"Union Mills, Virginia, April 28th, 1863
"You see that we still hold Union Mills, and have not taken up a permanent abode on the Rappahannock shore, though we are just now having a little more picket duty to do than we have had before. Our new Division General, Abercrombie, is mighty strict. He has ordered out all the fires on the picket line, made some new regulations about passes, etc. The boys feel rather aggrieved about the fires, and were so mad yesterday morning they set fire to the woods.
"I was kept off picket this morning to make out the muster rolls, as we all have to be mustered for pay again the last day of this month. The paymaster has just been around with four months' pay ($52). Many of the boys are sending home a considerable portion of it. I am going to send $50 in the shape of a check from the paymaster, which I presume you can draw at any bank, as well as you could the widow's order that you dealt with last year.
"There seems to be some sort of movement in progress down in front of us this morning. Artillery, cavalry, and a lot of mules have been sent down on the railroad this morning, and 'tis said that there was a skirmish down on the Rapahannock this morning, and that the first trains brought up some wounded soldiers, though I did not see them.
I imagine that if the weather holds good for a week, we will hear of awful fighting on the Rapahannock, and I feel confident of success, for they are taking unwearied pains to make it a sure thing and of all the forces of cavalry and light artillery that they have on the river 30,000 cavalry on the river around the railroad, and Warrenton, besides the artillery and what troops have gone down on the railroad last night and today*: all these exclusive of the troops that Hooker has with him in front of Fredricksburg.
"We had some new non commissioned officers made last night, and concluded that the newly promoted men had better wet their stripes, so the company fell in to two ranks and marched down to the sutler's, the non coms heading the delegation, and there we devoured a half barrel of apples at their expense, the Adjutant and commissioned officers sharing with us. Then we marched back to our company ground, dispensed a few good lusty cheers and had a good time generally for the remainder of the evening.
"We are now expecting to get back about the first of June. Have just got my check from the paymaster, which I enclose, but do not have time to write more. H.G. Day" ~ Hezron G. Day, pvt., Company C, Sixteenth Regiment, Letter of April 28, 1863
* At 10:30 pm, Howard’s XI Corps, 14,000-strong, crossed the Rappahannock at Kelly's Ford as part of Hooker's plan to flank Lee at Fredericksburg.
Meanwhile (?) John C. Williams of Danby muses on why we fight.
"April 28. We were paid off yesterday -- received four months' pay.
"Recent circumstances indicate that the campaign is about to open, and much confidence is felt in Hooker, and that victory awaits our arms. This is to be an eventful week, and we are waiting very anxiously to know the result of the next movement. We are confident that success will inevitably be secured to our arms. The glorious old Stars and Stripes will yet float over every inch of soil where rebeldom lifts its accursed head, and where thrice accursed traitors trample it beneath their feet.
"This is a cause which is worthy to be engaged in, one in which all mankind are interested. The preservation of this Union is one of the noblest things to fight for. Not anywhere in the annals of the past ages do we find a government founded upon such liberal principles. America! glorious America! long may she live to be an asylum for the oppressed of all nations, where men of all color can enjoy equal rights and privileges, and freedom the inalienable right of man; a country where the people do not bow to kings or tyrants, but in whose hands alone rests the power to govern, and where people can worship God according to the dictates of their own conscience; where education is unrestrained, and civilization unchecked.
"I blush to mention that one foul blot upon our country's fair escutcheon, which has been allowed to exist too long in one part of the land — I mean "that sum of all villainies," that evil system, which holds a part of the human race in bondage, which has impoverished the land, and reduced the people to the lowest state of misery and degradation, and has at last culminated in this wicked rebellion. But if slavery dies with this war, then shall we be well paid for the sacrifices that are now being made, and the glorious results which will bless millions yet unborn." ~ John C. Williams, Corporal, Co. B, 14th Regiment, Life in Camp 113- 115 (1864)