Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Where's the beef?

Today at Rappahannock Station: September 28, 1863

Portion of a letter from Colonel H.F. Clark, [regular army] ADC and CS (Commissary Department) to Lt. Col G.H. Woods Chief C.S. 3rd Corps:

“Do you wish anymore cattle, if you please state the number and send here for them tomorrow morning. The main head is now near Rappahannock Station but some are coming up for the 2d Corps and yours can come with them...”

Isn't it nice to know that beef on the hoof is available to the army. The Second Corps cattle was in route to the soldiers. For the men of the Third Corps, the prospect of fresh meat was in the hand of Lt. Colonel Woods. All he had to do was ask....

During the Winter Encampment - still a few months away - today's in Elkwood, Virginia, was known as Ingall's Station. At Ingall's Station was the stockyard for the Army of the Potomac.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

"...telling me about your doll..."

Today in Culpeper: September 24, 1863

We sometimes forget that the hundreds of thousands of soldiers who fought in the Civil War were family men. Husbands and fathers. They gave up thier lives at home to possibly give up their mortal life on some field outside some village or along a river or creek.

What follows is a portion of a letter from Colonel Patrick R. Guiney, 9th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, to his three-year old daughter, Loolie. I can see Patrick's wife Jennie reading the letter to her, writing not about war and trials and tribulations in camp, but dolls and horses.

The letter can be found in: Commanding Boston's Irish Ninth: the Civil War Letters of Colonel Patrick R. Guiney, 9th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, edited by Christian G. Samito.

Culpepper, Va
Sept. 24, 1863

My Dear Pet:

Your nice little letter telling me all about your doll came here to day. Poor little doll couldn't grow some + I don't wonder she fainted + got all dirty in the effort. I am glad you didn't whip her Loolie, because she couldn't help it. How do like the pictures of your dada's? Tell your mother to get you a charm for your little pencil and hang it around your neck. You must tell me how you like the white horse "Harry." The little rogue is asleep in one but his eyes are wide open in the other picture.

Friday, September 23, 2011

"A more precious set of villains I never saw..."

Today at Brandy Station: September 23, 1863

In 1862 and 1862, the majority of volunteers who enlisted in the Federal armies did so out of patriotism, civic pride and sense of duty. By 1863, those men were gone. But still; cities, counties and states still had an obligation to keep the ranks filled. Not wanting a draft, local and state governments turned to bounty's to entice men to join.

Unfortunately, many joined to collect the bounty and deserted at the first chance, usually before they departed their home station. If not then, while in transit from the north to Washington. If they still had no opportunity, then on the train from Alexandria to the army in Culpeper and Fauquier Counties.

Some actually arrived in camps. They were not wanted nor liked by those who had been through the hard 1863 campaigns of Chancellorsville and Gettysburg.

In a diary entry, Private John Haley describes his first meeting of a new set of recruits to the 17th Maine. The diary can be found in: The Rebel Yell and Yankee Hurrah: the Civil War Journal of a Maine Volunteer: Private John W. Haley, 17th Maine Regiment.

September 17: When we returned to Camp, we found a bunch of recruits had arrived and made themselves a very familiar with our tents and rations. They eyed us keenly, spoiling for a fight when we found out the extent of their depredations, we were more than willing to oblige. A more precious set of villains I never saw, reckless bounty jumpers and cut throats scoured up between New York and the British provinces. Doubtless they had enlisted several times and jumped a bounty on each occasion. They have found the right Regiment, if they wanted trouble! However, there was no help for it, and we must make the best of a bad matter.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

"Send me 2 pound of plug tobacco"

Today in Culpeper Court House: September 21, 1863

George Camp recounts in a letter to an unknown recipient back home of his experiences in the past week. Spelling has not been corrected.

A portion of a letter from Private George Camp, Co. E. 10th Vermont Infantry

''Camp at Culpepper Court House, Virginia,...We crost the rappahannock the 14th at freeman’s ford in the morning and marcht all day till about 4 o’clock in the afternoon, then we crost hazel river and marched till 10 o’clock at nite. It was wet and rainy. Then we poor devils had to lay down al wet and tiered out, nothing but hardtack and muddy water for supper. Dident i think of home and the old cuberd about them times! The next day, we marcht to Culpepper Court House and are here now, and i ges we shal stay here some time. The Rebs pickets are on Seeder Mountain. We can see their signal lits every nite. The damned cusses run so we can’t git a chance to fight them...i ges we shall git home this winter. The Rebs will cry ‘Union’ before long. i can’t think of much more this time. The next time you write, send me...2 pounds of plug tobacco, 1 pound of smoking tobacco, 4 pounds of cheese, 4 or 5 pounds of maple sugar, 2 pounds of dried apples...a jackknife...Git a quart pail and send that full of butter, and after the butter is used out, it will do to make coffee in. Tell Aunt Orra i have waited so long for that shirt i think she ought to send me a sweet cake...''

Camp's march from the Rappahannock to Culpeper Court-House is typical of the march pursuing Lee's Army of Northern Virginia in September 1863.

But, I find it interesting when I read letters from soldiers, that they are constantly asking for food to be sent from home. It is interesting to me because, nothing has changed.

Today, we send our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines serving overseas 'care packages' filled with culinary reminders of home. I have done it, sending packages to friends and co-workers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Every year, during the holidays or a special event such as the Super Bowl, some pizza company, or restaurant, sends 2000 pizzas to Afghanistan. Having served 20 years in the Air Force, I am very happy that nothing has changed in the way we, as citizens of this great country, provide for our service members.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Visiting past triumphs

Today at Cedar Mountain: September 8, 1863

From the diary of Jed Hotchkiss.

"I started back at an early hour, going by Cedar Run to examine the route to the battle field and the location of Hudson’s Mill, where General Trimble was stopped by a mill pond. Found no obstacle there that he could have not overcome...General Early had a party at the Cedar Run battlefield fixing up the graves of our fallen. The hogs had been rooting there."

Hotchkiss was recreating the advance of the Confederates on that August, 1862 day. He comments that he cannot find the obstacle the Issac Trimble faced (the mill pond). Perhaps Trimble wrote his report on August 14, before he was seriously wounded at Groveton, and I could find no mention of a mill pond, so I am unsure of what Hotchkiss is referring to.

He mentions that Jubal Early had a detail of men fixing the graves of the Confederate fallen from the fight. It is interesting that in the year since the fight, in an area under control by the Southern army, the Confederates did not attempt to disinter the dead and ship them home for burial.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Residue from the 'great Cavalry fight'

Today at Beverly Ford: September 7, 1863

Below is a portion of a letter from Private William Lamson to his sister. Lamson is in the 20th Maine and they are camped on the Fauquier County side of Beverly Ford.

"Dear Sister

...We are camped on part of the ground where the great Cavalry fight was, about the 10th of June. There are a good many unexploded shells laying around and many pieces that the rebs fired over at our men. There is a large white house on this side of the river and a negro house about ½ mile from it. And on the other side of about as far apart are 2 nice large houses. ...With a spy glass we can see that the brick house is ornamented with 2 or 3 shell holes which it received in the fight. They don’t add much to the beauty outside nor in, for one burst in a room smashing things up badly. Some of the boys went over when we first came here and said it was finished and furnished in a very costly style but I guess it don’t look quite as well “as it did.” ...

Once in a while we see 3 or 4 “Gray backs” riding around on the other side of the river taking a look at our camp. Some time ago 4 came almost down to the river, stopped a few minutes, waved their sabers over their heads, then turned and trotted off. ...Give love to all the family and accept a large share for yourself. Good bye."
From your aff
Brother, Will.

Lamson's letters can be found in:
Maine to the Wilderness: The Civil War Letters of Private William Lamson, 20th Maine Infantry. Edited by Roderick M. Engert

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Report of Wesley Norris

Today at Germantown, Headquarters, Army of the Potomac: September 6, 1863

Today's entry is from Series I, Vol. 29, Part II, pp 158-159, of the War of the Rebellion, Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, affectionately known as the OR. It is a message from General George Meade to General-in-Chief, Henry Halleck.

"Wesley Norris, a free negro, came into our lines from Culpeper yesterday about sunset. He states he was formerly the property of Geroge Washington Custis, who died at Arlington, Va., about six years ago. By his will he as made free, after having served five years for General Lee. He has been hired out of late to Alexander Dudley, superintendent of the York River Railroad, who discharged him a few days before he left Richmond.

"He states that he left Richmond on Friday last, with a pass form General Custis Lee, to go through our lines via Culpeper. He took the Central cars via Gordonsville, and arrived in Gordonsville about noon and staid there two hours. Saw no troops on the move or march. Saw some men in camp, to the right of Gordonsville, perhaps 4,000 or 5,000, just out of the town; looked as if they had been in the camp some little time. The Charlottesville cars run into the same depot.

"He states that if any troops had been moving from or toward Charlottesville he would have known it. He talked with several persons at Gordonsville. They said nothing about the movement of troops anywhere. He saw more troops in camp at Orange Court-House. All in camp; none on the march. He had to get off there to get a pass, when the cars left him and he walked to Culpeper. Got to Culpeper on Saturday. Yesterday morning saw troops in several places between Orange Court-House and Culpeper. Went all the way on the railroad, showing his pass only once. Saw no troops at Culpeper, but some wagons and a few ___. Went to the provost-marshal, who examined his passes and made some objections to his coming through. Was put on a horse in the afternoon, blindfolded, and sent through our pickets at Rappahannock Station." GEO G. MEADE, Major-General

First off, wouldn't it have been amazing to converse with Wesley, and hear some of stories of pre-war Arlington House. And then listen to him talk about Robert E. Lee.

But for the Union, most likely first with the Bureau of Military Intelligence, what a windfall of information:

--able to travel from Richmond by rail
--the lines from Richmond to Gordonsville & Charlottesville and Gordonsvilles are running
--no movement of troops
--four to five thousand in Orange
--troops in several places (probably identified) between Orange and Culpeper
--no troops on the march (either to Tennessee (yet) or heading towards the Rappahannock)
--some wagons and a few___. Whatever the few was, it wasn't many
--he was blindfolded from Culpeper forward. At least someone had a sense of operational security

This is just a brief summary of Norris's report. I wonder how many historians and researchers overlook correspondence such as this, because it isn't part of a bigger, better, more important campaign or event. How much more has yet to be discovered.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Gouverneur K. Warren

Today at Germantown: September 5, 1863

Lt. Colonel Theodore Lyman, a recent arrival at the headquarters of George Gordan Meade, spent his first Sunday with the Army of the Potomac. Assigned as Meades aide-de-camp. After attending church with the 93rd New York infantry ("they sung well, but not so well as New Englanders would have done") he sat down to lunch. Several generals paid visits and at least one joined Meade for lunch, Second Corps commander Gouverneur Kimble Warren, formally the Chief Topographical Engineer of the Army of the Potomac.

Lyman had a favorable opinion of him.

"He strikes me as the most original officer that have seen; a small dried up, pointed nose, though still a young man, with a restless black eye, like a weasels's, and a body & mind that seem full of watch-maker's springs. He has a broad New York accent and is by no means particular in grammar. His conversation shows that his mind is extremely ready and sure, on all points."

Warren would lead the Second Corps until the return of Winfield Scott Hancock. He would then replace George Sykes as commander of the Fifth Corps during the Overland and Petersburg campaigns, losing favor and his command in the waning days of the war.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Pickets guarding Pickets

Today along the Rappahannock: September 4, 1863

The follow piece is taken from a letter written by Major Henry Abbott, of the 20th Massachusetts to his father. Abbott writes from Mitchell's Station, which is south of the town of Culpeper. However the Army of the Potomac was north of the Rappahannock in Fauquier County on September 4. His previous letters were from Morrisville. The Army of the Potomac would not enter Culpeper County until September 13, 1863. While the location is unclear, the information is not.

The quote is taken from, "Fallen Leaves: The Civil War Letters of Major Henry Livermore Abbott.

"The drafting business is, every where through out the army without an exception, as far as I can learn, acknowledged to be a most lamentable failure. Though all the men obtained are in reality $200 volunteers, the circumstances attending have left them without any of the pride, self-respect & honor which even the worst of the volunteers felt at being elevated by the press and the nation...into an heroic volunteer for the defence of his fatherland."

He continues, "Desertion in the field & worst of all, desertion to the enemy, was almost unknown before this jumble of French, Italians, Germans, & in some cases, Chinese came to us. Now orders are never to put a conscript on outpost without an old man in his company. Very bad to have your army guarding the other half..."

Abbott's comments parrot many of the veterans of the army. Soldiers are writing home to families, their local papers and government officials at all levels of the challenges be faced in the field. Executions are common, usually on Friday afternoons, but these events are having little impact, as desertion continues.