The Washington Navy Yard Twenty-One Years Ago
16 March 1882

Brooklyn Union-Argus

Reminiscences of a Veteran of the Seventy-first New York
Volunteers- Uncle Abe's Visit to the Boys- Falling Asleep
on Post- Kindly Recollections of a Gallant Commanding Officer.

Washington, D.C., March 15

Post 8 ! A few weeks, and it will be twenty-one years since I fell
asleep on my post. And here I stand this bright morning in the 
Washington Navy Yard, on the same spot. It is on Tripp street,
on the east side, bounded on the north by ordnance, on the east
and south by the machine shop and partly on the west by the
gun carriage building. To the south-east one has a fine view of
the Anacosta River as far as its junction with the Potomac.
Twenty-one years ago I was young, a private in the New York
Seventy-first. Now I am gray and growing bald and less
enthusiastic. Of the old gateway to the Navy Yard nothing
remains but the arch and the huge granite pillars which support
it. Above it last year was erected an imposing structure for the
accomodation of the marine guard. Directly in front of the gate,
about forty feet away, is Post No. 1. The sentinel was also a
veteran, and upon seeing my card informed me that I was at
liberty to make the rounds. Then turning left I passed along
the parade ground and reached the store-house, which for
almost three months was the home of Company A, of the
seventy-first, during the spring of 1861. Over the door still
stands the inscription " Equipment Stores." Through this door
came the tall, ungraceful form of LINCOLN one day. I remember it
well. It was the day after we reached Washington, thoroughly
used up by our tramp from Annapolis to the Junction, and our
ride on the construction cars from the Junction to Washington.
We were busily engaged in cleaning up. It was in April. The 
President and Mr. SEWARD came riding into the yard in in 
open buggy, and after having called upon Colonel VOSBURGH,
Mr. LINCOLN came to see " the boys." One of us had found a
barber's chair and had placed in directly in front of the door of our
quarters. Another was undergoing the process of shaving by a 
skillful camrade. " At it already , Boys?" said old Abe, and with a
smile and out stretched hand he walked in, and we made a rush for
him. I believe I was the second, and LINCOLN not only gave my
hand a squeeze but looked with his deep gray eyes kindly in mine
and from that moment I loved him, and when he went down to the wharf
to visit a detachment of our regiment on board the steamer, I followed, and
when he came off the boat caught his hand again. The next time  I saw him
was the day after ELLSWORTH was killed. I remember being on duty on the
Anacosta Bridge the day ELLSWORTH marched over at the head of his 
regiment, and when his dead body was brought back on the gunboat it so 
happened I was detailed as one of the guard to escort his reamains from 
the gunboat to the engine house. The fire engine house is directly south
of the parade grounds. In front of this house our company used to fall in.
I can now see the robust form of our orderly sergeant, and hear his loud
and sharp call, " Fall in, Company A." And then there was the Captain,
who was shot at the first fire at the Battle of Bull Run; and the first lieutenant-
quite dandy, by the way, but brave as a lion and with much more nerve.
And there was poor SMITH, who died a prisoner in Richmond. He was a 
great favorite, and acted as adjutant in the battle. And not least, I see the
oldest man in our company--W.C. B.--the son of the famous Commodore,
and as brave a man as ever lived. He stood by my side under fire.
I passed the parade ground down Store street, between the naval store-
house and the foundry, and reached the shiphouse, located along the
easterly wall of the Yard. At the southern end is watchhouse No. 3, 
built along the wall and high enough to command a view of the eastern
approach to the Yard. It was the same old watchhouse which stood
there in "61". And there was a boy in blue, just as there was in "61",
except I was the boy then.
" Hallo, comrade," said I, after I had crossed the ways over the canal 
to a point within hearing , and had given him the military salute. " You
have the post where I stood guard in "61", almost twenty-one years ago.
" Is that so?" said he, looking at me sharply, as, he turned his beat and
continued his montonous tramp up and down the platform attached
to the box. And here I was near the river. Several revenue cutters lie at
the dock. On one the tars are assembling. at morining call.
The same old Spanish guns, captured in the Mexican War, are mounted
before the headquarters. The old shiphouse has not changed so far as I
can perceive. Post No. 3 is the same place. So are the others, but Post No. 8
is not there.It has been removed about 300 yards further west, near the limit
of the Yard, and a newly painted watch-house stands there for the protection
of the sentinel. I strolled down near enough to attract his attention, and then
returned to Post No. 8. When the war began, I was a young lawyer in New
York City. Having made a speech at the Sumter Union Square meeting 
encouraging others to enlist, I concluded to practice my own precept and 
enlisted that night, and for the first time was put through the " facings."
The next morning we were off. My mind being chiefly occupied by the 
issues involved in the contest, and its probable duration and result.
I made slow progress in the " school of the soldier." Having returned
one morning from guard duty all night on the bridge, my little corporal,
a martinet*, found a spot of rust on my gun. Therefore the draper's clerk
sent the lawyer on guard a second night. I should have refused, but 
did not. I was stationed at Post 8. By the regulations, to sleep on the 
post was punishable by death. I was to be relieved at midnight.
At ten o'clock I found that I was becoming very sleepy. In vain I 
marched up and down my beat. Once my gun fell from my shoulders.
Not a soul was within call except the sentinel of Post No. 7. The night
was mild. I thought of the death penalty, of parents, brothers, sisters,
sweetheart, at home. I pinched myself. I dare not fail.There was a chair
near my box. When the grand rounds came at midnight he found me
asleep in the chair. I was arrested and taken to the guard-house.
Our colonel, on being informed of all the facts by our orderly, 
discharged me without a word and severly reprimanded Corporal
martinet. When I go to Greenwood I always visit the grave of 
Colonel VOSBURGH, of the Seventy-first.------------------Veteran
( * martinet- rigid disciplinarian )

Transcribed by Blanche Craton