"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. 

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