by W. H. Shaw

Note:  This is the third of a four part series on Company E, 115th Regiment written by W. H. Shaw in 1864.   Additions will be updated once week until the entire series is online by mid June.

Back to Part II

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    In sketch No. 2, we found ourselves mustered into the service of the limited States on the 26th day of August, 1862, and from that time to the 29th, the scene at Camp  Fonda was just exactly indescribable, and if any one can imagine the disturbance caused by the Confusion of tongues at the Babel encampment, which history gives an account of happening several thousand years ago, they may multiply that by twenty and the thing will be about Correct, as far as Confusion was Concerned. The Camp was not only well filled with soldiers for the next two and a half days, but their friends and relatives seemed to multiply like the locusts of Egypt, and for numbers, the soldiers part of the Crowd was but a tithe of those present, as every relative, as far distant by Consanguinity or affinity, as eighth or tenth Cousin, was in Camp, to give their relation a party blessing or a new pair of wool socks, while their numerous friends and neighbors loaded the boys with little presents, such as pick knives, handkerchief, razor straps, pocket pistols loaded with liquid shot and many other little trinkets, such as farmers thought soldiers might need in Case of being wounded by a rebel, or bitten by a rattlesnake.

    However, the time came on the morning of the 29th, that the citizen and the soldier must become two distinct and separate bodies, when the latter were formed in line, to receive from the ladies of the old eighteenth Congressional district, two strands of Colors, one, that of the Empire State, and the other, the stars and stripes, both of which proudly floated on the gentle breezes, as they were silently and sweetly wafted along through the old historic Mohawk Valley and as those flags kissed the mild zephyrs and bathed themselves in the sunshine, each man in that iron hearted line, made a solemn but silent vow, to protect those ensigns of liberty and freedom, even with his own heart's blood, a vow which many of the old regiment paid with their lives, as a sacrifice laid upon the altar of their country.

Off To Meet The Johnnys

    Our march from the Camp ground, down the hill, and through the village of Fonda, to the train of first-Class-passenger Cars of the N.Y.C.R.R., that were to convey us on our way rejoicing, was but one continuous ovation, receiving the blessing of fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers and aunts, while others showered upon the men volley after volley of flowers in all forms, from a single stem, to a huge bouquet, and at eleven o'clock every man was on board, when the iron horse gave a puff or two and the train moves out slowly, and Fonda with all its then bewitching attractions to many of the men, and some of the officers, was left in the rear, and Company E, accompanied by the balance of the regiment, were winding their way down through the Mohawk Valley toward the seat of war.

Mose, Josh, Levi, George and Jake

    Soon after leaving Fonda, the men became domesticated, and accepted their several situations, and quite a number of them who had never before enjoyed a free ride on the cars, and in fact, some had never been inside of one before, seemed to enjoy the thing as though they were going to attend a mammoth picnic, and in a little while began to relate their Camp experiences, in a manner most amusing "Mose" Loucks, with his squeaky musical voice, told us how he went up a tree, crawled out on a limb, and borrowed one of the Colonel's turkeys, and wound up with, "by gosh all fir locks boys, if that eternal limb had ever broke and let me down I'd a lost that turkey sure."  But the limb didn't break, and a few of Company E had a midnight turkey dinner.  Josh Lake, one of the best shots in the army, never stole a turkey.  His favorite game was chickens.   All the hens and roosters within a radius of three miles of Fonda, were well acquainted with that gentle voice, of which Josh was the owner.  They even knew his whistle, and would trot out to the road whenever they heard nothing but his footsteps, and cackle or crow, "here I am I, Joshua".  And of course Josh interviewed the bird.  George Van Rensselaer, not being an Israelite, of course never refused a good roaster and during the two weeks that Company E laid at Fonda roast pig was not an uncommon dish, when the boys had an elegant gilt edged "bill of fare", as sometimes they did Lew Clark knew just how to lay in a good stock of almost anything that was good to eat, and was never at a loss for a scheme to obtain such things at the least possible expense.  He wouldn't have been a good soldier if he had not passed a good examination on that point.  While at Camp Fonda, his class in mathematics was well attended, and became quite proficient in the rules of subtraction, multiplication and division, ie., they learned to subtract from the farmer or merchant, multiplying their own larder, and divide with the Captain Jake was also one of the kind of soldiers that had leaning toward self preservation through the means of a well filled haversack.

Nearing Albany

    There are several others whose recitals of solid facts and fancies, pleasantly related, of doing in and around Camp Fonda, for which we must wait until some future time.  As we have passed through Amsterdam and Schenectady, where thousands of people greeted our arrival and departure, and we are now slowing the train for a stop in Albany, where we arrived at 2 o'clock P.M., and marched into the "Delavan House," or Vacant stores in the Delavan block, where Company E., with the balance of the 115th, were bountifully refreshed with all the good things that the old Dutch city could at that early date afford.  Of course they could do better now, as they have a new Capitol and a larger and better jail.

Down The Hudson Valley

    After lunch, we were given a free sail across the Noble Hudson river, on an old ferry boat, to Greenbush, where we again boarded a train of cars in waiting for us, and soon we were gliding along down the east shore of the river we had just crossed. For an hour or two the men seemed to be in a sort of contemplative mood, though all seemed pleased with the beautiful scenery along the river, until the shades of the evening and the emblem of death covered the face of the earth with darkness.  About this time the effects of the water the boys drank in  Albany began to manifest itself, and while some were stupefied, others were jolly and happy, then again some would be delirious, and call for more Albany water, and were determined to have another drink at all hazards.  Of the latter class, was James Montaney of Co. E., who imagined that it was his duty to somehow or other, to get another drink of fire water.  We were at this time, near Peekskill, the night was dark, and the train running at the rate of thirty miles an hour, the car doors all locked, and no chance, seemingly, for Jim to get out.  But Jim was equal to the occasion.  Watching his chance, he raised a window, and quick as thought, slid out, head first.  Of course the train couldn't be stopped for one man, and we gave the young man up for lost, and was so going to report him in our morning report the next morning.  The train sped on reaching New York about 2 o'clock on the morning of the thirtieth, and from the station the regiment marched to the Park Barrack, then on the site now occupied by the post office.  In that then beautiful and sweet scented place on earth, reeking with the filth left of the thousands of soldiers who had gone before us, we bivouacked upon the filthy floors until daylight, when the men awoke, began to realize their situation, as so many swine in a large pen Contractors' rations, such as they were, were served to both men and officers, or such of the officers as chose to accept them.   Some of us will never while life lasts, forget our experience in the filthy Park Barracks of New York City in August 1862.  At about nine o'clock the men were formed in line for roll call, and when the name of James Montaney was called, he at that moment stepped up in time to answer to his name.  His was a most miraculous escape from death.  When he went out the car window, he struck on the grassy side of the embankment, rolled down into the river, crawled upon the track again, followed along to the Peekskill station, took the first train for New York, arriving safe and sound, and in time to prevent his name being recorded among the missing, not in action, but from a railroad train.  Jim is still living, and a resident of Monroe, Oswego County.



This piece was typed by volunteer Jill Collins.


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Copyright 1999, Jill Collins, Jeanette Shiel
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Last updated Tuesday, 13-May-2008 13:37:41 PDT