Advance to Virginia

March 1st - March 20th 1862

Sketch of General Bank's Army Crossing the Potomac

This image from Frank Leslies Illustrated Newspaper shows General Banks' Corps crossing the Potomac River at Williamsport, Maryland.  The caption reads "General Banks Division Recrossing the Potomac from Williamsport, MD., to Attack "Stonewall" Jackson.  Band of the Forty-sixth Pennsylvania Playing National Airs on the Virginia Shore.
From a sketch by Edwin Forbes.

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     A jealous rivalry between the Boston companies [Fourth Battalion of Rifles] and the country companies sprang up in the regiment during the early days of service.  A local woman near Hancock, Maryland, asked some of the soldiers marching through, "What regiment are you, and where are you from ?"  "Four companies from Boston and the rest from Massachusetts," was the reply.  The boys from the country towns named this conceit 'Fourth Battalion Fever."

     When the Union troops advanced into Martinsburg, Virginia, March 1st, 1862, Company K took the lead for the 13th Mass.  According to soldier Austin Stearns, members of Company A, made such a fuss about this choice, that they were given leave to circle the town and pick up any suspicious characters that might be lurking about at that late hour.  Company K, entered the town at midnight from the north, the first Union troops to arrive.  They stacked arms near the courthouse.  Edwin Rice states a lieutenant of the 1st Maryland Cavalry, seeking lodgings for his horse, was confronted by Company A, entering the town from the south.  Company A, entered the town shooting, mistaking the officer for a rebel cavalryman trying to escape. A brief panic errupted as a result, with all parties suspecting the enemy was still present in town.  Order in the ranks was quickly restored before anyone was hurt.  Thereafter whenever Fourth Battalion Fever began to rage among the Boston boys, someone would shout out "Who took Martinsburg ?"  "Company A," was the reply;  -given with feeling.

Charles E. Davis, Jr.      From Martinsburg the regiment advanced south first to Bunker Hill, where they waited a few days for more troops to arrive, then, on to Winchester, hotbed of rebellion.  The 13th regiment again led the advance, certain they would meet strong resistance. They breathed a heavy sigh of relief upon discovering the rebels had evacuated the town for points farther south.

     Chaplain Noah Gaylord took advantage of his surroundings by preaching a 'rattling sermon' on the evils of secession from the courthouse steps. At Winchester, members of Company D, fixed up an old switching engine, the only 'operable' engine among the ruins of the Winchester & Potomac railroad equipment destroyed by retreating Confederates.  This sluggish iron-horse took a memorable ride up to Halltown, near Harper's Ferry, for supplies.  Clarence Bell's reminiscence, "How We Opened the Railroad" recalls the adventure. Many other stories are recounted herein.  

     On March 18th, 1862, the regiment was assigned to the brigade of General John J. Abercrombie and departed from Banks' army.  But, this was also the beginning of their long association with the '9th New York' and the 12th Massachusetts Regiments.  An association that lasted more than two years.

     Regimental Historian, Charles E. Davis, Jr. is strong in his coverage of this part of the 13th's history.  His customary wit and commentary shines through in every word, so I will quote liberally from his text.

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The Advance

     Company K, was raised in Westboro, Mass.  Captain Charles Hovey, of Boston, originally First-Lieutenant of Company D was promoted captain of the company after Captain William Blackmer resigned.  In a letter to the selectmen of the home-town, Capt. Hovey, who was not known there, announces the long awaited forward movement.

Westboro Transcript; Letter from Captain Charles Hovey

Saturday Morning, March 22, 1862

The following is a portion of an interesting letter written by Capt. Hovey, of Co. K, to Mr. John Homan, just before the 13th left Williamsport, and while under immediate marching orders:

“We have at last received a definite order to be ready to move tomorrow morning (March 1st), and at about that time we shall probably start for Dixie.  I think our destination is Martinsburgh, but we may push up towards Winchester; circumstances will of course control us, and we may bring up in New Orleans before we stop,

“I feel highly gratified at the interest felt in the welfare of Co. K, as expressed in the letter of Mr. Nourse in behalf of the selectmen, which letter I have several times read.  The arrangements made with Adam’s Ex. Co. are peculiarly gratifying to me, for if I should be so unfortunate as to lose any more of my men I don’t wish to have them buried out here.  I hope I shall not lose a man; but we all feel that we are going where the chances are that some of us may fall.  I have not got a man to lose; not a man but would be a loss to us as a comrade and friend, and I hope to be able to bring home a bright record of Co. K, with nothing in it to sadden the hearts of those at home.

From the Regimental History "Three Years in the Army," by Charles E. Davis, Jr.

Saturday, March 1. 
     Having said the last “good-by” to our friends across the river we took up the line of march, about dusk, for Martinsburg, twelve miles, which point we reached a little before midnight.

     During our stay in Williamsport we had accumulated more things than were necessary for our comfort, as we became painfully aware of before our journey’s end.  We were now on the “sacred soil” of Virginia.  Whether it is better than any other soil could not be determined in the darkness; up to this time our knowledge of it was limited to the experience at Harper’s Ferry, the skirmish at Bolivar Heights, and the reconnoissances from Hancock and Sir John’s Run, so we were not experts on the subject.

     The Sixteenth Indiana, a company of cavalry and two pieces of artillery, crossed the river and followed us to Martinsburg.

     While marching in Maryland we felt secure from rebel interference when falling out, overcome with fatigue or the heat of the sun, but now we were likely at any moment to hear the unwelcome sound of the enemy’s musketry.  A man must hesitate, therefore, before he separated himself from his regiment.  As it was dark we had plenty of opportunity to reflect on what might be our reception by the “F.F.V’s” of Martinsburg. They might find some objection to our entering town without paying a toll – the toll that some of us must pay before our three years were up.

     Company A was well ahead as advance guard, and as long as we heard nothing from them our minds remained at ease except when we thought of our knapsacks, which had increased in size, like the national debt.

     It appears that when Company A arrived within half a mile of the town it left the road, making a detour and entering it from the south on the Winchester road, while the regiment entered it from the north.  The quartermaster, or some other officer, rode forward from the regiment to overtake Company A.  As he entered from the north the company was entering from the south.  Each mistook the other. Company A supposed him to be a rebel picket endeavoring to escape out of town and fired, whereupon, supposing it to be the fire of the enemy, he turned about in great haste and road back to the regiment. For a few moments there was considerable confusion, but the officer in command stopped the firing until he could ascertain the facts, which were soon learned, and quiet restored. As no one was hurt it ended in a good laugh, though it has never been settled as to “who took Martinsburg.”

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Who Took Martinsburg ?


Sketch of the Martinsburg Square with the Courthouse to the right, by Alfred Waud;, Dec. 1864; 
(slightly modified)

From "Three Years with Company K"; 1976 Fairleigh-Dickenson Press; P. 46-48. Used with permission.

Austin Stearns writes:

     We were all day crossing the river, having only one flat-boat to cross on.  We were all feeling good that at last the time had come and we were on the “soil of old Virginia.”  When Company K crossed, we were marched up the hill about half a mile in advance of the regiment, and at night when all were over, we kept the advance toward Martinsburg.  Report says that there was considerable feeling shown by some of the companies because K company had the right. Let that be as it may, we held on our way and were the first in Martinsburg.  When within two miles, to appease Company A, it was sent around with a guide on another road, to come in and so bag all the rebs that should be caught out at that late hour of the night.

     We reached Martinsburg about midnight, and were marched up to the center of the place, where we halted beside the Court House. We stacked arms, with orders not to leave the immediate stacks. Being [that] most of the boys sat down on the sidewalk, I leaned back against the house and was soon asleep, but was quickly awakened by the sound of Muskets being fired.  “Fall in K,” said Captain Hovey as calmly as on drill. Every man was soon in his place awaiting events.  It was soon explained: the advance guard of Co. A just then coming in heard us and, without enquiring, fired. They thought they were the first in the place, and that we were rebels, [but] they soon found out their mistake.  For a long time after, when Co. A was having the “Fourth Batt” fever, someone would say “Who took Martinsburg?”  Another would reply “Co. A,” and this would generally reduce the fever.

Letter of John B. Noyes; The Advance to Martinsburg

John B. Noyes of Company B gives a vivid description of the river crossing and march to Martinsburg.  The events described correspond exactly with the Frank Leslie's illustration at the top of this page. The date he refers to in the first line of the letter is March 2nd, 1862; his 24th birthday.

Ms Am 2332 (30) "By permission of the Houghton Library, Harvard University."

       Thursday March 2d 1862, Martinsburgh, Va.

       Dear Mother,

       Notice the date.  This morning at about 1 A.M we arrived at this town. Not to anticipate matters I will commence where I left off in my letter to father of the 26th ult.   My knapsack was then packed and I was ready to start for Dixie at any moment.  The fierce gales of the 24th & 28th ult and other circumstances delayed our departure and it was not until the eve’g of the 28th ult that we were fully assured of our immediate departure.  Several days before I had bid good by to Williamsport friends, but they were worth bidding good by to several times.  The third time I made my last ppc at one home where for the third time I heard the beautiful song “good by.” I said, this is my last ppc; if I stay here a fortnight longer you will see me no more except on our regimental march.  The third time never fails.  As luck would have it I was on guard on the 28th & stood guard during the pitiless gale of that freezing day & night from 3 Am to 7 o clock yesterday morning.  Fortunately I was able to rest and doze for a couple of hours or so after coming off guard, and was therefore in passable condition to commence a march in which I was to carry on my back for more than twelve hours an extraordinarily heavy knapsack.  At about one P.M. yesterday the rest of the Regiment marched by our quarters and we were quickly formed into Company line.  We immediately marched to the canal bridge which leads to the bank of the river.  There we halted to await the passage of the four companies which were to precede us in crossing by the ferry, as we the color company were fifth in line, though third in rank.  I improved a portion of the time we halted shaking hands with my numerous friends who of course with the rest of the town turned out to witness our crossing the river.  At length the time arrived for us to go on board the ferry boat.  We were soon in Virginia, and drawn up on the Martinsburgh pike where we waited till about ¼ to seven o’clock, when our whole regiment, the 12th Indiana, a company of Maryland Cavalry, and two rifled pieces of Mathews Penn. Battery were formed in Brigade Line.  It was a splendid sight to witness the passage of our troups, one company at a time over the troubled and rapid river. The First Maryland Regt which arrived while we were crossing gave us three rousing cheers.  From the high land along the pike, along which were built a hundred bonfires to warm ourselves with, fed by the dry fence rails, we could see one Regiment after Regiment, probably of Williams Brigade file over a high hill on the Greencastle pike some two or three miles away, their bayonets glistening in the dying sunlight.  As company after company of the crossing regiments reached the Virginia side, rousing cheers went up to the skies significant of the joy pervading all hearts at the proud thought of occupying soil long given over to confederate tyranny from which the blessed light of freedom of speech, if not of thought had long been banished.

       Long I gazed at the town in which for over four months our regiment had been encamped & where we were leaving a regiment of friends. It seemed longer than before and worthier.  On the first of August we reached Hagerstown.  Seven long months had passed and we were within six miles of it.  But ho for Dixie.  The time for delay has passed.  Now is the time for action.

       At ¼ to seven P.M as I said we commenced our thirteen mile march for Martinsburgh.  The pike was in good condition.  The newly risen moon for a short time did his best to illuminate our way, then sunk behind the hills.  Nothing delayed our march.  A few ditches, none above a foot deep, through which my knee high boots carried me safe and dry only impeded our march.  As we neared Martinsburgh, a rapid fire of five or six pieces from our advanced guard on rebel pickets for a moment put us upon guard. Nothing came of it.  At last we reached the town and marching to its centre halted while the Col. should find quarters for us.  I took my eve’g meal of crackers and cheese, sitting upon the side walk.  The Col. made a short & to the point speech saying that we had come to bear aloft the flag of the U.S. and not to injure private property, & that the first instance of depredation upon private property, secesh or Union should be severely punished.  The band plaid Dixie, Red White & Blue, Glory Hallelujiah amid tremendous cheers from our regiment.  I had scarcely arisen from the side walk after finishing my supper when a sound as if of beating in of doors was heard accompanied by the report of more than twenty five arms.  A panic ensued at once.  Men seemed to have lost their minds & the tallest specimen of tall running occurred, that I ever witnessed.  My first thought was of a rebel ambuscade; my second to cap my rifle, my third that a charge bayonets would be more effective, my fourth, - but I was Knocked over.  I picked myself up as quick as possible and endeavored by hallowing halt to stop the rout, & then ran to the middle of the street where we had been halted before resting.  The first man I saw was Corp. Worcester who was shouting “where’s B” in indignant rage, to which I answered “here’s one” to which I believe I added “by thunder.”  I think I was about as mad as he was.  We soon rallied & no further alarm ensued.  It would have been wonderful indeed had our men not been temporarily frightened at the sudden firing.  We were lying on the side walk, some half a sleep, all unconscious of danger.  Doubtless most ran to recover themselves & soon rallied.  My first impulse was to run, but as I stood transfixed by contending emotions, I thought it was better to be shot than to run, and if I was to die then, I would die with my face to the foe.  But oh!  I shall never forget the tall running, the hurry, the scramble, the Knock downs of that street bugaboo.

       Different accounts are given of the cause of the trouble.  Some say that Co. A, or several men of their Co. on guard fired at a horseman who did not answer their challenge.  Certain it is that the horse of an officer I think was shot in the neck.  I do not (know) whether anybody was wounded.  Others say that a body of cavalry fired their carbines then wheeled and galloped away.  At any rate Blanchard, on whom I can rely, says he heard the heavy tramp of horses clattering down the street and saw the flashes of the guns. The reports seemed to be those of smoothbores.  The truth will probably come out some day.

       Our Company quartered in the house occupied by the old rebel provost quartermarshall Nadenbrush. (Nailenbrush? Halenbrush?)  The nails driven in the walls of the rooms seem to indicate their previous occupancy by the rebels.  I send you one of the Marshall’s passes of date February 7th.

       Martinsburgh is quite a large place, perhaps five times as large as Williamsport and contains in peaceful times a population of five or six thousand.  Here lives C. J. Faulkner whose house I intend to have a good look at.  It is a large fine house.  Martinsburgh is one of the great stations of the Baltimore & Ohio R.R.  On the torn up track here are thirty or forty ruined rail road engines, some of immense size, ruined by fire. They look dreary enough.  Two or three very large round-houses, the largest I ever saw, are here, from which the engines were probably taken before their destruction.  An iron foundry, machine shop etc. are also here.  A rail road bridge  resting upon about twenty granite pillars has been destroyed and beneath it lie the disjected fragments of a locomotive.

       There are several churches here, none open to day but the Catholic which is very large. I have not explored the town very much as snow is now falling.

       As for the march I stood it splendidly.  My boots are a perfect fit, and have not troubled me in the least. Not even are the soles of my feet hot as they have been after marching in shoes too large for me.  Only my shoulders betray the fatigue of a long and arduous night march.  I was told a day or two ago that Ores. Felton was dead.  Is this so & has talk yet been had of his successor?  What is the news in Cambridge?  I received the pocket-hand-kerchief by mail day before yesterday.  Hoping to hear from you soon, I am as ever,

                   Your Affectionate Son
                       John B. Noyes

P.S. direct to Williamsport.

Waud's sketch of the Martinsburg Roundhouse

Sketch of the Ruins of the Martinsburg Roundhouse by Alfred R. Waud.   Waud depicts the ruined roundhouse but the rolling stock appears to be in tact.  When the 13th passed through the rolling stock around the yard was in ruins.  The Baltimore and Ohio R.R. Depot, Round House and Shops, along with the rolling stock, were destroyed by Stonewall Jackson's brigade June 20th 1861.  This sketch was separated from a larger sketch depicting scenes of Martinsburg, the top sketch was also part of the same.

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Letter of Warren H. Freeman; March 3rd, 1862

Freeman of Company A gives his account of the march to Martinsburg, but omits the incident, the firing by 'Company A' men, that created a brief panic among the troops.

MARTINSBURG, Va., March 3, 1862.

Well, here we are in the midst of rebels, and upon their sacred soil. We left Williamsport Saturday morning, March lst, and crossed the Potomac about noon; we went over in a kind of flat-boat, guided by a wire stretched across the river. The boat could only carry about sixty men, so the process was rather slow. As we have the right of the line we were the first to cross. We halted about half a mile from the river, and waited for the rest of our regiment to come up. We were on a hill in full view of the opposite bank of the river, where were grouped together a part of our regiment, the Twelfth Indiana, and First Maryland, with one battery, and all the baggage train, etc., with numerous fires: viewed from our position it was quite an imposing scene.

 It was nearly night before the whole brigade was over; the Indiana regiment joined us, and we took up the line of march at seven o’clock P. M. The road was in pretty good condition, but frozen hard, which made our feet sore. We were in heavy marching order, with two days’ rations. I should think we carried a weight of seventy-five pounds; we marched in quick time with very few halts. The country was quite level, which was all in our favor. When we arrived within about a mile of Martinsburg, our quarter-master and commissary sergeant, who were half a mile in advance of’ the regiment, were fired upon by a squad of rebel cavalry; they immediately wheeled and fell back on the regiment. Company A was then ordered off through the fields round the town, to come up on the Winchester road, and cut off the retreat of the rebels. We had rather a severe time of it, I can assure you  - through the fields, over fences and ditches, and through one large piggery, where the mud was nearly over my high-legged boots.  We probably went over three miles before reaching the road where we were to halt. We here drew up in line to intercept the fleeing enemy, but they had scattered in some other directions.  After a. brief rest we marched into town. Two prisoners only were taken.

It is about fourteen miles from the river to the town, but The route  we took would make it about seventeen miles, and we arrived here before midnight – or in less than five hours from the time we left the river.  The boys say this is the hardest march yet.  I thought several times I should be obliged to give in, my feet were so sore, and great pain across my shoulders; but have got over it now, and next time shall stand it better.  Soon after our arrival we were quartered in a church that had just been vacated by the rebels. Next day were removed to a brick house on a back street.  This building had also been occupied by the enemy.

Martinsburg is a very pretty town, of, I should think, about four thousand inhabitants. When the rebels left, they burnt the bridges, railroad stock, cars, engines, etc.  The stores are all cleaned out; what few things that are for sale they charge enormous prices for.

Our army now here numbers about four thousand infantry, one battery, and a squadron of cavalry.  More troops are expected to arrive to-night.  The rebels, in force, are entrenched at Winchester, which (as you will see by the map) is but a few miles from here. What General Banks’s designs are in regard to them we do not know, but I hope they will wait for the mud to dry up before any very extended movements are made; however, we are in for it now, and may the God of battle protect and defend us, for we have the consciousness of being in the right, as we feel that we must prevail. There is much on every side to write about, but time will not admit of saying more now, so farewell.  


Letter of Edwin Rice; March 4th 1862

Rice identifies the officer shot at by Company A as a lieutenant of the 1st Maryland Cavalry seeking a livery for his horse.  The 1st Maryland moved into town directly ahead of the 13th Mass Infantry.

Martinsburg, Virginia
March 4, 1862


     We have at last trod on the ‘sacred soil.’  We left Williamsport about 7 p.m. Saturday.  The weather was pleasant and cool and a good time to march.  The pike was in good order.  We arrived here about 12 Sat. evening. The distance was about 14 miles. We marched into town very still and in good order.  As soon as we halted the Band played Yankee Doodle, Red, White & Blue etc., and the colonel made a short speech to the men in which he said that all private property must be respected, and he wanted to show the citizens that we came here to carry out the laws and intentions of the U.S. government, and not to rob and plunder everything that came in their way.

     We had to wait in the street while the colonel found comfortable quarters whilst we staid here. The men were pretty well tired out and were sitting and lying on the sidewalk most of them asleep, when we were all startled by the reports of muskets, and the bullets flying amongst us and over us.  It was so sudden and un-expected that nearly all commenced running back (the firing was in front of us).  The captains called upon the men to fall in and to commence loading which they did very promptly.

     The Band was in two or three different places when the soldiers commenced running. One of them knocked Gassett down and trod on his horn and flattened the bell of it. Knapp had his bent nearly double. Martens had his bruised pretty bad.  I fell over an ash heap and bruised mine pretty bad, but none were injured so but what they can be used. But the strangest of all is that no one was hit by the balls.  A member of Co E was knocked down by a horse and bruised his face very badly.

     The way the thing was brought about is this. A lieutenant of our cavalry was looking up some stables for his horses.  He had a black with him and was telling him how some rebel cavalry were in town as late as 10 o’clock that night, and just as the words were out of his mouth they were challenged by one of our guards who had been stationed, and the lieutenant supposed he was challenged by the rebels. He turned and put spurs to his horse, and the guard fired on him and about half of the advance company who were loaded, also fired at him. It was lucky that no one was hit. The lieutenant’s horse was hit in the fleshy part of the neck.

     Before the excitement was over, the Band had got into a hotel and out of the way where we staid the rest of the night. In the morning Tom found a room for us into which we moved.  There did not happen to be any rebels in town. Most of them left Thursday morning.

     There are but a few persons living in town now.  Most of the union citizens left whilst the rebels were here, and the secesh left when they heard that we were coming.

     The union troops now here are the 13th Mass, 5th Conn, 28th NY, 46th Pa, 12th Indiana, 1st Md, 2 Co’s of cavalry and one of artillery. They have been coming in since Sunday morning. It rained nearly all day yesterday. The 5th Conn, and 46th Pa came in yesterday in the rain. It was a bad day to march. It cleared up somewhat during the night and is now quite cool. We, the Band, have got a nice room to live in.  It is about 25 feet square and 14 high.

General Jackson sent in a flag of truce last evening and said that he would give Leonard till 4 o’clock this morning to leave town. We did not leave and suppose he concluded to let us be here.

Can’t write any more now.  Will write you again in a day or two.

Edwin Rice

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Description of the Town of Martinsburg

Three Years in the Army, continued:

 After the regiment entered the town the band played “Yanked Doodle,”  “Glory Hallelujah,” “Red, White, and Blue,” and other patriotic airs for the benefit of those benighted citizens who preferred the secesh song, “Maryland, My Maryland,” which we heard so frequently sung during the winter.

     …A good many of the houses in the town were found to be empty, the occupants having fled to parts unknown, whereupon we took possession of them for quarters and proceeded to make ourselves comfortable.

     Company B, with a company from the Twelfth Indiana, was detailed for provost duty.

Martinsburg sketchIt snowed hard in the afternoon, turning to rain before night.  A good New England Day.  We found the population of Martinsburg to be five or six thousand inhabitants, and an important station on the Baltimore and Ohio railroad. On receiving information of our approach the enemy destroyed forty-eight locomotive engines, and the debris thereof was indeed a sight to see.

 Martinsburg was the residence of Mr. Faulkner, a man who had previously been distinguished by an appointment as Minister to France. His family having little faith in Yankee soldiers, requested a guard for the protection of themselves and their property, and certain men of our regiment were detailed for the purpose. When the time came for cooking coffee, request was made for privileges to use the kitchen stove, but it was refused. The Union must be preserved and soldiers must have their coffee.  The words “poltroons” and “cowards” and “vulgar Yankees” are not pleasant words to hear, even when uttered by a pretty woman. In this case they were spoken in French, whereupon one of the boys informed madam that he also spoke that language, which information so astonished her that she was glad to retire to the privacy of the upper rooms, leaving the “vulgar Yankees” in possession of the lower floor. The boys proceeded without further delay to cook their coffee and to use the old man’s library for their mental sustenance. Good books, good coffee, and a well-filled pipe will broaden the mind of a solder so as to make him capable of swallowing a good deal of abuse.

     The feeling against the Union was very bitter in this town, as was expected it would be. The sentiment was not unanimous, however.  We were made pretty well acquainted with the sentiments of the people through two boys from this town who had enlisted as drummers in the Thirteenth, and who proved themselves to be good soldiers.  Their escape from Martinsburg and joining us at Williamsport, together with the sufferings of their family for maintaining Union sentiments, would make a thrilling story if published.  (Davis is referencing his friends, Sam and Isaac Webster, of Martinsburg).

Three Years With Company K
by Sergeant Austin C. Stearns; edited by Arthur Kent. (P. 56).

     Our stay at Martinsburg was about a week. K Company went out on picket about a mile on the Winchester Pike; the snow was between two and three inches deep.  While here we made our headquarters at a farmhouse.  We talked with the lady of the house, who was quite talkative, [and] she had two sons in the Confederate service. One was with Jackson when he made his winter raid to Hancock.  Some of the boys in speaking of the cold said “Jackson had two or three men froze to death up there.”  “Oh no,” said the old lady “not froze to death but perished with the cold.”  We failed to see any great difference between freezing and perishing. 

Westboro Transcript, March 22, 1862; Letter from Captain Charles Hovey

      Captain Charles Hovey who took command of Company K during the winter, writes a letter to the town selectmen about the character of the Westboro men.  In the letter he writes of arrangements made with Adam's Express Company to ship bodies home in the event of any deaths in the company.  He would be utilizing these services much sooner than he would have thought.

March 22nd 1862

      Mr. B. B. Nourse has also received a letter from Capt. Hovey, of a still later date than the foregoing, from which we are permitted to make extracts.  It was written at Martinsburg, Va., 5th March.  The Capt. Says,

Captain Charles Hovey     “Although my company was the first that entered Martinsburg on our recent advance into Secessia, we happen, accidentally, to be left behind by the regiment, which has gone on towards Winchester.  Not being relieved early enough while on outpost guard duty, I was ordered to remain behind a few hours to rest my men, prepare rations, &c. To-morrow morning we go to rejoin the 13th.

     “I think the town of Westboro deserves a great deal of praise for its liberality towards the company I am so fortunate to command.

     “No one can say that Co. K is a second-rate company, either in discipline, good conduct, drill or morals; and while I feel that it is equal to any company I ever saw.  I hope soon to be able to say, without vain-boasting, that it is superior to any.

     “As we are expecting soon to be engaged in battle with the rebel force, I will allude to the arrangements made by the town of Westboro with the Adams’ Express Co., for the transportation home of the bodies of such of my men as I may lose.  I hope I shall not lose a man; but I can hardly expect to be so fortunate as that.  If some of our number should fall, I have arranged with my Lieutenants and Orderly Seargent that in case accident should prevent me from talking charge of the sad business, they shall act for me.  I shall not of course leave such duties for others to perform if I am spared to attend to them myself.  I hope the Express Company will follow us up as we advance, for by to-morrow night we shall be over thirty miles from their nearest office, which is at Hagerstown, Md.

     “We are all rejoiced that the long-talked of “Forward Movement” has at last commenced.  It appears to be going on finely; and McClellan must soon be acknowledged a far abler general than the North have predicted he would prove.  We expect hard work now, in the way of forced marches, big fights, little fights, picket duty , &c., &c.; but we all feel able and willing – and not only willing, but impatient – to be moving onward until the good old flag is restored to supremacy in every town between this and the Gulf cities.”

      (Capt. Hovey, being an utter stranger to our citizens has forwarded to Mr. Homan three photographs of himself, one of which is retained by Mr. H., and the others are in possession of J.F.B. Marshall, Esq., and the writer of this.  He is a fine looking man; and no one who sees his picture will be surprised at the fact that he is a favorite with his command.

     Co. K is now, or was at last accounts, doing Provost duty at Winchester, Va., recently the headquarters of the rebel General Jackson’s forces, and where a desperate fight was anticipated.  A letter from there says:  “While our regiment (13th) was entering Winchester, Jackson’s troops were marching out at the other end of the street.

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Three Years in the Army, (continued).

ChickensMonday, March 3.
     Washing-day. A soldiers’ washing-day is any day; some day when he couldn’t stand it any longer, or when he became convinced that “dirt is something in the wrong place.”  The colonel had us out this afternoon on battalion drill, in the mud, to show the “F.F.V’s” what a Massachusetts regiment could do; and a goodly sight it is to see, when the regiment is well drilled. The colonel enjoyed it more than we did.

     General Williams assumed command of the brigade to-day.  Troops are arriving daily and molasses is $1.75 per gallon.

     We were anxious at this time to see a regular thoroughbred “F.F.V.,” about whom we had heard so much. Therefore some watched while others preyed, and those who preyed submitted samples of their success for judgment. They were complimented for their earnestness, but informed that the “First Families of Virginia” did not have feathers. They bore their disappointment with the tranquility which possesses a man who has breakfasted on broiled chicken. In these searches for “Full Feathered Virginians” the boys declared that they always met an officer’s servant at the same coop.


Boston, February, 1883.

     February 22, 1862, [March 1, 1862] the Thirteenth Regiment Massachusetts Volunteers crossed the Potomac, at Williamsport, Md., and that same evening [March 2nd] entered Martinsburg, Va.  For many days after the weather was unpleasant, and the town rapidly filled up with the troops of General Banks’ Division.

     No attempt was made to form regular camps, as further progress to Winchester was contemplated, so the troops were quartered in abandoned houses, or any shelter immediately available.

     A party of about ten members of Company D; of the 13th, was quartered in a school-house near the outskirts of the village. It was a frame structure, consisting of one room, devoid of furniture of any kind, but in good condition, with a large open fire-place at the farther end. Taking into consideration the week of stormy weather, and the alternative of pitching tents in water-soaked fields; the school-house was a marvel of comfort to the weary volunteers, and we thoroughly appreciated it when returning from picket or guard duty; we lifted the latch and entered the room, brilliantly lighted by a glowing fire on the hearth, to take our places within the circle of its radiance.

     Now, it happened, that among the rations issued to us during our stay at Martinsburg, was a quantity of rice, and as we sat about the fire enjoying our frugal repast of black coffee and “hard-tack,” the question of what to do with the rice was discussed. It seemed to be a foregone conclusion that a “plain boiled” was the limit of our capabilities in the culinary way; when one brilliant comrade, with a hankering after the possibilities of civilized diet, proposed “chicken stew.”  Of course the proposition was quite satisfactory, but difficulties attended its accomplishment, and we were rather astonished at the audacity of thus tantalizing our greedy appetites.  But it seemed that the comrade knew whereof he spoke, for in his wanderings in the suburbs thereabouts he had discovered signs of feathered life, which had escaped the depredations of the Confederates who had occupied the town all winter.  The proposition was unanimously accepted and the recommendation adopted, and there-upon the squad resolved itself into a series of “committees,” to wit:

Waud sketch of soldiers with chickens     Committee to decoy the hens.  This of course consisted of the one whose observant eye had noted the abiding place of the poultry, and an assistant, to help with advice and strategy. This committee dispatched its duties and the hens with celerity and neatness.  Their midnight adventures were quite thrilling, and afforded us much entertainment afterwards.  – in sooth, they never showed the “white feather,” but carefully burned the non-essentials to the “stew.”

     The second committee was that to procure the fuel with which to cook the aforesaid stew, and consisted of a majority of the sojourners in the little school-house.  They were a conscientious group, and refrained from depredating on any neighboring wood-pile or fences – perhaps from lack of opportunity – but found a large pile of abandoned ties near a small cottage close to the railroad.  They construed this to be as near like public property as anything for fuel in that locality could be, and helped themselves quite liberally, making several trips to that pile in the early dawn.

     The third committee was composed of two to do the cooking, and were selected because of their well-known ability to concoct a savory mess, even with a dearth of ingredients.

     The fourth committee was that to chop the wood, and consisted of one city-bred boy unaccustomed to the use of an axe, but with a will to do his share to make the undertaking a success.  A scriptural phrase says: “that a man was famous as he had lifted up the axe against the thick trees.”  According to this light, this was “a youth to fortunes and to fame unknown.”  His task was not so exciting as some of the others, but it was arduous enough to compensate for the lack of peril attending its execution. The ties were of oak, quite tough, with an occasional spike to interfere with the working of the axe. However, this young man persevered in the work, and, after half an hour’s perspiring labor, he had quite a pile of handy chunks to put under the pot. The chopper rested from his labors for a short time and sat him down on the steps of the school-house, congratulating himself that his task was done, and counting the blisters on his tender palms, ere he carried the wood into house.  While he thus sat, he was astounded at the irruption of a stout Hibernian female, with fire in her eye, and muscle in her arm. 

old woman sketch     Her florid face fairly blazed with indignation, and she was attended by a troop of little ones whose presence evidently encouraged the mother in the encounter.  Her errand was soon made known, for, as she confronted the surprised sitter, she blurted out: “Oi’m a poor, lone woman, wid six children, an’ me husband’s gone off wid Jackson’s min; yees ought ter know betther thin to stale me wud, ye mane thaving Yankee sodjers!”  With that she gathered up all the wood just split, and giving each of the children some to carry, she marched off slowly, yet triumphantly, without the shadow of a remonstrance. In fact, the chopper was dumbfounded, and, for the moment, his organs of speech were annihilated. He would not have stood a ghost of a chance in an encounter with the muscular Confederate war widow, and he breathed quite relieved when she vanished down the street.  The imaginary picture of his head in chancery, receiving the pummeling from the fists of the stalwart washerwoman was rather disheartening to a youth of retiring disposition, especially as a chivalric feeling would not allow of much “hitting back.”  Perhaps he felt a twinge of that “conscience which makes cowards of us all,” for it was very evident that this woman’s husband had endeavored to supply his family with the necessary store of fuel during his absence with Stonewall Jackson’s troops by gathering the refuse ties along the railroad embankment.

The reproaches of his comrades that he had allowed the woman to carry off the wood were more easily borne than the amusement that the incident created, and the recollection of the defeat was a source of annoyance for many weeks.  However, he became fully reconciled to both, when in something more than a year later, he saw a woman of the same nationality successfully broom quite a large detachment of the Army of the Potomac out of her onion patch, at Waterford, Va.  Veterans, flushed with success at Gettysburg, fled ignominiously from the resounding whacks of an ancient broom vigorously wielded by one resolute Irish woman.  We can thank our stars that the Confederacy never organized an Amazonian corps.

But to return to the school-house, the chopper essayed again to fulfill his appointed duty, and soon had fuel enough for the emergency.  Wary comrades stood by and hurried each piece into the house, and the woman came not again.  Probably she was satisfied with one victory, and having some chopped wood on hand was compensated for the lost logs.  Possibly she could not borrow so many children for a second raid.

The committee in charge of the cooking did their duty well.  Vegetables we had none; but chicken, rice and water were in abundance, while fragments of “hard-tack” served to give body and bulk to the compound.  We restrained our appetites till later in the evening, to allow every denizen of the school-house to be on hand for the repast.  Each returning prodigal received a whiff of savory odors as he entered the banquet hall, and the last man was greeted with a cordial welcome, as we sat down in circle, a la Turk, with heterogeneous collection of tin dippers, plates and dilapidated tomato cans to receive our share. Jealous eyes watched the impartial distribution, and vigorous spoons scraped the old black kettle raw to obtain the last vestiges of edible matter from its battered sides.  Some one, no doubt, would have “licked the platter clean,” but for the restraints of decency and the imputation of greediness.  Candles in bayonets, stuck in the cracks of the floor, gave light to pick the bones, while busy tongues reeled off stories or songs, giving zest to our appetites.  The episode of the morning served to bring the amateur wood-chopper into prominence as a butt for the shafts of ridicule, but it was given and received good-naturedly.  Supper over, lights were extinguished, and we rolled up in our blankets to enjoy the sleep of the satisfied.

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Advance to Bunker Hill

"Three Years in the Army,"continued:

Wednesday, March 5. 
     With the rest of the brigade we marched to Bunker Hill, ten miles, where we arrived late in the afternoon.  The march was slow, owing to the mud. The soil was not too “sacred” for mud.  Bunker Hill is a small village with scattering houses, one church, and a deserted mill. Two companies, B and C, occupied the church, and company K, the mill.

     In a a report made by General Jackson to Gen. Jos. E. Johnston, March 6, 1862, he says that “Yesterday the enemy advanced from Martinsburg to Bunker Hill. So Leonard, the commander, has effected a junction with Charlestown forces via the Charlestown and Smithfield road. Leonard, before leaving Martinsburg, sent his baggage in the direction of Williamsport. His column was about two miles long, composed of seven regiments of infantry, four companies of cavalry, and probably six pieces of artillery.”  Well informed as he was about our movements, he omitted to mention the articles left behind by the rank and file before we left Martinsburg, though we still had three days’ rations, forty rounds of ammunition, and a gun called the Enfield rifle. On our arrival at Bunker Hill, we found eight rebels in a church, and retained them as prisoner.  This shows how inadvisable it is to go to church on Tuesdays.

     We found at Bunker Hill no monument to mark the place where Warren fell, - probably because he preferred to fall in Massachusetts.

     Charlestown and Bunker Hill!  The Virginians were so bound up in the sacredness of their soil they were unable to appreciate the sacredness attached to these two names.

     A detail of Company D was left behind at Martinsburg to accompany the wagon train.

Letter of Warren H. Freeman, March 7, 1862

MARTINSBURG, Va., March 7, 1862

DEAR FATHER,-I received your letter of March 2d, yesterday. I had been out on picket on the Winchester turnpike, and found that and two papers to welcome me on my return. These frequent letters from home are truly gratifying, I can assure you. Wednesday last all the troops received orders to march immediately with twenty-four hours' rations; when we got ready there was one company detailed from each regiment to remain and do guard duty, - Company A being the unlucky one from the Thirteenth. The main body then took up the line of march for Bunker Hill, distant about ten miles; the guard were then sent off on picket. We went in squads on the different roads leading out of town; our squad took the Winchester road for about two miles. Our orders were to allow no person to leave the town without a pass. At night those not on duty took up their quarters in an old barn. The next day we were relieved by an Indiana company and returned to town. You can form no idea of the wholesale destruction of property here by the rebels.  I counted upward of forty locomotives of the largest kind, partially burned and stove up, in one heap; there were large depots, engine-houses, etc., burnt or otherwise destroyed, together with bridges and everything else pertaining to a large railroad business.

Our orders now are to be ready to march to join our regiment to-morrow morning at nine o'clock.

Letter of Edwin Rice,13th Mass Band; March 7th 1862

Bunkers Hill, Virginia
March 7th 1862

     We are now within 12 miles of Winchester. Left Martinsburg Wednesday morning in a snow squall, and arrived here about 4 p.m.  The troops came in, in good order.  Our advance guard captured 5 rebel pickets and were fired on by some of their cavalry but no one was hit.  It was rather muddy on the pike. The mud was only about an inch deep.

     There are now here, the 1st Md Regt., 5th Conn, 12th Indiana, 28th NY, 46th Pa, 6 pieces of cannon and 2 Co’s of cavalry. The correct name for this place is Mill Creek P.O.  It is about half as large as Darnestown.

     The Band are quartered in a two story log home. There is a family living in it too.  The colonel told us to take possession of it and make ourselves as comfortable as we could. Our tents did not come till last night. The man of the house is a secesh. I don’t think he likes the style in which we live just now.  There is not a building in the place but what is full of soldiers.  About half of the command here had to stay outdoors. They don’t now, as the tents have come.

     It is reported that as soon as General Shields arrives here with his command (formerly Landers) that we shall make an advance upon Winchester. He is expected here by Sunday night. Don’t know as there is any truth to the report or not.

     This is the most God forsaken place that I ever saw.  If we had not got into a house with a family in it we should have fared hard for food. I have not had anything to eat except 6 biscuits since we have been here. Our rations did not arrive till this morning.  The weather has been coolly pleasant.

     A deserter came in yesterday and said that Ashby’s cavalry was going to try to capture some of our pickets last night. 4 Co’s were sent out to reinforce them.  Haven’t heard this morning as they made the attempt or not.

     The field on which General Patterson had a skirmish with the rebels last July is but a short distance from our place.

     Some think that when General Shields comes along that we shall move on about 5 miles further so that when the battle of Winchester comes off we shall not have so far to march to it, and leave all camp equipage etc. behind.

     Shan’t write any more until we get into camp, where things are more convenient. Am feeling first rate.

    Edwin Rice

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Preparing to Take Winchester

"Three Years in the Army," continued:

Thursday March 6.
     General Banks paid the brigade visit.  What his presence betokened we were unable to say, though the camp gossips amused themselves by constructing stories that would have honored Munchausen.

     A rebel deserter came into camp to-day, loaded to the muzzle with lies for our digestion. We accepted a good deal of nonsense from these deserters, in our simplicity at this time, that didn’t pass later on. He told great stories about men looking for opportunities to desert; but we didn’t see much of a procession of these fellows, so the war was continued.

Friday, March 7.
     While the regiment was out on battalion drill in the afternoon, word was received that four hundred rebel cavalry were within four miles, whereupon we were double-quicked through the mud, across a brook, and down the road, expecting to have a brush with the “Johnnies.”  Just as we were halted and our guns loaded, we were met by regiments returning; so back through the mud we marched to camp, our feet soaked and our legs covered with “sacred soil.”

     Three men shot on picket through their own carelessness, it is said. Men should never go on picket:  it is dangerous.

     An order was issued to-day for the detail left at Williamsport to report to the regiment. An order was also issued that when men are obliged to fall out on  a march they must be provided with passes.  The nights are so cold, we wondered where the man was who said Virginia was in the tropics.

Letter of Edwin Rice, March 9th 1862

Bunkers Hill, Virginia
March 9th 1862


     This is the pleasantest day that we have had for a long time.  It is a real spring day, warm and pleasant.

     Our regiment expects to leave here in a day or two to join the brigade that we were in at Darnestown. It is somewhere near Charlestown about 8 miles from this place. It is the second brigade – General Hamilton.

     Friday afternoon our regiment was on drill about a mile on the Winchester pike when a courier came in with news that our cavalry were having a skirmish with the rebels and wanted reinforcements. The regiment started off at double quick for the place, the Band bringing up in the rear.  After we had gone about two miles we were met by our cavalry coming in; the rebels having retreated. Our cavalry had 3 men wounded one of which has since died.  The others were only slightly wounded.  They captured 8 or 10 horses and killed and wounded a number of the rebels. With that exception, as far as I know of, everything has been still and quiet.

     Since we have been here we have not had much of anything to eat except hard bread and coffee.  As soon as we get established in camp we shall live better. The Chaplain delivered one of his excellent sermons today.  There was not as much religion in it as good advice and common sense.

     The “man of the house” has got a $20 Confederate bond which is payable 6 months after the Confederacy is recognized which probably will never be. Specie gold and silver were strangers in this part of the state before we came here. The currency was in shinplasters and Confederate notes. They answered every purpose before we came, but since then they do not pass as readily.

     It is three weeks today since I have changed my clothing. Our baggage did not get along till yesterday.  There is no one here who can wash the dirty ones except myself and I am afraid that I should not have time to do it before we march again, and I had rather cry the dirty clothes on my back than in the valise.

     Such bags of salt as you can buy for 20c sold for $5 here and could hardly be had for that price.  Farm produce was the only stuff that was cheap.

     I send with this a photograph of Lieutenant Colonel Batchelder. I think it is a very good one. His face is covered with freckles which account for the spots on his face in the photograph. I sent a photograph of Colonel Leonard to Viola and told here when she got tired of looking at it to send t to you. It is a very good one.

     I am interrupted so much in writing that I believe I shall stop. There are so many coming in and going out that I can’t think of anything.

     It is thought here that we shall be in Winchester in a week from now. Deserters say that all the heavy baggage, provisions, ammunition etc. is being moved to Strasburg.

     I don’t know but what you think that Winchester is a large place, but it is not, at least I have been told so by men who live near here.  It is the left wing of the rebel army and that makes it a pace of some importance to them. 

    Love to all,
Edwin Rice

The Advance to Winchester

"Three Years in the Army," continued:

Sunday March 9.
     Strict orders were issued by direction of General Williams that no commissioned officers nor privates are to pass the picket-guard without a written pass.  Wagons not to be sent out without sufficient guard. Guards or detachments with loaded muskets to discharge them between 9 and 10 A.M., at a designated spot. That the safety of the command depends on the observance of this last order.

     Hard bread getting scarce. Flour issued in its place.  Some of the boys clubbed together on drawing their flour, and had it baked into bread by one of the farmers’ wives, paying therefor in coffee, which was rated at $1.50 per pound at the store. What a glorious opportunity for speculation !

Monday, March 10.
     Orders issued to cook three days’ rations. Each officer and soldier to see that everything is in perfect order, with forty rounds of ammunition in the cartridge-boxes, If there were any Quakers in the regiment, it was a good time for them to start for Philadelphia. We expected to march at 10 A.M., but as it rained hard the order was countermanded.  The war was therefore prolonged one day.

Banks troops entering WinchesterTuesday, March 11.
Marched to Stephenson’s depot, six miles, and bivouacked in the woods about four miles from Winchester. As we marched out of Bunker Hill the usual crowds gathered to see the troops pass along. Among the number was a young man who gave utterance to his rebellious thoughts by irritating remarks as to what we were likely to do on meeting Ashby’s cavalry. When the price of salt is $30.00 per bag, it is not strange that the language of the people should smack of an unusual freshness.

Our march was frequently obstructed by rebel cavalry under Ashby; but no one was hurt, though it looked rather shaky at times.

The great caution that was observed on our march to-day made it late in the afternoon before we went into camp.  Details were made of camp and picket-guard, camp-fires were lit, coffee cooked, and the proper degree of thankfulness expressed by those who escaped guard duty.

     After supper the men gathered round the fires for a smoke and to listen to the gossip of the regiment.  It frequently happens that some one will invent a story, requesting the strictest secrecy, in order that it may travel the faster.  In the course of twenty-four hours or so it will return, not exactly as it went fourth, but so enlarged and exaggerated that you could scarcely recognize the original. Frequent repetitions of this amusement very soon created such disbelief in all camp stories, that it was difficult to get one well started except by the exercise of considerable ingenuity.

Wednesday, March 12.
     The rattle of drums and sweet singing of birds announced that morn was here. The army was to move on Winchester at once, so we hastily cooked our coffee, and as quickly as possible ate our breakfast.  There was no time to spare, as orders to “fall in” were heard in every direction. Orders were received for the Thirteenth to take the advance of the column as skirmishers.  Winchester was four miles away, occupied by 25,000 troops under Stonewall Jackson, and well-fortified by earthworks.  As soon as we were out of the woods the regiment was deployed as skirmishers, and marched in that order in quick time across fields, over fences and stone walls, fording brooks or creeks, preserving distances and line as well as we could under such disadvantages.  The sensations we experienced on this bright, beautiful morning are not likely to be forgotten.  It was very warm, and the march a hard one, because the line was irregularly obstructed. That is to say, while one part would be marching on the smooth surface of the ground, another part might be climbing a fence or wading a brook. To keep the line tolerably straight under such exasperating circumstances was very trying and perspiring work.  In  addition to this we were, for the first time, inline of battle, and in plain sight of the rest of the division, who were watching our movements as they followed in close column.  Situated as we were, there was no opportunity of obeying, without disgrace, those instincts of discretion which are said to be the better part of valor, and which prompt human nature to seek safety in flight. Those of us who omitted to sneak away before the line was formed, but who afterward showed such ingenuity and skill in escaping the dangers of battle, Taylor Tavernfound no chance open for skulking on this occasion. Yes ! like other regiments, we had our percentage of men who dared to run away, that they might live to fight some other, far distant day.  We saw those dreaded earthworks a long time before we reached them, and wondered at the enemy’s silence, but concluded they were reserving their fire until we should be close enough for the greatest execution. Whatever the boys felt, there was no faltering or wavering. Within a short distance of the earthworks we formed in close order, and with a yell and a rush we bounded over them to find, after all our fears and anticipations, they were empty.  We were soon formed in line, and marched in column of companies into town, being the first Union regiment that entered Winchester.  We felt proud enough at our bloodless victory.

     We had hardly entered the main street of the town when General Jackson and Colonel Ashby were discovered on horseback in front of the Taylor House, (pictured) waving an adieu with their hats. An order was immediately given to fire, but we were not quick enough to do them harm or retard their flight. This was a daring thing to do, though common enough with such men as Jackson and Ashby.

     We marched down the main street, the band playing patriotic airs, while the people scanned our appearance to see what a Yankee looked like. Some who were prepared to scoff could get no farther than “How fat they are !”

     After the companies were assigned to quarters the officers met at the Taylor House, and dined on the meal provided for Jackson and his staff.

     The regiment was detailed as provost guard of the town, and proceeded at once to secure quarters in the unoccupied buildings.

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Clarence H. Bell.

Companies A & D had the advance of the line entering Winchester.  They would be the first to receive the enemies vollies should there be resistance. Author Clarence Bell, Co. D, offers up this reminiscence of the event.

Read at the reunion of the 13th Mass. Vols., Dec. 13, 1897.

     It was very early in the morning of March 12, 1862, when the Thirteenth Regiment cut loose from its moorings, or rather, not being crafty enough to be nautical, broke bivouac and meandered toward Winchester.  You will notice that I purposely use the word meandered.  I might have said marched, or walked, or "hoofed it," but meandered is such a pleasant word, a sweet morsel under the tongue, that it is a delight to use it and use it right.  It's like wearing a tall hat; you feel that you have got some polish about you, so you throw out your chin and elevate your eyes as if you had strayed into the smart set.  To be sure, at first start it sounds very similar to the persuasive wail of a predatory tom-cat, but we will let that pass.

     I said that it was early in the morning, in fact it was too early.  There always seemed to be some one in authority in our army days who was bent on having us begin the day before sunrise and thus knock us out of from two to ten hours' sleep.  And every one knows that the sleep we do not get is the sweetest, most enjoyable in imagination.  Many an angelic disposition has been ruined by the loss of early morning sleep.  I have been affected that way myself and can bring any quantity of witnesses to prove the ruin.  Well, it was early in the morning when me and the others meandered toward Winchester.  There had been a lot of fellows in that place the night before, carrying on a sort of Fourth of July celebration with ball cartridges.  These chaps wore gray clothes, and they didn't like us.  Indeed, they carried their dislike to such extremes that only a modern football match could excel the vindictiveness with which they interviewed us.  We expected to find those people ready to receive us with extended arms - Firearms, and we proceeded very cautiously, to avoid making mistakes.  The Thirteenth was deployed as skirmishers and every one carried his gun in both hands, ready to get in the first argument in case of a dispute.  After we got out of the woods, we came in sight of the town a mile or so away, with a long line of dark red earthworks extended in front.  All the trees had been felled, while the timber and brush had been left in lavish profusion scattered all over the field, making a lovely place for a battalion drill or a morning promenade.  These piles of brush seemed to be mutely calling on us to "wait a bit" and enforcing the admonition by catching our garments and lacerating our flesh.

     Geography tells us that the earth's surface is divided into land and water.  We found it true that morning as a rule, but it was surprising the number of places we reached where the division had been neglected and the land and water left blended together!  Then there was a brook, like a hungry snake looking for his breakfast, that wiggled all over that field.  Sometimes we waded it, and sometimes we leaped across it; once in a while, when some one fell down, tripped up by an unobserved branch, the brook would leap across him.  We read about "babbling brooks," and if ever a brook babbled that pesky stream did.  It seemed to have been in the babbling business ever since the year 6000 B.C., and after one had cleared it with a running jump and then crawled under a pile of brush he would find that brook babbling on the other side, "Here we are again."

     All the time we were getting nearer that dark red line of earthworks, expecting the "ball to open."  It always surprised me to hear that expression about the ball opening when a battle was about to begin.  The two occasions were so unlike in their nature that the application of the term "opening of the ball" to a bloody encounter must have been by inversion, a grim sort of pleasantry. To be sure, we tripped the light fantastic toe very many times amid the brush that littered the field of Winchester, but the ball never opened.  Whenever one emerged from behind some kindly cover, or rose to view from a generous depression, he expected to be plugged by the bullet of some skilful Confederate sharpshooter.  I never did so much expecting in all my life.  It was a whole week before Christmas crowded into a short hour.  There was the line of skirmishers advancing as rapidly as the nature of the ground permitted, and behind, the long line of battle resplendent with a dozen brand new flags, gorgeous as the ribbons on a bargain counter, surging forward to the baptism of fire.  It came later, but the only blood spilled on the field of March 12, 1862, was that gleaned by the annoying twigs on the slaughtered trees in front of the town.

Banks army marches to Winchester
Advance of the Army of the Potomac - Occupation of Winchester, Va. and the Abandoned Confederate Fortifications by a Detachment of General Banks Division of the Federal Army, Consisting of the Brigades of Generals Hamilton and Williams.  March 12th, 1862. [The skirmishers can be seen approaching the fortifications on the left.]

     When we got very near without molestation we discovered that no guns were protruding from the embrasures and no rifles lined the ramparts with wicked eyes glancing along the barrels.  We supposed the enemy to be waiting to see the whites of our eyes before giving us a volley, and we kept our eyes shut as much as we could to delay the catastrophe, and when we found that the foe had skipped by the light of the moon, our spirits rose to summer heat and we cleared those intrenchments with a rush, Company D having the head of the column as the regiment rallied on the left and entered the town.

     Flushed with victory, we marched clear through to the other side and found never a foe to block our pathway or diminish our vanity.  It was so pleasant to think that we had made the rebels run and not feel at the same time that they were lagging on behind us, as they so often did in later days, when we were executing a quickstep. When we got through the town we were halted in the streets, and then sat on the curbstones, steps, or fences, for several hours, while our generals decided what to do with a conquered place.  We devoured the contents of our haversacks and listened to the prattle of the delighted darkies, who told us they were "so glad you-alls have come."  Then they told us about a little black boy who could not keep his exuberant spirits in control, who had incautiously shouted that he "was glad the Yankees were coming," which being overheard by a trooper in the last squad leaving the place, the latter had turned in his saddle and shot the boy through the head.

     After lounging about the streets till the pride of victory had dwindled into disgust, we learned that the Thirteenth was to perform guard duty in the town, and the various companies marched away to their assignments.  Company D was allotted the protection of the railroad yards and adjoining property, with the passenger station as a sort of barracks.  It was very near dark when we broke ranks and sought the waiting-room, which afforded meagre shelter for so many.

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Sore Feet & Bloody Boots

Warren Freeman of Company A was also in the vanguard during the advance to Winchester.  He and James Ramsey of Company F, both write how hard the march was on the poor soldiers' feet.

Letter of Warren H. Freeman; The advance to Winchester

WINCHESTER, Va., March 14.

We are here at last, safe and well but a little footsore.  We did not have the fight we expected as the rebels retreated again on our approach to this place. We left Martinsburg last Saturday at about ten A.M., and marched to Bunker Hill.  The road was in pretty good condition, so that it was not a very hard march.  We pitched our tents in a grove and made all comfortable before night, though we had nothing but “army pies,” as the boys call the ship-bread, to eat.

     We remained here till Tuesday forenoon, when we resumed our march to Winchester.  The roads now became very muddy. You have no idea of the traveling here in some places; the creeks, instead of being bridged over as they are in New England, run across the roads, so that you have to wade through them.  Though the water is not very deep, yet it is bad for those that wear shoes.  As there were so many troops and large baggage train, and from other causes, we only made about eight miles this day. The rebels were hovering about us and there was some skirmishing; we had four killed and several wounded.  Quiet a number of prisoners were brought in by our cavalry. At night the army encamped in a hollow with hills all around us.  There were about 6,000 men, and as every tent had a large fire in front of the opening to the tent, it made the most splendid sight I ever beheld. At three o’clock the next morning we were turned out, and were ready to move at daylight.  Companies A and D of our regiment were than deployed out as skirmishers; we were thrown forward about half a mile in advance of the main body.  The road to Winchester runs along a valley, with hills on each side.  The width of this valley, or from hill-top to hill-top, was about two miles, and the skirmishes, about five paces apart, extended this whole distance. We had not advanced two miles when we came upon a very large earthwork for artillery, with a rifle-pit nearly a quarter of a mile long in front. Now I thought we were to have a battle. We knew before leaving Martinsburg that the enemy were in force in this vicinity, so we closed our ranks and waited for our regiment and the Fifth Connecticut regiment to come up. We then marched directly up in front of the fort to within about fifty yards, gave a yell and dashed forward into the fort; but lo !  the rebels had fled, leaving only some pickaxes, shovels etc., behind.  The forward march was continued toward Winchester; a contraband came in and informed us that the main body of the rebels had left during the previous night. We continued our march and soon captured quite a number of rebels who had lingered behind; they were taken by our cavalry. We reached Winchester about noon, and entered the barracks just deserted by the rebels.  We were soon ordered out to scour the country for rebels; we went through fields, over fences, small streams of water, etc., for about four miles in one hour. It was very warm, and I never sweat so much in my life before.

     Winchester is a large and beautiful town, and, you may recollect, was the residence of the rebel Mason; his house is among the largest in town. Some of the houses that had been vacated by the richer classes had their doors and windows removed so as to render them uncomfortable to us if we had been disposed to occupy them.

     Our Colonel Leonard has been appointed provost marshal, and we are now doing guard duty in the town. I have got a lot of trophies, but have no way to send them home.

     Soon after our arrival some of the people of the town desired to trade with our sutler. There is some good money left among them, and if they are loyal to our cause we shall at once extend to them all the rights and privileges which we enjoy.

     I hope you will continue to write often; as the distance increases between me and home, so does the desire increase to hear from those I hold most dear. My cold is almost well, and I am in good condition, excepting my sore feet.


Letter of James Ramsey; "Bloody Boots"

Like Waren Freeman, Ramsey had to endure excruciating pain on the march from ill fitting army boots.

Winchester Va.
March 13th 1862.

Dear Mother

James Ramsey      I am well as usual with the exception of a sore heel which troubled me but a little on the last march   We started from Bunker hill Va day before yesterday, in the morning and marched within three miles of  Winchester where our artillery shelled a rebel battery   our cavalry captured some rebels   as it was pretty late in the day we encamped in  a piece of woods from which our artillery had shelled the rebels  about an hour before   There fires were still burning   we had to sleep on our arms all night, about midnight the Maryland 1st drove the rebels from a bridge they were just going to burn   by the way that night we heard of the evacuation of Manassas and the naval engagement off Fortress Monroe.  

     Next morning we were aroused at three o’clock to march but we did not start till about half after 5 o clock A.M.  there was about 9000. men and 12 pieces of artillery   our regiment formed on the left of the line of battle   the New York 9th were in the rear of us as a reserve    we had our knapsacks on.  If we had not thought we were going to fight our way into Winchester I should not have started at all on account of my heel   my boots galled it so, it was my left foot but I was to[sic] proud to knock under so on I went, we did not march in the road but went through fields over fences and through ditches for about two miles when we stopped for a short rest   my foot had caused me so much pain that I determined to lighten my load and as we were only within  a mile of the enemys entrenchments and I thought we would have to fight and to charge bayonets on the works double quick I thought it would be easier for me to through[sic] away my knapsack so I let it slip   that eased my foot some   on we marched and did not rest again until we had mounted the enemys entrenchments   from there we marched about a mile into Winchester the people I think in general are glad we were come   when we got into quarters  I took of[f] my boot and my stocking was all blood and matter  it had galled me more than I felt it  I was bound not to give up  I got a pair of shoes and went up to the docters and he fixed it up  it is getting along nicely  I gess  I never will [be] troubled that way again  I through[sic] the boots away and that will be the last I will have to do with them while I am in the army.  The army shoes are the best things to march in I ever saw.

     This afternoon I went out of town on the Charlestown road about a mile and a half with Joe Halstrick and Charley Gardner and saw the 12th Mass & 2nd Mass reg’ts.  I saw Lon Haley  Bob Fernald and some other boys I knew.  Bob Fernald is promoted to a corporal   I am glad of it as his folks have been rather unlucky lately.  All the boys appear to be well and on the whole there is good health in the regt.  Now about Winchester  it is the best place we have been in  there are some handsome residences among which is the rebel commissioner Mason’s   the stores are all closed but now the place commences to look quite lively   we enquired the prices of some of the articles, salt and coffee run out long ago  they have what they call rye coffee  I have not tasted any of it but some of the boys say it is rather mean tasted,  the cook of our mess sold 7 quarts of salt and got a dollar and a quarter for it.   I suppose I could have got it for a quarter at home  it wasn’t none of the best   The best tea is $6.50 per pound  butter $1.50 per pound.  I was talking this evening with a boy about 14 years old   he said the rebels had told the people that the union solders were a set of cut throats and as they had never seen them it was generally believed to be true   he said he was never so much surprised when he saw us, we were perfect gentlemen and well dressed and looked healthy.  He said the rebels used to get drunk pretty often and get into rows  they arrested a boy 10 years old for expressing union sentiments.  Last winter the time they marched to Romney  Jackson marched them so fast and exposed them so that they say he lost fifteen hundred men by sickness

     They say he run his men 5 miles on a stretch the night before we entered town but he is cornered at last so they say and I hope it is true it will shorten the war   I don’t see where the rebels will make a stand  they have left all there strong holds and we are following them right up victory on victory.  The night before we were to attack Winchester  I felt prepared to die if it was the will of God  I read my bible about every night  I have got a little book called the “dream of Heaven”   Mrs. Halstrick sent to me   it is very interesting  I must close with good night   give my love to all

Kiss Hugh for me.
Good night

From your son,

Direct, J. F. Ramsey
        Co E 13th Regt Mass Vol
                Banks division
2d brigade

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Company D & The Train

Diary of Samuel Derrick Webster, Company D

Excerpts of this diary (HM 48531) are used with permission from The Huntington Library, San Marino, CA 


     In the early days of the war, June of 1861, young Sam Webster, a resident of Martinsburg, did a bit of spying for the Union troops, by riding through rebel lines and reporting  their strength to Union commanders posted at Williamsport, Maryland.  He was only 15 years of age. When this got too dicey (rebel occupation of Winchester) Sam moved north at the end of July, first to Philadelphia then to Westminster, MD.  On December 1st, 1861 Sam's got his father's consent to join the army.  Sam left Westminster, Md. on December 26th for Hagerstown.  He was hoping to enlist in the 1st Maryland Cavalry.  Told the company was full, Sam met up with his brother Isaac at Hancock, 26 miles away, in early January.  "Ike" had joined the 13th Mass as a drummer in Company B.  On January 2nd, 1862, Sam went with the13th Mass companies A, B, E, & H as they returned to camp at Williamsport from detached duty at Hancock.  Ike was anxious to have Sam join the regiment as a drummer in Company D.  Captain Harlow consenting, Sam joined up.  He was sworn in by Adjutant David H. Bradlee on February 28th, 1862.  Thus began a long committment to the service and memory of the regiment of which Sam was a proud member.  His journal, a combination of diaries, letters and memoirs was written in 1868 following the war.  It was used as a reference when Charles Davis wrote his official history of the unit.  Sam's original manuscript is in the collection of the Huntington Library, San Marino, CA.  I am grateful to Sam's grand-nieces Mary and Polly for sharing this photograph and transcriptions of Sam's field diaries with me.  The following excerpts are from Sam's manuscript.

Wednesday, March 12th
Samuel Derrick Webster      Turn out at 4 oclock – march at sunrise.  13th as skirmishers move on to Winchester and the rebels having vacated a bloodless victory is ours, and the 13th the first Yanks in this redoubtable chip of South Carolina.  Arrived about 10 oclock.  Were at once quartered at the station (that is Co. D.) and Briggs, the Armorer, Champney, Reed of A, and myself, went to fixing the two engines capable of it.  Have got one old thing in running order, and a better one partly fixed.  The shops and machinery are a study.  The engine that works it has not “governor” or steam gauge, the cylinder has a loose play of an inch and a half beside being so much below the boils that we have to leave the cocks open for the water to run off.  On going to a room, (the lock of which I’d twice before picked) in company with Bacon and others to get him some sketching paper I found the door unlocked, and the supt of the road in the office, which was his.  I didn’t tell him I’d been in before, but got into a political dispute, in which he claimed to be a “Union Man,” a thing they all do, but “wanted his rights,” tho he couldn’t tell what they were or exactly what the secession movement was for. Had my chicken, which I’d brought from Stephenson’s, cooked, and that with another of the Captain’s furnished the mess with quite a fond supper.  The Capt., Lt., and non-coms mess are all in one room, at the station, the ticket office. One of the incidents of our entrance was something like this:  Little boy, on a porch, to his father:  Oh, Pa, look at them, they look just like we do.”   A lady exclaimed “Look at them!  They’re fat as horses!”  The first white person I saw was “Buck” Murphy, with whom I had but little conversation.  Col. Ashby stopped to water his horse at the upper end of the street, in our faces as we entered. The city is supplied with water by hydrants, and a gas works is just opposite our quarters.  Population about 5,000.  (Bacon, is Henry Bacon, who became a famous artist after the war).

Thursday, March 13th 1862
     Early this morning, I among others of the Co. went on two cars towed by the engine we succeeded yesterday in fixing, on a voyage of discovery and repairs.  Twice we repaired broken track, it being once torn up, and in another place broken by our shot.  Arrived at Charlestown just after midday, where we found some troops passing.  Near the table on which we turned our engine – for we backed the rest of the way down we found a part of the Martinsburg turn table.  Nothing of note occurred going to Halltown, the extent of our ride, owing to a burnt bridge or culvert – which we could not rebuild for want of material.  On our way up, however, while rounding through a “cut” near Charlestown we nearly ran into a pile of rails placed to receive us.  It wouldn’t have been jolly for the party who placed them there to have found himself in our hands. Picking up such of our men as had been left in Charlestown, we started at a round rate for Winchester – 32 miles.  Got water by giving a receipt for it, and having found a pile of wood ready cut had no need to take vengeance on a citizen whom the Captain, on the way down, had ordered to cut some for us before our return.  We passed a great temptation in the shape of 40 or more beehives, but the Capt. would not let us stop to get them.  At the ‘grade” above Stephenson’s depot we had a hard time to get up, and two or more miles short of Winchester the steam having “got up” burst out a flue head and stopped us.  The Capt. made those who started first for quarters, go back and stay all night with the engine, while we tramped into town, where we arrived and now are, gloriously tired, the hour being any one from 10 to 1.

Friday, March 14th, 1862
     Having got Eng. #2 fixed we went down and pulled up the one on the road after which a train was sent to Halltown for flour, getting back about one o’clock a.m. this.

This paragraph will have a class of caption.  It will be in italics.  I will use it to describe a photo or introduce a letter.  The letter box will be its own class.

Clarence Bell gives a detailed account of the train adventure below.

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by Clarence Bell, February, 1884.

      It was in March, ’62, when the city of Winchester first succumbed to the Federal forces; the troops of Stonewall Jackson retiring at one side of the town as the skirmishers of the Thirteenth Massachusetts entered it on the other.  This regiment was appointed as provost guard, and our company, D, put in charge of the depot and other property of the Potomac and Winchester R.R.  The opening of the road to Harper’s Ferry, as a base of supplies, was immediately determined on, and an investigation into the condition of the dilapidated rolling stock was instituted. We found three antiquated engines, and managed to get one of them into tolerable condition on the afternoon of the day of taking possession.

     It was a wheezy, asthmatic affair, that had evidently been saved from the junk-heap for a few years’ further service as a switching engine, and the retreating Confederates had probably considered it of too little value to be blown up or demolished. However, the mechanics of our company, by the exercise of considerable ingenuity, managed to fix it up so as to warrant a trip to Halltown, some thirty miles away, near Harper’s Ferry. Halltown

"Halltown" looking East.  Bolivar Heights would be in the distance.  (Harper's Ferry is just beyond Bolivar Heights).

 There was a sort of enthusiasm in regard to the affair, and the fact that Company D had been selected to open the railroad gave its members an increased dignity and importance in their own eyes, while they flattered themselves that all the rest of the regiment were bursting with envy at their good fortune.  Every one that dared to announced himself as a mechanic, and labored with monkey-wrench, screwdriver, or oiler, on that engine, while the rest of us, ordinary “ink-slingers” and clerks, prepared the fuel for the next day’s journey.  Wood was very scarce, and we had to gather up old ties, bits of plank, and anything that could possibly be coaxed into burning, as the provender for our “iron horse.”  It was hard work, as we were not accustomed to handle either the axe or the saw, but we labored faithfully and at nightfall had the tender loaded with as tough and varied a lot of fuel as ever a locomotive consumed.

     Very early in the morning of the next day we took possession of the train, and amid the cheers of our less fortunate comrades, started on our picnic.  We had but two platform cars, and these having previously been used for the carriage of wood, were covered with dirt, bark, and splinters from the former cargoes. However, this debris was a benefit rather than annoyance, for it served as a cushion to mitigate the hardness of the floor of the cars.  There were about eighty of us, and as it was expected that the track would need repairs, tools of various kinds, iron and spikes were carried with us. We were rather crowded, and a fringe of military legs clad in the light-blue livery of Uncle Sam adorned the sides of the cars. Probably no locomotive ever carried more engineers and firemen than did our consumptive engine, as it oscillated and snorted on its way.

     It was a very joyous, careless crew that crowded that train, and the woods re-echoed with the songs and laughter as we sped along.  Our progress was necessarily slow, for many reasons, the chief of which was that about ten miles an hour was the utmost speed to which we could attain, and then a sharp lookout for dangerous places waTrain with soldiers images necessary.  In Winchester the track was of the ordinary T rail, but for all the rest of the distance it was simply thick strap iron, spiked down on wooden stringers.  Our first stop was about three miles out, where some damage had been done to the strap iron by the shells in the conflict of two days before; but a few minute’s work with hammer and cold chisel soon set matters right.

     Further on, we met the first spectators of our progress; a farmer, or rather planter, who with his two boys, slaves, had ventured down to the fence to see us go by.  The emancipation proclamation had not yet been thought of, and “property in man” was then recognized, even when the Federal forces occupied the borders of the seceding States. We would probably have passed the group with the usual salutation, “How are you, Secesh?”  but for the fact that the house of the planter was located near, and a plethoric wood-pile adorned his  front yard.  With our poverty of fuel vivid in our memories and before our eyes, our commander made his first war levy in the name of the United States from a conquered people, and with threats of dire calamity in case of neglect, the planter was notified to have some of that wood sawed up and delivered at the track ere our return.  It probably never entered our minds that we were making work for the two slaves and adding to their burdens by our levy.  Some miles further on, at a station, we came to the regular wood-yard of the railroad, and all fears of a dearth of kindling material vanished. We found the track in disorder at one other place, but not enough to delay us for any considerable time.

     Everywhere the people on the route kept in their houses, or from a distance looked at the moving train, but otherwise the country wore a very pleasant aspect. It was a delightful morning in March, and the signs of spring were already abundant. Flocks of sheep nibbled at the dried grass, or scampered in affright at the approach of the hissing locomotive. The lowing of cattle could be heard, and occasionally the cackling of poultry, or the gobbling of turkeys tantalized us as we lunched on “hard-tack and salt-horse” sandwiches, washed down with the stale tepid water from our canteens.  Many bee-hives showed their aggravating presence along the route, but, though in later months honey was considered as legitimate plunder, yet at this time the relative position of “our’n” and “his’n” were strictly maintained.

     When we consider that this region was rendered famous by the exploits of Mosby’s guerillas but a few months later, it is to be wondered at that we escaped molestation on our trip, but not a shot was fired, nor any attempt made to wreck the train. A skilful marksman could have picked us off by the dozens, without exposing himself to any risk.  Perhaps the confidence displayed by the Union forces at this time may have stimulated the formation of those bands of daring Confederate raiders that neutralized a large body of our troops, and rendered this territory as celebrated as the “dark and bloody grounds” of Kentucky.

     About noon we arrived at Charlestown, notorious as the place of execution of John Brown. Here the train, with most of the soldiers, was left behind, and the locomotive with a small detail went on to Halltown.  We whiled away the time by visiting the places of interest, and witnessing the passage of certain troops of Banks’s divison that had been ordered to the Peninsula, by way of Washington.  Late in the afternoon the engine retuned, but our commander found an authority of his own, for our train was enlarged by the addition of several cars loaded with flour for the army at Winchester. Now the engine was like an antiquated roué – its days for “going on a train” were among the past.  The additional freight cars added to the “platforms,” thronged with seventy-five or a hundred soldiers, was a severe strain upon its capacity. Even more than this, much to our dismay, a multitude of officers and civilians, with passes from authority that brooked no refusal, crowded in among us, and monopolized our scanty space. But the climax was reached when an adventurous Hebrew thrust aboard a large show-case filled with military trappings. He was going to Winchester to open a store, and the fact that this shrewd Israelite foresaw the numerous promotions to grow out of the campaign – promotions in which some of us were to participate – did not mitigate in the slightest degree the sufferings engendered by that infernal show-case.  We were crowded before, but this thing took up the room of several persons, while “Moses” was in a constant perturbation lest somebody should get against the glass.  His whining solicitations served to enliven the evening, and stimulated a mild current of subdued blasphemy that betokened our enjoyment at the infliction.

     We slowly proceeded on our homeward journey, the old locomotive sighing and sobbing as it labored and shivered under its heavy burdens.  We were reminded of the darky in Georgia, who overtook a train while walking on the track, but who declined the kind invitation from the conductor to “Jump aboard,” under the plea “that he couldn’t stop, as he was in a hurry.”  Up-grades were the bane of our existence, while down-grades afforded us the only moments of satisfaction in that black night of our recollections. No mirth, no songs, no pleasant stories broke the stillness of the occasion; nothing but the rattling of the wheels, the hissing of the steam, and the deep growlings of the discontented. Our yearnings were for Winchester, miles and miles away, and we longed for a comfortable sleep on the hard floor of the depot.

     The first incident that broke the monotony of our unhappiness was the discovery of a smouldering fire kindled beneath one of the bridges over which we passed. Fortunately for us, the timbers were damp, and were but slightly charred, so the attempt at our destruction had failed.  It served to remind us, however, of a fact which we were near forgetting – that we were in the enemy’s country – so a sharper outlook was maintained for obstructions or displacements.  But, to our satisfaction, no other evidence of malice showed itself.  We stopped at the residence of our victim with the wood-pile, and replenished our supplies of fuel. We really did not need to take any of his, as the wood-yard of the railroad had afforded us all that we required; but as the heavy hand of authority had levied on his property, it seemed to be neglectful not to take that portion that he had placed at our disposal. 

      It was nearly midnight, and our tedious journey was about at its close. Winchester was only two miles away, and the prospect of rest partially quenched the torrent of grumbling and peevishness that had characterized the night, when we struck on an upgrade that taxed all of the powers of our old “switcher.”  Every voice was hushed, and nothing could be heard but the steady puff, puff, as we gained inch by inch on the steep ascent.  But it was of no avail, for halfway up we came to a standstill; then slowly yielded, and finally went rattling back to the level track below. Another attempt – every pound of steam that could be attained was secured; the throttle pulled wide open and up we went with a rush that gave every promise of success, when a loud report was heard, followed by a cloud of escaping steam that enveloped the whole train. The panic that ensued can hardly be described. Men tumbled over each other, and upon each other; down the embankment, upon a pile of old rails at one side, and into a large pool of stagnant water on the other; while the crash of shattered glass betokened that some one had had the presence of mind to put his foot through that show-case.  There has always been a strong suspicion that there was no accident about that catastrophe.

Busted Engine Sketch by Waud      When we had quite recovered our wits, eager inquiries were made:  “What’s the matter?”  “Anybody hurt?”  We were reassured by the answer of our chief-engineer: “Nothing but a busted flue.”

     We gathered on the embankment, and counted noses. Beyond a few bruises, and some involuntary baths, no damage had been done to individuals; so shouldering our muskets, we abandoned the disabled engine, cars, cargo and Hebrew to their fate, and “Frogged” it into Winchester, where in the early hours of the morning we rolled ourselves in our welcome blankets, to sleep oblivious of Jews or Gentiles.

A few days afterward, on the main street, could have been seen in a shop window that show-case, a square of brown paper taking the place of the broken glass, and Moses probably added ten per cent, more profit to his wares to cover the damage to his lacerated feelings, as well as to that of his property. 

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Letter of Edwin Rice, March 12th, 1862

Winchester, Virginia
March 12th 1862


The rebels took French leave last night or early this morning.  We, or rather our forces left Bunker’s Hill yesterday forenoon under the command of General Hamilton. There were about 10,000 men besides the cavalry and artillery, these men companions of each. We marched slowly as our cavalry had frequent skirmishes with the rebel pickets, of which a number were captured.  We halted for the night about 4 miles from the town and passed the night very comfortably although it was pretty cool.

You will probably hear the particulars of the taking of Winchester in the papers.  Our regiment was the first to get into the town. Though the Band did not get in until about an hour after, as we had to go with the ambulances to pick up the wounded. We did not follow the regiment up close as they were deployed as skirmishers and went through cornfields, wheatfields, swamps, wood lots, over fences and through brush and ditches.

I have not seen but one of their entrenchments or breastworks and I should think that they would have been as safe behind a stone wall, for we could have drove them out of it without much trouble. They were not very high and I should think not very well made.

After we had possession of the town our cavalry scouted around the streets and took, I should think, about 100 stragglers of the rebel army who did not leave with the rest.

Our regiments are quartered in houses and are doing provost guard duty. Some 4 or 5 regiments are encamped just out of the town.  It is said that our regiment is going to stay here and do guard duty, but how long, I don’t know. The band is quartered in a large, nice, brick building which the rebels used for a general hospital.  The building was a boarding school.

There are over 50 rooms in it.  It was owned by a union man and when the war broke out the furniture was seized by the rebels and has been used by them ever since.  They have used it very well, too.

This town is a great deal larger than I supposed it was.  It is very thickly settled and I should think that in good times there might have been 6 or 7000 inhabitants. There are not a great many here now.  There are a goodly number of nice places.  Take it altogether it is the prettiest place that I have seen since we marched through Frederick, Maryland.

Yesterday and today the weather has been nice and warm and very pleasant.

Am in my usual health, and will write again tomorrow if we do not move and I have time.
                Love to all,
                    Edwin Rice

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Description of the Town of Winchester

"From Three Years in the Army" continued:

     Winchester is a town of four or five thousand inhabitants, blessed with a water-supply, is the county seat, has a medical college and a hotel. In addition to all these advantages, it was one of the hotbeds of secession.

     Our duties as provost guard made the stay in Winchester very attractive. The regiment was always allowed great liberty by the colonel, who found by experience that the men could be trusted with it; so we roamed about town, when not on duty, as pleased us best.  The men who were on duty, not wishing to be outdone by the colonel, also granted liberties to those of their comrades whom they knew they could trust. One of the places we were called upon to guard was the dining-room of the Taylor House, where many of the officers were quartered, to prevent any one not a commissioned officer entering without a pass.  It so happened that a few of us dined there each day at the landlord’s expense, the guard finding it difficult to detect the difference between a man who was a commissioned officer, and one who wanted to be.

david hicks graffittijohn wait graffitti

Today, the Old Winchester Court House is a Civil War Museum.  Two soldiers of Company B wrote their names on the wall while quartered there in March, 1862.  If you look carefully at these pictures you may be able to make out some of the graffiti inscriptions; "David Hicks 13th Mass Co B" and John Wait 13th Mass" respectively.  Photos by Lauri Bridgeforth; provided by Tim Machado.

     Two of the companies were quartered in the hall in the court-house.  As the hall was provided with a platform, an opportunity was afforded of having some singing and dancing by Southern darkies whom we corralled each day, for the purpose, and to which the whole regiment was invited. The dancing was vigorous, and the singing, - well, it was not what we hoped it would be.  It began with a grand anthem of one hundred and thirty-nine stanzas, all just alike, which was ground out by the yard. A hat was placed on the front of the platform, to receive donations from time to time, as encouragement. When we got as many yards of the anthem as we could stand, we shut them off and made them dance – as a rest.

      When we thought they had sufficient rest we started them on again with the anthem until we got enough of both, when we divided the contents of the hat and fired them out. The anthem was as follows :

“And it’s Old John Brown don’t you see
It’ll never do for you to try to set the darkies free
For if you do the people will come from all around
And take you down and hang you up in old Charlestown.”

     There was no punctuation about it, and the only way we distinguished the verses was the emphasis placed on the word “and,” on beginning each stanza.  There was a dispute as to whether the number of stanzas was one hundred and thirty-nine or one hundred and forty; but one of the boys says he counted one hundred and thirty-nine, and that ought to settle it.

     It was while we were at Winchester that the government issued the new currency called “greenbacks,” fac-similes of which were published in the illustrated papers. The currency of the Confederacy was printed on various kinds of material, such as match-paper, cloth, etc.  The people of Winchester who believed that our government was as badly off as their own thought these fac-similes were good money, and received them as such until one was offered at a sutler’s store and refused, when a great ado was made at the “Yankee trick.”  As soon as it was known that these fac-similes would be taken by the people, the price of “Harper’s Weekly” or “Frank Leslies’s” paper rose very high. An appeal was made to the colonel for restitution, notwithstanding that “all is fair in love or war.”  The perpetrators for this fraud were never found. Curious, isn’t it ?

     During our brief stay in Winchester the boys enjoyed a little fun at the expense of the fair sex of that distinguished, town. A sutler of one of the regiments having secured a store on the main street for the sale of his goods, hung out over the sidewalk a Union flag.  The sight of the “Stars and Stripes” produced about the same effect on the people as the sight of a red rag would upon an enraged bull.  Rather than dishonor themselves by walking beneath it, they turned into the middle of the street to escape the humiliation. On the following day some members of the “Ninth New York” hung a large flag across the middle of the street, which Company K of the Thirteenth stretched another one across the opposite sidewalk, thus completely blocking the street. A rebel flag was then laid flat on the sidewalk.  Supposing this to be like those above, they trampled upon it and tore it with their feet, to the great merriment of the boys, who loudly applauded the act.  The mortification they felt on discovering their error was too exasperating for concealment, and so found vent in expression of disgust which added still more to the fun.

     The repugnance which the women of the South felt for a Yankee frequently found expression in contemptuous remarks.  At dress-parade, one night, as we were falling into line, on the double-quick, a woman shouted, “Ashby’ll make you run faster than that!”  Who knows but this unhappy creature may have inherited a copy of the “Vinegar Bible,” and that constant reading of it may have fermented the natural sweetness of her disposition?  One would think that nothing but an extermination of the whole race of Yankees would satisfy her anger, so bitter was her feeling.

Company K & the Union Flag

Austin Stearns recalls the above mentioned flag incident on page 58 of his memoirs.  "Three Years with Company K," used with permission.


     Company K, with three other companies from as many regiments, were detailed as Provost Guard.  We took up our quarters in quite a respectable house on one of the main streets, the company from the 9th New York being nearly opposite. Over our entrance we hung the Stars ad Stripes, and the New Yorkers did the same.

     The female portions of the city were violent[ly] secesh.  They showed their dislike to the Yanks in every way they could, and to pay them off was a constant study with the boys.  One day, having captured a small secession flag and seeing two well dressed ladies coming, we thought to play a little joke on them. On a former occasion they, or some other ladies, had turned out, going round instead of under the Old Flag. Now the captured flag was spread on the walk, so they must walk under it’s folds or step on the secesh flag; they came down and saw what was in store for them. One daintily picked her way past on the curb stone, while the other stepped boldly out into the muddy street, preferring to walk through Virginia mud two inches deep then under the old Flag.

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Chaplain Noah Gaylord's Sermon to the Secessionists

Old Winchester CourthousePictured is the Winchester Court House as it would have appeared in March of 1862 when company B, of the 13th Mass occuppied it as Provost Guard.

I am very grateful to Mr. Eric Larson of for sharing this image with me and allowing it to be posted here.  This is a vintage postcard circa 1911.

The following letter describes in some detail the 'sermon' Chaplain Noah Gaylord directed to the secessionist citizens of Winchester on Sunday, March 16, 1862.  He was the first Yankee preacher to be heard in the town.  Charles Davis, Jr. writes:

Sunday March 16.
 The chaplain preached a rattling sermon on the evils of secession, in front of the court-house.  Notice having been given out to the towns-people that he was to preach, advantage was taken by some of them to be present and listen to a “Yankee” preacher.  An opportunity was thus afforded the chaplain of airing his eloquence, with which he was highly gifted, on these degenerate sons of Virginia.

Westboro Transcript; March 29th, 1862; Gaylord's Sermon

The picture of Chaplain Noah Gaylord was purchased from the Army Heritage Education Center in Carlisle, PA.  The black & white image was tinted in photoshop.

March 29, 1862

WINCHESTER, Va., March 16, 1862.

 Dear Father, - This will inform you that I am well, as usual, and also the rest of our company.  We are quartered here in the city, but expect to go tomorrow to camp outside.  I understand that we are to be brigaded, and shall be under Gen. Abercrombie.  Our regiment never has been brigaded.  Our Lieut.-Col., Batchelder, is appointed Provost marshal, and a company from each brigade is doing provost guard duty.  Gen. Banks’ head-quarters are here.  He issued his proclamation yesterday to the citizens and soldiers, and it is posted about in different parts of the town.  It is very severe on the soldiers that are not up to their duty.  He tells the citizens to go on with their usual business and that they shall be protected.  There are about 50,000 soldiers and citizens in and about the vicinity of the town now, and I have not seen the first drunken one yet.  Senator Mason’s residence is in this place.  I went up to see it yesterday. It is a pleasant looking place, and stands back from the street.  The 5th Conn. Regt.’s officers are quartered in it, and they, with other soldiers, have taken everything they can lay their hands on as relics, &c.  Some of his negroes were living in it, but they have left it to give way to the officers.  There is a medical college in the town.  I went into it the other day, and there was the most horrid sight that I ever did see.  In the third story lay a negro boy on a dissecting table, with his head cut off; arms cut off at the elbow; legs cut off at the knees, and his belly ripped open lengthways.  He was about fourteen years of age.  The day before we came into the town, this boy was in the streets and was very jubilant to think that the Union troops were so near the town.  A rebel soldier seeing him in such extacies about it, shot him dead on the spot.  His body was then taken to this college and given to the doctors and students.  They had the body cut up, as I have mentioned, when they had to take out with the rebel devils (for I believe part of them to be such, judging from stories that the people here tell of them) for they committed all sorts of depredations on Union people, and the negroes especially.  A negro hardly dared to speak to one of them.  They took anything and everything they wanted without paying for it, as they didn’t pretend to keep any guard over their soldiers.

     There are more negroes here than I expected to see, and many of them are nearly white; and as a general thing, understand the cause and nature of the war as well as the whites, if not better.  In this college is the skeleton of John Brown’s son who was shot at Harper’s Ferry.  It was standing in a corner of the room in good preservation, nothing being gone but the flesh.  In the cellar there were a great many skeletons, bones, skulls, &c.  Out soldiers cleared the building out of most everything that was of any value, as they left their instruments, charts, books, and all behind.  There is a state lunatic hospital in town, and there is a large number of fine looking residences of the aristocratic blood, nigger owners, &c.; and in this town you will find poor white people—the poorest and most miserable and ignorant that I ever saw.  Some of the soldiers say that the residents of North-street, in Boston, are Christians in comparison with them.  A great many of the people here call themselves peace men, and do not favor either side, but if you get into conversation with them it will not do to mention the nigger question, for if you do their temper is up, and you will be inclined to believe that they are strong Secesh.  The negro question has been agitated so much, the last three years, that they have got so that they fairly hate the sight of one.  The trouble is, the people at the North and those of the South, do not understand one another.  The Northern people are posted and understand the matter.  The mass of the Southern people are ignorant, only knowing what is told them by the knowing ones.  They are not a reading people.  I was talking with a man last Friday that was in Gen. Jackson’s army a week ago, but escaped while we were at Bunker Hill, and we agreed in almost everything relating to the war and nigger question; and he says there is not a stronger Secesh in the rebel army than himself.  He left the army because he was sick and tired of living such a miserable life as they are living.  After we had talked a while I told him all the trouble is, we do not understand one another aright; and, says he, you are right; and if the rest of our soldiers could understand it as I now do, the war would be over, and Jeff. Davis and others would have their necks stretched mighty soon.  This man said he was poor, and a carpenter by trade.  The war came on, business ceased, and thinking his side the right one, enlisted in their army.  The morning we came into town, our cavalry came first. They saw a squad of rebel cavalry on ahead.  Our men put for them through the town.  They finally came up with one that lagged behind the rest, and they put seven bullets through his body.  He was on a horse that he stole the night before from a Union man. 

Chaplain Noah Gaylord      Since writing the above we have attended services. They were held in the square in front of the court-house.  There was a large assemblage of citizens and soldiers beside our own regt.  I don’t know what the people thought of Mr. Gaylord, (pictured) for he did give it to the rebel Virginians good.  I saw some awful long looking faces, and also some smiling ones.  He told the citizens that here was a sample of the mudsills of the North.  A sample of the soldiers that were a coming South, to burn, destroy property, ravish their women, commit murder, and such depredations, as the Southern press has led the people to believe.  He asked the people if they had seen any indications of such actions or treatment amongst the Union troops since they had been here, &c.   It is honestly a fact, that some of the people here thought we were a set of ruffians, and would commit all these crimes set against us, but they think differently now.  The Secesh themselves say there was no peace for any one while the rebel soldiers were here, and that was a long time.  Now it is quiet, no one is disturbed in any way; each one can express his sentiments, and no one to molest him. I think that Mr. Gaylord was in all his glory as he stood on the court-house steps addressing the people.  I never saw him when he was so eloquent.  I think he must have forgot it was the Sabbath when he spoke of Senator Mason.  He called him a traitor and everything but what was good.  He told his hearers that he had draggooned the people of Virginia into this rebellion, and it was such as he, and his kind, that had got the whole South drawn in.  There was something novel about our services, considering the time, place and circumstances.  I think that Mr. Gaylord is the first chaplain that has had an opportunity of speaking to the Virginians in such a hot-bed of rebeldom, and so large a town as this.  He told them the honest truth.  The other chaplains, being out of town, did not have a chance to speak to the people.  An Illinois chaplain made the prayer.  We take a few rebel prisoners every day.  There is any quantity of shin-plasters in circulation here and but a very few will now pass at any rate.  There are three banks in the place, and the money is considered as good as any in the State.  Our sutler’s checks pass the same as any of the bills here.  They are a godsend to the people the demand for their goods exceeding the supply.  The inhabitants don’t seem to care for prices, it is the goods they want - a small bag of fine salt looks better to them than a ten dollar gold piece.  This state of things, however, will not last long, for goods will begin to come in, and prices will get regulated after a while.  But I must close for it is now 8 o’clock in the evening, and the drum is beating the roll call.


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Senator Mason's Home

"Three Years in the Army," continued:  

      Winchester was the home of Mason, of the firm of Mason and Slidell, that famous pair of rebels who came so near embroiling us in a war with England. They were appointed by the Confederate government as envoys to European courts, and were taken by the rebel gunboat “Theodora” to Havana, escaping the watchfulness of our cruisers.  Upon their arrival at that port they became inflated with a lofty admiration of their consequence, forgetting how illusive is the vainglory of the world.  Assuming an importance out of keeping in men representing a rebellious government, they attracted the attention of the world to their mission and its purport, thereby laying the foundation of their subsequent failure as diplomats.  From Havana they embarked on board the English steamship “Trent,” bound for “Merrie England,”

Mason & Slidell cartoon      It so happened that the noise of their doings reached the ears of Commodore Wilkes, who was on his way home from Africa in the “San Jacinto.”  Impressed with the idea that they were fair game to capture, wherever they might be found, he overhauled the “Trent” and demanded their surrender.  After removing them to the “San Jacinto,” which, by the way, was not accomplished without some friction, Commodore Wilkes set sail for Fort Warren, Boston Harbor, where he deposited his thoroughly disgusted prisoners, to enjoy the care and entertainment of the government, while he enjoyed the hospitality proffered him by the people of Boston, where his action made him a great hero.

     All this, which happened n November, 1861, made a deuce of a row.  Our government soon learned that yanking the British lion’s tail, without lawful right, meant something, and it was forced to eat its dish of “crow” by apologizing for its hasty  action, and transferring the prisoners to an English ship, anchored at Provincetown, and thus fortunately ending the matter.

     In consequence of these exiting incidents Mr. Mason’s residence became an object of much curiosity, and as a guard was detailed from the Thirteenth to protect the premises, we had an opportunity of becoming distantly acquainted with his family.  Their sentiments were of the rabid kind. They believed a dead Yankee was the best kind of a Yankee.  We did our best, by good nature and politeness, to remove their impressions; but it was no go, as the gangrene of contempt had too deeply affected their minds to allow a change of heart.  When the guard arrived at the house, Mrs. Mason, mistaking their purpose, remonstrated against any “Northern mudsills” entering her premises, which statement was promptly communicated to the colonel, who soon made his appearance and explained to her that it was the guard sent to protect her and her property from the presence of persons whom she had no wish to see. And this is the way we were treated in return for all our kindness and attention to her husband during his stay at Fort Warren.

     An order was this day issued by General McClellan, in accordance with the President’s order of the 8th inst., designating General Banks’ corps, composed of the divisions of Generals Williams and Shields, as the Fifth Corps.  An order was also issued this day by General Banks to his troops, containing he following :

The commanding general learns with sincere regret that officers in some cases, from mistaken views, either tolerate or encourage depredations upon property.  This is deeply regretted.  He calls upon them to reflect upon the destructive influences which attend such practices, and to remember the declarations of the great master of the art of war, that pillage is the most certain method of disorganizing and destroying an army.

 When we reflect how much property we protected, and thereby made useful for Jackson in his subsequent raids up the valley, we naturally asked which army he means will be destroyed.

     So far as our experience goes, the people of Winchester expressed astonishment that no plundering had occurred, as they had been informed that terrible things would happen upon our entry into town.  Whether they lied or not we are unable to say, but they said the town was never so quiet as during our stay there. It may be they spoke the truth, as most of the stores were closed upon our entrance, but shortly afterward opened, doing a thriving business.

Westboro Transcript, March 22nd 1862; Death of Thomas Rathburn, Co. F

Private Rathburn of Bolton, mustered into Federal service with the Regiment on July 16th, 1861.  His occupation was listed as butcher.  He was 20 years old.

March 22, 1862


Last Monday evening the telegraph announced to our citizens the sad intelligence that Mr. Thomas Rathburn, of this town, and a member of the 13th Regt., was dead, and that the corpse would be at the Clinton depot on Tuesday evening.  Our citizens were filled with grief at the melancholy intelligence, and were very anxious to learn the cause of his death.  The corpse came as announced, accompanied by Mr. S. Haynes, of Bolton, of the same regiment who had been  detailed for the purpose of conducting it to the parents of the deceased.   It was received with all due respect by his friends and authorities of the town.

Funereal ceremonies will take place on Thursday under the direction of the town authorities, with the concurrence of the friends.  The death, we learn, was cause by typhoid fever, of five days continuance, brought on by exposure while the army was on the march to Winchester.

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Reconaissance in Force to Newtown, March 15th;

From "Three Years in the Army," continued:

Saturday, March 15.
     Early in the morning the right wing of the regiment, with two companies of cavalry and four pieces of artillery, made a reconnoissance to Newtown, eight miles away.  Upon our arrival at that place, we found the enemy drawn up in line of battle in readiness to make it warm for us should we feel disposed to advance. The artillery was immediately placed in position and began firing.  Whether we did any damage or not we had no means of knowing. On our side no one was hurt, though several were badly scared.  During the desultory firing, arrangements were being quietly made by the enemy to gobble the whole outfit, which action was discovered in season to prevent its completion.  As there was no time to countermarch the regiment, it marched back to Winchester “Left in front,” the small men thereby taking the lead.  It soon began to rain, and before our arrival in Winchester we were drenched to the skin. This return march of eight miles was made in one hour and fifty minutes – extraordinarily good time for a regiment marching in column, and will be recollected by the participants for that, if for nothing else.  It was a great day for the “ponies,” as it was they who set the pace.

     The average speed of a regiment on the march is from two to two and a half miles per hour. This speed includes such delays as occur from obstructions in the road, caused generally by streams that are not bridged. It sometimes happens that a speed of three miles per hour, and occasionally three and a half miles, is attained under special circumstances.  In the march from Newtown, just recorded, the rate of speed exceeded four miles per hour; a very exceptional case.

Edwin Forbes drawing 'route step'The manner of marching was in fours, and by what is known as “route step;” that is, “go as you please.”  The men were generally in step, because it was easier, as everybody knows. You were at liberty to carry your gun, knapsack, blanket, ammunition, etc., as best pleased yourself. Three to five days’ rations were often carried in the haversack. In the last part of the war, to have had issued to you for three days such a quantity and variety of rations as was given you for one day at this time would have made a man think he was preparing for Thanksgiving day. [drawing titled "route step" by Edwin Forbes from "Thirty Years After, An Artist's Memoir of the Civil War."]

Letter of Warren H. Freeman; March 17th; Reconnaissance to Newtown

WINCHESTER, Va., March 17, 1862

 Dear Father, - I received your letter of the 9th this noon, and will try to improve this leisure evening in answering it. We are quite comfortably quartered in a hall that was used by the “Independent Order of Red Men.”  There is a room up-stairs full of Indian dresses, masks, bows, arrows, war clubs, etc.  The boys amuse themselves by dressing up in native costume and enacting Indian dances, sitting in council, smoking the pipe, etc. In the same building the “Odd Fellows” have a hall; there are also rooms occupied by the “Winchester Virginian” printing office.  This part of the building we use for our cook-room.  I like the town very much; but it is strong for secession.  We, however, take no notice of this. The main streets are quite wide, so that we have a battalion drill and dress parade almost every day.

     Last Saturday morning they took us out for a walk, for our health I suppose, before breakfast, of between sixteen and seventeen miles; we were woke up at four o’clock, but did not start till daylight.  It was a reconnaissance. We had five companies from the Thirteenth, 200 cavalry, and a battery of four Parrott guns, rifled, the whole under command of Lieutenant-colonel Batchelder of our regiment.  We started on the Strasburg Turnpike at a stunning gait. The road was in good condition, being very firm and hard; and as we were in light marching order, the march was rather exhilarating. After we had proceeded about five and a half miles, we came in sight of a company of rebel infantry and one of cavalry, drawn up in line on the side of a hill. Our cavalry being in front shut out a view of our other troops from the rebels;  one of our guns was unlimbered and hauled near to the front; when all was ready the cavalry opened right and left, and we sent a shell whizzing amongst them.  This seemed to surprise them, and the infantry scattered.  The cavalry, being under the command of the noted Colonel Ashby, stood their ground; another shell was sent, which caused them to fall back, but they were soon rallied by their officers; a third shell threw them into confusion, and they retreated.  The reason our infantry did not engage them was because our colonel did not wish to show his force. We followed in pursuit for about three miles, rather cautiously, for we almost knew the whole of Jackson’s army were encamped in the neighborhood of Newton. On our arrival at this small village, and after we had passed nearly through it, we saw the enemy draw up with four pieces of artillery. A halt was immediately ordered. Soon we heard a bang, and a shell fell 200 yards from us. Soon anther shell came whizzing past the infantry and struck in the front yard of a large brick house, and within less than thirty feet of some of our men. It buried itself in the earth and then exploded, throwing the dirt all over us; the pieces of shell flew in all directions, tearing away the fence and making sad havoc all around; it was almost by miracle that none of our men were killed. The villagers were terribly frightened, and fled to their cellars for safety.  As the rebels were out of range of our rifles, we were ordered to disperse, and every man take care of himself. Our battery was moved off into a field on our right, and soon opened on the enemy with round shot and shell. The action was brief, the rebels retreated as usual, and we were ordered not to pursue them.  I picked up several pieces of shell. One of the gunners found a shell that did not explode; it buried itself in the earth directly under his piece; he has got it now.  Our colonel could not pursue the enemy, because we were even now beyond the point we were ordered to reach in this reconnaissance. We were eight miles from Winchester, which is farther than ay Union troops have yet penetrated into Virginia in this direction.

     We did not make any unnecessary stop in Newton, but, in the midst of a rain storm, started back in quick time and reached Winchester in two hours, completely wet through.  We had one man wounded. As to the rebel loss we do not know.  The people here have reported that we brought back twenty-nine killed, and wounded to match. I mention this that you may judge of their truthfulness in whatever relates to the Union side. They say now that one Southerner is equal to two northerners any day; and saying this, they really seem to believe it. They read the rebel accounts of the battles now being fought, and will not believer any other.  They keep up their courage under the belief that Jackson and his army will yet rout us out of this place.

     My health is good.  My feet have become quite tough, and a march of fifteen miles I do not mind. You say that no doubt I have regretted the step I have taken in joining the army. I have not regretted it in the least, because I believe it is in the line of my duty to my country. It is true we are put to great hardships, and some of my sufferings I will not attempt to describe; and then the privileges of the city that I was in the enjoyment of, the good dinners that I daily received at Aunt Susan’s, - these cannot be forgotten;  but I freely put them by, and fry my slice of salt pork, which, with a bit of ship-bread, satisfies my necessary wants.  While the army is being moved rapidly from one point to another in the enemy’s country, of course our stores, camp equipage, etc., cannot be accessible at all times just when needed; we must at times be deprived of some of the few comforts which the Government furnishes.  I, for one, do not complain.

     Until recently we have been in General Hamilton’s brigade; but are now changed to General Abercrombie’s – at least so I understand. We are still in General Banks’s Division. The day after our return from Newton we learned that it was fortunate we did not proceed any further in that direction, for soon after we left General Jackson with his brigade entered the town, in expectations of capturing our whole party.

     But it is after taps and I must draw to a close. I am rather sleepy too, so good-night.


Edwin Forbes sketch Reconaissance in Force

This illustration aptly depicts the action at Newtown; titled Reconnaissance in Force by Edwin Forbes from "Thirty Years After, An Artist's Memoir of the Civil War."

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Transfer to General John J. Abercrombie's Brigade

From "Three Years in the Army," continued:

Monday, March 17.
      St. Patrick’s day without a procession in honor of the man who drove snakes out of Ireland is a deprivation we were unused to.  What a terrible thing is war !  We were now in a part of the country where an “F.F.V.” was a bigger man than St. Patrick.

     For real thoroughbred aristocracy, the “First Families of Virginia” can lay over, or think they can, all the “blue-bloods” of the North or South.  They have a well-grounded opinion of their superiority to other mortals in this world, with anticipations of a similar rank in the next. Perhaps they expect, on announcing their names at the gates of Paradise, that St. Peter will doff his cowl with becoming humility, and lead them to the seats already reserved about the throne for people whose blood is of the ultra-marine hue.  In their opinion, to bear the label “F.F.V.” confers a distinction that no honor can excel.  It is a brand of aristocracy too choice to be the reward of mere wealth. As a rule they were persons of culture and refinement, and took great pride and pleasure in dispensing a generous though ruinous hospitality. They looked upon themselves as the nobility of the land, and prior to the war, with abundance of means, and numerous slaves to do their bidding, many of them led ideal lives. It is not to be wondered at, therefore, that the breaking up of such an existence should develop an unnatural animosity toward the government.  It was impossible to live as they did, in the dazzling rays of external splendor, without exciting the unreasoning enmity of their less fortunate neighbors, who took advantage of our presence to retaliate. It happened after we crossed the river into Virginia, that, knowing little about them, we sought every opportunity of exciting mirth or provoking ridicule at their weaknesses. As we became acquainted with them, we were ready to believe them to be generous, brave, and attractive in manners, except when their tempers were excited, as against the North, and then they were rabid and unreasonable.  We soon learned that every ill-clad ignorant specimen on the roadside was not an “F.F.V.”  We also learned that their less fortunate neighbors took every opportunity of maligning them, and the stories told us of the terrible things they were doing had to be taken with a good deal of allowance, otherwise we might have done them injustice.

Tuesday, March 18.
      Companies B and K, retained in town for duty while the rest of the regiment prepared to go into camp, an order having been received transferring the thirteenth to General Abercrombie’s brigade. During the day we called on our old associates of Hamilton’s brigade and bade them good-by.  General Shields with his division of 10,000 men passed through Winchester to-day and made a good show.

Wednesday March 19. 
     Marched out of town about two miles ; pitched tents in sight of the camps of the Second and Twelfth Massachusetts regiments. We then marched to the camps of the regiments in Abercrombie’s brigade, that we might see them, and let them see us. The new brigade was composed of the Twelfth Massachusetts, Ninth New York (Eighty-third Vols.), the Twelfth and Sixteenth Indiana regiments.  Whatever may have been their opinion of us, we were favorably impressed with our new associates. We thus began an association with the Twelfth Massachusetts and Ninth New York regiment that lasted during the rest of our service, and with whom we shared a good many hardships and dangers as time rolled on.

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Page Updated January 10, 2010.