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

Sunday, March 31, 2013

March 31, 1863. Camp Near Union Mills

"Camp Near Union Mills, Va. March 31st, 1863

"...It is now snowing and it has snowed all the morning, so there is nothing doing in camp. Major Rounds is field officer of the day, and my turn comes again Thursday - once in six days.

"We have a delightful camp on a rise of ground smaller but not totally unlike the camp at Brattleboro, with a splendid spring of water in the rear. We are now “in front,” close to Bull Run on which our picket line is stationed. 

"This now classic stream is about twice as large as Whelston Brook in the spring, but it is fordable in but few places at this season of the year for cavalry, and not at all for artillery and scarcely for infantry. The banks on both sides are steep and precipitous in most places as high and steep as those of the Connecticut on the Chesterfield side when mother was almost afraid to ride. 

"But at the same time there are numerous small ravines running into the main stream nearly at right angles, with corresponding steep banks up and down which we ride in visiting the pickets, making altogether the most easily defensive picket line and the very worst one to traverse that I have yet seen. 

"It is nine hours hard work to start at Union Mills ride up on the line to Blackburn’s Ford, about three miles, examine the pickets, supports and reserves, communicate instructions question the men as to their knowledge and appreciation of their duties, ride back again to the initiate point, and then make a corresponding visit to the line below, about the same distance - to Yates Ford and return to camp. If we do this twice a day as in case of any night alarm, there is a right smart chance of work in it.

"It is not more than half a mile from our camp to Bull Run and half a mile from the opposite bank will bring us to rebel barracks now deserted, but from the rumors of last night and this morning likely soon to be re-occupied. The opposite bank is all covered with these old barracks well built, as much as the “Rebs” were without tents.

"Centerville is strongly entrenched, the rebel earth works reaching down to this place and below. It was the head quarters of Gen. Beauregard’s great army in the winter of 1861 -1862, while ours was at Camp Griffin and along this side of the Potomac. McClellan could not have successfully attacked Centerville with 150,000 effective men. This place is but three miles west of north from here. 

"It was there and between that place and one present camp that the first Bull Run Battle commenced, our skirmishers during their pickets across Blackburn’s and McLean’s Fords. The main battle was three miles above the former Ford.

"I visited our right picket line and also Centerville on Sunday. That place is occupied by the 3rd Brigade, Gen. Hays commanding - of Casey’s Division, the 1st being still further north in the vicinity of Chantilly - Col. Fessenden son of Senator Fessenden and the affianced of Gen. Casey’s daughter, commanding. So you see our division is all in the front."

"... My health is excellent. A ride of four hours in low wet pines and a drenching did not give me the least cold, stiffness nor inconvenience. Our living is good enough. Beef, pork, and ham succeed each other with tolerable regularity. We are just now having some splendid ham bought at the U.S. Commissary’s at 8 cents per pound, such as sutler’s retail for 25 cents. Yesterday I was out and bought two fat young hens for $1.00 the pair, and three dozen eggs for 25 cents per dozen. Generally we get milk for one coffee, and we have seldom been out of potatoes. ..." ~ Lt. Col. Charles Cummings, Sixteenth Regiment, Letters  March 31, 1863. VHS. 

Saturday, March 30, 2013

March 30, 1863. H.G. Sheldon promoted

"March 30. Another promotion has taken place in this regiment since we have been in camp: First Sergeant Sheldon, of Company H, to be Second Lieutenant of Company K, vice Fuller, resigned. This place is very strongly fortified by rifle pits and breastworks, behind which artillery is posted, commanding the ford. We could keep three times our number at bay very easily." ~ J. C. Williams, Corporal, Co. B, 14th Regiment, Life in Camp, 102-103(1864).

Friday, March 29, 2013

Sunday, March 29, 1863. Sightseeing and relaxing


Blsckburn Ford
"March 29th: It commenced raining about 4 o'clock this morning, and has kept it up ever since. The boys have got in from picket, but did not get very wet, as they had their rubber blankets and cap covers. They went clear up almost to Centerville, went up so far that they could see across the River to the field where Ellsworth Zouaves and the Black Horse Cavalry fought, and up to Blackburn Ford, which was once so much talked about. 

"They say that that field yesterday looked as green and as thrifty as anything you ever saw. There may be a third Battle of Bull Run on that self same ground, but there is no Rebs there now save a few of their marauding cavalry. ...

"It is related of Captain Mosby that [he] once came along our picket line acting as Field Officer of the day! Gave the pickets instructions, etc. and told them that he would be along again, and departed, and when the real officer of the day came alone, they began to inquire into matters and soon found out the deception. Since that the cavalry men say they have always been told who the officer of the day was, and have known him when he came along.

"The boys in the next tent had quite an amusing time this morning. It seems that one of them had a bottle of whiskey, and put it in a satchel under lock and key, and the rest of them somehow got the nose of the bottle out of the satchel and drank it all up, and he gave them a severe lecture for "drawing" his whiskey, and they in turn scolded him for buying liquor for eleven cents a gallon, and selling it for eight, so that on the whole they had quite an amusing scene.

"You wonder if it isn't hard work for the boys to work on the rifle pit. Now that is a certain sign that you have never been out soldiering, ...The first afternoon that we dug pits the boys worked well, and indeed they had to in order to keep warm, but the hard work soon played out and the longer they worked on anything, the less they would do. If any farmer had a squad of soldiers to work for him he would turn them off, unless they would do more for him than they would do for Uncle Sam. ... H.G. Day" ~ Hezron G. Day, pvt., Company C, Sixteenth Regiment, Letter of March 27, 1863


"March 29. Last night, news came from headquarters, that a force of rebel cavalry was lurking in this vicinity, and might attempt a raid during the night. Preparations were made to give them a warm reception in case they should show themselves, but no alarm was given." ~ J. C. Williams, Corporal, Co. B, 14th Regiment, Life in Camp, 102 (1864).

"Sunday 29th. My team has come again to go on picket, but I was obliged to tell the orderly that I could not go. When Dr. Ross came to see Chas. Cutting I asked him about my case, too. He said little & gave me "4 powders, 6 hours". After he left I took to my blankets & kept them steadily. In writing this, a week & a half after, when I am convalescent, I am able to add that I was suffering from a mild attack of typhoid fever."Diary of Horace Barlow, 96, Co. C, 12th Regiment

Thursday, March 28, 2013

March 28, 1863. False alarms.

Ford's Old Mill
at Wolf Run Shoals
"March 28. False alarms are as frequent as ever. To-day, about noon, firing was heard on the picket line. Soon the long roll was beaten, and the 14th was in line with its usual alacrity. Companies B and G were sent out to ascertain the cause of the alarm. It was found that the firing was made by some stray pickets who had been relieved this morning, and were returning to camp."~ J. C. Williams, Corporal, Co. B, 14th Regiment, Life in Camp, 101-02 (1864).

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

March 27, 1863; Picket duty at Union Mills

"Union Mills, Virginia March 27th, 1863

"Dear Parents,

"You will see by the heading that we have again moved, and got a little nearer the Richmond, which has so long been the goal of our desires; though not a great deal, only about five miles. The 15th and 16th are here doing picket duty on the banks of that historical stream known as Bull Run, while the 14th as you will no doubt learn by the papers, has gone to Wolf Run Shoals to join the 12th and 13th. 
We came here by rails i.e. we walked on the railroad tracks. 

"They detail about 150 men for picket every day, detailing from our regiment one day, and from the 15th the next. Our boys are on today, and will come on again Sundays when I expect to go again....


Blackburn's Ford
(next ford to north of McLean Ford on Bull Run)
"When out on picket day before yesterday I was within 100 rods of MacLane's Ford where the skirmish that preceded the Battle of Bull Run occurred. The point from whence the Rebs opened fire on our troops from a mock battery is now occupied by a small earthwork and a few of our pickets stay in that. It is situated on a small island in the Run, and entirely surrounded by trees. Bull Run was so high the other day that no living thing could hope to cross alive, but during the night it 'subsided' about four feet.

The further side of Bull Run, the country appears to be smooth- inclining from the Blue Ridge down to the river's bank, and all dotted with Rebel barracks, which sheltered their main army during the first winter of the war, and to which it is to be hoped they will never be able to return, though this has been lucky ground for them. I guess my thoughts are somewhat wandering tonight,- I have been out today to see an iron cased car fitted up as a railroad battery and mounted with a small Parrott gun. 
 ~ Hezron G. Day, pvt., Company C, Sixteenth Regiment, Letter of March 27, 1863 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Marcn 26, 1863. At Wolf Run Shoals

William Henry Jackson
"Commissary Wolf Run Shoals"
"March 26. This is the outer boundary line in the defenses of Washington. We have plenty of picket duty to perform at this place."  ~ J. C. Williams, Corporal, Co. B, 14th Regiment, Life in Camp, 101 (1864)

Monday, March 25, 2013

Wednesday, March 25, 1863. Gone out to Wolf Run Shoals

Union Mills Station
" A very warm and pleasant day but very muddy. The wind shifted into the north, and is now snowing. The band has gone out to Wolf Run Shoals." ~ Diary of Oliver A. Browne, Co. K, 15th Regiment

"Wednesday 25th. 3 Cos of the 13th & 2 of the 12th were ordered down to Mayhew's ford this A.M. but saw nothing, of course, for there was & had been nothing there."  Diary of Horace Barlow, 95, Co. C, 12th Regiment

"March 25. Early five companies are scouting over the country within four or five miles of camp. I, with others, go on picket. ... The fourteenth regiment is now camped near us; the fifteenth and sixteenth are at Union Mills; the headquarters of the brigade are there also. 

"We have a pleasant day on picket; a plenty to eat of soft break, fresh beef, sugar and coffee. The air is filled with the song of birds by day, and the ceaseless peeping of frogs by night. It is thought that rebel cavalry are within the lines; and hence we have orders to be very watchful, and send all to camp, who are wandering about the post, whether soldiers or citizens."  ~ Lt. Edwin Palmer, 13th Regiment,  The Second Brigade: or, Camp Life, By a Volunteer (1864) 

"March 25. I learn that the 15th and 16th are at Union Mills, six miles distant, the headquarters of the brigade. The object for which we have come here, is to do picket duty with the 12th and 13th. There will be no rest until the tents are again stockaded, for to-day the regiment is busily engaged.

"The 14th has appropriately been styled the stealing regiment; for rail fences, which have been left untouched all winter by the other regiments at this place, are now rapidly disappearing. The boys of the 14th do not intend to suffer from the cold through a lack of tent fires, as long as rails are plenty -- and every night about dusk, may be seen a row of them about a mile in length, marching in single file, each with two rails on his back. I concur in the opinion of Gen. Stoughton, that if the government would permit him to place the 14th Vermont regiment within twenty miles of Richmond, the boys would steal the city. ~ J. C. Williams, Corporal, Co. B, 14th Regiment, Life in Camp, 99 (1864)

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Tuesday, March 24, 1863. The 14th, 15th and 16th move camp; the 12th and 13th on patrol at Wolf Run Shoals

"24th. The Brigade moved to-day to Union Mills about seven miles. Had to work very hard in order to get my tent in order, in order to get a place to sleep. The Third Brigade has gone to Centerville."  Diary of Oliver A. Browne, Co. K, 15th Regiment

The [16th] regiment moved down the railroad about six miles on a high point near Union Mills. ~Russell and Emery, Regimental History

"March 24. In camp near Wolf Run Shoals, Virginia. Orders came yesterday to be ready to march at seven o'clock this morning. Accordingly tents were struck, and the regiment in line at the appointed hour, ready to move off. We were hard up for field officers, the Colonel being absent in Washington at the time orders were received. Lieut. Col. Rose was unable to go with us in consequence of bruises received by being thrown from his horse on the previous night. Major Hall was not well, having just returned from home, where he had been sick some time. The command then devolved upon Capt. Gore of Company A, but he being sick, it fell upon Capt. Thompson of Company B (who, by the way, is noteworthy of his straps), to act as Colonel. We arrived here at ten o'clock in the forenoon, the distance being seven miles. Our present camp is but a few rods from the one we were in last November while here, and but a few rods from the 12th and 13th." ~ J. C. Williams, Corporal, Co. B, 14th Regiment, Life in Camp, 99 (1864)


["The 14th regiment arrived in our camp and took up their position just west of (the 13th) regiment, further up the stream." ~ Pictorial history Thirteenth Regiment Vermont Volunteers]

"March 24. Before daylight a few sick were started off for the hospitals in Washington, in the ambulances. 


"Fifty were sent over the river, in pursuit of wagons covered with cloth, as some thought; but when they reach the spot, only white cows are to be seen. Crossing and recrossing was accomplished slowly, as they were paddled over in a newly made boat that leaked so that two men were needed to dip out the water. 

"A few days ago ten privates and two sergeants were detailed to act as scouts. One of these, just before roll call, comes into camp, who has "got track of some rebs," he says. So in fifteen or twenty minutes, ninety men and officers-all volunteers-are starting down the river, guided by the Scout of the Occoquan, a romantic nickname that somebody had given to the tallest scout, and one whose fondness for roving was never surpassed by a wild Indian's. It is a warm night, but dark, and at times raining furiously."  ~ Lt. Edwin Palmer, 13th Regiment,  The Second Brigade: or, Camp Life, By a Volunteer (1864) 

["the sick were sent by ambulances to the railroad station, and from there to hospitals in Alexandria and Washington by cars, and some to Vermont which seemed to indicate and confirm the rumor about camp that we were soon to move..." ~ Pictorial history Thirteenth Regiment Vermont Volunteers]]


["The river was now high, and we could not pass at the ford, and Colonel Randall therefore ordered a boat to be built, and on the 22nd and 23rd, the regiment turned out and made a boat from boards taken from the grist mill nearby, not a very nice smooth job, but we launched it and crossed over six or eight at a time, and in this manner two companies went over and found the moving wagons we had seen in the distance to be white cows feeding in an open pasture, (and nothing more) and returned as we went. Major L. D. Clark had command of this naval expedition. Major Clark had been a sea captain on Lake Champlain."~ Pictorial history Thirteenth Regiment Vermont Volunteers]

"Tuesday 24th. This A.M. Reg't engaged in preparing new ground for a new camp. I worked pretty hard in P.M. cutting timber & went home quite tired. Commenced to rain about night fall. Played Old Sledge with H.G.C. till about 9 P.M. As there was no tatoo we suspected that something was in the wind & we were doubly certain of it when the Orderly came & detailed us to go, with others, on patrol. We went in the rain & mud & travelled more or less all night, & returned at day-break, tired, wet, hungry, & mad at Col. Randall for getting up another scare. We did not see or hear anything suspicious & subsequent developments show that is is "Randall raid" no 2. If these things continue we shall doubly wish for our trusty Col. Blunt."  Diary of Horace Barlow, 94, Co. C, 12th Regiment

Saturday, March 23, 2013

March 23, 1863. Marching orders.

In the last week of March, General Casey moved the headquarters of his division from Washington to Centreville, accompanied by a large portion of his command, and the three Vermont regiments which had been for two months at Fairfax Station were moved forward – the Fourteenth joining the Twelfth and Thirteenth at Wolf Run Shoals, and the Fifteenth and Sixteenth going to Union Mills. Colonel Blunt at this time removed his headquarters to Wolf Run Shoals. ~ 2 George Grenville Benedict, Vermont in the Civil War 430-31 (Burlington Vt 1888)
  
"March 23. Marching orders have been received again to-day, and the boys are very much rejoiced, for the camp is getting very dull. We have been in this camp about two months, without having been called out in line of battle once; but have accomplished a good deal in building corduroy roads, and guarding property. We have also been put upon drill most of the time when the weather was favorable for it, with the exception of the last two weeks, which have been devoted to digging rifle pits, with which the Station could be defended, in case an attack should be made." ~ J. C. Williams, Corporal, Co. B, 14th Regiment, Life in Camp, 98 (1864)



"Fairfax Station, March 23rd, 1863 
"Tomorrow morning at 5 o’clock our regiments move - the 15th and 16th southwesterly to Union Mills, the present running terminus of the Alexandria and Orange R. R., and seven miles beyond the station on the same road toward the interior. 

"We shall then be “in front” and have picket duty on Bull Run, in face of whatever enemy may be there. Here “picket duty” will mean 
something, and I shall have to be Field Officer of the day twice a week. I am glad of the change. 

"The 14th go to Wolf Run Shoals and there join the 12th and 13th. They will be six miles southerly from the station and about five miles from us - the three places being at the angles of a nearly equilateral triangle Fairfax Station the apex and the picket line the base."  ~ Lt. Col. Charles Cummings, Sixteenth Regiment, Letters  March 23, 1863. VHS. 

Friday, March 22, 2013

Sunday, March 22, 1863

Sunday 22nd. Cloudy in early morning & so no inspection. About 11 o'clock Sun came out & shone very hotly the rest of the day. Thermometer must have marked 75° in the sun. Short Church service in P.M. No Dress Parade. To-day is almost the only approach to Spring that we have seen for a long time. The birds are getting plenty & they sing quite sweetly, when the days are warm & pleasant. Spring must be very late, this year, for this Climate. Diary of Horace Barlow, 93, Co. C, 12th Regiment

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Saturday, March 21, 1863; reverberations of Stoughton

"Camp Near Fairfax Station, Va.
"March 21st, 1863

 "…  S. C. Covey in company B, received news, through a telegraph dispatch from the governor to Col. Veazey, last night, that his wife and three children were sick, the former not expected to live. We got him a furlough for fifteen days and he started for Washington this morning to get it approved by Generals Casey and Heintzelman, and if successful, will have Washington and arrive at Brattleboro Monday by the morning train from Springfield. If tomorrow were not Sunday, he would get through from Washington tomorrow night - 23 hours being the regular time between the two cities. He will call upon you before he comes back. He used to peddle meat for Hadley and cut up a pig for us a year or two since. He was detailed as cook for Gen. Stoughton down to the time of the raid, and has since been on similar duty at Col. Blunt’s quarters.  

"Gen. Stoughton has arrived safely at Richmond and is lodged with the other prisoners in the Libby prison. I suspect he will find it uncomfortable quarters in that lousy, filthy den, as his habits and taste for personal neatness and cleanness are of no ordinary order.  I regret that there should be so much bitterness manifested toward him by the city peers and such petty spite and small, low sort of malignity at home. … He is a ladies man, that is he is passionately fond of the society of pretty and chatty young ladies. He was a good tactician and disciplinarian and did much in these respects for the Brigade. But he is far short of being such a genuine soldier as Gen. Phelps. However, he is dead to advancement.  

"I enclosed you slips one giving an account of the general’s arrival at Richmond and the other a copy of Miss Antonia J. Ford’s commission as Major from Gen. Stuart. Miss Ford was always regarded as a respectable woman and member of a highly respectable family. They were all secesh, her brother being in the rebel cavalry Stuart gave a number of such commissions. … Stuart, the Rebel General of Cavalry is only thirty and is fond of just such frolics. …

"I expect Gen. Stannard will be assigned to this brigade, at least it is so understood. He is a plan, practical man with an abundance of good sense, and with that a good soldier. If he comes he will live in his tent like the others of his command, and if he is taken prisoner it will only be after a fight and with the rest of the brigade.  

"I have got my rifle pits nearly completed having made about 3000 yards. Next week I have two or three redoubts to build for artillery and then the defenses for this station will be sufficient for any probable contingency.  

"Lieut. Simonds is not worth much since the reports of his infantry tactics at Brattleboro. He was found drunk in his quarters when wanted for duty the other day, but was let off with a stinging reprimand. Another such offense and he will be court martial and cashiered." ~ Lt. Col. Charles Cummings, Sixteenth Regiment, Letters  March 21, 1863. VHS. 



"Headquarters Second Vt. Brigade,
"Near Wolf Run Shoals, Va.,
"March 21, 1863.

"Dear Free Press: ... Colonel Blunt, as brigade commander, has been making his presence felt at Fairfax Station in the right way. The Station is a point of supply for all the troops at Centreville, Union Mills, Fairfax Court House, Fairfax Station and Wolf Run Shoals. The quantity of quartermaster and commissary stores here, is of course very large -- and the position is to be held at all hazards. It is now, I am happy to say, in a very much better condition for defence than ever before. Rifle pits have been dug and breastworks by the mile thrown up, by the men of the Fourteenth, Fifteenth and Sixteenth regiments, along the high ground surrounding the Station on every side, from behind which they will be happy to meet any force likely to be sent against them. The picket lines have also been closely looked after; the various departments of supply for the brigade have received attention; and the brigade and regimental hospitals have had the benefit of the colonel's occasional unannounced presence and quick eye for defects in management. One learns to value energy and attention to his business in a commanding officer, after seeing how the influence of such qualities is felt throughout down to the last private in the brigade." 
~ Lieut.  G.G. Benedict, Company C, 12th Regiment, Letter to the Free Press of March 21, 1863 in Army Life in Virginia.

Monday, March 18, 2013

March 18, 1863. "The intelligence and enduring virtue of the nation is in the ranks."

"Fairfax Station, VA. March 18th, 1863
E.D. Keyes, Captain Co. H., 16th Regt.

"Mr. Editor – All is quiet at Fairfax. Colonel Stoughton has made a forward movement, - the first of the season. About only a year ago Manassas was taken by a single Yankee, and we sincerely desire that the Colonel may have equal success. Although I do not fancy his style, and presume that he fancies it still less, yet I am a Stoughton man, and of course am ready to whip the first one who says that he is glad the Colonel has been captured; for I consider him a brave and loyal man, and possessed of talents and acquirements equaled by few of his age. No doubt it is considered pure carelessness on his part, and having his headquarters so far from his command. But campaigning in Virginia has proved fatal to most aspirants to military glory upon the sacred soil. Indeed, the commanders who have not made fatal mistakes in this department have been so few, that he can console himself with the fact of belonging to a very numerous class whose names are found in the catalog of blunders which have brought upon us but a series of calamities instead of victories.

"I have heard it talked in camp, many a time during the past few weeks, that Fairfax could be surprised the General and Staff captured, and horses stolen and all be out of our reach before assistance could be rendered. Therefore we were not surprised when the thing was done. But other Generals have made their headquarters at Fairfax, when their commands were at a distance, and no doubt are equally to blame with Col. Stoughton, if any blame attaches to him. The fact is we have been exposed at many points during the past two months. When regiments are scattered over a large space, not within helping distance of each other, rebel cavalry can have it all their own way, when they come in such force as they did two months ago, and the only wonder is that they have not visited us before.

"While the Col. was spending the evening at Fairfax Station with some friends, some ten days before he was captured, a spy visited his headquarters, representing himself as a Federal Captain. The same man was recognized among the rebels at the time of the raid. They crossed our line which is some six or eight miles from the courthouse, with the countersign in some places and others it is presumed they crossed without being noticed by our pickets, who probably on so rainy a night neglected their duty, as is too often the case. On arriving at Fairfax, some of them took off our guard and posted theirs instead, while others went to the quarters of the officers and called them out, a very unmannerly act, to be sure, but they all escaped except Col. Stoughton. Col. Wyndham, commander of cavalry was away in Washington. Col. Johnson of 5th N.Y., escaped out a side window in his nightclothes and crawled under a barn, waiting until the rebels were gone, when he started in pursuit of them with cavalry which had been stationed about two miles from the courthouse, to the number of 200.

"Zimri Messenger of Springfield, Vt., who was acting as orderly at the telegraph office, was taken and placed upon a horse and made to lead five other horses, two of which were the Colonel’s. He made bad work of riding and leading, purposely I presume, and being careless withal, let go of the Colonel’s horses, one of which was found the next day and brought back to the Court House. Finally after riding a couple of miles, he got changed onto a horse which was saddled and having learned that there was a John in the company, and there being a little excitement to the rear, which took the attention of those around him, he started back towards the rear of the column when on being asked, “Who goes there?” he said ,“John,” and that he was going back to help Capt. Moseby who was the leader of the rebels. So he passed on, but soon turned away from the column and scampered for dear life, no doubt displaying horsemanship which would have surprised the rebels who lately had him in charge. During his ride with his captors, he was struck in the back by some weapon which has rendered him unable to do duty, and he is now in the hospital.

"This incident excites quite as much of laughter as indignation. The rebels are smart and they have plenty of opportunities for showing their smartness. And they will continue to play their tricks just so long as we place small forces here and there, surrounded by spies, who can communicate information beyond our lines everyday and the week. And these traitor spies are protected in rights which they do not possess. Their property has been guarded by the Second Vermont Brigade when every bloody rascal of them ought to be driven out of the country. To allow so many spies to remain in the vicinity of Washington is the extreme of folly to say the least.

"Gen. Pope struck a right lead when he ordered traitors to be sent beyond our lines, or suffer a worse fate by remaining. Why we see spies everyday. I would hang them or drive them out of this country, and make Northern Virginia as desolate as the plains of Nebraska. They you will not hear of rebel raids within twenty miles of Washington, when we have thirty thousand federal soldiers within the same distance.

"Signal lights were thrown up from Fairfax the night after the raid, also several times the week previous, by secesh; and the same thing has been done many times during the past winter. Now soldiers who have brains have no respect for such trifling as this.

"The male residents of Fairfax have been sent to the old Capital Prison at Washington. This is a step in the right direction; but like many other steps in that direction, it comes too late.

"Sometimes I have wondered that our armies have not become demoralized. But now I have greater faith in the Republic than ever. When I witness the patience, the sacrificing devotion of those in the ranks, I exult in the faith that the old flag shall yet again wave over every State of the once United. The brain of the Army is in the ranks, and I might almost say the intelligence and the enduring virtue of the nation is in the ranks, and here is the hope of Liberty. If demoralization exists at all it is among the officers, and ever has been.

There is no position which man can occupy which requires more of sterling integrity, than that of being an officer in an army which is fighting for Liberty. The officer who lacks in natural honesty soon becomes a thief, and he has plenty of opportunities for exercising his propensity, for Uncle Sam has lots of property lying around loose.

"The 14th, 15th and 16th have to-day been digging rifle pits in expectation of a visit from Stonewall.

"We have no politics in the 16th, but to carry on the war until the rebellion is put down. So we watch with some interest the movements of copperheads at home. And for everyone who would hold back one iota of strength from the Army, we lay up curses sufficient to damn a whole community. We fight against rebels upon principle, and have for them some respect, but for the men at home, who sympathize with traitors in arms, there is growing in the Army the most intense hatred. And the Army will cherish that hatred as a duty which they owe to Liberty. We are all desirous that the government should raise more men, so that every step gained cannot be lost. I think if 200,000 more men are brought into the field, that three-fourths of the able bodied men of the 2nd Vermont Brigade will re-enlist.

"I believe that the men of the 16th are well pleased with their officers, and well they may be, for we have been treated first rate. Men who are really sick, are granted all the indulgence that could be asked. The regiment is well drilled and looks clean, with but few exceptions, as when it left Brattleboro. And this I consider a high compliment to both officer and soldier."
~ E. D. Keyes, Captain, Company H. writing as "Duane" to the Bellows Falls Times, published March 20, 1863.


"Camp Near wolf run Shoals Va. [March 18,] 1863 

"Dear Parents ... As we have wrote Several times Since the affair at the courthouse it is unneccesary for me to mention in this letter only that it is considered a most shameful affair here & has we think cost Stoughton his commission as general which by the way he never had received the president sent in his name to the Senate to be confirmed but before they acted upon it he was taken prisoner & the president withdrew his nomination. at least that is the report
...

"The typhoyed pneumonia & typhoyed fever are both raging very high. there having seven died in our regiment within the last sixty two hours one of them was from our company. his name was Roderick R. Williams. he enlisted from windsor, but I understand that his father resides in Cornish, N.H.

"I understand that there is one or two companys in the reg. that do not report but from thirty to forty for duty, & where there Should be 18 Lieutenants there is not but Seven reported for duty.

"There was an order to night calling for one man to vollenteer from each company to enlist into the Second Rhode Island Battery to Serve there until our nine months expire & if the battery is Seperated from the Brigade before that time then they will rejoin their company. 
The one that vollenteered from our company was Fred. P. Mather. they are to report to Col. Blunt on or before the twentyieth of this month

"Col. Blunt still remains in command of the Brigade & he is liked by all of the command." 
Jabez H. Hammond, West Windsor, age 20, Sgt. Co. A, 12th Regt Letter No. 33

Sunday, March 17, 2013

March 17, 1863. A murder? The innocence of Antonia Ford.

"Tuesday. 17th. Went to Washington on business to Gen. Casey's office. Stayed in town all night. Lieut. Graham, of the 16th was murdered between 22nd and 1st Streets for his money." Diary of Oliver A. Browne, Co. K, 15th Regiment

"Camp Near Fairfax Station March 17th, 1863


"I see by the newspaper that the recent capture of Gen. Stoughton is the all absorbing topic of conversation and criticism, and that it provokes all sorts of comment.

"I was pained to see copied from the New York Times a gross charge of dalliance with a woman of easy virtue - a Miss Ford - and that assigned as a reason for his remaining away from the immediate command and his consequent capture made against him. The family of Mrs. Ford - was one of the most respectable in the place and the reputation of Miss Ford - whom I knew but was barely acquainted with, was a fair and unspotted as that of any lady in Virginia. 

"Although the General made his quarters at the home about a month, he could have seen but little of her as he boarded in his mess and his apartment were taken care of by an old Negro wench. His mother and sisters occupied the same apartments but took their meals with him at his quarters in a house a square distant.

"Gen. S. is a handsome man is young and fond of female society, but he never had the reputation nor does any officer in this brigade believe him capable of “conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman.”

"His military standing and reputation is however, much injured, and his promotion to a brigadier will never receive the sanction of the senate. The president has withdrawn his name for that office. Gen. Stannard will probably he assigned to his brigade."
~ Lt. Col. Charles Cummings, Sixteenth Regiment, Letter  March 17, 1863. VHS. 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

March 16, 1863. Fortifying Fairfax Station

"Monday. 16th. Cold but pleasant. There is enough hail on the ground to make it very good sledding. We are going to raise a liberty pole at Head-Quarters to hand out the Garrison flag."~ Diary of Oliver A. Browne, Co. K, 15th Regiment



"In camp near Fairfax Station, VA March 16th, 1863

"... My health is excellent, although my voice has not got its usual timbre, or fullness and seriousness. Week before last I drilled the regiment four successive days and I used it too much. I should not have done it but the Colonel was away and I wanted the practice. ...

"During the last four days I have been engaged in commanding a detail of 600 men engaged in constructing rifle pits for the defense of Fairfax Station. I am engineer and all having made the plans, location, and all else without one visit or direction from the Colonel commanding the Brigade. It is new business, but by the time I get thorough I shall have learned something. I have now about ten days more of work planned out, including four redoubts for artillery. 


"I spent all day Sunday and most of my time evenings until 12 o’clock in making plans and specifications to guide the captains who immediately superintend the men. My outer lines on opposite sides of our camp are two miles apart so I have plenty of horseback exercise. At first it was contemplated to have a new officer detailed each day but after the first day the entire work was placed under my supervision. 

"When completed I shall have three to four miles of rifle pits for the defense of this important place, important because it is the entry point for the supplies of an army holding this section of Virginia.

"I  enclose one of a dozen or so copies of a profile view with measurements of a section of a rifle pit, representing one end of the embankment and ditches if cut down through perpendicularly, the main ditch on the miner side for the protection of the men and the step for them to stand on when firing. ...


"There is nothing of special interest here yet. Our regiments have not yet been called out, but we are living in a state of preparation for such an event. The rumors of rebel raids, and advances in this direction are not infrequent. There is little doubt that this country is infested with spies. 

"An expedition Saturday night under command of Lt. Vinton captured four citizens one of whom had admitted enough to a supposed confederate but really one of our spies to convict him I think. He will be sent to Washington unless the authorities permit us to try and hang him. He is in close custody.

"...Nothing has as yet been heard of the two Brattleboro boys captured with Gen. Stoughton. All the others including Abner White are quite well and looking finely. Nearly every man in the regiment is healthier than when at home.

"By the way I must not omit writing that yesterday - Sunday - was the most peculiar day of the season. Four inches of fine solid hail fell, and all the afternoon it came in a succession of showers accompanied with sharp lighting and almost continued thunder. It was a novel thunder storm, so very cold and sleety."
~ Lt. Col. Charles Cummings, Sixteenth Regiment, Letter  March 16, 1863. VHS. 

Friday, March 15, 2013

Sunday, March 15, 1863. A thunderstorm of hail.

"Sunday 15th. The 16th Regt. went out on scout last night and brought in four prisoners. The Colonel went to the Shoals this morning and has not yet returned. The Brigade Band came out and played Old Hundred, Sweet Home, and the Stair. It is now raining and hailing, thundering quite hard. March is rough weather out here, or has been so far. Night has set in with a hard wind and a severe hard storm."Diary of Oliver A. Browne, Co. K, 15th Regiment


"March 15. In the afternoon the long roll is beaten; the regiment called into line; arms are stacked, and we are told to be ready to start at a moment's notice. A few guerillas came down the other side of the river and fired at some of our cavalry; but this was all, and the last that was seen of them. The pickets were strengthened during the night. The camp guards have been allowed, through the cold weather, to go to their tents as soon as relieved; but lately one relief has been kept at the guard-house all the time, as rebel cavalry are prowling about more nights. These are not large bodies, varying from ten to two hundred. Many of them are citizens, clad in the uniform of Union soldiers, who know every hill, valley, by-path and hiding place from the Potomac to the Rappahannock." ~ Lt. Edwin Palmer, 13th Regiment,  The Second Brigade: or, Camp Life, By a Volunteer (1864) 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

March 14, 1863. Defending Fairfax Station and Wolfrun Shoals

"March 14. The coldest weather of the season as yet. Fairfax Station is becoming a place of considerable importance in a military point of view, as being a base for supplies to the army, and a depot for Government stores, which we are at present guarding." ~ J. C. Williams, Corporal, Co. B, 14th Regiment, Life in Camp, 89 (1864)

"March 14. Some excitement at the Shoals. Had some excitement or expected some excitement somewhere, I'll be darned if I know where and I can't find out. I don't think I shall run until I do, or get orders to, then I shall do as I am a mind to about it. Rebs are round, and in the immediate vicinity of this place. ( I suppose so)."  Diary of Oliver A. Browne, Co. K, 15th Regiment.


"Camp near Wolfrun Shoals March 14th 1863 

"We are like to have some fun soon, for the rebs now the mud has began to dry up seem determined to bother us some but they don’t try to cross here. If they make trouble for us, they will cross below here and try to flank us.


"Evening since I commenced this letter. We have been called out in line of battle to fight the rebs. There were some horsemen seen on a hill near here. Our cavalry scouts went across the river and only came back.... We have been ordered to stack our arms and to be ready to fall in at a moment’s warning. 

"Last night about 4 miles from here, the Rebs crossed the river, took all their pickets and went on to the courthouse but did not make out so well as they did before. The men that went into the village got nabbed so instead of getting a Bridadier General they were taken themselves. 

"Now the mud is dried up some, the rebs won’t give us any peace until they have tried it once and get driven back. We could hold two Brigades easy for there are four rifled guns (six pounders) and two howitzers that would rake them as they came up and then we have rifle pits on this side and have destroyed those on the other side. If they have Artillery, they can bother us some but none but Calvary will be able to get between us and the main forces in front." 
 James Willson, 13th Regt., pvt, Co. B. , Letter #32, March 14, 1863 (VHS)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

March 13, 1863. Digging and scouting.

"Fairfax Station, Va. March 13, 1863

"Dear Parents: ... Our boys are digging rifle pits now, have been at it for several days. I dug for three days and today am detailed to act as supernumerary, which is simply to attend guard mounting and to go on the usual drills tomorrow. I will have to go on guard. The three regiments stationed here have dug several miles of rifle pits, and are still digging ..

"Co. B. went out on a scout the other night and captured four Rebs. sesesh citizens, I suppose. They had a pretty severe tramp, from 16 to 18 miles, I believe. The prisoners were taken over to Co. Blunt's headquarters, and what was done with them then I do not know. One of our company, Mike Sullivan, got hurt yesterday while out on fatigue when a tree fell on him. He is better today, but he did some extensive swearing, that is, when he was able to talk again....***

"I am the only one left in the tent today, all the rest being out on the pits. The rumor is that we are to be paid off next week, for four months instead of two. I do not know whether it will prove true or not, and do not much care, as I have plenty of money for the present.

"Would you believe it? Crane has got his discharge on account of ill health, though some say it was because the colonel had got sick of him as cook. There was another one discharged at the same time that really needed a discharge: Dodge of Andover**, and I am heartily glad he got it. We have got a new orderly at last in the person of Matt Clark. I think the boys will like him very well. ...


"There was a scouting party sent out from our regiment this afternoon. They found a few old tents, a musket, etc. I do not know exactly what, and 'tis said that there is another party going out tonight, to try and get a Reb. Very many of the citizens about here are believed to be peaceable enough in the daytime, and are supposed to act as guerrillas at night, and the officers seem to be taking measures to catch the rascals.

"... I believe that the health of the company is as good as it has been at any time since they commenced having measles. Ezra Weston* is perhaps the sickest of any of the Plymouth boys, but he is a little better today...." 
 ~ Hezron G. Day, pvt., Company C, Sixteenth Regiment, Letter of March 11, 1863 

* Ezra M.Weston, 20, of Plymouth, Pvt, Co. C, 16th Vt. Regt., died April 6, 1863. The Sixteenth suffered only three deaths in March:

  1. Metcalf, Edgar B.,             Corp., Co. H,            (1834-3/12/63)
  2. Chamberlin, Henry R.,       Pvt, Co. G,                (1835-3/17/63)
  3. Smith, Stillman B.,            Pvt.  Co. A,               (1838- 3/27/63)

** Nathaniel P.Dodge (1838-1896), 29 ,Andover, Pvt, Co. C, 16th Vt. Regt., discharged / disabled March 17 1863 3/17/63
***Michael Sullivan was present when Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox, April 9, 1865.

"March 13. Froze very hard last night, which makes it very comfortable under foot. The 16th Regiment are making a charge with all the noise that can be made by screeching. The 15th  are pouring volleys of blanks out into their ranks, which makes quite a battle-field of it. If it was only a reality the boys would be satisfied. They fairly itch for a fight. Rumors have it Gen. Stannard... is come here to take command of this Brigade. 

"Received a dispatch that the Rebs have crossed the Rappahannock in force, mostly cavalry This report has created quite an excitement in camp. The Colonel has 600 men at work digging rifle pits in front of their command." Diary of Oliver A. Browne, Co. K, 15th Regiment.

"March 13. You see soldiers out as in January, gloves and overcoats on, carrying wood for fires in their tents. ... At night the enemy, emboldened by their first success, make another raid on Fairfax, of about the same number as before. But instead of catching a General, they lose seventeen horses and the same number of men, (such is rumor,) who are sent to Washington. The headquarters of the brigade are now at the Station." ~ Lt. Edwin Palmer, 13th Regiment,  The Second Brigade: or, Camp Life, By a Volunteer (1864)