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

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."

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