[from the diary/memoirs of Captain Jonathan B. Hager, of the 14th Regulars]
Mar 28 By this morning we reached Fortress Monroe
My larder this morning was even more meager
than the night before. Luckily I found the
Steward of the boat from whom I purchased
a couple of jars of pickles. these added to
a little whiskey that was left, constituted
our morning repast. We didn't feel much
like smacking our life over it, but did pick
my teeth nonetheless, fearing a particle or two
of whiskey might have been entrenched there.
At Fortress Monroe we first saw the Monitor
after her fearful encounter with the Merrimac.
Every one was struck with astonishment that a
pigmy such as she seemed to be could beat
back such a monster as this iron clad terror of
the rebel navy. A raft with a cheese box set
upon it is the fairest description I have seen
of the appearance of this little gem when seen
at a distance. The following remark was made
in my diary at the time.
"The formidable character of their batteries, and
the improvement that will be made in them as
time progresses & experience shows to be necessary
will revolutionise the entire system of harbor
defence & naval warfare." The sinking of the
splendid frigates Congress & Cumberland, as
f they were mere shells is testimony in favor of
the latter. While as to the former England was
startled with a new sensation & immediately
suspended further expenditures upon her for-
tifications until she cold look around & see
about it. The civilised nations of the world will
depend for their defence upon iron clads and
America has taught them this.
We disembarked at 10 am marched through
Old Point Comfort. thence through what was
once the village of Hampten to our Camp, about
half way between that Village & Newport News.
Weather very warm & roads dusty--We halted
for an hour or mor in the streets of Hampten
& had a good opportunity to inspect Magruder's
great work viz the destruction of this once beau-
tiful & charming Virginia town. One would
suppose that in the destruction of a town, that
at the least one house would be left untouched,
but Magruders work was cruelly complete.
Brick walls & chimneys alone marked the spot
where once the sweet village of Hampten stood.
Elegant private residences, Banking Houses of
more than ordinary pretensions, Public Buildings
of superior architecture, the rich man's palace,
the poor man's hut, all alike fell a prey to
the destroying monster. Nothing left but the ruins.
A most proper monument to a rebel Chieftan.
Twas a sad spectacle & the heart fell sick
at sight of this terrible desolation. Many a
malediction was hurled at the infamous author
of this useless & terrible army.
Necessity compels me here to descend from the
sublime to the ridiculous, but the truth of history
must be vindicated. We bought here some execrable
pies---Esecrable no longer--Hunger would admit
of no such slander & we did not stop to
inquire whether they were sewed or pegged--The
Contrabands pocketed a good many quarters that
day. About 2 P.M. we reached our Camping ground
& made ourselves as comfortable as the circumstances
would permit, having no tents, no blankets, no mess
chests, no food. The afternoon was fine & we spent it
in lounging--during the evening my Sergeant having
foraged a few potatoes from an old field, gathered
some wild onions which grow profusely thereabout
& with some salt beef from his haversack made
me a guart cup of soup. to say that it was
good scandalised it. It was fit for the gods.
A more exquisite dish mortal man neir met his
life with--Its savory odor soon spread itself
abroad & I was surrounded by a famishing set
of fellows, who if they did not ask for some, looked
it with the eloquence of dying men. I dispense the
luxury a spoonful here & there, but it was only an
aggravation. They offered a half dollar--a dollar, a
dollar & half for one cup full like that. In vain,
there were no more potatoes & no more meat.
I shall never forget that soup of chowder as the
most elegant thing I ever tasted before or since.
Night came but not so did our baggage and
our first bivouac stared us in the face. Early
in the evening there sprung up a fierce breeze
cold & sharp, which before midnight freshened
into almost a gale. It was almost impossible
to keep a fire, though fence rails were plenty. As
to keeping warm that was an utter impossi-
bility. While one side was turned to the fire
the other was disagreeably cold. thus passed
our first night without our baggage. Of course
it was sleepless to me