These letters were written by Constantine Alexander Hege (1843-1914), the son of Solomon Hege (1813-1875) and Catharine Guenther (1813-1874) of Davidson County, North Carolina. Constantine was raised as a Moravian and was naturally opposed to the war, but he was never the less obliged to enlist in the summer of 1862 in Co. H, 48th North Carolina Infantry. He served for 14 months during which time he was captured at the Battle of Bristoe Station on 14 October 1863 and was confined in the Old Capitol Prison in Washington. While there he was visited by some North Carolina Moravians working in the capitol, and under their guidance, Hege decided to take the oath of allegiance to the United States. After his release, he went to Bethlehem, Pa., where he found employment in the iron works.
“In August 1865 Hege returned to North Carolina, but a few months later entered the Bryant & Stratton Commercial College in Philadelphia where, upon completing the course, he was employed by a mercantile firm. In the spring of 1867 he opened a small country store at Friedburg, N.C. A few years later he moved to Salem to start a small foundry. After acquiring a steam engine his business expanded, and in 1877 he obtained a patent for an improved set of works for circular sawmills. He then began manufacturing sawmills and wood-working machinery which he also invented. The sawmills produced at Hege’s Salem Iron Works were sold throughout the United States and in several foreign countries. The first sawmill in Alaska was one he gave to the Moravian mission there.
Hege was married in 1870 to Frances Mary Spaugh from an area near Salem, and they were the parents of Walter Julius, Ella Florence, and Rose Estelle. Following the death of his first wife, Hege married Martha Caroline Spaugh in 1895.” [William S. Powell, 1988]
Camp Holmes, Raleigh N. C. August 8th, 1862
Dear Father, Mother, Sister and Brother
I now have the opportunity to drop a few lines to you stating that I am well at present—only I feel very weak. I hope that you are all in good health at home. We arrived at Raleigh this morning at half past 1 o’clock where we stayed until daylight. Then we marched to this place where we are now encamped. My tent mates are Hiram Everhart, Henry Chriesfezer, Christian Fishel, Hiram Painter, Thomas Cecil, Wesley Cecil and Costin Miller. It is supposed that we will go to Petersburg next Monday.
I enjoyed my ride tolerably well. I saw a great many things that interested me very much. I counted 14 engines at the company shops. I also saw the state house and many other fine buildings. We are now in Camp Holmes about 4 miles from Raleigh. We have good tents and a beautiful grove to camp in. There are also several wells of good water in the camp. We are guarded all round by stout looking guards with muskets well loaded.
I will now tell you what I think of camp life. I think it is a very hard life. We drawed 440 lbs. of flour for 4 days. We also drawed 3 skillets & 1 pot for about 20 men to prepare their victuals in. I do not like such fare nor I am not content at present. I feel very much downcast but I think that several of my tent mates are very nice men and I hope that I can after a while do better if I must stay in camp. So no more at present. Do not write until I write again or wait until you hear where we next move to.
Please remember me, and tell Elick and Evander that they shall be contented at home and not to wish to be a soldier. I still remain, dear father, your affectionate son until death.
Yours truly, — C. A. Hege, Camp Holmes, Raleigh, N. C.
Petersburg, Virginia August 13th 1862
I now have the opportunity of writing to you this afternoon stating that I am well at present, hoping that you enjoy the same good blessing. We arrived here at Petersburg today about noon and moved to the camp. There is a battle expected here very soon. They are a throwing up breastworks here very rapidly. It is supposed that the fight will extend from Richmond to Petersburg.
It fell to my lot to go in Capt. [John H.] Michael’s company. I there saw very many of my acquaintances which I had not seen for several months which revived me somewhat but I am not satisfied here. I do not like to hear of going to face the cannons and the muskets. I would be very glad if you could hire a substitute in my place because I cannot stand such a life with any enjoyment at all. I went over to see the flying artillery. There were 12 cannons there, and for a person to see them, it would make the cold chills run over anyone, I think. Therefore, I want you to try to hire a substitute and if you do hire one, get a competent man to bring him to Captain [John H.] Michael’s company, 48th regiment, N. C. troops.
We drawed each of us a knapsack, coat, cap, 1 pair of pants, 1 pair of drawers and shirt. I sent my carpet sack and my pants, shirt and drawers and several other things. Wesley Cecil, and Christian Fishel and I have sent our sacks to A. C. Hege’s store in Lexington and we want you to go and bring them home and pay A. C. Hege the freight if there is any to be paid and sent them home and Wesley Cecil’s wife will pay you for his and also send Christian’s home also.
We left Raleigh last Monday evening about 5 o’clock P. M. and came on as far as Weldon on Tuesday morning A. M. and staid there until Wednesday morning about 3 o’clock and arrived at Petersburg about 10 o’clock A.M. and remained there a few moments and then marched out to our camp about 3 miles east of Petersburg. We have very bad water here. It is said that the yankees are about 12 miles from here now. I saw about 300 Yankees from Salisbury on their way home at Weldon. I talked with several of them. They seemed to be as fine a set of men as are anywhere. I here send a few shells to Mary & Julius which I picked up on the field where we are encamped. There are a great many shells about here of different sizes and forms. I ate my first camp supper this evening.
Aug. 14th. We arose up this morning and went out to drill for our first time. We have to drill 4 times a day—twice in the forenoon and twice in the afternoon. I want you to write to me as soon as you can whether you will hire a substitute or not, but if you hire one, try and get one over 50 or under 18. He must be a stout-looking man; I want to know very soon all about it. Samuel and Emry Davis got substitutes from Richmond.
So I must close my letter. Tell all my friends to write to me. Please write soon. Please excuse my bad hand writing and bad composition because I have to write by chance. I remain your dear son until death.
— C. A. Hege
Direct your letters to C. A. Hege, Petersburg, Va., in care of Capt. [John H.] Michael, 48th Regiment, N C. Troops
Petersburg, Virginia Sunday morning, August 17th 1862
I now have the opportunity of writing a few lines to you stating that I am well at present and hope that you enjoy the same good blessing. We left Raleigh last Monday evening about 5 o’clock and got as far as Weldon about two o’clock on Tuesday morning and staid there until Wednesday morning about 3 o’clock when we started again and arrived at Petersburg about 10 o’clock the same morning. We then marched to our camp which is 3 miles east of Petersburg. We were then divided off in different companies. I fell in Capt. Michael’s company [H]. I there saw many of my acquaintances. But I do not like the camp life. I would a great deal rather be at home a working than to be here. We fare tolerably well but our water is bad. We have to drill 4 times a day and some of the company stand guard of a night.
There is a massive breastwork a being thrown up about 3 hundred yards from our camp. It is said to extend 50 miles in length. Nearly all of Wake’s Brigade were called out last night to go out on Picket guard about 6 miles east of this camp.
I have been thinking about old Friedberg a great many times this morning, I have been wishing that I was there again as I usually was on Sunday morning. I will now tell you how Sunday is spent in camp. In the morning we are waked by the sound of the drum, then the roll is called, and about eight o’clock we get our breakfast. I now hear some singing, some reading, some playing marbles, some walking to and for as if in a deep study, while there are some cursing and swearing, some working, and they have the closest inspection of arms on Sunday morning. I have better hopes of the people in camp then I expected. I find a great many devoted Christians in camp whose voices can be heard at night in prayer and songs of praise. There is prayer meetings held in the camp at night and also preaching on Sunday.
We now have a very bad chance for reading or anything of that like, but I have been a studying the bible some and a reading tracts and trying to pray, but I have not attended half to my duties as I should have done, but I am agoing to try by the grace of God to live more of a Christian life.
We have not tents enough yet for all of our men but we expect some more soon and when we get divided off in tents, we can have a better chance for devotional exercises but the way we now are, the tents are crowded full and then some have to stay out.
If you get to see my father, tell him that I am well at present. I was at preaching today in the camp. Rev. Mr. Johnson, the Presbyterian preacher of Lexington preached. His text is found in second Timothy, Chap 2.2, “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” He preached a very good sermon. He urged Christians to take heed and not to become backsliders but to be the more watchful and prayerful lest they be overcome by the wicked one. He also admonished sinners to repent and believe the gospel of Jesus Christ because they know not what moment death will overtake them.
So I must close. Please remember me in your prayers. I remain your friend and brother in Christ and if I never should meet you on earth, I hope and pray that I may meet you in heaven above where all is peace and where there is no more sorrow nor sinning.
Yours truly, — Constantine A. Hege
Direct your letters to Petersburg, Va., Company H, care of Capt. Michaels, 48th Regiment N. C. Troops.
Please excuse my bad handwriting and bad composition.
Petersburg, Virginia August 19th 1862
I am not very well at present but I hope you are all well. I want you to try to hire a substitute for me if you possibly can. I would rather be at home and work like a negro than to be here in camp. We now have to leave here in a few minutes and we do not know where we will go to. Now you can guess how one feels in such a case. Try and get on until the last of this week if you can. You have no idea how one feels. Get Joseph Delap or somebody that understands how to manage and bring him on to Petersburg and there you can find out where we are.
Your affectionate son, — C. A. Hege
Richmond, Virginia August 26th 1862
I now take the opportunity of writing a few lines to you stating that I am well at present and hope that you enjoy the same good blessing. I wrote three letters home to you and have not received any answer yet. Therefore, I would like to know what is the reason that you do not write to me because I want to hear from home very bad. I would like to know whether you have any notion of hiring a substitute for me or not. I would be very glad if you would hire one, but do just as you think best. I will do just as you say. If you think it best for me to stay, I will be contented with my lot for I believe that Providence will carry me through safe. I am a little better satisfied than I was at first, but I have not learned to love the camp life.
One thing I like and that is that we have preaching in camp every Sunday and prayer meeting once or twice a week. I believe that there are a great many good Christians in camp.
We left the camp near Petersburg last Wednesday morning and marched about twenty-five miles to a camp about 3 miles east of Richmond. We left there on last Saturday morning and marched about a mile farther to another camp. But we now have marching orders again and we do not know where we will go to next. When we march we have to tote a large musket, bayonet, bayonet scabbard, cap box, cartridge box with about 30 or 40 cartridges, blanket and haversack full of provisions for to last 3 days. All the above named articles we have to tote when we are on a march. We had nothing but crackers and fat meat to eat from last Wednesday until Sunday morning. We then drew about a half a gill of molasses apiece.
So I must bring my letter to a close for we have to march soon. Please write as soon as you possibly can for you know that I would like to hear from you all very much tell my friends and relations to write. If we never meet here on earth anymore, I hope and pray that we may meet in heaven.
Your affectionate son, C. A. Hege
Direct your letters to Richmond Va., in care of Capt. Michael, 48th Regiment N. C. Troops. If we leave here, our letters will follow us. Therefore, direct them to the above-named address.
Gordonsville Virginia August 30th 1862
I now have the opportunity of writing to you stating that I am well at present and hope that you enjoy the same good blessing. I received your letter of the 21st instant on last Tuesday evening. I was very glad to hear from you once [more] and you said that C. Spaugh and J. Miller were a coming to see us and I would be very glad if you would come along.
We left Richmond last Tuesday about noon and started for the cars for Gordonsville. We arrived there about midnight and stopped awhile and then came on about 20 miles further where we [have] taken up camp on a high hill near the Rapidan river and we are here yet. Yesterday afternoon the 15th Regiment came here and camped about 200 yards from where we are camped. I went to their camp and there I saw nearly all of my old acquaintances. I saw Daniel Wilson and talked with him and I was very glad to see them all. He is well. Ephraim Weasner is well. Solomon Tesh is very much worsted, but he keeps with the crowd. Henry Weaver is sick. George Tesh is sick and a good many more of my acquaintances.
Tell Uncle Christian that I saw Theophilus and that he is well but I did not get to see Emanuel nor Augustus. Theophilus said that they got sick on the march and could not keep up and they have not caught up yet this morning and he knows not how they are, nor where they are. They left their sick men here for to be taken to the hospital at Richmond while the balance of the 15th Regiment went on another march and it is supposed that they are going to Stonewall Jackson.
I can tell you that it went hard with us to see our friends leave us so soon again because we were just enjoying the company of our friends. They have been marching for 3 days and had only 3 biscuits and a little meat to eat and they had a heavy luggage to tote, and when they came here last night, they were very nigh all run down. And this morning they started again on another 3-day’s march. And how they will stand it, I do not know. They said that some fell down dead on the march and a great many are a getting so that they cannot go much further because they are run down. They said that they wanted me to write and to let their friends know where they are and how they are so then you can tell their friends that I saw them very near all and that they nearly all started on the march this morning except the sick [ones]. But I do not know how long they will hold up.
So I must close my few improper lines, giving you my best wishes and hoping to return home again. Please write as soon as you receive this letter, write a long and interesting letter, and tell Mary to write me a long letter also and write all the news about home. I remain, dear father, your obedient and affectionate son, — C. A. Hege
Direct your letters to Richmond Va., in care of Capt. Michael, 48th Regiment N. C. Troops, Co. H.
Near Martinsburg, Virginia Sunday, September 21, 1862
I now have the opportunity of sending you a few lines stating that I am well at present with the exception of a very bad cold and several boils, but I hope that you all enjoy the blessing of good health. I wrote a letter to you yesterday but I did not know whether you received it or not and therefore I thought I would write today again because I can send it with Mr. Jackson Stafford and I also thought that you would like to hear from me.
I received a letter from you day before yesterday dated August 30th which I was very glad to receive and to hear from you. I wrote some about the battle [Battle of Sharpsburg] which I was in last Wednesday but I will tell you something in this letter also, and also something about our march.
We have been marching for about 20 days and sometimes we have [had] to march all night. We crossed the Potomac River four times and over into Maryland. The first time that we went over, we staid 2 or 3 days and came back safe. And then we went to Harpers Ferry and there we had a very hard bombing last Monday, but we whipped the Yankees without any musket firing except from the pickets. We captured a great many wagons and cannons and taken about 800 prisoners. We then marched over into Maryland again on last Tuesday evening and on Wednesday morning [17 September] about nine or ten o’clock, we were marched in the battlefield and we made a charge on one of the enemy’s batteries. But when we got [with]in about 75 or 100 yards of them, we were bound to retreat because they were too strong for us, and a great many of our men were killed and wounded. There were about twenty wounded in our company. Jackson Koontz was killed. Augustus Bryant was mortally wounded and died. 1
I will not write about the horrors of the battlefield at present, but I hope that Providence will spare my life to return home again and then I can tell you something about the war because I cannot write the hundreth part of the horrors of the battlefield.
You said that I should tell you if I heard from Daniel Wilson’s crowd. I saw some of the 15th [North Carolina] Regt. last Thursday and they said that nearly all of the 15 Regt. was killed, wounded, and taken prisoners last Sunday [at Crampton’s Gap] and Daniel was in the crowd, but I do not know whether he got hurt or not—but I hope not. And you said that I should tell you who my tent mates are. We do not stay in tents. We have to lie out in the open air, rain or shine, and therefore we have no tent mates but I am with Mr. Pleasant Murphy very near all the time. I march and sleep with him. He is a very fine man and also a Christian. He lives near Thomasville. You said that I should tell you whether Cecil’s boys ran away or not. They run away when we were at Petersburg and Nifong’s boys and William Hill and Henry Mock and Alex Mock left when we were on the march near Leesburg.
I would be very glad if you could come to see us when we get back to Richmond. I will write to you as soon as we get there and then I would be glad if you could come to see us. We now are about a mile from Martinsburg, Virginia, but we will have to leave in the morning and I do not know where we will go to. I am tolerably well satisfied at present. We get nothing to east excepting fresh beef and slapjack cakes unless we buy it sand my money is a getting scarce.
So no more at present. Please write as soon as you get this and tell Mary to write also and I want you to write once every week whether I write or not because I have a bad chance to write.
Your affectionate son, — Constantine Alexander Hege
Just direct your letters to Richmond, Va., in care of Captain Michael, 48th Regt. N. C. Troops
1 The 48th North Carolina Regiment was commanded by Colonel Robert C. Hill. It brought around 400 men to the field and lost 50% casualties in fighting near the Dunker Church. According to the field marker for Manin’s Brigade: Manning’s Brigade reached Sharpsburg on the afternoon of September 16 and was held in reserve until daybreak of the 17th, when it took position opposite Snavely’s Ford on the Antietam, one and a half miles from town. Between 8 and 9 A.M., it moved to the left and supported McLaws in his attack on the enemy in the West Woods. Arriving on the rise of ground 300 yards west of this point, the 3d Arkansas and 27th North Carolina formed to hold the open space between the West Woods and the left of D.H. Hill’s Division east of this road. The remainder of the Brigade advanced on the right of Ransom’s Brigade to and beyond the road at the Dunkard Church, where it was repulsed. The 3d Arkansas and 27th North Carolina co-operated in expelling Greene’s Division from the woods about the church, after which they crossed the road and advanced through the fields to the east, but were repulsed and resumed their original position and were not again engaged.“
Winchester, Virginia October 7, 1862
I now have the opportunity of writing a few lines to you stating that I am well at present and hope that you all enjoy the same good blessing. I received your kind letter dated September the 11th last Saturday evening. It gave me very much joy to hear from you and I also received 3 dollars in money which I was very glad to get because I began to need money because I have to pay very high for everything that I buy. I have to pay 10 cents a sheet for paper, therefore when you write, I want you to fold up a blank piece of paper large enough for me to answer your letter with.
I have now wrote 4 letters since the Battle [of Sharpsburg] and therefore I thought it not worth while to say anything in this about the battle. We are still resting about 4 or 5 miles north of Winchester, Virginia, but I call it very poor resting because we get such bad fare and the weather is a turning cold and we are so scarce in blankets that we can hardly make out. There have been a couple of right smart frosts here. I hope that we will soon move from here to Richmond. We are between 4 and 5 hundred miles from home and also very near directly north and so you may suppose that the weather is a getting colder.
When we get back to Richmond, or wherever we get stationed, I will then write to you what I want and I want you then to come to see us and bring them along with you. But I do not want you to come before I write that we are stationed and where we are stationed. Tell mother that I want her to make me another haversack and also another book sack out of strong cloth and make them a little larger then my others were because these are nearly wore out. I toted them on all this long march and you know that they cannot last much longer. Send them with Pap when he comes.
There are very dull times now in camp but the soldiers are in hopes that it is for the better. It is a general enquiry through the camp, “What’s the news? whether good or bad, or whether it be for war or for peace. And it is thought that there will soon be peace and that we will soon get home. There has been but very little fighting a going on since the battle over in Maryland and I hope that the war will soon entirely close and that peace and prosperity may soon reign supreme.
I have been spending a part of my time when at leisure in reading the Bible and in writing letters for myself and for others. I have read the New Testament about nearly through and learned the 91st Psalm by heart since I have been out. I have not much news to write at this time except that I will tell you how things sell. Apples from 25 to 50 cents per doz, peaches 25 per doz, honey $1.00 and $1.50 per lb, butter $1.00 per lb, bacon 75cents per lb, light bread $1.00 per loaf, and everything else in proportion.
I want you to write whether you know where any of uncle Christian’s boys are, and also whether you hear anything from Daniel Wilson or not. There are none of them with the Regiment any more. And also write whether Solomon Tesh got home or not and any other of the neighbors.
You said you wanted to know what I done with my medicine. I take several packs in my pockets and the rest I was obliged to leave in my knapsack which was left at Richmond. We rest very bad at night and as to avoid exposure is a matter out of the question because we have to be out in the open air day and night, rain or shine, wet or day. But I do the best I can. I sometimes make me a shelter of brush and a bed of straw when I can get it and lie down to rest, trusting in Providence as to the issue. I have enjoyed tolerably good health so far and I hope and pray that Providence will spare my life and health through all this war and bring me safe home again.
A few words to Mary and Julius. I want you to save all the good peach and apples seeds that you can and get Pap to plant them for me in some rich spot of ground and I want you to dig my ground peas and grass nuts and send me a few of them when Pap comes to see me. I want you to be obedient and smart children and to write to me as soon as you can and write a real long and interesting letter. Tell Elick and Sam to be smart because they know not how good they have got it. So no more at present. Please write as soon as you get this.
From your affectionate and obedient son, C. A. Hege
Direct your letters to Richmond Va. in care of Capt Michel 48th Regiment N.C. Troops
October 17, 1862 Winchester, Virginia
I now have the opportunity of writing you a few lines stating that I am well at present except a very bad cold, but I hope that you all enjoy the blessing of good health. I received your letter last Thursday dated September 28th. I was very glad to hear from home. You cant imagine how glad it makes me [feel] to get a letter from home and therefore I want you to write once a week at least and as much oftener as you can. I have a very bad chance here to write to you because a letter cost so much here. Paper sells at 10 cents a sheet, envelopes 5 cents apiece and so a letter will cost 25 cents with the stamp. I would be very glad if you could send me a few dollars in a letter or else by hand if you can. I received a dollar in a letter some time ago which I soon answered.
We are still camped about 4 miles north of Winchester, Virginia, but it [is] thought by some of our officers that we will go back to N. C. before long and I hope that you will then come to see us and bring me some clothing and other things that I have wrote for. I do not want you to try to come to us before I write where are. We are stationed near the railroad. We have been a tearing up the Winchester & Harpers Ferry Railroad for about 12 miles. I had to help to take it up last Sunday. We are here in a very scarce part of the country both for food and water. We have to take our water nearly half a mile. Our rations are nothing but slapjack cakes and beef, and sometimes there is no salt for the broth nor beef and we can scarcely buy anything at all.
It seems to me like as if the head men of the war had any sympathy for human beings that they would stop this war. It is thought that there is some prospect of peace before long and I hope and pray that the Almighty will interpose and stop this war. So no more at present. Please write and soon as you get this. I remain your affectionate son, — C. A. Hege
Direct your letters to Richmond Va., in care of Capt Michael, 28th Regiment N. C. Troops.
October 17, 1862 Winchester, Virginia
I now have the opportunity of writing you a few lines. I received 2 letters from last week. The one was dated September 28th and the other September 6th. You do not know how glad I was to hear from you. You said that Augustus Staugh was dead and Emanuel was sick but you did not say any thing about Theophilus.
I can tell you I have learned a great lesson since I have been in the army. I have learned to eat such as I can get. Dear mother, you do not know how much good it would do me to get to eat one breakfast prepared by you and to sleep on a soft bed one time more. But I hope and pray that the Lord will spare my life and health and permit me to return home again to enjoy the blessings of a comfortable house and home. I have not the time nor paper to write much at present but I hope to return home again before long and then I can tell you more. Please write soon. With much love, from your affectionate son, — C. A. Hege
October 17, 1862 Winchester, Virginia
Dear Sister & brother,
I received your letter last week and I was very glad to receive it but all I regretted was that you did not write more. I want you to be good and obedient children to your Parents and be smart and help all you can and learn your books. I want you to send me some grass nuts & ground peas when Pap comes to see me. Tell Sam I want him to be a good boy and be smart and to catch all the rabbits that he can. Tell Elick that I would be glad if I was at home with him a plowing. Tell him to be a good boy and smart and I hope that we will all be permitted to return home again before long. October 18th. I finish this, this morning. We have orders this morning to be ready to march at day light, but I do not know where we will go to. So no more. Please write soon. Your affectionate brother, — C. A. Hege
Received this the 25th October
Upperville, Virginia Tuesday, 28 October 1862
I now have the opportunity of sending you a few lines stating that I am well at present and hope that you enjoy the blessing of good health. I received 3 letters from home the 20th of this month—the one from you, one from mother, and the other from Mary. I was very glad to get them and to hear from you once more. I have not had the chance to answer them any sooner because we left Winchester last Wednesday morning and came on here across the Blue Ridge to Upperville where we have been several days. But it is thought that we will soon go on to Culpeper Court house. I received a letter this morning from Theophilus Spaugh. He was at Culpepper Court house in the hospital the 15th of this month when he wrote his letter. He thought that he would soon go to his regiment.
There is a man sent home from each company this morning to get clothing and blankets for the soldiers and if any acquaintances wish to send anything, they can do so. I would be very glad if you could come yourself and bring me the following articles but if you cannot come, send them with Lieutenant Smith when he comes. I want a blanket, hat, 1 pair shoes if you can get them, 1 vest, 1 pair stockings, 1 pair drawers, 1 pair gloves, 1 pair pants, a cravat for round the neck, a haversack, book sack, 2 large strong handkerchiefs, some cotton and woolen patches, a woolen shirt if you can and then I want a box of provisions: viz, onions, garlic, pies, sweet cakes, a little butter, and a little tin bucket of apples, peaches, sody, a small blank book, some No. 3 Perfect, a small coffee pot and some coffee, grassnuts, ground peas, chestnuts and some dried fruit of different kinds and any thing else that is good. I want you to bring these yourself if you can and if you cannot then do the best you can. Your affectionate son, — C. A. Hege
I have no time to write much. Direct your letters as usual.
Culpeper Court House, Virginia November 3, 1862
I now have the opportunity of sending you a few lines stating that I am well at present and hope that you enjoy the same good blessing. I have not had any letter from you for about two weeks. The last letters that I got from you I received the 20th of last month. Then I got 3 letters—one from you, one from mother and the other from Mary. We came here to Culpeper last evening awhile before sunset and we expect to go on to Richmond in a few days. We have had some very bad weather since we left Winchester. Last night a week ago was a very windy, cold, and rainy night and it commenced hailing the next morning and we were all wet and cold. We were camped on the side of a mountain near Upperville, Virginia.
I sent a letter to you with Lieutenant Smith who is gone home after some clothing for us and there I mentioned what I want you to bring to me yourself if you can come, and if you cannot come, send them with him or some other person that is coming to the regiment. Tell mother to send me a pair of goulashes, some soap and a little sody if she can, and anything else that is good. When I wrote my other letter, I thought that perhaps we could draw sloes at Richmond, but I have heard since that we cannot and therefore I want you to have me a large strong and able pair of shoes made and have Rapers Michael to put irons on the heels and send them as soon as you possibly can because my shoes are about wore out.
I would be very glad if you could come to see us. I think that you would not begrudge your trip. I think that we will be at Richmond in a few days. When you come, come on to Richmond and there you can find out where the regiment is stationed. Tell mother and Mary that I cannot write to them at present because the paper and ink is so scarce, postage so high, and I am very scarce in money but I want them to write to me the oftener. Send me some postage stamps if you can, and also some money. We have not drawed any money yet. So I must close by giving you all my best wishes and respects. From your affectionate son, — C. A. Hege
Direct your letter to Richmond Va, in care of Capt Michael, 48th Regiment N.C. Troops, Co. H.
Please write soon.
Madison Court House, Virginia Saturday, 15th November 1862
I now have the opportunity of writing you a few [lines] stating that I am well at present and hope that you all enjoy the same good blessing. I received a letter from father last Sunday dated Nov. 2nd and I also received a letter from mother last Thursday dated October 26th. You said that you started 20 dollars in a letter to me the 20th of October, but I have not received it yet. But I hope that I will get it yet because I am in need of money. I think that it would be safer if you could send money by hand, than by mail, because we move so often that it is a hard matter for the letters to follow us. You need not to send my overcoat yet because I have a load to carry without it. I will write when I want it. We drawed 8 dollars of our money wages. I have been borrowing several dollars and that takes all of my wages to pay my debts. We are obliged to buy something to eat if we want to live like human beings because it would be hard living to eat nothing but light bread & beef.
I like the army life a great deal better than I did when I first came out, but I can tell you that it is a hard life anyway that you take it, but I can enjoy myself tolerably well by reading, writing and talking with my friends, and sometimes by walking about and viewing the mountains and all the surrounding country. But there is one thing that I do not like and that is the battles which are dreaded by all.
I got my knapsack the 7th day of this month but I lost all of my medicine, 1 pair pants, 1 pair drawers, and several other little articles. I would be very glad if you could send me some No 6, some composition, and some other medicine as you think I need and also a box of ointment because I am pestered very much with boils.
We have had some very cold weather. We had a right smart snow the 7th of this month, but it has been very pleasant weather the last week. We now are here at Madison Court House close to the Blue Ridge. We came here this day a week ago and we do not know how long we will stay here, but I think that we will go to Gordonsville in a few days.
Elijah Scott is dead, he died the 6th of this month near Culpeper about 3 o’clock in the afternoon and was buried about 5 miles on this side of Culpeper Court House. So I must close my letter by giving you all my best wishes and respects and hopeing that you will remember your son in your prayers. Your son, — C. A. Hege
Please write as soon as you get this.
Dear sister and brother, I will send you a few lines to let you know that I received a very interesting letter from you last Thursday dated Oct 25th which I was very glad to receive. You said that Daniel and Solomon Wilson were taken prisoner. I was very glad to hear where Daniel was because I could not hear anything from him since the Maryland battle. I want you both to be good children, obey your parents, be smart and be thankful that you have a good warm house and home to stay in and comfortable bed to lie in the cold and rainy nights, while we here have to lie out in the open air with nothing but a blanket or two. We now sometimes have some tents but not half enough for us all. Tell Elick and Julius that I have a present to send to them as soon as any one comes to see us from that neighborhood.
From your affectionate brother, — C. A. Hege
Direct your letters as usual.
Fredericksburg. Virginia November 29, 1862
I now have the opportunity of writing you a few lines stating that I am well at present and hope these few lines may find you enjoying the same good blessing. I received a letter from you the 16th of this month dated October 20th containing 20 dollars in money, and I also received a letter from you last Thursday dated Nov 11th and 25 dollars in money which Lieutenant Smith brought. I hope that you will not think hard of me for not writing sooner because we have been on a march for 5 days and then after we got in camp, there was no chance to send a letter out of the camp unless by hand. And now I have an opportunity of sending one and therefore I thought that I would write.
We are here about 5 miles south of Fredericksburg. We came here today a week ago and I do not know how long we will stay here. We had to march 4 days through the mud and water and rain. The 15th N. C. regiment joined our Brigade this morning, I was very glad to see them. I saw George Mock, Leander Mock, John Hartman, Alexander Weaver, Alexander Scott, George Tesh, Franklin Rominger, and a great many more of my acquaintances but Daniel Wilson was not with the regiment. They do not know where he is. If you know where he is, I would like if you would write. The boys are all well.
William Swain, Esq., was out here to see us last week and he said that Mrs. David Weasner left my box at Gordonsville and I am afraid that the pies will spoil before I get them. The clothing that was sent to the company was left at Richmond and I therefore think that we will go there before long. It is now reported through the camp that we are ordered to Weldon N. C. to take up winter quarters. Our fare is bad. We get nothing but bread and beef and we sometimes draw pickled pork and that very scant rations. We draw 1.25 lbs. flour and 1.25 lbs. beef to the man for a days rations. Things sell very high here. Apples 1 dollar per dozen, pork 50 cents per lb, sugar 1 dollar per lb, and everything else in proportion so that we cannot afford to buy much. I am very thankful to you for sending me some money so that I can buy me something to eat.
Tell Theophilus Spaugh to write to me when he is coming back to his regiment. Tell him that his regiment is now in our brigade—namely (General Cook’s brigade) and that we will be close together from this time on. Tell him that I was over to see the regiment this morning when it came in and talked with several of the boys and that they were well. I have not much news to write at present. I would be very glad if you could send me some postage stamps because I cannot buy them here. So I must bring my letter to a close by giving you all my love and best respects and if I never meet you on earth anymore, I hope to meet you in heaven above where there will be no more parting nor pain.
Please write soon and write a long, long letter. Your letters are never half long enough.
From your affectionate son, — C. A. Hege
I sent a cartridge box, cap box, gunlock, and several other little things that I brought from The Maryland battleground that I hope you will keep until I come home because I hope that Providence will spare my life to return home.
Tell Alexander Craver and Julius my brother to take each of them one of them caps. I sent them with William Swain, Esq.
Near Fredericksburg, Virginia Monday afternoon, December 8, 1862
I now have the opportunity of writing you a few lines stating that I am well at present and hope that these few lines may find you all enjoying the same good blessing. I received a letter and some medicine last Friday which you sent with Charles Perriman. But I have not received my box of clothing yet. I have tried every way that I knowed how to get them but failed and I asked Capt. Michael what to do about it. He said that I would better write to you immediately and he said that you would better come out here yourself and bring me some more clothing, &c., and if I should get my box yet, you could then take some back if I had more than I needed. I need shoes & pants very bad because I am about barefooted and I lost 1 pair pants and therefore have but one pair left and they are nearly wore out.
And now I will tell you what I want you to bring to me; viz: my overcoat, 2 pair pants, 1 woolen overshirt, 1 cotton shirt, 1 pair of stout cotton drawers, 1 pr socks, 1 pr gloves, 1 large cravat, 1 hat and 1 pr shoes if you can get them because I need them very much. And I would be very glad if you could bring me some molasses or honey, some butter, some good old ham, a little salt, and some sweet cakes for Christmas and some ground peas, grassnuts, chestnuts &c. and anything else that is good that you think I need. I want you to bring them as soon as you possibly can because I need them very bad. Try and come before Christmas yet if you can come when Solomon Tesh comes, if you cannot come before. We are here about 5 miles south of Fredericksburg, Virginia, and if we leave here we will go to Richmond. So I must close. Please write soon as you get this and write whether you will come or not.
I remain your affectionate son, — C. A. Hege
Direct your letters as usual.
Near Fredericksburg, Virginia Thursday morning, December 18, 1862
Dearly Beloved Parents,
I now once more have or take the opportunity of writing a few lines to you to let you know how affairs are here. I am somewhat unwell at present. I was taken with a chill and then a pain in my side night before last, but I feel right smart better this morning. I think that it was just a bad cold which I taken because I have nothing but old pieces of shoes on my feet. My toes are naked and my clothing are a getting ragged. I have not got my box of clothing yet and I don’t know whether I ever will get them or not because the boxes are very often robbed at the depots. I wrote to you to bring me a box of clothing as soon as you possibly can and come with them yourself so that you can be certain that I will get them because I need them very much.
There has been a very hard battle fought here last Saturday and our regiment was in the hardest of the fight. I did not have to go into the battle because I am so near barefooted. The Colonel gave orders that all the barefooted men should stay at the camp. I can tell you I was glad then that my shoes did not come because I would rather loose a hundred dollars than to go in a battle. There were a great many killed and wounded it is said that there were ten thousand Yankees killed during the battle. I do not know how many of our men were killed but I know that there were a great many wounded. There were 19 men wounded and one killed in our company. The human suffering, the loss of life, and above all, the loss of many a precious soul that is caused by war. Would to God that this war might close off this year and that we all could enjoy the blessing of a comfortable house and home one time more. I never knew how to value home until I came in the army.
It is thought that we will go on to Richmond in a few days. Tell Mr. Rights that I would be very glad to get a letter from him. Tell uncle Christian that I would like for some of them to write to me and I want you to write oftener and do not wait for me to answer every one of your letters before you write I have not received any letter from you since Charles Perriman was out here. We have a very bad chance to write out here because we have to drill twice a day in general and then we have dress parade in the evening so I must close by giving you all my best wishes and respects and if we never meet on earth, I hope to meet you in a better world above.
Your affectionate son — C. A. Hege
Please write us soon as you get this. Direct your letters as usual. I want you to come as soon as you can with my clothing.
Near Fredericksburg, Virginia Sunday morning, December 21, 1862
Dear Father and Mother,
I this beautiful sabbath morning have the opportunity of writing you a few lines to let you know that I have been sick a few days with the chills and fever and a pain in my side and headache, but I am better and think that I will in a few days be well again. I think it was just a bad cold which I taken from having bad clothes and from being nearly barefooted. But I hope that you all enjoy good health.
I received a letter from Mary last Friday night dated December 7th which I was very glad to receive but I was very sorry to hear that father had the typhoid fever. But I hope and pray that he may soon get well again very soon. I heard that the small pox was about home. I am very sorry to hear that but I hope that the Almighty will stop it before it goes very far. But I don’t believe it. It is also said that it is in the 15th N. C. Regt., but I hope that it may not be spread among the soldiers any further.
I have not yet received my box of clothing, &c., and I am afraid never will because I can’t hear anything about it anymore and I am afraid it is stole. I wrote in a letter some time ago for you to bring me another box of clothing and provisions and also to send my overcoat and I want you to bring them as soon as possible because I need them very much, but I am afraid that your health will hardly permit you to come and if you cannot come, send them with a man that you will be certain that he bring them to me and will leave them again at some railroad station to be stole or lost. I want you also to send me some dysentery cordial, some blackberry cordial, and some more No. 6. So I must close by giving you all my best wishes and respects, and hope and pray that I may come home before long.
Your son, — C. A. Hege
Please write soon.
I have heard since I commenced this letter that the boxes have been broken open and the things stole and therefore I will write for some more things. I need a hat very much. I want some dried peach fruit, peach leather, a large piece of hard soap because I need that very much, blanket, a knife, fork and spoon. a strong sack that will hold about a bushel, haver & book sack &c., some spice, black pepper ground. Tell Julius & Mary to send me some chestnuts, grassnuts and ground peas and pies. I hope that you will not think hard of me for writing for more clothing &c. because I need them very much
Near Fredericksburg, Virginia Sunday morning, December 21, 1862
Dear Sister and Brother,
It is with pleasure that I take my pen to answer your letter which I received a few days ago, but it was with greater pleasure that I received and read your letter and it would still give me a great deal more pleasure if I could come home and go to preaching and more especially at Christmas and New Year. I have been thinking this morning of the many sabbaths which I spent at Friedberg, and as you said of the many times that you and I used to walk to Friedberg. And I have also been thinking of the many times that we used to get angry with each other and quarrel; that was very wrong of us and I hope that you and Julius do not do so now. I want you to be good and obedient children and do what father and mother tells you to do.
There has been a very hard battle fought here at Fredericksburg, Virginia, the 13th of this month and our regiment was in the hardest of the battle. But I was not in the battle because I was too near barefooted and therefore I staid at the camp and kept out of the battle. There were a great many killed and wounded on both sides.
You wanted to know whether I received my money. I received 45 dollars. You also wanted to know whether we will have to be out all winter. I cannot tell how about that. It is said that we will be taken to N. C. before long and there take up winter quarters. Tell Julius that I am glad to hear that he has caught a possum and 12 rabbits and tell him to catch all the rabbits and partridges that he can, and tell Sam that I have not forgot him yet and I hope to be back before long with him on the farm. So I must close. I hope you will all remember me in your prayers and pray that this war may soon stop and peace be made and that we all may return home again. Your Brother — C. A. Hege
Direct your letters as usual.
Near Fredericksburg, Virginia Christmas morning, Thursday, 25th December 1862
I take up my pen this beautiful Christmas morning in order to write you a few lines to inform you that I am well again and hope that when these few lines come to hand that they may find you all enjoying good health. I received a letter from you last evening dated December 15th which I was very much pleased to get to hear from home. But I am very sorry to hear that you and mother are sick. But I hope and pray that the good Lord will soon restore you to health again.
There is a great deal of sickness here in camp such as pneumonia, jaundice, and various other diseases. Alexander Weaver is a going to the hospital this morning. He has been sick for several days. I have not yet got my box and I expect never will get it because I got Capt. Michael to go to Gordonsville and Hanover junction to search for my box, but he could not see nor hear anything of it, and therefore I expect it has been stole because it is a very common thing for boxes to be robbed about here. And therefore I think it is useless to depend upon getting that box any longer. I am very sorry that it is lost but I can’t help it.
I got to stay out of the battle here at Fredericksburg, Virginia, by being barefooted and therefore I think that it was ordered by Providence that I should not get my box, because if I had a got my box of shoes and clothing, I would to a have went in the battle. I would rather loose the box than to go in a battle.
Christmas has come once more and it is a very beautiful morning here. But Oh! how changed the scene to what it was last Christmas. Here I am in the army today and today twelve months ago I was at home where I could enjoy the blessings of a comfortable house and home of parents and friends and of religious worship, but this Christmas I am surrounded by warriors, cannons, guns, and all kinds of unusual sounds and actions to which I never was accustomed to. But I hope and pray that the good Lord in His tender mercy may soon bring this state of things to an end and restore peace and prosperity to our beloved country again, and turn the hearts of the rulers to peace forever instead of war.
Dear Father, I want you to bring me another box of clothing like the first and do not grieve because the other box was lost because it may have saved my life. I want you to try to bring it yourself and bring it as soon as you can. So no more at present. Please write soon as you get this letter and write once or twice every week. Be assured, dear parents, that I remain your affectionate son until death, — C. A. Hege
Direct your letters as usual.
Near Petersburg, Virginia Sunday noon, January 11, 1863
Dearly beloved Parents,
I this beautiful sabbath day have the opportunity of writing to [you] once more to inform you that I am well at present and hope that you all enjoy the same good blessing. I have not received any letter from you for a couple weeks and I thought that I would write to let you know that I received my box of clothing, apples, onions, shoes &c., which you sent with Mr. J. Rominger the last time. I was very glad to get them and I am very thankful to you, dear parents, for being so kind to me as to send them because I was very much in need of them. I have not heard anything of my first box you sent to me. I think it was stole.
We are now here about 3 miles northwest of Petersburg, Virginia. We left Fredericksburg yesterday a week a go and marched on by Hanover Junction and through Richmond and came on here last Wednesday and it is thought that we will go on to Goldsboro or Wilmington in a few days. We have had some very bad weather here lately. We had a right smart snow last Friday and yesterday we had a cold, rainy day.
Solomon Tesh came to his regiment last Tuesday and he brought me a pair of pants, haversack, and book sack. Ephraim Weasmer has also returned from the hospital to his regiment. He is well. He is here in our tent now. Mock’s boys are well. Leander saw Henry Mock at Petersburg in the Hospital. He is nearly well except his old complaint and he thinks he will get a discharge.
We fare a little [better] in the way of eatables now than we did some time ago. We drawed for tomorrow cornmeal, pickled pork, rice and sugar. It seems to me a little more like home since the 15 N. C. Regiment has come in our Brigade. I now can see some of my friends and acquaintances every day. I hope when we get to N. C. that you and Mr Weasner will come to see us. You need not be afraid to come because you will not be interrupted and you need not be afraid to ride on the cars. Tell Theophilus Spaugh to write to me. Tell Mary and Julius to write to me. So I must close by giving you my best wishes and respects and hope that the time may soon come when peace will reign supreme and when we can all once more enjoy the blessing of a comfortable house and home. I never knew what home was until I left home. Please write as soon as you get this.
Your affectionate son until death, — C.A. Hege
Direct your letter to Petersburg, Va., care of Capt. Michael, Co. H, 18th Reg. N. C. Troops and the letter will follow the regiment if we move.
Near Petersburg, Virginia Tuesday, 13 January 1863
Dearly beloved Parents,
I now have the opportunity of sending you a few lines to let you know that I am well at present and hope that you all enjoy the same good blessing. I received two letters yesterday from you—the one dated January 4th and the other December 31st. I was very glad to get them because I had not heard from you for some time. Mr. J. Rominger came to our camp last night. I received my pack of clothing last Friday night. I got all that you sent. I was very glad to get them because I was in need of them very much. Mr. Rominger said that he found my box which you had sent with him before he found it at Gordonsville. He sent it on to Raleigh, N. C., and is a going to send it home. I have as many clothing as I can carry at present, but I would be very glad if you would bring me a box of provisions before long. Your shoes that you sent me are rather small and they will hurt my feet when I have to march. I will wear my old ones out first and save your pair and if you come out I would be very glad if you would bring that pair that is in my box if they are larger.
We are still here about 3 miles northwest of Petersburg, Virginia, but it is thought that we will soon go to N. C. near Goldsboro. I have sent a small pack of nonsense to Julius which I have picked up. Tell him to save the screw drivers for me and the powder bullets and lead are for Father. I send you a Yankee ball which you can take in 3 pieces.
You wanted to know how we fare. I will tell you. We have hard times. We have no winter quarters to stay in and we have to shelter from the rain and cold the best way that we can. Some build themselves shelters with poles and cover with leaves and dirt; others stretch up blankets in the form of a tent, but the officers and the big men have tents and some have stoves in them. I and my mess have a fly to stay under at present and we build a large fire before the fly and lie with our feet toward the fire and cover with our blankets and we then keep tolerably warm.
As to our rations, they are very scant. We draw a little over a pint of meal or flour to the man a day and about a pound of beef a day. We sometimes draw a little sugar, rice and molasses and sometimes a little pickled pork or bacon but it is all very scant and a person is obliged to buy something more if he wants to have enough to eat.
I drawed my $50 bounty money on Christmas day. I have also drawed $30 monthly wages, but it goes very fast because everything sells so very high and a body will buy before they will go with a hungry belly.
So I must come to a close by saying please write as soon as you get this letter and write all the news and I want you all to write to me because I like to hear from you all. Write longer letters and more of them. Tell Julius I received his letter. Your affectionate son until death. Remember your son, — C. A. Hege
Direct your letters to Petersburg, Va., Co. H, 48th Reg. N. C. Troops
I here send all of my old letters home because I have no way to take care of them. I want you to save them all until I come home because I hope to get home before long. I also send my hymn book home because I just spoil it here.
Near Goldsboro, North Carolina Saturday, 17 January 1863
I now have the opportunity of writing a few lines once more in N. C. to inform you that I am well at present and tolerably well satisfied and I hope that you all enjoy good health. I feel more now like as if I was at home since I got here in N. C. than I did when I was in Virginia. We left Petersburg, Virginia, last Thursday afternoon and came on to Goldsboro last night and we then came out to a camp about 2 miles south of the town (Goldsboro). I can tell you, I am glad that we are away from the Mountainous Regions of Virginia and back again in the pleasant valleys & plains of N. C. and I hope that you and Mr. Weasner & Uncle Christian and all of our old neighbors will now come to see us and bring us boxes of provisions, &c. You need not be afraid of the distance now because it is only 150 miles from here to Lexington. You can now take the train at Lexington and come on all the way here without changing cars. I want you to be sure and come to see us now and bring me a box of provisions as soon as you can because we may leave here in a couple weeks. I want a hat and a pair of socks, ink, &c., pint cup, tin plates, coffee pot, knife, fork, & spoon, sody, shortened biscuits & several pounds of butter, pies, dried peaches, &c. &c. and anything else that is good.
So I must close by saying write as soon as you get this and write when you will come. Your son, — C. A. Hege
Am too cold to write much. Direct your letters to Goldsboro, N. C., Co. H, 48th Reg. N. C. Troops
This journal was kept by Captain Samuel Holmes Doten (1812-1906) of the 29th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. The diary opens on June 12th, 1862 during the Peninsular Campaign with a note: “At retreat from before Richmond, I lost all my baggage and with it my diary of army life up to this date—June 12.” The diary is pretty much continuous from that date onward until he was mustered out on May 30, 1864.
Doten’s handwriting is good, his observations keen and many. The diary includes battle descriptions and accounts of many skirmishes, crossing paths with many Union generals, detailed accounts of what befell men in his Company E and in other companies and regiments from Massachusetts’ south shore area including the town of Plymouth, Doten’s home town, and daily observations of weather, his surroundings, his duties and company assignments, and his health.
Doten first made his living as master of the packet ship “Atlanta” that plied the coastal waters between Plymouth and Boston. His seafaring experience reveals itself in the acute observations of the weather he notates in his diary—particularly the wind directions, and use of such nautical descriptions as “tempests” and “squalls” to record what ordinary soldiers might call storms and showers. He later got into the lumber business and followed it for many years before the Civil War erupted.
Doten was 48 years old when he enlisted in May 1861 in the 29th Massachusetts Infantry and commissioned captain of Co. E. He mustered out of the regiment on 30 May 1864.
There are several newspaper clippings that I have inserted in the journal at chronologically appropriate locations that add color and context beyond what Doten has recorded. The clippings are from hometown (Plymouth) newspapers that were transcribed from letters written by members of the regiment, particularly Co. E that was raised in Plymouth. I feel strongly that many of the anonymous letters should be attributed to Doten. These clippings were found in the book published by Donald A. Dewey, entitled, “Return of the Dead, Plymouth During the Civil War.”
[Note: This diary is from the personal collection of Jim Doncaster and was transcribed & published on Spared & Shared by express consent.]
Note: At retreat from before Richmond, I lost all my baggage and with it my diary of army life up to this date.
June 12 —Nothing of importance has occurred today. The left wing of the army made a successful advance and the right is endeavoring to cross the Chickahominy. We have had a still day though [ ] Delawa__ came here today.
Friday, June 13, 1862—We have had the usual alarms today. Regiment engaged in entrenchments. Nothing unusual has transpired.
“We are stopping within about 30 rods [@500 feet] of the rebel pickets. We have to stand in line of battle most all the time. We expect to have to go into action every minute. There has got to be a great battle fought at Richmond yet, I think…We have to sleep out doors most of the time. We have to turn out in the night and 4 times in the night. We have to eat hard bread and water most of the time. We don’t get much time to sleep now. I have got tired of such living, sleeping outdoors in the mud and rain. Our sharpshooters are picking off the rebel pickets. There is a large tree close by that we can get up in the top of it and we can see the rebels quite plain, but if the rebels see you, they shoot at you. I went up in the tree yesterday with a Lieutenant. We got fired at twice—both of the balls struck the tree.” — Pvt. George Peirce, Co. E, 29th Mass., 13 June 1862 (Source)
Saturday, June 14—We were on guard at the entrenchments last night at half past 2 a.m. Was called into line expecting an attack. At 10 a.m. was again called into line at a different point and stayed till 4 p.m. when we were ordered for guard at the outside picket.
Sunday, June 15.—At 4 o’clock p.m. my guard was attacked by one and one half regiments of Rebels during a heavy thunder shower. I had command of Co. E, 88th N. Y., and Co.’s E & C 29th Mass. My men fell back from the edge of the woods as the Rebels attempted to flank us. We lost two killed and three wounded. Chas. Klinhaus of my company was wounded. After about thirty minutes skirmishing we got back to our post and soon regularly relieved, tired and wet.
“Wounded. Co. E, 29th Mass. Reg., under command of Capt. S. H. Doten, of this town, was engaged in a skirmish with the rebels on the 15th, in which they came off victorious, and without loss. but one man private C. C. Klinhaus, was wounded; he had a narrow escape, the ball passing through his cartridge box and lodging in his side from whence it was extracted without making a dangerous wound. Nine dead rebels were found on the field after he fight.”
Monday, June 16th—We stood at the breast works till 7 o’clock this morning, wet & cold, with the ground covered with water and mud. The men were most used up. The Capt. that relieved us yesterday found eighteen dead Rebels in front of our lines. We have moved back our camp to good ground to rest the Regiment. Lieut. Collinwood was ordered back to the company yesterday by special order. Gen. McClellan was here today. The troops cheered him as he passed. He told us (it is said) that this was the last stopping place short of Richmond. My wounded man is doing well.
Tuesday, June 17—It has been beautiful weather today. We had quite a still time last night & today. My company has been to work on the Redoubts near the woods. There has been heavy firing towards the James River.
Wednesday, June 18th—Thirteen months since we left home and we are now before Richmond on the advance. We had a night of alarms last night. All quiet today. At 4 o’clock p.m. our skirmishers drew the fire of the Rebels and we were all called into line ready to advance.
Thursday, June 19th—The advance had quite a battle last night. The 16th Mass. lost 56 killed, wounded & missing. We have had no alarm today and hope to have none at night. It has been good weather. There has been quick firing on the right afternoon. Lieut. J[ohn] B. Collingwood has been placed under arrest.
A newspaper article dated 4 October 1862 states, “We are glad to learn Lt. J. B. Collingwood of the 29th Regt. has been ordered to join his regiment and informed that the proceedings instituted against him by Col. Peirce have been quashed as being trivial. This is a fitting commentary upon the proceedings of this Colonel.”
Friday, June 20th—My command was on fatigue today building trenches near the place where we was attacked Sunday. About 2 o’clock the Rebels began to shell the Right and Left Wings and sent a few of their compliments to us. No damage. All quiet. [Capt. William] Windsor returned last night.
Saturday, June 21st—Our pickets were driven in this p.m. & at four o’clock were again driven in by a large force and we had quite a battle on the left of our division. We had four wounded. Loss to Rebels not known. Took some prisoners. We gave them a good shelling. Weather good.
Sunday, June 22nd—The Rebels have kept unusually still today. Everything is quiet. We were turned out five times by alarms and fully expected to have a fight this morning. The alarms were occasioned by the Rebels burying their dead from last evening’s battle.
Monday, June 23rd—This a.m. we had good weather. At M [noon] we had a tempest and at that time was ordered out on picket duty at the place where we were attacked before. At two o’clock we were ordered to advance our pickets into the swamp. We advanced and soon found the Rebel picket and began a brisk skirmish which was kept up till night. No loss on our side. Weather squally.
Tuesday, June 24th—Last night at ten o’clock we had a severe tempest with heavy rain and very dark. This morning at daylight the Rebels opened fire upon us which we returned. At 7 o’clock the sun came out and warmed us up a little as we were very wet and cold. At Nine o’clock we were relieved and returned to camp.
Seven Days’ Battles
Wednesday, June 25th—We have had quite a battle today. A part of our Brigade and a part of Hooker’s & Casey’s division made an advance of some half mile. We met with heavy loss as well as the enemy. We lost many officers. Our batteries have been playing all this p.m. Two hundred men from our regiment are cutting down the forest day and night. Our regiment has been in line all day. Weather good.
Thursday, June 26th—Co. E is again ordered for picket duty. We have had near double picket duty to any other company in the regiment. Our guard is in the swamp where we have made an advance picket. At 4 o’clock a heavy firing of cannon & musketry was heard on the right and we suppose that Porter is trying to make an advance. This evening the bands were playing and troops cheering in all the camps but as we were swamped we could not find out its meaning.
Friday, June 27th—We heard early this morning that Porter was attack[ing] and that he was driving the Rebels and had taken Mechanicsville. This morning at 3:30 o’clock the cannonading began with musketry and kept up till afternoon. At five o’clock our Brigade was ordered at a moment’s warning to march for the battlefield five miles distance at double quick in fifty minutes and arrived just before dusk, formed line of battle, and was ordered to charge over a hollow to the hill beyond. As we filled into the hollow and were getting ready for the charge, a shell killed Lieut. [Thomas] Mayo, cutting the bayonet off J. F. Hall’s musket at the same time. We started up the hill and halted as it was too dark to charge. We were then ordered to “advance till we felt the enemy” which we did and soon felt them, our left drawing their fire. Halted & laid down but were soon ordered to silently retreat back to our old position. We were now at Gainesville near Gains’ Mills.
Saturday, June 28th—At two o’clock this morning we were ordered to cover the retreat of the army. We left the field—the last regiment that crossed the Chickahominy and arrived back at our camp at about five o’clock this morning. We have been quite still all day but are getting ready for a move in retreat and probably shall start tonight. All my sick and disabled are going with the doctor. Where we are going, I do not know but think James River. The Rebels are very still. I have not slept for 40 hours. We have got a few rations ready for a move and are all ready.
Sunday, June 29th—We started from camp at 9:30 o’clock last evening and marched as read guard to the division. We marched down the railroad to Savage Station and waited there till daylight. We again marched back about two miles for stragglers, deployed into a field and waited [—-ments]. Soon after we marched back below the Station near two miles. We were then ordered to march back again and report to Gen. Sumner. After reporting, he ordered us back again. We marched back two or three miles to where the troops were forming line of battle and there halted. The thermometer has stood at near 100 all day and not a breath of air to be felt. Quite a number have been sun struck today and quite a number of officers have been sun struck and given out. At 4 o’clock p.m., I had but about twenty men. At half past five p.m., we again started at the rear of the army. The Rebels attack us this p.m. and we are having a battle. At seven p.m. we were ordered onto the field as it was our division that was at it. Our Brigade went in strong and drove the Rebels hard. We took a few prisoners who say we fairly slaughtered the Rebels. At half past ten p.m. we again took up our line of march in the rear. It has rained hard this evening and made the roads very slippery and it is also very dark. We traveled to the White Oak Swamp Bridge. The bridge is over an extensive mud-hole. We crossed it at about two o’clock Monday morning and encamped on the side of a hill fairly used up, but about twenty of my company held out to get here. I had a slight sun stroke today but recovered in a short time. We have traveled all of twenty-five miles today.
Monday, June 30th—We were ordered into line at sunrise this morning and immediately the Brigade formed into line of battle at the Rebels were pressing in close. We eat what we could hastily from our haversacks which was nothing but hard bread and taking a drink of good water, the first we have had since we left, we fell into line and was after much marching placed in line of battle where we rested till noon. We had hard bread again dealt out to us here but no meat or coffee. At one o’clock we were surprised by a severe attack from a heavy battery that had been placed in position by the Rebels.
There was a stampede of mules about 100 of them being chained or rather harnessed into six mule teams and unhitched from the wagons and they stampeded among the regiments. Our regiment was immediately put in position to support the Batteries. We, not being in the right position at first, we were ordered by Gen. Richardson to march to the left, he executing this movement. Col. Peirce had his arm shot off, three men were killed, and a number wounded. We soon got our position and a perfect shower of shot and shell fell around us for near six hours. We laid as close to the ground as possible. In this battle we had eighty seven killed, wounded, and missing. At five o’clock p.m., the firing slackened and we had time to get some water and to bury the dead. Soon the Rebels began again and we again took our position till near seven o’clock.. At about three o’clock p.m., a heavy sharp firing was opened on the right where General ____ with a heavy force had been sent early in the day to protect our flank. At seven o’clock our regiment was called to go to the battlefield about two miles distant. We started at double quick and soon arrived at the field and was drawn up in line of battle for charging, but the cheering when they saw us enter on the field and the supposition that we were the whole Irish Brigade, served to check the Rebels and they soon ceased firing. It was quite dark and we stood in line till nine o’clock pm. and we were enticed to lay down on our arms. We tried to get water as we were very thirsty but it could not be found.
Our division had whipped the Rebels hard and they had given way before dark and our troops were driving them. Their loss must have been very heavy. Four of my men have been wounded today but none dangerously. at near twelve o’clock midnight we were ordered to fall in and march onward. Gen’ls. Sumner, Richardson, & Meagher showed themselves to be brave men today and they have the confidence of the troops. Gen’l Richardson is called “Fighting Dick.” He is cool, decided and energetic. As the mules had stampeded, we had to burn our pontoon bridges before leaving the first fighting ground. When the shot & shell was flying fastest. Gen’l. [Thomas F.] Meagher walked in front of the Brigade the whole length of the line to the batteries. As he passed our regiment when we were receiving the most attention from the Rebels, he remarked, “Hell boys, at this rate, you’ll soon want umbrellas here.”
“Brian K. Burton’s book Extraordinary Circumstances: The Seven Days Battles makes reference to an account of a fascinating incident that occurred at White Oak Swamp Bridge on 30th June 1862, part of the Peninsula Campaign. The Irish Brigade were positioned here as part of the Union rearguard during the Federal retreat/change of base to the James River. Confederate General Stonewall Jackson was tasked with applying pressure to the Union positions at this location, and the fighting principally manifested itself in the form of an intense artillery duel. William Watt Hart Davis of the 104th Pennsylvania Regiment was also present as the shells began to fall, and he witnessed an extraordinary sight as the Irish Brigade endured the barrage:
An Irish camp woman, belonging to a New York regiment, made herself quite conspicuous during the action. She remained close to the side of her husband, and refused to retire to a place of security. She was full of pluck. Occasionally she would notice some fellow sneaking to the rear, when she would run after him, seize him by the nape of his neck and place him in the ranks again, calling him a “dirty, cowardly spalpeen,” and other choice epithets. The flying shells had no terrors for her. During the hottest of the cannonade, this courageous woman walked fearlessly about among the troops, encouraging them to stand up to their work. Her only weapon, offensive or defensive, was a large umbrella she carried under her arm. In one instance she shamed a commissioned officer into returning to his duty. She belonged to the Irish Brigade, and her stout person, full, red face and broad language betrayed her undoubted origin.” [Source]
Tuesday, July 1, 1862—At one o’clock this morning our Brigade was called into line and ordered to take up their line of march for James River. We traveled about five miles and at sunrise fell again into line at what was called McClellan’s Headquarters, in about two hours after we were ordered out to support the batteries with some six or eight more regiments. We took a good smart shelling from Rebel batteries that we could not silence, receiving no damage. The batteries were ten withdrawn as well as ourselves and our regiment put on picket duty. At 4 o’clock p.m., Gen’l Meagher told us to kill six of the sheep in sight of us and also one bullock for our regiment. The sheep were dressed and divided among the men, fires built ready for cooking, but at that moment there was an alarm and we jumped to our arms and was immediately on the march. Lucky for us it proved a false alarm and we marched back and cooked our sheep. We had no salt but it was sweet and good as we had no meat for some time. The part of the bullock that fell to our share we immediately cut up into steaks and divided and put it away in our haversacks and luckily that we did as the rebels were pressing hard at the battle progressing on the right and for which we were held in reserve.
At five o’clock the time had come for us to march to “Malvern Hills” nearby and do our part of the days duty. We was soon on the field and a hard fought field it was. We were ordered to support the batteries. There was near fifty Parrott Rifle Guns in position. “Magruder,” the Rebel General charged three times on this battery but it was useless and we finally charged on them and drove them from the field. It is said that the Rebel army consisted of 40,000 men. Ours did not exceed 20,000. They lost very heavy as near three thousand lay dead in front of the guns. Our loss was quite large but the victory was ours decidedly. Near 100 guns continued to shell the woods for near one hour. It was a grand sight. [Charles E.] Merriam received a slight wound from a ball in his thigh.
Wednesday, July 2—This morning at one o’clock we were ordered to leave the battlefield and take up the line of march. By three o’clock the army was all on the march. Our Brigade bring up the rear as usual. At 4 a.m. it began to rain. Soon the roads were all mud and as we had now come up with our teams who had to take one side of the road while the batteries took the other, and three regiments passing side by side, it was a hard dirty mess. The regiment marched by the flank & by file through woods and fields never losing each other’s lead. We were soon covered with mud from head to foot & it rained very hard all the time. We marched sixteen miles to Harrison’s Landing where we encamped. We had but few tents and many of us had to lay out in the rain. Muddy and wet, wet all day and sleep wet all night with a cold chill wind is not the most agreeable way of resting from a hard days labor. We made shelters of our blankets as best we could and fixed for an uncomfortable night. We have suffered much for want of water on this march. Men have drank from puddles & pools of stagnant water and have suffered severely by so doing and many of these are sick and more will be. Although we have retreated from before Richmond and are sorely disappointed, yet we have confidence in our generals and especially in our Commander-in-Chief, General McClellan. This retreat has as we think been conducted with a masterful hand and a quick eye, and adds to, rather than takes from, his fame.
Thursday, July 3rd—We turned out soaking wet. It was a cold night and the most of us were so uncomfortable that we could not sleep. I have not slept any of consequence for a week and am most sick. Most of us are weak for want of proper food. At eleven o’clock a.m. we were called out as we were ed but before we got there, the troops engaged had taken the Battery engaged against us. We are now turned on the defensive and it will be dangerous to meddle with us. We changed to a new camp ground which is far better than the last. The 32nd Reg. Mass. Vol. arrived here today and was fully introduced to the sacred mud of Virginia. Some of the Plymouth boys came to see us. Saw Capt. J[osiah C.] Fuller [Co. C, 32nd Mass]. He was looking well. Some of our men who have straggled came in yesterday and today.
Friday, July 4th—This has been a very hot day. I went to the river and had a good wash. Took off my under clothes and pants and washed them and then sat and waited for them to dry. It did not seem much like the “Glorious Fourth.”
Saturday, July 5th—We were ordered to encamp in a piece of woods nearby. We laid out our new camp and soon removed ourselves to the new abode beneath the sheltering trees. It is better than the hot sun.
Sunday, July 6th—A very hot day. Everything goes on as usual. My men are getting over their fatigue a little, but many of them are sick.
Monday, July 7th—Still another hot day. We have kept as still as possible. At night we went to the James river about a mile distant to bathe. It was a real luxury.
Tuesday, July 8th—Hot again. We moved our camp further into the woods and have more shade though less air. We had dress parade this evening.
Wednesday, July 9th—Still hot. Everything seems to have settled down to the usual rounds. Went to the river and bathed.
Thursday, July 10th—We have shelter tents given out to us and have pitched them. Had them all struck this p.m. and ground well policed. Pitched my shelter tent in a good place and fixed it up quite comfortable. Had company today.
Friday July 11th—It rained hard all day and last night. No military movements today. Wrote home for chest or box.
Saturday, July 12th—Weather pleasant and good. The cavalry made a reconnoissance last night and brought back six prisoners.
Sunday, July 13th—Good weather. We went through inspection this a.m. and dress parade at p.m. I have drawn from the quartermaster shoes, shirts, and drawers and gave them out to the company.
Monday, July 14th—Was invited over to the 18th Reg. to dine with Capt. Collingwood & others. Had a good dinner—the first I have had since I left Fair Oaks. Spent the time quite pleasantly. We had Company & Battalion drills this morning. Weather hot. My men have all come except six and they are to be counted missing.
Tuesday, July 15th—The weather is very hot and sultry. Everything goes on as usual. It rained hard last night.
Wednesday, July 16th—I was sent with seventy-five men this morning to report to Gen’l. Richardson. He sent us to police the plain, bury old horses, &c. It was so hot that we could do but little and was sent back at noon.
Thursday, July 17th—we were again on police on the plain. It was a decidedly hot day.
Friday, July 18th—Just fourteen months since we left home. It rained hard all night and today. I have been quite unwell today with the piles.
Saturday, July 19th—We were mustered today. I made out our pay roll to muster by. We had a drill this morning but I was not able to attend. The weather has been quite cool.
Sunday, July 20th—Everything as usual with the usual Sunday inspection. Weather very hot.
Monday, July 21st—We had company drill this morning. The weather has been quite cool. I have been quite unwell today.
Tuesday, July 22nd—A stormy day and no drills.
Wednesday, July 23rd—It rained this p.m. I have been quite sick today. There is much sickness in the camp.
Thursday, July 24th—I went to the river and bathed today but it was too much for me and I have been quite sick with the neuralgy this afternoon. Cornelius Bradford came up from the Fortress Monroe to see me last night. He brought me some soft bread—the first I have had for a long time. He brought some cooking utensils that I sent down for. He went back today. It was quite hot. Drills as usual.
Friday, July 25th—This has been a very hot day. I have been quite sick today but went on dress parade for fear I should get lazy. It was rather too much but I stood it quite well. Saw William H. Johnston today.
Saturday, July 26th—Sick as usual and a bad head ache.
Sunday, July 27th—Inspection day. The company passed inspection and after that I dealt out pants to them.
Monday, July 28th—I am about the same as yesterday and suffer much with my head. The doctor pronounces my sickness Typhoid Fever.
Tuesday, July 29th—Sick as usual and have lost all appetite for food.
Wednesday, July 30th—Had a bad night last night and a sicker day than yesterday.
Thursday, July 31st—Felt a little better today and with assistance, went to the Brigade Surgeon to get twenty days leave of absence. “No go.” Just my luck. It has rained hard today.
Friday, August 1st—Have had quite a good day today but eat nothing of consequence. We were shelled from the other side of the river last night but it did but little damage.
Saturday, August 2nd—A bad day today. I find I grow weak very fast. The weather is good. 400 contrabands were sent over today escorted by a brigade of infantry to throw up breastworks on the other side of the river.
Sunday, August 3rd—I have been very sick today.
[No entries for a week]
Sunday, August 10th—I am better but weak. I have not been able to keep my journal for the past week. The regiment have gone out on picket guard without blankets or tents. I am very weak now. I took command of the camp by special request of Col. [Joseph H.] Barnes.
Monday, August 11th—Good weather. The Brigade has orders to get ready to move at 2 o’clock p.m.
Tuesday, August 12th—We have not started yet. All our knapsacks are on board transports as well as our tents. The regiment has been out on picket duty since Wednesday week.
Wednesday, august 13th—Nothing out of the usual routine of duty today. Weather warm.
Thursday, August 14th—Weather very hot and oppressive. I had all the sick in camp examined and those not excused I sent to the regiment. I think I am somewhat better today.
Friday, August 15th—The regiment came in from picket duty today. The sick are ordered to go to the hospital at one o’clock p.m. At two o’clock I was helped to the boat but had to walk near a mile in the hot sun. After a long delay, I was got on board a small steam tug and put on board the steamer, S. R. Spaulding. I was put in a good berth and had good attention shown me by kind female nurses. The arrangements on board the Spaulding for sick are good and they give attention to the sick. It did seem quite good to lay upon a bed again. We have some six hundred sick onboard.
Saturday, August 16th—We stopped at Fortress Monroe till about ten o’clock a.m. for orders and soon after sailed for New York with a cold head wind and strong breeze.
Sunday, August 17th—We have been at sea all day with a strong head wind. It is not very rough and the steamer moves along easily. I feel better than I have for some time. The sea air braces me up. The nurses are very kind and attentive. We expect to arrive by tewlve o’clock tonight.
Monday, August 18th—We arrived off New York at eleven o’clock last evening and anchored off Castle Garden. I got on deck and took my first view of the City. At ten o’clock a.m. two steamers came alongside and took us all on board. One steamer took those who were able to walk about to Fort Hamilton. The rest of the sick, myself included, were taken on board the other steamer and sent Newark, New Jersey. we sailed by Staten Island and sick as I was, I could not help getting up to the window and admiring the beautiful island and its fairy scenery. At 2 o’clock p.m. we arrived at our destination and landed into the hospital. I was much disappointed at not stopping at New York.
Tuesday, August 19th—I did not sleep much last night as it was the first time for near six months that I have slept without my clothes on. I took a little medicine last night and feel rather better today.
Wednesday, August 20th—Slept well last night and feel better today. Eat some fruit. Quarreled with the ward master about the food and had a row generally. Think I feel better for it.
Thursday, August 21st—Things go better with the promise of further improvements and change. I was most agreeably surprised with a visit from two of my New York cousins today—Deborah and Rebecca. Both came down to see me. I was very glad to see them as it is many years since I saw them before. I am very weak as yet but feel that I am gaining. I did not know Deborah at first and mistook her for “Kate.” I walked to the street with help and bought some fruit. Doctor [Henry B.] Wheelwright was here today and promised to do all he could to get the four officers here belonging to the Mass. 29th into Massachusetts “Doubtful.” The four officers belonging to the 29th are myself, Lieut. [William R.] Corlew, Lieut. [Freeman Augustus] Taber, & Lieut. [Henry S.] Braden.
Friday, August 22nd—We have a good hospital and good attendants. Doctor [John H.] Janeway, US Surgeon is at the head of it and the ladies of the city do all that they can to alleviate suffering. They are very kind. There is fourteen hundred at this hospital and the deaths are not over one per day on an average. I think myself better but little appetite, but it’s coming.
Saturday, August 23rd—Today I received a telegraph from Charley that they would break camp tomorrow. I have not been so well today.
Sunday, August 24th—The church bells sound good and I feel glad to hear them. Once more I am better than I was yesterday. I walked out a little way today.
Monday, August 25th—Better than yesterday. I walked to the depot and waited almost all day to see Charley. He did not come as I expected.
Tuesday, August 26th—Cousin Kate came to see me today and brought me oranges and lemons. I was very glad to see her. Lieut. Corlew and Taber started for home this afternoon to be back on Friday. Received telegraph from Charley that he would be here tomorrow.
Wednesday, August 27th 1862—Passed a restless night last night. At eight o’clock a.m. I got to the depot and waited till two o’clock p.m. at which time the cars came along with the 38th Mass. Regt. I saw Charley but had not time to talk with him. Saw other Plymouth boys. got back to the hospital most tired out.
Thursday, August 28th—I am not so well today as I had a bad night. This p.m. Mrs. Nichols and Mrs. Miller took me into their carriage and took me round the City. I was much pleased and it did me good. Newark is a very pleasant place, well situated, but not so business like as I should expect being only seven miles from New York. still it is a fine, healthy place and people kind and friendly.
Friday, August 29th—We were told by the Surgeon that he could give us a permit to go home. I immediately telegraphed home to send nothing to me as I was about to “change station.”
Saturday, August 30th—I got my papers fixed at eleven o’clock a.m. and then took the cars for New York. Went to see my friends and dined & spent the afternoon with them. At five o’clock took the Fall River boat for home. Met Lucius Mott on board the boat and took supper with him on board.
Sunday, August 31st—We arrived at Fall River and took the cars for Middleborough and there took a private carriage for Plymouth where I arrived at ten o’clock a.m. I was glad to get there and they were all glad to see me.
There were no entries from 31 August 1862 until 24 October 1862 while Capt. Doten was at home recuperating from his illness. During his absence from the regiment, the 29th Mass—the only non-Irish regiment of the Irish Brigade—participated in the Battle of Antietam where they fought in line between the 63rd and 69th New York regiments in the assault on the Confederate positions in the Sunken Road. Their losses were somewhat less severe than the other regiments in the Brigade because they were somewhat sheltered by a slight dip in the ground at their position overlooking the road.
Not long after the battle, Mrs. Doten received a letter—obviously a scam—purporting to come from Capt. Doten in New York, asking for money which read:
New York September 23, 1862
My Dear Wife,
I have just arrived here wounded in the arm from the battle. I shall not have to lose my arm but it will lay me up for some time. I am under the care of Dr. Cotton, and get him to write to you as I am unable to write. I shall be on to Plymouth in a day or two, as soon as I can get leave from Washington. Send me on by return mail $50 to pay some expenses. Don’t delay as I need it badly. Direct to me and put the envelope in another directed to Dr. Jesse B. Cotton, New York, then I shall get it safe. Expect me in a day or two. Don’t feel uneasy for my wound is not very bad. Don’t make it public until I get there. Love to all. Your affectionate husband, — Samuel H. Doten
On 6 September 1862, the local Plymouth paper published the following: “Arrived Home. Although sorry to owe it to his illness, yet it afforded us great pleasure to take the hand of Capt. S. H. Doten last Sunday upon his arrival from the Hospital at Newark, N. J. Capt. Doten was taken ill soon after the battles of the Peninsular, and although sick and hardly able to leave his tent he stayed with his company until the evacuation of Harrison’s Landing, when, being unable to proceed with his company he was sent to Newark, from where he had leave to visit his family, and under home influence recruit his health. Although Capt. D looks thin and worn, he is impatient to be again in the field leading his brave comrades against the rebels, and will join them at the earliest possible moment.”
Monday, October 24th 1862—I left home again and started for the army at 9 o’clock a.m. this day. Arrived at Boston and dined with B. Hathaway at Mrs. Goddard’s. Left Boston in the 5:30 o’clock p.m. train for New York by the Fall River route and am now on board the Steamer Metropolis. It is a fine night and cool.
October 21st, Teuesday—Arrived safe at New York at 7 o’clock this morning. Went to see the Bradford’s and took dinner and supper with them. Saw Sam Merriam, Nickerson, Sampson, & others and took a ride up Broadway. It is a splendid sight and well worth the trouble. Put up for the night at the Courtland House and had a good night’s rest. Went to Newark in the course of the day. Saw Mrs. Nichols but did not see Mrs. Miller. Went to her house. Went back to the hospital and got my discharge and then back to New York [City].
Wednesday, October 22nd—Started this morning for Baltimore at 7 o’clock a.m. and passed through Trenton, New Jersey, and crossed the Delaware River near where Washington crossed in ’76. We passed through a beautiful country, very level and fertile. After crossing the river, we passed through the town of Bristol—a nice farming town—and across the New York canal, passed through Lyconia on the Delaware River. It is an old town to appearance but good farming. Passed through Kensington and arrived at Philadelphia at 10:30 o’clock. Took the horse cars, passed through Philadelphia, and again took cars for Baltimore. At 12 M [noon] crossed the Schuylkill river, passed through Chester—rather a rough looking place, the land apparently good for farming and grazing and appears to be well improved. Soon after left the state Pennsylvania and came to Wilmington, Delaware. It appears to be quite a business place but rather dirty. Took my dinner in a dining car, probably a Yankee invention, w going at the rate of twenty miles per hour. We soon left the little state of Delaware and passed through the towns of Winchester, Perryville, and Havre-de-Grace where the trains cross the Susquehanna River on a steam railroad ferry boat. The river here is near half mile wide. We crossed in about fifteen minutes and arrived at Baltimore at half past three p.m. nd put up at the Eutaw House. W. T. Davis came there in the evening from Washington. I was much gratified to meet Major Christensen there. He is aide to Gen. Wool.
Thursday, October 23rd—This morning took a walk around the city and was much pleased with the appearance. Went out to Camp Emory, saw Capt. C. C. Doten and others belonging to Plymouth. Saw Col. Ingraham, returned to the city, and dined with Capt. C. C. Doten. saw George Cobb and took supper at a restaurant. Saw Joseph P. Maury at the hospital at Camp Emory.
Friday, October 24th—Capt. C. C. Doten stopped with me at the Eutaw House last night. This morning at 8 o’clock a.m. started for Washington and arrived at 10 a.m. went to the hospitals to find my men. Could find but one—Sergt. P[eter] Winsor at the Finlay Hospital. Went to the Patent Office which is filled with sick and wounded. Saw the Post Office Building. The Post Office and Patent Office are splendid marble buildings. Went to the Capitol and into it. Saw all the paintings in the rotunda. They are splendid and beautiful. Went through the Capitol grounds and at night put up at Willard’s Hotel.
Saturday, October 25th—This morning went to the Washington and as it is on the banks of the Potomac River, I had a good view of both. saw Washington Heights so famous in this rebellion as also the residence of Gen. Lee which is on Arlington Heights. Saw the Long Bridge. From there went to the pay masters and got my pay. Went again to the Capitol and got permission to go to the top of the rotunda. It is a splendid sight and beautiful prospect from there. We could see regiments moving mid clouds of dust and the Potomac with all its windings was before us. Got my money ready and sent it home by Adams Express. Saw Lieut. [Abram A.] Oliver [Co. I] and [Thomas H.] Husband [Co. F] and Capt. [Charles] Brady all of the 29th. Saw the Treasury Buildings and went through the grounds. The building is splendid but the grounds are poorly laid out as is all that I have seen yet. It wants Yankee industry and Yankee enterprise and ingenuity as well as Yankee thrift to make Washington what it should be. It is now splendid, magnificent, dirty and squalid and is really neither southern or Yankee. The weather has been fine since I started from home. Got my valise that I checked through from New York.
Sunday, October 26th—It rains hard today. Went to Gen. Banks’ Headquarters and got a pass for Sergt. Winsor. After dinner saw Mr. Bates of New York and in the evening saw Maj. Gen. McDowell. It has rained hard all day.
Monday, October 27th—Went this morning and got a pass for self, Lieut. Collingwood, and Winsor for Harpers Ferry. Went to the White House and went into the reception room. It was splendid. Went to the Smithsonian Institute. Saw the equestrian statue of Gen. Jackson at the grounds of the White House. The curiosities at the Smithsonian Institute are well worthy of a long journey and carefree observation. At 3:30 o’clock p.m. took the cars for Harpers Ferry at a cost of four dollars. Passed through Bladensburg and other towns to the Relay House at the junction where we left the Baltimore Road and took the road for Harpers Ferry.
Tuesday, October 28th—We arrived at Harpers Ferry at 4 o’clock this morning having been delayed by the trains running over a cow. Took a walk round the place and a look at the destruction of public property. Harpers Ferry is surrounded by high mountainous heights. Louden, Maryland, and Bolivar, the last of which our regiment is encamped upon. Went to the regiment at 11 o’clock a.m. and saw the company who were very glad to see me as I was to see them. I found them in shelter tents and at night took up my quarters in camp.
Wednesday, October 29th—Had a cool night with heavy frost. Was busy all day answering letters that had been sent while I was absent, Made out a large lot of Descriptive Lists for men in hospitals, Began my muster notes and pay rolls. At 4 o’clock p.m. had orders to pack up for a march and at 6 p.m. started, bag and baggage. Crossed the Shenandoah River over the pontoon bridge and followed the Potomac River down on the Virginia side beneath Bolivar Heights. It was a rough and hard road, mostly cut out of the solid rocks which were two to three hundred feet high and almost perpendicular. The scenery was grand and beautiful and I did wish to have had daylight to have enjoyed it.
We marched to Pleasant Valley about four miles and at 8:30 p.m. encamped for the night. I stood the march as well as I expected but sweat much, not being very strong. The weather was cool. I reported for duty today and was again placed in command of my company. We sleep without tents on the ground.
Thursday, October 30th—At 4 o’clock this morning the call was beat and the regiment ordered to be ready at sunrise for marching. And just as the sun peeked over the hills, we were in line ready for the march. We have a large force with us and three or four light batteries and all of our train of wagons and a large number of cavalry. At 7:30 o’clock we started and at 10:30 o’clock halted in the valley. This division was then divided and marched on each side of the road in line of battle. The battery, cavalry & teams came up and we proceeded to pitch our tents. I went to work again on my pay rolls. The weather is very good. We are here advancing to protect this valley gap and it is said to be important.
Friday, October 31st—This morning was again busy on muster rolls. Was detailed as Officer of the Day. Got Lt. Collinwood to take my place. About 9 o’clock a.m., the regiment were ordered to fall in for picket duty. We were about two miles from camp and companies were ordered on different roads to reconnoiter. Nothing discovered of the enemy. We were mustered in by Col. [Ebenezer W.] Peirce while out on duty. At night, set picket guard at a piece of woods on the north side of the road, the 116th Pennsylvania Regiment being on the south side. I had the 9 o’clock to one with three companies under my charge. Weather pleasant but cool.
Saturday, November 1st—The relief guard fell in at daylight and stood to their guns till sunrise when they had liberty to get their breakfast and as they had nothing to eat, it was soon accomplished. Some of the men killed a small pig. I bought two chickens and had them cooked. At ten o’clock we were ordered to camp and to pack up and march immediately. At about 11:30 a.m. we started at the rear of our Brigade followed by all Hancock’s Division and five or six batteries and marched about six miles and stopped to rest. At half past 3 p.m. we again took up line of march and marched about six miles and encamped for the night. It was pleasant weather but I could hardly hold out. My feet and legs were so swollen, I could hardly step when we encamped.
Sunday, November 2nd—We were called into line this morning at daylight, broke ranks for breakfast and at 7:30 o’clock started. Marched a short distance and deployed into a field and formed line of battle. We marched in line over fields, fences, &c. near one mile till we were opposite Snicker’s Gap through the mountain. The batteries came into line and took their station. Gen. Hancock was round. He appears smart and active. At 11:30 a.m. our regiment were rested near a fence in front of the gap.
This p.m. Porter’s Corps came up and at night encamped with us. There is a very large army here and we expect to advance in the morning. There has been heavy cannonading to the south of us all day. The weather is light and good.
Monday, November 3rd—Last night was cold with showers and heavy wind squalls. Went over to the 18th Mass. as they were near us, Saw Capt. Collingwood and Drew. Went to the 32nd Mass. but Capt. Fuller & company were detailed for ammunition guard. At 11 o’clock a.m. took up line of march. Went over five miles and encamped on the best farm I have yet seen in Virginia. Our army travels in three lines by different roads. We are now on the road to Winchester. The weather is cold but pleasant. Legs pretty well done for.
Tuesday, November 4th—This morning at two o’clock we drew one days rations and divided it out. Our advance cavalry under Gen. Pleasanton with some five or six thousand cavalry and ten batteries started early this morning and Porter’s Corps followed soon after. We rested here till night and encamped.
Wednesday, November 5, 1862—This has been a good day. At 1:30 o’clock p.m. we were ordered to fall in and march. We went about seven miles and encamped on a rough hillside, the wind high and cold, looking much like a storm. We had a hard march over high hills and deep valleys and a very rough road. I finished my pay rolls this a.m.
Thursday, November 6, 1862—The wind changed to the northeast about midnight and was very cold with rain and the wind blowing a gale. We drew our days rations this morning and at 7 o’clock took up line of march and marched through Piedmont where the railroad passes through. We crossed one other railroad about one mile from the first and encamped for dinner. After dinner fixed our camp and at six o’clock I was detailed for picket guard and sent with 100 men under my command about two miles. It is very cold and having marched near ten miles, I can hardly step but don’t give up yet.
Friday, November 7th—It was a very cold night on guard. I laid down on the ground about half hour but gave it up, it was so cold. I walked my guard all night twelve hours and was chilled through. We were not allowed any fire on the pickets. At 10 o’clock it moderated and commenced snowing. Snow fell to the depth of three or four inches. It snowed nearly all day. Got a letter from home. Our tents got up with us tonight and I have pitched mine for the first time since we left the Ferry. It is reported here that the Rebels have taken possession of Snicker’s Gap.
Saturday, November 8th—At 4 o’clock this morning we were ordered to draw one day’s rations and be ready to start early. At even and a half o’clock we started and traveled about 12 miles and encamped at the edge of a wood. McClellan and Burnside passed us today and a very large train of wagons. Our batteries are placed near us to prevent surprise and are placed in good position. This looks rather squally. The weather looks threatening but it is not so cold and the snow is fast disappearing. No tents tonight.
Sunday, November 9th—It was a cold night and snowed. At 9 o’clock a.m. we had services and started on the march. We marched about eight miles to Warrington where we arrived at 2 o’clock p.m. This place is Burnside’s Headquarters at present. There is a great number of troops here. We have about one thousand head of cattle with us. At three o’clock p.m. we encamped for the night. Our tents came up and we pitched them. Saw Capt. Fuller of the 32nd Mass. as we came into town. The weather is fine but cool.
Monday, November 10th—This morning we were called into line at 6:15 o’clock as Gen. McClellan was to take a final leave of the army. At 9 o’clock the troops were all in line and soon after the General came past and was saluted by the soldiers. There was many wet eyes as the officers and soldiers think highly of him and felt bad to have him leave us. It has been a beautiful day. We cheered McClellan heartily as he passed. We expect to leave here tomorrow. Got my pay rolls read over today & got clear of them.
Tuesday. November 11th—This has been a good day and as it is warm, I have improved the day to get my writing and correspondence square.
Wednesday, November 12th—We have had a pleasant day. Went up to Warrenton and took a look at the town. It is an old place. Has six churches—two of them Methodist, two Presbyterian, one Episcopal. and one Catholic—three hotels, and quite a number of stores. The business of the place is principally farming. There is some manufactories of cloth ad some small manufactories of other business. There is many quite fine residences and before this war it was called quite a healthy place. The town stands mostly on an eminence overlooking the surrounding country. The place looks squalid and dirty. There is quite a large number of sick secesh prisoners here, mostly wounded in the last battle [Antietam] and as they left here in haste they could not take them away with them. I went over to the 18th Regt. and took supper with Capt. Drew and others. Saw Capt. Fuller at Warrenton. He looked well and hearty.
A letter submitted to a hometown paper by an an anonymous contributor from the 29th Massachusetts wrote the following of Warrenton, mocking the village:
We expected before this time to have advanced still farther into the heart of Old Virginia and give the rebels a second revised edition of what they received at Upperville a few days since, but delay seems to be the order of the day whether McClellan or Burnside guides the arms of State or leads on to battle; when the rebels get sufficient distance from us that there will be no danger in following them, we should probably follow in the tracks, but at sufficient distance to secure safety.
Warrenton, near which we are encamped, is what would be called in Massachusetts, quite a village, but is near dignified with the title of a city, it is situated on a high rising ground and like all else in Virginia, has the look of ages past, when architecture was in its infancy, and deformity the ruling passion. Rural and modern architecture would certainly blush at the huge stone or brick chimneys that are generally erected at both ends of the houses on the outside, and at the abortive attempts at portico and piazza, which are as heavy with lumber as a Dutchman’s eyes with slumber. We should as soon look for beauty in form and feature in the wooden Gods of the Chinese mandarins, as to look for beauty or taste in architecture among the F. F. V’s, in Virginia. Nature having formed the foundations, of the street (as it has but one principal street) of this city of a composition almost adamantine, it has been kept in a decent state of preservation, but the sidewalks, that have the appearance of once having been formed of brick have long since passed away and their material, in imitation of human nature, returned to the dust from which they were first created. At the crossings and as further evidence of its antiquity, are heavy stepping stones probably in imitation of the ancient druids, or in fear that the time of which we often read might come, even here, of streets deluged in blood, at which time those who were bootless could pass over and not wet their feet. Having some curiosity in knowing what could possess human beings to locate themselves here, and railroad victims to make a branch railroad to this place, and to understand what could support either, we asked a cadaverous looking specimen of humanity, that looked for all the world as if a spirit had left its earthly home unbeknown to its shadow, and left that God forsaken: “What was the principal business of the place, from which increase could be desired for the support of man and beast?”
Thursday, November 13th—Slight showers last night. Weather moderate. We have had a pleasant day. We were called out to greet Gen. Burnside but as he did not appear, we saved our greetings for another time. Had an invoice of stockings, shoes & overcoats and issued them. The overcoat I took myself.
Friday, November 14th—We have beautiful weather and moderates. Drew two days rations this a.m. and this evening we were ordered to draw one more ration and be ready to start early tomorrow morning. Nothing unusual has occurred today. Got my outside coat fixed.
Saturday, November 15th—Started at 7:30 o’clock this a.m. and marched about ten miles to near Warrenton Junction. Crossed the railroad and encamped for the night at about 4 o’clock p.m.
“You see we are on the move again. we arrived here in Warrenton last Sunday, having made a longer stop here than at any other place since leaving Bolivar Heights. This morning, however, we are to move again, report says towards Culpepper. The order came last evening to be ready for a move, and Chaplain Hempstead had the men got together, when he addressed them upon matters pertaining to the soul. It was a solemn time, for the hour was an unusual one, and the Chaplain spoke with unwonted earnestness. I think the meeting will not be forgotten soon by those who attended.
Since leaving Bolivar Heights, we have been blessed with pretty good weather, with the exception of one day, when we had quite a snow storm. The nights are very cold and with nothing but our small shelter tents, it seems as if we must freeze.
Capt. Doten and Lieut. Collingwood joined the company before leaving Bolivar Heights, much to the gratification of the boys, and this morning I noticed the shoulder straps on Lieut. (late Sergt.) Winsor, who has received a second Lieut’s. commission, and been appointed to our company, another cause for congratulation.
There is nothing of interest occurring with us now. We march day after day without seeing or hearing of a rebel, at least, since leaving Snicker’s. We eat our daily portion of raw salt pork and hard tack, and wait patiently for the “coming event,” for we are all king for a fight, Gen. McClellan is superseded by Gen. Burnside, and something must be done, and that quickly, or Burnside will be superseded, as an officer said the other day, it was nothing but say good bye to one General, and “how d’ye do” to another, in this Army of the Potomac.” — Letter by Pvt. Henry H. Robbins, Co. E, 29th Mass., dated 15 November 1862
Sunday, November 16th—Started at 7:30 o’clock this a.m., our Brigade in advance and our regiment in advance of the Brigade. As we were the advance, so we were the skirmishers for the day. We marched fourteen miles through the woods and fields. The army advances in three columns, one in the road and one on each side of it. We encamped at 4 o’clock p.m. tired and weary.
Monday, November 17th—Got our breakfast and started at 9 o’clock a.m. as rear guard for the teams. We marched to the road and waited till near twelve o’clock before the rear of the train came up when we fell in at 5 o’clock p.m. We encamped having marched about eight miles. There has been heavy cannonading in advance all day. We had quite a rain last night.
Tuesday, November 18th—We were ordered to fall in this morning at 6:30 o’clock. We got our breakfast and was ready. Marched to near Falmouth and encamped. Our troops appear to be in good spirits.
Wednesday, November 19th—We still remain at our camp. Troops have been passing us all day.
Thursday, November 20th—We had heavy showers last night and through the day. I went to Falmouth about one mile distant from our camp. it is an old town and looks like most of the towns in Virginia—about run out. I could not get anything to eat but a few potatoes and some corn cakes. Potatoes are four dollars per bushel and very poor. Potatoes were planted this spring but the Rebels pulled them up when they were about half grown. Consequently they are very scarce. We here get our first sight of the Rappahannock River. The bridges are all destroyed but the river at this place is fordable. I get quite a good view of Fredericksburg on the opposite side of the river. The burial ground of this town has like the place, gone to decay. Saw quite a number of the graves of our cavalry in this burial place. They fell in the battle near here in April last.
Friday, November 21st—We still hold our position as we were. Nothing new transpiring.
Saturday, November 22nd—At 11:30 o’clock this a.m. we were called for picket duty. Our regiment is posted on the banks of the river. We can see the Rebels opposite and they appear to have a large army. Set our pickets, Co. E being the reserve. I went to a house near the river by permission and stopped for the night as I am not well.
An anonymous member of Co. E, 29th Mass. Infantry wrote a hometown paper on 22 November 1862: “There is now for duty in Co. E, 2 commissioned officers, 6 non-com officers, and 17 privates…Co. E, may be, and is, harder detailed than any other company in the regiment; but as to sick, it has less than the general average, but what is left of them the elements, fatigue, and hunger, seem to make no impression upon.”
Sunday, November 23rd—Slept in a house last night on the floor. At daylight we were ready as we expected the battle would open. Rode down the line of pickets with the Colonel. Saw plenty of Rebels on the opposite side of the river and their batteries. The people of Falmouth have most all left. They expect to be shelled today. Mr. Bryan * owns the house and farm [above Falmouth] where we stopped last night. It is a splendid farm. I took breakfast with him. At 1:30 o’clock p.m. we were relieved by the New York 7th Regiment—our old Newport News friends. When we got back to our camp we found it removed about three quarters of a mile to a piece of woods and in a good place.
* The Bryan house was located above Falmouth on the Rappahannock River. In his after action report of the Battle of Fredericksburg, Capt. Jacob Roemer, commanding Battery L, 2nd New York Artillery, wrote of planting his battery in the front yard of the Bryan house and in the peach orchard to the left of it. [Source]
Monday, November 24th— Had a cold night last night. Ice quarter inch thick this morning. I was ordered to lay out the camp and have it regulated. We were ordered to have a day’s ration cooked this evening and be ready to start early tomorrow morning. Everything apparent quiet along the line.
The following extract from a letter sent anonymously from the 29th Massachusetts to a hometown paper was written most likely by Capt. Doten: We have been here since the 18th inst., doing nothing and living from hand to mouth, but provisions are so scant with us that the hand often goes to the mouth empty, and when it will be so as to have it go full, it is hard to predict. We have here at this time about one hundred and ten thousand troops, it being the Right Grand Division of the Army of the Potomac, and in what it consists. The Army of the Potomac has been divided into three Grand Divisions consisting of the second and ninth army corps, and of which the 29th Reg. forms a part, is under the command of Maj. Gen. Sumner, The Center Grand Division, consisting of the third and fifth army corps, is under the command of Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker. The Left Grand Division, consisting of the first and sixth army corps, is under the command of Maj. Gen. W. H. Franklin; and the eleventh army corps, with such others as may be hereafter joined to it, constitutes the reserve, and is under the command of Maj. Gen. Sigel. The grand whole under the command of Gen. Burnside is supposed to be safely moving towards Richmond. We of the Right Grand Division, have located ourselves at this place, nearly opposite Fredericksburg, and have sent threatening notes to and received short answers from the rebels. We have told them if they did not leave within sixteen hours, and did not stop sending goods, cloth, grain, &c., south to Richmond on the railroad, we should certainly shell them. The Mayor of the city said it should be stopped, perhaps he did stop it, but we could hear the cars on the steady run all the time, and at least four times sixteen hours have passed, no shells have whistled through the air and still the cars keep running. We have been correctly informed, as we believe, that when our advance arrived here, there was not over ten thousand rebel troops near here or Fredericksburg, and that we could have easily passed over the Rappahannock and taken possession of the City. Longstreet did not arrive at Fredericksburg till two days after we arrived here, and now with the two Gen. Hill’s Divisions, they probably do not number less than ninety to one hundred thousand; yet still we wait and threaten. Sunday, this regiment was on picket guard on the banks of the river, the rebel pickets were within speaking distance. We could see the lights of their camp fires for miles away; see the brigades of troops moving, and see them throwing up earthworks and entrenching themselves. The rebel pickets are often bright and saucy. One of those punning rascals called out of one of our pickets: “Say Yankee, do you intend to go to Richmond this time?”
“Well,” said the Secesh, “if you do, you’ll have to pass over a Longstreet, between two Hills, and over a hard Stonewall, before you get there!”
Tuesday, November 25th—We have had a pleasant day and everything is quiet along the line. I took command of the regiment on dress parade this p.m. for the first time.
Wednesday, November 26th—I took command of the regiment today at review and inspection, also at dress parade. Made out well. We were reviewed by Gen. Sumner. Everything about as usual.
Thursday, November 27th—This is Massachusetts Thanksgiving Day and the officers of the regiment had a dinner together and it was quite good. Mr. Young, reporter of the Boston Herald dined with us. The weather was fine.
Friday, November 28th—Had the picket guard under my charge. My picket is to the rear of the army where it is said [Stonewall] Jackson is approaching. Had a pleasant guard. Good men and watchful.
Saturday, November 29th—Was relieved from guard at ten o’clock a.m. and returned to camp about three miles distant. Went to work and fixed up my tent, floored it over with small poles and made out my monthly reports.
Sunday, November 30th—Monthly inspection. Was inspected by Gen’ls. Meagher and Hancock. The latter informed us that we we were to be transferred to [Benjamin C.] Christ’s Brigade, [William W.] Burns’ Division, [Orlando B.] Wilcox’s Corps of the First Grand Division under command of General Sumner.
It’s interesting to observe that the transfer of the 29th Massachusetts out of the Irish Brigade may have actually been brought about by the offer of a green flag, emblematic of the Irish Brigade, for the 29th Mass. to carry into battle. Following a heated exchange between Gen. Meagher and Lt. Col. Barnes of the 29th Mass., each insulting the other, the banner was declined. One member of the 29th Mass. wrote a home town paper, “We are now clear of the Irish Brigade in which we have experienced many hardships and much suffering, both in camp and battlefield. We joined them without wish and we leave them without regret; glad to get in any position where reason sets enthroned with solid judgment, and where principle (not ambition) is the fountain of action.”
Monday, December 1st—This morning we were ordered to pack up for a change of camp. We marched about four miles and encamped. We are attached to Col. Christ’s Brigade. There is no general commanding this brigade. We had slight showers today.
Tuesday, December 2nd—All hands employed in fixing camp. Had drills at a.m. and p.m. Weather quite pleasant.
Wednesday, December 3rd—I was Brigade Officer of the Day and was introduced to Col. Christ. He appears to be a fine man. Our regiment was ordered to furnish 200 men for picket. Could muster but 184 on pickets at the river. Weather cold.
Thursday, December 4th—Had a very cold night last night. It froze hard and was very uncomfortable. Ice made half inch thick in my tent. The day has been quite comfirtable. The regiment came in from guard at 5 o’clock p.m.
Friday, December 5th—Had a heavy snowstorm today. Snow fell to the depth of about six inches. Made requisition for clothing, arms, &c.
Saturday, December 6th—Another very cold night. There was a total eclipse of the moon this morning. I saw it at about three o’clock. P[jilander] Freeman, T[homas P.] Mullen, O[rrin D.] Holmes, T[homas] Collingwood, and J[ohn] Shannon returned to the company today. It has been a very cold day.
Sunday, December 7th—A cold still day, from two to four inches of ice made. Had inspection and dress parade. H[orace] A. Jenks and John Washburn returned today.
The following undated letter was sent anonymously to a Plymouth hometown newspaper by a member of the 29th Mass. Infantry. My hunch is that it was written by Capt. Doten: Nothing new, nothing especial, and all quiet along the line, must be our heading at this time. Secesh keeps remarkably quiet, and we as usual, keep remarkably still, and in such a cold snap as we are now experiencing, we hardly see how it can be otherwise. Last Friday, snow fell to the depth of about six inches, since then it has been severely cold, and how men stand such weather in their little shelter tents, with no fires, and with nothing between themselves and the earth, but a rubber blanket, and nothing between themselves and the open air, but their cotton tents and woolen blankets, God only knows, and we think he must be a little surprised to see so many of them live through it; but be that as it may, they do live and move, and have a being, but as Sam Slick says “it is a mighty hard chance” and “won’t stand practice.” Human nature can’t and won’t stand it, and yankees have a large amount of human nature in their composition. We are often told of the soft and balmy air of Southern climes; of gentle breezes; air filled with delicious fragrance; and land flowing with milk and honey. We’ve listened to the song of “Way down South in the Dixie,” and a dozen other songs expressive of sunny hours and heavenly bliss, south of the Potomac, and we’ve had eighteen months experience; we’ve Wintered and Summered in Dixie, and experience tells us that as far as we have been, it is decidedly an unmitigated humbug as far as Virginia is concerned. We hope we are not prejudiced against the mother of Presidents, as Virginia is called, but we do sincerely thank God that, “our lives were cast in more pleasant places,” and that the old Harlot is but a distant connections of ours, and we hope before we leave her disagreeable profile, to reduce her to the lowest terms, and her system of slavery to a vulgar fraction. Since we wrote you last, quite a number of absent ones from Co. E, have returned, and it seems quite pleasant to have them again with us. Among them are Orderly Sergeant H. A. Jenks, John Washburn, James Stillman, T. P. Mullen, Moses S. Barnes, Orrin D. Holmes, Corporal John Shannon, Philander Freeman and Thomas Collingwood. These men have rejoined their company as soon as they were able or free from their detail, but there are a few who are shirking round Hospitals, and Convalescent camps with no sickness or disease upon them accept the “SHELL FEVER,” and nothing to keep them from joining their company, except the disinclination, and lazyness [sic]. In this category is not of course included such as are really sick, but only those who are hanging about Convalescent camps praying for a discharge. Throughout the army there is a great and growing tendency to hospital loafing, and many who are now all doubled up, and who appear older than their grandfathers, walking with canes and crutches, would if a discharge were placed in their hands, straighten up, throw cane and crutch away, and dance as merrily as a jackass in a field of thistles. We see by the papers that the powers that govern us at Washington, have decided that there should be no Winter quarters for the Army of the Potomac. If they will finish up the war through that means every officer and soldier will hold up both hands, and agree to suffer almost any privation to effect that purpose, and although the cold is severe, rations short, and duty hard, we hear less grumbling at this time among the soldiers than we ever have known since we have been in the service, and all this is because the hope and belief of all is, that this is to be the last Winter of our discontent” and another summer will see them wending their way homeward to their own loved valleys, kindred and families, rejoicing that the war is at an end, our honor vindicated, our country united, and the glorious star spangled banner still floating over the land of the free and the home of the brave, so mote it be.”
Monday, December 8th—It was very cold last night but today the weather has changed and it is rather warmer. Had company drill today.
Tuesday, December 9th—Weather more moderate and everything about as usual.
Wednesday, December 10th—Weather still moderate. Had inspection and ordered to have three days rations cooked, sixty rounds of cartridges ready in our boxes, and be ready at a moment’s notice to fall in.
The Battle of Fredericksburg
Thursday, December 11th—We were ordered at one o’clock this morning to issue clothing to the men and at 8 o’clock we were in line ready to start. We waited till 4 o’clock p.m. and marched to the banks of the river when we were ordered back again. We pitched some of our tents. Everything had been got ready to leave this place for the other side of the river. At daylight this morning, our batteries opened and were replied to with spirit. We have 140 guns in position and shelled the woods and city. The city was soon on fire in several places and was burning. We laid three pontoon bridges over but with heavy loss and sent over a Brigade but it was then too dark to send more. The Rebels made some good shots at the bridge. Columbus Adams returned to the company today.
Friday, December 12th—Broke camp at about 8 o’clock this morning and took up line of march for the river at 10 o’clock. We crossed over the pontoon bridge at double quick and into the city and formed line of battle. The city is badly riddled with shot and shell. At 3 o’clock p.m. our batteries begun to shell over us and the enemy to reply. Troops have been crossing above and below all day. At 3:30 o’clock p.m. the Rebel batteries got good range of us and dropped their compliments among us. Lieut. Carpenter [Co. H] was wounded in the arm and many shells struck close to us. At sunset the shelling stopped. I found a Secesh flag—a small one. It was in a house that had been shelled. We held our position for the night and laid down on the ground beside our stacks.
At eight o’clock on the morning of the 12th, the Brigade was again ordered under arms, marched to the river, and crossed on a pontoon bridge. The enemy had previously been dislodged from the formidable works on the water-side of the town, and hence no opposition was made to the crossing of the Brigade. The regiment remained near the river all day, and, except a portion of the afternoon, was not under fire. The air was filled with a thick fog, and was intensely cold; without tents or any adequate covering, the men spent that long, cheerless, winter night on the banks of the river, half paralyzed with the cold, waiting for the day to break, which, as they supposed, was to usher in a terrible battle, and in which it then seemed probable they would take a conspicuous part.When the day came, the fog-cloud lifted, and the sun shed upon the waiting army its cheering beams of warm light. Soon after sunrise, the order came for the Brigade to form in line of battle, but it did not move till near nightfall. For the first time in its field life, the regiment was on the reserve line all day, but within full view of the battle, which raged and roared from sunrise till far into the night. When it was quite dark, the line was advanced into the outskirts of the town; the men not being permitted to enter the houses, remained in the streets. The battle had gone against us, and during the night some of the shattered regiments, which had been at the front all day, filed sadly through the streets on their way to the river, telling their story of disaster as they passed along.[Source]
Saturday, December 13th—We passed a chilly night. Got breakfast at 7 o’clock and at 9 o’clock formed in line of battle and marched down river. At 9:30 the rebels fired the first gun. It is a good day and pleasant but very smokey. The firing has been very heavy on the right and left flanks and at times the musketry has also been heavy. We are the centre division and stationed in front, close to the banks of the river. At 4 o’clock we were ordered to the left. The Brigade formed in line of battle on the battlefield just within reach of the rebel guns. We remained here ready for action but was not called in. J[ames] L. Pettis of my company was wounded by a rile shot.
It was by a mere accident that the regiment did not become actively engaged in the battle. On the afternoon of the 13th, the division of General Burns was ordered to support General Franklin’s corps; in moving towards Franklin’s position, 206it became somewhat exposed to the artillery fire of the enemy, and Lieutenant Carpenter of Company H (Twenty-ninth), was slightly, and James L. Pettis of Company E severely, wounded. The other regiments of the Brigade (Christ’s) suffered some loss, the Twenty-seventh New Jersey, which was next the Twenty-ninth in the line, losing seventeen killed and wounded.
Sunday, December 14th—We started last night at about twelve o’clock and went to the bridge to relieve the Brigade, then on guard. When we got there we found it already done by Gen. Sigel so we marched back to where we started from at daylight, position just to the right of the one near the river under the hill. At 7 o’clock we fired our first gun for the day and was quickly replied to. We soon after marched back to near the bridge and then stood all day in the mud. As the City Mayor’s house was nearby, I went into it. It is terribly shattered and torn to pieces. It was an elegant house and surrounded with beautiful grounds. after dinner I heard that some of the captains of the 18th Mass. Regt. were wounded. Went up to a house nearby that was used for a hospital and found Capts. [William H.] Winsor & Drew of Plymouth, both wounded quite severely. They told me that Capt. Collingwood of Plymouth was also wounded but I could not find him. At night our regiment took position on higher ground and aid down for the night.
Monday, December 15th—This morning the sunrise was bright and clear. We found that our troops on the other side of the river had not been idle through the night but had thrown up four batteries for large guns as we cannot make headway with small guns or light batteries against their entrenchments. It is said that we have 10-inch Columbiads in Battery. If so, we shall soon have music about us. Our plans of operation seem to be Hooker on the right, Franklin on the left, and Sumner in the center. Hooker and Franklin were engaged yesterday and suffered severely and apparently gained nothing. Sumner was also engaged and suffered some with a like result. we have lost from six to eight thousand in killed, wounded, and missing. We have stood to our arms all day ready for any emergency. At about eight o’clock this evening we were ordered to be ready to march and all orders to be given silently as possible. Soon all the troops were moving as they have been ever since dark over the pontoon bridge back to the old camps. All the afternoon the ambulances have been very busy carrying over the wounded. We have orders to bring up the rear and to take up the bridge over the creek three in number.
Tuesday, December 16th—We succeeded in taking up all the bridges and loading them into boats and as they were outside of our picket line and the pickets taken off, it was dangerous work but we accomplished it by two o’clock this morning and then took up our line of march over the river bridge and back to our old camp where we arrived at three o’clock this morning, tired and wet through with sweat. Thus ends our crossing of the Rappahannock. We did not expect to get much sleep and was not disappointed at at daylight this morning we had rain and having no tent up, we had to get wet. At about 9 o’clock a.m. it cleared away cold. We pitched our tent and tried to dry our clothes. [James L.] Pettis was carried to Washington. [Benjamin F.] Bates, when he found or rather thought we were going into battle, made good time over the bridge to Falmouth. Six batteries have been shelling the rebel’s batteries. What we are to do next is not yet revealed. quite a number of stragglers left over the other side were taken prisoners this morning. The bridges are all taken up and as far as that is concerned, all is about as it was before.
“Late in the afternoon, after it was decided to recross the river, the regiment was directed to remain until the other troops of the corps had crossed, when it was to remove three small pontoon bridges that had been thrown across a canal or creek which ran between the Rappahannock and the enemy’s works, and then emptied its waters into the river. The Brigade commander, Colonel Christ, intimated that he considered the undertaking a hazardous one, and scarcely worth the risk. The corps commenced crossing shortly after dark, the regiment remaining in its position until all were fairly across, and then moved forward and a considerable distance to the left, and commenced at once the work assigned to them. A captain, with a sufficient number of men, was detailed for each bridge, and the work went on rapidly and noiselessly, the regiment mean-while remaining in line of battle, ready for any emergency. It was remarkable that a work of this nature could be done so quietly; but the men, as well as the officers, fully realized the necessity of stillness. Only once in the course of the labor was any noise made, and this was caused by the falling of a plank against one of the boats. Even this noise was not great; but it seemed to the anxious listeners like a peal of thunder, that was likely to be followed by the crash of the enemy’s muskets. Fortunately it did not arouse the enemy; but it called out a large bloodhound, with powerful voice, which came running down to the opposite shore of the creek, and commenced baying and howling, keeping up its savage cries till the work was ended, annoying the men greatly, as they suspected that the next yelp would be followed by the enemy’s charging yell. Finally, after what seemed an age, but which in reality was only a short time, the three bridges were all removed, without the loss of a single piece, and the boats successfully floated across the Rappahannock. If the enemy had moved forward,—and it is surprising that they did not,—the result would have been disastrous to the regiment, perhaps cost it its very existence; and had this result followed, the attempt would have been deemed an act of folly. As it was, the plan was successfully carried out, and the regiment was warmly congratulated.” [Source]
Wednesday, December 17th—It is a very cold morning. Had a good night’s rest last night. At 12 o’clock we were ordered for picket duty. Started after dinner. I had one half of the pickets & Lt. Col. Barnes the other half. Set the pickets above the railroad bridge on the river. They exchanged prisoners today. Saw a lot of secesh prisoners. They were a motley group and poorly clad but full of grit. Said they were tired of the war but could hold out as long as we could. I am acting Major of the regiment. It is very cold weather.
Thursday, December 18th—It has been a bitter cold night but as the sun gets up, it is a little warmer. Everything has been quiet through the night. A fatigue party went over to bury the dead. We were relieved by the 7th Connecticut at about six o’clock p.m. and got back to camp at about 7:30 p.m. Got supper and turned in for the night.
Friday, December 19th—It was quite pleasant this a.m. but after dinner the wind hauled to the N. N. E. and it grew cold fast. David Williams returned today.
The following comes from a letter sent anonymously to the a hometown newspaper by a member of the 29th Massachusetts, Co. E: The long agony is over; the Rappahannock has been crossed, Fredericksburg taken, shelled, and nearly destroyed, the river recrossed, and our troops at their old quarters this side the river. We have been much like the pig, that run through the hollow log and came out the same side of the fence; but not so much surprised. We have lost some ten or twelve thousand men in killed, wounded and missing; laid under the rebel guns four days; fought two hard battles; seen hard work and hard times; crossed the river for a political necessity, and recrossed it from military necessity, and are now, as far as the 29th Reg. Mass. Vols. is concerned, on guard at the river, our Reg’t having one Lieutenant slightly wounded, eight privates taken prisoners, and quite a number that were severely frightened. Co. E, had two who, when we fell in as was supposed for a night attack on the batteries, made as good time over the Pontoon bridge to the opposite side of the river as was ever made on the Cambridge race course. We should be willing to swap off their courage, for a small, yellow, bobtailed pup, but for speed, with a decent scare behind them, we will bet on their heads against any foot-race in existence and throw in the aforesaid pup gratis. Most all of your readers have before this time had all the details of the crossing, the battles, and recrossing, and the final result; and probably you will have a number of correspondents who will be happy to furnish full details of incidents, enough to cloy the most ravenous appetite for all that is horrible and distressing, and fill the sensitive heart of humanity with the liveliest sympathies for the broken-hearted and sorrowing, the light of whom household has gone out forever. As to ourselves, we are humbled in our feelings and wounded in our pride, and we do not feel heart or inclination to write its incidents, or to speculate on its probable results; and as we before said, we shall leave it to others and wish we could as easily take leave of it ourselves, and blot it out of thought and memory. Beyond the incidents of the battle there is not much that is new or interesting. At our pickets there is now going on an exchange of prisoners, and such a looking set as the secesh prisoners are, it would be hard to find short of Falstaff’s Ragged Regiment. Many of them had pieces of carpet for blankets, straw hats, and some of them were in their stocking feet; but they were cheerful and apparently satisfied and full of pluck; said “they were ready to go to battle again and that we did just the best thing that we could do for ourselves, to step back to this side of the river.” Those men were most all from the good Union State of North Carolina, and they were the most thorough secesh, I have yet seen; uncompromising and expressing the most thorough disgust and hatred of Yankees. They all seem to be laboring under a wrong and strange impression as to the right and actual notions of the North. They seem to think that subjugation and tyrannical government is the sum total of the war, and that should the North gain the ascendancy, that the liberty of the South would be in an eternal eclipse, and themselves in a worse bondage than we consider the slave at the South, and yet they tell us that they are heartily tired of the war and wish it to an end. They tell us that they have as many plans to take Washington, as we have to take Richmond, and that there prospect of success is full equal to ours. They laugh at our attempts to take Richmond from this way; but have some fear as to our attempts to take it by the way of the James river. The night we left Fredericksburg, the 29th Reg. was detailed to wait until the Army was across, and to take up three pontoon bridges over the creek outside of the picket. It was done so noiselessly and quietly, that the Commanding General gave us quite a compliment, and seemed much pleased at the result, as we were close to the rebel pickets, and but little noise would betray us and bring a hornets nest about our ears. We did not cross the bridge ’til near three o’clock the next morning and the whole of this grand army had crossed between that hour and seven of the evening before. It was quick work, well planned and well executed. We think we never read or heard of such skillful, and masterly retreats as are made by our Generals: McClellan on the Peninsula, Banks at Front Royal, Pope at Centreville, and Burnside at Fredericksburg, are movements that will stand in history of what they accomplished and of the valor and efficiency of the Union army. In fact if masterly retreats would finish this war, we feel that we have the men to do it and the leaders that seem to understand its principles of action and have proved themselves fully capable to execute its peculiar movements, and wind up all our troubles, trials and difficulties in military parlance, by inversion.
We have very cold weather here at this time, the river was nearly skimmed over this morning and the ground frozen quite deep. It was so cold it was impossible to sleep in our shelter tents, and as we were on picket we were obliged to keep wide awake and perfectly cool.
It looks quite probable that this army will soon go into winter quarters, perhaps not here, and we hope before we write you again that we can speak and show of more decisive action that will differ for from what we communicate to-day and be more pleasing as to its results.
Saturday, December 20th—The night has been very cold and the day the same. We had an inspection of men and teams which looks some like moving.
Sunday, December 21st—The regiment is on picket guard today. It is cold but clear. Our picket is below the railroad bridge on the Washington farm.
Monday, December 22nd—Nineteen months today since we were mustered into the service and it is also the anniversary of the landing of the Pilgrims. We were relieved from guard at about 9 o’clock this morning. The Rebels have been throwing up rifle pits through the night near the banks of the river. Our chaplain [Henry E. Hempstead of Watertown] died yesterday. He was a fine, worthy man and he is a great loss to the regiment. He was sent home today.
Tuesday, December 23rd—The weather is moderate and quite pleasant. We had a review of the Right Grand Division. We were reviewed and inspected by Gen. Sumner very closely which seems to indicate a move of some kind.
Wednesday, December 24th—The weather is still moderate. We had slight showers today.
Thursday, December 25th—Fine weather for a Merry Christmas. By special orders, there is no drill today and not any work. Everything is quiet and still. Received today from the quartermaster clothing, kettles, axe, &c.
Friday, December 26th—Went to work today and built a sod chimney to my tent and it works well. Weather good and pleasant.
Saturday, December 27th—The weather is fine today. Helped Lieut. [Peter] Winsor build a chimney to his tent.
Sunday, December 28th—Had company inspection this a.m. at 1:30 o’clock p.m. Were ordered out for division inspection and marched in review. The division was reviewed by Gen’ls. Burnside and Burns. Weather good.
Monday, December 29th—Nothing unusual today. The weather still holds mild and pleasant—a blessing for the soldiers.
Tuesday, December 30th—Col. Barnes is Officer of the Day and I am in command of the regiment. We are hard at work on our muster rolls. Weather pleasant, at night slight showers.
Wednesday, December 31st—Muster day & the last day of 1862. We were mustered by the Lieut. Colonel of the 46th New York. It is a cold, bleak, windy day. So ends the year.
Thursday, January 1st—A New Year and I hope a happy one to my country and myself. The weather is beautiful. It has been made a holiday for the army. Home thoughts and home feelings are thick around us as we think of loved ones at home “far away.”
Friday, January 2nd—Lieut. Augustus D. Ayling reported to me for duty today as 1st Lieutenant but to date of yesterday is yet left in command of Co. H. Weather pleasant & good.
Saturday, January 3rd—Weather still pleasant. Sent my payrolls in to the mustering officer and tried to finish up my 1862 correspondence. Big guns are speaking up river of us.
Sunday, January 4th—Quite pleasant. We are ordered out for review but the order was countermanded. Slight showers this p.m.
Monday, January 5th—Still another pleasant day. Lieut. [Peter] Winsor is in guard. “All quiet along the line.”
Tuesday, January 6th—It has rained all this afternoon. At 1 o’clock p.m. we were ordered out for review with the division. I am Brigade Officer of the Day. The division was reviewed by Gen. Burnside.
Wednesday, January 7th—The weather is quite cold. George T. Bradford returned to the company. He was taken prisoner June 29th. The weather grows cold again fast.
Thursday, January 8th—Samuel H. Harlow was discharged on the 6th inst. and left for home today. I am again Brigade Officer of the Day at the picket for the first time having been appointed Acting Major of the Regiment. The weather is very cold.
Friday, January 9th—Came off picket this morning. All was quiet on the river and I was quite successful for my first appearance as Major of the pickets.
Saturday, January 10th—It rained hard this p.m. and evening. It is very muddy. Nothing new or exciting today.
Sunday, January 11th—A cold morning and very muddy under foot. John F. Hall (discharge date January 9, 1863) started for home today. It rained this evening.
Monday, January 12th—Quite pleasant but very muddy. I took charge of dress parade. We have very hard and discouraging news by the papers. The loss of the Harriet Lane, &c.
Tuesday, January 13th—Everything is as usual. Nothing new or interesting. Weather good and clear. All quiet along the line.
Wednesday, January 14th—A pleasant day and warm. Drew from the quartermaster rubber blankets, dress coats, pants, &c. Took charge of dress parade.
Thursday, January 15th—It has been a blustering day and the wind of course was south. Still it was warm. I have been very busy with my government accounts all the week thus far. Heard today of the death of Thomas P. Mullen. He died January 9th at General Hospital, Washington. In his loss, I have lost a good soldier.
Friday, January 16th—It rained hard all night. This morning it cleared away very cold with heavy wind northwest. It looks this evening like snow. Got all my government returns ready and sent them to the department today. We are ordered to have three days rations cooked immediately and be ready to start early tomorrow morning. I am detailed as Brigade Officer of the pickets for tomorrow.
Saturday, January 17th—Went on picket this morning with 400 men. It was bitter cold. Got my pickets set near the river, found our men in communication with the Rebels by means of little boats that they went across the river on which they put a little coffee and the papers and the Rebs sent back tobacco & papers. Put a stop to it as other “information” might be sent as I think this army is about to make an important movement. We have had a very cold & clear day.
Since late December 1862, the Union and Rebel soldiers appear to have been trading coffee for tobacco between the picket posts on opposite sides of the Rappahannock River, One soldier wrote about it: “Some Yankee, desperately hungry for tobacco, invented [small boats] for trading with the Johnnies. They were hid away under the backs of the river for successive relays of pickets. We got out the boats. An old handkerchief answered for a sail. We loaded them with coffee, sugar, pork, and set the sail and watched them slowly creep to the other shore. And the Johnnies? To see them crowd the bank and push and scramble to be the first to seize the boats, going into the water and stretching out their long arms. Then, when they pulled the boats ashore, and stood in a group over the cargo, and to hear their exclamations, “Hurrah for hog.” “Say, that’s not roasted rye, but genuine coffee. Smell it, you’uns.” “And sugar, too!”” [Source]See also “Beyond the Ritual of Exchange.“
Sunday, January 18th—Had a very cold, disagreeable night on picket and was relieved at ten o’clock this morning. Find we have marching orders. Suppose for tomorrow. Took command of the dress parade. Lieut. [Thomas H.] Adams [Co. B] to get his resignation forwarded.
Monday, January 19th—The weather has been quite cool and pleasant. We have been expecting orders to move all day.
Burnside’s Mud March
Tuesday, January 20th—Cold and disagreeable. Troops are moving and have been all day. We had Order No. 7 from Gen. Burnside read at dress parade saying that we were to meet the enemy once more and under more favorable circumstances and we were to strike a heavy blow for justice, our country, and the right “so mote it be.” It rains hard this evening and it is setting in for a N. E. storm. How unfortunate. It sometimes seems to me as if Providence was against us.
Wednesday, January 21st—It was a dreadful storm last night. It rained very hard and the wind was heavy. About sixty thousand troops have broke camp and were on the march. They must have suffered severely. It has stormed severely all day. We have been waiting anxiously for orders from headquarters. I fear much that this storm will thwart our plans and spoil the movement.
Thursday, January 22nd—It stormed very hard last night. This p.m. it has moderated but the weather is still thick and rainy. Our pontoon teams and batteries have got fixed in the mud and cannot reach their destination. The most determined efforts have been made to accomplish their mission. Some of the troops are returning to their old camps thoroughly drenched and cold. I fear we shall have to give up the expedition and it will result in a failure. Better luck next time.
Friday, January 23rd—The weather has moderated and the sun gave us a good look at its cheerful countenance bot Oh! how muddy. The 27th Regiment N. Jersey Volunteers left our Brigade tonight. I do not know their destination. Albert Robbins returned to camp today. The Rebels the other side of the river stick up boards chalken thus, “Burnside’s Army Stuck in the Mud!” and it is really so. The pontoon train could not get nigher than two miles of the river. It will be hard work to get back and all snug again as they was before.
Saturday, January 24th—The weather has been quite warm and pleasant today. I went over to the 21st Mass, to see Mr. Ball but found he had resigned and gone home. The regiment was about two miles from us. The batteries and troops are coming along back all the time. While traveling over to the 21st, saw a good-looking soldier laid out on the ground. He had just dropped there, probably wore out and heart disease.
The following was written on January 25, 1863 and submitted anonymously to the editor of a Plymouth newspaper for publication by a member of Co. E, 29th Massachusetts Infantry; I have a strong hunch it was written by Capt. Doten: “It must certainly rejoice your republican hearts to learn from our own lips that we are yet here, safe. We are in no danger from the enemy, for they, the impudent rascals, cannot get to us, and we the great and glorious Army of the Potomac, are ingloriously stuck in the mud and cannot get at them; and what is worse than all, the enemy know it, and no doubt are this day taking advantage of it and sending their troops to the West and to North Carolina to reinforce their troops at those places. Knowing as they do that we cannot cross or even get to the river, they can readily spare twenty-five or fifty thousand men for a short time and use them beneficially in other localities. It does seem to us sometimes as if we were not only fighting the rebels, but the elements. There has been hardly a move of much importance made, either by land or sea, but what have had to encounter severe weather, gales of wind at sea, and terrific storms on land, and always under the most disheartening circumstances. These storms ever making it necessary for us to delay action, which for good and practical results should be immediate, and for which purpose such action was intended. A practical illustration of an elementary idea is now before us, and its results are this day more disheartening to this army than the repulse at Fredericksburg. On Sunday, Jan. 18th, a movement of the army was in progress, but for some probable good reason, was postponed till Tuesday, when at an early hour of the day the sixth Army Corps, Gen. Smith, of Gen. Franklin’s Division, commenced moving from their position below Falmouth up to the right, but still to the rear to prevent observation. About the same time, or rather later, Hooker’s Centre Grand Division took up its line of march towards a place called “Bank’s Ford,” and they, of course to prevent observation, marched some way back from the River. This was but the preliminary movement of the whole army, the pontoon train having started in advance and some of the heavy batteries. The weather, which through the day had been cold, blustering and disagreeable, at sun-down set in with rain and heavy wind from the northeast, and a darkness that would make sunlight glisten through a bag full of minks, and every one of them look like silver stars in a golden firmament, settled down, not only over and around us, but its dark shades penetrated the hearts of the soldiers, and fears and doubts began to mingle with the aspirations of patriotic thoughts and hopes of a bold strike for freedom and the right. Still the longest night (except possibly the night of death,) must have an end; so with Tuesday night, and daylight of Wednesday ushered in as disagreeable a day as one could wish for his most bitter enemy. But in our hearts were wishing that the bright sun would shed its effulgent light and rosy beams this day on our enemies, feeling that we were so near to them that we could not be left out in the cold, and if patience and perseverance were of any account, we should soon make them take the wings of the morning and alight some miles nearer Richmond.
But in this, as in all things else, we were doomed to bitter disappointment. It did seem to us as if not only the windows of heaven were open, but that the whole broad side had fallen out. The gale that through the night had been only singing, now commenced screaming. The rain that is so often described as falling in gentle showers upon the thirsty earth: now seemed to have the idea that the earth had got on a blow and wanted the water in torrents “to” (as sailors say) “cool her coppers.” But men and horses were not to give up at trifles till rifles get too big to contend against. The Pontoon trains and batteries were again in motion, driving on through mud and mire to get to the appointed place of crossing and to accomplish their part of this movement. The army was soon in motion; Generals and men were in earnest and all seemed determined. Confidence was not lacking, for we had all confidence in our Generals and felt satisfied that they would not move this army again, unless, onward to what should to them, seem a sure and decided victory and success. They had laid their plans deep and with caution. They had fully surveyed their ground and thoroughly. They had by threatening the enemy at different points compelled him to scatter his forces over a distance of near twenty five miles, and then in that long distance had truly ascertained its weakest point and had rapidly concentrated our army, reserving only enough to make a feint at different points, that they might not know where the blow was to fall, and was now about to strike that blow sanguine and sure of success. But for some reasons in the all wise Providence of God this was not to be; our star was not yet to shine bright on the horizon, and the finger of Faith was yet to point upward and bid us wait. The rain through the night had taken the frost from the ground and left it soft and yielding as youthful hearts in Hymen’s Market, when it is getting to be about Saturday night with many of them. After an advance of about three miles the wheels of the pontoon train would sink down to the hubs, and it was utterly impossible for the teams to haul them out. Men worked and labored as only men can do. Mules and horses did their utmost, but it was useless, it was beyond their power, and darkness closed the day of labor and toil as cold, wet, and dreary as it had done the day previous. Another night of the pitiless storm drenched the army, and another dark and gloomy night fell cheerless on the hearts of all. Thursday morning broke upon us only to show us the utter helplessness of further effects and that the expedition for the time being must come to an end, and the Army get back to their old quarters as best they could. This has partially been accomplished and we shall soon be in regular trim again. A part of our Batteries and pontoon trains yet remain fast in the mud, but as the weather has cleared and the sun is shining brightly we think it will soon dry up so that we can get all together again.
We believe that the plan of this movement was good—that its full success looked to its projectors certain, and that every caution had been taken and chances carefully weighed that nothing should be lacking to make it all that could be desired. It seems hard that after so much labor and exposure we should be so disappointed and that the utmost superhuman efforts of this army should result in worse than a defeat; but so it is and the morale of the Army, its discipline, and its effectiveness has had a severe shock from which it will be hard for it to recover. To make the Army of the Potomac again effective it must change its ground. It can never be effective here. In all the battles of the rebels, where we have been the attacking party, they have never given us battle at the same place with the same Army. Men who have once been defeated on the battle field dread to try the same field again, but lead them to some other locality, even if it is more difficult, and the old spirit again bursts forth and the old confidence is restored. McClellan knew this when he took the defeated Army of Gen. Sherman up to Arkansas Post and there gained a brilliant victory, and these same soldiers now return filled with fresh courage and flushed with victory and again attack Vicksburg, when before it would have been almost an impossibility to have led them up to a second engagement at the same place.
Gen. Burnside has done all that could be reasonably asked of him. He has been ever active and ever on the alert; and has done all but control the elements that was beyond him; and no doubt this is a bitter disappointment to him and more so than to the country at large.”
Sunday, January 25th—There has been nothing unusual today. The ground begins to dry up again. It rained some last night but it has been a good day/ I took charge of the dress parade this evening. Adams & Albert Robbins went to the hospital today. [George H.] Partridge will soon be out. Received shirts and tents & issued them today.
Monday, January 26th—I am this day Office of the Picket Guard. The weather is quite good but threatening. The Rebels are throwing up rifle pits and redoubts for batteries. They are close to us—not over four hundred yards from our guard and in plain sight. I have five hundred men in my guard and a reserve of 27th New Jersey making about 800 men.
Tuesday, January 27th—Came off guard this morning about 11 o’clock. It began to storm this morning about two o’clock and quite cold and has rained all day. I have been very sick today with the neuralgy in my head and neck having got cold by being wet and laying out in the we last night.
Wednesday, January 28th, 1863—It stormed all night last night and today it snows and is cold. It is a very severe storm from the northeast and snows hard. Maj. [Charles] Chipman returned to camp today having been home to recruit his health.
Thursday, January 29, 1863—It was a terrible storm all night and this morning the snow is quite deep and drifted. It has been quite cold through the day.
Friday, January 30th—The weather has been quite warm but not enough to melt the snow much. Everything is about as usual.
Saturday, January 31st—Made my monthly returns. Sent in requisition for February. Got my January receipts of clothing &c. Had monthly inspection. Weather good but not very warm. The pay master arrives here tonight.
Sunday, February 1st 1863—We were paid off for two months by paymaster Stone today. It is mean and cruel in the government to hold the little pittance of the soldier back from his family. They owe all of the men now three months pay and some of them five and six months. The weather has been quite good till night when we had slight showers. There was a row as usual on pay day. It was between the 50th New York Vols. and the 29th Regiment. Guns were used but no serious injury was the result. Col. Dawes and Major Chipman was into the thickest of it and it was mainly to them credit is due that nothing serious occurred. I enclose two hundred dollars and sent by mail this day, as there is no other way, to send it, I do not like to risk it but see no other way.
Monday, February 2nd—This morning is cool and windy but clear. Most of our men are on picket guard and that will I hope serve to cool their heated imaginations and keep them quiet. Was ordered for inspection. Inspection deferred till tomorrow. 11 o’clock, order to give furloughs read on dress parade. Gave an account of absent men. Weather good.
Tuesday, February 3rd—Weather very cold and sharp—the coldest we have yet had. It has been the coldest day of the season. Nothing unusual & all quiet.
Wednesday, February 4th—The rebels threw three or four shells into Franklin’s camp today probably for diversion and we threw a few back. The weather has slightly moderated.
Thursday, February 5th—Another bitter cold night. It began to snow early this morning and continued through the day. The weather moderated this p.m. Just before dark the Corps had orders respecting a movement of this division to Fortress Monroe and then to report to Gen. Dix. We expect the order to move tomorrow morning. It is raining hard this evening.
Friday, February 6th—It rained this morning but after dinner it cleared up and is now quite cold and chilly. Our Brigade started last night and this morning we are ordered to have three days provisions in our haversacks and the teams to take ten days more and be ready at any time. I got my box last evening. Must of the contents were spoiled.
Saturday, February 7th 1863—It is a beautiful & pleasant day. Columbus Adams was carried from the regimental hospital to General hospital. There was a drunken row in Co. D this evening. The regiment is very much demoralized and but little discipline.
Sunday, February 8th 1863—The Lieut. Col. commanding has established a regimental guard today to preserve better order in the regiment. I am detailed as officer of the day, as usual, when any new guard is to be posted. I drew from the quartermaster shoes, stockings, blouse, &c. last evening and issued them. Had a woods chase for one man of Co. D who had been fighting. Caught him and tied him to a tree till 12 midnight. Then sent him to his quarters.
Monday, February 9th—Quite pleasant but still muddy. Everything quiet as usual. The ground is getting settled but the roads are dreadful.
Tuesday, February 10th—Had a very pleasant day though troops are moving away fast. We received orders to start tomorrow morning at 6:30 o’clock.
Wednesday, February 11th—It began to storm this morning. We received orders last night not to start as ordered as transports were not ready to receive us. It has rained all day with the wind at east.
From the Regimental History: The departure of the regiment did not take place till the 12th of the month, though each day it had received orders to 216march, which were as often countermanded as issued. The men were aroused at four o’clock in the morning of the 12th, and at five o’clock marched to Falmouth Station, where, after some delay, they took the cars for Aquia Creek Landing, arriving there before noon. At this place the regiment embarked on the transport steamer “Hero,” which also took on board Company B of the Twenty-seventh New Jersey Regiment, a squad of the One Hundred and Third New York Volunteers, several of the corps officers, and for freight fifty horses and several tons of baggage; the steamer also towed down into the bay a schooner laden with mules and army wagons. At night it was rough weather, the wind blew hard, and the transport came to anchor off “Piney Point,” starting again the next morning. Before night of the 13th, the steamer had entered Hampton Roads, and come to anchor under the walls of the old fortress. Soon after arriving, Colonel Barnes, then in command of the regiment, went ashore for orders, but received none, making it necessary for the officers and men to spend another night on the crowded transport. On the morning of the 14th, the Colonel again went ashore, and this time received orders to report to General Willcox at Newport News. After some delay, the transport steamed up the James River, and at two o’clock in the afternoon the regiment landed and marched through the fortifications, halting on the banks of the river and forming its camp not far from the old “Brick House.” The barracks erected by the Battalion in the autumn of 1861 had been torn down. With this exception Newport News looked very familiar, and one of the officers remarked at the time, “It seems as though the war is over, and we have all at last returned home.”
Thursday, February 12th—With feelings of regret we packed up this morning at four o’clock and at seven we started through the mud for the railroad adn proceeded by rail to Aquia Creek where after some delay we were embarked on board the steamer Hero with a part of the 27th New Jersey Regiment and stragglers from some of the other regiments to go to Newport News, Virginia. We started at about 2 o’clock p.m. The weather was good til night when it set in thick and windy with rain. We anchored near the mouth of the Potomac. The wind hauling to the north, we started again and made a harbor of “Point of Pines” where we lay in harbor. We have a schooner in tow with a deck load of mules. There was many vessels at the Creek which is a large business place built by government which is still building wharves, storehouses, &c. to be burned and wasted as heretofore when we leave it.
Friday, February 13th 1863—Started from point of Pines this morning at about seven o’clock and proceeded on our voyage. It was quite cool and the Chesapeake Bay a little rough. There was quite a large fleet of vessels in the bay and several steamers having vessels in tow. At about four o’clock p.m. we found York river and shortly after five o’clock arrived at Hampton Roads where we anchored for the night and also for orders.
Saturday, February 14th 1863—At half past nine o’clock a.m. we started for Newport News where we soon arrived and waited as usual for orders some four or five hours when at half past three o’clock we were allowed to go ashore and marched about one and a half miles up on the banks of the river and encamped for the night. We had on board of the transports about one hundred horses which made it very unpleasant, dirty and disagreeable.
Sunday, February 15, 1863—It has been quite rainy this p.m. Got our tents well pitched and fixed but not permanent as we expect to have to change our camp a short distance. We had no inspection today. I was Officer of the Day yesterday. I received a mail today, the largest I have had since I have been over here—nine letters and one paper.
Monday, February 16th—Went to the woods and got poles to fix my tent. The weather is quite warm but threatening. It looks like a storm. We are to have new tents. Had notice of Corp. [Alfred B.] Warner’s discharge.
Tuesday, Febriary 17th—It rained very hard all day. I yesterday had the box come that was sent by the Ladies of Plymouth the first of last August and it has just arrived. Some little of the contents was damaged but the main part was good. There was a large number of bundles for different members of the company. Also “two” for two members that have died since the box started. Our tents leak much and we can of course have no fire [because] it rains so hard and it is very cold and chilly.
Wednesday, February 18th—It is still a hard storm ay N. E. and rains hard. we are all about wet through—blankets, overcoats, and all. George Morey visited us today. He is now stationed at Suffolk.
Thursday, February 19th—Lieut. [Peter] Winsor got leave of absence for forty-eight hours to go to Suffolk and started this morning. The wind has changed to the S. W. and it does not rain. The company had new tents issued them today and have pitched the camp in advance of the old one and it is on higher ground. Maj. Chipman is sick and has gone to the Webster House to stop for few days.
Friday, February 20th—The weather has been pleasant today. We moved our tents today as is usual when we pitch our tents, never getting right the first time. I was ordered to take the general superintendence of the camp and see that it was right this time. Lieut. Winsor came back this evening and William Williams with him. He (Williams) has not seen the company for near one year. He is at Suffolk on Howard’s Battery and stands high in the estimation of his officers. We dried our blankets and clothes. I have got a severe cold by being wet and sleeping in wet blankets. We have got our camp in pretty good shape and hope to keep it so.
Saturday. February 21st—We have had a good day but cool. We have finished our company street and fixing up our tents for bad weather which the weather now threatens. I went to the Landing today for the first time and took a good look around but everything is changed. It looks dirty and disagreeable. For choice I had rather be where we now are. I sent a team and got some brick from Baker Lee’s chimneys. I helped appropriate the house last winter. I little thought that I should in another winter help appropriate the chimneys. William P. Gooding returned today from the convalescent camp. He has been absent since August 15th 1862.
Sunday, February 22nd—Last night we had a very heavy snow storm from the N. N. E. and strong wind. It blew heavy through the night. At daylight this morning it changed to rain. Quite a number of the tents were blown down—more especially the officers tents as they were old and poor. At about ten o’clock this morning, the wind suddenly changed to the south and for the space of fifteen minutes blew from all points of the compass and then settled again at the northeast with rain and cold. It was very uncomfortable, wet and no fires. The water was quite high in my tent.
Monday, February 23rd 1863—Cloudy and cold. The ground froze hard. Some of the new commissions came out today. Lieut. Carpenter was met this evening in a jolly manner.
Tuesday, February 24th 1863—Weather quite pleasant. We had company drill and battalion drill this a.m. The p.m. was ordered to be devoted to cleaning up the camp and cleaning arms &c. for review tomorrow. Lieut. [Augustus D.] Ayling was today taken from Co. E & assigned to Co. H.
Wednesday, February 25th—The Division was reviewed today by Gen. [John A.] Dix. We had a splendid day & review. There was about eighteen thousand troops and six batteries. We had no drills through the day.
From the Regimental History: “On the 25th of February, the corps was reviewed on the old parade-ground—where the Twenty-ninth had often drilled in times past—by General John A. Dix, then in command of the department of Fortress Monroe, the review occupying from ten o’clock in the morning till three o’clock in the afternoon. The corps was destined for active service in the West, and the six weeks spent at this place were almost wholly occupied by company and regimental drills. No duty in the army was so odious to the veteran as that of drilling; he considered it the worst form of the “red tape” regulations of military life, and always went about it reluctantly. There was no little ground for this belief; the majority of the soldiers were very proficient in these matters, and when their pride was strongly appealed to, they never failed to acquit themselves creditably.“
Thursday, February 26th—We have had the usual drills today. I drilled the battalion in Battalion Drill for the first time this p.m. and was quite successful. The weather has been good but night showers this p.m. Busy on my pay rolls.
Aside from completing his monthly pay rolls, Capt. Doten was probably also penning the following letter that was sent to Plymouth for publication in the local newspaper—anonymously of course. It read in part: When we left here [last May], Co. E, numbered eighty-six in rank and file, but long and weary marches, exposed to excessive heat or bitter cold, sleeping on the damp cold ground, often without shelter from rain or snow, the miasma of the swamps, and impure water, the bullets and the shell have done their fearful work and this day it numbers but fifty-four, fifteen of which are now in hospitals, and six away on detached service, leaving but thirty-three to again tread these familiar paths and look again upon our winter home.
The few that are left are hearts of oak, and iron constitutions. A rain storm and wet blankets seem to strengthen them, and they grow fat and thrive on a north-east snow storm, and hungry or cold, wet or dry they will get around the camp fire almost every evening and sing old familiar songs to cheer and comfort each other before crawling into their little tents and damp blankets. We have no knowledge of what is in store for us, or for what reason we have been sent here. Surmise or supposition avails nothing, we only know we are here, and look anxiously for the next move. We were reviewed yesterday by Gen. Dix, and believe the review was satisfactory to the General. There are quite a number of troops here, the Richmond papers say twenty-five thousand, but they only take a Yankee privilege and guess, possibly they may have guessed right, we do not know ther ore cannot say.
It has stormed almost every day we have been here, first a heavy rain storm, then a strong north-east snow storm, there was more snow fell than we saw here all last winter, the next day it turned to rain with high wind, flooding our tents and blowing down many of the officers tents, which are old and what are called A tents, literally tearing them to pieces. There does not appear to be many armed vessels in the river or around the Fortress. One or two of the iron Monitors and Galena lay near our camp, and the Minnesota and six or eight gun-boats are further down the bay. Our camp is one and a half miles up the river above the landing, and a half mile above the “Redoubt Erickson” that Co. E helped throw up while under the command of the late and much lamented Gen. Mansfield. Our Regiment has just received a supply of new A tents, which looks as if we might stop here some time, and another indication of the same is, that we have resumed Battalion and Brigade drills.
There is no dependence to be put in appearances, while writing the last sentence the Sergeant Major put his head into our tent and said “That, the number of men that had no shelter tents must be reported at head quarters before 7 o’clock tomorrow morning.” Well, we are ready. It takes but thirty minutes to put this Regiment in marching order and we are so often on the move that we now hardly speculate as to where we are going, or how, but follow our leaders with a kind of dogged resolution to take what ever comes to us with as good grace as possible, looking for the end of our enlistment as a solace for all the trials, troubles and vexations of this unhappy war.
Friday, February 27th 1863—The officers of the line have received new wall tents today. We had the usual drills this a.m. and this p.m. Brigade Drill under Col. Mindel. Pitched our tents and got all ready to pass the night in it.
Saturday, February 28th 1863—Inspection day and muster. We were inspected and mustered by Lieut. Col. Joseph H. Barnes this a.m. We have a rain storm this p.m. Got my tent well fixed with a frame inside. Got my pay rolls all made out and ready.
Sunday, March 1st 1863—This has been a rainy day and uncomfortable. We did not have our usual inspection but were ordered to inspect quarters, &c.
Monday, March 2nd 1863—We had our usual drills today. The Battalion was drilled by Capt. Richardson at a.m. and by Col. at p.m. The Battalion drilled well and had a good day for it. I got my stove from and took the first comfort of it this evening.
Tuesday, March 3rd 1863—This a.m. the Battalion was drilled by Capt. Tripp very well and at p.m. Brigade drill by Col. Christ. We had a splendid day. Henry [W.] Kimball was detailed on ambulances today.
Wednesday, March 4th—The weather has been quite cool today. We had inspection this a.m. and the usual drills this p.m.
Thursday, March 5th 1863—We have had a beautiful day today but cool. I took the regiment in hand to drill and did it to my satisfaction. Some of the men detailed for recruiting got back today. The Colonel and eight or ten officers and privates have been absent since the 17th of November and have enlisted one man and two drummer boys. Smart work. Cost the government probably three thousand dollars.
Friday, March 6th 1863—Our usual drills this a.m. The Battalion drill by Capt. Tripp. Brigade drill this p.m. by the Colonel [Mindil] of the 27th New Jersey Vols. The weather has been good and this evening is quite warm but the clouds promise a storm. First school of the officers by Col. Danes [?] this day.
Saturday, March 7th—We have had a pleasant day with slight showers this p.m. We have had no drill today and everything is about as usual.
Sunday, March 8th—It rained hard this morning but at about eleven o’clock a.m. it cleared away and we had inspection and a thorough one. The regiment was never in better order and condition since we left here last May. I am Officer of the Day. We had a good dress parade.
Monday, March 9th—The weather was good and we had all the usual drills and everything was quiet as could be wished.
Tuesday, March 10th—I am detailed as Brigade Officer of the Day in place of Maj. Chipman who is sick. It commenced raining about 9 o’clock a.m. and rained hard through the day. It was a cold N. E. storm. I had hard traveling through the day.
Wednesday, March 11th—I visited the guard in all the regiments at 1 o’clock this morning. It was dark and rainy and being alone it was slow work to get along and find the sentinels. It rained this a.m. and we had no drills. At 3 p.m. we with the division was called into line and marched out to where there was to be a flag presented to the Michigan 8th Regiment. It was well done and we was much pleased to see it.
Thursday, March 12th—We were inspected today by the commission for that purpose and think we passed a good inspection. It was very cold. Co. E was all things considered the best and so acknowledged by the officers. We had no other drills today. I took the regiment at dress parade. We were inspected by Stimson, Acting Assistant Major General. I made an application for 48 hours leave absence.
Friday, March 13th—A cold blustering day. I took the Battalion to drill this a.m. and we had Brigade Drill this p.m. Lieut. [John B.] Pizer was this day assigned to Co. E as First Lieutenant. He is now on recruiting service at Massachusetts.
Saturday, March 14th—Brigade Officer of the Day today. The weather good but cool. Nothing unusual happened and “all quiet along the line.” My turn for Brigade Officer seems to come often. Two officers have put in their resignations. Went my rounds as usual at midnight. All well.
Sunday, March 15th 1863—A cold lowery day. Short inspection and but little to do. Was relieved from guard this morning.
Monday, March 16th—Went to Fortress Monroe, Norfolk, and Suffolk. Was much pleased to get to Suffolk again and see the men that belonged to my command. They were much pleased to see me. I stopped with George Morey and boarded with Winslow Barnes.
Tuesday, March 17th 1863—This morning I saw Howard’s Battery drill. It seemed like Old Newport News times. I found the colored woman where I used to board when we were stationed there. She could hardly believe it was me as she had heard that I was as she expressed it, “done gone killed.” Eat steamed oysters for the first time. It being St. Patrick’s Day, the Corcoran Legion turned out. I did not think much of them.
Wednesday, March 18th—I left Suffolk at 10 o’clock this morning in the cars. I was seated with Lieut. Harden * of the 3rd North Carolina Reg. Cavalry. He was taken prisoner yesterday by our cavalry. He appeared to be a well informed man and talked quite reasonable. He did not think that the war would be ever ended by fighting, or that the Union could be ever reinstated.
* Possibly Frederick Harding, 1st Lt. of Co. K, 41st N. Carolina Volunteers (3rd Cavalry). He was promoted to Capt. in August 1863. Nothing about his being taken prisoner in his muster rolls.
I took the steamer City of Hudson at Norfolk and returned to Newport News without going back to the Fortress. There is to be a Ball on board the steamer tonight. At nine o’clock this evening we had orders to draw and cook five days rations and be ready to start at 8 o’clock tomorrow morning.
Thursday, March 19th—We struck tents this morning at eight and loaded all of our luggage on the trains ready to start Soon after it set in a N. E. snowstorm. We waited till about one o’clock p.m. when we marched to the landing. It snowed heavily all the time. At the landing we was put into the old log barracks cold and wet as the steamer was not ready to receive us. At 4 p.m. we sent our baggage on board and a party of men and officers and the rest of us stayed at the barracks cold, wet, and cheerless. I got a good supper at the Webster House. I am again acting Major of the regiment as Maj. Chipman started for home, sick on leave of absence. Two Lieutenants have leave of absence and two were discharged today.
Friday, March 20th—It still storms and the snow is quite deep. Capt. Leach joined the regiment today. We are having a cold, tedious time.
Saturday, March 21st—The storm broke this morning. The snow is quite deep. We went on board of the steamer City of Richmond and at 2 o’clock p.m. left Newport News for the Fortress. At 4:30 p.m. left the Fortress and proceeded to sea with the wind at east and thick. I got my box at the fortress and though myself quite fortunate. It still storms.
Sunday, March 22nd—Twenty-two months today since we were sworn into the service. There was quite a heavy sea in the bay. The boat rolled heavily. The storm continued through the night. This a.m. at about 10 o’clock it broke away and the sea was quite smooth. I have been quite sick all night and day with a severe headache. At about 3 o’clock p.m. we passed Fort McHenry and arrived at Baltimore and at nine o’clock took the cars of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad for the West. At 10:30 p.m. we passed the Relay House.
Monday, March 23rd—At daylight this morning passed Manassas Junction * and arrived at Harper’s Ferry at 8 o’clock a.m. Left at 10:30 a.m. and passed through Martinsburg where the rebels destroyed the machine shops of the B&O Railroad, passed through Cherry Run Valley which is as beautiful and romantic as its name. We followed the various windings of the Upper Potomac River amid hill and dale, through a rich and fertile country. On leaving the valley, we arrived at Sleepy creek where the country changes to hilly and mountainous on which the snow still lingers. We passed through the town of Hancock where Stuart made his celebrated raid into Pennsylvania. we have followed the Potomac all day and at 10 o’clock p.m. we arrived at Cumberland—a coal mining town where rations were issued and hot coffee.
* Capt. Doten surely must have known that Manassas Junction was in Virginia at not on the route between the Relay House and Harper’s Ferry.
Tuesday, March 24th—On arriving at Piedmont we stopped some five hours. We are still passing through the coal regions of Maryland. The Potomac has here got reduced down to a small stream with a quick run. We passed through Bloomington where the road passes on the up grade over the mountains. The grade for 17 miles is 117 feet to the mile, then over a level of twenty miles, and then down a grade same as the up. We had to divide our train into three parts. We passed through the town of Portland which appears to be a large manufacturing town in the way of barrels, shooks, &c. We passed over Cheat Mountain and over Cheat River at a town of that name and through Kingwood Tunnel near one mile long, thence through Newburgh to Grafton where we took dinner. We here found the Union sentiments quite strong. It is the first that I have seen in Virginia. The weather is still stormy.
Wednesday, March 25th—At about seven o’clock this morning we arrived at Parkersburg—a town situated at the junction of the Little Kanawha River with the Ohio. We had hard work to get our men on board the boat as whiskey was plenty. We went on board the stern wheeler Eclipse—a new boat drawing when loaded [only] eighteen inches of water. * There is much Union sentiment displayed on the Virginia side of the river and on the Ohio side. We were greeted strongly in one little town on the Virginia side. They brought out a large new flag for the new State of [West] Virginia. They held it out for us to see. It had the initial of the new state among the stars. We have passed many coal mines and salt works today. The weather has been cold.
* The Eclipse was a 223-ton sternwheel wooden hull packet steamship constructed at Elizabeth, Pennsylvania, 16 miles southeast of Pittsburgh on the Monongahela River for Capt. George D. Moore of Wellsville, Ohio, in the fall of 1862. Construction was completed in early December and ints inaugural voyage from Pittsburgh to Louisville began on December 18th. The Cincinnati Enquirer described her as being “158 feet by 33, with a five-foot hold; cylinders 15 inches in diameter, witf five feet stroke” and could carry up to 500 tons. The ship was sold to W. E. Gibson & Co. of Aurora, Indiana in late January 1863 and soon afterwards was captained by Capt. James S. Wise who had earlier in the war served as an officer in the 48th OVI and was wounded at Arkansas Post. While docked at Cincinnati in mid-March 1863, the Eclipse was pressed into government service by the the US Quartermaster’s Department to be used as a military transport for the War Department.
Thursday, March 26th—The sun shines out today but the wind is strong ahead and weather cold. We have passed out of Virginia and entered Kentucky on the left side of the river. We begin to see vineyards covering the hills on the Ohio side. We yesterday passed the mouth of the great Kanawha River on the Virginia side. We are the first New England Regiment that has been ordered to the West and as such attract much attention. We were hailed from the Virginia side with, “What regiment is that?” — “Massachusetts 29th” — “Bully for Old Massachusetts,” said he. At 12 o’clock we arrived at Cincinnati and were invited ashore where the regiment partook of a fine [meal] and the officers were feasted at the Gibson House by the proprietors. I started and found the Robbins Boys who were glad to see me. At five p.m. we crossed to Covington, Kentucky, and took the Lexington Railroad for Paris about eighty miles distant.
Friday, March 27th—We arrived at Paris, Kentucky, at about three o’clock this morning. We stopped in the cars till morning. At 7 o’clock we marched to a camping ground just outside of the village and near the railroad bridge of which there is two, about eight hundred yards apart and about the same distance from our camp and which is to claim a good share of our attention as a large amount of stores are transported over this road to Lexington. We have been getting our camp fixed and tents pitched. The men have shelter tents and the officers have their old ones that they had at Newport News. things are quite cheap here and it is a pleasant place. The people are kind and loyal—or at least a part of them. Still there is a great number that are secretly opposed to government.
Saturday, March 28th—The weather has been quite pleasant but cool. The 27th New Jersey and the 50th Pennsylvania belonging to our Brigade passed through here last night for Lexington.
Sunday, March 29th—It has been quite pleasant. Most of our men marched to church today and created quite an impression in their favor. Our pickets were driven in this p.m.
Monday, March 30th—Nothing unusual has occurred today. Negroes that came in say that the Rebels are quite near us and advancing.
Tuesday, March 31st—Inspection day. It was quite cold and windy. We had quite a good inspection.
Wednesday, April 1st—We had orders to pack up to join our Brigade at Lexington but the people of this place were anxious for us to stop here and telegraphed to Gen. Burnside to that effect and at night the order was countermanded. We were all packed up and ready to go.
Thursday, April 2nd—Nothing unusual has occurred today. Our cavalry met about 800 of the Rebel cavalry near Mount Sterling and cut them all up, driving them into the river where many of them were drowned. They killed and drowned about 80 of them and took some prisoners. We have orders from the Colonel to move our regiment into the town tomorrow.
Friday, April 3rd 1863—It was a beautiful morning but about 9 a.m. it clouded up and we had quite a snow storm. We packed up at 10 a.m. and marched into town and took quarters at the town house for the men and a room nearby for the officers. Two of the companies had quarters in a building nearby. Officers mostly got their meals at the Paris House.
Saturday, April 4th—A rather good day. The Lieut.-Colonel with twenty-five picked men went out about six miles this evening on a scout. I was invited to Major Dunkin’s to supper this evening and went. Enjoyed myself but just as we ended supper I was sent for to take charge of the regiment as Lieut.-Colonel Barnes was found off in a raid.
Sunday, April 5th 1863—Col. Barnes and part arrived early this morning having succeeded in capturing four guerrillas—one captain and three men with their horses. It was quite an affair. We had inspection this morning and a splendid dress parade this p.m. I have the sole command of the regiment.
Monday, April 6th—Nothing unusual has occurred today and all is quiet in this vicinity.
Tuesday, April 7th—We have had quite a pleasant day this evening. I went out on the Flat Rock Pike about six miles and searched the houses of Mr. Rosebury, Mr. Bishop, and one other.
Wednesday, April 8th—We returned from our trip this morning about sunrise having traveled about fourteen miles. It was a very cold night and froze quite hard. This p.m. we had Brigade Drill under Peirce of Freetown. *
* By now it should be clear to most readers that Samuel thinks very little of Col. Ebenezer W. Peirce who lost an arm commanding the regiment during the Battle of White Oak Swamp only by foolishly maneuvering his men in an exposed position. He returned to command the regiment in November 1862 but Samuel often refers to him in his journal as “Peirce of Freetown” or “Mr. Peirce.”
Thursday, April 9th—We have had a fine day, nothing occurring only the usual course of events.
Friday, April 10th—The 45th New York Regt. left here today to join their Brigade beyond Lexington so that we are left here with the Battery & two companies of the 118th Ohio Vol.
Saturday, April 11th—We took four deserters today and three suspicious men belonging to East Tennessee. It has been a beautiful day.
Sunday, April 12th 1863—We had an inspection and muster this morning. I was invited to dine at Hon. Gerret Davis’s and enjoyed myself well. He is a fine specimen of the Old Whig Party and a strong Union man. Was an intimate friend and associate of Henry Clay. This evening twenty-five men under Col. Barnes left here for a raid out towards Mount Sterling.
Monday, April 13th 1863—I am left in command of this post as Col. Peirce has left for a time. I had the trunk of two ladies stopped and got quite a lecture on politics & Union. They were “right sweet” scolds.
Tuesday, April 14th—We have had some rain today. I am attending to the duties of the post as the Colonel has not got back. We have not had anything of special interest today. The paymaster came last night but as the expedition has not got back, he will not pay off the regiment. Saw one of the ladies of yesterday and she had moderated her tone and got to be quite reasonable.
Wednesday, April 15th—Sent Capt. Wilson and six men out and brought in two suspicious characters. Our detachment came in this evening haven driven the Rebels from a large territory between here and Mount Sterling.
Thursday, April 16th—We were paid off today, most all receiving four month’s pay. We had quite a pleasant day but a bad evening. I stayed up till 12 o’clock and as we had some considerable trouble. Had to see to it and shut up some of the whiskey shops.
The following was probably written by Capt. Doten to his hometown newspaper where it was published: “Since we wrote you last the elections in Ohio have come off and the result is hailed with every demonstration of delight and gratification by the citizens and soldiers in this State. They feel that the attack of Vallandigham and his nest of copperheads has signally failed, and that the stain on the loyalty and integrity of their sister State has been fully washed out.
Could you but see the strong feeling that exists, and the hopes and fears that are expressed as daily the papers give doubtful news of success or defeat, you would then see the deep feeling that exists, and the strong attachment for the good old Union, that is part and parcel of their very nature, of the Union men and women of this State, and you would then see real sacrifice for principle, such as is not seen in any portion of the free States. Father and son, mother and sister, and even husband and wife take different views of the contest, and from loving friends become bitter enemies. Neighbors who have lived in perfect harmony and peace from childhood to age, now pass each other without recognition, and we have seen quite a number of families where one or more of the sons were in each army.
In the absence of the colonel a few days since, the command of the post devolved upon us, by which we had a still better chance to see the evil and misery of which we speak.
Nearly opposite our headquarters lives a family, the husband of which is in the Confederate army, and is, of course, absent; but the wife and daughter cling to the “good old Union,” as she expresses it, and is determined to stand by the flag let the consequence be what it may, she says she does so from principle as a true woman and a Christian, believing that God has pointed the way for her to pursue. Yet she is subject to all the trials of those opposed to the Government, has had her house searched, and we today, as in duty bound, stopped the trunks of the daughter as she was leaving to join her husband, to see if nothing contraband was contained therein. This was very humiliating to the pride of the mother, as she descended from the F. F. Vs. [first families of Virginia] of Virginia, and it was the first time in a long life that even suspicion of wrong was ever fastened upon her. Of course she, as well as the daughter, were very indignant, and your correspondent had about as much as he could attend to under running fire from two such batteries, of the real old Virginia blood, stung to the quick by what they deemed an insult to the honor of a long ancestral line; but still for all this they both remain strong for the Union, while the husband and sister are as strong “secesh,” and if when they are all together their exchange of sentiment bears any comparison to our own experience, the weaker vessel has our heartfelt sympathies and commiseration.
We are making frequent raids out among the secesh gentry, between here and Mt. Sterling and Winchester, and almost daily pick up soldiers and secessionists; they fear us, and do anything but pray for Massachusetts troops while it seems as if the Union people here cannot do too much for us; they are ready at feed the soldiers and do what they can for their comfort, and the sick are objects of especial attention and favor. Truly, for a season “our lines have fallen in pleasant places,” and as we have been for the last year ever on the move, faring hard,, living hard, and those who have died, dying hard, we feel truly grateful to the power above us for this probable unintentional ray of sunlight that is so cheering to the way-worn times soldier.
On Sunday last the field and line officers of this Regiment were invited to dine with Hon. Garrett Davis, who is or was formerly, a member of Congress from this district. Mr. Davis is a fine specimen of the old Henry Clay whigs of Kentucky, and is one of those true conservative Union men who stand firm on the constitution and the laws. Looks at the days of Nullification as the time, and a conflict of Southern interests and aristocratic principles as the first great cause of our present troubles. He was an intimate friend of Henry Clay and justly reveres the memory of this illustrious son of Kentucky. He is heart and soul in the Union cause and is making great sacrifices for country and principle. Such men living in a slave State and advocating such principles would put to shame, if it were possible, those Northern soft-heads, dough-faces, and maudling politicians who pander to the interests and crawl at the feet of a Southern slave-holder. Kentuckians despise such sham democracy, and Southern slaveholders spit upon them, “and use them for their mirth, yea, for their laughter when they are waspish.”
For a circle of ten to fifteen miles around here we keep the rebels well stirred up. Lt. Col. Barnes is among them when they least expect it, and will soon become (if he is not now,) as notorious as John Morgan, he is now out on a raid towards Mount Sterling, and should he attempt to make a search you may depend it will be done thorough.”
Friday, April 17th—My company set home by Express $1,982—quite a large amount seeing that there is but thirty-two of us left here. Lemuel [B.] Morton came back today. There has been much drunkenness today in the regiment. We had a very cold night last night but quite warm today. Col. Barnes had his photograph taken today. I went with him and am in for one of them sure. It is quite still this evening.
Saturday, April 18th—Just 23 months since we left Plymouth. A scout went out this morning under Pierce of Freetown but accomplished nothing of course. On pickets, men fired upon last night but no damage.
Sunday, April 19th—Had the usual Monday inspection and a slight shower. Went to church at the Presbyterian and heard a god sermon.
Monday, April 20th—Resumed drills. We have two drills per day. The bridge over the Licking river on the Maysville Pike was burned by the Rebels last night. The bridge cost $80,000. It is twenty-two miles from here. The Rebels seem to be concentrating between here and Mount Sterling. I fear that they will give us the trouble of using them up soon. Our scout came in tonight but accomplished nothing as Mr. Peirce of Freetown was with them.
Tuesday, April 21st—We had our first street drill today and practiced firing in the streets. The people were much surprised to see us. We begun our drills yesterday and battalion drill today. It has been quite warm and this evening it rains.
Wednesday, April 22nd—Twenty-three months since we were mustered into the service. Col. Peirce and about sixty men went out on a scout this morning. Lieut. Col. Barnes left for Cincinnati this morning and leaves me in command of the post. It rained hard all night which was much wanted.
Thursday, April 23rd—We have had some little rain today. Nothing new transpired. A part of the company came in that were mounted at about 10 o’clock this evening.
Friday, April 24th—Beautiful weather but cool. The soldiers came in today and left Col. Peirce and the rest of the mounted men out there. They have thus far accomplished nothing. I stopped four men at Mrs. Scott’s today but after examination, let them go.
Saturday, April 25th—Lieut.-Colonel Barnes returned from Cincinnati this p.m. We had no dress parade. Orders were received to join our brigade as soon as possible which is now at Stanford, Kentucky.
Sunday, April 26th—We packed up this morning ready to start as soon as we could get transportation. Col. Peirce returned at 1 p.m. today having as usual accomplished nothing except to insult the people when he stopped. Got me a trunk made for use—good and strong. At 4 o’clock p.m. we started and at 5:30 p.m. passed through Lexington where we stopped near half hour. Saw the Henry Clay monument. It is a beautiful shaft and well worthy of the great and gifted statesman. There is not many troops at Lexington but quite a large convalescent camp. It is a beautiful country, mostly farming land, much of which is devoted to the culture of hemp, 6:30 o’clock we arrived at Nicholasville—a small town at the end of the railroad where we took up our line of march and marched half mile from the town and encamped.
Monday, April 27th—Broke camp and took up line of march at 8 o’clock a.m. for Camp Dick Robinson. At 12 M crossed the “Kentucky River.” The country has changed to hilly land and not so good. The country is mountainous, high cliffs and deep valleys. It has been very dusty and at times we can hardly see the regiment. At 4 p.m. we reached Camp Dick Robinson and encamped just beyond it. Our men are much used up and footsore. We have marched 16 miles today.
Tuesday, April 28th—We took up our line of march at 8:15 o’clock a.m. It begun to rain at three o’clock this morning and was showery all day. We marched to Lancaster and about 1.5 miles beyond the town and encamped at about 1:15 p.m. The country has again changed to large, handsome farms. We marched about ten miles today and have a good camp for wood and water.
Wednesday, April 29th—Took up line of march at five a.m. for Stanford. We had slight showers and a good road. At 7:15 a.m. crossed Dix River. The bridge had been burned and a temporary bridge thrown across. We marched through the town of Stanford to about 1.5 miles beyond and encamped at 10:30 a.m. ere we found the rest of our brigade. We have had heavy showers this p.m. The ground of our camp is very wet.
Thursday, April 30th—We had a cold, disagreeable night. The ground was cold and wet. we received orders to take two days rations and be ready to start at 8:30 a.m. which we did. We had to leave much of our baggage. We stopped for dinner at 12 M where we received letters from home. We continued our march on the Danville Pike to the town of Houstonville and about five miles beyond to Carpenter’s Creek where we encamped about 6 o’clock p.m. We marched 17 miles today and all our men kept up.
Friday, May 1st 1863—May day. We were ordered to lay out a camp and as usual it fell to my lot to do it. We have a good camp. Wood and water handy. At 9 o’clock we received orders to be ready to start at 4 o’clock tomorrow morning.
Saturday, May 2nd—The orders to march this morning were countermanded so we have a chance to rest. Our men are short of shoes but are well and hearty.
Sunday, May 3rd—It has been quite rainy today. Nothing unusual has taken place and we should hardly know it was Sunday were we not told of it.
Monday, May 4th—I have been quite sick today. We had orders to have two days cooked & 4 days rations in wagons & be ready to start at 1 o’clock tonight.
Tuesday, May 5th—We struck officer’s tents at 1 o’clock this morning at at 4 o’clock took up line of march. Raining hard. We marched over the [Pine] Knob (as it is called) in a very bad pathway, our teams going by a different route as well as the battery. At 7 o’clock a.m. we came up with the rest of our division at Middleburg. Waited there a long time for the battery and train. Crossed the Green river and at 6 o’clock p.m. encamped for the night. We have had a rough hilly road, muddy and wet. Made 17 miles.
Wednesday, May 6th—Started at 7 o’clock a.m. We crossed Fishing Creek and ascended the mountain south of it. At the summit of the mountain we stopped and I was detailed with 100 men to go back and assist the train up the mountain. This delayed us some three hours. We passed through the town of Mount Gilead, sometimes called Nunkim [?]. Marched ten miles and encamped in the rain, ground wet and muddy.
Thursday, May 7th—A hard, cold, rainy night and day. Weather very uncomfortable. All our blankets and clothing wet and but little to eat. Good news from the Rappahannock.
Friday, May 8th—Still cold and rainy. We started at 9 o’clock a.m. and marched three miles to Somerset and encamped near the town. Went to the town and got a main spring put to my watch for the modest sum of two dollars. It is quite a village—probably come 800 to 1,000 inhaboitrants. Weather this p.m. good & warm.
Saturday, May 9th—we got our camp in good order and condition. The weather is good.
Sunday, May 10th—Inspection this morning. Guns of my company in good order. I took command of Co. E again today. We have another pleasant day. Had dress parade this evening.
Monday, May 11th—Orders were received last night to have two days rations ready and be ready to march at a moment’s notice. Had dress parade as usual. Weather good. A private of the New York 46th fell dead getting a newspaper and was buried close to our camp this evening.
Tuesday, May 12th—I am Reg. Officer of the Day. The weather is beautiful. Our supply train arrived today. It is rumored that the rebels are in quite large force on the south side of the Cumberland river about five miles from here.
Wednesday, May 13th—Our regiment was inspected today by the Brigade Inspector this p.m., and evening it rained.
Thursday, May 14th—The weather good. Nothing new. We are well. How are you?
Friday, May 15th—A pleasant day. Went this morning to the mouth of what appears to be quite a cave near our camp and near to which a large stream gushes out among the rocks that form the hillside. It is a beautiful place.
Saturday, May 16th—Another pleasant day. Went with two others and explored the cave that I saw yesterday. It is but about two hundred yards deep and very low. In no place could we stand up higher and most of the way we had to crawl. Sometimes it was not two feet high but it was quite wide—often ten to fifteen feet. It was evidently once the bed of the stream that now gushes out near to it and has been changed from its original channel by falling rocks. The entrance to the cave is a high overhanging cliff of stone hanging over some twenty or thirty feet and as many high. It is grand and lofty & worth seeing.
The following was probably written by Capt. Doten in mid-May 1863 to his hometown newspaper: “We are now encamped on the battlefield where our Gen. (Carter) engaged Gen. Pegram and drove his army across the Cumberland river, which is about five miles from here. It was a sharp, short, and decisive battle, and every little hill-top covered with rifle pits show with what energy and determination our troops contended with the enemy at every point, to finally win a victory as complete as it was successful. John Morgan has taken position on the south bank of the river, and, as he says, intends that to be the impassable bounds for the Union army. Perhaps John is a true prophet and will keep his intentions good, but we Yankees always have a doubt till we have a fair trial, and then, (as in law) take the benefit of the doubt. Before this Brigade came here Morgan, although driven across the river, seemed to feel equal to the task of regaining a foothold on this side, and was continually making raids near here, but now he seems to have a wholesome dread of ‘McClellan’s old troops’ (as they call us here) and is very quietly waiting for the spirit to move us, to give him battle. We are not one of the anxious kind and are not “spoiling for a fight” like many that have only “snuffed the battle from afar;” our regiment has been in seven regular stand up battles, where the rebels have thrown their shot and shell among us with a “perfect looseness” and without regard to human life. We have seen the elephant in his different positions; admired him when he stood on four legs, and wondered when we see him stand on two, and are no longer anxious to see him again even if he should stand on one leg; but just at this time, and under all the circumstances, we should like to be near enough to exchange cards and take his photograph. We are daily expecting fifteen to twenty thousand troops here, and when they arrive there must be a move of some kind or we shall all starve, as we do not have but two-thirds rations now. And here let me possibly enlighten you and your numerous readers by giving you the true reason, for often after a decisive battle in which our troops have been victorious, and when it seems to you at home that that victory should have been followed up, it is not done, and our army retreats back. This army is now in exact position to illustrate. Should we move forward and defeat the rebel army we could not possibly follow them twenty-five miles without waiting for our supply train to come up, and as we are now on two-thirds rations, the supply then would be, of course, very short. All our supplies have to be carted sixty miles, as the country has been foraged by both armies till the inhabitants themselves are suffering for the common necessaries of life. There is neither hay nor grain to be found for a great distance around us, and the horses look as if they had passed through the first year of the Egyptian famine. This may explain to you why in this country the many victories are not followed up, although it may not explain why Hooker did not follow up that great victory for which he thanked God and the soldiers. Paris, Ky., is still a military post, but for what purpose I cannot tell. At this time the shadow of six defunct old ladies would afford sufficient protection for the town, and a dozen or two of Hoosier soldiers would keep the railroad bridges from harm or danger; and why the War Department should deem it necessary to keep some three hundred good men at that place is hard to understand, when their presence in the field of active service would be more for the benefit of the country, more especially when so many are leaving whose term of service has expired. It is a good safe place for those who in the hour of battle have “their hair stand on end like quills upon a fretful porcupine;” but it is no place for those who wish to see our beloved country once more at peace and again blessed with the smiles of God, prosperous and happy.
Major Chipman is again with us restored to health and as ready as ever to do good service in battle for his country, and while the regiment is under the command of such men as Lt. Col. Barnes and Major Chipman you need have no fear for the result when in action, as they are composed of that stern, solid material that makes men heroes and patriots. Co. E has been twice disgraced by desertion; two of its members have ingloriously deserted the flag of their adopted country, and have not only disgraced the service but have doomed their friends to bear the stigma of the disgraceful and dishonorable act. These two worthies bear the cognomen of john E. Morrison and Patrick Smith. If they should return to Plymouth, don’t for Heaven’s sake send them back here, but keep them as select specimens of how low a man can degrade himself and still live and breath in this land of liberty…”
Sunday, May 17th 1863—Sunday inspection as usual. We got a large mail of papers today that had been at Stanford for some time. We have had a very pleasant day.
Monday, May 18th—We are having fine weather. I took a stroll to see what troops we had around us. Saw the 45th Ohio—a fine regiment. 112th Mounted Infantry—a fine regiment. 32nd Kentucky—a very poor regiment. 2nd Ohio Cavalry—very full and good. Mountain Howitzer Battery—good. Rhode Island Battery—excellent. Illinois Battery—fair. There were a number of others I did not visit.
Tuesday, May 19th—I am Reg. Officer of the Day. Have five teams and twenty-five men detailed to get trees to shade the camp. This does not look much like moving soon.
Wednesday, May 20th—The weather has been quite hot today. Nothing unusual has occurred. we hear that the Rebels have crossed the river at or near Richmond.
Thursday, May 21st—A warm day. We have been through the usual round of camp duty. I went to the town today but did not stop long.
Friday, May 22nd—Two years of our time has this day ended and we are now on our last year of our enlistment. There is forty-eight members of this company on the rolls and thirty are present in all. We have had in all (with recruits) ninety-one.
Saturday, May 23—We have received orders for the officers to turn in their wall tents and receive shelter tents instead. This looks some like moving. Weather hot.
Sunday, May 24th—A very warm day. inspection in company streets. I am on duty as Officer of the Day.
Monday, May 25th—A rather warm day. I began work early on my tent as I drew shelter tents yesterday and got enough to make us as large a tent, if not so good as we had before, and I have a good one made like my old one—all call it the handsomest & best on the line of the brigade. We had an alarm this a.m. and have drawn up in line of battle as the Rebs crossed the river and had a little skirmish with [Col. Frank] Wolford’s Cavalry. There was a few killed on both sides and we took five prisoners & they about as many and recrossed the river.
Tuesday, May 26th—Nothing new or interesting today. It has been very hot. we have good news from the West from Gen’l. Grant. It puts the troops in good spirits.
Wednesday, May 27th—We still have good news from the West. The day has been very warm. I had a sick night last night but am quite well again.
Thursday, May 28th—The 50th Pennsylvania of our brigade changed their camp today. We had orders to keep all the men in camp. The batteries were harnessed up and ready. Lieut. [Peter] Winsor is on picket guard. It rains lightly this evening.
Friday, May 29th—The day has been rainy with a strong wind at east and south-east. My tent stood well and did not leak much. We were ordered to be specially on the alert at night and guards to be very vigilant.
Saturday, May 30th 1863—This p.m. we had a heavy squall of rain accompanied with thunder and lightening. Our little shelter tents were but poor protection as the rain beat right through and wet our things and ourselves. Luckily It did not last long. all our tents were flooded. Our cavalry with the pieces of the battery crossed the Cumberland today and gave chase to the Rebels some ten or fifteen miles and took—it is said—eighty prisoners. I am Officer of the Day today.
Sunday, May 31st—We had the usual Sunday inspection this morning. With good weather and quite cool. I did not go on inspection.
Monday, June 1st 1863—We had a rain squall last evening. The weather is quite cool today. Our pontoon train came in today.
Tuesday, June 2nd—We received orders today to send all extra baggage (over thirty pounds to each officer and more than one shift of clothes to a private) to the rear, and that the men shall have three days rations in their haversacks and five days rations in their knapsacks making eight days rations. Accordingly, our extra baggage has gone and we have taken as I think a “last fond look” at it as I doubt if ever we see it again. I am Officer of the Day and quite busy today. A part of our pontoon train arrived last night. All the troops in this department have the same orders with ourselves.
Wednesday, June 3rd—Nothing new or exciting today. Everything goes along about as usual. Weather fine. Capt. [Thomas William] Clarke [of Co. A] returned to the regiment today after being absent nine or ten months “beating it” round Washington. Got the headache tonight. Wrote to the [Old Colony] Memorial [& Plymouth Rock Newspaper] today.
Here is what Capt. Doten wrote to the newspaper on 3 June 1863: “The symptoms of active warfare begin to assume a serious aspect in these regions, and our little army stationed at this place are kept in constant readiness to move at a moment’s warning. Last week the rebels became quite troublesome, and quite a body of them made a raid across the river near the mouth of “Fishing Creek” and “Mill Spring” about twelve miles from here, and captured some of our pickets and a few horses. A cavalry force under Col. Krantz, of the 2d Ohio Mounted Infantry, was immediately dispatched to the scene of action, which not only made the rebels double on their own track, but doubled quite a number of them up, marked and labeled for a ground sweat, besides taking a number of prisoners and horses. These raids are getting most too common and the enemy too familiar with our pickets, and orders have of late been given to shoot whoever appears on the south side of the river in the shape of soldiers, let them be pickets or otherwise. This has had a salutary effect and the rebels give the banks of the river a wide berth, although they show themselves on the highlands beyond. Some eight hundred cavalry exposed themselves to the admiring gaze of our pickets a few days since, but accidentally a section of the Mountain Howitzer Battery got sight of them and sent a few compliments on their first appearance in the shape of a shell, that so astonished them that the place that knew them for a moment will probably know them no more at present, if ever. A day or two since our cavalry crossed the river with a section of the Mountain Howitzer Battery and made a raid of ten or twelve miles, taking eighty prisoners, securing quite a number of horses, and returned. With our cavalry it seems to be a perfect mania to secure horses, and frequently on a raid if they find a horse better than the one they have and they have no means to bring it to camp, they change saddles and turn their horse loose to shift for himself, while they flourish and curvet [a leap of a horse from a rearing position] the new one, and probably give him his first introduction to the use of the spur and carbine, and it is astonishing how soon they become accustomed to both. On Sunday that never-failing sign of a forward movement, a Pontoon train, arrived here, or at least the first section, the other having been delayed…No provision is made for soldier’s blanket or tent, but we suppose he will be allowed to carry them if he can possibly stand up and travel under his load. As to the officer’s baggage the valise or trunk generally weighs from ten to twenty pounds, the books and papers of his company as much more, so that if he goes according to regulations he will have to march in about the same uniform that clothed our first parents when they left Eden. We have a hard march before us, and when we shall have out where we go to, probably you will say the same troops that have been on a part of the route give hard descriptions and think that hunger will follow close upon us, as it did upon them, and if we look for hardships, hard fare, and labor, to say nothing of fighting, we shall not be disappointed, however, we shall anticipate, but take it as it comes, and having got pretty well used to it for the last two years, we think we can stand most anything reasonable. As frequent inquiries are made about who are with Co. E at this time, we give below the following list of officers and men present – true it is small, but it is good: Captain, S. H. Doten; 2d Lieut., Peter Winsor. Sergeants, H. W. Jenks, G E Wadsworth, J S Holbrook, H Kimball. Corporals, S W Paty, S Wright, J Shannon, J K Alexander, M Barnes, T Hayden, T Collingwood. Privates C Atwood, E D Barnes, B F Bates, G F Bradford, N Burgess, G E Burbank, S L Churchill, W P Gooding, O D Holmes, W. Howland, LB Morton, WT Nickerson, G H Partridge, GT Peckham, A R Robbins, J. Stillman, W Thompson, J Washburn, J B. Whiting, David Williams. The above list comprises all of Co. E present or that came with the company into Kentucky, except Frank H. Simmons, who not only has proved a disgrace to his friends but a disgrace to his company and regiment, by deserting his country’s service in the hour of peril, and deserting that flag that has been his protection of the ocean and on the land. Any man that will steep his brain in whiskey and then let a courtesan seduce him from his duty, clean, and then clear him out, has certainly drunk deep at the bitter fountain, and his hopes of happiness in this world must rest on a small foundation.“
Thursday, June 4th—We received orders at one o’clock this morning to get ready for a march at daylight and soon had all hands getting ready and something to eat. At 5:30 o’clock a.m. we started on the march to Stanford. Marched to Waynesboro eighteen miles and encamped for the night. It was a hot day but everyone of my men came in on time. Capt. Thomas W. Clarke returned to the regiment today having been absent near ten months “beating it” round Washington.
Friday, June 5th—My birthday. We started this morning at 5:30 o’clock and marched to Stanford where we encamped having arched sixteen miles. My men all kept up or was in very soon after we got to our camp. We encamped on the same ground that we left the 13th day of April last. We got here early and as the paymaster was here, we had our pay rolls signed and have the promise of receiving our pay here, as we are to march tomorrow. It has been hot and dusty today and hard traveling.
Saturday, June 6th—Started from Stanford at 4:30 o’clock a.m. & marched to Camp Dick Robinson. It is good weather but very hot and dusty. I was very tired and had the chills very hard after we arrived here. We suffered much on the march on account of dust. Often we could not see the regiment ten yards distant. My ankles were much swollen. We marched seventeen miles.
Sunday, June 7th—Started this morning at 5 o’clock and marched to Nicholasville where we arrived at about 1:30 o’clock p.m.—a distance of fourteen miles. The dust was the same as yesterday. The men are very much used up with forced marching. We encamped in a field about quarter mile from the depot. I was Officer of the Day but had to give it up to Capt. Clarke who had a horse and I assisted him what I could.
Monday, June 8th—Took the cars for Cincinnati where we arrived at about 7 o’clock p.m. and where we were furnished with a [ ] and at about 10 o’clock p.m. we took the cares for Cairo, Illinois. I have had a hard job as Officer of the Day.
Tuesday, June 9th—We traveled all last night with poor accommodations in box cars—no place to lay down or to rest. We passed through a number of towns on the line of the road and stopped at Washington, Davis county, Indiana, where we were supplied with refreshments by the ladies who were very kind and would take no pay for anything. One lady sung to us the beautiful song of, “May Brave Boys Will Fall,” which was listened to with much pleasure by the regiment. Many cards were exchanged, bouquets of flowers presented and kind greetings given. We sped away with hearty cheers for the kind-hearted people of Washington, Indiana. At about 5 o’clock p.m. we crossed the Wabash river and entered the State of Illinois and crossed over some of the rich prairie lands of the state. It was the first time I ever saw the grand prairies of the West.
Wednesday, June 10th 1863—We changed cars at the junction and took the cars for Cairo about two o’clock this morning. It is about 120 miles to Cairo. We are still on the great prairies. They are level as far as the eye can see. The towns and villages look strange and setting level as they do, make anything but a pretty appearance. It has rained all the morning. We have been kindly received all along the route. No log cabins so poor but what the kind-hearted inhabitants waved their handkerchiefs. We arrived at Cairo at 4:30 o’clock p.m. and embarked on board the steamer Mariner and waited for orders. It is 365 miles from Cincinnati to Cairo.
Thursday, June 11th—At 11 o’clock last evening we received orders to start and was soon out of the Ohio river and on the broad Mississippi. We sailed along down river all day. The scenery does not meet my expectation. The river is not so wide as I expected and but few settlements. We passed a few settlements and passed Fort Jefferson, Kentucky, and the famous Island No. 10 where we stopped for orders. Passed Fort [ ] and Fort Harris.
The following was no doubt written by Capt. Doten to the editor of his hometown newspaper for publication: “Our steamer has just stopped at this famous place for orders, and as we promised to drop you a line “on the wing” thought this would be a good place to begin it.
When we wrote you last we fully expected at this time to be in East Tennessee, foot-sore and weary, traveling o’er the Cumberland Mountains. We had our rations ready and were under orders; but soldiers are creatures of chance and change; they know where they are on the hour, but where they will be the next is as uncertain as a crop of corn in a sheep pasture, or the codicil to a bankrupt’s will. On the morning of June 4th we expected to start for East Tennessee, but at one o’clock of that morning we received orders by telegraph to break camp immediately and march to Nicholsville, about seventy miles distant. We started at daylight and marched eighteen miles and encamped; the next day we marched about eighteen miles, and on the next reached Nicholsville. We had a very hard journey, as it was very hot, dry, and dusty; oftentimes the regiment could not be distinguished at ten yards distant on account of the dust, and the men and the officers were so covered with it that it was difficult to recognize them. Many of the regiment and brigade (as the whole brigade was on the move,) gave out, and were left behind to come up through the night. If they could, which some did; all of Co. E were up at ten o’clock that night, but some of them were so lame and foot-sore that they could hardly walk, but a determination not to be left behind, overcome all other feelings, and they marched along over many a weary mile, where others less determined sank by the roadside. No other company in the whole regiment did so well or stood the march so well as Co. E. On the morning of June 8th we took the cars for Cincinnati, passing through Paris, where we stopped for a few moments and saw some of the others of the 29th, who are as they say, very anxious to make their mark, yet loafing around Paris under detail, so as to keep out of the hardships and dangers of field service, where they would possibly be of some service to their country, instead of hanging around a place where they are of no more use than a boot black would be in the kingdom of Heaven, or a pair of red plush breeches to a young cherub. In all cases there are honorable exceptions. It is so here and if ever called upon we are ready to give our opinion. We arrived at Cincinnati late in the afternoon, and the whole regiment was provided with a bountiful (illegible], and at ten o’clock on that same evening we took cars for Cairo, Illinois. On the road to Cairo we passed through the States of Indiana and Illinois, and it was easy to see the difference between slave and free labor, even in comparison with old Kentucky, where slavery assumes its most favorable phase. The face of the country seems changed. Farm houses look more comfortable. The eternal log cabin of all slave states has disappeared, and in its place the small but neat cottage dots the roadside, and an air of thrift pervades the whole farming districts. Comfort and happiness sit upon the door-step, praying with bright eyed, healthy children and rosy cheeked, blooming lassies full of health and spirits, greet us at the homes and by the roadside as we pass through their villages. When we passed over the Wabash River and entered the State of Illinois, we soon opened on the immense prairie lands of that State. As far as the eye can see the broad expanse of land is level; cultivated and dotted over with farm houses and villages, and at this season of the year it is really beautiful to see the broad fields of grain waving in the wind, giving promise of abundance in the seed time and harvest of God’s promise. To us there is nothing beautiful in the look or appearance of a prairie village. The beauty of hillside and valley is lost in the dead, flat prospect; the eye catches and comprehends the whole in a moment, leaving nothing to admire or interest. When we arrived at Cairo we were immediately embarked aboard the steamer Mariner, bound down the river, but where we do not know, but suppose Vicksburg. The whole brigade had already embarked and were waiting orders. (There were five large steamers loaded with troops, and one battery on the boat with ourselves.) At 11 o’clock at night orders were received, and we were soon out of the Ohio river and steaming on the broad Mississippi; and here we are at this famous Island No. 10 receiving orders to still keep our course down river. Island No. 10 is quite pretty place, but as stronghold it does not come up to our expectations. It is about thirty feet above the level of the river now, and about twenty when the river is full. The forts have been probably leveled, as they was nothing to be seen of consequence, but it must have been quite well fortified to resist and hold out so long against the force brought against it. Still we cannot see why it should not be easily reduced at any time from the main land, and why it should be very difficult to take possession of the main land for that purpose we cannot comprehend. We don’t think so much of it as we did, and don’t think so much of the exploit of taking it as probably it deserves. We have just passed Fort Wright on the Tennessee shore, and if no untoward event happens, we expect to arrive at Memphis at about midnight, when we shall have to stop to report, and when we hope to mail letters for home.“
Friday, June 12—We arrived at Memphis, Tennessee at two o’clock this morning and proceeded to “coal up.” We are to meet the boats at the mouth of White River and proceed under convoy of gunboats. We remained here all day waiting for Gen. Potter who commands our division. Went ashore and bought e a suit of clothes and took a hasty look at the city. It seems to be a thrifty growing city, well located, and well laid out. Saw the Jackson monument, The inscription of the Federal Union must be preserved had been mutilated in the word Federal. It is in the center of a very pretty grove. Three dead bodies floated down past us today, one of which was searched by some of the river pirates who found quite a sum of money & a watch which they of course took and turned the body adrift again. A large boat came up from below with sick and wounded.
While docked at Memphis, Capt. Doten wrote the editor of his hometown newspaper: “We arrived at Memphis, Tennessee, at two o’clock this morning and found the rest of our brigade here; the other brigades of our division are ahead of us, we are to meet at the mouth of White River and all proceed to Vicksburg under convoy of gunboats. We have to stop here to coal up, and it takes a long time to do so. We are not allowed to go on shore, and for that reason have to take our view of the city from the river; but that view is rather favorable to the place and its location. It seems to be well situated on a high bluff, and the buildings built in that good substantial character that is so characteristic of the West. In traveling through the West, one cannot fail to observe the singular massive style of architecture so prevalent in the cities and many of the villages. Many of the farm houses are large, massive brick houses, such as often grace the suburbs of Northern cities, and to all appearances are palatial residences, fitted up and adorned with all the elegance and taste of the most refined society. There does not seem to be any intermediate grade (or, at least, it is seldom seen) between the brick mansion and the log cabin, and society seems to partake of the same nature, more especially in Kentucky, the wide gulf between master and slave is as wide between rich and poor, and is as hard to cross. The height of learning and the lowest depths of ignorance live side by side in the villages, and in the city vice in all its forms takes the highest seat in the temple, and is caressed and petted by all grades of society.“
Saturday, June 13th—Two more dead bodies floated past today. It has been a very hot day. We are still waiting the arrival of the general.
Sunday, June 14th—Went to church this forenoon and took some of my men with me. It is a very hot day. Gen. Potter arrived today and about 4 o’clock p.m. we started down the river. Our fleet of steamers consists of the Dakotah, Diamond, Meteor, Lenora, and Mariner.
Monday, June 15th 1863—Stopped at 12 o’clock last night and laid till daylight when we proceeded. Stopped at the town of Helena for orders adn at 4 o’clock p.m. stopped at the mouth of the White River (or of the cutoff) for the night. We had to go on shore and throw out pickets which were fired upon and half of the regiment kept under arms all night.
Tuesday, June 16th—started again at daylight. Good weather but very hot. I am Officer of the Day. This a.m. we were fired upon by guerrillas which we returned with our battery as we have one on board as well as with our rifles. No one hurt. The gunboats stopped and shelled the woods and then went ahead and did the same. At 4 o’clock p.m. we had a severe squall across the river which blowed one boat ashore, we hardly escaping. Just at this time our boat took fore over the boilers but was soon got under. We arrived at Lake Providence about 6 o’clock p.m. where we stopped for the night. We had a second tempest this evening. This place is guarded by the 1st Kansas Regiment and a Negro Regiment.
Wednesday, June 17th—Started at 4:30 o’clock this morning for down river. Weather good. At 10:30 o’clock a.m. we entered the mouth of the Yazoo River and at 1 o’clock p.m. we arrived at Snyder’s Bluff and landed. There is some fifteen large transports here and thirty below about three miles.
The Siege of Vicksburg
Thursday, June 18th—We marched last evening about three miles towards Vicksburg and encamped and today have pitched our tents. There is a very large body of western troops around here. I traveled three miles and back over to the 40th Iowa thinking that probably the Cooper that is Lieut.-Colonel might possibly beWm. Cooper but found him to be Samuel F. Cooper—a native of Stockbridge, Massachusetts—a fine, sociable man. It is hard work for officers to get anything to eat here. I had to lay out the camp as usual.
Friday, June 19th—It has been a very warm day. I have been busy getting my accounts ready for the quarter. There was heavy cannonading this morning. Everything seems quiet in this place. Some of our stragglers came up today.
While encamped some three miles from Snyder’s Bluff, north of Vicksburg, Capt. Doten finished his letter to the hometown newspaper begun at Memphis: “We waited here for the arrival of Gen. Potter, who commands our division, till Sunday at four P. M., when we started on our voyage down river. Our fleet consists of five large steamers: the Dacotah, Diamond, Meteor, Lenora, and Mariner, all well fitted with troops. Ours (the Mariner) has on board besides the 29th Regt., one New York battery with all their horses, guns and camp equipage, making a crowded mess of men on one of the meanest steamers, or rather one of the meanest conducted steamers probably on the river if there is any other whose officers are meaner or more despicable, we pity those who have to take passage with them; for ourselves we would sooner take passage from Cairo to New Orleans in a good sized alligator a la Jonah, than to be at the tender mercy of such a set of Jews, and narrow, contracted, half-souled Israelites, whose sole idea seems to be how to get the most money for the smallest compensation, and how to rob the soldier of his hard earned gains in the meanest, smallest, and most scientific manner. We told them we would give them a first rate notice, and we again say that a man can get starved for the most money on that boat than on any other in the river, and if this boat is a sample of the living on board of the Mississippi River steamboats, God pity the river travelers. We proceeded on our voyage down the river to the mouth of White river, where we stopped for the night, and in the morning was taken under convoy of two gunboats. Our pickets were fired upon here, as we were obliged to picket the woods for fear of a surprise, but no damage to our side. On Tuesday we were fired upon by guerillas from the shore, and returned the fire from our battery, the gunboats shelling the woods at the same time. During a severe squall one of our boats was blown ashore, and our boat grounded once, and in the height of the squall took fire over the boilers, which was soon got under without material damage. We again stopped at Lake Providence for the night, and Wednesday morning started for the Yazoo river. We arrived at Snyder’s Bluffs at noon, and disembarked, and were marched about three miles toward Vicksburg, where we now (June 19) are encamped. You need have no fear for Vicksburg, it is surely ours, and we believe the large part of Johnston’s army will be so in a short time. Our government is at work with a will and determination to end this war on the Mississippi, and is exerting all its energies for that purpose, and it will be accomplished. As the mail is about to start we must close. We are now in Christ’s Brigade, Potter’s Division, 9th Army Corps, near Vicksburg. In giving you the names of those who are now with the company, and who went with it to Kentucky, we omitted the name of Charles E. Tillson of Plymouth, one of our best men, and one who has always been with his company, faithful to his trust and to his duty. Company “E’ has received thirteen recruits since it left Plymouth, of which, only Tillson and G. F. Peckham have been able to stick the fatigues incident to camp life, and they are the only ones with the company at this time.“
Saturday, June 20th—There was very heavy firing this morning and through the night towards Vicksburg. It has been a good day though warm.
Sunday, June 21st—I have been sick today with my head. It has been very much swelled up & I can hardly see out of my eyes. It is said that the rebels made a sally out of Vicksburg yesterday morning and took one of our batteries. Our troops got a cross fire on them & they had to leave it. Also we took one of theirs. Had some blackberries today.
Monday, June 22nd—I have had a sick miserable day’s excessive pain in my head and my eye’s so swollen that I could hardly see. There was heavy cannonading all night at Vicksburg.
Tuesday, June 23rd—I have been a little better today but had a hard night. My head is not so painful. Lieut. [Peter] Winsor is out in fatigue duty and one hundred men from this regiment under Maj. Chipman digging entrenchments, rifle pits, &c. Weather good. We expect Gen. Johnston down on us soon as it is said he is making a move to try to relieve Vicksburg.
Wednesday, June 24th—We had a good shower last evening but it did not wet down much. The heavy guns have been firing all day and night at the rate of near two per minute.
Thursday, June 25th—A very warm day. Regiment again on fatigue digging rifle pits and entrenchments. Johnston crossed the Big Black River and attacked Grant’s rear but was defeated and recrossed the river, eaving his dead and wounded.
Friday, June 26th—Yesterday our troops sprung a mine and blowed up quite a piece of one of the rebel redoubts and immediately tool possession with a loss on our side of fifteen and quite a large loss to the enemy. It has been a very hot day. The cannonading has been steady for the last forty-eight hours.
Saturday, June 27th—One year today since the Battle of Gaines’ Mill where Lieut. Mayo was killed. We have one hundred and thirty men detailed for fatigue on the trenches. Nothing much has occurred today. We had orders to have 60 rounds per man & five days rations ready.
Sunday, June 28th—Finished my muster rolls today and they are ready.
Monday, June 29th—Started from Millville [Milldale], Mississippi, and marched about six miles. Thermometer at 100 in the shade. It was very hot and near one half of the regiment fell out. Captains Clarke and Lee were sun struck and other officers had to fall out. I stood it through quite well. We camped in the woods near half way to the Bog Black River from the Yazoo. Water is very hard to get here.
Tuesday, June 30th—We were mustered today by Lieut.-Col. Barnes. We left all our things at the old camp as we have no transportation. went blackberrying and went through a canebrake for the first time and I think it will be the last of my own accord. Weather very hot.
Wednesday, July 1st—A detachment of the 9th New Hampshire are cutting down the forest at our camp and our officers have to remove their quarters. The weather is very hot. We have no tents now.
Thursday, July 2nd—Heavy firing at Vicksburg. All else quiet. Got a paper from home but no letters. Still very hot.
Friday, July 3rd—Ninety-five men were detailed under my command for wood cutting. We cut over several acres of good tiber to expose a ravine to our shells and keep it from being used as a cover by the Rebels. Weather good and cloudy.
Saturday, July 4th—Vicksburg capitulated today. We received orders to march with four days rations and at 3:30 o’clock p.m., started for the Big Black river. We marched till 9 o’clock and encamped. We received all our back mail today. I have twelve letters and lots of papers.
Sunday, July 5th—Marched to near the Big Black and encamped. Had considerable skirmishing through the night. The 4th Iowa lost 4 killed and 40 wounded as they were the skirmishers. Very hot and dusty.
Monday, July 6th—We still remain in camp. Our skirmishers are still at work. We are advancing in (it is said) three columns, one crossing above & one below us—we holding the center. We have orders to march this evening. A heavy squall prevented our advance. Lieut. [Peter] Winsor received his discharge today and left for home.
Tuesday, July 7th—A splendid morning and nothing to eat. We took up line of march at 1 o’clock p.m. It was very hot. We crossed the Big Black at 3:15 o’clock p.m. and marched till about 11 o’clock p.m. At 8 o’clock we had a heavy, severe tempest and made it very heavy traveling. It was so dark that we had to take hold of each other to keep our way and the lightning very blinding. We did not advance more than two miles in the last two hours. We were wet through and laid down so.
Wednesday, July 8th—We had for our comfort another thunderstorm during the night and at 4 o’clock this morning, we again took up our line of march, [but] as we had not but little sleep, it was hard work. The roads were good today.
Thursday, July 9th—We marched till two o’clock this morning and encamped and at 7 o’clock a.m. started again. It has been very hot and men have fallen out in large numbers. Four died from sun stroke. We marched till 8 p.m. and encamped. we passed near Clinton, Mississippi, at 10 o’clock. Our regiment was ordered on picket. A fine house near us that the owners had left was burned with all its fine furniture by our troops.
Siege of Jackson, Mississippi
Friday, July 10th—We came off picket this morning and having piled up our knapsacks as per order and left a guard on them, we started for our position near Jackson, Mississippi. We marched through woods and fields of corn to the north of the city and stopped to rest about four miles from the city, it being very hot. We have marched through splendid fields of corn that were miles in extent and looked beautiful. At 9 o’clock p.m., we took position near the city on the Jackson & Memphis Railroad to support a battery (as usual). Our troops burned a large number of cotton presses & one fine mansion today as we passed along.
Saturday, July 11th—This morning our skirmishers opened on the Rebel pickets and drove them in and at 6:30 o’clock our batteries opened with shell. We support the New York Battery “L.” We passed the Insane Asylum belonging to the State. It is a beautiful structure & grounds well laid out. we had a severe tempest today. The 2nd Michigan lost severely by storming a redoubt which they took but could not hold, not being properly backed up & the 36th Massachusetts lost severely by skirmishing. At 7 o’clock p.m. we were ordered to throw up six barbettes for the 20 rifle guns of “Benjamin’s Battery.” All my men are present tonight.
Sunday, July 12th—We worked all night and at 6 o’clock this morning finished our work. Our men are pretty well used up with hard labor and no sleep and half rations. At 6:30 o’clock we were ordered to take position on the left near the woods. At 7:15 a.m. all our batteries opened on the Rebel batteries and the city. At 9:30 o’clock a.m., the batteries in front of us ceased to reply except occasionally. We are close to our line of skirmishers and are the support. At ten o’clock the Rebs get good range of our regiment and their shot truck close. One of our sergeants was sun struck today.
Monday, July 13th—We held our position through the night. The skirmishers were relieved this morning by the 7th Rhode Island. The Rebels are popping away quite smart this morning. The Rebels in front of us was supposed to be reinforced by three regiments last night and were at work all night supposedly on rifle pits. Lieut.-Colonel Barnes and myself went out to the skirmishers and each took a shot at the Rebels—he at the battery, I at the flag. At 2 o’clock the Rebs attacked our line of skirmishers but were driven back. Lieut. Colonel [Thomas S.] Brenholtz of the 50th Penna. was severely wounded.
Tuesday, July 14th—We were relieved this morning and sent to the rear to rest as we have been to the front so long that the men are most used up. Yesterday on our right we got a raking fire on the rebel rifle pits and killed a large number. We have given then under a flag of truce till 4 o’clock p.m. to bury their dead. At 6 o’clock p.m. my company was ordered out for picket.
Wednesday, July 15th—Was relieve from picket this morning by Co. D and returned to the regiment. Mended up my clothes & haversack. We are ordered to keep a good look out as we expect a sortie from the rebels. We have been shelling the city to try to provoke it all night.
Thursday, July 16th–At 3 o’clock this morning our regiment relieved the line of skirmishers in our front. Soon after daylight, got in position and deployed. At about noon the whole line was ordered to advance till we met the rebel kine. We advanced and exchanged a large number of shots, but the right could not advance. We stood under fire near half hour and then fell back to the old line again, [John] Scully—a private in Co. A—was killed.
From the regimental history:
“On the morning of the 11th, the Brigade was relieved and ordered to the rear, resuming its former position near the lunatic asylum; but in the afternoon of the same day it was again ordered forward, and again supported Captain Edward’s battery. Here it remained till the morning of the 16th, when an advance of the whole line was made, the Twenty-ninth passing up under a heavy fire to within forty rods of the enemy’s works, bristling with cannon, the right of the regiment going into the rifle-pits. Once in the pits, there 246was no such thing as leaving them while it was daylight, and here the “boys” spent the day, constantly engaged with the enemy’s sharpshooters. Though considerably exposed, there was but one casualty during the day, Private John Scully of Company A being instantly killed, the ball penetrating his brain. The regiment in this position held the extreme left of the picket line of our army, its right resting in the rifle-pits, and its left in dense woods, retired so as to form nearly a half-circle.”
Friday, July 17th—We were relieved at about three o’clock this morning and put on the suppers at 5:30 o’clock. It was supposed that the enemy had evacuated and left. We were immediately ordered to advance and found that the rebels hd left. We found two formidable redoubts in one of which was a rifled 32-pounder and plenty of ammunition. We marched to the city. entered the principal street & stacked arms. We here ascertained that Johnston had about 25,000 troops and that he crossed the Pearl River with his army last night with all his baggage and artillery. We also ascertained from the inhabitants that we killed a large number of them in and out of the city. The inhabitants of the city hd dug large holes in the ground and covered them so as to protect themselves from our shells. Our men were allowed to go into the stores and help themselves. The officers of the 29th stopped at the home of [ ]. He had left. Most of his things had been appropriated. At noon we marched back to our old camp. Our troops set fire to many fine buildings and the destruction of the city will be the end. One of the Massachusetts regiments (the 35th as I am informed) raised their flag on the state house first of all in Jackson, Miss.
Saturday, July 18th—We are now at our old camp near the Asylum and are resting the best we can this hot weather & trying to clean up a little. We have burned many buildings near here today, most all nice, handsome buildings.
Sunday, July 19th—I washed out my underclothes today as we are expected to move. We have orders to march back to Milldale, about 60 miles. Our regiment is the provost guard of the division for the whole march & Lieut. Col. Barnes Provost Marshal. An order was read a day or two since that as there was some trouble marching down as regards properly. the best regiment would be selected provost guard.
Monday, July 20th—We started today. One half of our regiment in front of the division, the rest at the rear. We marched ten miles and encamped for dinner. In the afternoon we marched ten miles and encamped at 11:30 p.m. Weather very hot and dusty.
Tuesday, July 21st—We were called at 3:30 o’clock this morning to draw half rations as we were to start at 4:30 o’clock. We halted at ten o’clock having marched ten miles. At 3:30 p.m. we started ad marched till 8 p.m. and encamped in a corn field about 1.5 miles from the BigBlack river. We traveled 20 miles today. One of our wagons filled with young negroes upset today. The team running away with them. Four reported missing. Water very scarce and bad. Our men live on green corn. A few peaces are found on the road & some ripe melons.
Wednesday, July 22—We started this morning and marched a short distance ot the woods and encamped to wait for stragglers as more than half of the division had given out in the march. We yesterday passed through the town of Brownsville which is quite a village. I had but eight men with me last night when we encamped. It is stated that some fourteen men died in the march from the effects of the sun and over exertion. We started from the woods at 4 p.m., crossed the Big Black river at 5 p.m. and at 9 p.m. encamped in a wet field. wet through, and covered with mud. While we were crossing the river, we had a very heavy tempest for two hours. It rained very hard and the road that over shoe with dust in twenty minutes was half leg deep with mud and water.
Thursday, July 23rd—We started at 5 o’clock this morning and marched to Milldale where we arrived at 8 o’clock a.m. and encamped in our old camp ground. Found our baggage mostly safe but many who were left behind sick with the chills which is very prevalent here. We have a great many men behind. Wagons have been sent to gather up the hardest cases and let the rest hobble on.
Friday, July 24th—There is nothing unusual today. It is said that we are to stay here some time. I hope not but fear that it may be so. It is very hot here.
Saturday, July 25th—It has been very hot today. My Orderly Sergeant [Horace A.] Jenks is very sick at the hospital. It is now said that we are to leave here as soon as transports can take us. It is very sickly here.
Sunday, July 26th—Orderly Sergeant Horace A. Jenks of my company died this morning at two o’clock. Disease—typhoid fever. At 4 o’clock p.m. we buried him close to a large Gum tree on which was cut in deep letters, Lieut [Sergt?] Horace A. Jenks, 29th Reg. Mass Vol., died July 26, 1863, aged 31 years. It is on a side hill about three hundred yards from a log cabin and about as far from and close to the farm of our camp. As but one chaplain could be found and he was sick, I made some remarks at the grave and he was buried under the Episcopal service. He was escorted to the grave by the whole company and the drum corps of the 50th Pennsylvania Volunteers. Three volleys were fired over the grave. We had a very hard tempest at half past four p.m. The lightning striking near us several times.
Monday, July 27th—We had a very heavy shower last night and the weather has been cloudy all day. Had quite a sick night last night & have not been out of my tent much today.
Tuesday, July 28th—This p.m. had very heavy showers and high wind. Got everything wet and the water run right through my tent. My leg troubles me much today.
Wednesday, June [July] 29th—Quite a pleasant day with a god breeze of wind. I am Officer of the Day today but do not feel like doing its duties but as I have had but little to do have got along quite well. There is no movements making. Expect to make coffins for which there is a goodly call and nothing new transpiring.
Thursday, July 30th 1863—Quite a warm day. Our sick are ordered away which looks like a move somewhere. Hope so as it is very sickly here.
Friday, July 31st—a warm day. Most of the men have boils and eruptions consequent on our manner of living. I have been and am now troubled with a large one. I got my clothing accounts done today which is some relief. At 5 o’clock had inspection by company officers. Guns in better order than could be expected.
Saturday, August 1st 1863—A warm forenoon but pleasant afternoon. Had heavy showers at noon. It is said we are to start from here tomorrow. The 100th Pennsylvania [Roundheads] have gone to the Landing to embark. I sent my ordnance returns today. took it back from the mail.
Sunday, August 2nd—Nothing unusual today. Had a heavy rain this p.m. No inspection.
Monday, August 3rd—A warm day. The 20th Michigan & 2nd Michigan left here today.
Tuesday, August 4th—A very warm day. The 35th & 36th Massachusetts went to the Landing today.
Wednesday, August 5th—Another hot day. Nothing unusual occurring.
Thursday, August 6th—I traveled to the Landing and went on the steamer Catahoula to Vicksburg with the commissary. We arrived at Vicksburg at four o’clock p.m. and I had about two hours to look about the city. It is a rough-looking place—very hilly and situated in high bluffs. The Court House is on the highest bluff and can be seen a long distance on the river. The river makes a deep bend here but the land is low on the opposite side so that it does not interfere with the sight, or interfere with the use of the batteries as they could and did shoot across it at our boats. The river appears to be at this place not over one third of a mile wide and how our boats could run the batteries with safety or but little injury is hard to tell. It looks about impossible. There is a great number of places dug into the banks on the streets to get into when the city was shelled. The city is dirty and rough about the levee but probably in time of peace looks better. But there is not that air of thrift that there is about Memphis. Its whole dependence is the surrounding country, the Yazoo & Big Black Rivers, for support. I also saw where the attempted canal across the bend was to be. The river is so low now that the bed of the cut off is six feet above the river. The bottom of the canal is hard blue clay and would not wash out and the force of the water could not start it.
We left the city at six o’clock and slowly steamed our way back to the Yazoo. The city looked pretty by lamp light as we could see it for a long distance across the land. We arrived back to the bluffs at about ten o’clock p.m. Many of the houses were destroyed and I saw one church where a shell had entered and burst almost destroying it and many houses were hit but little injured.
Friday, August 7th 1863—Slept aboard the steamer as I did not feel able to walk back to camp. Eat breakfast on board and at ten o’clock got into a team and rode back to camp. Our regiment is out on picket duty. There is many negroes at the Landing trying to get away from here. Tey are real objects of pity as they wish to escape from slavery but only escape to suffer more than ever and many of them are glad to get back to their masters again, sick and weary and disappointed. It is a beautiful day. Slight showers this p.m.
Saturday, August 8th—Regiment came in from picket this a.m. Weather very hot. Bought five cents worth of butter—the first I have tasted for a long time.
Sunday, August 9th—We were ordered to pack up and march to the bluffs but when we were ready to start, tents all struck &c, the order was countermanded and we pitched our tents again. Hot day.
Monday, August 10th—Got our breakfast at 3 o’clock this morning and at about 6 o’clock a.m. marched to Snyder’s Bluffs. When we got there, it was found that the boat would not hold the [entire] brigade. The 46th New York, 50th Pennsylvania, & one battery embarked on board of the steamer South Wester and our regiment was left behind. We pitched our tents on the bluffs for the night.
Tuesday, August 11th—The Catahoula steamer came up today and after taking on teams, &c. we were ordered to go on board at about 8 o’clock p.m. we struck tents, fell into line, and marched on board. We have the upper deck.
Wednesday, August 12th—Started at daylight this morning. The weather hot but good. Came down the Yazoo and turned into the Mississippi. I am Officer of the Day and plenty of work. Yesterday the gunboats left Yazoo City and cane down past us at the Bluffs. We passed Millikin’s Bend, also Tompkin’s Bend. At each of these there is a post of infantry and cavalry. At about 10 o’clock we found Lake Providence where there is also a strong force and at about 12 o’clock at night settled at Island No. 93 till daylight. Placed a picket on shore.
Thursday, August 13th—This morning at daylight, started on our journey with good weather. The night was excessive hot and no sleep. I had a hard 24 hours work. Was relieved at 8 o’clock a.m. by Capt. Leach. We had a pleasant day but hot. In the afternoon had showers and a cool breeze. At 9:30 o’clock p.m. stopped on the Mississippi side of the river for the night. This p.m. we passed the place where we were fired into when we went down river.
Friday, August 14th—Started this morning at 3:30 o’clock. Weather good. Went through the new cutoff at the mouth of the [Ar]kansas river and arrived at the mouth of the White river. At 1:30 o’clock p.m., as we was nearly out of coal, stopped here and got a little out of a wrecked barge and at 6:30 o’clock p.m. started again up river. Last one of Major Chipman’s horses overboard soon after we started.
Saturday, August 15th—The last night was very dark and it was hard work for the pilots to run. Had to stop at three o’clock this morning to clean out our furnaces as the coal we get was very dirty. At 4 a.m. started again and at seven a.m. stopped at a bend in the river about 40 miles below Helena to pick up driftwood as we had used up all our fuel. The weather is hot and our men are getting sick very fast. We have but five captains for duty today. Got what driftwood we could and started again at 11 a.m. At 12 M. met Gunboat No. 26 and put on board of her a bearer of dispatches. Stpped at about 12:30 p.m. at a wood yard and wooded up. Started at 3 o’clock and at 11:30 p.m. reached Helena. While at the wood yard, one of our men [George W. Sprague of Co. G] was drowned while bathing.
Sunday, August 16th—Left Helena at about 3 o’clock this morning and made good headway under wood and coal. Just as we were turning into Helena, we lost another horse overboard. We arrived at Memphis at about ten o’clock p.m. I have been very sick today.
Monday, August 17th 1863—I am rather better this morning. The doctor thinks I was threatened with the Yellow Fever. Hope it is nothing more than that. We steamed up to the coal barge to coal up. The 53rd Massachusetts came in last night. They are 9-month’s men bound home from New Orleans. After coaling we steamed down to the Landing and took on board our quartermaster stores and at about six o’clock started for Cairo.
Tuesday, August 18th—Nothing unusual occurred last night and as I have slept all day under the influence of opiates, I know nothing of occurrences except at about 6 p.m. we run aground but was off in a few minutes. I was very sick all night with a pain in my head & could getno rest. I have eat nothing for days. The opiates make me feel stragely.
Wednesday, August 19th—We stopped at a wood yard and wooded up at about midnight and worked our way slowly up the river all day. Weather very hot and myself getting sick fast.
Thursday, August 20th—I was quite sick through the night. We did not run a part of the night and arrived at Cairo somewhere near noon where we disembarked and took the cars and at about midnight started for Cincinnati. The weather still warm and oppressive.
The following portion of a letter was written by some anonymous contributor from the 29th Massachusetts, not believed to be Capt. Doten:
“We left Milldale on the 10th inst., marched to Snyder’s Bluff, and there encamped. We remained here till the night of the 11th, when we embarked on board this steamer. On the morning of the 12th we left the bluffs and passed out of the Yazoo, with the hope that it will be a long time before we again visit its malarial regions, drink its dirty water, or breathe its infectious air; and as we have before said, we would not swap our right to a decent burial place in good old Massachusetts for the whole region of country laying between the Yazoo and Big Black rivers, if we were obliged to pass our days upon it.
As we sailed out on the broad Mississippi, it was with a gratified feeling that now in its length and breadth it was free for commerce of the world; that the rebels had no foothold upon its banks, and that the good old 29th had done good service in assisting to accomplish this great result, and now after our object has been accomplished we are returning North to the scenes of our former labors, decimated in numbers by the bullet and disease, many sick with the pestilential fevers common to this region, but all hearts beating with hopes of rest when we reach the soil of Old Kentucky. God grant that it may be so, and that we be permitted to recruit our wasted energies in some good place, where some of the necessaries of life may be within our reach, and a paymaster to give us the means to sustain ourselves.
Our boat is a slow old boat and well loaded. We have the lower deck filled with wagons, one hundred mules, and twelve or fifteen horses. There is no room on the second deck except forward, and that is used for a hospital. So the third and upper deck is for the regiment; where under a broiling sun the men must try to live to the best of their abilities. When it came night to our infinite astonishment as well as disgust, we had to tie our old steamer up to stump, our pilots not being acquainted enough to run nights.
On Friday, 14th inst., we arrived at the mouth of White River, where we endeavored to procure coal from an old coal barge that had been shipwrecked, and nearly covered with mud; after working some four hours, we obtained enough to start with, and proceeded on our journey. Just at dark a beautiful horse belonging to Major Chipman, stepped overboard, and that was the last we saw of him. The next morning we stopped at a bend in the river to pick up drift wood, as we were out of coal and no wood yard in sight. With what drift wood we picked up here we reached a wood-yard, where we wooded up in good shape. While here our men took the opportunity to bath in the river; one fine young man by the name of Sprague, belonging to Co. G, in diving from the boat, struck his head against a snag and sunk to rise no more. In the course of the evening another horse stepped overboard. We reached Helena, about midnight, where we stopped till morning, and where we buried one of our men that died that day; on Sunday night we arrived in Memphis. We stopped at Memphis through the day, loaded up, took on board our rations, and again wheezed our way up the Mississippi.
We arrived at Island No. 10, and as we have to take the east channel past the Island, the current made it hard work for our old boat, and it was a long time doubtful which would beat, the Island or the boat; but we finally worked up abreast of the Island, when a gun from the fort admonished us that we were to stop and report, which we did, when we put out again, and after a severe struggle of near two hours, as nigh as we could judge, the Island dropped down stream and let us go by; and here let us say, that we have more respect and a better feeling toward Island No. 10, than we wrote you when we passed it going down river. We had a good full view of it this time, and must say it is a port of superior strength, and by patriots in a good cause, could be held against almost any power that could be brought against it. On Tuesday, the 20th inst., we arrived at Cairo, having been eight days on board the boat, and for all that time not one single breath of wind from any quarter to cool the fevered brow; but the hot sun all day with the dread malaria, striking one after another, till but very few officers or men are fit for duty. And a more thankful set of men we never saw than when our old boat wheezed up to the shore and our feet again touched the soil of a country free from the pestilential vapors and dread malaria of the Mississippi river and its tributaries.
Friday, August 21st—We left Cairo about midnight. The weather warm and oppressive. There was more air this morning and as we advance into the state of Illinois, the air seems to change. Fruit plenty and at reasonable prices. We stopped at the town of Tamaroa some time and got well supplied. We again crossed those beautiful prairies waving with crops nearly ready for the harvest. At 2 o’clock p.m. we stopped at Centralia and arrived at the junction at 4 o’clock p.m. The junction is at a place called Sandoval [Marion county, Illinois]. Lieut. Col. Barnes, Capt. Tripp and myself went to the American House and took a room to try to get some rest but was not very successful. The landlady—Mrs. Stearns—got us some supper of nice tea ad toast, but I could eat nothing, but drank some tea. I have had the fever very hard this p.m. We started from here about 11 o’clock p.m. The landlord charged us all but one dollar.
Saturday, August 22—I have been very sick through the night. Took a Dover’s powders and slept near two hours. We crossed the Wabash river at about 11 a.m. We stopped at Vincennes for dinner and rations and started again at 12:30 p.m. We arrived at the town of Vernon and waited orders. I am very sick and my fever is running high.
Sunday, August 23rd—We remained here all night. We should have been in Cincinnati this morning. This delay is dreadful. I fainted away in the cars from exhaustion. We got into Cincinnati about 11 o’clock a.m. and I was left at the depot till near 4 p.m. when I was taken in an ambulance and carried to the Soldier’s Home here. I was put on a bed and had my clothes changed. Col. [ ], Superintendent, was very kind and obliging.
Monday, August 24th—I got into a bathing tub this morning and had a good bath. Stayed here till three o’clock p.m. and then was taken in an ambulance to the railroad for Camp Dennison where after a tedious time, I was finally got into a shanty and put to bed nearly used up with a pulse at 100 and a hard fever.
Tuesday, August 28th—I am of course very miserable today, but rested. Lieut. Pray and Goodwin are in the same building with me.
Wednesday, August 26th—Feel somewhat better today. Have a large abcess forming under my right arm. I sent to the regiment, which is at Covington, Kentucky, and got my trunk today. My old stove came with it.
Thursday, August 27th—I am much better this morning but my arm troubles me much.
Friday, August 28th—This morning the surgeon opened the abcess under my arm and ran freely. The weather was quite cold last night and there was considerable frost.
Saturday, August 29th—My fever has nearly left me and I feel quite encouraged. Have to take great care of my arm. No appetite for anything.
Sunday, August 30th—Had to exert myself and make out two descriptive lists for two of my men that are here—[David] Williams & [James E.] Stillman. Did very well.
Monday, August 31st—I still continue in the poultice business. Have no appetite. Got some stuff today called milk [ ]. The cooking here is dreadful.
Tuesday, September 1st—Walked out a little way today but found I was too weak to do much. Very little fever.
Wednesday, September 2nd—About as usual today. The fever still hangs round. Went into the next ward to see the doctor dress a sore on the back of one of our regiment. It was dreadful. It was 4.5 inches square and near an inch deep and when he came here it was full of maggots. The doctor says he will cure it up. We have a first rate surgeon. He is a young man but kind and knows his business. He is a mason.
Thursday, September 3rd—I think I am on the mending hand. Walked out a short distance.
Friday, September 4th—Slept but little last night. Today went into the next ward and saw two more of our regiment very sick. No appetite yet.
Saturday, September 5th—About as usual. Nothing new.
Sunday, September 6th—We had a heavy thunder shower at three o’clock this morning and cleared the air nicely. It is very still and quiet in the camp. We had no mail Saturday.
Monday, September 7th—We have fine weather here. I received two papers from home. Drummer [Alonzo F.] Howe of Co. H died today. He belonged to the 29th Regt. Thus they go.
Tuesday, September 8th—Took quite a walk this morning but the weather warm and it was hard work. I was very tired when I got back. “Howe” was buried today.
Wednesday, September 9th—Think I am better today and took a good walk as the weather was cool and bracing.
Thursday, September 10th—The paymaster is paying off in the camp today and I am in hopes to get my pay tomorrow. I am about as yesterday.
Friday, September 11th—I was much and agreeably surprised this p.m. by seeing J. C. Cooper from Boston. He stopped here on his way west and stayed five or six hours. It made my heart glad and I enjoyed it. He brought me some little presents from Mary which was very acceptable. Lieut. Pray and myself tried to get our pay today but was unsuccessful. We have got to go to Cincinnati & get leave of absence first.
Saturday, September 12th—We went to Cincinnati today and did not accomplish anything except as it come on to rain with a chill wind, I took cold and am again down with the fever this evening. Saw Samuel Robbins at Cincinnati. J. Whiting came up with me in the cars, he having been ordered to this camp.
Sunday, September 13th—I had a feint spell last night and today have lost my appetite which was getting very good. Hope it will prove nothing serious.
Monday, September 14th—I walked down to the paymaster this morning—tis but a short distance—to try again for my pay but did not succeed. While there, I was taken with the most violent ague I have had yet and vomited. They put me to bed down there and then the fever set in “nigh smart.” The hospital attendant came and with his assistance. I got back to camp used up. The doctor being gone, I did not get any medicine till evening. David Williams of my company died 5 o’clock this morning and was buried this evening.
Tuesday, September 15th—Took good strong medicine last night and had a very quiet night and this morning am quite bright but with loss of appetite and strength. Did not dress myself today but kept my bed. Had an ague spell at noon and high fever all the p.m. got my pay & sent $400 home by the Adams Express Company. Had a hard sweaty night all night but no fever of consequence, but very weak. I sent yesterday to Cincinnati and got some good beef, sweet potatoes, and fruit and oysters & onions. I don’t eat fruit. Have eaten but little a yet. Started my furlough [request] today with the hope of getting it.
[Wednesday, September 16th]—Eat onions & part of sweet potato for breakfast and tasted quite good. Dressed myself today.
Thursday, September 17th—Dressed myself this morning and did not sweat so much. As usual, our doctor leaves us today and a new one is to be tried. I dread it. He has been a good one for us all. My furlough was signed by all the officers here today and I will go to Cincinnati tomorrow where I shall hear from it again. it is impossible to tell. Had a letter from home.
Friday, September 18th—I feel decidedly better today as I slept well last night. Had a good night. Stillman goes home on a furlough today. It rained hard last night all night and today the wind is northwest and cloudy so that I dare not venture out today.
Saturday, September 19th—Lieut. Pray went to Cincinnati today and our new doctor gave us his first visit. Doctor [George S.] Courtright * left us this morning. he came in and took leave of us. We were sorry to have him go. He gave me his address. The weather has been cold and cheerless so that I have not ventured out. My doctor ordered me to take some wine. On sending to the dispensary, no such thing was to be had. This camp is the greatest one-horse concern that I ever saw. It has somehow acquired quite a name for a great place but if I am any judge, it is an unhealthy, miserable concern for the purposes for which it is used. It is situated on the bottom land near the Little Miami River and enclosed with high hills all round. It would make a great drill ground & Camp of Instruction, being originally designed for that purpose, and that is its best use. The cooking and furnishing department are poor, and the commissary department decidedly mean. I have but little cause to find fault at present as I did it when I first got here and soon had all right as far as self was concerned.
*I feel certain that the physician was George Stout Courtright (1840-1915), of Pickaway county, Ohio. His biographoical sketch on Find-A-Grave states: George S. Courtright attended school in Walnut Township and later was a student at South Salem Academy and in 1862 in the Medical College of Ohio. In 1861 he was resident physician of St. John’s Hospital and later of the old City Hospital of Cincinnati. In November, 1862, he entered the Union Army as a surgeon and continued a contract surgeon until August, 1863, when President Lincoln appointed him an assistant surgeon in the U. S. volunteers serving in the Department of Ohio, under General Burnside. In September of the same year he received an order from the Secretary of War to report to the general commanding the Department of New Mexico at Santa Fe. At that time the only railroad constructed reached no farther west than St. Joseph, Mo., a small branch being projected a little farther to touch Fort Leavenworth, but he found that his best method would be to travel by boat to Kansas City and during the voyage an exciting incident was the lodging of the boat on a sand bar. After finally reaching Kansas City he traveled the intervening 1,000 miles in the Government mail coach, along the mail route, stopping only long enough to change horses at irregular distances. The young surgeon finally reached his destination and served until December, 1865, his headquarters having been at Santa Fe, New Mexico, and later at Fort Craig, N. Mex. During 1866-7, he was demonstrator of anatomy in the Miami Medical College, Cincinnati, in 1867 was resident physician of the Cholera Hospital at Cincinnati, Ohio, and in 1868 he came to Lithopolis, where he has been established ever since. While he had charge of the Cincinnati Cholera Hospital, there were 2,000 victims in that city. He was also one of the four physicians who survived the succeeding epidemic of smallpox. He is a member of the Hocking Valley and Fairfield County Medical Association and is an honorary member of the medical society of Middleport, O. For four years he served as president of the Pension Examining Board and has often been particularly honored by various medical bodies.
Sunday, September 20th—The day has been cold and I have ventured out but little. Nothing unusual occurring, Have nothing to record.
Monday, September 21st—Walked out to the station but found I was very weak. Many of the privates here are getting furloughs. Hope to hear from mine today.
Tuesday, September 22nd—Nothing unusual through the day. The weather good and fine. Lieut. bought us some native wine.
Wednesday, September 23rd—Went to Cincinnati to get furlough. Stopped at Soldier’s Home and was kindly entertained by Col. Andrews from whom I have received many favors. Dined with him and then returned to camp having been through Col. Andrews successful as to furlough, and at 8:30 o’clock p.m., took cars again for Cincinnati and put up at the Walnut Street House. Had rather close quarters.
Thursday. September 24th—Got up at 4 o’clock a.m. and eat breakfast. Started for home on the Little Miami Railroad at 7 a.m. We passed through many very pretty towns and following the course of the Little Miami River to Freeport where I think we left the course of the river and arrived at Xenia where we stopped some time, and at 11:15 o’clock a.m. reached Columbus—a distance of 120 miles. The corn crop in the country through which we passed is very fine and most of the land seems devoted to its culture. We again started and arrived at Cleveland at 3:30 p.m., a distance of 138 miles, where we dined and at 4 o’clock p.m. started for Erie, distance of 95 miles, where we arrived at about 6 o’clock p.m. Left Erie for Buffalo where we arrived at 10:30 o’clock p.m., a distance of 88 miles. Started for Albany….
Friday, September 25th—where we arrived at 8:15 a.m. this morning. I took the sleeping cars and got some rest, being much exhausted. Distance from Buffalo to Albany 300 miles. Started for Boston at 9:10 a.m., arrived at Springfield at about 1 o’clock p.m. where we dined and arrived at Boston at 5 o’clock p.m. It has been a hard storm since we left Cleveland. Had to stop in Boston & so took carriage up to 64 Newton Street.
Saturday, September 26th—It is a cold stormy day. went downtown and bought some things and at 5 o’clock p.m. started over the O. C. Road for home where I arrived at 7 o’clock p.m., tired & sick. Rather guess they were all glad to see me as I was them.
Monday, January 18th 1864—Started from home for Boston on my journey west to join my regiment. stopped at Boston. Went to Surgeon Dale and got my furlough extended twenty days.
Tuesday, January 19th—went down to Long Island, saw Capt. Smith and dined with him. It was very stormy and rained all day.
Wednesday, January 20th—The 25th Regiment arrived at Boston today and very well received by the Governor. Gen. Burnside was present.
Thursday, January 21st—Did nothing worthy of note. Was dull in feelings and deep in thought and was rather miserable in general.
Friday, January 22nd—Took the 2:30 o’clock train for Worcester and stopped at Mr. Farley’s as I did not feel able to go further.
Saturday, January 23rd—The weather is good and I took a good range round the town and was much pleased with the looks of the place and its industry.
Sunday, January 24th—Repacked carpet bag and got ready to start i nthe morning for Cincinnati. Selected some things to send home.
Monday, January 25th—It is fine weather. I started at 10 o’clock a.m. from Worcester and at 12:30 p.m. crossed the Connecticut River. At 5 p.m. crossed the Hudson river at Albany on the ice and at 6 o’clock p.m. started for Buffalo.
Tuesday, January 26th—Arrived at Buffalo at 7:30 o’clock this morning and took the Lakeshore road. Lake Erie is frozen as far as the eye can see. At 3:30 p.m. we arrived at Cleveland and dined. as I had some spare time, I took a stroll around the city, Found it to be a very thrifty place. Well laid out and good looking but rather muddy. There is much business done here and everything indicates prosperity. At 7:30 p.m. took cars for Cincinnati.
Wednesday, January 27th—At 9 o’clock this morning, arrived at Cincinnati and stopped at the Gibson House. Our Col. Christ, who told me that the 29th Regiment had reenlisted and advised me to go to headquarters and see about it, which I did and was told it was correct.
Thursday, January 28th—Went to headquarters and reported myself for duty and was ordered to stop in the city for the present & to report myself daily. Went to barracks and saw [one of my former men] Joseph Whitten [Joseph B. Whiting]. Found him in [Co. G, 7th Infantry] Invalid Corps well and hearty.
Friday, January 29th—Went to Camp Dennison and saw [James E.] Stillman of my company, and others of the 29th Regiment. Found things much changed since I left there. At 10 o’clock returned. Went over to Covington, Kentucky, and took the cars for Paris, Kentucky, where I arrived at 6 o’clock p.m. and took up my quarters at the Paris Hotel. In the evening, called upon Doctor Griffin.
Saturday. January 30th—Saw many of my old acquaintances but everything looked about as usual except they have had quite a fire in the business portion of the town and destroyed many stores.
Sunday, January 31st—Did not go to church today and have not heard anything from the regiment. The weather is good. It is rather dull here and one day is as good as a week to see all that there is of this place.
Monday, February 1st 1864—Court day at this place is quite amusing to a stranger. it occurs on the first day of each month. It is a day of general sales of stock which is disposed of in large numbers. Much young stock is disposed of to grocers and large numbers of mules for work. We saw it was put up at auction and $1225 bid but withdrawn as the asking price was over $2000. The people for miles around attend this [ ] & stock market and it is quite a gala day.
Tuesday, February 2nd—Saw Mrs. Scott today. She told me she had been to Washington and saw ex-Governor [George Sewall] Boutwell of Massachusetts and he told her that Peirce of Freetown [Col. Ebenezer Peirce] was not thought anything of at home. She despises him as thoroughly as all others do. It is a rainy day. Paid my bill. Ready for a start for Cincinnati n the morning.
Wednesday, February 3rd—Arrived at Cincinnati this morning and reported at headquarters. and was ordered to Camp Nelson. Capt. [James] Farrand of 2nd Michigan being also ordered to the same place, we went in company. It is supposed that the 29th will come through Camp Nelson and I shall be with them sooner if there.
Thursday, February 4th—Started in company with Capt. Farrand for Camp Nelson and arrived at Nicholasville at noon. Got dinner and took an ambulance for the camp about seven miles distant. Reported at headquarters and put up for the night at Mrs. McKenney’s about 1.5 miles from the camp. Saw [William T.] Nickerson of my company at the camp.
Friday, February 5th—This morning walked out to some graves that I passed and found the graves of [Thomas W.] Hayden, [George E.] Wadsworth, and [Thomas] Collingwood. My company fixed up the head boards. At noon went to camp and reported. Saw [Benjamin F.] Bates and [Sylvanus L.] Churchill of my company at the camp.
Saturday, February 6th—Have been quite sick today and could not get up to camp to report. Capt. Farrand reported me. The weather has ben quite cold and it commenced snowing at night.
Sunday, February 7th—Was so unwell as to be confined to the ouse for the day and could not go out. Weather cold and roads muddy.
Monday, February 8, 1864—Was ordered to bring my things into camp today and occupy a tent that had been just vacated by some officers going to the front. Capt. Farrand and myself did so and slept in tent for the first time since leaving home [last month]. Weather cold.
Tuesday, February 9th—Went to headquarters this morning and saw Capt. [William D.] Tripp of the 29th. He is command of Crab Orchard. He is quite bitter on [Col.] Peirce. He dislikes him much. Had a severe attack of the shakes and fever and had to turn in. Was rather better at night.
Wednesday, February 10th—Have been very miserable today. Had the shakes again this evening and quite sick. I am detailed as Officer of the Day for tomorrow.
Thursday, February 11th—Was sick with ague and fever most of the night but managed to do my duty as Officer of the Day, The rounds are a long distance and much to be attended to. Had a good day and did not feel much worse for the duty.
Friday, February 12th—Was very lame today from riding so much. Gooding of my company is here. He came to my tent. Wrote home.
Saturday, February 13th—Weather pleasant and good today. Do not hear any news from the regiment that can be relied upon, Had a hard night last night. Coughed most of the time.
Sunday, February 14th—This Sunday passed as Sundays usually do in the army. It is hard to tell when Sundays come, so little is thought of it. A large train of pack mules left here for Burnside’s Point today. They each carry about the heft and bulk of four bushels of corn.
Monday, February 15th—It has rained hard all day and it is very muddy. Nothing certain from my regiment. Other officers have been out into my tent.
Tuesday, February 16th—a few regiments came into camp today from the front. They bring no news of the 29th.
Wednesday, February 17th—It was very cold last night. Froze my ties but not very bad. Snow squalls all night.
Thursday, February 18th—The weather is yet cold. No troops moving. A few came in from the different convalescent camps to be sent to the front. It is thirty months today since we left home.
Friday, February 19th—A beautiful, pleasant day and but little duty to perform.
Saturday, February 20th—Quite a number of troops are going to the front today. The weather is cheerful and bright and I begin to feel more at home.
Sunday, February 21st—Capt. Farrand started today for Cincinnati as his regiment has arrived there. I expect to be sent off with a detachment of convalescents. I do not like the job.
Monday, February 22nd—Again on duty as Officer of the Day. Rode out beyond the lines with Capt. Heald and took a good range outside.
Tuesday. February 23rd—Nothing has transpired today beyond the usual routine of camp life.
Wednesday, February 23rd—No news of the regiment yet. Had a letter from Capt. Farrand saying that the 29th had not arrived at Cincinnati.
Thursday, February 25th—It has been very muddy today. I slept at a house near the camp and had a good bed but it was not like sleeping on the ground. My cough holds on. Had my first letter from home today.
Friday, February 256th—Everything is as usual at the camp. There are many troops coming and going with good weather for marching.
Saturday, February 27th—Capt. Wells of the 9th Michigan Cavalry who tents with me left today on a visit to Nicholasville. No news of the regiment yet.
Sunday, February 28th—A dirty, rainy, muddy day. I drew a cavalry overcoat today by the way of Ellis Barnes. The price is 8.75. I am detailed for tomorrow, Telegraphed to Capt. [Edward S] Leadbetter [Co. G, 27th Michigan] at headquarters at Cincinnati to telegraph if the 29th should arrive by the railroad route from Tennessee.
Monday, February 29th—Had a severe snow storm all day and on duty as Officer of the Day. Major Stewart, Inspector Camps, inspected the camps in this place and I had to be with him. We were in the saddle till after dark and did not get through them [all]. Many of the camps are in good condition but some are very dirty.
Tuesday, March 1st 1864—It stormed all night and nearly all day today. The snow is six inches deep and weather very cold.
Wednesday, March 2nd—Capt. T[homas] W. Clarke of our regiment was here today. He came last evening and stopped with me. He gives me much information about the regiment. He comes to get all the baggage of the regiment that was left behind and have it sent to Cincinnati—if he can find it.
Thursday, March 3rd—The weather is good but camp very muddy. Capt. Clarke left here this morning. I have eight reenlisted men to take to Cincinnati. Got my order and transportation ready to start tomorrow.
Friday, March 4th—Started this morning with eight men. Went to Nicholasville and then took the cars for Covington, Kentucky. Arrived at Covington at dark, crossed the ferry to Cincinnati and marched to the Soldier’s Home. Got supper and had a chat with Col. Andrews. Stopped at the home for the night.
Saturday, March 5th—Went to paymaster [William] Cumback to see about my pay. Found I had been reported as absent without leave and could not be paid till the regiment came here. Saw Capt. Clarke. He took steamer for Louisville. Reported at headquarters and took a team around the city.
Sunday, March 6th—Pleasant but cool. Saw J. Whiting & others of the 29th Regiment. Reported at headquarters. Went to meeting at the home—had a good one.
Monday, March 7th—Saw the copies of the Memorial. A communication of mine was put before the board of commissions in which I have spoken highly of the Soldier’s Home and its influences. They were much pleased with it. Engaged clothing as I am pretty well wore out.
Tuesday, March 8th—Have no news from the regiment as yet. Saw [ ] Robbins. went to the theatre in the evening.
Wednesday, March 9th—Borrowed money of Robbins and bought gloves, straps, &c. and shall try to look a little more decent in clothing.
Thursday, March 10th—Bought me jacket and vest today. There has nothing transpired out of the usual course of events.
Friday, March 11th—It being a cold day, put on my new rig and felt more respectable. The 8th Michigan returned today from [veteran’s] furlough bound to the front. Bought me a haversack and wrote home.
Saturday, March 12th—The world moves as usual, but today it adds nothing new or interesting to my first idea of its cause and effect.
Sunday, March 13th—One of those cold, stormy, cheerless days that humanity dreads. went to headquarters. saw steamer come in with troops. Felt most sure that it was my regiment. Got disappointed. Besides too late for church in the evening. Went to Methodist Church.
Monday, March 14th—Cold and stormy. Streets all mud. Rain in torrents. Noah’s Flood. Dull and gloomy. Shut up tight Realy glad when it is night.
Tuesday, March 15th—The same as yesterday. It stormed all day. It stormed all night. I hear the regiment is coming through Cumberland Gap.
Wednesday, March 16th—“Older yet and yet, still colder.” Snow and rain, then rain and snow.
Thursday, March 17th—Snow and hail, fire and vapor. How it tingles round my ears.
Friday, March 18th—Today the gentle sun is shining on the snow and ice so bright. Hope this little bit of rhyming will not keep me wake at night.
Saturday, March 19th—Warmer!!!
It seems likely the following anonymously submitted letter to the hometown newspaper also came from Capt. Doten:
Whenever we have spoken of Kentucky we have always spoken of her as a discontented, disaffected and largely disloyal state. Such she has ever been since the first day that the hydra of secession dared openly to show its ugly head or dared to take the initiative step towards the separation of these United States. She has been from first to last secesh to the heart, although strongly professing Union sentiments and acting with the Union party. But there is not now, nor never has been, any heart or vigor in her actions to repel invasion or to disperse even the guerillas in her own borders, but she has been continually calling upon the general government to protect her and her slave property, and government has done this to an extent that we fully believe is a gross injustice to all other slave States where the loyal citizens are endeavoring to again return to the Union, and by the protection of her slaves, a gross insult to the free Northern sentiment. The slaves of Kentucky should have been freed by the President’s proclamation just as much as the slaves of Tennessee, and Tennessee is this day far the most loyal State, and will give the government much less trouble to protect it. All that has kept Kentucky from being first and foremost in the ranks of secession is her geographical position and her fear for her peculiar institution. Had she been in the place of Tennessee, there would have not been a more bitter State among the Confederates; but bordering on the glorious State of Ohio, where freedom is one of the strongest institutions in the body corporate, she has smothered the sinister feelings of her black heart and shown miserable pretense of loyalty.
Gov. Bramlette in his address to the people of Kentucky, talks of Unionism and of Union sentiment; advises obedience to the laws and tells about driving to an ignominious distance those who in the agony of our conflict have perverted their sacred trusts to the base uses of partisan ends and fanatical purposes, when but a few days previous he presided at a sword presentation to Colonel Frank Wolford, and when the Colonel in answer expressed the strongest disloyal sentiments, advising resistance to the draft and armed resistance to the taking of slaves for government use, calling President Lincoln a traitor and usurper, and intimating that he was ready to draw the aforesaid sword to make good his words, Gov. Bramlette instead of rebuking the Colonel, by his silence, gave full assent to the sentiments presented. Finding however that public sentiment was pressing hard upon him, and that he was holding a very equivocal position before the country, he has issued a proclamation to the people of his State, coldly advising them how to act under the pressure of circumstances.
We have passed through the length and breadth of Kentucky; we have studied her people, their character and disposition, mingled with her citizens at their homes and with her soldiers on the battlefield, place our feet beneath the mahogany of the Hon. Gerritt Davis and eat of the good things of this world, and sat beside the black in the humble log cabin and eat of the infallible and eternal smoked hog that morning, noon and night helps sustain Kentucky poverty and gives tone to her principles; we have traveled on her poverty-stricken railroads, where they depend upon the Almighty for depots, being either too poor or parsimonious to furnish them; we have seen her huge distilleries, where liquid damnation is distilled for the multitude, and seen her tobacco consuming citizens trying to strengthen their nerves by the insidious poison, and we fully believe that if Kentucky had joined the Southern theifocracy at the first it would have been better for the government and for the State. Had she done this, Gerritt Davis’s weak, insolent voice would not have been heard in the Senate, and her grumbling, fault-finding, and bitter opposition of all the acts of the administration would have been met with a decided change. Slavery would have been abolished, and her State government been administered to those whose firmness and integrity would need no proclamation to defend their position. Gov. Bramlette claims that fifty-one thousand of Kentucky’s sons are in the Federal army, and we speak what we honestly believe when we say that clear of their troops that are kept at home for their own protection, and those in hospital, that there is not fifteen thousand effective men in the field belonging to that State. Thank God, things are fast approaching a crisis in Kentucky. The day and hour has come when she must be true to her motto, and stand united and firm with her sister loyal States, or she must fall ignominiously into the dirty pool of secessionism, only to feel the weight of her degradation, and then shorn of her besetting sin of slavery and humbled in her pride, she must return to the fold of liberty, of which Abraham Lincoln is the shepherd.
There is no war news here at this time. Several expeditions are getting ready and we think that the west of the Mississippi will give us but little trouble. Most all of the old regiments have been home, and are now returning with filled ranks to the front, and the army of the Cumberland is now fully able to do all that is required of it.”
Sunday, March 20th—Went to church!!!!
Monday, March 21st—I am tired of waiting here for the regiment and have applied at headquarters to be sent to the front. I took a long range over to Covington. Don’t like the place but it is quite neat for a slave city. Better than the average.
Tuesday, March 22nd—Heard nothing new from the regiment.
Wednesday, March 23rd—weather good and cool.
Thursday, March 24th—News that 300 of those who are unable to travel of the 9th Army Corps will be here soon by rail. This looks as if the whole Corps will come out from Tennessee.
Friday, March 25th—Cold, rain & snow. The 300 arrived today and men sent to the 5th Street Barracks. Went to see them and found a number of my company and many of the regiment also. Lieut. Long and [Henry S.] Braden have arrived at Gibson’s . Lieut. Braden is quite unwell The regiment has stared with the Corps to come over the mountains. Col Peirce has leave of absence for sickness for thirty days and as they would not give him transportation for his horse, he has started over the mountains on horseback to save the freight of his horse on the railroad.
Saturday, March 26th—A few more of the 29th have arrived here today and yet more are on their way. The weather is better. Col. Peirce, Captains Oliver & Wilson arrived here this p.m. from Paris, Kentucky. The Colonel looks rusty, seedy. The others first rate. All the soldiers that have arrived have been sent over to the Covington Barracks. Orin D. Holmes of “E” has arrived. He is a good soldier.
Sunday, March 27th—Quite a number more of the 29th arrived today from Camp Nelson. The weather is pleasant.
Monday, March 28th—The first brigade baggage arrived today and three more of my men. Lieut. [Augustus D.] Ayling came through in charge. The mun have been unruly and drunk but none of my company. I have no fears from them. They are under too good discipline.
Tuesday, Mach 29th—Weather dark and cloudy. Some rain. Last night seven hundred of the 9th Corps started for Wheeling, Va. , on their way to Annapolis. Most of the 29th stopped back as usual. Went over to Newport and at the Barracks. Walked round the town, It is quite a good looking place—much better than Covington, but not so large. It is laid out in squares like Cincinnati. Many of the houses are of brick. There is some manufacturing going on here, principally iron work and large rolling mills. The streets are quite clean and tidy. Went across the wire bridge over the Licking river to Covington and up to the barracks. Went back to Cincinnati and got a letter unexpectedly from home. Was much pleased ot get it. Capt. Oliver has the shakes and fever today. Wrote a letter to wife & one to William Lane at Illinois.
Wednesday, March 30th—Cold and disagreeable. Wrote to the Memorial. Mr. Peirce of Freetown [Col Ebenezer Peirce] dined with us at the Soldier’s Home today. Capt. Richardson arrived today.
Thursday, March 31st—It is said that the regiment is one day’s march from Nicholasville. If so, they will some of them be along tomorrow night. The weather is yet cool and cloudy. Saw Capt. [Daniel C.] Buswell of the 9th New Hampshire. He left here tonight.
Friday, April 1st—The regiment arrived last night and camped over to Covington about a half mile from the barracks. Went over with Peirce to see them. They look rusty and hard. They had a hard march over the mountains. In the afternoon they came over to Cincinnati and went to the 6th Street Barracks. Reported myself to Maj. Chipman, he being in command of the regiment.
Saturday, April 2nd—Dark and cloudy. Took my men up to the barracks and ordered them to report to their several companies. A court of enquiry was called and I am ordered to appear and show cause why I had been absent. I produced my papers &c., was examined. The court was called by Lieut. Col. Barnes, then in command of the brigade and consisted of Maj. Chipman, Lieuts. Brown and Whitman. Capt. Tripp, Oliver & Wilson were before the court, they having been reported the same as myself. Got muster rolls and filled them out for my men who had reenlisted at Camp Nelson. all the men who have not reenlisted were transferred to the 36th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteers.
Sunday, April 3rd—This day get my enlistment papers for Bates & Nickerson and had them examined. It was a vexatious job. Got the decree of the court that I was all right as I expected. Peirce of Freetown was very good to me. Wonder what is wanted. He told me lots of vulgar stories as usual. I reported to Maj. Chipman and was ordered to duty Co. E.
Monday, April 4th—A muddy, rainy day. Got my pay after much trouble. Paid Sam. Ribbins borrowed money & lent Bates and Nickerson twenty-five dollars each.
Tuesday, April 5th—Officer of the Day. Got my rolls signed. Drew clothing & ordnance and issued them. Charged and got receipts. Went to the gift swindle and got took in a little.
Wednesday, April 6th—The men were paid off this a.m.—all but those who reenlisted here—and they have spent their money freely. I sent five hundred and fifty dollars home by Adams & Co. Express and wrote wife about it. We are ordered to be in line tomorrow morning at 6 o’clock to start for home.
Thursday, April 7th—Regiment in line at 6:30 o’clock and marched to the Little Miami Depot. The men are in box cars and an old car for the officers. Started at 8:30 o’clock. Changed cars at Cleveland at midnight and proceeded onward.
Friday, April 8th—Arrived at Erie at sunrise this morning. Weather cool and good. Arrived at & left Buffalo at 12 M. Sick with the headache very bad this p.m.
Saturday, April 9th—Arrived at Albany at 2:30 a.m. and started for Boston at 7 a.m. where we arrived at 5 p.m. and were quartered in the Beach Street Barracks.
Sunday, April 10th—Stayed ay Beach Street Barracks all day . Weather cold and stormy.
Monday, April 11th—Regiment got into line at 11 o’clock a.m. and were escorted by the City Guards and Band through different streets to the State House where they were joined by the Governor and then proceeded to the American House where a bountiful entertainment was provided by the City of Boston. After an introduction by Mayor [Frederick W.] Lincoln [Jr.] and a speech from the Governor [John A. Andrew] and having partaken of the splendid repast, the regiment was again formed into line and marched to the Beach Street Barracks where the men were furloughed for thirty days form the 12th inst.
Tuesday, April 12th—Got my men furloughed and state pay roll signed and at 2:30 p.m. started for home where I arrived at 4:30 p.m.
Veteran Furlough for 29th Massachusetts
Thursday, May 12th 1864—This day reported at Boston as per order and returned home again at night.
Friday, May 13th—Reported at Boston gain in the early train. Was detailed Office of the Day. Had considerable trouble as the soldiers were quite drunk and troublesome. Wife came up in the late train.
Saturday, May 14th—Weather thick and foggy. Not more than four men stayed at the barracks last night as thy had passes. Most of the men were around the city.
Sunday, May 15th—A stormy, dirty day. Went to church. Heard Mr. Webb and went out to Dorchester in the afternoon.
Monday, May 16th—Received orders to leave Boston at 5 o’clock p.m. Got ready and formed line at 4 p.m. and marched to O[ld] C[olony] Depot and and started by the Fall River line for New York. Took the steamer Metropolis. Weather thick and foggy and sea rough.
Tuesday, May 17th—Had a thick and foggy night on the Sound. Arrived at 9:30 o’clock this morning and was landed at the New Jersey Railroad [and] at about 11:30 a.m. took cars or Philadelphia. Passed through Trenton and Princeton. they are very pretty places. We have been riding along the banks of the canal. The country is beautiful and looks good as everything is issuing forward fast. There is very large peach orchards on the road. At 4:30 p.m., we came to Schuylkill River where the canal ends. At about 5:30 p.m. we arrived at Philadelphia where we were provided with a colation and at 9:30 p.m. left for Baltimore.
Wednesday, May 18th—Rode all night and at 5:30 a.m. crossed the Delaware river on the boat at Haver-de-Grace, the cars going on the boat. We arrived at Baltimore at 8:30 a.m. and left for Washington at 12 M and arrived at Washington at 3:30 p.m. in a hard rainstorm. The regiment was put into the Soldier’s Retreat and the officers went to the U.S. Hotel for the night.
Thursday, May 19th—weather good. We have orders to march at 8 o’clock tomorrow morning. Have drawn clothing &c. Are ordered to have five days rations and 100 rounds of cartridges. Got my pay today and sent home $260 dollars by Adams & Co. Express. Bought carpet bag. Ten of my men that had been turned over to the 36th Massachusetts arrived here today to be discharged.
Friday, May 20th—Regiment in line at 7 o’clock this morning and marched to the steamer Wawashe for Belle Plains. We started at 9:30 a.m. and arrived at Belle Plains at 1 p.m. and encamped near the Landing. Three of the 29th who were at Washington returning home cheered us heartily as we passed.
Saturday, May 21st 1864—My three years service expires today. Capts. Leach, Oliver, Lieuts. Braden, Whitman, Conant, Darby, Atherton, Goodwin, & Ayling have got permission from Gen. Abercrobie who commands here to go to Washington to be mustered out of the service. These are nearly all of the officers of the Old Battalion. I do not like to be left alone so this p.m. I made a separate application and got it approved. I have been very busy getting ready. It is hard to leave though I have but six men in my company. But this is the only good time I could take for the purpose and shall improve it. The weather is good and troops are passing here both ways—some for home, and some for the front.
Sunday, May 22nd—I have been hard at work today to get ready and to turn over to Lieut. Long my ordnance stores and camp & garrison equippage and get receipts for it. I dislike much to leave but I never could stand another term of service like the last and I think it best to leave with the rest. My men took my things down to the wharf for me and we started for Washington at about three o’clock p.m. where we arrived and put up at the National Hotel. there was a number of Rebel officers on the boat with us as prisoners. They said they were full of hope as to the final result and believed that they should accomplish their object.
Monday, May 23rd—If the Nation was like the National Hotel, it would not be worth fighting for. Provisions small and bugs large. Think the latter fare better than the boarders. Moved my quarters to the Clarendon Hotel and fared rather better. Got my papers ready to go to Boston to be mustered out of the service. The other officers got theirs and started at 5 p.m. I have concluded to stop and settle up with the departments before I leave here. I have begun today. It looks like a hard job to go through all the departments.
Tuesday, May 24th—Capt. Leach is yet here but is mustered out of the service. I have worked hard all day but made but little progress. We had a heavy squall today that cooled the air. It has been very hot here today. Had green peas and strawberries for dinner today. Sergt. Holbrook’s Father and Mother-in-law is here looking for him. Made some progress in my accounts.
Wednesday, May 25th—A good cool day and weather fine. Found Sergt. Holbrook at the Finlay Hospital. He has a severe wound in his foot—the ball passing through his great toe. I was often at the Ordnance Department and made good progress.
Thursday May 26th—Got through the Ordnance Department and begun in the clothing department and made good headway. Took supper with Capt. Charles Drew. He is in the Veteran Reserve Corps and has a good place.
Friday, May 27th—My accounts are all settled up with all the departments satisfactorily at 4:30 p.m. All the officers of the departments have used me very gentlemanly and I have received all the attention possible with the result. At 7:30 o’clock took cars for Baltimore and Philadelphia and New York, leaving Washington gladly as it is in my estimation the meanest place of note in the United States and deeply steeped in secessionism.
Saturday, May 28th—Arrived at New York this morning and had the gratifying intelligence that the baggage cars run off the track near Philadelphia and that probably the baggage would not get along for a day or two. Put my check in the hands of Boyd’s City Express and took the New Haven train for the East and arrived at Worcester at about 3:30 o’clock p.m where I stopped tired and sleepy. Found wife had left for home this morning.
Sunday, May 29th—Went to church this a.m. with Mr. Farley with whom I stopped. Stayed at home in the afternoon and after supper, took a turn around the city.
Monday, May 30th—Took early train for Boston and the 2:30 train for Plymouth where I arrived in due time to make all my friends glad to find that I had got safe home from a three years experience of the service and hardships of war. I have not yet been mustered out of the service nor shall be probably for some time yet as my men that came home are not mustered out yet.
These 44 Civil War letters were written by John Boultwood Edson (1839-1863), the son of Elijah Edson (1812-1878) and Achsah Edna Wright (1818-1905) of Rochester, New York.
John enlisted as a private on 7 May1861 to serve two years in Co. E, 27th New York Infantry. He mustered out with the company on 31 May 1863 at Elmira, N. Y. Although some sources say that John “died in the service in December 1863,” I can’t find any evidence that he reenlisted unless he happened to go to California to bring mules back East as mentioned in the final letter.
Other family members mentioned in John’s letters include his sister Miriam Crane (Edson) Clements (1841-1891), who became the wife of Thomas Clements (1839-1902) in 1862. Albert H. Edson (1842-1863) who served in Co. Am 8th New York Cavalry until he was mortally wounded in the Battle of Gettysburg on 1 July 1863. Harriet (“Hatt.”) E. Edson (1832-Unk)
[Elmira, New York] Sunday, May 19, 
A I have finished a few lines to Ben, I thought I would say something in regard to my things that I left behind. My ink has run out so will be compelled to use the pencil. I have been to church this forenoon & remained to class meeting which was as interesting a one as I ever attended, there bring several volunteers present. I wish I could have some collars—straight ones—sent me as in probability we shall remain some time. Tell Father to try some of the boys & see if he could not get me a Wide-Awake cape. Some of the boys in Woodbury’s have them. He could for a very little sum. Should like to have another fine shirt.
Please send me a stick of that sticking plaster & a paper of peruvian bark. Capt. Wanzer [told] me again that I would pass. It was announced this morning that all the companies would leave this week for some distant post & I will not be back in the state until the end of 3 months which time they are sworn into the service of the United Sates. [ ] quite sick. The other day had a very bad diarrhea caused by the change of water. Everyone more or less has been affected with it.
Our fare is some better than at first. I feel very sleepy on account of having been on guard last evening. Whenever you wish to send anything to me you can do so by express free of charge no matter how small or large. Address John B. Edson, Elmira, N. Y., Care of Capt. Geo. Wanzer, Independent Zouaves
Headquarters Elmira [N. Y.] May 24th 
As I will have an opportunity of sending a few lines free of expense, I will give you a little more in respect to my life here. I have had pretty easy times as yet but tomorrow we are to drill from 10 a.m. until half past 1 p.m. and from 3 until 6 p.m., then from 8 until 9 in the evening so that will tell on a man if anything will. I’m ready for it, however, and will not [ ] as long as I’m able to stand upon my feet. I’ve had the misfortune to have the knife you gave me stolen and consequently am without a necessary article for a soldier’s equipment. I do not tell you this because I want you to send one—not by any means.
The Rochester Regiment re expecting every moment to receive marching orders. They have received their uniforms and equipments. They expect to be sent to Fort Monroe, Va.
I learned with great regret of Col. Ellsworth’s death while leading on his brave and undaunted men to the capture of one of the principal cities near our Capitol. But his death will only make another & still finer fire burn in the breast of every true patriot. May God protect that heroic band which when the incendiary flames were seething & hissing around one of the finest of buildings in the Empire City, counted death nothing compared with frustrating the designs of traitors. And now we behold those led by their noble leader who falls while the shout of victory rings in his ears.
There is one regiment yet to receive their uniforms, then comes our turn. We have had one case of the diphtheria in our midst but the prospects will now [page missing?].
I hope you try and send me those things that I mentioned in my last—the Wide-Awake cape especially for I will need one when on guard duty out of doors. I went down to see our barracks this afternoon and found it a pretty hard looking place. The drill ground—or what will be the same—is very stoney & consequently will be very hard on our feet. We are still in Schull’s Hall, Water Street. Will leave on Monday for our barracks. I shall try and come home and see you all before I go if possible—not without my uniform however. I would like a little money as I will have to get a shirt done up once a week at the least and my being sick took some of what I had when leaving which was not much, as you know. However, I can hardly bear to speak of it & will try and get along without any if possible.
It is getting very near time for our prayer meeting and I must close. I can’t tell the reason why I do not hear from you. I have written several times but do receive no answers. How is it? You spoke of your work being very hard. I knew from the first that you would not like it. But that’s not the question. Uncle James said he was going to Rochester in a few days. I hope you will tell him just your condition. Do not work hard. Take it easy. Men do not expect a man to kill himself or to overdo while in their employ, but what am I saying (trying to advise one what has had the experience you have).
I hope you will take care of yourself. Remember me to all my friends. I ever will remain your affectionate son, — J. B. Edson
Headquarters, Elmira, [N. Y.] [June 1861]
Mrs. Blackford is waiting at the door, or rather passing through. She desired me to send a few lines to you. I hardly know what to say.
We came into barracks yesterday morning. Our sleeping apartments are first rate considering a soldier’s life is so rough. We are to be mustered in tomorrow.
Tell Albert I shall remember him when far away.
As soon as I get my uniform, I shall try and obtain a furlough for a day or two. The package you sent by our Sergeant came safe. I received it last [night]. Tell Albert I will write to him soon. Also Emeline. So goodbye for awhile.
Your affectionate son, — J. B. Edson
Headquarters Elmira Barracks No St Com E. of Union Dpt. June 22, 
I received a letter from you yesterday. In it you stated not having received a letter from me for over a week. I have written two or three to persons around there—one to Fanny, one to Em. Semms so you could heard through them of me. My health is none of the best but considering the general health of our company, I do pretty well. We have some 7 or 8 under the physician’s care. The measles are going through the regiment, taking old and young. There have two men died in our regiment since we’ve been in barracks. The Oswego Regiment [ ] was sworn into the service of the U. S. today. They received their uniforms yesterday and a first one it is in comparison to the one of the Rochester Regiment.
I received the parcel you sent me ad it was very acceptable I can assure you. I’m going to try and go home the latter part of next week if possible—that is, if I get my uniform & pay.
Our new quarters are very pleasant. The race course where the celebrated horse Florence Temple won her laurels is close by. The [Chemung] river runs in the rear of our quarters—a fine bathing place. If you go down East, stop here on your way there. I guess you could or would it be out of your road?
We have started the prayer meetings again and I’m in hopes they will continue. If you have any things to send me, I will try and pat the Express charges, if they are not over 50 cents. I may have some money by the time you wish to send it. Our officers have deceived us in respect to our uniform & pay. The Rochester Regiment fares badly [missing page?]
…had to put up with. We are to have the same but they have not made their appearance yet. They are in the town. Our Colonel told us we might expect them [uniforms] so as to appear at dress parade Sunday evening. I very much doubt it, however. Our pay has not come yet. No knowing when it will come, the Major pledged his word we should have it today sure, but nary bit have we seen.
Our company was told to proceed to the Doctor’s room & be vaccinated. I did not go but suppose I will have to go as it is an imperative order and must be obeyed. The boys were going to see if our Captain will try and have us in Rochester on the 4th of July and show our proficiency in drill. I hardly think we will be here on the fourth, Gen. Van Valkenburgh having received a telegram to hurry off all the regiments now here as fast as possible within 20 days so it may be we will be in the Capitol of our nation before the fourth.
Give my respects to Homer Aylesworth and the boys there. Tell Emeline to write and Albert especially. I shall not write any more if I don’t get an answer more punctually. How does Em get along with her school? I received a letter from Will M_____ the other day. Tell Em that I wrote to P____the other week. If she sees him, tell him to answer it right away or prepare for a storm when I see him. I must close as I want to get this in the office this evening.
P. S. Go and see Ben Swift and tell him to answer my letter. I have never received a word from mine. He does not stick to his agreement. My love to all enquiring friends. I remain as ever, your son. — [J. B. Edson]
[On the eve of the Battle of First Bull Run]
In camp 5 Miles beyond Fairfax Court House and within 2 Miles of the Rebel Batteries July 20th 
My Dear parents,
I’m writing this under peculiar trials and circumstances as I’m seated in one of the camp wagons trying to write to you, my ever loved and to be loved parents.
We left Washington last Tuesday afternoon at 4 o’clock. The order for marching came very suddenly. We marched until 11 o’clock that night to a place 11 miles from Fairfax, there encamped until the next morning at 7 when we started on and such a march it beggars description—one of the hottest days I ever saw, if not the hottest. Men [were] falling out of the ranks at every step exhausted. I stood it until the last when men who had worked in the harvest fields at home in the morning said said if they had had another mile to march, should have dropped in the road. The rebels having poisoned several wells and destroyed others made it very bad for us.
We arrived at Fairfax at two o’clock. We expected to find a large secession force there but they had eloped. Consequently we were disappointed. We stayed in Fairfax from 12 o’clock of that day until 4 o’clock of the next day. We lived on the spoils taken from the secessionists. While there the boys took their guns and shot chickens, geese, pigs and even bullocks. One party went to a farmer’s house some two miles off and found 7 bottles of wine, pies, cakes, &c. No one at home. Fairfax was a deserted hole.
Started at 4 o’clock for this camp where we arrived at 7 o’clock [and] set our picket guard that night. That was a night indeed to me. I can assure you, I laid down upon the ground with a blanket over me [and] it commenced raining soon after and I was wet through. About 12 o’clock we were awakened by the firing upon our pickets. We all jumped up and seized our arms. During that hour volley after volley came pouring in. Such a sight! Men standing whispering to one another. Our Colonel came around and told us to lie down by our guns which we did only to be awakened by another alarm.
While I’m writing I hear the artillery booming in the distance towards the rebels’ batteries. I suppose you have heard of the battle on the 18th [see Battle of Blackburn’s Ford]. It was a small affair [paper creased] troops they having to retreat. The Colonel who led them on did so contrary to the orders of Scott. We lost some two hundred men. Gen. Scott is expected to be here this evening to plan the attack. It is this—to shell the batteries, then pour in shot until they are burned out, then bring on the infantry and give them the bayonet. We are waiting now for the shells to come on so we can proceed wit hthe battle. There will be severe fighting. We will in all probability be in Richmond some time next week. Our Colonel told our Orderly when he asked him for a sword that he would scarcely need one for we would all be home in three weeks. I tell you, it is tough. We will have all of Virginia in our possession before another month. I hope I shall live to see you all again. I often think of home and all its comforts. Tell all my friends if they write to direct to Washington.
John B. Edson, Company E, 27th Regt. N. Y. S. V., Washington D. C.
I wrote to you when in Washington but have received no answer. I will get it if you write. I have received no money yet. Probably will not until we are again in Washington. Let me know how you are getting along and what the people think of the movement of the army in Virginia. I hope to see you before many months are passed. It is very warm today. My love to all. Ever your affectionate son, — J. B. E.
Camp Anderson Washington D. C. July 25th 
My dear sister Hattie,
After the eventful scenes of Sunday last, my mind is much disturbed. I have no appetite for the trash that is presented to us. If you had been anywhere near to have perceived our army as it wended its way through the streets of Washington—it was raining very hard & had been for some time. My jacket I threw away as an encumbrance just before entering the battlefield. O! such a scene. It baffles description. But I’m not sorry. The 27th [New York] Regiment has established a name that will live in history. They, next to the Fire Zouaves of New York, are warm in the hearts of the citizens of Rochester.
The evening of our arrival, Ladies flocked around and with their kindness and attention, ministered to our wants. The Ladies of this place give me a supper this evening.
I can hardly realize that I’m in the land of the living when thinking of that hour. There is a feeling of thankfulness comes over me.
Johnny Clague told me why lying on the field that he was glad the victory was ours. Poor boy. He little thought before the time the afternoon was over we would be on the retreat. He died nobly, cool and collected as if on parade. I was with him all the time until the rebels fired into the house where he was but he died before they had time to torture his body further.
I’m trying to obtain a furlough of a week’s respite to recruit my strength. I hope I may succeed. Give my love to Anna M. I often think of her, and all my friends. Has Father found work yet and where? Get Ann’s and your likeness and send them to me and oblige.
Your brother, — J B. Edson
Tell Ben Swift I will write him in a few days.
Camp Anderson, Washington D. C. August 2nd 1861
My dear Sister,
I received a letter from you, Mother & Annie last evening as I was preparing to send some money $10 in gold by our Lieut. [Charles S.] Baker. He is to leave it at Mr. Blackford’s with Albert. He will deliver it to Father. You can tell him that I received $15 only. I send him 10 as I would probably lose it if I had it with me.
My mind is so confused this morning that I can hardly write at all. There is one thing I wish you and the rest of our folks to understand—also my friends—that I wish no more of my letters to be published or any extracts of them. If I see any more of them in any of the papers, I shall immediately cease writing. I’m not joking now. It is not very pleasant for me. You do as I tell you and all will be well.
Your letter came just in time as I had began to have the blues. The letter I received last night from you was the only one I received from home since I returned from Bulls Run. I expect every day to hear of the order for the Grand Army to proceed across the river again under the command of a man though younger in years than our former one, understands his business a great deal better, and one who will lead us to victory. We never will return but with victory perched upon upon our banner. You never heard of victory being achieved when contending against such odds. 18,000 men engaging 80,000 and they behind batteries concealed and manned with rifled cannons. But I have said enough on this subject.
You wished to know whether John Clague (all honor be to his memory) died contented with his fate, or rather, did he die a christian. I was with him the most of the time which he lived after he fell. I thought of speaking to him on the subject, but he was in too much agony—his pain being intense. You could touch him no place just what it seemed to torture him. God, I trust, has taken care of him. 1
Tell Annie I will surely write her within two days. I have been very unwell for the last 3 or 4 days having had the neuralgia in my face. Have you seen Bill Lockhart since the fight at Bulls Run? I don’t believe I will be able to go home. If my health does not improve enough by the time we have to march again, I will apply for an honorable discharge. Our [Colonel] will in all probability be elected to a Brigadier Generalship. His name has appeared first on the list for that post. You no doubt saw a piece in the paper (the [Rochester Evening]Express) about him. Oh! he is a noble man.
I should like to see home before I go into another engagement as I have a strong presentiment if in another engagement, I shall not escape. I often think of Annie McMillan. I thought of her once on the field of battle. Would I be saying too much, Em, if I should say it was love. But it is really so—she is a lovely girl both in looks and disposition. But as you say, there is no chance for me there. Dare you question her on such a subject? Give her my love.
Tell Albert to write to me immediately. Goodbye. God bless you.
1 Apparently God did take care of him. He was taken prisoner after the Battle of Bull Run and was among those 240 prisoners released from Richmond, Virginia, on January 3, 1862 and conveyed to Fortress Monroe for exchange. Other members of the 27th New York who were among these prisoners released included Solomon Wood, A. H. Cornell, P. Flarity, Charles Hunt, G. L. Mudge, V. Mudge, W. P. Smith, J. McAulay, G. F. Jewett, J. C. Fowler, C. A. Durnell, J. Chamberlain, H. P. Boyd, T. J. Briggs, J. Borden, W. P. Smith, C. Tucker, W. Trall, Ed Watrous, E. H. Warner, T. H. Yates, John Hogan, W. H. Merrill, H. Gerrick, and possible others.
Camp Vernon Alexandria, Virginia August 23, 1861
My dear sister Hat.,
I received your kind letter of the 18th a few moments ago & proceed as to answer it. Always be as punctual as I am & you will hear often from me—that is, as far as I am able to write a person. In regard to my health, it never was better. While away from the confinement of city life as we had while in Washington. I enjoy the highest of heaven’s blessings—good health.
With the blue waters of the Potomac in front of us & the healthful breezes of the ocean to fan our over-heated brows, we cannot complain much except when it rains hard. Our company was out on picket guard Monday and all Monday night. This is dangerous business & to put the climax on the thing, at, or rather in the eve about 8 o’clock after our guard had been set for the first part of the night (which was from 8 o’clock until one, I was on the same), it commenced to rain—and such a rain I never wish to see again much less to be out in. There was a brook close by which swelled to such an extent as to overflow the banks on either side. I was on the opposite side guarding the junction of two roads—one leading to Fairfax Court House and the other to Richmond. I saw if I did not cross then, I should not be able to that night so we plunged in, not thinking how deep it was. The consequence was a fine ducking. Then had to spend the rest of the night shivering like so many dogs. No one knows except those who are out here what we had to undergo that night.
I have just finished my dinner which consisted of boiled fat bacon & bread & water & some [ ] meal with a little something. Oh dear, I’m getting so fleshy—oh yes.
We are expecting an attack every day now. Our pickets have been driven in several times & we have destroyed the bridge crossing Hunter’s Creek in order to detain their coming across. They will meet with a warm reception. Our brigade had a sham battle in the presence of Gen. McClellan & staff. He is a young man & has an eagle’s eye. He is rising with fame/ Remember he is the hero of Western Virginia having never lost a battle while there. You will hear of him soon. Also of the Bloody 27th Regiment.
I have some news for you. There are five New York regiments to return home to recruit. We have every reason to expect our regiment is included in those five. It may be 3 or four weeks before we start as the government will wait until she has more troops to take our place. They are coming on by the thousands every day. We may me in Elmira very soon. If so, I will surely go home (what a delightful [ ]).
How often do I think of home, the dearest spot of earth. I want you to write and let me know how or what kind of a term you had at Mrs. Lockhart’s & if it was the German Society or the Asbury. How I wish you and Bell could be with each other oftener than you do. She has the best disposition of any one I know of. Give her my respects when you see her. Also to her mother.
Has Mr. Clague heard from [his son] John since Mr. Merrill’s letter?
The next time you write, send a postage stamp as I have no money. Yours as ever. Your brother, — J. B. Edson
[near Washington D. C.] [September 1861]
Dear sister Hat.,
Can you excuse a dirty piece of paper. I have no other. You say write a long letter but what shall I write? I know of nothing new. It is you who ought to write a long letter instead of me. There is very little of importance doing near us now with the exception of the erection of the new fort [Fort Lyon] which will be on a larger scale of any in this direction if the Rebels do not take it into their head to rout us out before we finish it, but we would like nothing better than to have them come. What a licking they would get. Excuse the phrase of course.
I was talking with a very wealthy man the other day when on picket duty who has been within a few days within the Rebel lines. He says they are in a desperate condition. A common sack of salt that will sell in Washington for $1.50, cost $7 dollars there. They cannot go so long if they happen to take any of our men prisoners, they strip them of their clothing & put their rags upon them. This man says he is perfectly satisfied that the government will succeed in crushing this rebellion.
So you see the stars and stripes must & shall wave over the land of the slave. Tell Annie McMillan I never expect to hear from her & have given up entirely. She surely could find 10 minutes to write. I don’t care how badly written and all this so I get one. It must be a long one, however, to pay up for waiting so long. Tell Fanny to write me a letter. I wrote Salone a letter and enclosed it in one to Father and you must have received it ere this.
I must close. Write soon. My love to all enquiring friends—Mr. & Mrs. Jackson in particular. I will try and write him a letter soon.
As ever, your brother, — J. B. Edson
Headquarters Army of the Potomac September 20th 
I received yours of the 15th yesterday & will today try and answer it. In the first place, you must not look too close at the piece of paper I’m scribbling on as it is all I have in the world. Not having received our pay yet, it is rather hard for me so if you should not hear from me as often as you desire, do not censure me for if I had the means you should hear from me at the least twice a week. Every other regiment in our brigade have been paid and we know not the reason why they should delay ours so long. I shall enclose this in a franked envelope, not knowing whether it will reach its destination, or as I believe I told you in my last letter that we were hourly expecting an attack, but as yet have had no engagement with the enemy.
The new fort [Fort Lyon] I spoke of in my last is in progress of erection. It is to cover 17 acres of ground & mount 100 guns. It will command 3 roads leading in the following directions—Fairfax Court House, Richmond, and Mount Vernon. Today was the day Gen. Beauregard told his men they should have a fight and march on Washington, but no demonstration of the kind has yet been made.
Our new rifles are a great acquisition to the boys. I’ve made some excellent shots with mine. I’m longing to have another turn at the Rebels now we have such a death dealing weapon. I shot at an object a foot and a quarter square 150 yards distant and put the ball through it. I shall try and take it home with me. I’m living in hopes that this struggle will terminate this winter so that next spring I may be home for good. There is a good prospect of it. While I’m writing I hear they are fighting in Missouri. The report came today that our forces last lost 800 men & the Rebels 4,000.
I was sorry to learn that you were out of work. If you were in Washington Navy Yard, I rather think you could get all the work you would wish for. They are very busy. When I was in Washington, I went all through the machine shops. It was very interesting. Can you not afford to send me a paper at least 3 in a week—that is, if you take any now. If you haven’t the materials for sending–that is, the wrapping paper—just take the papers down town to Ben Swift with the postage stamps and he will mail them. Tell Ben for me that I think he is not doing the fair thing by me—if he would only write me, I would do my best and try and give him an interesting one in answer to it.
There are times, dear Father, when my spirits are very low and much depressed & must have more letters from home. It has been more than a week since I heard from you or the family until I received the one yesterday. I’m now going to ask a favor of you. It is I’m told today that we will not receive any money until the first of next month. If you could get $3 dollars for me, I will send you six for the same when I get my money. I would not ask it but I sent my shoes—those I got of White before I left Rochester over in Alexandria to get fixed more than two weeks ago. I’m afraid the man will sell them. Also a pair of pants & a shirt to get washed. If you could send it, I will more than double pay you for your trouble. Write soon. As ever your affectionate son, — J. B. E.
Army of the Potomac October 8th 1861
Yours of the 5th came safe. Received it this afternoon. I have just returned from picket duty some 8 miles from camp. I was on the outer post. Allowing me to exaggerate, I will say I nearly froze. It was extremely cold. We could not make a fire until daylight as it might be the means of showing the enemy where we were stationed.
This morning a farmer living nearby where we were stationed—a Union man—came and asked two of us to accompany him to Mount Vernon, a mile and a half distant, he having some wheat he wished to bring away & take it to Alexandria to grind. I volunteered at one & in company with a comrade jumped into the wagon with our rifles and ammunition with us. Having arrived near the grounds, we left the man to go for his wheat while we visited the hallowed spot where the mortal remains of the immortal Washington [laid]. The grounds have been left to themselves, having been much neglected. I can tell you I felt proud as I gazed upon the scene and stood upon the same grounds as did the Father of his country. I enclose a leaf that I plucked from a vine that grew over the top of the tomb. It will be a little souvenir of the immortal Washington.
It is reported here in camp that there are 11 regiments to be taken from the Army of the Potomac & sent to Kentucky & that General Slocum’s Brigade is going. It is true that we are soon to leave our present position but where I do not know. You shall hear from me as often as convenient.
I should like to hear from George Carpenter very much. I wrote Miriam the other day but have not yet received an answer. Let me know if Albert has received his horse yet or no & whether the government will furnish it, which of course they ought to.
Remember me to all my friends, I shall send this by a young man who has obtained his discharge on account of ill health, he being consumptive. He will give you a good description of camp life. I remain your affectionate son, — John B. Edson
Camp Franklin November 8, 1861
Your letter of the 3rd inst. arrived this morning & right glad was I to hear from you. I believe I wrote to Emiline on Monday last. Mrs. Barnes arrived some day since. I was disappointed in not getting anything from home. To talk of Scott’s band coming here to the men of this regiment would not be believed by them. We have been disappointed so many times we are almost tired of hearing anything concerning the band.
I was hoping I could get home in time to see Albert before he left for Washington as I have many things to tell him of besides some advice. However, I will see him in Washington. Our regiment expects to get paid tomorrow. If I cannot get a furlough, I will try and send the girls some money. Will do better by them on the next payday. Look at things on their bright side and all will be well. I have many dark days but in God is my trust.
The weather is very changeable & the nights very cold. The days middling comfortable. If the army was on the move, I should like it better as I then should think there would soon be an end to this struggle. I have all confidence in our youthful commander.
In regards to Father getting employment, I should say let him be on the lookout for a chance in some ity like Springfield, Massachusetts. Get acquainted with some of the business men in the city, viz: Rochester. Let him write to Mr. Clark, make enquiries.
In regard to being reconciled to camp life, it is nothing more than I expected to encounter when I enlisted. I wish father would see Ben Swift and ask him as a favor if he will write me. I do not think he is doing right in not letting me know how he is prospering. I have not heard a a word from him since I saw him last in Rochester.
I shall write again in a few days but do not let this deter you from writing immediately on the receipt of this. My love to all. (I am waiting very patiently for those likenesses. When will they come? Echo answers when.)
Yours truly, — J. B. E.
P. S. Please excuse this sheet of paper as I am running short of the same. As ever, your son, — J. B. E.
Camp Franklin, Va. November 26 
My dear Mother,
I received a letter from Father and yourself this morning and was truly glad to get it. We have been having some pretty cold weather here for the last few days. Last Sunday eve, or rather night, we had quite a snow storm here, It looked really queer to see snow here so far south.
We have been kept in rather a fretful condition expecting to go to Beaufort, S. C., hearing every little while of orders to that effect. General Slocum is figuring to get his brigade down south.
Father mentioned in his letter of the probable movement of the Army of the Potomac. There is not much said here about it but ever since the review last week we have been expecting something of the kind.
The government does not provide gloves, mittens, or boots for [ ] the soldiers. I have had to get both of this for myself. I’m in hopes I shall be able from next payday to lay up some money. I am sure I can lend my money here in the regiment to good advantage. I do not know how this will meet with your’s & Father’s approbation. If you or Father think I had better send it home and have Father place in someone’s hands who will pay a good interest on it, let me know what you think about it. I should like to have a little money when I get home.
You had better continue to answer my letters & address them Washington as I should [paper torn]. I suppose Albert has by this time left Rochester for Washington. (God speed him!) May he never experience the hardships that I have is my prayer because I know his constitution cannot stand it.
How is it with Lockhart’s folks? I have not heard from them some time. Has Emeline been there lately?
I have been in hopes that we would [go] down to Beaufort as then we should have warmer weather. If we should make any move in [paper torn]..and let you know.
Move love to all. Ever remain your sincere and affectionate son, — J. B. Edson
Camp Clara, Va. [December] 15 
Dear Sister Hat,
I will again send you a few lines although you do not deserve one for not answering my last. I’m still enjoying good health, thank God.
The weather for the last 3 or 4 days has been splendid. It commenced to rain last evening and the weather since has been very bad. I suppose the folks up North are rejoicing over the late victories at Port Royal and also in Kentucky.
General McClellan reviewed our division yesterday. It was a grand sight, indeed. He appeared in sight with his aides and body guard. The artillery fired a grand salute, then the bands struck up. Just imagine an army of twenty thousand men marching in review. I don’t suppose you can, however.
He—the General—afterwards passed through our camp. Our regiment had all rushed on to the parade ground where they awaited his appearance. When he passed, such shouting and cheering you never heard, I know. I don’t believe there was a man but threw his hat up in the air. As he passed, he gracefully lifted his cap from his hair and bowed (en-militaire) He is the idol of the army. He predicts a speedy termination to this struggle in less than three months.
In regard to getting a furlough, it is utterly out of the question. No man—well man I mean—is or shall be allowed a furlough, so says our General for he says he does not know at what moment he may receive orders to take up the line of march. Our success down soouth will probably call some of Beauregard’s forces away from the Potomac. If so, them McClellan will move on. I rejoice that I am in the service of my country and the prospects so good for having another pass at them & I embrace it willingly.
But what of Albert? I hear nothing of him. I begin to think that the folks are getting tired of writing to me—especially Father and Mother. But I can stand it. If they fo not choose to write, it is all the same to me. I shall not write home again until I get one at least. The money I send enclosed is for yourself. I had hope that I could have sent more but next time will do better. Tell Miriam not to feel hard with me for not sending her some. I sed the photographs to her. Please give my love to all enquiring friends. write immediately on the receipt of this.
As ever your brother, — John B. Edson
Camp Franklin, Virginia December 18, 1861
It is now more than a week since—yes, ten days since—I have heard from home. How is this? If you do not wish to [write], I will relieve you from the task. A soldier of all other men ought to receive all the encouragement friends at home can give them, by writing frequently and when written to, ought to have all the news that can be gathered. Do not think me harsh for thus speaking. It is my nature to be plain. I mean no hard feelings.
In my last letter I mentioned have been over to Washington and seen [brother] Albert. He seemed in good spirits then. Since the there have been several men over here in our camp who belonged to Crook’s Cavalry. They said that their regiment was to be disbanded & if the men would join some of the infantry regiments now in want of men to fill up their ranks, that the government would then pay them for what time they have been in the service. Otherwise, they will be disbanded and sent home without any pay. This is because the government does not want any more cavalry. I wrote Albert a few lines and sent them by one of the men who were over here yesterday. I told him that if I was in his place, I would—if the regiment was disbanded—go immediately home for as I had enlisted as cavalry, I would not enter any other branch of the service—especially the infantry. I also told him before he took any step to come over and see me & then I could better advise with him.
Last week our regiment were out on picket for four days with us about three-quarter of a mile of Annandale & very near to our encampment the first night on our march towards Manassas.
How do you prosper? Does your work pay you well? Have you heard from Uncle Jana lately? I have not since we left Washington, I believe.
The weather in Virginia especially around here is splendid, not having had any wet weather his month. I have recovered my usual good health and am again hale and hearty. I have never had as much flesh upon my bones as at the present. I’m astonished at myself. If I don’t look sharp, I shall come home resembling jolly neighbor Jackson in rotundity. If Albert will conclude to go home, I will let him have money to take with him. The government will of course pay their fare.
Them men are all anxious to be on the march but as yet we do not see any indications that way. Hoping soon to see this struggle ended and of seeing you again soon, I will close also requesting you to be a little more punctual in writing.
Ever remaining your affectionate son, — John B. Edson
to Mr. Elijah Edson
Camp Clara, Virginia January 1st 1862
I received the box you and Mother sent with the contents last evening, it having been brought from the Express Office by our commissary. It having been 7 days on the road, it came just in time on New Year’s eve. If you could have been in camp last night you would have been pleased. Just as the New Year came in—boom! boom! from the different camps and then the different instrumental bands stood up making the night vocal with sweet music. The moon and stars shine forth in their brilliancy causing a delightful halo around the encampments. The weather is as beautiful as May. Still have brigade and battalion drill. Yesterday we were—that is, the whole division—reviewed by our Division commander General Franklin after which we were mustered for pay and will get it probably the last of this or the first of next. We as a squad—four of us—have had to get us a stove for our tent. I will try and send you some [money]. I cannot tell yet how I shall come out. I think I can let you have $10 or 12 dollars. That will help you some.
Albert will get his pay about the time we do. I heard they were making out hteir pay rolls. I have not seen him since I was over there. He is promising to come over here but as yet has not made his appearance. I know of nothing more of importance. Still waiting the word forward. I will now close & believe me ever your affectionate son, — John B. Eden
Dear Mother, I received your kind gift which was thankfully received. I will say nothing to the girls as I do not know whether they had any hand in it or not. I expect I should get a letter from each of the girls. By the bye, I must tell you how we passed Christmas. It was a pleasant day although somewhat cloudy. At dress parade in the morning we were told that there would be no drill so we busied ourselves as best we could. Our dinner consisted of some fresh beef fried & this with the [ ] constituted my Christmas dinner. It tasted too much as good as the best Christmas dinner could possible.
I sincerely hope Father will get into steady and profitable work this winter. Cheer up. I think you will come out all right. The family is a great deal smaller than formerly & Robert is paying his way. Consequently you and Father and the girls might live quite comfortably but if course you know best. I will send some money to you on pay day and that will help you some.
Did you send Emily’s letter I wrote her to her yet? I wrote to Salem some two weeks ago and sent it right through to Magara. Do you know where [ ] Edson is? I wrote Emily a good long letter and shall expect an answer. Have the girls write and let me know how their festivities went off. Is Miriam to be married this spring or next spring? If so, I will be to the wedding. Has her loving Tom [Clements] proved negligent? If so, tell her to send him down here and I will chasten him by putting him in the guard house.
Goodbye from your son, — J. B. E.
Camp Franklin, Va. January 12, 1862, Sunday evening
My Dear Parents,
I write you this under peculiar feelings knowing as I do by whose hands it will be delivered to you—one who but a few months ago I left for one of the slain as I suppose. But thanks be to God he yet lives and by what he says intends to rejoin his company. Yesterday was big day here. About 3 o’clock the regiment got underway and marched towards Alexandria to meet the [exchanged] prisoners. We met them about halfway to camp [and] drew up in line. The Colonel then ordered Open rank and they—the prisoners—marched through, the band taking the lead [and] playing a spirited air. We then marched [behind them] and whenever we would pass any of the many encampments, we would find invariably drawn up in line to receive us, giving the prisoners three cheers. [William H.] Merrell will not be able to join the regiment on account of his arm—it being weak caused by the wound in his shoulder.
I suppose you have or will have before this reaches received my other letter—the one I wrote the other day in answer to Miriam’s. Not wishing to lose the opportunity of sending this by [John T.] Clague, I thus embrace this chance. He can and will no doubt give you a greal deal of information respecting the rebels. I am perfectly satisfied with my condition. I could almost wish I had been a prisoner to receive all the encomiums and praises of a thankful people. It will be difficult for me or any other private to obtain a furlough.
There is no more news of importance just now so I desist for the present. Remember me to all my friends. As ever your son, truly, — J. B. Edson
Camp Franklin, Va. February 13th 
The parcel brought by J. T. Clague has come and am thankful for its contents—especially the ran and needles.
You spoke of a young man by the name of [George W.] Kent having called. I do not wish him mentioned again in any of my letters to me. He is a deserter, he having obtained a furlough for ten days, his mother being sick and not expected to live, as he said. He has been gone 23 days an has no intention of returning to the company. He is a thief in the bargain. He also obtained a coat on a loan of a corporal out of Co. K in this regiment. You would know it. It had two stripes upon each sleeve…the boys all despise him. He dare not come back now. Please send nothing by him for he is not to be depended upon. Have nothing to say to him. I was astonished when I read your letter.
We awoke this morning with the news from Burnsides Expedition ringing in our ears & gladdening our hearts.
I expected to receive more letters by John Clague than I did. Have you got the letter which I sent? It is time you received it and also one I wrote and sent before that one in which I sent home the photograph of General Slocum and Col. Bartlett.
You should have meantime received these letters as I thought a good deal of those photographs. Your truly, — John B. Edson
Camp Franklin, Virginia [Late February 1862]
You no doubt think me a queer kind of brother that I don’t once even in a great while write you. It is not because I do not think of you. On the contrary, every day I think of you and wonder what might you be [like] when I get home—if I ever do.
Bob, I’m soon to hear again the booming of the great guns at Manassas and again hear the minié balls whistling about my ears as I did something like 7 month ago.
You wish yourself old enough to be here no doubt. You may yet have a chance. I hear you have charge of an engine. Go on, study much & gain all the information you can. Spend your evenings at home studying and prying into things. Father will gladly help you in such things as pertain to engineering. Do not pattern by me. Many, many is the evening have I spent in [ ] when it might have been spent so as to prove advantageous in after years.
It may be I shall not be permitted to ever see you again but remember my last thought will be of loved ones at home. It will be a hard conflict but I have no fears for the result. Be a good boy—especially to Father and Mother & Ide—and you will not be sorry. Please write your brother, — J. B. Edson
Camp Franklin, Va. February 27, 1862
I send this box with the letters I have received since the Battle of Bull Run. Also some books that I have gathered together since I’ve been in the army. As we are only allowed so much clothing, I thought it would be advisable to send all these unnecessary articles. The cap I want preserved until I return—if I do. If I don’t, you may give it to Bob. We may start at any moment.
I do not wish to have any anxiety on my account felt by you as it was my own free will that I’m where I am. “Listen.” “Listen” for good news soon. News that will make the heart of the nation glad. Remember me to all inquiring friends. As ever, your son, — J. B. Edson
[Camp Franklin, Va.] Monday morning, March 31st 1862
Here I’m still writing and it’s now 9 o’clock and I have had no breakfast, there being no sugar at the commissary and you know I could not drink coffee with[out] my supply of that necessary article. I always used so little when at home. Well Hat, is Mat Willis married yet? I heard here that she was. John Hall was my informant. He wishes me to ask you to ask May is she remembers the oysters. Please do it. How is Annie McMillan? Give her my respects if you please.
I want you to call on the Lockhart’s and see if they are well. Ask Edna Carpenter if she ever received a letter from me since I’ve been in the army. Remember me to George Carpenter.
I heard George Vaughan was married to Bell Montgomery. Is this true? Please give me all the news afloat & write me a good long letter and send me William Menullery’s letter to you—the last one. I have never heard from him since I have been in the army, or at least since being in Virginia. Now I insist on this. You know I will say nothing to anyone of its content.
So goodbye for the present. Send me something by Scott if he returns. From your brother, — J. B. Edson
Manassas Junction Sunday, April 6th 1862
You no doubt will be surprised when you see this. We left Camp Franklin Thursday morning about 11 o’clock, marched to Alexandria & there took the cars for Manassas. Arrived all safe. As we came through the deserted camps of the Rebs, it was shameful to see the destruction of property. Locomotives & cars burnt right on the track.
Yesterday morning, Friday, I started for the old battle ground of the 21st of July last, arrived there about noon—it being about seven miles from where we are encamped. You cannot imagine my feelings when there & seeing the bones of our boys bleaching in the sun. It made my blood boil. There were a number of bones found of men belonging to our regiment which we buried over and there being a minister present, held a short service of the bones. His name was Parker. I went to the spot where Co. Ellsworth’s Fire Zouaves fought & there were the bones of nearly a dozen of them exposed to the gaze of the passers by. I helped cover them over again. I have now with [me] one of the ribs which was detached from the back bone & intend sending it home when convenient. I also have a piece of one of the Zouaves red shirts which I enclose in this and the girls can work it into a piece or needlework to keep in remembrance of those brave men.
I visited the old stone house where I carried John Clague. 1 It looked natural—only has been torn to pieces pretty well. It still bears the mark of the cannon shot.
This is a rough sketch of the stone house. It was a tough sight to see these bones of our comrades thus exposed.
I suppose by the time you get this you will have received letters I sent by David Scott with the draft in. We expect to go on tomorrow towards the Rappahannock. The whole of McDowell’s Corps are now coming on. I will write again soon but you must answer this as soon as you get it. Give me all the news. So goodbye for the present. Your affectionate son, — John B. Edson
1Bull Runnings, a website managed by my friend Harry Smeltzer, posted a letter in August 20201 that was written by Pvt. John B. Edson on the “Death of Pvt. John Clague.” The letter was apparently printed in the Rochester Evening Express on 26 July 1861 and read as follows:
Camp Anderson, Washington, July 23d.
Dear Sir: – You no doubt have heard of the great battle fought on Sunday last. Our regiment was brought in to the hottest of the affray. I have a painful duty to perform. It is with a trembling hand I inform you of the death of your son John. He fell by my side mortally wounded in the right shoulder. He lived about two hours and a half. Myself and two others carried him to a stone building nearby, used as a Hospital by our troops while in action. I made him as comfortable as possible. He seemed to take everything very easy and died nobly. Our troops had to retreat, and consequently could not bring him off the field. We’ll try however, and obtain it by a flag of truce if the rebels will respect it. John was thought a great deal of in camp. He was quiet and took everything very cool. I am in hopes of getting a furlough for a week or two, until our regiment is made up again, it having been terribly cut to pieces, and then will give you a full account of his death. — J. B. Edson
Camp at Ship Point On Cheeseman’s Creek, Va. April 30th 1862, Wednesday morning
I commence this letter this morning not intending to finish it at this time but add a little to it every day until after the Battle of Yorktown. The weather is now pleasant and the boys are enjoying the oysters and clams with which the creek abounds hugely. They are of a large kind & very fat. All we have to do is to wade out up to our knees & pick them out of the soft mud. The first time I went in after them I cut my feet badly. I have since learned a better way to get them.
Our camp is the best one we have had since we’ve been in Virginia, located in a beautiful pine grove. There is an old Rebel living just across the creek and who owns all the land around here—something like 200 acres. He told me the other day that he paid 25 cents per bushel for these oysters and had them brought from the James river and planted them on his plantation which is nearly surrounded by water & that he had 3,000 bushels before the Union soldiers came here & would not have 100 bushels left when they went away. Whenever he hears a tree fall, he sighs and says, “there goes $5.” Poor old fool. He has 3 sons in and one son-in-law in the rebel army. He says the Rebs used him far better than we do. We have no pity for the old fellow.
You may think it strange that McClellan does not make the attack. I hear he is growing very unpopular at the North. Perish the man who says ought of this man. The rebels are very strongly fortified clear across the peninsula. Two privates were taken prisoner the other day and brought to the prison boat. They say that Yorktown will be ours shortly. They do not believe that Fort Henry or Donelson is taken. They say it’s a lie and that they never can be taken. News came in camp to the capture of the Crescent City (New Orleans). I learn that Magruder has offered to surrender on conditions but it’s of no use, they have got to surrender unconditionally or fight. They are constantly firing to find out the position of our forces. These prisoners say they—the Rebs—are pretty troubled ot know how we are situated. There is no firing allowed on [ ] or loud talking or singing. All fires for cooking purposes have to be under ground.
We are still expecting to go on board at any moment. Some of the field officers were saying that our destination was Gloucester, just opposite Yorktown, and that we would have to land under cover of the gunboats. An order was read on dress parade last eve from General Slocum that when we disembarked, we would have to be upon [ ] before daylight with our accoutrements on & arms in hand & thus rest upon them until reveille. This is to be done every morning to guard against a surprise. We will be then in close proximity to the enemy.
Yorktown, May 5th 1862, 3:30 p.m. We have just weighed anchor having ben at anchor of this place ever since early this morning. Yesterday morning we were astonished with the news of the evacuation of Yorktown & its fortifications. Such fortifications we have never seen before as belonging to the rebs. They are immense. Officers & men wonder why they did not stand. They could have made a grand stand here but the fact of the matter is there is no stand in them. They are fallen back a few miles & have been followed by some 20,000 cavalry. We are now going up the river some 30 miles further & no doubt will see some warm work. A report has lately come in that they—the enemy—have wounded some 500 of our men. No telling how true this is.
I suppose there were great times in Rochester when the news came of the evacuation of Yorktown. You will receive more of the particulars of this affair than I can give you. Gen. Banks is reported as in the rear of them. They will be cut off sure. The rebellion is about a played out concern. You will soon no doubt hear the notes of peace played ringing through the vales of this glorious republic.
They have—the crew—let the anchor go again so we do not know when we will go on. I hope they will land us soon as our company is in the lower deck down to the water line & it is awful warm & no air, and we are packed in as close as the niggers in the hold of a slaver.
I received your letter with the gold seal in last evening & was glad to hear that you were all well. I’m sorry I cannot be home on the 20th. Should like it very much but it is otherwise ordered. I do not understand your saying Albert was at Winchester. How came he there? Has his regiment got their horses or not? Let me know in your next. Send me his last letter.
I shall not be able to send Emily a letter until we are again on terra firma. Is Salomi to be in Rochester the 20th? I must now close so goodbye for the present. Your affectionate son, — J. B. Edson
Mechanicsville, Virginia In Camp 5 miles from Richmond May [21th] 1862, Wednesday afternoon
Your kind letter of the 16th inst. I received day before yesterday & have not until today found rally time to answer it. Since last writing you we have seen some pretty severe marching. We have driven the Rebels step by step until now, as a last resource, they have concluded to make a stand here or on the other side of the Chickahominy in the swamp. All we have to do to get a sight of them is to step just beyond the guard lines of our camp & we can see their pickets and their fires very plainly by night.
Last Monday night I was detailed along with some 150 others from the regiments comprising our brigades to build a pontoon bridge over the Chickahominy. 1 The pontoons were brought over by land. Well, it came on to rain just after we started & rained all night and we poor devils had to stand and take it. We did not lay the bridge as the teamsters were late in getting the boats at the proper place. This work had to be done in the dark and right under the nose of the enemy pickets. Daylight over taking us, we had to hide the boats until the next night. We then started back for camp which we reached at 4 o’clock & found the regiment had marching orders right away & it rained still as hard as it could pound. I was wet to the skin already. I threw myself down in my tent for a few minutes but was soon ordered along with the rest to pack up. With our wet tents strapped upon our knapsacks, we trudged along in mud and water over our shoe tops & in about an hour arrived at our present camp.
The house belonging & situated in the grove in which we are encamped was shelled last Saturday by our batteries, it having been the rendezvous of a number of Rebels. The house is riddled through & through with rifled shells. There are many beautiful plantations around here. The boys have been feasting on green peas & green gooseberries [ ] also sweet potatoes.
We hear Jeff Davis has said the streets of Richmond shall run red with blood before he will surrender Richmond. McClellan is getting some of those guns of Yorktown notoriety which will play mischief with them. Last week our regiment along with the 11th New York [Fire Zouaves] Regiment were out on a reconnoissance and drove the enemy over the Chickahominy & feel their strength on this side. We were accompanied by Capt. Arnold & his battery. We drove them over 3 miles—that is, their pickets, & a regiment of cavalry and a battery.
It is generally believed around here that they will make a desperate fight where they now are in order if possible to save Richmond. But it’s of no use. The [ ] and McClellan will compel them to surrender and that unconditionally. Please send me some papers. Closing, I remain as ever your son, — J. B. Edson
1 At the time of the Peninsular Campaign the area had been subjected to steady rains that turned the entire river valley into a huge swamp. On May 27th a pontoon bridge was thrown at New Bridge but was removed when advancing Confederate troops threatened the site. Another attempt to build the bridge on the night of the 31st also proved unsuccessful. The rising water and powerful currents created by the steady rains made the job impossible in the darkness.
[Mechanicsville, Virginia] Wednesday, May 28, 
I suppose you think you ought to have a few lines. Well so do I. How do you prosper? I suppose you have all you can do & have your time occupied in introducing your Canadian cousin Tom to your many acquaintances. I hope he will try and get a situation in Rochester & remain there until I return which I hope will be ere long.
You will perceive that I made rather an abrupt panic. I wrote this first part of this yesterday afternoon when an order came that the enemy was getting ready to attack us and I with all the others had to fall into line with rifles in hand, but it proved to be only a false alarm. Last eve we heard for the first time of Gen. Banks’ retreat back across the Potomac. It had a tendency to depress to some degree the minds of the boys but I have full confidence in the strong arm of the North. We have a very powerful army directly in front of us and we have to be on the watch constantly. We have to arise an hour before sunrise & remain under arms until daylight to prevent a surprise. This affair of Banks will no doubt prolong the war for a few weeks longer than it would have lasted had this misfortune not have happened. Some here think it a plan to draw [Stonewall] Jackson away from these parts & keep him from reinforcing the Rebels in our front. It will not be many days before we’ll be in Richmond, being only five miles from there. The steeples of the different churches can be seen by getting on a high piece of ground or on the top of a house.
Our regiment expects to go out on picket tonight where we will be within 60 rods of them. Our regiment is in the advance now. General Porter has turned the 13th Regiment of Rochester fame out of his division & says they can not be depended upon & have been detailed for extra duty in the rear of the army. This is a big thing for the pet regiment of Rochester, don’t you think so? There was an account of their running from the enemy at Yorktown. Have you heard of the 27th [New York] running yet? Hey? Well no more boasting. I want you to write me an answer to this & in which you must give me a precise account of the affair of the 20th in which you find such a conspicuous part. I hope you will delay in your matrimonial jump until your bro. Jack can be there to witness it. Have you seen Bell lately? If so, let me know.
Tell Father to send me Albert’s last letter to him to me when he answers this one. I suppose his regiment had to leave Winchester when the Rebels made their appearance & will now probably as a regiment be fully equipped. Let me know all particulars. I shall not probably write again until we are in Richmond. You will soon hear of a big battle near Richmond.
On picket before the Enemy Lines and 5 Miles from Richmond June 2nd , Monday afternoon
My dear Mother,
You must think this a rather queer place to answer your letter. Well, to tell you the truth, I’m somewhat in a writing humor. Your letter of the 25th inst. [ult.] has just been handed to me & I will try and answer it in my poor way. I wrote a long letter last week to Father, Miriam, & Em before I received the box with the cards which latter arrived all safe with the exception of a piece being torn out of the center of the envelopes leaving the letter partly exposed. The cards do very well but I like not the [illegible] the type was not the kind I should have chosen for such an occasion. The letter being [ ] large and not neatness enough about them. Some folks have queer tastes about them, however the present as far as it goes was “well enough” and reflects cordially upon the donor. There is one question I wish—you may laugh at my asking such a silly question—but I must do it. Did Father have the stirring ceremony of giving the bride away? and how was he dressed for the occasion? I’m very particular, you’ll say, no doubt. You were too much so in your letter of the 25th. I like to have the full particulars at all times.
This is the second time within a week that we’ve had to be on picket duty. The first time when we came on at 7 o’clock in the eve all right that night, well about 3 o’clock the next afternoon there came up the greatest thunderstorm I ever have witnessed—perfectly terrific. The rain came down in torrents & we stood & took it lasting until the relief pickets came along. We went back to camp, it being very dark, but the lightning playing fearfully the while, the rain commenced again & also the thunder. I cannot describe it. I could not do it justice but suffice it to say that I never in all my life heard nor saw anthing so grand.
You no doubt have heard of the Chickahominy Swamp in the papers. It is just in front of where I’m writing & the Rebs just on the other side. Our watching is mostly at night, we having to be careful then. How often when sitting or leaning against a tree with no other companion around me but the whippoorwill, the quail, & frogs in the distant swamp singing and grunting their songs, a person has only to be alone in the woods of an evening to realize the beauty of the same. I have read often of the woods being musical. I believe it now. As I said before, when thus on duty watching the enemy, my mind often wanders back to the fireside warm and comfortable, to the white table cloth, & the tea simmering on the stove. How often I’ve wished I could have dropped in upon that circle, if only for an hour. Then stern duty recalls me from my reverie. The busy workings of the enemy in the swamp beyond as they prepare works for a stout resistance to the vigorous efforts of our young Chieftain—the noble McClellan—bids me to be watchful.
Last Saturday the ball was opened on our left wing by General Keys or rather Casey but who had to fall back overcome by superior numbers. Soon General Kearny appeared upon the scene of conflict & turned the tide of battle. I cannot give a description as our Division was not engaged, it occupying the right of the army here, [and] our brigade occupying a bridge and holding it & keeping the enemy from turning our right flank. We have not heard the particulars further than that the victory is ours. You will hear it all before I do. We shall probably cross tomorrow & no doubt will have a pretty hard battle. The Rebs I learn this afternoon [shot] at Capt. Wanzer, missing him, the bullet burying itself in the ground beyond.
I suppose you have heard ere this of the retreat of Gen. Banks back to Harpers Ferry & Williamsport. No doubt Albert’s regiment has had to retreat also and they probably will be furnished with horses. I hope you will send me all of Albert’s letters hereafter as I take a great deal of interest in the perusal of his letters. I admire his spunk, &c. He knows not the severity of a hard and toilsome march. May he never experience what I have in this respect is my prayer.
Our troops are now very near Richmond. It may be before I get a chance to send this we will be in that city. We expect to get our pay now in two or three days, the paymaster being around the camp.
Please send me some post stamps in your next letter as I cannot get them around here. You did right in sending what you intend to Bill. L. although I cannot say that I have much of any interest in the matter. I must now close with love to all, with a large share for yourself. Remember me to all enquiring friends & I remain your affectionate son, — J. B. Edson
In camp 7 miles from Richmond [Mid] June 1862
Your letter of June 1st along with Mother’s I received this morning when on guard. I was pleased to hear of Albert’s safety. He never knows something of what a retreat is and the disastrous consequence. There is one thing I wish to know & that is if they had carbines or the regular infantry rifles or muskets & if they also had their sabers.
We are now back in our old camp having been for 11 days on picket duty at Mechanicsville—a placeI mentioned in my previous letters. I wrote you in the 3rd of this month and send enclosed a draft for $16 with which you know what to do. Please send me Albert’s letter giving an account of the battle. Where does [ ] Clements work now?
Give me all the news you have or may hear & I ever remain your affectionate son, — J. B. Edson
Camp Lincoln, Fair Oaks June 28, 1862
I will endeavor to write you a few lines. We have just had quite a [illegible], the air quality. The weather for the past 10 days has been very warm and uncomfortable. We are still encamped at or near the late battlefield. The division is engaged in building new roads for the movement of heavy siege guns. This is to be another regular investment & siege if the Rebels don’t interfere by bringing on a general engagement which, if they do, McClellan will push right through to Richmond at all hazards. His heavy siege guns have all arrived & are at the station. There is quite an eminence just by and the Rebel picket line which I understand McClellan intends to take possession of & on which he will plant his siege train & which will command the city of Richmond.
They—the Rebs—have tried several times to bring on an engagement. The night before last, or rather in the evening, they undertook a bold maneuver in attempting to get possession of a large quantity of commissary stores which they are in great need of. Our pickets fell back until our batteries could get a chance at them and which soon made sad havoc in their ranks, literally disemboweling a great many.
It is an opinion & sentiment of the North that McClellan intends to be in Richmond by the 4th of July. Allow me to say they know very little about it and it would be a great benefit to the cause of the Union if this set of demagogues would hold their prating. If it had not been for their ignorance with that of a few fanatics in the Cabinet of Congress, McClellan would have been in Richmond long ere this. I just wish I could have the healing of these men. I would give them a dose harder to take than Surgeon [Norman S.] Barnes (camphorated pills).
You do not tell me how you are getting along at Woodbury’s & what kind of work is M. Aylesworth doing at present. I wish you would sed me some papers at all events. Three a week would only be 3 cents, not much. My health is good. Send if you please Albert’s letters after you read them & I will send them back.
Remember me to all enquiring friends. And I ever remain your affectionate son, — J. B. Edson
…steady front 4 ranks deep right up, up to the batteries, on, on, they come. But hard whang goes the grape and canister into them, mowing them down like grass. They reform and still they come only to be received in the same disastrous manner. No less than 4 times have they been known to thus form & press on and in some instances the infantry, who are supporting the batteries getting out of ammunition, have to fall back leaving the gunners to work their guns, there being no way to get the battery off—the horses having been shot down. Thus you have a very faint idea of part of a battlefield. It is beginning to grow dark and I must close. Ever remaining your affectionate son, — J. B. E.
In Camp on James [River] July 4th, 1862
Yours of the 29th I received today. I had begun to think you had forgotten me entirely. [illegible due to crease in paper] since informing you of my safety after the battle of the 27th of June. In it I gave you a faint description of the conflict. The eve I wrote that we expected to be attacked but we retreated from there that night for 5, yes 7 days & nights without rest. But it is alright now. McClellan, I believe, has them where he wants [them]. As our regiment was on its way to its present camp, wading in mud nearly knee deep, Gen. McClellan rode along & says, “Never mind, boys, you will soon be through it.”
We expect to have some rest now & recruit our strength. Thousands have fallen on our side during the past 10 days. I don’t suppose 40,000 would cover the list of the killed on our side. The enemy lost many more. The Rebels have been strongly reinforced lately. Thus their success lately, but now that reinforcements are arriving for us, it will put a different face on the matter.
Let me see, one year ago today I was in Rochester. Little did I then think that I should pass through such scenes as I have. Heaven has been propitious indeed with me—comrades falling around me and I spared. One or two holes through my clothes showing how very near I was being hit. The young man who tented with me all of last winter in Camp Franklin was shot through the heart almost at the first fire we received from the Rebels. They tried again their bullets on John Clague, wounding him in the back of the lower part of his head. It was done by a buckshot. It bled profusely at first. I tied my handkerchief wet in water around his head & he walked back to camp. It was a close call for him. He is now as we as ever.
I suppose you will [have] a good time today in Rochester. I suppose the “home guards” will make quite a sensation. I wonder how they would like to have a few 150 pound percussion shells burst and fall around them? Methinks their pantaloons would be wet. With what? you ask. Not where we did sweat. If they have any manhood about them, they will at once & without delay volunteer to take the places of those whose time of enlistment will be out in a few months.
I expected to see the whole of our brigade taken prisoners on Monday night, we being completely cut off. But by the skillful management of Gen. Slocum & Bartlett, we succeeded in stealing through in safety and by a certain spot where but 4 hours before the bullets that the enemy fired into General Kearny’s men flew through our ranks & the shell & solid shot over our heads. I don’t believe there was a man in the ranks certain that ew would get through in safety.
General McClellan reviewed his troops this afternoon. Sadly & decimated look the ranks to what they did one month ago. There is one thing I wish you to understand—the Rebels fight with undaunted courage. To give you an instance, just imagine an army of 4 divisions in all—something like 50,000 men—advancing & thus to sudden destruction. To be sure, they fought with a courage & bravery worthy of a better cause. They thought to drive us into the James [river] by an overwhelming force but as soon as our tired legions came in sight of this placid stream, “Boom!” “Boom,” came a sound which shook the very earth and great missiles went hissing through the air, then to burst causing panic & dismay in the Rebel ranks, hundreds falling to rise no more.
The little Yankee cheese box—the Monitor—rides just below the camp in the river in her majesty and bids defiance to all the world if necessary.
I received Emilie’s letter the other day & was sorry she was soon to return. If I live, I will endeavor to go over & see her & her folks. I suppose there was a big time in Rochester on the 4th. Let me know all about it. We spent it here amid the booming of heavy guns from the gunboats & light field pieces with the instrumental bands playing the national airs.
My health is still pretty good & feel in good spirits. Would feel much better of it were not so hot but must put up with it nevertheless. I f you wish to send anything to me, send someone over to Mrs. Rogers when you get the box [ ] and see when her brother Ed R. is going to return. He has been home on a sick furlough. I heard he was about returning. Do this if it will not put you to too much trouble. How is Miriam getting along? I think she might condescend to write a little more frequently.
Tell Hatt. to tell me how she & Em spent the 4th. Tell her I saw Tony Walk the other day. He is well & in good spirits. I must now close. I received the letter with the $5 in all safe. Let me have all the news you have. Send me the Express with all the letters from this company in. Do you know what [ ] Tim Edson is in at present. Also [ ] Aylesworth. Closing, I hope to hear from you soon. Your affectionate son, — J. B. Edson
[Camp near Harrison’s Landing] Tuesday afternoon, August 5th 
I will again [write you] today not knowing what may transpire in a few hours to prevent my doing so.
There is a report in camp that General Pope has been driven back to Manassas. This is only a report; hope it may not prove true. If it is so, this army stands a pretty poor sight.
McClellan might have long ere this been in the Rebel Capitol if there had not been such [___]lling in Congress. I will say no more at present on that subject. Our regiment was paid or at least [our[ company this morning. I will give the draft to Capt. Wanzer & he will sent it along with others to his Father, Doct. Wanzer near the [ ] in Buffalo Street. I don’t know a safe way to send it there the old way. So all Father will have to do is to go to the Doctor’s office and get the draft.
Mother, will you purchase me some [baking] soda and do it [up ] in a kind of flat bundle & send it in a paper the same as you sent the Handy & Co,. There is no danger about sending things that way provided the postage is paid on the weight. Do this and oblige your affectionate son, — J. B. Edson
Camp near Harrison’s Landing James River August 8th 1862 Friday morning
Your letter of the 3rd I received this morning and was glad to hear that all were well at home. The weather is very warm at present—Yea, awful hot! You don’t see no such weather north as this.
Our fortifications are about completed and strong ones they are. If the enemy should make up his mind to attack us, I’m inclined to think they would go back with a fl___ in their _____. Just imagine an army of something like 80,000 men entirely surrounded by earthworks & at a distance of about every 20 feet a piece of artillery planted. Just imagine the amount of fire that would belch forth on the approach of an enemy.
Yesterday or rather the day before two of the members of our company who were taken prisoners during the late retreat [returned]. They have fared pretty hard. The Rebs seem confident of whipping us but just hurry up those million men, get them to the field, & we’ll sweep rebellion into oblivion. These men say that the Rebels admit their cause is lost of Richmond falls.
Capt. [George G.] Wanzer goes home to recruit one regiment. When he returns you will have an opportunity to send anything you think would produce benefit to me. I wish I could be one that was to go with the captain but it is otherwise ordered.
I’m glad to hear you have steady work. Should think they would appreciate your services enough so as to remunerate you accordingly. I think if they have not done so, they are mean, unprincipled men.
The box has not come yet. I don’t much expect it now & it don’t much matter if does not. I must close now as I feel ill having been up all night on the [ ]. It is very unhealthy here. I don’t expect to be entirely well until cool weather sets in which is not far off. Closing, I remain your affectionate son, — J. B. Edson
Fort Lyon Alexandria, Virginia August 29, 
My Dear Parents,
I received a letter from Mother dated the 24th. Was glad to hear from you as I always am. Once more in Alexandria, who would have thought it 4 months ago when we sailed down the Potomac for the Peninsula that we would so soon be in our old posts again. “Well, such is the fate of war.” We were told when we got into this camp that we were to stay here but we had but just got our tents pitched after experiencing a heavy rain storm which soon laid them level with the ground, then comes the ominous words, “Strike tents and prepare to march at a moment’s notice.” That order came last night and we are yet here, but as soon as our rations are cooked, we start for someplace—God only knows where.
You say you think I’m having hard times down here. You may well say that but it is no worse with me than with thousands of my brave comrades having made such hard and tiresome marches. We all thought htat we would have a chance to recuperate our failing strength. We have not seen our knapsacks for nearly two weeks and they contain our little all, causing us to wash our shirts & my other things. Well, all this is well enough.
You spoke of Brady proposing to you to send me an under shirt. It would be very acceptable. Only let it be a colored one. You will find some nicer ones of fine soft wool in most any of the stores over the river. Do not get anything that is harsh. You know how tender my skin is. I have never drew but one of those white shorts from the government & that one was the other…Government shirts are too harsh for me altogether. Well, do as you think best & I guess all will be well. This person you call Sergt. Brady is nothing more than a private [William H. Brady] in our company. He was not in any of the battles with his company but came in after they were over so you can judge how much the boys think of him. Our time is nearly out.
If I had more time, I would write more. Give my love to all enquiring friends & I ever remain your affectionate son, — J. B. Edson
Camp Franklin, Va. [August 30, 1862]
Yours of the 23rd I received this forenoon & hasten to answer it.
I have some good news for you. The long wished for time has come. Yesterday afternoon about 4 o’clock the Colonel [Joseph J. Bartlett] gave orders to fall in to line without arms out on the parade ground. He them formed us into a square and read an order somewhat as follows. An order from the Headquarters of the Army for the men to stand in readiness to march at a moment’s notice with two days rations in our haversacks and our knapsacks to contain but one shirt besides the one we have on, it—the orders stating how heavily the teams are to be loaded.
We know not at what moment we will have to start. McClellan’s anaconda is about to make the final strike of the war. He will probably lead on with 250,000 men. General Banks has crossed the Upper Potomac and occupies the same position that General Patterson held when the Battle of Bull Run was fought. He will prove no such traitor as did Patterson and will come down on the Rebs at Manassas like a whirlwind.
Oh! it will be a glorious time when we plant the glorious emblem of our Nation high on the ramparts of Manassas. But I’m digressing. After Col. Bartlett had read this order, you ought to have heard the cheering. He then made us a speech in part of which he said that he was willing to share the fate of the rank and file. He said he knew the metal that the regiment was made up of. (Col. Bartlett will not ask him men to go where he dare not, but on the contrary will lead us into the very thickest of the fight himself fighting like a caged lion.) Just look at his eyes in his photograph and see if you can’t discern a spirit that says, “Never say die.” He is an awful man in battle. If you could have seen him at Bulls Run, just at this point, then at that, always where the worst danger was to be incurred.
When you get this letter, I shall be on the way to Manassas, but you must write all the same and direct to Washington as usual. It may be the last time that I shall have the pleasure of writing you again. No human being can tell. The God of battles only knows. I have longed for the hour to come when we could wipe out the Bull Run defeat.
You no doubt will look at all the news with a great deal of interest but always bear in mind that the 27th will always be in the front ranks of the many eager combatants. Remember too the 27th has the best names of any regiment that was in the field at Bull Run—no exceptions—even the boasted 69th and fire zouaves. I will tell you if I ever see you again.
So goodbye for the present, — J. B. Edson
Look out soon for great news in Eastern Virginia.
Camp near Alexandria, Va. September 5th 1862
I received two letters from home yesterday—one mailed on the 18th of August, the other on the 1st of this month. I was glad to hear of your all being well and am thankful that I still live. Since I last wrote you, we’ve been to Manassas or within a mile and a half of the battleground but not in time to take a part. If we could only have got there—that is, our Division & Corps—no doubt there would have been a different termination. I will tell you if I ever get home about the part our Division & Regiment took in that fight. I am sick of putting things on paper.
Well, I’ve just finished my dinner of pork and beans. I have not yet heard from the box. I think the man who said he would bring it to me ought to [have] made it good in some way or other.
I feel no interest in writing now days. I’m not disposed at all. The news of General McClellan having taken full command of the whole army fills me with delight. If they had not deprived him of his command before, he would have long ere this brought with the help of his brave legions this war to a successful close. “All honor to the Brave Gay Commander & woe be to the man that anyone of us hears abusing or disparaging him, our General.” I’ve been told by persons lately from the North that Gen. McClellan was very little thought of & in some places denounced as a traitor. If McClellan had been on the field last Saturday, things would have been different.
I suppose Capt. [George G.] Wanzer is on his way home by this time. I hear he has been called.
I will close hoping to hear from you often. As ever your affectionate son, — J. B. Edson
Send me some postage stamps and Albert’s last letter.
Crampton’s Gap September 15, 1862
Your letter of the 8th I have just received & am glad that you are all well. Well, I have passed through another terrific battle with the enemy which we—that is, our Division—completely routed. The enemy were strongly posted in the above named gap. It was assigned to General Bartlett to open the engagement with his brigade which he did in gallant [style]. Our regiment was thrown forward as skirmishers to find the enemy and bring on the engagement. On we went right into the teeth of the rebel batteries. They opened on us with grape and canister & case shot but still on we went until the left of our regiment commenced firing. We fought them thus, picking off the rebel gunners and horses until the rest of our brigade came up to our relief which was just in time as our ammunition was just exhausted. Then General Bartlett ordered a general charge of the whole line. We carried everything before us, the rebs running like scattered sheep although having been just reinforced by Gen. [Howell] Cobb with his brigade. The dead and dying are laying all about.
It was a complete victory for us, Slocum having cut their line in two. It was a bold stroke but a successful one. I hear that yesterday they were repulsed everywhere. We are only about 5 or six miles from Harper’s Ferry near the town of Jefferson. You will see it on any of them maps that are in the New York Herald. Probably I shall see Albert in a few days if he is not shot or wounded. There has been heavy firing in that direction yesterday.
McClellan is in the field & I think all will yet be well. Our regiment does its duty everywhere. Remember. I expect we will move every moment.
Ever your affectionate son, — J. B. Edson
On the Battlefield near Sharpsburg, Maryland September 19, 1862
Having a few spare moments, I will use them in letting you know that I am yet in the land of the living. Our Corps arrived on the field just in time to take the front & relieve the men who had been engaged all day. Our Division were not engaged. We did nothing of the offensive yesterday. Last night the enemy moved off. This morning our light artillery went after them. I hear them now thundering in the enemy’s rear. I read in the Clipper an account of Albert’s regiment cutting their way out of Harper’s Ferry. It was a gallant deed. I know not how Albert is. I hear the regiment is about a mile and a quarter from here near Williamsport. I’m expecting to see him every day. I want to see him very much.
We have bivouacked on the battlefield for two nights. The stench is terrible. There was one spot near our company where a Mississippi & Georgia Regiment made a charge, but just as they were crossing the fence, a storm of bullets met them & some sixty were stretched dead upon the field in every for which death by the bullet can cause.
The Monroe County Regiment—108th—were in this battle & young Robert Holmes is reported to have been killed. He was leading on his company while on the charge when a ball went through his breast & he fell. The bullet spares none. Capt. [George G.] Wanzer has not returned yet.
When you write, let me know all the news. How is Miriam getting along? I hear nothing from her. I suppose she has no thought for her long absent brother having [ties?] of another nation to call her attention elsewhere.
There will probably be another great battle soon which will terminate the contest of this fall. I leave you to guess as to what you think will be the result of that contest.
All hail to our young commander, McClellan.
From your affectionate son, — J. B. Edson
Saturday, September 20th—Before ending this, I can tell you that I’ve seen Albert. His regiment was on the move. I had to run from the rear of his regiment to the front in order to see him. He looked well. I’m expecting to see him now every moment having sent word to him to come & see me. Write soon & oblige your son, — J. B. Edson
P. S. Tell Hatt. to write me. Also cousin M. as I did not receive her letter she sent in the box. — J. B. E.
In Camp at White Plains, Virginia and 17 miles from the old battleground of Bull Run November 1861 [should be 1862]
Your kind letter of the 26th inst. [ult.] I received only a few days ago. I not being with the regiment, could not get it when it arrived. I am in good health, thank God. Old winter has set in—snow an inch deep on the ground.
Well, one more in Old Virginia and nearly upon the same ground we have been on before so many times. We have made some tall marching, just back from Harrison’s Landing to Newport News, from there we sailed to Alexandria, marched through there to Bull Run and back to Alexandria, from there to Washington, through Maryland to Williamsport, and then back to Berlin, just this side of Harper’s Ferry where we again crossed into Virginia and are now very near Manassas again. Strange movements.
No winter quarters for the army this winter but strong active war. It is as cold here today & as strong as I’ve seen it in the North in this month. So you can judge how warm & comfortable we soldiers are. I’m in hopes they—that is, our army—will end this affair this month.
You spoke of Albert’s regiment as being attached to our Corps. It is not so. I’ve not seen him since the time near Williamsport, Maryland. I’ve heard while on this march that the regiment is out in front and in the advance & they have lost some in skirmishing with the enemy but where they are, I do not know.
Those gloves you sent by Lieut. Leggett I’m afraid I shall never get. I need the gloves very much as I cannot get any around here. You could send me a pair by mail or you could tell Albert’s mail [ ]. Give him the directions the same as a letter. Hoping to hear from you soon, I close ever remaining your sincere & affectionate son, — John B. Edson
to Elijah Edson, Esq.
In Camp 11 miles from Fredericksburg Stafford Court House, Va. November 26, 1862
Hearing that Father was not in Rochester, I will write to you instead. It has been some time since I heard from home. You know not how I feel when some time elapses before I hear from home. The soldier prizes a letter from home far better than any favors that can be conferred upon him. He needs all the encouragement in the way of hearing from home is concerned that can possible be given to him.
I’m again with the regiment having been at the commissary for the month. It was much easier there than in the regiment for I had my knapsack carried in the wagons. They are the greatest curse that the soldier has.
I received a letter from Annie McMillan a day or two ago which & answered in which she mentions Father’s being in Baltimore. She did not mention what he was there for. I wish you would tell me all about it & if he gets any better wages than he did when he used to go out 2 yeas ago.
Saturday, 29th. I received a letter from Father last evening in answer to the one I wrote when at White Plains. About two weeks ago I heard that Albert was back at or near the junction with some sick horses and that the principal part of the regiment was in the advance along with the 8th Illinois Cavalry. I haven’t heard a word from him since.
I received a letter from Annie McMillan about a week ago. She said in that Father had gone to Baltimore. If he is there, it is but a short distance to where we now are. He could go from Baltimore to Washington, then take the boat from there to Aquia Creek & it is only 7 or 8 miles from there to Stafford Court House and by enquiring for General Brooks’ Division. He—Brooks—has command of our division & has ever since sometime before we left Maryland.
I don’t believe I will ever get the gloves you sent by Lieut. Leggett unless Albert sends them by mail. It would not be policy to send anything by express to anyplace. You could send me a pair of gloves by mail quite easily & not have it cost but very little. I should prefer the pure buckskin glove to any cheap affair for they would not be worth the cost of the mail. We do not expect to be paid now until after the first of January & I should like to have you send me 2 or 3 dollars in money if you can as I need it very much. Also please send me one coarse and one fine tooth comb. Send them in a paper by mail.
The government thinks we can carry on a winter campaign here successfully but we soldiers have our doubts about it. It took 16 hours to pull our rifled gun from the mud into which it had sunk the other day. If we—that is, the army—should go into winter quarters, there is a good reason to believe the two years men will be discharged. If so, Bully for us!
I must now close, remaining as ever your affectionate son, — J. B. E.
On the Battlefield of Fredericksburg December 13th 
This is the second night that we have bivouacked upon the battlefield. The enemy is in strong position before us. We crossed in force yesterday morning the night before after our forces had finished shelling the city. Our regiment was ordered over & deployed as skirmishers and scour the country a short distance in front after which we returned across the river. The next morning—yesterday I mean—the whole left Grand Division crossed. Our position is near the center. Our lines is about 10 miles long so you may judge of the quantity of ground we cover and have to fight over. Our brigade lay under the fire of the rebel batteries all day. Tomorrow we take the front as skirmishers. I may fall. It is a hard contested field. It is (nip & tuck) with both sides so far although I believe the advantage if any is with Stonewall Jackson. I hear [he] commands the rebels.
We attacked them on the left this forenoon with a view of flanking them bit did not make much headway. They have a very strong position. The troops have to spend the night in the open air & tonight are not allowed to unpack their knapsacks. This order is that we may be ready to support the skirmishers in case they are being driven in.
I have not seen [brother] Albert yet. I was near their camp at Bell Plain. I suppose they are doing picket duty still in our rear. If we should beat the rebs here, I think it would be a final one for them.
I will now close this as I write under some difficulties sitting upon my knapsack & it upon the ground. The Rebel campfires are only a little over half a mile distance.
So goodbye. If we meet no more here below, may we meet in a far better world where war & conflict is not thought of. May God defend the right is the sincere prayer of your son, — J. B. Edson
Still on the Battlefield [at Fredericksburg] Monday morning, December 15th 
I will send you a few more lines this morning. Yesterday all day we were on picket and had to lay under their fire all day. Whenever we would put up our heads, they would pop at us. The Rebs are very strongly fortified. It will be a great sacrifice of lives to take their position.
Yesterday being Sunday, they did not commence on either side. I received the letter with the dollar which you sent yesterday.
So goodbye for the present. Your son, — J. B. Edson
White Oak Church, Va. February 25, 1863
Having an opportunity to send a few lines by Chas. W., recon I will improve them. I received the papers sent by Lieut. Roach & was glad to get them…
Albert is no where near me now or was he when I got [ ] He [ ] 20 miles away at Aquia Creek where, consequently, cannot get to him. I heard they had orders to go to Newbern, North Carolina. I let him have my watch some two months since. He then told me I could have the one he sent him so I shall reclaim mine…[ink is too faded to read]
White Oak Church, Va.
[Ink is too faded to transcribe]
Near White Oak Church, Virginia
[Ink is too faded to transcribe]
27th Regt. N. Y. State Vols. Near White Oak Church, Va. April 10th 
Received your letter of the 29th some days ago and have now concluded to answer it. We have just had another muster which will probably be our last.
The President & wife reviewed the army the other day. I was not present on account of a lame ankle. A couple of our boys have just started for the 8th Cavalry. I sent word to Albert by one of them telling him if he wanted to see me again before I went home, this might be his only chance.
The weather for the past 3 days has been exceedingly beautiful….You did not tell me how UncleJohn & Henry are prospering & where they are working & who for.
Father, I wish you to take the money now in the bank in my name & get you a Sunday go to meeting suit of clothes. You can have it in welcome & I want to see them on you when I get home—that is, on the first Sunday afterwards. Noe bear this in mind. If there should be more than you can use, let Mother have the rest to get her a tip top dress—that is, if there is enough now you understand. I will see to Hatt. when I return.
I will now close hoping to soon see you in person. As ever, your affectionate son, — J. B. Edson
We have now (one of Joe Hooker’s days)—the stormy ones.
We expect to start for York State in about ten days. I understand the 13th have given up their arms. I think I saw Albert last. I advised him to get a furlough. I wish he would. I would like to see him in Rochester. You may well feel proud of him for he’s a brave soldier. No fear in his constitution. 27 days at the most have we got to serve but that is short. If I should get my discharge in Washington, I should not go to Rochester with the company and there are a great many others that would not. Our officers have proved themselves to be mere nothings. They have never stuck to their promises. I have an abject…
The government was some 4,000 men to go to California after mules. The men are to be equipped as cavalry, two revolvers, saber and carbine. To proceed to New York City, from thence by steamer to California, to come back the overland route, the regular mail route & bring those mules back with each of us riding one & lead two. Pay $45 per month. …starting first of June. This is what I’m thinking of. I have not yet made up my mind. I have a often wanted to see California. I think it would be a good chance.
I have been feeling somewhat unwell, having a heavy cough, but I guess it will soon pass away. Do you think work will be plenty this summer.
I do not know whether I shall go to work at my business or no. I shall not be in a condition to do any heavy work at the first.
These two letters were written by Josiah R. Kirkbride (1844-1932) who enlisted on 13 September 1862 as a private in Co. C, 23rd New Jersey Infantry. The 23rd New Jersey was a nine-month unit that participated in the Battle of Fredericksburg, the “Mud March,” the Battle of Salem Church in the Chancellorsville Campaign, and the first part of the Gettysburg Campaign. Josiah survived them all and mustered out with his regiment on 27 June 1863. The regiment went by the nickname “Yahoos” when an unpopular officer used it as as an insult because he considered them to be totally undisciplined. But the regiment wore the name as a badge of honor and even had it stitched into their battle flag.
Josiah was the son of William H. Kirkbride (1811-1881) and Elizabeth Boultonhouse (1809-1885) of Mount Holly, Burlington county, New Jersey. Josiah learned the house carpentry trade from his father. He was married on New Years Eve 1865, to Mary Ella Fogg in Camden, New Jersey, but began their life together in Bridgeton.
At the time the following letters were written the 23rd New Jersey was brigaded with the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 15th New Jersey under the command of Col. Alfred T. Torbert in Brooks’ 1st Division of Smith’s VI Corps.
Near Fredericksburg, [Virginia] December 14, 1862
Dear ones at home,
I have half hour to write in. Yesterday we were in a very heavy battle for about two hours. I came out safe and sound. There is a few out of our company wounded. They are Capt. [Samuel] Carr in the foot, Alonzo [Moorehead] Bodine in the back, and one or two others. There is a very heavy battle here and we do not know when it will stop. We may soon be in it again but we are getting the best of them. We were in one of the heaviest [fights] ever was seen. The shells bursted all around us but I am safe.
Give my love to all. So goodbye for the present. Pray for me. From your loving son and brother, — J. R. K.
Camp near White Oak Chapel December 26, 1862
I have just received a letter from you containing 3 papers which was written on the 21st. I was very glad to hear from you. Glad to hear that you were all well. I received that money which you sent me. It did me much good. We expect to be paid off every day.
You want to know about the weather. It is so warm that we sleep without our blankets but I think it is now blowing up a storm. The wind goes moaning through the pine tops. It is a solemn thing to hear. I am enjoying excellent health but I a sorry to state that I hear the dead march played almost daily. None out of our camp have died yet.
I had a letter from C[harles] Risley. He says he thinks he will never get back with us again. Fred Shinn has been to see me three times. He is as fat as a hog [and] looks first rate. He says he don’t like it much. I guess all of the soldiers are tired of war. As for me, I am.
One of our wounded men—Charles Broom—has returned to his company. He was struck by a piece of a shell on the foot. It did not even break the skin but his foot swelled up so he could not walk. He is well now. I have not heard from any of the rest.
What do you think I had for my Christmas dinner? Why I had some fried beef and 6 hard tack fried in the gravy. That was what my Christmas consisted of. Oh how I thought of the many happy Christmases I had sent at home. I longed to be there but I could not so I had to be contented.
I wrote a letter to Maggie this morning. I wrote one to you yesterday telling all about the battle. When you receive this, please send me a quire of paper and a package of envelopes for I have but two sheets and I cannot get any here. Send them as soon as you can. But I must prepare for dress parade so I will close with my love to all.
From your ever dutiful son, — J R. K.
The [New Jersey]Mirror dated the 18th has a true account of the battle. Yours in love, — J. K.
In response to her husband’s reported death in the Battle of Fredericksburg, Capt. Theodore H. Parsons (1834-1863) wrote Sarah Brown the following letter. The letter was short and direct though not very sensitive to the no doubt shattered life of the fallen soldier’s widow.
Theodore volunteered as the 2nd Lieutenant of Co. C, 91st Pennsylvania Infantry on 21 September 1861. In less than five weeks he was promoted to the Captain of his company whom he led until he was wounded at the Battle of Chancellorsville on 3 May, 1863. He died of his wounds on 26 June 1863.
Capt. Parsons wrote the letter to Sarah (Christine) Brown, the widow of Sergeant William Henry Brown (1835-1862)—a wheelwright residing in Philadelphia’s 2nd Ward before the Civil War. Clearly she had heard of or read the account of her husband’s death that appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer on 19 December 1862:
On Monday last [15 December], as Hon. John Covode, in company with a number of officers, was passing over the battle-field beyond Fredericksburg, their attention was called to a small dog lying by a corpse. Mr. Covode halted a few minutes to see if life was extinct. Raising the coat from the man’s face, he found him dead. The dog, looking wistfully up, ran to the dead man’s face and kissed his silent lips. Such devotion in a small dog was so singular that Mr. Covode examined some papers upon the body, and found it to be that of Sergeant W. H. Brown, Company C, Ninety-first Pennsylvania.
The dog was shivering with the cold, but refused to leave his master’s body, and as the coat was thrown over his face again he seemed very uneasy, and tried to get under it to the man’s face. He had, it seems, followed the regiment into battle, and stuck to his master, and when he fell remained with him, refusing to leave him or to eat anything. As the party returned an ambulance was carrying the corpse to a little grove of trees for interment, and the little dog following, the only mourner at that funeral, as the hero’s comrades had been called to some other point.
It’s difficult to reconcile John Covode’s account of Sergt. Brown’s death with that offered by Brown’s captain. There was a flag of truce on 15 December—the day Covode claims to have visited the battlefield with some Union officers—in order for Union troops to bury the Union dead remaining on the field. But perhaps the Congressman misinterpreted the notes he kept that day. If Capt. Parson’s account is to be believed, Sgt. Brown was still very much alive on the15th of December, though writhing in agony from his mortal wounds.
Serving with Sergt. Brown was his younger brother, Pvt. Conrad R. B. Brown (b. 1838) who enlisted on 2 November 1861. Conrad was wounded at Petersburg on 18 June 1864 and discharged on Surgeon’s Certificate on 29 December 1864 as a veteran.
Capt. Parson’s letter can be found in the Pension Office records (WC4959). It was offered as an exhibit to prove the death of her husband in order to merit a widow’s pension.
Camp near Fredericksburg, Virginia December 23rd 1862
Mrs. Sarah Brown, Madam,
I received your letter of inquiry in regard to your husband William Henry [Brown] and I am sorry to inform you that he was mortally wounded on the 13th inst. and died from the effects of his wounds on the morning of the 16th. He was brought to this side of the river and had his leg amputated and had attention paid him until he was buried. I was present with him when he died and I think that death relieved him of a great deal of pain for he suffered untold agony from the time he was wounded.
He was struck by a shell which injured both legs and tore off part of his thigh. The account of his burial by the Hon. John Covode 1 is very near correct with the difference that it was not on the battlefield but three miles away that he died and I left Conrad and John Wright to bury him as I was ordered away with the company. His body can be sent home but we are all out of money. He will have to be embalmed and I would like to know whether you would like to have his body remain where it is until some of his relatives come for it or whether you will wait until the regiment is paid off when Conrad proposes to send him home. It will cost about $50 to get his body to Philadelphia. Conrad is safe. So is Harry McKane. 2
I remain yours &C., — Capt. T. H. Parsons, Co. C, 91st P. V.
2 Henry (“Harry”) McKane (1824-1894) was a member of Co C, 91st Pennsylvania. He was wounded between the eyes at the Battle of Fredericksburg though Capt. Parson reports he was “safe.” Later in the war, Harry was detailed as a hospital nurse. He was discharged in August 1864.
This letter was written by John William Ford Hatton (1840-1911), the son of Peter Dent Hatton (1792-1849) and Elizabeth J. Lambert (1800-1889) of Accokeek, Prince George’s County, Maryland. In 1861, John and two of his brothers—Joseph C. Hatton (1830-1930) and Richard Hannibal Sanborn Hatton (1836-1862) all left their home in Maryland and went into exile in Virginia where they enlisted in Capt. Richard Snowden Andrew‘s Company of the 1st Maryland Flying Artillery. It was actually Richard, a physician before the war and referred to as “the Doctor” in this letter—that enlisted first, joining the company in June 1861. A couple of months later, John (the letter author) joined the company, and finally, in December, as a substitute, Joseph joined his brothers.
In his letter datelined 7 January 1863 from the battery’s encampment in Caroline county, Virginia, some three weeks after the Battle of Fredericksburg, John wrote his widowed mother a letter conveying the news of the mortal wounding of his older brother Richard—“the Doctor“—while engaged in an artillery duel at the Battle of Cedar Run (a.k.a “Cedar Mountain” or “Slaughter’s Mountain”) on 9 August 1862. Notwithstanding the amputation of his arm, Richard died 9 days after he was wounded. It was in this same artillery duel that their captain—now a Major, Richard S. Andrews, was nearly disemboweled by a shell fragment. For hours, Major Andrews held his intestines until surgeons could sew him up though they gave him little chance to survive. He defied death that day and lived until 1903.
It’s evident that little or no opportunity had previously existed for John to mail his Mother a letter. Perhaps a flag-of-truce, or the exchange of prisoners created the opportunity for this letter to be passed or smuggled through enemy lines to his home in Maryland. “It is impossible to describe the feelings of a soldier, particularly when exiled from home and cut off from communication of those he loves as dearly as life,” he wrote his mother. “Many a time I have reflected upon the pleasure and comfort of a home. But instead of that home, I have choosed rather to be a wanderer, frequently sleeping in water, shaking with cold, burning with thirst, pinched with hunger, and overcome with fatigue. But the enjoyment of peace and freedom will amply pay for all.”
In his memoirs, now in the Library of Congress, John also remembered that Marylanders (surprisingly) were not always welcomed with open arms by their Virginia comrades. “It was a notable fact that many of the influential people about Richmond had a certain degree of contempt for the Marylander. It was hard to describe the origin of this feeling. It was explained that the Marylander fled from his state to avoid the Federal draft and sought shelter in Virginia and became a corrupt and troublesome element.” [A Maryland Refugee in Virginia, 1863, by Kevin Conley Ruffner, Maryland Historical Magazine, Winter 1994]
[Note: This letter is from the private collection of Richard Weiner and is published on Spared & Shared by express consent.]
Piney Camp January 7, 1863
I hope you do not think that because of my long muteness the last drop of love for those at home has fell from my heart—no, it never can be that I can cease to think of those I’ve left behind. The troubles, hardships, and torments of a soldier’s life, particularly when situated as exiled Marylanders, are enough to drive one mad and cause him to forget the he is in the “great work” of God’s creation. But I am grateful to be able to assert that through all the arduous duties imposed upon us by this national calamity, I have never as yet forgotten that there is a smiling Providence above all. When the mantle of night suffuses all, be assured that my tongue repeats the prayers you taught me, and begs protection for home—unless I am performing a march, or some duty, or perhaps, as is frequently the case, so wearing that sleep takes possession of me the moment I find a place to rest my head.
It is sad to review the past. Whatever is in the future, let it come. And whatever is past, so let it be. But there are some incidents that need be and must be noted—they are so nearly related to the heart, so deeply impressed upon the mind. There is an incident I must relate.
Dear Mother, refrain from tears; and I will endeavor to do the same. We were three; but now only two—it was God’s will. In order to give you a true conception of all, and also to mark the mysterious step of fate, allow me to commence at the Battle of Richmond. I was slightly wounded at Mechanicsville as you doubtless have heard. At the hospital in Richmond, by chance, I met Edgar who obtained for me a furlough. We visited the Valley of Virginia where we passed some time together. While here, I heard that Jackson intended to advance upon the enemy. Something—I know not what—urged me to join my company which was then at Gordonsville. Although the time granted me had not expired and my wound not perfectly well, I reported (I know not why I did) for duty.
Upon my return to the company, I found the Doctor in good spirits and health; but Joe, on account of bad health, had gone to a hospital in the country. We did not remain long idle after I joined. We advanced upon the enemy and followed them. The weather was warm and the march so speedy that several men dropped dead upon the roadside. We found and attacked the enemy at Cedar Run. The fight was carried on with great furry. The Yankees charged our battery more than once. Rifle and cannon balls and bursting shells fell like hail. To think of it, it seems wonderful that a single one of us could escape with life.
While the Doctor was in the act of carrying a shell to his gun, a fragment of Yankee shell struck him on the wrist, tearing the flesh considerably, and passed through the upper part of his arm, completely shattering the bone. He remained on the battlefield until the battle ceased, then was carried to the field hospital where I remained with him. Our forces fell back and the enemy advanced. We became prisoners. The Yankees moved us to Culpeper Court House where we met with a friend from Alexandria by the name of Mr. Brown. He took us from the hospital to his own house and treated us as kindly as a Father.
Up to this time the Doctor had borne his misfortune with great fortitude. Although his arm had been amputated at shoulder joint, he held hope of recovery. He read his fate. He resigned all Earthly hope and thanked his God for granting him time to prepare for the future. The Rev. Dr. Cole visited his death bed. Finally on the 18th of August, he called me his bedside and uttered his last words, “Give my love to all at home.” I could not realize the fact. It was all a dream—but a sad dream. I could tell you more if I could but see you.
I remained in Culpeper until my company returned from Maryland. I stayed at a Mrs. Fant’s house. She was very kind to me indeed and she promised me to write to you. 1 I returned to my company which was in the Valley and found [brother] Joe in good health and safe. While in the Valley, I received for the first and last time, a letter from you containing some words from Adolphus and also three bookmarks from Lizzie, all of which I value very dearly. Tell Lizzie I will bring her something from the battlefield if I ever live to return home.
After marching and countermarching up and down the Valley, we came over the mountains and faced the enemy on the banks of the Rappahannock river. We were at the Battle of Fredericksburg but being on the reserve, were not in an engagement, yet under the enemy’s fire and had some horses killed. After standing picket on the river for two or three weeks, we are quietly in winter quarters of our own construction in a piney thicket about two miles from Bowling Green—a small town of Caroline County.
It is impossible to describe the feelings of a soldier, particularly when exiled from home and cut off from communication of those he loves as dearly as life. Many a time I have reflected upon the pleasure and comfort of a home. But instead of that home, I have choosed rather to be a wanderer, frequently sleeping in water, shaking with cold, burning with thirst, pinched with hunger, and overcome with fatigue. But the enjoyment of peace and freedom will amply pay for all.
I can hear from home sometimes, but cannot place any confidence in what I hear. I saw Dick Magruder a week ago. I hope you all are well. It would give me much gratification if I could know that Austin will remain with you. It is impossible to say all I desire. I am even in doubt that this will reach you. Give my love to all—Lizzie, Caroline, Brother, Austin, Uncle Johnm Adolphus, Jannette, and all. My love to all. Write me if you can and give all the news. As ever your son, — J. W. F. H.
1 Probably Mrs. Lucinda Brown (Crigler) Fant (1818-1886), the widow of lawyer Joseph Nicholas Fant (1805-1849) who took his own life in 1849.
This letter was written by Susan (Walker) Burnham, the 47 year-old wife of John Burnham of Busti, Chautaugua county, New York. The content of Susan’s letter gives us a back door account of the Battle of Fredericksburg experienced by her 25 year-old son, Charles N. Burnham (1837-1924) who served as a corporal in the 39th Pennsylvania Volunteers (10th Pennsylvania Reserves) during the Civil War. Charles was working as a printer in Warren, Pennsylvania, when he enlisted in May 1861 and was with his regiment until taken prisoner at the Battle of Fredericksburg and held captive in Libby Prison until mid January 1863. He was discharged from the regiment in July 1864 after three years service. Susan’s letter contains quotations from a large segment of a letter Charles had written to her of the fight at Fredericksburg and of his captivity.
The following account of the part played by the 10th Pennsylvania Reserves (39th Penna.) at Fredericksburg comes from Pa-Roots:
On the night of the 10th of December, the Tenth left camp with the Third Brigade, under command of Brigadier General Jackson, and proceeded to the bank of the river, three miles below Fredericksburg, where two pontoon bridges were speedily laid and a crossing was effected without loss. On the morning of the 13th, the regiment moved with the division to the point whence the attack was to be made, where it was formed, and was soon under a heavy fire of artillery; Soon the word was given to advance, and in the face of a destructive fire of musketry and artillery it swept forward and carried the enemy’s intrenchments; but failing of support the division was forced back and compelled to retire with great loss. The Tenth, in this engagement, was led by Lieutenant Colonel Knox, who won great credit for his skill and bravery. The loss was severe, being eleven killed, seventy-five wounded and fifty-one captured.
In her letter, Susan also mentions another son, 19 year-old Andrew Burnham, who served as a sergeant in Co. D, 112th New York Infantry and who was, at the time, posted at Fort Halleck in Suffolk, Virginia.
I will devote a few moments this morning in writing to you for I have not heard a word from you since you wrote me when you first arrived at the seat of war and I would like very much to know where you are and how you like to be a soldier. Perhaps you would like to know something about us. We are all well as usual excepting [our daughter] Sarah. She has a slight touch of diphtheria. We are doctoring her pretty thoroughly and I am in hopes it will not prove to be serious.
I must tell you something about my boys in the army. Soon after the Battle of Fredericksburg, the sad news came to us that Charles was among the missing. We received a letter from Mr. H[iram] T[hompson] Houghton, a member of his company, giving us the particulars of the fight of Saturday, December 13th, stating that he thought Charles was a prisoner and that he also had a son [William Henry Houghton] among the missing. (They were in the Left Grand Division under General Franklin.)
You may judge of our feelings during a month of dreadful suspense and anxiety when a few days ago we received a letter from Charles stating that their division crossed the Rappahannock a little below Fredericksburg Friday, December 12th and Saturday 13th about 9 o’clock in the morning the fighting commenced and soon after, their Brigade was ordered to charge on the Rebs who were concealed in a piece of woods nearly half a mile from them. He says “away we went across an open field, the Rebs pouring grape and canister into us all the time and the men falling all around us, till some of us succeeded in reaching the railroad which was about 10 rods [@ 55 yards] from the woods when we were ordered to halt & commence firing. we went to work and succeeded in keeping the Rebs back about an hour when first we knew about 300 of us were surrounded and captured, which would not have happened if our Generals had sent in support as they ought to.”
They were then taken to the rear of the Rebel army and kept over night and the next day marched toward Richmond. They marched to Hanover Junction and then put aboard of the cars and arrived at the Libby Prison about dark, Wednesday December 17th. He says they were treated pretty well by those that captured them and by the Rebel soldiers generally, but those that never fired a gun nor smelt powder use them rather rough. The women especially seemed very bitter toward them and would frequently come out and sing out to them, “On to Richmond! On to Richmond, you black Du[t]ch you!” 1
They were put into a room (250 of them) 120 feet long by 50 wide where a streak of daylight was almost a stranger and kept half starved. All they had to eat was half a pint of rice and bean soup and a small piece of bread twice a day. He said he thought he had seen some hard times before but he had never seen anything like that. They remained there until the 9th of January when they were released on parole and sent to Annapolis, Maryland.
Charles was taken sick the same day they left the prison and is in the U. S. General Hospital at Annapolis. He wrote a line to us the day he arrived there stating that he had a fever but was not seriously sick and was gaining. I am in hopes he can come home. If he don’t, I think his father will go and see him.
Andrew is at Suffolk, Virginia. He is on detached service in Fort Halleck, is sergeant and has to drill a squad of 5 men four hours a day. He writes that he is well and like his place in the fort better than he did in the regiment. I think he makes a good soldier. Please excuse this poor letter and write soon and let me know how you are getting along. Yours truly, — S. W. Burnham
(I wrote to Mother today)
1 The “Dutch” was a reference to Germans which, by the time of the Civil War was used derisively and had almost became synonymous with the word “stupid.”I have not researched it but there may have been a number of Germans captured at Fredericksburg from other regiments.