Saturday, June 30, 2012

Blog in Real Time, June 30th 1862, Manassas Jctn

Camp Whitcomb, near Manassas Junction Va
              Monday June 30th 1862
Dear Martha,
Your letter of the 20th inst came to hand on the 24th.  The only fault I had to find with it was its brevity.  I wanted to know all about how the people looked in the church and on the green Class day, whether the Seniors were dressed in light blue breetches and dark blouses, and nice wide army brogans, or whether they looked just as they always do, awfully hot black vested, pantalooned and dress-coated and high booted martyrs to female loveliness. Tell me all about it.  You occupied so much space, would it had been doubled, in describing Emma’s visit to you that you had but a few lines to devote to that great day – Class day. How could you have made so great a mistake as to think you had written to me of Emma’s visit to You?
I recollect that you wrote that she was expected to visit Cambridge, and I was in hopes of hearing from her and you at the same time. Such a letter would have been very welcome after the exhausting marches which ended at Front Royal, especially since one of my old female correspondents ceased, though sometime before, to write her sparkling letters.  I take it for granted that you are staying with Cousin Sumner. Give my love to the family what little of it remains in town.  I should like to be with you in the sitting room and chat with Mrs. Wheeler; as old. They tell me at home that another grand daughter Alice Ellesmere, has opened her eyes upon this naughty world.  If the war now raging is to last 20 years, Alice Ellesmere should have been a boy.  It shows more patriotism now, as in the dawning days of the Amer. Revolution to have boy babies. Should Cousin Alice and Mr Sargent come to Framingham while you are there, give them my best regards.  x  x  x  x  x  Remember me to the rest of my friends in Framingham whose names I will not attempt to write down for the rest I hope you will have a good time in F. and I don’t see how you can very well help to.  Write me of your mode of spending the time, and the sights you see. The towns people must be very proud of Gen’l Gordon who maneuvered one of Bank’s Brigades in his late masterly retreat to the Maryland side of the Potomac – a retreat caused by the withdrawal for Banks of Shield’s Division about the 12th of May, not to speak of the previous detachment of the 12th & 13th Mass. Regts the 12th & 16th Ind. & 9th N.Y. Regts on the 21st March last which fought in the battle of Winchester, which was fought on the 22d march.  Were you in Framingham at the time of his recent visit after receiving his appointment as Brig General ?
     Matters hearabouts are in satis quo all except this paper which I can scarcely keep down even by the use of inkstand, a portfolio, diary, and both hands.  It will fly up occasionally to my discomfort, as I hate to blot my paper even when writing in a gale of wind at the seat of war.  I suppose some of our secession quaker & peace punsters call the seat of war a cane, i.e. Cain seat, a pun which will not bear again repeating.  We, that is Hartsuff’s Brigade, of Ricketts Div., of McDowell’s Corps, of Pope’s Department are here far from war’s changing and banging, drilling as if to make up for lost time.  During the whole of our stay in and about Front Royal we had no drills whatever, the men not being in a state to exert themselves greatly unless under absolute necessity; but the moment we came to this place a new leaf was turned and we now have a company or battalion drill in the morning and a brigade drill in the afternoon. The latter drill is conducted by Gen’l Hartsufff, the former by our company officers or by the Colonel.  The worst about the drills is that it is very hot and dusty.  X  x  x  x  x     Gen’l Shields Division went to Alexandria day before yesterday.  Another Division it is said is to leave McDowell, but whether ours, or that commanded by Gen’l King is uncertain. Manassas does not now present the same appearance as when we first came to it last March. Then all was bleak, barren ruin and desolation.  The place then destitute of ordered and cut up with ruts is now grassed over, and all that once disgusted the eye and offended the nostrils, rebel rubbish has been cleared away.  To be sure the evidence of rebel occupation and of the battle, source of many of our woes are numerous. Comfortable log–houses built for winter quarters fortifications and earthworks, leveled forests & now & then a ruined building speak of war. Near the station many saloons have been built and sutler’s stands for the accommodation of civilians visiting the battle field, and the soldiers. All-together the place is quite lively. You may never have seen a camp of wall tents, or Sibley tents, much less of shelter tents.  I may never have described the difference, just because it was so familiar to me, as you thought informing me that Ike Bradford and Geo Francis were engaged & married, never thought to tell me to whom, a matter upon which I am curious. It is now too late to speak of Sibley tents, because they have been forcibly taken from us by McDowell. The wall tent accommodating 6, 8 or 10 men is a square tent has been generally exchanged for the bill shaped Sibley tent.  The shelter tent is composed of three pieces in our Regiment, of two in the 9th N.Y., each piece about 5 feet square. Two side pieces button upon each other.  x  x  x  x  x  We sleep head to the side of the tent, and not to the end which may be opened or shut at pleasure. This is because we are unable to sit up straight unless under the line where the two side pieces are buttoned together.  x  x  x
     [the letter giving the description of the tent is torn & illegible](JBN).

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Blog in Real Time, June 26, 1862, Manassas Jctn

The following was downloaded from the now defunct website Letters of the Civil War.

Editor of the Gazette

Manassas Junction, Va., June 26, 1862.

        June 23d was pleasant and warm.  Sunday being a day of rest, we are not required to work; all we have to do this particular day is to rearrange out tents, pass through inspection, march a short distance from camp to attend church services, after which dress parade.

        The 24th was hot, dry and dusty during the forenoon; we expected a Brigade review and marched as far as Headquarters and were ordered back to camp.  Dark heavy clouds appear in the west and clouds of dust fill the air, blinding and nearly choking us.  We listen to the muttering thunder, and watch the flashing lightning–momentarily expecting the clouds to open and overwhelm us, but steadily we march on and reach camp; –form a line and are dismissed, then scamper to our tents.  Scarcely there when the torrents descend, notwithstanding the inconvenience of being wet through, there is something grand in these sudden storms.  The heavens abounded in deep dark gloom,–the roaring thunder now dull and heavy–the vivid lightning r------ing from horizon to horizon, form a scene as terrible as attractive.  Never have I seen it rain harder than it did yesterday.  In two minutes we were flooded; our furniture floating away–our everything wet through, water being several inches deep in many of the tents.  All hands bore it bravely an gave three cheers for the sun, which for a moment looked through a rift in the cloud, sagely concluding that “all is well that ends well.”

        Tuesday 25th, forenoon nothing especial–principally devoted to cleaning tents, putting rifles in order, and digging trenches to prevent another like trouble of yesterday, as appearances indicate another gathering of the watery element.  Lo the storm cloud is upon and over us; a flash of lightning, and in an instant the artillery of heaven is crossing over our heads.  Peal after peal, in quick succession startling both man and beast.

        25th.  Rather windy–took a stroll about the fields, witnessed the gunnery practice of different sections of the 5th and ---- Maine and 1st Pennsylvania Batteries, ---- in a field a mile or more distant was the target.  Some fine shots were made.  Gen. Hartsuff and staff, also Col. Stiles of the New York 9th were present.  The afternoon was devoted to Battalion drill, which lasted over four hours; I believe we came here for nothing else but to drill, drill, drill-how sickening the bare thought becomes.  It may be all right, but there are many here who think differently.

        Thursday and Friday, the same old routine–nothing of interest.  Many of the boys who were rendered unfit for duty, during the last march, are coming back to the regiment.  Last night the cars were employed–so says rumor–in conveying Gen. Shield’s division to Richmond.  I have no doubt the report is true.  How long we are to remain here is uncertain; I think we shall go up towards the Shenandoah river again instead of towards Richmond.                                                                                                          Azof.
(Roxbury City Gazette; July 10, 1862; pg. 2, col. 6.)

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. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Blog in Real Time, June 19, 1862, Manassas

                                    Manassas Va June 19th 1862
Dear Mother
For variety I will direct this note to you, mater familias.  You have probably read by this time my letter to Martha of the 16th inst.  On the 17th inst we struck tents and marched to the Front Royal Station where we took the baggage cars for Manassas. We did not then know our destination. It was surmised that we were going to Richmond, where at any rate we are wanted, & where we should find something to do. Possibly we may go there now, but nothing certain can be predicated of our movements.  As we marched into camp I saw Gen’l McDowell for the first time, but not enough to satisfy me. He seemed to be a splendid looking officer with a piercing eye; desirous probably of seeing how we stood the hardships of our mountain soldiering.  Rickett’s brigade arrived to day. Shield’s probably comes to morrow.  There is a report not generally current, from a Washington source, that Hartsuff’s and Rickett’s brigade, with McDowell’s other forces and Gen’l King’s division move from Fredericksburgh upon Richmond, the whole force amounting to nearly 50,000 men; but I give this merely as a singular report, not generally currant.  Meantime the Philadelphia Enquirer of to day states that Hartsuff has been ordered to join Banks.  A petition to the War Department for our brigade to be transferred to Banks has been circulated among the privates of the brigade and generally signed.  Banks is popular with us and McDowell the reverse, but I have no faith in such petitions. Whether Front Royal is to be again turned over to the enemy I can not say, but I should not think the Government would so soon surrender the valley to Jackson who now is in strong force. 
We are there for the third time at Manassas, reaching here about 6 P.M. of the 17th after a ride of about 6 hours from Front Royal.  We are better located than ever before, a fine spring being on one side of us, and a run to bathe in on the other side.  What a change with respect to prices.  Bread which there sold easily at 30 cents a loaf in camp and 25 cents in town is here sold for 5 cents, much cheaper even than at home, I should judge, for the loaves weigh  a pound and a half or more. Pies sell for about half the price they brought in Front Royal, newspapers ditto.
Occasionally I meat with sounds from home.  Gus Coombs formerly I think in John Read’s store, whom Aunt Rebecca will probably know came into camp the day before we left.  He is a pay master’s clerk, and came with major – to pay off some regiment in Ricketts’s or Shield brigades. He finds Washington a very pleasant place to stay in on the snug salary of $1000 and perquisites.  P.J. Rooney’s brother was in camp to day, and Ned Wyeth a few days ago.
I received my pistol on the 17th, but was somewhat surprised at not finding a sheath with it.  So I cannot carry it on my belt, but am obliged to cumber my knapsack with it.  It is a six inch 6 barrel Colt, Perhaps George my find a sheath for it at Read’s, at a reasonable price.  If so I hope to receive it in my box.  As it is the pistol can only be carried in the pocket, a place I am not inclined to trust it in.
How is my box getting on ?  Make the Sugar two pounds. I have to pay 20 or 25 cents for what I buy, and am glad to get it at that price. Do up the tea as before, namely in paper bags,  several up in cloth. It will go nicely these hot days when coffee gets somewhat played out.  In winter give me my quart of Java with tea very semi- occasionally; but now I want some tea.  I spoke of cheese, good cheese, a scarce article here any way, which sets off any meal, where butter is seldom to be had even at forty cents the almost universal price.  Pepper for the beans, our best meal in the army, and in my case a sovereign cure for my malady.  I may be affected with. Anything nice that will keep, and don’t forget to put the cigars in, because in that case George may smoke up the entry with them much to your discomfort.  Make the shirts long enough and hurry up the socks.  Direct the box as soon as possible to J.B.N. Co. B. 13th Regt M.V. Washington D.C., care of Lieut. Chase, Sutler 13th Mass Vols.  It will then come when Chase brings a load of goods to us which is any time convenient to him.  What I don’t think to speak of, you may think of or Charles.  If there is room send tow pounds of maple suger, beside what you send to me, viz. one pound.  Tell me what it costs, as it is for another person.  I believe I said send a common penstock,  and half a dozen pens, and a simple tight wooden ink stand, worth about 20 cents.  Do not send a Havelock, that superlative humbug.  A cotton bag, without a string, about a foot square for my haversack, I need, half a dozen large pant buttons, some pieces of string and some tape.  Frank Stimpson, Tom Welles, E.J. Fisher & Fitzgerald are all well.  I learn that the old gentleman, Mr. Stimpson, having bought out J.D. Green, has gone to Russia to couple the contracts of the old firm.  Has Mr. Stimpson spoken to father of the contract ?  Please send some postage stamps.  Wishing to bother you no more, and hoping to hear soon of the packing of the box, and of the good things put in from your own easy pen, I am
                        Your Affectionate Son
                                                John B. Noyes.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Blog in Real Time, June 16th 1862, Front Royal

Camp, near Front Royal Va  June 16th 1862
Dear Martha
I have sufficiently spoken in my letters home of my late march.  I understand that a letter full of absurdity, and falsehood has been published in the Journal, purporting to give the particulars of it.  You may have seen it; I have not; if you have then my account may be set down as the correct one, the Journal to the contrary not withstanding.  Execrable letters get into the Boston papers from our regiment occasionally, the more’s the pity.  The Transcript I believe has a good correspondent, signing himself “Corporal.”  I haven’t seen any for some months. The Corporal is now the Regimental Ordinance Sergeant.
I have little in the way of military news to tell you.  Gen’l Shields’ Division came into town to day. I have only seen it from a distance. It must be somewhat used up.  Was it May 12th they left New Market to report to McDowell. At any rate they marched 152 miles to Falmouth, which place they reached May 23d in time to be reviewed by the President.  The next day they received orders to start early on the 25th for Front Royal, which place they reached the day before we did having marched all the way. Halting but one day for us to take charge of the prisoners they took, they proceeded on to Luray & have marched and fought much since.  Doubtless they have fared worse than we did, fare worse, rejoicing in their General Shields, and ruing the hour they ever heard of McDowell.  It is said that they are to go back to Fredericksburgh, but I know not with what truth.  Jackson is not destroyed, and he may be about to receive reinforcements. McDowell is a brother in law of Jackson. Perhaps Jackson likes such a general to contend with, the people hereabouts at least do not object to him.  Gen’l Fremont, who by the way you may not know was formerly a Lieut Col. in the Regular army, of that high corps, I think, the topographical Engineers, has been following up Jackson.  The New York Herald with little reason is inclined to shoulder the responsibility of the possible if not already completed failure of this campaign in the Valley upon Fremont, on the ground that he did not come to time at Port Republic, while chasing the rebels.  Fremont has certainly done nobly. He marched the day after the afternoon he received his orders and overcame incredible obstacles, harassed by the enemy at all times. His troups have marched hard, fared hard, and fought hard, and are to be praised.  No one who knows the character of the roads, the difficulty of obtaining supplies, and who comprehends the meaning of bridges destroyed by fire, and the raging waves, swollen by the terrible rains, and freshets, can charge Fremont with delay.  In truth he was at Port Republic practically while Shields was not.  But one or two brigades were at that bridge when Jackson drove them before with the loss of 8 or 9 cannon, and 1500 killed, wounded and missing.  Had Shields whole force been at the bridge, the tale might have been different. The story goes however that Shields’ general was ordered to destroy the bridge, but disobeyed orders.  Fremont came up in a few hours, hearing cannonading before him, but the bridge was in flames, and his progress stopped.  Perhaps you do not like to read of military matters.  I read a letter last night however of a gilt-stocking lady to a recipient in my company. The lady has a brother who is Captain in one of McClellan’s regiments, and another brother who is a sergeant under Gen’l Butler.  She gave a well digested account of the battle of Fair Oaks, in terse language showing careful study and thorough knowledge of what she was talking about.  So ladies can and do interest themselves in such matters. Yom are reading contemporary history when you read of the actions of the soldiers in the field.  Never a better opportunity of studying history.
I have just finished my plain supper of hard bread and coffee, and gingerbread cakes & cheese.  The coffee I boil myself in my tin mug.  It is only when the sutler comes, which is not often with a new stock, that I can get cake & cheese.
I find inspite of my having filled over three pages, I have not written any thing to you of special interest.  Perhaps I may write what I may omit to say now in my next letter home. It is quite cool to day, but for a few days past intensely hot.  Saturday for instance when we left camp to go on picket, it was 102 in the shade.  I left my blanket in camp, and slept wearing my overcoat in the evening.
Now for the small box, say as large or slightly larger than the former, not more than a foot square, that I want sent to me. Imprimis two shirts I spoke of with pockets inside on each breast, and pair of drawers, and two pair of stockings, and wash leather purse.  Also a pair of suspenders - the “Eureka” suspender, patented by Cutler Walker, if possible. This is the suspender I now wear, and did wear when I left Cambridge. The two parts are joined behind by a leather piece and the eyelet &c. ??? is leather straps, price 50 cents. It is impossible to get a good suspender here.  Send me also some tea; it will go well these hot days. I can’t drink coffee now in such quantities, and with such relish as in cold weather.  Also a little chocolate, and a pound or two of suger.  A small needle book, not stuffed just big enough for darning needles.  Army/Amy? preserves &c in sealed bottles you want to send, as it may not be worth while to send cake, which may not keep if the box be delayed.  A bottle of sweet oil. A little maple sugar, and such keepable delicacies.  I should send for a bottle of whisky, if you deal in such articles, for I verily believe I could discuss it to the advantage of my some-what light body, for I never weighted so little as now since I have been in the army.  But unfortunately you do not keep a hotel like Gen’l Butler.  Send no more woolens than I ask for, but all J do.  When I hear that the box will be ready to send on a certain day, I will give you directions for sending it.  Put the paper I ordered in the box and a bunch of envelopes, a few wafers, & half a dozen of the French pens I like so much. Send also John Halifax, Gent. Which I think is in my room among some novels in the boxes under the shelves of the yellow book case.  If you have any late novel you may send it. Send me one or two bags about 5 inches by 6, of such stuff a pant pockets are made of. These are good for coffee, rice, &c.  Charles may send me a few nice cigars you don’t meet with in this country, if you inform him of your intention of making up a box for me. Send some postage stamps also in your next letter as I am all out of them.
                        Your Aff. Brother
                             John B. Noyes.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Blog in Real Time, June 15, 1862, Front Royal, VA

The following came from the now defunct website "Letters of the Civil War."

Front Royal, Va., June 15, 1862.

Editor of the Gazette:

Front Royal is at the present time is filled with wounded soldiers. D-cilings, - ----- Churches, and every place are filled to ------ ----. The advance guard of Gen. Shields Division, consisting of two thousand men were attacked at Port Republic, and after a desperate resistance they were obliged to fall back with a lost of about fifteen men in killed and wounded. In turn, the rebels were ---- after driven back. The order given to burn the bridge was not obeyed – the result you know. Two hundred wagons made of wounded have arrived in town to-day.  They were hit in almost every conceivable place–in the head, arms, legs and body – a --- sight for sensitive --ture, though we have most of us got use to these things.  One hundred and fifty rebel prisoners leave for Baltimore this evening.  A surly looking set of fellows those rebels are–full of pluck, still confident of the success of the secesh cause.  If they are brutal in battle they but follow the example of the female kind, who are as vindictive as – I won’t say who.  The things called women in this part of the country, must at some time in their lives, have had infused into their nature a strong spirit of fiendishness; they are women of one idea, and that all wrong.  They seemingly have but one instinct, so imagine, if you can, what kind of feminines we soldiers have to deal with.  Some are quite lady like in their manners, when they choose to be, which is but seldom, so thoroughly are they imbued with the spirit of imaginary wrong–so often they have turned up their nasal organs – looked aslant, curled their lips, that most of the force that have met my view are sadly distorted.  Is it not a pity that the fairest and most beautiful creature of God’s creation, and gift to man, should, by her blindness and willfulness, render herself a bye word and scoff.  Think of a woman, one whom we from infancy have been taught to love, serve and protect–to consider the embodiment of all that is pure and good, drawing a pistol upon unarmed and wounded soldiers.  The bare thought is revolting, and yet no doubt of the fact exists.  Hugging a moral wrong to the heart, results in what we behold–moral deformity, dark, deep, implacable hatred.

            There is but little stirring in camp; we are fast gaining strength and recovering from the effects of the late march and attendant exposures.  Our commander, Capt. Hovey, has arrived safe at camp.  He is looking well, but is much troubled with his old complaint, rheumatism, and since his appointment to the command of company E, we have seen but little of him, owing to his affliction.  Lieut. Colburn and Frost have fulfilled the duties imposed upon them by his absence, in a manner which should gain them great credit.  During out long and tedious marches, there were many things occurring which sadly tired the patience of the officers.  Whatever others may say or think to the contrary.  I consider his position the most trying.  Obliged to be constantly on the alert, watching and caring for his men, seeing that none stray too far from the regiment, that others who, through weariness, fall by the way side are properly cares for–suffering from heat, from chill, from hunger.  These latter, in common with his command, with many other petty sources of annoyance, place an officer in a position sometimes not to be envied.  Lieut. Colburn has faithfully performed his duty, and deserves credit not only at our hands, but at the hands of all at home who feel an interest in the members of company E.  We hope our captain will soon be able to relieve him of his heavy duties.  Those of us who are in camp at the present time are well, except perhaps a few cases where the dampness causes rheumatic pains.  I fear from what I see at times, that many of us will soon be pulled down by this most painful disease.  Give us plenty of dry weather and we will hope for the best.

            They do say that our Brigade is transferred into Banks’ Division.  If so glory to God for the change; to-morrow will settle the business.

            Yesterday a few of us started for pure water:  we found a fine spring about two miles from camp, on the farm of a certain Dr. Burke.  He is one of those kind of men who think the rebellion all O. K. – gives freely to the army of Jackson, has one son in his army, but from us he hides all his good things, except his cows; for the favor which he grants us, by allowing them to eat grass, we feel thankful, as by experience we find their milk excellent in quality, but as to quantity can’t speak so confidently, as we lost our measures while out of camp; but we thought we might as well enter into the spirit of the thing and have a pic-nic; so taking a few dippers of water, and a few lemons to the top of the hill, we sat down under the spreading branches of several ancient oak trees, made a table cloth out of some newspapers, and at it we went.  We were all in good spirits–rather hungry and very dry–had quite a conversation with an intelligent darky boy, and learned almost enough from him to hang his master, but thought of the cows and let him alone.  We then concluded to have a bath, and filling our dippers with milk, we hid them in the brook at the foot of the hill, and started for the Shenandoah, passing through a field of wheat at least five feet high.  A portion of the wheat was prostrate to the earth.  These mountain storms sweep all before them.  We had a swim, after which we visited the grave yard of Front Royal–plucking a rose from the grave of Col. Wheatley, late of the rebel army.  I pitied the poor slave whose grave was outside the fence in the road; the ---- most clearly showed his earthly position,–and finally, as the minister says, reached camp, went on dress parade, eat, no, drank some coffee, and lastly, went to bed to dream of home.  They do say the guerillas are in the mountains; don’t believe it.

            Please excuse these rambling thoughts, and believe me ever.

                        Yours Respectively, 
            P.S.  A circumstance rather more vexatious than otherwise, occurred to-day.  Lieut. Frost was placed under arrest.  The charges performed against him were as follows:  First, for appearing as guard mounting with pants inside his boot.  Second, having sword in position of parade rest, which position is in accordance with sword exercise, but not in accordance with the custom of the Massachusetts 13th.  Third, giving an order after having sheathed his sword.  Your own judgment will weigh the charges as well as our Roxbury friends, and pronounce them foolish in the extreme.  The charges are most probably performed to gratify personal feeling.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Blog in Real Time, June 14, 1862

JUNE 14, 1861.
        The May report of the Thirteenth Massachusetts regiment has been received by Adjutant General Schouler. On Sunday last the regiment was at Front Royal. Col. Leonard had rejoined his command. Lieut. Col.  Batchelder and Capt. Scriber are absent on detached service. Capt. C.  H. Hovey, John G, Hovey and W. H. Judson, are sick at Washington, and Capt. W. L. Clark at Front Royal. Twenty-one had been discharged during the month, and the following deaths had occurred:-
        John T. Fuller, Co. B, of Boston, and Charles B. Cushing, Co. C, of Brighton, both drowned; Samuel W. Wheeler, Co. H, of Natick, left out of ranks on march and died; O. V. Newton, Co. I, of Marlboro, died at Washington. (Boston Herald, June 14, 1862, Pg. 4, Col. 3.)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Blog in Real Time, June 12, 1862, Front Royal, VA

I have two letters for June 12th, 1862.  The first is from officer Charles B. Fox, who was 2nd Lt. of Co. K, and later, Co. I.

Letter of Lt. Charles B. Fox to Rev. Thomas Bayley Fox, letterbook, 12 June, 1862, Fox Family Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.  Used with Permission.

Front Royal June 12th/62.
Your note in pencil and enclosures of printed matter arrived to-day. I was glad to get the Official report of Gordon’s Brigade as it was rumored here, that the Second, or part of them rather, showed the white feather.  So far as we can see Jackson is getting his reward.  It seems as if judicious Management might soon end the fighting part of this rebellion, How long it will take to settle its various effects no mortal can tell.  It seems to me that a whole generation at least, must die out, before this seed?? hatred of the North which is without doubt the sentiment of a majority of the Southern people, will pass away. Don’t wonder at northern people who once pas the line going to extremes. They must for their own salvation.

The following Letter Transcript comes from the now defunct website "Letters of the Civil War."  This site will probably return one day.

Front Royal, Va., June 12, 1862.

Editor of the Gazette:

Sunday evening, June 8, dress parade at 6 o’clock; for a wonder no rain fell today.  Monday 9th, was also pleasant in the morning.  Company E on picket guard this afternoon; Tuesday morning commenced raining which continued during the day.  We received our pay for the month of March and April.

Yesterday took a trip to town of Front Royal, it being about one mile from camp.  The towns all present the same ancient appearance.  One brick side walk covered with mud looked as if some one at some time in the past, tried to be decent.  There are two Hotels two stories high–the Front Royal and the Warren–the roofs of which looked as though some heavy pressure had been applied.  There are several churches used for army purposes, one supposed to be built to represent the Gothic style, is nearly in ruins, the pews being all removed, windows broken, and but little left to remind us of the purpose for which it was built.  Near this church is a good brick town house.  There are several dwelling houses with gardens attached, containing roses in full bloom, whose fragrance is quite acceptable as we pass.  The stores are all closed–no business stirring save that which relates to the army.  At one end of the town may be seen two large two story wooden buildings, built for hospital purposes by the rebels, one which is finished.  Each building contains twelve rooms, six on the lower and six on the upper floor.  They are roomy, well ventilated, measuring say 45 feet long by 22 wide.  One would suppose the rebels intended to occupy this town as a central depot.  It is situated a short distance from the mountains, forty miles from Manassas Junction, and 12 miles from Strasburg, which places are connected by railroad.  Adams & Co. have an office here.  There is but a very little amusement in looking around on account of the mud we have to encounter.  Six weeks of drought might probably dry it up some, but at present there appears to be a surplus of rain on hand or over head.  Our camp is not as healthy as is desirable–too much decomposed matter all about us.  I think this regiment was nearly if not quite full on the 1st of April last, but at the present time we could hardly muster 650 men.  The late marches have told heavily on the men, not killing them outright, but using them up for the time being.  There is a point which being passed, nature sinks, asserting her right to rest.  Her call should be obeyed.  I don’t know of any severe cases of sickness in our company; many are worn out but they will soon be right side up again.

This morning we received a few letters from home.  When we came to this place we expected to have a little trouble with Jackson, but it is no go–guess he is somewhere about.  Got one man after him, and he will catch him if the thing is possible–that man is General Shields.  Shields is what may be called a fighting General.  Jackson made a mistake when he drove Gen. Banks into Maryland, for the whole ground over which Banks retreated is again in our hands.  Winchester should be leveled at once–rebel property should be destroyed wherever found.  This business of protecting rebels and their property is about played out.  It’s much like giving the man who has stolen your watch, your wallet, as a compensation for his rascality.  I am writing this under the trees, with a box of hard tack for a table.

            Respectfully yours,                                                                    Azof.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Blog in Real Time, June 8th, 1862, Front Royal, VA

Camp near Front Royal Va, Sunday June 8th 1862.
Dear Father,
I suppose that my letters of the 26th & 28th ult have already reached you.  Up to this time however I have received no return letters, although I believe I received a letter from you of the 20th ult while on board the “John Brooks” enclosing Martha’s photograph.  Since the 28th I have been unable to write home for several reasons which will be detailed in the sequel of this letter.  Instead of hastening on to intercept Jackson we remained at Manassas Junction two nights, not certainly because of deficiency in rations but because of McDowell most probably, who wished to bring up one or two more of his brigades.  You see McDowell has no confidence in any troups but those he has had under him for a long time, and those who have long been under him are probably the least effective in his corps. At last on Thursday we received orders to proceed to Front Royal. Reveille at 3 ½ Am, breakfast eaten, and Knapsacks packed we marched to Thoroughfare Gap, a distance of 14 miles, passing through Gainseville and Haymarket.  This gap I believe is on the Kittoctan Mountains, although I can not at present verify that statement.  It is quite a defensible spot, and has been defended by Geary. The place is one of great natural beauty.  Here a spring bursts forth from the mountain in a stream three or four inches in diameter, at a spring house by the R.R., used for what special purpose I am unable to say, unless to supply the R.R. engines.  The rebels had blown up the house when they came to the gap to hunt for Geary. About four miles of this day’s journey we traveled in the cars, which did not reach the marching column till it had proceeded eight or nine miles.  As it happened the cars did not help us practically at all; as we gained no time by their assistance, and were not able to march further than the gap that night.  Had the cars brought us to the gap by twelve o’clock noon, we might have marched ten or fifteen miles further the same day. Slight damage had been done to the R.R. above the gap, so that the cars could not carry us further.  We were accordingly up at 3 ½ Am. Friday, on the march by 5 o’clock, and near Piedmont, by Piedmont Gap, in the Rattlesnake Mountains late in the afternoon, some 13 miles distant.  On this march we passed through White plains, a familiar name, and Salem, both well to do places, and sufficiently secesh, I warrant. I could hardly contain myself in passing the latter place as I saw on a piazza of a house by the side of the street four females of ages from 18 to 30, whose sour visages refused to mildew so many Penelopes weeping for their absent, wandering lovers, and refusing to be comforted. We pitched our shelter tents where we halted, and were thus protected in part from the tremendous storm which raged during the night. By the way one of the fiercest storms I ever witnessed overtook us on the march, and we halted during its continuance.  Every one wrapped himself in his rubber blanket, some going to sleep.  In the midst of the storm I saw Gen’l Ord ride past, soaking wet, without coat or blanket, breaking in upon the death like stillness of the scene. Reveille at 3 ½.  Breakfast.  To Piedmont about a mile or two distant, to draw rations – three days rations of hard bread, coffee, and sugar. Here we left our Knapsacks, expecting to see them again at night when we halted.  Taking only our rubber blankets our brigade, as also that of Duryea and Rickett’s set out for Front Royal, which place we reached late P.M. having marched about twenty one miles.  The road on this day’s march was terrible for the greater part of the way, and we forded some half a dozen small runs, at last striking the R.R. which we did not leave till we were past the famous Manassas Gap.  The country around this Gap is very fine.  Perhaps a fine land is to found here as anywhere in Virginia. The mountains are around you for miles before you are actually in the Gap.  While marching upon the R.R., our eyes were attracted by a beautifully laid out flower garden, of nearly an acre in extent all blooming with flowers.  The walks were lined with box (box is a small evergreen shrub-B.F.) which grew in great luxurience. A second view showed us that weeds were growing among the flowers and in the paths. The owner has gone to the war I said, and his garden is neglected. But suddenly the burned dwelling of the proprietor of this splendid farm of which the garden was but a part and sample came into view, showing plainly that an uncompromising Union man had found the place too hot for him to live in.  The R.R. about the Gap is a splendid specimen of R.R. engineering.  For miles and miles it is constructed on raised ground, or carried through rocky hills at immense expense of time and labor. Yet there is not a tunnel the whole route.  In some places the road is fully two hundred feet above the valley on Either side, and the descent is very steep.  In other places the rocky cliff towers above you to an almost equal height. 
Almost in the very gap the rebels had striven to destroy the rail-road, but with very poor success. They had ripped up the track sleepers all in one piece some 150 feet long, and cast it over the side of the track expecting it to fall to the bottom of the declivity.  The piece however had stopped in its careen after a few somersaults. Our advanced guard upset two or three platform baggage cars down the declivity so that they might not impede the march of the regiments behind.  My company on the march was a part of the advanced guard as it was to go on grand guard at the end of the march.  But as we marched to a position within Gen’l Shield’s line of pickets we were not called upon to do service that night. It was about 10 P.M. before we found this out, the rain falling heavily all the time. The rain continued all night over our devoted heads, blanketless, overcoatless, tentless.  The next day Sunday we changed the position of our camp, the rails in the vicinity having been exhausted of course it rained heavily, but in an intermission of glorious sunshine, the red flag of Gen’l Shields was seen coming near to us on the Strassburgh road.  We rushed to the fence in order to give the hero of Winchester, his arm yet in a sling, such a reception as is seldom accorded to a military man.  His face glowed with proud joy as he doffed his hat, and waved it with his remaining hand to the soldiers who shouted at his coming.  About half an hour after Maj. Gen’l McDowell passed down the road, but I did not hear a cheer, though many curses.  It was said that Shields would have cut off Jackson by crossing the Shenandoah at a place some ways from  Front Royal, but was compelled to abandon the design by order of McDowell, who wished to have the honor himself of whipping the famous rebel general.  How McDoodle, as he is called, succeeded, you will know.
The next day we crossed the Shenandoah and marched about seven miles, to within five miles of Strassburgh. The morning was intensely hot, succeeded by a storm of intense fury, which subsided into a steady rain. I cannot say why we did not go to Strassburgh, but I believe it was because a bridge had been swept away by the storm. Two more nights of rain and exposure and short rations till Wednesday when we marched back to Front Royal. Co. B. had a little variation in its usual fare Wednesday night.  It was rain and picket duty; and yet one might as well stand up in the rain sheltered by his rubber blanket as lie down cold and wet to get what sleep one can have under such circumstances.  Thursday morning we regained our Knapsacks, having passed five rainy nights without shelter or covering of any kind.
Perhaps this was necessary, perhaps it was conducive to the morale of the command for a Division of troups to be kept for five nights, and six days, living on hard bread and coffee, soaking in rain, without overcoats, blankets, or tents.  Perhaps it was.  Perhaps the reheumatism, chills, & diseases to which the soldier is heir to will not decimate the division. Perhaps the insensate lollygagging of somebody who kept us on the R.R. from Alexandria to Manassas six hours longer than was necessary, that wasted a whole day at Manassas, a second between that place and Thoroughfare Gap by delaying the cars did not occasion the escape of Jackson.  Why in spite of all this delay we were not twelve hours late. It took us just seven days to proceed from Falmouth to Front Royal. The men could have performed the journey better in much less time.  Let us see.  We left Falmouth Sunday afternoon.  The brigade should have been in Alexandria at 10 Am Monday, at Manassas at two o’clock, at Thoroughfare Gap at 3 o’clock of the same day, that is to say at Thoroughfare Gap in 24 hours. This would have been allowing a large margin for the delay in transporting large bodies of men.  It takes but six hours to sail from Alexandria to Acquia Creek, and an hour or so to ride from thence to Manassas, and another hour to ride to Thoroughfare Gap which is but four miles from Alexandria. We should have then had two days rations in our haversacks.  Instead of being there on Monday, we did not arrive till Thursday, about five o’clock.  The rebels did not destroy the water building I believe till Thursday A.M., or Wednesday, P.M. when Shields who started from Falmouth on Saturday overland was at the heels of the rebels.  Tuesday & Wednesday would have brought us to Front Royal, not without having captured small parties of sesesh.  We then would have been some 48 hours ahead of Jackson, and placed him between us and Freemont and crushed him.  As it was we were a half or a whole day late, perhaps I ought to say twelve hours.  Shields beheld the rear guard of Jackson retreating some six miles from Front Royal on Sunday A.M.  He cam Saturday P.M. but was compelled to await our coming before he could proceed with his eighteen regiments of Infantry and 36 cannon.  All Sunday A.M. from day-light to noon we heard the booming of Fremont’s guns as he pursued Jackson, capturing one gun and six hundred prisoners.  We with Fremont might have bagged the whole secession brood round about, but no, Mc Dowell could not act a secondary part to Fremont.  Fremont outranks him. Nay more, Shields might have enclosed the rebels between his forces and Fremont’s, but no, then McDowell’s pet brigades would see no fighting, and Shields would have the praise.  In fine (?) McDowell thought he had time to play his cards & trump Shields and Fremont, or he cared not whether he was in time or not, so that the game was not bagged by anybody. The disastrous result of the campaign is then doubtless due to McDowell who indeed is indirectly responsible for the rebels overrunning the valley at all and the retreat of Banks.  I believe McDowell put Ord under arrest at Front Royal, one reason I think being that he took some of Shields’ rations when his own men were starving. Shields justified Ord, and an interchange of high words ensued in which McDowell probably was told one or two very unpleasant truths.  While Ord was under arrest he was vigorously cheered shortly before Shields showed his face to our Division. McDowell the Chief saw and noted the respect the troups towards Ord and Shields.  He alone merited and received no demonstrations of affection and respect from his exasperated command. So have affairs been conducted in McDowell’s command which has been made up out of ruins of Bank’s command, not to speak of McClellan’s.
Friday June 10th.  We first arrived at this place, as I said before May 30th, then crossed the river on the 2d June, and again marched back and camped in the woods about half a mile from town on the 4th inst.  The next day we regained our Knapsacks.  I might as well have lost mine.  Its contents were soaked in sugar and water.  Water enough had passed into the Knapsack to take even the sticking quality from the mixture.  I succeeded in drying its contents in two or three days, but I am sorry to say that my fine stock of needles was a total loss, every needle being rusted from point to eye.  Scissors in like condition but will do.  Portfolio soaked to pieces and contents destroyed.  The portfolio not much of a loss, as I need none save for convenience, but the paper I liked the style of. Martha’s photograph damaged and stained, but still preserving the likeness, is good enough for a soldier.   I’ll wait till I get home before asking for another from the same demoiselle to put in my yet unprojected album.  In my next letter from home I shall expect to find a good darning needle, and three or four linen thread needles of the ordinary size, one at least with the eye of double or treble size like that of a darning needle.  I have pins in plenty. I also want a piece of wash leather good quality, say a foot square, as I wish to make a little purse and have a piece to spare.  I am in want of, or shall be pressingly, in a month’s time, of a couple of blue or grey, nice flannel shirts, and one pair of drawers, common thickness, not too thick, nor too thin, and two pair of woolen socks. These can not be procured in the army Government now furnishes nothing but cotton flannel shirts, and drawers, articles I have no desire to become acquainted with. The sutler has only shirts of a very nice quality, which are not warm enough. They can scarcely be called flannel.  I have no doubt that I can find a way to get them when you have procured them.  If I could get them here now, I should seize the opportunity at once, but unfortunately there is no chance here at all. So much for my private trials. Yesterday our brigade struck camp, and was in line when orders came to return again to camp.  We expected to march somewhere and be on the route two days, the orders were countermanded, it is said, because the rebels were in force on the road we expected to take.  We are now living on the rations issued yesterday to us, which are in our haversacks, and are to last till the morning of day after tomorrow.  This letter has extended itself already to an ungainly length, although I have omitted to say much that would interest you. Tomorrow if it is pleasant I will write again.  Seated in my poncho tent, just received from the sutler, impervious to rain, I bid defiance to the tempest without, and happy with plenty of money in my pocket, having been paid off up to the 1st of May, this morning, must cook my coffee for supper, as it is already past retreat.  Intending to send home a saw horse in my next, somewhat recovered from the Exposure and fatigue of over a fortnight’s marching and countermarching in the rainy season, I am not yet on the sick list. Love to all.  Do you send papers regularly now ?   I received two or three, two or three days ago.  Mails are as scarce here almost, as females.
          Your Affectionate Son
                   John B. Noyes

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Blog in Real Time, June 7th, 1862, Front Royal, VA

Front Royal, Virginia
June 7th 1862

            I received yours of the 28th yesterday morning.  Also one from Mother. Should have written you sooner but for the past two weeks we have been on the move nearly all the time, and guess that we shall have all the marching we can do.

            We left Falmouth on the 25th, marched to Aquia Creek and took steamers for Alexandria and cars from there to Manassas Junction.  Had a very pleasant trip.  Arrived at the junction Monday night and left Thursday morning at 4 o’clock for this place; marched all the way.  Should thought we might have come by rail as the road was in running order up to this side of Manassas Gap.

            We were to be used as a reserve force for General Shields who was in the advance and after General Jackson.  We arrived here Saturday night after marching 25 miles that day.  When we camped at night the rain came down in torrents and we had nothing except our rubber blankets to shelter us from the storm, our knapsack, blankets, and tents having been left at a station on the railroad to be brought along on the cars.  And you ought to have seen them when we got them day before yesterday.

            They were thrown off of the cars into the mud and laid there overnight in the rain storm. Everything was completely soaked. My blanket was all mud, tent wet and mildewed, writing case all wet, paper and envelopes wet, stamps all stuck together.  The pills which I carried in it were dissolved. All that I lost out of the lot was a bunch of envelope besides the pills.

            Sunday was quite pleasant.  Our division marched out two miles on the Strasburg Pike to support Shields who had gone on towards Strasburg to prevent Jackson from coming down this way. We camped there that night and Monday went 3 miles further and Tuesday went to within 2 ½ miles of Strasburg and Wednesday came back to the place where we are now camped.

            Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights it rained very hard all night long, and all we had to keep us dry was our rubber blankets and firs which we built.  It rained a little during the daytime but not much, and during that time we had nothing to eat but hard bread and coffee, not very substantial food.  But since we have been at this camp we have fared a little better.

            Front Royal from camp is distant about a mile and the view of it from camp is splendid, situated at the foot of some mountains belonging to the Blue Ridge. It is not a very large place and not laid out with any regularity.  It is a regular secesh hole.  Today is the first real pleasant day we have had since we have been here.

            Sergeant Fuller of Co B and Cushing of Co C were drowned yesterday while attempting to cross the Shenandoah in a boat, the bridge having been washed away by the rise of the river occasioned by the late rain. The current was swift and strong and they were unable to save themselves.

            That letter of Elishas’ was very good.  Wish I could write a good.  I mailed it to Henry today.  When we left Manassas, Gassett and Moreton stopped behind as they were not able to march and there were not any ambulances for them to ride; they having been taken away from the regiment while at Falmouth. Have since heard that they were in the hospital at Alexandria.

Don’t know what is the matter with them. The rest of us are all very well.  I was not intending to mail this today but as there are reports in camp that we are to march tonight, I shall finish it and put it in the mail.

Edwin Rice

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Blog in Real Time, June 7th, 1862, Front Royal, VA

     I have two posts for June 7, so I will put the first up a day  early. The drowning of John T. Fuller described at the bottom of the page happened on June 6th.

Front Royal, Va, June 7, 1862.

Editor of the Gazette:

            We are still here resting our weary tired limbs, the weather being half the time pleasant and the other half rainy.  There is a sutler here with goods, and is well patronized.  The boys are all stowing away under their jackets, honey, candy, oranges, butter, cheese, &c., &c.  Only think how well provided for these soldiers are, say some of our loving and patriotic friends at home; how can they grumble and complain.  Perhaps our friends do not say this, but there are many who do.  The man who does not study anatomy is not supposed to know much of the intricate parts and the workings of the human system, and a profound treatment of the subject by a master hand, would be beyond his conception; let a person visit a gallery of fine arts and he may see a thousand beauties, and may praise the production, but can he for a moment conceive of the immense amount of labor, the weary hours which wear away the best and brightest portion of his existence before these creatures of his genius are given to the world.  To accomplish any object, trial, and often suffering is to be endured.  If this be the case in the ordinary affairs and pursuits of life, why should the soldier be supposed to be exempt.  Surely no class of persons are more likely to be exposed to trial and sickness, and all the inconveniences of life, than the man who, taking his life in his hand, goes forth to defend his country.  If the sunlight of pleasant memories did not at times illumine his path–if the dreary monotony of camp life was not occasionally relieved–if food, which in other days constituted his common fare, food by the way which to get he must pay for, was not occasionally substituted for the articles furnished by government, the life of the soldier would be unendurable.  Some may say the excitement of seeing new and strange scenes, meeting with and studying the different characters and manners of those with whom he comes in contact with, may in a measure compensate for the inconveniences of this kind of life.  A person soon becomes tired of such things.  Follow us in one of our marches, if you please; compare it as many do, to a pic-nic excursion or a holiday amusement, and let the fun begin by strapping on equipments weighing 7 pounds, then take twenty round of cartridges in your pockets for ballast, sling over one shoulder a haversack containing three or four days’ rations.  Over the other a canteen containing two quarts of water; then a knapsack weighing from 15 to 25 pounds, shoulder a gun 8 pounds more, start from camp, and march under a burning sun 18 miles, then halt and pitch a tent and make coffee and eat a hard cracker and go to bed.  During the night a heavy thunder shower sets in, you wake up and find the water running down your back,–next morning start again in mud knee deep, ford streams, and when night comes again find rations getting short; follow up this kind of amusement for two or three week, through rain and heat and then picture to yourself, if you can, how much holiday amusement it affords.

            An accident happened to-day by which four lives were lost.  One man, named Fuller, belonged to company B, Mass. 13th, and another to the 12 Mass. Regiment were drowned.  The bridge over the Shenandoah having been carried away by the late freshet, they attempted to cross in a boat and the boat got swamped and they were drowned.  Mr. Fuller was Seargent of Pioneers.

            Saturday 8th inst.–A pleasant day–during the evening a heavy thunder shower passed over us.

Sunday 9th.–A day of rest, so called in good old New England, but our business goes on as usual.  It is difficult to distinguish one day from another in this part of the country.  The boys are generally well, but the last march told rather hastily on many of them; a day or two will recruit them.                                                                        Azof.
(Roxbury City Gazette; June 19, 1862; pg. 2, col. 5.)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Blog in Real Time, June 5, 1862

     Two Letters dated June 5th, 1862.  The first, a letter of Private James Ramsey, Company E, the 2nd, a letter to the Roxbury Gazette, from war correspondent, 'AZOF.'

Camp near Front Royal Va June 5 1862

Dear Mother
     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.)

Monday, June 4, 2012

Blog in Real Time, May 28, 1862, another letter.

Manassas Junction, Va., May 28, 1862.

Editor of the Gazette

            Dear Sir. – You will perceive that our Brigade is back to the Junction.  At 4 o’clock, on the 25th inst., we left Falmouth for Acquia Creek–marched all night over a break-neck road, and bivouacked in a field formerly occupied by a rebel Battery.  Their Barracks were still standing.  We found good log huts.

            26th.  A fine morning.  Marched to the landing at Aquia Creek; looking at the busy scene before me.  On my right is the camp of the 35th New York Regiment, on my left the wagons are wending their way towards the transports, containing rations, &c., while on my front may be seen Aquia Creek and also the Potomac, which here makes a broad spanse of water.  Schooners, steamers, and water craft, look very natural, being the first we have seen for ten months.  The most busy scene occurred at Aquia Creek landing; two or three sutlers being present, and most of the boys having a little money, it put one in mind of a pleasure day at home.  Cider, lemonade, nuts and oranges were in demand.  This is the first time the 13th Regiment has received the benefit of a steamboat or railroad travel since leaving home.  Never did a body of men bid adieu with more pleasure to an old camp, than did our Regiment bid good-bye to Falmouth.  While there we were worked and drilled almost to death.  There are no pleasant associations connected with the old camp; although no cheer greeted either McDowell or Abe Lincoln, when they reviewed the troops, a cheer did greet Col. Leonard when he informed us of our leaving the camp for good.  By the way, Col. Leonard is almost worshipped by his command.

            After dinner we embarked on board steamer John Brooks for Alexandria and Washington, the day was pleasant, the sun rather warm; the shore opposite my position on the boat is studded with earth works, and we are steaming past those batteries which constituted the famous blockade of the Potomac last winter.  I could scarcely realize that this was the same river over which we had stood guard for nearly ten months.  Truly, the Potomac is a grand stream.

            Opposite Fort Washington may be seen that time-honored and ever to be held sacred spot, Mt. Vernon.  The house is mostly hidden by the trees, and American taste and money should be freely used towards its adornment.  We reached Alexandria at 5 o’clock in the afternoon–remained on board the steamer until next morning.  At one o’clock, the long roll aroused us from our beds of hard pine plank, and after tumbling about a little while, we turned in again to be turned out again at three o’clock, for the purpose of taking the cars for Manassas, instead of Washington; never mind, we have had a view of the dome of the capital.  At day light we started for the cars–a dark dirty disagreeable morning.  At quarter past five o’clock, away we go.  The cars into which we are crowded consist of baggage, cattle and other cars of the meanest description.  I think by the time we have become a little darker complexioned we shall be thought almost as much of as the darkies who are attached to the Regiment.  After stops, too numerous to mention, we arrived within a short distance of the old camp.  Troops continued to arrive, and at present writing McDowell’s Division is said to be near by.  There are all sorts of rumors afloat in regard to the defeat and retreat of Gen. Banks, and it certainly does look bad.  Some lay it to one cause and some to another.  If part of a preconceived plan, all right; if otherwise, a tremendous responsibility rests upon some one in the War Department.  Curses, bitter and deep, have been showered upon some heads, whether deserved or not, time will show.

            The men, for the most part, are still in good spirits.  We have a rain storm to-day.  Hoping all things are for the best, and that friends at home will endeavor to be cheerful and happy.

                        I remain yours truly,                                                                  Azof.
(Roxbury City Gazette; Jun 5, 1862; pg. 2, col. 5.)