The following letter is from Roxbury, Mass. war correspondent 'AZOF' The transcription was downloaded from the former 'LETTERS OF THE CIVIL WAR' website, which is now defunct, but may someday return.
Falmouth, Va., May 22, 1862.
Editor of the Gazette–Dear Sir.
As we pass from place to place ’Tis difficult to keep from comparing this part of the country, rich as it is in natural resources, with the hard stoney, almost totally unfit to cultivate portions of our own New England. With but little effort the greater portion of Va. could be made an Eden in beauty, nature has fully performed her part; nothing remains but for the hands of man to develop it fruitfulness, to make it blossom as the rose. Occasionally we see dwellings whose surroundings betoken an appreciation of the fullness of the bounty of nature.
We halted four o’clock and bivouaced for the night. Can see but two houses, can’t call this place a town. Corn looks finely.
May 14th. A cloudy sky at early morn, marched nine miles, it raining heavily most of the time, the whole Brigade were drenched to the skin, we were obliged to be around ---e for about two hours after reaching camp ground; no more sudden change from extreme heat to cold, rainy disagreeable weather has ever been experienced at the North. We have but few cases of sickness, considering the exposure of the men. Our camp is a short distance from the business portion of the Town of Falmouth. Fredricksburg is on the opposite shore of the Rappahannock River. I should judge it to be a place of some importance to Rebeldom; should we enter the town you shall have a description of the place.
16 Rainy, as a natural consequence, muddy. Our boys are all in good spirits and
most of us in health.
On the afternoon of the 17th marched a mile pitched tents in a fine pleasant situation.
May 20th the Band Box Brigade as Gen. McDowell is pleased to call us, passed in review before said Gen. He thinks full as much of us as we do of him. My opinion is, that, but few relish the idea of having been transferred into his Corps. In fact a majority of the men are becoming disgusted with this soldier life. One to understand our case must be placed in the same position. An old soldier knows all about it, amply because having lost his own identity, he knows nothing else; he is a mere machine, the springs of which being set in motion, away he goes with clock like regularity. If we stop out here long enough you will perhaps have some samples when we get home, of what constitutes that noble thing,–a soldier. Speaking of getting home reminds us of how slim our chance is getting to reach so desired a haven. Somebody has taken our tents away (the large tents) and have given us in their place, a piece of cotton cloth, which they call shelter tents, their tentmaker most certainly never was obliged to sleep away from home. These tents are nearly worthless in wet weather, and we have no need of them in dry, in fact they are an incumbrance. Some tall swearing has been heard in a certain portion of our army in Va., on account of certain knapsack drills, which we are obliged to undergo, by some, supposed to be imposed upon us as a penance for being band box soldiers. Others think somebody has a spite against us, while others think the intention is to kill us off as fast as possible. Never mind, the loss of a few men by disease is of no account; there seems to be no hope of our being killed off by the rebels, other means must therefore be brought into requisition. One day we were marched five or six miles, with knapsacks on; the arrangements now seems to be–two hours drill–in the morning, from six to eight–evening five to seven; this is to fit us for a march at any time, and under any circumstance of not less than forty miles. Never had I seen so much dissatisfaction as at this time. Never again, in my opinion, will an army of an equal number of men, spring as spontaniously into the field. What the next generation may do is certainly not known: but the severe experience of one generation seldom outlives itself in the next. A majority of the Volunteers in this quarter are disappointed, knowing nothing of the hang-dog life of the Regular, they never expected to be made to know it. Naturally independent they did not suppose they had thrown themselves, bound as it were, directly into the hands of an aristocracy, as stern and relentless as the Czar of Russias, a worse aristocracy than that which they came here to wage war against. We hope the war will soon end, until then all must keep up as good spirits as is possible under grevious circumstances.
(Roxbury City Gazette; May 29, 1862; pg. 2, col. 4.)
Private James Ramsey of Company E, expresses his opinion of General Irvin McDowell.
May 22nd 1862
Opposite Fredricksburg Va
I received your letter the other day and this is the first opportunity I have had to ansere it as we are now under McDowell and he keeps us a drilling all of the time, and he is reviewing us every other day. Day before yesterday he reviewed the brigades under Gen Ord all of the troops cheered him with the exception of our brigade Some of Banks men like him, he has taken our tents from us and only allows 5 wagons to a regiment we had 20 I suppose the vision of wagons lost at Bull Run haunts him and he is determined to guard against it in future. I do not like Mcdowell I think he is trying to cripple Mc Clellan and Banks by withdrawing troops from their commands to lay idle at Fredricksburg although I think we will advance soon and there is some talk of our brigade having the advance on account of our being called the best brigade in the service On the review the 26th New York regt his pet regiment came out with white gloves on they made a better appearance on point of dress but our regiment beat them on drill and winded them I wonder what he thinks of the bandbox brigade as he call us with a sneer. We all like our new brigadier Gen he done all he could for us in trying to keep our tents. We had a battalion drill yesterday afternoon with knapsacks on, a drill with them on this morning
McDowell thinks we need to drill with them on so as to get used to fatigue. Why don’t some of his regts that never marched more than 30 miles get used to fatigue I think he is a traitor and is doing all he can to thwart McClellan’s plans. Yesterday I got a letter from John McCrillis and one from Ed Grey. They spoke of their intentions of joining the church I am glad to hear it I hope they are earnest about it. I was sorry to hear about Frank Anderson.
I do not know as I have got any thing more to write I am well and enjoying myself I stand the fatigue better than half the company I have kept up every march I must close
Give my love to all
From your son.