Friday, June 22, 2012

Blog in Real Time, June 22, 1862, Manassas

Manassas Junction Va., June 22 1862.
     Dear Father, - Here we are back at old Manassas again ; this makes the third time we have been here. We are encamped about two miles from the Junction, with wood and water handy ; the place has very much improved since we were first here. There is a Government Bakery in operation ; you can purchase a loaf of bread for five cents, - quite as cheap as you can buy bread in Boston.

I received your letter of the 15th last Friday.  You draw my attention to letters and statements from members of our regiment, printed in the “Journal” and inquiring if they are correct ?  They are not strictly correct ; there is much exaggeration in some of these I know.  We have enough to eat of wholesome food, besides good coffee and sugar ; but when on a forced march, and two or three days’ rations are served out at the same time,  they will sometimes come short on account of their improvidence in the care of their rations, or perhaps eating up or wasting in two days what has been served out for three days.  In my last letter I spoke of our scant fare during a forced march of eleven days. But this could not be guarded against on account of severe storms, rendering the roads almost impassable for baggage trains.  What we complain of was that we were compelled to make the march at all in such weather.

We left Front Royal on the 17th of June by rail, on platform cars. The ride, if it had not been very dusty, would have been pleasant. I think the army has all left there.  Shields’s Division came in yesterday ; we are now 20,000 strong.  I suppose we are to be held here as a reserve, this being a central point, and troops can be sent off as reinforcement by rail in several directions.

John Webb, with the leader of their band, came across the river to see me last Monday. Of course I was glad to see them ; John and his brother are well.  He said there was no truth in the story about their losing their instruments when pursued by the rebels a few weeks since.

Those rings that I sent home, you will dispose of as you please.  I wrought them out with my pocket-knife ; though you seem to doubt my ability to do it. They are chiefly valuable from the fact that they were wrought from the root of the gorgeous laurel taken from the battle-field of Bull Run.  The laurel is found growing by most all the streams here ; it has a beautiful white, bell-formed blossom.

June 29. – We are still at Manassas – faring very well, as we have been paid off, and can buy pies, cake, eggs, cheese, etc., of the sutler.  We have two drills a day, - battalion drill in the morning, brigade drill in the afternoon ; we do not have much idle time.  We are now in the “Army of Virginia,” under General Pope. I am glad he is over McDowell ; I do not think he was the right kind of man to have so important a position as he held, but I may be mistaken ; we are still under him, but he does no have so much power as formerly.

I see by the papers that cousin George Brown’s regiment has been in a severe battle ; I was glad not to see his name on the list of killed and wounded.

We had a smart shower here one day last week ; our tent did not leak much from above, but a stream three inches deep and the whole width of the tent came through it.  I had to prop my knapsack and other things up on a stick to keep them from being swept away. After the shower we started off after rails then made a large fire to dry our blankets, etc.  I tell you we slept bully that night ; it was the softest bed we have had for a long time.  We sank into the mud about two inches, but our rubber blankets kept much of the dampness out.

On a march, in a rain-storm, we pin our rubber blankets over our shoulders, letting them fall below the knees ; this affords considerable protection from the weather.  When we halt for the night, if there is a rail fence in sight, you ought to see a regiment of boys break for it : it takes just five minutes to level half a mile of Virginia rail fence. Soldiers look upon them?? as a perfect godsend ; besides using them to cook our suppers, when the ground is wet we can lay upon them, or make a little frame-work and throw our blankets over them to protect us from the weather, etc.

But here comes a rumor that we are to pack up immediately and start for Richmond to reinforce McClellan.  If this proves correct, I may not be able to write again so soon as usual, so I bid you all farewell. 

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