Monday, May 16, 2011

Civil War Memoir of Thomas Jefferson Hampson, May 1861

Thomas Jefferson Hampson sitting with his family and his
wife Alice Elmira to his left, with little Elmer, "Cot" on  his lap.
This photo coincides with the the time he was writing his 
account, about 1910.  My mom is the little girl on the right. 

We resume today the story of Thomas Jefferson Hampson, my great grandfather, who enlisted in the Union Army after the shelling of Fort Sumter.  In April, we used his unpublished memoir to tell the story how the news of the attack came back to Farmers College in Cincinnati, Ohio and the mad rush across the Ohio River to Cincinnati where he and his good friend Jack enlisted.  The piece concludes with their heady trip by rail through cheering towns to Carlisle Barracks in Pennsylvania. 

Home to today's Army War College, Carlisle is one of the oldest military installations in the United States.  It was founded by the British in 1754 as a garrison to support British troops in the French and Indian War.  General Braddock, supported by Colonel George Washington's Virginia Provincials, would have walked through Carlisle on their way to the humiliating defeat by the indians.  During the revolution, Carlisle was used for many purposes, including housing captured British troops and German merceneries.   

President Washington would return at the beginning of his second term to personally review 14,000 troops assembled to suppress the Whiskey Rebellion.  Washington proposed Carlisle for the new military academy but lost out to property along a bluff above the Hudson, West Point. 

There would have been about 800 new recruits at Carlisle when Hampson and Jack arrived. Training is not quite the operative word for what was happening there.  Just three weeks after arrival, they were outfitted and on their way west to Kansas, then Missouri and some of hardest combat of the war.  That will be our next post the second week in June.  In 1863, Carlilsle was burned to the ground by General JEB Stuart during the Confdederate invasion of the North that ended at Gettysburg. 

Carlisle Barracks became home to the famous Carlisle Indian Industrial School as territorial wars in the west wound down.  Brigadier General Richard Henry Pratt saw the school as an alternative to incarceration and, In 1879, the first class arrived for three years' of study, later extended to five.  The purpose was to move young native men and women through the cultural membrane at Carlisle into American agricultural and industrial society.

Young Tom Terino, Navajo, is shown when he arrived in 1883 and when he left in 1886.

Perhaps the most accomplished athlete in American history went to school at Carlisle.  Jim Thorpe, Sac and Fox, created a legend playing football there, as he ran, largely unimpeded, across the fields of the Ivy League schools the Carlisle Indians played.  He was the decathalon champion in the 1912 Stockholm Olympics.  Lewis Tewamina, Hopi, was another great athlete from Carlisle.  He won silver in Stockholm at 10,000 meters.

Charles "Chief" Bender, Chippewa, Hall of Fame pitcher for the Philadelphia Athletics was another.  My cousin, Tom (Thomas Jefferson Hampson, natch) completed the Carlisle circle when he married into the Bender family.  Over time, the athletes at Carlisle were a source of significant monies to the school's mission.  "Pop" Warner, among other famous sportsmen, coached there.  The school closed in 1918.

The boys from Cincinnati had a tough introduction to Carlisle.  The food was dreadful, their bed a few sticks and loose straps and they promptly get into a fight with the sergeants in charge of their barracks.

Their light punishment for insubordination and fighting tells us they were clearly the kind of recruits the country wanted at the front. 

As before, the spelling and grammar come directly down from Thomas Jefferson Hampson.  There are a couple of good ones.  Unsavoury stands out, anticedent, sargeant, comrads.  How about "conflab?"  And, there is the devil himself, Lucifor. 

By the time he was writing this in Bonanza, Colorado, the semi-colon was losing its allure as a punctuation tool.  The new telegraph and the insistent newspapers of the time favored shorter sentences with the nice, full stop provided by the period. 

Hampson was having none of that.  If it is good enough for Farmers College, it apparently is good enough for Bonanza, Colorado. 

"The Captain"
Thomas Jefferson Hampson
Chapter Three, Carlisle Barracks

Our enlistment dated May 21, 1861.  We were domiciled at Uncle Sams barracks at Carlisle, the general rendezvous for the regular army.  When we arrived at Carlisle, there were, at the time, about eight hundred other recruits, awaiting assignments to their respect regiments.  I must say that they were a motley crew, of every nationality, good, bad and, indifferent; youngsters just out of school, middle aged men.  They came from every walk of life; some refined and genteel.  Others rough, and course, of doubtful pedigree, and had their anticedents been traced, it would have led to unsavoury places. 
We were marched down to our quarters and shown where we were to hang up for the night.  We arrived at 5 o’clock, tired, hungry, and dusty after our long ride in the cars.  When Jack and I inspected the rough, dirty bunks that were to hold our tender bodies during the night, with only two miserable thin blankets to cover us, our minds went back home with a rush, and visions of soft feather beds rose up before us.  All the luxuries of a comfortable and pleasant home danced in dazzling brightness before our eyes, mocking us in our dire extremity.  Jack looked at me, I at him.
“Well, I’ll be damned!” exclaimed Jack.
“Here too!”  said I.
Another blank stare at each other, another silence, broken only by the deep, deep sigh that seemed to come up from our boots.
“Where are the pillows?” asked Jack.
“Damfino!” replied myself.
An old soldier passing at that moment heard Jack’s question about the pillows, and advised him to use his boots as a pillow.
“I would like to use them to kick that lying recruiting sargeant who told us about the fine accommodations we would find at this measly old barracks,” replied Jack, indignation getting the better of his judgement.  He raved and tore around like a mad man.  I guess he was a mad boy.
“Well, Jack,” I said, “maybe they did not know that two such illustrious guests were coming, and failed to prepare suitable apartments.”  For I began to take a philosophical view of the matter and came to the conclusion that in as much as we had run up against a hard proposition, the only thing for us to do was to make the best of the bargain. 
Discovery at the Mess Hall
About this time, the keeper of our ward announced that supper was ready, to go down and fill up, then probably we would feel better.  Accordingly, we went down to the dining room to partake of the feast.  Here another painful surprise awaited us.
Four long tables were set.  The dishes consisted of two tin plates and cups of the same material.  The bill of fare consisted of cold boiled side meat, hard tack, and coffee.  One glance was enough to cause our stomachs to rebel.  Jack turned to a fellow sufferer sitting alongside of him and asked if that was the kind of stuff Uncle Sam proposed the defenders of the nation eat. 
“Well, it is this or nothing,” he replied.
“Well, then, nothing goes, and so do I,” and he got up from the table with a big disgust on.  He started out of the room and I followed.  When we got outside of the building here another staring match occurred.  Silence again held sway – we were too full for utterance.  Not full of grub, but indignation. 
Jack broke the silence at last and came near breaking my heart at the same time by beginning to talk about college and good times there, our home, and mothers…
Then I decided to tease Jack a little asking, “How is your patriotism now, Jack?”
“Oh damn your patriotism!  I wish I was home!”
I could see he was taking his discomfort more to heart than I was, and let him along to struggle with his great trouble.
The next morning we were up quite early with aching bones, the result of sleeping on hard bunks.
Trouble with the Authorities
At nine o’clock we were ordered to report at the surgeon’s office for a medical examination.  The surgeon complimented us by saying that were the best built recruits he ever saw.  After that ordeal had been passed through were marched down to the commissary department to draw our uniforms.  After putting them on, we felt that we were, in fact, U.S.  soldiers.
After putting the uniform on, the sargeant came around distributing to each man a leather collar to be worn around the neck, according to army regulations to keep our head up so that when were marching and drilling, we could not look down at the ground or at the heels of the men marching ahead of us.  The idea of wearing a leather collar like a dog!  We did not propose to have such an indignity thrust upon and refused point blank to put them on.  The sargeant informed us that he would have to report us for insubordination to the commanding officer.
We informed him that we were from a military college and knew how to hold our head up, and could drill as well as he could.  This information seemed to surprise him, and he informed us that if we were good drilled men, we could be excused from wearing the obnoxious collar.  He also informed us that our knowledge of military tactics would take us out of the ranks in short order, and he gave us a squad of men to drill.
We were then marched down to the barracks and turned over to the tender mercies of the Irish sargeant that had charge of our ward.  He was an overbearing brute; making himself as offensive as possible, ordering us around very much the same as an overseer on a southern plantation would a gang of slaves.  In each of our bunks we found a bed tick and a yellow slip which articles the sergeant bade us to take down to the Cavalry stables and fill with straw. 
Jack was somewhat slow in getting his tick out of the bunk when the sergeant told him to hurry up or he would smash his head.  This was more than Jack could take.  He informed the sargeant that it was a game two people could play and whenever he felt like smashing a head to sail in.
To have his authority questioned in this manner aroused the sergeant, and he proceeded to put his threat into execution instantly and making a rush for Jack, he endeavored to land a knockout blow.  Right there was where he made a grievous error.  Jack weighs 175 pounds, strong as an ox, and was well up on the art of self defense.  The way he doubled that Irishman up was a sight worth seeing.
He literally mopped the floor with him and the sergeant lustily called for help.  The sargeant of the next ward came running to his assistance but as I was Jack’s chum, I did not propose to see Jack doublecrossed.  As the other sargeant ran up to Jack, I smashed him in the jaw and laid him out on the floor.  He concluded that he had enough about that time.  Then the guards came on the scene and stopped the fight.  Jack and I were, of course, marched before the commanding officer for an examination.  After hearing both sides of the story, he ordered us back to the barracks, saying in the meantime he would consider whether he would have us court marshaled, hung, or shot…
I detected a merry twinkle in his eye during the examination that made me think he enjoyed the sargeants discomfiture, and felt as if he deserved all he received at the hands of Jack.  Consequently, I did not anticipate any harsh sentence, and subsequent events justified my opinion in that respect. 
After the fracas, Jack and I went down to the straw shack and filled our ticks with visions of a comfortable bed floating before us. 
That afternoon we were assigned to companies.  Jack and I both going into Co.  A to be drilled until such time we would be sent to our regular regiments at the front, where we would see active service. 
One good result of our mix-up with the sargeant was that it established our reputation among our comrads in arms, and that was that we did not propose to be run over; also we were amply able to take our own part, and if anyone was desirous of a scrap we would at any time accommodate them.
We knew, of course, that the affair with the sargeants would call for some sort of punishment, but as to the nature of the punishment we were unable to determine and did not allow ourselves to worry about it!  The only thing we were worrying about that particular time was grub; both of us being accustomed to good living, being blessed with a good able-bodied appetite, it was a hard struggle to come down to army rations.
Getting the Awkward Squad
The next morning we all turned out to the first regular roll call.  Jack and I stood side by side in the ranks.  After that ceremony was over we were held in ranks to hear general orders No.  1, read by the orderly sargeant.  After several had been read, he called my name.  “Punishment for fighting, drilling the awkward squad for five days. “  Jack’s name was called – he was to do police duty for two days.  He gave me a punch and whispered, “What do you think of that, old boy, only two days in the service and promoted already.”  Poor boy!  Little did he or I know what police duty meant in a military sense.  Before the days was over were enlightened in that respect – a rude awakening!
Our drill hours were from 10-12 o’clock.  The Awkward Squad was turned over to me, and I was cautioned to keep them away from the companies drilling on the parade ground.  Well, if ever a squad of men deserved the name given them that one did.  They were the most awkward squad of men I ever saw; it was torture trying to teach them anything, I put them through their paces.  When the bugle sounded the recall, I started them toward the barracks; being up the adventure, I was coming toward a man trundling a wheel barrow.  I thought I recognized Jack and in a few moments we met.  Sure enough the wheel barrow pusher was Jack – Jack was the man between the handles of the barrow.  For the life of me, I could not understand why such an indignity should be put upon a newly appointed police officer.  A guard was with him to see that he did his duty.  “Well,” I thought, “if that is police duty, I don’t want any line of military duty”
That night Jack and I had an indignant conflab.  He did not know that police duty meant going around cleaning up the grounds surrounding the officers quarters, and any other dirty work the guard in charge of the prisoner ordered him to do.
Jack was mad all the way through.  He was proud as Lucifor, of a wealthy family and accustomed to have servants wait on him.  The idea of gathering up the slops from the kitchen of men who in the civil life he would not have recognized as an equal, he was humiliated to the extreme. 
His pride had received a severe shock.  All night he lay awake planning a deep and deadly revenge upon those who were responsible for his humiliation.  He could not make up his mind whether he would murder all the officers, set fire to the barracks, run off by the light of the moon, or desert.  Poor Jack!  He had a hard lesson ahead of him.  Then he was given an awkward squad. 
That squad of men could make more blunders in five minutes that mine could in two hours;  after seeing them drill for five minutes, I was glad I did not take him up on the bet he tried to make.
After all, we had great sport out of our Awkward Squads.  When our five days were up, we were given men to drill who had pride enough to try to learn Military Evolutions. 
In 1861, drilled men were scarce, and anyone who could drill men had a pull.
Jack and I had made up our minds to attend strictly to business and avoid trouble with our comrads.  Then things began to get better – we got along all right.
Next installments will include the trip to Kansas and Missouri in June, several skirmishes there culminating with the first major battle in the west, Wilson’s Creek, in August, where Thomas Jefferson Hampson is seriously wounded, left for dead, captured by the confederates and imprisoned in the Greene County Courthouse in Springfield, Missouri.
He will escape, in October, a 19 year old young man weighing just 80 pounds.  He will heal, regain his weight, rejoin the army as an engineer, and serve until the war is over.   

Read more about Thomas Jefferson Hampson
What soldiers ate and how to cook it for your own soldier.
Terrific page about Carlisle Indian Industrial School
Charles Bender's stats


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