We land on the 17th. Remain in a very pleasant camp among the pines and other evergreens until March 11th. Then we march to Pensacola, 15 miles distant and remain there in snug camping quarters till the 20th. As second Division, 13th, A. and C. (consisting of two brigades white and three brigades colored boys) under Generals Steele and Camby, on the night of the 21st start march, but because of heavy rain move slowly, cover only five miles, most of time skirmishing and building corduroy roads for teams and artillery, crossing Perdido and Escambia Rivers on temporary bridges of own building. We reach Pollard, a diverging point of railroad on the 26th. Here we capture and destroy a good deal of railroad and other property and are joined by some other forces, principally cavalry.
On the 27th cross the railroad and take some prisoners. On the 28th the 37th advanced--building more roads and bridges. The 29th and 30th help along with trains and artillery, being now in Tensas bottoms.
About 9 p.m. that night ten files from Company A reported to General Black, after cautiously advancing somewhat, were ordered to open the first trench for our Regiment for the investment of Fort Blakely and under a constant patter of rifle balls soon made themselves safe in a rifle pit along the top of a ridge. After midnight we were relieved by a larger force and from that time we advanced our trenches, daily and nightly, more so on the afternoon of the 5th--General Grangers, with his forces around Spanish Fort a few miles below us, opened a heavy bombardment--we made a general advance also along our whole lines. During the whole siege the troops were every morning by 4 o;clock under arms in the reserve of advance pits.
On the 7th we got some of our batteries in position-that night some of the Johnnies called to use that they would reveille about two hours earlier. At 2 o'clock they opened on us pretty lively all along our front and kept us and themselves pretty busy. The evening of the 8th Spanish Fort received another pounding and surrendered the morning of the 9th of April. Four O'clock of the same day found all of the troops in rear of Blakely under arms and moving toward their advance pits. Around 5 o'clock a general advance was sounded from right to left and under a heavy fire of shell from the fort we left our pits and advanced steadily as near in line as ground would permit--but we soon got into the abtis of tree tops fastened together by wire and other obstructions, but on we went and in 20 minutes from the time we started we were inside their works.
Joy and cheering as is not often witnessed, everyone feeling glad that the struggle was over. Once inside we formed again, and still under cheering, rushed down towards the bay, taking prisoners as we went, here we reached the Commissary Dept and thereby also a stop to our progress. We made a good haul to make up for our past short rations and with distended haversacks, we reformed under a bright moon and soon were on our march back to camp. On account of the many torpedoes encountered, with such deathly effect, (most of the troops especially the colored) during the charge we had to keep well on the main roads--finally about midnight reached our camp again.
In loss of the Regiment in the evening's work was one killed and seven wounded--Company A had one wounded while on our right and left the losses were much heavier. In prisoners we took about 3,000, our brigade alone taking one-half that number as the Rebels in front of the colored troops rushed towards the center for surrender as the cry of Fort Pillow with a red flannel rag on the end of a musket of the colored troops was not very encouraging for the Rebel chivalry, and to the credit of the colored troops, be it said General Hawkins Division did as well as any. The morning of the 10th took some Rebel prisoners and made them hunt and dig up those infernal torpedoes, another chivalric trick. After burying our dead we moved inside the works to near the river where we heard the first glad tidings from Petersburg, Richmond, Appomattox and virtually this cruel war seemed at length to be over.
On April 14th we enter Mobile and camp in suburbs till the 19th when we embark on transport Tarascon, (General Steele's Headquarters Boat) and while doing so hear the other sad news of the assassination of our beloved president Abraham Lincoln. Words cannot express the sadness and also the fierceness engendered against the Rebels by this news. On the afternoon of the 20th we were ordered to land and patrol the streets of Mobile as the intensity of hatred and grief might bring out an outburst. Embarked again on the 21st and on the 22nd of April with 13 other transports and some gunboats ascended the Alabama River, passed Cahabin on the 27th a former prison pen for our boys and fearing our vengeance they met us with a "white flag", for which we did not care much, but more so for the remaining weeks of Northern soldiers who were still here, having been too sick and feeble to be removed at previous raids. We took them aboard, and how they cheered the old flag, and how we treated them to the best we had is needless to dwell upon.
Arrive at Selma the 27th, here we found the effects of General Wilson's raid, and effectually, they had destroyed the large arsenal, gun foundries and other manufactories and also large stores of arms and ammunition and the whole river bed seemed to glitter with arms of all kinds. Land here and take possession of streets and approaches--bivouac and on the 29th embark again and proceed to Montgomery, the former seat of Rebel government. Here we land on the 30th but leave on May 1st, again returning to Selma by the 2nd.
On the afternoon of the 18th, while in camp feel a sudden shock and shaking of ground--imagine "Kingdom coming" but soon found the cause to be the explosion of several blocks of warehouses, near the levee, stored with all sorts of ammunition. A shell having exploded by careless handling set the whole mess going and over 300 lives were lost and more than ten million dollars in property, houses, boats and docks were lost. June 12th receive orders to move with 60 rounds of ammunition--what now?--but remained in a state of suspense till the 28th when at 3 a.m. are ordered to embark on steamer Clyde which took us down Mobile Bay to steamer Sedgewick and soon transfer ourselves bag and baggage and the same evening find ourselves crossing the gulf again for the fifth time.
Here we stayed till morning of the 17th of August when we were ordered aboard cars and reported at Houston same evening, examining melon patches along the road as cars could not travel very fast because of poor tracks. Bivouacked in the streets and next morning were ordered to another depot--took cars and landed at Alleytown, the terminus of the Austin and Columbus railroad--from here we marched on the morning of the 19th to Columbus, the county seat of Colorado County. On the 20th, Company A was ordered back to Alleytown again, where we made ourselves comfortable quarters in a grove adjoining depot grounds and acted as guard for all military stores shipped for General Custer's command northwest of here--in addition to that hunted considerable captured US and CS property among the natives thereabouts.
Here we relieved part of the 29th Illinois Vet. Vol. Infantry ordered
home, this making only the fifth different detachment relieved by us to
go home--(rather consoling or provoking wasn't it?) The 37th finds itself
now pretty well strung along the railroad through Texas--Company A being
at Brenham, company B at Milligan, Company C at Columbus, Company D at
Beaumont, "F" at Richmond, "H" at Alleytown, "K" at Hampstead with "E"
"I" and "G" at Houston. At Brenham our duties were the same as before,
only on account of more Government property being delivered here and reloaded
on wagons for General Custer's command we were kept somewhat more busy.
(Here enjoy being Post Adjt. Hospital Steward, Duty Sergeant and also Freemen's
Bureau agent but make it all pay.)