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.

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