"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 16, 2012

Tuesday, December 16, 1862. The Art of Picketing

"Picket Duty"
William Henry Jackton
12th Regt. Co. K
"[A]t 8 o'clock P.M. [Monday night], we went to the "support," and slept behind a rail fence. A sudden dash of rain woke us at the right time, and twelve of us followed our corporal through the rain, mud, and darkness, into the woods that hide the "Run," and were stationed a fourth of a mile from each other, there to watch for eight long hours. I hugged the side of a large tree until morning, and then, the rain holding up, and two of us coming together, we made a fire, and warmed up, made some coffee, picked some grapes, and made ourselves comfortable. We came back to camp at about 2 P.M. ..."  ~ Daniel B Stedman Brattleboro, VT, age 22, Pvt., 16th Regt,  Co. B, Letter of December 15 1862     Brattleborohistory.com

"When I last wrote you we were doing picket duty near Manassas. We went down there last saturday & came back ...Wednesday. While there half the Regt went on picket at a time, so you see we had to go on every other day. We (the Comishioned officers) only had to go on once in 3 days, consequently I was only on once while there. 

"You inquire what I have to do while on picket. I will explain as well as possible. It depends upon the nature of the ground & the nearness of the enemy how pickets are posted. Ours have generally been two on a post & from 5 to 10 rods apart; some other Brigades meets the right & left of our line so they extend in that way sometimes for miles. Our Brigade while at Camp Vermont had a line of 8 miles, at Bull Run a line about half as long. 

"If there are 300 men go out at once they will be divided in 3 reliefs of 100 men each. Now a Lieut will take 50 ofthese men & post them on the right of the line beginning at the center, & another Lieut will post 50 men on the left & releive the men already on duty there. You see (in this case, sometimes they will take more men & sometimes less acording to the length of the line) it would take 6 Lieuts each day, 2 to each releif. 

"After posting the men they go back to the surport or reserve (where the other 2 reliefs are stationed) & stop there. The men remain 8 hours on a post then 2 Lieuts take another 100 men (the 2d relief) & releive the men that were first posted. 

"The Lieuts are supposed to visit that part of the line where thier men are posted at least once after posting them before they are releived, so as to see that they are doing thier duty, not sleeping, &c. From what I have written you can judge as nearly as it is possible for me to make you understand what I have to do while on picket." ~ Joseph Spafford, 1st Lieutenant, Company E, Sixteenth Regiment, Letter, December 18 1862, UVM

See also Benedict, Picket Duty on Cub Run,

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