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

Saturday, May 11, 2013

May 11, 1863. Picket and guard duty at Union Mills.

Lr. Col. Charles Cummings
16th Vt.
"Camp Near Union Mills, Va. 
"May 11th, 1863 

"My Dear Wife,... I should have written you a day or two sooner, but I was on picket Saturday and Sunday. Our brigade is now so scattered that the 16th is the only regiment remaining here, consequently we have all the picketing to do for six miles, and furnish 100 men as a guard at Bristow’s Station, besides sending a guard of 25 men with the train down to the front daily. 

"The 12th is down the Rappahannock at Kelley’s Ford, the 15th at Warrenton Junction a dozen miles this side of the Ford. The 14th at Wolf Run Shoals, and the 13th down on the Occoquan near Occoquan village. 

"We had much rather be down on the front than here, but have to take things as we find them. The reason the 16th was not sent front was, we had the most men fit for duty and it needed a strong regiment to do our work. From present indications it appears as if we should remain here during the remainder of our pilgrimage, as I understand that this picket line is to be maintained for the present.

"The weather is now balmy, warm, and delightful. It is a treat for officers and men to go on picket, both as it relieves the monotony of camp life, and the air is fresh and fragment with blossoms. ...there is a great abundance of wild flowers more beautiful than with us the names of which I have no means of determining. I wish you were here a week to ride out on picket and see what then is beautiful here. But you would find the path you would have to travel anything but slow. It is the worst ground to travel over that I have picketed or seen, but it is easily defensible. Along the bank of Bull Run the ground is intersected by deep precipitous ravines full of laurel, which here grows large and luxuriant and tangled wood.

"Hooker’s attempt, like those of his predecessors, is a failure. It does seem as if the Army of the Potomac was fated to ill-success. Stoneman’s brilliant raid is the only redeeming feature and perhaps we except Sedgwick’s gallant fighting. There was a report in camp last night that Gen. Dix had moved up from Fortress Monroe and taken Richmond, but it is not credited, although it is among the possibilities as there are no rebels about there.

"Gen. Stoughton is in Washington confident of getting the command of the 1st Vermont Brigade. He is making out his official report of his capture. I hope he will get a command for he is above average of the more recent Brigadiers. Gen. Stannard is a capital officer, and a very fine man, and I do not want to change him for any one I know him so well, and he is so reliable. But Stoughton’s assignment to a command would be a good sequel to the unmentioned abuse he has received.

"I have had my head sheared so that there is not a hair on it half an inch long. It is much more comfortable and is easily kept clean. My old horse that I recently bought is picking up fairly and is today worth $100, but poor black is not doing well, he ought to be turned out to grass three months. He is better adapted to a buggy and smooth roads than picketing out here." ~ Lt. Col. Charles Cummings, Sixteenth Regiment, Letters May 11, 1863. VHS.

"May 11th. Hot and warm. Saw Stoneman's cavalry, 20,000, on the road to Falmouth. They were in an open field, marching by division fronts." ~ Diary of Oliver A. Browne, Co. K, 15th Regiment

"Monday 11th. Off duty this A.M. & writing letters & taking it easy. Recd letters from home & feel well, & hearty as a fish in his native element. Weather is getting to be awful hot. Have taken off my underclothing & have to go in short-sleeves, it is so hot." ~ Diary of Horace Barlow (UVM), 118, Horace Barlow, Pvt., Co. C, 12th Regiment

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