Camp near Front Royal Va June 5 1862
This is the first opportunity I have had to write for a week and all the prospects look to be that it will be the last for some time to come and I beg of you not to worry if you do not get a letter. At Piedemont we had to leave our knapsacks and march as quick as possible to cut of Jackson that day we had marched 4 miles with them and after we left them we had to march 17 miles to within to miles of Front Royal Gen Shields was 12 hours ahead of us trying to get to Strasburg before Jackson and cut off his retreat from Winchester as Fremont was following him up but he was to late and he took another road to head him off you will see by the papers how he has succeeded. To day we got our knap sacks and every thing was spoilt inside some lost theirs all of my stamps are spoilt. And my portfolio is spoilt so I will have to throw it away and I cant carry writing materials till we get to a place where I can get one I do not know how long that will be. I do not want you to send a box to us because I can never get it we don’t get any thing not but a mail and the last mail was ten days ago I do not know as I will try to write for a week I think by that time I may have a chance. There is a report that Richmond is evacuated and we will have to go back to Fredricksburg. I hope Ella will get that letter I wrote her at Manassas. We left there the next day. I am well so are the rest of the boys
Give my love to all kiss Hugh for me
From your son
Front Royal, Va., June 5, 1862.
Editor of the Gazette
May ---- Left Manassas Junction for the ---- ----- 15 miles before bivouacking for the night on the --th , at 5 o’clock A.M., resumed our march, the day ----- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- --- P.M. --- a heavy shower which ---- --- ---- ---- --- ---- and -- ----- got wet through. Next morning marched far as -------- at -- ----- we left knapsacks, and retrieving them days ---- --- then started in the direction of Front Royal, a distance of 1- miles, --- ----- just after dark and passed another rainy night, having nothing but rubber blankes to keep off the rain. During our march we passed through the towns of Haymarket, -----, Gainsville, White Plains, Markham’s Station, at which latter place we halted to partake of the rich substantial food furnished by Government viz: Hard Tack. We are no longer to have beans, rice or pork. Our wagons having been taken away from us, or at least all but six, we have no means to transport our food. Six wagons to transport goods and chattels for nearly a thousand men. By the way, what right has the General to take away our wagons and tents that were given us by the State.
A short distance from Markham’s Station may be seen the residence of Col. Ashby, the notorious leader of the rebel cavalry–a very unpretending mansion. The march of six miles along this valley called Manassas Gap is very pleasant. The scenery is very beautiful,–gentle sloping hills, whose tops are covered with trees, fields green with the graceful ------- wheat or rye, some of which is nearly three feet high, the silver threaded streamlet glistening in the sun light, is all very pretty and romantic; particularly so is Thoroughfare Gap, where we camped one night. Yet for all these fine scenes, stern deprivation must be submitted to. With us the rain storm must be encountered, the chilly night dews encountered and a hundred other inconveniences to which the soldier is subjected to on his march. At present writing, the men are half starved, completely tired out, yet they still continue in good spirits. We are at present encamped on the ground so obstinately disputed by Colonel Kenley when attacked by Jackson. Yesterday we expected an engagement, but were doomed to disappointment. There are plenty of troops in our vicinity–McDowell, Shields, Ord, and other Generals are with us.
June 2. – Last night was rainy–got wet through as usual; during the morning the sun came out hot–had fresh meat, first time for a week. About noon we heard heavy firing, which continued and we were ordered to march. As this point there are two bridges crossing the Shenandoah, and one of them Col. Kenley endeavored to destroy on his retreat, but failed. We marched about five miles towards Strasburg on the railroad, which in some places is destroyed, halted amid a heavy thunder-shower which wet us to the skin: we remained here over night, and in the morning felt worse than at any time since leaving home.
On the afternoon of the 3d inst. We moved into another wood, the ground is swampy very wet, the chances of another rainy night are good. Our days are as the grass, so Watts told us; grass needs rain, so does the poor soldier, and he gets plenty of it. We are going back to Front Royal a distance of 8 miles through a drenching rain. It may be all right but can’t see it. Here we are, a few steps from the old camp ground. This is the eleventh day we have been on the march, most of the time with nothing to eat but hard crackers with now and then a little fresh meat. Yesterday some of the secesh cattle, sheep and hogs were disposed of to satisfy the hunger of the troops.
Perhaps the friends at home will call us grumblers: well, we do grumble, and who has a better right I should like to know. You stand in the rain a week or two, until you are completely parboiled, and perhaps you would grumble. Do not suppose, however, for a moment, that we intend to give up the ship; no such thing–we are, as I have before said, tired and faint, but as a general thing enjoy good health. There are plenty who are sick of soldiering and it is perfectly natural they should be under the circumstance; these long tiresome marches will soon be remedied, and smiling faces will restore contentment. That we are, at times, worse off than dogs, worse fed, is a fact. Yet are we not the noble, gallant, self-sacrificing Union soldier, whose name at home sounds big with patriotism? Surely this alone ought to satisfy our weary, hungry, home sick souls.
5th, inst., we slept in what was once a fine house. We managed to keep dry, both outside and in–had for breakfast, beef steak and coffee, the beef stood on four legs yesterday afternoon, but must have had a fit or been frightened at the report of a rifle, for she suddenly dropped dead, furnishing good beef for the boys. How lone we shall remain here I can’t say. Our Colonel is sick and the Major is in command. Hoping all will come out right side up.
I remain yours, Azof.
(Roxbury City Gazette; June 12, 1862; pg. 2, col. 6.)