The Troops Are Reviewed
Chapter 71 (May 18, 1865 – May 31, 1865)
The order was forward. The storm came in all its fury. The thunder and lightning were fierce. The heavens were covered with the blackest and darkest clouds imaginable. Still we marched on thru all this storm and rain, drenched to the skin, and such thunder claps and such vivid flashes of lightning we never saw before. The lightning flashing along the guns of our marching column made it indeed a fearful sigh to behold. As we were moving on the writer noticed a deep gully or washout in the road just before him and by the aid of a friendly flash of lightning stepped over it safely. Captain Clark, of Company E, saw the writer step over the gully (we were marching left in front) and coming to where he thought it was he miscalculated the distance and fell headlong into the ditch. A flash of lightning revealed to us the gallant Captain floundering in the mud and water. With a little help he was soon all right again. A number of big words escaped the captain’s lips, but we refrain from repeating them.
The storm ceased at midnight, and when it was about over we pitched tents for the balance of the night. Of all the unnecessary marches during our term of service, this was the one most uncalled for. The war was over and the only reason given was that the corps commander wanted to have the honor of getting to Washington ahead of the other corps, which I believe he succeeded in doing. Marched 22 miles.
Thursday, May 18. The sun out bright and warm, and we managed by building fires and the heat of the sun to partly, at least, dry our clothes and clean off the mud, for we certainly looked a sight. We moved about 8 A. M. and soon learned we were only a few miles from Alexandria. At about 2 P. M. we went into camp at Cloud’s Mills, only four miles from Alexandria. Here we were met by George W. Keller and Joseph V. Gemberling, of Selinsgrove. All were pleased by this unexpected meeting of our old friends from home.
We visited the 208th regiment, P. V. I., who were encamped here, to which Company D from Selinsgrove was attached. Also the Selinsgrove band (Prof. Joseph H. Feehrer, leader) belonged to this regiment. Many of these boys and those of Company G had been school boys together and had grown up into manhood, when the war separated us for a few years, and now to meet so many again was indeed a pleasure.
We witnessed dress parade of the 208th in the evening, Col. M. Heintzelman commanding. After the parade a goodly number of us decided to spend the night in camp with the 208th boys. We had a jolly good time, mark you.
Ordlich fun de buva hen bissel tsu feel schlichsed druppa gricked un se hen ga’schlickserd de gons nocht un sin net lose warra bis shpote der naixt daug, ovver sis bol fuftsich yore ferby un ich will ken nauma mentiona. [Many of the boys had too many shots (drinks) and they drank the whole night and did not recuperate till the next day, but almost fifty years have gone by and I will not mention any names.]
Friday, May 19. The 208th boys returned our visit and we tried our best to give them a pleasant time. All seemed happy.
Saturday, May 20. Orders were read today for all to prepare for the grand review of Sherman’s Army to take place on Thursday, the 24th. Everything was now in readiness. On the 23rd General Meade’s army of the Potomac was reviewed. The day was beautiful, and the pageant superb. Washington was full of strangers. Every house was decorated with flags and bunting. Nothing to mar the happiness of the people, only the sad reminder of the gloom cast upon the Nation, only a few weeks before, in the death of President Lincoln. The capitol and all the public buildings were still draped in mourning in commemoration of that sad event.
During the afternoon and night of the 23rd, the 15th, 17th, and 20th corps crossed the long bridge over the Potomac and bivouacked in the streets about the Capitol; the 14th corps closed up to the bridge.
Wednesday, May 24. The morning of the 24th was extremely bright and beautiful, and everything was in splendid order for the review. At 9 A. M. the signal gun was fired. Slowly the column moved with General Sherman and his staff at the head. They were followed close by General Logan with the 15th corps. Then the 17th, followed by our corps, the 20th, and the 14th.
We were reviewed by President Johnson and his cabinet, and all the General officers. As division after division passed, each commander of an army corps or division took his place upon the reviewing stand until his troops had passed. They in turn were also presented to President Andrew Johnson and his cabinet.
Here were 65,000 men, who had just completed a march of nearly 2,000 miles thru a hostile country, in good drill, and who realized that they were being closely watched by thousands of their fellowmen and foreigners.
Some little scenes caused the crowd to cheer. Each division was followed by six ambulances, as a representative of its baggage trains. By way of variety, some added goats, milch cows, and pack mules, and upon the pack mules, gamecocks and poultry; donkeys with raccoons upon their pack saddles, hams, etc. All this to represent our march thru the South. When we reached the Treasury building and looked back, the sight was simply grand. The column was compact, and the glittering muskets looked like a solid mass of steel, moving with the regularity of a pendulum. Marched 45 men abreast and two lines deep. Near the treasury building a former Selinsgrove boy, James Eby, recognized the writer, broke thru the lines and shook hands but was immediately ordered out. After the review we were marched from the city about four miles, near Bladensburg, Md., marched 12 or 14 miles. Soon after the review, orders were issued that all three-year men whose time of service was nearly expired should be discharged. This order included Companies G, F, and H, of our regiment. This was enjoyable news for the boys, as all were anxiously waiting for the day of their discharge.