1863: Henry Cheney Rice to his Parents

This letter was written by Henry Cheney Rice (1841-1909), the son of Jonas Persis Rice (1812-1892) and Louisa Patridge (1818-1893) of Stockbridge, Windsor county, Vermont. Henry wrote the letter in March 1863 while serving in Co. E, 14th Vermont Infantry—a nine month regiment that was raised in August 1862. The regiment’s only major engagement was at Gettysburg where they played an important role in repulsing Pickett’s Charge on the afternoon of July 3rd by flanking Kemper’s Brigade.

I could not find an image of Henry but here is one of Frank S. Hollister of Co. B, 14th Vermont
(Photo Sleuth)

In his letter, Rice lays out the unvarnished truth regarding the capture of Brig. Gen. Edwin H. Stoughton—commander of the 2nd Vermont Brigade—by Mosby’s men on 9 March 1863. Rather than set up his headquarters in a tent with his men, Stoughton chose the brick home of Dr. William Presley Gunnell in Fairfax as his headquarters, though it was dangerously close to Union picket lines and a tempting target to the Grey Ghost. Legend has it that when Mosby and his rangers entered Stoughton’s bed chambers, “they found him fast asleep, lying on his side, in bed snoring loudly. It was obvious that there had been a party from empty champagne bottles lying about the room. Stoughton did not stir when they entered his room. Someone lit a match. Stoughton slept on. Mosby approached the bed and drew back the blankets. Still Stoughton did not wake. He merely snorted and rolled onto his stomach. Mosby then lifted his bedclothes and spanked him. Stoughton sat bolt upright in the bed, bleary eyed and indignant at the outrage, he demanded to know the meaning of the insult, thinking the culprit was one of his aides. Mosby then asked him, ‘Have you ever heard of Mosby?’ Stoughton quickly answered, ‘Yes, have you caught him?’ To which Mosby replied, ‘No, I am Mosby, he has caught you.'” [See Historic Fairfax]

Transcription

Attention to Orders Headquarters
2nd Brigade, Casey’s Division, Reserve Army Corps
for the Defense of Washington
Fairfax Station, Va.
March 9, 1863
General Order Np. 9

Dear Parents,

Brig. Gen. Edwin H. Stoughton “on the road to Richmond”

Having a few leisure moments tonight, I thought I would write you a few lines to let you know that we are well. Hope this will find you the same. I received your letter of the 3rd yesterday. Sam also received one from you that was dated Feb. 9th. The most that I wrote to you so soon is this reason—we have lost General Staten [Edwin H. Stoughton]. He was taken prisoner last night by about 100 of [Jeb] Stuart’s rebel cavalry. The General’s headquarters was at Fairfax Court House about five miles from here. They took [him] about three o’clock in the morning. There was not a gun fired nor a man hurt. The rebs had the countersign so they passed our pickets without any trouble. They had our clothes on so that our pickets thought they were our cavalry. There was not any cavalry at the Court House so they had a good chance to work. They took about twenty horses, eight or ten prisoners, and one general. There is about three thousand cavalry after them today.

We got news that our cavalry about three o’clock were [with]in about an hour of them but I guess that Old Stoughton is on the road to Richmond.

There is nothing more of note to write tonight. It is late so I will quit for this time.

— H. C. Rice

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