The Civil War Reminiscences of Charles Judson Millard
I was born in the town of Butternut, Otsego County, New York, January 17th, 1845. I moved with my parents to Lake Mills when two years and nine months old.
On August 14th 1862, when seventeen years of age, I enlisted in Company D 29th Regiment, Wisconsin Infantry Volunteers. I enlisted in the Methodist Church. I had been trying to get my father to let me enlist for some little time. He objected, but I talked him over. After enlisting, I boarded at the American House for a while and drilled on the Common; then went to Fort Atkinson and drilled there a while, and then went to Madison. While we were in Madison, I was taken sick and had to come home. I went back to Madison as soon as I was able, and on the 2nd of November, 1862 the regiment was mustered out.
We took the train for Chicago, stopped there and marched around to see the Tribune Building, transferred to another train and went to Cairo; took the boat there and went to Helena, Arkansas. We stayed there about six weeks and drilled and did picket duty. One night they called for volunteers. We all thought they were going on a foraging expedition, but instead they took us out in the mud and swamp and wouldn't let us have any fire. It seems they had expected an attack. I went to sleep on a log and rolled off.
We afterwards went on the hill back of Helena on what we called Camp Death, because we lost so many men there. It was very muddy. I have seen a team of mules get sick and lie down in the mud, and they would just have to leave them right there in the mud. It was so deep they could not get them out. While we were camped there, four hundred men went on an expedition into the interior of Arkansas by way of White River, but I didn't go with them.
From there we went down to Friar's Point. There was a band of guerrilla there. We drove them away and drew lots of cotton in there, so it was called Gordon's Cotton Expedition. General Gordon was commanding our Brigade at that time.1
When we were at Helena, before we started on the trip up the Arkansas River, we were asleep on the boats, and a fellow got up and walked right over between the boats. We could hear him yell, "I am gone" but after a while he came back to the Regiment. Someone had pulled him out.
We camped at the mouth of the White River a while. We heard that the Arkansas Post had surrendered. We had one fellow in our Regiment (he didn't belong to our Company) who was a dirty fellow; couldn't any one get him to keep himself clean, so the Colonel detailed two or three men to take him down to the river and scrub him up. They scrubbed him good.
It was all very soft soil there and it washed down the Mississippi River, and when we came home, the place where we camped on the White River was all gone-had washed away. The Mississippi is a great old river.
We went up to Duvall's Bluff and captured some artillery, small arms and prisoners, but our Regiment didn't have any fight there. It was just a little post. While we were there a man went in swimming and was drowned. I remember seeing him. They had to have a sort of post mortem to find the cause of his death.
From there, on February 21st, we went back down the river to Yazoo Pass. We went down the Mississippi River through the pass to Cold Water River, and stayed there until March 1st as a guard, and then returned to Helena.
April 5th we went up the St. Francis River, and there were so many buffalo gnats there, and they stung the horses so, they would kill them unless we built a fire and smudged them out. Had a little skirmish on the St. Francis River.
We went back to Helena, and April 10th embarked for Milliken's Bend. That was above Vicksburg. We stayed there quite a bit. April 16th we started marching south through almost impassable bayous and roads. My feet go sore but I got along pretty well, a good deal better than a good many people. Some of them had such sore feet they could hardly hobble around.
While we were at Milliken's Bend they commenced to dig a canal to shut off Vicksburg so it would not be on the river. We did not have much to do with the bridges for the pioneer corps did them. Where it was necessary, we cut logs and laid them in and made a corduroy road, but I didn't have anything to do with the building of the roads. The swamps were full of water. We crossed the Mississippi a short distance below Grand Gulf on the ways to Post Gibson. One time when we were at Milliken's Bend, we were where we could see the flashes of the guns when the boys ran the blockade there. They piled up a lot of bales of cotton on each side so they could not shoot the horses and to protect the men on the boat too, and then they ran down the river past the blockade.
We were where we could watch the fight at Grand Gulf, and that night we were up all night long. We had started on the road to Port Gibson. They would go a little way then stop; when they would stop, then men would lie down and go to sleep, and we would just get good and asleep and then we would have to start on again. During the night some horses that were herded got loose and stampeded down. Then men were on a side hill with the river on one side and the ravine on the other. I ran up on the hill next the river and got out of the way of them, and some men stopped them. We didn't know what was the matter; we couldn't see and thought the old Scratch2 was after us. I don't believe we got over nine or ten miles in all night.
We reached Port Gibson May 1st, and the next morning had just got our coffee made and hadn't time to drink it when we had to start for the battlefield. We marched through cane break, up hills and down ravines, through everything. That was the first real fight I ever saw. The piper stood about five or six feet back of me and I heard the bullet that struck him. We could see a general on a white horse away off-a long way-and they would try to plug him. The bullets would sing when they went over us. There were cannon behind and ahead of us. They shot the cannon right over us, and then there was artillery before us, shooting at us. That night we entered Port Gibson. Before we went into battle we took off our knapsacks and stacked them, and that night we went back and got them. We had hard-tack, coffee and bacon. We used to call that "sour belly." We had desiccated potatoes and other vegetables that were dried. We used to make soup out of that. We used to get fresh beef one in a while when we were where we could get it, but most often our meat was bacon and salt pork. We didn't get hungry very often. We generally got enough to eat. The one place I ever got hungry was when we got full rations but did not get enough to eat at that; that was on the sands of Texas.
One thing that bothered us a good deal was to get good water. The best water we could get when we were on the Mississippi River was to take the water right out of the river and let it settle. Sometimes there would be an inch of mud in the bottom of the pail after it had settled all night.
We marched from Port Gibson to Champion Hills. It was pretty hot some days there; it was the hottest weather we ever had. There were a lot of them threw away blankets, overcoats, etc.; they were strung all over the road. I think I threw away my overcoat and some winter things I did not want. The battle of Champion Hills was about as sharply contested a battle as I was in. I think we lost over half the Brigade in killed and missing. There were about five thousand men in it; that is, there should have been that many. The Regiment was never quite full.
At Champion Hills they had a part of their artillery. We marched right across the hill and let them shoot over us, and then the Johnnies went for us and we went for them. Finally we had to go back for we were getting too far away from our supports. We got back and some more fresh troops came and they told us to lie down. We did so and they marched right over us. The next two or three days we stayed and picked up the battle field, buried the dead, picked up and cared for the wounded.
1Typescript in my possession reads "Gorman's Cotton Expedition" but then refers to "General Gordon".
2In other words, the Devil.