After the regiment had gathered at the station at 11, it was still another four hours before the train set out. The fog of war was in full swing by the time they left. Caution was the watchword, so they stopped frequently to collect intelligence. But they encountered only rumors at every stop. While in Philadelphia, Colonel Lefferts of the 7th NY had heard that the railroad ferryboat Maryland was seized and destroyed. Butler had heard the same thing but didn’t give it credence. And thousands were feared to be gathering in Perryville to oppose them.
Butler carried with him permission to seize the ferryboat if necessary, or destroy it if he deemed it more prudent. Butler toured the cars and saw to it personally that the soldiers loaded their weapons. He let it be known that they may very well suffer many casualties. He encouraged letters be written home and left with the conductor to be forwarded.
At one point, Butler ordered the train to proceed at top speed (30 mph). And soon after came the cry of “Man Overboard.” One of the men had become so frightened that he leapt from the speeding train. He had stripped off his coat and shirt, and fled only in his trousers and shoes. Not wanting to delay after an attempt to retrieve him, Butler posted a reward, and pushed on. By this, the men learned for the first time their destination – Annapolis, for it was there that the reward would be collected.
An half mile out of Perryville, they stopped and detrained. The zouaves deployed first, the sappers and miners behind them, and Company K to provide cover. Captain Devereux ordered his men at the double quick not waiting for the rest of the regiment.
What crowd there was in the sleepy town dispersed at the sight of the armed men. There was no opposition as they stormed aboard the Maryland. Nothing was prepared for them, the ferryboat was out of fuel and water and had no engine crew. The regiment pushed four coal cars aboard, added water to nearby empty whiskey barrels and fielded a crew of twenty from their members. It took two hours to accomplish these tasks and to load their baggage.
By 6pm they were ready to depart, and cast off for Annapolis. The boat’s captain and pilot were the only employees of the railroad aboard. Neither of them seemed friendly or helpful. So their loyalty was suspect.
It was fine night for April, but soon got very dark.