A Chaplain’s Notes
A Chaplain’s Notes from TEF 24th Corps.
Camp 7th Regiment, Conn. Vols., Dec. 24, 1864
Yesterday morning I rode from one end of the army of the James to the other-from a point within six miles of Richmond to our extreme left, which rests on the Appomatox river. This army has a front of ten miles. The rebels thinking our forces north of the James had been greatly diminished by recent movements, formed a heavy line of battle, on Saturday last, advance a strong body of skirmishers, and tried to develop our strength from the center to our extreme left. They showed, late in the day, a heavy force massed against our left flank, but attempted no general assault, at that or any other point. They must have been convinced that wherever they felt our lines, our forces were equal to and ready for the emergency Our brave boys stood in line of battle from early in the morning till late at night, with a manly purpose and heroic spirit, which would have made an assaulting column recoil. Yesterday our cavalry had a slight skirmish with the enemy, driving in their pickets. We anticipate no general attack upon our strongly entrenched lines. These occasional skirmishes are only intended to develop the strength and position of the respective forces. In my ride yesterday I crossed the James at “Aiken’s landing.” Here are the two fine brick houses and the extensive plantations owned by Messrs. Aiken.
One of the Aikens was detected, soon after we occupied Bermuda Hundred, communicating with the rebels by a hidden telegraph. He was sent to Fortress Monroe, where he now remains a prisoner. His wife and two daughters remain at their former home. The Aikens were wealthy planters. They owned many opulent acres, many negroes; they had apple and peach orchards, pleasant groves and shaded walks; they despised laborers and lived on unpaid toil. But how changed their circumstances and situation. Injustice and disloyalty have their bitter rewards. Men suffer for wrong-doing in this life. Those who work against God work out their own destruction.
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Near “Point of Rocks” in a pine forest, beside a muddy creek, I saw a gang of soldiers putting up a huge steam boiler. In a few days pine boards will be cut from the trees near by. Such is Yankee enterprise and skill. Wherever northern men go, whither by migration or conquest, these telegraphs, railroads, mills, manufacturing establishments, school houses and churches are built and established. This same genius and enterprise will develop the neglected and misused resources of Virginia, and make her the “empire state” of the South.
When I reached “Point of Rocks Hospital,” I could scarcely recognize the place, so great have been the changes wrought here within a few months. Large buildings or wards are being erected for the accommodation of 5000 sick and wounded men. These wards, which are laid out in a large semi-circle are made of logs closely matched together, covered with high roofs of boards, are well ventilated from the top, and will be heated by huge fireplaces of brick. Everything is systematized at this hospital. The negroes have very comfortable quarters, regularly arranged; the grounds are fenced in, kept cleanly, and everything looks to the convenience and comfort of the patients. This hospital stands on a high bluff from which one can overlook the winding Appomattox, and a wide reach of disputed country around Petersburg. The fine mansion and extensive plantation at “Point of Rocks” were owned by the Rev. Mr. Strong, a Baptist clergyman, who being frightened by the unexpected appearance of Butler’s gun boats, left an unfinished sermon on the table in his study, all his furniture, books, negroes, and other possessions, and made directly for the rebel lines with his family. The reverend gentleman must be strongly impressed by this time with the gospel truth, “The hireling fleeth because he is an hireling and careth not for the sheep.”
The Christian Commission have their headquarters here, for the army of the James. One of their most faithful and efficient agents is the Rev. Mr. Pease of New Britain, Conn. He has labored with great success in the department, for several months. The Christian and Sanitary Commissions are doing a humane and blessed work. They have their out stations on the very “front,” and there, in many ways, labor patiently and perseveringly for the temporal and spiritual interests of our brave self-sacrificing soldiers. Our friends at home should support these institutions with increased interest and liberality. Our Surgeon, G. C. Jarvis, detailed as operating surgeon at the Flying Hospital of 10th Army Corps has returned to the regiment, owing to the consolidation of the 10th and 18th corps.
Dr. J. stands deservedly high with the members of his profession, an dis much esteemed by officers and enlisted men of the 7th. He performed while a the Flying Hospital the unusual and very difficult operation of exsecting the lower jaw, for which he was very favorably noticed in the New York Herald of Nov. 4th, 1864. The sanitary condition of our regiment is good.
The following casualties occurred in the 7th during the last month: Corp. Benj. A. Handy, Co. H, accidental gun shot wound in right shoulder-severe; Geo. A. Wallen, Co. K, accidental gun shot, flesh wound in right leg-severe.
The recent promotions in the regiment give general satisfaction. Capt. H.B. Gill enlisted as a private soldier in Co. E, and has secured a high reputation for coolness and courage in action, and for his exemplary deportment in camp. Capt. G. commands the regiment in the temporary absence of Lieut. Col. Atwell. First Lieut. Benj. A. Hill enlisted as a private soldier in Co. A, and was promoted for his uniform faithfulness, for conspicuous courage in action, and worthy conduct as a non commissioned officer. Lieut. H. was five months a prisoner in Richmond, but finally, after much hardship effected his escape. He has distinguished himself for coolness and courage in all the battles and skirmishes in which he has participated, and like many others, merited promotion long before he secured it. Willard Austin, 1st Lieut. of Co. D., also entered the army as a private soldier. He was a Sergt. Major at the time of his promotion. Lieut. A. has a bright record, and is a brave, accomplished, and genial officer.
First Lieut. W. H. Pierpont, Co., C, originally entered Co. F, as an enlisted man. Never has he faltered or failed in the discharge of his duty either on the field or in camp. He was severely wounded in the right arm in the battle of Drury’s Bluff, and although not fully recovered from the injury, is constantly on duty. He honors his position instead of simply basing his claim to respect on his military rank. W. H. Auger, recently promoted to be 1st Lieut., and R. Q. M., came out as a private soldier in Co. D; prompt, obliging, efficient, he has many warm friends in the regiment. He is the “right man in the right place.”
Second Lieut. Andrew H. Kinney served long and faithfully in the ranks of Co. F, and is a resolute, kind, capable officer. To describe him in a few words: He has “pluck” and power. We would not fail to mention 2d Lieut. W. A. Burgess of Co. D, who carried a musket in Co. H with honor and distinction for two years. He is a faithful officer, and where there is any fighting to be done he is not attacked with “gun fever.” This brings me to 2d Lieut. Dennis O’Brien, the brave. He comes out as an enlisted man in Co. C. I have a distinct recollection of seeing him, when a sergeant, as Bermuda Hundred, hobbling out to the breast works (having been wounded the day before) on a staff, to put himself in a fighting attitude before the advance enemy-“Long life to Dennis O’Brien.”
We suppose that Capt. W. S. Marbie is on his way to our regiment. We are sure that this brave and heroic officer will meet a hearty welcome as he rejoins the regiment with which he has been long and honorably connected.
Adjutant Holden has not yet entered upon his duties with the regiment, but we have heard him highly commended by his superior officers. He was detailed from the regiment as clerk at the division headquarters, soon after he entered the service.
The recruits who remain with us are doing well. They seem attentive and interested in learning the drill, and, under our experienced officers, will, we think, make good soldiers. Many of them were greatly deceived and wronged either before or after their enlistment. I will endeavor, hereafter, to let in more light upon this subject. The glorious old 10th Army Corps, as you well know, has ceased to exist; but its record, its heroic deeds, its sublime achievements are imperishable. “Rest in peace,” brave old 10th, heroic old 10th.
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“J.E.” is likely Jacob Eaton who was chaplain to the 7th and 8th Regiments of the Connecticut Volunteers. Eaton was wounded at Antietam and later died of Typhoid Fever in Wilmington, NC on 20 March 1865.
Article from Hartford Evening Press, 28 December 1864 (author’s collection)
Photo of Chaplain Eaton from Worthpoint.com
Information about Chaplain Eaton and his death from Brinsfield, John Wesley, The Spirit Divided: Memoirs of Civil War Chaplains: The Union, Mercer University Press, 2006, 241.