I thought hard for a topic to post in December for the Christmas and New Year’s Holiday, but nothing came to mind. Last year I posted on Private John B. Noyes’s pleasant holiday experiences in Hancock, Maryland during the winter of 1861-62. In mid-December fellow blogger and author, James Schmidt, linked to this post from his own blog, which I highly recommend. http://civilwarmed.blogspot.com/
A new post referencing Christmas in 1862 would have been pretty grim, considering it followed the disastrous battle of Fredericksburg.
On that day in 1862, Private Sam Webster of Co. D wrote;
“Our Christmas Dinner is half broiled beef and hard bread.”
That was all he mentioned of Christmas. Private Noyes, was home in Boston recovering from wounds received at Antietam, so I have no letters from him to reference. He probably had a happy Christmas. Warren Freeman of Company A, wrote a letter to his father 'from the field' on Christmas Day, but didn’t mention Christmas at all;
“I was sick some days before we left Brook’s Station, but marched with the regiment the first day, and on the second day rode in an ambulance on account of the swelling of my lower limbs. When we arrived at Fredericksburg the sick were put in a barn near the river; here we found some corn-stalks and made our-selves tolerably comfortable on them, with the addition of our blankets; but about midnight, after the battle, we were turned out of the barn into the field, as the barn was wanted for the badly wounded. We kept our cornstalks, however, and lay on the frozen ground two nights and one day. The field was covered all over with wounded men groaning and calling for water; some attempted to crawl on their bellies to the river side for a drop of water to relieve their thirst. In the course of two days, these wounded men were carried away and we were put in the barn again; here we suffered terribly from the cold, as we had no way to warm ourselves.”
These passages don’t exactly jump out and say, “MERRY CHRISTMAS !”
I was still immersed in the battle of 2nd Bull Run, and didn’t wish to post on that subject for the holiday, so I ended up waiting until January to post something new.
This year, being the 150th anniversary of the war, the subject is receiving more attention than usual in different media outlets. I’m hoping the added attention will draw some more interest to my blog and website during these anniversary years. I’m very excited about posting the latest page to the website, which consists entirely of 13th Mass. soldiers’ letters and recollections of what they experienced August 30th, 1862 at the 2nd Battle of Bull Run; their first major engagement. The text for the page is finished, but it will take a short while to add the maps and images which I want to accompany the narrative. I think of my website as a sort of ‘illustrated history’ of the regiment. To me at least, finding appropriate pictures and portraits to go with the text is one of the more satisfying tasks in building the website.
To try and drum up a little bit of interest, here’s a pre-view of what’s coming.
Private Lyman Low, Co. B:
"The little knoll or rise of ground opposite our center and right was quickly chosen by a few of our men as a position of advantage, but they speedily retired, for the place proved to be untenable. I believe all were wounded. I well recollect that Albert Morse was among them, and particularly do I remember the scowl on his face as he fell and viewed his wounds. At another point I observed Lieut. Thomas J. Little (afterwards captain in the Massachusetts Heavy Artillery) as he suddenly turned to the rear, with hands covering his mouth and chin, from which blood was copiously flowing. Among the very first to fall was a comrade directly in front of me. I saw a piece of his scalp drop from the back of his head; he went down in a heap, and as his face came into view it showed that the fatal bullet had entered the center of his forehead. He was bathed in blood, which rose high from his wound, falling back over his face. I was never able to ascertain who it was, though I have always thought it might have been Fred Williams, who was killed in the battle, and stood beside me when the fighting began."
Private George F. D. Paine, Co. A:
"Our boys dropped like tenpins before an expert player. Ten feet to my left the tall sergeant of Company F sank down in a heap, shot squarely through the head. I saw the brain ooze out. My left hand mate whirled, shot through the shoulder. F. went down with a bullet through the face. S. was swearing "like mad," shot through the thigh. A man I did not recognize dropped just in front. I heard the bullets chug into his body; it seemed half a dozen struck him. I shall never forget the look on his face as he turned over and died."
From Private Charles E. Davis, Jr. :
That's all for now, hope to write more soon. Best wishes to all for a healthy and prosperous new year."The surgeon who first examined my wounds made them construct a frame over the bed and cover it with gauze, to keep the flies out. The second one, with no particular purpose in view, lifted a corner of the gauze and let in upon me no end of flies, whereupon I called him some kind of a fool and he remonstrated at my use of profanity and gave me a lecture, saying he would see me again on this subject, but took no pains to adjust the gauze or rid me of the flies. He made no examination of my wounds, nor showed any interest in me until the following morning when he came to announce that I must have my arm taken off in order to save my life. I told him I would see him damned first before I would submit to such an operation.
"Very well," said he, "if you won't allow us to do anything to save your life, you had better prepare to die."
It seems that this man had "experienced" religion and was baptized about six weeks before, the only effect of which was the removal of any solicitude he may have felt, as a physician, in the saving of life. Perhaps the baptismal water was stale. I had felt something moving under my shoulders and made complaint, but he said it was nonsense and suggested to the nurse that my mind was giving way. This made me excited and that seemed to confirm his opinion. I quieted down and then he was sure I was insane. In the meantime I could plainly feel the movement under my shoulders. It is a fearful thing to be thought insane, and each remark you make considered confirmation. It was a terrible moment to me. At last I shouted, "For God's sake, will no one lift me up and see." The man on the next bed called another, and they lifted me into a sitting position, pulled down a sheet and blanket, uncovering a nest of young rats, whereupon the doctor and nurse walked away, showing no interest in the result."