"Who is this that looks forth like the dawn, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army with banners?"

Monday, December 31, 2012

December 31, 1862. Resignations

George Clark
Sgt. Co. E
promoted 2d Lieut Co. D
16th Regt.
"Wed. Eve Dec. 31st ...Three of the resignations in our Regt have been accepted. The Capt & 2d Lieut of Co. H. (Felchville) & Lieut Sherwin of Co. D. (Townsend) There are 4 more which will doubtless be accepted before long. I think Geo Clark stands quite a chance for a Lieutenancy. I would not take a Captaincy (not that there is any propect of my getting one) on any account. I consider a 1st Lieutenancy altogether better.

"This is the last letter I shall write in 1862 Tomorrow another year begins I wonder if it is to be a year of so much suffering as '62 has been.

"We have got a splendid Gen. & the Gen has a splendid staff. The whole Brigade are very much pleased with him." Joseph Spafford, 1st Lieutenant, Company E, Sixteenth Regiment, Letter, December 30 1862, UVM

"Dec. 31. All are mustered. The boys do their best, at washing themselves and clothes, cutting hair and scouring guns, to show off as well as they can. The brigade head-quarters are established at the village, and for the past few days the regiment shave taken turns in sending a hundred men to guard them. No little sensation has been produced by the arrest of several officers and privates, for not dressing, and washing, and stepping, and saluting, and other smaller things, just according to stern military rules. So before leaving our parade ground we go through a mimic guard-mount, under the eye of a field officer. We make a number of mistakes here. These are pointed out. And as is often the case, when, one not thoroughly versed in what he is doing, attempts at being over nice, comes short of his common work, so we under the eye of the General. Yet none are arrested; but some are sworn at, and one of the lieutenants laughed at for making a sort of an awkward start instead of a graceful salute as he passes the officer of the day. Two regiments of cavalry camped near the village. Some of these about midnight make havoc with the sutler's shops, helping themselves to the tobacco, beer, cider and apples, before the guards could reach tem, declaring that they were 'on a bust the last day of the year.'" ~ Lt. Edwin Palmer, 13th Regiment,  The Second Brigade: or, Camp Life, By a Volunteer (1864) 

Sunday, December 30, 2012

December 30, 1862. Excitement and something to do.

"Camp Near Fairfax C.H. Va
"Tuesday Eve Dec 30th 1862

"It was a beautiful moonlight night & the whole Brigade was out, the 15th on picket at Bull Run the 12th & 13th at Fairfax C.H. or near there & the 14th near there in another direction & we (the 16th) down to Fairfax Station. Each Regt lay on thier arms. We were drawn up in line along side of the Catholic Church which had had all the pews taken out & been used as a hospital, it was empty when we were there so our & some Officers from other Co’s went into it & slept. 

"The station is between 2 & 3 miles from the C.H. I slept so soundly that I did not even hear the firing at the C.H. which was done by the 12th 13th & the Battery that was with them. Sometime in the night, I dont know what time, some Co’s of the 12th & 13th which were stationed by some old breast works discovered the Rebel cavalry passing & fired into them with no further results that we know of, than killing one of their horses, & taking one of the men prisoner. The Gen. ordered some shells flung after them from the 6 pound guns which were there, which was done, but to no effect it seems. 

"Our Regt stayed down to the station until about 3 P.M. The next day when we came back to camp & have been here undisturbed ever since. It makes me so mad I dont know what to do to think how they can slip round among our troops & not get taken. It seems almost impossible that they could pass right through among so many of us here and recieve no further damage. The prisoner captured states that thier object in doing so is meerly to capture what sutlers stores they can so they are getting hungry. ...

"Tomorrow is the 31st day of December & consiquently “muster day” with us. Day after tomorrow is our time to go on picket again for four days. I like it & had rather do it than to stay in camp. This is good fun to what it is staying back to Alexandria or somewhere else where there is no excitement & nothing to do." 
Joseph Spafford, 1st Lieutenant, Company E, Sixteenth Regiment, Letter, December 30 1862, UVM

"Dec. 30. All quiet until about dark, when it was reported that Jackson was crossing the Rappahannock in force. Then I had to run with orders to the different regiments to hold themselves in readiness to march at one minutes notice with three days rations in their haversacks. Did not get much time to sleep that night."   Diary of Oliver A. Browne, Co. K, 15th Regiment.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

December 29, 1862. What happened last night.

"It subsequently appeared that the rebels had dashed through our pickets, made a dash twelve miles inside our lines captured the telegraph operator, substituted one of their own at Burke’s Station only three miles east of us and Stuart was reading all dispatches and having all about our strength at the station as Fairfax and elsewhere. Just as he was leaving he sent an audacious message to Washington and then cut the wire.

"It further appeared that he was intending to divide his force at Burke’s Station and with one half destroy and capture everything at Fairfax Station while with the other he would make a detour to the east and both divisions would meet at Fairfax Court House and complete the job, by capturing general and staff officers. What he learned at Burke’s had him but then unknown to us to change his plans. 

"I was up looking for him or someone else profiting by his diversion all night; my horse was not unsaddled for 18 hours nor was I out of the saddle two hours in the time. I had my men strongly posted and pickets out in every direction that cavalry could come a mile and a half. I knew that we could give him a warm reception while we could not suffer much loss, as infantry can empty saddles to just so well do find themselves with the bayonet that cavalry cannot do much with them. But they let us alone and I missed a grand opportunity for an advantageous scrimmage. I had received orders to hold the post at all hazard and we could all of us them have down it against 5,000 cavalry.

"Stuart foiled in this swept around to the east and came dashing up the Alexandria and Fairfax Courthouse pike to within a mile and a half of the village. But here he found a regiment of infantry on each side of the road concealed in old rifle pits and 2 cannon and a like number of howitzers in the road. He got one volley from two companies of infantry and half a dozen shells which probably killed nobody except a horse, yet blood was distinctly visible in some spots in large pools in a great many places. Quite a number of men must have been severely wounded. Stuart beat a hasty retreat and swept around to the north of the place towards Vienna and Chantilly ...Both Stuart and Lee are natives of this county, several of their soldiers are from this town.

"Col. D’Utassy, who is with a brigade at Union Mills, came down this morning to render assistance, but finding none needed went back. One of our regiments is out all the time, each four days in succession picketing near Centerville about two miles on Bull Run. D’Utassy is below and Sir Percy Wyndham is above at Chantilly (where Israel was captured.)

"Finding all present danger of attack over, I was ordered back this afternoon. I arrived in camp sleepy enough and if this letter is stupid, you will ascribe it to my first preparation for an engagement.

"By the way, Stuart captured Liet. Cummings of Co. D, Vermont cavalry from Barnet. In return he lost several of his own men as prisoners one of whom I send to the provost Marshall at Washington in the morning.

"Heath excellent, and spirits good. You need feel no apprehension about my needlessly exposing myself but I will never come back with reputation of cowardice that some of the Colonels of the Vermont regiments have in the army.

"Veazey is getting better so the major: bilious attack of week’s duration is what’s the matter.” ~ Lt. Col. Charles Cummings, Sixteenth Regiment, Letter No. 13, December 29, 1862. VHS.

"One special object of this raid was, no doubt, to capture the Government stores at Fairfax Station, and in this respect it was a most signal failure. He did not succeed in capturing or destroying a dollar's worth of Government property, except what the 20 cavalrymen captured by him had with them, and all he obtained was a few sutlers' teams. These, however, were just from Washington, and were well loaded with all kinds of delicacies. The wagons were burned on the road near Occoquan, and the contents were disposed of by the rebel soldiers on the spot. A man who passed over the little pike road this morning, says he saw a fine assortment of old boots and empty bottles lining the roadside for miles." ~ Letter from Dumfries,NYT, December 29, 1862

"The affair was a trifling one; but as the first actual collision with the enemy it made no little stir in the brigade, and on other accounts it had prominent mention in the newspapers and reports. It had also the effect to inspire officers and men with mutual confidence; for the former, from their young general down, were seen to be firm and cool in the prospect of a sharp encounter; and the men were willing and even eager to fight." ~ 2 G.G. Benedict, Vermont in the Civil War 424

Farnham (of the 12th)'s account of the raid is here.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Sunday, December 28, 1862. The Sixteenth moves to guard stores at Fairfax Station. Stuart repulsed by fire from the Twelfth.

After Christmas, Lee ordered Stuart to conduct a raid north of the Rappahannock River to "penetrate the enemy's rear, ascertain if possible his position & movements, & inflict upon him such damage as circumstances will permit." Aware that a substantial body of Confederate cavalry were behind their lines the Union Army sent additional troops to Fairfax Station and ordered all wagon trains and supplies there for protection. ~ Burke Station Raid

"Camp near Fairfax C. H.
Dec 28th 1862

"... I have had a little ill- turn the past week, did not go out for a day or two, but have got well over it now. We have beautiful weather. The measles have got into my reg’t, shall be a good deal bothered with them probably now. I wish soldiers had attended to the measles in their proper time.

"There was a battle within hearing of us yesterday but we have not yet heard from it. We were got ready to move. I think we shall be sent somewhere soon. I have a very pleasant camp here, but the water is not first rate.

"... We had quite a time here Christmas day, but I was not very well myself. My Reg’t will have to go to Bull Run again next Thursday.

"The rebels are making a raid below us & we are looking for them this way. My Reg’t is down at the rail road station to-night. The is considerable of a movement going on... ."~ Col. Wheelock G. Veazey, Sixteenth Regiment, Letter to Julia, December 28, 1862. UVM Center for Digital Initiatives 

" I had posed writing to you Friday but a brigade drill and the necessity of my commanding the regiment as Col. Veazey and Major Rounds were both sick in connection with the pressing duties of the office, deprived me of that pleasure. Then I was sure I could do it Saturday, but orders came from my regiment to hold itself in momentary readiness to be called out kept me from doing it. 

"Well Sunday came and at one p.m., I closed the office and took a brief nap intending to write immediately thereafter. But orders again came for the regiment to be in readiness and I was constantly engaged in endeavoring to learn what all the rumors of war meant. I had on my hands three men of the 5th Penn Cavalry, who had been driven in while picketing on the Occoquan twelve miles south of here at 11 am. and being cut off from their camp made their escape.

"They reported that two brigades of rebel cavalry. Stuart’s and Fitzhugh Lee’s and Hampton’s Legion were this side of the Occoquan making a raid in this direction. Other dispatches from couriers and telegraph partially confirmed their statements.

"According at five o’clock I was ordered to march the 16th Regiment with 2 days ration to Fairfax Station 2 1/2 miles south of here. I had previously solicited liberty to go in case the regiment was called out. At 7 o’clock I had the regiment there and two pieces of artillery under my command on the north side of the Alexandria and Manassas railroad which LTC. Hawley of the 3rd Wisconsin held the south side. Probably there is $300,000 worth of stores at the Station consisting of property that the rebels would like to capture or destroy. As near as we could learn there were about 1600 rebel cavalry out. While in the R. R. Depot attending to the dispatches we found that we could get an answer from Alexandria but none from Burke’s Station three miles east of us in that direction.

"The Supt. had a large train ready to start for Alexandria and telegraphed to know if he should move it along. Answer came “yes, immediately” But we prevailed upon him not to send the train as all was not right."
 ~ Lt. Col. Charles Cummings, Sixteenth Regiment, Letter No. 13, December 29, 1862. VHS.

"My Dear Sister

"... When I last wrote the Capt & Williams were both sick, they have not yet gone on duty but are nearly well again & will return to duty tomorrow, (monday). There is nothing new, nothing interesting to write, but I know you are anxious to hear from us so we write once in about so often. ... The weather is, & has been very pleasant, ever since we left Camp Vermont. The 15th are out to Bull Run now; our turn comes again next thursday. There was 7 commissioned officers in our Regt resigned lately, thier resignations are not yet accepted but doubtless will be.

"Yesterday we recd orders to be ready to march at a moments notice, after an hour or so the order was countermanded so we are still here. ... Gen. Stoughton is here with the Brigade. We live better & cheaper than we did at Alexandria, as we have the Com. Sergt in our mess. ...

"Fairfax C.H. is about as much of a place as Greenbush, not much more, nor near as much as Perkinsville. ...The Capt of K’s resignation is not yet accepted.*  I will write no more to night as I am insomething of a hurry just now. Will write again soon." Joseph Spafford, 1st Lieutenant, Company E, Sixteenth Regiment, Letter, December 28 1862, UVM

[* Samuel H. Hutchinson, Norwich, VT, age 36, Captain, Co. K, 16th VT INF, resigned 1/3/63.]

"[W]e received light marching orders to be ready to march at a moment's notice, without knapsacks but taking our blankets and fly tents, and accordingly we started out and marched to Fairfax station where we were wanted to repel an anticipated rebel raid upon that place, ... . After going doom to the Station at about the quickest common time ever put on record, we were stationed in a little grove some 40 or 50 rods in the rear of, and supporting two guns of the 2d Conn. battery, which belongs to our brigade, and were told to make ourselves as comfortable as we could without fires. I lay down under a fly tent With Baldwin and Alfred and with our three blankets made ourselves entirely comfortable, though some of the boys routed up a little after midnight and kept traveling the rest of the night to keep their feet warm."  Hezron G. Day, pvt., Company C, Sixteenth Regiment, Letter of January 4, 1863

While the Sixteenth is at Fairfax Station, General Stoughton deploys the Brigade along the Alexandria road and waits for Stuart:

"About seven in the evening, we were ordered forward at double-quick. We expected to march to the Station, but went in another direction towards Alexandria, and halted about half a mile beyond the Court House. The 16th was sent to the Station.

"Our force consisted of four thousand infantry, a battery of artillery, and a squad of cavalry. The battery was drawn up in line behind breastworks, supported by the 13th and part of the 12th, and the remainder of the 12th and the 14th were sent out by companies to watch the various roads, videttes being sent out ahead in every direction.

"We had been in these positions but a short time, when the enemy's cavalry made their appearance, driving in the pickets, and coming unexpectedly upon two companies of the 12th, upon whom they charged. The two companies fired a volley at them, killing two horses, and capturing another horse and two prisoners. None of our boys were hurt. The squad that charged fell back to where the larger force was stations in the woods, and built fires. Gen. Stoughton sent a flag of truce there, stating the he would like an interview with Gen. Stuart, who replied that he would correspond in the morning. Gen. Stoughton, desiring an immediate interview, ordered a few shells to be thrown among the, which made them "skedaddle, " and they were not seen or heard of again during the night." J. C. Williams, Corporal, Co. B, 14th Regiment, Life in Camp, 60 (1864)

"[T]he companies sent down the turnpike as skirmishers, and by whose fire the course of the rebel cavalry in this direction was checked, were two companies (B and G) of the Twelfth Vermont, Col. BLUNT. The prisoners, some 15 in number, captured from STUART's force by the Vermont cavalry and infantry, state that the troops repulsed was the advance of the rebel column, led by Gen. STUART in person; that their intention was to make a dash on Fairfax Court-House, and that the results of the volley, which so astonished them, were the wounding of fourteen of the rebel cavalrymen, and the killing of three of their horses, which, with their accoutrements and the arms (revolver and carbine) of two of their riders, were found upon the spot." ~ Letter of "G" to the NYT, January 2, 1863

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Saturday, December 27, 1862. The Sound of Distant Cannon

"Saturday 27th. This forenoon is given to us to prepare for to-morrow's inspection, so we are cleaning everything generally. Battallion drill in P.M. & Dress Parade as usual. Before dress parade, an aid of Gen Stoughton's rode up & we were ordered to be ready to march, with two days rations in haversack, in light marching order, at a moments notice. Before we could get our rations, another came & gave orders to march at once with one day's rations. Before we were quite ready, another aid came & countermanded the last order, & left the matter so that we are liable to march any moment with 2 day's rations." Diary of Horace Barlow, 57, Co. C, 12th Regiment

"Camp near Fairfax Courthouse
"December 27, 1862

"Dear Parents:

"Another week is almost gone and we are still here in the pine woods mentioned in my last and likely to remain there for another week, although we had marching orders for a little while this afternoon: countermanded soon afterward. 

"We have no field officers just now, the colonel and major being both sick, and the lieutenant colonel detailed as provost marshal of Fairfax, but managed to get along without them. We have again stockaded our tents, not in as good style as at Camp Vermont but still quite comfortably. We had but one axe to work with and went into the woods one morning, cut our timber, forged for bricks, and that night had a house to sleep in, fire place and all, notwithstanding we had gone out on battalion drill in the afternoon. The weather for the last few days has been very nice indeed, warm and pleasant, so warm that a person could perfectly be comfortable in his shirtsleeves.

"Yesterday we could hear the boom of cannon from the middle of the forenoon until near night, and today the report is that Sigel and Stonewall Jackson had been fighting, the advantage resting with Sigel. This was probably why we were ordered to march, as Gen. Stoughton heard the firing and telegraphed to Washington for instructions, but receiving no answer to his message sent orders to the regiments of his brigade to be ready to move at a moments warning, whichever way circumstances might dictate. But the cannonading finally ceased and our orders were countermanded.

 "I suppose that if we remain here we will have to go out beyond Centerville on picket again about the middle of the week, say, Thursday morning and could we but have as good weather as it has been for the last four days I would rather go than not."  ~  Hezron G. Day, pvt., Company C, Sixteenth Regiment, Letter of December 27, 1862

"Dec. 27. ... There was a great excitement here this afternoon. All the Regiments were drawn up in line of battle, and the battery took its position, and we waited with the greatest anxiety for the word to march. We were in this position about half an hour when the order was countermanded. The cannonading was at some twenty five miles from here, but was plain and distinct."  Diary of Oliver A. Browne, Co. K, 15th Regiment.

"December 27. The Corps commanded by Gen. Slocum is encamped at present at Fairfax Station, three miles from here, and forms a reserve for Burnside. Firing is heard to-day, in the direction of Union Mills, supposed to be an engagement with the enemy. There is a rumor that the rebel Gen. Stuart is in this vicinity, and intends a raid here. The weather is quite comfortable." J. C. Williams, Corporal, Co. B, 14th Regiment, Lifein Camp, 47-48 1864)

Farifax Station

Union Mills

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

December 26, 1862. Still quiet

"Dec. 26. Battalion and brigade drill; nothing new in camp-not even rumors. The weather is again quite warm; plenty of rations, and the boys cheerful."  ~ Lt. Edwin Palmer, 13th Regiment,  The Second Brigade: or, Camp Life, By a Volunteer (1864) 

Tuesday, December 25, 2012


"We had a holiday on Christmas, no drilling and no work, and moreover no marching or picket duty to do: something quite unusual for us. My humble self, Corp. Baldwin and John Knights, and Alfred went down to Fairfax Station to see the country but got back in time for Christmas dinner, which consisted of beefsteak and potatoes, both excellent."  ~  Hezron G. Day, pvt., Company C, Sixteenth Regiment, Letter of December 27, 1862

"Thursday December 25th Christmas day. Excused from all unnecessary duty to-day. Taking it easy in A.M. & playing foot-ball &c in P.M. The weather for the past few days has been very warm & pleasant, not even freezing at night. We cannot hope that such weather will continue."  Diary of Horace Barlow, 56, Co. C, 12th Regiment

"Christmas. In all the brigade there is no drilling. The chaplains preach to the various regiments. Then many visit the Chantilly battle field. A citizen points our the spot where the brave Kearney fell; where the lines swayed to and fro. Here, side by side, are the graves of friend and foe. The enemy held the field. Their dead are buried very decently; but shocking to say, only a few sods were thrown over ours, and frequently, feet, hands and skulls are sticking out, flesh still on. But we found men from the twelfth regiment covering these heroes that fought so bravely. We lose another of our soldiers. Oscar Reed dies suddenly of typhoid fever." ~ Lt. Edwin Palmer, 13th Regiment,  The Second Brigade: or, Camp Life, By a Volunteer (1864) 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve. The 14th relieves the 13th on picket.

"Dec. 24. Very pleasant weather. The 14th went out to Centerville this morning for picket duty. They are going to have a [day] of rest tomorrow it being Christmas. Most of the boys are out of money and they will be obliged to pass the day on hard tack and salt pork, which will be rather dry, I think."  Diary of Oliver A. Browne, Co. K, 15th Regiment.

"On the 24th we are relieved by the fourteenth regiment, who arrive at our camp the middle of the afternoon." ~ Lt. Edwin Palmer, 13th Regiment,  The Second Brigade: or, Camp Life, By a Volunteer (1864) 

"As it is "Christmas Eve"" our tent concluded to have a time & so we did, playing cards &c, until 10 ½ P.M."  ~ Diary of Horace Barlow, 56, Co. C, 12th Regiment

Sunday, December 23, 2012

December 23,1862. The defeat at Fredericksburg sinks in. "They have got to be exterminated."

"Camp Near Fairfax C.H. Va. December 23, 1862
"My Dear Sister –... We are still at Fairfax, & like to be for what I know, & might as well be here as any where else when things are going as they now are. We have got the hardest whiping at Fredericksburg that we have recd since the war commenced. This I consider so for two reasons. 1st We have lost in killed & wounded at least 5 times more than the rebels have, & I am somewhat of the opinion of Dr. Cram, that it is a victory for us when we kill more than they do, whether we retreat or not, for they have got to be exterminated. 2d The defeat comes just at the time, when of all times, we should have had a victory. I am disgusted with the way the war is carried on; ....

"We have lost one man from our Co. S. E. Connor of Weathersfield.* He was sick when we left Camp Vt. & was left there in the Hos. & sent from there to the Genl Hos at Alexandria. His disease was Pneumonia. He was as fine a fellow as we had in the Co.

"Capt Mason & Lieut Williams are both sick, threatened with a fever tho’ Dr. Geo thinks they will come out of it all right in a day or two. You had better not mention this so that either of thier wives may hear of it for they would only worry uselessly. They may be quite well tomorrow. I am tough as a knot, .... The Co. generally are in good health.

"We have taken the Commissary Sergt into our mess, so we live quite well at a reasonable rate. ... Mustered in 2 mos. ago to day, 7 mos longer; time passes very fast with us here. ..." ~ Joseph Spafford, 1st Lieutenant, Company E, Sixteenth Regiment, Letter, December 23 1862, UVM

*Servetus E. Conner, Weathersfield, VT, age 28, Pvt, Co. E, died 12/17/62

E. D. Keyes
"Camp in the Woods Near Fairfax Court House Dec. 23rd

"Dear Father:

"Again I seat myself to drop you a line to let you know that I am yet alive and well my health never was better. I am growing fat every day never was so fleshy in my life. I pull down now 183 1/2 pounds. What do you think of that?

"We left Camp Vermont the 11 inst. after having made arrangements to stay through the winter there. Came to this place that day after a long and tiresome march. We started at 3 in the morning with very heavy loads on our backs and marched until most night when we turned into the woods for the night and slept on the ground all hands of us. I endured the march first rate. After our arrival I went to piling up logs and made a big fire as we do when out fishing. The Capt. could hardly go he was so tired. He wanted to know what in fury I was made of. 

"Slept well that night and the next morning a t 8 A.M. we started again for Bull Run where we arrived at 4 P.M. Through some mistake we were marched in the wrong direction making the distance further, but by the minces [?] we had the privilege of seeing the battle field of Chantily where Gen. Kearney was killed.

"We passed Centerville little after noon. there we saw where some 50 or 60 thousand Rebels sheltered last winter. It was here that McClellan found those big guns which scared him so last spring. This place of which we have all read much is about half as large as S. Reading but must have been very strongly fortified. 

"On arriving within 1/2 mile of Bull Run 28 men were to be detailed to go on picket. The men were tired almost to death. The Capt. tired out before arriving. I had command. I called on them to volunteer to go, instead of compelling them to go. The number required came forth and I went with them as officer of the picket guard. I posted my men at ten o'clock that night. the first six at Bull Run bridge where so many were killed as the first battle of Bull Run commenced. I scattered the men along beside that stream for about a mile. I passed over the ground where the Black Horse Cavalry was cut up so, and lots of places of interest which I will not mention now. 

"I got off duty the next morning at 8 o'clock. There is now men laying there now partially buried. Their heads and arms lying out of ground. It made me feel a little skittish as I passed up and down that stream that night all alone thinking of the events that had transpired.

"I returned to Centerville that afternoon and the next morning they put me on picket again. To the same place, and so on for four days when we returned to Fairfax Court House near where we are now. The most we had to eat was had bread and raw pork but this tasted good I tell you. 

"I have slept on the ground every night for the past week without any tent most of the time. Some of the nights very cold so that the blankets froze on the outside of us. The next morning after we marched back here we were ordered out a few miles to a Review before Gen. Stoughton. Our regiment has laid on their arms three nights expecting an attack of Cavalry which are around us quite thick. I dont speak of this as complaining, only to let you [know] our style of living. Lettie will tell you the particulars. 

"I would write oftener if I could get time. Am just as busy as I can be. I received last Sunday a great box containing lots of good things from you and the rest of the good folks at home. I never tasted any thing so good in my life. the wine, preserves fruit pies and that old familiar blanket came from I know. I shall be ever thankful for the generous and timely gift. It could not come in a better time as we had just got off picket and was hungry. That comforter is worth all the rest. I havent been cold at all since. 

"Love to all, Elmer  E. D. Keyes, 1st Lieutenant, Company H, Sixteenth Regiment, Letter of December 23, 1862

Saturday, December 22, 2012

December 22, 1862. All is calm

"Yesterday I saw Gen. Baxter, Col. S. M. Waite and Frank Holbrook. The Governor could not come out. It is good to see a face from Brattleboro. Col. Waite said he would see you and tell you that I was in prime condition.

"I should like several things from home that I could name, but then is but little use in sending them, for the delays and perplexities in getting them out here, to say nothing of our liability to move into some out of the way place ... I had rather get along as I do now. I get enough to eat in the course of the day by hazing around. I have bought some butter, the commissary gave me some coffee, sugar, and bread. I have a coffee pot and I got asked to eat with some sutler every little while, ...

"It is not very likely that we shall remain here long. Gen. Slocum commanding the 12th Army Corps has his head quarters here. His troops are all the way from Fairfax Station to Dumfries. We are still attached to Casey’s Division headquarters of which is at Washington. If we move it will probably be in the direction of Dransville, which is a little way in the direction of Harpers’ Ferry.

"Col. Veazey went to Washington Wednesday of last week and returned Friday. His wife met him there and returned home again. Col. Proctor was in Washington about he same time to see his wife but she did not come. I should like you here on some accounts but the total uncertainty of one movements is such that a visit now would be troublesome to you and perplexing to me for there are no carriage in this part of the world, and the roads defy carriages. ...

"There is no danger of the 16th seeing very active service at present. I have written so many passes for white folks and Negroes to go to Washington to get something for Christmas that my hand aches so, I will not prolong. ~ Lt. Col. Charles Cummings, Sixteenth Regiment, Leftter No. 12, December 22, 1862. VHS. 

Friday, December 21, 2012

Sunday, December 21, 1862. At and around Fairfax Courthouse

"Fairfax Courthouse

"December 21, 1862

"Dear Parents,
"We are now encamped in a pine grove perhaps a mile from the famous courthouse, the 15th being but a short distance from and between us and the village, while the 12th, 13th, and 14th are some little distance from us. The roads in Virginia are just now in the most unlovely condition, having been mud half axle deep and freezing hard as rocks to be almost impassable for man or beast. On leaving our old quarters at Camp Vermont, we left a guard over our baggage and they have but just now joined us. ...

"Fairfax is about the muddiest and nastiest place that can be found anywhere outside the limits of Virginia. There are some few good, handsome houses, some of them used as hospitals by the Union troops, and the rest you would hardly be able to say much in praise of. The courthouse itself, now used for a hospital, is a moderate sized two story brick building, with a small belfry, altogether not looking so well as many a northern schoolhouse.

"Centerville is half burned and filled only with soldiers, sutlers, and commissary stores, looks pitiable indeed. The old Rebel camps are as thick as you please around Centerville, still I would hardly suppose from the appearance of things the rebels had any such forces as we had concentrated around Washington.

"From Fairfax down to Cub's Run, as far as we went, the whole country was almost a desert, strewn all over with the evidences of war: ruined buildings, dead horses, broken guns, broken wagons, old stalls, and indeed with everything used by an army. 

"We have just had, and are now having, severe cold weather for this country. Lt. Peabody says it is as cold as they had last winter. We have managed so far to get along without getting frostbitten, and as wood is plentiful and free in this country I guess we shall survive. We are just now living in our "A" tents some of us having stoves and some not. Before our "A" tents came we managed to sleep very comfortably under our shelters by stretching two of them over a pole, buttoning another up at the head, and building up a fire at the open end over which, before our cooks came, we had to cook our coffee, roast our pork, toast our bread, and make ourselves comfortable generally. ..

"By the way, somebody has dealt out a good deal of news to some of the people of Vermont, much to their dismay no doubt. For instance, we heard by way of Vermont that the 16th had been in battle, and were pretty much all killed or captured, when the fact of the case is that we have not seen a single 'live Reb', and hare had but five men die out of the regiment. The Plymouth boys are all in good health, none of them being off duty except Abner Archer who is at Alexandria and will be sent to Brattleboro where he will probably be discharged. Cummings, who looked so slim does as much duty as the heaviest man in the regiment, and is heavier now than he ever was before...
"We are thinking that we shall stay here for two or three weeks and propose to stockade again. Perhaps you will think that it would hardly pay for us to stockade for so short a time, but it won't take but a day or two, and we might as well do that as anything, for you know that they won't let us lie still long at a time. H.G.D."  ~  Hezron G. Day, pvt., Company C, Sixteenth Regiment, Letter of December 21, 1862

"Camp near Fairfax C. H.

Dec, 21st 1862

"My Darling Wife.

"I was going to write to you last night but we have no mail leave on Sunday I am very anxious to hear from you & know how you got home. ... I was so sorry to have you go, but I did not dare to have you come out here as everything is so mixed up now, we are liable to move at any time and you could not endure the cold in a tent with safety. It is dreadful cold weather, much more so than last winter...

"Col. Cummings wife was coming out with the Gov. if we had remained at Camp Vt. Have you received those letters that I wrote after you started to come here? I sent Col. Cummings photograph in one of them. ...We expect the Gov out here to day.* 

"A private just brought me in a large loaf of fruit cake very handsome & very nice indeed. one his mother sent. Kingston is the man’s name from Proctorsville Vt. probably Capt Atherton knows the people.** Wish you had a piece of this cake. Shall you allow yr baby to eat cake? ... This cake looks so handsome I cant write so I guess I will close & go to eating Write some good letters

"Yr own husband
  Col. Wheelock G. Veazey, Sixteenth Regiment, Letter to Julia, December 21, 1862. UVM Center for Digital Initiatives 

* Governor Frederick Holbrook.  See his letter to Roswell Farnham of Dec 2, 1862, about whether to appoint or elect officers to fill vacancies.

**  One of three three Kingston brothers in Company C from Proctorsville who were later to capture the colors from the 17th Alabama regiment at Gettysburg. Kingston, Charles H. (1835-1925), age 26; Kingston, Elbridge G. (1843-1929), age 19; Kingston, George C. (1846-1907), age 18.  According to  General Stannard the Sixteenth took in "the regimental colors of the Second Florida and Eighth Virginia Regiments, and the battle-flag of another regiment." Benedict says this "battle-flag was taken by W. C. Kingston of company C.  It had been torn, probably by a shell, so that put a portion of the flag remained on the standard; and, after carrying it a short distance it was thrown away by Kingston, as it interfered with his use of his musket, and it was subsequently brought in by other troops."

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Friday, December 19, 1862; Camp in the Woods near Fairfax Courthouse

"Dec. 19. Lying in the woods; no drilling. The Colonel won't let us stockade the tents, as he says we shan't remain here but a short time. But few have any fires in them. The nights are cold. This morning, when I went to the little stream to wash me, I found it frozen an inch deep. If you wake any hour of the night, you heard the strokes of a dozen axes; and what is really painful, many coughing-coughing-deep and hoarse. The cold has crept through the tent and blanket, and thief-like, robbed the soldier of his sleep. He starts up, cold all over, feet, hands, head and body. His fire outside his tent has burned low. He throws the brands together, and then starts with his axe after wood. Now the logs are burning brightly, forming a beautiful circle of light, the radius of which is growing fainter and fainter till lost in the darkness; within is another circle of soldiers chatting around the fire. In the afternoon the bugle calls the officers about the Colonel's tent. The order is given to have their men ready to start at a moment's notice. This is soon changed, and we go on battalion drill. It has been rumored all day that McClellan is reinstated in power. ..." ~ Lt. Edwin Palmer, 13th Regiment,  The Second Brigade: or, Camp Life, By a Volunteer (1864) 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Thursday, December 18, 1862. Rumors of War.

"The next morning after we marched back here we were ordered out a few miles to a Review before Gen. Stoughton."  E. D. Keyes, 1st Lieutenant, Company H, Sixteenth Regiment, Letter of December 23, 1862

"December 18. To-day our brigade was reviewed by Gen. Stoughton, and would have been a proud, as well as an imposing sight, to any Vermonter to witness the parade of five thousand Green Mountain Boys, headed by the brigade band and five drums corps. We hear that McClellan has assumed command of the army, -- if so, I am afraid the war will never end."  J. C. Williams, Corporal, Co. B, 14th Regiment, Life in Camp, 51 (1864).

"We hear all sorts of rumors in regard to Fridricsburg. one day Burnside is all cut to pieces & retreating, the next, Seigle (spelt wrong I guess by the looks) has gone down with his forces & is 15 miles beyond the city & driving the enemy before him. There is one report that does not change (i.e.) Burnside has lost a great many men. I suppose our old Brigade is there. We could hear the canonading when we were at Bull Run. We hear to day that McClellan is in command again. I for one am glad." ~ Joseph Spafford, 1st Lieutenant, Company E, Sixteenth Regiment, Letter, December 18 1862, UVM

Meanwhile, back at Bull Run:

"Dec 18. ...The Rebel Black-Horse Cavalry took eleven of our pickets at Bull Run Bridge. They were dressed in our style and rode into them singing and whistling. When they had got in completely around us they fired and cried out to them to surrender, which they did without any resistance. Five out of sixteen escaped on foot." Diary of Oliver A. Browne, Co. K, 15th Regiment.