.
It rained hard during the night of the 24th and the day of the 25th, and while other troops were still marching by the regiment remained in bivouac until 4.30 p. m., when we were ordered to fall in and follow them. After marching about 1 1/2 miles we came to a large piece of woods near Ropers Church, in which the other troops were camped and where we also bivouacked. It was raining hard and the outlook for a comfortable night was not promising, but the shelter tents were quickly pitched and floored with a rubber blanket, and large fires were soon started at which the savory coffee furnished by Uncle Sam was cooked, and the groups of three could soon be seen sitting in the edge of their tents laughing and joking as they ate their supper of coffee, crackers and pork. The ground outside of the tents was speedily ditched enough to keep out the running water, and it was not long after supper before the men were dreaming of the "good time coming." General Gordon in commenting upon the cheerful bearing of the troops under such gloomy circumstances said it indicated the ability of the American soldier to adapt himself to his surroundings.
The same day the Confederate Secretary of War notified General Hill that the Federals had landed six thousand troops at White House, and he ordered Jenkins' Confederate Brigade (2,632 strong) up to Richmond. At an early hour on the morning of the 26th, the regiment with the rest of the column broke camp and in a drizzling rain resumed the march toward the White House; as the roads were heavy with mud and the clothing and equipment damp, the march was very trying. At 3 p.m. we passed New Kent Court House on our left and arrived at Cumberland Landing on the Pamunkey River about 6 p.m. and bivouacked with many other troops already there.
-The History of the 127th New York Volunteers, "Monitors," in the War for the Preservation of the Union -- September 8th, 1862, June 30th, 1865
McGrath, Franklin, ed