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

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

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