Sea-swaying steamer sends seasick sailors to the rail

 

In late 1862, the leased steamer S.R. Spaulding transported Col. Simon G. Jerrard and the 22nd Maine Infantry Regiment from Washington, D.C. to New Orleans, via Newport News in Virginia. Despite a bit of tendency to roll in heavy seas, the Spaulding proved to a sturdy ship. (Library of Congress)

In late 1862, the leased steamer S.R. Spaulding transported Col. Simon G. Jerrard and the 22nd Maine Infantry Regiment from Washington, D.C. to New Orleans, via Newport News in Virginia. Despite a bit of a tendency to roll in heavy seas, the Spaulding proved to a sturdy ship. (Library of Congress)

With recruiting seriously lagging in late summer 1862, the War Department authorized Maine and other loyal states to raise nine-month regiments.

Rather than sign up three years or until the war’s end, as had the men recently enlisted in the 16th through 20th infantry regiments, men joining the nine-month regiments would serve only 270 days from when each regiment mustered into federal service.

Maine raised eight such regiments, numbered 21 through 28. Drawn mostly from Penobscot County (except companies D and F from Washington County and Co. G from Washington County), the 22nd Maine Infantry Regiment coalesced at Camp John Pope in Bangor.

Named its colonel was Simon G. Jerrard (also “Jerard”), who at the 1860 census was a 31-year-old [dairy] farmer living in Levant with his wife, the 28-year-old Samantha. Assigned to the household were two 16-year-old farmer laborers, Albert Annis and Daniel Barker, and 10-year-old Charles Brooks. By 1862, Jerrard was the head selectman for Levant.

Marching across Bangor from Camp John Pope to the Maine Central Railroad station on Tuesday, October 21, the 22nd Maine boys boarded a southbound train and rumbled into Washington, D.C. three days later. For most members of the 22nd Maine, the trip to Washington was the farthest they had ever traveled from home — but they soon took a sea cruise, courtesy of the federal government.

The Army needed additional soldiers in southern Louisiana, so off to the Pelican State went the 21st, 22nd, 24th, 26th, and 28th Maine infantry regiments to join the expedition commanded by the Stonewall Jackson-manhandled Nathaniel Prentice Banks.

“Employed principally in drilling and guard duty,” Jerrard and the 22nd Maine spent 12 days in Arlington, Va. before boarding the S.R. Spaulding, a 210-foot side-wheel steamer leased by the federal government. Sailing “down the Potomac” on November 5, the regiment “reached our destination on the 7th,” Jerrard reported. “The Twenty-Second was the first regiment of the Banks’ Expedition to rendezvous at Fortress Monroe.”

Denied permission to land his passengers at Fort Monroe, the S.R. Spaulding’s captain steamed the short distance to Newport News, “where comfortable barracks were found for the soldiers,” Jerrard said.

“Our camp … was a pleasant one,” noted Pvt. Edward E. Mills of Co. C and Eddington. Twenty when he joined the 22nd, he viewed the Banks Expedition as an exciting adventure. “We had but one rain storm” during three weeks at Newport News, and “the weather generally was delightful.”

At midnight on Monday, December 1, the 22nd Maine soldiers received orders to break camp and board the Spaulding. While men packed their gear and cooked a day’s rations in the wee hours of Tuesday, Reverend John K. Lincoln (the regimental chaplain) of Bangor accompanied “our sick to the Chesapeake Hospital,” located in a former “Young Ladies’ Seminary” near Fort Monroe.

He ensured “the sickest [patients were] comfortably settled in clean beds” in the hospital, “the best appointed hospital I have seen this side of Philadelphia … well managed, has skillful surgeons and kind and capable attendants.”

The 22nd Maine soldiers tromped aboard the S.R. Spaulding around 9:15 a.m., December 2. The steamer anchored off Fort Monroe and swung on its anchor chain as other ships gathered in Hampton Roads.

The fleet steamed past Cape Henry Lighthouse around 12 noon on Thursday, December 4 and hove to amidst cavorting porpoises and whales while awaiting the flagship, the SS Baltic. “We laid afloat in company with several other vessels, until 8 o’clock in the evening,” Ed Mills noted.

The key word was “afloat.”

“Our good ship rolled” with “the wind and waves,” Lincoln struggled to write on foolscap pinned by his free hand to a floor-secured table.

The operative word was “rolled,” as to starboard, port, and whatever direction the wind and waves pushed the sturdy Spaulding.

Roll, pitch, roll, pitch: The steamer’s movement took on a life of its own. Then the bored soldiers “commenced feeding the fishes in the most liberal manner,” Lincoln said.

Simon Jerrard, “our good Colonel, as was proper,” staggered to the ship’s rail and “set the example at the earliest opportunity” of how to properly feed the Chesapeake Bay fish, Lincoln clamped a head to his own mouth.

Jerrard vomited overboard.

Suddenly, as if Jerrard had yelled, “Fall in!,” the “staff and line” (officers and enlisted men) rushed the rails and heaved their breakfasts overboard, said Lincoln, declining to reveal if he joined the mad rush or not.

“A few [men] crawled into their bunks and held on to their dinners with great tenacity,” he said.

“Here, as everywhere else, a blessing accompanies the ‘cheerful giver,’” Lincoln commented.

Sources: Daily Whig & Courier: December 20, 1862; January 3, 1863; and January 6, 1863; Maine Adjutant General’s Report 1863.


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Brian Swartz can be reached at visionsofmaine@tds.net. He loves hearing from Civil War buffs interested in Maine’s involvement in the war.

Brian Swartz

About Brian Swartz

Welcome to "Maine at War," the blog about the roles played by Maine and her sons and daughters in the Civil War. I am a Civil War buff and a newspaper editor recently retired from the Bangor Daily News. Maine sent hero upon hero — soldiers, nurses, sailors, chaplains, physicians — south to preserve their country in the 1860s. “Maine at War” introduces these heroes and heroines, who, for the most part, upheld the state's honor during that terrible conflict. We tour the battlefields where they fought, and we learn about the Civil War by focusing on Maine’s involvement with it. Be prepared: As I discover to this very day, the facts taught in American classrooms don’t always jibe with Civil War reality. I can be reached at visionsofmaine@tds.net.