Happenings in Camp
Chapter 15 (May 15, 1863 - June 3, 1863)
In the morning the surgeons asked whether I would help dress some of the wounds. I said certainly. One poor fellow, a large, stout looking man, was shot thru the calf of the leg. You may imagine what such a wound meant in the heat of summer.
A soldier belonging to one of the Massachusetts regiments had his right arm terribly mangled. The doctors held a short consultation and determined to amputate his arm, but Massy, as the doctors called him, said no. The doctors asked, “What do you want us to do?” Massy said, “This is the only right arm I will ever have and I am going to keep it.” They told him that unless it was amputated he must die.
Massy said, “All right. In that case the arm goes with me, there can’t be a separation.” He then directed the attendants to get a cracker box lid, and proceeded to direct the surgeons what to do. They did as he directed but handled his arm rather roughly, and he immediately told them that he wanted to be treated as a man should be treated and not as a dog.
Now, said he, put my arm on this board. Then he began pointing to and naming the broken bones, giving the correct medical terms, and ordered each into its proper place. One of the doctors asked, “Did you ever read medicine?” Massy replied, “That’s none of your business. Go ahead with your work.” It was a painful job but he saw it thru, and just as the doctors finished their work, poor Massy fell over in a dead faint and it was quite a while before he was revived. Next morning when the doctor came, he asked, “Well, Massy, how are you this morning?” “Well, sir,” said Massy, “I feel as if I could knock down any son of a gun of a doctor with my right arm that would attempt to take it on.” I went to camp that day and never heard further from either of these wounded men.
While in this camp we did quite a good deal of drilling, preparing for another campaign, and doing guard duty about Aquia Creek Landing, along the Aquia Creek and Falmouth railroad. Here we had quite a distance to go and were usually put on picket duty for three successive days. Fortifications were being built all along the Potomac River from the Rappahannock to Harper’s Ferry. General Hooker was anticipating a movement north by General Lee, but was in ignorance of Lee’s intended move.
Everything possible was being done for the improvement of the army of the Potomac.
A division drill was ordered while we lay in this camp, and General Geary’s white star division of the 12th army corps, to which our regiment, the 147th, belonged and, as you all know Company G formed a large part of the regiment, was ordered out on drill. Brigadier General George S. Green was in command. Fourteen regiments numbering 5,000 men composed the 2nd division. We were out in heavy marching order. This meant that we had all on our backs that we owned. The day was hot and everything dry and dusty. The drilling was done on Bell’s Plain, a beautiful place and entirely adapted to such a drill.
After double quicking back and forth quite a while we were nearly exhausted. General Green’s daughter, who was a visitor in camp at this time, was sitting in a barouche and enjoying the movements of the troops. She said to the General: “Papa make them trot again. I like to see them trot.” I will not attempt to tell you what the boys said, but their remarks were equal to the time, the place, and the occasion. After that incident whenever the old General would pass us, someone would yell, “Papa make ’em trot again, I like to see ’em trot.”
Many darkies had gathered in camp. At night they would sing their old plantation songs, and I am sure every member of Company G enjoyed them. One night they assembled in a large tent and continued their singing and carousing until after midnight. The Colonel being kept from sleep, came out to see what was the trouble. Just at this time the darkies were in the midst of their jollification. A number of Company G boys gathered around the tent and at a given signal cut the ropes and the tent fell upon them. The screaming of the ladies of color and the noise made by the young and old bucks awakened everybody in camp. Of course, all were anxious to know the cause. The Colonel was out of humor and not appreciating the joke, placed a number under guard. I would like to tell of some real funny things that took place that night but there are some things that happened which are company secrets and are only told within the inner circle. However, if you would whisper softly into Ed Fisher’s left ear be might give you a little history of that night’s doings.