Thursday, May 31, 2012

Blog in Real Time - May 18th 1862

     Commissary clerk, Frank Morse, of the 13th Mass. remained behind in the Shenandoah Valley when the regiment was brigaded to Gen. John Abercrombie and removed from General Nathaniel Banks' command.  Frank wrote this letter home to Westboro, Mass. on May 18th, giving his impressions of the place.  The letter was not printed in the local paper, the WESTBORO TRANSCRIPT,  until May 31.  By then, Banks' command had been run out of the Shenandoah Valley by Stonewall Jackson.  By then, the 13th Mass. were on their way back to the valley in an effort to capture Jackson's command.  Morse's next letter describing the chaos, would not appear in the local paper until June 28.  

     Its an interesting item, which is not included on my website.  Since it falls between May 18, when it was written, and May 31, when it was published, I'll fit it in here!  ...and pretty soon I'll catch up to real 'real time.'

May 31, 1862


United States Commissary Department,
Winchester, Frederick Co., Va., May 18, 1862

Friend Farwell: - Thinking that a few lines from this hotbed of secession might not prove uninteresting, I will endeavor to jot down a few incidents of my observation in the Shenandoah Valley.  Winchester, where I have for some time been stationed, is situated in the lower part of the Valley, twenty eight miles from Harper’s Ferry, at the terminus of the Winchester and Potomac Railroad.  It is, or rather was before the rebellion, a large, beautiful, flourishing city, and the county seat of Frederick County.  There is not, perhaps, another city in the Old Dominion where there is so little of the Union sentiment to be found as here.

The former residents, or the male portion, all who are able to bear arms, are in the Confederate army, and there are but few left in this valley to welcome the ‘Yankees,’ as they are termed, but women and negroes; and such a reception as we receive at their hands!  We are looked upon as vandals and invaders of their homes, and treated by the women, at least, with perfect contempt.  Mr. Seward, on his return to Washington from a visit to the battle field here, was asked his opinion of Winchester.  His reply was, ‘The men are all away, and the women are the devils.’  And he spoke but the truth.  Go where you will, penetrate as deep into the valley as you please, you will see the miserable, bitter fruits of this wicked rebellion.  Farm houses deserted, fences destroyed, and negroes wandering about in idleness, enjoying their ‘freedom,’ which is nothing to them but freedom from labor.  It would amuse the people at home if they could see the conduct of the darkies here.  Some of them will come for miles to get a glimpse of the soldiers.  There are darkies of all ages, shapes and sizes, - Ethiops, copper colored, and cream colored, and your milk-and-water negroes, that come very near being white men, - dressed in all styles, a majority of them being clad in costume a la militaire, consisting of the cast-off garments of soldiers, rebels, and Unionists.  The women portion of the slaves on Sunday are dressed in a perfectly regardless-of-expense style, yellow being the favorite color, while a plaid of all the colors of the rainbow, like Joseph’s coat of old, is regarded with envy by the less fortunate of their class.  A frock or bonnet is never thrown away, for when the lady owner of these articles becomes tired of them, or they get out of fashion, Dinah secures them for a Sunday suit, and with here extensive hoops sets to aching all the  hearts of the colored gentry by the grandeur of her toilette.  It is a mistake to suppose the slaves accept the boon of freedom with thanksgiving and praise.  When told by Northern troops that if their masters are in the rebel service they are at liberty to go where they please, those who have been ill treated will usually pack up and ‘skedadle’ to some quartermaster or commissary, where they can obtain employment and rations; but the majority prefer to remain with Missus and enjoy the listless idleness the rebellion gives to them.

The city is now under martial law, the 10th Maine Regiment, Co. George L. Beal, doing provost duty.  The sale of liquor is strictly prohibited, and no citizen or soldier allowed on the streets after ten o’clock at night without the countersign.  The hospitals are still pretty full, there being several hundreds of those wounded in the late battle here, who have not yet fully recovered.  The rebel wounded were mostly taken from the hospitals, and kindly treated by the citizens in their homes.  In conversation with a rebel soldier form one of the South Carolina regiments to-day, I asked him if he had not got enough of this war.  He answered ‘No; I was wounded pretty bad in the battle out here, but when my arm gets well shall try it again if I get the chance.’

But amid all the expressions of enmity to the law and the constitution that has met my ears for weeks past, I cannot find it in my heart to speak a harsh or unkind word to them, for the events of the last few weeks has caused a despondency of countenance, a lack-lustre expression of the eye, that speaks a tale full of mighty import.  However much  the rebels ma try to disguise it, thee is no mistake but they are disheartened and discouraged, though many still persist in declaring that they never can nor never will be subdued.

A few steps from where I am writing is the former residence of Senator Mason, the author of the Fugitive Slave bill.  His house is now occupied by Union troops, his family leaving on the approach of the Federal army.  Hs slaves, unmindful of the stringent law he framed, have taken to their heels and sought a more congenial clime.  His daughter is now a helpless lunatic, caused by the rebellion her father was so instrumental in bringing about; and he an exile in a foreign land, with nothing to recompense him but the knowledge of the fact that if he ever returns to his native land it will be to meet a traitor’s doom and fill a traitor’s grave.  Verily, he is reaping his just reward.

I can write nothing of interest in regard to the regiment to which I belong, having for a long time been detached from it.  It was reported here yesterday that it had marched from Warrenton Junction to Fredericksburg, and may be ere this reaches you, in Richmond.  Officers and soldiers in other regiments who are acquainted with it, all speak of the 13th as being one of the best drilled and best disciplined regiments in the service.  And it is my earnest hope that the day is not far distant when that, as well as other regiments can return again to the loved ones at home, stronger and better men, morally and physically, than when they left, and that they may meet with such a reception as will amply reward them for the hardships and privations they have endured in aiding to crush this unholy rebellion.

With my best wishes for your health and the success of your Journal, believe me,
Very truly yours,

F. H. Morse.
(Frank Morse)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Blog in Real Time - May 16, 1862

Bandmember Edwin Rice, describes the march to Falmouth.

Falmouth, Virginia
May 16th 1862

            Yours of the 10th was received Monday eve.  We left Warrenton Junction Monday about noon, marched 6 miles and pitched camp for the night. Weather was pleasant and pretty warm.  Your letter was handed me just as I was going to bed, also one from Sid Learing.  I went to sleep about 8 o’clock and slept pretty sound.  Shouldn’t think I had been asleep over an hour when I woke up and heard the reveille beating. Got up and found out that it was 5 o’clock in the morning.  Started on the march again at 6 o’clock.  We marched that day 17 miles over the worst roads that I ever saw.  McDowells Division passed over them two or three weeks before and the wagons cut the road up very badly.

            We should not have marched so far that day if we could have found water enough for the brigade.  Water was very scarce on the road.  The day was pretty warm and a good many men fell out on the march. There are 7 men missing now out of our regiment. It is said we passed within 100 rods of a rebel cavalry company.  Perhaps they took some of the straglers prisoners. Wednesday morning we started about 7 o’clock.  The sky was cloudy, but did not look as though it would rain.

            With the exception of 4 or 5, the Band put their blankets and overcoats on our wagon. It rained a little all day long.  We got onto our campground about noon.  The wagons did not come up till about 4 o’clock.  By that time we were wet through. Made ourselves pretty comfortable as soon as the tents were up.

            There are stories in camp today that when we leave this camp, we leave the tents behind and that only 5 teams will be allowed the regiment.  The usual number is 20.  Rubber blankets are to be furnished us.  Two of them put together with some sticks and pins that come with them will make shelter enough for two persons to lay in under. The officers are to have the same as the men.

     There is not a brigade in McDowells Division that have large tents except ours. If we who belong to the Band have any valises we shall have to carry them on our backs.  Am going to send mine home. Also my overcoat and a grey blanket.
            I have not had a chance to see Fredericksburg yet.  Cannot get across the river without a pass. Falmouth is not much of a place.  We are about a mile and a half from the river.   [Sketch by Edwin Forbes of Falmouth, VA, click to view larger image.]

     The country between Warrenton Junction and this place is level, thickly wooded and very thinly settled.  There was not a village in the whole distance – 33 miles.  I received a letter from Mother yesterday morning mailed the 12th

            I was pretty well tired out when we halted Tuesday night. Was not feeling very well when we started in the morning. Am as well now as ever.

            Hope that the next march that we make will be toward Massachusetts.  When you direct letters to me do not put on any general’s division. Nothing but the brigade (General Hartsuff).
Edwin Rice

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Blog in Real Time - May 15, 1862

     I continue the retrospective 'real-time' posts to catch up to date.  Here is another letter of Private John B. Noyes, Co. B.  He describes the march to Falmouth.

Near Falmouth Va.  Thursday May 15th, 1862
Dear Father
On the 10th Inst. I sent a letter to George, and on the 12th one to Martha, which letters, by this time, may have been received at home. The latter letter was sent out a short time before we set out on our march to Fredericksburgh, by the 105th N.Y. Reg’t. mail.  That regiment, a part of Duryea’s brigade, relieved us at Warrenton Junction, before we set out to join the advance of Gen’l. McDowell. Our mail was closed Monday not to be opened again until last night.  We left our splendid camp at Warrenton Junction, with its excellent water facilities, and magnificent prospect at 12 M.  Monday. The 12th inst.  The roads dried a weeks sun were in excellent condition, ruts excepted.  No mud whatever yet every where evidences of the almost impassable state of the roads when McCall’s Div. joined McDowell at Falmouth.  We marched but six or seven miles before pitching tents for the night. I preferred to bivouack having selected a nice spot before the tents were pitched, and did not regret my choice.  The next day we wee up betimes (?) and started on our march at 6 A.m.  I was not burdened by my grey blanket which I had succeeded in getting stowed away.  The day was terribly hot, and we had not advanced far when the men began to tumble out to get water. The dirt road was so terribly cut up, and the ranks so open on that account, that every chance was offered for so doing.  Onward we plodded, every now and then an overcoat or a blanket being taken from a knapsack and left by the wayside, especially by members of the N.Y. 9th.  Their dark overcoats, with red facings were easy to be distinguished.  We marched nine hours to within seven miles of Falmouth, where shortly after 3 AM. We pitched our tents, having traveled 17 miles.  I consider the march perhaps the toughest we have yet seen, as it was in the heat of the day, over a road of ruts, and the day such a day, although I was able to be one of the dozen in my Company who came into line at the end of the march.  The men did very well as a general thing, the greater part of them coming to within half a a mile of the halting place.  The country we passed through seemed rich and was covered up with vegetation. Nice grass lots and clover fields.  Cherry trees along the route with cherries on them as large as cherry stones.  Apple trees in full bloom, the buds falling.  Woods thick with foliage, the leaves not yet having attained their full size.  There was one tree or very large bush in the woods on the route in full bloom, the white blossom of the size of a half dollar.  But on such a march as that one has little thought of the landscape.  His eyes are much more Keenly alive to the beauty of a well, with is old oaken bucket, or better still a spring by the way side.
At last as I said we halted.  A mug of chocolate disposed of, the tent pitched, a bathe all over, and supper ate, I was ready to make a short call at the New York 9th camp.  I found my friends there much elated at the manner their regiment came in, which has a great reputation as a “fall out”  regiment.  I of course had not much to say, but wondered at the vacant room in the tent.  My mess were all in at supper time, which was an hour before.  The absence of the Knapsacks was satisfactorily accounted for, when not so much to my surprise after all in came six stragglers and threw down their Knapsacks. The laugh was then with one.
At 7”10 yesterday morning we again started and marched through Falmouth to our present camp, which is opposite Fredericksburgh, a distance of ten miles in a drenching rain storm.  We shall soon cross the Rappahannock and advance upon Richmond. These are probably 50,000 troups now in McDowell’s command here or across the  river McClellan has had eight days of splendid weather for his march upon Richmond.  I hope he is now safely there, and that he has invested the place.  Yesterday and to day’s rain has doubtless made the roads well nigh impassable.  We arrived here just in time.  If I  am any judge the wagons could hardly have come through, over the roads we have passed, in their present condition. When the roads have again become good, the weather clearing up, the Division will doubtless set out on its march. What our position shall be we have yet no means of knowing. While going out after boards for my place in the tent yesterday I heard the name Myrick pronounced while I was passing through the Maine cavalry camp.  On returning I thought I saw Myrick of my class standing by the fire.  I enquired of them was a Lieut. Myrick in the Regt., and was informed that there was in Co. K, in whose street I then was.  I shall pay my respects to him the first fair day.  We were a month at Warrenton Junction with the cavalry and it was a piece of luck that I ascertained he was in the Regiment.
Fredericksburgh, over the river appears to be quite a large place. There were many large brick mills along the bank of the river.  There are three or four bridges in ruins.  The towns of Falmouth and Fredericksburgh are now connected by a pontoon bridge. It is said that one bridge was saved by our sharp shooters but little damaged.  There are likely to be great battles in Va. Within the next fortnight. If Johnson is caged in Richmond what road is open to him for escape ?  Wherefore can he draw supplies ?  Whether I shall be in at the finish is only Known to the God of battles, in whose hand victory lies.
The sun and rain to [????] I experienced in my last march, but am still alive and hearty.  With love to all, I am as ever
                                    Your Aff. Son
                                                John B. Noyes.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Blog in Real Time - Summer of 1862

     I hope you had a memorable Memorial Day.
     I'm bringing back the blog in real time series, as it was very popular and very useful.  Hopefully I will be able to keep up and make it at least until the end of John Pope's Virginia Campaign.

     The summer campaign of 1862 was very arduous for the 13th Mass regt.  Even though the unit was in the field more than a year before they participated in their first major battle, they did a lot of hard service prior to that.  I wanted to begin this new series in early May, but did not have the time to organize it, - so will put up five "retro" posts to catch up.

    The introductions and background information to these 5 posts are brief.  The soldiers letters will stand on their own.  More detailed information can be found at my website.

     In March the regiment advanced from the site of their long winter camp at Williamsport, Maryland, into  Virginia.  In mid-march they were at Winchester.  General John Abercrombie took command of their brigade and marched it to near Warrenton Junction, Virginia.  Abercrombie camped the regiment in a bad swampy area which the men dubbed 'Camp Misery' and 'Camp Starvation.'  For a month the men lingered in camp, many getting sick with fever and filling up the hospital.  In early May, a new brigade commander was appointed;  General George Lucas Hartsuff.   Hartsuff inspected the camp and immediately moved it to higher ground near Catlett's Station.  On May 19th the brigade hooked up with General McDowell's Division of the army. McDowell advanced his command to Falmouth where it was intended he would eventually advance and hook up with General McClellan's army near Richmond.

I'll begin with a letter of private John B. Noyes, Company B, May 10, 1862

Catlett’s Station, near Warrenton Junction Va
            Camp Staunton, May 10, 1862
Dear George
Your letter of the 18th ult. arrived safely on the 27th.  Since that time I have received a letter from father of the 25th ult., from Martha of the 28th ult. (rec’g May 1st) and from father again of the 4th inst. received yesterday.  The mail is now received somewhat regularly.  Journals of late as the 5th inst. have come to hand.  I sent a letter to Martha on the 4th inst.  Since that time the tedious monotony of camp life has been somewhat enlivened.  There is plenty to occupy the time now, both in drilling and reading.
On the 5th inst. the 12th & 16th Indiana Regiments broke camp and proceeded by rail to Alexandria.  They are to be paid off and discharged at Washington.  So there is no more talk here about our going home with these regiments.  I may not have informed you that our old Gen’l. Abercrombie, a Col. of the U.S. Army a man who looked on soldiers as pack horses, though he did not take so much care of their comfort, fortunately left us a week ago or so, to the delight of everybody.  Brig. Gen’l. Hartsuff succeeded him, who is also a regular army officer.  The first thing the General did was to inspect the camping grounds of the various regiments.  “The Brigade Surgeon calls the ground good enough for the men,” he remarked “I only asked him because I thought his opinion ought to be better than my own. I cannot agree with him.”  The day that witnessed the departure of the Indiana regiment found us also newly encamped on the brow of a very extensive hill in a 140 acre lot. The position is the finest you could conceive of.  The tent grounds are level, the parade grounds very extensive.  The whole lot is well grassed over, and nicely mowed by the sheep that formerly pastured on it. The owner of the lot who has 1100 acres is a sheep raiser, and he’s rich.  His land cost $45.00 an acre.  To the East & West side of the camp woods extend from which wood can easily be drawn for camp uses.  A run, used only for drinking water, and for cooking purposes bounds the camp on the west, and a smaller run for washing purposes on the east.  Beyond the runs are woods.  It is but a mile or so to our old camping grounds.  Yet what a change.  There constant dampness, miserable tent grounds, stump be-spangled streets, furrough cartwheeled, clay-y cramped parade grounds.  The different regiments widely separated.  Actually the soil we laid on was but rotten vegetable matter. The point of a bayonet set in the ground for half an hour was so stained that nothing but Emery paper could scour off the stain.  The very trees of the forest were prematurely old, rotten at the core or at the top from excess of moisture.  Such a camp Mr. Stimpson visited, arriving on a rainy night.  Could he have seen this camp with its spacious company streets, fifty feet wide, adorned with cedar trees, a la Darnestown, our camp in line with the 9th N.Y. & 12th Mass., in the same field, though far from each other, the 1st Me. and Rhode Island Cavalry to the right, and the Penns. Battery of Mathews & N.Y. battery of Thompson to the left of the line, he would have left Warrenton Junction with a better impression of Volunteer life.  I have spoken of the character and extent of our camping ground.  So high is it that at almost all times the wind is stirring, so that outside of the hot tent, in the middle of the day you may be cool under a canopy made of blankets stretched across poles which we use for clothes lines. So high is it that you can see for miles around, above the woods across the country.  To the west extend the Rattle Snake Mountains, some twenty miles away, and beyond them, only visible when the air is clear, the Blue Ridge distant about 40 or 50 miles.
Such a camp did Gen’l. Hartsuff select for us going back but about a mile.  But his care for us did not stop here. Daily he is around on duty.  The cook houses he has placed under his rule.  “Are you the cook” he said to one of the Company Cooks.  “Yes”  “Can you keep a neat cook house?”  “I think I can.” “If you do not, you must give way for one who will.”  The hospital & bakery also receive his visits.  At the latter place he broke bread & tasted it.  This A.m. he was at the guard house at reveille, 5 A.m. to see how guard duty was performed. The guard was turned out to salute him, at least a portion of them.   “That is as it should be” he said.   At the last camp I visited the guard did not” turn out though begged to do so by the Serg’t. & Lieut.  He referred to the N.Y. 9th.  Indeed the Gen’l. has simplified guard duty much. “How many posts have you” he enquired of the Lieut. of the Guard on the first day we came here.  “Seventeen.”  “That is too many, take off five, this camp ground is not intended to keep the men within the lines, but to keep interlopers out; let the men go where they please, the grand guard will keep them in.”  For the 10 months we have been out at the seat of war, and for two months the camp guard has been mainly posted for the purpose of preventing the exit of the men.  You could’nt get out of camp to see a friend in a regiment encamped in the next field, without a pass, and very likely but three or four passes could be given a day to the whole company.  Now I can go a dozen times a day to any of the regiments in the brigade.  Passes may be regarded as relics of the past. Yet regimental guard duty is very strictly performed.  The General passed a sentinel on his post.  He faced inwards towards the camp.  “Very well done” says the General “you had the idea, but the next time face out.”  In fact there is nothing too small for the general to notice. He has established a system of company, regimental and brigade fatigue duty which will ensure a well conducted camp; and it is very necessary that the camp should be clean and sweet now that the heat of summer is upon us.  Mother says in her last of May 4th, that May is a come but not a blossom.  Cherry blossoms and peach have been out here since the middle of last month, perhaps earlier even.  The lilac is also in full bloom, and many a boquet of violets and daisies I might call only the fair one want step forth to receive them.  I heard there was a brook near by in which trout were to be found. A Serg’t. of the N.Y. 9th has plenty of hooks, and I believe I shall turn angler and try my luck on the finny tribe.  I intended to give you a short account of a day’s life in camp but space fails me.  I also wanted to have a little military talk which I shall have to make very brief.  Father hopes that Banks may not be cut off & that McDowell may accomplish something.  It is very hard indeed to divine Banks’ object unless it is merely to take care of Jackson, or the great work as it would seem of seizing the Virginia Central RR and the South Side and Tenn. R.R. over which a large portion of the rebel supplies must be transported.  Staunton is an important station on the former RR. From which place he might proceed to Lexington where seven roads meet, and thence to Bufford’s Gap, near the latter RR, or as is more likely to be the case he might go to Scott’s Ferry and seize the canal which leads to Richmond.  In any event it does not appear likely that Banks will be in the great battle unless the rebels make a long and determined stand at Richmond. He is too far away from the scene of operations. I omitted to say that Banks might take the road from Staunton to Gordonsville, by way of Charlottesville but which of the various roads toward Richmond he takes will probably be determined by the facility with which provisions can be transported, and the position of Jackson. McDowell certainly ought to be at Richmond as soon as McClellan.  The chances would seem to be that he is there first.  But may it not be that Joe Johnston will leave Richmond to its fate between three fires, McDowell, Franklin, & McClellan, cross the James River and make a stand at Petersburgh, or fly God knows where, whether to Tennessee or North Carolina where in the end the rebels must submit.  It should seem that Franklin ought to be at Richmond before Johnston, as it is not far from West Point to the latter place. I hope that Johnston will make a stand at Richmond, but fear he will got to Petersburgh which will be the continuing or the initiation of a policy which will prolong the war for months.  But if Joe does flee South let him beware of Burnside.
                        With love to all I am Yours Truly
                                                John B. Noyes.