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

Friday, May 31, 2013

Sunday, May 31, 1863. There is just excitement enough to keep us feeling good.

"The General's wife came to-day on the evening train. She is one of the boys, now I tell ye!" ~ Diary of Oliver A. Browne, Co. K, 15th Regiment

E. D. Keyes,
Captain Co. H
Sixteenth Vermont
"Camp near Bristow Station Va.
"May 31st

"Dear Father:

Thinking that you might be anxious to hear a word from me I now seat myself to pen a few lines for you perusal. I am in the best of health and enjoying life finely. You see since I wrote you last we have changed our camp to this place distance about 10 miles from Union Mills and about 20 from the Rappahannock. 

"Two Companies are at Manassas Junct. 3 at this place and 3 at Catletts Station 6 miles beyond here all on the Alexandria & Orange R.R. Our business is to guard the road from guerrillas &c which are very plenty here- nearly all the citizens that remain are secessionist of the deepest dye. They work in their fields in the day time as honest as you please and nights the cut up all the deviltry they can with the Union boys. We boys all of us ache with vengeance & revenge and would like very much to clear them out and burn their buildings but this the Government prohibits. 

"Yesterday forenoon a train of 12 cars loaded with forage went up and when about a mile and a half from Catletts Station a citizen was noticed standing directly upon the track and he stood there until the engine got near when he jumped up taking the rails from the track with him thus running the engine off when they (the Rebs) commenced shelling the engine & train from a musket battery in the woods. They fired 5 or 6 shots and then put for the train which they fired, took what they could and skedaddled pretty lively you better guess. The whole train was burned with the exception of one car. There was a guard on the train but too small to do any good only 15 in number.

"Our Companies fell in pretty quick when we heard the firing but we were too far off to do any good. The Vt. Cavalry and some Michigan Cavalry was about 5 miles from there and immediately came and followed. Have not heard the final result yet --heard that they overtook them captured their guns killed about 20 and took as many men prisoners. Our loss was less. 

"This morning about half past three a ball went whizzing directly over our camp and the way we tumbled out of our bunks into line was a caution I tell you. We saw nothing, all was quiet then some think it came from the picket lines. We all enjoy this life first rate as there is just excitement enough to keep us feeling good. We may stay here a month and not see a Reb and we may be attacked within an hour.

"Our Co goes out on a scouting trip most every day where we get milk Butter Eggs and lots of stuff which is a rarity to us soldiers. We have been here almost a week and the weather has been beautiful, neither too hot nor too cold, just right. I suppose seven weeks more will see us home. We may start in six. Many have thought we should return in June but I guess the idea is given up now. I hope we shall stay until July, for we are having the pleasantest part of our campaign now. It is very dry now what was mud knee deep two months ago is now hard as stone almost. 

"I take it you are well at home as I hear nothing to the contrary. Suppose you are very busy now planting are you not. I want to see you all ever so much but I shall soon be there time passes very rapidly here the shortest 8 months I ever knew. If I live to get home I believe I shall try it again. I certainly would if it was not for Lorette. She doesn't want I should come again. I think those that stay at home and think of it have the worst of it. 

"Give my love to Mother (how odd the name) and tell her I want to see her ever & ever so much and some of her barley cakes too. Tell her Capt. Atchinson has been here. I got acquainted with him, stayed with me one night like to talked me to death. He seemed to know everybody and everybody's business. I liked him well enough. 

"Wallace is well. We boys took an old hand car and went way up the R.R. and tore down an old house and made us summer houses nice for soldiers or kings. I must close. 

"Good Bye. Elmer" ~ E. D. Keyes, Captain, Company H, 16th Regiment, Letter of May 31, 1863

"Sunday morning, May 31, 1863: Yesterday the Rebs attacked and burned a train two or three miles below us. They planted a gun on a knoll a little way from the road and when the train came along they poured the shells into them disabling the engine and burning the cars - 10 or 12 in number. There was no one killed, but a few hurt by jumping off the train. The guards are like sheep. They say they were from the 15th. 

"Our Cavalry took after the Rebs, caught them, captured two guns, took some 20 prisoners, and killed some 20 more as near as we can learn. A train has just gone up to repair the road, taking with them at least half the regiment as guards, -- always lock the stable after the horse is stolen, you know. The whole value of the train that was burned is estimated at $50,000. Whether Mosely's gang is chastised enough to pay the expense remains to be seen. Mosely is smart on his raid business but lately he has been getting some hard knocks from the 1st Vt., 1st Va. and 5th NY Cavalry. 

"Just before we left Union Mills we saw two of his men who assisted in capturing West and Ashley, themselves prisoners in the guard house. 

"By the way I saw a piece in the Journal which would lead one to think that the 12th had had a part in the late cavalry fight at Warrenton Junction. Such was not the case. The only men of the 12th that saw the Rebs that day were two or three whom they caught away from camp, and but for whom Mosely would have run slap against the 12th and most probably got cut up some. ... I must close and leave the rest until the next time. H. G. Day"   ~ Hezron G. Day, pvt., Company C, Sixteenth Regiment, Letter of May 30, 1863

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