January 1st, 1863.
The common wish of a Happy
New Year, I have heard from a hundred lips to-day. If we were to regard
the weather as an omen, it would promise good to Virginia, poor, war-beaten
Virginia. This morning is clear and bright and genial, as if angels ruled
the skies, and the day has been a lovely Indian summer day; I went off
about eleven o'clock to make calls and did not get back until supper time.
This afternoon I rode up to Hopewell Landing, on Aquia Creek, with several
officers; before we reached the Landing, from a high hill, we plainly saw
an expansive sheet of water, smooth as a mirror in the sunshine, with a
steamer and several sailing vessels upon it. We could only see portions
of it glimmering through the dense forest, but it did my eyes good to behold
a clear, smooth surface of water once more. When we came to the Landing,
we were told it was the Potomac we had seen. We ascended another very high
hill close to Aquia Creek which widens into a bay at this place; here we
had a full view of several miles of the Potomac with its busy vessels floating
up and down. I enjoyed the sight. Evergreens are very plentiful here.
The old year has closed, and the history of America, 1862, will form an eventful chapter. The chronicles of many families have their pages of sorrow, of deep and bitter grief, and the public records too will tell of subjects of regret, of occurrences that every patriot will deplore. Ah, yes, who would have thought a year ago that, at this time, things would be in the condition they are.
"One of My Clients", in the December Number of the Atlantic, I read with a good deal of interest. You remember one evening I wrote you that a Captain was stopping with me, a Massachusetts lawyer. I gave it to him to read and we afterwards discussed the probability of its truthfulness, and after having made the whole story pass in review, under search- ing criticism, came to the conclusion that, the varnish deducted, it must be true.
The Lieutenant Colonel of the 26th Regiment, told me to-day that he intended to resign. The Major has gone to Washington on twenty days' sick leave, at the end of which he will probably resign-thus there will be two vacancies. The Colonel wants me to fill one of them and will use his influence to give me the highest, but I will not seek promotion. I am perfectly satisfied with my present position; I would rather be Judge Advocate and feel more at home, I know that I am equal to it, but in a high office of command, I should be far more diffident.
January 4th, 1863.
You talk of my discomforts,
but I assure you that I am most comfortable here. You really have no idea
how comfortable a wall tent may be. Here is my desk and two chairs, enough
for any reasonable man's office and sitting room. Then there is my cot
with a grass mattress, several blankets and a buffalo robe; a bed by night,
a lounge by day. I have a stove to keep me warm, wood in abundance; business
enough to keep me out of mischief, a horse to ride, and a boy to wait on
me. I eat three times a day at a regular table; if we have no pies and
puddings, we do indeed have good substantial food, occasionally prepared
with a stimulant for the appetite you probably have not learned of. Shall
I tell you what it is? It is negro girl's curly hair, that is all. Added
to all this, the most delightful weather and a very fine wild country all
"If t'were not that the world was sad, The garden was a wild, and man-
The hermit-sighed till woman smiled," Who would not envy this glorious position?
January 4th, 1863.
I am getting along very finely with business in my office; it works to a charm. Some time ago, I got into quite a dispute about some of the proceedings of my court at Fairfax C.H. with the Adjutant General. After the proceedings were sent in by me, he sent me a request one day to come down to his office; I went down and found him engaged in the perusal of my record. He said, these are the most irregular proceedings I almost ever saw, and then pointed out to me two supposed errors of a very grave character which, according to his view, made the proceedings in two rather important cases entirely void. I insisted that they were right and finally made him give in on one point; on the other he was obstinate, and I was too, so he proposed to decide it by telegraphing to the former Judge Advocate of the Corps, who is now Assistant Judge Advocate General. The dispatch was sent to Washington, and soon an answer was returned calling his view correct. I was nevertheless convinced that my view was right and resolved to vindicate it; I accordingly wrote to the Judge Advocate General for instruction, and in my letter fully-argued the matter. A few days ago I had the satisfaction of receiving an answer, signed by the Hon. Joseph Holt himself, saying that there could be no doubt that my position was correct. The record in question was the first I had ever made, and I was bound to maintain it; I knew I was right, that I could convince every lawyer of it and I have done it, and it gives me great satisfaction.
January 13th, 1863.
It is almost eleven o'clock and I am used to going to bed rather early nowadays. I am on duty as officer of the day for three days, and this evening General Sigel sent for me to talk about some official correspondence. In a few days the railroad from Bridgeport to Chattanooga will begin running order; it is hoped that we will have more regular mails then. Col. Jacob's resignation has been accepted and states on its face the cause, "For the good of the service, this officer having been absent during a large portion of the time while the regiment has been in the service, and having so often tendered his resignation on frivolous grounds". You would not want me to come home with such a letter of discharge as that. I would rather be shot dead in the first battle, but do not say anything about this.
January 16th, 1863.
I have handled my pen all day and evening in assiduous labor. My court adjourned sine die to-day, having tried, since the 26th of December, eighteen cases. It has been hard work forme, and there are still three days' work to finish my records. If we have not moved by that time, I shall have to convene a court again; it is not probable that we will remain here, the whole corps is under marching orders and it may be that we start to-morrow. I moved my tent from General Sigel's to General Stahel's headquarters to-day, a distance of about half a dozen rods. General Sigel had ordered me to report to General Stahel, commander of the corps; I have been appointed on Stahel's staff with my present position. Major Baldwin, of whom I told you, is Adjutant General; this will make it very pleasant for me; nothing is more agreeable than to have an Adjutant General who is a personal friend for members of the staff. General Stahel personally seems to be very agree able. Great preparations are making for moving; we may start to-morrow, though I don't think headquarters will go then. The Lieutenant Colonel of our regiment has resigned and his resignation has been accepted. The Major is in Washington on sick leave, which has expired. It will be decided in a very short time whether I return to the regiment or remain here. I think I would rather be Judge Advocate than either lieutenant colonel or major, but if either of these positions if offered me, I cannot well decline. I have been invited to General Schurz' and I must go at once.
January 19th, 1863.
The question of my promotion
has been decided this evening. It was the Colonel's wish to get Captain
Boebel and myself to fill the two vacancies. I had a conference with Captain
B., about it this afternoon; he is a much better soldier than I am and
has had a good deal more experience; I had not the hardihood to ask him
to take the second position and let me have the first. I then wrote a letter
to Colonel J. and requested him to get Captain Boebel appointed lieutenant
colonel, but at the same time told him to change my present position for
that of major of the regiment would be an advantage neither to myself nor
the regiment and I should, therefore, decline. It would not do for me,
who have been with the regiment so short a time, to at once take the responsible
position of lieutenant colonel. It would not be right as against other
captains who have served in the line. Moreover, the regiment will march
to-morrow; Colonel J. is alone and he must get one of the captains to act
as field officer. lie cannot take me, as I am not there. I cannot, I must
not be lieutenant colonel. The position of major is very pleasant for a
good easy man that likes military title and emoluments without much work;
I prefer my present position. There are many men who would make as good
a major as I would, but it would not be so easy to find a proper person
for judge advocate.
I took a horseback ride to a church about two miles from here to-day. It bears the inscription "Built in 1751. Destroyed by fire 1754, and rebuilt 1757." It is quite large, built in the shape of a Greek cross. The walls are massive and the interior plainly shows that it is an Episcopalian Church.
I am going to buy me a horse. I have my eye on a very fine one, combining the virtues of fine appearance, strength, spirit and youth. I shall try to secure it before we march. My other one is almost too sad a specimen of the equine race. My man Fred may ride him and carry blankets, ration and forage on his back-I mean on the horse's back.
January 20th, 1863.
Very early this morning
we heard the tramping of regiments amid the merry play of music. The corps
was in motion; headquarters had not yet started. I rode through deserted
camps this afternoon, roofless houses everywhere. The boys of all the regiments
had, with considerable exertions, put up log huts and made themselves quite
comfortable; about half a dozen were well built and strong, plastered over
with clay. Of course, every hut had a fireplace and a chimney. Their labors
just finished, they are obliged to leave, but all seem in good spirits.
To use rumor as a basis of calculation, you will hear of another battle
near the banks of the Rappahannock soon; may the news when it comes be
of a gladdening nature.
Near the old camping ground of the 26th Wisconsin are four graves, two very recent ones of Company A, two of last month of Company G. A very neat picket fence encloses them; two of them have stone slabs with the name of the sleeper, his description, age and time of death painted upon them. The two latest are completely surrounded by wreaths of the Virginia holly; the outline of a heart is also traced on each of the latter with a soft and tender light green moss ornamented with the holly berries. These two graves are indeed beautiful and testify that his dead comrade is not an object of indifference to the soldier.
The rumor spread here very suddenly this morning that General Schurz had procured from the War Department an order putting him in command of this corps, thus would follow his appointment of Major General.
I bought a horse to-day, a fine bay mare four years of age, strong and well proportioned, spirited, but of kind disposition. When I first rode her, she was wholly untrained, coltish and shy, but she is so teachable that she will even now gallop at my will, except that she will sometimes take fright at some insignificant object and then make several bounds before I can check her. If it is not too troublesome and expensive, I will bring her along when I come home to stay. I asked my Fred this afternoon what I should name her; he said "Fannie".
It commenced to storm furiously after sunset this evening; too bad for our troops on the march, and how it will soften the roads, a single night's rain will make Virginia roads impassable. It is bad luck for us that this weather should set in just as we are starting out on a campaign. My tent and desk shake so that it is very hard to write.
January 21st, 1863.
Still here. The storm, to which equinoctials are nothing in comparison, raged all night. I slept trembling lest my canvas house would come down at any moment, and sat up in by bed at least once every hour to grab one of the tent poles. My poor mare was out in the rain without a shelter all night and trembles with cold this morning; I took her out for a short ride, more for her benefit than my own. I found a huge India rubber blanket whose protection she shall have the coming night. Here is Gilbert saying "Captain, supper is ready". What an outrage that no enterprising Yankee will put up gaslights at Stafford C. H.; going to supper I got into the mud knee deep, now I have pulled off my muddy boots and put on my slippers. Some of the 26th are here on guard and, under the superintendence of Fred, are sewing an India rubber house for my horse. What a valuable institution a thread and needle is, it will build houses as well as make garments.
January 24th, 1863.
I scoured over the country to-day in every direction for a tolerably dry spot whereon to trot my noble steed. I wish You could see my horse, how finely she bears herself and how she improves from day to day. All who see her admire her.
February 1st, 1863.
I am going to hold a court
martial at Hall's Farm, about four miles from Washington. I shall take
my horse with me. I intend to ride down to Aquia Landing, there embark
and go on to Washington and thence ride to Hall's Farm. I shall certainly
spend some little time in Washington.
You spoke of General Burnside's resignation. The removal of a portion of our army to the west is so far only partly true; no part of our army has been transferred or has started to go to the west. General B. has, at his own request, been relieved from the command of the Army of the Potomac; he has gained no glory as a military officer in that position, but his brief course has been characterized with the truest spirit of manliness. Whatever we may think of him as a general, as a man we cannot but admire him. When the country was indignantly announcing the sad events at Fredericksburg, he stepped forth and boldly stated that the plan of the attack, the fault of the disaster was his. He saw that the army had, in a great measure, lost confidence in him and he asked to be permitted to resign from the command. He was not the first general relieved from his command; many are now walking the streets of a pleasant idle resort in some northern city, at the same time holding the rank and receiving the emoluments of major or brigadier general. General Burnside was the first and only one that has recognized the meanness of such a position, and he frankly tells the president that hers ready for any duty that may be assigned him, but unless he could be actively employed, he hoped his resignation would be accepted. Is he not one of Nature's noblemen? I like such a man. I like to see ambition, it is the spirit of greatness, but the ambition which seeks place, position, and outward honors, is a perversion of ambition. I hope that General Burnside will receive another command, and I yet believe that he will develop superior generalship.
Washington, February 4th, 1863
It is six o'clock I have
just come from dinner, but let me tell my narrative abinitio, as lawyers
call it. I started on Monday morning by starlight, well mounted on my noble
steed. I trudged my horse through the deep mud to Aquia Landing and got
to Washington at four P.M. After stabling my horse and myself put up at
the National Hotel, after shaving, hair cutting, shampooing and boot blacking,
in the evening, I went to Grover's, the stylish theater of Washington.
Mr. and Mrs. Barney Williams played the Fairy Circle. Next morning I settled
my hotel bill, got my horse and went to Ilall's Farm. I had been sent there
to organize a court martial for the trial of two lieutenants in the First
Maryland Cavalry, which was stationed there, and lo, when I got there,
that regiment had left a few days before to join the corps. I returned
to Washington and at once went at the important business of drawing my
pay; supplied with cash, I went to call upon Mrs. Lieutenant Colonel Le
Duc, to pay her for the horse I recently bought of her husband. My horse-poor
thing-does not like city life; before I got her on the boat at Aquia, she
came very near jumping off the pier from fright at a locomotive; when we
got to the city, she was appalled at the sight of the street cars and tried
to run away. In passing by the Metro Politan Hotel, I heard my name called,
and on looking around saw Lieutenant Colonel Salisbury, Chief Commissary
on General Sigel's staff, a fine gentleman fifty years of age; we took
a room together on the first floor. Afterward I went to look up a dentist
and came to the office of a Dr. Loomis; he was busy, but a little girl,
who was not so very young, addressed me saying that there was to be a concert
given on the next evening at Willard's Hall for the benefit of sick and
wounded soldiers and she was selling tickets; of course, I bought a ticket,
but to describe this little girl-she wore a round black hat with one or
two small flowers, short black dress, no hoops and a pair of pantaloons-she
was a bloomer in black silk. We entered into conversation and she told
me that she devoted all her time to relief associations for the sick and
wounded soldiers. She has been down to Suffolk and visited all the field
hospitals, and described the sufferings she had witnessed and been so fortunate
as to relieve in a most sympathetic manner, and finally on departing said
that, if I should get sick and be wounded, she hoped she would find me
and would take care of me.
About two o'clock I went to the Capitol. Pictures and statuary I saw, but did not look at that long. Deliberative assemblies possess a charm for me more potent than works of art. I went to the gallery of the House of Representatives, and what a place- a man is speaking and no one listening-I don't like that place. Why don't the members sit down? Why do they want to talk? No one hears them, ah yes, there is a reporters' gallery, the Honorable Member is talking for the "Congressional Globe". The Senate is the place; I like that. I saw Senators Doolittle and Howe, a delegation that is not beaten by that of any other state, and I saw Salisbury of Delaware, that piece of disgrace to the Senate. What good is a senatorship to such a man? Ah, high position to those who honor it is an honor; to those who do not, who disgrace it, it is a curse. When I came in Senator Richardson of Illinois had the floor, a conscription bill was under consideration. Richardson would not give so much power to Mr. Lincoln or any other man in the presidential chair; his colleague, Senator Trumbell, got up only to deny and ridicule a statement of his that most of Illinois' soldiers were democrats, and that Mc Clellan was a victorious general. Senator Carlylee found "constitutional objections" to the bill. Senator Nesmith of Oregon, a very fine looking man, who speaks with pleasant fluency and propriety of language, supported the bill, in hopes that it would give us a better than our present army, which he denounced as wholly undisciplined, as a mere mob; he said of the administration that, if it possessed one-half the common sense of the navy at Richmond, the rebellion would have been crushed long ago. I am going there again this afternoon, don't go home until to-morrow. I went to the Senate Chamber again on Thursday afternoon. Senator Doolittle was Just concluding his speech and the Senate shortly after adjourned. On Friday morning, Lieutenant Colonel Sallsbury left me; I should have gone with him, but I had not got my pay account quite straightened. I went to the Supreme Court of the United States, Chief Justice Taney is a very inferior looking man, his countenance certainly does not indicate much intellect.
When I came back here, I found that quite a change had taken place. I went to General Stahel's room to report myself back; he was not in; his servant showed me an order abolishing grand division and restoring the old corps organization and putting General Sigel in command of the 11th again. This I suppose will bring the Judge Advocate to General Sigel's staff again.
February 13th, 1863.
I called on General Schurz and Colonel Nobel on horseback this afternoon. The exercise did me good. I have just read that splendid exploit of the Queen of the West in running the batteries of Vicksburg under command of Colonel Elliott; it was a most brilliant and daring feat. I brought a set of chessmen from Washington with me and we now play an occasional game of chess. I went to the Sibley Tent, consulting our hall of justice, this morning, and found that the slekness of one and absence of two other members had left me but four, as five is the minimum of a general court martial, we had to adjourn for twenty-four hours. The morning was beautiful, the sun shone out so clear, so warm and bright; it must be admitted you do not have such a sun in Wisconsin. About ten o'clock a message came from fighting Joe Hooker, saying that he would review our corps at twelve. Notice was at once sent to the different divisions to get ready, and I got permission from General Sigel to accompany him; I had Fleda saddled and girt myself with sash and sword. General Hooker came down to General Sigel's some time before we started with a very numerous staff. About one and a half miles from here, the second division, General Steinwehr, was drawn up, each regiment separately. As is the custom at reviews, the generals, followed by their staffs and the commander of the divisions and his staff, rode around-or more properly speaking, dashed around each regiment-galloped up the line in front and came back again in the rear. This was done at the top of the horses' speed. It must have been quite a sight to see the brilliant cavalcade dash along. Then we took our position in front of the division, and the regiments and battalions marched by while the bands were playing. As the 2nd Division withdrew from the field, the 3rd Division, General Schurz', filed from out of the woods and took up its position; having reviewed this in the same way, we went to the first, several miles farther on, always in full gallop. Afterwards General Hooker and staff said to General Sigel that they were charmed with his troops; they left us and we rode slowly home. Fleda behaved admirably, trotting, running and leap ing ditches-she was always with the first-and going home no horse could keep up with her walking; I had to stop frequently to keep behind the General. The review, considering the short notice, passed off very creditably. I think General Hooker bears some resemblance to General Scott; lie is a fine soldierly looking man.
February 20th, 1863.
I am at my records again,
that occupy almost all my time. To-day it was pleasant; after dinner, my
court having adjourned at 1.30 P.M., Captain Pyatt and I took a ride. I
believe I have told you that I belong to General Sigel's staff again; everything
is getting back into the old track. To-morrow a court assembles and I shall
have untold trouble to get an appropriate hall of justice. The 34th Regiment
that sneaked away from Milwaukee must indeed be efficient against the enemy.
Oh, what a mean spirit has come over the North; it is almost disgusting.
Multitudes of deserters from drafted regiments, instead of being hooted
and scorned as they deserve, are treated as heroes-yea, as martyrs who
have suffered for the people's rights. It is a shame, I am glad I am not
at home to see it. Henry the Sixth was right. "Look as I blow this feather
from my face, And as the wind blows it to me again; Obeying with my breath
when I blow, And yielding to another when it blows; Commanded always by
the greater gust, Such is the likeness of your common men."
I join you saying, God speed the right. Verily, human nature is not equal to the task before it; in God alone must be our trust.
I have been busy all the evening preparing cases for trial. I found myself in the happy possession of only thirty-two cases, but as I have sent all cases of privates to the divisions to be tried by division court martial, that has reduced my number to ten.
( * * * * * * + * * ) Letters missing.
Cleveland, Ohio, March 10th, 1863.
I wrote you just twelve hours after leaving home. It is provoking to be thus delayed; I may get through to Washington to-morrow night, it would have been better to have stayed in Milwaukee. Two weeks ago, I left Stafford C.H. I bought a copy of "My Diary, North and South", by Russell of the London Times, on the cars. The little mind of the author belittles and bespatters everything he takes note of and then dishes it up to the reader; unable, I suppose, to write decent English, he encumbers his fiction with French and Latin phrases. I see by the paper that another war is threatening; perhaps it is best that we should fight all our enemies at once. The Saints of Utah, it seems, mean to protect their divine institution.
Washington, March 12th, 1863.
About six o'clock this afternoon, I arrived here very tired; at seven, I shall start for home; having taken supper, I went to Willard's Hotel, thinking I might find General Sigel there and learn something as to how things are likely to go. I was sorry not to find him.
Stafford, C. H., March 12th, 1863.
I have arrived at my home in the field again. MY tent is fixed up all in good condition, just as it used to be. When I arrived from Washington some time ago, a feeling of disappointment overcame me when I came back to live in this little tent, but I am feeling better now. Everything is in an uncertain state here; we do not know what will be done with us. I am strongly pressed to accept the majorship of the regiment, but I do not wish to. My boy Fred is still quite sick and I shall have to send him home; I am sorry to lose him, it will be quite difficult to get another as good a servant.
Sunday, March 15th, 1863.
I rode out to the regiment yesterday forenoon; saw all the people, and Mrs. Jacobs, if not the Colonel; desiring to see him, I left word that I would come again in the evening, when one of the captains came in to invite us down to a supper. I went and soon the Colonel and other officers came in, and Colonel Jacobs introduced Captain Baetz as the newly elected major of the regiment. I had positively refused to take the position. Captain Baetz is a worthy officer and a refined gentleman, the man I always recommended to Jacobs for the position. Lieutenant Lackner will be made Captain of Company B. If I should lose my present position in the staff, my proper place in the regiment being filled, I think I must be assigned to some other command. The news came here this morning that Brigadier General Stahel and Schurz have both been appointed and confirmed Major Generals. One of them will undoubtedly get command of the corps. I want to take part in at least one active campaign, and it will be better to stay to the conclusion of war, but we cannot forestall events, the future will fashion itself and as it comes we will accept it.
March 17th, 1863.
I commenced with a new court to-day and I am glad that the court has adopted from ten to three as the hours of session. I went to the regiment this afternoon and engaged George Jones for my clerk; if he does well it will be a great help to me. General Stahel is here to take leave of the corps. General Schurz will have command of the 11th Corps. I anticipate my position under him will be most pleasant and agreeable. I have been at work at court martial these three days and business has accumulated so much it requires great application. I sent Fred to a hospital in Washington to-day; the poor boy won't get well, I am afraid. We have May weather now, birds-robins and meadow larks-are very plentiful and make the air resound with their songs.
March 20th, 1863.
We heard very distant and heavy cannonading here the other day, at the time of the fight at Kelly's Ford. Yesterday the witnesses and prisoners I had summoned, were reported on picket, so almost the whole court went to see a review of the 12th Corps, General Slocum's, by General Hooker; it was a very fine parade.
March 22nd, 1863.
Yesterday, despite the mud, I could not resist the temptation to take a short ride, and went out to the regiment and spent a pleasant hour with my fellow officers. On my way back, I met Colonel Nobel, who was going to visit me at our headquarters. He is a refined elderly gentleman, a well educated lawyer. Father Abraham has not yet made his disposal of our generals, consequently no disposal can be made of me. Everything seems to point to an early advance on the part of this army. Vigorous preparations are being made; upon the campaign of this spring, the destiny of our country depends. All accounts seem to agree that the South, during the past winter, has suffered and is still suffering; if we are signally successful, both in the east and west, in the spring campaign, we may perhaps hope to crush the rebellion; at any rate, it will greatly humble it. What is even more important, it will improve public sentiment in the North. Military success will destroy the power of copper heads. If we are successful and need more troops, we can easily enroll them under the Conscript Act, as it is called; if we have to resort to conscription under the cloud of defeat, there will be resistance and a civil war may be enkindled in the north. I do not know of any prior period of the war when success was likely to prove more effective; on the other hand, there has been none when defeat would prove more disastrous. Everything, the peace of our own states, the safety of our own households, depends upon our next battle. Let up hope and pray for its success.
March 28th, 1863.
I went out to the 2nd
Division headquarters this morning in a torrent of rain, but there were
but four members of the court present and so we had to adjourn. General
Schurz is now here and commands the corps. I met him in front of the house
toward evening and had a little miscellaneous talk with him. His staff
has not yet been announced. General Sigel, I am told, has not been relieved
from the command of the corps, nor has his resignation been accepted, but
he has an indefinite leave of absence. Tendering his resignation was certainly
the most ill-advised step he could have taken. It may well be that his
military career is ended and, if so, it will not be long before he will
sink back into the insignificance which concealed him before the war broke
out. I am the only one now left of our mess, and it is somewhat lonesome.
The tent where we used to meet to play checkers, chess and sometimes a
game of cards, is entirely deserted. George Jones is still with me; he
is quite a nice little fellow and writes very well indeed; he is obliging
and gentlemanly too.
I was indignant this afternoon and very justly so. About three o'clock, I thought I would take a ride to the regiment, but I must premise here that a few days ago I hired a son of Africa as my servant, a pure black, one whose late master lives not far from here. He proudly points to the President's Proclamation as the charter of his liberty. The gentlemen's name is Alex. When I wanted my horse this afternoon I called for Alex, but though I repeated the calling in louder tones, I received no answer; finally I went to the tent where these negroes dwell and was told by a little fellow, "Alex is gone to station, sir". "What?" said I, "Yes sir, gone to station after Mr. Kent, sir." Mr. Kent is correspondent of the Tribune and stays here at headquarters. I asked this boy to saddle my horse for me, when, to my surprise, he told me that Mr. Alex had taken my horse down to the station to get Mr. Kent. It did enrage me, to think of that boy who does not know how to saddle a horse, much less to ride one, with my horse at the station where any passing train would put her entirely beyond his control, and his impudence to take her without my permission.
April 1st, 1863.
This day, which is generally considered one of joking and pleasantry, appeared to us in rather a serious form. At last a sudden change has come. I rode to the Division Headquarters this morning without the slightest suspicion, and heard rumors of our having a new commander, yet we all attached little importance to them. At dinner, I was informed that Major General Howard had arrived and taken command of the corps; I was surprised, and so was everybody surprised. I saw some of the staff, and they expressed their satisfaction at having heard that all the old staff, was to remain. General Howard's reputation as an officer, and as a man too, is very good, and it is said that General Hooker has declared that he must have him to command this corps or he cannot take the corps with him. I had to be at the 2nd Division headquarters again at 2 P.M. and didn't have much time to muse upon the change. I returned a little before six, and, finding a number of the Atlantic had arrived, sat down upon my couch to cut the leaves open. While thus employed, my tent opened and a comparatively young man with only one arm, in a major general's uniform, entered my tent, followed by Lieutenant Colonel Assmussen; the latter introduced General Howard to me. General Tloward asked me about my official duties, of which I gave him a brief account, and he then observed that each division ought to do its own court martial business, and seemed somewhat surprised that we had followed a different plan, and also that one judge advocate was able to do the business of the corps. The truth is, ours is the only corps in the army where this business is done at the headquarters of the corps; according to the strict letter of the law, it is not the proper mode, though I think- for the purposes of a uniform and impartial administration of justice-our practice is greatly preferable. From what General Howard said, I have no doubt that he will conform our practice to that of the other corps, and thereby do away with the judge advocate as a staff officer.
April 3rd, 1863.
We are all under marching orders; some of our troops are already under way, and we are only waiting for orders to start. I am glad we are going; it is terribly tedious here. Rain will probably delay our march for a few days. I shall have a court in session to-morrow to try a half dozen delinquents. I am no more troubled with stupid Alex's services, but what is worse, I have no servant at all. I have to entrust Fledato the care of others men, and she is suffering under it, she has grown quite thin of late, while my boots for want of blacking are assuming a ruby tinge and my sword too is putting on a flushed complexion.
April 5th, 1863.
It is Sunday morning,
and how does Virginia look in spring? Is the spring growing? Are the leaves
budding? Are the flowers unfolding under the genial influence of a southern
sun? Cool northern blasts are blowing, and the soil of the Old Dominion
is robed in white. This morning the snow is very deep. Towards evening
yesterday, the chief of the staff came around and stated to each of us
that the General desired us to supply ourselves with wood to last over
Sunday, so that there would be no wood cutting done today, and also desired
that we should abstain from all secular labor. This seems a little new
in the army, but I think it will have a good effect. I hope the General
won't have any objections to writing letters. It was rumored yesterday
that the president was to come out today, and that portions of the army,
or the whole, were to be reviewed to-morrow, but the weather is very unpropitious
for Father Abraham.
Our new General seems to be a very active man; he looks at everything and takes note of everything himself. He goes to every department; while going to the bakeries this morning he met a wagon master who was indulging in profane exclamations; the General had him called aside and said to him, it was the first language of the kind he had heard since he came to the corps and he did not wish to hear any more. This evening an orderly told me that he went out with the General this forenoon and when he stopped held his horse; when the General re-mounted he said to him "Thank you", and the orderly said, "Nobody ever said that to me before since I have been in the service."
April 8th, 1863.
On Monday there was to
be a review of the cavalry corps at General Hooker's headquarters. General
Howard went up with a portion of his staff, and I asked for and received
permission to go along. We were all covered with mud, but we saw Old Abe
and a little son; they rode out to the review at the head of a multitude
of generals and swarming hosts of staff officers. Father Abraham is notoriously
not a handsome man, but there is that in his looks which says that he is
not a common man.
When I came back to Stafford C.H., I found, to my dismay, that my tent had been struck and carried away; my things had been thrown into another tent, and there I have to stay all night. Yesterday we moved two and one-half miles from our old headquarters and are in tents, general and all. Last evening I called on General Howard and we had an extended conversation as to court martial proceedings, during which he came to the conclusion not to have any more corps courts, but to let each division have its own, as a consequence, I asked to be relieved from duty at these headquarters. General Schurz' adjutant general ordered me to bring my tent and stove to their headquarters.
April 9th, 1863.
I have been appointed Judge Advocate of General Schurz' division; that division is one-third of the corps. My business, therefore, will be greatly decreased, and in the same proportion will the importance of my position be reduced. I reported to Colonel Jacobs to-day and was ordered to report to General Schurz. Perhaps it is best; as to assuming the command of a company, I have determined not to do it; I know I would suffer very much on the march in warm weather, if I could stand it at all.
April 11th, 1863.
We had a grand review yesterday before the President and his wife and all the generals in the army. General Schurz went to Washington with them and has not yet returned. I have been assigned to a big hospital tent as large as a sitting room in which there are two beds besides mine. Governor Salomon is in Washington and is expected here in a few days, perhaps he will come to-morrow. General Schurz has had a new tent pitched for me, and the boys of the 26th have done their best to ornament it with moss, boughs and evergreens.
April 19th, 1863.
Governor Salomon is here. This morning, before I got up, I received a note from Colonel Jacobs, saying that the Governor would arrive at the landing this forenoon, and asking me to ride over with him and others to receive him. We met the Governor and he rode up here on my horse, my unsurpassed and incomparable Fleda, while I rode a vicious beast Colonel Jacobs calls his Bill. The Governor is now in the General's tent at dinner. He will visit some other Wisconsin regiments to-morrow; I should like to go with him, as I have a number of friends in some of them, but my court martial may detain me.
April 26th, 1863.
It is Sunday afternoon and my tent is struck and I write in the open air for the last time from the immediate vicinity of Stafford C.H.; tomorrow we start, and I am glad we are going. It was getting too tedious here with nothing to do. We have been here so long, it has almost come to seem as if we lived here. I have sent my trunk back just now in a hurry; I may never see it again, officers very frequently lose all their baggage. I burned three memorandum books. There is nothing lost in them.
May 1st, 1863, in the Field.
We left our old camp yesterday
morning, and arrived here at one P.M. at the Rappahannock River, near Kelly's
Ford, where the cavalry skirmish took place sometime ago. The place of
crossing is very near and we shall make the attempt to cross very soon,
possibly this very night. Several other corps are to join us. We are, I
believe, to have the advance. A battle will take place at the crossing;
things are moving now and we shall soon see something of actual war. Just
now an order is issued to have the troops ready to march at one hour's
notice. This may mean something. I am well, although somewhat tired, and
have no apprehensions of any ill befalling me.
It is May Day, the first of May, as May Days in lands beyond the Atlantic and beyond the Rhine are days of festivity, so it is to us almost a festive day. It is Friday, I believe. Since Monday morning, this is the first day that we are not up and marching at dawn-the first day too that the sun shines out pleasantly. You have no idea how cheerful, how happy, we feel. It is indeed privation only that shows us what delight there is in the simplest comforts of life.
The last few days have been very, very hard. On Monday morning, we started early and marched about fifteen miles. This march was not so very hard on us on horseback, but for the troops, with the very heavy loads for them to carry, it was hard indeed. The next morning, we started at five o'clock and by a forced march arrived at Kelly's Ford at one. So far all went well enough; our wagon, with plenty to eat, had been with us. I had done a good deal of riding, up and down, on different missions and was pretty tired. We succeeded in getting a little room in a log house for the General, and stretched a big fly over a pole for the staff; we had not been there long when we were informed that a pontoon bridge was building, and as soon as finished we were to cross. We were ordered to be in readiness to move on ten minutes' notice, and remained so until eight o'clock P.M., when we marched down to the river to cross. The bridge was about one and a half miles distant, and there was a brigade between it and our division. We marched to the rear of that brigade and then halted. General Schurz' staff rode to the front; then we found that the bridge was not done, and it took two hours before it was finished. I rode back to our quarters several times to see to the teams, etc. We were at this time still under apprehension that we might be attacked or come upon the enemy when crossing the river. When we rode down to the river, I remarked to General Schurz what a beautiful night it was, the moon shone out through a thin haze and it was so calm, so quiet, it seemed as if the heavens were smiling upon us. At length we crossed, formed our battalions and marched forward. There was on the south side of the river, a vast level field, and it had grown very foggy, so that it was very difficult to tell the direction we were going or to find the proper road; there was no road at all where we crossed. Our guides misled us and we lost our way; the moon became entirely obscured and we were in a sad predicament, but our General displayed great coolness and energy. He had evidently studied the map thoroughly and knew where he wanted to go to take up his position. He sent his staff officers out in various directions in search of a road he knew to be there and, after riding around that soft swamp ground-where our horses got in up to their knees at every step- we came to the top of a hill and found the road we looked for. We brought our troops up there and rested some fifteen minutes, for they were worn and tired out. Then we marched on again, not a very great distance indeed, but it seemed far for the road was very muddy and we had been told it was but half a mile, but found it three or four times that distance. At length we came to the woods we were to find and to their outer edge, where we took our position. It took some time before we got all the troops in their proper places, then we rode over to a farm house; it was almost three o'clock. The General went in and, after some time, told us we were to stay there until morning, but not to unsaddle our horses and to be ourselves in full harness. I laid down on a wooden bench on the piazza and over-powered by weariness at once fell asleep, but it was not long that I slept, for at dawn of day it was reported that our pickets had been fired upon and rebel pickets were seen, and of course all were at once on their feet. We did see rebel cavalry pickets quite plainly on our right some two miles distant, but they were not formidable. General Slocum's Corps passed us at this place, and although we had been ready at early morn, our column did not move until ten o' clock. I got a cup of milk and four biscuits at the house, which constituted my breakfast. I was sent to General Howard as an aid that day, and Fleda was kept trotting and galloping a good deal. It was a hard march, it rained, and we were so tired. We marched towards the Rapidan, towards Germania Fort. When we got within a mile, perhaps about four o' clock, our column was halted-General Slocum's Corps being immediately ahead of us. General Schurz and staff rode down to the river. What we saw there is very distinct before my eyes, but I cannot describe it. The banks of the river were over one hundred feet high; there were the foundations of the bridge that once stretched from bank to bank, but now destroyed; there was also new timber lying about; the rebels were in the act of rebuilding the bridge. Our cavalry took some fifty prisoners there; they didn't think that there was such a force near them. The first brigade of Slocum's Corps was just crossing by fording, the water coming up to the men's arms; they were all more or less disrobed, some entirely; they carried all their things of course, but it looked terrible to see them fording that rapid stream. Many fell, but there were mounted men there to help them up, and the brigade got across without accident. In the meantime, a bridge was being constructed close to the water's surface, and not more than one brigade had to ford the stream. We soon rode back to our troops and selected camping grounds for our division near a rill of pure, clear water. It was almost dark. The 26th came very near our headquarters in the woods, and all put up their shelter tents. I picked the last few crumbs of bread out of my saddle bags, but I assure you it was a scanty meal. Our wagon was not there. We had no tents, and I went to Captain Frank and asked him for a resting place in his little shelter; it was raining; he asked me in at once, into a tent where three men could lie side by side. He also gave me a cup of chocolate-happy man to have such a thing. I was almost asleep before I laid down. I had lain there about one hour, when I heard the voice of Major Hoffmann of our division, calling out Captain Winkler; I answered and he told me to have my horse saddled at once and report to the General at once. I did so. He told me to go down to the river and see how far the crossing of the 12th Corps had progressed, and to let him know when the road would be clear so that we could cross. I rode down, attended by an orderly. I learned the condition of things and sent back my orderly with a report and half an hour after, finding it was about time to start, I rode back to give that information. Our division crossed at ten o'clock and marched about half a mile beyond, where we took our position. To cross the river was attended by delay, as but few could cross at a time, and it was quite late when we all got into position. We took up headquarters in a barn and slept until dawn, when we got up to start again. It was a cold and drizzly, disagreeable morning, and we had nothing to eat; that was a hard day's march. We set out toward Fredericksburg, and towards evening came here to a place called Locust Grove. We took our headquarters at a farm house inhabited by eight sisters by the name of Hawkins and one brother, a boy of eighteen who had once been in the Rebel Army. They received us very kindly and hospitably; I assure you we enjoyed the supper. They gave us two good rooms, a bedroom for the General, and an adjoining spacious sitting room for the staff. We had now about accomplished our march and arrived near the place where the battle was to be fought. The clouds fled and the sun shone out clearly. We received an order from General Hooker for the manner in which we had performed the march, and all were happy, cheerful and confident of victory. We have remained at this house all day; there has been considerable fighting, and towards evening our corps was drawn up for battle, one rebel battery fired at us from the woods. A regiment was sent out and came back with two wounded, and the information that four guns and supporting infantry were there. Night overtook us soon, and of course all operations stopped. Our troops are sleeping on their arms and tomorrow a big battle will in all probability be fought. I cannot send you this, written you at different times today, until after the battle, but whatever my fate, it will probably reach you. Our troops are in excellent spirits, and this morning the weather was so fair, all felt so happy and enthusiastic that it may well be said that we had our May Day. If we can only give the rebels one good, decisive blow. I believe we can do it now, if ever. Our army is large and it is strong spirited and it is brave.
It is now eleven o' clock and I must lie down to sleep to be up early in the morning. I shall write you more after the battle. I have full faith that I will live through it, but if I should fall, it will be for the cause of our country.
Battle of Chancellorsville, May 4th, 1863. Noon
I shall have a chance to send this letter through an officer going to Alexandria. I can but add one word. We had a severe fight, in which we were badly routed day before yesterday towards evening. Our corps lost heavily, the 26th too. The balls came thick and close. Poor Fleda was shot under me, right ¥ through the side, entirely disabling her; I had to leave her to continue my efforts to rally our mounted troops, and afterwards found her in the same place. She behaved so well under fire. We have expected a fight all day yesterday and also today. Yesterday morning a hard battle was fought, but our corps was not engaged. Skirmishing continued for an hour or two yesterday afternoon, but none were hurt.
May 7th, 1863.
Before this reaches you, you will probably have heard the news that the entire Army of the Potomac has retired to its old camping grounds on the north of the Rappahannock. I should like to give you a full account of a portion of the disastrous engagement, but I cannot, I am too tired and it is too sad a story to write. We retired to this side of the Rappahannock yesterday, early in the morning, amid a cold chilly rain storm, and arrived in our old camp at dark last night. Our campaign was but ten days in duration, but they were ten days of great hardship; we had but little sleep, little to eat, hard work in the heat of the noonday sun and the chill of the night's rain as well. What will become of us now, I don't know; to cross the Rappahannock cannot be attempted again. Steps are being taken to refit the army again for another march, and we may remain here but a few days. The army, at least our corps, is demoralized; officers talk of resigning and a spirit of depression and lack of confidence manifests itself everywhere; this may be, and I hope is, transitory. It may be better tomorrow after a good night's rest. I crowded into an ambulance already full last night with wet clothes and a wet blanket and got a little rest. I am very tired but, considering all, I stood it pretty well. I miss my horse very much; I have none yet to replace it and can not well get one equal to Fleda. It is stated now that we are to recross the Rappahannock again right away; in fact, that portion of the army has already recrossed.
May 8th, 1863.
It is cold weather still.
There is no stove in my tent. We will probably march again in a few days.
That ten days campaign has been a great experience to me and I am very
glad to have enjoyed it, if I may say enjoyed; it was hard, very hard.
Events crowded into those few days. It was the first time I was brought
into hostile fire; the bullets flew pretty thick and whizzed pretty close
about me. The noise, the smoke, and all were terrible, but it was terrific
when panic stricken; all gave way and so did I. There was no occasion for
deeds of heroism, all we could do was to try to stop the runaways. I tried
my best, many others did, but who will-who can-halt the panic? The stories
which are said to circulate in northern papers, charging the whole affair
to the cowardice of the 3rd Division, are utterly false; the attack was
made on our right flank, which was held by the 1st Division; that division
fled wildly and confusedly right against our division, so as to come between
us and the enemy. Our division did more than any other to check the enemy
as they came on, and the 26th Wisconsin, in particular, distinguished itself
Our flank was broken before they reached our division, and military men
know what that is. The disposition of our troops was very bad; our right
flank was perfectly defenseless. I felt perfectly composed during the whole
On Monday morning I was riding along a road, immediately behind a rifle Pit held by our troops, outside of which skirmishers were engaged; as I rode along about five shots were fired, evidently upon me, and the bullets came very near me but none of them hit. Upon the whole it is strange that, amid such torrents of balls, so few of them comparatively reach their destination.
May 11th, 1863.
I should have written yesterday, but an indisposition prevented. I have not been very well for a few days; pain in my back troubled me, which yesterday became so acute that I was obliged to keep my lounge all day. I feel that I will be all right in a few days; we will stay here some little time yet, this will give me an opportunity entirely to recuperate. It is said that General Sigel is coming back to the Army of the Potomac to have an enlarged command, his old corps included; I hope it is so. He is the man to command this corps, all have confidence in him, while very little confidence is felt in General Howard. Troops without confidence in their leaders are worth nothing.
May 12th, 1863.
I am very much better,
indeed I am quite well today. New life is stirring in my veins and I am
ready for duty again. Tomorrow, I shall have a court martial in session,
with several cases to try for military crimes of the gravest nature. I
am told that some northern papers tried to hold General Schurz responsible
for our defeat of the 2nd inst., and that it is even asserted that he led
the disgraceful scene in person. If you hear anything of that kind, you
may say, on my authority, that it is a base, unmitigated falsehood. General
Schurz only commands the smallest of the three divisions of the corps and
he, of course, is not responsible for any but his own command; that his
command gave way, fled, is true, but it was not precipitately; they stood,
received and returned the murderous fire of the enemy-I will not say long-for
that was impossible when attacked on three sides at once, but as long as
it could be done, until the whole of the 1st Division, stronger than ours,
had fled by. General Schurz, personally in the midst of danger, made all
reasonable efforts to rally the fleeing troops. Our troops were in a wrong
position, but that was not General Schurz fault; he protested against it
without avail. I have lost a good deal in that little, brief campaign;
my big blue cloak and a blanket was the first loss, they were put in the
wrong wagon; two pairs of gloves are gone; my pistol was stolen, it was
the one presented to me by some Milwaukee lawyers when I left; and my horse,
saddle and bridle and saddle blanket are gone, leaving me-if not reduced
to beggary-at least a poor man. I will have to have a new outfit before
I can take Richmond. Ah! when we do come to taking Richmond, if we could
only once have a proper reserve to an operating army; if we had had a reserve
of fifty thousand men ready when we retreated to this side of the river,
we might then, in spite of all the repulses we suffered, have taken advantage
of Stoneman's splendid operations and marched to Richmond, but it may yet
be done; I am not discouraged. We ought to have more troops though. I learned
a great deal during that ten days' campaign; I saw a great deal, but I
tell you what I would like to see-and have not seen-a great man. To be
a great man in the field, one must possess a strong Physical frame, for
greatness must never fatigue; but these are the elements I would chiefly
invest in, no difficulty must appall him; no danger darken his brow; on
the contrary, the more difficulties and embarrassments double and redouble
around him, the more must his powers expand and the more resolutely must
his mind grapple the dangers that visit him. Fully to answer this ideal
would require supernatural endowments, but to some extent multitudes have
possessed them, and I should like to see one who does; when every feature
of the general shows diffidence and fear, the soldiers of his command cannot
but feel it, and that is too often the case. I have seen it. I will never
be a general, I do not desire to be. For a man who really possesses the
qualifications, it would be a great thing, but for an ordinary man, even
if he invariably do his duty as men say, it is nothing-army flattery to
be sure-but what of that?
Just now a dispatch from General Hooker tells us that the Richmond papers announce the death of General Stonewall Jackson, from wounds received in his last engagement; he has been very successful as a general, and dies in the noonday of his glory. I believe that he possessed to some extent the elements of greatness. I believe that he was a sincere man and believed in the cause he had so often and so victoriously fought. His earthly career is past, may he be forgiven the sins of his treason.
May 14th, 1863.
I trust you did not remain in suspense too long, that you got my letter I sent off the day after the battle. How very false newspaper reports are, and how little to be relied upon, this instance clearly shows. I would like to try Mr. Crounse, the correspondent of the Times; he would not receive a very merciful judgment at the hands of this corps. I have seen many officers of other corps within the last few days, and been advised of all the circumstances; they are free to admit that any other corps would have acted very much as the 11th did. The entire Dss of killed and wounded gives the lie to Mr. 'rounse, and the very short time within which all lese casualties occurred shows the nature of the attack, that it was precipitated upon us. The 26th Wisconsin lost eight officers and about one hundred and fifty men, all in fifteen minutes, but I will not dwell upon it.
Near Brooks' Station, May 17th, 1863.
It is Sunday afternoon,
delightful May weather, we have our headquarters on a beautiful green hill
close by a farm house surrounded by young fruit and shade trees. We came
here yesterday, only half a mile from our old camp. We were in a wood of
large nine trees before; that is pleasant enough in winter, but in spring,
when everything else that has been in repose leaps into life again, the
unchanging somber hue of these evergreens seems very gloomy, almost dismal.
You referred to the bad effect of our present rest on the cause on which we are engaged. It is utterly deplorable to look upon it in the light of calm, unhoping, calculating reason. It does, as you say, seem fatal; but the same reason which makes us fear that it is fatal, demonstrates that it is inevitable. A bold effort, staking everything-the entire army-but also having everything to hope for-might, before we recrossed the Rappahannock, have placed within our reach the golden fruits of a crushing, decisive victory. To be sure, it might also have proved our utter annihilation, but when I think upon it, I almost wish it had been made. It would have entailed great labor and privation on our army for a time, and many would have perished from exhaustion alone. We will lose just as many men as it is, only by a slower, more gradual process. I, of course, do not know just what we might have expected, but I believe that by bracing all our nerve and all our strength we might have struck a terrible blow at the heart of rebellion. We were in a bad position on the other side of the Rappahannock. We took to the defensive, our troops had their arms in their hands and a constant expectation of attach upon their minds day and night, and were behind breastworks and awaiting an attack with the hope of repelling the attack as the aim of victory. This was wearing on mind and body, and when the order came that we were to recross, I believe everybody felt a certain satisfaction at being relieved from a burden too heavy to carry. Beyond the river there was the promise of rest, of rest free from anxiety, free from alarms, from the pickets of skirmishers, and it was hailed, if not with joy, certainly with satisfaction. Some may call it demoralization, but it is natural to feel so. I believe that the bravest heart breathes more freely when the danger that lately surrounded it is past. If, however, instead of giving orders to withdraw across the river at dead of night, it had been ordered that the whole army should be gathered into as strong and compact columns as possible and at dawn of day present itself before the rebel army and attack and whip them, and the arrangements had been made during the night with the same care and assiduity that arrangements for our retreat were made, and every general and officer had made it his task by cheerful words and cheerful mien to inspire his men with confidence, I believe that army could have been made more glad to leap from its rifle pits and advance upon the foe than to leave those hated breastworks and retire to safety. The rebels did not operate on this principle, they staked their all in the battles there. They advanced with all their troops, leaving even Richmond unguarded, and consequently advanced with heavy battalions. They lost heavily, but what of that? It is of advantage only, as you say, on the principle of mutual extermination, man for man; this would ultimately give us victory, as our population is the larger.
May 18th, 1863.
How long shall we remain
in inactivity? When will we be ready to advance again? These are puzzling
questions. At first it seemed as though we were to stay but a few days,
only long enough to be refitted with knapsacks. This story circulated by
correspondents, doubtless with the best of intentions, imputes to General
Hooker the very brilliant strategic move of marching his whole army back
in order to get knapsacks for those who lost them or threw them away. The
fact that we assumed the defensive on the other side, and after a few days
of indecisive fighting returned, it seems to me shows clearly that, in
the opinion of our leaders, we were not strong enough for aggressive movements.
The rebel force is as large as ours and to operate successfully, with the
assurance of success, under the circumstances under which the two were
respectively placed, our army must rely upon superior numbers, but this
army is diminishing every day. The term of enlistment of a very large number
of regiments, enlisted partly for two years and partly for nine months,
is expiring and they are now leaving us. If, therefore, my supposition
is correct, it is hard to say how we can attempt another forward movement,
unless we are strongly reinforced from other armies. To wait for the conscripts
would keep us here all summer. If we are going to do anything I am ready;
if not, I would like to come home in the meantime, but this same remark
will apply to every other man as well as to myself. It is irksome, tedious
enough here, I assure you.
I got a new horse today, a long legged, lank beast, not my own, a United States'. I have a horse now with a rope around his neck, no halter, no bridle, no saddle. I have never known a United States' horse that bore any other name than "Bill".
I have whiled away a portion of my time these recent days in reading of the immortal deeds of the Mackeral Brigade in a series of letters written by Orpheus C. Kerr. Day before yesterday, most of our wounded came to the hospital from the other side of the river. I saw a great many of them-many of them who had been supposed to be dead. It is a sad sight, almost a sickening sight, to see such a collection of mutilated human beings. I feel now that it is my duty to go again; it is a duty that ought to be cheerfully done, but it is a constitutional infirmity of man to hardly bear to look on human suffering. We are glad to meet those whom we deem dead alive and comparatively slightly wounded. On the other hand, it is terrible to see others felicitating themselves on the slightness of their injuries when the surgeon's probe has ascertained the fact that life is impossible, death inevitable I must go, and I will go, to the hospital tomorrow morning, to bring to the sufferers what little pleasure and comfort I can.
May 20th, 1863.
With two brass bands right
before our door, it is not a very pleasant time for a very tired man to
write, having ridden my new horse for several hours before dark. He is
only four years old and perfectly untrained. I approached him on Monday
morning with my saber hanging by my side, quite unsuspiciously; my man
told me that he was desperately wild; I rode him all day, he broke one
bridle, but I broke his will and made it subservient to mine. On Monday
I went to a number of farms near the picket line, where we arrested some
gentlemen of southern proclivities suspected of being spies, and took a
good deal of contraband property. A mulatto youth was our guide and informer.
His father is a white man, the mother a negro slave, and the recognized
children their father's slaves. This exceeds what I supposed to be the
utmost license of southern civilization. Virginia is suffering terribly
under the scourge of war, but it seems that a state where such things are
tolerated and even protected ought to suffer. A copy of the New York Herald
received this after noon, gives a sketch of what is pretended to be our
position at Chancellorsville, but it is all wrong. The roads are wrongs,
the woods are wrong, and the position of our troops is grossly wrong. If
our position had been as there represented, we would have been better off;
in fact, it would have been stronger, it presents our front instead of
our right flank to the enemy. This sketch is just like the correspondence
we read, the predication of an eye witness.
We have had many rumors around here lately, some concerning Sigel's returning, some of a breaking up of our corps, and one which almost seemed to come from a reliable source that our division was to be sent to General Rosecrans. General Howard will be glad to exchange the German troops for others, and they would very reasonably prefer to serve under some other general, although General Howard is a very honorable and excellent man. As a man, I esteem him very highly; as a general, I cannot but look upon him with misgivings. I should not be very much surprised if we should be sent west. Our latest news from Grant is very favorable, though not very definite. If what dispatches received indicate is true, we may hope soon to have Vicksburg, that coveted rebel stronghold on the Mississippi.
A large portion of my time during several days past was spent at the hospital, not that I was sick, but I was on duty there, and a very disagreeable duty it is. It is hard. Many of the wounded have complained of one of our surgeons being drunk when on the other side of the Rappahannock in charge of wounded men and performing operations, some of which have been very unsuccessful. A court of inquiry has been appointed to investigate these complaints and I am recorder of the court, the same as judge advocate of a court martial. As most of the witnesses are unable to leave their beds, the investigation is quite difficult and we have to go to the hospital to take their testimony; mine is the double duty of first finding the witnesses and afterwards, in the presence of the court, taking their testimony; it will take us several days more. After that, I have about a dozen court martial cases awaiting my attention. When through with those, I will try to get leave to go to Washington for a few days; I must call on Uncle Sam and make him pay for Pleda, but I shall not stay there long. There are no attractions there except a look at civilization, and a meal at a table with a table cloth and from crockery instead of tin. My watch was disabled apparently by the shock of battle at Chancellorsville, and I have sent it to Washington to be repaired. There is a good deal said about General Lee's coming to the north of the Rappahannock shortly for our especial entertainment; if he does, we will have a fight, and if we don't whip him soundly, I think the Army of the Potomac had better be discharged for disability. There seems to be no serious apprehensions of immediate action. Visitors, both ladies and gentlemen, are quite numerous among us; General Schurz has sent for his wife and she is expected to arrive here tomorrow. She brings her little girl with her. That does not look very much like war, does it? They continue to talk a good deal of Mr. Lee's coming over here to pay us a visit, and preparations are made to resist him by making our position impregnable, at least we are working at fortifications. I don't believe he will come.
June 3rd, 1863.
There are changes going on in our regiment again. Colonel Jacobs has tendered his resignation and, although he has met with little encouragement, he will no doubt get out of the service and his discharge will probably read "honorable". When promotions take place I, of course, can get the majorship, and I will accept it this time. Things here begin to look something more active again. We are under orders to have three days' rations in readiness for instant march. It is understood that bridges have been thrown across the Rappahannock and some of our troops were to cross. We heard quite heavy and rapid cannonading for two hours, between five and seven, this afternoon. I don't think a general crossing is intended; it was reported that the rebels had left their position on the heights of Fredericksburg, and this was probably an expedition to reconnoiter in force and ascertain the truth, and probably also to keep the enemy admonished that there is a force there and thus keep them from sending reenforcements west from the Virginia army; it may be, however, that we will shortly march. I am ready whenever the order comes.
June 11th, 1863.
We shall enter upon a new campaign very soon. All the preparations are made and a portion of the army has already left; in two or three days we will probably take our departure. Before this letter reaches you, a telegram will probably have informed you of the movements of the Army of the Potomac. I have full faith that I shall go through another campaign unharmed, as I did through the last. I hope our coming campaign will be more successful. What plans are prepared for us, I don't know, but it almost seems as though we were to take up an entirely new base of operations. I am anxious to see and, at the same time, apprehensive as to the part the 11th Corps is to take in the coming movements I confess that I have but little confidence in the corps; jealousy and intrigues between officers has, in many of our old regiments, destroyed all discipline; most of them have a very good reputation for fighting and they may fight well under favorable circumstances, but they are not reliable in any emergency. Our main dependence is on the new regiments. I hope the 26th will behave as well in the next engagement as it did in the last, for there has been a great deal of depression of spirits. It was my desire that a new field officer should be appointed before we went into action again. I wished to go to Washington for a day or two, but I have been so busy all this time I could not. It seems to be Mr. Hooker's idea to go in a different direction,- and then of course I must be along.
June 12th, 1863.
I went to corps headquarters at nine o'clock to attend a court martial and, just as I got there, the order came that we were to march at Once; I hurried back and packed. In the few minutes before the wagons come up, I can write to tell you that we are going. Mrs. Schurz has left rather hurriedly, poor woman, she seemed very much affected; all is bustle around us. Some people have a way of making an immense fuss when a move takes place; I thing we will get away just as comfortable and well by taking it easily. Here are the wagons and the pioneers to take my tent down and my desk away.
Centreville, Mondays June 15th, 1863.
After three days hard marching, we have come to a halt at Centreville and will stay to-day. We are but twenty-five miles from Washington now. Our move is an entire change of base. It is reported that Lee is in the Shenendoah Valley, threatening an invasion of Pennsylvania; we will probably follow him closely if it is true. This is a familiar region to all of us. The weather is very warm and dry, and our marches have been and will be pretty hard. If Lee is in the Valley, we may meet him there and have a fight soon. We crossed the famous Bull Run last night very near the battle field, and our present camping ground is near that historic field. Who knows but that a third battle may add to its notoriety. Our long march yesterday from Catlett Station was over fields that had more than once been trod by hostile armies and have seen many scenes of blood. We passed over farms where rich clover was growing, but deserted ruins only mark the spots where the Virginia husbandman and his family once were happy. I hope that the rebel general will not be persuaded to transfer the theatre of strife to the soil of a northern state, but it may occur, and might perhaps be for the best.
June 18th, 1863.
Rain at length - refreshing rain - is delighting this parched country; it is the first rain since our recrossing the Rappahannock on the 6th of May. I am sitting in the tent, which we hurriedly pitched as the black clouds gathered. We are now at Goose Creek, half way between Gunn's Spring and Leesburg; we came here yesterday from Centreville. Our army seems to be watching the operation of the army of the enemy. We have rumors that a rebel raid has penetrated to Harrisburg, and the state buildings and bridges have been burned. It is almost dark. What to-morrow will bring forth, I do not know. We have most of our tents up, but our stay here is of very uncertain duration. We have had no mail and no newspaper, and are wholly ignorant except of these two facts, that Grant has not taken Vicksburg and Lee has not taken Harrisburg. I get a little homesick, when we are here so idle and uncomfortable, in every way disagreeably situated, deprived of everything. I rather wish that we march continually; this idleness is unendurable, but I must not complain.
June 21st, 1863.
We have heard good active
firing to the west of us all day, and it still continues. It is quite distant,
supposed to be a little west of Aldie. Our cavalry corps, under Judge Presentine,
and some infantry are said to be engaging Stewart. Just now the firing
of artillery reopens after a calm of about half an hour; we are not near
enough to distinguish anything but artillery fire. We are under orders
to be ready to march at a moment's notice, and may break up at any moment,
but I do not think that we will have a general engagement here. I told
you once that a major of a regiment is not a very active or important position
when the other two field officers are present. I should like to be Colonel
of the 26th. I must take my promotion now, because I can do more good in
the regiment than I can do here, even if I am not the commander. The interests
of the regiment demand it. I must say that I do not like this staff very
I have to go to work and stitch on my clothes and it is quite late; this stitching is pretty slow, tedious work. You have supplied me with needles and thread, so I will not get out if the war lasts ten years. The thimble I do not know how to use or wear it.
Jefferson, June 26th, 1863.
A letter, at the end of which I noticed our marching orders from Goose Creek, Virginia, I gave to a gentleman who has left us for Washington. Since then, we have left the deserted fields of Virginia and come to a smiling, happy, thrifty land, to Maryland. We marched to Edward's Ferry day before yesterday and remained there until four o'clock yesterday, when we resumed our march. We crossed the river on a pontoon bridge and marched through a land of exquisite rural beauty, such farms, such fields of heavy grain-some gathered - some ripening - at one place already bending under the reaper's cradle; the meandering river, the ranges of hills or mountains, it did the eye good to look upon them and made our very hearts happy. Of course, we suffered no want. We had an excellent dinner at a large farm house. We camped outside the pleasant little village of Jefferson about dark, and took our headquarters at a farm house. It is a large brick one, two parlors thrown open to the Major General and his staff. We had a good supper and breakfast and I feel ready to start again. The rebels are said to be at South Mountain, ten miles from here, and we are marching that way. Before this reaches you, you will probably have news of a battle near by. Middletown, June 27th, 1863. We came to this place, arriving at about 6 P.M. It is a small town of decidedly Union sentiments; as we came through, flags were displayed, ladies appeared at the windows waved handkerchiefs, and everywhere we see manifestations of pleasure at our appearance. We are stopping at the house of a miller, the proprietor of two mills, whose name is Miller. The rebels are said to be moving northward. Our stay here will only be long enough to concentrate our army and, as several corps arrived to-day, it is likely that we will go to-morrow. I think, if we have an engagement here or anywhere north, our soldiers will fight with great courage; it cannot be otherwise. The entire population, who treat them so kindly, will anxiously look on to shower upon them benedictions for victory, but scorn and indignation for defeat; the soft beams of sympathy which have smiled upon them has already brought a new spirit into the army. You should see them as they come from the village or a neighboring farm house, laden with bread and milk and pies. The whole female population is baking, and they sell to the soldiers with pleasure at very moderate prices. A number of the neighbors have come in and tendered their services as guides and scouts; it is evident that we will have one great advantage, that of reliable in formation in fighting in our own country. If we march to-morrow, we will probably go to Hagerstown. Lee is said to have left that place yesterday. We are here, right by the battle field of South Mountain many of the shells went into the house where we are. Mr. Miller himself, as he says, bore a conspicuous part in that battle, acting as guide, as also in a subsequent battle, that of Antietam.
Emmetsburg, June 29th, 1863.
While we were at dinner
yesterday, the order came to take up our tents at once and march to Frederick;
it was pretty late when we started and we were much delayed by other troops
and trains on the road, so that we did not arrive at our camping ground
until near nine o'clock. The Town of Middletown is situated in a valley
between the South Mountain and the Catoctin Range, we crossed the latter
to come to Frederick, and from the heights that valley presented the most
beautiful scene I have ever witnessed.
We stopped last night at a palatial mansion about a mile from Frederick. There were two young ladies there whose conversation seemed to delight two musical members of our staff; a very fine piano was played by the skilful hands of some of our officers for an hour, and then we composed ourselves to sleep on a large covered stoop in front of the house, to get up again at three A.M. At that hour reveille was sounded and we jumped up. I had not long been dressed when I was sent off to the other divisions, and when I returned our division was started. Breakfast was over. We marched over twenty miles and it rained. we arrived at Emmetsburg at 6 P.M. and, after we had located our troops here, about a mile from the village, and attended to other necessary business, General Schurz and some of us rode through the village. The 1st corps was just passing through and there was a good deal of enthusiasm displayed. A large portion of the place is in ruins, having been destroyed by fire; expensive buildings of the Catholic Church, convents, etc., occupy very fine grounds on the limits of the place; not far from here too, at the foot of the mountains, there is Saint Mary's College, said to be the oldest college in the country.
We are ordered to march again at daylight to-morrow; that will take us into Pennsylvania. Our whole army was collected near Frederick last night, and it is no longer under the command of General Hooker, but of General Meade. It can be but a few days before we will meet the enemy, probably this week. Who knows but the decisive battle of this war may be fought on the 4th of July. It is 9 P.M. Have only had one meal to-day and am very hungry and must try and get something to eat before I lie down.
June 30th, 1863.
Just about the time for reveille to sound, according to previous orders, orders were received at the headquarters countermanding our orders to march. We were not sorry to be allowed to sleep a couple of hours longer. We changed our camp this morning and came to the Sisterhood, to which I alluded last night. It is a wealthy institution of the Sisters of Charity, connected with Saint Joseph's Academy. The grounds and buildings are very extensive. We just went through the school building under the guidance of Father Vorlando, who has charge of the whole and is I believe the head of the institution of the Sisters of Charity of the United States. He is a very refined, gentlemanly and accomplished Italian priest. One of the Sisters, an accomplished lady, accompanied us also. This institution is magnificent, and yet everything quite simple; we saw everything, even the sleeping room of the school girls; it is vacation, and at present most of the scholars away. Our headquarters are on the ground in a house of the Sisters; it is quite a large frame house and we have the entire ground floor. The furniture is confined to tables, benches and chairs. Father Vorlando tells me that it was once used for an Orphan Asylum, and is not now devoted to any particular use but kept as a refuge for the houseless. When forty-two families of the village were made homeless by the fire of three weeks ago, this house offered them shelter, and a few of the families are still here. The Sisters gave us a very good dinner to-day, which all enjoyed heartily. It is said that the rebels are marching upon Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, that is the place that we intended to go to to-day; if they do march upon It, they are coming directly towards us. It has been raining the greater part of the day. The air is very moist, and showers are still impending.
July 4th, 1863.
In three days' hard fighting we have whipped the rebels terribly; they've fled. We now start in pursuit I am saved from all harm, and that is all I can tell you now.
Battle of Gettysburg Emmetsburg, Md.,
July 6th, 1863.
Back again in the hospitable
mansion of the Sisterhood, where I wrote my last letter to you, except
the little note of the 4th inst. It will be a week tomorrow since I wrote
to you here before. The battle that was then impending has come off, has
come off fiercely, virulently. It swept away many of our men, of our bravest
and best; it has told with terrible force upon the enemy and driven the
rebel invader from northern soil. I thank God for having come safely out
from the danger that environed me. Let me tell you, as near as I can, how
it was. The order came last Wednesday morning to march for Gettysburg at
seven A.M.: we started accordingly, our division having the advance. The
distance by the road is about thirteen miles; we had gotten half way when
we heard firing in front-a little to the left-it was the same kind of firing
that we have heard very often on our marches of late, and we attributed
it to a cavalry fight. I was riding a little in advance of our column with
Captain Dilger, who commands a battery in our division, one of the best
artillery officers in the service. An aid from General Howard coming back
met us and told us there was a high point about a mile to the left of the
road where the ring could be seen plainly. Captain Dilger and my self concluded
to go and take a look at it. We turned to the left and had ridden but a
little ways when we noticed that all was quiet again, and therefore went
no further. Before we got back to the road we found several splendid cherry
trees laden with ripe cherries and stopped to eat. When we rode back, we
came to the head of the column and found that General Schurz was ahead.
The firing had re-opened and became quite fierce; we soon learned that
there was a battle going on on the other side of Gettysburg, and we hastened
to overtake General Schurz. Just as we got to the edge of the village,
one of our staff officers met us and told us that General Reynolds had
fallen and General Howard taken command of the wing of the army which the
latter had commanded, and General Schurz was in command of the corps. I
rode into the town and out on the other side, where the first corps was
engaged and joined General S. It must have been about noon when our corps
became engaged. General Reynolds had arrived there some hours before with
the 1st Corps, and a small force of cavalry, and had immediately driven
what rebels there were out of the town and advanced to the other side and
engaged the enemy. This movement, when no other troops were within immediate
supporting distance and when only one more corps, the 11th, was able to
come to his assistance at all, was certainly very rash and inconsiderate.
Our men were very tired when they got there; they had marched a great distance
at a very rapid rate through deep mud and we met with heavy showers. They
were brought into action at once. The third division first, the first division
on its right, the second was kept in reserve. Captain Dilger's battery
was brought to the extreme front and did splendid work, so also another
of our batteries; all of our troops behaved well and maintained their position
against superior numbers; but at last the rebel forces came too strongly
on their flanks and they had to retreat. General Schurz had sent for a
brigade of the 2nd Division to come to his support, and as a severe attack
on our right flank became imminent sent me to hurry it up. I dashed through
the town to the other side, where the reserves were stationed, as fast
as my horse could carry me, and when I came up there the brigade had not
yet started. I urged haste impetuously, and it set in motion at once. I
rode ahead and met General Schurz just in time; just in sight of the town,
on the north side, the 1st Division, in a retreat less orderly than it
should have been, was crowding the sidewalk on both sides. I asked General
Schurz what it meant. The 1st Division had fallen back in confusion and
all was in full retreat. I showed him the reenforcement who were marching
on rapidly; he then turned around and lead this column a little beyond
the village and had them deploy to the right of the road, where the rebels
were advancing very strongly. In the outskirts and on the left of the line
thus formed, were found the remnants of the 2nd brigade of our 3rd Division,
and among them thirty-two men with the colors of the 26th Wisconsin, but
without any officer; we rode by them and they called out to me and, with
the General's permission, I sent my horse away and took command of this
gallant squad. Two men of Company B had saved the colors. I formed my little
band in two ranks and had them sit down in the road. It was useless, of
course, to try to resist the long rebel forces that were then approaching,
but we could delay them and thus ensure a safe retreat to the rest of our
troops. I here were three fresh regiments on our right, and there were
one hundred to one hundred and fifty men of our brigade. While we were
there, the rest of the brigade left me; I suppose it was just as well,
we could perhaps do no good, but there was a brigade of infantry still
on our right and I had no orders to fall back. So, when several of my men
rose to follow the rest of the brigade, I told them to stay; they did stay.
The brigade on our right was a little further out than we were and received
all the attention of the enemy. My men crouched down, but I stood by them
and saw all that was going on. We were not fired upon and I had an excellent
opportunity to look on. There was a long line of battle approaching on
each side of the road; that on the left had nothing opposed to it; that
on the right was met with the brigade of the 2nd Division, but this brigade,
of course, had to fall back at once, and as it did so and the others of
our brigade had just left me, I saw an aid of Colonel K's, our brigade
commander, and called out to him to let me know what my orders were. He
answered to "fall back"; we fell back a little. There was a little white
cottage where the little remnant of our brigade went into the yard and
from there fired another volley at the advancing line of the right flank.
My men went in, fired, and then followed the rest, running into the city.
All this occurred within a very short time. I saw them going; it was useless
to attempt- useless to hold them-useless to stay there, but I was enraged;
I felt furious when I saw the 1st Division all crowding the sidewalks;
think of it, it was a northern village. I had ridden up and down its streets
from one end to the other three times that day and everywhere there were
manifestations of joy; handkerchiefs were waving everywhere, and ladies
stood in the streets offering refreshments to the soldiers as they passed.
It seemed so awful to march back through those same streets whipped and
beaten. It was the most humiliating step I ever took. I saw my men leave
me; I saw the brigade on the right go back, but I could not at once make
up my mind to go. I stood in the middle of the street and saw the rebels
coming; they didn't then fire at me; my first impulse was to stay there
and let them fire and hit me if they could. I had no weapon but my saber,
but I felt defiant.
We retreated to a high hill on the south side of the village where our position had been selected and there, under the protection of our strong artillery force, took a defensive position. If we don't march, I will continue this letter to-morrow. I only had two and a half hours' sleep last night; in fact we have not had a single night's proper rest since we left this house.
Middletown, Md., July 8th, 1863.
It was impossible to continue
my letter to you yesterday, for we started on the march at four o' clock
A.M., and marched full thirty miles, arriving at this place after nine
o'clock at night, in a furious rain that drenched us to the skin, but we
have a nice place for headquarters here, a large brick house of Mr. Kugel's,
a true Union man. His wife and himself and two daughters do all they can
for the soldiers. I had a nice, clean, white bed to sleep in last night
and I assure you it was a luxury. We shall remain here to-day. The corps
are just coming in. The army is concentrated to push upon the enemy, if
he shall be found on this side of the river, but it would seem that he
has some bridges left and will probably succeed in making his exit.
I intended, at first, to give you a full account of the battle of Gettysburg as I saw it, but I have not paper enough to do it upon. I hate now to return to the dreadful scenes of strife. The first day's fight, which I have already described, was the one in which our corps was principally engaged. We sent some of our forces to re-enforce the extreme right on Thursday; I went a little way with one brigade to show them the place where they should go. Both Thursday and Friday afternoons, a terrible cannonade was directed upon Cemetery Hill, where we were, and the shell and shot fairly danced about us; one shell came very near General Schurz. It is strange indeed that more casualties did not happen at that time. Many horses were killed, mine got a big piece of shell right through his neck. It knocked him down, but he got up again and lives. I was not on him at the time. The distances were so short on Cemetery Hill that it was more convenient to serve on foot than on horseback. It was a hard few days on the Hill. We were with little food, had no rest, and an intense excitement all the time; we were where we could see the fierce struggles on our right and on our left, and how anxiously we watched them. If they had broken our lines, all would have been lost, and sometimes they came so very near, but our Generals were watchful and whenever our lines were closely pressed, wherever they were giving way, there, just before the critical moment arrived, we would see the serried ranks of the reserve march up and re-enforce our lines and drive the rebels back. They were beaten, terribly beaten, and on Friday night retreated. On Saturday morning nothing was seen of them nearer than the mountains on the opposite side of the town. Their sharp-shooters, extending to the borders of the town, some movements took place on the part of our army, but just what they were, I don't know. Our corps remained until Sunday night, when we started on a horribly muddy road, marched till twelve o'clock at night, when we found ourselves five or six miles from Cemetery Hill; that was a beautiful cemetery when we entered it, but it has been terribly disfigured. The lieutenant colonel and major were both wounded. The former had a leg amputated, the latter's wound is slight. Captain Lackner was also wounded in the leg, but not seriously; he will go home and recover in a short time. The 26th has only about two hundred and thirty men fit for duty just now. A number, I believe, have been taken prisoners. I hope we will have another battle this side of the river; we can concentrate a large force and, if their retreat is cut off, we can give the rebels a blow which will go far to end the war. We received news of the fall of Vicksburg last night, butt am afraid to believe it, lest we will be disappointed again.
Boonsborough, Md., July 10th, 1863.
We are about eight miles
from Middletown, west of the South Mountain. We left Middletown day before
yesterday, crossed through the Mountain Gap and came to Boonsborough. West
of the town a fight was going on between cavalry and light artillery forces
of the two armies. Our division was sent forward to the west side of the
town, as it was said our forces were pressed, but when we got near the
field, the enemy was in rapid retreat, and we laid down on our arms for
Yesterday morning a division of the 5th Corps came to the front to relieve us, and we rejoined the other divisions of our corps near the foot of South Mountain. We heard cannonading in front yesterday all day, and also this morning. The advance cavalry of the armies are skirmishing; our army is advancing today, and a battle not far from the old Antietam field will probably soon ensue. We are under marching orders, but I do not believe we will be in the extreme advance this time. It seems as if the other corps had gone ahead. We are out a little distance from the road, and so we do not see all that goes by; we have our headquarters at a little bit of a log house inhabited by an old lady and her son. She is the most decided, enthusiastic and uncompromising Union woman that I have seen in our entire campaign; she speaks of the rebels with the most genuine air of detestation. Some rebel officers, when the rebels were here, came in and asked her for something to eat; "not a mouthful for you, go to your friends", she replied. We had our wagons here for a short time yesterday, affording us the very much desired opportunity of changing our clothes.
Near Hagerstown, Md., July 12th, 1863.
We left Boonsborough day before yesterday, immediately after I finished writing to you, marched toward Hagerstown over fields and through by roads, halted here about three miles from Hagerstown and took position. We expected to have a battle yesterday, but all remained quiet, not a gun was heard, and we have remained in the same place to the present time. We have no knowledge of the movement of the enemy at our headquarters, but from the quiet that prevails infer his retreat across the Potomac. The public, I suppose, will be greatly disappointed, as the newspapers have given very exaggerated accounts of the effect of the late battle on the rebel army, and have made great promises of its entire annihilation; many persons, in whose military judgement I have great confidence, say that we have reason rather to congratulate ourselves in such a retreat, inasmuch as an attack by our very much weakened army, where the regiments average perhaps only two hundred men, upon a strong defensive position of the enemy would be of doubtful success; the Army of the Potomac needs more men and re-organization before it will be reliably effective. All our bodies of men are too small, in fact they are mere wrecks, and although when you put them all together they may make a considerable number, each constituent part does not carry that force and weight with it which tells on the enemy and inspires his confidence. We are also beginning to feel in this army the lack of proper material for officers; we are constantly losing officers by resignation, besides the casualties of battle, and many of those promoted from the ranks are very indifferent. If the rebels have gone home, it is likely that we will not push forward immediately, but have a brief period of quiet. Immediately after this campaign, Colonel Jacobs will tender his resignation and it will leave the regiment without a field officer present; the Lieutenant Colonel is severely wounded, it is doubtful whether he will live; the Major's wound is not very bad, still I doubt whether he will ever return, but if he does, there will be two vacancies in field officers and it is really hard to find men in the regiment who will fill them well. The men in the regiment have confidence in me; I saw that at the Battle of Gettysburg; it is my plain duty, therefore, when Colonel Jacobs leaves, to come to the regiment and take command. These events fashion themselves, I cannot evade them.
Since writing, we have come to Hagerstown and have taken position southeast of the town; our whole army is near; there is a rebel force in front of us, it is said their whole army. To-morrow will probably disclose it-if the whole army is there, another battle will probably be fought. It still rains. The river I suppose must rise again, but the rebels must have bridges somewhere, I think.
Near Funkstown, Md., July 14th, 1863.
We are on the west bank of the Antietam Road, opposite the little village of Funkstown; we came here day before yesterday afternoon and have been here ever since in position to give battle. Ours and the enemy's pickets have been very close together and have exchanged many shots. General Schurz told us this morning at six, when we got up, that the battle would commence at seven o'clock this morning, an attack upon the enemy's right wing having been ordered for that time. It was but very little after seven when it was reported that the enemy's position, the defenses in our front were all evacuated- the presumption being that Lee has crossed the Potomac during the night. We received considerable accessions to our forces during the past few days; we have several additional regiments in our corps, two in our division. We are on the extreme right wing of our army. The air is intensely sultry.
5 A.M., Middletown, July 16th, 1863.
I was interrupted by orders relating to marching. We are to march at once, and I write you the last from Maryland. We were marched to Williamsport day before yesterday and remained there the night, until four A.M. yesterday, when we started on a long arch of twenty-three miles to this place; it was nard, very hot and late when we got here. We are on our way to Virginia again, and shall probably cross the river to-day. The news we get of the derations of the army is very gratifying, gratifying everywhere, and all is going well, but the fearful )t in New York has filled me with apprehensions; if they only put it down with stern, uncompromising severity and enforce the draft, all will be well. We will then get the troops and can close the war this year, but if they yield a whit to the mob, there will be mobs everywhere and our armies remain without cruits. If the conscription is enforced in Wisconsin, General Schurz has promised to let me go to get conscripts for the 26th. I need not tell you how much I should like to come home after this campaign so over.
Near Berlin, Md., July 18th, 1863.
We have not yet made a great deal of progress in or pursuit of the foe. We marched to our present camping ground the day before yesterday; about two and a half miles from here on the Potomac is the little village of Berlin, where two pontoon bridges an the river. We are now under orders to march ad are waiting only for the road to be cleared, so you see that it is likely that we will sleep on Virginia soil the coming night. I returned to the regiment to-day at my own request. I shall be mounted and act as field officer and my position there will be as pleasant as on the staff.
Near Middleburgh, Va., July 21st, 1863.
Under cover of the little shelter tent that constitutes the headquarters of the 26th regiment, in the held, shielding me from the scorching rays of the Virginia sun, I must write a few words. Our corps Droke camp in Maryland early on Sunday morning, and re-crossed into Virginia at Berlin. We soon came to a little village where the female portion of the inhabitants displayed them selves conspicuously in Sunday attire, waving welcome to our forces with handkerchiefs and national flags. Late in the day we came through Haseford, where loyalty displayed itself very much in the same way. About three miles from the latter place we camped for the night; at five o'clock Tuesday morning, we started again and came deeper into the heart of Virginia; we marched through a very fine country up in the highlands, the Blue Ridge on our right. Our destination seems to be Warrenton. We all expected to march on to-day, but it seems that we are to have a day of rest. The sentiment displayed along our yesterday's march was not very friendly; ladles curled their lips in proud disdain as we passed, and in some places went so far as t o lock up their wells to prevent our soldiers getting water. The march is very hard on the private soldier with knapsack, haversack, gun, cartridge box, etc., in these very hot days.
Near New Laltimore, Va., July 24th, 1863.
Our corps is at New Baltimore; our regiment is in advance post about two and a half miles beyond the picket line; we are quartered in a pleasant oak wood, and I am sitting before a little tent, where I shall try to sleep until about two o'clock, when I must visit the out-posts.
Warrenton Junction, Va., July 25th, 1863.
It is Sunday afternoon. We came here yesterday from New Baltimore. This is a railway station and will be good enough camping ground, but water is very scarce and very bad. A glass of fresh water is a luxury wholly out of question. It is intensely hot.
July 30th, 1863.
I am officer of the day for our brigade and have the pickets under my charge. I remained at the house of Mrs. Sears, on the picket line, last night and have only just come into camp. Our army was moved a little ways yesterday; we are near the little collection of old houses and a mill called Weaverville, between Catlett Station and Warrenton Junction. It is not unlikely that we will stay in this neighborhood some little time, so as to give our forces time to rest and to recruit the army. I went on duty as officer of the day, day before yesterday. I didn't feel very well at that time. Most of our plekets were than in Weaverville and I stayed there too, enjoying the luxury of a bed in Mrs. Weaver's house after a good supper of bread and milk. Last night I had the Same hospitality extended to me, and now I feel quite well again.
August 2nd, 1863.
We left Weaverville early yesterday morning and are now-I can't tell you exactly where; we have come back a little way and our corps is all scattered. Our brigade is here alone, and our division headquarters two miles away. The day for the reorganization of the Army of the Potomac seems to have come; our corps will be broken up, of that there is little doubt. We are in a shady place under oaks, but not a breeze is stirring; the heat is greater it seems to me, but not so oppressive as in Wisconsin; it may be only that our habitual outdoor life makes It easier to bear. But yesterday's march was hard. The direct way from here to Weaverville is not more than four miles, but the road we took is at least ten. I think this army will remain quiet in its present position during this month; a campaign in such weather would cost as many men as a three days' battle.
August 4th, 1863.
General Schurz has Just returned from Washington, and all projects of re-organization of the army divisions of the corps, he told me, were for the present abandoned.
August 6th, 1863.
All is very quiet and
monotonous just now. It is a long time since I have written you a letter
in ink; gradually I got into possession of pen, ink and my portfolio again,
and a board fixed in a horizontal position, a foot higher than an ordinary
table, is my writing desk.
This I presume is a holiday for you, being the one proclaimed by the President of the United States to be employed in the rendition of thanks to God for the victories he has vouchsafed to our armies. We here do not notice such things at all. Holidays, Sundays, work days, all are alike, but it takes constant and careful attention to know what day of the week and month it is. Something must be at fault about our mail arrangement; we get so few letters, certainly nothing like what the regiment is duly entitled to.
Our 1st Division leaves us to-day and it is going to Alexandria, but that is not its ultimate destination, it is rumored that it is bound for Charleston. We may also be sent somewhere else, or into some other corps, for it cannot be that the corps organization will be kept up for two little divisions. It is all useless to guess and to speculate; we cannot get at the designs of the authorities. But is it not disagreeable to be entirely in the hands of other men, who can dispose of one just as they please? To be thus entirely deprived of one's own volition and one's own agency as to things which concern one's self? "Every man the architect of his own fortune" is a maxim that does not apply to the soldier.
August 7th, 1863.
Last night the rumor spread, I know not whence it came, that our division was to go to New Orleans and thence to Texas. of course, we have no orders yet, may get none, but we think of possibilities. I may be obliged, with the rest of the officers and men, to bring this additional sacrifice to the altar of our country. Perhaps it would not be so bad, we might not get there until the hot and sickly season is past, and our duties there would be no more onerous or dangerous than here-perhaps not so much so, but it is so far away.
August 10th, 1863.
I would have written yesterday,
but about four o' clock an order came that required me to take eight companies
of the regiment out for a railroad guard. We had a great ways to go and
did not get back until ten o' clock last night, and we had to start out
again at six this morning. It was a pretty hard tour; I started on horseback
and did not get back until after one, leaving my horse only ten minutes
to go into our surgeon's tent and look at the thermometer. It marked ninety-seven
in the shade; that is the ordinary state at noon; with that, our fresh
water just from the spring is tepid.
The armor of going to New Orleans and Texas which prevailed has died away. What is to become of us, I don't know, but according to appearances we will remain in the Army of the Potomac. Orders have been received to draw knapsacks for all that are without them, with the view to carry rations in knapsacks. Troops can carry five days' rations in haversacks, and it is only when more has to be carried along that knapsacks are used for that purpose. In our Chancellorsville campaign, each man had to carry eight days' rations. We will undoubtedly have another severe campaign this fall. Our army will be put to the task of striking a heavy blow at the dwindling proportions of the southern confederacy. It will be a hard campaign, but, if we only win another -a decisive victory-the worst will be past. It was at this time last year the stern duty was urged upon us to go to the war. It was on the evening of the 12th of August that my decision was made; Captain Lackner and four or five others were at my office; they all wanted to go, but wanted me to lead them. I yielded. It was already late, but we went up to the Sixth Ward, where there was a War Meeting, where we found Colonel Jacobs and told him of our resolution. When the last day for recruiting came, the last on which bounties were to be paid, there was an immense excitement in town that evening; drums and fifes were playing, and the citizens were gathered together; there was an immense crowd on Spring Street, right before the bridge, platforms were erected and speeches were made.
August 23rd, 1863.
It appears now as if we were not to commence active or at least defensive operations very soon. Our 1st Division does not seem to be the only one that is detached from the army, and in its present weakened state it will not probably undertake any great exploits. I took a horseback ride toward evening with our adjutant, and on our way back stopped at General Schurz for supper. Our colonel received a big trunk from Baltimore today, containing books that will afford me some reading matter in time to come. I have gotten possession of a very good horse again and riding is my favorite exercise. I have a large bay mare of our Lieutenant Colonel's; he was never much of a horseman. She is improving very much and will, in a short time, be an excellent saddle horse; I have a good English saddle now. We have pretty encouraging news from South Charleston and Chattanooga; the latter is unquestionably one of the most important strategic points in the whole country at the present time. I believe Rosecrans has a large army and there will be the principal military operations for the present; using Chattanooga as a base, a large army can so operate as to compel the evacuation of Virginia. I wish it would happen soon.
September 1st, 1863.
Colonel Jacobs has received five days' leave of absence and gone to Washington today, there to meet his wife. I am, therefore, in command of the regiment, but the duties of commanding officer are not very onerous now; Picket duty is all; that is done in small detachments under line officers. The army is not Yet prepared to move, but I do believe that we will have a fall campaign. I have been writing all day, and must take a ride for exercise. General Howard has returned; I must go up and call on him.
September 2nd, 1863.
I have just had my regiment, with the rest of the brigade, out on review before General Howard; it was very fine. We passed in review before the General, and when our regiment came, the latter said "Bully regiments" We have not had any conscripts in our division at all as yet, but one regiment in the 2nd Division has had a lot, and a pretty set of people they are said to be- uncouth, untrained, insubordinate, mutinous, everything bad- all substitutes. One of them was shot by a sentinel the first night. Inexorable sternness 18 the only law that will govern them, with that I am satisfied they will make good soldiers. There are some going out every day to different portions of the army, and a number of our regimental commanders expect soon to get an
September 5th, 1863.
Colonel Jacobs has not yet returned and I am still in command of the regiment. I expect him to-morrow, but all is going very well; I have no trouble with my command.
September 11th, 1863.
We changed camp yesterday,
coming a little nearer to the railroad, though we are scarcely a mile from
our old camp. Hitherto we have always been in the woods, but now an open
field offers its hospitality. We are just in receipt of the news of Morris
Island taken, and hope very soon to learn of the surrender of Charleston.
With our army, so far as we can see, all remains in status quo, only it
is rumored very extensively that another rebel invasion into Maryland and
Pennsylvania is on foot. Near our old camp, there were several farm houses
that daily supplied us with fresh milk; now we have to take our coffee
without any again. I have had a little exercise several nights in falling
out of bed; you will think that rather a peculiar exercise for one of my
age. But, if you consider the make of my bed, you will appreciate its practicability.
Imagine two poles horizontal and parallel, resting on forked sticks driven
into the ground, and barrel staves laid across, and you have a fair picture
of the bedstead. A very good one it is if the staves are only fastened,
but nails are very scarce in camp, so they are merely laid on. Now, as
chairs are rather scanty, our beds are also used as seats; a person sitting
down on my bed will naturally push the staves back, and after the whole
length has been in use as a seat, all the staves will be pushed over towards
the wall side of the bed. It happens very easily then, as one rolls over,
we all go down together, staves and layer of hay, buffalo robe and blankets.
Last evening we received notice that a reconnaissance towards Culpeper Court House will be made to-day, and that we were to be ready for instant moving in case the developments required. Quite early this morning, cannon fire toward the southwest indicated a stir and the firing continued pretty much all of the day. No orders have yet been received here. I am brigade officer of the day for three days, beginning tomorrow, and shall start out with my good horse at six o'clock A.M. Two of our division who were sentenced to death for desertion by a court of which I was the Judge Advocate a short time ago are, pursuant to orders from General Meade, to be executed next Friday in the presence of the division. It is a very hard punishment, but discipline demands it. A court at Brook Station, at which I was Judge Advocate, condemned seven deserters to death at one session; one of them was afterwards executed in the 1st Division; all the others have been pardoned. The one that suffered death was evidently the worst and was instrumental, I believe, in getting some of the others to desert. He alone seemed to appreciate the capital nature of the offense, which he was called upon to answer for when he was brought before the court. He wept and sobbed of his wife and children, and enlisted the sympathies of the court more than any of the rest in his behalf.
Rappahannock Crossing, Va., Sept. 17, 1863.
I wrote in my last letter that I should be on duty as officer of the day and that, in the camp we then occupied, was a very onerous duty, as our line of pickets or railroad guards was very extensive. All at once marching orders were received, and I had to ride out again to call in my pickets. At one o'clock we started; we did not get to the Rappahannock until after dark; we bivouacked for the night and took position on a hill by the railroad bridge on the south side of the river; this, of course, is a very important place and requires careful guarding. Reoccupied a hill with rifle pits thrown up all around. The position resembles that of our army at Gettysburg, only on a smaller scale. There is a fort being built right behind us and it is to be garrisoned by the 119th New York, a small regiment of our brigade. Our army is now on the forward move. Lee seems to have retired. A battle may be the result very soon. I do not know whether we will move forward or not; certainly not unless we are relieved here by other troops; this is too important a position and is none too well guarded with the forces already here. This region is full of guerrillas, bush-whackers, raiders, etc., and it is not at all impossible that we may have a little independent skirmish here, but I don't apprehend anything very dangerous.
September 20th, 1863.
I called on General Schurz yesterday; he had just returned from a twenty days' leave of absence. I had a long talk with him. He does not think that Meade will attack Lee, or even cross the Rapidan for the present, but rather that that river will be the line between the two armies, as the Rappahannock used to be. I like General Schurz, to mental endowments of the first order he adds the kindest disposition, a stern integrity and unquestionable honor; he is a true friend and a genial companion; of a generous and unsuspicious nature, he lacks the keen eye to policy, the shrewdness, without which publicmen are seldom successful. He has studied the art of war, and a strong intellect has mastered its theory, but he made a mistake I think when he entered the army. It is not his appropriate sphere. His genius serves him nobly in the closet, in the study, but it fails him when embarrassing events crowd and Jostle about him. In polities he will too often become the victim of misplaced confidence. The proper field for his labors is literature; in that field only will he ever become prominent. I do not say that he may not have a brilliant political career, but it will be brief and its merits will be found in his literary political labors. This is my judgment about General Schurz. Mrs. S. will be shocked at this, probably call it malicious, for, besides a tender affection for her husband, she cherishes an undoubting idolatry for the statesman, the hero and the general, Carl Schurz, incomparable everywhere.
September 22nd, 1863.
The fort immediately behind us is now finished and Colonel Jacobs intends to put the main part of our regiment in it, leaving on the hill we now hold only an advance post of two companies. Colonel Krzyzanowski is absent on leave and Colonel Boury, the next senior lsln arrest; Colonel Jacobs, the next in rank, commands the brigade, and I am in command of the regiment. Colonel Jacobs can, therefore, make such disposition of troops as he thinks best, and he means to have our regiment garrison the fort. To-morrow I shall have to go to the headquarters of the 2nd Division, twelve miles off, for the trial of Colonel Boury; I have just received an order detailing me as Judge Advocate of the court. It will be an interesting case. I have not seen the charges, but am told they are drunkenness on duty. Generally Colonel Jacobs and myself occupy one tent, but now he is stopping at brigade headquarters on the other side of the river. We have reports here of a battle by Rosecrans; it is said to have resulted unfavorably for us. We have not received any papers since we came here. It will be bad if Rosecrans should be badly beaten now; that he should win another victory, is almost too good to hope for. Oh! I wish he would, but it must be hard. Those mountain passes the Confederates hold must be admirably located for defensive warfare. I believe our army will cross the Rapidan, perhaps is crossing now.
New Creek Va., September 30, 1863.
You will notice that I write from a new place in Virginia, but if you receive no other news of our movement, that name will give you but little idea where we are. New Creek is on the B. & O. Railroad, in western Virginia. The 11th Corps is at present moment packed away in freight cars on the way to Chattanooga; the information of this move came so suddenly upon us, the cars are now starting. I can only write when we stop. I was at the court martial on Thursday last when, at noon, orders came that the corps must make ready at once to be shipped by the cars; I took the first train back to Rappahannock Station, and got there about four o' clock. It was then thought that we were to take the cars there, and we were ready to do so at any moment; only a little before midnight the order came that we must start at once and march as far as Manassas Junction; we marched all night and came to Catlett Station. After three hours' rest, we started again and reached Manassas Junction about 5 P. M. By nine o' clock we were packed into the dirty baggage cars and started. We passed some very fine scenery yesterday between Washington and here. We were at Harper's Ferry at about sunset. We are going slowly; I don't know that it is quite certain as to our going to General Rosecrans. It is said we are to go by way of Indianapolis; that would seem to be out of the way some to go to Chattanooga; it may be that the shorter routes are too much occupied. There can not be the least doubt that this move was not long premeditated; it is called for by an emergency and that, to my judgment, can be nothing but Rosecrans need of reinforcements. This mode of traveling is so fatiguing. We have seen little of papers for some days, and the account of the Battle of Chattanooga was very meager. It seems unquestionable that Rosecrans suffered very severely and was pretty badly defeated, but he seems to hold and maintain a strong position.
Louisville, Ky., September 30, 1863.
I have just taken breakfast at the Louisville Hotel, and have a few minutes before I must hasten back to my command. Yesterday at noon we reached Indianapolis; think of it, only three hundred miles from Milwaukee. We hoped that we would be transported by boat from here down the Ohio and up the Cumberland to Nashville. it is tiresome and wearisome on the cars; I feel the fatigue, but we have to take them again. There is now no doubt of our going to Chattanooga. Direct to Murfreesborough, Tennessee.
Bridgeport, ALB., October 7th, 1863.
Ten days ago, I would
scarcely have thought it possible to write you from the state of Alabama
today. We have at last got here, after that long and tedious railway journey,
having arrived here- the present terminus of the railroad-at three o' clock
this morning. We are on the banks of the Cumberland River. A railroad bridge
is destroyed and is now being repaired. The wagon road to Chattanooga is
along the north bank of the river and sixty miles in length. Over this
road all the supplies for Rosecrans' army must be transported. How it is
possible at all exceeds my comprehension, and it is certainly not to be
wondered at that mules and horses look wretched and are almost wholly without
forage. This is a very wild country, nothing but wooded mountains. Early
yesterday morning, we reached Nashville. Just as we got there, it commenced
to rain; took a long time before we got started again. The cars were so
crowded, it was almost impossible to live in them. We came over the field
of Murfreesborough; it is mainly a pretty level track and cleared, so that
to a passer by on the car, little of the vestige of battle is visible.
Our horses and all our baggage are yet behind; I suppose we must be supplied
before we can move any distance; I, therefore, think we will stay here
a week or so.
You asked me how I liked coming west. Well, at first, I didn't like the idea at all; I had the very day before moved six companies and the headquarters of the regiment to the fort at Rappahannock Bridge, and all promised to become quite pleasant and comfortable. Then we were all at once ordered to be hastened down here to the support of the defeated army. Of course, we have to expect hard labor here, but I don't care now, I am of good cheer. It won't do to set our hearts on easy work, garrisoning forts, etc., while in active service. If you find anything of Importance in papers, will you send them on? We won't get the daily Washington Chronicle here; without which the Army of the Potomac will feel very unhappy. Wherever we came by a detachment of troops along the railroad yesterday, they clamored for newspapers.
October 8th, 1863.
There is no mail communication, no communication at all. This is the third day that we are here at this desolate Bridgeport without any sort of communication with a loyal state; the railroad having been cut between here and Nashville three days ago, no train arrives or leaves, not a letter has been received since we came here. Hard tack, sugar and hominy, besides pork and beef, without potatoes or any vegetables, are the only provisions that reach this country, and of these only half rations are to be Issued from and after this day until communication is restored. There are maps on which you can discover the name of Bridgeport, in northeast Alabama, on the railroad from Stevenson to Chattanooga. From this you would infer that there were houses here, but as Shakespeare says, "no such matter" -not a house. Along the single railroad track there is a platform twenty yards long; that is Bridgeport, Alabama. I am still in command of the regiment, Colonel Jacobs commanding the brigade. I am getting accustomed to it and get along very well. I take them out daily to battalion drill. Our baggage and horses have not yet come.
Sunday, October 11th, 1863.
On Friday afternoon, towards evening, we were rejoiced to hear that the railroad bridge had been rebuilt and the road restored, and the next day would bring a mail through from Nashville. I went to bed a little after nine and had only just gotten fairly asleep when the Adjutant General of the brigade appeared and, thrusting his head into the tent, almost whispered the order to get my regiment out under arms very quietly to go on an expedition by rail. It was rather hard to get them up, but in a few moments they were out. I had them load and march down to the cars. The whole brigade-except our regiment-was going and a regiment from the 1st Brigade, the whole under command of Colonel Jacobs. Some thirty miles from here is a long tunnel, by which the railroad passes through a mountain; there I was told an attack was expected by daylight, since our guards there had been driven in and the telegraph wire cut at sunset. We went in two trains, and it was midnight before we started, all on the first train. The whole business of railroading is managed in a very slip shod way. We got to Stevenson, ten miles from Bridgeport, at four o'clock A.M. After a long stop, we started again and experienced a cutting loose; saw the sun rise and between seven and eight A.M. the front half of our train, containing the 26th and others, halted before the tunnel. There are three shafts in the tunnel, running through to the top of the mountain. These are guarded at the top by a detachment of fifty men; the most unsoldierly soldiers I have ever seen. These were set upon by a few raiders, probably not exceeding their own number, and put to a wild panic-stricken flight the evening before, while the successful party went to work and threw stones and logs down the shafts on the railroad track. The guards, of course, numbered their invaders at a thousand men. There is a station near by and considerable troops, but the rebel force was to formidable for them to attempt resistance, and so a thousand men had to be sent for from Bridgeport; of course, by the time that we got there, the raiders were off. The post commander had telegraphed for one hundred and fifty men, picks, shovels and a locomotive and dirt car, with which he thought he could remove the obstructions in one day. As the post is on the other side of the tunnel, we were not informed of these effective preparations for clearing the track, and so under orders I detailed fifty men, under charge of my adjutant, to work with their hands. I, in the meantime, went on top of the mountain to look at things there, returning after an hour or so, I saw the last of the rubbish taken from the track and the cars pass through. We returned to camp about two o'clock this morning.
October 15th, 1863.
I received your letter and answered on the blank half sheet which it enclosed. It is so dismal here; on the evening of the 12th, it commenced to rain and it has been raining ever since. Just now at five P.M. a train has come, the first for forty-eight hours. We have intelligence that our horses are on the way, coming by land. Our baggage is wrapped in mystery; some say, It is lost.
October 16th, 1863.
As we retired at half
past eight o'clock last night, the sky was brilliant with its thousands
of stars. It was a cheering sight for us, somewhat as the rainbow must
have been to Noah, for even if it did not tell us that the days of deluge
were past forever, it did seem to promise that to-day's sun should rise
unobscured; but in this land of treason, signs are false, the first peep
through the opening of my tent this morning showed lowering skies.
I doubt whether there will be any draft in Wisconsin at all; if there should be, I think I might get a chance to be sent after conscripts. The draft seems to have proved little better than complete failure in the states where it has been attempted. Why it has not been ordered in all the states long ago, I cannot conceive, unless it is proposed to abandon it; yet the army is in the greatest need of recruits, and if some efficient means to get them is not adopted soon the consequences will be found disastrous.
We have news that General Meade has been forced to retire to the north side of the Rappahannock. Our armies are too weak everywhere, and the further we penetrate into the enemies country, the weaker they become, while those of the enemy become more concentrated. I am suffering from a cold. The bill of fare is so limited.
October 18th, 1863.
I am lucky enough to get hold of a sheet of letter paper, clean white letter paper. I feel almost better to-day, almost well. Yesterday, for once, was a pleasant day. We are in receipt of rumors of a formidable nature from the body we were so lately a part of, the Army of the Potomac; that Meade had fallen back to the line of the Rappahannock and had skirmishes, and that his cavalry had been in a rather bad predicament we had been informed by telegraph. Now it AS said that General Lee is on the old Bull Run battle field, and that General Meade has been relieved from command; as his successor, two names are mentioned, Thomas and Sickles. I hope it is not the former, for, to Judge from the accounts of the last battle, he can ill be spared here, but if it is the latter, the angels and ministers of grace defend the Army of the Potomac; but it is true, plenty of champagne always on hand for army correspondents has very nearly succeeded in making Dan Sickles as big a man in the field as Dan Rice is in the circus. Why then should he not have command of the Army of the Potomac? I believe that the choice of the army would be General Mc Clellan, and who knows if the exigency of Washington in danger, may not once more call him to the command of the troops in and about the defenses of Washington.
Sunday, October 25th, 1863.
In the middle of Thursday
night an order came sending our regiment out on an expedition to start
at 6 A.M., with one day's rations, from which we inferred that we would
be back at night. We started at the appointed hour, but did not come back
again until nine o'clock last night. It rained nearly all the time and
we had rather a rough time of it and were so glad to get home. The railroad
from here to Chattanooga is not by any means completed; two large bridges
have to be built over the Tennessee, which is divided into two wide streams
here by an island. Our expedition was to the other side of the river along
the railroad, to bring a locomotive and a few cars out of a coal mine from
a sidetrack. We remained at the junction of this track with the principal
railroad and scoured the country around while another regiment went after
the engine and cars. There was a bridge to be built this side of the junction
a little ways; it was thought to be a little thing that could be done in
three or four hours, but when we got there with a squad of mechanics, they
concluded that it would take as many days. We were relieved last night
by another regiment.
You have probably heard of the change of command this army has undergone. General Rosecrans' relief, and General Grant's department extended so as to embrace this and also that of General Burnside. The relief of Rosecrans took everybody by surprise; the reason nobody knows, I have not even heard a probable conjecture from any body.
We have orders to march again at nine o'clock tomorrow morning; probably an extensive reconnaissance is on foot. The whole corps is going. No wagons are to go along; from that it would seem that no permanent change of camp is intended; still I believe it will result in that. We will have to occupy the other side of the river, disagreeable, very disagreeable, still further into the mire. We just had our camp sort of comfortable now, and away again. Well, let it be so, such is soldiering. We will probably be gone three or four days.
October 31st, 1863.
We changed our camp on Monday, and now occupy quite a fine piece of level ground, and our horses came on Monday-came at last. Some look badly, but mine was in first-rate condition; still a few days of rest were needed and I have not yet ridden-her, but if it does not rain all day, shall ride to-night. Yesterday morning very early there was a stir in camp, even the officers were stirring. There was something like the scent of baggage in the air; yes, true enough, the baggage had come. I was Just getting up when the adjutant came up from the depot and, as Colonel Jacobs stuck his head out of the tent and asked so selfishly, "Did you see my trunk?", answered "No, but I saw Captain Winkler's valise." We all have our baggage. My valise is safe with all its contents. Last night for the first time since we came here, I had a reasonable bed to sleep in. On the bare staves with such scarcity of blankets that one must sleep in full dress uniform, lacking only boots and spurs, and then to tremble with cold all night, is not very comfortable. Yesterday I had some wild straw gathered that grows not far off, dried it during the day, and that with my buffalo and two blankets furnish me a luxurious couch. A Bridgeport accession we have made is a negro, George Washington by name; he was once a slave in the middle of Georgia, but came away to join the Yankees. A brother slave betrayed him in Tennessee and he was taken and put in Jail, but the Yankees came and broke the jail open and gave liberty to George Washington. He says the negroes are all watching for the Yankees and talk about them a great deal and like to see 'em come. He is a splendid old fellow. Tell him to do a thing and he will only say "Yes sah" and go and do it. Colonel Krzyzanowski came back to-night and my glorious command ceases to-day.
November 1st, 1863.
I told you in my last that there was an expedition in prospect, and probably the papers will have told you something about it before this letter reaches you. We left Bridgeport on Tuesday morning, crossed the river and marched along the railroad towards Chattanooga; it is a very bad road through a gap. We halted at night, after some fifteen miles marching, and started again the next day. In the afternoon we got into the Lookout Valley, a rather narrow valley; Lookout Mountain extending parallel with our road on the right. At the extremity of the range, there was a rebel battery stationed that shelled our troops as they passed, but with little effect. We got into camp at night in quite a pleasant valley, pitched our tents and went to sleep at an early hour, facing in the direction we had come from, with the river in our rear. About eleven o'clock we were aroused by firing in front, and had to fall in and march out. A division of Longstreet's corps had come in right under Lookout Mountain and had engaged a brigade of the 12th Corps, which had not reached the mountain yet, thus coming between them and us. A part of the division also took possession of eminences in front of us; quite a lively fight ensued by moonlight. The main fight was by the brigade of the 12th Corps; the advance of our corps took all the positions the rebels had occupied; they were driven off effectually. Our brigade was kept in reserve and did not get under fire, but we were kept marching about all night. Early the next morning we were sent back a considerable ways on the road we had come on to form the extreme right of our force. We had to pass the road shelled from Lookout Mountain, and they shelled us vigorously. Two men were severely wounded by a piece of shell; all the rest escaped unharmed. We stayed there on the right through rain and mud, without tents, and very short of provisions, until very late last night, without sleeping at all, watching the guns on the mountains right opposite, expecting every moment that they would open upon us. Last night we marched through mud and water in different directions for a long time, and finally alighted only about a mile from the place we started from; we had our boys go up with the horses and the shelter tent pitched and went to sleep, to a sound night's sleep. We will probably be assigned a position near by soon. It seems that we came down here to hold this position and ensure the navigation of the river. The steamboat has already come up from Bridgeport; we will probably not go back to that place. I am a little weak with exhaustion and hunger, but otherwise well. If I could see you, I should ask you to give me something to eat, but rations are coming in and I must be satisfied with a piece of cracker. You must not expect to hear very frequently, now that we are so far into the wilderness.
November 3rd, 1863.
We have lived such a comfortless life ever since we left Bridgeport; we have not been in camp since; we have been always moving about, digging rifle pits in every position we occupied, and been constantly on the watch for an attack from the enemy. We have nothing with us but shelter tents and often we were not allowed to put them up, and crackers and coffee with bacon and occasionally a little fresh beef is all we have to subsist upon. Yesterday morning we took our present position, a hill in the woods. The regiment worked all day yesterday felling trees and digging rifle pits. I did not feel well when I got up yesterday and shortly after we got here, I had to lie down; I am much better today, still anything but well. Our Potomac mail has come and brought us letters. General Schurz is here with a division. Colonel Jacobs received letters from his brother-in-law last night advising him of the alarming illness of his wife and strongly urging him to come home; under such circumstances it can hardly be expected of him to stay, and he will tender his resignation as soon as possible. This will devolve the command of the regiment upon me. The officers in the regiment are not such as to make the task easy.
November 8th, 1863.
I went to Chattanooga
yesterday and called upon Captain Willard of General Thomas staff. I also
went to the 24th Wisconsin and saw a number of my acquaintances of that
regiment. Chattanooga is quite a pleasant town, must have been a fine place
before the war. Most of the original inhabitants are gone; the present
population is, of course, very changed. The city is completely surrounded
by camps. The whole of Rosecrans' army is there, protected by huge earthworks.
It is very cold and my fingers are too numb for writing. We have been in
this place nearly a week, but it was said that it was only for a temporary
stay, waiting day after day for another regiment to come and relieve us;
we had not deemed it worth while to go to such extravagance as to build
fire-places. As I went shivering to bed last night, I made up my mind that
I would have a fire-Place if it were only for one day's use; I told the
boys of my determination this morning and in half an hour a simple fire-place
was built, and I mean to enjoy its benefits to-day. To-morrow we are to
go on an expedition and our effects taken to our new camping ground, but
I do think that the comfort of a f ine one day is worth the trouble we
took in digging a hole, covering it in part with flat stones and putting
a pork barrel over the outside opening for a chimney.
It was falsely reported in the northern papers that General Hooker had occupied Lookout Mountain; it was the valley he occupied, the mountain is in the possession of the enemy, and from its top throws shell all around us, at our trains, into our camps and also into Chattanooga. Their fire is very slack however, and they have done but little damage. Their ammunition is poor, most of the shells fail to explode and their fire is desultory. If they had artillery equal to ours, they could make that mountain impend ruin over our entire position. This morning they fired some half dozen shells into this neighborhood, one struck about ten feet behind the tent in which I was and about two feet from our cook's tent. It did not explode however, but plowed several feet into the ground, imparting no harm beyond a scare to those near by. It would indeed add very much to the strength of Chattanooga if we held that top, but the importance of General Hooker's success in possessing this valley cannot be over-rated. It saved Chattanooga. Without it, that place would have had to be abandoned for want of provisions. It was utterly impossible longer to sustain that army on the very scanty supplies that could be wheeled or carried on pack mules over the long and difficult road north of the river. Now we use the river and the army has full rations. I am assured at Chattanooga that they had been reduced to one-sixteenth of a ration. I think tomorrow's expedition will be one for foraging corn to feed our suffering animals.
I had a very agreeable visit this afternoon from Dr. Haose, surgeon of the 24th Wisconsin; he has been an intimate friend of mine from early childhood and I was very glad to see him. Adjutant Mc Arthur, a very pleasant young man, came down with him. Such visits are a relief to the lonesome monotony of daily life. I accompanied them about half way home after supper. We have had all our baggage brought up from the train now, and in the Adjutant's big box I was so happy as to find my Shakespeare well preserved. Another of those huge guns were brought by here yesterday on the way to Chattanooga; I believe Uncle Sam means to put them up to send our friend and neighbor, Mr. Lookout, his compliments. Mt. Lookout looks cold and gloomy, and now and then he utters a dull sound and then a whizzing shell either dives into this valley or takes its course towards Chattanooga to be laughed at and scorned by those whom it approaches and yet passes by. Uncle Sam has an advantage over Mt. Lookout, of his shells, the boys say "That busted".
November 18th, 1863.
This is a pleasant morning; not a breeze stirring; a heavy fog that enshrouded everything a short time ago is lifting and the sun is coming forth. Old Lookout is blind today; cannot see through the fog and has not fired a shot. Nearly the whole regiment is out on fatigue duty, building corduroy roads.
November 20th, 1863.
We are a little better
off now. By our Pieper taxing his culinary talents to the utmost, we had
biscuits to take the place of hard tack at breakfast this morning. The
judgment of the mess was that they were excellent; yes, tough biscuits,
without butter, and coffee without milk, constitute an excellent breakfast.
Today too, for the first time, except once at Bridgeport, since we came
to this department we have had potatoes for dinner. Ah, you don't know
what a luxury a potato is.
Our corps is being literally overwhelmed with praise, most unmerited praise, for the achievements of the night of the 28th; most of the fighting was done by the brigade of the 12th Corps; what little was done by regiments of our corps was, it is true, very gallantly done, but the extraordinary praise showered upon us from all sides was rather cheaply won. Perhaps you have seen General Thomas' order.
I had this letter closed and put up when marching orders came; it will probably be hard, if possible at all, to write for a number of days.
November 22nd, 1863.
As I wrote you, we made ourselves ready and expected the order of Forward every moment during the night and dreaded it, for it rained, nay it poured, and so it did all day yesterday. No orders came. Today opened bright and sunny and here is the order, at one P. M. we march; we are going to Chattanooga. General Schurz told me confidentially that an attack on Bragg is intended. That is right. We have a big army at Chattanooga; Sherman is there and the big guns are there. I presume I do not violate confidence by making these disclosures; you won't get them till the time is past. Do not fear for us, ours will be sort of reserve position. I will try to send a dispatch after the battle. I have to see to my regiment now.
November 28th, 1863.
You have doubtless seen dispatches about the Battle at Chattanooga, but have not heard how we in particular fared. Our brigade did not get under fire at all and has not lost a single man. We were moved from one place to another to guard exposed points and be within supporting distance of those engaged, but were never called spoil to discharge our guns. Our first line was always sufficient for the rebels and the reserve was never required to relieve it. You have probably read full accounts of this brilliant success of our arms, the virtual annihilation of Bragg's army; portions of that army may be saved and may do service as reinforcements of another army, but as an army that of Braxton Bragg has met its final doom. It was magnificently done. From the little that we could see, we could see that the movement had been well planned, kept thoroughly concealed and was executed with a promptness and harmony of action that was admirable. We were marched to Chattanooga on Sunday afternoon, the 22nd, and bivouacked there for the night. It was announced that the attack should be made at three o' clock the next morning, and such indeed were the orders first given, but they were revoked early in the evening and we slept as well as the cold of the night would allow us until daybreak of the 23rd. The forenoon passed and no orders came, and the impression spread that the move had been postponed until the next day. At one o' clock, however, an order from brigade headquarters warned me to hold my regiment ready to march at short notice. Several regiments passed by us and formed in columns on the plain outside of the fortifications, and then moved on. It was bright sunshine and our troops looked well. Some of the rebel prisoners said when they saw our men move out there, form in close column and march, they supposed it was to be a grand review, but they were soon undeceived. A brigade of ours marched directly forward, drove back their pickets, drove in their lines, waded through a creek several feet deep and straightway to a hill of commanding height directly in front of Mission Ridge and defended by three lines of rifle pits. At three o' clock we started; we marched outside of the fortifications and then marched down towards the Ridge, our corps taking to the left of the center. Then we saw that the hill was in our possession. Still we had heard no very heavy firing there. Our corps advanced slowly; our skirmishers driving those of the enemy before them, back into their breastworks with very slight loss. At night our corps held a position in line with the hill that had been taken, to the left of it and extending to the river. Just at night, I was ordered to take my regiment to the line in front to fill a gap between the 3rd Brigade of ours and 2nd of the 2nd Division. I did so and here we remained through a disagreeably cold night. During the night rifle pits were constructed in our front. Next morning we advanced our line some distance unopposed. General Sherman was to march around our left on the north bank of the river and cross some distance above and attack the enemy's right flank, and we thought we would probably attack in front simultaneously; but the day passed and we remained idle, heard nothing of Sherman, but a heavy fire far away, back of us on the other side of Chattanooga near Lookout Mountain. It lasted long after dark, when Hooker took the Mountain. Next morning we marched to the extreme left, while Sherman-was fighting, and took a position to guard his flank. Here we stayed Wednesday, and this day Bragg was finished. Thursday morning early we started in pursuit and are pursuing now, but it is slow work. Everybody is jubilant. A few more such fights and I'll come home.
London, East Tennessee, December 3, 1863.
I don't know whether you will ever get my letter written near Parker's Gap last Saturday. Ever since then, we have been on the march; we started early Sunday morning, and the direction we took soon disclosed the fact that we were bound for Knoxville. Our marches have been strenuous. The nights have been very cold, but the days very pleasant. We have had no engagements. What little of an enemy there was in our front always gave way when our vanguard was espied. The last force was here at London, but it left last night, and our brigade occupied the town before sunrise this morning without firing a shot. Here at last we have a little rest; the men need it. It is said that a boat will be up here from Chattanooga and bring pontoons to put a bridge across the river. We are living off the enemy and the country just now; flour and fresh meat is the bill of fare. We took quite a lot of flour here; this was Longstreet's supply depot. The country we have passed through the last few days is a fine agricultural country, but it is very much exhausted. It was with difficulty that we could get a cow and ox and few sheep or hogs from a farmer as we passed along, but we had to take them to subsist our column. Longstreet too it appears has been badly whipped, and is now probably retreating with haste. Where we will go next, I do not know; we have no transportation with us at all. Notwithstanding the fatigue, I feel remarkably well. I think the rebellion is making strides for its doom. There are many Union people here.
We remained at London
all day Friday, waiting for a bridge to be put across the little Tennessee.
At one o'clock A. M. yesterday, we started and marched about seven miles
to that river at Divies' Ferry, where a foot bridge resting on wagons had
been put up for infantry, the river being easily fordable for horses. We
crossed and marched about twelve miles further north towards Knoxville;
there we halted for the night and received orders to march for Knoxville
at 6:30 A. M. today. This morning that order was revoked since reliable
intelligence has been received that Longstreet has gone and Burnside all
right. General Sherman, who commands this army, has gone to Knoxville to
confer with Burnside, and we are waiting his return for orders. Where we
will go next, I do not know. The object of our expedition, to raise the
siege of Knoxville, has been gained, and it is not likely that they will
take so large an army to that place. There are reinforcements coming from
the west; that will, under the present circumstances, make the position
of Knoxville and vicinity undisputed. In fact, the rebels hold no position
now from which they can move upon Knoxville again. They will have to give
up the much coveted East Tennessee.
I hope we will get to mail communications soon. I am told there are two boats on the way up the river; they may touch at London. Our late march has been a hard one, but the regiment never marched better, with fewer stragglers; we have been in positions that tried them too. At Chattanooga, though we did not get into fire, we were in line of battle in front quite a time, and at times the skirmishing in our immediate front became so lively that an engagement was expected, and many stray bullets passed by our ranks. As I passed up and down the lines at these times, I felt assured that the men would stand firm and acquit themselves as valiantly now under my command as they have done on other occasions under the command of others. I have a letter from Colonel Jacobs, in which he tells me that he does not intend to return, so that I will be permanently in command.
Athens, December 10th, 1863.
We started on our way back towards Chattanooga on Monday and got to this place, Athens, a pretty village, and rested here today.
Charleston, Tenn., December 13th, 1863.
Sunday has come again, and we are still wandering about without communication either with the rest of the army or the world. We have gone back as far as Charleston, forty miles from Chattanooga, Our march is very slow, we rest at least one day in two; it is unprofitable rest though, as there has been nothing to make us comfortable. There has been a good deal said about here of wagon trains coming up, etc., but nobody knows anything. Flour and meat is all the ration we get; wheat has been distributed to supply the place of coffee, but we have a little coffee and sugar left in our mess. We have also ample opportunity to get our flour baked into bread and sometimes to buy a pound of butter, so that we fare pretty well, but for the men it is hard. They are deficient in everything, food, blankets, and the shoes are giving out as well as salt; it is really hard on them, and therefore highly desirable that we get back to our lines of communication soon. Where General Grant's principal army is now, we are also in complete ignorance; in fact, we know nothing and are without papers. This is a poor, miserable little place on the Tennessee River, or rather on the Hiawassee River, a branch of the Tennessee. There is a collection of houses on the other side dignified by the name of Calhoun. There is a pretty large railroad bridge across the river, and these places have long been garrisoned by the rebels; the location itself is quite romantic. The villages are in a valley divided by the river, high hills on both sides, over the crest of which to the east you see a high range quite distant, the Smoky Mountains.
December 14th, 1863.
The middle of December-it must be very cold in Wisconsin now; here it is perfectly comfortable in the open air and in the sun. When the sun is low, we have a big fire in front of our little tent. This East Tennessee is a magnificent country, the finest I have seen in the south. It is said that we are to march to Cleveland tomorrow, within twenty-eight miles of Chattanooga, and thus we gradually approach the center of our hopes, the place where we will get all the good things that are waiting for us in our old camp. Everybody yearns for letters from home and intelligence of what has been going on in the world during these last three eventful weeks. Congress has met, the President's message, the reports of heads of departments, and that of the Commander in Chief are out and are looked for with anxiety. Most of all, however, a connected report of the operations of this army from the time of the battle, including it, is desired, for we know nothing about it in fact. What we see is very little, and what we hear is but little better than rumor.
December 15th, 1863.
We started from Charleston at seven A. M. today and by a good steady march, the 26th Wisconsin being at the head of the column, arrived at Cleveland at 12.30. On the way, General Schurz told us that he had been informed by General Sherman that we were going back to our old camps, there to rest and receive the necessary outfit before we can enter upon another campaign. The intelligence was hailed with joy by everybody. There in that camp, the boys have their huts already built, their knapsacks and all superfluous property was left there, many of their companions who were sick when we left are still there, and of course they would rather return to those quarters-a sort of home to them-than put up new ones. I too am glad of it. Day after to-morrow evening, we will probably be in Lookout Valley.
Thursday Evening, December 17th, 1863.
We are back in camp after our twenty-six days' arduous campaign, with not a man lost, all happy; we marched last night until one o'clock and sat up all night, a drenching rain and mud knee deep preventing every thought of sleep. We marched all day today.
December 19th, 1863.
We will probably move
camp twelve miles from here, Whiteside Statlon, where there is a big railroad
bridge being repaired. You have better and fuller reports of the battle
and operations generally than we have here; it was a splendid success.
One of the special grounds of congratulation is the extreme wretchedness
of the southern confederacy, which is becoming more apparent every day.
We have seen so much of the demoralization of their troops, the discontent
of people, the utter ruin of their finances, and the depletion of all their
resources during the last four weeks, that we can not now doubt that their
end is close at hand. I enjoyed the last campaign; it was a pleasant one.
The country was fine and the weather, all but the last few days, was propitious;
the most cheering news was meeting us at every station and did us good.
On the evening of the 25th of November, the last day of battle, when we
were on the extreme left, we had rumors of a complete victory, but we did
not know what the next day would bring forth. It came with a marching order
at four A.M.; we started in the dark, and it was very foggy. We went back
towards Chattanooga a little, and went to the mouth of the Chickamauga
River and crossed. A staff officer of General Howard told us the good news.
We were in pursuit of the fleeing foe; then there was rejoicing, every
heart was glad. I never knew the column to march so rapidly. We halted
for a time; some one suggested this was Thanksgiving Day in Wisconsin;
I thought of the holiday at home; remarks were passed, how the people were
spending it in a social circle; yes, they were spending it festively, but
this army was enjoying it and there was not a man who would have exchanged
his proud place for a seat at the festive board.
The Major commanding the regiment-I have my commission now-is subject to a great many interruptions. I was interrupted when I had written the above; one man kept coming after another until I was finally called to dinner. After dinner I had only just sat down when it commenced again. Here is a Captain troubled about his ordnance accounts, here is a private about his wife's state allowance, here the doctor to talk about sickness, hospital stores, etc.; poor prospect for letter writing. I think we will have something like winter headquarters soon. Sherman's Corps is going back as far as Bridgeport; it may be that furloughs will be given soon, but I cannot think of leaving now, as I am the only field officer; there will be a chance before spring. I am hard and eagerly at work bringing about reforms. The collection of the commutation for savings on rations has always been neglected in this brigade, if not the corps, and I do not know but that the neglect is general in the army. We only get three-fourths rations now. I have studied up the matter thoroughly, and am convinced that we are entitled to commutation for the other one fourth. I accordingly instructed my commissary sergeant this morning, when I gave him a duly signed return for ten day's rations already received at the three-fourth rate, to demand of the brigade commissary a due bill for the other quarter, and in case he refused to give it to withhold the provision return. I am sure that the brigade commissary has been making huge speculations out of this; he was startled and said he would go to the corps commissary for instructions. This evening he sent me word that I was not entitled to savings money when issues are restricted to partial rations by order. The chief commissary may have told him so, but I know better. At the rate rations are issued now, our savings properly collected will amount to six hundred dollars per month; it is an item, therefore, that is worth the while of a commanding officer to save for his men, who are actually suffering from an insufficiency of food. I will do it, I mean to stop the abuse.
We are all very busy building up a good, warm winter camp. My tent is being fixed again with an oaken floor in it and a huge fire-place; I shall have the tent all to myself. I send you a copy of General Howard's and Sherman's order, and General Burnside's letter, in acknowledgment of our services during the last campaign.
Lookout Valley, Christmas Day.
While my tent was being
repaired, I rode over to Chattanooga to see my friend Dr. Haose. Upon my
return, my tent was up and a glowing fire within, but I was prevented writing
on Christmas Eve, as officer after officer called upon me. All are well
pleased with President Lincoln's Message; I think it is that gentlemen's
own work in the main. His plan for reconstruction and proclamation of amnesty
are the most striking features, and the plan appears eminently practicable.
It passes by all the intricate difficulties of defending, theoretically,
the present legal status of the rebel states and points out a way in which,
no matter what they are now, they may become what they ought to be, loyal
states in the sisterhood of the Union. I hope the plan will be generally
supported and meet with speedy and complete success.
From the preparations for the holidays, of which you write me, I little doubt that you will have a Merrier Christmas that this valley of ours affords. My boys have all been on fatigue duty building corduroy for several days. To-day is a holiday. Last night they brought home all the tools they had with them and are improving their quarters, little log huts with a good chimney to heat them, and a tent to shelter them from the outside. It is really pleasant here in the regiment now. I have a nice tent, a good fireplace and a first rate bed; all the comforts needed, and the command of a regiment is a very pleasant duty when everything is so well regulated as it is in the 26th. I am on the pleasantest terms with all my superior officers; I often call on General Schurz and he always seems glad to see me. His quarters are right opposite our camp. Thus I am quite contented.
December 27th, 1863.
We heard a terrible rumor this afternoon, that our corps was to go on picket near Ring gold the 15th of next month, to remain a whole month; it is said that there is a division there now, which we are to relieve at that time. The rumor lacks confirmation. It would be rather unpleasant to leave our pleasant camp again for such a long term of outpost, but I shall be ready if the order comes. While I am in the service, I am willing to do duty. I am ready to do anything, to bear any hardships if only at some time this winter I can have twenty days' leave of absence. My tent is made gloomy by the rain which has been coming down all day yesterday; it is literally pouring to-day. It is dull here in rainy weather, so as to affect the mind and blot out everything of a thought or an idea. The sole topic of conversation always and everywhere, when two or more officers meet, is the present state of the rebellion, the condition of the rebel army and the prospects ahead; all are hopeful, many are sanguine. My wood is so wet, it is hard work to make the fire go; fixing the fire has just occupied one-half the time to-day. Here is supper and I must clear the table.