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

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Thursday, December 4, 1862. Thanksgiving in Camp Vermont

The Governor of Vermont appointed the 4th of December as a day of The Thanksgiving. Eighteen states had celebrated on November 27th. Vermont was behind due to the protracted session of the Legislature of that State, as it is a custom never to have thanksgiving till after its adjournment. The 12th and 16th celebrate in Camp and on picket:

"Thursday 4th.Thanksgiving day in Vt. No duties to-day. Reading of Gov's proclamation & service at 10 o'clock A.M. At 9 A.M. the teams came up & our box was among the stuff, as it was sent on Friday. The freight sent on Saturday did not arrive till the next day. Everything came perfect & everything was just right & suited to our wants. We had the gayest old dinner & eat till we could eat no more. After resting a while, to recruit from the fatigues of dinner, we went out in front, in answer to the Col's invitation to meet the officers of the regiment socially. We guessed the joke & went out prepared to kick foot-ball & had some hard games & went back pretty tired. Dress-parade at night & whist in the evening. As far as my share of the box was concerned, everything that I ever particularly liked, or had an especial fondness for, was sent. I need not enumerate for all had a hand in it."  Diary of Horace Barlow, 44-45,  Co. C, 12th Regiment

"You may perhaps wonder how we kept Thanksgiving Day. Well, we were on picket and it was a beautiful day here. For breakfast we had hard crackers, salt beef, and pork. For dinner beans and coffee. For supper hard bread, coffee, and three cents worth of hoe cake and molasses, and that was extra rations. Good enough for anybody, wasn't it? It seemed the most like Sunday on Thanksgiving Day of any day I have seen since I came to Virginia. We were out of camp and stationed at a small picket reserve back in the woods where there was nothing to molest or make us afraid, and indeed we have not seen anything to make us afraid since we came here, and why should we, as there is not an armed Reb within nobody knows how many miles of here. Surely I don't think we shall see one as long as we remain in our present position." Hezron G. Day, pvt., Company C, Sixteenth Regiment, Letter of December 8, 1862. 

"Camp Union Dec 4, 1862
"Dear Father,
"I have a few leisure moments this eve and will improve them by writing you a line to let you know that I am alive and kicking yet.  My health is very good--never better in my life.  I have grown fleshy since I left Vermont. I weigh almost 180 pounds.  How do you folks all do and what is the news from home.  I haven't heard a word from there since Lettie left there.  I got all the news while she stayed there.  She seemed to think everything of her new father and marm[?] she said in one of her letters  you was real good to her and she liked you much as for the mother too much cannot be said in her praise.  I was glad she was so contented. I suppose you have got plenty of snow now haven't you? It doesn't seem possible that is now almost the middle of Dec.  Where has the fall gone to?

"We are at our old camp yet where we were when I wrote you last.  For the past week it has been very cold here almost as cold as I ever saw in Vermont.  There is about five inches of snow and the ground is frozen perfectly solid.  Came very near freezing one of my ears the other night while on picket and I had not been from the fire over fifteen minutes.  

"We have had rather of a hard time lately doing picket, for all the other regiments have been gone except the 12th and we have had all of the picketing to do, being on two days & nights and off the same times.  I was out day before yesterday and all night until 4 o'clock in the morning traveling on the lines most of the night.  At 4 o'clock I lay down on the ground under a little bough house where I slept till morning.  I had two blankets and I rolled up in them and lived quite comfortably.  A canteen of water that lay near by me froze solid, it was awful cold.  

"The other regts. have returned now and will relieve us for awhile. though I guess the have fared about as hard as we have. They have been out--near Bull Run standing guard chiefly.  They left here in the night during a rain storm and returned in the night during a snow storm.  The had no means of shelter and we took them in and kept them over night--gave them some breakfast in the morn while our men went without any or with but little as we can have but so much whether we eat it or give it away.  The 10th Regt. and 14th traveled that day 18 miles through snow and mud and were about tired out.  We are expecting the remain here this minute.  Most of the companies have got their log huts or houses built.

"Lettie is going to send me a box of stuff to eat.
 ~  E. D. Keyes, 1st Lieutenant, Company H, Sixteenth Regiment, Letter of December 4, 1862

"Today is Vermont Thanksgiving. I had roast beef for dinner and turkey and chicken, etcs, for supper. Doing well, eh? At 3 in the morning, I start to visit the pickets which job will take me until 7 in the morning. It is a cold ride at that cold time but he air is bracing. My great coat, cap, and mittens keep me comfortable.  You would hardly think it, but I wear nothing in the day time outside my vest but my thin flannel blouse made for last summer but as yet is warm enough generally. Occasionally when it is quite cool and I am riding but little I put on in the cape of my great coat. I do think that unless I am very careless this climate will agree with me quite well. I have not lost a meal of victuals nor had a headache since I have been out here. Since my first considerable diarrhea I have not suffering in that direction. The piles trouble me a little. I suspect riding horseback does not help that matter. My throat does not trouble me except I drill the regiment all the afternoon, but that will in a great measure subscribed by constant practice of talking in the open air.  

"Politics is ignored in camp. I do not see a newspaper more than every other day. I carried the President’s Message in my pocket from Monday afternoon at 3, when I brought an extra containing it, until this afternoon when I first found time to read it. We do not know half so much as the NY correspondent pretend to about the war, so we have no opinions about movements. Yet it is generally through ... that Burnside, will be as inactive as McCellan. .... We occasionally discuss the manner in which the war should be conducted, but that don’t amount to much.

"The fact is to run a regiment as we have been situated requires most of our time. The 13th, 14th, and 15th have been away ten days and the 12th and 16th have done all the picket duty, taking about all the able well men of each every 48 hours. Then there are but three field officers for officers of the day. I was detailed Sunday and again Wednesday but in the later case the major went for me as I was doing labor, so I went today for my Thanksgiving. The 15th will be back tomorrow, and the others in day or two I hear, so that we shall have more drill and less picket. 

"Our men are generally in their winter quarters and an quite comfortable. The Colonel and I look sharply after them as men in camp will not take care of themselves. We have not lost a man as yet, nor have are any dangerous sick, while the other regiments have lost several the 15th eight or nine. Most of this difference is owning the manifest superiority of our Colonel. He is acknowledged to be the best officer in the Brigade.  He is an excellent man, kind hearted of good principles, and I am greatly attached to him. I admire him. We get along together splendidly." Lt. Col. Charles Cummings, Sixteenth Regiment, Letter No. 7(8),  December 4, 1862. VHS. 

Meanwhile out on Bull Run, the 15th gets orders to return to Camp Vermont:

"Wednesday, Dec. 4th.Three regiments have come in to relieve us from this post. I received orders to pack up and be ready to march at day break for our old camp. Got ready to start at the appointed time but did not start until three in the afternoon. Marched as far as Falls Church, and halted for supper, which consisted of hard tack and raw pork. By six we were on the road again and marched until 12 at night, when we arrived tired and hungry and footsore. We made thirty miles in eleven hours, which I call very good for green troops. To-day commenced snowing and blowing, continued to snow until nine o’clock at night, when the snow ceased falling and the wind increased almost to a gale, but I made out to live through it." ~Diary of Oliver A. Browne, Co. K, 15th Regiment  

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