Picket duty on the peninsula

It was a miserable few weeks the 13th spent on the Warwick, a tidal river. No tents, little food, intermittent rain and camp sites so low in the swampy ground they accumulated rain water everyone had to slosh through—and try to sleep in.

Spartan Band Private Albert Wymer Henley celebrated his company’s exchange of places on the river picket line with the Secessionists as:

“a welcome change as the ground on which [the] Regiment was camped was flat and low and as the weather was very wet, the water frequently rose to a depth of 2 or 3 inches over the whole encampment extinguishing our fires and rendering our condition anything but desirable. The picket camp was high and dry and wood and water were more plentiful and convenient.”

There was little actual fighting but many false alarms. Winston Guards Private Thomas David Wallace recorded on April 18, 1862:

“…about 8 o’clock [p.m.] the musketry and cannons commenced firing [and] we were up and into line very quick. But soon after we got in line the firing ceased and we went back to our quarters and in about 1/4 hour the firing commenced again so we got into line and the firing ceased again and we went back to our quarters and stayed there till daylight…”

On the 25th, Wallace recorded the picket’s capturing three enemy:

“…there was a Colonel and a Major and a Negro our pickets took prisoner from Yankeedom.”

The colonel was the commander of the 93rd New York Regiment, according to its unit history:

“In the advance from Fortress Monroe in April, the 93d formed the extreme left of the army, and was encamped near the mouth of Warwich River, where they took part in many skirmishes and reconnoissances [sic], and performed much severe labor. While here, Col. Crocker and Maj. Cassidy were taken prisoners within our own lines, through the negligence of the officers of the picket, and until their exchange, several months later, the commander of the regiment devolved upon Lieut.-Col. Butler.”

Meanwhile, pneumonia, fevers and typhoid fever spread along the Warwick defense line. The number of sick troops in the 13th rose steadily. River boats shuttled the worst cases back up the James River to hospitals at Richmond where they might have a chance of recovery. By May 1, according to Jess McLean, the 13th had logged seventy-four cases of illness requiring hospital care.

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About Dick Stanley

Retired Texas daily newspaperman
This entry was posted in Albert Wymer Henley Diary, Battles: Peninsula Campaign, Gen. Richard Griffith, Jess N. McLean, The Spartan Band, The Winston Guards, Thomas David Wallace Diary and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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