James A. Lord journal  1862-1863
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Lord, James A.

Rank : Private

Regiment : 26th Connecticut Infantry Regiment. Co. H (1862-1863)

Service : 1862 September 1-1863 August 17

As a member of Co. H of the nine-months' 26th Connecticut Infantry Regiment, James A. Lord left his wife and home in December, 1862, bound for Louisiana. Despite his apparent motivation to serve his country, Lord kept his eyes and mind open toward the south. Although predisposed to see slavery on principle as an "evil in the eyes of a free loving community," he rejected abolitionism, arguing that emancipation was progressing too rapidly. Impressed with the fine appearance of Louisiana plantations, he watched as seemingly happy slaves worked the fields, and drew a distinct contrast with labor in New England. Northern workers, he felt, must "take an interest in their work on account of competition in labor[,] whilst the slave in the South has nothing nor cares for nothing further than come day, go day, the Lord send holiday" (1862 December 16). Slaves in Louisiana were satisfied enough to identify with their masters, according to Lord, and rhetorically, he questioned whether the desire for abolition could ever justify the breach of national peace, security, and unity.

During the early months of 1863, the 26th Connecticut were posted near New Orleans, close enough for Lord to visit the city. While the countryside was engulfed in war, Lord sat in camp or visited the theater in New Orleans, serving his time in ease. But on May 21, with the end of their nine months in sight, they were ordered into action. Green troops or not, they were moved into positions in the rear of Port Hudson, and less than a week after arriving there, their brigade (1, 2, XIX under Neal Dow) lurched into the first, futile assault of May 27. The blood and ragged confusion of that day left Lord dazed and his company emotionally and physically battered. "All I could see," he wrote, "was a large confused mass of people led in to a field to be slaughtered... All I could compare it to is like fighting a hornets nest buz buz round our legs heads and arms." The list of wounded ran the ranks from privates to the colonel to General Dow himself.

Falling back into their own defenses, the federal army began a game of attrition, fighting disease and heat and the deadly hail of a well-entrenched and motivated defender. Lord's frustration at the army's failures and at being exposed to constant fire boiled over in verbal assaults on the sick -- or, as he and his friends suspected, the malingerers -- and in his own open act of insubordination. Ordered by his colonel to perform duty three times successively, Lord finally refused, and when grabbed about the collar and shaken, Lord grabbed the colonel's pants with a "delicate hold of the flesh," so that every time the colonel shook Lord, Lord shook the colonel. Not surprisingly, Lord was arrested, but not chagrined: after all, he said, while under arrest he was "subject to no detail and quite at my ease" (1863 June 13). By virtue of his arrest, he even avoided having to volunteer for a foray at the front of the ranks, watching instead from a safe distance as his fellow soldiers were cut up by fire. One day later, though, dire need forced the colonel to allow Lord to return to the ranks to take part in the major assault. After coolly maneuvering under heavy fire all day, Lord was exposed to view by the raking light of the setting sun, and was struck by a shot from Confederate lines, shattering his finger. Taken to hospital, he was placed under chloroform and had his finger amputated above the second joint.

Lord lay in hospital in Baton Rouge until July 16, missing the final capitulation of Port Hudson. When reunited with his company, he could see the toll: strewn all about were shells and spent ammunition, and his fellow soldiers were languishing, wasted with disease, "some of them worn to nothing but mere skeletons, laying about, here and there" (1863 July 16). Within a day of arriving in the "pestellential hole", Lord began to suffer intensely from the heat and -- probably -- the disease that swept through his company, but by then, orders had been received to return home. Departure did not stanch the loss to disease, and as they left Port Hudson, they marked their way home with a trail of graves.