Friday, December 28, 2012

Semper Fi Fund

     I've been wanting to post about the Semper Fi Fund since Remembrance Day in November.

      I research the 13th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry because I am interested in the personal stories of the men that did the fighting during the war.   One of my goals is to make their deeds and sacrifices known, so they can be remembered.  Each soldier has a story.  Those guys are all gone now, but there are veterans around now that we can still remember and even assist, and a good way to do that is by donating to the Semper Fi Fund.

Click the link to learn more.

Semper Fi Fund

     The fund gives direct assistance to wounded marines and their families.  I believe they also assist wounded soldiers in other branches of the service.  The organization has some ridiculously high percentage [94% +]  that goes right to work helping the wounded veterans, instead of being used up in overhead fees.   Many of these wounded soldiers have lost limbs from IED's, improvised explosive devices.  This is a most effective way to show appreciation to  the men and women of our armed forces.   I donated in November, and I hope all who come across this post will do the same.  REALLY - Remember the veterans' sacrifices!  Check out their site and donate.

     And a Happy 1863 to everybody ! 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

150th Commemoration of the Battle of Fredericksburg

     This is just a short - quick - hurried - & late post -- to write about the coming events planned for the commemoration of the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Fredericksburg. 

   I wish I could be in Virginia this weekend for the sponsored events.   You can read about the activities here.    Fire on the Rappahannock

     I am particularly sad that I won't be present for the events planned December 9th   "A Nation Remembers"

A friend of mine was involved with a group that constructed two pontoon boats for the re-creation of the river crossing.  Here's a picture of the boats under construction.

     Union Artillery could not drive away William E. Barksdale's Mississippians. whose fire prevented Union Engineers from completing their pontoon bridge opposite the town.  In frustration soldiers of the 7th Michigan rowed across the river in 3 pontoon boats and stormed the opposite shore to establish a bridgehead.  The Confederates fell back into the town.  More Union troops crossed, then followed the Rebels into the town where bloody street fighting ensued. 

Artist Thure de Thulstrup, did this painting  --  One of my favorites of Civil War art.

My friend and his group that built the boats will be re-enacting the event.

 The 13th Mass. Vols did not cross the river here, and their river crossing was un-opposed.  They later fought on the Union Left on what is called the Slaughter Pen Farm.  They acted as skirmishers for the Grand Left Division, as I wrote in an earlier post.  A Confederate encampment is going to occupy the part of the ground during the commemorative activities.

So, if you're lucky enough to live close by please go!  There are more than a few unique aspects of this tragic battle, which will be re-created memorialized and remembered.

I close with a picture of the completed pontoon boat that my friend shared with me.    I'm so used to looking at sepia toned photos and b&w images that I  had no idea the boats were green.  After I received the pictures I noticed they were green in the painting!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The 13th Mass at the Battle of Fredericksburg

My new web page is up, about the 13th Mass at the Battle of Fredericksburg, December 11 - 15, 1862. 

My website is Thirteenth Massachusetts Volunteers.

Since I began building my website history of the 13th Mass Vols, many Civil War blogs have become prominent.  I started this blog to promote the website.  The website, not this blog, contains the orderly detailed history of the regiment.

Here is the link to the new page.  Battle of Fredericksburg.

N.M. Putnam
The 13th Mass acted as skirmishers during the battle for General William B. Franklin's Left Grand Division.  They were in General Nelson Taylor's Brigade, but as they were out of ammunition after two days skirmishing they did not advance when that brigade charged the rebel lines.  Instead they were ordered to fall back to the Bernard Mansion to re-replenish their cartridges and act as a reserve. The regiment lost 4 men in the battle, though they were actively engaged as skirmishers and pickets the whole time.  Lucky 13.

There are several vivid letters written from the battlefield posted at my site, including letters from Charles Adams, Co. A, George Hill, Co. B, Charles Leland, Co. B, and more.

George Jepson's Reminiscence of the battle written for the Boston Journal, is one of the highlights also.  Jepson writes of comrade N. M. Putnam's  vexing problem of carrying a wash basin onto the skirmish line.

Comments are appreciated.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Letters of John Viles

I set aside two days to visit the Army Heritage Education Center on my recent trip east in July.  I drove up to Carlisle, PA in the early evening the same day I toured Antietam Battlefield.  The Army Archive has several 13th Mass. materials in its collection.    I've known about these for years, but it took this trip east for me to finally access them.

For two days I copied original letters and other items with my digital camera.  The letters of Albert Liscom and John Viles were the two largest collections among the 13th Mass. stuff.  Albert was in Co. C, and John Viles was the arranger of music for the 13th Mass. band.  Albert's handwriting is small, with an elegant cursive, but  his handwriting is generally difficult to read.  John's writing is large, crooked and easy to read.  I copied some other interesting things, while at Carlisle, but the letters are most interesting for the information they reveal about life in the 13th Mass.  I was happy to run across this passage in one of John Viles letters, Dec. 20, 1861,  as it identified the two women in the adjacent photograph, which I came by several years ago.

– the Chaplain’s wife and 2 Children arrived here to day  Col Leonard and adjutant Bradley’s wives have been here 2 or 3 weeks."

That would be Adjt. David Bradlee, and his wife on the left and Mrs. Leonard and Col. Leonard on the right, assuming each man stood by his wife.

I transcribed John's letters when I got home, because they're easier to read.  I completed them in September.  There are 110 in all.  Viles' position in the regiment gives him a unique perspective on things, almost like a civilian observer.  He did not play an instrument with the band, so he did not have to participate in the morning and evening duties at dress parade, etc.  The arrangement of music kept him busy for a long while, but in time, when that was done, he had little to do.  The letters are written to his wife "Franky," whom he addressed as "Frank."  He had three children, a baby girl Fannie, and two sons, Franky and Gene,  the son Gene, quite a bit older.  Domestic concerns take up the greater portion of content in the letters.  He  was concerned for his wife's well-being at home, alone with the three children.  The fact that times were hard came up frequently, and it was clear John appreciated the fact that he was receiving regular pay with his fortunate position in the army, although he missed his family.

Early December finds his oldest son up to some mischief at home while father is absent:

I am sorry to hear the Gene has been up to such tricks.  I hope you have punished him for it – if he does the like again I think you had better set the constables after him – and I want you Should tell him I said so.

As early as the winter of 1861 -62 there were rumors of the bands being discharged from government service.

"About my getting much more money here – that is if we are discharged – you had best use it as economical as possible – I would not give you a word of caution if I was not afraid that would be the case.  I see by the Sentinel (the Waltham, Mass. town paper his wife sent to him) that a Town Meeting was to be held held last to consider the question of making a further grant of funds for the relief of families."

His letters also reveal that Col. Leonard granted members of the 13th Mass Band a great deal of liberty.  When other bands in their brigade started to muster out, they commented that they wouldn't mind staying around if their Colonel's treated them the same as Col. Leonard.

John caught a severe cold in late February and consequently did not march with the regiment when it finally crossed the Potomac River into Va to begin the Spring Campaign of 1862.  Here's how he treated himself:
"I think my cold is much better to day but I’m not so as to go out and don’t mean to tell I’m better – yesterday afternoon I went to bed with wet cloths on my Throat – Chest & Stomach – and my red Blanket wrapped round me – took compositon too and I sweat profusely all night I think it done me much good – to day I have cotton Batting applied to prevent taking more cold – I could not help wishing last night that you were here to take care of me but then Lawrence does first rate. It rained as fully last night but it is now clear and much colder – I’ll write tomorrow – good by for this time dear Frank"

The cold left him weak for many days.  He finally saw a doctor who told him he had had pneumonia, a sudden inflammation of the lungs.  He regained his strength  and caught up with the regiment while they were in Winchester, Va.  Here, he  fell into a good thing for extra cash -  writing down music for a theatre troop he met while the regiment occupied the town.

"my time is all taken up – here to write for the Band – every day – then at the theater there are two Singers – and they have no music for the peices they sing so I have to go In the afternoon and have them sing the peice over and over till I can write the music off – its slow work and takes some time as the pieces are new to me – then I have to write the parts out for the different Instruments – they say the Singers want I should arrange their songs so they can have the music when they go to other places – say they will pay me extra and you may suppose I shall make the most out of it that I can.  They have a new peice to Sing each night so Im busy all the time and when I write you – have to do it in a hurry – don’t think of any more to say but I almost always forget something that I meant to have written about – after too late – don’t fear anything for me about money – had $5 when I got here and am getting more every day –"

During the Spring and Summer of 1862, when the campaigning got hard, Franky, back home, began to have trouble with the landlord.

"I don’t like it very well of Ayers (the landlord) meddling with the ground – he has no business with it more than the man in the moon – he would’nt ask for such a privilege if I was about – but I’ll pay him for it some time –"

"If you don’t want the grass Plowed up around the House – all you’ve got to do is say so – Ayers has no business to touch it – he takes advantage just because I’m out of the way –"

"I don’t like what you tell me about moving – I think the legal time for him to notify you is when the rent is due – that is as you pay by the quarter he should have notified you the 15th – AM and I think he must notify you now on 15 July and then I rather think he must give you 3 months notice – nobody has any right to bring manure or anything else on the premises so long as you occupy it – I just wish I could be at home at this time – don’t let them hurry you out or make a fool of you –  don’t never pay him another cent without my advice –  I don’t know whether he ever Plowed the grass land but he’s no right to do so – "

Of course, the letters also comment on things happening in the field.

In April, Gen. John Abercrombie, commanding the brigade, camped the regiment in a foul swamp for a month.  Many soldiers wrote about it, as well as John.

– I think this the worst place we ever camped in – the ground is low and so much wet weather – then the water is the worst we have ever found – there is a great deal of sickness – though nothing serious. Mostly Diarrhoea"

When General Hartsuff assumed command of the brigade he moved the camp.

– I must tell you something about this new place that we are camped in – there are hundreds of Acres of open field well swarded with green grass the ground is quite high and the prospect beautiful – the woods have got on their foliage the Apple Trees in full Bloom – the grass is so high that it is waving in the wind – we have never had a camp ground equal to this before and why we staid down I that Sunken – Sickly hole so long is more than I can understand –"

One of my favorite letters is dated Waterloo, Va. Aug. 4. 1862.   The tough resistance put up by the Confederacy and the many Union setbacks in the Spring and Summer  forced the government to aggressively recruit more troops for the war effort.  John records the comments of Chaplain Noah Gaylord on the subject.

"Last evening at services we don’t have services till Just at night this hot weather,  the Chaplain had a good deal to say about the enlistments in Mass and attributed its Slowness to the discouraging Letters which the Boys had written home – he thought they had done a wrong thing and a great evil – he said they Should have encouraged every friend they had at home to enlist at once – he said he was aware they had to suffer much hardship but thought the cause and object they were engaged in was worth enduring much more – what he said was all right and good but I could not help thinking how little he knew about the hardships the men in the ranks endured -  at least by experience he don’t have to march with a knapsack on his Back – Blankets & Tent and Musket – stand guard and live in a Dog Kennel in all kinds of weather for 13 dollars a Month – he rides a Horse – has a good Wall Tent and a hundred Dollars per month or more – if a Private from the ranks had said the same – it would have had much more weight with me."

The letters date from August 2, 1861 - Aug 20, 1862.  The band mustered out of service ten days later, Sept. 1, 1862.

The band kept up its organization upon arriving home in Boston, adding new members as old ones dropped out.  I don't know if John stayed with them.  After John's death in August, 1882,  Franky rec'd a pension from the government.

I'm looking forward to adding various letters to the website in the future.

NOTE:  The picture of John Viles, and some biographical information comes from a magazine article written by Mr. Leonard Traynor, of Australia.  I am not sure of the publication's title.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Antietam Trip - Part Two

In spite of researching and researching there are still resources I overlooked.  I found that out a few nights ago as I read William A. Frassanito's classic book "Antietam, The Photographic Legacy of America's Bloodiest Day." 

I had known of this work for a long time but never checked it out until now.

I work as an artist so the study of the artist correspondents and Civil War photographers is of great interest to me.  I try to match images to the narratives on my website to provide a visual idea of location and action that the soldiers of the actual 13th experienced during their service.  I was looking at the same images used in this book via the Library of Congress image database, so I didn't think I was missing anything, which is one reason I delayed getting the Frassanito book.

     I read in the book that one particular landmark was photographed near the cornfield where the "13th Mass." fought, and had one of those 'Eureka' moments  -  Wait, I photographed that!

Those stacked rifles with the kettle hanging down is a monument placed by re-enactors of the 90th PA Vols, Christian's Brigade, the replaced the original in  a ceremony a short while back.

Taking pictures during my guided tour was really an afterthought the morning in July when I toured the battlefield.  I knew there were lots of pictures on line, and that if I wanted to take more pictures, I'd be back later in the week.  But I took another guided tour, this time with a group and never took pictures.

So, during that first tour, photos were an afterthought, but during a pause on the line where Hartsuff's Brigade fought, I thought I'd snap a few photos.  The idea was to 'stitch' the images together in photoshop when I got home, so I could have a panoramic view of what the men in Hartsuff's Brigade saw.  But I was too close and this darn tree was in the way !

After looking through the above book, I realized this was the same spot!  Look closely at the rock outcropping.  I've since added these images to my website page about the battle.

This is near the spot where the right of the 13th Mass. would have joined with the left of the 11th PA.  The 90th PA was in Christian's/Styles Brigade protecting Capt. Ezra Mathews 1st PA Battery, Co. F.  When Hartsuff's line thinned, Coulter ordered the 90th to come forward.  The 13th Mass. was the last regiment of the Brigade to retire, so perhaps they fought along side the 90th for a short while ?

Here's the panoramic on the other side of the tree.
The Visitor Center, near the Dunker Church, is just right of center on the horizon.  The high plateau of ground crowned by Confederate Batteries, that was Gen. Joseph Hooker's military objective the morning of Sept. 17.  The Confederates in the field in this photo, were protecting the artillery.

William Frassanito has dated the Alexander Gardner photograph above, to September 19, 1862; just two days after the battle.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Important Information about Antietam

Jim Rosebrock has posted two important articles regarding history's interpretation of the role Gen'l. McClellan played at the battle of Antietam.  Although I am not a fan of Gen. McClellan, I think if objectivity demands he be given more credit for what he did, rather than him taking all the blame, then he should get the credit.

The first post is here:

South from the North Woods

The second article is by Tom Clemens, whose 2nd volume of Ezra Carman's Antietam campaign is just out.  I read Vol 1, which clearly outlines the restrictions Gen. Henry Halleck put on Gen. McClellan as he moved the Army of the Potomac into Maryland.  (Halleck also dropped the ball when trying to direct Gen. John Pope during the Manassas Campaign.)  Anyway the article clearly states something that should be commonly understood, you cannot separate military operations from politics.

Thanks Jim for the two posts.

My own website page regarding Antietam has a bit of the old bias against McClellan which I will remedy before continuing on with the Fredericksburg Campaign, which I was in the midst of doing before my trip back east.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Report on My Research Trip East - Part 1

     I want to post about my trip to Maryland and Pennsylvania in July.  I will try to continue later with the 'Real Time' posts for the Summer campaign of 1862,  but the posts wont be in real time anymore.  I had to drop everything to prepare for my presentation on the 13th Mass at the Battle of Antietam at the Chambersburg Seminar last July, and I want to report on that.

     I arranged to have  tour a of the Antietam battlefield before the Seminar started.  Battlefield Guide Jim Rosebrock customized a 2 hour tour that traced the footsteps of Hartsuff's Brigade during the battle.  My cousin and her husband joined us for the tour, but more on that later.

     Jim began with an overview of  the Armies and their strategies for the battle. We stood on the high ground just outside the visitor center and looked over the terrain.  After that introduction we hopped in a car and drove out to the 'Upper Bridge' where Rickett's Division crossed Antietam Creek the 16th of Sept., 1862.   The Bridge is not on Park Land, - such is the benefit of booking a guided tour.

     From the bridge we proceeded to the Smoke town road, which still looks very much as it did in 1862.  (this part of the road is also not on Park Land.)  We passed down the road a bit and paused -somewhere by the side of the road very near  where we stopped, the 13th Mass bivouacked for the night of the 16th.  We were using maps from the newly published book "The Maps of Antietam" as a guide.  From here we moved forward to the spot (on park land) where the regiment, (with Hartsuff's Brigade, Rickett's Division)   formed their battle lines in preparation for the advance, very early in the morning on the 17th. It was at this time, Gen. Hartsuff, road forward to do reconnaissance and was wounded.   Looking about we tried to conjecture the direction he took.  We then advanced  - toward the cornfield, where the Brigade met the enemy.

The park recently added two field guns to mark the position of Col Ezra Matthews 1st PA Battery F, which supported Rickett's advance.  We walked out to the guns, which were not there, last time I visited in 2006.  Jim carefully explained the battle, and I shared a few of the stories from the soldiers in the regt.  Then we went back to the car and drove to the furthest point of the brigade's advance.  This is only a brief description of what we did, but it was an invaluable tour.  There are a couple errors on my website which I will be correcting soon.  Particularly useful was Jim's perspective on Gen. McClellan's leadership during the battle.  It was more balanced than the usual story, and I will amend the comments on my web page accordingly, although I am still not a McClellan fan.

     Walking the terrain is so much better than studying maps of the battle from afar, and it helped my presentation - the eyewitness accounts in my talk became clearer - easier to follow and understand.

     The tour was on Sunday morning, and my presentation was not until Wednesday, so I decided to drive up to the Army Heritage Education Center in Carlisle, PA, to spend a couple days there, making copies of 13th Mass Materials in their collection.  I took over 800 digital images, mostly of the letters of John Viles, the arranger of music for the 13th Mass Band, and Albert Liscome of Co. C.  I have been transcribing some of these materials, since coming home, which is why I have not been posting on the blog - but more about that in a future post.

Antietam Ceremonies for the 150th

For now, I would just like to point out the ceremonies the battlefield staff have planned for the 150th Anniversary of the Battle on Sept. 17. Check this out !

Next up, a short bit on the Field Hospital Exhibit at the Pry House, Antietam Natl Battlefield.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Temporary Delay for Blog in Real Time

I have to delay future posts.  I am traveling east to attend the Civil War Seminar in Chambersburg.

Here is the link.

I will do some "catch-up" posts when I return.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Blog In Real Time - July 16, 1862

- I apologize for being a bit behind with these posts.  I'm fighting a cold, etc.

July 16 was the anniversary of the regiments muster in date.  

Warrenton Va., July 16, 1862.

            One year has fled since we first pledged ourselves to support the Constitution and the Laws if need be with the sacrifice of our lives.  If many of the men have changed their minds in some respect on certain points during the last year, it is simply because certain contingencies have arisen over which they had no control.  Hope deferred maketh the heart sick.  Those who are already in the field by taking a backward glance, see much to discourage them,–that which all supposed would certainly be accomplished still remains undone.  In fact appearances indicate that the struggle is commencing.  Untold sufferings have been endured patiently and without complaint, hope cheering us on to the final success; we reach the goal only to find ourselves driven back by superior numbers, forced to retreat day after day, leaving our killed and wounded in the hands of the enemy, all our original plans have been overthrown, and had our army been under the command of almost any other man than General George B. McClellan, the entire force would have been captured or cut to pieces.  Our position is secure for the present; we will soon enter upon another line of operation–time will show with what success.

            A short time since we had as many or more troops than we wanted, the call has now been made for three hundred thousand more, and why is this?  Because the full resources of the rebel government was not understood!  It would seem scarcely possible that we could be so blind, when we know that every setting sun was strengthening the rebel army through the conscription act of the dictators.  The rebels have to-day a larger force in the field by hundreds of thousands than we have.  We have been doing but little, while they have thrown their whole soul into the work.

            As another large army has been called for, the time has again come for the lovers of the Union to show their patriotism, there if more than enough bone and muscle left to answer to the call.  The question is will they respond as freely as did the volunteers of last year?  Is there not a little doubt in the minds of our rulers in regard to this?  If not, why double the bounty?  Are those able bodied men at home any better or any worthier than those men who are now at the seat of war?  Do they possess less patriotism?  One might suppose so from the means used to get them --- come over and help us.  Are their hearts more tender, their love of wife and children more strong than ours?  If not why is it that means are used to raise them a year since?  A civil war is supposed to affect the whole country, each individual man, woman and child will of necessity feel its effects.  Why then should not all do all they can, be it ever so little, to crush the monster which has caused it.

            The three years volunteers feel sore when they look upon the action taken in relation to the raising of more troops.

            In my opinion, instead of going towards Richmond, we shall have our full before long in taking care of “stonewall Jackson.”  When he left for Richmond, he said he should come back, and most of us believe he will be here at no very distant day.

(Roxbury City Gazette; July 24, 1862; pg. 2, col. 7.)

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Blog in Real Time, July 11, 1862, Warrenton, VA

This one is a little late...

Headquarters, Hartsuffs Brigade.
     Near Warrenton Va  July 11 1862.
Dear Father
Your letter of the 7th Inst reached me yesterday.  My letter of the 6th to Mother was then of course on the way.  It noted my safe arrival. Our camp here is pitched on excellent ground.  A beautiful and cold spring adjoins the camp which in part feeds the brook where we wash.  A short distance from the camp is quite a large run, and a Sulphur Spring, the water of which I frequently imbibe.  Cherries and blackberries grow in great profusion, sufficient for the whole brigade. I have to speak now however of other matters. The recent call of the national government for 300,000 men makes it the duty of Massachusetts to raise a large number for the field.  The Governor has called upon the different cities & towns of the commonwealth to furnish each their quota to fill up the gallant but thinned regiments now in the field and for the organization of new regiments.  It is difficult to say whether the old or new regiments will be more attractive to recruits.  It should seem that those earnestly wishing to engage in the combats of the war would join regiments now in the field whose names have become distinguished by the conduct of both officers and men in the late conflicts. And yet there are other reasons which would induce many to prefer the new regiments where one feels more at home and the military equal of his comrades. The older regiments in the field which were raised at a time when the ardor for the war was warmer than it is now certain many men who if at home would be efficient workers in the raising of the new regiments, and who by their experience would be more competent to do their work faithfully. The impossibility however of obtaining furloughs at this period will keep these men back in their regiments, and unless they have friends at home to look after their promotion and their interests, the places which they might well fill and for which they have been fitted by a years campaigning will be given to those who have remained at home while their brothers were toiling far away in the service of their country. It is now more than a year, a year last May since I went to Fort Independence a member of the 4th Battalion of Rifles.  Circumstances being then favorable to my obtaining a place in the 16th Regt. I declined a corporal’s warrant which was offered me in my own regiment & took a discharge from my battalion. I afterwards however joined the company again as a private and went with it to the seat of war.  Promotion has been slow.  But one corporal has been made since we left, our orderly being promoted Sergeant Major.  Promotion is therefore hopeless. With Eight corporals and five sergeants in a company where is the chance for a private?  Only out of the Regiment it is plain, & through the efforts of his friends. It seems hard that those who first volunteered in the service of the flag in our humble position should be debarred? from rising higher while those who came after them reap easily the honors which were open to them had they been more careful of their own interests. It appears that the organization of the new Regiments is conducted in some what different principles from that of the old ones, and that the services of those who have campaigned are not in demand.  I saw yesterday a secret circular from the Governor of Mass. To the ColonelsS of Mass. regiments in the fields.  It was shown me by a friend under the promise of secrecy.  It asks the Colonels to send to the adjutant Generals office the names of those who are distinguished for merit among the noncoms and privates to be promoted to positions in the new Regiments, and the Captain to send in the names of those suitable for promotion. The circular thus says in effect that many commissions are to be awarded to those in the field fitted to receive them, but who are debarred by their present position from the chances open to them at home. The Colonels send in but a few names – ten I think. Of course a private, like myself, who is to the Colonel but as one of a thousand men can have no hope of being one of the lucky men to receive the recommendation. Nor should I fare better with the Captain, whose rank I respect, but not his fitness or abilities as a soldier.  There has been no opportunity in our regiment for any one to distinguish himself, for we have not had the fortune to be put in that place where private merit makes itself conspicuous. Even the best solder, cultivated & genial spirit, is but one of the hundreds of men who do their duty faithfully & well.  Nor even is he who is best fitted for promotion the one who is promoted in the company, but other reasons among which may be the friendship of the Captain, whose character may be repulsive to his best men, stands prominent. It is natural that a Captain should favor his friends, and if he nominated any as worthy of promotion, he would, and rightly too, name those of his non commissioned officers who had discharged their duties most faithfully.  The Colonel’s only Knowledge of men is from the officers’ and from contact with some of the highest of the non commissioned officers. No one Knows better than he the difficulty of selection of men suitable to be promoted. It has been said of him that he remarked of his regiment that he had a hundred men more fit to be commissioned officers, than the majority of those who came out as officers of the Regiment. The Colonel does not know me and I have done nothing to call his attention to me more than to any one else in the Reg’t. He knows man capable men and good soldiers whose conduct he has remarked and whose merit he will reward.  I have then to look out of the regiment. At home I should be well provided with recommendations.  Lt.Col. Meacham of the 16th who interested himself in me before I came out and who I believe is now wounded would recommend me as also would Major C. Peleg Chandler of the 1st mass.  I was a member of the drill club of the first named officer before I joined the battalion and guarded the arsenal with him and had frequent conversations wit him at Camp Cameron.
All the friends with whom I once drilled at Cambridge including about 20 in my own class, who are now in the army are there as officers. Some of them as the lamented Lowell have distinguished themselves by honorable service & found death a fate in battle.  More illustrious end to well spent young man-hood who could desire!  Who for their sakes would wish to recall them from their youthful slumbers?
Since things are so it would seem to be a favorable moment to press my claims to notice as a candidate for a commission in one of the newly organized regiments.  If a liberal education is any acquisition to an officer of the experience of a years hard, active, varied service(?) is any qualification for an officer, if sobriety and gentlemanly traits (qualities how infrequent, or rather how not over and above common in the offices of our volunteer army) are what an officer should possess then am I far more qualified to sustain the position of an officer than many who are now in the service and are constantly being added to it.  I have not the influence, or the audacity to press my claims before his excellency the Governor, but if he desires those who have seen service rather than men in civil life to officer his regiments, my name is at his disposal. If he is influenced in his choice of officers by such matters as a liberal education, I offer him that. But I would have it understood that rather than not fight at all, I am ready to finish as I began a year ago last May, indeed last March, an humble private in our splendid army, & if I am to die out here by sickness, or the bullet, I am content to have it said that I fell doing the duty I was ordered to do in the hope that my county might once more become a united nation.
Two men from Co. D. received appointments to day in the new regiments.  Perhaps I have before stated that Stimpson will probably receive a commission in the    regular army. So Lowell & Howe are gone.  They were both gallant officers and of urbane manners and their Class (for I may also place Howe with 58) mourns them, & to their friends their loss is irreparable.  Who shall say however that they were not fortunate?  An honorable life is not measured by length of years and glory is not always with grey hair. Duce et cecomum est pro patra non, and especially is this the case before age has worn away the ardor of youth.
     In haste Your Aff. Son
                   John B. Noyes.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Blog in Real Time, July 7-8, 1862

I post two letters describing the regiments activities around the 4th of July, the summer of 1862 - B.F.
Letter of Private John B. Noyes, Co. B
Sunday July 6th 1862, Near Warrenton Junction Va
Dear Stephen
On the 4th of July instead of going into Boston and staring at the country girls from one of the benches of the mall of Boston Common, as of old or instead of doing escort duty for the City Government of Boston and imbibing huge drafts of brandy and water, I packed up my Knapsack and started with our Division for Warrenton, (not Warrenton Junction) Va.  The first day brought us to beyond Gainsville, the second to near Warrenton.  Both days were sweltering.  To day beats them both, for here even in the shade the perspiration drops from my forehead. This A.M. I went to see the town. It is quite a large place, said to contain 3000 people.  But this must be an exaggeration, for although it is a much prettier place than Martinsburgh it does not seem to be so large.  There are many very pretty private residences here, a few very pretty girls, none of whom I have as yet spoken to.  Indeed to have never made up to any Virginia damsel.  The place is said to be quite a fashionable resort in the summer months on account of its sulphur springs.  The rebs skedaddled out of town last Thursday, perhaps they went to Richmond.
By the way yesterday at a halt the general announced the capture of Richmond by our forces, Beauregard as prisoner and 27000 rebels captives.   I wait patiently to see the newspapers, hoping that the report is true, though fearing it may not be.  Please send me a file of the Herald, covering the whole fight of Seven or more days.  The Philadelphia Enquirer, which I am only able to purchase sees nothing but Pennsylvania troups and beslobbers them often with undeserved praise.  By this time you may have seen Wm. H. Rice A.B. Columbia College, late orderly of Co.D. N.Y. 9th.  You will find him a hale and well met fellow excellent in head and hart and thoroughly posted in all matters connected with camp life, having entered Martinsburgh with Gen’l Patterson last Summer, and having since continued in the service. I shall miss his company much. You may consider this as a letter of introduction for my sudden departure from Warrenton on the 4th inst prevented me from writing a note of introduction and delivering it to Rice himself.  Mr. Rice will give you an envelope containing a set of studs made from laurel dug up from the battle field of Manassas near where the charge of the Black Horse Cavalry was made. The studs are in rather rough condition but you can easily have them cut to your fancy.  I should have had them better finished had I had time.  Some of our men have B & R cut on them, signifying Bull Run, Others B. 13th M.V.  If you had been a smoker I should have tried to obtain a pipe.  Between a rings & a set of studs I though you would prefer the latter.
In haste Yours Truly,
              John B. Noyes.
 Letter of James Ramsey, Co. E

Warrenton  Va  July 7th 62
Dear Mother
     I now find my self writing to the light of a candle which is stuck in the neck of a bottle and curiously fastened to the ridgepole of our tent so as to hang, like a chandelier, in the centre of our tent.  To day has been very hot and oppressive and we have to thank our stars that we have not had to march.  In the morning after breakfast I commenced the order of the day, in the first place I took my towel and soap and in company with my bed fellow or in other words my tent fellow, started for quite a large brook near our camp, to have a swim and rest myself in the shade of the trees overhanging the brook    after enjoying a good bath and feeling somewhat refreshed we agreed to go and get some cherries which are very plenty and in fact I never saw as many in my life and I can almost say with impunity, I have never eaten as many as I have during the last four days since leaving Manassas.  It did not take us long before we had our fill of nice black cherries and were on the way back to camp as visions of beef steak arose before us and seemed to nerve us on; on our way we came to a sulpher spring which was not very strong but cleer as christal and most as cold as ice, it was in the center of a group of fine shady trees.

     The spring is forced up through the trunk of a gum tree cut close to the ground which was done some twelve years ago    so a slave on the farm of the owner of the spring told us.  He further told us that his master was a very wealthy and aristocratic man and owned two hundred slaves, he is now a quarter master in the rebel army, so much for a rebel.   After dinner we saw there was prospects of a shower or thunder storm as it soon proved to be, and concluded to make ourselves as comfortable as possible, so my companion agreed to get the boards if I got the poles and fixed the tent, while he was after the boards I raised the tent a foot from the ground which made it resemble a bedstead with the boards for slats and bed together.  Soon the storm broke upon us but was of short duration  we all the time was pretty well sheltered from it which full paid us for our pains.

     On account of the thunder storm we did not have a dress parade only a roll call which to us seemed the best of the two. We have had Tattoo and Taps and my candle is still burning but I suppose it would be proper me to retire and I now bid you good night.  

     To morrow I will tell you how I spent the fourth of July.

July 8th 1862.     To day it is quite cool and a fine breeze blowing  I have just got back from berring and on my way I visited the sulpher spring and took a bath.  Early on the morning of the fourth of  July we received orders to be ready to march by eight-o’clock   much to the disappointment of a great many who were expecting to have a good time and fire works in the evening, myself among the number.  The camps of the 90th Penn and 26th New York (Rickets brigade) were trimmed up in grand stile with evergreen, they being to work all day the day before, they were also expecting friends from Washington and they felt disappointed to be called on to march   I don’t think there was a bit of need of it as we are lying idle at Warrenton.

     I do not know as I have got any thing more to write in this letter.

     I send my love to all   Kiss Hugh for me  I still remain your affectionate son
P.S. Write soon   Pray for me that I may remain faithfull

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Blog in Real Time, July 5, 1862

Westboro Transcript
July 5, 1862

Marlboro, June 28th, 1862

Ms. Editor; - Having just returned from a visit to Manassas, now the camp ground of McDowell’s division, with which the 13th Mass. Reg. is connected, it may be interesting to the friends of our two companies to know what I saw in camp and Hospital.  I am satisfied from what I saw that a soldier’s life in war is no holiday life.  Those who speak of a soldier’s pay as sufficient compensation for the service he renders, and the toils and privations he undergoes, had better try a three years enlistment and then wee what they think.  I am more satisfied than ever before, that the additional pay given by the State to our volunteers was deserved.  The only thing that I regret is that it is so little and so limited in its application.  Additional pay should have been given to every Massachusetts volunteer, though I admit a distinction between those who have families and the single man would be highly proper.  It is a burning shame for us who stay at home and enjoy the blessings of civilized life to grudge (?) the payment a few dollars to those unselfish and patriotic men who have thrown themselves into the gap and stand bravely between us and the destruction of everything we hold dear.

When I arrived in camp I found about fifteen thousand men encamped on the plains of Manassas.  They were resting after their severe toils form long and forced marches, under heavy burdens, with short allowance, and under great exposure, being a part of the time wholly without tents, storming as it was.   They were now enjoying what may be termed the bright side of a soldier’s life.  It did my hear good to see the general cheerfulness that pervaded the camps, and I could but wonder how men could be so cheerful after such hardships, especially as many men were actually suffering from cramps, rheumatism and fever engendered by their late exposures, an which exposures were liable to be renewed tomorrow.  It is however partially explained by a casual remark of one of our soldiers, ‘we know not what will turn up to-morrow, and we have endured so much, we care but little.’

The first twwo days I was in camp and the first night the weather was delightful, the ground was dry, and there was much comparative comfort throughout the camp.  On the afternoon of the second day there were unmistakable signs of a Virginia tempest.  The soldiers were called out for brigade drill, but they came back double-quick before five.  They were hardly in when the tempest came in earnest.  It was terrific in lightning and thunder and wind and rain.  In three hours, it is speaking within bounds to say that on a level the water on the surface of the entire campground would have measured?  there than an inch in depth besides what had soaked into the earth, making the entire surface a complete mush of mud.  About nine o’clock, P. M. some of the officers desired me to go through the camp that I might tell when I returned to Massachusetts, what I saw on the plains of Manassas. I went through the camp of the 13th Mass. Reg.  The violence of the tempest had overturned several of their tents, and all were thoroughly drenched.  Their little shelter tents are scarcely better than no tents.  They consist of a piece of cloth five feet square.  When a man camps by himself, he sets up two stakes, five feet apart and a little  over two feet in height, and then places a ridge-pole, five feet long on the top of these stakes, hangs his piece of cloth over this ridge-pole, and then pulling the corners as wide apart as he can, fastens them to the ground by pegs.  Thus he makes himself a little Tom Thumb canvass house, with both gables open.  Under his best estate the soldier cannot sit upright in his tend, but must crawl in on all fours, an dif he happens tot be over five feet long, either his head or his feet must be our.  If he lowers the ridge of his tent he can get a little more width at the bottom, but this gives him a flatter roof, through which the rain will run as through a sieve.  But it is not common for one to tent alone.  These tents are made so as to button on to each other – say three agree to button on, as they term it, tow button their tents together making a length of about ten feet, the third buttons his tend on to one of the gables and thus they form the best shelter that can possibly be made with these tents.  These tents are not so good for shelter or for comfort any way as ordinary dog kennels.  Yet under such shelters the brave champions of liberty and right and good government are obliged to crawl. Here were men coming down with typhoid fevers, rheumatism, dysentery &c. all drenched through, and obliged to lie there, with the water overflowing the bottom of their tents, and the rain sifting through the top.  God save the country that uses her brave defenders thus – for I fear men will not.  Massachusetts did not furnish her men thus; this regiment has good Sibley tents that would shelter them from the storm, but these are packed away somewhere.  This regiment had a train of wagons and ambulances that any regiment might be proud of – but these have all been taken from them, and there ins not one left to carry a pound of the burdens of the worn-out soldier, or bear his sick body a mile – but if a man falls by the way, four of his comrades must bear him along on a piece of canvass, or he must be left on the way.

All this is said to be done because McDowell has had a mortal fear of baggage wagons since the battle of Bull Run.  When the men crept out in the morning to rekindle their camp fires and dry themselves and get their breakfasts, they were a sorry looking act.  But they seemed to put the bright side out, for when I asked them if this did not give them the rheumatism, they said it did some, and that cramp terribly, but they added, after we have stirred round awhile and got warm we shall feel all right.  Such treatment of men as this may be a common concomitant of war, but if it is, war ought not to be an agency necessary to civilization; but if it is a necessary agency to civilization, then certainly civilization ought to be willing to offer more than thirteen dollars a month for meant to meet the dread necessity.  I slept in camp, I ate in camp, and I write what I saw.  I believe, to say nothing of the suffering of the men, that by this one storm, or rather tempest, more property was lost from the want of proper shelter than would be sufficient to furnish the entire encampment with proper tents.  The rations of the men were very good in camp, though on their marches they had suffered much from lack of food.

They said they had often been hungry whilst obliged to guard the probperty of persons they knew to be secessionists.  The universal testimony in regard to the people saouth where they had been was that there were but few, if any real Union men there.  RThey think it will take Uncle Sam a long time to coax his obstreperous children back into the old family circle.  I think the sentiment is gaining ground among the masses of the soldiery that the institution which is the fundamental cause of all this trouble must be rooted out before this war can end, thought I must say there was a tenderness, even yet, in some quarters on this question that I was sorry to see.  Some men see to think that they cannot save the Union  and the Constitution without slavery, as though human slavery was an essential element in the government instituted by our revolutionary fathers, the apostles of liberty.  Such men forget that the framers of the Constitution intentionally so worded that great instrument as that slavery might fade out in the country, and yet the Constitution remain intact.  IF all our generals came up to the sentiments which the brave Gen. Rousseau of Kentucky, lately expressed at a banquet given him at Louisville, this war would soon be ended.  Though a slaveholder, he seems to be a man for the times.  Speaking of closing this contest, he says, ‘But the negro stands in the way, ins spite of all that can be done or said.  Sanding before the eye of the secessionist, the negro hides all the blessings of our government, throwing a black shadow on the sun itself.  IF it had b4een any other species of property that stood in the way, the army, provoked as it has been, would willingly have seen its quick destruction.’    ‘Slavery is not worth our government.  It is not worth our liberty.  It is not worth all the precious blood now poured out for freedom.  It is not worth the free navigation of the Mississippi River.”  Let all Union men talk in this style, and act as bravely and decidedly as Gen. Rousseau has acted, and the country is saved; the Union will stand and liberty will be preserved.

I visited most of the hospitals at Alexandria, and searched out all our Marlboro boys I could find. Our sick were all doing well.  The hospitals were neat and airy, and well supplied.  Yet these neat hospitals are sad sights to look upon.  Each one who has a friend or relation in the army can imagine all I would say. ‘Here,’ said an attendant to me, ‘they come in, and hence they go out; and here is one just going out.’  I looked:  a short breath or two, and he was gone.  Yet the brave fellows lying there by thousands, weak and disabled, said with a momentary animation on their countenances, ‘if we could have pitched into those scoundrels last fall when we had our full strength, we would have whipped them though we wee raw recruits; but it is over with many of us now.’  He, in my view, who endures cheerfully and with fortitude, pains and sickness engendered by the hardships of war, is not less worthy of respect than he who meets danger courageously on the battle-field.

I wish to express through our paper, my sincere thanks to Maj. Gould, Lieuts. Palmer, Pope, and Brown, Dr. Claflin, and Wagoner J. Morse, and to all our Marlboro boys, for their kind attention to my comfort whilst I was in camp.

O. W. A.

NOTE:  (O.W.A. is O. W. Albee of the town of Marlboro, (perhaps a selectmen?)).

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Blog in Real Time, Manassas Jctn, July 1, 1862

The following was downloaded from the now defunct website LETTERS OF THE CIVIL WAR.

Manassas Junction, Va., July 1, 1862.

            June 28th, was sultry–made a visit to Bull Run.  Something new and interesting meets the eye at every step; we passed three graves, the headstones were demolished either by accident or by some sacrilegious hand.  Enough remained to tell us the State they hailed from, also the regiment to which they belonged.  South Carolina’s sons had found a resting-place on the soil of Old Virginia.  One cannot but be astonished at the great number of rifle pits, which are scattered in all parts of the plain, every knoll from which the least advantage was to be gained, was brought into requisition.  No one point have I visited a second time, yet the same preparation to meet the foe is visible.  One fortification about two miles from our camp, was intended to mount twenty-four guns.  Perhaps these earth works may yet come in use.

            Bull Run Creek is easily forded at the present time.  Its waters are shaded by time honored trees, seemingly the growth of centuries.  Along its banks lie huge trunks of trees fast hastening to decay, reminding one of fallen greatness.  The heavy freshets which sweep with irresistible power through the narrow channel of the creek, pile upon either side a vast amount of refuse trash; trees, the roots of which laid here by wash of flowing stream, stand tottering o’er its bed, present to the eye a scene of rugged grandeur.

            If nothing happens to prevent, we shall have plenty of blackberries in a few days; the ground is covered with them.

            At six o’clock P.M. we had the pleasure of being introduced to a most laborious Battalion drill which lasted until dark.  To-morrow being Sunday we shall have our usual rest.

            Sunday 29th.  Cloudy, looks like rain which will be very acceptable should drill be the order of the day.  At 7 o’clock A.M., inspection, after which, strange to say, we have nothing to do until 5 o’clock P.M., at which time we assembled to listen to a few remarks from our Chaplain, and finished the light duties of the day with dress parade.  The text selected by our Chaplain was taken from a work of Dickens, “Let us be jolly;” briefly he pointed out the folly of giving way to a feeling of discouragement–urged upon all the necessity of bearing up under the various trials to which they might be subjected–thought that even if a man could not laugh and grow fat upon an empty stomach, he could at least be cheerful by looking forward to the meal that would fill it.  ’Tis all right to give good advise, but very hard at times to follow out those words of encouragement.  The influence of our Chaplain is great, and is always used for the benefit of the regiment.  His cheerful happy disposition is contagious, looking upon the bright side of things himself, his example causes all to follow in his footsteps.

            As night is fast drawing her mantle over us, we must close.  Trusting ourselves to the watchful care of the sentinel, we enter our tents perfectly satisfied with this day’s work.

(Roxbury City Gazette; July 10, 1862; pg. 2, col. 6.)

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.