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DEPARTURE FROM RUTLAND.
assigned to General Butler's Division, and so originally fell under the command of that vindictive and unjust officer.*
On the 10th of March the regiment left Rutland for New York City, where the right wing, under Colonel Roberts, embarked on the ship “Premier," and the left wing, under Lieut.-Col. Fullam, on the ship “Tammerlane,” with sealed orders to proceed to sea. We were detained at Sandy Hook
* By an Act of the Legislature of Vermont, approved November 12th, 1861, the Governor was authorized to recruit and organize a regiment of infantry to serve for three years from June ist, 1861, to be attached to the Division which the Secretary of War had authorized Gen. Butler to raise in the New England States, which regiment was to be armed and equipped at the expense of the United States.
And by another Act, approved November 16th, 1861, the Governor was further authorized to recruit, organize, arm and equip an additional regiment of infantry to serve for the State " in the army of the United States for three years from June ist, 1861.
And by another Act, approved November 21st, 1861, the Governor was further authorized to raise one or more batteries of light artillery, to be attached to Gen. Butler's Division, which batteries were also to be armed and equipped at the expense of the United States.
It will be seen that under these Acts it was not contemplated that but one regiment of infantry should be furnished Gen. Butler. About this time he visited Montpelier and personally urged that the regiment authorized to be raised under the above Act of November 161h might also be assigned to his Division, but the State authorities were not disposed to comply with his wishes, prefering that the regiment should be sent to join_the other Vermont regiments in the Army of the Potomac. It is said that Gen. Butler was much provoked because greater deference was not paid to his importunities. It seems that of the two regiments thus authorized to be raised, the Eighth was first selected for service in Gen. Butler's Division, and the knapsacks and equipage of that regiment were originally marked with the initials N. E. D., indicating that it belonged to the New England Division. This was not the case with the Seventh, and none of its equipments were ever so marked. How it happened that the Seventh was ordered to Gen. Butler's command I have not been able detinitely to ascertain, but it is quite likely after his failure to obtain the acquiescence of the State authorities to the regiment being attached to his Division, that Gen. Butler applied to and interceded with the War Department to bring about the result he desired, and meeting with better success thus obtained orders directing the Seventh to report to him at Ship Island. However the matter was brought about, it fortunate for the regiment that it was sent to Gen. Butler, for almost immediately on its arrival at Ship Island he began quarreling with some of the officers. and kept up hostilities until his anger culminated in the gross and unwarranted attack which he subsequently made upon the honor of the regiment for the part it took in the battle of Baton Rouge. Many of the officers and men to this day entertain the belief that in this monstrous effort to humiliate and degrade the regiment and State, Gen. Butler was actuated to a considerable degree by the ill-feeling which he cherished for the State authorities in refusing to give their consent that the Seventh should be attached to his Division, on the occasion of his visit to Montpelier. Be this as it may, there can be no doubt had the regiment been under the command of a just and fairminded officer, the assault made upon its valor and soldierly conduct would never have occurred.
for several days waiting for favorable weather to continue our voyage to Ship Island, which, about this time, we ascertained was our destination.
On leaving our anchorage, the two ships parted company and neither saw anything of the other until we reached Ship Island. The “ Premier” and “Tammerlane" were both old-fashioned sailing ships built for the Merchant service, and hence were ill-adapted and poorly arranged to properly accommodate the large number of men with which each was crowded.
The voyage was long and uncomfortable. The weather, at first, was heavy and tempestuous, particularly “off Hatteras,” and as few, if any, of us had ever before been upon the ocean, during the season of March gales, we suffered more or less from sea sickness. By the time we reached the Florida coast however, we began to be favored with pleasant weather and smooth seas which continued for the remainder of the trip, and the voyage thereafter became more enjoyable.
On the 5th of April the “ Premier” reached Ship Island which, when first sighted, we discovered was a low and narrow strip of sand of uncommon whiteness and brilliancy and which in the distance resembled the snow covered fields we had left behind us. Our disappointment as we neared this desolate island was very great, for we had looked for a far more beautiful and attractive country. As there was no alternative left us however, we suppressed our wrath at being sent to so bleak a spot and concluded after all, that anything that could be called terra firma was preferable to life on a
troop ship, improvised as ours had been from a weather beaten and not over savory merchantman, and so we disembarked and pitched our tents in the sand of Ship Island, consoling ourselves with the reflection that we had at least escaped the enemy's cruisers and the perils of the sea.
On the 10th of April, the “ Tammerlane" with the left wing on board joined us, having been delayed by rough weather and adverse winds. An incident here occurred which illustrates the unfair treatment which we had to expect from the commanding General, and is thus referred to by Lieut.-Col. Fullam in a letter dated September 23d, and published in the Rutland Herald on the 26th of September, 1862.
“On my arrival (with left wing) commenced that series of abuses to which the regiment has “ been subject up to the present time. Upon reporting my
command to Col. Roberts, our regimental Quartermaster
caused the tents and baggage of the left wing to be disem“barked with the men when, as it seemed, Gen. Butler's “ order only mentioned the landing of the troops. The "Quartermaster was innocent of any intentional excess of “ orders, but supposed that an order for the disembarkment “ of troops upon a desert island where there was not even “ the shelter of a friendly tree to protect them from the fre
quent storms and burning sun of the climate, implied the taking with them of such articles as were absolutely nec
essary to make them comfortable. Although the landing “ of the baggage did not occupy the “Saxon” (the boat used “ for the purpose) much longer than would have been re
quired for landing the troops alone, Gen. Butler wanted
“ her and was in a great rage at the delay, and declared “somebody should lose his commission for it, and put the
Quartermaster under arrest where he was kept for some “ days.
The conduct of the Quartermaster "saved the soldiers from much suffering, for a storm of great “ fury arose in the night and threatened the destruction of our camp by blowing down our tents and deluging us with
It was impossible for us to bring from the ‘Tam“ merlane' the remainder of our camp equipage for several
days, and but for the tents and means of preparing food “ much distress would have been caused among the men so long and so closely confined on ship-board.”
The Lieut. Colonel might well have stated the facts in much stronger language. To have landed five hundred men on this barren island at that season of the year, or indeed at any time, without cooking utensils or shelter would have been grossly cruel and inhuman, and the action of the Quartermaster was entirely justifiable and correct. The storm above alluded to, or some other unknown cause, apparently softened the obdurate heart of the Major-General commanding, and in due time Capt. Morse, with whom the whole regiment sympathized, was released from arrest.
Each wing lost one enlisted man by death during the voyage, which were the only serious casualties that took place during the passage.
While on Ship Island but little occurred to break the monotony of our life which was entirely of a routine character. We lived almost wholly upon salt rations seasoned, when the wind was high, with a liberal portion of sand which
persistently adhered to pots and kettles and intermixed with food in a way not at all to our liking, and although it was claimed that our grit was thereby increased, we should have much preferred working it up by some other process. Our time was devoted mainly to drilling and perfecting the knowledge of the men in company and regimental duties. We were not able, however, to accomplish as much in the way of executing battalion mancuvres as we desired, owing to the loose sand which not only made the footing insecure, but rendered marching as difficult and fatiguing as plodding through the deep snows of Vermont, and the fear of increasing the cases of hernia, several of which had already been occasioned by these exercises, prevented our doing as much in this direction as we otherwise should. Then too, early in May the regiment was broken up in consequence of an order directing me to proceed with a portion of it to take possession of Fort Pike.
In compliance with this order, Companies B, C, and about thirty men of Company D, commanded respectively by Captains Cronan, Porter and Lieut. Thrall were detailed for that purpose and on the 3d of May we embarked on the gun boats “New London ” and “ Calhoun ” and proceeded to that fort which, on our arrival, we found had just been deserted and all the guns spiked. This fort is situated on the “Rigolets and commands the entrance to Lake Ponchartrain from the direction of Mississippi Sound, and was considered one of the important defences to New Orleans. We found it a substantial and regularly bastioned and casemated fort surrounded by a deep water moat and capable, had it been properly de