Thursday, March 16, 2023

The End of the Year 1863

 Yesterday I posted the final page of my “End of the Year, 1863” trilogy at the website.  I worked hard, believe it or not, to get this section completed and posted in January, yet here it is March.  The first page of the section did go up in January.  That page contained the end of the year narrative history of the regiment from December 5th to December 31st 1863.  It was just after the Mine Run Campaign.  The regiment camped near Paoli Mills on the way to Kelly’s Ford for 3 weeks, under expectation that this is where they would settle down into Winter Camp.  They were mistaken.   On the day before Christmas Eve, they received orders to march.  Gen. John Robinson’s 2nd Division would be assigned outpost duty for the winter, in support of the Union Cavalry pickets patrolling the Rapidan River south of Culpeper Court-House.  They marched 17 miles to a temporary camp ground two miles short of Mitchell’s Station, their destination, along the O & A railroad,  and spent a wet Christmas day in a low swampy camp. Well Thanksgiving had been ruined with orders to march, why not Christmas?

Mountain Run at Paoli Mills

This first page is a strait-forward narrative that draws upon the detailed descriptions of a soldier outside the regiment.  James Ross, a drafted man serving with the “9th NY” creates the best word pictures of the march and the camp ground.  The 13th MA source material comes in the form, usually, of short diary entries between Sam Webster and Volunteer ‘grunt’ Calvin Conant.  Sadly, we lose Conant as a source on New Year’s Day 1864, because that was the start of a new year and his old diary ends.  I don’t have the continuing volume.  There are some good letters from writers in the regiment sprinkled across the page, but we need the filler from other soldiers in their division to round out their experiences.

The second page took a while to complete and was posted in February.  Using several original digitized Regimental Books, downloaded recently from the genealogical site, Family Search,  I gave the record for all the soldiers listed on the roster who departed the regiment for whatever reason, during the year of 1863.  This is preceded by the MA Adjutant General’s annual Summary report for the 13th Regiment.  —Its like re-living the whole year all over again, in one short narrative entry; with pictures!  I could have posted this ten years ago and been done with it.  (Thats how long I have been working on the history for 1863.)  As I was saying, I used the rosters and original books to provide the most accurate soldiers’ records posted on my site to date. The records are arranged into categories used in the 1865 MA Adjutant General’s Report; that is, Discharged, Transferred, Absent, Missing, Killed and Deserted.  Naturally it took a lot of time to cross check each soldiers record with the roster, the digitized Descriptive Lists and Descriptive Books, town histories and whatever sources I had on file.  And yes, I used all of these.  

With that page complete I had a few odds and ends left over and decided to move them on to a third page, like I did for the ‘End of the Year, 1862.’  Page 2 had become very long with just the statistics.  The little stories moved to page 3 were mostly done, which means, they were far from being finished.  As always there were rabbit holes to run down.  I have turned that into an art.  Just look at my “Stringfellows in Kansas” page as an example.

That said, I would not miss the little incidents and stories described on page 3.  There are lots of little “behind the scenes” goings on reported from the papers of Gov. John Andrew’s correspondence pertaining to the 13th MA Regiment.  Little things that don’t usually get any mention in most regimental histories.  One of the highlights on page 3 is an extended excerpt from Volunteer Nurse Martha Ehler, who worked for 5 or 6 weeks at Christ Lutheran Church ministering aid to several members of the 13th MA and others in Gen. John Robinson’s 2nd Division who were wounded at Gettysburg.  Martha recounts the very last moments of the life of Frank Gould, Company K, and also his friend George Sprague who died the day after Gould.  Francis A. Gould, Company K, pictured.

In closing I would say, that it didn’t take a full 10 years to complete the 1863 narrative.  I did take a substantial break from the chronological progression to add several pages of updates for 1862.  Part of this deviation was to honor promises to descendants of soldiers who have provided me with material worth posting.  So I took a couple of years to update the site a while back.   I can only say I am looking forward to 1864.  The men had only 6 ½ months left to serve of their 3 year enlistment, and 4 of those would be spent in Winter Camp.  I have lots of fun stories from this period of their history.

Here are the links. 

End of Year, 1863, Page 1

 End of Year 1863, Page 2

End of Year, 1863, Page 3