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Camp Hamilton, Darnestown, Md.

September 5th - October 9th 1861.

Canal Boat towing 13th Mass Troops by H. Bacon

"Union Troops Being Towed Along the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal to Join General Banks' Command in Late 1861."  New York Illustrated News, November 1, 1861, Image by Thomas Nast  Coutesy of Princeton University Library.  Accessed via Crossroads of War.

Table of Contents

Introduction;  General Banks in Maryland

    Much of the following is gathered from "Battlecry of Freedom" by James McPherson.   Oxford University Press; 1988.

      Washington D,C. is surrounded by Maryland on 3 sides and the loyalty of the state was questionable when hostilities broke out between the North and the South.  Western Maryland was generally pro–Union but many people in the east & south parts of the state sympathized with the secessionists, - the legislature also.  On April 19th Baltimore mobs attacked the troops of the 6th Massachusetts Volunteers as they crossed the city en-route to the rail station which would take them to Washington.  Four soldiers and twelve citizens were killed with scores more wounded.  A few days later Secessionists including the Mayor and Police Chief destroyed bridges and rail roads leading to and from Philadelphia and Harrisburg cutting off Washington D.C.  from Northern troop movements.  Things quieted down May 13th with a declaration of martial law in the city of Baltimore and a buildup of Union troops in the state.   Economic interests in the state, based on transportation with the north began to prevail.  Unionists won seats to the legislature in a special election June16th, but there was still worry about Confederate activities in Baltimore.  Lincoln suspended the writ of Habeas Corpus and arrested suspected secessionists, including some responsible for the April  riots, setting off some celebrated civil rights cases. 

    Following the Union army's defeat at Bull Run, July 21, Lincoln resolved to deal with Maryland with a “firm and certain hand.”   A large military presence occupied the state under the commanded of Major General Nathaniel Prentiss Banks.

Major General Nathaniel Prentiss Banks     Banks was a political general.  He had a successful career serving as a Massachusetts congressman,1849-1858.   His election as Speaker of the House in 1856 helped solidify the new republican party, melding northerners of the American (Know Nothing/Nativist)  party into the new republican fold, where preventing  the expansion of slavery was the crucial party issue.  Banks resigned from the house of representatives in 1857 to serve as Governor of Massachusetts, 1858 – 1861.  His  appointment as Major-General bolstered republican party support for the war effort.   Banks was a model soldier, courageous and patriotic, but he lacked skill in military tactics.  He had little success in the field.   Still, he served faithfully until the end of the war.  Maj. General N. P. Banks was in command of the Department of the Shenandoah when the 13th Mass arrived at Darnestown. Brigadier-General Charles Smith Hamilton commanded a brigade.

    Gen Hamilton (pictured below)  had served with distinction in the Mexican American War.  He was appointed Colonel of the  3rd Wisconsin Regiment, May 11, 1861, and Brigadier-General, May 17th, then given command of a brigade in Banks’ Division of the Army of the Potomac.   In March, 1862 he commanded a division.  Company C of the 13th Mass fought along side troops of the 3rd Wisconsin at the battle of Bolivar heights, October 16th 1861.   The association with General Hamilton was short lived.  When Hamilton was promoted Col. Styles took command of the brigade.  The Official Records of the War of the Rebellion list the 13th Mass. as part of Col. Styles (9th N.Y. Militia / 83rd N.Y. Vols)  brigade from October 15th.

The Chesapeake & Ohio Canal in 1861.

    The following is extracted from this website's friend, author Timothy R. Snyder's thoroughly researched book, "Trembling in the Balance, The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal During the Civil War," Blue Mustang Press, Boston, 2011.  I highly recommend it.

    In 1828 construction began on an ambitious public works project, the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal. The desired result was an east west trade & transportation route that extended from Washington D.C., to Cumberland, Maryland.  From there, roads connected to tributaries of the Ohio River.  Boating opened in 1831 along 22 miles of the completed canal. Things got squally after that.

     Legal battles, weather damage, construction costs, labor disputes, engineering problems and the like caused financial woes for the canal company and slowed progress on the project for years.  During these tough times, the state of Maryland continually stepped in to bail the company out of its financial difficulties.  In October 1850, ten years later than its initial charter demanded, the waterway was completed to Cumberland.  To hurry along the work costs were cut by using inferior construction on the last 50 miles of the western portion of the canal. 

Monacacy Aquaduct Paw Paw Tunnel, C&O Canal

Two of the Canal's engineering marvels, the Monacacy River Aquaduct, was the longest on the canal, spanning 517 feet, it had 7 arches, and the Paw Paw Tunnel thirty miles west of Hancock, which took 12 years to complete, (including a 4 year work stoppage) it spanned 3,118 feet.

    Once construction of the canal was completed, western Maryland coal became the primary and most profitable cargo shipped along the route.  But floods and summer droughts hampered navigation for the first 10 years of operation.   The reliability of the route for coal transport was questioned.  On the eve of the Civil War the company’s finances were again strained, but the board of directors was optimistic for the future.   Unfortunately, the canal itself became the border between opposing forces of  North and South.

    In late April, 1861, Confederate cavalry seized and confiscated a cargo of grain from a canal boatman and sent it to Harper’s Ferry for their own use.  Maryland state officials negotiated a settlement with Virginia’s Governor and the boat owner was recompensed for his loss.  A truce was agreed upon between the Canal Company and the Virginia Governor but it was not honored.

    Confederates repeatedly interfered with boating throughout May and in early June increased the number of attacks on the waterway.    General Johnston in command of Southern troops at Harper’s Ferry was ordered to destroy everything of value to the Union.   Small bands of Maryland Home Guard fought back these attacks but commerce on the canal ground to a halt, creating hardship for those who depended on it for a living. This boosted pro-Union sentiment in Maryland.

   General Charles P. StoneIn mid-June, while preparing to evacuate Harper’s Ferry, Confederates stepped up their destruction of property.  Bridges at Berlin, and Point of Rocks, were destroyed, and 25 canal boats were burned on June 9th.     Two canal locks were damaged, and twice during this time attempts were made to destroy 2 canal dams.  When the Confederates departed they destroyed the railroad and foot bridges leading into Harper’s Ferry.  Union troops finally advanced to the Potomac to threaten Johnston but too late to prevent any of this damage.

    The presence of Federal forces protected the canal and allowed a chance for repairs to begin.  In mid-July, General-in-Chief Winfield Scott promised Maryland officials, the army would take steps to protect the canal from further Rebel attacks.  General Banks took command of the Department of the Shenandoah July 25th.  General Stone, was ordered to Poolesville, August 11, to establish a corps of observation for 22 miles along the canal.  The 13th Mass. would meet General Stone’s troops en route to Darnestown.  By the end of August canal traffic was again brisk.  Sturdy construction along most of the canal had minimized damage.

    Confederate attacks on the canal continued sporadically through September and on into the winter.  The 13th Mass played an important part in protecting the canal through these months.  Pictured is General Charles P. Stone who would prove a great friend to the C&O Canal.  His military career was cut short when he was blamed for the disaster at Ball's Bluff in October.

The following passage is from the Regimental History; Three Years in the Army, By Charles E. Davis, Jr., Boston; Estes & Lauriat, 1894.

     Thursday Sept. 5, Darnestown,  cold, wet and hungry, we marched at 6 A.M in a drizzling rain to Darnestown, seven miles, where we arrived at noon.  The wagons reached us at night, when we proceeded to make ourselves comfortable by pitching tents and cooking coffee.  As three companies were detached from the regiment on September 1st, Company C being sent to Monocacy Junction, and Companies I and K to Harper’s Ferry, it follows that only seven companies were at Darnestown. We were now in close proximity to the rest of the division.

Brigadier General Charles S. Hamilton     The brigade to which we were attached was commanded by Brig.- Gen. C. S. Hamilton, and was composed of the Third Wisconsin Infantry, the Eighty-third New York Infantry (Ninth New York), the Twenty-ninth Pennsylvania Infantry, and Capt. Best’s Regular battery of twelve-pound brass guns.  For a few days after our arrival the wagons were kept loaded and rations were cooked, in readiness to march at a moment’s notice.  The expectations to move soon disappeared, and the men proceeded at once to adorn and beautify the camp. Before each tent were placed two evergreen trees, while the entrance to each company street was adorned with a large arch of evergreen boughs.  When the work was completed the effect was very beautiful, and excited a large amount of praise from many who came to see it. A picture of it was published in one of the illustrated weekly papers.  [Note:  I have found a picture of the Camp at Williamsport, not Darnestown,  drawn by '13th Mass.' artist Henry Bacon, Co. D, published in the New York Illustrated News.- B.F.]

      At this time of our service men were detailed in turn, in each company, to do its cooking, a place being set apart for that purpose, protected by rails and shaded by a roof of boughs.  It was soon discovered, however, that too many cooks did, indeed, spoil the broth.  Rather than waste all the food that was issued the companies soon settled down to one man, with an assistant, and they were relieved from other duties.  This system was pursued until the time when each man did his own cooking, as will be seen father on. It required the patience of Job to cook for ninety-eight men, as we know from experience. One week at it was convincing proof that a good cook was a “heap” bigger man than McClellan. 

     While at this camp the tents were struck twice each week on sunny days,  that the ground might be uncovered all day to the sun. A wise precaution, and no doubt had its effect on the health of the regiment, which is mentioned in a report of the medical director of the army, to Gen. McClellan, as being remarkable.

PICTURE CREDITS:   All maps and images are from the Library of Congress Digital Collections with the following exceptions:    Monacacy Aquaduct via Wikimedia Commons; Sandy Hook and Bollman's Rock are from the collection of Timothy Snyder, author of "Trembling in the Balance; The C & O Canal During the Civil War," 2011, Blue Mustang Press, accessed via the website "Crossroads of  War," ; Lt. Charles H. Hovey from the Westboro Historical Society; Adjutant and Sergeant-Majors Tent, Lt-Col. N. Walter Batchelder, Band Leader Thomas C. Richardson, Capt. John Kurtz, Capt. Joe Cary, Adjutant David H. Bradlee, Col. Leonard,  from the Army Heritage Education Center, AHEC, Mass. MOLLUS Collection, Carlisle, PA; Charles Roundy Illustration, "Got Any Pies, Aunti?" from the Charles Roundy Manuscript, AHEC:  Drawing of Elliot C. Pierce by Corporal Henry Bacon, Co. D, from the Thayer Family Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society; Women in camp from Mr. Jeff Kowalski; William  L.G. Clark, George 'Toppy'  Emerson,  & George Henry Hill from Mr. Scott Hann; Jeff & Varina Davis from 'Photographic History of the Civil War,'  Vol 9 p. 288;  Gen. & Mrs. McClellan, ibid., Vol. 10 p. 167, Francis Trevelyan Miller, ed. , Review of Reviews, NY, 1911; Sketch of the drunk by Albert Hurter, from "He Drew as He Pleased," accessed via the internet;   "The Company Cook," by Charles W. Reed, from "Hardtack & Coffe," by John D. Billings, accessed via google books. Two soldiers on guard from Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, Vol. 1 p. 152.  ALL IMAGES HAVE BEEN EDITED IN PHOTOSHOP.

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The March to Darnestown, via Canal Boats

        Private James Ramsey, was one of the men detailed to cook for his company.  His letters on this page twice mention how he was aroused from bed to chop wood and boil water to prepare rations for the men on the march.

         I am grateful to James Ramsey's descendant, Don Gage, for sharing these letters with me for use on the website.

Letter of James Ramsey, Company E

Darnesville Md Sept 6th 1861

        Dear Mother
                                    It is the first chance that I have had since last monday to write a letter. Last Sunday night we received orders to be ready next morning at seven and a half o’clock.  Next morning after breakfast we packed our traps and started for head quarters the day was exceedingly warm and after a fatiguing march we reached head quarters and stacked our arms, we were expecting to march very soon but we were disappointed in our expectation of leaving our old quarters as soon as possible. That night we had a good time in our tent   one of the men who had been on board of one of the United States men of war told us a great many stories he had been in two engagements in Panama.  He told us one fact I had never heard before it was when the men were engaged in a bull fight on Sundays the preasts were praying for them.  Next morning about three o’clock we were aroused and ordered to be ready to march at five o’clock after we had a breakfast of coffee and


   Lt. Col. Batchelder hard bread we were drawn up in line to march   the Col divided the regiment and put Companies H, E and G under command of the Lieutenant Col. to march to Weaverton a distance of three miles where we got on board of a canal boat.    

[Lt. Col. N. Walter Batchelder]

    The rest of the regiment marched to Sandy Hook and took the rest of the canal boats to go to Edwards ferry a distance of about 30 miles from Harpers ferry.  About two o’clock the same day we marched to Headquarters the captain of company I went over to Harpers ferry and had a fight with a rebel home guard.  Companies H and D marched down to help company I   one of our men was shot in the thigh    some of the rebels was killed     companies I and K are now at Sandy Hook    company C is guarding a bridge near Fredrick.  When we arrived at Weaverton we had to wait about one hour for the other boats to come up with us    we then commenced our canal voyage   our captain suggested some lemons in case of sea sickness on the voyage but we did not buy any.  A canal boat goes about as fast as a man can walk so you know how comfortable I must have been in the broiling sun in a heap of men    riding about ten miles we then stopped at Point of Rocks and got out of our canal boats and


    Stopped till about 6 O’clock when we again got on board our Man of War and commenced our voyage round the world.  The rest of our voyage was made in the night in a drenching rain   we had no cover to go under so we had to get wet about two o’clock in the morning we made our first land where we encamped in the woods till morning.  in the night some of the men rolled off of the boats into the canal.  I will have to write the rest of this letter in the morning

     Last night about 12 o’clock I was aroused with several others of our company to get wood and water and cook two days rations   some say that we are to have a battle to day if you get this letter probably it will be after the battle if we have one they say it will be at chain bridge.  We have to chop our wood as they do back in the country father says he used to have to chop all of his wood. I have to do the same, we do not have saws, we used enough wood for one meal as you would last of one week so you know how fast we must work to chop wood enough to last while we are cooking.   Now for the rest of my voyage.  Next morning we got up all wet through and went and got some coffee and hard bread that was the last


for two days till we got into our present camp.    After breakfast I went to see the sights   we went over to an old house that had been riddled with cannon balls and bullets.  A New York regiment had its quarters in the house   it was fired into about a week ago   one of the balls passed through the wall of the house one partition then through the back wall of the house then it split the top rail of a fence.   Another passed through the front wall and three doors.  Our men dug some of the bullets out of the wall   I tried to get one but I did not succeed.  I got a bullet fired at the New York pickets.  The rebels fired at us that day but did not hit any one.  We started that evening about 6 o’clock for our destination, we encamped that night with Gen Stones brigade the 15th Mass regiment are in the brigade on our way to the encampment we were cheered by the New York regiment.  Next morning we started for our encampment and after a long march through a drenching rain we got there.  The 12th Regt Mass Vol. are about a mile from us.  I went to see them.  I saw Alonzo Hayley and he is well.  He likes [it] very well out here


    He received a letter from Dr Parker and read it to me it was good advice to me.  Last night one of our men read a chapter in the bible and after he had read it the men asked him to read another.  I have no more to write in this letter except I am well and am contented with my lot   Good bye.

Give my love to all kiss Hugh for me                   
From your son           

PS.   Direct your letters as before.

Sandy Hook August 10, 1861

Pictured is Sandy Hook, Md.  (1 mile below Harper's Ferry) August 10, 1861, when General Stone's troops were posted there.    Major Gould of the '13th Mass' remained here in command of  Companies I & K while the rest of  the regiment boarded canal boats to take them toward Gen. Banks Head-quarters at Darnestown. 

Westboro Transcript

The following letter explains what happens when you pack a bunch of spirited boys onto a slow moving boat.

Pictured is Bollman's Rock at Point of Rocks, Md.  The C&O canal, and the B&O Railroad tracks.   Confederate cavarly officer Turner Ashby's men toppled the large boulder down onto the tracks hoping to disrupt traffic on the Railroad and the Canal.  They were partly successful - obstructing the railroad but not canal traffic.

Perhaps the bridge in the picture is the bridge struck by the canal boat as described in the following.

Westborough Transcript
September 28, 1862

Camp Hamilton, Darnestown, Md.,
Sept. 16th, 1861.

      ‘Dear Unkle:’  You will notice that we have moved: - we have given up tavern keeping; not because we didn’t like the business, but our presence was required in another direction.  Perhaps a few incidents connected with our march to this place might be interesting to some of your readers.  In a few words I will relate one or two.  On Tuesday, the third of this month, we started for Bank’s headquarters, via. The Chesapeake & Ohio Canal.  The weather was propitious, and everything looked fair for a safe and pleasant voyage.  But ‘there’s many a slip, etc.,’ though nothing alarmingly serious occurred to vary the monotony of our voyage down the ‘raging canal,’ except a slight accident to our boat at a bridge a few miles below Point of Rocks.  

    Bollman's Rock at Point of Rocks, C&O CanalImagine, if you please, a canal boat gliding swiftly along; rate, three miles an hour: darkness profound: on the quarter-deck of our vessel, anxiously peering into the darkness, stand three or four stalwart forms (your humble servant among the number).   Foremost in the group, with hands grasping the helm, and every nerve strained to its utmost tension, with great drops of perspiration standing on his massive brow, stand Lieut. M. (I came near giving his name).  With eyes fixed on the darkness before, evidently vainly endeavoring to make out something ahead, a voice from the bows abon breaks the dreadful silence! ‘tis ‘breakers ahead!’ steer to the right, - another voice, - ‘steer to the left,’ – another voice evidently from a wag, - ‘guide middle.’  Nervous individual vociferously inquires ‘What’s the row: where’s the fire?  Etc.’  A man on the bridge bawls out,  ‘Who the d---l is steering that boat?  You’ll knock down the bridge!’   Crash !  the boat has struck the side of a house standing just behind the bridge, barely scraping by the pier; a couple of feet to the right would have carried away pier, bridge, and all.  After curses both loud and deep had been showered down on the head of the ‘lubber who steered that boat,’ by those on shore, our Lieutenant naively remarked to them that ‘if they didn’t like that style they had better sell out, and take their old bridge out of the way;’ and at the words ‘stern, all!’ we backed out and ‘went on our way rejoicing.’

     Arriving at Conrad’s Ferry, we were informed that it would be unsafe to proceed further by canal, so we quietly disembarked, and marching a short distance back from the canal, bivouacked for the rest of the night.  It had been raining, and so continued to rain at intervals through the night.  The rebels had shelled a house here a few days before, and I took occasion to visit it.  It is pretty well riddled; several balls having passed entirely through it.  I also visited the entrenchments of our pickets along the river bank, and found them busy in the laudable practice of shooting at pickets on the other side, getting an occasional shot in return; a very interesting way of wasting ammunition.

     We marched to Poolsville Wednesday evening, arriving a little after dark.  Here we found the Mass. 15th Regiment, and here bivouacked, without supper, with the order to be ready to march at 6 o’clock the next morning, without breakfast.  Perhaps some of your readers may not understand the meaning of the word Bivouac.  I will endeavor to explain our ‘style’ on several different occasions.  The regiment being on line, in two ranks, the rear rank takes open order, marching backward four paces, then, keeping their places, the men unsling knapsacks, unroll blankets, and prepare for sleep.  Two men lay one rubber blanket on the ground, lay themselves on that with knapsacks or boots for a pillow, then cover themselves with their woolen blankets and the other rubber one over all.  In about three minutes, after you get your bones fitted to the uneven ground, you are in the arms of Morpheus.  As a general thing, it rains when we bivouac; so after we have slept an hour we feel a peculiar sensation about the head; we wake sufficiently to find that the rain is pouring into our ears and down our necks; we shift our positions slightly, and find that we have got a ‘right smart’ of water all around us; so we conclude to lay still, and cover our heads with that pretty regulation hat.  We wake up at reveille in the morning feeling refreshed and anxious for breakfast, but no meal awaits us, but a march of six or eight miles instead.  Arriving at our destination, it doesn’t rain, but it pours, and our tents are, we know not where; they arrive after we have been waiting half a day, and they are pitched in double quick time; we make up our coffee as soon as possible, and are all right once more.

    Thomas C. Richardson, Bandleader I have seen nothing in any of the numerous letters from this regiment about our Band, -- the Marlboro Cornet Band, -now the 13th Regiment Band; it consists of twenty members, besides the major drummer, and is in  a ‘flourishing condition.’

     ‘Tom’ is working with his usual energy, and he will make this one of the best Bands in the army if it is not already.  They are getting a great deal of new music into their horns, and if ever they visit old Marlboro, all together, as I have now doubt they  will, as the most of them belong there, you will hear such music as never yet echoed among her old hills.  Their nightly serenades here at the headquarters of the Colonel, bring down great applause; and not without just cause either.

     I must conclude this long letter, and will do so by stating what, perhaps, a good many at home would like to hear, - that we are getting better rations than we did a short time ago, and more of them, or rather a larger quantity.  We have but few sick; and, taking everything into consideration, I think the Regiment is at present in a very good condition. We receive compliments daily from visitors from other camps, and Gen. Banks was heard to say, the other day, that this was one of the best Regiments he had in his Division.   Company I, still remains at Harper’s Ferry, at last accounts in good condition.


(Pictured is Band Leader Thomas 'Tom' C. Richardson.  Digital transcription by Brad Forbush).

Map of  Part of Virginia & Maryland

Map - Harpers Ferry to Darnestown

This map shows Western Maryland from Harper's Ferry to Washington, D.C. in the lower right corner.  Right to left the red dots represent, Harper's Ferry, Point of Rocks, Conrad's Ferry, Poolesville & Darnestown.  Leesburg, where the Confederates congregated in camp, is across the river.

Another account:

Pictured in the letter below, is Captain John Kurtz, Company C; this company left the Regiment on Special Duty, to picket Monocacy Junction.

Westboro Transcript
September 21, 1861

Headquarters Dep. Of Shenandoah,
Camp Hamilton, near Darnestown,
M.D., Sept
. 9, 1861.

     Here you have our address, by which you will see that we have changed our location since I wrote you last, and are keeping up our reputation as the ‘marching regiment.’

     Captain John Kurtz, Company CWe left our old quarters near Harper’s Ferry, last Tuesday morning, embarking on board canal boats at Sandy Hook for this place.  We traveled down the Potomac Gorge mighty slowly, but quite pleasantly; for we had time to enjoy the magnificent scenery which abounds here in such profusion.  We left behind us Companies I and K, under command of Major Gould, to do guard duty at the Ferry till relieved; and when we got to Point of Rocks, Company C, Capt. Kurtz, left us, to take the railroad for Frederic.  The other seven companies continued to travel during the night and reached Conrad’s Ferry the next morning at about four o’clock.  Our destination was Senecca Falls, about six miles lower down; but when we got so far, we were obliged to leave the ‘raging canawl’ to avoid being ‘shelled out’ by the rebels, who were said to be in force on the opposite bank of the river. We didn’t see any enemy, and it will take a big amount of talking to convince me that there are any troops on the other side of the river, unless I get a chance to look right at them; however, Leesburg is opposite here, and only  2 1/2 miles distant, - so, perhaps, there was danger.  We disembarked in the gray of the morning, and bivouacked on the ground till toward night, while our rations were being got ready for a two days’ march.

     While here we were visited by many of the members of the 15th Regiment, which is encamped at Poolesville (six miles distant), four companies of which were doing guard duty along the river bank.  It was quite a treat to see our old Northboro friends – members of the Clinton Company – and they seemed glad to see us.  During the day, many of us visited a deserted dwelling house close to, which the rebels had made a target for shot and shell a few days before.  They must be pretty good marksmen, some of them, for they put a twelve pounder through the walls and two partitions, splitting in its course a feather bed, from which the occupants had just risen in great alarm.  They had completely riddled the house and outbuildings.  I’m glad so many of our boys went to see it, for it has convinced them of the utter futility of attempting to stop a cannon ball of the rifled persuasion.  While here we received a visit from Gen. Stone, to whose brigade I had hoped we might be attached.  He is a fine looking, soldierly sort of a fellow, and he don’t allow his men to be kept on short commons, -- not a bit of it.

     We left the river at 5 o’clock, P.M., en route for Darnestown, the headquarters of Gen. Banks.  We had an easy march of six miles to Poolesville, where we bivouacked for the night on the same field occupied by the 15th Mass. Regiment.  The next day (Thursday) we made the balance of the journey, seven miles, reaching our present quarters about noon, in a disagreeable rainstorm, which had taken the trouble to follow us and give us fits every time we were obliged to camp in the open air.  (And here let me say, in parenthesis, that the hot weather we were lead to expect in this region is all moonshine, or something else, - we don’t see it.’)  You can bet – if you have a chance – that it takes a ‘right smart’ chap to keep warm nights, with only one blanket over him, - sleeping twenty in a tent at that.

sketch by Charles Roundy, Got Any Pies Auntie ?

     On our march to this place, it happened to be my fortune to be in the rear guard, and as it was a rainy day, and we had no immediate expectation of a fight, the officer allowed us to loiter on the road, stopping at the houses to buy, beg, or steal, peaches, melon, etc, according as the inhabitants were seccesh or otherwise.  In this way we had some chance glimpses at ‘slave life,’ which did not astonish us, but did convince me, at least, that the colored race, as a whole, were not the greatest sufferers by the ‘institution’ in this vicinity.  One group of contrabands, which completely floored me, consisted of five little animated pieces of ebony, about eight years old.  They were perfect little beauties – black as jet, and glossy as a crow’s wing.  They were bare-headed and almost naked, and the water ran off of their black skins in great round globules, which shone like diamonds.  They were so fat they were almost as big one way as another.  I tried to get one of them to come with me, but he didn’t quite like to trust himself away from home.  I asked one smart looking negro man what his master would sell him for.  “Wall – dunno – ‘nordinary times orter bring ‘ leven hundred dollars, but reckon now massa s’pose an’t nuff noffin,’ he replied.

     Major General N. P. Banks commanding etc., paid us a visit day before yesterday, and rather astonished some of us buy going straight to the Commissary’s quarters instead of visiting the officer’s tents.  He evidently thinks it rather important that men who are expected to work should have wholesome food and plenty of it, and I guess we’ll get it hereafter.  He has given us orders to keep two day’s rations cooked, so that new may be in readiness to start at a moment’s notice.  So you see we are in constant expectation of a chance to fulfill the mission on which we came out, but whether we rare kept on the qui vive to keep up our spirits and prevent our getting homesick, or whether a fight is imminent, I’m sure I do not know.  My own opinion is that we shall get but little fighting, for it looks as though this Division was intended for a reserved force.  

 Jeff and Varina Davis   

    Do you believe Jeff. Davis is dead?  I don’t; though it seems well authenticated; but then you know he is’nt (sic) apt to die, and it seems as though I could’nt (sic) forego the pleasure of seeing him pull hemp some day.

     We have got Brigaded at last; under Gen. Hamilton, formerly Colonel of the 3rd Wisconsin.  The other companies comprising our Brigade, which is the third of this Division, are the 29th Penn., 9th N.Y., and 3d Wisconsin.  We hav’nt (sic) seen our General yet, but hear that he is a rough sort of a Westernish man, but a good soldier.  You perhaps know that we were expecting to be Brigaded under      Abercrombie with the 2d and 12th Mass. Regiments; such an arrangement would have suited us very well, but still, if we have only a good soldier in command we shall trouble ourselves but little about who he is.

     Our camp to day presents a curious aspect.  At least one half of us are either reading letters or answering them.  We have just received a mail, in which were over a bushel of letters, many of them old ones, to be sure, yet welcome.  Where they have been delayed, nobody knows, but we presume at Washington.

     If providence smiles upon us, - and why not, to be sure? – we shall be home to eat our Thanksgiving dinner, or at farthest in season to get our Christmas presents.  The fact is, this war is about played out.  It’s back is broke; and the rebellion will soon be squelched.                                                M.

(digital transcription by Brad Forbush).

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The Character of the Regiment; Letter of John B. Noyes

graphic of a soldier with the American FlagCharles Davis wrote in the Regimental History, "Three Years in the Army," :

        September 9.  Joy in camp.  A report was received that Jeff Davis was dead.  

        Now that we are with the brigade our supply of food has improved.  It was about this time we discovered, by reference to “Army Regulations,” how the government rated the various appetites.  A colonel was allowed $56 worth of  food each month;  a lieutenant-colonel, $45; a major, $36;  a captain or lieutenant, $36;  while a soldier’s daily ration consisted of twelve ounces of pork or bacon, or one pound four ounces of salt or fresh beef, one pound six ounces of soft bread or flour, or one pound of hard bread, or one pound four ounces of corn meal.  According to our experience, this was a very interesting legend, and many a time we wished it were true, for there was no time when a soldier had a $56 appetite, while it often happened that less than five cents would buy his day’s rations.  

        The liberality on the part of the government toward the rank and file, respecting the amount of luggage he could carry, was in marked contrast to what it rated his appetite.  In  an order issued by Gen. Banks, at this time, it was expressly stated that a a general officer would not be allowed to carry more than one hundred and twenty-five pounds, and a subaltern, eighty pounds, while no restrictions were placed on a private soldier.

        An  order was received to-day from headquarters stating that “a sentinel’s duty was a sacred trust.”  

        Nothing like having things clearly defined.

Letter of John B. Noyes 

    The following letter of Private John B. Noyes, Company B, (Harvard University; Class of 1858) comments on political factionalism up North, then gives a good description of the social standing of the men of the 13th Mass; their liberality and their character.

MS Am 2332 (10) By Permission of the Houghton Library, Harvard University.

    Near Darnsville Md. Sept 11th 1861

    Dear George,
             I have received only one letter from you, that which came through Wm Allen.  Another letter which father said was to be sent about 3 weeks ago has not & probably will not come.  The letters of father which came at the same time were over due; one of them did not have 13th Regt M.V. on the envelope and accordingly went to Head quarters, where luckily Fitzgerald saw it and properly directed it.  I haven’t seen any Post.  Sept 13th 61.   You needn’t ask leave to send well written editorials if their object is a vigorous support of the administration.  The enemies of our country are now learning that there is a constitution, a union, a law abiding people South, and a United North.  I do not like the attitude of a considerable portion of the Democratic party North who appear as ever to be playing with the hands of the Demo-disunion party South.  The calls of conventions in several Northern States have not the right ring, and I think that the hopes of those who will not affiliate with the union upholding Republicans in a No. party platform are to be woefully disappointed.  It would seem also that the cry of the Post & Herald against Andrews military appointments is groundless, but five of our 3 year Colonels being Republicans.  I prophesy that Governor Andrew will be triumphantly re elected if he concludes to stand as a candidate in the coming state election. 

    How does the Law flourish now in Boston? – Perhaps as well as other professions.  Do you get any cases from Judge Richardson?  I do not regret on any reasons of business joining the army.  Perhaps by hanging on I might have gone with Hinckley with a commission.  I think I could.  But when I left he was sure of a cadetship at West point, a bill for increasing the number of cadets having passed Congress, a bill however which was finally lost.  I should have had a grand time with him, but as it is I am not at all homesick.

    Our regiment is without doubt made up of the best material that has left the State, and our Company of the best educated and most intelligent men in the regiment.  There are several men in our company whose father’s money is measured by the tens of thousands.  One of them has a large government contract for army bootes.  All the men in my tent have been in easy circumstances at home, and some are men of a good deal of refinement.  One of Gen’s. Chandler’s sons is in my mess, but I must say he is by all odds the worst drilled man in the company.  A Mr. Edson knows some of my Lowell friends.  William L. Garrison ClarkeWe have a Wm L. Garrison Clarke who is a serious pure abolitionist of the no bible belief stamp; but he does’nt talk abolitionism much though one of the ablest in the mess at an argument, overthrowing his antagonist as often by ironical thrusts so concealed as often to discomfort completely his man when on the point of claiming victory, as by soberer reasons.  We are at last brigaded under Gen’l Hamilton who is under Banks, who I suppose is under McClellan and Scott.  Since we were brigaded drilling has commenced, and we have regular Company & Battalion drills.  Gen’ Banks has visited us two or three times.  He takes very little time to thoroughly ascertain the condition of the camp, visiting the tents of the different companies, officers quarters, hospital &c.  Every one whom he meets is saluted, and he has a kind word for the cooks & the sick men.  Some officers of other Regiments, I might add our Colonel might be taught by him.  

    Two or three men of our mess, who are well acquainted with Banks visited him at his Headquarters yesterday.  They were received with great cordiality, and treated to fruit by Mrs. Banks, the Gen’l leaving his tent on business. The sentinel at the Gen’s Head quarters stared at our mess-fellows with goggle eyes when they asked to see the Major General. 

    The quantity and quality of food has increased and improved since our coming to this camp.  We have our own delicacies also – sugar, cheese & molasses which our mess purchases at its own expense.  I have been appointed commissary of the mess by general consent & see that the supply is kept up.  This is done at no great expense & to our great additional comfort. I think you were one of those who thought the soldiers were a dirty set of vagabonds.  Perhaps you were not in the main mistaken to judge from many Regiments as have passed, and seen in camp.  The Wisconsin Reg’t for instance just opposite us, though pretty well drilled have clothes on  which look as if they had soaked over night in a mud puddle; and there foot clothing is much the color of their faces & vice versa.  I understand that the measles is in their camp.  At least we were forbidden to visit them for that reason.  Yesterday they struck tents and left for parts unknown.

     Captain Joe Cary, Company BThe men in our regiment on the contrary who do not keep clean are generally cleaned out, or it is made so hot for them that they have to keep clean in self defense.  For the rest every man has to come out on dress parade with a clean gun, & the brasses of it well polished.  The brasses also of our regular army felt hats also have to shine, - ditto the brasses on our cartridge boxes, and round abouts.  Every man has also to keep his clothes, dress clothes, well brushed & boots well polished on penalty of being sent away from the ranks by the Captain who nightly at dress parade looks to these matters personally.  Men with unpolished boots generally find themselves detailed for fatigue duty next day. Now I suppose you don’t bleach your boots on an average once a day. Yet many of us not only come out at Dress Parade in the condition I have stated, but also at Battalion drill.  Perhaps it was our cleanliness both personal and Company that caused Gen’l Banks to deem ours a model camp.  I think you thought tooth brushes a scarce article among solders, yet many in addition to their regular brush have a second to scour their brasses with.  So much for cleanliness.

[Pictured is Captain Joe Cary, Company B, who liked a clean camp.  It was Capt. Cary's idea to place trees along the company streets.]

     I visited a short time since Fitzgerald who appears to enjoy himself very well though at times he feels evidently sore at his misfortunes.  Not choosing to ask any favors of his officers he does not leave his camp, which he cannot do without a furlough, which to be granted needs asking.  As he does not come to see me I can leave the camp so seldom that I shall probably not see him again for sometime to come.

    Yesterday who should come to see me but E. T. Fisher, a private in the NewYork 9th, just opposite to us on the N.E. side.  I did not know him till he gave me his name when I notice the family resemblance.  It was not till over an hour that I was aware that I was walking with Charles poet class-mate who for a time studied divinity under father.  He had fatted so much, grown so ruddy and short that I had taken him for a younger brother. He sends his regards to father and Charles.  Stephen had told him that I belonged to the 13th M.V. R. while talking of Harvard graduates it is worth while mentioning that Bigelow, (Biggy) of Fred’s (?) class is in the Stoneham Co. in our Regiment. He formerly belonged to the New England Guards and is now a sergent in his company.  I note also that two of my class-mates Lowell & Milton are in the 20th Regiment which recently left Boston for Washington.  I am enjoying excellent health.  This is saying something as 17 men on an average for a month have been sick from our Company. The strongest & Hardiest of the men are sick equally with the weak, I think more so, and for the reason that they are careless, under the impression that they will be the last to be sick.  The news we now have looks to the termination of the war within a year . May it be so.  Hoping to hear from you soon I am yours Truly

John B. Noyes

1st 1 pair woolen stockings
1 silk handkerchief (this by all means.)
3d the skull cap I wrote to Martha about.
a wash leather bag, same size as my old tobacco pouch
5th   1 oil silk bag, 7 inches square.
6th. 1 pocket pare knife, about 50 cents; a pretty good old will do as well as a new one.
7th an iron spoon such as we have in our kitchen a new one if possible.
8.  a quire (about 24 sheets) of commercial note paper.  I have envelopes for the present.
9th. 2 or 3 bags about 3 or 4 inches square
10th a piece of cotton or linen cloth to rub brasses &c. with.
11th Something good to eat, in the shape of two or three leaves of tip top cake – rich enough to last till the end of the journey
12th two or three lemons, as they are very high here.
13th   a little bottle of pepper, as we have none
14th   a half pound box of Cavendish Tobacco & a few cigars.  I want a common supper knife also.  Send the box as quickly as possible.

     In the letter above, John Noyes mentions the political affiliations of Colonels appointed by Massachusetts Governor John Andrew :

"It would seem also that the cry of the Post & Herald against Andrew's military appointments is groundless, but five of our 3 year Colonels being Republicans.  I prophesy that Governor Andrew will be triumphantly re-elected if he concludes to stand as a candidate in the coming state election."

    John Noyes gets his information from this interesting column printed in the Boston Evening Transcript the week the regiment was at Sharpsburg.  It will be noted Col. Leonard of the 13th was a Bell & Everett Constitution Party supporter.

Boston Daily Evening Transcript, Thursday, August 22, 1861.

Gov. Andrew's Military Appointments.

    The following statement of the political predilections of the Colonels of the Regiments, shows that the Governor has favored his opponents in the appointments he has made, rather than those with whom he is identified in politics:

Mass.     1st, Colonel Cowdin, Republican.
Mass.     2nd, Colonel Gordon, Bell and Everett.
Mass.     7th, Colonel Couch, Bell and Everett.
Mass.     9th,  Col. Cass, Democrat.
Mass.    10th, Col. Briggs, Republican.
Mass.    11th, Col. Clark, Republican.
Mass.    12th, Col. Webster, Democrat.
Mass.    13th, Col. Leonard, Bell and Everett.
Mass.    14th, Col Greene, Republican.
Mass.    15th, Col. Devens, Republican.
Mass.    16th, Col. Wyman, Democrat.
Mass.    18th, Col. Barnes, Democrat.
Mass.    19th, Col. Hinks, Republican.
Mass.    20th, Col. Lee, Democrat.

    Of these appointments the Republicans have six, the Democrats five, and the Bell-Everett party four. Speaking of the rules adopted in reference to selecting officers for the regiments, the Boston Journal says –

    It was the desire of the Governor, from the beginning, to appoint army officers, if they could be obtained, for the commanders of the regiments;  but in no case would the War Department grant a furlough to an officer in active service for this purpose, and it became necessary then to officer the regiments from such resources as were available, without reference to any other question than those of fitness and capacity.

    All the companies composing these regiments went into camp under officers elected by themselves, and no changes disregarding the wishes of the men have ever been made, except upon the written recommendations of the Colonels of the regiments, who after spending days and weeks in the several camps, examining the qualifications of the subordinate officer, were presumed to be best qualified to judge of the fitness of those officers for the positions to which they aspired.  The only departure from this rule was in the 16th regiment, in which the Governor commissioned a democratic Captain and a democratic Lieutenant against the advice and recommendation of the Colonel.

    In addition to the above we would state that Lieut. Col. Fellows, who will go to Washington in command of the Seventeenth Regiment, was recently one of the proprietors of the Boston Courier. We append the official vote of Massachusetts at the last election, to show the relative strength of the different parties in the Commonwealth:   Republican, 106,533;   Bell and Everett, 22,331;   Douglas Democratic, 34,372;   Breckinridge, 5039.  The Republicans outnumber their combined opponents by upwards of forty three thousand votes;- the former have six new Colonels – the minority have nine new Colonels, and one Lieutenant Colonel in command of a regiment.


General McClellan and Wife  

Charles Davis wrote in the Regimental History, "Three Years in the Army," :

Sept 13.
          It was at Darnestown that we were first made acquainted with an article of food called “Dessicated” vegetables.  For the convenience of handling, it was made into large, round cakes about two inches thick.  When cooked, it tasted like herb tea.  From the flow of language which followed, were suspected it contained powerful stimulating properties.  It became universally known in the army as “Desecrated” vegetables, and the aptness of this term would be appreciated by the dullest comprehension after one mouth-ful of the abominable compound. Irt is possible that the chaplain, who overheard some the remarks, may have urged its discontinuance as a ration, inasmuch as we rarely, if ever, had it again.

Sunday Sept. 15.
        An order was received from General McClellan that “no work that can be avoided, no drills nor MARCHING, shall take place on Sundays.”

        To those of us who served in the ranks, this seemed a wise and considerate order, quite in harmony with the teachings of our Puritan ancestors, and it consequently elevated General McClellan in our estimation very much.  [Pictured is General McClellan with his wife Ellen].

Monday, Sept. 16.
          The regimental sutler arrived, bringing boxes and remembrances from home. A box from home was an event in the life of a soldier that brought tender recollections of the loving ones whose hands had prepared its contents. 

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Playing in the Band & Adjusting to Camp Life; Letters of Edwin Rice & Llewellyn Jones

Charles Davis wrote of the Regimental Band at Darnestown:   

    "One great pleasure we had with us was the band.  It not only discoursed good music, but did it so skillfully as to receive the commendations of other regiments and officers, who availed themselves of every opportunity to listen to its paying. Many a weary mile they helped cut by their willingness to play, even when they must have been thoroughly fagged out themselves." 

    The Band member's tents were close to the field and staff, which may have given them better access to news from the detached companies, and other events.  Edwin Rice describes the layout of the camp and the  schedule for the band.  That's Edwin pearing from behind a comrade in the band.

Letter of Edwin Rice

Darnestown, Maryland
September 18th 1861 

Uncle Edwin,
            Edwin Rice, cropped tight from the band photoI received a paper and map from you last evening.  Am very much obliged for both.  There has nothing happened here yet of any importance.  We are awaiting orders to move on for some other place.  We have been here about two weeks.  The soldiers have got the ground fixed up so nice that they will hate to leave.  On another piece of paper I have drawn a rough plan of the camp.  I don’t know as you will be able to make it out.  General Banks told Colonel Leonard a few days since that he had got the neatest and best looking camp in the division, but I don’t think his men are the best drilled in the division.  There are but 7 companies here now.  Companies C, I, and K, have not yet been relieved.  We heard yesterday that Company I had had a skirmish at Harpers Ferry and had one of its officers killed and some of the men wounded but as no one knows anything more about it, it is not believed.  30 men were detailed yesterday to go and practice artillery at a battery 4 miles from here.  We expect to have some artillery attached to this Regiment.  There is a Rhode Island battery a short distance from here that was in the Bull Run fight.  They lost 5 guns, a number of horses, 2 men killed, and four taken prisoners.

September 19, Thursday

       The band serenaded the Brigadier General last night and also the officers of the Rhode Island battery.  I heard this morning that one of Co. I’s men was shot dead while on picket duty a few days since at Harpers Ferry.  His name was Spencer.

map of campThe above is a rough plan of our camp.  Don’t know as you will be able to make out much of it.  The round marks are the companies’ tents, the square ones are the officers tents, the small dots are the evergreen trees which the men have set into the ground.

[click for an enlarged graphic]

        This makes the camp look as though it was pitched in a grove of evergreen.  The spaces between each companies’ tents are named streets and avenues.  We have had our spring fixed so that we can get water now.  The Col. had the spring dug out and set a barrel into it and then fixed a trough into the barrel so the water would run out.  Then he covered the barrel over with a flat stone and covered with gravel and leaves.  The place where the water runs out is 15 feet from the spring.  The water is the best we have had in any place yet.

            The name of our camp is “Camp Hamilton” after the General of the Brigade which we belong to.  It is expected that General McClellan will visit the Brigade today. I don’t suppose we shall know him when he comes as I have heard that he does his visiting “incog.”

          A Wisconsin Regiment which was encamped a short distance from here left last week for Missouri to join Gen. Fremont’s division.  The 4th Conn. Regt which has been here a little more than a week, has had two of its members die since it has been here.

           When I left Massachusetts, I weighed about 145 lbs.  I weighed myself this morning and found I had gained 11 lbs. since I left Mass. which is better than some have done. 

            The Band have had to work pretty hard for a week past.  The first thing we have to do is to play at guard mounting at 8 o’clock which takes about an hour.  Then rehearse two hours before dinner and two hours after, and then play at regimental drill at 4 o’clock which takes an hour, then at dress parade at 5:30 which takes of an hour, and play for half an hour sometime during the evening before the Colonel’s tent.  Some days we do not rehearse only part of the day, and some days not any. 

           There is but a very little sickness in the Regiment now.  Our mail to and from Washington is not very regular.  As it leaves in about an hour, I shall close this in order to have it go.

Yours,  Edwin Rice

Letter Llewellyn Jones  Company G

    The following letter which I downloaded from an auction house, is a rare thing; a letter from a soldier in Company G.  According to the roster he is:  age, 20;  born, South Solon, Me.;  painter; mustered in as priv., Co. G, July 16, '61; reenlisted, Jan. 4, '64; transferred to 39th Mass.; promoted to corp.

    Llewellyn Jones gives a good account of rumours & news about camp.  No doubt more of his letters are 'floating around' out there.  (If you read this and know of any, please contact me !)

Headquarters Thirteenth
Reg. Mass. V.
Darnstown, Md Sept. 22
Camp Hamilton

Brother Frank,

                        Yours of the fifteenth is before me which I will try and answer while I have the leisure to do it.

            This morning we passed through regimental inspection as you know we have to every Sunday morn.  we shall have no drilling today and the time is our own till 3 o’clock when we come out for divine services after which comes “dress parade”

            Day before yesterday a rebel officer was captured near here and important documents found in his possession showing that the rebels intended to cross and attack us at Harpers Ferry,  Conrads Ferry, and another place near hear simultaneously.  yesterday morning about 2 o’clock A. M. our  “Orderly” came and awoke us from the embrace of Morpheus with orders to put on our equipments without delay and also delivered forty rounds of cartridges each,  but we have received no marching orders yet, but are liable to any moment.   

               We are fully prepared and in good condition to meet them.  Our Commissary department has greatly improved since we have been at this camp and the boys are as contented and happy as you please.   The change in the Commissary has cured most of them of homesickness.   Yesterday we had no drill at all as we were expecting to march at any moment so the boys had a grand game of base ball the officers nearly all participating.  

        There are a great many “camp rumors” here in reference to this regiment, one of them (which is probably true) is that it is to be the body guard of the Maj. Gen. in which case his Headquarters will be transferred to these grounds.  This reg. is complimented very highly for cleanliness about the camp grounds and uniforms, good behavior &c. The streets are swept everyday and we have stuck up pine trees on both sides of the streets so that the camp at a little distance presents the appearance of being piched in a grove.

            My health is exellent now and I am gaining flesh fast.  Think this is going to be a good thing for me

             I would not go home now on any condition till the war is closed or till affairs are settled some ways.

            I should like to have you out here with us but would not have you take my place  though I am obliged to you for the offer.

            I shall be able to stand it after this as I have got accustomed to the climate and “rations” and am perfectly contented though I shall certainly be glad when the war is ended and we get started once more toward “dear New England”

            I believe there is but one beside myself from Appleton in this regiment, (Ed McLain).

            The boys have been making rings from gutta porcha buttons and I will send you one which I made myself.  Who is your school teacher ?

            My love to all our folks and inquiring friends  Hoping to hear from you often

I remain                           
Your Affc Brother

P.S.  One of our companies (Co I, Capt Scriber) is stationed above harpers Ferry where we were and one of their men was fired on by the rebels and shot dead.

I knew him well.*

            Capt S – immediately returned the fire with a howitzer at a building in which they were secreted  shattering the building and probably killed five or six of them.

            Company C. Capt. Kurtz stationed at Frederick City arrested twenty three of the secession representatives of the Maryland Legislature who were about to meet and in all probability would have passed the secession ordinance.  It has effectually broken up the legislature.

            A Pennsylvania regt has just arrived. The major of the regt was shot dead today by a private while on the march, the soldier refused to march farther and the Maj. tied him behind a wagon, he broke away and shot him on the spot.**

            We have got the streets all named and most of the messes.  This one is named in honor of our Maj Gen, “Hotel De Banks” formerly known by the euphonious name of the “Poor house,” street in front of our Co. is “Leonard Avenue”

             The boys want me to read to them and I will close.  Llewellyn

*John L. Spencer, Co. I, was the soldier shot dead.  Read about it on this websites '9 Weeks at Harper's Ferry' page.
**See David Sloss's comments following the George Hill Letter at the end of this page for more about this.

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Correspondence of Elliot C. Pierce

    Sergeant-Major Pierce's correspondence with his sister is interesting for its 'illustrated newspaper' approach.  The few letters that exist in the collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society usually have a drawing done by one of the camp 'artists' to illustrate his 'reports' on the movements of the '13th Mass.'.  This little bit of 'back & forth' is an interesting look at the homefront sentiments toward the newly minted volunteers.  Pierce writes to his sister Fanny, his fiance, Mary, and his mother.

Elliot C. Pierce to Hannah Frances Pierce, 18 September, 1861; Thayer Family  Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.  Used with permission.

Head Quarters 13th Regiment Rifles
Camp Hamilton      Mass. Vol.
Darnestown Sept 18th 1861

My Dear Patriotic Sister

                        I am sitting in my own tent, in blue fatigue suit, white shirt, and my hair brushed nicely, whiskers growing and Moustache curling, waiting anxiously the arrival of Genl Geo. B. McClellan who report says visits us to day   he is visiting his whole Army they say, and if he finds any such Camp as the 13th I am greatly Mistaken.  I wish you could see it.  Hamilton + Banks call it a model in point of order and cleanliness. We have been here nearly a fortnight (wonderfull) and really begin to feel at home  We are encamped upon a hill


From which we have a fine view of the country dotted with white tents for Miles with now and then a brass battery gleaming in the sun “truly guns” ready to be put in position   no stove pipes

            The “boys” have cut down fir trees from the grove just back of us put them in the ground, two in front of each tent, that makes a nice street between each row of tents.   The Main St on the Staff line is McClellan St, then we have Warren St.     Harlow St.   Cary St  &c.  the streets are swept every day, the tents cleaned out and every thing kept as sweet as can be,  tents are taken down once a week to let the Sun dry the ground.  I suppose that will suit Father, he always


Said the Sun sweetens things.

            You can not think how Much good your letters do me  they are so good and Natural they keep home and the loved ones before me constantly.   I can hear you all talk when I read.   The Chaplain, Rev N. M. Gaylord is a fine man and gives the best advise to us on every occasion.  Not in such Manner as Most Ministers do but in the Kindest Manner,  And takes the greatest interest in every thing that relates to the welfare of the troops.  Sunday he reads some verse, from the Bible and then talks on the subject in the Most fatherly Manner he generally selects some verse that applies so aptly.   Speaking against


Swearing, drinking, and all the vices which are the Most apt to gain ascendency in the soldiers life,  before closeing  his remarks, he will draw such a picture of home, and how anxious all our friends feel for us, and exhorts us for their sake, and as we love them to behave like Men, and while from every village and city in old Mass  our friends are answering the summons, and gathering in churches, to pray for absent ones,  the warriors are at the same Moment drawn up in line 200000 strong on the banks of the Potomac, with Un coverd heads, bowed, to receive their benedictions

                        I must close as I have More writing to do to-day if the Genl does not appear.

Tell Jesse the 19th Regiment passed here the other day.  Chas* [?] Merritt is just Lieut of Co A. + Col. Hinks in command of the Regt  they inquired for him  and wished to be remembered to him,  I think I could take a Captains Com  in the 19th, but they looked so hard  I was disgusted and thot it better to stay where I am at present

            Give love to all


NOTE:  There was  a Lieut. Chas. M. Merritt in the 19th Mass.  He mustered out as Captain. – BF, 12/29/2012

Letters from Sister and Mother to Elliot

sketch of Elliot Pierce by Cpl. Henry Bacon, Sept 8th 1861

"The Sargent Major," drawing by Henry Bacon, 18 September 1861.  Original manuscript from the Thayer Family Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society; Used with Permission.

In the following letter, sister Fanny, and Elliot's mother, write to him regarding this sketch of Sergeant-Major Pierce drawn by Corporal Henry Bacon, Co. D, dated September 8th.  The original sketch is badly faded and stained, but I have touched it up in photoshop to make it a little more visible, reducing some of the stain, and increasing contrast to bring out the pencil lines of the background tents. Mary, mentioned in the letter, is Mary Baker, Pierce's fiance.  They were married  in late 1862.

Hannah Frances Pierce to Elliot C. Pierce, 22 Sept., 1861; Thayer Family  Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.  Used with permission.

Weymouth, Mass.  Sep. 22, 1861
Sunday Morning.

My dear Brother,
        I received a note from you enclosing your “picture” last Thursday morning Sep. 19th.  The note was not dated, but the sketch was dated Sep. 8th, and the whole was mailed in Washington Sep 17.  It seems to me there must have been some delay somewhere.  Perhaps your next letter will explain, it doesn’t seem like you, to keep a letter a week, before mailing it.  The fault may be with the Post-master.  I wrote Sep. 14, Se. 8th and Sep. 15th and trust you have received them all.  Your picture is before me.  I can hardly keep my eyes from it while I write.  We all think it very good.  The more I look at the more it seems like you my darling brother , if I could only put my arm around your neck! - - the tears will come, and I must lay aside, the sketch of the brave soldier boy or I shall write no letter --.   Last Tuesday after


noon, I commenced the long talked of cone frame for the boquet of Autumn leaves.  Mary came to assist, instruct and delight me with here sweet presence.  We worked in the Attic sitting at the little old fashioned table, once our Grandmother’s, with acorns and cones of all descriptions lying about us, some in boxes some in baskets and some on the floor.  Jesse assisted us by sawing apart the large pine cones.  While we were at work Mrs. Baker cane in with the Newspaper.  Mother can up with her knitting, and I stopped to read aloud, an account of a sharp skirmish with the rebels near Darnestown 15th inst. in which two companies of the Mass. 13th were engaged.  “Elliot will write us about it” we all said, and we shall get a letter tomorrow or next day.”  After tea Jesse went “down town”, and Mary and I worked awhile by ourselves, talking much of you and wishing you could peep in at us &c.  We knew you would like to.  “Did you bring any of Elliots letters” said I, “yes” said Mary, “I will read them to you, if you will get yours and we’ll take them


in ‘corse”.  Cone frames were forgotten then and we were soon with the 13th going through with you the various scenes, you so graphically describe.  While we were thus employed, we heard the street door open – the letters went into our pockets, and when Jesse and Julia walked in to the Attic, we were no longer on the banks of the Potomac, but quietly working away at the cones.   The next morning I was sitting at the kitchen fire in the rocking chair, with a “stitch in my side”,  (caught sitting up late to read, the night previous) when Mary came in with a letter, it was nearly a fortnight since one had been received from you, and so this was doubly welcome, Mother called father and Jesse in and Mary read to us – we all rejoiced greatly, but were not a little puzzled to find that it was written on the 8th and not mailed until the 14th, one day before the skirmish.  I wonder who christened Darnestown !  In the evening Mother sat in the rocking chair as usual, and I lay on the sofa both enjoying the beautiful moonlight and think-


ing of the dear absent one.  “How I wish I could see the encampment at Darnestown; it must look very prettily by this bright moonlight,” said I.  “Perhaps it will appear in some of the Pictorials yet.”  And then I wished I could see you dressed in your uniform as you appear there, and it really seemed like an answer to my wish when I received the picture next morning.  I thank you every day for sending it to me, and wish I could thank the artist for taking so truthful a sketch of my little brother.  I am going to make a frame for it, and wish you would writ on a slip of paper with a pencil, “your Uncle,” to go underneath it, and send me next time you wrote.  I want it, in your handwriting if you please.  Jesse will watch the Pictorials for sketches of your encampment.

Mrs. Dr. Warren called here yesterday to see if we cold accommodate her with board during her husbands absence.  I hardly think she will come, she thinks


Our terms are high. I wonder if you like to have me send you scraps from the papers!  Jesse sent you a “Journal” last Thursday.  People ask me, “How does Elliot like?”  What shall I tell them?  I wonder if your feet trouble you. – Many people say that woolen hose are best, if you would like them you can have some nice home knit ones.  Mrs. Chapman has brought a quantity of yarn to be knit up for the soldiers and Mother is knitting some of it.

    My large frame progresses finely under Mary’s skillfull fingers.  I think it will be very handsome.

    Write as often as you can. Miss Weston says that Henry inquires about you, she thinks he may go, she says he talks about it.

Mother has written you a few lines which I will copy on the next page.

Don’t expose yourself unnecessarily.  With much love, I remain your Aff. Sister,

Dear Son,
    Doubly dear to me now, so far away, and in so much danger of every kind.  Miss D. Weston called here last week, inquired particularly after you, said she had many fears for your personal safety but thought you had an opportunity to learn much, and so we all think and hope you will not disappoint us.  Be careful of your health and morals as possible under the circumstances in which you are placed. 

    Daily and hourly I think of you when I lie down and when I rise up.  I have great trust in your firmness of principle to keep you from vice, but my greatest hope is in God, that he will preserve you from harm and cover your head in the day of battle, is the prayer of

    Your dear Mother
            H. Pierce.

P.S.  Write soon.  I do not wish to urge you if you haven’t time but your letters are such a comfort, it seems almost like seeing you.  Your dexriptions are very fine –
            H. P.

Letter from Elliot to Sister Fanny

    Although incomplete, I like the following letter.  Elliot Pierce was a friend of the Colonel, and the little banter between the 2 men, as told by Elliot, demonstrates this closeness, and, gives a glimpse into the humor of the amiable Colonel Leonard.

Elliot C. Pierce to Hannah Frances Pierce, 22 September, 1861; Thayer Family  Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.  Used with permission.

Head Quarters 13th Regiment Rifles,
Mass. Vol
Near Darnestown
Sept 22d

Dear Sister

        If our Nations flag waves over many such women as my sister it Must triumph, if the 1046 Men that compose the 13th have each such a sister and they all write as Mine does the rebels must beware when they meet it.       It is Friday Morng and I sit down to scratch a line to you.  I am so gratefull for the letter just received from you.  We did not get the mail last night it stormed so severely, and I felt for the first time since I left, Lonesome and sad.  It’s a week Friday since I received any thing from home the rain fell in torrents, and the


wind blew severely.  I sat up late, waiting for the mail, but it did not come.  And the night was gloomy enough It is very raw and mudy this Noon but I have a letter from you and Mary, and the change in me is wonderfull.  I wrote you last Thursday stating we expected Gen McClellan,  he did not come but will probably this week.  I also sent a picture of your Uncle  in full uniform with Army hat sketched by an Artist in Co D   So I think you must to day have letters enough.  I shall send a sketch of my tent by + by perhaps. [note: the sketch is dated Sept 8th] I wish I could send a picture of our whole camp but if you keep watch of Harpers or Leslies Pictorial you may find a number of pictures of places


where we have encamped, since we left Sharpsburg.  In the gazette of a fortnight Week ago yesterday is a piece written by our regimental Clerk in relation to our visit to Harpers Ferry.  Thursday our Col got a letter from Capt Shriber, who commands Co I, of our regiment stationed at H. Ferry, stating, I have on hand, taken from the rebels 2 fine horses, 3 Cannon 2 Mortars 50 Muskets 1 Lieut, 2 sergt, 2 privaters and lots of stuff to numerous to mention, Capt Kurtz of Co C. stationed at Frederick is the one that broke up the Maryland Legislature taking 18 prisoners you see the 13th is at work

        Thursday morning we were routed out of bed at 2, and ordered to make hot coffee, and


and be in readiness to March in light order.  That is without any baggage but blanket + overcoat, at the earliest moment, in ten mint” hot fires were snapping in ten mins more hot coffee was ready, and we drank and waited  Watching the signals for the one which was to start us.  I gave in up and turned in with Arms and boots on, by 3 and slept untill six

    I told the Col next morning I wished he would not wake me next time unless he saw the white in the enemys eyes, he smiles and says, we can’t get along without the Sergt-Major.

        I am much oblidged  for the piece of poetry.  The Countersign, it is very fine.  I enclose you the countersign for one night last week.  You an see what the “Mystic” Number was.  On that night those little Numbers would carried a Man from the mouth of the Potomac mouth to its source.   Without this he would

NOTE:  This letter drops off here, whatever is missing is not in the collection of Pierce's papers.  BF 2/03/2014.

Adjutant & Sergeant Majors Tent, Fall 1861    The title of this image is "Adjutant and Sergeant-Major's Tent, Fall, 1861."  The picture was probably taken by George Crosby, Co. F, at Williamsport, a month or so after this letter was written.  Although very blurry, one of the 4 men standing in front of the tent is probably Elliot. They are all still wearing the regulation hats, as seen in the drawing above, and which historian Charles Davis ridiculed so much.    

    These 2 additional pages - though un-adressed, are found with matching folds to the above letter, indicating they were perhaps sent home in the same envelope.  The date is the same.

Elliot C. Pierce to Hannah Frances Pierce, 22 September, 1861; Thayer Family  Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.  Used with permission.

Darnestown, Sept 22, 1861

            We are still at Darnestown, we have had several orders to move, yet they are countermanded before we can get into marching order.

This afternoon I have visited Genl Hamiltons Hd. Qrs. and Capt Best’s of the Regular Army, who commands a battery of light Artillery.  Capt. Best has his wife with him, a fine noble – looking woman, who goes with him in all his tramps, riding on horseback.  She is [a] fine horse Woman.  She looks as happy sitting at her tent door, as tho’ seated in the drawing room of Tremont house.

                In the grove adjoining is another battery from Rhode Island, commanded by Capt. Tompkins, he was in the Bull Run fight, and lost 20 men, and part of his battery.  He is a very handsome man, looks something like Henry Chapman, he talks about going into the next battle as coolly as tho’ going shopping.

We hear about an approaching battle, and that we must fight right  here where we are, all sorts,


of rumors float round us, but we have no means of knowing anything for a certainty.  I do not think we know the state of affairs as well here, (except in our immediate vicinity) as you do at home.  We watch the signals at night, but know nothing of the meaning.  It is very amusing to stand on a bright moonlight night and see what you would suppose was a star at first sight suddenly dart across the heavens and take past over Washington, and a little blue one that a moment ago was struggling thro’ the milky way takes past close beside it, and a white one jumps out the big dipper and makes the trio at the east of us, while you look, they go down out of sight, as tho’ going to bed in Washington, but no!  there just over the sugar loaf Mountain, 50 miles to the North & West of us goes the little blue, the white one is climbing for dear life to get into the dipper, and the red is driving like / Jehu, to take his position right over Genl. Bank’s ‘ head, only a mile from us, so they go bobbing around and around all night, and it is all Greek to us, and the greatest Astronomers can read their horoscopes in rain, to


Discover the mysteries,.  We ourselves were astonished greatly,  on first discovering one night, that the stars about us hung loose in the heavins, but have since ascertained it is merely a new mode of signaling, (the rebels having discovered the meaning of the rockets style)  it is a calcine light in  a balloon, which is governed in some mysterious manner by knowing ours? At the signal stations, of which there are three, one at the Sugar Loaf, one at Banks’ Quarters, and a third at Washington, by this means they who can read the mystic signs, know what transpires at either point, even while it is transpiring.  We go to bed at night with an army in sight and wake in the morning and find  ourselves alone our cavalry gone, our artillery gone, all gone, they marched while we slept, without a drum beat, or a Bugle note, perhaps they are fighting this very minute.  By night new troops come pouring in again, the stars commence talking together again, and a messenger comes thundering in, with marching orders, another behind him for us to go to bed, we obey this quick, awake in the morning and find the darkness has added two thousand to our


Div. tents all pitched as tho’ they had always been there, or dropped from a balloon.

Meanwhile our boys have kept busy, and our camp looks like a picnic ground, or Forest Hills Cemetery minus somethings of course, not a man is seriously ill, and all in good spirits.

We have another E. C. Pierce, a sergt in Co. B,.  I mention it that you may not get anxious, unless both names are reported in the Hospital.

        We'll continue to hear more from Pierce, on this website, from time to time in the future.  Elliot quickly rose through the ranks, until he became Major of the '13th Mass.' in 1864.  He went home with the regiment, the last officer to leave the front lines before Petersburg, in July of that year.

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A Description of the Camp and the Soldiers' Routine;

Boston Herald

The Boston Herald, October 9, 1861.        

        The Thirteenth Massachusetts.   A correspondent of the New York Herald, writing from Darnestown, Md., Sept. 30, speaks of the Thirteenth Massachusetts Regiment in the following complimentary terms: -

        Albert Hurter sketchThe Thirteenth Massachusetts have one of the best arranged camps, if not the very best, in the division.  Several of the streets are beautified with ornamental arches of evergreen, while the same material is used to decorate the tents and to screen the occupants from the rays of the sun, some large trees have been procured from an adjoining wood for the latter purpose.  The kitchens, cooking apparatus, and other required appendages of well regulated camps, are of the first pattern for usefulness and convenience.  Neatness, compactness and utility are to be observed in every part of the camp, in the quarters as well as in those of the privates.  The strictest attention is paid to good order, and there has been but ne trivial punishment for a long time.  The guard house is and has been tenantless. Inebriety is nowhere to be seen and the camp is, therefore, exempt from the train of evils which is sure to follow the prevalence of license in the use of intoxicating liquors.

        In the camp of the 13th there appears to be a place for everything – and  a good place for every good, and useful thing.  Col. Leonard is much respected as a commander, and the Chaplain, Rev. Mr. Gaylord, has a place in the hearts of all, for his kindness and urbanity and his continual efforts for the welfare of each individual member of the corps.  Adjutant (clerk) David H. BradleeThe 13th have also the advantage of possession one of the finest bands in the division.  It is mostly from Marlboro’, Mass., and is under the leadership of  Tom C. Richardson, of that place. “Sounds from home” were never more sweetly played than they have been and can be by the silver-toned instruments of this excellent regimental band.  The regiment was unsurpassed in appearance, in precision of marching and other movements, by any regiment on Fast day.

        Adjutant Bradley, of the 13th, has been offered a snug berth in the War Department at Washington; but he says he will not accept civil office until he has been through at least one good fight with the rebels.

        Pictured is Adjutant David H. Bradlee, age 34, a clerk that knew his duties quite well according to fellow officer William H. Clark.  But Private Noyes would grow to question his character.

Letter from the Cambridge Chronicle

(Letter transcription from the now defunt web- site "Letters of the Civil War").

Cambridge Chronicle, October 5, 1861.

Correspondence from the Seat of War

    [The following extracts are taken from letters of recent date, written by a volunteer attached to Co. D, Thirteenth Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteers, Col. Leonard. This Regiment belongs to Brig. Gen. Hamilton's Brigade. Gen. Banks' Headquarters, where these letters were written, are at Darnestown, Md., about twenty-four miles from Washington.]

Lt. Charles H. Hovey, Co. D            We are still here at Headquarters.  Gen. Banks’ residence is about a mile or so from us, and pleasantly situated. He is a perfect jewel, so to speak, he takes such an interest in our affairs, sees that we are treated well, and are supplied with all that tends to make the soldier comfortable, and lessen the many hardships and privations to which life in camp is always subjected.  He visited us recently, in company with Mayor Wrightman, Councilman Spurr, and two or three other gentlemen from Boston.  We hailed the General, and he then turned to us and said;  “Boys, I have brought Mayor Wrightman here to see you; can’t we give him a military salute?”  Lieut. Chas. H. Hovey, of Co. D, [pictured] then stepped in front of the gathering throng, as they pressed near to catch a glimpse of their General and proposed three cheers for Mayor Wrightman.  We gave three rousing hearty Massachusetts cheers. It would have done our soul good to hear them.  If Jeff. Davis had been within five miles of our camp, these cheers would have made him tremble and shake worst than when he does with the fever and ague.

            The General, in company with his guests, then visited our kitchens.  A kitchen is made of four crotched poles fastened in the ground, about ten feet high, upon which are placed poles from corner to corner, to support the roof or covering.   The roof consist of boughs and limbs covered with thick leaves, which hang down around the outer edges of the frame, making it very picturesque, and also very shady in the heat of the day, which here is very oppressive, and causes us to flee to the woods on the north side of our camping grounds, there to have a comfortable snooze under the shady trees, or to walk around over hill and dale, and settle our dinner of “salt junk and hard bread.”

            We are blessed with a most delightful place for a camp. Most of the regiments in our vicinity are situated on old camping grounds, where there have been camps before, and so are trodden down and sometimes left in bad condition. But thanks to our Colonel, we have a most healthy and pleasantly situated camp. It is on a large open field or pasture, with a thick shady grove on the north side.  To the south of us is the Wisconsin Regiment; on the east side is a very large field, occupied in part by the Fourth Connecticut Regiment, which has lately arrived here; and on our west is an immense cornfield, with its tall stalks  waving to and fro, as the southern breezes pass over it.  In extent it exceeds any that I ever saw north. In this State such fields are very numerous, sometimes extending two or three miles without an opening or a fence between. Our field is so large that, besides the space occupied by our tents, there is more room left to drill on than there is in the whole parade ground on Boston Common.

            We have the following orders of the day; 5 A.M., roll call; 5:45, police duty; 6, surgeon’s call; 6:30, drill; 7:30, recall from drill; 8, breakfast; 8:30, drill; 9:30 recall from drill; 10, guard-mounting; 12:30 P.M., dinner; 3, battalion drill; 5:45, recall from drill; 6, dress parade; 7, supper; 9, tattoo; 9:30, taps; At 5:45 A.M., call we turn out with shovels, brooms, pick-axes, and various other kinds of West India goods, and each company cleans up the dust, dirt straw, &c, which can be found around its tents, and the rubbish is conveyed to some place prepared for it, outside of the camp.  By this means, our whole camp, from one end to the other, is kept decidedly clean, and cannot be otherwise than perfectly healthy, which, I am extremely happy to say it is now. There are but very few occupants of the hospital, and in most cases by reason of accidents.  Our camp is one of pride, and as such, we strive to find ways to improve it; and when a profitable suggestion is made – and for such we are constantly on the alert – it is quickly acted upon, and most willingly, too, for we have achieved for our camp the reputation of a “model camp,” and Major General Banks has been heard to say the “the camp of the Thirteenth Mass. Regiment is the handsomest and neatest camp in his whole division.”  So much for Massachusetts.

            We are having quite an easy time here now, and we need it very much, I assure you. It is reported that no other regiment in this vicinity has passed through such hard and trying times as the Thirteenth. We have done nought but start for a place, and get half way there and receive new orders, and turn off and march to another.  After we got started on the march, sometimes our baggage train would get stuck, so that after we arrived at our destination, we had to wait in some cases more than a day, before we could get our regular salt junk.

    But such is war, and so we will forbear further complaints, although they are certainly justifiable, because the cause of our hunger, many times, and sometimes even when we have been settled down in camp, is the lack of proper attention on the part of some officer or officers, we know not who, whose business it is to look out for our welfare in that respect, and to see a thousand men, tired, worn out, and fatigued almost beyond human endurance, do not lay down upon their blankets at night to rest, destitute of food to nourish them for that day’s work, or to strengthen them for the arduous duties of the morrow. We came here with the expectation of undergoing trials and privations, of meeting dangers and hardships, which in war are always plenty enough without imposing upon us any that are unnecessary, caused by the failure to perform duty, or the incompetency of officers.

            I say we expected these trials, and are willing yet to undergo them again and again, if we can but have the opportunity of striking one blow for that glorious flag, the stars and stripes, and for our laws and our government.  We will willingly die to maintain them, and under their mantle, should we ever again meet you at home - sweet  home, we hope to see you enjoying life and comfort, without the fear of having the Constitution wrenched from your grasp and trampled upon by those who, having become worldly great beneath its blessings, now turn upon it, and would trample it under foot, crushing, as it were, the very hand that has fed them, and made them what they are.

            We have tried them and found out what they are; but at what a sacrifice! And yet, who shall say that it is not “all for the best”?  Individual life needs this assurance at every moment, and national life is weak indeed without it. It is just such a faith as flows from the consciousness of this truth, that we require to-day, with the clouds of war rolling heavy above us, and the flood tide of danger surging close to our country’s heart.  And the corner-stone of its salvation is our faith in its stability, and our loyalty to its cause.  Let us be loyal and true and all will yet be well.

            May the great God of Battles be with and strengthen us, and victory will then by ours.

Yours in hope,                 Edward

Clarence H.  Bell Boston, June. 1884

        An incident that contributed to our edification occurred at the camp near Darnestown, Md.  In a skylarking scrape, one of the taller members of the company [Company D] was thrown violently against our woodpile, and received a sprained ankle.  And the way that injury was nursed along and developed, was as elegant a piece of strategy as the war produced.  In the presence of authority the face of the victim (?) wore an expression of the most intense agony, as he limped about on an improvised crutch at a snail’s pace, while his groans would have been sufficient for a fair sized hospital.  Of course, even one dropping out from the numbers of the company rendered the interval between guard-duty for the rest of us appreciably shorter; but it was quite a period ere we allowed our sympathy to become tinctured with suspicion. graphic of a rabbit Two or three weeks had elapsed, when one afternoon a rabbit ran through the camp.  All the observers started in pursuit ; and the man with the crutch, overcome by the contagion of the chase, forgetting his deep-laid plan for exemption from military duty, joined with the others and was speedily in the very front of the throng.  Attracted to the door of his tent by the shouts of the excited men, the captain of the company was astonished to behold the agility of the cripple; and upon his return from the unsuccessful pursuit, he was notified to be ready for guard-duty in the morning.  To be sure, he limped about on his post, and endeavored to sustain the character of a sufferer; but sympathy had vanished, and his complaints were unavailing.

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Baked Beans For Sunday Breakfast

    Cooking and eating Boston style baked beans for Sunday breakfast became a trademark characteristic of the 13th Mass.  In the following article, published in 'Bivouac, A Military Magazine,'  Company D member Clarence Bell remembers how it all started.

A Leguminous Recollection
Clarence Bell, July 1883

        The devotion of New Englanders to that delectable product of the cuisine known as “baked beans” is proverbial throughout the land, and it can readily be surmised that a Bostonian, isolated from Yankee cookery, would make some efforts to supply the defects of the culinary circumstances in which he might happen to be placed.

        The State of Massachusetts had been very lavish in the fitting out of the Thirteenth Regiment with camp equipage of all kinds, and each company was liberally supplied with kettles, pots, and pans, so that we were enabled to keep within the bounds of civilization in the manipulation of our food. But it was some time after we had located on the upper Potomac, in the summer of 1861, before we of Company  D realized the possibility of affiliation with our New England homes, by an occasional meal of baked beans.

Baked Beans in an Iron Skillet

        When we found that the privileges of army fare permitted the drawing from the commissary of beans or rice, but not both, we would have admired the temerity of that recreant son of the Bay State whose perverse nature would have suggested rice.

        Our proximity to the base of supplies at Harrisburg enabled us to obtain the beans with something like regularity; but the first attempts at cooking produced only “bean stew,” or soup.  The company cooks were all amateurs, and the messes that they managed to evolve for us, at times, were enough to dishearten the most good-natured.

        Now, of all the abominations that can be ladled out, for a man to “hoist into himself,” stewed beans take the preeminence, and when, as seemed to be the rule rather than the exception, of those martyred beans, drowned in their own liquid disintegration, were placed before us scorched, our cup of misery ran over and trickled down the sides.

        There was no dearth of food in those days, for when, at the call of “Fall in for your rations,” we marched up with our tin cups and received a liberal supply of the vile concoction, there was always enough left for a score of Oliver Twists.  At such times there were no pleasant jokes or mirthful repartees to give good cheer or geniality to the festive (?) occasion, but each individual growler, for they were all growlers then, slunk away in silence, and dumped himself in some obscure corner, where he gulped down his porridge in silent disgust.

        Oh !  There were long faces then, with noses turned up, and the corners of the mouth drawn down, till the wrinkles ran into the neck.  That was when we suffered.  It was not the long marches, or the nights of picket duty in rainy weather, but it was the fact, that we, Yankees, were guilty of the sacrilege of stewed beans, and scorched at that.

        It was at Sharpsburg, Md., in August, that the possibility of a brighter day dawned upon our sluggish intellects.  We had just drawn our rations of beans, when the loungers about the railed enclosure, yclept, the “company cook-house,” were startled by the habitual grumbler blurting out –

        “What in thunder’s the use of having stewed beans all the time ?  Why not have baked beans for a change ?”

        The effect was electrical.  Each man looked at his neighbor as if to reproach him for not having thought of that before, while our imaginations leaped over the hundreds of miles to our far-away New England homes, and conjured up the great platters laden with the coffee-tinted legumes, with the dark-browned, crisp pork domed in the centre, all exhaling a fragrance that caused us to widen our nostrils to inhale a whiff of the odors from the realms of fancy.  However, no time was wasted in dreaming, but all volunteered with advice and labor to secure success.  A capacious oven was constructed of stones, plastered over with mud inside and out, a rudely-built chimney serving as a vent during the process of firing.

        Every mother’s son of us was totally lacking in culinary education, but our familiarity with the kitchens of our ancestral homes enabled us to piece our knowledge together and educe a triumphant success at our very first attempt.  A consultation of the Solons produced a sort of “directions for use” that was mentally tagged on to our bag of beans, viz.:

        Beans must be parboiled – but they mustn’t be boiled too long, or they will be soft and mushy.

        How are you going to tell when they are boiled enough ?


        They must be watched, and tested by taking a bean and blowing on it ;  if the skin cracks, peels off, and crinkles up, they are done just right.

        Well, what then?

        Pour off all the water, and put the beans in the pot to bake.  Take a piece of pork, not too big, but just big enough, and score it at regular intervals of a quarter of an inch.  Insert this among the beans, and push it down to the general level.  Pour in a cup of molasses, fill up with water, and place in the oven for baking all night.

        There were no shirkers, and every one did his part of the work well.  The oven was heated to the proper degree, and carefully cleaned out.  The great pans of beans were stowed away in its cavernous depths, and the opening was closed with a boulder.  Dirt was shoveled up against the improvised door to prevent the escape of the heat, and we retired to rest with bright hopes for the breakfast in the morning.

        At the roll – call on that pleasant Sunday morning there were no laggards, and the last man had responded to his name with a boisterous “Here!” when we broke ranks and gathered at the mouth of the oven.  The slight vestiges of doubt that had lingered in the minds of the suspicious were dispelled as the stone was pulled away, and a cloud of delicious vapor was wafted in our faces. They were genuine New England baked beans of the XXX variety, and no discount.

        Memory leaps back over more than a score of year to mark that August Sunday morning breakfast as a repast fit for the gods – Bacchus with Mars allied.  At the divine service that forenoon, Chaplain Gaylord preached to several pecks of baked beans, stowed away in nearly a hundred well-satisfied stomachs.

        After that, every settled camp witnessed the immediate construction of an oven, and we had our “regular” beans every Sabbath morning, unless the commissary was negligent of our interests.

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The Regiment Begins to Gain a Reputation;  & The Suicide of Percy Bemis.

     Regimental historian Charles E. Davis, Jr. (private, Company B)  made a point to ridicule the hats issued to the regiment at Sandy Hook.  (see that page for a description).  The ungainly items were unpopular and were quickly disposed of by the men.  Davis describes two reviews at Darnestown where the hats were featured prominently.  

    "Thursday Sept. 26.  National Fast Day.  Parade to Darnestown and return in the afternoon.  The colonels was very complimentary in his remarks.  Not so we.  His remarks had no reference to our hats, though ours did."

    Of the second review he wrote:  

    "Wednesday, October 2.  We were reviewed to-day by General Banks, and were the observed of all observers because of our hats, the brasses of which had been carefully polished for the occasion, and reflectd a yellow light over the entire division.  We were not happy at the comments, and from this day they began their mysterious and gradual disappearance, until the last one was gone."

Letter of John B. Noyes

     The following letter of Private John Noyes, Company B mentions the reviews, comments on a Chaplain's duties and tells of a deserter from Company B.

MS Am2332 (14) By Permission of the Houghton Library, Harvard University.

    Near Darnestown Md, Wednesday Oct. 2d 1861

         Dear Charles;  I have been unable to write home for a few days back on account of rather excessive duty.  Fast day, on which day according to Pres’t Lincoln we were to do nothing, we were obliged to put on our best looks and march to a field near Darnestown to attend religious services.  On the 28th I was detailed as guard of stores at Darnestown.  Co. B, stood guard on the 30th, and Gen’l Banks held a Division Review yesterday at Darnestown.  Although you have received letters from me dated after the sending of yours, yet I think I have written none with either of yours before me.  Yours of Sept 10th reached me on the 18th, & that of the 19th on the 27th.  There is an inexplicable irregularity in the mails.  While some letters come in 3 days others from the same places are 10 days in coming.  Instance Martha’s letter to me of the 18th ult. reached me on the 29th while others of the 20th arrived on the 24th.  We do not have much reading matter outside of the daily newspapers and weekly illustrated papers.  Occasionally a dime novel periodical.  A few books are in camp, enough for our needs.  I should like a daily paper, and if it would’nt trouble you I should like to accept your offer of a daily paper for 3 months.  So you may send me the Boston Daily Courier for the next 3 months beginning as quick as possible.  I haven’t seen a Courier since I started, though I often see the Journal and Herald, occasionally a Post & Traveller.  I have Vanity Fair sent me regularly and the Weekly St. Louis democrat or some illustrated paper.  Wallace Hinckley is kind enough to do this unsolicited.  He surprised me by sending me by mail the other day a couple of quires of French quarto writing paper, wide lined across & downwards, chaquier (checker) board style stamped with the initial N. – not as a hint, because I needed none, but out of sheer good will.  I may write you a letter on a sheet of it before long.  

        You say you are sorry you did not go to the war with some of the Massachusetts Regiments.  Such a trip, I have no doubt, would have done you a great deal of physical good; but I think you have quite as broad and fruitful a field of duty at home.  If I said the men were better than before they started, it was accompanied by the proviso that there was little here to lead me into temptation.  They don’t swear quite so much because several of the men in the mess don’t swear and don’t like to hear swearing.  A sermon from the chaplain of course gives the men a good time and opportunity to form resolutions.  The Chaplain does not go round the tents much, perhaps because calling on 50 tents besides officers, would give him little time to do any good that way.  But once in a while he puts his head inside the tent while on his walks.  We see him however when handing in letters and he always has a good word for us.  The Post office takes up a great deal of his time.  I don’t know what the pay of the Chaplain is.  At any rate he has the rank of Captain.  Does he not have the pay also?  You see the U.S. has the right idea in giving the Chaplain the rank of Captain. If he had a lower rank, the respect held for him might diminish.

         A fortnight ago or so I saw two funerals of soldiers of the 4th Conn. Vols., the procession marching very slowly, officers and soldiers with reversed arms.  I was not at the grave of the soldiers.  The scene however, without that was one of great impressiveness.  No one of our Reg’t. has yet died of disease though one or two in Capt Schreiber’s Co. at Harper’s Ferry have been shot dead by the bullets of the enemy.  Sept. 26  Fast Day, our Reg’t went to Darnestown to attend religious services in the presence of Gen’s Banks & his division. Twelve Regiments Infantry, one of Cavalry, and two or three artillery companies with their guns were present.  Several of the Chaplains of the Division joined in the services.  Our Chaplain introduced the service with prayer.  The New York 9th, a regiment much like ours, and with a very high opinion of themselves were there.  But it was acknowledged on all hands that we took the shine off  of every regiment both in cleanliness of appearances and drill.  This was of course due to the putting the shine on our boots and brasses of our equipments & guns.  Gen’l Banks wore a hat with a peak fore and aft of about a foot in length.  Otherwise his hat looked something like our dress felt hat.  Yesterday the Regt’ marched out again to Darnestown, the Division being reviewed by Banks.  

        Col. Samuel Haven LeonardI neglected to say that on our return from Darnestown Fast day our Col. who was on the stand with the General from which all the troups could be seen during the services, thus spoke to us drawn up in line; “Brother officers and soldiers, I have been looking round all the morning to find some Regiments to compare you with, but I haven’t seen any.  I wouldn’t swap you for any Regiment this side of Washington.” Riding away he said “I never felt so big in my life.”  The Col. is a man of few words, very cool and reserved, giving no undeserved praise &.not chary [chary means wary] of blame when he thinks the Regt. deserves it.  His praise therefore is thought something of.  

[Col. Leonard pictured.]

        Yesterday, I say,  (I being left in camp) my finger not being quite well) the Regt went to a Division Review.  Fifteen Regiments were there and one of Cavalry, besides the artillery.  It was said by officers there, and the Col. so thought, that the Regiment did not leave the field second best.  What added to the laurels of the 13th was that the Col. of the NY 9th was acting Brig Gen’l.  He did not understand his ‘biz’ as we say.  Our Col. as Gen’l Banks came along reviewing the Division told the Col. of the NY 9th  to have the Brigade present arms & present himself.  He did not do it even after a second suggestion & was at last ordered by the Gen’l himself to have arms presented.  He also at another time forgot to give an order and our Colonel gave it for him, when he repeated it after the movement was executed; thus making himself ridiculous.  An officer came up to Leonard afterwards and said how do you do Brig. Col. Leonard?

         It need not be said that the Col. was well pleased with the appearance of our Regt. These excursions to Darnestown are about all the noteworthy incidents of our Camp life since my last letter.  Occasionally, as on Monday we hear Cannonading which is indicative of fighting elsewhere.  Sept. 24th one of my company & mess deserted.  He was one of the quietest men in the Company and his parents are very well off & have a very good position in Society in Waltham.  I can’t conceive what started him off.  He certainly could not go home even if there were no danger of his being brought back, as probably no one of his friends would care to see him.  Two of his friends and townsmen are still with us.  The deserter was a great friend of Geo. H. Kimball whom Geo. Hyde knows very well.  I lost my blue breeches by my deserting friend as I had sold them to him on tick.(teck?)tiek?  He left camp with them. I don’t despair of receiving a note from him if he reaches a place of safety.  The breeches did me no good, but I am sorry to have them put to such a use as disguise for a deserter.  Saturday I stood guard at Darnestown at a store my duties being to see that no one was cheated and no liquor sold.  The night and day was chilly and cold.

         In the eve’g I spread my blanket on the floor of the dining room in the house of the owner of the store.  In the room was a great wheel for spinning yarn, the first wheel I ever saw that was used for the purpose.  Fisher the proprietor of the establishment said that every family had such a wheel.  Yet weekly Fisher goes to Washington or Frederick to buy goods for his store.  Stores here abouts are not conducted on a very driving style.  A short time since I couldn’t buy a pint of molasses at either of the three variety grocery stores in town.  By the way there is’nt a cobbler’s shop in Darnestown.  Poolesville, 7 miles a way, so I have heard has a cobbler.  My health is still very good.  A week ago or so I weighed 132 lbs.  7 more than when I left home.  I never before weighed so much in my life. We have plenty to eat & the grub is of good quality.  We have an oven now and occasionally roast beef.  We have plenty of fresh beef, and the salt beef is very good. Baked beans and plenty of them is our regular Sunday breakfast.  Our baked beans excel all others. They are indeed good, with plenty of molasses in them.  I find that I now miss my milkless coffee quite as well as though it contained “the juice of the cow”  I put “army pie” also on hard crackers in it regularly.  Indeed I think quite as highly of crackers as of soft bread now in my butterless days.  I make up for myself a nice cup of chocolate occasionally and expect to have tea once in a while when my box arrives. I have a dish of capital hasty pudding once in a while. My regards to friends and a kiss for the baby.

Yours Truly

John B. Noyes.

Footnote:  The deserter was Percy Bemis.

The Suicide of Percy Bemis

        George 'Toppy' Emerson, Co. BOn a much sadder note, the soldier who deserted, mentioned in John's letter above, was Percy Bemis.  His Company B Comrade David Sloss, remembered him in a letter written Dec. 8, 1908, to the 13th Regiment Association, [Circular #22].  Sloss mistakes the location of the incident but gives other details:  

        "In those early days every one had what we now call "an affinity," but in those days it was "Buddy" or "Pard"; men who you would risk your life for.  ...Toppy Emerson had one, "Percy Beemis," a nice little man, quiet; he disappeard at Rappahannock Junction; we hunted for him a few days, as far as Pennsylvania, but did not find him.  I received a paper from home with the item in it, "A man registerd at a hotel in Montreal as Percy Beemis had committed suicide."  Toppy told me the story of him going to Boston and his sweetheart would have nothing to do with him, and his brother sent him to Canada."

    George N. Emerson, Company B, pictured.

    The Westboro Transcript  gives the sad story.

Westboro Transcript, October, 19, 1861

Suicide of a Deserter

        Suicide of a Deserter from the Mass. 13th Regiment at Montreal. – The day before the 13th Regiment. Col. Leonard, left here for the seat of war, J.  P. Bemis, a young man about twenty years of age, whose parents live at Northfield, Mass. but who was employed as an apprentice in Fogg’s jewelry store at Waltham, enlisted in one of the companies, Capt. Cary’s we believe.  A short time since, having got tired of the hardships of a soldier’s life, and probably without reflection on the consequences, he deserted, and came to Boston, where he had relatives.  They upbraided him for his desertion, as he could give no excuse except that he didn’t like military life, and advised him to return.  He declined to do this, and at his request his friends applied to the authorities at the State House for their influence in getting him discharged.  They declined to afford any assistance until the young man should return to his company.  As he could not be prevailed on to do this, his friends sent him to Montreal, where, a day or two since, he committed suicide by shooting himself.  His body was taken to Northfield and buried.  He was considered at Waltham a young man of good character and much esteemed by all his acquaintances. – Herald.

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Letters of John Viles, George Henry Hill, a newspaper Correspondent, and James Ramsey

Adjt. Bradlee & Col. Leonard with wives.

        As usual, John Vile's letters home are concerned with the welfare of his family during his absence. He writes that some of the officers' wives are visiting camp, - which he doesn't think is such a good idea.  From the letter in the Boston Journal below, I am guessing this picture shows Capt. Joseph Cary & wife, next to Mrs. Noah Gaylord, the Chaplain's wife, with Col. Leonard, in camp at Williamsport, a short while after this letter was written. (––updated caption, Feb. 24, 2020).

Letters of John Viles; Arranger for the 13th Mass Band

Camp Hamilton.
Darnestown – Sat 5 – Oct

    Dear Frank – I rec’d two letters from you last night mailed Sept 31 – the last I wrote was mailed the same date.  Had one from Ned the night before dated 29 – from the same place Hampton

We had quite cool weather a week ago but its grown warm again. To day it is really hot. Nights are also quite warm – we are to be paid off the 10 (?) inst. Unless there should be a further post ponement again which would not be at all supprising – you need not have sent the dollar. I was not quite out of money I wrote to Ned to day and


sent him a quarter – he says they are not paid yet  I don’t think he will get more than 12 dollars – I heard that the drummers in a Regt near us who were paid the other day, did not get any more -  should we get p’d next week or whenever we do get pd, I shall send home the most of it by Ex[press] – or mail – when I write last I beleive I spoke about you sending me some black thread or silk in the letter – a great many of the Regts have left here within a few days – and some down nearer the river.  Our Regts is Broken up so that it don’t look as though we should see much active


service at present.  4 Co’s are away – 2 at Harper F – one at Frederick and one left yesterday detailed for special duty somewhere it is Co B.   Kimball & Emerson belong to it and it will be very likely to be separated from the Regts some time so it will be of no use to send any thing to me in their Boxes.  I might get [it] and might not – our place is with Headquarters of the Reg’t so we shall not leave with any detachment but go only with the Reg’t.

Sunday 6th Oct – There were 3  Boston Ladies arrived here last night Just before Drill Revale – the Chaplain – a Capt and a Corporal’s Wives – I think


They had better stay at home for this is no place for Women hardly accommodations enough for the men.  The village is more than a mile off and has not more than 6 or 8 Houses and they are overrun with boarders – a tent must be given up to them which must cause some inconvenience –

The Vest which I wore out here is rather used up.  I want you to make me a new one of dark blue Broad Cloth or cassimere or any thing else which is the right color – am not particular about it being very nice – don’t care whether the Buttons are metal or not perhaps you can find some small ones of the kind I got last winter for my coat which would answer very well. want it to Button

Oct. 8th [page torn :]
  “I hope that this will find you the same… 

[Very faint small square it is written:]
  Tell mother Lausn Says they have got a letter from Charles Atkins  Sarah is not so well, do not think she will ever be better.

Letter of Private George H. Hill;  Guarding Prisoners at Division HQ.

George Henry Hill

    On October 5th Company B of the Regiment was detached to division Headquarters.  Their duties were to guard prisoners & sieze liquor illegally issued to soldiers.  Private George Henry Hill of that company describes these duties in the following letter.  Hill's memoir "Reminisences from the Sands of Time" is a compelling tale relating his capture at the Battle of the Wilderness in May, 1864, and subsequent time spent at the infamous Andersonville prison in Georgia.   Later, with three other inmates, Hill escaped from a train en-route to newly built Florence prison.   The memoir is printed in the 13th Regiment Association Circulars; # 20; December, 1907.

    This letter is interesting because it was found with another, in the attic of a home in New Hampshire by Fred Richardson, Jr. who gracioulsy shared it with me.

        According to Private Noyes, it was Company B's Captain, Joseph Cary, whose idea it was to beautify the camps of the 13th Mass, beginning at Darnestown.  It was Cary's idea to put the trees about camp, & before each tent.

Headquarters Gen Banks Div. Darnstown, Md. Oct 6-1861

Dear Father

     Again it is Sunday and as usual I will write and acknowledge the receipt of your last letter and relate the events which have transpired during the past week. But first I wish to tell you that you may now set your dear hearts at rest as far as danger to me is concerned for our company is now "Provost Guard" and our position is at "HeadQuarters" to guard prisoners so that we are entirely removed from any possibility of danger for at least one month and perhaps for the war but I hope not so long as that for as I have always said (and I have not changed my mind at all) that I shall not be satisfied to return without being engaged in at least one battle.  But as long as we hold this position our place is of course in the rear of the army.  We came over here last Friday and I have now a chance to show my authority as much as I please for if I want any water for anything or if we want any wood all we have to do is just go to the "guard house" and get one or two prisoners and then take our gun with "fixed bayonet" and march them for it, and our orders are to shoot them if they offer any resistance but they are all very civil now. We have only one Secessionist now and he is a minister and was taken at Sharpsburg.  The rest are all from different Regiments about here and are deserters to and one is sentenced to be hung for shooting the Major of his Regiment. Two are walking all day long with a "ball & chain" attached to their ankles. The chain about two feet long and the ball weighing about 8 lbs. One has a ball & chain on each ankle. We are "on guard" about twice a week and have no "fatigue duty" at all to do as the prisoners do all that. I have got tired of saying each time I write that my health is good so for the future you may rest assured of that unless I write to the contrary. I live almost as well here as I did in Boston. 

    Baked beans regularly Sunday morning and today for dinner corned beef (not salt horse) and cabbage. You spoke of our nice looking camp in your last and said you supposed our street was called (or rather our tent) "Hotel de Hovey" but you are mistaken for as our Captains name is Cary we named our street "Rue de Cary" and our mess door was decorated with a wreath enclosing the inscription "Mother Careys Chickens". Our camp did look beautiful. Everything looks promising now for our speedy success in our undertaking and consequently our return to our friends much sooner than we anticipated when we left home. I received a letter from Aunt Adda last week but have not answered it yet. I believe I have written all that will interest you and with much love to all I will close and subscribe myself as ever                                        

                                                                  Your Son


I hope you will write me how much you get from your farm. How many chickens you have

got xo xo xo xo GH

David Sloss of Company B, recalled in a letter to the 13th Regiment Association, December 8, 1908 : 

    While at Darnestown as Provo, I was on guard at a tent one night in which was a man with ball and chain reading his beads by the light of a lantern; his name was Lannigan, he had killed his Major in the Forty-sixth Pennsylvania and was going to be hanged the next day; we came away, however, before he was hanged.

Boston Journal, October 14; Letter, October 7th

This late arrival to the website is posted courtesy of John Hennessy who sent it to me Feb., 2020.  It is a good letter so I add it immediately.  The letter suggests the two women in camp shown in the photograph above, on this page, are Mrs. Joseph Cary, and Mrs. Noah Gaylord, the Chaplain's wife.

From the 13th Massachusetts Regiment.

Camp “Hamilton,”  Oct. 7, 1861.

To the Editor of The Boston Journal:

    The “Glorious Thirteenth” still continues to sojourn at Darnestown; although it is rumored that as soon as the river is low, we are to cross over to the “sacred soil” of Virginia, portable bridges being built at Poolesville and Harper’s Ferry.

    To-day the regiment is to go to Darnestown, (we are encamped just outside the town) together with the New York 9th and two other regiments, to be reviewed by some noted personage.  Every day men are out on the parade ground, engaged in a game of base ball, and it served to pass away the otherwise dull time very pleasantly.

    In going to General Banks’ headquarters, we have to cross Seneca river, about half a mile from camp, and where the river empties into the Potomac.  Here we have Niagara on a small scale.

    We understand that our regiment is soon to be placed in some brigade, other than Hamilton’s, but we do not know which.

    The wife of Chaplain Gaylord and the wife of Capt. Cary, of Company B, have arrived in camp.  The only other lady here is the wife of Capt. Best, of the Regular Artillery, which is stationed at this place, and a guard for headquarters is detailed from the Thirteenth every night;  also a guard for the three grocery stores here, to prevent the sale of liquor to any person. The place where it is kept is carefully locked, and the key is placed in the hands of the sergeant of the guard, who is responsible for the safe keeping of both key and liquor.

    There is a lookout near here, from which Manassas Gap can be seen blue in the distance; but no rebel camps can be observed, as the country is thickly wooded, effectually hiding them from view.  The lookout is from the top of a tree, sixty to seventy feet high, and persons wishing to “see the sights” have to be drawn to the top by means of a rope.

     Yesterday was the regular weekly inspection, when every gun and bayonet was examined by Col. Leonard.

    Company “B” has departed to act as Provost Marshal Guard, at Gen. Banks’ headquarters.

    The portion of the Thirteenth up the river, captured about five thousand dollars in value of contraband articles, consisting in part o fifteen hundred dollars’ worth of liquor, six horses, two mules, two large bells, a team and a small steam engine.  So you see a portion of the Thirteenth are doing their duty, as the remainder would be if they had an opportunity.

    The passage of troops to Poolesville still continues.  Four regiments passed yesterday, including a Colonel Berdan’s Sharpshooters of New Hampshire, a fine and noble set of men, and October 3d and 4th over fifteen thousand troops passed the camp on their way to the above place.

    The only prominent rebel that we have seen around here is A. R. Boteler, although there are many “snakes in the grass,” but they dare not “hiss.”

    This regiment was out on battalion drill, Thursday, and paid a visit to several of the adjacent camps, creating quite a sensation; and we were highly complimented on our fine appearance and drill.

    Neither the privates nor the officers of the Indiana regiment have a very extensive military knowledge, and the non-commissioned officers of our regiment have been detailed to drill the men.

    Dr. Heard has been taken sick, and sent to Darnestown, as he will be better cared for there than here.

Constitutional Union.

Transcribed by Bradley M. Forbush 2/24/2020.

Adjusting to a Soldier's Life; Letter of James Ramsey

Charles Reed sketch "The Company Cook"

 On October 9th orders were received for the regiment to march tomorrow.  Still fixated on the hats, Davis writes in the regimental history for this date, "Notwithstanding our beautiful camp, we were glad to break the monotony of camp life.  The hats are disappearing.  The comical shapes into which some of them are turned excites a good deal of merriment."  

      Here is a letter of James Ramsey, Company E, dated October 9th.  For a time,  Ramsey was detailed as one of the company cooks.

Pictured at right is a Charles Wellington Reed sketch of "The Company Cook."  Reed, a bugler in the 9th Mass. Light Artillery had a cousin in the 13th Regt.  He illustrated the book "Hardtack & Coffee" by John D. Billings.

Camp Hamilton
Darnestown Md. } 1861 Oct. 9th

 Dear Father

            I am getting along nicely and as I had a few spare moments I thought that I would write to you and let you know my situation and feelings so that you could sympathize with them. In the first place I am getting along nicely, and am enjoying myself to a great degree of satisfaction.  I have increased in weight fifteen pounds since I left Boston. I should think that that was doing pretty well considering the exposure and fatigue of a soldier although we are in a little different situation than we were in a month ago.  Then we had a great deal of maneuvering to do and important places to guard. It so happened that my turn for guard duty used to come every other day where as it now comes once a week, then we were so situated that it used to take some time for our rations to get to us so that it often happened that we used to fall short of hard bread which is the soldiers principal staff of life.

            While we were at Sheppardstown we were in a dangerous position which we then did not realize, our camp was situated on a hill within rifle range of the rebels, on their side of the river they had thick foliage besides a four story factory which some of our company burnt, as a good place of protection against our firing they could pick off our guard without danger from our rifles.  Since we have been in our present camp and have talked over the times gone by we begin to realize the position we were in then and thing of the comparative safety we are in now and the good times we have pleasant dayssketch of two recruits from battles and leaders.  I can’t say much of rainy days out here we have to stay in our tents all of the time and the rain coming through the canvas or rather cloth our tents are made of and makes it very disagreeable.  I had rather drive in a poring rain that to pass such another night as I passed the night our company was on guard.  It was a regular southern tempest, between the hours of 5 and 7 P.M. when I was walking my beat we had the worst of it, it was almost one continued flash of lightning  I never saw it rain so hard before in my life the parade ground was one sheet of water.  When I was relieved I had to go in a wet tent and sleep four hours in my wet clothes.  I wished that night that I was at home but wishing did’nt do any good I has to stand the rain all the same.  The rain has swollen the Potomac river to a considerable hight (sic) and interrupted the fording. I think Gen. Banks intends to cross soon every night a guard goes from our regiment down towards the river to stop every person coming or going from and to the river by the way the river is about 5 miles from Darnestown.  In regard to the inhabitants I do not think they are the smartest people that ever lived.  In the first place their houses are slovenly built all through the western part of the state. Sandy Hook is a mean built place there is but one street which runs parallel with the river the place is about a mile long and a sixteenth of a mile wide there is a high bluff back of the village the street is built up only on one side. Harper’s ferry is a pretty place but it is almost entirely deserted.  The people in the vicinity of Harpers ferry and Sandy Hook seem to think that this is a judgment for hanging John Brown.  Some of our men have talked with the people about John Brown and they say he was a remarkable man and very Benevolent one. I suppose I must close this letter soon I cannot think of much to write.  We do not expect to stay in our present cam the rest of the week. The report is that Stone’s brigade has crossed the river Gen Bank’s talks of keeping our regiment as a reserve guard he does not think such a fine body of men aught to throw their lives away in a battle. I do not know how much truth there is in that statement but I know that our regiment is the finest regiment in the division.  The members of the New York 9th think we equal their famous 7th in drilling.

            We have fine times going a nutting we get plenty of chestnuts out here they are larger and better than our chestnuts we have plenty of them all the time.  I think I have had more peaches and watermelons out here than I have ever had at home they seemed to be plenty around here one thing I have not seen an apple around here for a month. I suppose I must close this letter as it is growing late and I have burnt out most a whole candle writing already.

            Give my love to all
                                    From your son
                                                  Jas. F. Ramsey.

PS you must excuse blunders as there is a racket in the tent.

PS  Write Soon Send some stamps tell Moses he must write soon.

P.S. In Haste 10 oclock P.M.  I have just been called out of bed to help the cooks prepare our rations for a march.  We have got orders to be in heavy marching order by 7 oclock tomorrow morning. I suppose we will cross the river I can’t tell I am going to bed again.

            Good bye
                         From your son 

Page Updated January 30, 2014

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