The Civil War Diary of Henderson George
Diary 1864


  MAY 1864  
Sabbath May 1st.
Lieut. Justice appointed Post Commissary; under him I have been placed in charge of sales to officers.
Monday May 2nd.
Took charge of my position to-day as sales clerk. No army movement. Heavy rain this morning.
Tuesday May 3d.
Busy with sales. Orders to be ready to move on short notice. Lieut. Justice left for Washington D.C.
Wednesday May 4th.
Weather clear. Troops begin moving early; the whole army seems to be in motion and is probably the beginning of an advance against Richmond. About nine o'clock A.M., saw a train of loaded freight cars wrecked as it was passing Bealton Station; one man killed and a number injured. Troops are said to be crossing the Rapidan River at Germania Ford; this point is about twelve miles distant and in the direction of the enemy. Late in the evening was ordered to return to Brintons Station and bring forward a drove of beef cattle. As all fences and roads were obliterated because of army occupation, and darkness coming on it was impossible to see the road, or to know where I was going, except that I felt I was moving in the right direction. The whole country for miles around was denuded of all trees and fences, which had been used up by the the soldiers for fuel and quarters, during the winter. At the same time roads and paths were leading in every direction. The place of course was entirely deserted, nothing but the wreckage of former camps covered the whole locality. Saw a bright fire burning and a man diligently gathering the wreckage and throwing it on the fire. Rode up and spoke to him but he made no response; he was hatless and almost naked; watched him a few minutes and concluded he was insane, and quietly withdrew fearing somewhat an insane attack.
While deliberating in the darkness a little way from the insane mans fire, the lowing of cattle was heard, and turning my horse in the direction from which the sound came, and riding about half a mile was glad to find the corral of cattle with a detail of men in charge. Unsaddle my horse and giving him something to eat, and with the saddle for a pillow lay down until morning.
Thursday May 5th.
This morning early start to the front with the drove of cattle; arrive at Germania Ford in the after-noon; turn cattle over to the Division Commissary. Cannonading and lively skirmishing is heard on our front. The whole army has crossed the Rapidan.
Friday May 6th.
Was up this morning about two o'clock; move head quarters about two miles. At daylight a great battle seems to be on; owing to the heavy forest, and thick under growth, and the broken rough country, our fighting lines are hid from view. As the day advances musketry firing grows more and more furious, crashing along our lines in a continuous rattling roar, rising and falling as it waves destruction along the different sections of our widely extended lines. Artillery not much in use because of the unfavorable topography of the field. The field hospital has been established near our head quarters; crores of wounded are being brought in and many surgeons are at work. General Grant, also General Mead, both on the field. Heavy fighting all day. Fire broke out in the underbrush on a part of our line, and some of the wounded lying on the field were burned. at sun-down the enemy broke our right causing confusion and alarm. General Wadsworth who was in command on the right was killed in this charge of the enemy, also General Hayes. Darkness ends the terrible struggle of the day, but the groans of the wounded and dying fill the air.
Saturday May 7th.
The fierce battle of yesterday became known as the battle of the Wilderness. The Roundheads were engaged but fortunately our casualties were light; brother is all right. no heavy fighting to-day; late this evening the enemy made two unsuccessful assualts on our left. The battle of yesterday seems to have been without result or advantage to either side. Was at Chancelorsville during the day. Army ordered to move at dark; our move appears to be in the direction of Fredericksburg.
Sabbath May 8th.
Weather very warm and sultry. Was on the road all night, but making little progress. Encamp at noon on the site of battle of Chancelorsville fought last year. Human bones and skulls were in evidence here and there over the field. Cannonading heard in the direction of Spottsylvania C.H. Encamp on the Spottsylvania road with about six miles of the Court house. The Union and Confederate armies seem to be moving side by side in parallel columns.
Monday May 9th.
Weather warm and sultry. Arose this morning from my couch under the blue sky about two o'clock, and move with troops on the road to Spottsylvania; arrive about noon within shelling distance. General Stevenson in command of the third Division of the ninth corps was killed to-day; also General Sedgwick.
Tuesday May 10th.
Considerable fighting during the day at Spottsylvania. Colonel Leasure of the Roundheads is in command of the First Division of the 9th. Army Corps; it made an advance this evening pushing the enemy back some distance, sustaining comparatively small loss; this movement was made on the left of our line.
Wednesday May 11th.
Raining. Skirmishing all day on our front. This evening our troops fell back across the Little Annie River, but recrossed after dark; suppose this movement was intended as a feint. Lieut. Justice left for Acquia Creek.
Thursday May 12th.
Weather cloudy, raining all day. Hard battle fought to-day in which our Regiment suffered severely; do not at this time know the casualties; a large number of prisoners -- upward of ten thousand were taken. Move wagon train about six miles back from the front; roads bad on account of the heavy continuous rains.
Friday May 13th.
Weather cloudy, raining, no fighting to-day along the lines of the 9th. Corps. The Roundheads were badly cut up yesterday in the fight. Some of the killed of company E. are Stewart Gill, Milton Campbell, James McCune, and W. Bently; many wounded but have not their names. Brother Samuel is all right.
Saturday May 14th.
Weather showery. Comparative quiet on our lines to-day.
Sabbath May 15th.
Weather continuous showery. Preparations appear to be going on for another battle; reinforcements are hurriedly brought up; all wagon trains ordered to Fredericksburg.
Monday May 16th.
Arrive at Fredericksburg; wagon train sent to the front with supplies; unload and return to Fredericksburg. From Fredericksburg wagon train sent to Belle Plane our present base of supplies to reload; this place is on the Potomac River. Arrive at Belle Plane in the evening, but other trains ahead of us prevent us from reloading until next day. John Burns and I are in charge of train. Know litle about affairs at the front; our army seems to be shifting considerably to the left; the fighting that has been going on since the 6th, does not appear much to our advantage. The two opposing armies appear to be moving toward Richmond in parallel columns.
Tuesday May 17th.
Return with wagon train from Belle Plane to Fredericksburg, and unload; immediately sent back to Belle Plane to reload; arrive at the latter place in the evening but other trains ahead of us delay reloading until we come in turn.
Wednesday May 18th.
Weather raining. Could not get in to load until this after-noon. after loading ordered to park train for the night, and to await military escort; rebel cavalry it is said threaten our line of cummunication.
Thursday May 19th.
Leave Belle Plane at six P.M., arrive at Fredericksburg at noon. Sent in charge of a wagon train to the front; within three or four miles of the front attacked by the enemy causing us to turn back in haste to Fredericksburg. Enemy repulsed after a fight two hours without the loss of a wagon; arrive back at Fredericksburg about mid-night; lay down under a wagon for a nap. This was a strenuous days experience.
Friday May 20th.
remain at Fredericksburg awaiting orders. Lieut. Justice and John Burns arrive from the front this evening.
Saturday May 21th.
Leave for the front at sunrise; arrive at Massapony Church at ten A.M. Found troops on the move. Not knowing where to find the 9th. Corps fell in with General Grants head quarters train and remain with it during the night.
Sabbath May 22nd.
A general movement of the army appears to be in progress. Not much firing can be heard.
Monday May 23d.
Army still on the move. Heavy cannonading to-day on our front on the James River.
Tuesday May 24th.
Our supply train parks near the South Anna River; heavy fighting this evening on our front. The enemy is probably making a stand at the South Anna River. Part of our force is said to have crossed over.
Wednesday May 25th.
Heavy skirmishing all day. Our regiment on the skirmish line; several of the Roundheads wounded -- two or three mortally. Lieut. Justice returned from Belle Plane; I was sent this evening to Belleford to bring forward a supply train.
Thursday May 26th.
Lieut. Justice and John Burns went to Port Royal to-day to reload wagons. I issued rations to the second Division of the 9th. Corps Order received after dark to move train and park at the Church, and await further orders.
Friday May 27th.
Weather showery. Order received about 11 A.M. to move out on a road in an eastern direction; move some distance and park on a small stream in a corn field. The 9th. Corps has been defending our rear.
Saturday May 28th.
On the move this morning at six o'clock in the direction of the Pamunkey River; in the evening cross the stream. Every thing ordered over. The enemy said to be near in heavy force. Fierce battle at Cold Harbor; the Roundheads were engaged and met with some casualties; Lieutenant Gilfillan was killed; do not know further particulars.
Sabbath May 29th.
There is apparent quietness in our immediate vicinity. Distant cannonading is heard. The Roundheads crossed the Pamunkey River this morning; and after an hours rest was ordered to the front.
Monday May 30th.
Weather fair and warm. Move wagon train a short distance toward the front. From the sound of cannon and musketry a lively fight seems to be going on at the front. This fighting has been kept up most of the day. Issued to the Brigade last night.
Tuesday May 31st.
Brisk skirmishing along our lines; the Roundheads are on skirmish line.