Detachment at Hancock, Md.

Companies A, B, E, & H.
November 26th 1861 - January 2nd 1862.

Main Street, Hancock Maryland

An early photograph of Main Street, Hancock, Maryland, courtesy of the Hancock Historical Society.

"Suffice it to say, of all the places in Md. I have yet seen, Hancock stands highest in my estimation. Though not half as large as Williamsport, there seems to be much greater business carried on & the people more enterprising and prosperous.  They are far more hospitable also, which is more to the point." - Harvard Educated Private John B. Noyes, writing to his brother Charles, January 8th 1862.

This updated page is dedicated to David D. Smith, Town Manager, Hancock, MD;  Also to  Marion Golden, Town Historian &  Tracy, Assistant Town Historian, for showing us around historic Hancock on  a snowy afternoon in February 2012.


     November 26 at  6 A.M., companies A, B, E and H set off towards Hancock, 26 miles west of Williamsport.  Fighting was reported there the previous day and it was thought re-enforcements were necessary.  After a 10 mile trek in darkness up a mountain road the detachment stopped for the night at Clear Spring Hotel where most of the men slept in the attached barn.  After a hotel breakfast the following morning,  the remaining 10 miles or so to Hancock was made.  By now the 13th Regiment soldiers were experts at marching.  Past Indian Springs they crossed the bare summit of a mountain which revealed “a magnificent prospect” of  “numberless hills” with blue mountains beyond, and the winding Potomac below.  The distant sound of cannonading gave haste to their footsteps and hurried them to Hancock. The fighting proved to be several miles beyond, so they took up their quarters in town.  John Noyes described the town as having about 800 inhabitants and one of the busiest places in this part of Maryland, the center of business for that state as well as for miles around.  Captain James A. Fox, Company A, 13th Mass, was acting Major in command of the detachment.

Captain James Augustus Fox     Captain Fox, age 34, studied law at the Harvard Law School and in Boston in the office of John C. Park.  In July 1860,  he was 1st Lieutenant in the Boston Militia, the  "Boston City Guards," and was one of the committee that petitioned the governor to appoint Samuel H. Leonard captain in that organization to fill a recent vacancy;  (now Colonel Leonard, 13th Mass).  When the 4th Battalion of Rifles was organized Fox became Captain of Co. A.  Private John B. Noyes, (Co. B) wrote of him 

“He is a very good officer, but his ambition has been the Majority which he thinks he may never obtain.  He is a man of property and likes a life of ease better than tent life.”  

    Fox returned to Boston in January 1862 on a recruiting mission of indefinite length.  It appears he never returned to the field.   He was popular with his men and missed.  They were disappointed when he resigned in August 1862.  His post war career in politics was very successful.  Fox was ever present at 13th  Regiment re-unions and special occasions after the war.  His enthusiasm for the organization never diminished.  He was one of the orators at the dedication of the regiment’s monument at Gettysburg in 1885.

     Two days after arriving in Hancock, Company E was dispatched 6 miles further up river on Nov. 29th, to guard the fords at Sir John’s Run depot.  On the 30th  there was a skirmish with rebel forces.  George S. Cheney of Co. E was slightly wounded.

     The detachment played tag with about 500 – 900 rebel pickets in the vicinity.  Frequent expeditions were made across the river to Bath, Virginia in search of prisoners and forage.  Companies A, B, & H were all present for the first of these expeditions Dec. 4th.   Unfamiliar with the ground, the men deployed as skirmishers along the hilly road leading to Bath.  Reaching the top Corporal Walter Beaumont, Co. B, reported seeing the rebel pickets’ tents.  It proved to be only laundry blowing in the breeze.  The men reminded Beaumont of his vigilance by asking “Who found the rebel tents?” to which the reply was “Beaumont.”  

Captain William L. Clark, Co. H
     Captain William L. Clark of Company H, [pictured]  took a Mr. Swan, of Bath, prisoner as he was riding home in his buggy.  Mrs. Swan scolded the captain saying she hoped he would be taken prisoner.  The captain replied he hoped she would not be taken prisoner.  Excerpts from "The History of the 39th Regiment, Illinois Volunteer Infantry", describe members of the Swan family and give an amusing anecdote involving Capt. Joseph Cary, Company B, and soldiers of Company A.

     John B. Noyes was impressed with the size of the large hotel at Bath run by Colonel John Strother veteran of the war of 1812 and father of Col. David Hunter, (of General Bank’s staff); pseudonym “Porte Crayon” whose travel sketches of Virginia decorated the pages of Harper’s Monthly.    The hot springs at Bath was a popular destination before the war dating back to George Washington's time.  Noyes also reported the lack of currency in the depopulated town, the site of gold and silver coins causing the few inhabitants eyes to pop.

      By mid December the bridges and tracks of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad (on the Virginia side) were repaired and trains resumed daily service from Cumberland to Hancock.  December 16th the 39th Illinois arrived with their 1,000 new Springfield rifles.  They soon took positions at Bath & surrounding country, guarding the B & O railroad and bridges.  The 5th Connecticut was also camped nearby, of a mile from Hancock.  The increased troops made it livelier in town and business was brisk at the local saloons.  The 13th had to establish 7 additional liquor guard posts.  Other than guard duty every three days, the duty at Hancock was light, and it seemed like a five week vacation for the men stationed there.  There were no drills or dress parades or fatigue duty.  It was possible to be absent all day as long as they answered roll call at 8:30 p.m.  No questions were asked so the men were free to do as they pleased.  The abundance of game, partridges, rabbits, pheasants and some deer made hunting a popular activity.

      Ironically, General Stonewall Jackson attacked the town just two days after the '13th Mass' detachment was recalled to Williamsport in early January.  Jackson had been bothered by the build up of Federal troops along the Potomac and at Romney, WVa. & considered his force at Winchester vulnerable to attack.  He decided to strike first.

PICTURE CREDITS: Captain Fox,  Captain Clark, and Captain Cary are from  AHEC, Mass MOLLUS Collection; The Biscoe Bros. photographs are from Southern Methodist University, Central University Libraries, De Golyer Library,; Town of Hancock (modern) is from Mr. Wayne Keefer, Board of Trustees, Hancock, Historical Society; Lt. Joseph Colburn, Lt. Edwin Frost, Corporal Walter Beaumont were shared with me by Mr. Scott Hann; Berkley Hot Springs and the town as sketched by David Hunter Strother, (Porte-Crayon) is from the website "The Valley of the Shadow';  Berkley Spring Hotel was accessed digitally at; James Lowell,  Robert Bruce Henderson & N.M. Dyer, were shared by Mr. Tim Sewell, Lowell's descendant; Photo of Big Cacapon Bridge, Library of Congress; The Photo of Dr. Charles M. Clark is from the book, "The History of the 39th Regiment, Illinois Volunteer Infantry" By Dr. Charles M. Clark, Chicago, Illinois, 1889;  The engraving by ardent Secessionist Adalbert Volk is from the Treasures of the New York Historical Society, American Memory/Library of Congress website;  Warren Hapgood Freeman's portrait is from the book Letters From Two Brothers Serving in the War for the Union, Cambridge, 1871; Images of Mr. Charles Wilson and Jane Catherine Henderson are from the Hancock Historical Society, provided by Marion Golden on a personal trip to Hancock in February, 2012;  The Lock House was taken by the author.  All other images and maps are from the Library of Congress Digital Collections;  ALL IMAGES HAVE BEEN EDITED IN PHOTOSHOP.

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The March to Hancock

    In the year 1884, T. Dwight Biscoe, with his brother Walter, took a trip through Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland & Pennsylvania, touring Civil War battlefields.  They travelled in horse & buggy over many of the same roads the boys in the '13th Mass' once traversed, - again and again.  Southern Methodist University has posted 129 digital images of the  album on their DeGolyer Library website.  See picture credits above for the link.  All the photos are carefully labelled with location,  date and time of day the images were taken.

The Village of Clear Spring, Md

Village of Clear Spring on Hagerstown and Cumberland Pike, looking West, August 8, [1884] 10:20  A.m.

Roxbury City Gazette

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

Our Army Correspondence.

Hancock, Nov. 20th, 1861.

    Friend Hutchinson. – We have left our old camp ground at Williamsport, and are at present at Hancock.  Four companies of us at least are camped in town.  Our march was for the most part a pleasant one, save a few drops of rain and hail which overtook us on the mountain.  We carried our knapsacks as far as Clear Springs; they were then transferred to wagons for the rest of the march.  The whole distance travelled was 26 miles.  I would you could follow us in our marches–the variety, the changing scenes which pass before our view would bewilder you.  We crossed a portion of the North Mt., and when about half way up we came to Fair View Inn, and such a view–fair view it is, indeed.  Imagine a spot where a vast area of country spreads before you; a spot from which you can see at least twenty towns.  One vast panorama as far as the eye can reach–one broad landscape–beautiful, magnificent.  To be appreciated these things must be seen.  Tis well for us to enjoy these scenes while we can; but while looking at the beauty of nature we must not forget that war is a terrible thing.  This fact is brought out at every step.  I was conversing with one man whose whole property lies in Virginia; he has a large family to support, and as we passed along together he gave a synopsis of some of his wrongs.  It is sad to realize the disastrous effect of this war upon private individuals, and it is painful to dwell upon wrongs over which we have no control.  One man pointed out to me some 25 acres of corn which he was obliged to leave in the field to save himself from being forced into the rebel service; he is now within speaking distance of his family, yet cannot go to them.  He is also expecting his horses and cattle, his grain, his all, will be seized by those who know no mercy.  Hundreds of good Union men are subjected to this test, but thank God, they adhere to the good old flag–they cling to the Union.  God help them; for we are only in a measure able to keep them from harm; those living on the borders suffer severely.

    We have quite a rebel force opposite; we can take care them however.  Co. E, is all right, and will always be, as long as our present commanders are with us.  As a company we are unusually healthy, and all we want is a chance to show what we can do.

    Hancock is quite a pretty place; its population may be 1000 or 1200–not more.  Many have left, being in near proximity to the rebel forces; they have, and still do fire upon us occasionally, but our barkers will soon silence them; we are within six miles of Mason and Dixon’s line, and but a few miles from the Pennsylvania border.

             Respectfully yours,                                                        Roxbury.

Digital transcription by James Burton

Fair View House

    Pictured is 'Fair View House,'  possibly the same place mentioned in the letters below, where "Standing in the door of the inn, you see spread out before you nature and art commingled together; fields, many of which still present to the eye, spots of that beauty which once covered them – forests stripped of their foliage, reminding one of a vast array of shipping – the rail car, scarcely seen in the dim distance winding its way among the mountain fastness, - streams meandering their way o’ er rocky cliffs, or gently flowing through pleasant valleys, dancing in the sunlight."  The Biscoe Brothers were equally impressed with the view and tried to capture it with their camera equipment, but alas the image was over-exposed.  What was left was a picture of  the side of the road framed by the branches of two trees, and a vast whiteness inbetween.  Consequently, I leave out that view and post this one of the Inn.

Chelsea Telegraph & Pioneer

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

Chelsea Telegraph and Pioneer, December 7, 1861
Page 2, Col. 4.

November 30, 1861.
Thirteenth Massachusetts

Detachment of Advance Guard
Of the Upper Potomac,
Barracks Co. B., 13th Regt. Rifles,
Massachusetts Volunteers.
Hancock, Md., Nov. 30th, 1861.

Friend Editor:
    Last Tuesday we had orders to pack up our traps and get ready for a force march.  These orders came to us at 3 o’clock P.M., and at 6 P.M. we started with three other companies (Cos. A, E, and H,) under command of Capt. Fox, acting Major.  It was very dark and rained almost all night.  After marching about two and a half miles, we had to ford two creeks, so that most of us had to march the rest of the way with wet feet, which, on a cold frosty night is not quite so agreeable.

     At one o’clock at night we arrived at a town called Clear Spring.  The hotels, and many of the private houses, were thrown open to receive us.  We stopped in town till 7 o’clock next morning; then started over the mountain, it raining and hailing al the time, and at last came to a place called Hancock, twenty-seven miles from where we started the day before.  On arriving, we learned that the rebels had been trying to cross the river for several days, as there is a great quantity of salt stored in the warehouses here.  We had one piece of artillery with us, and a few shot and shell from this made the rebels scatter in every direction. It took them by surprise, as they did not dream that there where any soldiers in Hancock.  They annoyed our pickets very much by firing across at them, but no one has been hurt yet.  We are in a very comfortable quarters, as we are in a large hall (formerly used as town hall); Co. A is in a large house, Co. E in a church, Co. H are quartered in a grain warehouse.  Friday, Nov. 29, Co. E went to a place six miles above, opposite Sir John’s Run, Va., to guard that ford, so that only three of our Cos. remain in town.  The citizens of Hancock are most of them strong Union people, and they do all in their power to make us as comfortable as possible.

More some other time.
A Chelsea Boy,
Co. B, 13th Regt. Rifles

Contemporary photo of Hancock

    The town of Hancock looks much the same today as it did during the time of the Civil War; as shown in this contemporary photograph taken by Mr. Wayne Keefer, secretary, and Board of Trustees Member of the Hancock Historical Society.

    The picture is taken from the same vantage point as the vintage photograph at the top of the page.

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Skirmish at Sir John' Run, Company E

   Map of Sir John's Run, Hancock, Bath 

The Map shows Hancock, located at the narrowest part of Maryland, Sir John's Run to the West, where Company E was posted, and Bath, WV where frequent raiding expeditions were made by squads from the '13th Mass.'  Also pictured is Cacapon, where detachments of the 39th Illinois went to guard the B&O Railroad.

Roxbury City Gazette

    Company E, Captain Charles R. M. Pratt commanding,  advanced a few miles farther up the river from Hancock to a place along Sir John's Run on the Potomac.  Unfortunately, after searching high and low, I still do not have a picture of Capt. Pratt, who is mentioned frequently.  Second-Lieutenant Edwin Frost, Co. E, is pictured.

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

Roxbury City Gazette
13th Massachusetts.
      December 19, 1861.
         Editor of the Gazette – Dear Sir: I presume you have long before this heard of our move, or rather of the moving of four companies, A B E and H.

    We left Williamsport Tuesday, 26th ult., for Hancock; marched to Clear Springs that night, and stowed ourselves away, some in barns, others in houses, and made ourselves as comfortable as possible, under the circumstances; resumed our march next morning to Hancock.  We are again in the mountainous part of Maryland.  This march seemed rather more tiresome to some of us than usual.  I scarcely know what to say about the scenery, it is of a character so grand, in many places so truly magnificent, that common place remarks fail to approach it.  Soon after leaving Clear Spring, we began our journey up the North Mountain, arriving at Fair View Inn, we get a view which richly repays the tired traveler.  Standing in the door of the inn, you see spread out before you nature and art commingled together; fields, many of which still present to the eye, spots of that beauty which once covered them – forests stripped of their foliage, reminding one of a vast array of shipping – the rail car, scarcely seen in the dim distance winding its way among the mountain fastness, - streams meandering their way o’ er rocky cliffs, or gently flowing through pleasant valleys, dancing in the sunlight,
         Like some dark beauteous bird, Whose plume is sparkling with unnumbered eyes.
      Towns, villages, streams, plains, mountains, – art and nature – all dwelling on the bosom cannot fail to impress the beholder with awe.  We lose ourselves amid these scenes of nature, and turning from ourselves, look to the Great Source of all beauty and life. – From Fair View Inn twenty-six towns can be distinctly seen.

       Passing on our journey we arrive at Hancock, a town containing about an equal number of Secesh and Union loving inhabitants.  There are several churches, two hotels, Union and National, quite a number of stores; and last, but not least, a larger number of pretty girls than is usually found in one small town.  Until we came here, I had about made up my mind that a handsome woman could not be found in Maryland.
        2nd Lieutenant Edwin Frost, Co E The companies are quartered in different buildings.  Co. E for two nights occupied a church.  Friday morning at ten o’clock we were again under marching orders, (Co. E)  After one of the most tiresome, muddy marches, we reached Sir John’s Run, at about 2 o’clock, P. M. – distance traveled, six miles.  We there met Capt. Carnes, Co. B, 1st Vermont Regiment, he having come through on the canal boat.  Seeing a wagon load of goods over in Dixie, he concluded to appropriate them to his own use.  Covered by our rifles, he brought the goods to our side.  They consisted of a sofa, spices, shoes, and quite a number of very very small shirts, with other articles to match. – Several shots were fired across.  Carnes proceeded up the canal – we to look up our quarters for the night, finding which, after stationing pickets, we turned in.  All was quite during the night.  The next morning Capt. Pratt’s presence was called for at the river.  While he, together with Lieuts. Colburn and Frost [Edwin Frost, pictured] were standing there, the rebels, by way of introduction, opened the ball, one of which landed rather close to our gentlemanly officers.  ‘Twas very uncivil in the rebels, but nothing compared to their afterpiece.  The first ball was a summons to arms.  The boys hastened to the scene of action, (just like the old folks of eighty odd years since) and at it we went.  The rebels outnumbered us two to one, were completely sheltered behind houses and trees.  We were obliged to do the best we could.  We had a pretty little skirmish; the bullets flew around with a perfect looseness, whizzing and humming every which way; we found it very necessary to dodge quite often, when would come a ball, cutting the branches over our head; co-chuck, behind us on the bank another would strike, until after two hours firing, the rebels, from some cause, natural or unnatural, stopped their fire.  But one of our number was wounded.  He received a flesh wound in the right leg, but is doing well, and will be out next week.  One thing is certain, the rebels made a mistake; they know nothing about us – did not suppose we had rifles, and having found out their mistake, will let us alone for the future.  Co. E’ s boys went over to Dixie yesterday, with what success I did not learn.  Co’s A and B also crossed yesterday, bringing home a wagon load of corn, rakes, ? nails, turkeys, & c., & c.  Co. H, captured a Mr. Swan, a noted rebel. I don’t think we shall remain here long.
                                Respectfully Yours,

[Digital Transcription by James Burton.]

Looking back to Hancock from the West side

Another Biscoe Brothers View, "Looking Back to Hancock, from a Hill on the Left of the Pike (South); August 2nd, [1884]  11:20 A.M.    Southern Methodist University, Central University Libraries, De Golyer Library.

Letter of James Ramsey

 James Ramsey describes the skirmish mentioned in the newsclipping above.   (There is little punctuation in Ramsey's letters, but it is generally clear where  sentences begin and end).

Sumners Store opposite
Sir John’s run Va.  Nov 29th 1861.

Dear Mother
                                                                I am well   I received your letter yesterday afternoon in a church in Hancock   I had no time to write as we had orders to march to Sir John’s run early next morning   I was glad to hear from you   I wrote a letter to Father and sent the money by Mr. Cook also a letter to Ella with the daguerotype which I hope you will get.  I suppose you will hear about the thanksgiving dinner.  I enjoyed it as well as might be expected   Nov. 30th 1861.  I was on picket at the time of commencing this letter  I was called off to take my post.  We had a setting room of a house for a guard house it poured all night and two of us had to keep still as death back to back so as to hear any one who attempted to cross the river   I am wet through    on the morning watch I was call down to the waters edge by a women in Virginia  she told me the rebels had been reinforced by @ 500 men at Bath a distance of two miles  she said she thought they would fight and wanted to cross the river into Maryland.  I told her I would see the captain about it.    After I had been relieved from guard and was eating my dinner   breakfast I heard firing and most of the men took their guns and went out on the bluff   I went up into the hay loft where our mess are quarterted and looked out of the door   I saw a gun fired out of the woods on the opposite bank of the river to the left of the town  in and instant a dozen bullets went in that direction    I took my equipments and gun and went out on the bluff and fired one shot at the thicket where they were firing from   the way the bullets whistled by my ears I left double quick for a rail fence the orders were to find cover.  I squat down and commenced to load and fire   the battle then began to be pretty hot   they were under cover of the woods while


while we were on a hill with but one rail fence through which the bullets would come and two or three trees   the place in the fence where I was the bullets would go cochunk into the rails it made me think of home and pray while I was firing   they could not see me but they fired in the direction of the smoke   there was two others in the same place one of the fellows left and I began to think of a safer place    I loaded fired and would retreat about ten feet and then dropp load and fire till I got a better position where I pepered away at them the bullets came as close as ever.  one of our boys was shot in the leg he left on a run for shelter of our barracks one of our fellows helped him along  I gess some of the rebels were killed   I heard one yell among them they found our rifles to hot for them and retreated to a mill where they had the advantage of us after to hours hot fighting we withdrew   We expect to be at it again soon  it was the first battle I ever was in   I don’t think one of the boys acted cowardly  I don’t think I acted a cowards part although I did not like the idea of being shot    I might have got away and no one have been the wiser but I was among the last to leave the field   I think I should have been among the angels had I been killed   I felt happy.  One of our men with a companion went over the river in a boat and went through the town   a woman told them there was about 500 there in the morning  they have got back safe.  I do not know how long we shall stay in this place   I cannot think of any more to write by the way this paper come from Virginia yesterday afternoon   I will write some time about the journey here   we are in comfortable quarters   You need not worry about me   I have found a savior in Christ or I would not have felt as I did in my first battle   perhaps you will get the news by the paper before this letter   this will set your mind at ease   Good by for the present

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

Letter of George S. Cheney, Co. E; wounded at Sir John's Run

    George Cheney was the man wounded in the skirmish.  His letter home conveys the confidence the Union troops had that the war would be short.  The skirmishing  had an air of excitement and fun about it. First-Lieutenant Joseph Colburn is pictured.

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


      DECEMBER 12, 1861.

          From a letter received from George S. Cheney of this city, who is a soldier in the Massachusetts Thirteenth, and was wounded in the engagement at Sir John’s Run, we learn the following particulars in regard to his condition.  He says :-

    “I have everything for my comfort – as much so as though I were at home.  When I received the shot, I was placed in a very critical position, for a moment.  At the commencement of the engagement, I stationed myself behind some bushes.  As several of us were together, firing rapidly, we soon drew the rebel fire upon us, the bullets cutting the branches from the bushes, and scattering the leaves about us.  Seven buried themselves in the ground not a foot from our position, finding which to be a little too hot, and copying a tree in the middle of the field, I attempted to gain it.  Three times I started, and three times the balls stopped me, but I finally managed to reach the tree.  When there I found I could not get as good a shot as I wanted, and concluded to get the cover of a rail fence.  I started and got about two-thirds of the way, when I was stopped by one of their balls.  A volley was fired by the rebels, and the balls whistled about my ears in a manner truly astonishing.  I seemed to hear the one that hit me before it struck.  Lieut. Joseph ColburnI stopped very quick, and rolled up my pants to see where I was hit.  The balls continuing to fly, the boys called out to me to lie down.  I told them I was shot, and in spite of the danger, many of them rushed towards me.  A noble set of fellows are E’s boys.  I walked to the barracks, Lieut. Colburn with me.  My wound is a flesh wound, somewhat sore and painful, but no wise dangerous.  I escaped by a miracle.  Had I been one inch farther in the rear, by leg would have been crushed to powder; as it is, neither bone, cord nor muscle are injured.  People may say what they please to the contrary, there is music in the hum and whistling of bullets.  Company E has stood as hot fire as any company.  The firing continued two hours, being begun by the rebels, who were sheltered by houses and trees, while we were badly exposed.  They must have been astonished at the effect of our Enfield balls.  They have been used to being shot at with the old muskets, and probably did not know what kind of arms we had.  They had at least four hundred men, while our number was about eighty.  I am the only one shot, but quite a number had bullets through their pants.  I have suffered very little indeed, and have been treated with the greatest kindness by Lieuts. Colburn and Frost, and all the boys; in fact nothing has been left undone to make me comfortable.  I shall be out in a week or two, not able to do duty, but able to walk around.  I am impatient to get out, as there is more or less firing going on between Co. E and the rebels every day.

 [Digital Transcription by James Burton.]

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Expedition to Bath

    While posted at Hancock and environs, members of the 13th Mass made frequent expeditions across the Potomac to Virginia, mostly to the town of Bath, (Berkley Springs, today) to confiscate materials that might be useful to the Confederacy.  And to protect on-going repairs to the Baltimore & Ohio railroad which ran through Virginia part of the way along its route.  The following history was prepared by Jeanne Mozier and can be found at  

Berkley Hot Spring drawn by Porte Crayon
    "Through cycles of fashion, notoriety, war and different notions of progress, the healing magic of Berkeley Springs and its warm mineral waters has prevailed. One of the most famous of all Blue Ridge spas, the springs were the prime destination of noted colonial and post-Revolutionary War visitors including George Washington. Illustrious visitors continued through several Golden Ages including the 1840s through ‘60 and the Victorian era. Although there were no great Civil War battles fought in the area, Berkeley Springs was a southern resort and suffered a serious decline in business during the war and the following decade.

    "Gambling, horseracing and high living were prominent sports during the late 18th century prompting Methodist Bishop Francis Asbury to proclaim the town “that seat of sin.” Gambler Robert Bailey operated most of the town’s hotels in the opening decades of the 19th century.

    "With the arrival of the railroad in the 1840s, Berkeley Springs flourished as a popular summer resort with guests from Virginia and Baltimore. Colonel John Strother built the 500-room Berkeley Hotel on the south end of the park; the Fairfax Hotel dominated the street along the north side. More than 800 people would visit during the summer season. Both hotels were destroyed by fire at the turn of the 20th century.

    "Drink and bath cures were prescribed using the warm mineral waters; baths were taken at cool and artifically heated temperatures. Ills ranging from rheumatism, and skin afflictions to digestive and nervous disorders were said to benefit. In spite of medical claims, “taking the waters” most often provided an excuse for social gathering.  In 1769 George Washington spent five weeks at the springs and recorded more than 25 dinners, social rides and teas."

[Sketch of the hot springs by David Hunter Strother (1816-1888) – a successful travel writer & artist  prior to the war. pseudonym, “Porte Crayon” (Pencil Case).  Accessed via]

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

Our Army Correspondence.
Letter from the 13th Regt. 

DECEMBER 8, 1861.

     Dumplin Valley Md,
Opposite Sir John’s Run, Va., Dec. 8.

    Friend Hutchinson:– Here we are, right side up, in Dumplin Valley; ain’t that a gay name?  Who or what this place is named after, I don’t know, but it is a hard country, any way. – The rebels who were stationed opposite us have left: they don’t like our Yankee guns and pluck.  They came up here to steal what they could from the Union people, and to tear up the railroad, but they did not try it.  Another object they had, was to press all the Union men they could into their army, but they did not make much at that; they got fifteen and lost twenty; the fact is the people here are for the Union, and they won’t fight against it.  Yesterday, while I was in Virginia, I met three men who had just got away from them, who were going up into the mountains for safety, and they told me they had slept in the woods and mountains for weeks, and even months.  We have been having some gay times here in Dixie.  Yesterday our company went to Bath, where is situated Berkly Springs, a famous watering place.  There are many small hotels, the largest of which the boys took – also the bath house for their own use.  We meet some few secesh, and the female portion are very particular to let you know that they are such.  We have not got much valuable property yet; yesterday the Captain got a mule and some padlocks and two mail bags from a post office, where the post master had turned secesh and run off.  There are a great many refugees here from Virginia, and it is sad to hear the stories of their wrongs and sufferings.  After the troops left, it was astonishing to see the Union people come down to the river to ask the Captain if they could come over to get coffee, sugar and salt, all of which articles seem to be in great demand.  No use though – can’t let them have it.  The people over there are actually starving, but it won’t last much longer.  The railroad is almost completed to this place, and when finished we can pile in as many troops as we will want. – Some of the boys have been up the road for a number of miles on the hand cars.  The cars will be run down opposite to us.  It is shameful to see the destruction of property on the railroad; before many weeks every thing will be all right in this part of the country.  The people say that they wish the Yankees would come over in strong force, then they would surrender.                         Yours respectfully,


Letter of Private John B. Noyes, Company B

Berkley Spring Hotel

John B. Noyes writes of the Berkley Springs Hotel owned and operated by Union supporter, Colonel John Strother.  The large structure burned in March 1898.  Unfortunately most of the buildings of 1860's Bath are gone.  The older structures in the town still standing today date to the late 19th Century.

Hancock Md.  Saturday Dec. 7th 1861

Dear Father,
    Yours of the 28th ult. was received Dec. 1st. It found me in Hancock, a town of perhaps 800 inhabitants, on the bank of the Potomac. This is one of the busiest places in this part of Md. & is the centre of business for Md., Penn. & Va. for many miles around.  On the opposite side of the Potomac runs the Balt. & Ohio RR of which so much is said in the papers.  Co. E. has been sent to St. John’s Run, and at that place had a skirmish with the enemy, in which one of Co. E’s men was slightly wounded.  A, B, & H are still here.  Last Wednesday detachments of Co’s B & H crossed the Potomac.  Not knowing the ground we deployed as skirmishers up the hilly road leading to Bath.  From the top of the hill one of our men thought he saw the enemy’s tents.  The officers were called, men sent forward, and behold – a clothe’s line with all its toggery on. 

Corporal Walter P. Beaumont     The great question now is, - “who discovered the Rebel tents ?”  to which the reply is – Beaumont.  We took one Mr. Swan, a secessionist, prisoner as he was coming down the road to his house in a buggy.  Mrs. Swan told Capt. Clark that she hoped he would be taken prisoner; to which he replied that he could not reciprocate her good wishes:  he hoped she would not be taken. 

    Mr. Swan realizes to some extent my idea of a Virginia gentleman.  He did not seem at all cast down, but spoke of his general and the confederate forces, as we do of our general and forces.  He has a very pleasant house and one or two very pretty daughters extremely sesesh. 

    The next day I went with Co. B. A. & H as escort to the grave of a soldier in Capt. Carnes’ Co, who was accidentally killed while on duty.  The services did not impress me very deeply owing to the worse than wretched sermon of the Methodist Episcopal preacher who officiated.

    Yesterday at 3 Am we were routed out of bed in a hurry. We formed in front of Co A’s quarters, and with that Co. crossed the river. We marched till day light where we reached Bath. Along the route we saw the smouldering fires of the rebel pickets who had left the previous night.  When we reached the town scarcely a person was on the street.  By and by a few negroes & boys became visible and two or three men, whose occupation had saved them from the draft.   Indeed but 17 men were left in town; the others had joined either the federal or confederate army or had moved to Md. or safer places in Va.  Here I met old Col. Strother whom I had seen at Mr. Henderson’s store here.  He was at his large, spacious hotel which far exceeds in size any hotel in Boston, capable of holding several hundred visitors.  For here are famous baths and hot springs of the temperature of 74 degrees farenheit.  From them springs I suppose Bath derives its name.  The Village of Bath as sketched by Porte-CrayonCol. Strother, the proprietor, is the father of Porte Crayon the author of sketches in Va., who is now on Gen’l Banks’ staff.  The old gentleman was a Lieut. In the war of 1812 & is true to his country still.  Here also was Mrs. Orrick* whose husband we would have liked to catch, and who lives next to Mr. Swan just across the River.  

    Mrs. Orrick is an ardent Union lady notwithstanding her husband’s sympathies.  We managed after a while to get our breakfasts at different houses in the town in which a large proportion of the houses are deserted. But the town was pretty nearly eaten up as 900 rebel troups had left the previous day.  I had the opportunity of buying two or three small confederate notes before leaving.  By the way there is no currency in the town except paper.  Every cent of cash has gone to “other climes.”  It is astonishing how both white mens as well a negroes’ eyes stuck out at the sight of gold and silver we amused ourselves with showing.  Most of the soldiers who left Bath were drafted, and I learned from good authority that but two in one of the companies were sesesh.  They were militia and not volunteers or regulars.  On this point the boys and men here were very distinct.  Few of the militia had uniforms & they were variously armed, most with altered flint locks.  Some with Sharp’s rifles and fowling pieces.  We left town about noon on our return riches of half a dozen geese or so.  

    I hope you will get safe through the operations on your teeth.  The quicker the thing is done with the better so long as it is well done.

    Have my letters come safely home in a small bundle by Adams Express.  Banks’ Div. is now at Frederick.  It is reported that we are to winter at Hagerstown or near it, but I know not with how much truth.  I send a 10 cent note for Charles.  You can give it to him.  I also send a plan of the Hotel at Bath.

                                    With love to all I am
                                                            Your Aff. Son
                                                                        John B. Noyes.

NOTES:  Beaumont is Walter P. Beaumont; age, 20: born, Dexter, Me.; clerk; musteerd in as corp., Co. B, July 16, ’61; mustered out as sergt., April 24, ’63; appointed 1st lieut., 8th unattached Co. H. A., Aug. 11, ’63; capt., Co. G, 3d Regt. H.A., Jan. 17, ’65; wounded, Aug. 30, ’62, at Manassas; also wounded at Battle of Washington; deceased (as of 1893).
Capt. Carnes is from the 1st Va. Reg’t., Co. B.  
*Mrs. Orrick is Margaret Cookus (or Cookes) wife of Johnson Orrick, a Captain in the 33rd Virginia Infantry.  He died in the battle of Morganstown WV, June 21, 1863.

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  Letters of John B. Noyes,  Soldiers' fare & the Character of the Regiment

     Always keenly observant and ready to report on everything, John B. Noyes writes his aunt about regional differences in dialect & food.  This fascinating letter is as much a commentary on New England as Maryland.  Noyes fondness for making  puns is evident throughout the letter.

Ms Am 2332 (23c) "By permission of the Houghton Library, Harvard University."

Hancock Md. Saturday December 14th 1861.

Dear Aunt Rebecca

       I half promised in my last letter to Charles to write you, and mother, about culinary matters in Maryland and Virginia.  I do not now speak of our culinary matters, because the soldier’s fare though not much varied is restricted to the army.  We have as you know beef & corn beef – beef steak & roast beef, corn beef, hot & cold – occasionally, but very seldom, salt beef hash, although there have been times when salt beef & fried pork were our only substantial food.  Those times are now past, perhaps never to return.    There is nothing now to complain of respecting army fare; it is good and wholesome and with butter purchased at private expense I am content.  To day we had roast mutton, tender, but an exception to our usual fare, for yesterday while, off guard, I was in Pennsylvania enjoying private hospitality, several members of our company were in Va. on a foraging party.  They brought back for our Co. 4 sheep and one or two oxen.  I haven’t had mutton since I left the Miller’s at Antietam so you may judge how I enjoyed it.

       I wish to speak of what I have seen at the boards of private families here in Md.  And perhaps before I speak of eatables it may be well to speak of cooking essentials.  You do not take the water pail to fill the kettle with, but the water bucket.  If you were to make Buck wheats you would use the tin bucket, not the tin pail.  You need not turn pale at this information though you are allowed to smile.  Very likely use would be made of coal hods in our kitchens; coal buckets (the same thing) are only used here.  The damper of a stove pipe, not a funnel is turned here, and you pour vinegar into a cruet through a funnel, and not, as with us, through a tunnel.  The milk maid does not bring us milk in a can, or even in a pail, but in a milk bucket, which in reality is nothing but a common Massachusetts tin pail.

       There are times for hog-butchering, and of course “scraps” can be easily made, but if you were to ask till you were hoarse, as I am now, you would never get any scraps in Maryland.  Say “cracklings” however, and you would be very likely to get “scrap” though very few Md. people eat them.  They do not understand how to make them truly edible and wonder at Eastern people ever liking them.   Apple butter is a very common sauce here.  It may be quaker apple sauce, but of this I am doubtful.  It is boiled a good many hours & will keep for years.  Quince & Peach butter probably derive their name from a like mode of cooking.  Apple sauce is different from apple butter, so I understand; and peach butter is different from peach preserve, which last is here invariably eaten with the most delicious cream.  Citron is also eaten in the same manner & it is truly delicious.  To sauce perhaps saus–age comes next in order.  Sausage is sausage the country over, probably so called from the fact that sour sage is used in its make. Now sausage is not hog pudding, here called “pudding,” although it looks just like it.  Very likely you do not know what “hog pudding” is; well it looks just like a sausage, but tastes a great deal better, being made of the liver of the hog.  High livers justly prefer this pudding to the common sausage.  If you ever come to Maryland, call on the Misses Brosius who live on the Pennsylvania Line, near the small village of Waffordsburgh, three miles or so from Hancock and ask in my name for hog pudding.  You need ‘nt ask there for broiled rabbit also, because they may not have been able to snare any “small deer” about the time of your coming.  Our meats are not so common here as with us at home.  This may be from the fact that people here live more on what they raise on their farms.  Still you may get a round of beef, if you busy yourself about it.  Chicken is the staple here.  You may have it roast or fried. You will have it for breakfast, dinner, or supper.  Happen in as you may you are welcomed to chicken.  Ham is also found here now adays fresh pork fried.  Thus at Mr. Kirke’s in Pennsylvania I always have for high tea, perhaps I ought to say for supper fresh pork & fried chicken.  Buckwheats are an institution here.  They are eaten at any and every meal.  When a young lady, by mistake, sent some to Chandler I ate my Breakfast & blessed the lady for her mistake as well as here cakes.  I have eaten them many times here.  And how light and hot they are! Whether eaten with syrup as at Mrs. Henderson’s or with nothing but butter as at other places.  Imagine your obedient servant at table dissecting a chicken and as he is passing a nice peace of drum stick to his mouth, interrupted by a little contraband who till the meal is finished brings to his side cakes fire new.  The Professor could not eat bread with one fish ball.  Even I cannot eat bread, where I have so much difficulty in disposing of a couple of buck–wheats before my plate is darkened with two more; - I beg your pardon, I mean before the darky is round again.  This eating from grid–iron to mouth is much better than eating from hand to mouth. I do not know whether squashes are rare here, or whether it is or is not turnip time.  At any rate I haven’t seen any squash or turnip here or even cranberry.  Instead you would very likely see hominy.  “Hominy “ you will say “I declare!”  No, not [what] we call hominy but hulled corn.  For it does not pay for hulled corn venders to travel in these sparsely settled regions.  Hominy is eaten without sugar or milk and may answer to our samp.  You would also see “slaugh”, that is something made up of cabbage, cut up fine, and served hot or cold, an excellent condiment extremely common here.  I wish this dish was not over-slaughed in our system of cooking. Pickles, honey, and blackberry jam might be on the table also.  You might perhaps also see Dutch Pudding which I have heard spoken of often, though I have seen it only at Williamsport on my Thanksgiving table.  It then tasted so much like soap, that I forebore to test it further.  Perhaps that I had was not equal to the average.  At any rate the dish is liked by many.  In the Eve’g. while calling on  a lady or gentleman you are likely to be treated to apples & ginger bread and chestnuts & a glass of currant wine or blackbury cordial.  I have thus described as well as possible Maryland dishes.  I do not recollect to have seen pies or puddings at any meal here, and I judge they are not much depended upon.  Indeed when meat or chicken is so often used at supper, there seems to be little room left for pies on the table, - or elsewhere.  Pies are made here however for we buy them, though they are not equal to ours.  Indeed Williamsport beats the rest of Maryland easily on pies, though private families may make them better.  Mince pies here are not worth a “fip”.  Mrs. Henderson tried one of Chandler’s cold, and said it was unlike hers and extremely nice.  Still Miss Thomas said her Aunt somebody made mince pies even nicer than that she tasted.   It’s always the Aunts that make nice pies.  By the way I had almost forgotten to say that one of the most delicious Washington pies I ever tasted indeed two pies, one on the top of the other, - four pieces of cake & two layers of blackberry jam – was called fruit cake.  So I have seen pie on the table after all.  But enough of this.

    How do you do & why don’t you write occasionally.  How is Dr. Pryon?  My regards to him.  Frank Stimpson & I want to find out his address so we can get a letter to him.  I understand Norton Folsom is a cadet in the Medical service.  Is he at home or away & if so where?  although the question should be more properly directed to father.    Give my regards to Miss Francis.  Indeed you may give my regards to any ladies whom I know & who may enquire about me.  I make you my attorney for this purpose.  This letter you regard as a “ power.”  I had a very pleasant letter from Cousin Sophie a day or two ago.  She writes a capital letter & I could’nt help roaring at her demure wit.  She reports all well at Salem.  As it is now after evening roll call, I will close this letter which has already extended to a much greater length than I at first expected.  You know I am something of a gourmand, especially fond of mince pies, with brandy in them, although I am a moderate temperance man of 23 years standing, and will pardon any error of omission of dishes here used, in my haste to describe my favorites.

       With love to all, including Charles & Mary, I am
                   Your Affectionate Nephew
                       John B. Noyes.

Note:  Samp is dried corn kernals stamped and chopped until broken but not as fine as meal.

Letter of John B. Noyes, December 31st 1861

    John Noyes continues correspondence with his aunt, on the subject of food. His comments on the character and cleanliness of the men in his regiment are also noteworthy.

Ms Am 2332 (25) "By permission of the Houghton Library, Harvard University."

Hancock Md. December 31, 1861

Dear Aunt Rebecca

    A happy New year to yourself and all the family.  Your interesting letter of the 23d inst. was received on my return to the barracks after depositing my last letter to father in the Post Office Although unaccustomed to letter writing you do not appear to have forgotten your old facility in that line, and I hope that now you have your hand in you will continue to send me occasionally good advice & the news of the town & family.  There is nothing I like better than a letter from home with news however trifling it may seem to you about the family and its surroundings.  I don’t forget the old barn, the school house at its back for the education of female bairns, or anything that is about the house or farm.  I occasionally wish I could smell some of your flower beds which you take such good care of.  Do you have many flowers now?  Has the injurious frost bitten any of your favorites?  Do you keep any plants in my room now that I am gone?  I think I see you in my room now more than ever. You will be wanting to swap with me by the time I get home.  I leave it in your hands to see that the weed nicotia called is not suffered to become too rank in the apartment. As you learned from my last letter home winter is now upon us; and it is quite as cold here as at home.  Yesterday we had our 5   pound blankets given out to us , which are poor affairs after all, but may protect us from the cold.  My mittens still hold out & may possibly last through the winter.  They are clumsy however in handling a gun, and I should like a pair of knit mittens, with a fore finger attached.  Perhaps you already have a pair. My scarf also would be comfortable nights when I am on guard duty.

    You ask me to state more particularly what my fare is out here.  It doesn’t take long to go through our bill of fare.  We have little or no salt but a pork now.  The fresh meat is either roasted, fried or corned.  At breakfast we have soft bread & coffee regularly & generally hot or cold meat.  At dinner soft bread & hot meat, sometimes potatoes also.  At tea coffee & soft bread and sometimes meat also.  The bread we toast & butter to suit ourselves.  Sometimes our men purchase meat, livers, sausages &c.  In that case they cook these dishes for themselves, not at the cook stove, but at the stove which warms the barracks.  When Chandler & I had a yard of sausage given us something over a week ago, I had sausage for breakfast cooked by myself in the best style of the art.  Occasionally the cook boils rice or makes suet puddings.  On Sunday mornings we have baked beans.   Such is the whole story of our diet, mangse?? the chickens, ducks, turkeys, fried roasted or ‘boiled into soup’.  The latter dishes are of course private, although occasionally a company thing is made of it.  I don’t know what Buttricks experience was of a soldier life.  I certainly should not want to belong to any other regiment, or company even except Co. A. of this regiment.  The whole matter is summed up shortly thus, and I don’t want to say anything against our army.  Other Regiments have dirty clothes, and rough looking men our men keep their clothes clean & have clothes fit to wear any where, and also keep their boots blacked.  Houses are open to us which are closed to other soldiers.  People every where like us privates, and as well on the officers and make no bones in showing their liking when both meet as at this town.  Wherever we go the people get up petitions to have us remain.  This is because we treat them well and protect them.  We have been called ginger bread soldiers by some because our boots are blacked and clothes kept clean.  We think we are no worse soldiers for being something else.  It is just as easy to be clean as to be dirty, to be comfortable as to be miserable, to see some thing and somebody, as to see nothing & nobody. 

    I am glad to hear that Charles’ baby is so healthy.  May it become wealthy and wise.  You must now see that it does not run into people bearing hot water, because all babies do not have the physical constitution I always had.  I intended to have made the baby and Martha, too, a Christmas present, but it entirely escaped my mind up to this moment. Now it is rather late.  But if Martha wants anything not too costly I should like you to get it for here.

    The contraband here are intelligent enough.  The one Mrs. Brosius lost the other day seems to have had less common sense than most about here. He ran away from kind masters who worked him little.  He has gone I don’t know where, but he will have to work hard, without friends to support himself.  As I said in my letter to father, I came very nearly hunting for the runaway, or rather the horse he took with him.  The horse has now been brought back, the negro was not considered worth searching for.  By the time you get this note I shall probably again be in Williamsport in winter quarters

Yours Truly                                       
John B. Noyes                    

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Letter of James Ramsey, Another Expedition to Virginia

Sir John’s run Va  Dec 14th 1861.

Dear Mother,
    I am well and enjoying myself it is a pleasant day to day.  I have nothing to do to day but to write although I hardly know what to write   You got that letter about our fight  Company C has had another fight at Cherry run and one of their men was killed I have not found out his name yet.  The other night our first Lieut [Lieut. Colburn]  took 31 of us and started at 9 oclock and went 16 miles into the country within 20 miles of Winchester to get two spies  We surrounded the house while some looked for the spies but we did not find them   we started for home again and on the way we searched some houses.  We searched the house of Col Buck a rebel colonel of the same regim’t we had our fight with and took a horse and team and all of his poultry.  We got back pretty tired after marching 32 miles in 12 hours after searching half a dozen houses.  At Col Buck’s house we got some Richmond papers of the 21st Nov.   here is a piece of poetry I copied from the Richmond enquirer

Picket Guard

What are your thoughts poor soldiers
On picket guard to night ?
Are you weary and sick with watching
‘Neath the silent stars so bright ?

Do your thoughts wander back to the homestead,
Where mother and sister so dear,
Are dreaming of you in their slumbers,
And even in sleep shed a tear ?

Are you thinking of one fend and faithful,
Ever ready to yield up her life
To shield and protect you from danger,
The loved one, your own angel wife ?

Then do not be weary with watching,
But think of he loved ones a far,
And pray that the Ruler in Heaven,
May shield you from dangers of war.

May the bright Star of Hope never flicker
But first in thy heart run its sway
And courage nerve thy arm in fierce battle
And victory smile o’er thy way.


    I got Ella’s letter the other day and these feather are for her  I get them out of a turkey from Va
 This secesh ribon is for Georgie
Give my love to all  Kiss Hugh for me
                                    from your

Note:  There isn't any record of a Co. C man killed at this time, Warren Freeman mentions  James 'Kennay' (spelling from the roster) of Co. C who was shot several times during the skirmish at Dam no. 5, but survived.  Kennay mustered out April 9, 1864, and mustered into the 57th Mass. as a 1st Lieutenant.

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An Unflattering Comment at Hancock

James Howard Lowell

     The friends and experiences James Lowell encountered during his service with the '13th Mass' regiment had a profound impact on his life.  At the end of his enlistment Lowell went West, and had a series of adventures before he eventually settled in Holton, KS.   He wrote a memoir of his adventures which was never published.  Once settled, he went back east and  married Kate Roberts, a girl he met in Harrisburg, PA where he  recovered from wounds received at the battle of Antietam. Lowell carefully preserved his war legacy by keeping in touch with comrades and saving the letters.  He also kept a scrapbook with photos of his former soldier friends.

    Today his descendants continue to be stewards of the Lowell family legacy.  There is a good possibility that Lowell's yet un-published 'Western Memoirs' will soon see the light of day.  Also, over 70 images of Lowell and his comrades were shared with me for use on this website.

The following letter  to Association Secretary Charles Davis was printed in 13th Regiment Associaton Circular #23, December, 1910.  It recalls an incident that occurred when Co. A was detached at Hancock.  A related incident is also told in the article "Dr. Clark and the Rebel Flag" shown below, on this page.   Sergeant Robert Bruce Henderson of Company A is pictured. 

 Holton, Kan., Dec. 9, 1909.

Charles E. Davis, Jr., Boston, Mass.

    Dear Comrades All:      I wonder how many survivors of Company A remember the following incident, I have seen nothing of it in any of the circulars.  The impression it left on my mind at the time has never moulted a feather and I am tempted to relate it in my awkward way.  In the winter of 1861 three or four companies of the regiment were sent to Hancock as part of the "Advance Guard." Company A was quartered in a brand new brick 3-story house; the pony mess (to which the writer belonged) camped in the low-ceiled attic.  Now, as Company A figured in the role of skirmishers of the regiment, a part of our training was the bayonet drill.  One day a series of bayonet drills took place in the attic, an arena wholly unsuited for that character of warfare, and the result was that the ceiling looked like one vast cane bottom for a chair, and the lamentations of the Irishman who owned the property when he discovered the casualties brought Sergeant Whiston to the scene.  Orderly Sergeant Whiston was a pretty good detective, but he was clean off-scent in this instance.  The bayonet warfare of Company "A" did not end here. On one of those delightfully fine days of a Maryland winter, Bob Henderson (of cherished memory), then a sergeant was ordered to bring out the company for bayonet drill.  For the occasion we were groomed to the top notch-buttons glistening in the sunshine we were proudly marched up street halting in front of a mansion whose balcony above contained two Union officers with a female between.  One was a surgeon with rank as major.

Robert Bruce Henderson     With bayonets fixed we got to business, going through the manual with bugle calls.  The whole thing was so sudden and unexpected that the vain pedantry of the performance did not at once get to our inner consciousness, as it did later on.  Our distinguished audience on the balcony condescended to clap us politely, and the show was going merrily on when the bugle noted us to lie down, and down we went, immaculate plumage, polished buttons, and all in Maryland dirt.  At once a voice - of a woman from the balcony "see Lincoln's niggers."  Instantly Sergeant Henderson took a hand, and we were marched to our quarters, where a discussion took place without the formality of a chairman and secretary and in which the names of the holy Trinity served to give emphasis.  We were not long in deciding what to do, and with Sergeant Henderson for a leader we retraced our steps to the mansion and going to the door the sergeant slammed the knocker; the door presently opened with the major in front, who demanded the sergeant's business.  "I wish to speak to the person who insulted these Federal soldiers," said the sergeant.

     Quoth the major.  "You can't cross this threshold except over my dead body," Behind the major stood the "person," who said. "Major, I will speak to the sergeant."  Then followed a retraction of the offensive words and an apology, and thus disarmed we returned to our quarters.  The incident was closed as to the "person" not so as to the major.  Our return was enlivened by repeated "three groans for the dead body," that could be heard by the rebel pickets on the Virginia shore.  At the foot of the stairway or entrance to our quarters was constantly kept a guard or sentinel.  This guard, as part of his duty, was unofficially charged to announce the appearance of the major whenever seen in the vicinity. On one or two occasions this happened, and in each instance we formed a line in double column on the curb, and gave the major our complimentary salute, "Three groans for the dead body." It was currently reported that the major at his own request was relieved from further service at Hancock.  But before the major's departure the woman took hasty leave, Her mission as a spy became by this incident too plainly evident to admit of doubt.  She was not a resident, a palpable courtesan, and her flight none too soon for her own good.

With best wishes to all,   

Roxbury City Gazette; December 16, 1861

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

Our Army Correspondence
Thirteenth Massachusetts.

Dec. 16, 1861.
         Hancock, Md

   Editor of the Gazette:

    Dear Sir: – There is nothing special to write about; two companies of cavalry passed through town yesterday on their way to join Gen. Kelley.  The 39th Illinois regiment arrived here last night; I don’t know, but I certainly think they suffer by comparison with any Massachusetts regiment I have yet seen.  They have crossed the river, and will act as  picket guard on the Railroad; they are a hard set of fellows, and are well armed, having the Springfield rifle bore muskets – as fine a looking rifle as I have ever seen.  May they use them on none but the enemies of the Union.  I was much amused to hear them growl about the long march they were obliged to make.  Only think, all the way from Williamsport to Hancock; when they come to march sixty miles with knapsacks on, then they can grumble to their heart’s content, and no person will blame them.  Now they are here, the question is what is to be done with us.  Time will determine.  We are not needed here, for they will guard the Railroad for a distance of ? miles.  I hope we shall return to Williamsport, or if otherwise determined I hope the balance of the regiment will come here, for at the present time company H is at least forty miles, and company E thirty-five miles from Williamsport, which latter place you are aware is the Headquarters of the regiment.

         Captain James A. Fox, Company AA few evenings since some of the boys became rather excited, on account of being called Lincoln’s Niggers, by a somewhat high spirited specimen of ?, a daughter of a prisoner warned away, drew upon her head the wrath of our good old Bay State boys: they complimented her one evening, uttering before her house certain unearthly noises, resembling groans: they might have gone farther had they not been checked by Capt. Fox, (acting Major ) he having satisfied them, they quietly returned to their quarters.  Capt. Fox, [pictured] of company A is one of the finest gentlemen I have ever met, of a genial, kindly disposition, and his hand and heart work together: all love and respect him.  Capt. Carey, Lieuts. Neat and Bush, are also gentlemanly soldiers.

    There seems to be some mistake or blunder somewhere, about that skirmish of the 30th ult.  Captain Pratt was on the field, and company E’s boys are not the ones to run.  The only fault they have – if fault it can be called – is that they are too anxious to fight, without regard to odds against them.  I have no fears of company E or any other company in the 13th regiment.

         Hoping something will turn up soon to interest both yourself and readers.

I remain respectfully yours,

{Digital Transcription by James Burton.]

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Reminiscences from the 39th Illinois

    The following is taken from "The History of the 39th Regiment, Illinois Volunteer Infantry" By Dr. Charles M. Clark, Chicago, Illinois, 1889.

    December 15th, 1861, the regiment broke camp and departed for Hancock, Md.some sixteen miles distant, the camp and garrison equipage being transported by canal-boat. It arrived at Hancock on the following day, after bivouacking at Clear Spring over night, and at once crossed the Potomac river to Alpine Station, Va., having orders to guard the Baltimore and Ohio railroad.  

B&O railroad bridge at Cacapon     The various companies of the command were distributed as follows: Companies A, B, C, and F at Alpine Station and vicinity; Company E at Sir John's Run, six miles distant up the road in the direction of Cumberland; Company G, at Great Cacapon bridge, (pictured); and Companies D, K, and I at Bath or Berkeley Springs, six miles in the interior, back from the river. The regimental headquarters were established at Alpine, taking possession of the vacant house belonging to Johnson Orrick,* then a member of the Confederate Congress, and who had removed his family to Richmond. The hospital was also established at this place. The Orrick mansion was spacious and roomy; but nothing had been left behind to facilitate the comforts of keeping house, being an exception to the quarters found by the company officers at Bath and other places.  There was, however, good stabling for horses, with plenty of hay and grain.   [Photo of the B & O bridge across the Cacapon River, early 1900's; Library of Congress].

     Alpine Station consisted of a few straggling houses. The only family of any prominence left there was the Swan family, made up of father, mother, and two daughters—all pronounced rebel sympathizers. The old gentleman was such a dyed-in-the-wool rebel that he was accommodated with quarters in the calaboose over at Hancock in charge of Captain Fox, who commanded a detachment of the Thirteenth Massachusetts stationed there. One of the daughters, Miss Fannie Swan, was no less bitter in her hatred of the Yankees, and there was little reason to doubt that she possessed among her other accomplishments, that of a spy, and she was placed under constant surveillance. The Western men found considerable more favor in her eyes, however, than those from Massachusetts, and at times she was disposed to be most gracious. 

     The assistant surgeon of the regiment had especially ingratiated himself, and she had so worked upon his sympathies that he received permission from Captain Fox to take her father home to spend Christmas day: and in this way the doctor and a few others got a solid dinner. But the doctor did not enjoy it overmuch, having to keep the old  gentleman in mind all the time, being responsible for his safe return at a specified hour.

*Mr. Johnson Orrick (1832 - 1863) was a Captain in the 33rd VA Infantry, killed at the battle of Morganstown,  June 21, 1863.  See also John B. Noyes December 7th letter above.

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Dr. Clark and the Rebel Flag

    This amusing story involving Captain 'Joe' Cary of Comany B, comes from the annals of the 39th Illinois.  I'm grateful to fellow researcher Timothy Snyder for bringing this volume to my attention.

     In the latter part of November, 1861, while the regiment was at "Williamsport, Md., Dr. Clark, then Assistant Surgeon, was ordered to Hancock, Md., to attend the sick at that post.

  Two companies of the Thirteenth Massachusetts Volunteers, under the command of Captain Fox, being stationed there, the Doctor took up his quarters with the other officers at the hotel and was made comfortable. Through the courtesy of Captain Carey, (Capt. Joseph S. Cary, pictured) who was the provost-marshal, he soon became acquainted with many residents of the town, among whom was the family of Colonel Bowles, consisting of the Colonel, his wife and daughter, who were strongly Union in sentiment and very hospitable.

Captain Joseph S Cary     One evening at a little social given by Miss Bowles, and where had gathered quite a number of her young lady friends, the Doctor met with a Miss Pendleton, from Berkeley Springs, and also a Miss Fannie Swan, living at Alpine Station, Va., across the river from Hancock.  Miss Pendleton, the daughter of Dr. Pendleton, was a very pronounced Union sympathizer, while Miss Swan entertained quite different sentiments—in fact she had the reputation of being a "little rebel."  Her feelings had also become somewhat intensified against the "Yankees" from the fact that her father had lately been arrested for his disloyal utterances, and was at this time an inmate of the calaboose or jail. She scarcely noticed the Massachusetts officers who were present, but learning that Dr. Clark was a Western man, and not a detestable Yankee, as she expressed it, from Massachusetts, she laid aside some of her reserve and coolness of manner and condescended to speak with him.

     In the course of conversation the rebel flag was mentioned, and Dr. Clark remarked that he had not yet seen the flag of the Southern Confederacy, but would much like to see it for curiosity's sake, if nothing more; and gaining some confidence from his affable reception and her obliging mood, made the request for a miniature copy of one. Miss Swan replied that she would be much pleased to accommodate, but owing to the present status of affairs in her family she dare not undertake such a thing, but that Miss Pendleton, her cousin, would doubtless be pleased to bestow the favor, as her sympathies with the Union cause were well known, and if the Doctor desired she would ask her.

  Nothing more was thought of the matter for some days, when an envelope was handed to the Doctor by a colored man, who said that he had brought it from Berkeley Springs and was told to hand it to "Doctah" Clark with the compliments of Miss Sally Pendleton. On opening the envelope there was found a small Confederate flag very tastefully made from pieces of ribbon.  It was about three inches long by two inches in width, and very pretty.  The Doctor placed it carefully in his pocket, with no suspicion that any person was informed of this little transaction other than the two ladies and himself.

     Two days subsequently Captain Carey suggested that they invite ladies and take a horseback ride.  He said that he had already spoken to Miss Bowles, who had consented, and that she had expressed the wish that the Doctor invite Miss Swan. This was done, and the answer being favorable, the party started off that afternoon up the river to visit some mountain scenery near Sir John's Run. Everything passed off very pleasantly and gaily until they had entered the town on their return and were passing the quarters of a company of the Massachusetts men, who no sooner saw them than they ran out shouting and jeering and behaving in a most shameful manner, calling Miss Swan a rebel and passing other insulting remarks.  No attention was paid to them at the time, but quickening their pace, the party passed on to the residence of Colonel Bowles, where they dismounted.

Dr. Clark, 39th Il  Captain Carey was much ashamed and exasperated at the conduct of his men, and left the house almost immediately for Captain Fox's headquarters, leaving Dr. Clark behind. The Doctor endeavored to apologize for the rudeness offered to the ladies, but was interrupted almost at once by Miss Swan, who said that it was not at all necessary, for it was nothing more than might be expected from a lot of abolition boors from Massachusetts.

     Scarcely half an hour had passed when the sound of fife and drum was heard, and looking down the street there was seen a company of soldiers approaching, in command of a Lieutenant. They halted in front of the house and were brought to a front-face, grounded arms, and stood at "parade rest," and the Lieutenant advanced to the door. It was opened by a servant, who soon announced that Colonel Bowles was wanted. The ladies present were very much frightened and excited. Mrs. Bowles went to the door, however, and stated that Colonel Bowles was at Hagerstown, but would return during the evening, and wished to know what was wanted. The Lieutenant replied that it had been reported that there was a rebel flag concealed in the house, and that he had been ordered to come and demand it; and if it were not given up, to search the house, and place the inmates under arrest. Mrs. Bowles made reply that there was no rebel flag concealed anywhere about the house or premises, and never had been; and what was more, she considered it to be a great outrage and a most unwarrantable proceeding on the part of any one to discredit the well-known loyalty of Colonel Bowles and his whole household.  She then called the Doctor to the door. He responded at once, and was told what was wanted.

      "What!" said the Doctor, "you bring a company of some sixty men here on the silly pretext that there is a rebel flag concealed in this house! You must be a fool! and those who sent you."  [Dr. Charles M. Clark, 39th Ill. pictured].

    "Well, well!" says Mrs. Bowles, who saw that trouble was brewing, "let the officer search the house, if he wishes, and be satisfied; but I know that if the Colonel were home it would not be permitted."

    The Lieutenant said that he must obey orders, however unpleasant it was; and calling for a sergeant and file of men they proceeded to make the search. 

searching for the flagAbout this time it occurred to the Doctor that perhaps the little rebel flag that was yet in his pocket might have some connection with this affair; but he awaited the result of the search. The Lieutenant and his men soon returned from the apartments upstairs, where they had not found anything, and were proceeding to other portions of the house, when the Doctor, calling the Lieutenant out on the porch, and in the presence of the soldiers and the crowd of citizens that had assembled, said perhaps he could explain the whole matter; and taking from his pocket the little rebel flag mounted on something like a match-stick, he flung it to the breeze with the remark, "Is that what you're after?" and tried to explain matters; but amid such shouts of derision at the abashed flag-hunters, that it was impossible. The feather in the Lieutenant's hat fairly wilted as he ordered his company to "Shoulder arms! Right face! By the right flank, forward, march!" and he with his brave command slunk away.

     Captain Carey soon appeared, but was totally ignorant of how the whole affair originated. Suitable apologies were made to Colonel and Mrs. Bowles, and the affair was soon forgotten by them, but the Massachusetts men never could look pleasantly at the Doctor afterwards, who was a most unwitting character to the whole proceeding, and has often questioned if it was a joke! and if so, on whom.  [The illustration, is by Adalbert Volk, of Baltimore.  It comes from Treasures of the New York Historical Society, American Memory/Library of Congress website].

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Warren H. Freeman Joins the Regiment

      Warren H. Freeman mustered into the '13th Mass,' Company A at Williamsport December 1st 1861.  After the war his father published in 1871 "Letters From Two Brothers Serving in the War For the Union To Their Family at Home."  The book chronicles the military career of Warren and his brother Eugene.  (A fine photographic portrait of Warren accompanies the book, but I have only found this poor digitized reproduction.  I would be grateful to anyone who could provide me with a better image.)  In the following letter Warren describes some of his new experiences, including participation in the fight at Dam No. 5 of the C & O Canal.   See my link from the 1861 page for more information on that fight.

Hancock, Md., December 21, 1861

    Dear Father and Mother, - I arrived at the headquarters of a detachment of the Thirteenth Regiment Mass. Vols., on the third day, after leaving home on the 1st inst., and have joined Company A, Capt. James A. Fox.  We are quartered in quite a nice brick house, about as handsome as any in town.  There are about seventeen men in each room, which makes it rather crowded nights;  we sleep on the floor, but I like that as well as a bed now, although it took hold of the hip bones a little at first.

Warren Hapgood Freeman    I went down to Williamsport last Tuesday, a ride of about twenty-six miles, and returned last night.  There was great excitement there the first night after I arrived; messengers came up from Falling Waters (a small town about five miles below on the river) every few hours, with news that five thousand rebels were crossing in boats.  The men in Williamsport packed up their goods and sent the women and children all out of town.  There was some fighting, but it did not amount to much.  I have got a piece of shell sent over by the rebels.

    On Thursday I had my first sight of the rebels. We heard considerable firing early in the morning, so a few of us started on foot for Dam No. 5, a distance of about seven miles up the river; we reached there a little after noon.  The rebels were trying to destroy this dam with artillery, which, if they could, would stop navigation on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal.  This is the place where the fight took place a few days since, when one of our men was wounded in five different places;  he is living and likely to recover; his name is James Kenny, a Boston boy.  When we arrived we found our cannon had driven the enemy off, or most of them:  there were a few of their pickets left, who were on the side of the hill which rises quite abruptly up from the river; they continued to fire upon us, while our men returned the compliment.  I had the satisfaction of firing a few shots at them, with what effect I do not know, but two or three of their balls came whistling quite near my head.  Our two pieces of cannon shelled a very large mill on the opposite side of the river.  The rebels used to get in there and fire out of the windows:  it made a very good fort, the main part being of stone, and about six feet thick at the bottom.  We could not set it on fire with shell, so five men went over in a boat and burnt it; it made a splendid fire.

    These dams are built across the Potomac, and raise the river so that it fills the canal; if they should break this dam it would let the water down some ten or twelve feet, and of course stop navigation on the canal.

    N.M. Dyer, Admiral US Navy, former Co A, 13th MassWell, I have “smelt gunpowder,” and been “under fire,” and “roughed it” with the army long enough to judge a little what a soldier’s life is, and certainly it is a hard one, yet I think I can stand it, and must say I like it pretty well.

    I have seen many of the regiments in Banks’s Division, but none equal to the famous Thirteenth Mass. Rifles.  Our Colonel Leonard is very popular, and his regiment is quite full; we have one hundred and two men in Company A.  Some of the men, a few days since, crossed over to the “sacred soil” on a foraging expedition; I intended to have been among the number, but missed the chance by being off hunting in the woods after partridges, etc., at the time.  They were quite successful, bringing back several wagon loads of spoils, such as pigs, turkeys, geese, potatoes, corn, etc., and a live peacock.  Dyer (you remember Dyer, he was in the West Wind with Eugene) got a lot of secesh money.  I inclose to you some of this trash and a peacock’s feather.  I do not think of anything more to interest you, so farewell.

Warren H. Freeman

NOTE:  Dyer is N. M. Dyer, [pictured] Co. A, transfered out of the infantry into the Navy in 1862.  He retired an admiral in the US Navy.  Dyer must have sailed with Warren's brother Eugene, before the war.  Eugene Freeman was in the US Transport Service during the Civil War.

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The City of Hancock; Town Life & New Years Eve

  Map of the town of Hancock  This map shows the plan and residents of the town of Hancock, 1877, little changed from Civil War days.  The churches are outlined in green.  Many of the residents and places mentioned in the letters found on this page, the Presbyterian Church, the Methodist Church, The Henderson Mansion, etc.,  can be located on this map.  Click the image for a larger view.

The letter below comments on the extensive troop movements in the area around Hancock, and a bit about life in town.

Roxbury City Gazette

Letter from the 13th Regt.
December 22, 1861.

Sir John's Run, Va.,
December 22d, 1861.

    Mr. Editor: – Nothing has occurred since my last to change the monotony of camp life.  Everything remains quiet at this place.  This is Sunday evening, but one would hardly know it by any movement that he might see out of doors; it is so still–not much like a Sunday at home, with the bells ringing for church and the people crowding their way through the streets to their different places of worship.  There is no church in the place, but the services are held in the little school house once a fortnight.  The parson here has a wide field for his labors.  The people in this section of the country are mostly Methodists, and as they tell me, their church at this time is in a very critical condition, as the northern people of that denomination are against slavery, and the Southern part are for it.  The people of the Church in this part of the country claim that they are the church proper, and that the others have seceded from them, and have left them small in numbers and poor in purse.  How they will finally end, time and the end of the war will only determine.

    War news at this point is rather dull.  Since the Government has finished the railroad to Hancock, they have been passing troops over the road in large numbers.  Some come from Western Virginia down, and go towards Washington, and some come from below and go up; and it would puzzle a Philadelphia lawyer to tell what in the world they are trying to get through them.  But I suppose the leaders know, and of course it is none of our business; although like all the rest of Yankees we would kind of like to know.

    We have been stationed on the north bank of the Potomac, and last week the Illinois regiment, which has been at Hancock under Col. Leonard, came up and have been sent across the river, all along opposite us and on the line of the railroad, so that we have a double row of sentinels all along here for about ten miles.  What this is for I am at a loss to tell.

    As you have seen by the papers, our boys below at dam No. 5, have had some little fun, and I rather think Col. Jackson, the rebel commander, with his large force, found Col. Leonard wide-awake for him.

    Our troops in this neighborhood are gradually working into Dixie, and to-night some of them are quartered where, two weeks ago, the rebels were.  At that time they were planning a way to finish the destruction of the railroad; and now it is re-built, and our troops are here to take care of it.  Thus, the world goes–first the dog is ahead, then the fox.

    It is a very disagreeable, stormy night, with signs of snow before morning; but I hope it don’t come just yet, not until we get a little farther down in Dixie.  The boys, with a few exceptions are well and in tip-top condition.  Our friend, George S. Chenney, is out and walking around, and in a few days will rejoin the company.

    How long we shall remain here, I do not know, but we are in hopes not long.


Hancock, Md., Dec. 23, 1861.

Editor of the Gazette
            Dear Sir: – Last Saturday one of those events, common, but none the less painful occurred,–the death of a member of the Illinois Regiment.  He placed himself in one of the wagons when at Clear Spring, but owing to some oversight, was forgotten on the arrival of the team at Hancock; he was finally found nearly dead when the time came for loading the wagon; he was removed to comfortable quarters, but too late to benefit him.  I attended the funeral.  The services were conducted by the Rev. Mr. Lee.  Three volleys were fired over the grave by his companions in arms, after which we slowly left the grave feeling a solemnity if possible more than common, owing to the time, place and circumstances of his death and burial.

            Last Sunday was cold and chilly–rain and hail in the evening, and Monday evening found the ground covered with snow, rendering travelling very disagreeable.  The weather at this time strongly reminds us of home.  Winter has set in as the folks out this way remark, and now you boys must look out for squalls.  I must say that under present circumstances I dread it; there must be much suffering among the troops, increasing largely the army mortality.  It may be a necessary evil, but it can by judicious management be greatly lessened.  Such I trust may be the case.

              I have often heard it stated that Whiskey was a bane to Southern people; such may or may not be the case; that there is a large amount of the article drank is true,–that in many instances it is carried to excess, is also true.  When the country people come into town on Saturdays, to do their shopping–a day seemingly devoted to the purpose–then may be found those who drink to excess.  I have seen quite a number troubled with a weakness in their knee joints; this state is generally perceptible at the time when the sun is getting low in the heavens, but as most of those so troubled have horses and are good riders they manage to get along quite nicely.  I do not think the people as a whole are say more given to strong drink than are the people of Massachusetts; they are generally hospitable in their nature, and think it no harm to ask the stranger at their fire side to take a smile.

            The Maine 5th regiment camped one mile from Hancock yesterday, they will probably cross into Dixie.  Our detachment still remains here; the Illinois 39th are stationed opposite–their pickets extending to Orleans, a distance of twenty miles.  They have also two companies quartered in Bath.  Picket duty is an important duty here, as the railroad extending from here to Cumberland must be kept in running order.  Should anything special take place, I will keep you informed.

- Dec. 25th.

            The first thing which greeted my eyes this morning is a Battery of six pieces of artillery from Romney.  They are about crossing the river, supposed to be destined for Washington.  They are fine looking troops, and apparently able to take care of an equal number of rebel troops.  The Illinois regiment mentioned yesterday, are certainly the hardest looking set of men I have yet seen.  Many of them I regret to say were under the influence of something very potent – bad whiskey I suppose.  One man attempted to shoot another, but fortunately missed him, although endangering the life and limbs of passers by.  Another passed me, whose head was severely damaged by coming in contact with the butt of a rifle.  A guard is stationed in all the hotels, also at other places where liquor is sold, and no soldier can obtain the poison unless well posted.  Citizens are allowed to drink, and occasionally they smuggle in a wearer of the uniform.

            There seems to be a great defference paid to religious worship in Maryland.  Each body or denomination clings to its own peculiar views with a tenacity which New England itself, with all its isms can’t surpass; yet while still clinging to individual views, there seems to be an innate virtue which casts out the spirit of contention.  The spirit of the Gospel seems to be carried out more fully, more complete that I have ever seen it.  Its influence upon the minds of the people is of that character which leads them to look to their spiritual adviser without entering into the bewildering mazes of an argument, the end of which has not yet been reached.  Each one seems to regard the Gospel as glad tidings of good news, and each one seems to be striving to strain that point of religious experience which will not only prove a benefit to himself but to those around him.  The Episcopal Church of Maryland seems to be strongly pervaded by a Union loving spirit.  The St. Thomas Protestant Episcopal Church on High street, numbers some forty communicants and has regular services twice each Sabbath; they also have evening services.  Its meetings are fully attended, and its pastor, Rev. Mr. Lee, is a most uncompromising friend of the Union, a gentleman, a scholar, a warm hearted friend.

            The Methodist and other churches are in good condition and well attended.  A majority of the boys of course prefer the Methodist; I listened to a sermon last Sabbath evening, and must confess I never saw the gentry with horns and clump foot so roughly handled.  Served him right; he has no business in Maryland.  The blacks have a church out of town.

            The war news seems to have little effect upon the troops; if England wishes to turn our present troubles to her own account, let her do it.  The limited monarchy of England will sustain such a shock as she never received should she meddle with America in her time of calamity.  The final result must be to her not only the loss of her dependencies, but the loss of her nationality.  If she sows to the wind she will reap the whirlwind.

            A dark cloud seems to hang over us, but the sunshine of a righteous cause will soon dissipate its shadows, and the fullness of freedom will illuminate the land.

                        Respectfully yours.                    Roxbury.

(Roxbury City Gazette; January 2, 1862; pg. 2, col. 7.)

Letter of John B. Noyes, New Year's Eve in Hancock

Charles Wilson Henderson of Hancock

    Although John Noyes was back in Williamsport when he penned this letter to his sister, the content centers around the social life among Hancock's leading residents.  About the Henderson family John wrote his brother Charles  "I have no better friends anywhere than those there made.  Indeed I was almost a part of Mr Henderson's family.  His wife and Children treated me as a relation and I exerted myslef to make them as happpy as they made me.  At their house I made many friends, at whose houses I was always welcome to eat, meet & to sleep.  There I made taffy, egg nog, & myself at home.   Even their children, 2, 6, & 8 years old respectively, were excellent company, much better than that of some young ladies I have met in the course of my life."

    Pictured at right is Mr. Charles Wilson Henderson, prominent citizen of Hancock.  His wife Jane Catherine, a very beautiful woman of the time, was from the Brosius family.  She is pictured in the body of the letter below.   The families mentioned in Noyes' letters, the Kirk's, Hendersons, and Brosius families, were all related through marriage.  The Henderson Mansion once stood in town.  The Kirke Mansion in Pennsylvania is also gone.  In 2012 I visted the sites where these houses once stood and looked down the roads John Noyes walked to get to one or the other.  The road to the Kirke's is intersected today by a freeway, and no longer goes through.

MSAm 2332 (25a).  By Permission of the Houghton Library, Harvard University.

Williamsport Md. January 4, 1862

Dear Martha
       My last letter home, dated Dec 31st was sent to Aunt Rebecca.  This letter may be considered as one answering yours of the 26th ult, and Fathers of the 31st. 

     You perceive I am again at Williamsport after an absence of about 5 weeks and a half.  On the 2d inst Co’s. A & B at Hancock, and Cos. H & E which were respectively at Orleans & Sir John’s Run came down the canal by boat to this place.  We passed Dam No. 5, Four locks, Etc. but were not fired upon by the enemy.  They probably had no information of our purpose.  We put up for the night, my company, at our old barracks in the town, but were ordered to start for the camp the next morning.  Arrived at our Company street the scene was anything but enchanting.  Fire had been applied to the straw left in our tent grounds and the stakes all round the tents had been burned.  Add to this the embankments had to some extent been thrown down.  The ground was frozen hard, and the prospect of refitting our tents and rendering them habitable was not promising.  Nevertheless by dint of hard labor we succeeded in making our tents nearby as comfortable as before.  The frost was not more than four inches deep and the ground was soon turned up.  Stakes were made, the tent pins fixed in the ground, straw stuffed between pins and stakes, bank made anew, nice straw for bedding brought, stove re-erected; in short our habitation was completed.  At night shortly after our work was finished, snow began to fall fast & the ground was soon covered with a white mantle.  This morning but an inch or two of snow lies upon the ground.  Every thing looks bleak without & there is little outside of the tent to attract us.  With the stove before us, warm as I want to be, the tent seems more comfortable than the barracks at Hancock.  There is a difference however. There we had the freedom of the town & seemed least at home when in barracks.  Here there is no society, no exchange; we are simply at home. 

     Ten of our company were detailed for guard this morning, but were dismissed at guard mounting. This looks as if we were to do no guard duty here.  I mean our company alone.  The Provost Guard in town & a detachment from our Co. do all the guard duty that is required from the whole company.  Without guard duty I do not see why wintering here may not be quite endurable.  We can easily keep warm & shall have little to do.  Were we only allowed to go to Williamsport when we pleased we should be satisfied.  Whether we are to stay here any length of time cannot be told.  The Col. it is said does not advise the soldiers to lay much money out on the tents; and it is rumored with some degree of probability that the whole of Co. B is to return to Hancock.  But amid the numberless rumors daily set a going by Chaplain, sutler, and eves droppers of every sort, who shall select one as more probably than another ?  The principal reason I have for thinking we may go back to Hancock is that it is about the only place our Company has not returned to after leaving it as we supposed for good. Fates would therefore point to Hancock. If we were to be sent back to Hancock I should be resigned to the change.  My last days in Hancock were passed quite as pleasantly as the first.  In fact I may be considered as having had a six weeks vacation, with just enough to do to keep my hand in.  Toward the last we had no drill or dress parade.  In the morning we answered to our names and looked out for the guard detail.  During the day we stayed in quarters, or discussed the news at the various stores about town.   Little did we seek the eve’g roll call if we wanted to be elsewhere than in quarters.  Little did we care for “taps” either. 

     Thursday Evening the 31st, New Year’s Eve, was the occasion for a taffy party at Mr. Hendersons.  I had a hand in making the egg nog myself, as also the taffy, and it was none the worse for that.  We played different games, among them blind man’s buff & crooked pear tree.  At Eleven o’clock I was obliged to leave to stand guard from eleven to one at Post 5, a bridge which leads out of the town.  My friends came down to see me during the night, and supplied me with cigars of course.  I watched the old year out & the new year in.  Seated before a comfortable wood fire I deemed it no hardship to be on guard from eleven o clock at night Dec. 31st ‘61 to 1 Am Jan’y. 1, 1862.  I thought of Cambridge & wondered if any daring Sophomore was dancing around the Rebellion tree to keep the ancient custom. Here abouts a great many people see the new year in especially the Methodists who have what is called a watch meeting.  

   Jane Catherine Brosius - 'Mrs. Henderson' A great many people were about town, & I was scarcely left alone at my post for a moment.  The New Year rose warm to greet us; mud in the streets ere long to be dried up by a driving wind.  A happy new year you were probably wishing all your friends, I wished “New Year’s gift” to those I wished to catch.  I did’nt know but Mothers was “a merry new year” to me far away from home in order to balance the “happy Christmas” she sent me in her last letter.  I had a happy Christmas and a merry new year.  The new year merry in spite of the fact that I was to leave warm friends on the next day.  I came off guard at 9” Am, and laid my plans for the spending of the day.  I proposed to dine in Pennsylvania, at Kirke’s, sup in Md. & Penn. at the Brosius’s & close the day at Henderson’s;  but as fate would have it I received a note from Mrs. Henderson requesting Sanborn, Chandler and my humble self to take “high tea” with her.  This invitation was not to be disregarded.  I accordingly was obliged to decline the pressing invitations I received to dine in Penn. and reached town at 3 o’clock just in time to go to “high tea."  High tea here is equivalent to a tall dinner, and at the table of course all the luxuries of all seasons were bountifully dispensed.  Lieut. Johnson of the 39th Ill. & Mr. Miller the telegraph operator over the river were at dinner who afterwards enlightened us somewhat on military movements.  I intended to spend the Eve’g. at the Brosius’s, but as Miss Mary & Johnny Brosius were at Henderson’s I concluded to accept Mrs. Henderson’s invitation to spend the Eve’g there.  Accordingly I went to the barracks and packed my valuables in readiness to march at 4 o’clock the next morning.  I found at Mrs. Hendersons on my return Army (Armistead) & Bob Zwingle,  Alph Byers, J. Brosius, Misses Brosius, Kirke, Thomas & the two Miss Byers “right pretty girls I reckon.  With Chandler and Sanborn we formed a very cozy party.  Great was the fun we had playing blind man’s buff.  Right excellent was the egg nog we drank.  One of the ladies gave me a Philippine almond. Neither she nor I could get caught at the entertainment til as “we were leaving I innocently offered her my arm which she took.  “Philippine” I of course remarked.

       Harry Sanborn, Co BThe party broke up about midnight I afterward went to Henderson’s store where Zwingle sleeps and had my cigar case filled up to last for the morrow.  There is no end to Hancock hospitality so far as I am concerned.  I said some time ago that I was very near going out after a slave.  The circumstances were this.  Perry, a smart boy about 20 years old who had done nothing of any consequence for two or three years was about to be hired out by Mrs. Brosius.  He concluded to run away & was obliging enough to take her best horse with him.  The folks wanted the horse but did’nt care much for the contraband.  Johnny Brosius was going after the horse & Perry, if he should be with the horse. Having the worst post of all, and a night one at that I did not attempt to get any body to take my place.  Chandler blest with a better post exchanged with another and went on the expedition. He was gone two days, found the horse, and brought it back, riding nearly 40 miles the last day.  The slave was not thought worth spending any money in catching. He had always been tenderly treated.  I suppose however he wanted his freedom, & he got it.

     We got our army blankets a few days ago. Mine weighs 5 pounds & 5 ounces.  I now sleep very comfortably. Mother wants to know if the lost dog has been found. Indeed she thinks dogs not as much out of place after all in a camp.  Perhaps not, but some people would think them more limited for private families.  Father will not renew my subscriptions for the New York World. The news is old before I get it. My package went sour??? ago by Adam’s express.  It left Hagerstown Dec. 31st & goes to Cambridge direct. It is sent express paid.  I had not heard that Haskell was settled at Salem.  Whose church is he settled over ?  Is it a desirable parish ?  I have heard Foote so little that I cannot say I am surprised even at this call to King’s Chapel.  He is universally liked, and I am rejoiced at his success, though I do not know whether he judged well in accepting so arduous a post at the commencement of his ministerial career. He is cautious and doubtless knows very well what he is doing.  I have no doubt he can conduct the liturgical service in a manner more creditable to human nature than any minister of the church in Boston.  I hope he may show his semi-episcopal hearers how impressive the liturgy is when properly conducted.  I trust he may show the people of Boston the beauties of the liturgy, and the beauties of a pure & rational faith.  Congratulate him for me on his enviable success.

  I am glad to hear mother is improving so much in health.  I always thought she worried too much about me and you and I don’t know but my absence from home has had a good effect on her.  Now that she is so well, she must write a whole letter to me occasionally.  Tell father he need not buy me a rubber blanket.  I want you to make me a nice thick pair of mittens with a fore finger attached.  Cousin Sophia offered to make me a pair but perhaps you would prefer to.  I want them very heavy & long wristed.  These mittens and my scarf can be sent at a fitting opportunity.  How does Charles do ?  I haven’t heard from him lately.  Do you ever ride in his buggy ? 

     At the end of this long letter I have little room for your trip to Lowell.  Do you know whether Cor’t Welles is to have a Major’s commission in his Regiment.  I understand he is first Captain with a good chance for it.  You didn’t tell me much about your trip, where you went, whom saw, what they said.  Why not ?  I should have liked to have been at the dramatic entertainment at Mechanic’s hall.  My regards to friends.

With love to all     Your Aff. Brother
    I send you a shinplaster.      John B. Noyes.

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Letter of Warren Freeman; The Journey by Canal Boat Back to Williamsport

The Lockhouse at Hancock

This house sat along the canal at milepost 123 in Hancock.  Originally a one story structure it sat on a hill overlooking the Potomac when the canal was built in 1839.  In 1875 the Bowles family, mentioned in Dr. Clark's article, acquired the property and lived here for nearly 4 decades.  Today the building is the Hancock Visitors Center for the C&O Canal Park. -Information from the NPS website.  I took this picture on  a chilly February afternoon in 2012, with snow-flurries about, similar conditions the soldiers of the 13th Mass weathered at about the same time 150 years earlier.

Letter of Warren H. Freeman, From Hancock to Williamsport by Canal  Boat

A canal boat just east of Hancock, heading east

Another photo from the Biscoe Brothers; - Canal Boat Moving East on Cumberland (C&O) Canal.  The Pike is on the extreme left.Taken August 8th, [1884] 5:35 p.m.

Williamsport, Md., January 4, 1862

      Dear Father, - Our detachment, consisting of companies A, B, E, and H, left Hancock January 2d, at ten o’clock A.M., in two canal-boats, and arrived here at eight o’clock in the evening; had a pleasant trip down the canal; the weather was rather cold, though the sun was out clear; we made the twenty-six miles without any serious accident; four or five of the men, while fooling and trying to jump on shore, fell into the water.  One man made a jump from the stern of the boat and struck the edge of the tow-path, lost his balance, and made a back somersault right into the canal; he looked comical, I can assure you.  Another man lost his rifle in the canal and could not recover it again. We passed old Fort Frederick:  this is quite a large fort, and was built during the Revolution, I think.  Arriving at Dam No 5, we expected an attack from the rebels, as at this point we leave the canal, enter the river, and pass a point of land, then enter the canal on the other side.  Although our boats were very much exposed, the enemy did not attack us. This is the place where the fight took place alluded to in my last letter.  We landed and visited the contested ground.  I counted twenty holes made by shells in one brick house, so you will judge the fight was rather severe, but we did not lose a man.  Judging from the newspaper accounts of what is going on here, you must think the rebels have not allowed us much rest since I wrote last.  Hancock, Dam No. 5, “and the d----d Thirteenth” (as the rebels style us), are objects of their especial hatred; and Dam No. 5, they say, they are bound to destroy yet.

     My previous knowledge of canal-boating, as you are aware, was in the capacity of deputy cook, during a few trips made with my cousin, Captain Sam. Holt Brown, on the canal between Bridgton and Portland; but here the canal-boats and dams are on a grand scale, throwing the Cumberland quite into the shade.  As it was about eight o’clock when we arrived, we took up our quarters in the Lutheran church; next day went up to the head-quarters of our regiment, which is about a mile from town, and there pitched our tents.  It is quite a job to pitch tents on frozen ground:  stakes are driven within about a foot of each other, leaving them about three or four feet out of the ground; then weave in straw, and bank up with earth all around; then pitch your tent on the top of that; in this way we get more room and the tent is much warmer.

     I have not heard anything of the Webb boys since I came here, but presume they have gone into winter-quarters at the Relay House.  I shall certainly like very much to meet with them and Captain Bailey. . . . .  Just finished my dinner; had beefsteak and rice, not cooked as mother would have done it, but nevertheless it was quite good.  Notwithstanding all the grumbling that we hear, I think we live quite well in the army:  we have sugar in our coffee; milk of course we do not expect.  While at Hancock, some of our boys went over into “the land of Dixie,” and borrowed nine sheep; they lasted us for two days, and we lived high.

     I am perfectly well; have gained in flesh seven pounds since leaving home, and weigh 147 pounds in my thin coat.  But I will close by wishing all the dear ones at home a “Happy New Year,” or, as a Marylander would express it, “New Year’s Gift.”

Kindly remember me to all who may inquire after Warren, and believe me to be,
                     Your affectionate son,


Page Updated January 30, 2014

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